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The Art of Fearlessness! Many Events Planned – Including Spring Friends Meeting NC

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 7:41pm

It’s a “campaign” of Quaker events linked by a common theme, under the umbrella of the Fellowship of Quakers In the Arts:

Here are some visuals from local “fearlessness” events . . .

Kalamazoo, Michigan was on it . . .

Right behind them, down in Florida, Gainesville Friends had theirs on May 13 . . .

 

And then another Michigan Meeting, in Ann Arbor, kicked one off on May 16, going to May 20. And that’s not all . . . 

But down near DC, a few miles outside the Beltway, is Sandy Spring Meeting, which is gearing up for May 20 . . .

Still, I have to admit my bias here — I think the best of all will be the one at Spring Friends Meeting in snow Camp NC on Saturday May 27. Not that I’m biased,  or just because  I’m helping organize it and will have some stuff in the exhibits, — but never mind that:  just join in!

There’s more information about  Spring’s program at the Facebook page for Spring;  and about the whole project, including other “Art of Fearlessness” events at the FQA page for the project.

And watch this blog for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Blogs

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

Micah Bales - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 2:00am


This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 5/14/17, at the Washington City Church of the Brethren. The scripture readings for this sermon were: 1 Peter 2:2-10 & John 14:1-14. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (FYI, the spoken sermon differs significantly from the written text.)

Listen to the Sermon Now

I love our gospel reading this morning. I think that the reason I love it so much because I used to despise it. As a skeptical young person growing up in Kansas, this passage from John was one of the Scriptures most often used as a weapon by Bible-thumping Christians. It was a proof text, used over and over again to demonstrate that Jesus is the only way to heaven. It’s used to imply that anyone who doesn’t hold the right beliefs about Jesus is headed straight to hell.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s an powerful statement. It’s a phase that has been used so many times to bludgeon people who are seeking, skeptical, and hurting. Those who have doubts. Those who have questions. Those whose experience of the world makes it hard to believe that a loving God would arbitrarily sentence billions of people to unending torment based on something as trivial as whether those people have said a particular prayer or accepted a narrowly defined set of doctrines about Jesus.

“No one comes to the Father except through me.” From the mouths of self-righteous Christians, these words of Jesus sound like a threat. “No one comes to the Father except through me. Don’t even try it. Angry Jesus will stop you.”

For those of us gathered here in this community, we know and bear witness to the fact that this kind of bullying doesn’t represent the character of Jesus. The Jesus we know is the one who came not to condemn the world, but to save it. The Jesus of our experience is a man who was willing to lay aside everything, even his own life, to pour out the unlimited love of God on people who hated him.

That’s very different from the Jesus of the fundamentalists. It’s a different kind of God, one who is more concerned with mercy, transformation, and wholeness than with being right. This is the kind of God we meet in Jesus. He challenges the violence of the mighty and the self-righteousness of religious people. He shows shocking love and forgiveness to those whom the world judges as outcasts and sinners.

As we heard in our scripture reading this morning from first Peter, Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected. He was rejected, despised, and discarded by the builders. But he has become the chief cornerstone, the key that unlocks the cosmos. The greatest minds and most powerful rulers considered him to be worthless, but God has revealed him to be essential. Jesus is this “living stone… rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight.”

Are we to believe that Jesus has come to present us with capricious threats and ultimatums? He is the rejected cornerstone, nailed to a cross by all the best and brightest. Is he here to threaten those who don’t meet the religious tests of modern day Pharisees?

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Anyone who repeats these words as a threat is no friend of Jesus. To interpret these words as a message of condemnation makes Jesus into a Pontius Pilate rather than a liberator. It turns him into a tyrant and a torturer rather than a savior worth abandoning everything for.

Jesus brings us good news of the kingdom. Jesus brings us freedom from slavery and fear. Jesus comes so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.

So how are we to understand these words of Jesus? If they’re not a threat, what does it mean when Jesus says that no one comes to the Father except through him?

In order to understand most anything in the Bible, it’s important to zoom out a little bit. Context matters. If Jesus were saying these words while sitting on his heavenly throne, reigning in judgment – like he is depicted in Matthew 25 – that would impact their meaning. So what is the situation here, when Jesus says there’s no way to God but through him?

It turns out, these words of Jesus are part of a love song. Really! Let’s take a look at what Jesus was saying to the disciples right leading up to this.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

Back in Jesus’ time, there was a proper way to go about getting married. When a man asked a woman to marry him, if she and her family agreed, they would announce the engagement. But before they actually got married, the husband-to-be had some preparation to do. In ancient Palestine, it wasn’t like today, where newly married couples are generally expected to move into their own residence. In Jesus’ day, families were much more tight-knit. The whole family lived together. So when a woman married a man, she literally joined her husband’s extended family.

In order to make room for the new couple, it was typical for the husband-to-be to go home and build an addition onto his parents’ house. Once the construction was complete, he could go back to wherever his fiancee was and marry her. The room was prepared. They had a place to live together, under the same roof with the man’s whole extended family.

So let’s hear the words of Jesus again: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

Jesus is proposing to the disciples! Now, some people might say this is kind of creepy – proposing marriage to twelve people at once. And if he was, in fact, proposing to all the people of the world – well, that would make Jesus the greatest polygamist of all time.

But once you get past the weird, “Jesus is my boyfriend” aspect of this scene, it’s actually kind of amazing. Jesus isn’t standing in judgment. He’s inviting us into an intimate relationship with him. He’s proposing that we come to live with him, as part of his Father’s household, together with the whole family of God. Jesus is singing his love song.

Have you ever played that game? You know, the one where you start flipping through the radio and try to guess in the first two seconds of a song whether it’s a pop ballad, or a praise song? I mean, I don’t know if you’ve listened to the radio lately – but have you noticed how similar praise music and love songs are? A lot of times I have to wait until I hear the words “baby baby” before I can tell the difference.

But seriously, I think this points to something important. What if our relationship with God is less like a test to be passed and more like a romance to participate in? What if following Jesus is less about having the right answers, and more about giving ourselves over to a relationship and a community bigger than ourselves?

Jesus tells the disciples that he’s leaving to go prepare a place for each of them in his Father’s house. Then he tells the disciples, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas, who we know is the skeptic of the group, objects. “We have no idea where you’re going! How are we supposed to find the way?”

And that’s when Jesus says it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Like most religious people, Thomas was being very task-oriented in his faith. He wanted a method, a map, a set of rules and steps that would get him where he was going. But in response to his demand for a roadmap, Jesus points him to relationship. “Look at me, Thomas. Look at me. I am the way. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. You don’t need to keep looking. Rest in my love.”

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” All this time you’ve been looking for a system, or a set of rituals, or a test to pass that will give you connection to God. But you’ve been missing the reality who is standing right in front of you. Look into my eyes, Thomas. You haven’t really seen me yet. If you can finally see me for who I am, you’ll know the Father.

There’s a singularity in Jesus. Like his Father, Jesus is who he is. There’s no substituting for him. There’s nothing that can replace a real relationship with him. No one comes to the Father except through a genuine relationship with Jesus. We can’t just speak the right words, or have the right beliefs. We’ve got to look into his eyes. We have to experience his love. We have to see him, really see him, if we want to see the Father.

Now, I want to do something that is maybe a little silly. You remember how I said that I often have a tough time telling the difference between love songs and worship music? Well, a good example of this is the song “Only You,” by The Platters. This song came out in 1955, and it was hugely popular. It was played on jukeboxes everywhere. I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Right now, I want to invite you to hear this song again, in a fresh way. Let’s hear it as a love song to Jesus, as a reflection of the kind of passionate, personal, intimate love that he expresses for each of us in our reading this morning.

Only you can make all this world seem right
Only you can make the darkness bright
Only you and you alone can thrill me like you do
And fill my heart with love for only you

Only you can make all this change in me
For it’s true, you are my destiny
When you hold my hand I understand the magic that you do
You’re my dream come true, my one and only you

Only you…

Amen.

Related Posts: How My Faith Blew Up and I Learned to be Human Again There Will Be No Tomahawk Missiles in the Kingdom of God

The post Is Jesus the Only Way to God? appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Update: Friends Central School Fires Teachers Who Invited Palestinian Speaker; Invites Him Back

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:05pm

Earlier this year I posted about a controversy at Friends Central School in Philadelphia, where a Palestinian Quaker, Sa’ed Atshan, was invited to visit and speak, then abruptly disinvited & the two teachers who invited him, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa,  were suspended.  

The previous posts are  (here,  here ,  here & here).  

The news site philly.com reported on May 10 that the two teachers have now been terminated effective June 30. Along with that decision came an invitation from the school to Sa’ed Atshan to speak at Friends Central sometime in the future, on “his personal experiences and path to peace education.”

The report added that

[The suspended teachers] were offered severance pay of $5,500, but that is contingent on their dropping a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit, said Mark Schwartz, their lawyer.

“This is a ridiculous offer,” he said. “I’d be surprised if they took it. Unlike the school, these two have some principles.”

School representatives on Tuesday declined to give a reason for the terminations.

 

 

 

The school set up a task force to consider how to handle issues around invitations to speakers. This task force has recommended  that a nearby university Dialogue Institute be “invited to work with students and teachers to promote ‘intrareligious, interreligious, and intercultural dialogue.’”

A couple thoughts: The great Yogi Berra once said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” But I’ll go out on a limb here, and predict that while I have not met Sa’ed Atshan and am unfamiliar with his scholarly or activist work, that he’ll be slow to accept such an invitation, especially in the wake of the teacher firings.

Another thought: I wonder what Friends Central students are thinking about this whole matter?

And a third: I posted an open letter to FCS students, much of which still seems pertinent as a comment. So I’ve updated it a bit, and reposted it here. (They tell me repetition is good for learning.)

A Message to students at Friends Central School:

From Chuck Fager

In late January, I visited Friends Central School (FCS) and shared a story with you, about getting arrested in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and spending the night in jail with Dr. King.

I told you that for almost 50 years, that true story had a happy ending: from the black struggle in Selma came the Voting Rights Act, which had advanced freedom, elected presidents, and made America better.

But then starting a few years back, that happy ending was snatched away. In its place came massive vote suppression, and following that,  continuing attacks on the other freedoms that democracy protects. So my story about a fight for freedom was not over after all.

At my age, I said, passing on these stories is my main contribution. It’s a passing of the torch. As for the real activism, as for the new leadership demanded by our times, — and these were my final words:
“It’s your turn.”

Now it looks as if your turn has come already.

I don’t know Sa’ed Atshan; but people I respect (like former FCS teacher Max Carter) say he’s well-informed & reasonable. Yet I gather some of his views are controversial.

I’m no expert on his views, or those issues. So maybe Atshad’s views are right, or maybe they’re mistaken; that’s not for me to say.

Instead, that’s for you to say, by hearing his views, and those of others, studying & debating them & making up your own minds.

That’s what we call education. In FCS fundraising materials, like for the “Vision2020,” it’s called “Educating for Excellence.”
We also call it freedom.


But somebody doesn’t seem to want you to exercise that freedom, or get that education.

So now the line is drawn: not only in Alabama, but right there in Wynnewood, on your campus. Not just for students, but for the two teachers who were suspended, and have now lost their jobs because of it. 

So the question now becomes: are you ready to claim and defend your freedom, as part of your education?

Or will you let an unnamed few chop off this piece of it– this important piece?

The message being sent is clear:  you may not hear these views here. That topic is verboten on this campus. Teachers who stood up for that have now paid the price: not just wth their jobs, but possibly wth their careers.

Just so you know, all this makes a mockery of the claims about  educational “excellence.” And if you accept this, there are more pieces of freedom waiting to be chopped off, like limbs from a tree, and others ready to give similar orders. 

But here’s something I learned in Selma, and not only from Dr. King:
You don’t have to comply.

An order not to hear, not to consider, not to think and debate or push back about matters of this importance –such an order may be technically legal, but it defies the higher law that we were all given minds to be used, freely and fully, for knowledge, and for seeking justice.

 One of my Quaker heroes, Philadelphia’s own Lucretia Mott, put it as well as anyone: “Truth for Authority, not Authority for Truth.” For her this was a Quaker Testimony, a central one.

Dr. King put it another way:

But you don’t have to be silenced.

In 2017, it’s easy to imagine alternatives: check your social media, you’ll see that similar attacks, — and resistance to them —  is rising all around you.

Some of the 50000+ close friends I joined with at the Resistance rally in Raleigh NC last weekend. It’s their turn too.

Spring has now come and almost gone. I read that Sa’ed Atshan has been invited to speak at FCS, sometime in the future, on a carefully limited topic. I wonder if that will really happen, under the present circumstances. i also wonder if FCS students are satisfied with this outcome. And if not, how you will respond?

But, some may say, what if we protest, and get in trouble? Look what happened to the teachers: will it cut our chances of getting into an elite college? Affect our career chances?

Who knows? Freedom, as they say in the army, isn’t free. The same often goes for achieving “excellence” in education: it’s not just book work; it can mean struggle. It takes organization, and it takes courage. In Selma it led Dr. King and me to jail; a few years later it led him to a bullet in Memphis.

But chill: chances are no one will be in mortal danger insisting on real educational excellence and freedom at FCS. If you haven’t noticed, it’s a pretty cushioned, advantaged place.

So I ask that you think about how to put these advantages to work, for your benefit now, and as training in “education for excellence” in the not-so advantaged world that awaits beyond the campus.

That’s a world in which just in the past few months since I visited FCS, the struggles for freedom have heated up on every side. Looks like they won’t leave you alone even now.

Which means, my parting words to you last month weren’t a prophecy, and not even a prediction, but simply an announcement, even more accurate now. Brothers & sisters:
“It’s your turn.”

This is the Selma, Alabama jail cell Dr. King and I were put in. It was still there in 2015, fifty years later. But this time, I wasn’t in it.

Please share this post.

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Categories: Blogs

Watergate Reruns, Richard Burr & Other Pipe Dreams

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 7:25am

Many Americans of a certain age– who watched the unfolding of the Watergate scandal after the 1972 election, recall it, rightly, as a heroic and spellbinding drama.
In it, unexpected & unlikely champions stepped forth in Washington to snatch truth and the Constitution from the hands of a crooked president and his minions. Two southern Senators, Tennessee Republican Howard Baker and North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin, aided by dogged special prosecutors, led this successful rescue mission.

In a fitting and unforgettable climax, the villains were sent packing: Nixon into ignominy and oblivion, many of his henchmen into prison, and the heroes to a secure place in history.

Senators Howard Baker (left) &  Sam Ervin (right).

Today, after the Comey firing & many other shocks, some of us are hoping to see this story re-enacted in and around today’s Senate. (I even thought I saw Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman skulking in the background, scribbling notes.)
Unfortunately, one of our wiser peers, retired editor & columnist Edwin Yoder, just threw a big bucket of ice water on these nostalgic fantasies. In the Raleigh NC News & Observer, he lays out the more realistic, gloomy scenarios:

“Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been touted by some admirers as a potential reincarnation of the late Sen. Sam Ervin. Ervin’s Senate select committee on campaign abuses began the unwinding of the Watergate scandal.

Its most consequential discovery was that Nixon had taped his Oval Office conversations, some of which proved to be incriminating.
Burr is no Ervin, to say the least. He is a Republican rubber stamp with a record of partisan concealment – as, for instance, keeping secret his committee’s full report on the CIA’s torture practices.

Ervin was a protector of civil liberties and a distinguished defender of public integrity: As a young legislator in the 1920s, he fought off the potential disgrace of a state “monkey law”; he served with distinction on the state Supreme Court; and as a freshman U.S. senator, he helped rid the country of McCarthyism. Before Watergate, he single-handedly defeated Nixon’s design for so-called “preventive detention” – or, in plainer words, imprisonment without trial.
A standing committee chaired by Burr and under the thumb of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would – and could – do nothing useful. Burr is not only no Ervin; he isn’t even a Howard Baker.
A more plausible idea is that of a special counsel or special prosecutor. Unfortunately, such an appointment would require the wholesale erasure of historical memory. Special prosecutors tend to spend gobs of public money – $60 million by Kenneth Starr in his priggish pursuit of President Bill Clinton, to no avail but a failed impeachment. They often come up with flimsy charges and insinuations that hang in the air and are never adjudicated . . . and they typically drag out their costly inquiries for years, without salient result.
The failure to renew the special prosecutor law was universally regarded in Washington and elsewhere as good riddance. Maybe a special prosecutor (of whom?) in the Comey matter would improve on the dismal record. The historical odds are against it.
So far, then, we must cope with a president unlike any before him, in act and attitude – certainly the most unschooled, impulsive and secretive in our history. If he is to be regulated, we need to forget precedents and think anew.”

“Forget precedents and think anew.”  Yoder is right. Binge-watching “All the President’s Men” and Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” may be a comforting diversion. But if there are real heroes in today’s tawdry melodrama, they have yet to arrive.

Maybe, good grief, this time it’s up to us.

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Categories: Blogs

Breaking: Barber Goes National – Updated

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:37pm

Rev. Dr. William Barber to transition from North Carolina NAACP to join the leadership of the “New Poor People’s Campaign” [Update below.]

The Kairos Center [an organization created by Union Theological Seminary inNew York City] is excited to announce that the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II will be transitioning out of his role as the president of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP in June, in order to join the growing leadership of the New Poor People’s Campaign. [The New PPC is a project of the Kairos Center.] The North Carolina NAACP announced the news in a press release this morning . . .

“Rev. Barber will focus attention on the new Poor People’s Campaign co-led by the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary, where Rev. Barber is a distinguished professor of public theology. Throughout 2017 and early 2018 he will lead trainings and organize alongside moral leaders, including poor black, brown and white communities.

The forthcoming report, ‘The Souls of Poor Folk,’ co-developed by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Barber, and noted economists, historians and public policy experts, will explore why issues of poverty have changed or remained the same since the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68.

In early 2018, moral activists will lead 40 days of simultaneous direct action and civil disobedience in state capitols, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Congress.

‘Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a radical ‘revolution of values’ inviting a divided nation to stand against the evils of militarism, racism, and economic injustice. In the spirit of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68, we are calling for a national moral revival and for fusion coalitions in every state to come together and advance a moral agenda,’ said the Rev. Dr. Barber.

‘There is a need for moral analysis, articulation of a moral agenda, and moral activism that fuses the critique of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and national morality in a way that enables organizing among black, brown, and white people, especially in regions where great efforts have been made to keep them from forming alliances and standing together to change the political and social calculus ,’ he said.”

The story has already broken in several mainstream media sources, including ABC News and the Winston-Salem Chronicle. ABC reports [And this blog].

“Barber also leads a nonprofit called Repairers of the Breach and said that group, along with the Kairos Center, Union Theological Seminary and others will lead a movement that will concentrate on 25 states and the nation’s capital where voter suppression, poverty and other problems are prevalent. The groups plan major actions next summer, which would mark the 50th anniversary of the start of King’s campaign in 1968.”

UPDATE:

Late on May 11, Barber sent out a letter. Here are excerpts:

I write with gratitude for each of you who have entrusted me to serve in leadership and with appreciation for the broad coalition of black, white, and brown; Christian, Muslim, Jewish and those who believe in a moral arc of the universe; young and old; gay and straight; Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated who have joined our work over the past 12 years.

I am writing to let you know that I am stepping down from leadership of the NC NAACP in order to accept an invitation from moral leaders across the nation to serve and help lead a new Poor People’s Campaign & National Call for A Moral Revival. I feel this is a deeply spiritual call in this moment, so I’m stepping down but not stepping away from our work together in this movement.

When I first ran for State Conference President on the platform of moving “From Banquets to Battle,” my family, church and I committed to this work. In our first eight years together we were able to build a people’s coalition with strength to push reluctant Democrats to raise the minimum wage, win same day registration and voting, push back against re-segregation of schools in one of our largest districts, and free innocent black men from prison.

As a result of the work we were able to do together in that time, a foundation was laid for “Moral Mondays,” which emerged in the spring of 2013. Through sustained moral fusion organizing, with a race and class critique rooted in our deepest moral values, we pushed back against extremism for four long years to see the defeat of an extremist Republican governor, the election of more progressive members to the state Supreme Court, and the overturning of the monster voter suppression law that targeted African-Americans, according to a federal court, “with almost surgical precision.”

Our work is not over here in North Carolina. But, as you know, extremism is at work in other states and has gained power in all three branches of our federal government, much as it did here four years ago. This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic racism, poverty, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable.

This is why in this moment I am entrusting the NC NAACP to other strong leaders who can continue its work; I am not stepping away from the NAACP or from you, my NC NAACP Moral Movement family. I will continue to pastor Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro [NC], to support the NAACP’s work here in North Carolina and to serve on the national board of the NAACP. As we expand our moral fusion coalition model to over 20 other states as well as the nation’s Capitol, I am committed, as ever, to moving forward together, not one step back. . . .

Visit www.breachrepairers.org and learn more about how you can be involved in the Poor People Campaign’s National Call for a Moral Revival.

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Categories: Blogs

How Can I Stay Awake in an Age of Distractions?

Micah Bales - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 2:00am


This past weekend the Friends of Jesus Fellowship gathered in Barnesville, Ohio. Our theme was “Stay Awake” – drawn from the teachings of Jesus to his sleepy disciples.

Even 2,000 years before cell phones, streaming music, cable news, and video games, it was hard to stay awake. The original Jesus community struggled to stay conscious, aware, and focused on the things that matter. Even when Jesus was with them in the flesh, teaching and leading them, it was a challenge to stay grounded. Peter, James, and John couldn’t even stay awake with Jesus for one hour while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane!

When Jesus was arrested and hauled off to be executed, every single disciple fled for his life. Just hours before, they had all insisted they would die rather than abandon Jesus. Now where were they?

The first disciples struggled to stay awake and responsive to Jesus’ voice, but it seems like we have an even greater challenge. While the twelve apostles knew Jesus as a man, we today only know him through the Spirit. It’s easy to lose track of who Jesus is in our lives. It’s easy to forget that he’s even real. In the midst of so many worries, comforts, and distractions, most of us operate in a state of practical atheism.

This is certainly true for us in the Friends of Jesus Fellowship. We’re all tired. We get get our priorities mixed up. We lose track of who Jesus is and where he’s calling us. Like Martha, we are worried and distracted by many things. But we need only one thing.

Our time together in Barnesville was a reminder of that one Life that gathers us together. We reconnected with the still, small voice of Jesus who speaks to us when we’re ready to listen. We are part of a Spirit-led community that draws us out of distraction and into a more true and beautiful world.

It was a joy to have several families at the gathering, and to care for one another’s children. We watched them play together as friends in the family of God. Our young ones reminded us that we are all part of a larger community of friends. We’re knitted together in the love of Jesus. I’m very grateful for the grounding and sense of place that I find as part of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship.

Coming back home to Washington, DC, I need to remember that sense of connection and purpose. The distractions have not gone away. I spent four days unplugged from electronics, but my screens were waiting for me as soon as I left the gathering.

It’s easy to wish for a simpler, more innocent age. People have always longed for that, regardless of their circumstances. But I’m not called to that kind of nostalgia. I’m wondering how I can embrace an abundant, Spirit-filled life in the midst of urban America.

My challenge now is not to remove distractions, but rather to repurpose them for good. How can I use technology to foster greater faithfulness, connection, and resilient community? Rather than distract myself, how will I connect and focus? I need more signal and less noise. How do I get there? More importantly, how do we get there together?

Related Posts: How My Faith Blew Up and I Learned to be Human Again This is the Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For

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Categories: Blogs

Never Mind Armageddon: World War III Is Coming First — I’ve Seen the Secret Plan

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Fri, 05/05/2017 - 7:18pm

No, really: Just today I found an unimpeachable source, shown below. I saw the outline of the plan sitting there, exposed & unguarded — and, once an investigative reporter, always an investigative reporter — scooped it up.

Opening it, in an out-of-the-way corner of the undisclosed location (disguised as the checkout line of a certain big-box retailer), I whipped out my hidden camera and snapped the key pages, which are about to be revealed here, regardless of the risks.  .  .  . 

[The undisclosed location]

(And sorry, but for now you’ll just have to live without knowing the details of how Kelly Busted John, who maybe was cheating with another man.  And I didn’t check to see what the “It” is that Richard Simmons just can’t take anymore.)  After all, “War is hell.” 

Perhaps you’re tempted to snicker, or even guffaw at all this, especially considering the source.

Well, laugh if you want, but be careful, because maybe the joke is on you.

After all, this blogger is rather late to the party when it comes to exploring the ties between this paper and the Oval Office guy.  Much bigger, weightier media types have been all over it for quite awhile.

Take for instance, Bloomberg, the 800-pound gorilla of business news.  This graphic is from a 2016 cover story by Felix Gillette in a pre-election issue of its Business Week :

“In 2011, shortly after Trump announced he would not run for the Republican nomination for president, the Enquirer published an article headlined, “Millions Implore Donald Trump to Reconsider New Presidential Run.” Eventually, Trump obliged. And soon after he declared his candidacy last summer, he gave Enquirer readers a world exclusive, in which he explained why he was running. “I am the only one who can make America great again!” he wrote.

More first-person essays from Trump followed. So did a flurry of articles from the Enquirer’s staff knocking his Republican primary opponents: Ben Carson was a “bungling surgeon,” Jeb Bush had “sleazy cheating scandals,” Ted Cruz’s father was linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. (Each of the candidates, or their surrogates, quickly disputed the Enquirer’s reporting.) In March, the Enquirer endorsed Trump for president—its first endorsement in its 90-year history.”

[NOTE: When the Enquirer threw itself a 90th birthday party [in September of 2016, it did so at — wait for it — the Trump SoHo Hotel in Manhattan.]

And then there’s the Washington Post,  which has been singing the same song, about “The very cozy relationship between Donald Trump and the National Enquirer”, as their reporter Callum Borchers  put it:

Trump and Enquirer chief executive David Pecker are reportedly palsy — “very close,” according to the New York Daily News, and “friends for years,” according to New York magazine. Conservative radio host Michael Savage, a Trump backer, told listeners last week that “David Pecker flies to Florida from New York on Trump’s private jet.” In 2013, Trump even suggested Pecker ought to take over Time magazine. 

The apparent coziness has spawned the #TrumpLovesPecker hashtag. A representative sample from Twitter: 

[Note: this blog decided to skip the “representative sample” here; some of it may be NSFW. But determined searchers can follow the hashtag.]

So  no matter how unlikely it may seem, the Enquirer looks like about as good a showcase for this administration’s war plans as any; personally, I’d say it beats the White House press briefings all hollow. 

And you’d better read fast, because the story says that the “Go Hour” for what the paper dubs “the Mother of All Wars,” but is more formally called “Operation Clean Sweep” is expected to be given at 1500 hours (3 PM for civilians) Central Daylight Time, sometime in early May.

“History,” says their source, “will long remember this day.” (In fact, this post is being written on a day in early May, and 1500 hours has passed; so maybe today was not this extra “Mother’s Day.  Maybe.)

But enough of all that. What about “Operation Clean Sweep”?  Where will its bunched bombs & bullets take their supposedly cleansing and righteous aim?

Well, the above map makes it look like those bloody bristles will be scouring many clogged corners simultaneously. “The [South American] drug cartels,” says the Enquirer source, “Boko Haram, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un, the evil ayatollahs, Operation Clean Sweep has plans for them all.” And more . . . .

Speaking of the “evil ayatollahs,” The Broom’s bristles, says the paper, will mean “sweeping sanctions across all economic sectors to bring the regime to its knees. ‘We’re done fooling around with Iran,’ said our Pentagon source.”

Moving to Syria, the stakes are being raised several notches higher: the “source” claims, “in an extraordinary move, President Trump has  authorized the use of a nuclear weapon for only the third time  in world history — and the first since World War II — to take out Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, if needed.” And once it is dropped, major military maneuvers will then be staged with other NATO allies in the Baltics, says the source, “to discourage” an expected hostile response from Russia to a nuke exploding near its border. 

“America will drop a single B61 Model 12 nuclear weapon on [Assad’s heavily shielded underground] bunker. It’s the most advanced nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal, and is known as ‘Nuclear Tsunami.'”

[The B61 nuclear bomb]

Then in two other areas the plan involves newer high-tech warfare:  For ISIS, “the ENQUIRER can report American intelligence has located  [the] ISIS mastermind, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, [they say he’s hiding in Yemen, but don’t tell anybody] and he will soon meet his maker in a “surgical strike” drone attack directed by Special Forces.”

Several thousand miles away, North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons will all be grounded and neutralized by “cyber-warriors from U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, MD, [who will] initiate a massive assault on North Korea’s radar and surface-to-air defense systems,” followed by a missiles shot by “Stingray” drones from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

“The drones will act in concert with intelligence assets [i.e., spies] within Kim Jong Un’s regime, which America has long cultivated. These agents will reveal Kim’s location for targeting by the drone-launched missile assault.”

[MQ25 “Stingray” carrier-launched drone]

For Europe, plans are also being readied for simultaneous raids to “swoop down” on what a CIA source told the Enquirer are ISIS-connected safe houses in “Madrid, Nice, Hamburg and Rome.”

And in Latin America, “Amphibious units from the U.S. 4th Fleet will hit narcotics production facilities throughout Mexico and South America — dealing a devastating blow to the bloodthirsty drug cartels.”

All in all, the Enquirer insists, the White House is 

marshaling and mobilizing America’s military might around the globe in preparation for giving the ‘go order’ to launch a coordinated campaign across five continents that will wipe out America’s enemies in one fell swoop!

Is this all a fever dream? Campaign rhetoric taken flight? “Alternative facts” with no more substance than the Bowling Green Massacre?

Maybe. Military experts might question the practicality of some or most of these plans. Even so, there they are, laid out at length for an audience that’s been solidly in the president’s corner for years, in a journal he has communicated with directly and in detail many times.

And Enquirer Editor-in-Chief Dylan Howard is firm in his avowal of the paper’s “standards of truth”:
“What we do, that the mainstream media doesn’t do, is that we put people through lie-detector tests to prove the validity of their information,” said Howard.  (He didn’t say the sources for this story had been thus  subjected to this “enhanced interrogation,” but the implication is plain. . . .

But polygraphs aside, given the president’s well-established track record, announcing actual military plans for an imminent new version of “World War Three” in what has been his “newspaper of record” could make as much sense as floating them anywhere else. Or maybe more. 

And ignoring or scoffing at them because of where they surfaced could make even less.

 

The post Never Mind Armageddon: World War III Is Coming First — I’ve Seen the Secret Plan appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Nancy’s Secret Garden

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 05/03/2017 - 10:11am

When we came here in fifteen or so years ago, Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden was a magical oasis tucked in the middle of a block in Key West, a small forest said to be the last undeveloped acre in the city’s Old Town neighborhood. Full of winding paths and trees it was the rarest of spaces: loved, carefully tended, and shared with the public as a gift of beauty. But even then it felt besieged. In 2012 taxes and expenses became too much and Nancy sold off parcels to developers. From an article in Key News:

The tucked-away entrance to Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden off Free School Lane in the 500 block of Simonton Street will be closed to the public after today, as finances and property taxes have forced Forrester to sell the land parcels that have housed an artist’s cottage and gallery, parrots, orchids, rare palms, meandering pathways and a meditative garden for more than four decades.

These days the garden has been reduced to a small backyard on Elizabeth Street which Nancy uses as a rescue parrot refuge. In the mornings she gives educational lectures on the birds, full of facts about their brilliant behavior, the destruction of their native habitats, and gentle lectures about how we can all protect native parrot habitats by living more lightly on the land (hint: no red palm oil or beef). From behind the fence came the sounds of a swimming pool being installed in the cutdown middle of the former garden. Nancy has life tenancy on the ill-repaired house where she lives with the parrots. 

I don’t know the details of the real estate transactions or Forrester’s finances but I find it incredible that Key West couldn’t rally around one of its living treasures. I’m glad that Nancy remains along with her parrots and I’m grateful my kids got a chance to meet her. 

Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden, Parrots, Macaws, Key West, FL

The purpose of Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden as a Parrot sanctuary in Key West, is to inspire and educate people…

nancyforrester.com
Categories: Blogs

Don’t Worry. Death Is Your Friend

Micah Bales - Tue, 05/02/2017 - 2:00am


I’ve always been fascinated by death. The reality that I’m going to die is a major motivating factor in my life.

I may be a little strange. When I graduated from high school, my predominant mood was one of foreboding. I had passed this milestone, and now I was another step closer to the end. Today I’m graduating high school, tomorrow I’ll be turning fifty. Soon I’ll be six feet under.

In the middle ages, these kind of thoughts would have been normal. Medieval society was fixated on the reality of death, summed up in the Latin term Memento Mori: “Remember that you have to die.” For European Christendom, all of life fell under the shadow of death. The present took its ultimate meaning from the reality that it was all about to end.

American society, on the other hand, is almost ridiculous in its optimism. We couldn’t be more different from the death-focused culture of the Middle Ages. We view death as something to be avoided. Even to mention it is often seen as morbid at best, bad luck at worst. We should focus on the present. Better yet, focus on the future. Because it’s only getting brighter.

Despite my innate tendency to reflect on my own mortality, I’ve been deeply formed by my death-denying American upbringing. I’ve seen death’s icy gaze, but I haven’t welcomed it. I’ve fought it. Fled it. My remembrance of death has often served as an impetus to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I’ve placed great pressure on myself to accomplish something worthy of the time I’ve been alloted. Death could come at any moment. That makes it all the more important to justify how I spend my days. The worst imaginable outcome would be to look back from the moment of death and see only a life wasted.

This attitude has spurred my ambition, creativity, and exploration. It has also been a heavy burden to place on the countless mundane moments that make up an ordinary life. I’ve spent much of my time feeling guilty for not being more heroic, more daring, more prepared to smile back with pride from the brink of death. Rather than making life important, my relationship with death has made it urgent.

My relationship to death has begun to alter. For most of my life, I’ve experienced death as a foe to be outwitted and conquered. I’ve sought a life that laughs in the face of its end. But something has changed. Slowly, subtly, surprisingly, I am discovering death as a friend.

A strange sort of friend, to be sure. But I can no longer see death merely a constraint that forces me to live life to the fullest. Death is revealing itself as an integral part of my existence. To truly live, I must learn to die. Not just at some sudden moment in the future, but right now. Each day, I must learn to release my life and be handed over into death. 

I’m seeing the way a thousand little deaths accumulate. Losing a job. Giving up on a dream. Letting go of one passion to seize another. Moving to a new city. Surrendering singleness for marriage, and selfhood for parenthood. These are some of the little annihilations that make room for something new to emerge. The deaths that make real life possible.

This process of dying is more powerful than my own self-directed living. This way of dying provides me with glimpses of the cross of Jesus. In surrendering my life and will, I begin to taste the cup that he drank from. My hopes, certainties, and assurances are stripped away one by one. Nothing is left except a long walk on the road to Emmaus.

Related Posts: This is the Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For How My Faith Blew Up and I Learned to be Human Again

The post Don’t Worry. Death Is Your Friend appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Tybee Island Light

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Sat, 04/29/2017 - 2:48pm

Because our family loves lighthouses!

Categories: Blogs

Oatland Island near Savannah

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Sat, 04/29/2017 - 1:12pm

This is probably the third or fourth time we’ve been to Oatland Island. I think we have versions of these shots from every trip.

internet.savannah.chatham.k12.ga.us

Categories: Blogs

Barrier Islands Center, Delmarva

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:26am

On our way down the Delmarva Peninsula we needed a break for food, stretching, and bathrooms. This free museum is situated in a nineteenth century almshouse and features the folk histories of the peoples of the barrier islands. 

www.barrierislandscenter.org

Categories: Blogs

In praise of an editor past

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 5:25pm

Frances William Browin from the September 15, 1968 Friends Journal.When I became an editor at Friends Journal in 2011, I inherited an institution with some very strong opinions. Some of them are sourced from predictable wellsprings: William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White’s foundational mid-century style guide and the editorial offices of the Chicago Manual of Style. But some is all our own, logically tested for consistency with Chicago but adapted to Quaker idiosyncrasies.

One of our most invariable (and contested) formats comes from the way we list congregations. Quick aside for non-Quakers: you will often see a Quaker meeting listed as  Town Monthly Meeting, Town Friends Meeting, Town Quaker Meeting, etc. People often have strong opinions about the correct ways to write them out. Sometimes an author will insist to me that their meeting has an official name that is use consistently but I can usually find this isn't true within a few minutes with the help of Google.

To cut through this, Friends Journal uses “Town (State) Meeting” everywhere and always, with specific exceptions only for cases where that doesn’t work. Town, state abbreviation in parentheses, capital-M meeting. This formatting is unique to Friends Journal--other Philadelphia-based Quaker style sheets don't follow it. We’ve been doing it this distinctively and consistently for as long as I can remember.

Fortunately we have digital archives going back to the mid-1950s thanks to Haverford College's Quaker and Special Collections. So a few months ago I dug into our archives and used keyword searches to see how far back the format goes. Traveling the years back it time it's held remarkably steady as "Town (State) Meeting" until we scroll back into the fall of 1962. The October 15 issue doesn’t have consistent meeting listings. But it does announce that longtime Friends Journal editor William Hubben is going on a six-month sabbatical, with Frances Williams Browin filling in as acting editor.

It didn't take her long. The next issue sees a few parentheses unevenly applied. But by the November 15th issue, nineteen meetings are referenced using our familiar format! There’s the “member of Berkeley (Calif.) Meeting” who had just published a pamphlet of Christmas songs for children, an FCNL event featuring skits and a covered-dish supper at “Swarthmore (Pa.) Meeting” and the announcement of a prominent article by “Kenneth E. Boulding, a member of Ann Arbor (Michigan) Meeting.”

I've tried to imagine the scene... Browin situated in her new temporary office... going back and forth, forth and back on some listing... then finally surprising herself by shouting "enough!" so loudly she had to apologize to nearby colleagues. At the end of the six months, Hubben came back but only as a contributing editor, and Browin was named editor. Friends Journal board member Elizabeth B Wells wrote a profile of her upon her retirement in 1968:

Her remarks usually made sparks, whether she was expressing an opinion (always positive), exerting pressure (not always gentle), or making a humorous aside (often disturbing). For in her amiable way she can be tart, unexpected, even prejudiced (in the right direction), then as suddenly disarmingly warm and sensitive.

This sounds like the kind of person who would standardize a format with such resolve it would be going strong 55 years later:

She was so entirely committed to putting out the best possible magazine, such a perfectionist, even such a driver, that her closest colleagues often felt that we knew the spirited editor far better than the Quaker lady.

It’s a neat profile. And today, every time an author rewrites their meeting’s name on a copyedited manuscript, I say a quiet thanks to the driven perfectionist who gives me permission to be prejudiced in the right direction. Wells's profile is a fascinating glimpse into a smart woman of a different era and well worth a read.

Categories: Blogs

This is the Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For

Micah Bales - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 2:00am


This year, I did a complete career change. I went from working in nonprofit communications to my first job as a software developer. It’s been one of the most challenging – and rewarding – experiences of my life. Learning how to code has taught me life lessons I never suspected when I got started. And taking a leap of faith into a whole new career has put the rest of my life in perspective.

I’ve been learning patience on so many levels. With my own weakness and limitations. With the way that life so often feels like a traffic jam. I’m learning that progress is better than perfection. Small steps are better than giant leaps. Frustration can be a gateway to enlightenment. And what seems like failure often turns out to be a necessary step towards success.

This past year has changed the way I think about time. By default, I tend to relate to time as a resource. I talk about “spending” time in order to produce a certain result – whether money, a project, or even spiritual development. I’ve always thought of my time as a means to an end.

This is actually the default mode for software development, too. We consider what goals we can accomplish and products we can produce given a certain amount of time. Then, we look for ways to remove obstacles and increase our productivity. It’s a very practical, useful way of looking at time. It can also be relentless, mechanical, and exhausting.

In the midst of this culture of workplace productivity, I’m discovering a different way to look at time. The surprising fact is: I’m full of joy. I adore my work. I love my life. I’m so grateful for my family, friends, and all the opportunities that God has placed in my path. Every day is a gift. Despite all the demands I put on myself to produce results for the future, the bounty of the present moment is breathtaking.

I hope that my work has a positive long-term impact. But the real blessing is to find purpose and joy in the labor itself. When I struggle with a frustrating problem in code, that’s an opportunity to be present and alive. When I’m home playing with my son, that’s an invitation to be I awake to who he is, and who we are together. Every passing moment is an opportunity to experience wonder.

I don’t have to wait for a better future. I don’t have to become more productive, wealthier, or better looking. I don’t have to wait for an afterlife to experience real peace and presence. Each breath is an invitation to thanksgiving.

This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for.

Living in this state of awareness opens up a space where all my normal activities can take on a deeper meaning. I can still deliver value to my employer. I can be a caring father, loving husband, and loyal friend. I can do all of these things, not out of any anxiety about the future, but because I choose to. I act because I love my life and the people in it. Because it brings me joy.

This is what freedom is. This is what the kingdom of heaven looks like. Irrepressible joy and fearless wonder become the fountainhead of all action.  I’m invited to step away from the anxious imagination that has always driven me. All that’s left is love and gratitude.

Related Posts: How My Faith Blew Up and I Learned to be Human Again What is the Life of the Spirit?

The post This is the Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

How My Faith Blew Up and I Learned to be Human Again

Micah Bales - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 2:00am


The industrial revolution colonized my faith, and I never even knew it.

For so much of my ministry, I focused on doing things for God. I’ve been like a child who takes a toy their parent has given them, and returns it to the parent as a “gift.” One of the first revelations I received from God was that I own nothing. I can’t produce anything under my own power. Yet my response to God’s action in my life has always been about creating return on investment. It’s so hard to receive a gift without providing anything in return.

As a pilgrim in the north of England in 2005, I experienced something life-changing. It was an anointing by the Holy Spirit. God touched me in a way I’ll never be able to describe. I felt resolute clarity that God had called me into a life of service to him. I thought I was ready to give up everything.

My first response to this amazing encounter was to dream of evangelizing Europe. I find this embarrassing to recall. Not because Europe (or America) aren’t in need of the gospel. That’s a mission I’m still excited about. But the idea that I, as someone who had just received the Holy Spirit and who hadn’t even read the New Testament yet… It makes me blush. In truth, I needed people to continue evangelizing me. I was a baby in Christ, and I needed spiritual parents – not to start a family of my own!

It’s fortunate that I listened when God guided me to enroll in a small Quaker seminary in Indiana. I spent several years studying the Bible, Quaker/Christian tradition, and the practice of ministry. This was crucial. My time in seminary broke me open in a lot of ways. I learned to listen more. I submitted my sense of personal inspiration to the discernment of a wider community. I grew in maturity and patience.

But my production-oriented, industrial mindset remained largely untouched. My ministry was still centered on what I could do for God, rather than simply receiving the gift. My focus was on how to engineer tangible results that the world would recognize. I ended up transferring my desire to do something for God into a desire to do something for the Quaker movement.

I was on fire for Jesus and his kingdom. And I knew that the kingdom of God is one of unmerited love and grace. But I wanted to merit it. I wanted to build the kingdom of God with my own two hands. I wanted to be a successful minister, like my heroes from the Bible and Quaker history. More than anything, I wanted to be a minister after the mold of Paul and George Fox. An apostolic movement-builder and church-planter. A charismatic leader who could break open whole new frontiers for the gospel. A man whose faithful preaching and example lays a foundation for community.

It would have been one thing if I had merely burned to be faithful. It would have been beautiful if my dream had to been to use the gifts God gave me to bless others. To show God’s love through my actions, to be a servant like Jesus. But I wanted more than that. I wanted more than Jesus. I wanted results. I wanted to be measurably successful. I wanted to hit those successful ministry benchmarks as defined by the early church and the early Quaker movement. I wanted to win.

The spirit of this age, of the market, of industrial capitalism, was so strong in me, I never even recognized it. I gravitated towards materials from the Evangelical world. They promised to teach me how to be more successful, more productive. I, too, could have an earth-shaking ministry just like George Fox. I could turn stones into bread and throw myself from the top of the temple. Nothing would be beyond me.

It was all a lie. No matter how much I studied the work of other ministers and applied their techniques, I never saw the kind of results I was seeking. The communities I served stayed small. I couldn’t support my family with the income that my various projects brought in. My wife and I grew burned out. Our shared ministry was beginning to feel like a revolving door of failure. The image of ministry success that I dreamed of had turned into a nightmare.

And so, at a certain point in the fall of 2014, I gave up. I was finally exhausted enough to face the truth. My dreams disconnected from reality. My aspirations seemed to be running against the grain of what God was asking of me. I had no idea what God wanted, but it wasn’t this.

I’ve spent the last couple of years in the wilderness. I’ve backed away from full-time ministry. I’ve taken on full-time, secular work. I put my time and attention into family, career, and the nuts and bolts of making a life for ourselves in this city. I’ve found friends and activities that have nothing to do with any sort of ministry objective. This is new.

These have been hard years. It was painful to step away from the work that had defined my life so completely in my twenties. It was disorienting to release leadership and allow my communities to fall apart, lie fallow, or morph into new configurations I hardly recognized. These last few years have felt like dying.

But I’m thankful. These wilderness years have been a dark blessing. Through the pain and confusion, God has been scouring out my insides. He’s challenged my industrial, results-oriented mindset. The Holy Spirit has hollowed me out and broken me.

I won’t say I’m healed. I won’t say it’s over, or that I’ve figured my life out. There’s nothing that definitive. I’m living in a not-knowing that is powerful in its ambiguity. I’m living in the desert of the Real, and all I have to guide me is the hope that God will lead me, even if I don’t know it.

For the time being, I don’t want to do anything for God. I also don’t want to do anything for principle, causes, or movements, either. Any positive impact I make, any real joy I experience, is going to come from doing things for people. Not an abstract idea of people, but the flesh-and-blood human beings who live in my neighborhood, joke with me at work, and share my commute. My ministry field is the brothers and sisters that God has placed in my life. My measure of success is the joy, generosity, and love that I bring into theirs.

Maybe someday I’ll be part of something big. But that’s up to God. Until then, I’m excited to see what small can do.

Related Posts: What if my Religion is just Self Help? Do You Think You’ll Age Like Wine?

The post How My Faith Blew Up and I Learned to be Human Again appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Humble Stumble: Hymns for Imperfect Saints: "Me And God"

Holy Ordinary (Brent Bill) - Wed, 04/12/2017 - 8:41am
I have stumbled a bit on my "hymnal" project in conjunction with my "Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker" book. This suggestion comes from Lauren Miller. She suggested "Me and God" by the Avett Brothers.  It's a perfect addition to this "hymnal."

These are not "hymns" in the traditional sense. Rather they're songs that have spoken to my soul in a spiritual sense -- even if they are not "spiritual songs" per se. Though my bias is that that our hearts hunger for beauty and meaning and when artists create something that sings deep in our souls, well, they've created a "hymn," even if it was unintentional.

You can listen to the who list on Spotify -- "Humble Stumble: Hymns for Imperfect Saints."

Suggestions of songs that have spoken deeply to you are welcome!

I'll also post lyrics and video (when available) here.
"Me And God"

Well I know a preacher he's a real good man
He speaks from The Good Book and his hand
And helps all people when he can
But me and God don't need a middle man

Well I found God in a soft woman's hair
A long days work and a good sittin' chair
The ups and downs of the treble clef lines
And five miles ago on an interstate sign
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man

Now I don't doubt that The Good Book is true
What's right for me may not be right for you
To church on Sunday I'll stand beside
All the hurtin' people with the fear in their eyes
And I thank the Lord for the country land
Just like Paul I thank him for my hands
And I don't know if my soul is safe
Sometimes I use curse words when I pray


My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man

Writer(s): Robert William Crawford, Scott Yancey Avett, Timothy Seth Avett 


The Avett Brother's website is http://www.theavettbrothers.com/
Categories: Blogs

So What I Said Was: It's Already Late

Holy Ordinary (Brent Bill) - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 6:54am
"When Jesus sent two disciples to fetch a donkey’s colt on Palm Sunday, they had no other task in the whole world more important than fetching it. If someone had said to them, “You are called to greater things; anyone can fetch a donkey,” and they had not done it, they would have been disobedient. But there was nothing greater for them at that moment than to fetch the donkey for Christ. I wish that we all might do every task, great or small, in this obedience." -- J. Heinrich Arnold

The roads approaching Jerusalem were jammed, as were the suburbs. After all, the main city, the site of the pilgrims’ travels for high holy days, was only about 1,200 yards wide by 1,500 yards.. Traveling the same roads as Jesus and his of disciples almost 2 million other pilgrims, coming to celebrate Passover in the holy city. Passover was one of three high holy times in the Jewish faith and the entire nation of Israel tried to squeeze within the walls surrounding the Temple. Some came from faraway lands, where the previous year they celebrated Passover with the words “This year here, next year in Jerusalem.” This year they were in Jerusalem.

Along the way Jesus continued his teaching. His opponents continued their plotting. By this time Jesus is a marked man. There’s a bounty on his head placed by those who fear him. They are afraid of him for any number of reasons. The religious leaders fear his heresy; they find his words blasphemous. The politicians worry that he has the people worked up into such a state that they will riot – thereby leading Rome to send in more soldiers to put down the ensuing insurrection. Still others just find Jesus unsettling to their comfortable way of living. All of them agree – it’s better than one man die than an entire nation.

At this time, Jesus still has the support of the populace, though. However, that support was like it is for all popular causes – it may have run the seventeen miles from Jericho to Jerusalem, but it was only about an inch deep.

He sends two disciples ahead to a village by the Mount of Olives. The Mount is in sight of the gates through the Temple walls. The two men are instructed to find a colt, whose owners will let them have it when they say the pre-arranged words “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”

They bring the colt back to Jesus. Instead of sneaking safely into the city, certainly the most prudent move a man in his position should make, he, a marked man, an outlaw, climbs upon it and begins his ride to the city – prominent visible to all, supporters and enemies alike. What a courageous act!

The people respond to this. They cheer and call out the words of the Psalms – praising God for sending the Messiah, the one they assume will free them from the power of Rome and restore Israel to its rightful place as premier among the nations. They chant the equivalent of “God save the King,” their words coming directly from Psalms used in Passover rituals. The specific Psalm they use is the 118th, which is known as the conqueror’s Psalm and signifies their hope that it will only be a matter of time until Jesus sounds the trumpet and their victorious battle against the infidels is joined. They wave their palm branches before him and shout their support.

His shallow supporters see in him the fulfillment of all their personal ideas about the Messiah. His disciples are feeling that, at long last, their time has arrived. Everyone is shouting, except Jesus.

He heads for the temple. Evidently he goes there with just his disciples – there is no mention of the crowd that had been hailing him. And then, “since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”

That phrase, “since it was already late,” is fraught with meaning. Of the surface, of course, it merely means it was late in the day. The sun was setting and lamps would be lit all over Jerusalem. The time for work was over.

And, as we now know from 2000 years of hindsight, it was “already late” at another level – the end of Jesus’ life, as the end of the day, was fast approaching. His earthly ministry was about over. The end of his personal appeal to the masses was about over. The end to the plotting was about over. The angel of death was about to steal over the city as the sun set – “it was already late.”

On Palm Sunday we celebrate what is known as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. Yet, as we examine the text, we see that triumphant, as the world understands it, is hardly the right word. Yes, Jesus may have rode into Jerusalem hailed as the conquering hero, but it was a triumph that would be of the most unexpected kind. Part of the challenge of this Lenten season and Palm Sunday is for us to re-examine our own views of who Jesus is. If we believe, as the Bible and our own experience tell us, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, then his message is unchanging also. The question is what might that message be for us today? Do we take time to do that, or will we, as the morning ends, and the noon hour approaches, decide that “it is already late” and head for our comfortable lunches and afternoon activities.

The message that Jesus was showing to those who had eyes and hearts to see that Palm Sunday long ago, was that, while he claimed his royal nature, his kingdom was one of spiritual peace and love. He rode into strife-riven Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace.

He rides on today – son of the high king of Heaven, with the armies of that kingdom riding behind him and his banner of peace. He rides on today to bring peace to us – in our lives, our families and in our world.

The world was not ready for the message that day almost two thousand years ago. Nor were his disciples. It may not be ready for the message today. The question for us is, are we? As a people who call ourselves his “Friends,” are we ready to lay down our notions about who our friend Jesus is and what his message is about? Dare we take a fresh look, with newly opened spiritual eyes, at what this son of God has to say to us? Are we willing to open our ears and hear? Or is it “already late.”

What a mixture of pain and sorrow that day must have been for Jesus. The tumult of popular acclaim had to feel good at first, and yet the closer he rode to Jerusalem, the more he must have realized how shallow that popular acclaim was. By the time he reaches the temple, he is alone with his fearful band of disciples. Instead of reigning in royal purple with a gold crown upon his head, he knows he will wear a crown of thorns and blood soaked purple robe. The hardest part must have been knowing that the very ones who acclaim him this day will call for his crucifixion by the end of the week. All because “it was already late.”

As we celebrate this day, let us pray that, though it is “already late,” we will have our spirits opened. Let us see this one who we call our Friend with new eyes and spiritual depth. Let us pledge anew our devotion to him and his cause – while realizing that to follow him will lead us ultimately to the foot of a cross.

It is already late.
Categories: Blogs

There Will Be No Tomahawk Missiles in the Kingdom of God

Micah Bales - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 2:00am


This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 4/9/17, at the Washington City Church of the Brethren. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Philippians 2:5-11 & Matthew 21:1-11. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (FYI, the spoken sermon differs significantly from the written text.)

Listen to the Sermon Now

Our gospel reading this morning is about Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, just days before he would be arrested and executed.

Jesus is riding on a donkey, and the people are all around him. There were massive crowds in town for Passover, and Jesus’ arrival in the city is perfectly time to cause a stir. The thousands of pilgrims are waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The crowd was hopeful that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The prophet Zechariah had foretold that the king of Israel would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. As Jesus enters this city, this is a royal procession. He is the Messiah, coming king of Israel! The crowds welcome him, waving palm branches and laying them down on the ground before Jesus.

It wasn’t an accident that the crowds were waving palm branches. I know most of us grew up seeing palm branches as part of Palm Sunday, but Jesus didn’t invent palms as a religious symbol. In fact, palm branches were a very potent political symbol throughout the ancient world. Think about the wreaths and garlands that ancient athletes and rulers would wear. Think of the laurels of Olympic champions. The palm was a similar symbol for the ancients. The palm was a symbol of victory.

It was also a sign of resistance. The palm branch was a major symbol in the Macabeean revolt (167-160 BC) that freed Israel from the rule of the Seleucid Greeks. Waving palm branches was a symbol of power, resistance, and Messianic expectations. It was a big middle finger to Rome. It expressed the hope that this this Jesus of Nazareth might be the one who would finally throw off the yoke of the Roman oppressor. Would Jesus finally establish the long-awaited Jewish kingdom in the mold of king David? That was the burning hope and desire of thousands of Jews that day.

Our other reading this morning is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This passage provides us a deeper understanding of what Jesus is going through during his entry into Jerusalem. Paul talks about how Jesus rejected the way of power and domination. He writes about how Jesus was willing to be humbled and take on the form of a slave to serve others. Because of this humility and self-emptying, God highly exalts Jesus. He went as low as you can go, and God lifted him up. The one who suffered and died was given the name that is above every name. Absolute power, joy, triumph.

With Paul’s words as background, I want to take us back to the Passover crowds in Jerusalem. Hear their cheers. Feel the hope they have for Jesus. The desire to see Israel become a great nation again. To have a king, a military ruler who can end the Roman oppression and bring justice to the land. That’s what the crowds are expecting from Jesus.

But God never desired his people to have a king like the nations. God has always wanted to lead his people himself. For generations, the Hebrews wandered with God in the wilderness. He lived in a tent – no temple built by human hands could contain him. He was a mobile God. A mysterious God. A God who dwelt among his people and guided them directly.

It was only after Israel got a king that God “settled down.” It was only during the time of Solomon that God moved from the tent to the temple. And it was never clear that God was entirely willing to make that move. The God who says, “I AM what I AM,” will not be contained, immobilized, and idolized.

Before Israel had a king, the people got their marching orders directly from God. They listened to God together – when they were still in the desert, it says that Moses would speak to God at the Tent of Meeting, and everyone else in the camp would stand at the entrance to their tents and look on as Moses spoke with God. He spoke with God like one speaks to a friend.

When Israel became a monarchy, there was no more speaking among friends. Instead, one man would call the shots, according to his own judgments. One man would be exalted above all the others, and Jewish society would begin to take on the pyramid shape of the social order that God had liberated them from in Egypt.

When Israel instituted a kingship, the prophet Samuel warned them: “OK, you can do this. But this new king you’re asking for, he’s going to take your daughters for his harem and servants. He’s going to take your sons for military service, and get them killed in foreign wars. He’s going to demand huge taxes and tributes to feed his royal court. By the time this is all over, you’re going to wish you’d never asked for a king. This isn’t what I want. It’s definitely not God wants. But if you insist on going this way, he’s not going to stop you.”

Despite his warnings, Israel decided to anoint a king anyway. This was really depressing for Samuel, who know what this decision represented. But God told Samuel, “Don’t make this personal. This isn’t about you. They’re not rejecting you, Samuel. They’re rejecting me.”

To have a king is to reject God.

But when the people of Israel looked at Jesus, a king is what they wanted to see. They saw a military leader. They saw a strong man. They dreamed of a new King David, someone who would fit into this kingship model that so displeases God. They all knew the story. They knew that kingship was, at best, a compromise solution. And yet it was the best outcome they could imagine.

But Jesus isn’t the Messiah they’re looking for. Jesus isn’t a messiah at all, according to the Davidic model. If anything, he’s an anti-messiah. Rather than doing the killing, he’s going to be the one getting killed. Rather than doing the humiliating and torturing, he’s going to be the one being humiliated and tortured. Instead of being in a position of strength, he’ll be in a position of weakness. He’s not going to be the master, he’s going to be the slave – the slave of all.

Things haven’t changed that much in two thousand years. We’re still looking for a king. A military messiah. A strongman who can shout orders, sit on top of the pyramid, and bring order to a hierarchical, unequal society. What was true for the Jews is true for all of us: Even in our dreams of liberation, we sow the seeds of tyranny and oppression.

We were reminded of this reality last week, when the president ordered missile strikes on another country. This was a revealing moment – not in what the president did, but in how our country reacted. We all know that American presidents wield almost godlike destructive power without any apparent checks and balances. They can drop high explosives on another country without most of us even considering it an act of war.

We know this. We know that America is the most powerful empire in human history. It’s not surprising that the president can throw his weight around and attack weaker nations with impunity. What is remarkable, is the way the American elites view this kind of violent action. As Donald Trump rained millions of dollars in high explosives on Syria, the news media and virtually the entire US political establishment praised his actions as “presidential.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle who had long been pushing for military strikes in Syria cheered the president for dropping the bombs. News outlets that are normally critical of the president lined up to endorse this new war. The New York Times praised Trump for “following his instinct.” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said that, with this attack on Syria, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” MSNBC’s Brian Williams waxed poetic about the beauty of Tomahawk missiles. He quoted Leonard Cohen’s lyrics, “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

“I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

Those crowds waving palm branches 2,000 years ago – they were guided by the beauty of their weapons. The Romans with their legions were most definitely guided by the beauty of their weapons. By the beauty of their weapons, they nailed the prince of peace to a cross. By the beauty of their weapons, they embraced the kingship of Caesar and rejected the living presence of God. By the beauty of our weapons, America is embracing the broad way of death. By the beauty of our weapons, we will inherit the legacy of Assyria, Babylon, and Rome.

The kingdom of God is different from the kingdoms of this world. As followers of Jesus, we know this. Yet it’s so hard to break away from the mentality of death that grips our society. God has called us to be his people in this world. But just like the ancient Israelites, we’d rather have a king. A winner. A champion who will deliver us from suffering, even if it means forcing others to endure it.

I’ll be honest, I’m more comfortable with the way of Caesar than with the way of Jesus. Most of the time when I’m looking for salvation, I don’t want someone who’s going to be humbled. I’m not looking for someone who’s going to be put to death.

When I’m picking my leader, I want someone who’s going to triumph. I want someone who’s going to defeat my enemies. I want someone who’s going to establish a new kingdom, a new political order based on coercion and violence. Because that’s the only way I really know how to deal with human beings.

“But from the beginning it was not so.” That’s not the way God wants to deal with us. The God we serve is not a violent God – though we have often imagined him to be so. Our God is a creative intelligence. He wants to build and grow and cause life to flourish, not to break down and destroy.

The way of kingship is built on aggression, coercion, violence, and threats. It’s built on the unequal distribution of wealth and power. It’s founded on the beauty of our weapons and the arrogance of our intellect.

But God’s intention is for us to live together as one family, with one Father and Mother. God calls us to become humble servants to one another, to put the interests of others beyond our own. God calls us to lower ourselves, so that we all might be lifted up. Not by the beauty of our weapons, but by the life of the Spirit.

True greatness in the kingdom of God doesn’t look like triumph in the eyes of the world. It doesn’t look like being a billionaire. It doesn’t look like launching Tomahawk missiles on distant lands whose refugees you have denied hospitality. It doesn’t look like becoming popular with politicians and having the corporate news media singing your praises.

Greatness in the kingdom of God looks like being willing to receive suffering out of love for others. It’s being willing to lay down your own prerogatives so that others can get what they need. The kingdom of God doesn’t always feel like joy and light. Sometimes, it can seem like darkness.

We’re in the midst of that darkness this morning, together with Jesus. We’re with him as he marches into Jerusalem, marching into this city that will put him to death in the most terrible way. We also know that, because of his humility and yieldedness to the Spirit, God will exalt Jesus and give him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

Jesus has the victory. It’s not a victory that the world understands. It’s a victory that comes through compassion, service, and emptiness before God. We can share in this victory. When we reject the pyramid scheme of Empire and embrace Jesus’ upside down kingdom, we experience the triumph of the resurrection.

In the midst of all the darkness this morning, I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate the victory of Jesus. Even though the world misunderstands him. Even as our nation’s leaders insist that they want a King David rather than a King Jesus. Even as Jesus marches into this city that will be his judge, jury, torturer, and executioner. Jesus is victorious.

We can participate in this victory. We can embrace his humble way of self-emptying. We can be set free by his fearless love, without regard for the consequences. Despite this world’s bombs, lies, and terror, we can be God’s bold, peaceful, and triumphant people.

Related Posts: Is America Headed Towards Theocracy? What if my Religion is just Self Help?

The post There Will Be No Tomahawk Missiles in the Kingdom of God appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Remembering Christine Greenland

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 3:07pm

Over email, the news that Christine Manville Greenland has passed. In recent times I worked with Christine mostly through the Tract Association of Friends but I’ve known her for so long I don’t know when I first met her.

Whenever she said something it was well worth listening to. On online forums from Soc.religion.quaker to Facebook she was always encouraging to what Samuel Bownas had called “infant ministers.” She had the rare ability to slice through thorny Quaker issues with unexpected observation and wisdom. She had a long view of recent Quaker history that put things in context and she would pull metaphors from her training as a botanist to explain mystifying behaviors in our coreligionists.

She also had a wealth of institutional memory. There’s incredible value in this. Friends, like most humans, give a lot of value to the ways we’re doing things right now. It only takes a few years before a process feels timeless and essential. We forget that things once worked differently or that other Friends have a different methods. By being involved with Friends in different areas—Canada and Colorado—Christine brought geographic awareness and by being involved in Philadelphia so long she brought a modern historical awareness. That dysfunctional meeting everyone’s talking about? She’ll remember that everyone was talking about it thirty years ago for another controversy and point out the similarities. That doubt you’ll have about a path? Christine will tell you how others have felt the leading and assure you that it’s genuine.

She did all this with such gentleness and modesty that it’s only now that she’s gone that I’m realizing the debt I owe her. More than anything perhaps, she showed how to live a life as a Friend of integrity through the politics and foibles of our Religious Society.

I used Google to find precious gems of wisdom she left on comment threads. It’s a long trail. She was active on soc.religion.quaker back in the day, commented on most Convergent Friends blogs and was active on Facebook. She took the time to write many enlightening and warm commentary. Here is a random sample.

Comment on my post “Vision and Leadership”

Yesterday, I  clerked a small quarterly meeting working group — I’m co-clerk, since it  isn’t my quarter… and the other co-clerk is, which works well. We keep asking the questions and seeing the potentials … but when it comes down to being faithful (a term I use instead of “accountable”) that needs consistent testing. It is important to center in worship, no matter what we are doing.

I had the experience of being chair of a group of biologists, and found that, even then, I conducted business in the same way… one of seeking guidance from other members of the group — even though the group of which we were a small part used Robert’s rules of order. I felt our group was too small to make that approach workable… Occasionally, I forgot I wasn’t among Friends until another member of the group (a United Church graduate of Swarthmore College) reminded me… Church of the Brethren folks just grinned and allowed as how they preferred the approach; we were, after all, both friends and biologists.  For most of us, the work had both a scientific and a spiritual basis.

To Micah Bales’s “Is It Time to Get Rid of Yearly Meetings?”

I checked in with Friends at our Quarterly Meeting picnic yesterday; responses were mixed for a variety of reasons, some having to do with resistance to changing the ways in which we are Friends, and other responses that I can only describe as “institutional cheer-leading”.

Some of this has to do with expected tensions as we grapple with matters of both race and class; still other matters have to do with the fact that our structures have changed at least twice in 30 years, as has the outline of our faith and practice. The question I have (of myself and others) is “How do we — individually and corporately — show that we truly love one another as Christ has loved us?” By that, I mean all others.

The most hopeful exchange was speaking with a dear Friend in my former meeting who had gone for the first time in decades, and feels strongly led to encourage her meeting to assist in work going on at both the quarter and yearly meeting level; this will cross boundaries. I was hopeful in part because this Friend exudes consistent love. … and has in the 25 years I’ve known her. Love of God/neighbor are inseparable. She lives that better than I do.

It seems I have much to learn.

Comment on my “What Does it Mean to be a Quaker?” (on an old site)

I cringe when I hear the word “Quakerism” or “the Quaker Way”… I find the two terms interchangeable — both can lack substance. It seems we have finally become the “bureaucratic association of distant acquantances” rather than the Religious Society of Friends. Some years ago, an experienced Friend wrote that Integrity (saying what one means, meaning what one says) was at the heart of Quaker Practice — as a testimony.

If we’re just going for PR, that lacks integrity.

The question — for me — becomes “How can I live as a Friend?”

Comment on Eric Moon’s “Categorically Not the Testimonies”

When I first came to Friends, it was the way of life — not the intellectual construct — that drew me to meeting week after week (a university meeting in what later became Intermountain Yearly Meeting). When I applied for membership, my committee of clearness questioned more whether I could live into a way of life, into the community of that particular meeting. Friends felt that wrestling with the understanding of the faith tradition was a part of my education. Only after I moved to Philadelphia did I begin hearing of the “parsing” of the faith tradition. It seemed too pat.

Still, the overlapping categories are still as useful by way of explanation, but it isn’t the whole story.

As with many matters of faith, for those who possess it, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible. Howard Brinton did his best by way of explanation, but faith-wrestling is a task we all have.

Comment on Ashley Wilcox’s The Cost of Traveling Ministry

My question about younger Friends serving as traveling ministers is somewhat more serious: Are their meetings attentive to both the spiritual gifts and the needs (cost of travel, etc.)as well as the spiritual need for support. If not, is the Friend with a concern for travel, teaching, or any other ministry) humble enough to ask the questions Jon is asking. In my experience (as an older adult Friend)there is little communication among age groups so that gifts of ministry are fully recognized… Young Friends are often left to their own devices. It may be that lack of spiritual support that is the “last door out.”

For instance, I would not travel without the full consent of my past committee of care, all of whom know me well. They have generously supported me this year (as well as my co-leader).

What concerns me is the energy it takes (spiritual and physical), and that it most often takes an elder to attend to the mundane things — as well as to keep the minister on track.

She was also always one to think of the kids. Here she is commenting on Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby’s “Bringing Children to Worship: Trusting God to Take Over from There”

I recall one parent of a small meeting in Ontario at Canadian Yearly Meeting sessions trying to encourage his daughter to sit quietly during worship… Her very reasonable response was “but Daddy, I can pray standing on my head!” Her ministry caused me to reflect on whether I could indeed pray/worship in all circumstances, and from whatever position I was in at the time. I still reflect on that…

At another meeting, when Friends noticed the power struggles between children and their parents, we asked elder Friends to serve as “adoptive” grandparents, with whom the children could sit… That defused the power struggles, and members of meeting who had no children of their own were very helpful to parents in that meeting.

I also recall learning to sink deeply into worship — and hearing a younger Friend’s grandmother giggle. I looked down and there was the 1–2 year old peering up in wonder at why/how I could sit so quietly when he was busy crawling under the benches. it was just fine. He became a part of my prayers that day, and still is a part of them.

And this one has to be the last I’ll share, from a QuakerQuaker discussion started by Richard B Miller and titled “Elders’ Corner”

Like you, I learned about the role of elders from Conservative Friends (in Canada and Ohio).  In the context of my own meeting (and quarter), however, there are Friends who can and do serve as guides and sounding boards — offering corrections as may be required.  Ideally, elders should arise from the monthly meetings, and then be recognized in larger bodies of Friends, not necessarily being named by a yearly meeting nominating committee.

I was asked to serve as an elder for Yearly Meeting/Interim Meeting… but because I was also on the nominating committee, had a “stop” about whether that was rightly ordered. I consulted some North Carolina Friends, who agreed with the “stop”.

One difficulty that you raised is that many of the conservative Friends who held that tradition are no longer available as guides… One effect is that the role elders once played is diminishing among conservative Friends.

I’m feeling pretty broken up right now. And I’m feeling the weight of this loss. I’ve found myself more and more to be the one giving out advice and giving historical context that newer Friends might not have. It’s the kind of perch that Christine had. I’m only starting to appreciate that she formed a gentle mentoring role for me—and I’m sure for many others.

A few years ago my wife and I lost our remaining parents (her dad, my mom) and we had the unescapable recognition that we were now the oldest generation. I know there are older Friends around still and some have bits of Christine’s wit and wisdom. But one of our human guides have left us.

Categories: Blogs

Gorsuch Defended Torture: That should END His Nomination

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 10:57am

Today I sent the following FAX to the U.S. Senators from North Carolina:

Dear Senators,

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech denouncing the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in New York City. I was honored to be present then. In the speech, Dr. King prophesied a future of continuing immoral American wars. That prophecy has alas come true, in spades.

In the Iraq War which was launched in 2003, one of the worst of its many horrors was the use of torture. I have protested that practice for more than ten years, calling for ACCOUNTABILITY for those who created, justified and/or carried out that program.

(During the early years of the Iraq war, I gave away hundreds of these bumperstickers.) 

This week you have the chance to HOLD ACCOUNTABLE one of those who justified official torture: NEIL GORSUCH. As reported by your colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein, as a white House lawyer Gorsuch justified torture and advised on ways officials could evade accountability for it. (Details here: http://bit.ly/2nYHgUZ )

 

This is but one of many reasons to oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court. For me, and no doubt it would be for Dr. King, this shameful record is a major one. VOTE NO ON GORSUCH.

Thank you.

Charles Fager

Durham NC

This FAX is online here in PDF form.

 

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Categories: Blogs
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