February 13, 2007

Gregg's meme:
10 Reasons Why I'm Quaker

I'm borrowing the now-familiar theme from Gregg.

...Actually, every time I revisit this post, I keep changing the order of my list. So in my own mind, I picture a circle that has been sliced into a number of pie pieces. Each item has its own weight and size in helping me identify as a Friend at any given moment. No item is higher up or more important than any other, and the "largest" pieces at one time might be less important at another.

Lucky me! I found an interesting animated image of this sort of fluid pie chart that captures what I'm wanting to describe.

Here are my ever-changing pieces of the Quaker pie, then:

Number 10: Quakerism is a really good fit for me; it brings me fulfillment.

Since 1993 when I began worshipping regularly with Friends, I have felt like I am becoming the person that I have been intended to be. I feel well used, over and over again. I feel like I make a small but significant difference in the scope of things and in the lives of people around me. I believe being Quaker has had a lot to do with that good feeling, and I sense it is ultimately the bottom line of what keeps me Quaker. So consider this item Number 1 as well as Number 10.

Number 9: Belief in the potential we each have; calling each other out, to live into our full measure of Light; having and believing in the capacity to be transformed.

I know I haven't always been the most gentle of persons, and I have had trouble expressing my concerns over time in a loving way. The fact that over the years, Friends have been able to see beyond my actions and have been able to hear something beneath my words, has been priceless to me. Friends have helped call me out rather than turn away from me, and in turn I have softened and become more patient, more compassionate.

Number 8: Intentional stripping away of empty rituals and over-the-top ceremonies.

There's something about getting down to the essence of what we're after when we enter into worship that appeals to me. I also think of open worship as "the great leveler," where facility with language and expensive clothes just don't matter. That said, I acknowledge that outward ritual and ceremony have certainly connected me to any number of people and groups over the years, through traditional weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and personal growth retreats. But these outward forms have eventually become disconnected from their original intentions and from their communities, and so I end up with what I've always had anyway: the ability to engage in worship and connect with the Divine whenever I quiet myself enough so that me and the Inward Teacher can have a real nice meet-up.

Number 7: Striving to be in integrity with God, with one's own personal integrity, and with one's desire to be honest.

When I was in elementary school, walking home one day in one of my frequent sullen moods, I remember thinking to myself that I was sullen because I had answered a classmate's question (something like, "Do you like my new shoes?") but was chided when I answered it honestly ("No."). I remember thinking to myself, "Why do I feel like I'm the only one in the world who gives an honest answer to a question she's been asked? ...I can't be the only one in the whole world who is that honest." ...So imagine my utter inward joy when I discovered that Quakers have a practice of truthtelling and integrity! Not quite as ecstatic as Fox's "leap for joy," but pretty close, in my book. And on top of that, I find I experience a sort of deep, ineffable satisfaction when I feel a choice I have made or an action I have taken is aligned with what it is that God truly wants in that moment, whether it's offering an honest answer or taking a stand against some unfairness that's occurred right in front of me.

Number 6: Personal and direct relationship with God.

I know: this reason is rather cliche, but it's still a huge part of why I'm Quaker! Somehow I have often felt that my connection to God was extremely private, and that the rabbi and religious school teachers I had weren't talking about the same God I was experiencing--or desperately wanted to experience anyway. So removing those intermediaries somehow gave me the freedom to listen more closely to what the Spirit was wanting me to know. And I understood--wordlessly and at a deep level--that it really was important that I said what I meant and that I meant what I said. After all, God has some really high expectations that I want to live up to, and--to paraphrase a dear fFriend of mine--I know I am loved even when I can do no more to make God love me and I know I am loved even when I can do no less to make God love me.

Number 5: Shared belief in something Divine that can guide us.

This is related to my Number 6 comment, about having a direct relationship with God. I am enamored by the idea, by the belief, and by the practice that because God is speaking to us and dwells among us, if we stop and listen together, we can understand some of what God is wanting us to know. And that understanding can bring us fulfillment, happiness, and transformation. Sometimes we end up where we had no idea we could possibly go, which to me is one of the tests of God's leading: if we end up where we predicted, it may be that our own ego and personal desire have not totally been laid aside.

Number 4: Continuing revelation and its place among the corporate body.

God is not done showing us all that we need to know about the nature of God and the nature of Love. Somehow, the concept of continuing revelation releases me from working so hard to "figure it all out," especially when decisions have to be made around a complex or delicate matter. The longer I can live into the Unknown and hang out in limbo-land--as uncomfortable as that is--the more likely it is that I will understand how the pieces fit together and what I'm supposed to do next. Somehow, continuing revelation and the search as a community for Way to open has been creating a fondness in my heart for the corporate nature of who we are as Friends.

Number 3: Quakers care about treating people not just well or fairly, but lovingly. Love is the first motion.

Treating people fairly can become an intellectual exercise or a sociopolitical one. I find that I am attracted to how Friends as a group wish to connote loving care as well as fairness, even during the most difficult of times. It is not enough to "speak truth to power." We must also speak truth to power with love, which is not always so easy. And it's not always so easy to take the time to discern just what "speaking truth to power in love" will look like, sound like, feel like, or be like. But we must strive to do just that if we are to be about healing and not about creating more rifts in the fabric of our humanity. Quakers as a group seem to hold one another's feet to the fire when it comes to living into the tension between the urge to act and the desire to wait until the motion of Love is felt deep within.

Number 2: Inclusion of, consideration for, and weight given to even the lone minority voice.

Before I encountered Quaker business practices, I was always frustrated and hurt by the idea of "majority rule." Somehow Roberts Rules of Order and casting votes seemed to put more weight on the vote and its outcome than on the persons who were concerned about what was being voted on. Roberts Rules and yes-no votes are clearly about one group winning and getting their way and the other group losing and going home with nothing. A win-lose paradigm like that cannot heal racial divisions, class divisions, religious rifts, or family break-ups. A win-lose paradigm cannot heal the planet. But as Friends, by listening for the smallest kernel of Truth even in a single minority voice, we might be turned towards considering something we would have otherwise overlooked. And by giving consideration for that minority voice, we express care for the one who has risked being faithful in the face of unspoken pressure to "just go along with the rest of us."

Number 1: Support for being faithful to God's leadings.

There are many people in my life who have been mystified by my desire to follow my own compulsions of what I feel is the way to go. I moved to Milwaukee because it felt like the right thing to do at the time and because Way opened to allow me to do it--and that move eventually brought me to Quaker meeting. I traveled to a quaterly gathering of Quakers who sing for the joy and pleasure of singing and fellowship because it felt like what I was supposed to do--and that trip eventually brought me to my beloved partner. I brought a spiritual concern forward to a small committee of Friends because it felt like it was time to do so--and that concern has been affirmed and has brought me into this Quaker blogosphere along with other opportunities to connect with Friends along the theological continuum. Mostly what I get a kick out of is that when we are faithful to the little leadings, we are gaining practice for the future so that we will be faithful to the big leadings. And being faithful to God's instruction is what brings me peace of mind and joy of heart. See Number 10 again!


Gregg's Top Ten reasons for being Quaker
Gregg's Top Ten things that drive him crazy
Robin M's Top Ten things that drive her crazy
Daniel's six reasons for being Quaker
Tania's post, Why Quakerism?
an earlier post on this blog, I should have known I was a Quaker
a later post on this blog, Membership and identity
Daniel Wilcox's post on what he sees as key truths in Quakerism
Yet one more post on this blog, Why I'm still a Quaker


Robin M. said...

Whoo hoo! Nice list.

Writing clearly and succinctly about the reasons you are a Quaker is much harder than making a list of irritating things. Thank you!

Gregg Koskela said...

Yes, this is good! Just a quick read tonight, but I'll mull over it more and make a more substantial comment. Thanks for continuing to add to the voices that are helping us define ourselves!

Laurie Kruczek said...

Very well said and lovely to read tonight. I really think your list touches on many of the same feelings I have had recently. My own blog came about because of leadings I felt while in Quaker meeting. Great to think that we may all be connecting this way for a bigger reason....

Also, I especially liked:

"I end up with what I've always had anyway: the ability to engage in worship and connect with the Divine whenever I quiet myself enough so that me and the Inward Teacher can have a real nice meet-up."

It is "a real nice meet-up" sometimes, isn't it? :) Great phrasing for a special situation. Thanks for sharing it, Liz.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks, all of you, for dropping by. It's been fun to see this thread carried over from blog to blog, and to see the "variations on a theme."

Of course, there are other Friends out there whose list, I imagine, would look very different--EFI Friends and nontheist Friends come to mind right away.

As I consider all these comments just now, I worry that those whose take on Quakerism differs greatly from my own will wonder what "we" might think of "them" if they posted their own reasons for being Quaker.

My intention with the post was to articulate what's important to me about Quakerism; my concern is that the impact will be that Friends who fear they are marginalized will withdraw--which would disallow me to learn more about what binds us together as a Religious Society.

So now this post and these comments have led me to ask:

How do we carve out space to hear from all sorts of Friends about what is meaningful to them about Quakerism? ...not to argue about theology or practice, but to learn about our yearnings, our search, and our joy.


Lovin' Life Liz said...

Hello, fellow Liz :) Thanks for stopping by my blog, I am enjoying yours as well!!

Patrick said...


About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You