Monthly Archives: December 2005

Joyfully Gathered

Today at our worship gathering I experienced an array of emotions:

  • Happiness at seeing so many wonderful folks gathered to praise and worship together, especially as I watched four grownups try to squish onto a three-person pew – they really like each other.
  • Sappy sentimentality as I looked at how the sanctuary is garbed in gorgeously simple Christmas attire.
  • Anticipation at the thought of being with a larger community as we gather for the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, which for the first time ever will be only with my newly immediate family – Jason, Judah, and I. Many folks donít have a chance to celebrate Christmas with their nuclear family: a barrage of extended family obligations pull them in scurried directions. Iím so happy to celebrate with my extended family, but Iím also eager to worship with my larger worship gathering and area community with my boys.
  • An ache for more silence during service. Instead of my usual looking-around-at-everyone-in-the-sanctuary followed by analyzing-the-attire-and-hairstyles-and-facial-expressions-of-all-the-worship-leaders, I sat staring at a wall, thinking about why we were gathered, soaking in the sounds of the brass ensemble, and wishing for more time simply to be gathered sitting in Godís presence.
  • Uneasiness sitting next to the university president and in front of one of the vice presidents (like Mom and Dad watching over your shoulder to make sure youíre not passing notes during service. Will that *ever* fade?)
  • Blazing embarrassment as my friend who was preaching read something I wrote and decidedly pointed out that a) I was up in the balcony (yep, still got that security blanket) and 2) my face matched the color of my red sweater. Thanks, Steve-O: I think youíre just getting back at me for posting your picture on my blog. :)
  • Wonderment as someone talked shared about how the arrival of a baby changes *every element* of a personís life, and how the arrival of a baby savior mustíve signaled the same change. Another person shared about how Christ laid his life down daily: as he came to earth as a child, as a adolescent, as a young man – it wasnít just once on the cross, but every minute was a laying down of his life. I thought about if Iíd want to trade places with Judah – um, thanks but no. I like being able to do things for myself – I like the sense of ìpower/controlî I have in my life. Christ has *so* much more, and yet he put it all aside to become a powerless/dependent infant. Wow.
  • Giddiness as I listened to my Birthday Buddy (we have the same birthday! I only know one other person who shares my birthday, and I love both of these girls dearly! We also share it with MaryLou Retton, Neil Diamond, and the Emperor Hadrian. Arenít you jealous?) share her thoughts on this weekís advent candle: joy. She talked about playing a game with a group of five-year-olds including her daughter: they would take turns hiding the baby Jesus from the nativity scene around the house, and then would give clues to help the group find him – some were general, some were specific, but each time the girls found the baby, ìgiggles of joy would ripple among them.î She wondered what sorts of ìoutbursts of joyî came out of those who literally found Christ in the manger, and how do we hear those outbursts today?
  • Comfort in being welcomed into a community. It took us a good twenty minutes to get to the car after picking up Judah and chatting with friends in the hall. Various folks of all ages and walks of life talked with me, with Jason, and with Judah.

To me: thatís the church gathering.

Emerging Like Jazz

Yesterday I had some great conversation with friends as we gathered together to see how Godís shakiní. We talked about everything from the short-term nature of youth group communities and the grief that comes with losing it – to the guilt that comes with not attending all church events (ìboy, we sure missed you last week . . .î) – to how yummy pretzels are when you melt hershey kisses on top and smoosh them down with a peanut butter m&m (yes, we had some to taste test).

Some of these friends had read Graham Cooke, so we started talking about what weíve learned from him. As Iíve mentioned before, Dad has transcribed some of his tapes, so we whipped out the copy and started reading outloud:

A discipleship saying: our heart needs a vision combined with a plan. A vision with no plan is just wishful thinking. You need to write your vision down ñ then you need a strategy. Spiritual transformation cannot be orchestrated by us or controlled. But neither is it a random exercise. You need a plan. We do not deepen our relationship with God in a haphazard manner. All life gravitates toward structure in some way. And by structure I donít mean organization. I mean what God wants in the church is a living system where you have just enough structure to serve the life as it keeps moving forward. As the life keeps moving forward, the structure around it keeps changing. What we seem to have in the church is an organizational structure that tries to contain the life and wonders why we have troubles when the life tries to break out on the right hand or the left hand. We canít contain the life of God. We canít put God in a box. The only time God put Himself in a box He said, ìIf you touch this thing, Iíll kill you.î One guy did – he died.

Then we got to talking about Reggie McNealís Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. One of the tough questions deals with planning versus preparing. Society and situations are changing so rapidly that by the time people react with a plan, itís already too late. However, if the members of the church body train to be *prepared*, they can react more quickly, naturally, organically.

But Graham talked about plans: what are we to do?

God stepped in and spoke through one of my friends. He, being a musician, said it sounds a lot like comparing pop music and jazz:

  • Expecting vs Grooving - Pop music is very regimented, very planned out – the performer knows whatís coming up and what to expect (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, breakdown, tec.). Jazz is very go-with-the-flow with each performance being unique unto itself – the performer knows the basic elements/structure of the song but doesnít know specifically what special distinctives it will take.
  • Learning to the Song vs Learning to Play – Pop music requires knowing just what is required to play the song. Jazz requires that the player learn chords and [insert other music terms here that I canít remember] to move with the direction that the piece takes in the moment, to interact with both the music and the other players.
  • Immediate Application vs. Long-Term Application – Practicing pop music consists of playing the songs and the songs only – practice is solely for playing the song (using the plan). Practicing Jazz requires learning chords and theories – not nearly as instantly gratifying, but a lot more useful in being able to improvise (preparing to react).
  • Listeners Listening vs Listeners Engaging - Pop music listeners enjoy the regularity of the music and donít have to work to enjoy the song – no surprises and no investment. Jazz listeners must learn the feel of jazz, the flowing nature, or else it will sound like a bunch of garble – they track with the music; they invest time and energy.

I havenít read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, so I donít know if this is discussed. But what would a jazz church look like? Is that whatís popping up? Is that why other folks who are used to “pop” see the emerging conversation as ìgarble”? What would it look like to emerge and quake like jazz?

Free the captives NOW dot org

I just received a very kind comment and information from a personal friend of Tom Fox.

We set up a website with guidance from the faculty at EMU’s peacebuilding program, who have been working with hostage negotiation experts from around the world throughout this ordeal.

Thank you so much, John, for your love and care for your friend as well as his companions. Please let me and others know how we can best equip and support you and others during this time.

blogs4God: God bloggers quiet about Christian hostages

A while back I threw my blog address onto a website called blogs4God: “a semi-definitive list of Christians who blog.” I hadn’t paid much attention to what was going on in that realm until I noticed that my blog was linked to a post there: “God bloggers quiet about Christian hostages.” It talked about the lack of buzz circulation on the Christian bloggers front regarding the kidnapped Christian Peacemakers Team members.

How interesting to float in different blogging circles. In the Quaker realm of reading, it’s basically *all* that’s been talked about. I wonder if a Baptist or a Nazarene or a Catholic kidnapping – some more “mainstream” or dominant American denomination – would generate more talk. It makes me a little sad that we’re still so segregated.

IF YOU WANT INFORMATION: GO HERE – there’s a number of excellent sources out there, but the Quaker Ranter provides centralized, up-to-date information from a variety of sources.

And again: don’t underestimate what you can do – PRAY.

You Might Be a Quake If . . .

There’s been an *overwhelming* response to the post “You Might Be Emerging If . . .“, and I thought it was time for the Quakes to represent. See, one day a while ago, we were pretty hip; and in fact, some still are. But there’s been splits and mergers and now the name “Quaker” is attached to a number of things, such as:

Quaker Oats

Steak and Lube

and the larger edible grouping of
Quaker cereals

We’re insured!
Quaker insurance

You *know* this had to be a rockin’ place:
Quaker School

Quakers aren’t limited to those who walk about on two feet:
Quaker parrot

Quaker bug

Quaker Horse

Quaker Flower

Quaker dog

Apparently we protest the war in Iraq
Quaker Peace

and also process the oil we’re fighting over
Quaker State

Apparently Santa wants to be a Quaker
Santa Quaker Oats

Most folks think we don’t partake of the “fleshly pleasures”, but there seems to be a difference of opinion out there:
Quaker's Wife song

Quaker Cigar

We seem to be in the business of home goods:
Quaker honey dippers

Quaker Windows and Doors

Quaker Quilt

Sometimes we look very stoic
George Fox

Do they look hopeful to you?
New Hope Friends Church

And sometimes a little doofy
Quaker mascot

Quaker large guy

We may meet in a building that looks like this
Meeting House

Or this
Wabash Friends Church

Or not in a building at all
Quaker outdoors

We’re crafty
Quaker tapestry

Quaker needlepoint

Quaker Needlework

Who says Quakers have no sense of humor?
Quaker humor

You know we’re a hit at any party – we’ve got our own board game!
Quaker board game

We’ve dabbled in the realm of questionable literature – this cover screams harlequin romance
Quaker book

And a potential murder mystery – shocking!
Quaker mystery book

Canadians love us (or they love banana muffin mix . . . )
Quaker Muffin Mix

Sometimes Quakers seem behind the times, but we still feel a need for speed
Quaker City Raceway

We’re child-friendly, too (although we haven’t learned yet that cookies are a sometimes food)
Quaker Crackles doll

We have Quaker heroes
Quaker story

Be careful: we come in all shapes and sizes – you may never know when one of us is sneaking up on you:
Quaker Witness

Quaker Ranter

Quaker grandmother

Quaker Studies Class

Barundi Quaker

Steve-O

Protesting Quakes

Quaker gathering

Quaker folks

Colin

This one’s especially fiesty
Judah

Celebrate Good Time, C’mon

Sometimes I need some encouragement to celebrate. My mother-addlepated mind is already full, and the idea of adding *one* *more* *thing* makes me understand why many folks drink through the holiday season. But in bible study we spent the teaching time sharing with each other about what we do to make the season meaningful. Everything from eating the same food every Christmas Eve (hey Mom: Heidiís family does fondue then, too!) to attending certain music programs to hiding nativity set pieces and moving them closer to the barn daily representing the migratory element of the Christmas story (how fun!). Sometimes it seems like a bit much: many moms admitted to being Advent Junkies. But one woman spoke up, saying itís important to have enough traditions to make it special – to makes folks *want* to come celebrate as a family – to celebrate in such a way that kids would feel like they were missing out on something if they were there.

I never thought I was very sentimental about stuff like that. But then as I was unwrapping ornaments last night that were wrapped in paper towels from around 1985, I realized I have my own quirks (see, I wouldnít let my folks throw those paper towels away: theyís *so* soft, and they are what my ornaments *must* be wrapped in. I always leave a piece of candy in my stocking to remind me what I got during thet previous year (apparently last year was sugar-free Brach peppermints). And every Christmas Eve we attend the candlelight service at NFC which to me is a true celebration: *everyone* is there – friends back in the area to visit their parents, neighbors who donít frequent the church during the year, all the folks who play music stuff. And then we fondue and open presents.

Itís a bit tricky now that Iím married: my ìmust doísî have to mesh with my husbandís ìmust-doísî. And, most importantly, we need to make ìmust doísî of our own as a family.

How do you celebrate the holiday season? What do you find meaningful?

A Vigil for a Son

I was reading this appeal from Langley Hill Monthly Meeting while my son and cat were romping around downstairs. Giggles and clapping noises floated up to my ears as I thought about Tom Fox, kidnapped member of the CPT in Iraq. My thoughts weren’t about whether or not he should’ve been there, or about how my consumer American lifestyle helped inflame this situation.

I thought about Tom as a child: a toddler, bounding around his home, innocent and without a care in the world. I thought about his mother and her dreams for her child: succeeding in school, being a wonderful husband and father, maybe with the occassional dream of winning the Booker Award of the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m certain she’d be proud of Tom for following his God-placed call in being a resource for peace and reconciliation, but I doubt her dream for him consisted of being kidnapped and held hostage.

Having a child, specifically a son, makes me understand why folks are so interested in the figure of Mary. Isn’t it interesting how we can seem to start out in the same place, yet life circumstances and decisions of will take us to such different places?

Sometimes I look at those folks and see them in the present moment – they seem so strong and set apart. But I haven’t seen all the steps and choices and moments that have taken them from a pretty typical point of toddlerhood to a very distinctive adult journey. I don’t know Tom Fox personally, but I do know that, just like my son, he’s a precious child of God.

We ask that you give the following urgent message your deepest consideration, and direct it on to others who share our concerns regarding the violent and unjust interruptions in the lives of people in Iraq on a daily basis. We have a special concern for the 4 Christian Peacemaker Team members abducted November 26, 2005.

WHO WE ARE: We are Langley Hill Monthly Meeting, of the Religious Society of Friends, the Meeting of Tom Fox, the member of the Christian Peacemaker Team from America that is being held hostage.

WHAT WE ARE DOING: We are holding a 24 hour vigil beginning at 4:00 pm EST on Wednesday, Dec 7 for Tom and all the members of the CPT as well as those who have taken him hostage and the many individuals and families that have been negatively impacted by this war. We will also have a public candlelight vigil at the Clarendon Metro Park, Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, Dec 7 from 7:00-9:00 pm, EST. We will read the text of Tomís work as found on his weblog. Bring candles and dress warmly.

WHAT WE ARE ASKING: For each and everyone to join us in either:

1. Holding a simultaneous candlelight vigil in your community
2. If you cannot attend a vigil, then hold your own personal vigil, put a candle in your window or in your front lawn
3. Read Tomís postings found on his website waitinginthelight
4. Read the statement from Langley Hill Monthly Meeting (included below)
5. Hold Tom and his fellow peacemaker team members in the Light, seeking their safe and immediate release, and hold all those in the Light who suffer similar situations in Iraq and those who have taken such offenses against these individuals and their families.

We know that many people throughout the world have made efforts to secure the release of these hostages and we are grateful for their support.

AN APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE HOLDING TOM FOX AND THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAM,

Tom Fox, now being held captive in Iraq, is a beloved and longstanding member of our Quaker worship community. One of our strongly held beliefs is that if we listen, God can guide our lives. Before Tom went to Iraq, we considered with him his sense that he was being inspired by God to do what he could to relieve the suffering of individual Iraqis and to serve peace and justice. We were aware of the danger he faced. He went with our support and continues to have our support and love. We know Tom very well and can affirm that he is neither a spy nor an evangelist.

The tenets of our Quaker faith ask us to work for peace in the world and to respect that of God in everyone. That is what led Tom to go to Iraq. We believe strongly in justice, mercy, and peace. We opposed this war as we oppose all wars. We believe in a God that is compassionate and merciful, as do the people of Iraq.

We ask you as an act of justice, mercy, and devotion to release Tom and the other Christian Peacemaker Team members so that they can continue their work on behalf of those who suffer.

Releasing the captives, so that they can continue to serve the Iraqi people, would be an act of dignity and courage.

Signed,

Langley Hill Monthly Meeting
Religious Society of Friends
Doug Smith, Clerk

Chicken-Led Prayer

My friend Gregg has an excellent post regarding having a gift for preaching/teaching, and yet not having it line up with the typical American pastoral role. I want to comment, but I donít know that itíd be out of place of love (while showering – cause the best thoughts are to be had in the shower – the comparison that came to mind was slavery: the American slave system came about because those in authority weren’t able or willing to do all the work themselves, slaves didnít think much of themselves (or thought too much of themselves simply as their role, not as a person), led to a dependent and not-healthy culture). Once visions of ìFree the Pastors!î buttons and rallies started coming to mind, I realized it was a post I needed to sit with for a while, lest I go off the deep end.

Instead, Iím going to point out an interesting story from Marketing Vox:

Marketers have been looking for more ways to connect with spiritual Americans. Tyson Foods’ effort includes providing a free downloadable prayer booklet for mealtimes on its website, reports AdAge (via MediaBuyerPlanner). But Tyson’s act seems to be more than just marketing. The company’s mission statement, which it calls its core values, says the company “strives to be a faith-friendly company and to honor God,” and the company has placed 128 part-time chaplains in 78 of its plants.

Hmmm: mixed reactions. The jaded, GenX part of me wonders what good that will do – how hokey can we get? But the idealistic side, which occasionally gets to beat down the jaded side, recalls two instances:

  • My friendís father was home by himself for the weekend, and the cable went out. Well, *most* of the cable went out – the only channel that remained was one of the ìChristianî stations: you know the kind – full of big haired, hymn-singing women and WASPy men preaching sin management (they look a lot like folks talking about financial management – have you noticed that?). After asking God repeatedly what he had done wrong and why was he being punished, my friendís dad promptly called the cable company who said theyíd send someone straight out. The repairman arrived, seeming like a typical repairman – kind of gruff and blue collar, and the dad thought heíd strike up a conversation by talking about how hell must be something like watching the tv station all the time. But before he could, the repairman said that one night he couldnít sleep, got up to watch tv, watched this station, and knew there was a God out there who loved him and wanted to be his Savior. Yikes. :)
  • A friend and I were snickering in church during the announcement time. The pastor was sharing about how we have ìgift bagsî at the welcome center: we were encouraged to take these bags which contained information about our church and the upcoming Narnia movie, fill the bag with some Christmas goodies, and take it to our neighbors. A sort of ìevangelismî tool. I thought it seemed hokey, mixing spirituality and Hollywood. Later in the day a friend shared about how she had this feeling that she needed to connect with her neighbors but didnít know how, and the giftbags seemed like a sign from God. Ouch.

I donít know how effective of an evangelism tool this Tyson thing will be. Maybe the Church Marketing Sucks folks will have something to say (I *love* their website! The whole slick marketing thing doesnít always resonate well with my soul, but many of their critiques are right on).

A concern: it doesnít involve relationships – how will the folks who see this know what to do with it? . . . But what if it turns out to be like Philip and the eunuch where because the reader doesn’t understand they seek out a relationship with another who can explain?

A concern: what if itís hokey and just another way of marketing Christianity as part of consumerism America? . . . But what if itís just what someone – maybe even just one person – needs to begin to understand that God loves them and wants to be in a relationship with them?

Sometimes itís hard growing up in a jaded generation: the sun starts to poke through, and instead of rejoicing, I run for my sunglasses.

Avoiding Hurt VS Healing Faster

On Sunday night Gregg offered up a question: what types of concerns or compassions have been laid on your heart in regards to our community (specifically the city of Newberg)? He didnít want to get into major detail about them – our meeting was more to prime our ears and open our eyes rather than decide upon a plan of action. Thatís when my friend shared her walking story. Others shared wonderful things: to help provide affordable housing for folks trying to get out of poverty, to provide financial counseling, to help teens overcome the apathy towards drugs, to provide support for teen moms.

I didnít share my impressions: I feel like Iíve somewhat said them before. Again, I felt a compassion for my friends, especially in regards to blessing and healing. We were the ìgoodî kids: went to Sunday School, attended all youth group and youth yearly meeting functions, acted in drama and band and choir (the ìsafeî school activities) and only played sports that didnít involve having to chew or beat the crap out of somebody (basically – tennis, maybe track, mostly tennis). We felt ìset apart.î

But now, not so much. That whole Barna statistic of ìChristian stats and non-Christian lifestyle stats are pretty darn similarî has totally come into play. I respect my friendsí decisions to create a life for themselves; I hurt to see how many of them appear to be hurting, aimless, lonely – even though we look like ìeverybody elseî now – the larger group of our peers – we’re more alone.

I wonder what wouldíve happen if they had words of blessing spoken into their lives: words from God as He sees them in the future giving them guidance for what they should/need/will become. As they wander without these words, they encounter all sorts of hurts from the world and have no sort of refuge or place of triage. The church *should* be this place, but for whatever reason, they arenít finding it in the shape the church is in their lives. Christ spent most of his time doing two things: teaching *and* healing. The teaching thing we seem to have down pat (almost a little *too* pat) . . . but the healing part?

And how am I supposed to minister to my friends much less others when Iím still carrying wounds? My ministry wonít be pure unless those get taken care of; they will taint everything I do and say – they anchor me from becoming who Godís called me to be. Graham Cooke says our job isnít to avoid getting hurt; itís to get healed up faster.

I wish things would be fixed so that God would stop aching so Heíd stop making me ache because, like my son, Heís awfully persistent *and* insistent: what a combo.

What means of healing do you see taking place in your worship gatherings? Iíd really appreciate hearing your examples, hoping one of them sparks an idea of what to do with this impression rather than circular pontification.