Category Archives: NFC

Quakers & Authority

My dad gave me my first personality test when I was sixteen:  it was one of those Myers-Briggs type indicator things.  I’m an INFJ – one letter off from perfection, according to my father (who is an INTJ).  My brother wanted to take the test, but Dad said he didn’t have a personality to test yet.  🙂

In college I really got into looking at personality types.  Perhaps it was the selfish side of me, or perhaps I was so confused about what to do in life that if I could figure out my self, then I could figure out the rest.  One night, probably after working too late at a coffee shop and then coming home to a household consisting of twelve other embodiments of estrogen (far above what is healthy for any human being to endure), I came up with a theory:  religious denominations are not so much about theological agreements, but personality types.  Quakers – introverted/contemplative.  Nazarenes – service-oriented.  Baptists – extroverted/social group oriented.  Pentecostal – demonstrative.  Etc., etc., etc.  With that thought in mind, each denomination would have a lot of the same strengths *and* a lot of the same weaknesses:  the lack of personality diversity leads to one-sidedness, lacking the “shadow side”.  I know:  lots of problems with the theory, but there may be some truth to it.

I’ve been thinking about that more this week as I’ve been hearing feedback regarding the Next Steps recommendations.  Yes, any change is generally perceived as loss, but I’ve been amazed (not in a good way) at the amount of difficult feedback that’s been expressed.  Some people feel in the dark about the implementation of the recommendations; understandable – hopefully something will be shared from up front once the logistics are figured out.  Education needs to happen:  what does “fasting” mean, and what will happen during this time?  Why do we think it’s important?   What was the journey of folks coming to the Two Services recommendation?  Etc.  All legitimate questions.

These things have been brought to the business meeting:  they have not been kept confidential.  And folks on the Next Steps group have been more than willing to share with those who were interested (my poor husband and small group are probably now having to feign interest:  they got to hear updates whether they wanted to or not  :)).

But hearing questions at this point in the process like:

  • Well, why was this committee appointed at all?
  • Who appointed them?
  • Where is this coming from?
  • Why do we have to change?
  • How long has this been going on?

with an overtone of suspicion is really surprising (and frustrating).

What I’m recognizing is a lack of trust in authority in our faith gathering.  And I wonder where that comes from.  I don’t sense that our hired pastors have done anything to deserve a lack of trust:  they lead in very open and transparent ways.  The elders have been fair and thoughtful and intentional as far as I’ve known.  So then I start to wonder:  do Quakers have a problem with authority in general?

My husband comes from the Nazarene tradition which is much more hierarchical than Quakers (well, almost *anyone* would be more hierarchical);  I don’t sense that such a recommendation would be an issue for them (but I could be totally off). It seems that if elders (i.e. people the church has trusted in having a sense of leading and leadership for the faith gathering) felt the need to appoint a committee, and the folks on that committee spent a lot of time and work and prayer and thought and conversation and passion and tears and self working hard to discern the next steps, and then that committee made their recommendation to the elders (who are supposed to be some of the wise folks of the church), and the elders approved that recommendation — it would seem that perhaps the recommendation should be considered to be a good thing and acted upon without having to prove it’s legitimacy and win over every.single.individual.

Yes, I know there are exceptions to the rule; yes, I know it’s wonderful that an individual’s voice is considered in the Quaker business meetings.  But good Lord:  how ever will we get anything done if we don’t trust?!!  What’s the point of having elders if we don’t believe they have our good in mind?  Why bother listening to the leaders for a Sunday morning message if they don’t have a sense of where we’re going in the first place?  Is that why Quakerism is dwindling down?  I hear that the message our denomination contains is refreshing and freeing and life-giving:  so why are our meetings dying?  Is it because we can’t submit – to one another, to leadership, to the Spirit, to God?

I told Jason I felt uneasy bringing this up because I know I have a problem with submission.  My parents didn’t call me “No Nap Gerick” for no reason.  🙂  But perhaps my inability to lay down my preferences for others enables me to see it more clearly in other places in the world.  I’m telling myself that I don’t have to prove my experience or my belief in what I hear God calling us to to anyone:  if I feel manipulated to have to prove myself, I am choosing to feel manipulated (hurrah for CBT).

Initially I felt that Next Steps was about discerning where NFC is called to go.  Now I wonder if it was more about dealing with embedded sins and dysfunctional dynamics that must be named and repented of before we can even think of stepping into a new revelation that God has in store for our faith community — and denomination.  That’s not easy work.  But I’m excited to do it, and I hope and pray that others might engage on the journey as well.

Spirit:  unite and ignite us.

Taking Our Next Steps

For the past few months I’ve been part of a worship discernment group called “Next Steps”.  We had been given the task of discerning what God is calling our worship gathering to in regards to, well, worship.  But it’s become so much more than that (typical of God, eh?  Not one to stick to the agenda).

Initially I felt hesitant to join.  But Aj, you babble on and on about worship stuff all the time:  why not dive in?  Because worship is so much more than a Sunday morning gathering, and I feared that the group would be focusing solely on that activity — and then I’d get antsy and cranky – never a pretty thing.  However, as folks listened intentionally – to each other, to God, to God through each other – the focus started to shift.  We shared stories, dreams, woundings, longings.  Folks felt like we should be a think tank *and* an action group (hallelujah!):  if we feel that there needs to be an atmosphere of hospitality, then we should engage in that practice ourselves!; if we sense that God wants us to be present more in the day-to-day aspects of our community, including on Sundays, then we need to look around and respond!; if we wonder how much our body truly knows about worship – elements, meaning, reasonings behind – then we should explore and educate!  Ah, a breathe of fresh air.

NFC had a quarterly business meeting Sunday in which our recommendations were presented to the body.  Even though I was a bit loopy, having rushed back into town from a weekend with the NFC women at the coast (and my clinging yet squirming appendage, I mean, son), I felt a strong desire to be present – to hear folks’ thoughts – to share, if need be, my experience and longing – to continue to participate in this journey with the larger gathering.

It was good.

People had some concerns:  any recommendation for change creates discomfort; how we respond makes a *world* of difference.  Folks actually voiced thanks for the “hard” work that we did.  I know it sounds contrived, but it really did not feel like work – it was simply so engaging and energizing!  Some worried about the lack of Sunday School for the children during the pastoral-proposed six-week fast, to which others shared their deep longing to have a church where children were more incorporated into the corporate worship gathering.

The closing response meant so much to me:  a Next Stepper shared his experience in this process, stating he previously felt no longing or need for change, but through much patience and intentional listening has come to be able to hear and see this call.  He cautioned the folks of his generation to listen patiently and react lovingly, and he reminded us that we will be having this conversation in a few years because the nature of culture is so consistent in changing.  I hadn’t thought about the fact that the words some of us shared might be hard for others to hear;  his testimony is a gentle check for me to offer the same respect and graciousness to others when the do not see things as I do, whether they voice that or not.

Here is a link to Sunday morning’s message (which I have yet to listen to) in which a six-week fast is proposed:  look for March 9th.

And here is the recommendations that the Next Steps committee offered to the congregation:  next-steps-recommendation.pdf

Any thoughts?  Does anything look exciting?  Or scary?  Or need to be checked?  Have you experienced this before?  Does it resonate with you?

Communing and Consuming

Tomorrow my friend Gregg is speaking about communion.  To our faith community.  That happen to be Quaker.

. . . . .

For those of you who aren’t squirming uncomfortably in your seats, you probably don’t know that Quakers don’t “do” communion.  Why don’t they?  Well, to tell you the truth, a lot of folks probably don’t know.  “It’s just something that isn’t done.”  I recently heard a story about a woman who always cut off the end of a roast before putting it in the oven.  Her daughter asked her why she did that, and the mother said because her mother before her had always done it, but the mother never asked why.  So she did, to which she got the response, “Because my mother did!”  They asked the great-grandmother who said, “Because our pan was too small to fit a whole roast.”  The ladies had been engaging in a tradition that a) meant nothing to them because they didn’t know the reasoning behind it and 2) wasn’t necessary anymore – they had big enough pans now.

So, Quakes don’t “do” communion.  Some would say it is a reaction against resting too heavily on the belief that taking communion ensures salvation:  people abused the practice, so Friends’ reaction was to swing to the other side – abstinence (the best method of birth control, perhaps, but not necessarily the best spiritual-practice reaction).  Others would say it’s because it pales in comparison to the true reality of living in daily, moment-to-moment communion  with the Spirit (Elton Trueblood had some quote about that in one of his pamphlet-thingies I think).  And others?  “Well, we just don’t do communion” can be a very valid explanation to their way of thinking.  Anybody got a knife to cut off the end of this here roast?

I’m auditing a class at the Seminary and this week we were looking at consumerism and the church.  Oy, it makes my head hurt how much the commodification has happened in church culture.  It’s like thinking about the best environmental action/reaction:  either seems to do damage and there is no right answer!

One interesting observation brought up:  since the “Fordism” of America (when people starting working in a factory to create goods for others rather than engaging in the art of craftsmanship to meet their personal needs), people have become more and more dissected – segmented – taken apart.  Just as the work place was analyzed and changed into a manufacturing line, human beings have been analyzed and taken apart into having certain “needs” that must be met by products they can purchase.  Which we all know doesn’t work:  the fires of consumption only grow with each offering, and yet I know I keep piling it on.

As work and individuals have been taken apart, so have religious practices.  Instead of knowing why we do something, engaging in the practices and symbols and liturgy because of a wholistic lifestyle of worship, we take things apart:  a little Celtic labyrinth here, a little Taize chant there, throw in some Quaker silence and postmodern couches/coffee/candles, and call it good!  The practices we choose are to try and meet our needs – but that fire keeps burning brightly.

God speaks symbolically:  I learn so much through the Bible, through the way the world works, through interactions as a parent/friend/wife/person – it’s all through symbol.  To abstain from symbol is to cut off a powerful means of communicating with and worshiping God.

But I understand how the lack of physical symbols is a symbol in itself.  While it was seemingly so meaningful to first gen Quakes, I wonder if the power dissipates with each generation:  as we follow them, we see more of their shoes than where they were headed.

Could a regular practice of discernment bring about that renewal?  A posture of receiving from God the ways He desires to be worshiped, rather than picking and choosing until it “feels right” or “meaningful” to us?  That would take a lot of work and time:  is anyone willing to do that?

My dad’s worship gathering (a Quaker one at that) has bread and juice available for folks to take communion each Sunday.  It’s not the high liturgy of the mainline churches (and I’m sure they’d shutter to know how their symbol has been “dumbed down”), but people have encountered God as they took part of the act.

Instead of asking the question “Why do/don’t we engage in the bread/wine practice of communion at our worship gatherings?” would it not be more productive to ask “What does this act mean, Lord?  What does it mean that we’re so conflicted about it?” and ultimately “What are you calling us to do?”  This wrestling hopefully brings us deeper into communion with God.

I pray that tomorrow my community will wrestle well.

What Do You Consider Your *Church*

A friend recently commented on my use of “**”s. They’re for emphasis. And seeing as how I write as I talk, I must emphasize things a lot. But I like to use “**”s: they shake things up and take things to a different level. You know how folks use air quotes: do you like him, or do you “like” him? Sometimes that seems so flippant. My use of “**”s is the same idea: only more meaningful (and a better stretch for the fingers on the keyboard).

Yesterday I met with a group at church who are discerning direction for worship in our faith community: how are we called to worship, and are we following through with that? We ended up discussing something that doesn’t quite related to the topic at hand but gave me some good stuff to think about. Folks shared about hearing a sense of individuals not feeling connected to the larger body: they felt that fellowship times weren’t available or weren’t satisfying. As a group we began to name places where we did feel connected in our lives, places we felt community, we felt *church* (see: deeper, non-flippant meaning – ya know what I mean?).

For me *church* takes place on Thursday mornings with the women in Bible Fellowship. We chat, we eat, we learn, we pray and cry and rejoice and support. Sunday mornings are very distracting for me, but Thursday mornings I find myself able to center down almost instantaneously.

Folks shared about small groups and Sunday schools that they’ve felt *church*, spinning groups and mens breakfast groups and mentoring relationships where they’ve felt that deep connection that goes beyond the simple surface “we live in the same vicinity so we must hang out”. But rather, something more organic and deep and *church*.

So, what do you consider your *church*? Can you name it in your life? And why aren’t we spending more time finding out what God’s doing there rather than trying to bring God into places we don’t feel that connection? Or, what is God calling us to bring from those places of connectedness to places where we feel it lacking?


Celebrate! With Babies!

I’m slowly decompressing from the Holiday Parties Programs Shopping Swirling Whirlwind Visiting Relatives Traveling With Tykes Being Awake For 21 Hours On Two Separate Days Extravaganza 2007:  it’s taking a bit.

One highlight of this season came on the Sunday before Christmas.  A few months earlier I had asked the pastoral staff if they would be willing to do a baby dedication that Sunday:  the in-laws and the ‘rents could all be in town, so shouldn’t the church schedule revolve around *my* needs?  😀  They graciously said ‘yes’.

And I’m so glad that they did!  On a beautiful (at least to me) Sunday morning we stood in front of our faith community and pledged to bring Abel Anders up in the way of a Christ follower.  Our community affirmed our desire and gathered around to pray prayers of blessing and affirmation.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

And one of the best things — it’s now online.  So you can listen!  Cause you know you want to.  And yes, that is Abel babbling through most of it:  he never would’ve made it through the Quaker Quietest Period.  😀

Is it bad to giggle at church? When no one else is?

So, funny realization on Sunday.  As we settled down into Our Pew I leaned over to Jason, “I just realized that I’ve only dropped Judah off in the 3’s class three times since his birthday.”  You know, the birthday that was in September.  Apparently our attendance has not been all that steady as of late.  In the past I would’ve noticed more, but attending Women’s Bible Fellowship and MOPS and the worship discernment meetings and listening to the services on my 12:00/2:30/5:00 am podcast listening times has helped me feel connected to the larger congregation, although in a somewhat compartmentalized/non-nuclear way.

Afterward the service, we went to the appropriate locations for Child Collection and Checkout and then ventured into the fellowship hall to have our pictures taken for the directory.  Because last time we took a picture (which we never saw because we’re not the sort of Paper Directory folks – my phonebook begins with a G and ends with an E), there was a lack of Abel-ness, and I can already hear the “why didn’t you take a directory picture when I was born?  Why is it the picture with you and my brother?  Why don’t you love me as much?  Whhhyyyyy?” whine, and I’d prefer to keep that to a minimum.  I’m certain he’ll have plenty of reasons to point out that his brother gets more attention than he does which may have something more to do with having an elder choleric brother more than anything (who at this very moment has brought me his Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers and has demanded that I “read da Bible NOW” instead of blogging.  Already wielding the healthy parent/spiritual guilt when trying to engage in an activity that does not directly revolve around him:  I wouldn’t *possibly* say no to an activity that betters his spiritual self!).

We ran into many friends in the Fellowship Hall, one of which asked how I dealt with service this morning in regards to past posts about worship and joy.  I believe the word he used was “dirge”:  “I’m convinced there will be no minor chords in heaven.”  And I told him that I actually had quite a bit of joy in service, to the point that I had to hide my face because I couldn’t stop giggling, as I was directly in the vision of the pastor as well as two pews over from the president of the college (aka. the man in charge of the institution which provides the paycheck to keep the internet connected so I can engage in properly ignoring my child’s spiritual well being).  Why was I so happy and joyful when my friend was not?  Because he did not have this going through his head.  Yes, we sang the song.  No, we did not dance, although one person in the choir had a tambourine, which in NFCland, is pretty Rockin the Casbah.  I think the worship pastor picked it out just to spite me.  🙂

Yesterday I read a post by a kindred spirit regarding the image she sees when falling asleep which is much more precious than mine but still in the realm of Infectious Biblically-Influenced songs.  This morning I wondered if that’s how God deals with all the doom and gloom in the world.  Because he gets to see all the funny dances and hear all the funny songs.  And when thinks get so dark and dreary, maybe what he really sees is an Irish Catholic man dancing to a Hebrew-oriented song or a toddler bouncing to obnoxious Christianese kid blather and that joy filtrates down to us so that we can manage to go on.  God must have some awesome Happy Places.

Worship, Celebration, and Family – A Good Day

Sunday morning made me smile this past week, and at this point, it takes a bit to make these lips curve in an upward fashion (I don’t care who says it takes more muscles to frown than smile: obviously they’re talking about those who sleep for periods longer than 2.5 hours). This past Sunday was Outdoor Worship at Newberg Friends: one of my favorite gatherings of the year. True, we’ve only had two, but they’ve been a *really good* two.

Last year we had an offered breakfast of Krispy Kreme donuts, but this year someone got on the “no trans fats” wagon – fruit and pancakes abounded instead. Last year it was blazing hot, and this year it actually rained a little bit. Last year we let Judah run around a little bit and then said our thank yous that nursery was still available even though the rest of the kids programs were on hiatus for the week; this year, we decided to keep Judah with us . . . on the lawn . . . with no means of corralling such as a door or baby gate (not that they’re all that effective anyway) – yes, I am *that* sleep deprived.

Jason’s folks are in town, but the lure of Portland Nazarene Mecca (a.k.a. Portland First Church) was too strong (that, and they’re staying with Jason’s sister who attends that church – easy ride). I was bummed not to share the experience with extended family, but as multiple mothers kept coming up to ooh and ahh over the latest addition to our family, I realized that our worship gathering has become our extended family.

When deciding which car to take to worship, Jason figured we should take mine which has the removable infant car seat as opposed to his car with the convertible non-removable car seat. “That way we’ll have a place to put Abel.” “Are you kidding me? First, this kid does *not* like to be without human contact. And do you think for a second the ladies at worship will let us keep him in that contraption?” “Ah, yes, I forget.”

See, I know, having attended Women’s Bible Fellowship, that babies are *not* allowed to stay in car seats (unless the mother deems it necessary, of course). Babies are to be passed around, hugged and bounced, cuddled and kissed, commented on how much they’ve grown and which parent they’re beginning to resemble: it’s sort of a way of welcoming them into the family – physically as well as spiritually. The mother gets to take a bit of a break – to share funny stories of how the older sibling is reacting to the younger sibling, to hear stories and advice in return. Folks offer up more than words, but share their bits of wisdom, affirmations, baby gear, and time (offers for play dates or baby sitting).

On Sunday when we arrived at Newberg Friends, Judah excited proclaimed and pointed, “ABEL!” to any passerby. Quickly Abel was passed from friend to mother of a friend to mother of a friend to my patron saint to another friend. Friends came by – moms, dads, kids – and made all the appropriate comments about how wonderful he is and how Judah is such a good big brother. Dads came by to check in with Jason; Judah connected with one of his favorite child care workers who happened to be playing in the brass ensemble that morning; she played songs just for him, and he sat so still while she showed him how it worked that I’ve decided Jason needs to learn to play the trombone.

I have to admit it wasn’t the most focused worship experience I’ve ever had. Judah enjoyed running around – a lot, meaning we chased him around – a lot. We sat by a table with paper and markers which turned into the kids drawing table, which was fairly entertaining to watch as Judah kept saying “hi” to the kids and mixing up their names (but he was so excited to see his “friendscominsoon” – a request we hear daily if not hourly). And, of course, my mind isn’t tracking quite like it should. But I felt happy; content; at home. It was a time of celebration: for our family, for our greater community. As I reflect on my memories of the day, I regain that feeling of centeredness and purposefulness, that I’m part of a story larger than my own, that I have a duty and a joy to share that story with others.

That, to me, feels like worship. And that’s a good day.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat; How I Wonder What You’re At

I heart the Mad Hatter (who spoke the above title for you poor unfortunate souls who did not listen to Alice in Wonderland on audiotape over . . . and over . . . and over as a child); I just wish he hadn’t passed his hat off to me.

This past Thursday I had a hard time getting ready to go to Bible Study. I’ve been facilitating a class on “How to Study the Bible/How to Read the Bible/Why Bother with this Crazy Convoluted Book Anyway?” which has been *great* – so life giving, both in the material and in the class interaction. But I’m getting tired: I taught last semester as well, and the steam is running out.

I prepared the night before to share the last lesson, even though three weeks remained. What was I going to do for the last two weeks? I dunno: pull something out of my “I’ve been raised up in an experiential youth ministry” bag (it’s a fun bag: things in there actually work well with toddlers as well).

But on Thursday morning I woke up unsettled: I didn’t feel peace about summing up the New Testament. I scrapped the lesson, and in typical Aj fashion, ran around last minute pulling together materials to do a lectio divina: instead of me talking, I was going to let God have His way with us for an hour. My husband was very kind, recognizing that I was not talking but rather pulling Small Group books and materials off of my book shelf and muttering at 7am; he got Judah up, dressed, and fed while I got my Mad Hatter Facilitator thing going (“No wonder you’re late; Why, this watch is exactly two days slow”).

So Judah and I got to church early enough for me to make copies of how to engage in a lectio, and in the midst of me trying to make two-sided non-upside-down copies and take my toddler to the “bafwoom peese,” we ran into our friend who oversees women’s ministries at the church. She greeted me, mentioned how tired she was, and jokingly asked if I wanted to teach the following two weeks because the other Bible Study class facilitator had run out of material as of that day. “Well, uh, sure! I can finish up my stuff today. I’m totally out of material, too, but I’ve been pulling stuff out of my Bag of Tricks to lengthen the weeks. I’m breezy if we want to combine the classes and do something all together.”

But somehow later I found myself agreeing to teach for the next two weeks (such a sucker for times to get to pull things out of my Bag of Tricks!). “As long as I don’t go into labor” I joked to them. My husband did not find it so funny, but I think it’ll be okay. “Please. I promise I won’t do too much, and you know me: I don’t teach – I *facilitate*.” He sighed.

After that conversation, I sat down with a cup of decaf and a hazy look on my face. A friend approached me with a question. She’s on the Nominating Committee from our faith community, and they’re having a hard time finding a Recording Clerk for the business meetings. Who was the previous clerk? Oh, that was me, but I had to step down due to not being able to ensure having two free hands with which to take minutes or the ability to stay awake during meetings due to ensuing sleep deprivation. She asked for a few more details about what I did: totally easy – write down what people say. Free form. If you miss something, ask them to repeat it. Or ask the awesome tech guy for an audio file (he’s so good about that stuff). She said she had asked about eight people – talked directly with five. Their answer: “No.” Not even small talk or “let me think about it.” Just: No.

It makes me wonder: why?

Are people too busy? Are we too guarded/selfish with our time? Have we overscheduled ourselves so we can’t handle just one more thing?

Or is it that this type of position isn’t needed (a.k.a. a complete overhaul and reevaluation of how we do business)?

Graham Cooke says God calls us to ministry for a season, but individuals/corporate gatherings latch it on for life. . . . Graham also says that the folks who show up for times of prayer and business – that’s the core of the church: the members of the body. Teaching is important; business is important. But how we’re called to go about it could be up for debate, yes?

So, currently, the about-to-burst-with-child lady is leading Bible study, and nothing of our business will be recorded except on Itunes. Makes a person wonder . . .

Weavings of Notes on Sabbath Living

Yesterday while pulling onto our church’s street, we saw one of our worship gathering’s families trying to cross: a father with two girls.

“Guess I shouldn’t hit them, huh? That probably would not be in the spirit of SuperBowl Sunday.”
“No, but you could play the game where you get points for knocking off hats or Bibles.”

We laughed in a very non-violent Quaker way. I then mentioned to Jason about Bible Fellowship on Wednesday.

“We were talking about ways we observe the Sabbath. That family stays home all day, doesn’t shop, utilizes leftovers. One of the kids naps, the other will — get this — sit for over an hour and read.”
“That’s so not fair.”
“I know!”

This family really wanted to rest: to tread lightly on the earth. On Wednesday, another friend shared about how they as a family felt that the Sabbath was not for working but for communing and celebrating, so they tended to get takeout, use paper plates, and invite friends and family over for a time of fellowship. I told Jason I’d like to experiment with the later “because I’ve done the former as a kid, and it isn’t all that fun” (yes, Mom and Dad, someday I will have gone to enough Journey to Wholenesses to be healed of my scars of youth :)).

That morning I had been thinking about the Sabbath some, especially as I turned on my computer. At Womens Bible Fellowship Lisa McMinn has been facilitating a discussion of her book The Contented Soul. One element of it includes observing the Sabbath: “Sabbath rest invites us to pause, to reflect on where we have been and where we are going . . . People who uphold the sabbath cease from doing that which they perceive as work . . . The sabbath gives us permission to set aside whatever we feel is essential to accomplish and to remember that the God who sustains us is abundant and sufficient. Sabbath rest is one of God’s good gifts, a discipline intended to bless us” (118-120). She mentioned how one of her family’s Sabbath day observances is not turning their computers on, giving themselves permission not to work or respond to emails. That sounds appealing, but can I get my itchy trigger finger to agree with my idealism?

The Sunday message was titled: “Do What Jesus Did: Focus on the Essentials” from Luke 6: 1-11. Christ was getting busted for doing no-nos on the Sabbath: letting his disciples pick grain to eat, healing someone of a non-life threatening issue. The idea is that Christ was not to be ruled by the nit picky laws of the Sabbath (many which the Pharisees created or interpreted rather than being declared from On High), but that Christ was the *LORD* of the Sabbath. The message sharer noted that Christ’s life was not marked by having a Sabbath day, but having a Sabbath week – month – year: a Sabbath lifestyle. If we are to follow the essentials, that includes following the Lord of the Sabbath in having that sort of life as well: a life marked by doing what the Father tells us, abiding, taking our hands off of the control stick.

Did you know that the Lord’s Sabbath day never ended? At least, it certainly looks that way in Genesis. Every creation day is marked by a “so ended the day, and began the next day. And that marked the first/second/third/so on day.” Except for the seventh day. On the day when God rested, stepped back, and said, “This is good,” — well, that day is never concluded in Genesis. God is still living in that Sabbath rest, and we are called to that as well! Adam and Eve kinda biffed it up for us when they decided to take control, and then we were exiled from that rest. But then Christ came, redeemed the situation, and we are once again able to exist in that Sabbath rest – actually, *called* to live in that rest – with Him and God. Wow.

So what does that mean for our daily lives? During open worship I was drawn to verses mentioned in the article my dad gave me on living a life of praise and thanksgiving. I couldn’t remember the exact verses, but knew they were in Hebrews. Turning there, I found a section on a Sabbath rest for the People of God. Resting: turning to Christ: abiding with God: releasing control (work): good stuff.

Do you observe the Sabbath? Do you feel like it’s a once-a-week thing or a life-thing? How do you abide in God’s rest?

An Itch That Calamine Lotion Won’t Fix

Yesterday Jason and I gathered together with some folks from our worship gathering to share about how we’ve seen God moving. Judah greeted the gathered folks with warm hugs and then provided background noise from down the hall in the nursery (oh, the giggles and squeals). Gregg, who “clerked” the gathering (i.e. he sent out the email asking us to gather, he provided childcare and facilities and a check-in question), cracks me up: everytime we have a gathering like this, he voices concern of “we’re not prepared” and “what should we talk about? what should we do?”. I’m finally picking up on my husband’s more-laid-back approach to life: “Show up. Ask where we see God moving. That should take care of a couple of hours.” And it did: it great, amazing, very exciting ways.

The number of gathered folks was smaller than it has been which initially shook the facilitator in me: do less people mean we’re not as passionate about this? Nope: the quality of content shared has been some of the most energizing and life-giving I’ve experienced in a while. Yay for God being in control rather than me, eh?

Folks shared about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Some had a definite vision, some had questions, others had observations: but we all seemed to have this crazy itchy place that’s motivating us to see where God’s moving. It didn’t seem to be a time of church bashing so much as practical noticings: Newberg is a town full of folks aching for God’s healing and wholeness – both outside of church gatherings as well as inside. What does it look like to be God’s light as we walk about in our daily Newbergian lives?

  • Using the church building as a resource for the town, not hoarding it for ourselves
  • Getting into our community to know the places people gather
  • Not falling into meeting church obligations, but rather following God leadings
  • Opening our eyes to folks who need help – we’ve been blind to folks even on our front steps
  • Looking at our past: what’s been behind growth in the past? What itchings were folks feeling, and how did God direct?
  • Recognizing strengths of our identity as well as blocks: sometimes our beliefs and attitudes on things such as silence and alcohol can hinder rather than help
  • Having a safe place to come, sharing noticings, educate, ask questions, brainstorm, worship: continue asking “Where is God moving, and how am I/are we called to be a part?”

Do you have places that you do this? Where do you discern God’s calling? What are you sensing as you walk about your daily life? My sense is that I want to be a resource: to help folks in those foundational blocks of identity, healing, wholeness, daily living. And I ache to connect folks who have similar passions: we’re not called to walk alone – God’s put us into community for a reason.

So, what are you hearing? Do you have that God-placed itch that’s driving you into God’s presence? Wanna scratch? 🙂