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.