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.


  1. Friend,
    Let thy light shine, whether the lightning rod is Sarah, or someone else. Sometimes our friends are just what we need to be free of all the stuff that gets in the way of worhip and/or ministry. Sarah holding you in the light, and you holding her in the light is a precious gift, and I pray both of you experience your ministries coming clearer, sharper and fuller.

  2. Hey Ashley

    Your ministry inspired me to make a couple of attempts at an outreach poster for some reason. I've put them up on QuakerQuaker, hope it's ok to use your quote.


  3. Alivia - thank you for your prayers and support. I feel blessed to have you as a friend accompanying me in spirit.

    Alice - I am glad that the message spoke to you. I do feel a little strange about you attributing it to me, though, because I feel it came from God. If it helps with outreach, that is great.


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