Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving -- Again!

As I drove home tonight, I enjoyed the grey clouds dumping rain. It's been a long time since it rained that much in these parts -- and we need it. I also knew those clouds would be harbingers of colder weather (and maybe even the first snow!). The seasons rolling on.

The leaves are pretty well gone, swept into the woods by this week's winds. And so I began to think of people who, like those leaves, have been swept by the Divine wind into the Eternal arms of God's love. I remembered Grandpa and Grandma Bill, Grandma and Grandpa Fortune, Great Uncle Johnny, and a host of other aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, and pastors. It was quite a parade.

And I also thought, as the wind was really howling through the naked limbs of the trees, that God's love has always blown many new friends to me -- from all sorts of places (New Vienna; Mannheim, Germany; Richmond, New York City, and more) in all sorts of ways (readers of my books, via the Internet, face-to-face meetings). Each new friend has enriched me in wonderful ways.

And I also thought of my old friends and my family -- who stand like those trees. The wind moves around and through them. They change with the seasons but are always holding steady while they are growing. Their steadfastness (especially compared to my flitting around like a leaf ) even as they grow and change and mature, blesses me more than I let them know.

As I thought about all these people in my life, I also remembered my favorite Thanksgiving poem. I discovered it more than ten years ago, and has become a favorite of mine. It’s by Max Coots and says:

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:

For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.

Let us give thanks;

For generous friends...with hearts...and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends, as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;

For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;

And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter.

For all these we give thanks.


Indeed, for all these I give thanks. Let us all give thanks, this holiday time, for friends no matter their type and God’s graciousness in giving them to us. People who are made in God’s own image, come to bless us. I am grateful for you!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Modest Proposal: A Conversation Invitation

As I've said in my series of posts titled "A Modest Proposal for the Revitalization of the Quaker Message in the United States," despite it's widely assumed death, religious life in America is growing. New congregations are starting, old ones are in the midst of renewal, and thousands of new people are coming to worship. And there is a huge uptick of interest in Quakers, as evidenced by such things as the sale of books about Friends and interest generated by Quaker Internet sites.

I also noted that English Quaker Edgar Dunstan once asked -- "What … have we [Friends] to declare to this generation that is of sufficient importance to justify our separate existence as part of the Christian fellowship?"

If you care about the answer to that question, I invited you to join me for a workshop/conversation to be held at Quaker Hill Conference Center (in Richmond, IN) on January 28 & 29, 2011. The conversation will use a combination of worship, social research about religious and congregational life in the U.S., and interactive discussions and activities.

The title is "Worship Groups and Other Alternatives to "Traditional" Church" and the subtitle is "A Conversation about the Revitalization of the Quaker Message in America." It is my hope that a broad range of folks -- pastoral, unprogrammed, Evangelical, Conservative, Liberal (whatever those titles really mean) -- will come together to talk about ways we can revitalize -- not institutions -- but the message of Friends. What have we to say to this generation -- and the next?

The schedule looks like this:

Friday, January 28
5:00-6:00 Arrival and Registration
6:00 Dinner
7:00 Session 1 – ―A Look at the Religious Landscape and Vital Congregations

Saturday, January 29
8:00 Breakfast
9:00 Session 2 – ―Proposals for Revitalization (based on my "A Modest Proposal")
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Session 3 — ―Worship Groups and Other Alternatives to "Traditional" Church
Afternoon Break
Session 4 – ―What is God calling us to do at this time?
4:00 Closing

This is not going to be a lecture. I hope for a deep, engaged, rich conversation and interaction. And, God willing, perhaps we will feel a fresh wind of the Spirit blowing across and through our little society -- imbuing it with a message for this generation and the ones that follow.
-- Brent
PS -- if you'd like a PDF of the conference brochure, drop me an email @
PPS I am working on a PDF booklet of "A Modest Proposal." It will be available for download in the near future.