Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why I am a Quaker

I was asked to make a video explaining why I am a Quaker, so here it is:

Friday, March 30, 2012

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast

In the Infinite
I reach
for the Uncreated

I have
touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide

Everything else
is too narrow

You know this well,
you who are also there

--Hadewijch of Antwerp

Quaker Wisdom

"My mind, through the power of truth, was in a good degree weaned from the desire of outward greatness, and I was learning to be content with real conveniences, that were not costly, so that a way of life free from much entanglement appeared best for me, though the income might be small. I had several offers of business that appeared profitable, but I did not see my way clear to accept of them, believing they would be attended with more outward care and cumber than was required of me to engage in. I saw that an humble man, with the blessing of the Lord, might live on a little, and that, where the heart was set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving; but that commonly, with an increase of wealth, the desire of wealth increased. There was a care on my mind so to pass my time, that nothing might hinder me from the most steady attention to the voice of the true Shepherd."
-- The Journal of John Woolman

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Billy Graham, universalist?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rab'ia al-Adawiyya

The 8th century Sufi Muslim saint Rab'ia al-Adawiyya used to walk around carrying a torch in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other hand. When asked why, she replied, "I want to set fire to heaven with this flame and put out the fire of hell with this water, so that people will cease to worship God for fear of hell or for temptation of heaven. One must *love* God as God is Love."

Science and Religion

"Science and religion have much in common. They are communal activities and involve a search for some greater truth. The sharing of ideas is fundamental to both. The discipline of science can make a valuable contribution to religious thought; critical honesty, the willingness to abandon old ideas and modes of thought when fresh insight demands it and the centrality of experience as an arbiter of truth are as important in one as in the other. In both the scientific and religious searches for truth, the implications of current beliefs are explored to see where they lead. Beliefs are not just safe ledges in an uncertain reality, but rather handholds from which further heights can be reached."
--Faith & Practice, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Minister's Daughter

The Minister's Daughter
by John Greenleaf Whittier

In the minister's morning sermon
He had told of the primal fall,
And how thenceforth the wrath of God
Rested on each and all.

And how of His will and pleasure,
All souls, save a chosen few,
Were doomed to the quenchless burning,
And held in the way thereto.

Yet never by faith's unreason
A saintlier soul was tried,
And never the harsh old lesson
A tenderer heart belied.

And, after the painful service
On that pleasant Sabbath day,
He walked with his little daughter
Through the apple-bloom of May.

Sweet in the fresh green meadows
Sparrow and blackbird sung;
Above him their tinted petals
The blossoming orchards hung.

Around on the wonderful glory
The minister looked and smiled;
"How good is the Lord who gives us
These gifts from His hand, my child.

"Behold in the bloom of apples
And the violets in the sward
A hint of the old, lost beauty
Of the Garden of the Lord!"

Then up spake the little maiden,
Treading on snow and pink
"O father! these pretty blossoms
Are very wicked, I think.

"Had there been no Garden of Eden
There never had been a fall;
And if never a tree had blossomed
God would have loved us all."

"Hush, child!" the father answered,
"By His decree man fell;
His ways are in clouds and darkness,
But He doeth all things well.

"And whether by His ordaining
To us cometh good or ill,
Joy or pain, or light or shadow,
We must fear and love Him still."

"Oh, I fear Him!" said the daughter,
"And I try to love Him, too;
But I wish He was good and gentle,
Kind and loving as you."

The minister groaned in spirit
As the tremulous lips of pain
And wide, wet eyes uplifted
Questioned his own in vain.

Bowing his head he pondered
The words of the little one;
Had he erred in his life-long teaching?
Had he wrong to his Master done?

To what grim and dreadful idol
Had he lent the holiest name?
Did his own heart, loving and human,
The God of his worship shame?

And lo! from the bloom and greenness,
From the tender skies above,
And the face of his little daughter,
He read a lesson of love.

No more as the cloudy terror
Of Sinai's mount of law,
But as Christ in the Syrian lilies
The vision of God he saw.

And, as when, in the clefts of Horeb,
Of old was His presence known,
The dread Ineffable Glory
Was Infinite Goodness alone.

Thereafter his hearers noted
In his prayers a tenderer strain,
And never the gospel of hatred
Burned on his lips again.

And the scoffing tongue was prayerful,
And the blinded eyes found sight,
And hearts, as flint aforetime,
Grew soft in his warmth and light.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spiritual Abuse

"Spiritual abuse occurs when someone uses their power within a framework of spiritual belief or practice to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. It is a breach of sacred trust. Christians are commanded by Jesus to love one another. When that is projected, articulated, enjoyed and then treacherously betrayed, the wounded person is left with 'a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually' – not by a stranger, but by someone who was deeply trusted...A Christianity which perpetuates the exaltation of mere men to god-like status, while belittling and wounding so many of God’s children in the process, is completely antithetical to what Jesus taught and is just as harmful to the leaders as it is to those who follow." - Jonna Petry

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Icon

Recently, in one of my classes at seminary, we studied the iconography of the Eastern Orthodox church. Each of us was given an assignment to find an icon that had personal meaning. This is the icon that I chose:

In the icon, the number around his neck is from a now famous mug shot photograph from one of many times he was arrested for nonviolent resistance to injustice. Behind him are the bars of a jail cell which speak not only of his incarcerations but of the slavery and oppression of African-Americans as a whole. The Greek lettering on either side of his head says "Holy Martin", a beautiful epitaph considering the horrible things he was called during his life. The scroll he is holding contains a quote from one of his speeches and also poses a challenge to the viewer. The look on his face seems to display a hint of sadness and of questioning, again challenging the onlooker to respond.

This icon was painted by Robert Lentz, an American iconographer and Franciscan monk from an Eastern Orthodox family. Lentz learned iconography at the school of the master Greek Orthodox icon painter Photios Kontoglou. In other words, Lentz's icons are the real deal. However, he has ruffled some feathers because of the subjects of his icons. Personally, I find this contemporaneousness appealing. If the purpose of icons is to provide us with an example to reflect upon and follow, then I am less drawn to someone from the 6th century of whom we know more legend than fact, and more drawn to someone closer to my own time and place; someone who I could perhaps more easily imitate and whose imperfections have not yet been hidden beneath layers of veneration.

Because of his phenomenal accomplishments in human and civil rights, it is often overlooked that Martin Luther King Jr. was a brilliant theologian and a man who followed Jesus unto death for the sake of the marginalized and oppressed. When I first read the autobiography of MLK (compiled by Claiborne Carson) I was profoundly impacted. I have also been blown away by King's theological writings. He exemplifies everything that I would aspire to, and so this icon is very meaningful to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hellbound (the movie)

This should be interesting. I see lots of familiar faces...

Hellbound? Teaser Trailer 1080 from Darren Hull Studios Inc. on Vimeo.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The TSA does it again!

I will sleep better tonight, knowing that the TSA is protecting America from little boys in wheelchairs.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Diana Butler Bass: The future of the church

Church historian Diana Butler Bass on the future of the church:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Tale of Coleman the Thirsty

My great-grandfather came from Ireland and to this day there are lots and lots of Colemans in County Sligo, Ireland. The name Coleman was originally O'Colmain (which, if I recall, means "son of the dove"). It was typically Anglicized to Coleman or Colman.

Legend has it that there was a Coleman who was a follower of St. Patrick. The story goes that Patrick sometimes required temperance from his disciples, admonishing them on some mornings when they gathered not to drink alcohol that day. On one of those days, a disciple by the name of Coleman apparently misunderstood Patrick's instructions, thinking he meant not to drink *anything*, and so labored all day harvesting in the hot sun without drinking even a drop of water. At the end of the work day when Patrick and his followers again assembled, Coleman dropped dead in the midst of them from dehydration. He is evermore remembered as "Coleman the Thirsty" (or "Colman the Thirsty") and to this day a common nickname for Colemans/Colmans is "Stadhach", which in Irish Gaelic means "thirsty".

So, if I have a pint a Guinness today it is not for me, but for Coleman the Thirsty.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Newheiser: Tradition, Novelty and the Need for Discernment

"The relevant question for faithful Christians is thus not whether Paul would have affirmed homosexual marriage: on the basis of the conceptual apparatus he had available, he would have been able to grasp neither the concept homosexual nor the Nicene affirmation that the Son is “of one substance” with the Father. Even if, as is likely, he would have been alarmed on both counts, this does not settle the issue, for the force of Paul’s teaching may point toward developments that he would not have expected. Just as Athanasius argued that the teaching of Scripture recommends ways of speaking that the authors of Scripture would not have recognized, it may be that the fidelity to tradition requires new ways of thinking about the status of same-sex unions."
-- David Newheiser, Tradition, Novelty and the Need for Discernment


Monday, March 12, 2012


"Peace is a deep disposition of the heart. It is an ability to let go of the need to be right, an ability based on the knowledge that our rightness or wrongness in any issue is totally irrelevant to God's love for us or for our neighbor."
-- Roberta C. Bondi, To Pray & to Love

Friday, March 09, 2012


Silence will illuminate you in God. . .
and deliver you from phantoms of ignorance.
Silence will unite you to God. . . .
In the beginning we have to force ourselves
to be silent. But then from our very silence
is born something that draws us into deeper silence.
— Isaac of Nineveh, 7th century Syrian monk

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Quaker Extremists!

From The Onion Newswire:

New Videotape From Quaker Extremists Hints At Plans To Befriend Thousands

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Twelve Traditions of AA as applied to the Church

I've been thinking... What if the church at large adopted the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, albeit in a slightly modified form?

Here are the Twelve Traditions of AA:

One—Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
Two—For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
Three—The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Four—Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
Five—Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Six—An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Seven—Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
Eight—Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
Nine—A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
Ten—Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
Eleven—Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
Twelve—Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Here is my attempt at a version applied to the church:

The (proposed) Twelve Traditions of the Church

One—Our common welfare should come first; personal spiritual growth depends upon unity.
Two—For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
Three—The only requirement for church membership is an earnest desire to know God.
Four—Each church should be autonomous except in matters affecting other affiliated churches or Christianity as a whole.
Five—Each church has but one primary purpose—to carry the message of God's love to a world that is suffering.
Six—A church ought never endorse, finance or lend the name of Jesus to any business enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige besmirch His name and divert us from our primary purpose.
Seven—Every church ought to be fully self-supported by its members, declining involvement in outside business enterprises.
Eight—The Body of Christ should remain forever nonprofessional, but our churches may employ special workers.
Nine—The church, as such, ought never be too organized or hierarchical; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
Ten—The church ought to transcend partisan politics. If we are drawn into public controversy, let it be for speaking truth to power and standing in support of justice to the poor, oppressed, marginalized and excluded.
Eleven—Our public relations policy is based on attraction to Christ rather than promotion of personalities or partisan political agendas; we ought to seek to share the Good News of God's love.
Twelve—Anonymity (dying to self) is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

If you were apply the Twelve Traditions to the church, how would you do it?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Julian Treasure - 5 Ways to Listen Better

"I believe that every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully; connected in space and in time to the physical world around us; connected in understanding to each other; not to mention spiritually connected: because every spiritual path that I know of has listening and contemplation at its heart."

We are losing our ability to listen. Here are 5 ways to listen better.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

You Might Be An Evangelical Reject If...

From Kurt Willems' blog on This fits me to a "T" (even #24, if you substitute 'Quaker' for 'Anabaptist').

You Might Be an Evangelical Reject If…

1. You’re uncomfortable calling other branches of Christianity “apostate.”
2. You worry that those who cling to terms like “orthodox” often do so because they believe it to be synonymous with “Neo-Calvinism.”
3. You have significant questions about controversial theological “hot button” issues of the days and are some-what comfortable with the subsequent cognitive dissonance.
4. You’ve been asked to leave a church leadership position for philosophical / theological reasons.
5. You had a “love wins” sticker on the back of your car before the book controversy was even thought of.
6. You read theologians from all across the spectrum.
7. You think that science and scripture both reveal God’s truth in complementary ways.
8. You think that what we believe about the so called “end times” actually matters for how we do mission today.
9. You know that living the truth is more important than defending it logically.
10. You recognize culture wars as pathetic attempts for Christians to grab for power.
11. You don’t use the word inerrancy to describe biblical authority because its too rigid a definition and a modernist categorical imposition on the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures.
12. You think women should do anything BUT be silent in the church. (Can I get an AMEN from my sistas?)
13. You think that postmodern philosophy helps theology more than it hurts it.
14. You drink alcohol sometimes (in public).
15. You endorse someone that has been deemed a heretic by
16. You believe that there are significant parallels between the Roman Empire of the 1st Century and the United States of modern day.
17. You believe social justice is central to the gospel of the Kingdom.
18. You throw up a little in your mouth every time someone says that “the rapture is coming soon, so what’s the fuss with taking care of the planet? Lets save souls!”
19. You’ve said “I’m not that kind of Christian…”
20. You considered or actually voted democratic in the last two elections.
21. You think that African American Activists have valid points when it comes to justice issues.
22. You have gay friends.
23. You’ve been in a conversation where the other was appealing more to the constitution of the USA than actually biblical theology.
24. You’re also an Anabaptist…