October 21, 2005


It's likely The Good Raised Up will see no new posts in the next 10-14 days. I'll be visiting with family and then will go to FGC's Central Committee meetings.


October 18, 2005

Membership, and a new Quaker blogger:
A Friend After 50 Years

Welcome to the Quaker blogosphere, Dave Carl of A Friend after 50 Years. Dave Carl has a post about his request for membership, a topic which begs a few questions to any Friend out there:

What was your experience for applying for membership? Why did you do it when you did?


What are some of your favorite questions from any membership clearness committee in which you participated?
Here's the text of the letter I sent to the monthly meeting, requesting membership under their care:
Dear Friends,

I am writing you to request membership, and for the Meeting to provide oversight, care, and nurture for my membership.

Why do I seek membership now, after 7-plus years of involvement among Quakers, including more than five years at another Friends Meeting?

Well, one morning a few weeks ago I woke up and heard myself say to myself, “I’m ready to request membership.” Another morning, shortly afterward, I woke up and asked myself, “Would I have regrets if I died tomorrow and had not requested membership?” and the answer came back, “Yes.”

And so what is my struggle, what do I wrestle with, and what shadows do I wish to bring out into the light as I request membership?

One. I fear losing my identity, that I will be clumped in with all the other Quakers, thereby in a sense erasing my history with the Friends Meeting where I originally attended as a young adult.

Two. I fear and resist being placed in the same small box of assumptions, presumptions, and preconceptions that I have been placing on some Quakers. I don’t seem to have such worrisome assumptions about all Quakers, though.

Three. My heart, in many ways, still belongs to the Meeting where I first attended. At times I miss these Friends terribly.

Four. I want to define MY membership and participation among Quakers MY way. Ahh, the adolescent within me is alive and well.

Five. I am not feeling ready to surrender to this “awakening.” I still wrestle with God about it.

Six. I wish to honor my Jewish upbringing, and I am still in the process of resolving being a Jewish Quaker. Sometimes when I say, “I’m Quaker,” I feel I am betraying my Jewish heritage. Saying “I’m a Jewish Quaker” doesn’t feel entirely right either.

While there is much more about my 7+ years of involvement among Quakers that I could include here, I’ll leave the rest of it for the clearness process, and for any personal conversations with me that are to follow.

October 14, 2005

Exercised by the Spirit

Dear readers, dear Friends.

I have been reluctant to write another post for The Good Raised Up, and it has taken me some time to articulate why. But when I spoke with my partner the other morning about all the stress I have in my life and shared that I have felt the tickle of the Spirit asking me to write, I said:

I feel as though I am being asked to write about how I am being exercised by the Spirit, but I don't want to say too much because of the people involved in the situation, so I haven't written anything. And I need to.
I don't know for sure that what I've been experiencing is in fact me being "exercised by the Spirit," but it's language that speaks to my condition.

I first came across that phrase, I think, when I was reading a little John Woolman. I haven't heard Friends in the monthly or yearly meeting--or anywhere, actually--use that phrase. But it certainly feels like I am being stretched, like I am being asked to do things with my spiritual life, with my faith, with my being, in ways that I haven't moved, practiced, stretched, or "been" before. And I feel a bit heart-sore as a result.

It's a soreness like the day after I've started a new fitness workout, and my body is so sore I just want to stay in bed or get a massage or take a long, hot bath... and certainly, absolutely, not have to move my body again, at all, for at least, say, about 60-90 days.

But I have to roll out of bed and get busy doing God's work again--being faithful--no matter how sore I feel. And I moan and groan at first, and the soreness catches me at unexpected times, like when I reach for a book on the shelf or when I go up a flight of stairs or when I pick up the cat (he is, after all, 16 pounds).

So. What's been going on with me that I can share here; what does God ask me to share; what does God ask me not to share...?

My recent "exercise of the Spirit" has revolved around the question
"How might I be faithful to the True Authority and not fall sway to an individual's worldly authority?"
My heart still aches over that one, given the details of who has been involved and what reactions I have been met with when I have said to a Friend, "But God does not ask me to do this thing you ask of me..."

And so I found myself drawing on a number of resources and individuals for G/guidance and support:

  • Among Friends, there is a tradition of coming together as a group to seek Divine Guidance, to test a leading, to weigh a decision, to hold a concern and discern the way forward.

    I have understood this practice to be based in the belief that no single individual knows the Truth; that God is still speaking to us and that if we quiet ourselves enough, we will understand more clearly what that still, small voice is saying; that many individuals are needed to test how pieces might fit together and see if they are consistent with the Truth, in part by testing if those pieces are consistent with Scripture, with tradition, with experience, and with each other; that by seeking right action together, as a body, there is accountability to the group (and to the historical practices of Friends) and therefore, supposedly, less chance that an individual will take her or his own good "imaginations," run with them, and possibly spoil the reputation of Friends, a la James Naylor.

    I have had to slow myself down, to listen to the discernment of other Friends, to weigh with them a variety of options, and to seek the way forward as best as possible.

  • Scripture, of all things (highly unusual for me), has helped me:
    If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    Matthew 18:15-17
  • Well, I have learned that such actions are not always well-met. I now must trust within myself and with my God that I am doing the best I can in very difficult circumstances. And I am being Asked to trust that the other Friend is doing likewise...

    My guess is there is more for Scripture to show me; there is more Scripture for me to be opened to, but this is the passage I know and this is what came to me.

  • Isaac Penington has this to say about the historical practice of corporate worship and of the experience of a certain form of "exercise" before the Lord.
    Our worship is a deep exercise of our spirits before the Lord, which doth not consist in an exercising the natural part or natural mind, either to hear or speak words, or in praying according to what we, of ourselves, can apprehend or comprehend concerning our needs; but we wait, in silence of the fleshly part, to hear with the new ear, what God shall please to speak inwardly in our own hearts; or outwardly through others, who speak with the new tongue, which he unlooseth, and teacheth to speak; and we pray in the Spirit, and with the new understanding, as God pleaseth to quicken, draw forth, and open our hearts towards himself.
  • And yet what does this practice mean when Friends do not value the group experience of shared waiting worship and shared listening? I am at a loss as to how to move through this "exercise"!

  • There is also the tradition of corporate seeking, of listening together for the movement of the Spirit:
    We often struggle to differentiate between God's voice and our own. A group that listens well can receive our thoughts and our emotions and assist us to sift them for the presence of God. Perhaps that's a vital part of the process that we have lost as we have moved away from the regular practice of "threshing meetings." It was at such meetings where people could come together and without the pressure to make a decision, share their thoughts and questions and opinions, gain information regarding the facts of the situation, and get a sense of where other people were coming from. Time was then spent over the course of the week, carefully holding this awareness in a prayerful attentiveness to the fullness of the issues involved.

    Bruce Bishop
  • I suppose in every Quaker community, there are a handful of individuals who do not understand what it means to engage in corporate listening, let alone what it means to yield to what the body as a whole has discerned. After all, I was that sort of new Friend once.

    When I remember myself as an inexperienced Friend, a sense of compassion and concern is restored within me for the Friend with whom I am journeying right now. And it is thoughts like these that illuminate the question I have been carrying since starting this Quaker blog:
    How do we convey our faith, how do we talk about our practices with one another?
    Not just me; not just Robin M. or Barry or Quakerism 101 teachers, but our meetings as a whole.

    Well, I began this post when I was in the midst of the exercise, and now the exercise seems to be almost over. My concerns have been shared with Friends within the appropriate committee and I am feeling a bit unburdened.

    I am grateful for those Friends and non-Friends from whom I have drawn support over the past 2-1/2 weeks. Friends have gently weighed, threshed, and tested options with me, options that would demonstrate care and respect for those involved. When I lamented to one Friend that I did not see an easy or "clean" way to resolve the concern that I am facing, she gently reminded me:
    There may be no way for this to be easy, so at least you can be faithful.
    Despite the soreness, I sense that there is something deep within me, alongside my sore heart, that is healing. And also despite the soreness, or maybe because of it, there is another something within me that seems to be growing and... maturing, ripening.

    Maybe it's my heart muscle.

    . . . . . . . . . . . .

    This was not an easy post to write, given the nature of the concern; yet I felt the call to bring forward what I could. I don't even know if there is enough "meat" left on the "bones" of this post--bones I have picked over quite a bit in the past 48 hours or so.

    [UPDATE: For another, more detailed pass at describing this experience, see my lengthy remarks in the comments section.]

    Thanks for reading me.


    October 13, 2005

    Sneak preview?!?
    Exercised by the Spirit - NOT

    Oh my. I was testing some Blogger email-related technology and it seems to have gone awry. The post that I was composing was displayed here long before I had finished writing it, seasoned it, edited it, and seasoned it some more.

    My apologies to those who have caught the sneak preview, raw and unedited, and also to those who wondered where that post has gone to! I will certainly not be using that Blogger technology, despite its mention that "if you don't check the 'Publish' box, it won't publish on your blog." Hah! My experience tells me and shows me--and the rest of you--otherwise!

    Stay tuned. This post will be coming.


    October 2, 2005

    Things I learned from Friends
    from Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative

    Over the weekend, Laughing Waters Friends Worship Group met with two couples from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). This intervisitation was arranged as part of the worship group's ongoing discernment around "what sort of Quakers we are"--Hicksite or Conservative.

    It was delightful to have four Friends, as a committee from the yearly meeting, visit with us. Such a visit reinforces my growing sense that, for IYM(C) Friends, intervisitation among meetings and between Friends is highly valued--in addition to exchanging letters, postcards, epistles, phone calls, emails, and blog postings. Such intervisitation seems to help prevent meetings from becoming insular or from getting caught in a loop of all-too-comfortable thinking or "same-old, same-old" activity.

    Well, I am left with these memories and snippets.

  • Worship is at the center. Worship comes first.

  • Extending from worship, Friends consider and address secular concerns.

  • IYM(C) "is still evolving from a center."

    [I loved seeing a number of us from the worship group nod our heads, as if this statement spoke viscerally to us, surpassing intellectual understanding...]

  • In the late 1860s, as part of the Gurneyite-Wilburite split, Friends who preferred a more "traditional" form of Quaker worship walked out of Iowa Yearly Meeting sessions and met elsewhere, away from Friends who had grown to prefer a more "active" worship that had greater emotional fervor. Apparently, this second group of Friends referred to those who had walked out as being "conservative."

    [Until I heard this story, I had always heard that Conservative Friends are so named because they wish to conserve the early practices and forms of Quakerism. Which I suppose points to the same thing...]

  • One of the more recent pieces of history among Iowa Conservative is that as universities grew, so did urban populations, which increased the attendance of younger people at Meeting for Worship. These younger people didn't always know what the unspoken "rules" were among Iowa Conservative Friends, especially when it came to answering queries, a part of the Conservative tradition. Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) found itself being challenged by these younger Friends about the growing acceptance of use of tobacco and alcohol, which is now reflected in a query on personal responsibility.

  • The Iowa visitors asked the worship group, "Do you have any Friends in the worship group who have grown up in a Quaker family?" We all automatically answered "No." And then someone added: Wait, that's not true. All of the kids have grown up in a Quaker family!" That got a nice chuckle all around.
  • Perhaps the most poignant moment of the weekend happened during the reflection and sharing that occurred just after worship on First Day. One Friend, whose Quaker lineage extends backward several generations, spoke with tears in his eyes:
    When we settled into worship, I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time: like I was home.

    I remembered back to 45 years ago, when I was a boy... Daddy, why are they all sitting there...? "They are listening," he answered.

    To what? Nobody's talking. "They're listening to that still, small voice inside."

    But why are they so quiet? "It's hard to listen when we're talking."
    I had felt this to be a witness, a testimony to the Living Presence having been among us, and I was greatly moved by this Friend's quiet words...

    By the way, First Day worship was attended by a total of 18 adult Friends and 5 young Friends. That's nine regular adult attenders of Laughing Waters Friends Worship Group, four Friends visiting from Iowa, and five other visiting Friends, plus one visiting young Friend. WoW!

    Overall, with these Friends from Iowa, there was an ease in talking about God and about God's loving presence in our lives. After the events of the weekend, and the conversations and the worship, I find it hard to imagine myself returning to a more liberal form of Quaker worship and practice.

    But that's "me" talking, and I have some more listening to do!