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Queries for Discernment and Seeking

I was asked by the clerk of a committee I am on to guide worship the other day. He wanted me not to prepare a sermon but rather help prepare our hearts and minds for doing work around discernment. The point for us as a group was to hold that tension between programmed and unprogrammed, to create space for listening and silence, while allowing space to sharing out of the silence around some of the things we’re working through as a group. This of course is a tension I love to explore and experiment with and I personally feel most comfortable in these (un)programmed meetings. The evening before I worked with a couple friends on discerning some queries for our group. I really like what emerged from our preparation and thought it might be worth sharing for others who are doing discernment work or are seeking to hear God’s voice.

Here’s an outline of what we did.

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Prayer as Song

I’ve been thinking about prayer today, and the many ways we pray that are not simply meal-time prayers (God thank you for the food). I came across Psalm 104:33 in my reading this morning which makes this point clearly:

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

I like that for the Psalmist singing is living, it is being. And as long as we are a live we should be full of song, full of surprise and awe. Our lives will sing our prayers.

And then I remembered a favorite image from Abraham Heschel:

First of all, let us not misunderstand the nature of prayer, particularly in Jewish tradition. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose of prayer is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song and men cannot live without a song. Prayer may not save us, but prayer may make us worthy of being saved. Prayer is not requesting. There is a partnership of God and men. God needs our help.

via The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel

-How can I learn to make my prayers like songs?

-How can I make my life full of singing and surprise?

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Preparatory Materials for Quaker Heritage Day (Part 1)

Heralding The New Creation: Mission as Participation in the Quaker Tradition
Quaker Heritage Day: Berkeley Friends Church
February 12, 2011

Here are some quotes, Scripture, and Queries for personal preparation for our gathering together at Quaker Heritage Day. I may add more to this (thus the part 1) but I may not. I don’t want to overload people before you get here. Hopefully what is below will give a nice introduction to some of the broad themes we’re addressing.

Quote from James McClendon:

The old parlor stereopticon set two pictures before the viewer, who would then see the depth dimension in otherwise flat photographs. Authentic Christian faith is prophetic faith; it sees the present in correct perspective only when it construes the present by means of the prefiguring past (God’s past) while at the same time construing it by means of the prophetic future (God’s future). “This is that” declares the present relevance of what God has previously done, while “then is now” does not abolish the future but declares the present relevance of what God will assuredly do. Moreover, these two, typical past and prophetic future, are not alternative visions between which to choose; they are and must remain one vision, one faith, and hope. (McClendon, Doctrine: 69)

How might McClendon’s words here help inform our own, Quakerly, interaction between our faith tradition and today’s context? What questions arise from this reflection that might need to be addressed if we were to move forward? How does renewal play into what is mentioned above?

Sermons The Biblical The Pastorate The Political

Peace Through Equality: Lucretia Mott, Paul and MLK (Galatians 3:26-29)

This was the message I gave this morning based on Galatians 3:26-29.

First we discussed some of these queries:

  1. What do you think the connections between peace and equality are in the passages above?
  2. In what ways have I experienced inequality in my own life or around me?
  3. What inequalities stir us most? What disturbs us? Whom do we care about?
  4. In what ways might we respond to inequality and work for peace in Southwest Washington?

Lucretia Mott

Quakers are convicted by the power of Gospel love for all people. Part of this is contained in our statement “there is that of God in everyone.” For a people who truly believe that there is something of God in all people, slavery is an impossibility, gender inequality is an aberration of the goodness of creation, classism crushes the most vulnerable among us and violence destroys another being who was made in the image of God. When we subject others to this kind of inequality, we work against a deeply held conviction. But when we are moved to respond to inequality, when we are disturbed enough to take a stand and to take on the work of peace then we enter into a story that has been going on for centuries. (We can respond).

Featured Quaker Sermons The Biblical

Heralds of Peace (Luke 10)

Mustard seed

This morning the big word, the word of the day for all you Pee-Wee’s Playhouse fans in the congregation, is participation. It is a word that signals collective activity, collaboration, co-operation, co-mmunity, co-laboring. A mutual working together in small ways that add up over time.

It might conjure up the image of a mustard seed, a seed that is small, but spreads quickly like a weed rather than say something like Monsanto seeds, human-made, powerful, engineered and indestructible.

This morning, we have intentionally couched our offering and the other ways we build community here at Camas Friends under this word “participate” because we believe that the church is truly made up of individuals co-operating together under the call and vision of the kingdom of God. This co-mmunity, the koinonia as it calls in in Acts or the beloved community as John refers to it as, is a mutual co-laboring together with God’s Holy Spirit to carry out his mission.

Sermons The Biblical

Christmas Sermon: We Have Observed His Star (Matthew 2)


Posted a few weeks late, here’s my Christmas Sermon.

The Birth Announcement

And suddenly, out of nowhere, the Magi see a star in the sky.

Magi – magicians, astrologers, wise-learned men and women, non-Jews from east of Palestine (maybe Arabia, Persia, Babylon?) – these are the people (it doesn’t say anything about three of them and they are surely not kings) who first notice an important baby being born from far off.

These people who study and wait, wait and listen, sit and wait and watch for signs in the skies above, these people who were from another culture, country, religion, are not unlike those already found in the baby Jesus’ genealogy.

Those least likely to get included in a story like this are the main movers and shakers of Jesus birth announcement.

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Queries for Grounding Our Work in Place

I have been thinking a lot more about place, context and community that has been usual for me. I have blogged about this already a couple times (escapism and goals). But there are some queries I have been thinking about for awhile and that I have stuck to my computer screen that I thought worth sharing.

  1. What is my “work” today? This is work in the sort of existential way, what or who is it that I need to be fully present to?
  2. How can I be more unbusy and available to others and the Spirit?
  3. What is the important thing right in front of me?
  4. How should I order this day?
  5. Who needs to be heard today today? And what needs to be voiced today?
  6. What can I do with a phone call or a visit that I cannot do with an email?
  7. Is there a way that I can do this in a slower and more careful way?

So this is some of what I am thinking through and reflecting on in hopes that they may help me with my goals for this coming 2011.


Thinking About Goals for 2011

I’ve been thinking about what my goals are for this coming year. I don’t know if these would constitute “resolutions,” I’ve never been big on those, but here is what I have so far. I want to:

  1. Accomplish less. This past year was crammed jammed full of more things for me to do and keep busy with than was necessary. I am working hard to discern what I say yes to, what I commit myself to, and what I let go of. I want to be less busy, and I know that the only way to do this is by doing less and accomplishing less and I am okay with this. I don’t want to be the person who is too busy for those around me, and I don’t want the first thing out of my mouth to always be “I’ve been so busy.”
  2. Mono-task more. Fernando Gros was the one who tipped me off on the word, and it’s an idea I’ve been wrestling with for a few months now. Mono-tasking is simply “to perform one task at a time.” This is what I’m working on. I’ve gotten rid of my “smartphone” and am now sharing a cell-phone with my wife. I have scaled back my use of social-media. I have cleared off my desk so there is no computer staring at me all the time, helping me to focus on reading, writing and making phone calls, rather than using email/fb/twitter as the main way to communicate.
  3. Work on spiritual disciplines such as solitude, silence, journaling and prayer.
Featured The Pastorate

All My Favorite People Are Grieving

This morning we did a worship and prayer service around making “peace with loss.” Through prayers, songs, silence and the lighting of candles we remembered the many who have lost loved ones in the past year, and considered those who have suffered loss in other ways as well. In some of our planning, we realized that many have suffered loss this past year – 2010 has been difficult for many. And in making this observation it seemed timely to have spend time together sharing about this and preparing to move into a new year and invite new movements of the Spirit of God. This is part of our “Peace Month” that we are celebrating with other Northwest Yearly Meeting Churches. In working to make peace with loss we do some of the important internal work necessary to practice peace out in our world. Peacemaking is always this back and forth between the inner and the outward components of our lives.  (Here are the readings and prayers from this mornings worship service.)

During the service we invited people to come up and light a candle and say out loud the name of a person who they lost, or light one for a particularly difficult situation one faced in the past year. This was very moving to see take place and many came forward. I knew that there had been a lot of loss in our community, but until all the candles were lit I didn’t realize just how much. I realized just how many of the people we love in our church are grieving.

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My Favorite Albums From 2010

In the past I’ve done more of a write up on the albums I really enjoyed from the previous year, but as I went through my catalog I realized that I didn’t have a lot of new albums that I was in love with. What I noticed was that I got into some older albums that we new to me but had come out a few year previously such as Noah and the Whale’s “First Day of Spring,” which got a lot of play time around here. So there were probably 5 or 6 albums that were like that, they were new to me but came out in previous years. So here are the ones I have enjoyed listening to that came out in 2010. There is one caveat, the Over the Rhine album doesn’t actually come out until February, but we did get an advanced copy and really enjoy it (though we don’t think it’s their best by any means). Karin’s voice is as brilliant as ever and there are a few tracks on there that really knock me out (The first track and a track titled “All My Favorite People”). The Roots were really busy this year and they were busy doing some fantastic work. Both these albums below are great! Sigur Ros’ front man Jonsi put out a stellar solo album that I love to write to and have as background music and S.Carey (drummer for Bon Ivar) put out a really nice rainy day album with an album title that still has be thinking. Here they are.

The Roots, “How I Got Over.”

John Legend and the Roots album “Wake Up.”