Category Archives: Quakin’

Sleep, Sleep Tonight: Tom Fox

I woke up this morning in a funk. It could be the fact that my son woke up too early, yowling. It could be the constant gray skies that slowly wear away my reserve of sunny hopefulness. It could be that something’s moving in the Spirit: who knows.

It snowed here last week – a freak dumping of very wet snow that did nothing but cause a little two-hour delay for public schools. While the valley floor cleared off quickly, the hills remained white into the weekend. On Friday in a brief bit a sunshine, I looked up and saw the vineyards outlined with white, and an ache opened in my heart. “Oh, I miss that,” I thought. I miss my Idaho winters, with their ice blue skies and white winter ground and dry, dry air. How can I ache for something like that? Why does it rouse such a strong impulse to drive east until I pass a sign that says “Welcome to the Gem State” and never look West again? Where do those feelings come from?

This morning I read multiple blogs posting about the passing of Tom Fox: he was part of the kidnapped Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq. And that ache opened in my heart again: an ache for his family and loved ones, a desire for things like this to STOP HAPPENING, a yearning for peace and understanding foreverandeveramen. I don’t know Tom Fox: I haven’t met him, and to be honest, I thought of him randomly – passing prayers of “Lord, please be with the team.” And yet there’s part of my heart that’s grieving for this unknown, personally-unexperienced situation: I grieve the loss of an amazing friend of God; I grieve the loss of my dream of this issue resolving itself; I grieve that death most likely was not peaceful or easy; I grieve the evil that has been committed.

Some might say his actions were foolish, but what’s better – a fool for God or “wise” for one’s own selfish desires? Now is a time to come together – to speak love – to flow into peace – to come into God’s presence and seek His healing, comforting glory.

I know U2’s become the new, hip, “sacred in the secular” group to quote, but this song has great meaning to me. Ever since I’ve heard it, it’s been the lullaby I sing to the little ones I’ve watched: a prayer of blessing (and sometimes desperation) over them. And so I offer this as my prayer in memory of Tom Fox.

“M.L.K.”
Sleep
Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thunder cloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Rain down him
So let it be
So let it be

Sleep
Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thundercloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Let it rain
Rain on him

How Does Your Gathering Grow?

Is your church gathering growing?

Folks who are taking part in the emerging conversation seem to be part of worship gatherings that are multiplying; I’ve heard a number of folks compare qualities of those gatherings and that of Quaker meetings.

But Quaker churches aren’t growing that I know of . . .

If folks are attracted to those basic principles present with Friends, then why does it seem like Quaker gatherings are dwindling into the background?

Bread of Life Shouldn’t Make You Choke

Todayís message at worship was entitled ěBread of Lifeî – looking at the passage in John 6:35:

ěJesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, everî (MSG).

We were encouraged to question what is sustaining us – Christ or other things? What does it mean for Christ to be our sustaining bread? How might we be fully dependent on God? Bread was laid out on tables throughout the sanctuary, and we were encouraged to get a piece of bread and eat/consume it as we ponder/meditate/dialogue with the Spirit regarding what sustains us.

This whole topic can be a mildly touchy subject for Quakers who have a tradition of abstaining from traditional bread and wine communion. Some cite that it stems from scripture stated later in John:

ěThe Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-makingî (6:63 MSG)

meaning anything the Spirit matters and the fleshly acts donít. However, Iíve heard a different take: I have a friend who thinks of every meal as an opportunity for communion – to break bread and encounter God in community. He doesn’t feel called to engage in communion once a month/week, but in the breath of everyday life.

Iím reading Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger (only read the first chapter, but so far itís pretty accurate of my experience). When looking at church experiences in the U.S. and U.K., the authors noted:

According to different timetables and different degrees in various traditions, the church removed the symbolic, the mystical, and the experiential to make space for logical and linear ways of thinking and living. . . The church continues to communicate a verbal, linear, and abstract message to a culture whose primary language consists of sound, visual images, and experience, in addition to wordsî (20).

I have a friend who has left the Friends tradition to become Episcopalian: she says, ěThere *needs* to be more ritual and liturgy in our lives!î Sheís not saying that participating in these acts secures her ěsalvationî (she loves space created for open worship), but rather that tradition helps her experience God more fully. Communion might not be meaningful every time, but then again, open worship might not either.

How can the Quaker tradition speak to a generation that ěwhen the mystery, the visual, the ritual, the touch, and the beauty are removed, little is leftî (21). When I hear ěQuakers donít take communion,î it sounds pretty exclusionary of othersí experience – many times it said with a tone of ěweíre above taking communion.î What if itís meaningful to others, and what if our ěpronouncementî impedes others experiencing God? How can we extend the embrace of God in worship whole-heartedly and remain authentic to our identity? Is that an issue?

Church Planting: Does Anybody Really Get It?

Iíve grown up in the Quaker denomination; I have a new appreciation for my tradition, but Iím wondering why our numbers are so small. Since Iíve been part of the yearly meeting, I havenít seen much church planting. Iíve been part of a church plant: a slow, never really thriving church plant, though I did learn and experience a good deal during that time. I can only name a very few church plants that have taken.

At the conference many people commented that our tradition has so much to offer other denominations – so why canít we get it out there?

Sitting in some meetings at the conference, I heard folks talking about church planting. I figured if anyone would be on the cutting edge, it would be these folks. What did I hear?

ěI canít seem to plant a church: the boards wonít free up money for me.î
ěHow am I supposed to plant a church when I have to go through so much bureaucratic tape?î
ěIím doing a church plant: they gave me money and dropped me off in an area that they think needs to be churched. But it doesnít seem to be working . . .î

My jaw almost dropped: if Emergent is supposed to be so ěpost-modern,î then why are folks planting churches the modern way? Why do you need a board to start a church? Why not go into an area, begin to meet people, see if they want to draw together into a gathering, and seek further assistance when itís needed? Boards should be somewhat like grant foundations: they usually offer money for a one-time thing – something that will help out an already existing and thriving group.

ěRevolutionaries will respond to the presence and principles of God whenever and wherever possible, without regard to historical or societal inhibitions. The standard that concerns Revolutionaries is simple: does the mechanism provide a way of advancing my faith, without compromising Scripture or any of the passions of a true believer?î – Revolution 67.

Resources I think will be important for next-gen church planting:
Simple Church – the blog of Harold Behr
Organic Church – “Our goal is to partner with anyone grappling with the how to’s of being and doing church in an increasingly post-modern and post-Christendom context.”
Steve Addison’s blog – World Changers: On movements for the renewal and expansion of the church.
Forge – Missional Training
CMA Resources – Church Multiplication Associates

The NextGen of Women in Leadership

Excellent comments, folks! I greatly appreciate your views on women’s roles (and lack of presence) in church at the moment.

I do agree that much of the emerging church is not focused on “up-front” roles – and yet those are the ones that get the most ‘press.’

It is hard for young women, especially young mothers, to break away. I just went on vacation with my in-laws, and there were many events I chose to sit out because I knew my son wouldn’t be able to handle it.

I was talking with my father-in-law, and he’s voiced an interest in having a “Mutuality in Emerging Leadership” conference. He talked about seminary women he knows who should get out there: women pastors who had husbands who stayed home or had folks to help watch their kids – their congregations were understanding when they were pregnant and on bedrest or had other family emergencies. He said there needs to be more cases like that – let’s free the women to be out there every day leading!

Part of me greatly resonated with that: his experience is with a religious tradition that is in much need of such action. But part of me rumbled: what if I don’t *want* to be away from my family? What if I want to lead but also want to be a stay-at-home mom? Hearing him say women *should* be out there seemed along the same vein as saying women *shouldn’t* be out there – yet another man saying what should and shouldn’t happen without really lending weight to individual calling from God (could it be a balance perhaps?). I don’t believe this is what my father-in-law intended, but my sensitive spirit ran a bit further with implications.

This morning I taught a lesson on Blessings to our Women’s Bible Study Fellowship: I was able to speak words and experiences that God gave me while my bebe romped in the nursery for two hours. Then we came home and had snuggle time. He took a nap; I read “Exclusion and Embrace.” Right now as I type this sitting on the floor, he’s resting his head on my hand staring at the screen. I love following my God-given call: to minister to my worship gathering AND to be a mom. It’s a tricky walk – but daily God’s guidence gives me the ability to walk straight. My leading probably won’t look like a typical evangelical male pastor, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy. So, are we looking in the right places for women leaders?

On a similar note, Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank is hosting a Blog Book Club on Women in the Theological Academy. Could be interesting.

HT

What Defines You?

What strikes you about this?
What’s great?
What’s uncomfortable?
Where are you challenged?

Decisions That Define Us

Decisions that we make help determine who we are, what we think, and how we live. In order to be a people that turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6) we have made the following decisions:
Decisions that define us…

  • We have decided that teaching the Gospel without demonstrating the gospel is not enough. Good preaching, good doctrine, and being good people is not enough.
  • We have decided that having a good church club is not enough, good fellowship is not enough, and just being a member of that club is not enough.
  • We have decided that having good Bible studies is good, but not good enough, that just making it to heaven is not our goal, and that knowing about God without truly knowing and experiencing God is meaningless.
  • We have decided that having good programs is not enough; that change without transformation is intolerable, and that staying the same is not an option.
  • We have decided that gifting without character is futile.
  • We have decided that singing songs without worshiping is hallow and having meetings without God showing up is pointless.
  • We have decided that having faith without works is not enough and having works without love is not acceptable – that our function comes out of our relationship first with the Father and second with each other.
  • We have decided that reading about the book of Acts without living the book of Acts is unthinkable.
  • We have decided that confident faith is good and bold faith is better.
  • We have decided that hearing about the Holy Spirit without experiencing Him is silly, that believing in His presence without seeing It manifested in signs and wonders is hypocrisy, that believing in healing without seeing people healed is absurd, and that believing in deliverance without people being delivered is absolutely ridiculous.
  • We have decided to be Holy Spirit filled, Holy Spirit led, and Holy Spirit empowered – anything less doesn’t work for us.
  • We have decided to be the ones telling the stories of God’s power – not the ones hearing about them.
  • We have decided that living saved, but not supernatural is living below our privilege and short of what Christ died for.
  • We have decided that we are a battle ship not a cruise ship, an army, not an audience; Special forces not spectators, missionaries not club members.
  • We have decided to value both pioneers and settlers – pioneers to expand our territory and settlers to build on those territories – but we are not squatters – people who take up space others have fought for without improving it.
  • We have decided to be infectious instead of innocuous, contagious instead of quarantined, deadly instead of benign.
  • We have decided to be radical lovers and outrageous givers.
  • We have decided that we are a mission station and not a museum

Therefore:

1. We honor the past – we don’t live in it.

2. We live in the present with our eyes on the future.

3. We see past events – successes and failures – as stepping-stones not stop signs.

4. We pursue learning in order to be transformed, not learning in order to know.

5. We are people of engagement not observation.

6. We focus on what could be, not on what is or has been.

7. We are not limited to the four walls of this building. Our influence is not restricted by location – Not even the nations are out of bounds.

8. We are more concerned about how many we send out into the world than how many we convince to come into the building. This building is meant to be filled and it will be – but it will not be the measure of who we are or the measure of our effectiveness.

9. We raise up world changers – not tour guides. We train commandos, not committees.

10. We are a people of our destiny, not of our history.

  • We have decided that it is better to fail while reaching for the impossible that God has planned for us than succeed settling for less.
  • We have decided that nothing short of His Kingdom come, His will be done in our world as it is in Heaven will satisfy.
  • We have decided that we will not be satisfied until our world freaks out and cries out “Those who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”

These are some of the decisions that define who we are as a community and how we live our lives

These decisions are not destinations – but rather journeys – journeys along an ancient path – we have not found some new way – but rather rediscovered the path as old as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same path followed by Moses, Joshua and Caleb – Paul, John, Peter.

The path followed by the first century church – a church that revolutionized the culture of the first century and beyond.

It is a path that will impact the world we live in today. It is a path of Bold Faith – believing that what God says is really true and acting on it; Outrageous Generosity – giving our life away in order to demonstrate His Kingdom; Radical Love – loving God with everything in us and our neighbor as ourselves.

It is a path of liberty, freedom, and healing.
On this path you find significance, purpose, and destiny.

This is a path less traveled – however
– it is not a path only available to a select few – but to whosoever will – may come.

It is for people of every nation, tribe and tongue -for those in any occupation or vocation.

No matter where you are in your life journey

– there is room on this path for you

What if you found out that it can be found under an About Us page for a church? The content isn’t details about location or times or denominational background. Decisions that Define Us: I wonder if I followed their lead what mine looks like . . .

[My pappy’s been emailing this to folks who’ve been emailing this to folks – trouble’s comin’, I tell ya].

Yes, I am a Pacifist, and it’s my birthday, too

Figuring out youíre a pacifist is a defining moment. Figuring it out when youíre eleven is an odd thing. Figuring it out on your birthday when youíre eleven because Ted Bundyís being killed that day is a very odd thing. And defending your pacifist beliefs on your twelfth birthday to your class of adolescent peers and condescending teacher stinks, but is a definitely a defining moment.

As a kid growing up in a Friends church I heard about the importance of the peace testimony. It had special significance growing up in Idaho: a very ělive free or dieî state with an air force base less than an hour away from my home. I *love* my Idaho: some of the most real, friendly, giving people live there – but sometimes they want to give you their beliefs whether you asked for them or not.

On my birthday in sixth grade convicted serial killer Ted Bundy was being electrocuted. I remember students buzzing with ěmy mom and dad sayî information regarding the sensational event; but for me it was, ěmy aunt says . . .î because my aunt made sure to talk with my brother and I about things like this. She said it was wrong: humans were not meant to take anotherís life, no matter what the wrong person did. Aunt Faye liked U2, watched MTV, and ate tofu: I figured she was hip enough to know what she was talking about.

For me in sixth grade, it was an odd thought: on my birthday, someone was dying – someone was being killed by another person. He wouldnít have any more birthdays – his life was over. I also thought in the semantics of a kid: shouldnít the man who pushed the buzzer to kill Ted be killed, too, since he killed someone? But who would kill him? Would we all end up dead if people kept getting killed for killing others? In my public grade school I talked freely with my friends about this: we came to our own conclusions, and then ran to the monkey bars to do cherry bombs and zebra drops.

The next year I was still processing it, except I was in a private Christian school where I moved from my public school classification of “not-Mormon” to “not-a-community-church-attender” – I don’t think Quakers are ever on the “inside”. Great place to talk about things outside of the ësocial normí, right? Wrong-O. One year after Ted Bundyís death my geography teacher brought it up. I was feeling a little bit ballsy, living off the birthday high. Normally I wouldnít rock the boat, especially in a school that didnít feel ěsafeî to me – I knew I was different than the majority of kids there, but didnít know why exactly. But that day, I was dressed up, I was going to get cake and presents, and I decided to speak up:

ěI think it was wrong to kill him.î

My geography teacher had abnormally buggy eyes, and all of a sudden, the enormity of their bulgingness was directed at me.

ěWhat?î

ěI said, I think it was wrong. God is the only person who can give and take life. Humans shouldnít take life.î

All the students, including the delinquents who were sent to my school because public schools couldnít handle them so they spent their days carving on desks, looked at me. A showdown was about to happen.

ěSay that again.î

ěCapitol punishment is wrong.î

Awkward silence. Then . . .

ěHow can you say that?!!î

My past experiences of teachers had been of a loving and bi-partisan nature: they might tell you their opinion about holiday crafts – if they should involve letting the students use power tools or not – but never of a political/personal opinion nature. But not in my private Christian school.

ěSo youíre saying that this man who killed countless people out of cold blood shouldnít have died?î

ěNo.î

What should we have done with him?î

ěUh . . . keep him in prison?î

My face started to flush; my birthday high turned into a fight-or-flight response.

ěWhat about the Old Testament commandments regarding an eye for an eye? Iím sure the rest of you students remember that.î

Nodding heads. Lemmings.

ěWho told you this anyway?î

ěMy aunt. She said that humans donít have the right to take lives.î

ěOh, and I bet she doesnít think we should have guns either.î

He then used the majority of the class to continue to grill me, pointing out ěflawsî and getting affirmation from the rest of the oh-so-knowledgeable seventh graders.

I didnít feel like I had the answers, which was really frustrating to feel so attacked and awkward. I knew I couldnít sway him. But I refused to be swayed: for one time in my life, my German stubbornness did something good. What my teacher didnít know is that he affirmed my belief in pacifism all that much more: if folks who disagreed with pacifism were so mean and hostile and judging of others, especially those so much younger than them, then why would I want to believe what he believed – to follow his path to become like him?

As I hear about the government spying on peace protestors, I am reminded of my first defining moment as a pacifist: Iíve never fit in, especially with those in power, and thatís fine – I donít really like what youíre all about, anyway. You can try to bully me around like a teacher bullying a seventh grader, but that looks pretty pathetic, doesnít it? If I can make a stand when Iím an ignorant kid, Iím not about to back down with more life experience under my belt. Anyway, Iíve got to go live my life which today includes playing on the monkey bars with my son – weíre gonna rock at doing cherry bombs.