Now there are bumps in the still place

My wife and I have been driving for two weeks: Joseph, OR. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Fort Collins, Colorado. Yellowstone. Camping along the way:  Southern Idaho.  Eastern Utah.  At the bottom of the Black Canyon.  On a street outside our nephew’s apartment building.  In the boondocks of northern Colorado, eastern Idaho and eastern Oregon.  Home day before yesterday.

Corvallis Ride of Silence 2013

Ride of Silence yesterday evening. I coordinated and led,  seeking a still place inside me below the details of pace and regrouping.

I must have found it, because this morning I feel it every time I seek it. Just as still and sure as ever. But this time the still place has bumps and jiggles, with a sensation of traveling.

Experimental Testimonies

In considering Quaker testimonies yesterday, the leader of our session of religious exploration asked us to check inside to see what arose as something we do in relation to what leads us.  Then we each spoke a sentence about it.

I don’t gamble.  I don’t use illegal drugs.  I wear simple clothing.  I speak plainly. This is to keep a simple mind. (I chose the last sentence to share with the group.)

I don’t think I chose these because they are negative testimonies–things I restrain myself from.  I chose them because I’ve been able to experiment with them.  I’ve found an expression of me that works best.

Continue reading

Inward circumcision

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision performed, not by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your natural self. This is circumcision according to Christ.

Source: Colossians – Chapter 2 – Verse 11 – New Jerusalem Bible

Margaret Fell also wrote about the complete stripping of ourselves.

Friends, deal plainly with yourselves, and let the eternal Light search you, and try you, for the good of your souls. For this will deal plainly with you. It will rip you up, and lay you open, and make all manifest which lodges in you…. Therefore all to this come, and by this be searched, and judged, and led and guided.

Margaret Fell, 1656

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When my sibling wrongs me…

When I’m frustrated and can’t speak, I either act out or I dream of a solution.

Children tend to act out.  Adults dream of solutions.  Sometimes an action or a solution includes revenge.

This seems to hold true among Quakers of all ages.  The religious education program I coordinate for Quaker children has some acting out.  The atmosphere is more violent than the children, their adult leaders or I want it to be.  It’s more violent than most of the group of Friends who employ me might believe.  I guess it’s about on a par with the playgrounds I supervised for public elementary schools.

The large meetiBonnet&fistsngs for business that I (rarely) attend include many ideas for solutions to many contemporary problems.  Some solutions are focused on the group itself, some on regional or world issues.  Sometimes violence or revenge is spoken of or included in a proposed solution.  To sit through such a meeting does violence to the physiology of many of us.  Some of us avoid that hurt by skipping meetings, perhaps while helping with the children’s program.  Some channel the physiological hurt into smart and sharp repartee or open protest.  The words may be aimed at evil in the world or they may be directed at a Friend across the room. Continue reading

Toward living water, worship, Spirit & Truth

My devotional reading today was from John’s gospel.  Chapter four starts with Jesus meeting a woman at a well in a town in Samaria.  I actually read the notes in my study Bible this time.  They led me to this history of how the Jews came to disrespect Samaritans:
….every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made …. They also worshiped the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed

© 2014 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

© 2014 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

for them in the shrines of the high places.  So they worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.  To this day they continue to practice their former customs.  [1 Kings 17:24-41 NRSV]

So the woman at the well was a pantheist.  Jesus is a Jew, Continue reading

“Pearls Before Swine” is useful for correction and training in righteousness

Five years ago, I blogged about moment to moment discernment–staying in touch with the Inward Guide.

Patricia Loring has cued me in on the prospects for discovery over a lifetime of a feeling and sensing way of discernment. “Earlier Friends, ” she writes, “often spoke of  ‘feeling after’ Truth…” (Loring, P.  1999. Listening Spirituality:  Corporate Spiritual Practice Among Friends.  Openings Press.  p. 73.)  This is different from the clear life leadings (career, marriage) with which God has shaken me in my boots and brought me to blessings beyond any I could expect.  This is practicing moment-to-moment reliance on the Spirit to help know which street to take or which coat to wear.

To find my way through these choices, I think, I center, I observe how I feel, I sense what kind of pressure there is in my midsection and I notice the results of the choices that are made.  I can’t say how led from without or within I am, but I’m not sure it matters.

What clearly does matter is faithful reflection and consideration of what happens and how it feels.  And being thankful for the blessings we find along the way.

I was reflecting on this subject yesterday in worship.  More was opened to me.  Continue reading

The Prophetic Stream

Bill Taber seems to have much to say to liberal Friends with Conservative leanings.  I’ve often seen a copy of his pamphlet Four Doors to Meeting for Worship in the hands of some of my friends, or seen it quoted.  When my local meeting was giving away duplicates from our library, I picked up several Pendle Hill pamphlets and have been using them as devotional reading.

The latest to reach my coffee table is The Prophetic Stream which has yielded some precious insights.  I’ve typed several passages into my file of quotes to use for email signatures.  I also plan to pass them on to be considered for the next edition of our yearly meeting’s Faith and Practice.

Check out these three:

This lifelong Quaker, a skilled craftsman, was well past middle age when he felt nudged to begin a daily devotional reading and worship in the early morning before he went to work.  He had done this for many months with no significant change when, Continue reading

Official, Officiant, Prophet

From the stories of Moses and the prophets who followed him, we learn of three major tasks of a prophet.  Put very simply, the prophet’s first task is to discover the law; the second task is to show how the law can–or must–be put into practice; and the third task is to make spirit available.
-Bill Taber. The Prophetic Stream, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #256.  (1984).  Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill.

Perhaps the role of the sport official is to be a prophet on the field of play.  The tasks are similar:  the official must learn the laws of the game, then s/he shows, corrects and instructs the competitors how to put them into practice.  The third–and I think summative–task is to make the spirit of the game available to all in the arena.  I’m less certain about this third task of the referee, so I’ll write more about it here.

No one else in the arena represents the sport itself as certainly and purely as the officials.  The competitors are bound up in love for their team, the need to prove themselves and the desires to win or to represent the school or city.  Coaches want to develop, protect and promote the athletes and team that they work for.  The spectators are typically motivated by love for an individual or perhaps the whole team.  The referee knows none of that.  Continue reading

Advices from a Superhero

As the Central Friends (middle school age group) of North Pacific Yearly Meeting gathered to open their 2014 annual session, they began Superhero with legible advicesto formulate what they refer to as a code of conduct.

It was written on paper pulled from a recycle or trash bin and torn into scraps, each with an imperative sentence attributed to a different superhero from comics and popular culture.  The scraps were taped to a human form, half-kneeling, made of clear plastic packing tape which had also been salvaged from a disposal bin.  The sculpture was winged.

Friendly neighbor.
-Spiderman

Be yourself.
-The Hulk Continue reading

If Meeting is a Muscle, Quakerism is a Full Workout

In his recent guest post at Gathering In Light, Chad Stephenson concluded:

Often Quakers lament the way teens or young adults drift apart from their Meeting. In our school [San Francisco Friends], it is in middle school when choice and freedoms to decide that meeting is “boring” is met not with an “oh-well, that’s adolescence” but with a call to better engender education. Practice through using silence as an opening to class, to meetings, and even actually teaching what good worship feels like and what good ministry sounds like articulates what Quakers believe in an accessible, developmentally appropriate way. Curiosity, scaffolding, and engagement will build the muscle of worship.

I am encouraged by the possibility of education as one way to stem this tide among Quaker youth. Young people who have learned well and practiced regularly will know its value, whether they choose to use it now or later in their lives. One teacher colleague spoke in ministry recently of how a student who grew up going to Quaker schools years ago but hadn’t attended a meeting since leaving had asked her to share silence with him when they met just to have the experience again.

Quaker meetings provide the element of faith and practice which schools can only touch upon. The power that we are offered in Meeting should be offered to youth in developmentally significant times, so they feel included and valued. Roles for them in leadership, finance, care for other children, and other capacities bring them into closer practice and ownership of the Meeting. As we hold them closer, they will take a closer look at how Quaker values of “that of God” in everyone is a both unique and powerful way of worship that they can join us in.

This morning, as I was hiking on a local hill,

“Further Along” by -Wink-, courtesy of Flickr.com/Creative Commons.

“Further Along” by -Wink-, courtesy of Flickr.com/Creative Commons.

I thought that if meeting is a muscle and Chad has suggested some exercises for its development, then what would the workout be for the full body of Friends practice and faith? Please excuse my stretched metaphor. I’m a teacher of physical activity and fitness.

Indeed, recent reflections on several blogs about teaching Friends’ faith have touched a resonant chord for me. I’ve been seeking ways to initiate youth into Quakerism since it was opened to me last Spring that, “We have no coming of age ritual in Quakerism. No first confession and communion, ba(r)t mitzvah, or vision quest. Perhaps our older children need an experience that marks that.” Continue reading