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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

FWCC World Conference: Update and Thank You

Dear Friends and Family,

After nearly two years of preparation, I will be leaving on Wednesday for Kenya to attend the FWCC World Conference of Friends.  I wanted to write you all again before I go to let you know a little more about what I will be doing there and to say thank you for your support. 

When I first wrote asking for support, my fundraising goal was $1,500.  Since then, thanks to all of you, I have raised $1,450.  Thank you to everyone who sent cards, notes, and emails, as well as checks, and thank you to all of you who have kept me in your prayers.  I am also grateful to Friends Journal for paying for my conference registration, to my Mom, who gave me thousands of frequent flyer miles, and to Freedom Friends Church, for sending me with love and a traveling minute.

On Wednesday morning, I will be flying first to Boston, where I am planning to have dinner with Bruce, a School of the Spirit classmate.  Then, I will fly to London and Nairobi, arriving on Thursday night.  For the first five days, I will be on a tour of Nairobi.  On April 17, I will travel to Kabarak for the World Conference of Friends.  The full schedule for the conference is on the website.  I will be traveling back on April 25-26, arriving in Portland the night of April 26.

I am not planning to post on my blog while I am traveling, but I hope to send some updates to Friends Journal.  If you would like more information about the conference in general, there are several ways to follow along.  The conference website will be posting photos and speeches from the conference each day. On Facebook, "like" the conference page to get updates.  On Twitter, follow @Kabarak2012 for official conference info and @FWCCAmericas for staff updates; the hashtag for the conference is #FWCC2012.

Thank you again for your prayers and support.  This trip would not be possible without all of you.

With love,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Traveling Minute

April 1, 2012

Dear Friends at Kabarak University, Kenya, Africa, and everywhere:

This letter is an introduction to and a travelling minute for Ashley W. She is a member in good standing of Freedom Friends Church, and is also our presiding clerk. Ashley is a beloved member of our community and we commend her to your good and gracious care.

Ashley will be travelling to and from Kabarak University, near Nakuru, Kenya, Africa, in April of 2012. She will represent Freedom Friends Church at the FWCC World Conference of Friends 17-25 April 2012. She will be doing visitation and various ministry activities while there. Prior to the conference she will also be touring in other parts of Kenya. Please greet her with love, care and share with her how God is with you.

If Ashley needs assistance, please assist her as if she were one of your own family or community. She is dear to us and we look forward to her safe return to us. She will bring us word of how God’s good work is flourishing among you, about how you love one another and serve each other in the light of God. We are praying for you, and look forward to hearing news of you.

Thank you, and may the God of all Creation bless and encourage you through Ashley and through each other.

Alivia B, Pastor
Freedom Friends Church