Saturday, April 28, 2012

Paying Attention

[My reflection paper for the Ninth Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, which will take place June 13-17, 2012.]
“On my good days I find grace in any number of places . . . .  On bad days, I don’t find grace anywhere, but that usually means I’m not paying attention.”  Nancy Thomas, preface, The Secret Colors of God: Poems by Nancy Thomas (Barclay Press, 2005), p. xiii.
About a year ago, I started getting a message.  The message was, “When they ask you to speak, say yes.”  I had no idea who the “they” was, or where I would be asked to speak, but otherwise the message was clear.  I don’t get specific instructions from God very often, so when I do, I try to pay attention.

Soon after, I got an email from the women’s conference organizers, asking if I would be willing to consider being a plenary speaker at the conference.  That seemed like the question I had been waiting to hear.  But as I read the rest of the email, I saw that the theme of the conference would be “Living in the life and power:  Inviting, Contemplating, and Enacting Grace.”

Despite growing up in the evangelical church―or maybe because I did―grace has never been a very meaningful concept for me.  It is a word I have heard my entire life, but I had never given it much thought.

Around the same time, I had a conversation with my friend Betsy.  I told her that I was trying to discern whether to volunteer as a plenary speaker for the women’s conference.  I said that I had felt a leading to speak, but I didn’t know what I would say about grace.  She responded, “I think grace is a wonderful thing for you to live into for the next year.”

So I told the planning committee that I did feel led to be a plenary speaker, and I asked to speak on the topic of “inviting grace,” because that was what I would be doing!

Since then, grace has appeared everywhere.  Once I started paying attention, I noticed how often it comes up in conversation.  I also began asking others what grace means to them and how it has affected their lives.  Slowly, I began to get a sense of the message I might give at the conference.

Grace is still a vast and mysterious concept for me, but I have enjoyed the perspectives on it that women have shared in their papers, and I look forward to the time we will spend together in June sharing our experiences of grace.

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