March 30, 2010

Two workshops in May 2010

Every now and then, I get the itch to create and present a workshop for area Quakers that I hope will join us together in a fun and fruitful way.

When I add to that a desire to find ways to generate funds to bring to my part of the country a prominent Quaker presenter or a notable workshop that goes beyond an introductory session about Quakerism, well, that just makes me all the more eager to get going.

Since last fall, I've been working with a clearness committee around short- and long-term plans to help transform Minnesota into a destination for Quaker presenters and not just a fly-over zone.

Ideally, these two workshops are the first of a series to raise seed money to be put toward Quaker presenters with some name recognition.

Dirty Words in Modern Day Quakerism
May 1st, 2010


In this workshop, we’ll identify words and practices that seem to be dismissed or underappreciated by Friends today. We’ll dig into some historical and contemporary examples of those practices and explore the merit—or lack thereof—of reclaiming them for ourselves as modern-day Friends.

To register, or for more information about Dirty Words, click here.

Fear Factor: Getting Out of Our Own Way
May 15, 2010

Speaking up.
Offering vocal ministry.
Seeking membership.

In this workshop, we’ll look at what Friends today seem most afraid of pursuing. Through hands-on activities, answering queries, and worship sharing, we’ll learn how we get in our own way—and consider how to get out of it so we may be better prepared to serve the meeting, the wider community, and God.

To register, or for more information about Fear Factor, click here.


March 23, 2010

Job application for Faithful servant


What started off as a fun idea for a blog post downshifted into a somewhat depressing and revealing exercise for me: There is so much more I could be doing if I were truly yearning and striving to be a faithful servant.

Maybe I'm merely worried about being a "good enough" Quaker and not putting enough attention or energy into being a true servant of the Spirit. Or maybe my few moments of deep faithfulness, humble obedience, and feeling well used are enough to sustain me in my life as a Friend.


To engage in activities where I feel well used and that help me feel good about my relationship with God and about myself as the result of faithful service.

Dutiful participation in the Jewish faith.
  • Hebrew classes at synagogue; Bat-Mitzvahed in 1975.
  •  Voluntarily attended High Holy Day services during college.
  •  Visited ill grandparents, even the miserable ones.
  •  Called my mother each week while I was in college and after I had moved out of the house.
  •  Looked for the afikomen during large Passover seders, despite the likelihood I wouldn't find it.
Crisis of faith.
1982, 1997
  •  Blamed God after significant friendships fell apart.
  •  Bargained with God, despite pain and anguish. Remained a believer.
  •  Made peace with God.
Active participation in a number of Quaker communities.
  •  Committee service.
  •  Some travel among Quakers in Canada and the U.S. to learn how other Quakers "do" Quakerism. Observed how some Quaker meetings keep Divine Principle at its center, while others allow for fair amount of secularism.
  •  Pastoral care and spiritual challenges brought to me through care-and-accountability committee.
  •  Extended myself to support a friend who was headed for homelessness; helped him maintain sense of dignity as well as practical help until his situation stabilized.

  •  My "John Woolman moment": As a pre-schooler, courageously told my mother I had used magic marker to draw on kitchen floor. Felt awful for an eternity and now always place additional paper under tip of marker when using a Sharpie.
  •  Convincement: As a college student, after questioning a series of coincidences that had occurred, involving a depressing morning and an unexpected visit by a friend, and came to believe that God had led me to that point for a reason.
  •  Obedience: Without a job lined up and no practical rationale, moved halfway across the country immediately after college, because God told me to.
  •  Deepening the well: Speak with those new to Quakerism about basic traditions and practices.  Remind current Friends of value of practices that appear to be falling away.  Offer to lead Adult Education sessions.  Communicate with Quakers who live elsewhere and practice Quakerism differently from me.
  •  Pray and listen.  Listen and pray.  


The teenage young woman whom I met out of the blue eight years ago when God told me at the last possible moment, "Get thee up and drive to thy yearly meeting session!"

The woman roommate I had immediately after college.

The Friends with whom I worship and whose buttons I push because I talk so much about God at the center, and Love as the guiding Principle.

March 9, 2010

Eggs, the roller derby, and hewing broken cisterns

This past First Day, after a few months of planning, the worship group hosted visitors from Decorah Meeting, part of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

We've been experimenting with how to incorporate Adult Education into our First Day routine, using a short piece from Scripture or from Quaker writings as a prompt for discussion. This time, after greetings and introductions, we started with a piece from Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice about being good plumbers and helping ensure a clear channel for the Living Water. Then we were asked to reflect on the reading.

What I remember is the verse from Scripture that opened the F&P excerpt:

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
the fountain of living waters,
to hew for themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13 (New American Standard Bible)
As others began sharing their own reflections on being spiritual plumbers, I found myself thinking back to where I was the night before:

At the roller derby.

A group of friends that we've been getting to know through watching movies together had invited us to go and, to make a long story short, let's just say I agreed to go with Jeanne on that particular night and leave it at that.

The "legendary" arena where the event was held was sold out. Our friends and the two of us got free T-shirts and light sticks. I won a high-tech thermos by answering a trivia question about coffee. Another friend won a nice hooded sweatshirt. The music was loud; our friends and thousands of fans were yelling nearly the entire time. There were flashing lights and zealous announcers whose play-by-play calls echoed thunderously in the room.

And there were the rollergirls. Very hippy, very aggressive, very agile rollergirls, some of whom fell pretty hard while skating around what amounts to the same sort of short track that Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno excels on. But roller derbys are not held on an skating rink with nice people letting you go gliding by. The sport takes place on a hardwood oval track--and it is a contact sport.

At one point, I began to wonder what I was doing there. And when half-time came, around 8:30, I realized how overstimulated and overwhelmed I was. Jeanne was worn out too, so we called it quits and headed home. I was asleep by 10:15 that night.

And now it was the next day, and I was sitting in someone's living room, a very different arena, in a much more contemplative oval. The physical contact among us that morning had been warm and hearty hugs to greet the Friends from Iowa. Instead of watching where the lead jammer was and the hustle of the derby's pack, I was thinking about broken cisterns and not being able to hold and attend to the Living Water.

I felt a pang of sadness and I immediately understood how the roller derby had been a tremendous distraction for me at a number of levels:

I was caught up with the crowd, very detached from any sense of myself, let alone the Presence.

I was focused on possessions, rushing about to collect SWAG (Stuff We All Get).

And I was enraptured by the lights, colors, and action:

I was taken out of myself in a serious way, and I knew deep within me, that I could let myself become completely immersed in the roller derby culture, to the point of ignoring any attention-getting by the still small voice that I know as God Eternal.

In our worship sharing and discussion that morning, I was aware that there were other cracks developing in my cistern, not just because of the events from the previous night.

For example, as the spring emerges, so do new opportunities for me to travel among Friends and to visit family. It is only early March, yet I already have invitations and plans to travel to two events in Iowa, one event in Michigan, one event in Oregon, and events in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

More cracks in the cistern.

Am I hewing my own cistern, taking broad, rough strokes at what I think will be opportunities to help nurture me and my spiritual life as a Quaker? Have I been so quick to dig a well that I have taken little care to check how well I am digging it?

I shared all this during Adult Education, and I added that I must take care in assessing where my cracks are and what causes them. The cracks must be mended if I am to be able to hold the Living Water and be filled, renewed by the Spirit.

After we each had a chance to share our thoughts about the reading, we entered worship.

A few minutes into the settling silence, there was a soft knock at the door. The woman whose house we were worshiping in stepped outside for a moment, came back in, went into the kitchen, and emerged with three or four eggs in her hand. She disappeared into the hall for half a moment before returning to the circle.

We resettled, and my thoughts returned to broken cisterns. And eggs.

Eggs are a certain type of vessel with a gift inside, I would share during our time of reflection after worship. We cannot know the gift until the walls of the egg are cracked and the egg is cracked open. I wonder if this is the same for we humans. We have spiritual gifts within us, and sometimes we cannot know the gift until the Spirit breaks us open.

Also, I have heard it said that when there is a break in a bone, for example, when the bone is knit back together, the area of the break is stronger than it was before. Perhaps that is true for us, too. When we are broken open by the Spirit, maybe something in ourselves is made stronger because of it.

I stopped speaking just then because I thought that was all I had to say. But then it seems I was Given a bit more, and I continued:

I also believe we must be humble and keep low in order to allow ourselves to be broken open. But sometimes, at least for me, my pride tricks me into believing that I need to protect myself from certain things, and I build up my walls, shore up my shell, thinking that I am becoming a better cistern and vessel for the Spirit as a result.

In fact, pride is not the best way to prevent cracks from forming, and pride only slows the inbreaking of the Spirit. It is humility that I need and a willingness to remain vulnerable to others and to the Spirit, because the inbreaking of the Spirit often starts with these sorts of cracks. And once I am broken open, and maybe after a gift has come to light for me, then I can allow for God to help mend me, too.

So there is a rich connection for me between humility, cracks, vulnerability, and being broken open that I hadn't fully considered before.

Thanks for reading me.


March 1, 2010

I blog because I dive

NOTE: Thanks to Mary Ellen for reminding me to post this piece! Mary Ellen offers up her own answers as to why she blogs...

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

When it comes to Quakerism, I like a spiritual kind of scuba diving, going deep into the waters of the faith. Blogging helps me in do that.

I started The Good Raised Up in 2005, over five years ago. I had started reading blogs the previous summer, mostly because a fFriend, Martin Kelley, told me about the online writing he had been doing. Martin and I had talked about our yearning for a Quakerism that was more intentionally rooted in and centered on the Spirit; I yearned to explore the Quakerism that exists beyond the Meeting for Worship and outside of the bounds of Meeting for Worship for Business.

I began reading Martin's blog and the few other Quaker blogs that existed "back then"--in the early 2000s, there were ten or twelve Friends worldwide, it seemed, who wrote Quaker blogs; now there are hundreds--and I found myself writing long comments and returning to the blog-world at least once a day to see others' responses. The comments led to a great deal of reflection and longer exchanges among those of us who were reading and writing Quaker blogs.

As the weeks turned into months of commenting on blogs--something like short letters to the editor of a very small, very local newspaper--I soon understood that the perspective and the "voice" that I was bringing to the online conversation was unique and [at that time] not well represented in the Quaker blogosphere. I contacted a Jewish woman who was writing a blog about her studies as a rabbinical student because I wanted to know her experience as a female blogger, and she encouraged me onward.

When I started The Good Raised Up, it was clear to me that I would be writing about the Quakerism that doesn't often get talked about in our meetings: the foundation of worship, the historic principles that guide our actions today as a faith community, and the traditions that seem to be endangered or otherwise are falling out of practice.

As a result, writing this blog has been a form of ministry, and I have appreciated the eldership that a few Friends have provided over the years. These blog-elders call me to account when I overstep or when I have reacted to others out of judgment. They also give me support to keep up the writing I've been doing, which encourages me to go deeper.

The deeper I dive into our history and tradition, the more I learn about the quirky Quakerism we practice.