"Oh, my beautiful and marvelous God. What are you doing with me?"
It is such an unspeakably beautiful moment. The train is carrying me through Montana. The sun just set. I can see the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. There are no trees, so the sky sweeps across from one edge of the horizon to another...
Now there are lights of a nearby town glittering in the dark. Someone is shooting off fireworks; from far away they look low, but beautiful. There's a narrow sliver of crescent moon in the sky.
I don't think my truth is any better than anyone else's. I don't think I'm the authority on relationship with God. But I want to help other people, especially other Quakers, find some of the joy and peace that I've experienced in my deepening spirituality.
Why do we call new Quakers "convinced"? Shouldn't an experience of God wholly change your life, "convert" you from one substance and one existence to another? I have never been "convinced" of the truth to be found in Quakerism in the rational, intellectual sense which the word indicates. I have, however, experienced conversions of mind and heart, in which my self was utterly transformed by the workings of Spirit. That is the power we must be prepared to own when we take on the role of Quaker ministers (for we are all, as part of the Religious Spciety of Friends, ministers). Not the change of mind arising from the logical process of convincement, but the change of soul resulting from baptism in the holy Spirit.
It's a perfect day,
Just like every other
That God has made,
That God has made.
Oregon is beautiful. I saw this on the way to the coast, riding through forests of huge trees, my first glimpse of the rocky-cliffed coast and huge waves, glorious rivers... and oh, the stars at night, shining in the cold, strewn across a huge expanse of sky. Layers and layers of stars, and nothing to block the view...
Two approaches to ministry are important, and should not exist in isolation: doing ministry, and being a minister. An approach based exclusively on "doing ministry" will not sufficiantly nurture the person carrying ministry. But when one thinks of ministry only in terms of vocational ministers, it can limit the amount of weight and attention given to the ministry of others, and this recreates the stifling of God's word and corruption of power that Fox witnessed in the churches of the "hireling priests," where only one person had the authority to witness God's truth.
Priesthood of all believers. What does that mean to me? Is a piece of my ministry to call Friends into a deeper and more authentic priesthood?
How seriously are we really taking this? Are we all living up to our responsibilities, our gifts, and our potential as priests?
...tenderness is a luxurious state. Never forget that, or fail to appreciate it.
We've been following a river for a long time. It's wide and rippled and has tall forested hills rising abruptly from the opposite bank. My soul doesn't know quite what to do with this much beauty.
I was sitting on my friend's living room sofa, reading a wholly unremarkable book, when it came upon me that I needed to pray. I retreated to the bedroom and fell to my knees, head bowed almost to the ground.
"I am yours, God," I said, "To do with as you will. I promise you here that I am willing to do anything you ask of me, whatever it may be. I am your servant. My truest ambition is to be faithful to the Light of Christ- the present, incarnate God- in my soul. I feel the power of Christ. I feel your annointment."
And it was the truest prayer I have ever prayed, sincere and passionate to the bottom of my soul.
I waited in listening silence for some time. I spoke to God that I did not need immediate guidance on any of the things at hand, but would continue to seek in the presence.
"Only reveal to me what you want, and I will do it. I will listen as best I can."
And then there were words in my head, and I felt them to be utterly true.
"I know that my redeemer liveth. I know that my redeemer liveth." I whispered these words over and over again, bent to the floor in a dark room. As I whispered, I felt a presence behind me, as if a person had silently entered the room, though there was no one in the house. And I knew that the living God had become a palpable presence, that I might feel the realness of the Lord more fully.
It is still with me. I trembled before the presence in those moments when I first was aware of it, and still I feel frightened, but deeply comforted. I will never be alone again. The Lord God is with me, and Christ is risen in my heart.
I know that my redeemer liveth.
I know that my reedemer liveth.
Oh, my beautiful and marvelous God. What are you doing with me?
On the bus from San Jose to Los Angeles today, I sat across the aisle from a man who had just gotten out of prison. At first, hearing this in a conversation he was having with another man seated behind me, I was a little nervous and wary. I asked God to remove these reactions from me so that if the opportunity arose, I could respond to these men in a faithful way, one that would answer that of God in them.
I settled into an amusingly bad Quaker mystery novel, until the man across the aisle turned to me and asked what I was reading. "A mystery novel," I said. "It's really bad."
"What's it called?" I showed him the cover, with the title, Quaker Witness, emblazoned across the front.
"It's kind of fun to read, though, because I'm a Quaker." He looked confused, and asked me to explain the term. I was hesitant at first, unsure of how much he wanted to know. "It's a religion..."
The conversation unfolded and I found myself telling him a lot; the way we worship, our belief in that of God in every person, the testimony of equality, the lack of creed...
My earnestness, at many times, made him laugh. Like when he asked about my clothes, and I told him that God had told me to wear suspenders, and who was I to say no? But even while he laughed, he told me how moved he was. He said that he could see the joy in my face when I talked about it. He said it spoke to his soul, what I was saying, that everything I said was like twisting his arm to believe me. That's not me, I wanted to say. That's the holy Spirit...
I realized with sadness, as I spoke with this man, that I could not be certain that he would be greeted warmly if he showed up to a typical Friends' meeting. In any case, he wouldn't fit in. He was black, working class, un-intellectual, and just released from prison. In fact, he could have walked straight out of a prison movie; he was tall and muscular, tough-looking and tough-talking. But he had tenderness of spirit. Shouldn't that be the only prerequisite for participation in our religious society?
"What do you feel?
What do you fear?
What do you love?
What do you need to be whole?"