Thursday, December 25, 2008
There is a child,
A new-born child --
A rosy, new-born child.
The child whimpers --
All children do.
And the mother takes the child to her breast.
Then it is quiet.
So is every child.
The roof is not over tight --
Not all roofs are.
And the star puts
Its silver muzzle through the chink,
And steals up to the little one's head.
Stars like children.
And the mother looks up at the star
And understands --
All mothers understand.
And presses her frightened baby
To her breast --
But the child sucks quietly in starlight:
All children suck in starlight.
It knows nothing yet about the cross:
No child does.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I hear a lot of things. Carols come from my car radio, television advertisers me warn that there are only so many shopping days left, phone calls invite me to holiday gatherings – or inform me that the church is one shepherd short for Friday night’s live nativity and I need to be there at five sharp to don our costume. There’s shopping to be done, meals to be made, cards to be addressed and sent. Yes, it’s Christmastime … and it’s busy.
What about Jesus? Is there room for Him in the Advent Inn’s schedule, or is it full up? Taking time for moments of holy silence can clear some space for this Savior King who comes clothed in baby’s flesh. That’s because silence is where Quakers believe we encounter the real presence of Christ. Jesus comes to us in the peace of the silence, a silence which is an active going toward God, seeking a glimpse of the One whose coming we celebrate. If we take some space for silence this season, we will hear the Voice that speaks not only in words, but also in gentle tugs on our hearts and in the beauty our eyes behold in the lights, the sights, sounds, and people surrounding us this season. So stop. Relax your body and mind. Breathe deeply; slowly and gently. Savor the silence. And listen.
“Do you hear what I hear?”
Monday, December 15, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Not that you would know that by the different depictions that pass our way this season. We see it portrayed serenely on Christmas cards, in Christmas plays and songs, and in living and plaster Nativities all around town. In them , the Christmas scene is idyllic. It’s the very picture of a 1st century nuclear family – mommy and daddy and new baby.
Pierced by the light of God
drenched in the speech of God,
your body bloomed,
swelling with the breath of God.
For the Spirit purged you
of the poison Eve took.
She soiled all freshness when she caught
from the devil’s suggestion.
But in wonder within you
you hid an untainted
child of God’s mind
and God’s Son blossomed in your body.
The Holy One was his midwife;
his birth broke the laws
of flesh that Eve made. He was coupled
in the seedbed of holiness.
This poem takes us out of the Christmas we’ve created it in our image and reminds us of the miraculous nature of the coming of Jesus. We often confine our understanding of the miraculous to that of God becoming a baby – which is indeed a miracle. But there is more. There is something, I believe, miraculous about the boldness and obedience behind Mary’s “Yes” to God.
This was no easy “Yes.” This was hard and carried a societal stigma that makes the one we used to force on unwed mothers easy to bear by comparison. What God asked of this young woman was about the most difficult thing she could accede to.
“… in wonder within you
you hid an untainted
child of God’s mind
and God’s Son blossomed in your body.”
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Phyllis is posing 3 questions --
- How, in a religiously pluralistic society, do we maintain our particular faith witness without causing civil unrest or compromising/watering down our particular faith to nothingness?
- What does it mean to be human? (This, she maintains, is one of the eternal questions and is especially pressing today, especially as the current generation seems especially self-aware or at least self-absorbed)?
- What is the nature of the atonement?
Phyllis says that these are the questions that must be answered and how they are answered will determine the future of the Great Emergence.
Well, my battery is running low (and so is the one on my laptop), so more later...
As you might expect, most of her presentation is based on her book The Great Emergence. You can find her thoughts there, so I'm not going to recap what she's said here. You need to read the book -- spend some time with it and wrestle with its ideas. I, for one, have found her "story" persuasive -- as well as a cogent, concise description of what is going on in congregational life and the prime tensions of this time.
I will say that Quakers come off pretty well -- especially as she uses us as an example of how to deal faithfully and creatively with the question of authority. Just who/what is in charge? Scripture? Church structure? The Spirit of God? Of course, as those of us who are Friends know, we have been dancing with and around this question for 350 years and sometimes we get the steps right. The getting them right -- holding them in creative tension and allow them each to speak (the community of faith/Spirit/Scripture) -- is never easy, but is ultimately our goal and is spiritually fulfilling and rewarding.
On a personal note, I have been approached by a number of folks at this event who want to talk about Quaker spirituality and practice. Which confirms my long term belief that people are spiritually hungry for the best of Quaker faith. The question then, that I struggle with, is how do we come to live -- to model -- the best of Quaker faith and practice? How do our Meetings reach a place where they could seriously deal with what I consider the most pressing questions facing us -- What has God called us to do
- With this people?
- In this place?
- At this time?
Notice that none of these have anything to do with how do we attract more people? Rather they deal with the question of faithfulness to the call of Christ -- both individually and corporately. Does it really matter if we attract 20, 50, 150 people? Of course it does -- especially if our concern is staffing committees, finding Sunday school teachers, paying staff, heating the building, etc?
But numbers do not matter if we dare forget those things and get back to the initial call of Christ to follow him and his command to feed his sheep. What does that mean for you with your community of faith in your particular place at this particular time? That, I think, is one of the prime questions that the Great Emergence is posing.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Regarding a Convergent get together, there has not been a lot of interest expressed, but let's try this -- let's meet at 12 noon at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral on the front steps. It's supposed to be in the high 40s, so shouldn't be too unpleasant to meet outside. Then we'll go grab lunch someplace close and chat. How does that sound? I'll have a car if we need to drive somewhere.
Hope to see you soon.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
"While I was in the bathroom, Willie (the parrot) started screaming like I'd never heard him scream before and he started flapping his wings," said Meagan, the sitter who owns the bird.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
If the research he read is true -- then Gen Y, Gen X -- are fine with the Gospel (as they understand it) but not too happy with the institution of the church.
This struck me as a wonderful "marketing" opportunity for us Convergent Quakers. Except, we (all Quakers not just the Convergent types) if not adverse to advertising our existence, are not very good at it.
Which is understandable at one level -- how do you capture on a billboard or bumper sticker a spiritual experience as deep as Quakerism offers?
This made me think that one small step might be by undoing a name change that many Friends adopted in the 19th and early 20th century -- the name "Church." As in Podunk Friends Church.
If Gen Y et al like Jesus but don't like the church -- let's get rid of the "church."
By that I mean the name on the front of many a Friend's congregational edifice. Let's drop Podunk Friends Church and go by Podunk Friends Meeting -- and alert the local media to why we're changing our names.
Name changes are all the rage in mega-congregations and those who want to be -- just in our county alone we've got things like Connection Pointe, LifeWay, and all sorts of things that used to Podunk Christian Church or Southern Baptist of Podunk or ...
So let's go back to Meeting and invite folks to Meeting. For one it sounds a bit more hospitable than church. We could emphasize that what we mean by meeting is "gathering" -- we're getting together for worship.
And then we invite people to the second meaning of meeting -- encounter. We come to meet other like-hearted people. People searching for the sacred. Some having found more than others, some of us just learning the way or beginning to think about the Divine seriously.
I say like-hearted, notice, and not like-minded. We don't all have to think alike -- which is a good thing, since few of us do. Sometimes I'm of two minds about things all on my own!
Besides meeting other like-hearted people, we come to meet God. To encounter the Divine. Not just to be told about the divine through story, sermon, song, and silence, but to actually gaze into the face of our loving God and listen for God's words to our souls. What more winsome invitation could there be than, "If you like Jesus, but not the church, then come with us -- come to Meeting and meeting."
Monday, October 06, 2008
Instead it became largely a time to talk about various issues that various Friends were interested in -- prison ministry, being open and affirming of gays, national legislation, and so on. All things, it seemed to me, that were already being undertaken and accomplished by other active Friends organizations.
I understand that the group is still meeting and still sorting out what it is called to be. And hooray for them -- taking time to let a leading season seems to be perfectly in keeping with our testimonies concerning discernment.
But as I thought about that meeting today, I came to the conclusion, based on what I heard at that meeting, my work as a congregational consultant, a writer of Quaker spirituality, and our own little experiment with the Friends in Fellowship group, is that much of what I would hope from such a group is underway in the convergent Friends movement.
While I may not be strictly Convergent (I'm still not certain that I fit (or understand) the definition exactly), the convergent Friends movement is, it seems to me, the Quaker version of the emergent church movement. I find a lot of vitality in the Emergent movement – a group, according to their own words, “is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Emergent Village). They also say that they are about
Why I think the convergent Friends movement (and indeed much of vital Quakerism outside of the convergent movement) has much to offer is that it embraces the above all within the context of the rich diversity of Quaker faith and practice.
I like the idea behind the word “convergent” – one definition of which is ”tending to come together from different directions.” I am concerned that there be places for theological hospitality and deep discussion about Friends testimonies and their applicability in today’s world.
I don’t think that developing another group of “like-minded” Friends is going to be very helpful to us. That would seem to me to be “divergent.” I know what I cherish are rich times of worship across “lines.” What feeds my soul is when whatever dialogue growing out of that worship is done with respect and caring – me listening and learning from my Evangelical brothers and sisters, my more mystical brothers and sisters, my liberal brothers and sisters and letting Christ teach me through all of them.I don’t think convergent Friends is the final answer for all Friends in all circumstances.
I do think it has a lot to offer to those of us inside Friends who long for places of deep spiritual engagement (and all that means) and those outside of Friends who hear about us and wonder where to connect with a people who seek to be known as the Friends of God in an open and welcoming way.
PS I"m still willing to try an organize a "Convergent Friends" conversation at "The Great Emergence" if there's any interest.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Since there are all sorts of things planned specifically for Friends, (check the Convergent Friends site at http://convergentfriends.org/2008/09/15/announcing-covergent-october-2008/ for blog rolls and activities), I want to announce one that is open to a wider audience, but still has a lot of interest for Convergent Friends. It is "The Great Emergence" in Memphis on December 5-6, 2008.
Workshops will be offered with some of the best practitioners of emerging Christianity, including Tony Jones,
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
Light. Without it we die. Physically. Spiritually. Our very lives depend light for photosynthesis -- energy from sunlight that converts into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel used by all living things. That’s why sunflowers track the sun across the sky, sea otters bask while floating in the ocean, and I look for an excuse to go to Florida in January. All God’s creatures move toward the light – flowers, trees, people. Light is constant and ever present. At least that’s what we assume. Then the power goes out or a month of clouds rolls in. We grumble and moan and whine until the light comes back. Here's a reading on that subject from Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes.
Then there's news from a recent survey. It revealed that the United States was out-happied by Nigeria. That despite our per capita income being seventh in the world and Nigerians making an average of $520. Per year.
Besides Nigeria, we’re beat out by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. Hardly a group we consumerists would even think of as our competition.
The good news is we beat out Romania.
We may be proving that the old joke “Money can’t buy happiness, but it allows you to be miserable in style,” is more than a joke. It’s the truth. For all the material things we have, many of us sense that we are lacking something. Something important. Something inside. The upside is that this sense of a deep interior helps us realize that the good life is more than having things. The good life is one of soul satisfaction.
But how do we find it?
One way is, I think, by doing some reordering of our lives around four basic ideas.
The first is that the good life is about following God. While this may seem obvious, it one of those things that is so obvious that we often forget it. We need to ignore the artificial division between sacred and secular move through life while inviting God to be involved in every part of it.
Second, we need to remember that God’s will can be known and obeyed. As we learn God’s will, and obey it, we soon learn that we are participating, with other people of faith, in God’s work in this world. The good life calls us to partner with God in doing Divine work in this world.
A third idea is that following God leads to a life that is balanced and deeply satisfying. This is not to say that life is always happy and filled with all sorts of good things and pleasant experiences. Rather it means that following God in the daily divine dance of life provides a soul satisfaction and sense of rightness. This rightness brings balance to our lives.
The fourth thing is that the good life is also about being good. About being honest, care-full of others, actually behaving in ways we know would be pleasing to God. Much of the good life, they found, comes about by asking God to worth with them in thinking about and going those things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. The actions that come easily, drawn as they are from a heart of love for God and God’s people. Actions that come from the desire to please the Great Lover of Our Souls, in the same way we delight to please the people we love here on earth.
All of these lead us to the good life -- a life of true happiness. Beyond party and polls, beyond things and into some thing deep and rich and life-giving. The hard part is putting them into practice daily. Which leads to a fifth lesson I guess -- the good life is about total dependence on God, without whose strength we can do nothing.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
1. I do some of my writing (the thinking/plotting parts) while driving my John Deere and mowing
Sunday, August 03, 2008
In one of his Bible Hour talks, Max spoke of Alan Jay, a Hoosier Quaker of the 19th century, who once asked the question, "How can we save our young people for the Friends' church?" A worthy question then -- and now -- and one that sparked a good deal of speaking from the silence that morning. As one Friend noted, even if we wanted to keep them Friends, what do we do when they move to towns where there is no Friends church?
That's true for members of Nancy's and my family. As careers have moved them around the country, they have often lived in places where there was no Friends congregation.
Which set me to thinking -- as most things do these days. Perhaps, just perhaps, part of the answer to that lies in inculcating passions for the Friends understanding of the gospel and testimonies along with a pioneering spirit. After all, as we were frequently reminded this yearly meeting, 150 years ago when Friends came to this part of Indiana, there were no Friends churches -- until they established them.
Now we Gurneyite, Orthodox Friends have fallen into the trap of thinking of the "church" as being the building. Friends General Conference Quakers have been much more comfortable with the idea of people setting up Friends groups whereever they settled. They even have a book about how to do so. But we move, don't see a Friends church listed in the yellow pages, and look for some other church to join.
What would it be like to train and equip our young people (and some of us older ones!) to set up Friends worship groups wherever they move? On college campuses? In the towns of their first job? Or third job?
In this day of blogs, facebook, MySpace, et al it should be easy enough to connect with Friends in new areas. Is it time to put together a "How To ..." start your own Friends worship group for us more Orthodox Friends? Could we do it with out pastors? Or a building?
I think we can -- and that it would be a good thing.
What thinkest thee?
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
overseeing the preparation and approval of liturgical books and texts and granting the concordat cum originali for publications of liturgical texts in the United States.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Silence, especially in life’s busyness, leads us through the whitewater of life to gentle pools of stillness and calm. 400 years of Quaker silence have pointed us back to the center within. Silence moves us from difficult self-examination to healing to relaxing in God’s presence. Interior silence takes us to a place where we are living St. Paul’s injunction to pray without ceasing, even when we are not consciously aware that we are doing so. That happened to me on a recent Good Friday. Here's a reading on that subject from Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Roy woman shocked to find snakes in parcel
By Erin Alberty The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 06/27/2008 06:09:58 AM
Gaye Hurst refuses to enter pet stores because of her fear of snakes.
Scientists suspect the snakes are black rat snakes - nonvenomous snakes common in Indiana, said Mark Hadley, spokesman for the state Division of Wildlife Resources. It appears they fed on a piece of foam inside the machine, which was shipped from Unlimited Oxygen in Mooresville, Ind., on June 20, Hurst said.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
And smile... for Heaven's and your own sakes...