Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Near the beginning of the most recent School of the Spirit residency, Patty L taught us a welcoming prayer:
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment
Because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God
And the healing action and grace within.
I found this prayer very challenging.  The part that I found hardest was welcoming my emotions.  My emotions can be big and scary and sometimes I don't want to welcome them.  But I know that being honest about how I feel makes me more whole.

I also have a hard time with letting go of my desire to "change any situation, condition, person, or myself."  I want to change things, and especially myself, all the time!  My strong reactions to this prayer were a pretty clear sign that this is a good prayer for me.

I have been thinking about the welcoming prayer again as the new year gets closer.  The coming year will be a year of a lot of change, some I know about and some that I don't.  Because I don't always respond well to change, I am trying to make this welcoming prayer my prayer for the new year.

I welcome the ways my life will change this year.  I welcome my emotions, my fear and anger as well as my joy and love, because I know they are for my healing.  I welcome my mistakes because it is by making mistakes that I learn and grow.  I welcome all of the people in my life and I pray I will be present for them when they need me and open to them when I need them.  Most of all, I welcome the presence of God in my life, and I welcome wherever that presence may lead me this year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


It suddenly struck me that I should leave. I was in class during the second School of the Spirit residency and I could no longer be in the same room with our guest teacher. He was condescending, he didn’t listen, and he interrupted women while they were speaking. I told one of our (wonderful) core teachers that I needed to take a break, and I went out to one of the prayer pavilions and tried to calm down.  I couldn’t tell if I was shaking because of the cold or something else.

After a few minutes, I decided to walk the labyrinth. My prayer going in was something like, “God, I am having trouble with male voices right now.” I walked the labyrinth, not really thinking about anything, and sat on the bench in the center.

Out of nowhere, I started sobbing. The emotions going through me felt so much bigger than me―I was shaking with rage and grief. When I could think a little more clearly, this is what came to me:
I am angry with the church for silencing my voice and for silencing women for centuries.

I am angry with the world for telling me to be quiet.

I am angry with Quakers for acting as if the equality testimony makes all of this go away.

I am angry with God for allowing all of this to happen.
I tried to welcome these emotions. I let myself sit there for a while and feel this anger and sadness. Eventually I got up and walked back out of the labyrinth.

The next morning during worship, I shook with a message I did not want to give. It was a hard message for me because I was worried that it would hurt the men there, but I knew I had to speak.  I said:
I struggle with hearing men talk about God. This is hard for me because I know these men are good people and mean well, but they speak with an ease and an ownership that I don’t feel.

And I struggle with vocal ministry. It is very hard for me. But I have realized that God is making me speak and I can’t, I can’t be silent.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Consultation Epistle

Epistle from a Consultation
regarding a School of the Spirit Ministries Program in the West

December 5, 2009

"Listen carefully. Imagine a sower going out to sow, scattering the seed widely. ..." (Mark 4:3)

Dear Friends everywhere,

We greet you with joy to share God’s movements among us during a regional consultation of Friends gathered Dec. 5th at North Seattle Friends Church, in Seattle, Washington. Together, we resoundingly affirm the authenticity of the leading described in the attached vision statement modeled after the program, "On Being a Spiritual Nurturer," under the care of "A Ministry of Prayer and Learning devoted to the School of the Spirit." We prayerfully considered many questions and new ideas, and discerned way forward in coming months. Now we wish to invite all western Quakers into the circle of our prayer over this seedling of a program, and welcome your participation in its growth and development.

What is a program “On Being a Spiritual Nurturer”? In a full-blown form, it would be a series of residential retreats over two years; it would invite participants to deeper spiritual practice and communal support, to study scripture, the Judeo-Christian heritage and Quaker spirituality; and its aim would be to nourish growth in relationship to God and spiritually enrich our home faith communities. A similar program of prayer and learning has been active in the Eastern United States for nearly 20 years and has included some Friends from the West Coast.

Thirteen Friends gathered December 5th to tend the leading for a western program. Our number included members of four Western yearly meetings, both pastoral and unprogrammed Friends: North Pacific, Northwest, Western Half-Yearly Meeting of Canadian Yearly Meeting, and Alaska Friends Conference. Christine H facilitated the consultation with eldering support from Cathy W and accompaniment by Charley B and Patty L. Patty is one of three core teachers of the "On Being a Spiritual Nurturer" program in the East under the care of the School of the Spirit Ministry. 

The interweaving of experience of pastoral and unprogrammed Friends at this consultation provided rich learning throughout the day. Deep respect and appreciation for our many strengths enlivened our consideration. In addition, we were richly tended by the hospitality of North Seattle Friends Church. Both lunch and dinner were offered through the generous talents of North Seattle Friends Church member, Patty F.

We began on Saturday morning by hearing the spiritual hungers of our far-flung faith communities and the "soil conditions" for potential planting of a School of the Spirit Ministry program in the West. Christine H, Charley B and Patty L shared the story of the leading thus far. As we began to connect Western communities' longings to the vision, we were caught up in affirmation, especially for  the desire for a program like this closer to home, the right use of Quaker gifts on this half of the continent, and the joy of contributing to the work of healing and reconciliation between the various branches of Quakerism.  We considered questions that rose about what needed further discernment. We were united with enthusiasm in our “Yes!” and felt no “stops” at all. The afternoon bubbled with energy in three small working groups that brought forth new ideas on finance and corporate tending, outreach and promotion, and curriculum and program development. Before dinner, all were invited into a time of silent creative reflection and integration offered up in honor of Lynn W, artist and Washington Friend whose memorial meeting took place the same afternoon.

A recurring theme throughout the day reminded us of the incredible abundance of God—like small seeds yielding a hundredfold harvest, or generous plenty revealed unexpectedly in Jesus' feeding of thousands. Together we grew in trust in Divine generosity to counter fears of scarce resources and skeptical communities. We experienced Way Opening as we lived into the blessings that come from moving forward in faith.

In the evening, we addressed action steps and our personal leadings to commit to some portion of this work. Several stepped forward to serve on a start-up “Western Program Oversight Committee,” including: Charley B (convener), Susanne K, Marge A, Ashley W, and Eugene N-R. They intend to meet via phone conference to create a plan to present to the Board of the School of the Spirit Ministry at the end of January. They will discern and nominate others to serve on a more permanent Western supervisory board. Christine H was affirmed to serve in the role of administrator and core teacher to continue moving this vision forward. Her first responsibilities will be to draft a start-up budget and draft follow up communication with everyone who was invited to this consultation. We concluded our gathering by sharing thoughts for this epistle. The day ended with gratitude, affirmations, prayer, and the song, “We shall go out with joy, and be led forth in peace…” (Isaiah 55:12).

We recognize that starting up a program of prayer and learning will not be easy, just as participation in the program itself will not be easy. It will ask much of us in many different ways. Yet those challenges feel exciting, stretching, and somehow freeing. What began as a delicate seedling entrusted to a small circle of Friends, is ready to share with the wider Quaker community. First one or two, then this small consultation group and soon more will gather around something wonderful God is doing in our midst. The Divine Spirit has fired us up, enlivened us with energy and ideas for this ministry. If the story of what God is doing among us moves you as well, please consider how you might contribute or participate. Opportunities abound for service on the Western oversight committee, in planning, fund raising, outreach, teaching and of course participating in program offerings. Will you join us?

May the seeds of this possibility find fertile soil in your faith community and multiply a hundredfold for the spiritual nourishment of our Religious Society of Friends.

Respectfully offered on behalf of consultation participants by,

Christine H

christine AT whidbey DOT net
Clinton, Washington


Marge A, Multnomah Monthly Meeting, Portland, Oregon, North Pacific Yearly Meeting
Charlotte B, Chena Ridge Monthly Meeting, Fairbanks, Alaska, Alaska Friends Conference
Patty F, North Seattle Friends Church, Northwest Yearly Meeting
Christine H, attending Whidbey Island Worship group, Washington,  member of Chena Ridge Friends Meeting, Alaska Friends Conference
Kathy H, Multnomah Monthly Meeting, Portland, Oregon, North Pacific Yearly Meeting
Susanne K, Salmon Bay Monthly Meeting, Seattle, Washington, North Pacific Yearly Meeting
Patty L, North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative
Eugene N-R, Oysterville Worship Group, Washington, North Pacific Yearly Meeting
Lynne P, Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting, Western Half-Yearly Meeting of Canadian Yearly Meeting
Cathy W, Chena Ridge Monthly Meeting, Fairbanks, Alaska, Alaska Friends Conference
Lorraine W, Pastor of North Seattle Friends Church, Northwest Yearly Meeting
Ashley W, member of Freedom Friends Church, Salem, Oregon, sojourning with University Friends, Seattle, WA, North Pacific Yearly Meeting
Jan W, North Seattle Friends Church, Northwest Yearly Meeting

Friday, November 27, 2009

An Open Letter

I got home from the second School of the Spirit residency a few days ago and I have been feeling a little guilty that I haven't written about the first residency yet. There are so many things I want to say, but there is too much to say. So I will try to tell it slant.

During the first residency, I had an opportunity to meet with a Weighty Friend. We sat in worship for a few minutes, then he smiled and said to me, "How does thee feel about thy call into ministry?"

I grimaced and said, “Not very good!” We talked about how it is scary, but feels right.

Then he said, "In 15 years the Religious Society of Friends will be on thy shoulders."

I looked at him in horror and blurted out, "But my shoulders are so small!"

He laughed and amended his statement to say that my portion of the society would be on my shoulders.

I have been thinking about that conversation recently.  I do not believe that the future of Quakerism depends on me.  I am sure that even if I left tomorrow, Friends would go on just fine.  But I am a part of the conversation and I am a lot younger than many of the people I see in Quaker meetings, so I started to wonder what I would say to the Religious Society of Friends if I could address it as a whole.  What came to me was this:
I do not want to inherit your institutions.
Part of me cannot believe I actually typed those words, but I know they are true. And it is scary to feel that way because I have dear friends who are deeply involved in Quaker acronyms, but I know I don't want that.

Then I started to think about what I do want. This is the letter I would write to the RSOF about what I want:
Dear Religious Society of Friends, 
This is what has life for me (in no particular order):
  • renewal

  • friendships and conversations, especially across the branches of Quakerism

  • meeting for worship, and not just for an hour on Sunday morning

  • travel in the ministry

  • trying new things and combining practices

  • talking about God and how we see God at work in our lives

  • talking about what is meaningful in Quakerism and why we are here

  • trying to be a covenant community

  • taking risks

  • outreach

  • waiting individually and corporately for the Spirit to lead us

  • rediscovering and nurturing our prophetic voice 
It's not going to be easy, but following God never is.  And, as the teachers at the School of the Spirit reminded us during the second residency, there is no time to start but now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Angelic Troublemakers

I keep a few quotes on my desk at work.  My current favorite is from Bayard Rustin, on a card from the folks at Freedom Friends Church.
We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable.
When things get uncomfortable, often my first impulse is to try to make things better.  This quote reminds me that soothing things over is not always the right way to go.  I do not want to be a troublemaker just to make things harder, but following God pretty much ensures that things will not be easy.

I hope I can remember that when things seem entirely unworkable, God can do the most amazing work.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait

I have never been very good at dealing with change and there seems to be a lot of it right now.  The season changed while I wasn't paying attention and now we have another hour.  In the last week I have spent time with my family, mourning the loss of my grandfather.  My job is coming to an end (it seems like for real this time) and I am thinking about hibernating for a while.

One of the things I love about traveling in the ministry is the strong sense I get from moment to moment of where I am supposed to be.  I don't know why I feel pulled toward a particular place or person, and I don't always know why I am there, but it is very satisfying even if I never know the reason.

I miss that feeling when I go back to what I still think of as my real life.  I wonder how to find it, and the answer I get is to slow down.

So I pray.  I pray on my knees and I pray on the bus.  I find myself wandering into the sanctuary of the church near work to pray in that sacred space.  I sometimes pray while listening to The New Pornographers and wonder vaguely whether that is wrong.  I keep coming up against my edges and trying to remember gentleness.  And I feel deep down that I need to keep praying until God says to do something else.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Thin Place

When I walked into meeting today, Jana was there. I was thrilled to see her. After she was hit by a car several weeks ago, no one knew what was going to happen.  Her recovery has been incredible, and last Tuesday, she got to go home.  Because of her broken leg, she is in a wheelchair, and she has months of various kinds of therapy ahead, but she looks amazing.

Jana seemed surprised by all the attention she was getting.  She said that people keep telling her that she sounds just like herself, and she wonders how else she would be.  Knowing that she would be mobbed if they stayed out in the social hall, Jana's husband took her into meeting early.  Others joined and we all settled.

The meeting today had a special quality.  We were silent for longer than usual, and three weighty Friends gave messages out of that silence.  One in particular spoke to me.  A Friend shared about a family in our meeting—a grandson, Milo, was born last week, and his grandmother, Lynn, is in the process of dying.

This message struck a chord in me because I was that baby. 

My mom was eight months pregnant with me when her mother died.  I know it was an incredibly hard time for her and the rest of my family, but it has also been a blessing for me.  Even though I was born in a time of great sorrow, I have always known that my birth was a cause for great joy.

It may surprise Jana that so many people are happy that she is herself, but her accident was a reminder to all of us that she is a miracle.  And the message today reminded me that we are all miracles—Lynn and Milo are miracles, I am a miracle, and you are too.  I think it is easier to remember that during times like birth and death, and I am grateful to be able to remember it now as well.

Friday, October 9, 2009

God Told Me To

I first moved to Salem just over five years ago to go to law school.  I spent the year before that living in Berkeley, and it was a big adjustment.  Even though I knew I didn't want to live in the Bay Area forever, I missed the farmers markets, great restaurants, and entertainment there.

I knew one person in Salem, Chris.  We were part of the same group of friends in high school—I dated one of his best friends and he dated one of mine.  Even though the relationships didn't last past high school, we all managed to stay friends.  When I decided to move to Salem, I got in touch with Chris and asked him to find an apartment for me, which he did.

After I arrived, Chris and I went out to lunch to catch up.  I was in the middle of my culture shock and asked Chris why on earth he had moved to Salem.  He gave me a funny look and said, "God told me to." 

I have no idea what my response was.  I hope that I smiled and nodded, but I definitely thought he was a little crazy.  At that point, I had been avoiding churches for several years and I mostly associated Quakers with oatmeal.  I did think it was pretty gutsy to move somewhere completely unknown because God said to, and I was curious what could be in Salem that was so important.

When I went to law school, I didn't have a very clear idea of what I intended to do afterward.  I cared a lot about international human rights, and I had a vague notion that I might work in that field, saving the world.  I worked hard and ended up getting a certificate in international and comparative law, then I got a job in Seattle.

I left Salem the day I graduated from law school.  I put my diploma between the seats of my already-ex-boyfriend's car and we drove directly to Seattle.  Although I was sad to leave the community I found in Salem, I had no intention to ever move back there.

But when the question of transferring my membership to University Friends Meeting came up, I found I couldn't do it.  Even though I had no plans to live in Salem again, I did not feel like I could give up my membership there.  So I applied to become a sojourning member instead.

Then God told me to move to Salem.

Maybe some people just do the things God tells them to do—I fight.  I told God that was ridiculous.  I reminded God that I would need a job if I moved to Salem.  I told God that people would think I was crazy.

After months of fruitless job applications and interviews, I sent in one application for a job in Salem.  I got four interviews and I got the job.  I started telling people that I was planning on moving back to Salem.  To my surprise, everyone was supportive.  A lot of them acted like they knew it was coming.

I had plans for my life that did not include this.  I thought I knew what I was doing and where I was headed.  But there is a little Friends church in Salem that is calling to me and a big, unfathomable God that is telling me to go, so I am.  I am moving to Salem by next summer because God told me to.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Visitor Report

Report from Northwest Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions 2009

Meeting for Worship and Business

Each morning, we met for meeting for worship and business for about three hours, with a half hour fellowship break at 10:00. The meeting began with the explicit expectation that we would hear from God and that we would corporately be listening to God. The meeting had music and silence at different times each day. I felt that the music and silence were integrated into the business well and were not a formality, and I could feel the presence of God in the silence.

The meeting for worship and business primarily consisted of reports from the committees. I particularly enjoyed the reports from the Immigration Task Force and the Faith and Practice Committee.

The Immigration Task Force (ITF), under the care of the Board of Local Outreach, began last year after NWYM was unable to come to unity on a minute about immigration. Since then, the ITF has focused on gathering and disseminating information about immigration laws and resources, faith-based advocacy, and assisting churches in action. It was inspiring to see how the ITF is helping Friends work through their differences and laboring together, and it is clear that this is a way that God is moving in NWYM, taking what could be a divisive issue and bringing Friends together in love. Immigration is an important issue in NWYM because Latino churches are the fastest growing demographic in NWYM and it is important to Friends in NWYM that the Friends in these churches are accepted as part of the community. Friends in NWYM are also aware that struggling with the diversity of views regarding immigration will provide NWYM with an opportunity for leadership with respect to other churches on this issue.

The Faith and Practice Committee shared three substantive amendments to the NWYM Faith and Practice for second reading consideration. The revisions reflect Friends' discernment of what God is calling the yearly meeting to do and to be. It is clear that Friends in NWYM feel that the Faith and Practice revisions are important—the leaders of the Faith and Practice history workshop anticipated 30 people but had attendance of 70! I was moved by their Spirit-led process and noted that this is something NWYM shares with North Pacific Yearly Meeting as we continue to revise our Faith and Practice.

I appreciated the support the yearly meeting provides for families and Friends of all ages. Although I do not have children, I enjoyed seeing the child care program. I was impressed by the structure for junior high and high school Friends. It appeared that the young Friends had good process in their meetings and support for discerning leadership. I also thought it was lovely when the Board of Congregational Care recognized marriages of 50 years.

On the last day, Friends expressed appreciation to Lon Fendall for his years serving as NWYM clerk and welcomed Tom Stave as the newly-appointed clerk of NWYM. Friends also heard and approved the epistle, which is available online: http://nwfriends.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/2009epistle_final.pdf.


I attended two workshops: Being an Effective Elder and Effective Clerking. Being an elder and clerking are Quaker topics that interest me in general and I was interested to hear how Evangelical Friends addressed these subjects. I found both workshops interesting and informative.

A large number of people attended the workshop on Being an Effective Elder and the presenters offered to come host longer workshops for individual churches. The presenters stated that the role of elders is to nurture the spiritual life of the meeting and to address areas where a church is spiritually dying. According to the NWYM Faith and Practice, a church must have at least three elders on its Committee of Elders. The elders work alongside the pastor, engaging in pastoral care. The workshop covered characteristics and gifts of an elder and ways to avoid abuses of power, and referred Friends to the NWYM Elders Handbook (April 2009). The handbook is available online: http://nwfriends.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/elders-handbook-april2009.pdf.

The Effective Clerking workshop was also well attended. The presenters focused on preparation for clerking, creative ways for Friends to connect when gathering, and the need to recognize the truth that each person brings to the meeting. They suggested that the clerk can model truth seeking by asking, “What does God have for us in this?” Another useful point was that there are three levels when Friends speak in meetings: (1) proposals, where almost no one has the truth and we should let go easily, (2) beliefs, which we should change if there is better evidence, and (3) needs, where everyone has some truth. We were encouraged to think about our needs as communities and individuals and how we can address those needs. I was surprised to learn that many of the Friends in NWYM did not draft minutes for action in their business meetings. There was also some discussion about the need to separate the roles of clerk and pastor.

Keynote Speaker: Colin Saxton

The theme for NWYM annual sessions was “We Are Witnesses.” Colin Saxton, yearly meeting superintendent, gave the keynote address on Monday evening. He said that as he labored over the message, the word God gave him was “deeper.” He encouraged us to be a witness instead of to witness—to be a witness of the personal encounter with Christ that has changed our lives. Saxton said there were many things that he would like NWYM to do more and better, but if we go deeper, Friends will find unity that transcends diversity. He cautioned us that we are just as liable to do harm as good when we act under our own power and strength. Instead, we need to work through resistance and give time to God, wait in silence for God to speak, and make time to read scripture and be in community. Saxton urged Friends to confess and forgive one another and to ask God to stretch us and allow love and healing light to transform places of darkness into beauty. A video of the message is available online: http://nwfriends.org/yearly-meeting-sessions.

Guest Speaker: Bob Adhikary

Bob Adhikary, a missionary with Evangelical Friends Mission, gave the plenary addresses on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. The theme of Adhikary’s message was the power of the Gospel, based on Romans 1:15-16. He began by reminding Friends that Christians in other countries do not expect to be blessed for living out their faith, and that we need to hold firm to Christ in hard times. Although I found some merit in the spirit of this message, for the most part, I found the tone and the content of the presentation alienating. When Adhikary began talking about God’s wrath, I felt that I had to leave. I did not feel that his presentation represented NWYM or my friends there and I felt clear not to attend his address on Wednesday night.

Even though I had a strong negative reaction to the messages, it was fascinating to talk to Friends in NWYM about their responses. Several people said that they were upset by the condemnation of homosexuality and the description of God in the message. It seemed clear that many from NWYM did not agree with what Adhikary said, and I heard that some Friends engaged him in conversation about their concerns. The analogy that came to mind was of a cell phone ringing during silent worship—sometimes an interruption that is clearly out of place can serve to bring the group together and make everyone go deeper.

Meetings with Friends

On Monday evening, Sarah P and I made a presentation to the NWYM Administrative Council (AC) about the 2010 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference. Sarah and I are serving as co-clerks of the planning committee for the conference and plan to travel to meetings and churches in the northwest to encourage women to attend the conference. We informed the AC that NPYM had provided me with a traveling minute and asked for a similar minute from NWYM for Sarah. Sarah shared her special concern for encouraging Evangelical Friends to come to the conference. We were very glad that the AC decided to give Sarah a traveling minute on behalf of NWYM and touched that the women of the Administrative Council offered Sarah support and guidance as we travel.

By Tuesday morning, I began to find it difficult to be present in business meeting as a woman. The majority of presenters in business meetings were male, as well as most of the Friends speaking from the floor, and I felt that the responses to men and women were different. I commented on this to Sarah P and she felt similarly. Fortunately, we had an opportunity to meet with Colin Saxton, yearly meeting superintendent, and Tom Stave, incoming yearly meeting clerk, to discuss how we felt. They were both quite open to listening to our concerns and asked if we had any suggestions. I said that it appeared that pastors are the individuals with the most autonomy in the yearly meeting and receive the most support from the yearly meeting and their churches, and most of the pastors were male. The women who were pastors seemed to frequently either be co-pastors with their husbands or are in gendered leadership roles (i.e. working in education, or with seniors or youth). I was glad to see that the new youth superintendant is a woman and I hope that she will be a role model and mentor to women in ministry. Although this is a difficult topic, I was glad we had a chance to voice our concerns, and I felt that we were heard.

Suggestions for Future Visitors

I learned while I was attending annual sessions that it tends to be held during the hottest week of the year in Newberg. During annual sessions this year, the temperature reached 107° Fahrenheit. Although the buildings where the meetings for business and workshops were held had air conditioning, the dorms do not. I highly recommend bringing a fan.

Many of the Friends in NWYM have strong relationships with each other and I found it sometimes difficult as an outsider to get to know people in the yearly meeting. I was glad that I already knew several Friends from the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference and FWCC. I also found traveling with Sarah P helpful in processing my feelings and responses during the annual sessions. I was pleased to hear messages throughout the annual sessions encouraging Friends to work on reconciliation and expressing the hope that NWYM would become a yearly meeting where everyone feels welcome.

Thank you for the opportunity to visit NWYM on behalf of NPYM. I enjoyed seeing Friends I already knew and meeting new friends. It was hard work and some of the issues that came up were difficult, but I felt well used and I am very grateful that I could go. I am also glad that NWYM and NPYM have such a friendly relationship and I hope that the yearly meetings will continue to send visitors to each other’s annual sessions and learn from one another.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where I've Been

I am still feeling a little jet lagged and recovering from a cold, so I am not really up for actual words yet, but in the meantime, I thought I'd post some pictures from the first School of the Spirit residency. As you can see, it is in a lovely place.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Something New

My bags are packed and in the morning I am headed to North Carolina for the first School of the Spirit residency. For the past few weeks, I have gone from excited to panicked and back again in less time than I would have thought possible. Even though I have the schedule of what we will be doing for the next few days, I really have no idea what will happen.

I keep looking at the list of people that I will probably know quite well and wondering what they are like. What will we learn about ourselves and each other? What will we leave behind and what will we take away? What will my life look like in two years at the end of this program?

It is thrilling and scary and I am glad everything is in motion. Although I have had doubts, I know that I felt led to apply for this program and many friends have encouraged my leading. I am grateful to have the support of my faith communities. Now all I have to do is go.

I also wanted to post an update to last week's post. I am very happy to say that Jana has been improving every day. She has been breathing on her own and talking to family and friends and she moved out of the ICU a few days ago. Best of all, a neurosurgeon who looked at Jana's MRI scan said that he thinks within six months any brain injuries will no longer be apparent.

There is so much to be grateful for and so much ahead. Please continue to hold Jana and her family in the Light. And please hold me in the Light as I travel, learn, and grow. Thank you.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Some Friends have already written about the tragedy in our meeting this week.* Jana, a beloved member of University Friends Meeting, was hit by a car walking home from the bus on Thursday evening. She has been in the ICU in a medically induced coma since then and it is unclear whether she will make it and what her recovery will look like if she does.

When I first started coming to University Friends, Jana and her family went out of their way to make me feel welcome. She has been on my support committee since we first started meeting, when I could only bear to have two people listening to me. Whenever I have had a prayer request, Jana has been the person I have gone to, and she always prays.

I know I am not alone in relying on her. Over the decades she and her family have been a part of the meeting, she has touched countless lives.

The image that keeps coming into my head is this picture of her taken by Western Friend at North Pacific Yearly Meeting annual session. In our skit about worship, Jana was the Friend loudly sneaking in late, hoping no one would notice.

Meeting was so hard yesterday. We were all praying for Jana. Several Friends spoke about her and led us in prayer. There were things I wanted to say about Jana—how kind and funny she is, how much we all want her to get better—but I had no leading to speak.

Instead, when I asked God whether there was anything I should say, God responded with a line from a song: "All you have to do is cry." So I did. As we all prayed, tears streamed down my face. I cried for Jana, for her family, and for all of our pain and loss. The prayer that keeps coming to me is this:
God, we know you love Jana, but we love her too. Please give her back to us.
Please hold Jana, her family, and our community in the Light.

*This post has more information about the accident and Jana's current condition.

UPDATE: I have heard from a friend that Jana is awake and responsive, though still in the ICU. Please keep her in your prayers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Careful What You Pray For

One of the required readings for the first School of the Spirit residency is Beginning to Pray, by Anthony Bloom. At first, I didn't like the book at all. Bloom seemed to be focusing a lot on how we need to repent and recognize that we are sinners before we can pray. That type of religious writing doesn't help me very much. I am already very hard on myself and I don't think that focusing on how much I fall short brings me closer to God. This story about St. Philip Neri made me smile, though.
He was an irascible man who quarrelled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on . . . he ran into the chapel, fell down before a statue of Christ and begged Him to free him of his anger. He then walked out full of hope. The first person he met was one of the brothers who had never aroused the slightest anger in him, but for the first time in his life this brother was offensive and unpleasant to him. So Philip burst out with anger and went on, full of rage, to meet another of his brothers who had always been a source of consolation and happiness to him. Yet even this man answered him gruffly. So Philip ran back to the chapel, cast himself before the statue of Christ and said 'O Lord, have I not asked you to free me from this anger?' And the Lord answered 'Yes, Philip, and for this reason I am multiplying the occasions for you to learn.' (35-36)
Recently, I started working on a new fruit of the spirit: gentleness, particularly gentleness toward myself. When I talked about this with Sarah P, she reminded me that when I feel led to pray for a new fruit of the spirit, that is usually followed by a lot of testing of the particular thing I am praying for. That is definitely what happened last year when I started praying for joy.

I am guessing that there will be some times coming up where I will make mistakes and feel stupid, probably more than usual. But I am going to try to give myself a break more often and to remember that even if I don’t do something perfectly, it’s not necessarily failure. I doubt I will ever be able to hold myself as gently as God holds me, but I think it's worth trying.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I watched the movie Amazing Grace a few months ago, after several friends recommended it to me ("It has Quakers!"). The movie tells the story of William Wilberforce, a young Member of Parliament who spent years fighting to abolish slavery in England. It is an inspiring story and the movie is quite good, but one thing kept bothering me after I watched it.

The bad guys were right.

The main opposition to Wilberforce were other Members of Parliament who argued that Great Britain would not be able to maintain its empire if it abolished the slave trade. We all know how it ends: England abolished slavery. It was the right thing to do, but ultimately they did lose the empire.

In a few weeks, I will be going to North Carolina for the first residency of the School of the Spirit program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer. Part of the program is meeting once a month with a care committee from my meeting. Over the past year, I have met periodically with a support and accountability committee. I am very grateful that they agreed to continue on as my care committee for this program, with one addition.

The care committee met for the first time last week. We talked about my hopes and fears in starting this program and our expectations for the care committee. We also talked about the tension I feel between my ministry and my paid work.

As a bright, young lawyer, I feel a lot of pressure to focus on my career. But instead of doing the things I think people expect me to do, I am making choices that allow me to do the things I feel called to do. From a career standpoint, my choices don't make a lot of sense.

I wonder, how much are we willing to give up to do the things God is calling us to do? Am I willing to give up money and prestige? Am I willing to accept that others might be disappointed and that I may feel like I am letting them down? Am I really willing to look like a fool by doing the things I think God is calling me to do?

I feel like so many Friends in the U.S. live comfortably in our empire while saying we want social change. But are we really willing to give up our comfort for our convictions? Are we ready to stop feeling smug and really give everything we have for the change we want to see in the world? What would that world look like?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Musical Interlude III

I finally got the new Dar Williams CD from the library yesterday. This Friend speaks my mind.
I know change is a bad thing,
it breaks me down into a sorry sad thing,
not some iridescent grateful butterfly.

I resist with defiance,
not the power of a mystic silence.
I will fight the dizzy spiral of goodbye.

And it's alright, it's alright, it's alright.


It's a sad and a strange thing,
but it's time and I am changing
into something good or bad, well that's your guess.

I'm my own sovereign nation,
dedicated to a transformation,
marching on with this target on my chest.

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright.
This one is for my Southern Alter Ego, QB, and anyone else who is going through difficult changes right now. We will make it through and be happy to look back on all of this, I am sure.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


In the past few days, I have been hearing some rumblings again from Quakers online about whether Quakers are (or ought to be) Christians. These arguments make me sad and tired. Sad because I can see Friends taking defensive positions and starting to see each other as "us" and "them." Sad because I have friends on both sides of this divide and I don't want anyone to get hurt. Tired because this seems like a fight without end.

One of the things that was most difficult for me when I visited Northwest Yearly Meeting was how easily Friends there exchanged the names Christ and Jesus. I consider myself to be a Christ-centered Friend. I am trying to make the living Christ the center of my life, some days more successfully than others.

I also take the words of Jesus very seriously. But when I pray, I don't pray to Jesus. And when God speaks to me, it usually is not through Jesus. I have a lot of respect for Jesus, but the aspect of God that I have a personal, day to day relationship with is the Holy Spirit. She is the one I talk to, the one I fight against, and the one who holds me in her arms when I don't have the energy to fight anymore.

The verse that came to me while I was thinking about this was "no man comes to the father but by me." It is a verse I have seen used as a weapon, against those who claim to have faith but do not declare Jesus as their lord and savior. But when I looked it up, the verse spoke to me in a different way.
Jesus said, "Don't bicker among yourselves over me. You're not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that's the only way you'll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, 'And then they will all be personally taught by God.' Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. (John 6:43-46.)
Of course, after Jesus said this, the people Jesus was talking to went back to fighting among themselves.

I think these words are for us as much as the Jews 2,000 years ago. We need to not waste time arguing over who Jesus is. We are not in charge here, God is. Only God can draw people to God and those people will be personally taught by God.

Our job is to listen to what God is teaching us.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

NPYM Traveling Minute

Friends Near and Far –

North Pacific Yearly Meeting (NPYM) supports Ashley W in her ministry to travel in our Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting, our sister yearly meeting, as she builds connections and encourages women to attend the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, June 16-20, 2010. Ashley is a member of Freedom Friends Church (Salem, OR) and is currently affiliated with University Meeting (Seattle, WA). She will sometimes be traveling with Sarah P of Spokane Friends Church in this work. Friends of NPYM met and worshiped with these women at our recent Annual Session in Missoula, MT, and we encourage them in their work. We entrust Ashley W to your care as she travels throughout the northwest this next year.

ELee H, Clerk

Coordinating Committee
North Pacific Yearly Meeting

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I'm feeling pretty bent out of shape after back-to-back yearly meetings and a trip to Alaska for my sister's wedding. I don't want to give the wrong impression. These were wonderful experiences overall, but I am tired after all the traveling.

I am also still pretty annoyed with God. I feel like God is stretching me in all sorts of ways that I don't want to stretch this summer.

One thing I noticed in both North Pacific Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting is how much more comfortable Quakers seem to be talking about things other than their own experience of God. I heard many Friends quote the Bible and early Quakers, and there was a lot of talk about service and politics, but I heard very few Friends describe their experience of God.

I can understand. It's hard for me too.

While we were visiting Northwest Yearly Meeting, I mentioned to Sarah P that I could feel the presence of God in the first business meeting there. She asked me what that felt like. The question seemed so personal!

Over the past several months, Sarah P and I have traveled together frequently. We eat together, pray together, and almost always share a room. Even so, I still felt shy describing my experience of God to her. But I gave it my best shot.

When I go to Quaker gatherings, at some point I usually have a moment where I feel the tangible presence of God around me. Usually this is early on, during silence or prayer, and it frequently occurs when I am feeling distracted and irritable.

All of a sudden, I feel God all around me like a mist and I also feel my chest expanding. I don't actually hear any words, but it is as if God is saying to me, "I am here. Pay attention. These people have something to say to you."

It certainly gets my attention.

I know that God is always there, but at particular times I am more aware of God. Other ways I have felt God is like a blanket over my shoulders, comforting me, and like a pair of hands holding me. At times when I am centered, I feel like I am disappearing into God. When I pray, sometimes my hands heat up and I feel like I am holding a ball of light.

I think we don't talk about this stuff because it is weird. It is so much easier to talk about the experiences of others than our own. And the Bible and early Quaker writings have the added benefit of the authors being dead. It isn't like we have to actually deal with a living Paul talking about his experience on the road to Damascus or George Fox saying that God is telling him stuff.

It is also hard to talk about God because words aren't enough. God is beyond description. But words are what we have. And sometimes the words of others help.

All of this is to say, I would like to hear about your experiences of God. If passages from the Bible, quotes from early Friends, or song lyrics speak to your condition, great. But please say why. I can read books, but I don't know what is happening to you unless you speak up.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Visitor Letter of Introduction

Dear Lon F,

It is my pleasure to introduce Ashley W, a sojourning member of University Friends Meeting in Seattle, Washington, and member of Freedom Friends Church in Salem, Oregon. We are delighted to send Ashley to Northwest Yearly Meeting as a visitor from North Pacific Yearly Meeting.

Ashley has been very active in Friends' matters in the Pacific Northwest. She was on the local arrangements committee for the 2009 annual session of Friends World Committee on Consultation in Canby, Oregon, this past March. She is also co-clerk of the planning committee for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference. She is a catalyst for the Seattle Young Adult Friends group and is currently serving on the steering committee for University Friends Meeting's Year of Discernment. Her commitment and loving energy have been a blessing in our community.

Ashley feels called to create and nurture community among Friends. I know that she will have much to learn and share at your annual sessions, and we look forward to hearing about her experiences with you. We commend her to your loving care.

In peace,

Helen D
NPYM Presiding Clerk

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


About a month ago, I started to get nervous about going to North Pacific Yearly Meeting annual session. At first, I just had a sort of general dread and I couldn't figure out why. Eventually I realized that I was worried that I would have to speak in meeting for worship and I was afraid that I would have to say hard things.

Now I feel like I had two separate experiences at the annual session. A part of me had a wonderful time. I enjoyed participating in my worship with music group, traveling with Sarah P, spending time with Friends that I don't get to see very often, and exploring the University of Montana campus. I even liked playing the Holy Spirit in the skit we did for community night, though I felt much more visible than I am usually comfortable with.

The other part of me was filled with increasing dread as the weekend progressed at the thought of having to speak.

By Sunday morning, I was in bad shape. I knew I would have to give a message during the worship that morning, but I had no idea what that would be. Worst of all, I could not feel God, not even to be angry with God. I felt desolate and prayed for words, anything to give me an idea of what I was supposed to say.

After breakfast, my worship with music group met for the final time. In this worship group, we followed a pretty typical worship sharing format, except that instead of speaking, we shared through songs. Out of the silence, one person would suggest a song that spoke to the queries or her condition. We would all sing the song together, then settle back into silence.

The worship with music group was the spiritual highlight of NPYM for me. I love singing with other people and everyone in the group was very tender with each other. But on Sunday morning, about halfway through, I couldn't go on. I moved my chair so that I could pray on my knees as the group continued to sing.

A few minutes later, a Friend began to rub my back and I started to cry. I cried because I was tired and angry. I did not want to speak in front of so many people and I still had no idea what I was supposed to say. I wanted God to find someone else, anyone else, to give whatever message I was supposed to give. I wanted to enjoy the music and the worship instead of feeling so wretched.

I felt like God took some pity on me and agreed to give me something to start with. I recently re-read A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly and a particular sentence stood out to me. After my worship group ended, I ran down to the bookstore and found the book in the stacks going back to the bookstore. I wrote down the sentence I had in mind, along with the sentence before and after it.

Before the meeting, I asked a few Friends to hold me in prayer if I did have to speak. I asked two to sit on either side of me and another to sit directly across from me. As soon as I sat down, I felt a little better. I have spoken in meeting before, and sitting in the circle felt familiar. I also felt drained and resigned―I was tired of fighting with God.

We settled into worship and I could feel my message changing. Others spoke, and they reminded me of the love of Christ and how that is the center of our faith. Finally, I felt a leading to speak. The chair in front of me was empty, so I held on to the back of it and said,

In the past month, I have asked Friends for a lot of money. I have asked for over $6,000 and I have gotten most of it. I filled out two scholarship applications to be here and I got most of that money too, which was good because otherwise I would not have been able to come.

In A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly wrote, "We have mistaken the nature of poverty, and thought it was economic poverty."

I am grateful to Friends for your money
―it makes it possible for me to do my ministry.

He also said, "The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God."

Our service is to turn others toward God, in whatever language you use. To turn others toward the Divine, toward the Light, toward Christ, toward Love. That is our service. And I wonder what our lives would look like if we knew it.
I sat back down and wept as the Friends on either side of me held my hands. I heard some messages responding to what I had said, but they rolled off of me. I felt like a burden had been lifted from me and although I was still tired and weak, I felt like I had been faithful.

As difficult as that was, knowing that I had a message to give in advance helped me to ask for the support I needed. After the rise of meeting, many Friends approached me and said that they appreciated my message and that it spoke to them in surprisingly different ways. I am glad that the message spoke to them, but I still don't understand why it had to come from me.

Later that day, I got a ride back to Seattle with Friends. I returned to my ordinary life, tired and disoriented.

I talked about my experience of speaking in worship with a friend on the bus yesterday. I commented that I was still fighting with God. She laughed at me kindly and said, "You know God's going to win. You could surrender now and save yourself some trouble." I know. But I'm not ready yet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who voted in and commented on the survey! I think it was quite successful. I got a lot of good responses, both here and to my post on facebook.

Here are the official results:

Total number of votes: 28
  1. Read a little bit from the Old Testament and a little bit from the New Testament each day. (16 votes, 57%)
  2. Read the gospels over and over until you get it. (11 votes, 39%)
  3. Turn back to page one and try again. (5 votes, 17%)
  4. Start from the end and work your way back to the beginning. (4 votes, 14%)
  5. What do you need it for after you read it? (3 votes, 10%)
People also suggested many other books that I could read:
  • The Koran
  • Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell, by Stephen Hawking
  • Tao te Ching
  • The Essential Rumi
  • The Tibetan book of the Dead
  • Bhagavad-Gita
  • The Essential Kabbalah
  • The Way of a Pilgrim
  • Siddhartha
  • Awakening the Buddha Within
  • the books of the Apocrypha
  • The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, by Frank Viola
  • Prophet and Teacher, by William Herzog
  • The New Testament and the People of God, by NT Wright
  • Daily Light on the daily path, from the Billy Graham Association
  • Authors: Bart D Ehrman, David Boulton, and Karen Armstrong
And there were lots of great ideas for things I could do:
  • Write a new Bible
  • a series of Lectio Divina either directed or random selections from the NT and maybe the wisdom books of the OT
  • Jager-bomb
  • lay the Bible on the table, use a blow dryer to select a random page and then stick a pin in a verse blindfolded and then live that verse out in a literal fashion for the day!
  • get a copy of "The Untold Story of the New Testament Church" by Frank Viola and go through Acts and the Pauline epistles using it as a study guide
  • read the NT over again, but in the order it was actually written
  • start memorizing passages
  • spend some time letting all this percolate
  • read around the Bible, and have it to hand to see what the authors are talking about
  • know the main reason I'm reading the Bible that day
  • start reading it with other people
Reading everyone's responses made me think about why I started reading the Bible again in the first place. Although this was my first time reading the Bible from cover to cover, it was definitely not my first time reading the Bible.

I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to say that I grew up in a Bible immersion program. From kindergarten until eighth grade, I attended Sonrise Christian School, where we prayed every day (usually several times), had chapel once a week, and in addition to having a Bible class, memory verse was a graded subject (a subject I actually failed one semester in fourth grade, but that's another story). If we spoke out of turn in class, instead of having us write lines, the teacher would keep us in for recess copying out every verse in the concordance under "silence." And all through my childhood, my Dad would read us a chapter of the Bible every night before bed.

I have written before about my falling out with Christianity. A big part of the problem for me was how I saw people using the Bible as a weapon to condemn and alienate others. I wanted nothing to do with it, so I stopped reading the Bible (and going to church). Other than using my knowledge of biblical references to impress literature professors at my godless university, I didn't really think about it much.

But then, about ten years later, I found myself in an unprogrammed Friends meeting with a sudden urge to try reading the Bible again. It made me nervous. I wasn't sure what reading the Bible would do to me and I think I was afraid that I would have some extreme reaction―either become a fundamentalist or blow off all religion again.

Fortunately, neither of those things happened. I mentioned to my Mom that I thought it would be good to read the Bible in a different translation and asked her to send one of the many Bibles my parents have at their house. She went out and bought me a new Bible in the Message translation, which is the one I am close to finishing.

By reading the Bible, I was trying to bring something from my childhood into my present to see if it has life. I was also trying to take texts that had become so familiar that I could no longer see them and read them with new eyes.

It has been a very rich experience for me and one that I have tried to document to some extent on this blog. Just as it was in my childhood, the Bible is at times beautiful, violent, funny,
frustrating, comforting, inspiring, and baffling. I don't think I am any closer to understanding it than I was when I started Genesis over a year ago, but I am glad I have given it a try.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And Now a Survey

As I get closer to Revelation, I keep wondering what I should do when I finish reading the Bible cover to cover. At my current rate of reading, I should be done within the next month or so. And according to Blogger, this is my 100th post, so I thought I'd try something different.

I would like some audience participation about my Bible reading. I have posted a survey above with options of what I could do next:

  • Turn back to page one and try again.
  • What do you need it for after you read it?
  • Read the gospels over and over until you get it
  • Read a little bit from the Old Testament and a little bit from the New Testament each day.
  • Start from the end and work your way back to the beginning.
So what do you think? Feel free to vote early and vote often. The survey will be up for a week and if you vote multiple times, it will make me feel like more people are reading my blog.

If you have other thoughts on how I should read the Bible, feel free to leave a comment. I don't promise to follow the results of the survey, but I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Web

If I had a lot of money, I don't think I would have to do nearly as much discernment. I don't mean to give the wrong impression. I am very grateful for my job and its steady paycheck. It allows me to pay for rent and food, keep up with my student loans, and give a few bucks to my meetings. But it doesn't go far beyond that. I know that compared to the majority of the world, I am quite wealthy, but I don't always feel like it.

Because of my limited income, when I get a leading to travel, I pretty much have to ask for financial support. I don't like doing it, but I think it is really good for me. It forces me to check in with my support and accountability committee and other Friends, giving me a completely different kind of support. They remind me what my ministry is, then ask how this new piece fits, and they help me to discern whether I really do have a leading. If I had money to travel, I would miss all of that.

Last night, I went to a potluck for young adult Friends, sponsored by some lovely older adult Friends. After we all ate and got caught up, one of the questions we discussed was our first memories of Friends meetings. A surprising number of the people there grew up in Quaker homes, so their first memories involved a lot of First Day school and playing with other children.

I said that my first experiences in meetings were both in times of great stress in my life: the first time I went to Freedom Friends Church was during my first semester finals in law school and the first time I went to University Friends Meeting was when I was studying for the bar exam. I said that I didn't remember a whole lot from those first times, but I really appreciated the silence.

Today, I met as a member of a clearness committee for another young Friend who is discerning her leading to travel in the ministry. It was wonderful to be able to hold her in worship after so many people have been doing the same for me. We met outside and I realized after a while that a spider was making a web across my lap.

Then I remembered how when during one of my first visits to Freedom Friends, I was sitting in the silence and praying about exams. As I prayed, I began to see all of the people I love providing a web of support for me. It was a wonderfully comforting image.

Now I see that web again, but in a different light. All of those people are still providing support for me, but they are also connected because of me. Some of them were connected to each other before and I am strengthening those connections. Others are meeting through me. Others will never meet each other, but I am blessed to have them all as my friends.

Maybe this is why it is so difficult for the rich man to get into heaven. If you don't have any money, you are much more aware that you need other people and that you need God. Over the past year, it has become increasingly clear to me that my ministry is in creating and nurturing community. And as I feel called to create community, having to ask for money every once in a while is a good reminder that I need that community too.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I have been back in Seattle for about four days now and I am starting to feel human again. Last weekend was wonderful in so many ways. I loved being a part of Kirsten and Colin's wedding, spending time in the wide open spaces of Alaska, and hanging out with my family. I am also grateful for lively conversations with good friends who love and challenge me. But it is wrenching to see people I love for such short amounts of time and traveling is exhausting.

Every time I open my Bible, I am amazed by how close I am to the end. When I started reading through, it seemed like it would take forever, but I only have about 100 pages to go.

Most recently, I have been reading through Paul's epistles. I never cared much for Paul before. I mostly associated him with rules, especially rules about women. I have been surprised on this reading to find him to be a kindred spirit. He works so hard and cares so much about the people he is writing to, I can't help but feel for him.

I first started sympathizing with Paul at the beginning of Romans when Paul said,
. . . every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God's gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! (Romans 1:10-11)
It is so hard to be far from the ones we love. Of course, if the way had been clear for Paul to visit, he would not have written the letter and I would not be able to read it now.

I have been fortunate to be able to travel and live in many different places, but that also means that every time I go somewhere, I leave people I love behind. And so I too write to those I miss. Not scripture or formal epistles, but emails and cards, chats and text messages, and posts on this blog. You are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope that God will clear the way for me to come and see you soon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Unknown

Looking forward to the next month, there are so many unknowns. Many things in my life right now are up in the air, including who I will live with, where I will be working, and where I should move next. I know that many of these questions will be resolved within the next few weeks, and that is hard too.

Fortunately, I also have many distractions. Later this week, I will be going up to Anchorage to celebrate with Kirsten and Colin as they make their vows to each other. Immediately afterward, I am going to Salem for a quick visit. I am looking forward to spending time with people I love and with all the traveling I will be doing this summer, I know the time will go very quickly.

It is scary not to know what I will be doing, but it is also a gift. I can see how my life could go in many directions and I know I am fortunate to have options at a time when so many people feel stuck. Although I may not always be able to see the pattern, I trust that God has something in mind.

And for now, I have the lovely distraction of all the beautiful roses that have appeared in my yard. Life is good.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Filled with Light

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force―no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. Acts 2:1-4.
For a for a few years beginning when I was about five years old, my family attended a charismatic nondenominational church. People danced and sang, fell before the Lord, and prayed intently for the rapture. It was a little disconcerting.

One of my earliest church memories is of people speaking in tongues. This was a frequent occurrence at the church, to the point that in my Sunday school class, we had a workshop dedicated to helping those who did not know how to speak in tongues to learn. I did not know how to speak in tongues, so my classmates and I prayed together that God would give me the ability. I never did get that particular gift.

I mentioned to a few Quakers that today is Pentecost. They said they didn't really know what that meant, so I briefly described the story of the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles, allowing them to speak in tongues. They said, "Oh, Pentecost, like Pentecostals."

It makes me feel a little sad that it seems like one group gets to be associated with Pentecost, and that in my circle of liberal Friends, those associations are generally negative. Although they wouldn't come out and say it, I think the assumption is that all people who speak in tongues are closed-minded conservatives.

I still do not speak in tongues, but I see many parallels between Pentecost and Quaker worship. We gather and wait in a house for the Holy Spirit to come upon us, and we speak as the Spirit prompts us. We may not literally see tongues of fire above each others' heads, but we do believe that there is the Light of God in every person.

I sometimes think that Quakers are too comfortable in our silence, that we are not paying attention the call of the Spirit in our lives. I pray that when the Spirit gives us words to speak, that we will be bold and share our good news, so that others will look at us and ask why.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Resolution Update

I realized today that I haven't been posting on my blog very much this month. I think I have been too busy being a Quaker to have much time to write about being a Quaker! I did want to post an update on my New Year's resolution. This year, I resolved to have a garden.

For a long time, my garden pretty much looked like this:

Fortunately, my Southern Alter Ego came to town for the weekend to lend a hand.

We took the bus over to the Seattle Tilth edible plant sale and bought a box of delicious looking plants.

By the end of the day, my garden looked much better.

A few weeks later, it looks even better!

In case you are wondering, we planted parsley, sage, garlic chives, rosemary, dill, cilantro, thyme, fennel, basil, onions, peppers, and cherry tomatoes. I focused mostly on herbs because I will be getting lots of vegetables when my CSA starts in a few weeks.

I am looking forward to all the delicious things I will be eating this summer and I think I can say that my New Year's resolution is a success!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Travelers on the Road

I usually have a pretty good sense of direction but this weekend in Portland, I kept going the wrong way. The worst was on Saturday morning. Sarah P and I were walking down an unfamiliar street, trying to find a Safeway. We were trying to buy snacks for our committee meeting that afternoon, but we couldn't find the right street.

Finally, we spotted a waitress at an outdoor restaurant and asked her where the street was. She pointed in the direction we had come and told us that it was about a mile that way. At that point, we only had about ten minutes before we were supposed to be back, so we turned around and hurried back down the street.

We were nervous about the committee meeting. Sarah and I are co-clerks of the committee and we are both relatively inexperienced at clerking. We had spent the morning going over the agenda and preparing, and getting lost trying to buy snacks was the last thing we needed.

But about a block later, we spotted a Trader Joe's sign on the other side of the houses. And as we walked toward it, one of the houses had an AFSC "Friends for peace" sign in the window, just like the one at my house. We took it as a good omen, went and bought snacks at Trader Joe's, and made it back in time to catch the bus to our committee meeting, which went very well.

The next day, we visited Multnomah Monthly Meeting for morning worship. As we walked into the meetinghouse, I told Sarah that I was suddenly nervous. She smiled and said, "You'll probably have to talk."

I realized a few weeks ago while sitting in worship at University Friends Meeting that I was not afraid to speak. This was a little unnerving for me because fear of speaking has been a large part of my experience of giving vocal ministry, and I was unsure how it would feel to be led to speak without my familiar anxiety. But on the day I realized my fear was gone, I also knew I did not have a message to give.

During worship at Multnomah, I thought about my sudden lack of fear and also what Sarah had said. Eventually, I asked God whether there was a message that I was supposed to give to the meeting. For a long time, I felt nothing. But then, I had the unmistakable feeling I get when I know I am supposed to speak―my heart was pounding and I could not stay in my seat. I stood and said,
When God made man, God made two people because man was lonely. We need God, but we need each other too, because living a life of service is hard. We need others to tell us if we are going the wrong way and when the pain is too much for us to carry by ourselves.
My experience of giving the message was the same as in the past. I said the part that I had, then waited for the next part, and sat down when I had no more. When I was done, a wave of peace washed over me.

After the meeting, a Friend thanked me for letting the message come through me. I was grateful that she said that, because it was exactly how it felt. I think on some level, I had been worried that my fear was an essential part of my vocal ministry. Instead, I think it was one more thing keeping the message from coming clearly through me.

Later, I told Sarah that she had called it on the way into the meeting. She said, "Well yeah, you speak every time I go to meeting with you." I had not realized it, but it's true. It is almost as if when Sarah and I travel together, she is the lightning rod for messages that I feel led to give. I keep telling her that I really don't talk in meeting much, but I'm not sure she believes me.

Even though I am not as terrified of having to speak, vocal ministry is not easy for me. I told Sarah that I just had to stop going to meetings with her so I wouldn't have to talk as much. I am grateful when Sarah is there, though, because I know she is holding me in the Light when I speak and trusting along with me that the message is for someone.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Everything Is Everything

My job is ending in August and I am worried. My job ending is not a surprise. I knew when I took the job that I would be there for two years. Of course, that sounded much more reasonable in the fall of 2006 than it does now. I'm sure it will not come as news to anyone that this is not a great time to be looking for a job.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing the bleak job market with a co-worker and she said, half-jokingly, that if I don't find anything, I could spend the time focusing on my Quaker ministry. I was surprised, because she is not a Quaker. After the initial surprise wore off, I said, "That sounds nice."

Unlike my job search, most of the Quaker things I am doing seem to be going pretty well. Although there have been difficult times in some of the committees I have worked on, I feel like I can see positive results from the work I have done. I am going to be traveling quite a bit in the next few months and I am excited about the Friends I will meet and the places God is leading me.

But at the same time, the Quaker work I do is not paid and I do not expect it to be. So I am back to thinking about my livelihood and worrying that I will either not have the money or the time and energy to continue doing the things I am doing.

It's a good time to be reading the Gospels. In reading through the Bible, I have just started the Gospel of John. I had forgotten how many of the stories about Jesus are repeated in the different Gospels, and it is comforting to hear them again and again.

One of the things that I've noticed on this reading is how physical Jesus's actions are. Yes, he told a lot of stories, but he also spent a lot of time feeding people and healing the sick. I guess part of me had internalized the idea that God is there for our souls and doctors and cooks take care of the healing and feeding.

When I was sitting in silence at the Friends World Committee for Consultation annual meeting in March, I got a very clear message. God said to me,
It was so powerful, I thought I might be sick, but it was also confusing. It didn't feel like a message for me, but I also didn't feel like it was for the people at FWCC. I ended up writing it down and later shared it with a few friends, but I felt unsettled.

I am still not sure entirely who the message is for, but I think it is partially for me now and in the months to come. It is true, I do have everything I need. I have a place to live and food to eat and a source of income (for now, at least). I also have the support of people who love me and places to go if I can no longer afford to pay my rent or grocery bills. Compared to many people in the world, I am extremely fortunate.

Beyond that, I have a relationship with a God who cares about my body as well as my soul. I know that I am not immune from sickness, pain, or death, but I also have the Gospels to gently remind me that I don't need to fear those things. I have everything I need, and I am grateful.