Thursday, September 30, 2010

wednesday night discussion group outline

Some of you have expressed interest in knowing how we are formatting the discussions I've been posting about related to the previous Sunday's worship service. So I've pasted the outline below. Scot Headley came up with it.

Normal flow of Wednesday night



Summary from previous week’s work

Reports from group on previous week's work

Introduction of last Sunday’s service

Application exercise (questions about last week's service, discussion)



Suggested process
1. Participate in worship service, take notes.
2. Later in the day on Sunday, spend a few minutes reflecting on the meaning of the service and pray for guidance in application.
3. Between Sunday and Wednesday, write a brief reflection paper. Use the following prompts as a guide. Choose several of these prompts to use as guides in thinking, writing, conversation and prayer.
--What were key themes that were present in the service?
--Do you sense a continuous flow during the meeting,
--How did you feel and what were you thinking during the time?
--What confusion or lack of clarity did you take away from the service?
--What are you prompted to do as a result of the sermon?
--What passages of scripture come to mind, what can you read to extend the learning about this service?
4. Engage others in conversation on Wednesday night. Make commitment for continued reflection and an application. Explore scripture passages and other related readings
Write one more follow up prior to next Sunday’s service ( a brief journal entry or two).
5. Notice, reflect, pray and report.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

technology in worship & other thoughts

Here are my thoughts from week 2 of a Wednesday night group where we meet and discuss the worship service in order to have accountability to actually spend time meditating on it rather than just enjoying the service and forgetting about it when we leave the building.

“Welcome to the Gospel Story”
Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”
Stan Thornburg

Although it was not intentionally the theme of the service, technology kind of became the theme for what I was thinking about in worship. When we walked in, Lynn told me we were without sound for the morning, because one of the amps had apparently gone out. Luckily some parts of the sound system were apparently working, so the main mic worked and any sound running out of the computer worked through the speakers, but the mics for the musicians weren't working. (Makes me miss the simplicity of unprogrammed worship, for sure!)

As one of the pastors put it, this was supposed to be a technology-heavy service, so of course the sound went out! But really it worked out, because everything that we really need amplification for worked, and the musicians sounded great without mics. We could hear the congregation better and we could still hear the lead voices and instruments.

It was “Yearly Meeting Sunday,” which we have, I don't know, a couple times a year? We focus on our connection with Northwest Yearly Meeting in various ways. This time we watched a short video of Quaker students from George Fox University sharing why they're Quakers and why they chose to go to Fox (you can watch it on YouTube here). We also talked via Skype to a couple from NWYM who are “Friends Serving Abroad” in Russia. It was cool to be able to have them “visit” and share with us what they're doing, how their ministry is going and how we can be praying for them.

Another thing technologically related was that I forgot to bring my journal, so since I've committed to doing this Wednesday night group and part of that is taking notes during worship, I decided I'd just use my iPod Touch to take notes. My father-in-law glared at me at first, but I explained what I was doing and he rolled his eyes and said, “Well, OK...”

It felt a little strange to be taking notes on my iPod because it is so technological (I mean, not as technological as an iPhone, of course, but the same idea). It felt a little out of place in worship. And yet, everything for taking notes was at one point a new technology, right? Bringing a journal and a pen to worship was probably also looked down upon as unnecessary in simple Quaker meetings at some point, right? Whether that makes it any better or not is another question, perhaps. I didn't really like it because it takes a long time to type stuff—much longer than writing. But it was better than nothing.

Stan started off his sermon with jokes about technology, mostly emphasizing how silly we all are when we complain about some amazing technology not working, but when it's working fine we forget to be amazed at the fact that we can do something like talk in real time with people in Russia.

He continued his sermon, bringing up the question, “Why would the gospel be something one would be ashamed of?” I thought this was a really important question. He suggested that for early Christ-followers, it would be a bit embarrassing to be proclaiming and following one who was executed as a criminal. I think today we're more likely to be ashamed because of the old fashioned nature of the way many explain our faith, or because of how many who profess Christianity act in the name of Christ, although we don't think what they're doing has any bearing on what Jesus actually said and did.

He quoted Stanley Hauerwas who was quoting someone else, saying essentially that Christianity will be accessible to each culture and generation as it takes the form of an invitation into the ongoing gospel story. The gospel story is bigger than simply the life of Jesus in the flesh; we continue the gospel story as we live out our faith. We're representatives of Christ—we ARE the gospel in our culture. We're not just telling “the old, old story,” although that's part of it. We're participating in that story and inviting others into it.

Stan also mentioned something else that I really appreciated. He said theology isn't the originating principle in our lives, but it's out of our listening and the ways we're called that we form our theology. I think this gets at the heart of some of the theology that was done in seminary, or that we read. In my opinion, we can't just create a nice systematic theology and call it good just because it all fits together and makes logical sense. We create a theology based on our experience of God speaking into our lives. Part of this is through the Bible and through knowing stories of faithful people across time, but part of it is unique to our own context: where and when we're born, our personal family history and genetic make-up. God speaks into this specifically and we get to be an unique piece of the story that is the gospel story, the story of the way Christ is at work in the world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

worship reflection: international day of peace

As I said in my last post, our meeting's fall small groups just started up last Wednesday night, and I chose a group that is focusing on reflecting on and sharing about our Sunday morning worship times. Part of that class is homework: we are supposed to write a reflection before we come to the Wednesday night group. So I thought I'd share that reflection with you, especially since today is the International Day of Peace, and that's what we focused on last Sunday.

Celebration of the International Day of Peace
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the peacemakers”

Worship this week focused on peace at all levels. There was not a sermon, but there were options of various things we could do during the sermon slot. We could walk the Peace Trail and read quotes posted there; we could walk a labyrinth set up in the gym; we could sit in the sanctuary and meditate on queries or quotes; we could walk around the sanctuary and read quotes posted on the walls; we could write or draw on a peace flag.

I chose to walk the trail. It was a beautiful day and I love being out in nature, especially when I'm intentionally trying to pay attention to God. I should do this more often! I found myself being a little bit annoyed at people (from our congregation!) who were just chatting as they walked along the trail. It was OK if it had to do with the theme, but otherwise it got on my nerves. I had to just let that go, and I thought about the fact that one of the ways we build peace is through relationships—so hopefully these people were building relationships that create more peace in the world.

We were encouraged to pay attention to an image or word that surfaced during this time. For me the image of walking, holding a little hand came to mind. I do this often these days, but was not at the moment—E was happily in his “place of worship,” as we refer to it at NVFC. But I thought about how everyone should walk like they're holding the hand of a child, whether it's literally true or simply figurative.

Why? I wondered. Well, when you walk with a little child's hand in yours, you are drawn into the child's world, which is often a world of wonder, attention to detail, and many, many questions. It also requires you to slow down, which necessitates patience, a sense of play, and interest in what's going on around you. Holding the hand of a small child also often means that you are helping them. You have their safety in mind, you're watching out to make sure they're not hurt or endangered, because you love them.

I thought walking through life with this kind of perspective would be helpful to anyone and make the world a more peaceful place. The last part, about thinking of the safety of the other and making sure that we're being helpful, can turn condescending, but I think if we have that sense of protective love rather than paternalism, that it can also be a beautiful way to think of other human beings.

Another noticing I had was that I really appreciated having a couple of ladies from China walking the trail, with Scot explaining things to them and introducing them to people. Although some people got on my nerves for talking, this did not. I thought this was an excellent way to foster peace. These women are here learning English and finding out about American culture. I'm glad they're finding out about Quakerism! And I think it's just this kind of international relationship-building that can create the most peace worldwide.

I also thought about the verse Romans 12:17, which says, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” because it was posted along the trail. I thought about how this doesn't mean we live without conflict with everyone. Sometimes it will look like we're creating conflict because we're not willing to let it just be covered over. But living peaceably often requires a rejection of the smooth adoption of the status quo. When we do that it looks like we're just being ornery, or we're just troublemakers—rebels without a cause or something. But when there truly is a cause, it is necessary to create conflict in order to live at peace with all people.

It's so hard, though, because it's so easy for me as an American to just live in a place that looks like it's peaceful, and yet it's a false peace. I'm not living at peace with others, because the things I have and the lifestyle I lead make it impossible for others to have enough.

Reflecting on this thought later I realized I often make the automatic connection between peace and the amount and dispersal of available resources. This is partially true—fighting over resources causes a great deal of conflict in a non-productive way. But part of these resources are not physical, some of them are emotional, as in situations of abuse, etc. And really, we can fight no matter how many or how few resources we have. Living at peace is more about our inward state, although it often also has to do with our outward state.

In order to live peaceably we must have humility: to see the world through other people's eyes, to love one another so much that we'll keep each other out of harm's way to the extent we would our own child, to walk through the world never losing that childlike sense of wonder.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

silence...of the not-so-good kind

Well, I haven't blogged much lately. I hope to start again soon, but I'm always saying that, right?

At our meeting we just started back into our fall small groups tonight, and I'm in a group on sermon discussion--and our leader assigns homework! So I might post some thoughts and reflections on the worship services we'll be having this fall since I'll be writing them anyway, if I'm doing my homework. I'm excited, actually! It taps into my inner nerd (as if it was so far away) as well as helping me be more reflective and take space to actually internalize and work on stuff God is saying on Sunday mornings. Somehow that's so easy to forget throughout the week.

What else have I been up to? Well...

This summer I worked as my husband's 2nd photographer, so check out some of our work here:

We also went to two camps this summer, a middle school and a high school camp. We both served as camp elders at the middle school one, and I clerked the worship/speaking team at the high school one. Both were fun and lots of work, but we go back every year!

And we're having a 2nd baby in December! It's a boy. I'm feeling fine so far but it's getting a little more difficult to ride a bike.

Other than that we've been hanging out with people, trying to work on the new house when we can, hanging out with the kiddo, camping for a few days, and other random adventures along the way.