Monday, December 31, 2012

peace month 2013

Each January, Northwest Yearly Meeting sponsors Peace Month, where we encourage meetings across the Northwest to focus on an aspect of the Friends peace testimony in their gatherings throughout the month. This year's theme is Conflict Resolution. Anyone is welcome to utilize the resources on the NWYM website during January or at any time of the year. To participate with us, you can download the Daily Reader, with an entry written by a Friend for each day of the month. There are also resources for those leading worship or education gatherings, and some of the resources are available in Spanish.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

my ideal day

If I had my way, this is how I would spend my days:
  • 8 hours sleeping
  • 1 hour meditation/prayer/Bible reading/journaling
  • 1 hour exercising
  • 4 hours reading a book/day
  • 1 hour writing
  • 4 hours working on foreign languages (1 hour for each language)
  • 1 hour community service/volunteer work
  • 3 hours teaching
  • All of my children’s waking hours giving them focused attention, often outside
  • 2 hours house cleaning
  • 1 hour with Joel
  • 2 hours with friends/extended family
  • 3 hours preparing food and eating
  • 1 hour reading a novel or watching a movie
  • 1 hour gardening/weeding

Grand total: 33 hours + all my children’s waking hours

So I ask you, why are there not 40+ hours in the day??? And why is it that I never feel like I can get everything done that I want to?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I've been waiting for a leading for the last several years regarding what aspect of justice I'm called to focus on. It seems like there are so many different issues and so many different nuances of each issue, and to think about living out the Quaker peace testimony is just too huge. As I look at the examples of historical Friends I see that lots of them waited on God for a long time before they got a specific sense of direction. Fox labored with his doubt and questioning of the established church for years before Christ broke through to him in a way he could understand, and once he had that focus he went and shared about it hither and yon. Elizabeth Fry was about my age when she started doing prison ministry. Lucretia Mott was in her 50s when the women's movement began in earnest. (I like to gauge myself by Elizabeth Fry, because she was born 200 years before me! If that's the case, I'll find my "Newgate Prison" next year. I didn't follow her example in childbearing, however--by now I'd have 8 kids! Also, I should have been recorded as a Friends minister last year. Oh well.)

At any rate, I've felt led to focus more and more on ecojustice. I was feeling really drawn that way one day in August while sitting at my kitchen counter, eating breakfast. I flipped through some mail and noticed something about the FWCC World Gathering that happened in Kenya this last April, and I opened it up and read the Kabarak Call for Peace & Ecojustice. It calls Friends "to be patterns and examples in a 21st century campaign for peace and ecojustice, as difficult and decisive as the 18th and 19th century drive to abolish slavery." This is what I really feel called to do.

Earthcare is a justice issue. The way we treat the Earth effects us, all our neighbors and our children to who-knows-how-many generations. Also, the way we use resources matters because it often dictates how and where we engage in conflicts that become violent around the world.

I feel called, like John Woolman, to start making small, individual steps toward living more justly in terms of the way I treat the Earth and its resources. This is not to say, of course, that I'll be the spiritual giant Woolman was, remembered by generations of Friends, but I feel called to start living out what I believe in my own life and see where it takes me/us. I've been reading a bit of Woolman lately because I've been writing a paper on ecojustice and Quakers, and below is a quote that stands out to me. Woolman was talking about whether or not he should get a new hat that is not dyed, so that he's not supporting slavery.

Here I had occasion to consider that things, though small in themselves, being clearly enjoined by Divine authority, become great things to us; and I trusted that the Lord would support me in the trials that might attend singularity, so long as singularity was only for [God's] sake. (John Greenleaf Whittier, ed., John Woolman's Journal, chapter VIII, 1761-1763, paragraph 11)
It may not keep the climate from changing if I ride my bike or if I only use one paper towel to dry my hands, if I buy local food or if I recycle everything I possibly can. What matters is taking small steps of faithfulness as led. What matters is living out God's love in the world in the ways I'm shown. What matters is having the courage to do the things to which I'm called. Whether or not they're effective is up to God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

hunger & my 5yo

Check out my cute kid! He's the 5th one to show up, with the red shirt.

Last week our meeting participated in our city-wide Feed the Need, a food drive for our local food banks. We do this every year. Our pastoral intern, Sarah Klatt Dickerson, asked our kids what they knew about hunger, and this video is the result of her work:

Apparently, I need lessons on faster cooking... =)

Friday, September 21, 2012

pnwqwtc: contemplating grace, part 3

I'm finally getting around to writing out part 3 of what I shared at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference in June! I did that part more extemporaneously so I didn't have it written out. See these links for my reflections on the conference, part 1 and part 2 of what I shared (or didn't have time to share but wanted to!) during a plenary session.

In parts 1 and 2 of this talk I focused mainly on grace: what grace is, what it looks like in our everyday lives (particularly mine) and what we can learn about grace from the way it is used in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. To conclude the discussion I wanted to draw in the idea of contemplating grace. What does it mean to contemplate grace? Why would we want to do so? How do we contemplate grace in our particular Quaker setting(s)? What might the effects be if we contemplate grace?

As Friends, we're part of the contemplative, mystical tradition. We believe that when we spend time intentionally in contemplation, we come into direct contact with God/the Divine/Something Other. When we do this together, something powerful can happen to us internally that moves us to external action. This is basically what we talked about when we discussed the meaning of the Hebrew term hesed. We're so filled with joy at the unmerited grace we receive that it overflows into loving, just action in the world. Hopefully this occurs in our times of individual contemplation as well as corporate contemplation, as we "live in the Life and Power that takes away the occasion for all wars."We're comfortable with the idea of contemplation, but we don't generally talk much about "grace," or spend much time intentionally contemplating grace in our meetings for worship. We do sometimes talk about "holding others in the Light," which perhaps is a way of contemplating grace: we're entrusting our loved ones (or enemies) to the God of grace, desiring for God's grace to infuse others and heal them physically, spiritually, emotionally and in all other ways.

There's a really interesting body of research emerging from several different fronts on "the power of positive thinking," as we might put it in layman's terms, or mindfulness meditation, compassion or loving-kindness meditation, or the lack of these. Many researchers have studied the effects of personal meditation on our brains and behavior and on the world around us from plants to water to ecosystems. There are also studies on the lack of silence and its effects on the planet, ecosystems, plants and human behavior, and the effect of thinking negative and/or violent thoughts toward water.

My favorite study is by Masuro Emoto on frozen water crystals. Now, Masuro Emoto is called a "doctor," but I'm not sure what he's a doctor in, and I'm pretty sure it's not in a scientific field. Some are skeptical of his research methods. That being said, he did some really interesting work. He took macro photos of frozen water crystals from various locations to show the differences between water from different places and different conditions (polluted or spring water). Then he took water from the same source and had different music playing as it slowly froze. Then he had water from the same source frozen with people thinking different thoughts at it, ranging from, "Love" to "Thank you" to "I want to kill you." The results he presented were amazing (see examples here or go to this website). He also took samples of water from a body of water before and after some Buddhist monks prayed over it, and found that the polluted form had reorganized into a more beautiful and symmetrical form after the prayer. Now, remember that our bodies are between 50-70% water, and the Earth as a whole is over 70% water. So when we "hold each other in the Light," when we spend time in contemplation thinking love and wholeness toward one another, we might actually be changing the physical make-up of the water molecules (and probably other molecules) in their body.

There's also a lot of fascinating research on mindfulness meditation. You've probably heard about research on the brain images (fMRIs) of monks as they're meditating (here's a link to a BBC article). This research shows that the brain of a person who practices meditation reorganizes itself in helpful ways that focus attention, and focus it in positive ways. Even normal people who practice meditation on a smaller scale are able to be more compassionate, loving, optimistic, etc. than control groups. This helped people with their relationships with significant others and children. It seems that children whose parents practice compassion meditation actually start to have better behavior--even when the children are not themselves involved in meditating! Part of this is, apparently, that the parents are treating them better and are less stressed and so forth, and perhaps part of it is the parents' loving-kindness toward the child actually changing the way the children function physically or chemically. (Check out this website from UCLA, the Mindful Awareness Research Center, to read up on research and to find mindfulness meditation resources.)

So I wonder if the act of contemplation, in the spiritual sense, actually makes us more able to enact grace in the world? It allows us to give ourselves grace, or to accept grace from God. It also allows us to give grace to others--to our children and significant others, and to wish grace on the rest of the world in a way that actually restores balance. I wonder if God has truly given us that power in this interconnected world in which we live? Perhaps we can't singly be the ones to change the entire world for good, but we can be one spark of Light emanating wave upon wave of Grace into the world around us as we contemplate the goodness of the Grace we're receiving. In this way we enact hesed, and we're able to give freely of the grace we've received because of the joy of the experience of oneness and centeredness that we experience when we contemplate Grace itself.

Perhaps this is the secret of our witness as Friends. I hope Friends of all stripes will remained focused on both contemplation and grace, taking the time and space to contemplate and allowing ourselves the joy and freedom that comes from receiving and giving grace to those (animate and inanimate) around us.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

update: friendly water for the world training

I realized I didn't put the link for if you want to help us get to this training for making biosand water filters! Here's the link to our online fundraiser. We're really excited about this opportunity, but trying to decide whether our family is healthy enough for a trip up to northern Washington. Pray/hold us in the Light that we'll all remain healthy enough for this to be a good choice! Otherwise we have to wait until next summer. In case you didn't read my last post, the organization is called Friendly Water for the World. You can read my last post if you want more info.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

friendly water for the world training

Lately, Joel and I have been feeling led to live out our belief in creation care, eco-justice and sustainability in more practical and active ways. We've been hearing for a couple years about the work of some Friends in our Yearly Meeting who are training people the world over to make biosand water filters, which are relatively cheap and simple-to-make water filters that can help families and communities have easy access to clean water. Their organization is called Friendly Water for the World. They're doing a training in the Northwest in about a week and a half, and we're going to go to it! We don't know exactly how we'll end up using the training, but we have several ideas, so we'll see how the training goes and what comes of it.

If you're interested in helping us get to the training, it costs $329/person to cover the space, food, supplies, etc., so we'd love to have you partner with us in this endeavor. If you could even contribute $5-$10 we'd be eternally grateful!

Monday, July 09, 2012

pnwqwtc: contemplating grace, part 2

Here is part 2 of the talk I gave at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference last month. If you missed them, check out my posts on my experience at the conference and part 1 of my talk (which covers my kind of intuitive understanding of grace and some of the negative ways we interpret grace in traditional Christian theology). Below I discuss the terms used for "grace" in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and also a bit of an explanation as to why I find the Bible helpful in thinking about Quaker theology and matters of faith, since Quakers at the conference hold differing views on the Bible and its worth. Soon I will post part 3 of my talk, which focuses on the idea of contemplating grace. Why would we contemplate it? What might that look like? What might happen if we contemplate grace? You can look forward to some scientific studies in that one, but for now, here is part 2, which discusses the more complete meanings of the words for "grace" and my view on why the Bible is important and useful in such discussions.

I decided to do word studies on the words we translate as “grace” in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, because I had the inkling that the more stereotypical understanding of “grace” that sometimes comes across when we talk about God’s grace isn’t as full as it was meant to be. Now, I’m pretty sure that there are as many understandings of and feelings about the Bible in this room as there are people, so I wanted to explain a bit about why this is important to me. For me, the Bible is a record of how God has worked in and through people across time—it shows people’s struggles and successes as they work to hear and follow God. It’s a community of which I am still a part, a community of some like-minded people across time, though I wouldn’t say I resonate with all of them. But, at least for me, it’s a starting place. It’s a place where I can meet God by seeing this struggle for people to put their experiences and desires and spiritual connectedness into words. I personally struggle with the balance between laws and freedom, and I see that struggle all through the Bible. How can we be a safe, connected community attending to the present, living God? Where is the center? How do we make sure we’re all going in the same direction? What do we need to prescribe, and what limits our ability to respond to the spontaneity of the Spirit? I think these are probably questions that affect our meetings, and definitely have affected our divisions as Friends. I think they also have to do with grace: in what ways is God gracious, and in what ways is God judging, merciful, righteous, holy, and all those things we attribute to God? In what ways are we to be gracious to each other, and to ourselves? What's the difference between being gracious and being taken advantage of? At what point do we take a stand against something that seems to go against our understanding of the Inner Light, and at what point do we trust that God is speaking through someone else inwardly on a matter we thought we heard God speak differently?

So the Bible is important to me as I see people struggling to answer these questions with God and as communities across time. This is why I wanted to do a word study on the words we translate as “grace” in Greek and Hebrew. Like I said before, part of “contemplating” for me is studying. I find God a lot through research and really digging into questions I have, seeking and processing. I wanted to understand what people meant in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures when they talked about grace, perhaps before we loaded a whole bunch of theological baggage on the term.

Without further ado, the word studies! The Hebrew words we sometimes translate “grace” are hanan and hesed. Hanan most often means “to show favor,” and people in the Bible often ask God to show them favor, as in, “Be gracious with me, O God!” It’s usually coupled with mercy, and often has a sense of motherly compassion. We can’t merit this grace, but we can expect that God will show it to the poor and oppressed—and won’t grant favor on us if we’re not a friend to the poor and oppressed.

Hesed is a really interesting term. Its basic meaning is “to do good.” It’s the grace of enacting goodness toward another. It’s reciprocal, but not in an obligatory way. It’s a good action that draws out goodness in the other. God shows us this kind of grace and we can’t help but respond with enacting grace toward others—not because we have to but because it just flows out of us. It’s not a legal word. We’re not REQUIRED to reciprocate it, and we can’t do anything to merit it. It’s a word that requires relationship. When we’re in a true relationship, hesed happens. Hesed is active, social and enduring. It’s not something that we get and we’re done with it, but it’s an action that happens between people, or between people and God (or I suppose between people and other created things), and it flows on and on because of the reciprocal nature of it. Hesed seems to encompass what this conference is talking about when we imagine “inviting, contemplating and enacting” grace. It includes each of those steps.

So that's the understanding of grace that was going on as the Jewish Scriptures were written, though they (as we) always had a difficult time actually living it out. Then Jesus comes along and actually enacts this idea of hesed. He invites his followers into relationship with a God who is so close, God is their parent—they’re (we’re) adopted into God’s family. This relationship is so good, so unmerited, so joy-filled that we can’t help but reciprocate and pass this grace along into the world, enacting hesed especially toward the poor, the outcasts, those who feel lost or unlovable.

The Greek word that early Christ-followers used to describe this kind of grace is charis, and it is integrally connected to the words chara: joy, charismata: gifts of the Spirit, and eucharisteo: giving thanks (later formalized into the Eucharist, the sharing of the body and blood of Jesus in the act of communion). Early Christ-followers saw God’s grace in the life (and especially the death) of Jesus: God dwelling with us, suffering with us, dying because of our inability to let go of our desire for power, wealth, glory, etc., and showing us that God’s grace—God’s goodwill toward us and God’s stubborn desire to give us good gifts—cannot even be stopped by death. God isn't a blood-thirsty God of capricious anger, holding us accountable for sins we are born into and can't avoid. Instead, God is a Being who knows us completely--knows that our curiosity and stupidity, selfishness and fear often get the better of us--and yet, God still loves us and extends every grace to us. We can accept this grace and live into it and in so doing, be drawn into this reciprocal cycle of love, grace and release from fear of death, or we can continue in our stubborn way of wanting to do everything on our own, getting stuck in the well-documented cycle of violence against ourselves and others. Jesus' death shows us those two choices. Those who killed Jesus (and they could have been any of us, had we lived there and then!) show the fear of losing power and control, the fear of a truly equal society, the fear of there being not enough so I have to hold onto what I can for me and mine. Jesus shows us the grace of God: in Jesus' incarnation as God's self in the flesh, we see a God who understands the human propensity to turn away from God and grasp at power, and we see God's love in the face of that. We see a God who accepts that about us, but doesn't allow it to be the last word. God extends us the offer of freedom from fear, even beyond death.

The Greek concept of grace is all bound up with joy, gratefulness and the receiving of good gifts, even though we don’t deserve them in the slightest. This connects with the concept of hesed, because it’s out of this space of joy, out of our gratitude for this unmerited love and abundance being poured out on us, that we can live graciously in the world. Hesed includes justice and mercy and righteousness. It isn’t an empty or paternalistic gift, but a joy-filled freedom to love with abandon, without fear of there not being enough, because we’ve experienced that there’s always more. There’s always more grace on its way, and we can rest in that.

For today, I'll leave you with a few thoughts on our understanding of "enough." In the last year we've heard about (and perhaps participated in) the Occupy movements going on all over the United States. We hear about the 99% vs. the 1%--the wealthiest portion of our nation holding a majority of the goods. Most of you reading this are presumably part of the 99% in the United States. This is a movement that wants to redistribute access to wealth, because we're afraid there isn't enough to go around--and because there truly ISN'T enough to go around when the top 1% hold such a disproportionate amount of the wealth. And yet, we must look at this again, from a larger perspective. My family makes about 1.5 times the poverty rate in the United States, so we aren't rich by American standards, and yet our income level puts us in the top 4% of the wealthiest people worldwide. Check how you rate here.

As we contemplate grace, I think we must contemplate our own fear of not having enough, and I think this is ultimately a fear of death and suffering. My understanding of grace, after doing these word studies, is that God's grace fills us with joy and invites us into a community so profound and so good and truth-filled that we can't help but live mercy coupled with justice out into the world. We give thanks for God's abundance, and it spills over into the world around us.

How might we, as Friends, live into this grace more fully?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

pnwqwtc: contemplating grace, part 1

I shared about my experience at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference in a post last week. I got to be one of the plenary speakers, so I'm going to post in three parts what I said, and a somewhat expanded version of what I wanted to say but for which I didn't have time. The topic I was given was "Contemplating Grace," as a section of the overall conference theme "Living in the Life & Power: Inviting, Contemplating & Enacting Grace." My overall desire was to help us think about the concept of grace a little bit--what does it mean to us intuitively? What baggage do we carry around this word? What did the biblical authors mean by it? Why and how would we go about "contemplating" grace, and what would this do in the world? I started off with some background information about myself and my intuitive understanding of what grace is--and is NOT. Then I went into a word study of the Hebrew and Greek terms for grace, and I finished off with some scientific (and some quasi-scientific) research on mindfulness meditation and similar topics as a little window into what it might do in the world when we "hold someone in the Light" or spend time contemplating grace in various ways.

Today I'll post the first section on my experiential understanding of grace.

Our topic for this morning is “Contemplating Grace,” and as you might imagine, I’ve been “contemplating grace” for several months leading up to this conference, mulling over what the Spirit is forming in my heart and mind to bring to you this morning. Now for me, “contemplating” pretty much necessarily includes a good deal of study—asking questions, researching, reading, discussing—and then chewing on all those things, looking for the nuggets of truth that rise to the surface (to mix a few metaphors there). So one of my first thoughts was, “What exactly do we mean by ‘grace’?” We kind of throw this word around, and it has several meanings in English, if you think about it—it’s a verb, it’s a noun, it can mean saying “grace” before a meal or a dancer who moves with grace or, more to the point here, a specific saving act of the Christian God or something to do with the notions of leniency and forgiveness. Another question came to me: “How and why would we contemplate grace?” A flood of further questions flowed from there. Do we just sit around thinking about nice things? How is the phase of “contemplating grace” different from inviting it or enacting it? As Friends, what is our understanding of grace, and how does our form of contemplation help or hinder us in the process of contemplating grace?

So this morning I’m going to start by tackling what we mean by “grace,” then add in the contemplative part. We’re going to look at everyday grace as I’ve noticed it in my life, then some word studies from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and then we’ll look at some recent research on contemplative topics. Finally, we’ll finish with some thoughts about what all this means for me personally and for us as a community of Friends.

I want to start by sharing a little bit about myself and the forms of grace I encounter each day. I grew up a Quaker in Northwest Yearly Meeting and have found the grace of a family and home here. That doesn’t mean that everything is easy or pleasant here, but that I have a sense of connection and love, of rootedness and joy in the best of times, and at times a painful sense of disagreement with those I love and a difficult pull between wanting to please and wanting to have integrity about the truth I sense. In addition to this spiritual family, I’ve also built a literal family here in the Northwest. Here’s a picture of my family—Joel and I have been married almost 11 years, and that’s a grace in itself, since I come from a family of divorced parents and since relationships are never easy. I am so grateful for the grace of a life partner who’s just as stubborn as I, who will never give up on me, and who will wrestle through the hard times right alongside me. We have two boys—E is 5 and K is 18 months. I experience grace through each of them so often. K is a little love. He gives excellent hugs, throwing his little arms around virtually anyone’s neck and giving them a long, solid squeeze. I see people light up every day from the love he shares with abandon, and I desire to be that kind of person, too. E sees things going on around him and wants to help. We saw a homeless person last year and E wanted to know what we were going to do to help. We had a conversation about it, and eventually we decided to host a lemonade stand to raise money for a homeless shelter in town.

I see these small graces in the lives of those I’m closest to, though I often feel like it’s difficult to extend grace to myself, because I have high expectations for myself regarding living with integrity. But more on that later. So I have these glimpses of grace in my life and kind of an intuitive understanding of the concept of “grace” that incorporates beauty, extending more to others than is required and a gratefulness that I get to see these things and participate in them. But this isn’t a deep enough answer to me about what we really mean when we talk about “grace,” especially in a religious context. In one way, “grace” from God seems like a loaded concept, reminding us that we NEED grace (or reminding us that those who try to convince us of this theology SAY we need grace), that the world isn’t perfect, that I “sin” (whatever that is)—sometimes it feels like this sort of resigned God who is sitting around, sighing, saying, “OK, I’ll forgive you again. Here’s some more grace, since you obviously need it.” I guess what I’m saying is that when I look at the grace I see in the lives of those around me compared to my archetypal understanding of “grace” in a religious setting, I get two rather different pictures.

The problem with the way we often talk about grace in Christianity is that it almost feels like we first have to feel guilt and shame in order to receive grace. The problem with that is that grace is a free gift. I don't have to do ANYTHING--even feel guilty--in order to receive it. It's just offered to me. It’s just so abundantly above and beyond anything I can ever feel like I deserve that it feels like grace regardless of whether I feel guilty or ashamed.

The problem comes in because we think that in order to understand God’s grace, we have to think of ourselves as utterly depraved. I have a really hard time with the concept of complete human depravity. I don’t think it’s in the Bible. Yes, we’re all “sinners,” in that we all choose to walk away from God at various points in our lives (OK, every day, if you're anything like me), but I don’t think we’re at heart completely evil. It seems like Friends have generally had a fairly optimistic view of human nature: there is that of God in each of us—we’re created in the image of God. God speaks to and through each person. Everyone has the chance to respond to God.

When I was at a Reformed seminary I just could never get on board with this idea of complete human depravity, and I realized this optimism isn’t necessarily common to all Christians.  But I feel like we still have a tendency to get stuck there in this idea that we’re so evil that God had to come save us—or worse, that Jesus the Son had to come save us from God, the angry child-abusing capricious Father-deity who was willing to watch his own son die. We heap guilt on ourselves, but this distances us from God in an unhealthy way. Why should I be grateful for the grace of this God? This isn’t grace. It’s a fear-tactic. It’s holding something scary over our heads until we buckle under the pressure of our own depravity and plead with him to not be thrown in a lake of fire.  This is not the kind of grace we see in the Bible, if we really look.

The overarching theme of the Bible pictures a God who comes to people again and again to build relationship. People draw together as a community, struggling to figure out what it looks like to live in right relationship with God and each other. They make laws to try to codify what the perfect community would look like, but that doesn’t work so well. They notice that the really important part of faith is breaking down the systems (that always seem to crop up) that benefit the powerful by taking advantage of the poor or disadvantaged. Over and over again we see, starting with the law of Moses, that people are instructed to do what is right by the lowest in their society: the widows, the orphans, the foreigners. This is how their commitment to their faith is to be measured.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3: a word study on the Greek and Hebrew terms for "grace" and some of the scientific research that relates to the topic of "contemplating grace."

Friday, June 22, 2012

biking with kids: the next level

Last week we went to the next level in our biking set-up: we got a "tag-along bike" or "trailer bike." E is 5-and-a-half and he LOVES it! He was getting kind of big for our Burley double trailer, especially next to his 18-month-old brother. Plus, they're really heavy! We had an REI dividend burning a hole in our pockets so we sprung for the trailer bike you see below. E tried it out and was immediately hooked. Now he asks every day if we're going to be able to go anywhere on the bike. (The next thing we need to do is find some child-sized rain pants, I suppose. On Tuesday we got caught in the rain and he was soaked! I tried to convince him it was an adventure, but he didn't buy it.)

I'm not sure that the people who make the trailer bikes would officially suggest this, but we attached our Burley trailer to the trailer bike, so we have quite the train going down the road now! (I've seen other people do this, too.) It's actually made it a little easier to bike because E's weight isn't in the trailer. I suppose the extra wheel helps, and I'm pretty sure his pedaling actually helps a little bit. He can coast if he wants to, but when he pedals on hills I can tell he's pedaling. We don't go places as fast yet, because I'm making sure he's comfortable on the bike and isn't going to knock us over by leaning too far one way or the other. But I think soon we'll be comfortable enough to go at a normal speed. I can now cart around three kids, which I did the other day when we picked up my niece from Kindergarten. I assume I can also get more groceries now without overloading the trailer.

The hardest thing about this set-up is turning. I have to slow way down and make wide turns, and I have to make sure not to curb-check the trailer, since it's far enough back that it's a little bit hard to judge where the wheels are going to be once they get there. I assume this will get better with practice, so for now I just take it really slowly and it's been fine. Hills are also really difficult. I have to make sure to shift down with plenty of time or else all the momentum starts pulling us back too much!

My only criticism about this trailer bike is that it's kind of difficult to switch from one bike to another. It's not impossible but it takes a bit of effort to get it on properly. Once it's on it works very well, however.

If you're interested, check out this page about raising up biker-kids. You can see a trailer bike in action in a video. There's also a helpful video about teaching kids to ride a bike. (We've been using the push-bike method by just taking the pedals and training wheels off E's bike. He's getting the hang of how it feels to balance, and I'm pretty sure he'll be riding his own bike within the next month or two.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

pacific northwest quaker women's theology conference 2012, part 1

This last week I went to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference. It's a conference that happens every two years and brings together Quaker women from all over the Northwest (and beyond) and from the different Yearly Meetings and unaffiliated meetings in the area. In this post I'm going to tell you a few of my reflections from the conference and copy the really beautifully-written epistle that came out of our 4 days together. I had the chance to be one of the plenary speakers, so in future posts I'll write about what I shared with the group. I'll actually write an expanded version, because I had about 25 minutes to share and at least twice that much material (as usual)!

I am so grateful I had the chance to attend this conference. I've been wanting to go for the last several years but it hadn't worked out, so finally I got to go this year. The goal of the conference is to bring women together from different communities of Friends to build relationships and share about our faith journeys through narrative theology. I actually love spending time with Friends from various traditions, and as you know if you've followed my blog, I love theology. So this was right up my alley.

One thing that was fabulous for me personally was the space to sleep, pray, exercise, eat and participate in conversations without interruption by two little ones! My boys are great, but it was amazingly nice and restful to have a few days without them at a retreat center (Menucha) surrounded by women I enjoyed spending time with. My friend Darla and I went running almost every day (the last day we finally gave ourselves enough time to make our goal of finding the end of the Women's Forum Trail--kind of a good metaphorical end to our week--and we got muddy up to about mid-calf) and I practiced yoga with a few others under the direction of an experienced yoga-teacher-Friend, Ellen.

I also found it stimulating and encouraging to find Friends with whom my heart was in resonance from several other yearly meetings and unaffiliated meetings. I will treasure these friendships, and I'm excited to see where they go in terms of drawing us together as Friends. I hope we can start working together better on things we all care about, and that maybe we can start doing a bit more inter-visitation.

I went to Marge Abbott's workshop on prophetic ministry, which was excellent. I am so grateful that God is working in so many of us to bring truth to our communities through our own voices and talents. Prophetic ministry is a lonely business, and though most of us didn't have others there in that workshop from our own meetings, it's encouraging to know one another is out there, listening and attempting to follow through with action as led.

One woman I will not soon forget is Carol Urner. She came as another of the plenary speakers, and she's an octogenarian from Whittier Friends in California. She spoke about some of her experiences and ministries, and her main point was that we should "say 'yes' to God, even when we don't know where that will lead us." This, of course, is what we all strive to do, but she spoke with amazing passion that can only come from decades of putting this advice into practice. When I'm in my 80s I hope to have at least half the passion and stories of faithfulness that she has!

There were many other wonderful women and great events, but I think that's enough for now. I'll copy the epistle below so you can read of the communal experience we shared.

Epistle of the 2012
Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
June 13-17, 2012
Corbett, Oregon
Greetings to Friends everywhere. 
Grace permeated our days and wove the variegated fibers of our lives together into a tapestry of light and love much like the quilts that surrounded us in our meeting space at the 2012 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference. We gathered on June 13, 2012, at the Menucha Conference Center above the Columbia River near Corbett, Oregon, around the theme of Inviting, Contemplating, and Enacting Grace. Prior to the conference each participant wrote a short essay in response to the theme. The conversation among us began as we read each other’s papers online and throughout our time together.  We came with differing experiences among Friends and other faith traditions, some excited, others tentative about what we would hear, and feel, and do together. We came yearning for community, a place to feel at home. We came knowing we would be challenged to listen deeply, to learn to open and stretch, hoping the effort would yield deeper understanding and add new patterns and textures to our tapestry of grace as we were woven together.

Thursday morning we received a message from Ashley Wilcox on Inviting Grace.  Ashley opened with her admission of love for the Apostle Paul. Drawing from Acts 9 she showed us that sometimes we invite grace through doing the completely wrong thing.  We can also invite grace into our lives by accepting and giving loving acts and living words. Darla Samuelson taught us how to use specific disciplines to create a space for grace to touch the pain of shame that is common in human experience.

Friday morning Cherice Bock led us through a contemplation of grace through a word study.  She asked the provocative question, “Do we have to feel guilty to receive grace?” In answer to her own question, she proposed that grace is an undeserved gift with no strings attached. Cherice concluded that grace is active, social, and enduring. On Sunday morning we were gathered together for a final hour of worship in which Nancy Thomas brought us the challenge to carry gratitude with us in response to God’s grace.
As stewards of grace when we extend grace to others we receive grace into our own lives and are further called to extend grace in this world. Christine Hall continued by saying that in contemplating grace we are swept up in a love that connects us to God, one another, creation, and divine mystery.  She finished with a quote from Thomas Merton stating that through contemplation we “see through the illusion of our separateness.”    
Saturday, responding to the theme Enacting Grace, Carol Urner challenged us to say “yes” to leadings even when we do not know where our “yes” will lead us.   In that “yes” there is a river of light that will flow through us and sustain us.  Elenita Bales followed and reminded us that that the word “enact” contains “act.”  She encouraged us to develop a rhythm of faithfulness in speaking the truths that emerge from our souls, and to risk vulnerability that we may become a channel of change.  Quoting historic Quaker Ann Wilson, Elenita asked, “What wilt thou do in the end?” 
Afternoon workshops presented a variety of ways we can nourish our lives and create an opening for grace. In Writing as Spiritual Practice we explored several ways to begin and be faithful to our own spiritual writing.  A workshop on the Bible revealed that in spite of feelings about Scripture, ranging from anger through love, the group had an interesting and respectful discussion.  In a session entitled Speaking Holy Boldness participants considered viewpoints and experiences that made clear that prophetic witness is alive and well in our yearly meetings.  Another group shared the different practices, such as movement, meditation, prayer, and visualization they use to hold others in the Light.  In a session entitled The Hard Stuff women from different yearly meetings responded to questions that had been submitted in writing earlier. Participants engaged in respectful discussion that acknowledged our differences while encouraging understanding and acceptance.  One workshop focused on listening and care committees and offered guidelines and tools on how to support others through suffering. Judy Maurer shared her experiences and reflections on teaching, listening, worshipping, and working on social justice issues in Russia. Christine Hall introduced Way of the Spirit, an opportunity to engage in contemplative study through a new program in the Pacific Northwest. 

Evening activities provided opportunities to further be woven together in our tapestry of community. Thursday evening Roena Oesting, dressed and speaking as Elizabeth Fry, recounted major events from “Betsy’s” life as written in her journals.  We expressed gratitude for the way Elizabeth Fry’s work in prisons started a pattern of prison reform work among Friends that continues today. On Early Friday evening we listened to the experiences of those who attended the FWCC Sixth World Conference of Friends in Kenya. Their exchanges were fruitful, rich and full, though sometimes difficult. As we heard their stories we could sense that there, too, they were held by grace. Later, we danced, sang, played Hearts fiercely, worked on a HUGE puzzle, and created art.  All these allowed for new openings into one another’s hearts and connections through joyful exchanges. 

Throughout the conference threads of conversations at meals, home groups, over the puzzle, or on hikes further wove us together in beauty and grace. It was an amazing gift to sit at a meal and turn to a stranger and feel no awkwardness. On Sunday morning we were gathered together for a final hour of worship in which Nancy Thomas brought us the challenge to carry gratitude with us in response to God’s grace.  We came here to be ourselves and left affirmed in our appreciation for and joy in the deepening cross-yearly meeting friendship; that is grace.  Borrowing a sentiment from Carol Urner, we have to finish, but we have not yet begun.