Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Thread

I am leaving for Kenya in two weeks.  Between getting vaccinations for exotic tropical diseases and finding a travel alarm clock, I have been preparing for the thread group I will be leading at the World Conference of Friends.

The thread groups are three-day afternoon workshops near the beginning of the conference that explore the theme at greater depth.  My thread group is part of the sub-theme "Salt and Light" and it is called "Convergent Friends: worship and conversation."

Preparing for this thread group has been a little daunting.  Although I have led workshops in the past, it has always been as a co-leader.  This is my first workshop as a leader instead of co-leading.

Fortunately, I am not alone.  I have the wonderful support of my elder, Lucy F.  Even though we are in different cities, Lucy has been providing good counsel and grounding this ministry.  I am looking forward to being able to work together in person!

I have also been thinking about what it means to be a convergent Friend.  In a recent Friends Journal article, Robin M defined convergent Friends as:
Friends who are seeking a deeper understanding of our Quaker heritage and a more authentic life in the kingdom of God on Earth, radically inclusive of all who seek to live this life.
 In my description of the thread group, I said,
The term “convergent Friends” describes a movement of Quakers coming together across the branches of Friends to try to discover the best of our tradition.
Earlier this week, I was reminded that the convergent Friends movement looks different depending on where you are coming from.

On Sunday evening, Sarah H and I drove up to Camas Friends Church for Convergent Friends Worship.  Camas Friends has been hosting a convergent worship once a month, inviting Friends from the meetings and churches in the surrounding area to come together to worship.

When we arrived, Friends were greeting each other and having coffee and tea.  We saw several people we know from different meetings.  After greeting each other, we settled into worship, which began with a time for Bible reading as led, then open worship, and ended with responses to a query.

For Friends from unprogrammed meetings, the time dedicated to Bible reading would be a change from their usual practice.  Friends from programmed meetings might not be used the amount of time spent in unprogrammed worship.  And at Freedom Friends, we don't often spend time responding to queries.  So for all of the Friends gathered there, parts of the worship were familiar and parts were new or different from their usual practices.

One of my hopes for the thread group is that it will be like that worship—that some parts will feel familiar and other parts will be new or challenging.  I think it helps if the parts that are new for some are familiar for others, so that those who are more comfortable can help ground those who are experiencing something for the first time.

But, most of all, I pray that in our worship and conversation, we will feel the presence of the living God among us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Little Children

And Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:3
I never liked the verse where Jesus tells his disciples to become like children much.  It was a verse that I heard a lot growing up, and it always seemed to be one of those verses that people quoted to put others in their place.  Or one that inspired people to write creepy "Jesus is my daddy" contemporary worship songs.

But then, at one of the School of the Spirit residencies, my friend Judy G gave a message during worship that changed how I felt about the verse entirely.  

Judy said that she was at her meeting one Sunday when a young girl, maybe four or five years old, came in with her parents.  The girl was wearing a lovely dress and seemed quite proud of it.  

A Friend approached the girl and said, "You look so pretty in that dress today!"  

She responded, "I know!"

That is how little children are.  They haven't yet learned what adults have―to respond with false humility or with very real self-loathing.  They are joyful in their beauty.

With that in mind, I think Jesus was right to say what he did.  Be like those children.  Know that you were made in the image of God.  You are beautiful to God.  And the love of God that comes through you makes you beautiful to others as well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Playlist II

A few days ago, I found myself making a new playlist for my ipod.  My playlists tend to be based on emotions or themes; last spring, I made one called "Ministry."  

In honor of my upcoming trip to Kenya, this one is named "home."  It has 40 songs, which seems fitting for the season.  As I was listening to it, I realized that I could have also named it "Psalms."  Like the Psalms, it covers just about every human emotion.  

I am hopeful that when I am feeling far from home, it will help remind me who I am and where I come from.


Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons
You Are a Tourist, Death Cab For Cutie
Suspended In Gaffa, Ra Ra Riot
My Night with the Prostitute From Marseille, Beirut
Sing You Home, Kathleen Hannan
Rapture, Pedro the Lion
The Burden of Vision, Jon Watts
You and Me (But Mostly Me), The Book of Mormon
Romeo & Juliet, Indigo Girls
The Gin War, Cassino
Baptize Me, The Book of Mormon
The Cave, Mumford & Sons
The Soldiering Life, The Decemberists
City With No Children, Arcade Fire
Iowa (Traveling 3), Dar Williams
People, David Bazan
Our Deliverance, Indigo Girls
Stay Young, Go Dancing, Death Cab For Cutie
Little Lion Man, Mumford & Sons
Unforgiven, The Go-Go's
Let's Get Naked, Jon Watts
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Arcade Fire
Won't Let Go, David Bazan
Platano, Cassino
Be Thou My Vision, Alivia Biko
Some Boys, Death Cab For Cutie
I Believe, The Book of Mormon
Lifted Up, Jon Watts
Pink Triangle, Weezer
Morning has Broken, Alivia Biko
Wolves at the Door, David Bazan
The Wolves (Act I and II), Bon Iver
Wild World, Cat Stevens
Heartbeats, Jose Gonzalez
Better, Regina Spektor
An Owl with Knees, The Books
Mykonos, Fleet Foxes
America, Simon and Garfunkel
What I'm Trying to Say, Stars
God Be in My Head, John Rutter

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Setting Captives Free

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners."
Isaiah 61:1
I have an occasional ministry of liberating moths.

In general, when insects get into my house, I do my best to escort them outside.  Freeing moths is different, though.  I have set moths free on two occasions (so far).

The first time was a few years ago.  When I lived in Seattle, I worked on the 26th floor of one of the very tall buildings downtown.  Each day, I would take a very fast elevator up to the 26th floor, walk through the lobby, and use my key card to let myself in to where I worked.  We had a lovely view of the Puget Sound from that height but, of course, none of the windows opened.

One day, I walked out of the elevator into the lobby and saw a moth flying around.  Oh, no!  I thought.  There was no way that it would be able to survive in that sterile environment.  So I pushed the elevator button and got back on.  The moth got on with me.  We rode down to the ground floor, where the door opened, and the moth flew out.  I rode the elevator back up alone, feeling like a hero.

The second time was just last fall.  I was taking the train up to Portland to visit some friends and I realized just before I got to the station that I had forgotten my water bottle at home.  It was a warm day and I was thirsty after walking to the train station, so I decided to buy a bottle of water from the vending machine.  

I was kicking myself for forgetting my water bottle―I was annoyed at having to spend money on a bottle of water and I always feel guilty about using plastic bottles―but I bought it anyway.  As my bottle of water thumped to the bottom of the machine, a moth flew flew out.  Who knows how long it had been trapped in there, but my spontaneous purchase set it free.

Sometimes, setting captives free feels like being Moses―leading those who are trapped out of bondage and into freedom.  Other times, it can feel like a mistake, like forgetting to bring a water bottle.