Friday, December 21, 2007

Evangelism vs. Proselytizing

I have had a number of threads occupying my thoughts lately, and this morning a new contrast between proselytizing and evangelizing seems to have brought them together. I hope that I can present them without making a huge knot.

In a previous post, I quoted the oft-stated "Quakers don't proselytize", and made the point that Liberal Quakers do proselytize, but it is not about their faith but instead about issues like peace, equality, economic justice, etc. The traditional peace testimony is that we live in the "virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars", yet it seems that our efforts in peacemaking don't involve trying to bring people into the virtue of that same life and power, but rather trying to achieve an external peace, rather than an internal one.

When I read Fox's epistles, there is a constant emphasis on dwelling in the light (keep in it, stay in it, dwell in it, walk in it). Isaac Penington conveys the same message with "Give over thine own willing, give over thine own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything, and sink down to the seed which God sows in thy heart". My understanding of the importance of everything deriving from the Light within has been ever-deepening.

In the post where I talked about "Quakers don't proselytize", I suggested that it wasn't the proselytizing that was wrong, but WHAT we were proselytizing. Again, it goes back to trying to achieve the results in others without the spirit that provides those results in us. I have come to understand that I was wrong, and that the statement "Quakers don't proselytize" is true - or at least should be true if we are acting rightly.

I have known conservative Friends who push Christ on people - that the Light is Christ, and you must believe that in order to be a Quaker. This is another form of proselytizing, one that is much more common in the greater Christian community. There is a passage in Matthew where Jesus asks the disciples "who do you say that I am?" and Peter replies "You are the Christ, the Son of God", and Jesus replies "You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!" Similarly, Paul writes that "none can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit". To me, that means that one's emphasis shouldn't be on trying to get someone to make theological statements about the nature of that inward Light, but to help them turn towards that Light, and let it reveal its nature to them.

So what I am getting at with proselytizing, is that it is by definition "the attempt to convert a person to another opinion or religion". But if we hold firm to our understanding of the working of the Light of Christ, it is not us that does the converting, it is the interaction between that Light and the other person.

Another thing that has been growing on me, especially since the FGC Consultation on Gospel Ministry is the importance of evangelism - and for me, I feel that I am slowly coming under the weight of a concern in this respect. Let me just clarify a couple of words here. First, evangelism means "spreading the good news" (it derives from the Greek word euangellion, eu- for good, and angellion for message). Gospel is an old English word that also means "good news", so "Gospel Ministry" is also "Evangelical Ministry", and is "Spreading the good news".

So what is the good news? This is a point of difference between Quakers and modern Christians, because for many Christians, the good news is "Christ died for our sins". For Quakers, however, the good news can be summed up by George Fox's statement that "Christ has come to teach his people himself". Lloyd Lee Wilson also offered a good version at the recent consultation, which I can't do justice to, but was essentially that "the Kingdom of God is at hand, that it is immediately accessible". Even 2000 years later, this is still news to a lot of people.

Now, if I am to be consistent with a call to heed the Light and do only what we are led, I can't really say "we need to go evangelize". Maybe that's what some are called to do, maybe others aren't. I can say, however, that we need to be open to it. When we find ourselves proselytizing - when we have that earnestness to make someone think as we do, we need to ask if it really from the spirit or from our own egos. When we shy away from talking about our faith, we should ask ourselves whether that is also our ego trying to shield itself, or whether it is the spirit telling us that the time isn't right. We need to listen to know when the time is right. I think that is much harder to do if you aren't open to the possibility of being called to evangelize. In our openness towards evangelism, though, we also need to keep in mind George Fox's words "you will say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light,and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?"

Monday, November 26, 2007

Few words, deep ministry

Yesterday in meeting for worship, two Friends spoke with such simplicity, yet it touched me deeply, and it just felt like there was no need for other words.

It was simply:
Praise the Lord!

Amen! ... Praise his name

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holy Obedience - More reflections on the FGC Consultation on Gospel Ministry

I had mentioned to a number of people before the FGC Consultation on Gospel Ministry that I was looking forward to spending a weekend with a bunch of people who don't mind the term "holy obedience". I chuckled to myself when it popped up in the welcome letter we were sent just a week before the consultation, and again in the first session. I also hear it echoed in Liz & Callid's reflections on the consultation.

We had a discussion about the recognition of gifts and callings and how modern Friends seem reluctant to acknowledge that some may be called to gospel ministry as an ongoing concern, as if that somehow elevates one person above another. As I was reflecting on the practice of recording ministers, it made me think of the people who make the coffee, greet people at the door, teach First day school. We record these names in various ways, and it is an acknowledgment of the responsibility of the individual to carry out this task, and of the meeting to make sure they have what they need. It does not elevate the person above someone else.

The recording of ministers isn't really much different, except that the "task" is much more long-term and involves a commitment of one's life to preparation. Although the messages themselves aren't prepared ahead of time, the messenger is. It also involves a commitment to living one's life as an example of "holy obedience". The meeting must also commit to giving a minister support, such as an anchoring committee.

One thing I noticed at the consultation was how familiar most participants were with the bible. When we were discussing how some Friends get little or no support from their home meeting, another Friend rose and started reading a passage from the bible (Mark 6), which started "He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples...". A good part of the room made sounds of recognition, and then we laughed about it, realizing that the Friend probably could stop reading, because we had all realized that it was the passage about "a prophet is not without honor, except in his native place".

"Holy obedience" has also been a source of frustration for me within the circle of Friends I am called to be amongst. For example, many months ago a blogging Friend said something to the effect of "I'm not going to take off my clothes and preach naked in the street" (apparently some early Friends did just that), and it was in the context of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I don't really want to preach naked either, but I hold out the hope that if I was called to do that I would. Another Friend was very emphatic recently that "we are not sheep!", which seems to be the opposite of holy obedience, and a sentiment I have heard expressed in various ways.

One of the reasons to be in a religious community is the recognition that we all fall short of the mark, and we often need other people for support. When we are all shooting for different marks, how can we be of assistance to each other? During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says "Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" For me, sometimes the "bread" I am asking for is help with "holy obedience", and instead I am given a stone.

So I don't end this on such a down note, I would like to say that both my monthly meeting (Atlanta Friends Meeting) and my yearly meeting (Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association) have been very supportive of me. Atlanta approved a traveling minute for my trip to the consultation, and has also set up a support committee. SAYMA recommended me to the Traveling Ministries Program when they asked for names of people to invite to the consultation, and also paid for my travel. God continues to bless me in so many ways.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

FGC Consultation on Gospel Ministry

You may have seen Liz Opp's reflections on the FGC Consultation on Gospel Ministry. I was there as well, and have been trying to get my thoughts to crystallize. It has been difficult for me in that not long after I returned, we were rushing to get Ceal ready for her next School of the Spirit retreat, and then I had a SAYF (Southern Appalachian Young Friends) retreat in Chapel Hill over the weekend.

As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend. Proverbs 27:17 (NET)

The idea of the consultation was to put those with emerging gifts of gospel ministry together with seasoned ministers like Lloyd Lee Wilson, Brian Drayton, Jan Hoffman, Deborah Shaw, and so forth. In the past, there had been more opportunity for interaction between those young in the ministry and those more grown, and I think FGC is looking for ways to recapture that opportunity. I can say that I definitely felt the sharpening that Proverbs speaks of, and from just about everyone there.

Faith and faithfulness kept coming back to me at this consultation. Faith was something I struggled with, really starting in my late teens. My understanding of "faith" was that I had to believe certain facts like "Jesus died for my sins", and it didn't seem to make much sense. Faith for me is much more of a trust issue now - that I trust God to guide me, and help me. It is living my life under the assumption that "that of God" within me is something I can sense, and listen to, and that if I do so, I will be doing the right thing. And that is where faithfulness comes in - that I do try to sense, and listen, and do. There was much faith and faithfulness at the consultation, some of which was shown in words, but much more in actions.

I also found in the consultation a great feeling of hope for the Religious Society of Friends. I heard one seasoned minister speak of his hopefulness for the next generation of ministers within his yearly meeting. Liz spoke of turning the soil versus planting the seed, and for me, the hope in this is that there will be others to come along and plant the seed, or water the soil, or tend to the branches. To be among so many Friends with a concern for tending to the spiritual health of the Religious Society of Friends helped me feel less alone in those times where I am among Friends who consider us to be more like an "Ethical Society of Friends".

Underlying everything was a deep love and a reminder that whatever we do, however we serve, we must do it out of love. This was on my mind since before the consultation, since I have seen the hurt that comes from acting out of something other than love for others. My traveling minute to the consultation quoted John Woolman with love was the first motion, and then a concern arose. I need that reminder constantly to let love be the first motion, then as concerns do arise, I can have faith that God will show me what to do (if I am to do anything) and the hope that one day love will be the first motion for everyone.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NET)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Most Quoted Verses From The Quaker Bible Index

The other day, I noticed that has announced a new NET Bible - Compact Edition. One of the features of this new bible is a list of bible verses that are good to memorize. I took a look at the list of verses and I didn't like it. For one thing, it felt like it ammunition for proof-texting. It starts off with a couple of verses about the authority of the bible, and I noticed, for example, that 2 Corinthians 3:6 isn't in the list ("the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life"). I wondered what a similar list for Quakers might look like. I took the data from the Quaker Bible Index and munged it into a count of the most frequently quoted verses. I then took the top 100, and created a table with the King James and NET Bible versions of those verses. I think it gives a good flavor of how early Quakers used the bible. And you will note that 2 Corinthians 3:6 is #10 on the list.

Thanks to some comments from Kirk Wattles, I discovered that there were a few verses labeled as "too many to list". Of these, only 2 didn't make the list - Jeremiah 9:3 and Genesis 3:15. I have added those to the end, since I can't tell where they would belong. I have also left John 1:9 where it is, even though it probably would be much higher on the list.

Update #2
In case you want to print this table out, I have formatted it in PDF 4 ways:
KJV & NETBible, KJV, NETBible, and Verses Only. The full one is 13 pages long, the KJV & NetBible ones are 7 pages, and the verses-only fits on 1 page.

VerseKing James VersionNET Bible
2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these.
Jeremiah 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. "But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land," says the LORD. "I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people.
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. For God, who said "Let light shine out of darkness," is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.
Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person's praise is not from people but from God.
Romans 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we preach),
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Romans 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
2 Corinthians 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God - a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ's full stature.
1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven.
Deuteronomy 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. For the thing is very near you - it is in your mouth and in your mind so that you can do it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you - unless, indeed, you fail the test!
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 Quench not the Spirit. Do not extinguish the Spirit.
2 Timothy 1:10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.
2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments
Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: After all of this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; your young men will see prophetic visions.
Galatians 1:16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being,
1 Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living person"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.
2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away - look, what is new has come!
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. "People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me," says the LORD. "For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done."
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.
2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, "I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? My message is like a fire that purges dross! It is like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces! I, the LORD, so affirm it!
Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
Isaiah 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; "I, the LORD, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand. I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, and a light to the nations,
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.
Micah 3:11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. Her leaders take bribes when they decide legal cases, her priests proclaim rulings for profit, and her prophets read omens for pay. Yet they claim to trust the LORD and say, "The LORD is among us. Disaster will not overtake us!"
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called: Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. For the hidden power of lawlessness is already at work. However, the one who holds him back will do so until he is taken out of the way,
Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh,
Isaiah 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. he says, "Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth."
Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ,
Isaiah 56:11 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. The dogs have big appetites; they are never full. They are shepherds who have no understanding; they all go their own way, each one looking for monetary gain.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.
Galatians 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
Galatians 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. But just as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is now.
Isaiah 55:3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Pay attention and come to me! Listen, so you can live! Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.
1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? The prophets prophesy lies. The priests exercise power by their own authority. And my people love to have it this way. But they will not be able to help you when the time of judgment comes!
Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God's glory.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Galatians 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Ephesians 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.
Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.
Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Then Peter started speaking: "I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people,
Romans 8:21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God's children.
Isaiah 54:13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. All your children will be followers of the LORD, and your children will enjoy great prosperity.
Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves,
Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: in which you formerly lived according to this world's present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,
1 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. But for you who respect my name, the sun of vindication will rise with healing wings, and you will skip about like calves released from the stall.
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness,
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Romans 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.
Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive.
John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.
Romans 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. But all things being exposed by the light are made evident.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved."
Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith.
Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.
Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Colossians 2:23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body - a wisdom with no true value - they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.
Colossians 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: In him you also were circumcised - not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. What should I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing praises with my spirit, but I will also sing praises with my mind.
John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. But he said to me, "My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation,
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world?
Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: We proclaim him by instructing and teaching all people with all wisdom so that we may present every person mature in Christ.
Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. so that he may present the church to himself as glorious - not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.
Jeremiah 15:19 Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them. Because of this, the LORD said, "You must repent of such words and thoughts! If you do, I will restore you to the privilege of serving me. If you say what is worthwhile instead of what is worthless, I will again allow you to be my spokesman. They must become as you have been. You must not become like them.
Jeremiah 9:3 And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD. The LORD says, "These people are like soldiers who have readied their bows. Their tongues are always ready to shoot out lies. They have become powerful in the land, but they have not done so by honest means. Indeed, they do one evil thing after another and do not pay attention to me.
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring's heel."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti

Although I don't listen to music much these days, I have a soft spot for opera - at least some operas. I was saddened yesterday to read yesterday of the death of Luciano Pavarotti. I found a YouTube clip of Pavarotti singing Schubert's Ave Maria. Every time I hear it I just want to cry.

It wasn't just the magnificent voice, he had a sweet soul to go with it. I read this story on Groklaw yesterday, and it is as beautiful to me as a song:

Wow you jogged the old cranium on this one...

Believe it or not I have met him as well, under extremely similar circumstances. I was working as an engineer for an AV company at the time and I was assigned to designing and final configuration of the sound system in that hall. It was put in specifically for him and was immensely complex, far past what was necessary for the day to day stuff the system would be used for. The College went all out, not because he requested it, but because WCSU wanted to give him a system that would be worthy of someone of his talent.

I spent 20 hour days, 6 days a week, for three weeks behind racks doing adjustments and setting EQ curves. The final 5% of the adjustments are always the worst, and cinder block walls and cement floor with thin carpeting made the acoustics....interesting (in the same way feeding X-lax to a dog makes a dog walk interesting). Compounding the issue was Mr Pavarotti's vast vocal range, forcing me to make adjustments in frequencies that are hardly ever used by the human voice (including rock concerts, and I have configured more than my share of those).

It was coming down to the wire and we were expecting him at any moment to go through his rehearsal. At this point I had not seen my family or my girlfriend for the past month, and I was voicing how much I was missing them to a co-worker when I feel a hand on my shoulder and a very warm voice say, "I can wait a few hours, go home and see your family."

Standing over me, with a warm smile on his face, was the man himself. After my heart went back to it's proper location (seeing as it jumped clear up to the top of my throat) I asked him if he was sure. He asked me how long I have been working on the system and how long have I been away from my family. After I told him, he playfully slapped me upside the head and told me to go home. He told me something that I will never forget. "Family is everything, there will always be more work."

Never have I been treated with more respect and treated more like a human being from a Star.

He left a lasting impression on me and my staff.

He will be dearly missed.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Holding up the hourglass

I have written before about how it bothers me that we have a fixed time limit on meeting for worship. I have felt lately like meeting ended just as we were finally starting to settle in. This came to mind again this afternoon as I was going through George Fox's Epistle #58, which includes this line:

There is not a word in all the scripture to hold up the practice of sprinkling infants, nor the word sacrament, nor to hold up an hour glass, to preach by for an hour's time in a place; but the vain mind doth hold up many things, which Christ doth not command.

It's not that I think that by taking the time limit off of meeting for worship that everything would suddenly be better. Rather, I think of the time limit as an indication that maybe our devotion to God is not as strong as we might think. Perhaps one day when we really begin to feel that our time is God's time and that we don't have anything better to go rushing off to, we will be happy to sit in waiting worship until the Holy Spirit (and not the beeping of watches) tells us that it is over.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wax on, Wax off

I was 19 when the movie "The Karate Kid" came out, although I don't think I actually saw it until it hit cable where I watched it numerous times. The movie came to mind last week as I reflected on George Fox's epistles.

In the movie, a young man named Daniel enlists the aid of the local handyman, Mr. Miyagi, to learn karate. But Mr. Miyagi's teaching methods are not what Daniel expects. One day he is painting a huge fence, up.. down.. up.. down.., not side-to-side. Another time he has to sand the floor in slow, circular motions. He also ends up waxing Mr. Miyagi's collection of classic cars, where Mr. Miyagi imparts the famous "Wax on, wax off". All this time, Daniel is getting more and more anxious to learn karate, and eventually he blows up and accuses Mr. Miyagi of treating him like his own personal slave instead of teaching him karate. It is then that Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that the repetitive motions he has been going through with these chores have been his training and that his body has learned these motions well.

While George Fox didn't write "wax on, wax off", at least not that I have come across, he still had a simple message. In epistle after epistle he advises us to wait - "wait in the light", "wait in the life and power", "wait upon the Lord", "wait in the pure spirit". Another variation is keep - "keep close to the light", "keep close to the Lord". Over and over he gives that simple message that if we wait in the light, God will purify us and bring us closer to him. I think sometimes we get anxious and expect something more complicated, just as Daniel asked Mr. Miyagi "when am I going to learn how to punch?" For many of us, this purification we undergo is a slow, almost imperceptible process that only becomes clear as we reflect back on it.

Isaac Penington reflected this same simple idea when he wrote:

Give over thine own willing, give over thine own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything, and sink down to the seed which God sows in thy heart and let that be in thee, and grow in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion.

Perhaps Mr. Miyagi would have advised Daniel to "Give over thine own desiring to learn how to punch, and let karate be in thee, and grow in thee and act in thee."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Lamb's War & Activism

One thing that has troubled me for a while is that while many peace-oriented Quaker activities may be inspired by the Holy Spirit, the activities themselves seem to lack any awareness or acknowledgment of that spirit. Some Friends seem to have no trouble saying ugly things about their political opponents. One of the things I have struggled with is that in an effort to "love their enemies", some Friends just take the "enemy" label off one group of people and place it on another.

Chuck Fager helped clarify things for me when he spoke about Quaker House during a session at the North Carolina Yearly Meeting - Conservative gathering. In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote about "spiritual armor", and I have read this passage numerous times ("the belt of truth", "the breastplate of integrity", etc.) What I managed to miss time after time was Ephesians 6:12, which in the Revised English Bible says:

For our struggle is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark age, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Chuck spoke about the same thing - that the "Lamb's War" is not against people, but against "principalities and powers". I did not realize at first that Chuck was quoting Paul, but I came across the passage the next day (or it was shown to me, the Holy Spirit can be subtle). When we take that passage to heart, I think it transforms how we deal with people who would otherwise be our opponents. We are not fighting against them, but the powers, the system, that they are caught up in. This separation, to me, helps us continue to deal with people in love without sowing further seeds of war.

Just to put in a plug for Quaker House, they have been doing a "Truth in Recruitment" campaign - trying to tell people things that the recruiters may not tell them. They have recently posted a YouTube video of Sergeant Abe, the honest recruiter. They also put out a flyer about the enlistment document.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Worshipping Among Conservative Friends (again)

Ceal and I arrived home last night after attending the 310th annual gathering of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Conservative). Friends may remember me gushing about attending the meeting last year and wonder if I would have that same enthusiasm after another visit (I wondered this myself). I have to say my enthusiasm is different this year, it feels deeper - it wasn't all new to me, the sudden awakening experience of being among Friends who speak the same language as me was not much of a factor this year (upon reflection, last year was more a discovery of a language I had mostly lost or covered up). Instead, I found myself peacefully and joyfully refreshed by the ever-present spirit of worship.

There were remarkably few conversations about "what is Quakerism" or "liberal vs. conservative" or "theist vs. non-theist". For the most part, it was beyond that, and was at the place of "are we serving God as best we can?" or "how can we do better"? I felt that there was a good balance of inward-vs-outward service to God - there was a deep sense of care for our world and its inhabitants that permeated the meetings.

I found after the closing worship a sadness in feeling a little disconnected. I felt like someone from across the country attending a family reunion where the family members all live close to each other. It wasn't a feeling of abandonment or feeling unwelcome, there was a longing to have a more constant fellowship with them.

I know that once again this meeting changed me for the better, and in ways that I may not recognize for some time (maybe never). I'll probably have more to say about it in the days and weeks ahead.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Friends' Library on Google Books

In a comment to a recent post, Friend Marshall Massey mentioned a 14-volume "Friends' Library" published by Orthodox Friends in the mid 1800's. Google books has now digitized all 14 volumes, and thanks to the services of Public Domain Reprints, you can order your own copies. I will update this page more volumes are available for printing.

volume 1Buy it at
volume 2Buy it at
volume 3Buy it at
volume 4Buy it at
volume 5Buy it at
volume 6Buy it at
volume 7Buy it at
volume 8Buy it at
volume 9Buy it at
volume 10
volume 11
volume 12
volume 13
volume 14Buy it at

Also, Marshall quoted from a book entitled "The Life and Travels of John Pemberton, a minister of the Gospel of Christ". Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a copy of that book, but the passage Marshall quoted is also available in Memorials Concerning Deceased Friends.

All of these are available for download as PDFs.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Some Reflections Upon Reading George Fox' Epistles

I have been working my way slowly through George Fox's epistles, which is a different experience than reading his journal. For one thing, the epistles are very repetitive - Fox said the same thing to many people. For another, I get a better sense as to what Fox and other early Quakers were most concerned about. There are a few things that really stand out for me. I originally intended to list several things here, but this first one is so long, I will save the others for later.

1. "Answering that of God" and the experience of "The Light"
George Fox used variations of the phrase "that of God in every one" fairly often in his epistles, and he is referring to that "divine seed", the "Light of Christ" that "lighteth every man coming into the world". In modern usage, we more often hear "that of God" as "there is that of God in every one", and the modern usage is closer to a philosophical reason why we should treat people justly and equally - that is, you are doing these things to God. The modern usage seems close to what Jesus was saying in Matthew 25 ("Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.") Fox's usage of "that of God", however, wasn't a philosophical justification, in fact, I think he would have opposed such a thing. Instead, it reflected the simple belief that the Light of Christ was present in every person.

The experience of that Light was not necessarily a warm, fuzzy, feel-good experience, at least not at first. The Light shows you where you are straying from God (i.e. it reveals your sins to you) but also gives you the power to resist temptation. This is what Fox says in Epistle 10:

Stand still in that which is pure, after ye see yourselves; and then mercy comes in. After thou seest thy thoughts, and the temptations, do not think, but submit; and then power comes. Stand still in that which shows and discovers; and there doth strength immediately come. And stand still in the light, and submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone; and then content comes. And when temptations and troubles appear, sink down in that which is pure, and all will be hushed, and fly away.

Epistle 43 also has a good description:

To you all, who are enlightened with the light of the spirit, that the light which shows you sin and evil, and your evil deeds and actings, and the deceit and false-heartedness; it will teach you holiness, walking in it, and bring you into unity; and it will draw your minds up to God, and in it ye will see more light. But hating the light, there is your condemnation.

This power of the Light to turn us towards God is, for me, what makes "that of God" such a powerful idea. Last month, The Quaker Agitator had a post about Looking Hard For That Of God In Everyone. In it, Quaker Dave relates a story of a women in meeting who had trouble seeing "that of God" in people like Cho Seung-Hui. What bothered me about the story is that it is as if we have to find some sign of something good in a person in order to see "that of God" in the person. If, however, you look at it from George Fox's point of view, "that of God" is there in someone no matter what they do. "Answering that of God" isn't a process of trying to see some good in the person, but of trying to awaken that person to the divine seed within themselves so that they might be drawn closer to God. That potential exists in every single person, no matter what they have done, no matter how evil they may seem.

The part of "answering that of God" that may be uncomfortable to some modern Friends, and in all honesty I must include myself here, is that it is along the lines of being evangelical. That is, it asks us to talk to people about that divine seed, or to awaken them to it in some way. It seems that many of us have no problem calling on others to do things, such as ending the war in Iraq, so why should this be any harder? Couldn't they go hand-in-hand? If we advocate peace because we are "living in that life and power that takes away all occasion of war", would it not be more effective to call others to that life and power? In fact, it almost seems cruel to try to get someone to change their mind because of what we say, rather than because their mind was changed from the inside.

Although "answering that of God" is sometimes accomplished merely by our own acting in accordance with God's will, I noticed places where Fox took a more direct approach, such as Epistle 5, which was written to his parents:

To that of God in you both I speak, and do beseech you both for the Lord's sake, to return within, and wait to hear the voice of the Lord there; and waiting there, and keeping close to the Lord, a discerning will grow, that ye may distinguish the voice of the stranger, when ye hear it.

Before I end, I would like to return to something I said earlier, which is that I think Fox would have been opposed to using "that of God" as a philosophical justification - that is, using it as a reason for doing something, treating people certain ways. One of the most frequent themes in Fox's epistles is that Friends should "wait on that which is pure, which gathers you out of the world's nature, disposition, conversation, churches, forms, and customs, which will knit your hearts together up to God." (Epistle 43) Over and over he emphasizes being led by God and not by our own reasoning. For example, "take heed of reasoning with flesh and blood, for there disobedience, pride, and presumption will arise". So when it comes down to "Why did you visit that guy in prison?" or "Why did you feed and clothe that homeless person?" or "Why did you stand up for that person's rights?", the answer isn't "because there is that of God in that person", the answer is "because that is what the Light led me to do."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thanks to

For me, is the hub of the Quaker blogosphere. I especially appreciate it for learning about new blogs, and also as a snapshot of the conversations currently going on. Many thanks to Martin Kelley for his vision and hard work.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Quaker Texts Online

You may have already heard of Google Books before, but in case you haven't, it is a great resource. Google is digitizing out-of-copyright works from libraries all over the world and making them available. Earlham's Digital Quaker Collection has a remarkable number of Quaker works available as well. Although Google Books offers a search capability, the books typically display as scanned text, so you can't search from within the browser. On the plus side, however, Google Books can typically be downloaded as a PDF, which is a huge advantage over the rather clunky interface of the DQC. Also, some digital archives can be a little funny about the use of their texts even though they are public domain, Google is more open, only asking that you not use them for commercial purposes or do automated queries, and that you retain their watermark.

Some of the works that I have found on Google Books are:
Samuel Bownas' "A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister"

George Fox's Journal (If you have a recent Rufus Jones edition, you may find that a lot has been edited out, the ones on Google are more complete)

A Doctrinal Epistle written by Elias Hicks (Purporting to be an exposition of Christian Doctrine respecting the nature and office of Jesus Christ)

Caroline Stephen's "Quaker Strongholds"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Listening in the Spirit

The traditional Quaker approach to the Bible is that we read it in the same Spirit in which it was written. George Fox, for example, said:

That the holy scriptures were given forth by the Spirit of God; and all people must come to the Spirit of God in themselves, by which they might know God and Christ, of whom the prophets and the apostles learnt; and by the same Spirit know the holy scriptures; for as the Spirit of God was in them that gave forth the scriptures, so the same Spirit of God must be in all them that come to understand the scriptures; by which Spirit they might have fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the scriptures, and with one another

This idea goes back to the Bible, where Jesus says in John:

but the advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you. (John 14:26 REB)

This way of looking at the Bible is difficult for many Christians to accept, since it isn't simply reading the Bible with your intellect and trying to interpret it literally. Instead, it requires faith -- trust -- in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as well as a willingness to be taught. I often hear Friends speak of reading only specific sections of the Bible -- a Friend this weekend said that he sticks to the Gospels. Having done this myself for several years, I understand some of the motivation, but I also found that I learned much more, and became changed, when I let loose my grasp of what I knew and wanted to believe, and allowed myself be led into uncomfortable areas.

This came to mind during worship this weekend when a number of Friends spoke about listening to each other. What I don't often hear people talk about (at least not explicitly), but I think is crucial for Quakers, is to listen to each other by that same Spirit that guides us when reading the Bible, and should be guiding our everyday lives. As with reading the Bible, listening to each other can mean a willingness to let go of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs -- for me it often means trying to ignore that internal commentary that puts immediate spin on what someone else says. It also means keeping one ear on the person speaking, and one on that voice of Christ within.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Committment to Quaker Faith & Values - In 250 Words or Less

RobinM at What Canst Thou Say presented a task she has been working on - "In 250 words or less, give a brief statement of your commitment to the Quaker faith and values as you understand them. I thought I would try this exercise as well.

This is actually my second version. The one I wrote last night spoke more about what I do, and didn't really talk much about values. Perhaps I have gone too far in the other direction, but I ran out of words.

"My understanding of Quaker faith is that we listen to, and follow, the will of God, corporately and individually. I try to make it to Meeting for Worship wherever I am, and to faithfully attend Meeting for Business. I try to both hold the Meeting in prayer, and listen for God's voice. Although I have dry periods, I try deepen my relationship with God in my everyday life, through prayer, meditation, and reading.

Our values spring forth from the working of Christ on our hearts. Although we consider the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit to have priority, the Bible also holds a special place as further description of Christ's teaching and the working of God on others throughout history. I try to spend time reading the Bible and various inspirational writings.

We also speak of testimonies (currently Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Equality) which are outward signs of the working on the Holy Spirit upon our souls. The testimonies are not an end or a goal, but an indicator of the health of our relationship with God. I try to seek God's guidance in how I should use my time.

In practicing our faith, we are led by God to minister to each other during Worship, and at other times. We may also be led to give encouragement or reproach in a loving and truthful manner. We use queries individually and corporately as a means for self-examination and improvement. I am trying to use them more often.”

Saying Grace Without Words

Although I am not very good at remembering it for other meals, I try to say grace when I sit down for breakfast in the morning. It is a short prayer, similar to the kind I grew up with: "Dear Lord, thank you for this food, and for your many blessings. In Jesus name, Amen." On so many mornings, I just rush through it, barely even considering what I am saying. This morning I caught myself doing just that, so I started over, and tried to pay attention to the words. To my surprise, nothing came. I just felt a calm, wordless, "being with God" moment that seemed to stretch for a while.

Looking back on that moment now, I think about my use of that short prayer. While I didn't need those words this morning, are they what made this morning possible? Quakers have historically looked down on empty rituals and sacraments, but I have to wonder how we can really judge if a ritual is empty. When I rush through grace without thinking about the words, is that empty? I did remember to take a moment to thank God, even if I may not have been too conscious of it. I think a lot of it is your attitude in why you are doing the thing, and not totally how you are doing it. That is, if you are doing it because you think it is something you have to do in order to go to heaven, then perhaps whatever you are doing really is an empty ritual. If you are doing something in order to deepen your relationship with God, however, I believe there is some value, even if you aren't "fully there". Perhaps these unconscious rituals, done for the right reason, are like little drops of water that eventually wear away stone. You may not perceive any wear, until one day, maybe over breakfast, a huge chunk falls away.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Annealing of the Soul

There is a process in metallurgy called annealing where a metal is heated to a specific temperature and allowed to cool slowly. During this heating process, the metal softens, and crystalline defects (which cause internal stress) are removed. During the cooling phase, new crystalline structures form, generally reforming with fewer defects. This same process is often performed with glass, and glass that has not been annealed is more likely to shatter.

I sometimes feel that God uses a similar process on our souls. We sometimes undergo a heating process in the form of stress, pressure, or problems. In a metal, the heating process causes the breakdown of atomic bonds. In us, this process may cause us to let go of preconceived notions, or attitudes that we have developed about individuals or groups. As we make our way through these troubling times and things start to cool off, we settle into a new understanding, hopefully one that represents an improvement in us.