Happy Birthday, John Frederick Webster!

Let sense be numb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

 On this day, I celebrate my beloved husband’s Quaker roots: the sitting and waiting for the “still, small voice of calm.”

On this day, in these times of hysterical, dishonest rhetoric, I value more than ever that the man I married 16 years ago is someone who speaks in unvarnished truths. Truths that sometimes feel like small earthquakes, wind and fire that stir me from my calm – and his.

On this day, it seemed worthwhile to visit a Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, and listen in on a conversation he might have with John Frederick Webster, this descendant of Quakers from Pennsylvania. John, my best friend, confidant, soul-mate, and father to my children. John, good neighbor to Luther and Randy for whom his simple acts of friendship were salve to the pain of their homelessness. John, whose generosity of hand and heart, must owe something to his heritage.

John Greenleaf Whittier in conversation with John Frederick Webster

Quaker poet, John G. Whittier


Quaker to Quaker, I have to tell thee

I have no patience with evangelical

Zeal at home or abroad. This tomfoolery

That passes for politics! This hypocrisy

Writ large is barely concealed evil.

In my time, John, we railed at slavery:

But look, look around thee now.

One hundred years and more—and history

Has only taught men to recycle idiocy.

What exactly doth thou have to show?


 Quaker to Quaker, I have to truly

Say I don’t know. We sent

A man to the moon and back safely.

We cured small pox and leprosy.

But peace? It’s a thing far and distant.

In our time, women vote, gay people

Wed. Fewer children fill the workplace,

But millions still go hungry. We dabble

In justice. But when we truly tremble,

It’s before the gods of the marketplace.

In these fractious, ungenerous times

Greed trumps need. And too few blush

Even as they bludgeon truth.  The crimes

Of ignorance and silence drop like dimes

Into a sewer filled to overflowing with slush.

Blessed to begin another decade

I am reminded that “the past comes round

Again. And new doth old fulfill.” If we paid

Our dues, God will “reclothe us,” He said

“In our rightful mind.” If we but forsake sound

And sit silent, waiting on the Lord.


Happy Birthday, John!

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Posted in Faith, Family and Friends, Grace, I BLOG, Peace, Poetry, Quakers, Uncategorized
5 comments on “Happy Birthday, John Frederick Webster!
  1. Susie Roth says:

    And many more!

  2. Pat Gozemba says:

    John, you are a gem. I feel so thrilled to have met both you and Dawn. You two make Karen and me long to move to Hawai’i and join you both in the struggles for justice in your adopted state.

  3. Gwen mayer says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! Tears welled up as I was reading! So beautifully written!

  4. Cindy says:

    Happy Birthday John! This is the Cindy used to work in Dawn’s HK office …surprise! surprise! surprise!

  5. John Webster says:

    The conversation with Whittier was marvelous, as were the sweet sentiments of my precious wife – and the kind thoughts from my new “friends.”

    If even a portion of the wise views and kind sentiments expressed ring true, then I am one lucky man!

    How grateful I am to be liked and loved by such as thee!


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