Forum, May 2024

Photo by fauxels on Pexels

What comes is acceptable

Thanks to Rebecca Heider for her creativity and wisdom in making these connections between birdwatching, Quaker worship, and spiritual renewal (“A Quaker Guide to Birdwatching,” FJ Apr.). The photos are exquisite and her insights are inspiring.

Irene McHenry
Philadelphia, Pa.

In one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, aliens come to earth and settle here. The protagonist goes into a curiosity shop—a junk shop, really—run by one of them. He asks the proprietor how the things on sale are chosen. The answer: “What comes is acceptable.”

An excellent motto for travel of any kind, and particularly for birding.

Elizabeth Block
Toronto, Ont.

It’s wonderful to be able to read this again after having attended the presentation. The photographs are really amazing!

John Andrew Gallery
Philadelphia, Pa.

I think I enjoyed this article more than anything else I have ever read in Friends Journal. I love birds, and I appreciate the simplicity with which you have connected birds to the enriching practices of Quakerism.

Daneille Vrtar
Dayton, Ohio

Online: Rebecca Heider is profiled in the April episode of the Quakers Today podcast:

QuakerSpeak profiles Ramallah Friends School

Thank you for this video (“The Palestinian Quaker School That Survived 150 Years of War and Occupation,”, Apr.). Ramallah Friends School is a beacon of hope and possibility, waging nonviolence every day.

Deborah Fink
Ames, Iowa

Having taught at the Ramallah Friends School and now returning with my wife annually as leaders of service-learning groups to Palestine and Israel, I am grateful for this offering to those who may not be familiar with the work of Friends in Palestine. I have witnessed the transformative work of the school and of the Friends meeting in Ramallah, even while both are under threat. Interviewees Rania Maayeh and Omar Tesdell do incredible work under extremely trying circumstances.

Max Carter
Greensboro, N.C.

The Spirit’s healing and wholeness

When I attended Red Cedar Meeting in Lansing, Mich., I attended meetings for healing led by Richard Lee (Friend Journal issue on “Prayer and Healing,” Mar.). We met once a month. The words he frequently used in prayer were “We ask for wholeness and healing,” followed by a specific need. After he spoke the request, we would go into silent prayer, and if anyone had a message for the requestor, it was sometimes spoken aloud in the silence and sometimes held till after the meeting when the message was delivered in private to the requestor.

It was common for us to have a repeat request, and when a Friend had a long-term illness, he would sometimes do special meetings just for that person. The prayer would always include “We ask for wholeness and healing.”

I remember one woman who was angry and bitter toward most everything and everyone when she first came to Red Cedar Meeting. She was in good health when she started attending, but after a few years she became ill and was a frequent request on our prayer list. During our prayers for her I was convinced, by a sense that came to me during the silence, that she would be completely healed physically. However, she died about two years later from the illness. At her memorial service, Friends who helped her through the illness and dying said her attitude had moved from angry and bitter to “gentle, accepting, and grateful” for all the “gifts given her.”

Here was Spirit’s healing and wholeness—not the physical results we asked for, but the healing and wholeness of her soul and mental outlook.

Edna Whittier
Floyd, Va.

Martin Kelley’s introduction to this issue recalls to me a distinction between curing and healing. We tend to use the terms as if they were synonymous, yet in sacred storytelling the two operate in wholly different realms. Curing means “fixing.” It belongs to the world we try to control. We study causality and hope to assert enough power to “make it right.” Healing belongs to the world of people. It persuades both the suffering ones and their community that they are welcome, even if their illness continues.

In Luke’s story of the ten lepers (17:11–19), the ten stand at a distance—since they are considered ritually unclean—and plead with Jesus. He responds, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”

As soon as Jesus sees the ten, he affirms that they are already clean. He doesn’t “do” anything to heal them. He simply sends them to be declared ritually clean. This is the crux of all Jesus’s healing stories: he sees people as already healed.

In Mark 5:25–34, the woman with the hemorrhaging violates the purity laws by touching Jesus. However, he does not condemn her for this. Instead, he says very publicly, “Daughter . . . your confidence [pistis] has saved you. Go, and peace be with you.”

Jesus commends the confidence of these unclean people. He affirms that they are whole, clean human beings, members of the same community with everyone else.

Mike Shell
Worcester, Mass.

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