March 8, 2009

Making my way through March

This morning I began to come to terms with my schedule this month. It's filled with lots of Quaker goodies, but I worry that I've got a bit too much on my plate.

  • Retreat for FGC's Traveling Ministries Program. This upcoming weekend, I have plans to travel to the Cincinnati area to attend a 2-1/2 day retreat, with an evening session led by Quaker historian and author Marty Grundy.

    The focus of the retreat is "to explore the historic roots of Quaker ministry and how this tradition, which is our inheritance, may be serviceable to Friends called to ministry in the 21st century."*

    Now, I personally know some Liberal Friends who insist that we have nothing to learn from the past since our times are so very different from that of early Friends. But I also know that I have grown in many ways--all for the better, from what I can tell!--by having been exposed to just a small portion of the writings of early Friends.

    I am curious to hear what Marty and others will offer, regarding our "inheritance" and how we either squander it or continue to be good stewards of it for the benefit of current and future generations.

  • A visit with Decorah Friends. The following weekend, the worship group where I am also active is taking a field trip of sorts. Because we are exploring affiliation with Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), we felt it was important to meet and worship with Iowa Friends, and Decorah Friends Meeting in northeast Iowa is geographically the closest to us--still a good three hours away.

    At last count, we had nearly twenty of us going on the trip--including six children under the age of 11.

  • Preparation for an adult education session. At the very end of the month, I'll be co-leading a short program at the monthly meeting, titled "What if worship came with instructions?" This is a follow-up to a recent session about how we prepare for worship.

    It came about when there was a cancellation for March 29, along with an expressed interest from Friends to share more with one another about how we engage in worship. One thing I'm looking forward to is working with an aging Friend who has quietly been encouraging some of us to continue to speak openly about our faith tradition and our Quaker heritage.

    I've begun going more carefully through Bill Taber's pamphlet, Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, jotting down queries that arise out of the text and making note of possible quotations and excerpts to lift up. Between Jack and me, I'm guessing we'll do less speaking and more listening, drawing out Friends to speak about their own experience of traveling through what Bill calls the Door Inward and the Door Within, moving from taking in the room to waiting upon the Lord...

  • Coordinating a Quaker booktable. About three or even four months ago, there was a cluster of Friends whose memberships were approved by the meeting. A session was arranged to allow for a sort of meet-and-greet, but the bulk of the time was given to allow each of the new members to speak to where they found themselves at that point in their journey among Friends.

    One theme was a desire to understand more about Quakerism:

    We've been to worship, we've gone to Meeting for Worship for Business, we attended Quakerism 101--but we know that there's more to Quakerism and we're not sure how to learn what that More is...

    Well, that day, a seed got planted in me, and I've begun the process of arranging a booktable through FGC's QuakerBooks. I've never orchestrated this sort of thing in the past, but I've seen the results: marvelous titles and authors literally at people's fingertips, and usually with a simple self-checkout procedure, allowing for cash, checks, and even credit cards.

    Over the years, a few bloggers have identified Quaker books that have been meaningful to them, for example within the comments of this old blogpost of Claire's, as well as in this post of Robin's.

    I also came across an extensive reading list that is based on the reader's personal experience and length of time among Friends. Unfortunately, this extensive list is a bit of a bear to slog through, but if you've got the time and patience, it's worth it.

    Anyway, I mention all of this because if you have your own suggestions about Quaker books for such an event, please add them to the comments. I've been drawing on a few local Friends for their input, too, so that way my own biases and blindspots as to what is or isn't worthwhile reading will be minimized. I mean, I hate to admit it, but it never occurred to me to have a few Bibles for sale!

  • Making decisions about the 2009 FGC Gathering. Though attendance is likely to be wayyyy down this year because of the economy, I'm still intending to go to this year's FGC Gathering. In fact, my partner and I both have commitments there.

    What I'm personally pleased about, this year in particular, is the number of "explicitly Quaker" workshops that are being offered in 2009. In addition, I'm excited by some of the evening plenary speakers, Ben Pink Dandelion and Shane "Jesus for President" Claiborne in particular.

    As for decisions about Gathering, they involve registering for a workshop and identifying a meal plan and housing option that work best for our budget. Cha-ching...

  • Continuing work on the upcoming publication. Perhaps the biggest, most time-consuming, most complex, and most exciting of all, though, is the work that I am continuing to do in preparation for pulling together this whatever-it's-going-to-be-called compilation of blogposts into a single publication.

    I've had to take about a week's time away from it in order to focus on other things that had been on hold (see above!), but I hope to get back to it in-between trips. The next big step in this particular project involves sorting through the recommended posts, prioritizing them in some manner, and then see how I'm led. Whew!

  • I look forward to reporting back after (or in-between) my Quaker travels.


    *From the letter of invitation.


    Daniel Wilcox said...

    Hi Liz,

    I didn't see a several books that really mean a lot to me:

    The Peacable Kingdom
    by Jan de Hartog
    (good fictional biography of Fox and early Friends)

    The Eternal Promise by Thomas Kelly
    (I actually like this better than A Testament of Devotion.)

    Introduction to Quakerism
    by Ben Pink Dandelion
    (best history next to Howard Brinton's 300 Years of Friends History)

    Contemplative Prayer
    by the monk Thomas Merton
    (Even though it is Catholic in background, it is such a powerful book of spiritual truth. I try and re-read it about every two years. It never fails to move me deeply.)

    Your schedule does sound busy, but so spiritually exciting:-)

    Daniel Wilcox

    Aimee said...

    Wow - Shane Claiborne at FGC! That ought to be interesting. Wish I could be there...

    The Eternal Promise is one of my favorites too.
    I also highly recommend Coming Into Friendship As A Gift.

    Liz Opp said...

    Daniel and Aimee--

    We are all thinking along the same lines when it comes to Quaker books! Most of the titles that you've suggested I already added to my ever-growing spreadsheet for the booktable. Thanks for affirming my own selections and those of local Friends who have already contributed!

    If I can find an easy way to convert part of a Google spreadsheet into text, perhaps I'll post the final book list separately... but no promises!

    Happy reading, everyone.


    Robin M. said...

    Safe journeys, Friend.

    I think there is a setting on the Google docs, so probably on the spreadsheets too, but I'm not sure, that allows you to publish a link to just that document. Which might be easier than cutting and pasting into your blog itself.

    RichardM said...

    At this moment I am also facing a situation in which I've got a lot that I think I'm lead to do and I also have the nagging thought that it seems like too much and so I may have imposed some of this on myself ("see what a big strong guy I am. I can do all this.") instead of just doing what God really wants me to do.

    So I've been on the look-out for "Way Closings" that is, signs that particular tasks I can lay down.

    I saw one of them this week. I've been tearing down an old outbuilding on our property and hauling it to the dump one truckload at a time for a couple of weeks. This has been an additional strain on my time and energy. Meanwhile my wife's sister has made plans to visit us down here and she is bringing her big strong son who we know will get very bored and would just LOVE to haul trash to the dump. When my wife pointed this out to me I initially resisted the idea ("I can't just let that pile of junk sit there untouched for another week.") but as I sat with the idea a couple of days it hit me. This is a clear sign to let my nephew take over this particular project so I can focus on other things.

    So if you are starting to feel overwhelmed look for a "nephew" to take over one of the projects.

    P.S. I'm not your "nephew."

    Liz Opp said...

    Robin-- Thanks for tip about an alternative way to share a Google document.

    Richard and others-- Turns out that Way in fact did close: I chose not to travel to the retreat because of a bad cold I developed this week.

    Needless to say, I was bummed. The only thing that's really be able to lift my spirits has been to think about how I might be able to invite Marty Grundy to my own town...


    RichardM said...

    Don't be bummed, be thankful. God is smarter than we are.

    Liz Opp said...

    Good point, Richard. But then again, that's why I'm human and God isn't.