Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

Jesus...understood judgment not as an end but as a beginning. The penitential river of fire was not to consume but purify, not annihilate but redeem (Luke 15:1-32; 18:9-14). Divine judgment is intended not to destroy but to awaken people to the devastating truth about their lives. Jesus seizes the apocalyptic vision of impending doom and hurls it into present time, into the present encounter with God's unexpected and unaccountable forgiveness. Judgment no longer is the last crushing word on a failed life, but the first word of a new creation.

Jesus lived this new creation out in his table fellowship with those whom the religious establishment had branded outcasts, sinners, renegades; the enemies of God. He did not wait for them to repent, become respectable, and do the works of restitution in hope of gaining divine forgiveness and human restoration. Instead, he audaciously burst upon these sinners with the declaration that their sins had been forgiven, prior to their repentance, prior to their having done any acts of restitution or reconciliation. Everything is reversed: you are forgiven; now you can repent! God loves you; now you can lift your eyes to God! THe enmity is over. You were enemies and yet God accepts you! There is nothing you must do to earn this. You need only accept it.

- Walter Wink, The Powers That Be

Friday, November 28, 2008

Haiti, November 2008

A little perspective for the holidays:

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Carla and I led worship again last Sunday morning at North Seattle Friends Church. It's been really fun incorporating traditional hymns with more contemporary worship songs. The congregation seems to embrace both and boy, those Quakers know how to sing!

On Sunday the Holy Spirit was very manifestly present throughout the meeting. After Carla and I finished playing, Lorraine (the pastor) stood and said she had been released from giving the planned message and that we would have open worship instead. During the silence of open worship a handful of people were moved to speak out (what Quakers call "vocal ministry") from the unction of the Holy Spirit. Carla was among them.

What has been particularly rewarding for me at this church has been seeing Carla accepted and affirmed for exactly who she is. For many, many years I saw Carla passed over or severely limited either because she didn't fit in musically with what various pastors/worship leaders wanted or because she lacked the ambition for self-promotion or simply because she is a woman. Sometimes she made leaders uncomfortable because of her sensitivity to the Holy Spirit (after all, when the Holy Spirit moves things can get unpredictable and agendas tend to fall apart). I also saw her labeled a troublemaker because she would confront leaders when they abused power.

Now she is leading worship and being appreciated for who she is. No one is trying to make her into something else. Her musical style and background is an asset. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is genuinely valued, not just given lip service. Leadership is cooperative rather than authoritative. The core Quaker belief that there is "that of God in everyone" leads to an inclusiveness which seeks to appreciate the gifts placed within each person.

Carla seems to be thriving. She seems to be regaining the joy of making music--something which she had almost completely lost.

Lorraine has spoken about people who were always Quakers, they just never knew it. This is definitely the case with Carla. She is a natural Quaker. It's the classic story of the misfit who one day steps into a community where they realize they belong--things that seemed to be shortcomings are suddenly revealed to be great gifts. I tease Carla that she's "such a Quaker", but it's true.

Tonight she sat at the piano composing an instrumental piece that she'll play at the beginning of next Sunday's meeting. I hadn't heard her do that in a long, long time. It felt like home.

Monday, November 24, 2008

You want a piece of me? Huh? Do ya?

Ok, it probably doesn't fit well with the Quaker practice of nonviolent resistance, but I love the attitude of this little boar...

Obama's select Quaker school for their daughters

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have chosen Sidwell Friends School for their two daughters, opting for a private institution that another White House child, Chelsea Clinton, attended a decade ago.

"A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now."

She said Sidwell can provide the security and privacy that Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, will need as part of the new first family. She also said that Sasha and Malia had become good friends with Vice President-elect Joe Biden's grandchildren, who go to the school.

Sidwell is a private Quaker school with a campus in northwest Washington for grades five through 12 and another in suburban Bethesda, Md., for kindergarten through fourth grade. Malia is in fifth grade and Sasha is in second grade. (Source: Associated Press)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quaker Wisdom - Real Knowledge

You can go to theological seminary, and study about religion. You can learn the history of the Christian Church. You can know all about the Synoptic problems of the Gospels and have your own theories about Q and the J, E, D, and P document of the Hexateuch, you can know all the literature about the authorship of the Johannine epistles, whether the author was John the beloved disciple or another of the same name. You can know all about the history of Quakerism, you can know the disputes behind the Nicene Creed and the Constantinopolitan Creed....the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. You can know the homiletics and rules of good sermon structure, you can know church symbolism and the meaning of the feasts and fasts of the church. You can know all this, and much more. But unless you know God, immediately, every day communing with Him, rejoicing in Him, exalting in Him, opening your life in joyful obedience toward Him and feeling Him speaking to you and guiding you into ever fulling loving obedience to Him, you aren’t fit to be a minister.

There is so much that is wonderful about books. But he who relies for his sermons upon book stuff about religion, and is not at the same time enjoying immediately and experiencing vitally fresh illumination from God, is not a real minister, even if he has a degree in theology from Oxford or Cambridge. Second hand sermons aren’t real sermons. Only first hand preaching counts. -- Thomas Kelly, 1939

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rumble at the Holy Sepulchre!

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." - Blaise Pascal

Quaker Wisdom - Silence

The silence we value is not the mere outward silence of the lips. It is a deep quietness of heart and mind, a laying aside of the preoccupation with passing things -- yes, even with the workings of our own minds; a resolute fixing of the heart upon that which is unchangeable and eternal. This "silence of all flesh" appears to be the essential preparation for any act of true worship. It is also, we believe, the essential condition at all times of inward illumination. "Stand still in the light," says George Fox again and again, and then strength comes -- and peace and victory and deliverance, and all other good things. "Be still, and know that I am God." It is the experience, I believe, of all those who have been most deeply conscious of his revelations of himself, that they are made emphatically to the "waiting" soul, to the spirit which is most fully conscious of its inability to do more than wait in silence before him. - Caroline Stephen (Quaker Strongholds, 1890)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Meeting for Business

Today I attended my first Quaker "Meeting for Business". This is a uniquely Quaker type of meeting where church business is brought before the entire gathering comprised of anyone who wishes to attend. The goal is to listen together and discern what God's will is regarding the various business matters. At one time I thought that the goal of Quaker business meetings was to arrive at consensus but I've since realized that the goal is instead to hear as a community what God is saying. Everyone's input-- whether in agreement or dissent--is welcome, however the hope is that people are not offering mere opinions but rather are speaking forth what they believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. The Quakers seem to have had a pretty good 350 year track record with this.

Today's meeting was to go over the next year's budget for the church. In the 25 years that I have been a Christian, I have never experienced this kind of transparency in church finances. Nothing was hidden and no one was pushing a personal agenda. Anyone could voice questions or concerns or suggestions. It was incredibly refreshing, incredibly cooperative, incredibly enfranchising, incredibly Christian.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


You can watch a litter of Shiba Inu puppies in real-time on the Internet. It's actually quite entertaining. Apparently, tens of thousands of people all over the world have been watching their antics.

Selective Attribution of the Wrath of God

When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans (and surrounding areas) some fundamentalist Christians proclaimed that it was God's judgement. For example, John Hagee stated that God sent hurricane Katrina because of a planned "homosexual rally" in New Orleans. I guess in Hagee's mind, Biloxi was just collateral damage.

So now I have to wonder what Hagee makes of the wildfires that are destroying homes in California a week after Prop 8 passed. If Prop 8 had failed--which would have upheld the right of gay couples to marry in California--and then the wildfires came, I'm sure Hagee and his ilk would right now be labelling the fires as God's righteous wrath upon Californians. But since Prop 8 passed--taking the right of marriage away from gay couples--why not claim that the fires are an expression of God's anger at the people of California for marginalizing a subset of the population and denying them civil rights? Sort of like the way that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not a judgement against homosexuality but against greed and callousness towards the poor, according to Ezekiel 16:49.

It's funny how some folks, like Hagee, will opportunistically attribute natural disasters to God's wrath if and when it suits their agenda. What Hagee and those like him do is, in my opinion, blasphemy. And that is playing with fire.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

An excellent interview with Tony Campolo

"To make Jesus either a Republican or a Democrat--to tie Jesus to a political party--is blasphemy."

Saturday, November 08, 2008


A beautiful video from Eucharism with music by U2:

Thought for the Day

Let this be your world;
The ground beneath,
And the sky above you--
That God is good,
And He loves you.