March 28, 2009

Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging

My discomfort is growing. So are my questions.

    Shall I continue with Facebook?

    Shall I drop Twitter, now that I have experimented with it?

    If I reclaimed the time from Facebook and Twitter, would I return whole-heartedly to the Quaker blogosphere, both in reading blogs as well as writing for my own?

    What about sustaining the relationships that grew out of blogs and are currently much more active on Facebook and Twitter?
Plus I'm wanting to be intentional about continuing the momentum I've got going for self-publishing a book of blog posts relevant to the recent renewal among Friends.

It seems as though I've been spending less time with that new, exciting project and more time keeping up with the electronic Joneses.

That turns my stomach a little bit.

The fact that I am asking myself these questions indicates that something is stirring within me. It's clear that I can't adequately sustain all of these pieces of technology.

It's also clear that I won't give up email: too many people in my immediate life--family, local Quakers--rely more on email than on the other electronic forms of communication.

I wonder if other bloggers wonder about these things.

I wonder if non-bloggers wonder about these things.

I wonder what choices Friends in particular have made about managing their time, about using online social networking tools, about evaluating the benefit or difficulty of these things...?

I can't imagine I'm the only one struggling.

From time to time, I think about the testimony of simplicity and how it relates to my searching. This afternoon I took some time to read a bit and reflect. And yes, I found these through a Google search: I do believe there's a place for the Internet in my life, but it's a question about how to use it and how much to use it.
Outwardly, simplicity is shunning superfluities of dress, speech, behaviour, and possessions, which tend to obscure our vision of reality. Inwardly, simplicity is spiritual detachment from the things of this world... [so as] to love God with all of the heart and mind and strength. The testimony of outward simplicity began as a protest against the extravagance and snobbery which marked English society in the 1600s. In whatever forms this protest is maintained today, it must still be seen as a testimony against involvement with things which tend to dilute our energies and scatter our thoughts....
--Faith and Practice, section on Simplicity, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative), 1983

Simplicity is essential to our relationship with the Divine. It is the deepest leading of spiritual life in stewarding needs, time, money, possessions and energy for the purpose of our relationship with the Divine... Simplicity can set free richness of spiritual life and joy in living... It can remove barriers to engagement with others. This testimony encourages Friends to consider obstacles in our lives which interfere with this Divine experience... The practice of this testimony changes throughout our lives and requires a constant awareness. We recognize the pressures to conform to the materialism of our society.
--Faith and Practice, Approved chapter on Simplicity, Northern Yearly Meeting

The taproot of simplicity is to be found at that point in the life of a Friend when the realization comes that his or her inner and outer lives are connected, that for the inward life to continue to grow, there must be a response from the outward life.
--Frances Taber, as in Northern Yearly Meeting's chapter on Simplicity, see above
I suppose I have the answer to my own question. Now begins the struggle for me to live into it.


Simplicity - A Wider View, from Still Life

Other blog posts by non-Quaker bloggers that link to this post:
It's Facebook Week at Mashable
How Do You Communicate

March 24, 2009

2009 Report to Committee of Elders

What follows below is my annual report to the committee of elders that was appointed me a few years ago. We've been meeting monthly ever since, with few exceptions, focusing on the condition of the concern I've been carrying:

How do we convey our faith to one another as Friends and to those who are new among us; and what sustains us in our identity as Friends?

As the burden has grown lighter of late, and the yoke has felt a bit looser, the committee found itself clear to lay its work down at the end of our most recent meeting. I am grateful for the service, support, care, nurture, challenge, and presence that this dedicated circle of Friends has provided me over the past three years.

Now it remains to see what else Love might call me to.


Third Month 2009

During 2008, there have been a number of seasons I experienced: A time to reflect; a time to speak out. A time to serve; a time to serve further. A time to lift up, a time to let go.

A time to reflect, to let the Light search me

In order for me to understand how I might be either outrunning my Guide or lagging behind it, I am helped by taking time, alone and with my committee, to "wait in the Light and let it search me." Sometimes what is revealed is an element of my personality or a long-standing behavior that interferes with my ability to live into a faithful and loving ministry.

One of the most important observations I made about myself in 2008, in which I felt searched by the Light, was when I understood that I go through periods of being sour:

During those times, I can sour events. I can sour relationships. I can pour sour upon sour and not find my way out but for the in-breaking of the Spirit.

When I am filled with sourness, I disallow God’s Love from moving through me—or at least that motion of Love is slowed considerably. When I am sour, I view the world, and especially the monthly meeting, as being against me, as being unwilling to open itself to the concerns I bring, about how, if we are not careful, our committee meetings, our business sessions, our First Day School, and our worshipful interactions with one another will look and sound and feel less Quaker and instead will become more and more "of the world."

When I am in Love, low enough to let the Spirit guide me, these concerns do not vanish but I am brought into a certain new sympathy for those with whom I worship. The conversation opens and I am made tender and vulnerable as I share the concern I carry.

But then that season of Light passes and I again become sour for a time once more.

In my sourness, my perceptions fuel my sour view of the world, and my sour view of the world magnifies my sour perceptions. I extrapolate an interaction I have with one or two Friends and generalize my experience as being the result of how I've been treated by the entire meeting.

It’s a cycle of how sour perceptions create sour interactions, and sour interactions intensify sour perceptions. It's a cycle that requires only a simple choice to break: to choose to turn towards the Light, to be searched, to be made low.

When I quiet myself and center down, I remember the Light and the Love that warms me, comforts me, envelops me so I may grow and even flourish. When I am centered, while to that Rock I’m clinging, I cannot be shaken. At the same time, I feel immense inward quiet and humility, and I feel the Living Presence beside me.

A time to speak out

The work of making our faith more transparent and more explicit to those who have questions about it continues to move and live within me. Sometimes, the opportunity arises when I feel particularly suited or called upon to take action, speak out, or get involved. Again, my committee of elders helps me stay close to the Root and test if the Way is open, if I am acting out of faithfulness or out of ego.

I felt particularly well used in the time leading up to the February 2008 panel “Living Our Leadings” and during the panel itself. Friends on occasion still talk about how much they got out of that panel, and a few have since requested clearness and care-and-accountability committees, perhaps having been encouraged by the panel to seek one.

In addition, the opportunity came to me to begin working with a writing coach. During the second half of 2008, a writer and a friend of Friends, Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, began to draw me into a regular discipline of writing. She has helped me work into my own process of writing for depth in addition to breadth. I look forward to continuing to work with her in 2009, finding a balance between the blog writing for The Good Raised Up and the longer, slower writing I've been doing about Quaker identity.

While discovering a new writing discipline, and even after the panel in early 2008, I found I continue to yearn for the meeting--and other Liberal Friends--to have the opportunity to hear from those Friends who have come into some ministry and who have an ongoing committee of elders or a similar committee for spiritual nurture, care, and accountability. As we Friends go about our life in service to the Spirit, the community as a whole doesn't necessarily know the work or ministry that is being offered through us as we travel. This seems out of Gospel Order to me, and it weighs on me to this day.
Thus, when meetings find a way to support a concern for gospel ministry... they may also find that the lessons learned encourage them to find appropriate ways to encourage other kinds of gifts and callings.
[To] the extent that we learn of each other’s ministry, we are made richer by it, both individually and corporately.
I myself have been helped to come to know Friends in a deep way when I have learned how a concern or ministry of the Spirit has grown within a Friend, has been nurtured, has taken root, and ultimately has borne fruit. Hearing the stories of their struggles to be faithful and to stay low is like a lighthouse's beacon for me on a dark and foggy night. Experiences of how we "give over"--or don't; of how we come into new Light or witness others doing so become my guideposts along a sometimes unfamiliar or rocky path.

And I have been made increasingly tender by having this committee of elders bear witness to how the Spirit is using me, how I am wrestling to be faithful, how I cry out in my broken-openness that we need each other to help us ALL be faithful to our measure of Light.

My experience has been that we are bound together in a unique way when we hear from one another about the leadings we have come into and when we witness the humility that comes with making ourselves vulnerable to our community of faith.

A time to serve

In 2008, I continued to serve the meeting as a member of Ministry & Counsel. Through service on M&C, I began to be shown more clearly how M&C sets an example for the corporate body, whether that example be one of a more secularized way of being with one another as a faith community, or of offering a more disciplined and loving way of laboring with one another and seeking greater Light together to address complex concerns.

Serving on M&C has been a piercing exercise of the spirit for me, and I have learned much about the nature of Love, of speaking when one is "cool in thy own mind," of staying low, and of acting out of a sense of cherishing one another. I still get it wrong sometimes, thinking I "know better" than other Friends, or that somehow my experience should be given more weight than what others have been through. But my committee reminds me again and again to consider what it means to be meek in any given circumstance, and their reminders are priceless.

In the past couple of years, as the concern I carry has seasoned, and as I have been counseled by my care-and-accountability committee, I have spoken more gently both within M&C and in the meeting at large of how we might slow the impulse of drawing on traditions outside of Quakerism and of how we might make our own faith more explicit to one another, given that the meeting has a large proportion of young families and attenders among its worshipers.

Much of my time on M&C has reinforced the message I was given one day, that in addition to speaking the Truth faithfully, I must also strive to speak the Truth from a place of love.

My time of service on M&C has been a difficult part of my path, a trial of my spirit in some ways. I had expected the Friends who serve on M&C to have more grounding in the discipline of Quakerism, but the reality is, we are all learning new things about Quakerism by worshiping with one another and having opportunities for fellowship. While some members and long-time Friends have questions about what a leading is and what it means to test a leading, other Friends grapple with what the difference is between listening to individual voices and striving for corporate unity around a sense of the meeting.

A time to serve further

In the summer of 2008, per its customary cycle, M&C sought a new clerk, or new co-clerks. I initially felt the Way was open for me to serve, but I had no specific leading, neither to offer myself as clerk nor to refrain from offering myself as clerk.

Having learned from my 2006-2007 experience of clerking the Workshops Committee for FGC's 2007 Gathering, I knew I should not pursue clerking without having either a co-clerk or an assistant clerk, and after a few conversations with another M&C member, she and I stepped into co-clerking M&C in October 2008.

That service through the end of 2008 and into 2009, has tested me further. I have begun observing that there are different elements of listening and what it is we give weight to--whether we listen to good ideas, seek to know the guidance of the Spirit and the motion of Love, or follow the way things have been done over the years by the Friends who have been around the longest.

Away from M&C meetings, I have been stretched to listen for what it is that God has placed in my heart, bring that message to the co-clerk's attention, and then engage in mutual listening to one another while seeking the Way forward when we disagree.

With the help of this committee of elders, I have begun to realize that the more grounded I am in how God asks me to be in the world and among Friends, the more liberated I am to be my authentic self, to live into my measure of Light. In turn, the different styles, preferences, and understandings that the other co-clerk and I have are transformed from places of friction to opportunities for reconciliation and gentle collaboration.

Again, I treasure the reminders from the committee to live into my measure fully and authentically, from a place of humble obedience.

A time to lift up

Over the past year, a few opportunities arose through which I could articulate elements of the Quaker faith tradition that otherwise may have gone unnoticed or may have stayed invisible.

The February panel "Living Our Leadings" was certainly a time of bringing Friends together to share and learn from one another how we provide spiritual nurture, accountability, and eldership to Friends who have come into some ministry or spiritual concern.

The blog I maintain, The Good Raised Up, continues to find favor among Friends and friends of Friends from around the world. According to Site Meter, a tool that tracks data about those who view a website, approximately eighty percent of readers are from Canada and the U.S., ten percent are from Europe, and ten percent are from Asia and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Site Meter doesn't identify if the readers are Quaker or, if they are, what branch of Quakers they are connected to. I do know, however, based on comments left on The Good Raised Up, that some readers are from the Conservative branch and a few are from Friends United Meeting and other pastored Friends churches. At least one reader is from an Evangelical Friends church. We learn from each other, and my eyes are opened to the gifts that all parts of the body bring.

One such learning was shared with me through a comment made on a post I wrote about what seemed to be a waning of attendance at recent weddings and memorials. The reader made this remark:
A late comment of thanks. I was recently in a committee meeting where I related how this blog post had cemented my intention to attend the wedding of two members recently held under the care of our meeting, and another Friend shared that it had similarly ensured her presence at the same event. It was a beautiful wedding, with rich worship, and a wonderful day for our meeting. Thanks for helping ensure that we got there!
Though the blog writing comes and goes, this vehicle for sharing my experiences among Friends and for responding to items that other bloggers write continues to stretch me, grow me, and call me out.

A time to let go

As the year began to wind down, I became aware that I felt that the yoke I had been wearing was growing lighter. Something in me seemed to be loosening, especially around the spiritual concern I have been carrying.

It may be that the process of working with a committee of elders for over two years has helped me know at a deep, wordless level that I am not alone and that ultimately, this work is God's work and the work of God through the eyes, hands, feet, mouths, and ears of the meeting community.

It may be that enough seed has been sown onto good soil over time by any number of Friends and that something is in fact taking root, loosening the yoke that had been placed on me a bit.

Or it may be that I can go no further in this "travel within the meeting" as recommended by my initial clearness committee.

But as I complete the writing of this report, for now, I feel worn.* I am uncertain if I have more to give, if the Spirit gives me more.

I also recognize that the Spirit will out, no matter our best intentions or loftiest plans. Even though the initial clearness committee discerned that the Way was not open for me to seek to travel among Friends as part of FGC's Traveling Ministries Program, the fact is that some of what I have been carrying has been shared among Friends beyond the meeting's walls.

In addition, as 2008 has progressed into 2009, I sense a call in 2009 to dedicate more attention and energy into preparing a publication that would make important blog posts from across the Quaker branches available in print.

I find myself wondering if now is the season for me to let go of my formal concern and lay down this committee. Though the concern still resides in me, as I have said, the yoke feels lighter, and I don't know that there is more for me to do that would need the undergirding of this committee.

With that, I leave it in the hands of these faithful Friends to share a report with M&C and to discern if our work is done.

In service,
Liz Opp(enheimer)

*The committee inquired about just what I meant by this word. Through our conversation, "worn" was clarified to mean "broken in" and "used up in a good way," perhaps to be re-purposed.

March 20, 2009

Guest Piece & Survey: Importance of Quaker journals, letters, and blogs

A few days ago, I received an email from a Friend that included a request for me to fill out an online survey--a short survey that had been developed by a Quaker who is doing research to complete a course in an Archives Seminar at the University of Maryland. Maybe some of you readers and fellow bloggers received a similar email.

This new survey* focuses on the impact of Quaker journals and blogs on our spiritual lives.

[*NOTE: After posting this information originally, the survey's creator Mary Crauderueff asked me to have the link to the survey only within the text of her own email, below. That's because of the consent that's sought with more formal research and how online surveys work, apparently. As a result, I've removed the links to the survey in this preface. Feel free to skip ahead...]

The survey raised a few questions for me and I contacted the survey's creator, Mary Crauderueff. After a brief back-and-forth, she agreed to have me post her original email here, along with a few other comments about the project and survey.

Anyone who has not yet taken the survey may do so before April 6, 2009.

You don't have to have a blog, and you don't have to be Quaker. But if you read Quaker blogs, please consider taking it.

To be clear: this is a different survey with a very different purpose from the one that I had posted a few weeks ago. (My own post and survey is here.)

Mary writes: "If anyone has questions, comments, or want to talk with me more about the subject [of Quaker journals, letters, and blogs], they should feel free to do so."

She can be reached at [mcrauder AT umd DOT edu].

Excerpt from Mary Crauderueff's email to me in response to my questions

The survey was very tailored to my Archives Seminar project, which is about the way Quaker journals have been used over time as spiritual nurture, and how blogs are a continuation of this, and therefore should be preserved. This is going along with a trend in the greater archival world to save electronic, and especially internet-based, materials.

The deadline is April 6th, however I have a limit of surveys I can collect, and so I would encourage readers to participate sooner rather than later.

Text from Mary's original email

From: Mary Crauderueff
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2009 11:03 PM
Subject: Quaker Blog Survey! - Please forward.

Dear Friends,

Please excuse any cross-listings.

I am conducting research for the final paper I am writing in my Archives Seminar class this semester at the iSchool at the University of Maryland, College Park. The paper is about the importance of Quaker journals, letters, and blogs to the spiritual guidance and nurture of Quakers both historically and today.

I am hoping to get input from Quakers of all ages regarding their interest and involvement of Quaker journals and blogs during the course of their spiritual journey with Quakerism. I have complied a set of questions that I am hoping you will be able to fill out for me. [Keep reading to make your way to the link. --Liz]

I will do my best to keep your personal information confidential. If I write a report or article about this research project, your identity will be protected to the maximum extent possible. I will be keeping the results in a password-protected account, and if they are loaded onto a computer, the computer account will also be password protected. Any identifying information collected will be kept separately from the responses.

There are no known risks associated with participating in this research project. This research is not designed to help you personally.

Your participation in this research is completely voluntary. You may choose not to take part at all. If you decide to participate in this research, you may stop participating at any time. If you decide not to participate in this study or if you stop participating at any time, you will not be penalized or lose any benefits to which you otherwise qualify.

This research is being conducted by Mary Crauderueff, College of Information Studies (Maryland's i-School) at the University of Maryland, College Park. If you have any questions about the research study itself, please contact Jean Dryden at:

4121J Hornbake Bldg, South Wing
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

If you have questions about your rights as a research subject or wish to report a research-related injury, please contact:

Institutional Review Board Office
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland 20742
(e-mail) irb AT deans DOT umd DOT edu
(telephone) 301-405-0678

This research has been reviewed according to the University of Maryland, College Park IRB procedures for research involving human subjects.

By clicking on the link to the survey on [see below], you indicate that: you are at least 18 years of age; the research has been explained to you; your questions have been fully answered; and you freely and voluntarily choose to participate in this research project.

[And here it is...]

Please respond via this survey by Monday, April 6th. [Click here to go the survey! Or copy and paste the URL into your browser]:

Also, please forward this to all the Quakers you know - I would like to get as much participation as I can!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks in advance!

in Light,

Mary Crauderueff
mcrauder AT umd DOT edu
Special Collections Graduate Assistant
Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library
University of Maryland College Park

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.