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An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 1

January 22, 2013 6 comments

At the conclusion of the fall semester, my Quaker Seminar class wrote open letters to the Friends Church writ large. I will use this space to post their letters, one each day, for you to get a sense of how a portion of the youth in the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends are looking towards the future with hope and also concern.

Readers should know the prompt given to each group of students: If you were to write a letter to the members of the NWYM, what would you want them to know?

Here is the first submission:

____________________________

Dear Friends of the Northwest Yearly Meeting,

God is at at work. God is moving and things are stirring. And it is messy and it is beautiful and it is the heart of our Yearly Meeting. It is the recognition of this action of God that has driven Friends forward since the beginning of the Quaker movement. George Fox’s sensitivity to the ways that God was speaking to him was the very foundation of his seeking and ultimate foundation of Quakers.  In the past, this has been seen in ways that Friends have stood up for social justice, accepted and brought forth change, and continue to press forward as a body and accepting our differences all in an effort to do as God leads.

God’s speaking and the “inner light of Christ” in each of us as believers is the central reason that we as Quakers have arrived to where we are today. Our deep value in hearing God speak has shaped our worship practices, grounded our beliefs and theology, and has been why we have moved in the directions that we have felt that God led. A recognition of God’s action in our world and in our individual lives also has been a binding and lasting thread, constantly present and leading us as a body.

For hundreds of years, Friends have listened to and depended on God’s speaking. It is crucial to remember that Friends have always responded to how God leads to arrive at where we are today. We are writing to encourage you to continually strive to be sensitive to how God is working in our individual lives and in our direction as a body of believers.

Trust God as we always have and believe that each one of us has the power to hear God speak. God has a plan for our yearly meeting and we encourage you to listen and depend on his provision as he leads.

Sincerely,

Quaker Youth

From P-Yoo to Pew, Post 2 (by Vicky Scott)

July 17, 2012 2 comments

This is Post 2 for the series, “From P-Yoo to Pew.” As always, you are welcome to submit your own!

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I love the Church—do not be deceived; God and I have had several knock down drag out fights over this one.  The Church has been the catalyst for countless tragedies. People have died in the name of Jesus. Others have been exploited for God’s honor. The Evangelical Christian Church has laid the foundation, built the walls, and reinforced the “us and them” barriers between those who are in and those who are out. The place you and I call home, the place where we have been compelled, convicted, and changed—has caused hundreds, thousands, and even millions pain.          

I would argue this same place, on a micro or macro scale, has hurt your loved ones.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I bet, you, too, have been hurt by the church.

I have too.

And I have hurt people in the name of Jesus.

And I bet you have too. 

The reality is, the brick buildings, the organs, the pews, and the hymnals have not hurt us.

The people who enter those buildings, play the organs, sit in the pews and sing from the hymnals have hurt us. The people who hear our hearts and our hurts, the people we see the ugliest, parts of ourselves. Those we admire who speak words of distorted “truth,” the words that pierce our hearts and make us feel inadequate and unwelcome at the Table.  

This is a tragic reality.

Though it’s sad and messy, I choose to trust that those initial wounds were not caused out of malicious intent, rather a desire for us to know Love, Peace, and Grace in the deepest, purest, truest sense.

            I can claim that to be True and good, and I can extend grace to that.

I know God’s heart breaks when we intentionally or unintentionally hurt one another.

But I think God is enraged when we choose to avoid or to ignore those hard conversations. Those awkward silences. Those tears. And, if you are me, the swearing.

We suck at apologizing.

We are terrible at reconciling with one another. 

I will be the first to admit, I am guilty of this.

I was infuriated as I sat at my birthday dinner looking across the table, to see my step-mom, a woman I haven’t spoken to in years. The woman I hate most was at my birthday dinner. (Pretty selfish eh?)

Mid-meal, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, this is what heaven’s going to be like a meal, a celebration of sorts, my step-mom on my right, and another woman who I have not reconciled with on my left.

I was filled with compassion.

And when we recognize, we are all just trying to figure life out, we too will be filled with compassion. 

And God is funny, this we know. 

I would not be surprised if those we disagree with, those we have treated like shit, and those who we have said are unwelcome at the Table will be the people we will be sitting on our right and our left.

For all eternity.

We can celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy our meal, with one another, or we can listen, apologize, and reconcile during our time together around the Table.

How do you want to spend it?

________________________

Vicky is a young adult who loves iced coffee, dance parties, peanut butter and conversing with friends.

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My Mentor is Evil…

December 9, 2011 2 comments

There is something deep within us that is drawn to evil. In the imaginary world of children, it is more fun to be the bad guy. The most memorable roles in books or movies are often the antagonist. Being mean is, at least temporarily, cathartic.

But being is also something that eats away at our soul. If we continually choose to be mean, we start to realize to become hard people, incapable of loving or being loved. We begin to believe that the whole world is against us, and therefore it is our mission to return the favor.

Mean people, people who continually choose to be mean, hate the entire world – they even hate themselves.

And the more I encounter people like this, the more I want to believe that deep down there is no hope for them. If I experience someone being mean, they lose credibility in my eyes.

But this is not how the Bible teaches me to act.

_____________________________

In 1 Kings, we encounter King Ahab, of whom it is said:

“There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord…he behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols.”

The story of Ahab is one great example of knowing what God requires and doing the exact opposite.

Yet, as I read the story of Ahab, he has become a mentor for me. Here is what Ahab is teaching me:

No one is too evil to be an instrument of God’s work in the world.

Ahab places his trust in the pathetic prophets of Baal. Ahab uses his wife, Jezebel, to take things that he cannot get himself. Ahab is evil. But in 1 Kings 20, a prophet comes to Ahab and tells him that YHWH will use Ahab to do YHWH’s work in the world. And what God promises, God delivers.

No one is too evil to be used by God. That is why God is God and I am not.

We can be held responsible for the sins of our community.

After Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, kills their neighbor because they want his vineyard, Ahab is held responsible by God for the sin Jezebel committed.

Our sin does not exist in a vacuum. What we do effects other people, and I cannot be so naive to think that the sins I am committing only affect me.

What’s most interesting is that Ahab does not complain about being held responsible for this sin. Instead, he humbles himself and repents.

God’s forgiveness is unlimited in its scope.

Amazingly, God forgives Ahab! This is even more amazing in light of the fact that just a few verses before God uses Elijah to tell Ahab that dogs will eat his family.

Ahab repents, and God forgives him and saves his life from a ferocious pack of dogs.

Godly leaders seek Godly counsel – no matter how inconvenient it might be.

Ahab joins Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, in a conversation about taking over the nearby kingdom through force. Jehoshaphat agrees to join Ahab if YHWH approves of it. So Ahab calls all the prophets of Baal, his yes-men, who tell him that it is the Lord’s will.

But Jehoshaphat is skeptical, and when he asks for a prophet of the Lord, Ahab tells him there is one, but he does not like him because he constantly tells him things he does not like to hear.

Micaiah comes and does exactly that. And Ahab dies.

We can;t just surround ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear.

Godly leaders take responsibility for their actions.

Ahab’s story ends when he decides to remove his royal robes and enter battle dressed as a normal soldier. His actions are in response to his desire to be responsible for the choices he had made earlier. He knows the other army is looking for a King in royal robes to kill. He thinks he can escape his responsibility by tricking those to whom he is responsible.

Instead, he dies and Jehoshaphat, who was dressed in royal robes, does not die.

________________________

Lord, help me to see the Ahab within me. Help me to see that I can learn from mean people. Help me to see that you use mean people. Help me to see that this means you can use even me.

Of Monsters and Fear-Based Kingdoms

November 29, 2011 1 comment

As the parent of young children who are constantly imagining new worlds and creating new environments in which they are the boss, I often get to be whatever it is they declare me to be.

Recently, this has been in a game they call “Be a Monster.” In this game, I start out by being a scary monster, chasing them around the house, snorting, growling and trying to capture them. If I capture one of them, I take them to prison where they must be rescued by someone else.

We’ve played this countless times, and one of the first things they realized was that if, once I had captured one of them, they somehow managed to “kill me” I would fall limply to the ground and the prisoner would escape. While down on the ground pretending to be dead, they would push some imaginary buttons on me and say something to the effect of, “Be a daddy, come alive.” I would then pop up as their dad, give them many hugs and kisses until they realized that the game was more fun when I was a monster.

And the whole thing would begin again.

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In 1 Kings 12 we read that after Solomon’s death, Israel is divided into a Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam reigned in the North over ten of the tribes from Israel, just as Yahweh has promised him years before.

But Jeroboam was afraid. He was afraid that his people would continue in their custom of visiting the Temple in Jerusalem in order to offer sacrifices, and that as they did so they would leave his kingdom and return to the southern king Rehoboam – and Jeroboam’s rule would slowly die away.

So in fear he created his own places of worship – golden calves and other altars throughout the northern kingdom so that his people would not leave. He did all that he could to maintain a sense of power, a sense of control over the situation. And his disobedience to Yahweh cost him not only his God-given position but also his life.

____________________________

As I think about these two stories, I’m reminded of my own desire to control my surroundings out of fear. If I can just create this, do this or be this type of person I’ll be secure, my life will be good.

If I don’t like the monster, I can resurrect it as a daddy. When the daddy overwhelms me with love I can bring back the monster. I make the rules. I enforce them. I create my environment. I can manipulate it to get my way, to make sure I stay in control, to make sure my fears are never realized.

But this fear-based kingdom is nothing more than an idol. It is nothing more than my personal attempt to be God.

And living in this fear-based kingdom keeps me from experiencing a God whose imagination is so much bigger than I could ever dream.

Let’s stop our fear-based kingdom building. Let’s begin to believe the promise that while we may not be able to control our reality we serve One whose imagination for us and for this world is so much more than our puny attempts to be King or Queen for a day.

 

Single Men and the Church

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

A few days ago I wrote a post on why single men should serve in the church nursery. You can find it – here.

I generally don’t like to be a creator of conflict, and I do resonate with the majority of what Mark Driscoll wrote about single men serving in the church nursery. And one of my good friends, a pastor in Orange County wondered about why I had such a hard time with that one part of what was overall a good call to service in the church.

And so I began to think about how I would encourage single men to be involved in the church. And it really depends on the age of the man – so below I list a few of the ways I think it is good for single men to engage the church, and do so by age group. As someone in my low 30s, I’ll only cover the ages I know:

15-18 year old

– Be active in Sunday school and youth group. Invite your friends to events. Ask your youth pastor to help plan and or teach during one Sunday morning.

– Find a way to use your gift (music? art? connecting with children? numbers? greeting people?) and ask someone if there would be a chance to use that gift. Be open to how it would fit within the overall design of the service.

– Help with Vacation Bible School or summer camp – be a counselor (be a hero!) for a group of kids for one week in order to learn from them about how to see the world

19-22

– In addition to the above, seek someone in the church to be your mentor. It will most likely mean you have to be proactive in finding someone and asking them.

– Whether or not you are in college, you are beginning to find things that really make your heart sing. Look for ways to focus on that one thing. Let go of your desire to do all things (this is a disease!) just because you think you can do them. Find one thing and live into that.

– When you agree to do something, show up for it. People expect young men to be inconsistent. Destroy their expectations by being there when you should be there.

23-30

– Join a committee that meet regularly and helps make the church run smoothly. Be someone who is good at listening, provides perspective, learns from those who have been alive longer than you and find times to push back a little.

– Teach Sunday School for a group of boys. Aim for 5th grade or higher, areas that are usually lacking for teachers.

– Volunteer for the youth group.

– Volunteer to mentor a high school boy.

These are just a few ideas – what are some more you might have? The church needs people who don’t primarily look to be fed but who look to serve the church and its community in any way it can.

Learn how to serve selflessly, for the church, the bride of Christ. It is not just something nice to do – it is part of our calling if we are serious about following Jesus Christ into the world.

Be a Man!

November 14, 2011 4 comments

Spreading throughout the American christian landscape has been the cry, “Be a man!” Though the cry has come from many different places, it seems Evangelical churches have been the loudest in terms of what it means to be a man.

Messages range from knowing how you should act (brave and macho), what you should wear (not tight but not loose jeans), what you should eat (lots of red meat!) who is the boss (anyone with a Y chromosome) and which UFC fighter is the best (blood is awesome!).

And it seems to me that many young men are eating the message up (pun intended).

The problem is, it is not a biblical message. It is a White American Male interpretation of what it means to be a man.

And this, in the broad sense of God’s kingdom, is a problem which needs to be addressed.

Somehow, some way.

And so I’ll start (or perhaps just continue/add-on to the conversation) right here, in the trusty Old Testament.

In 1 Kings, when David is about to die, he calls Solomon to him. David’s son and successor, Solomon, is ready to take the throne – but before he does, David has a few last words for him. This is how 1 Kings 2 begins:

1 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.

2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man.”

And this is the list David gives Solomon what it means to “be a man”:

– Observe what the Lord your God requires

– Walk in obedience to God

– Keep God’s decrees and commands (basically, know and follow the 10 commandments)

– Remember what God has already done, and what God promises to do

That’s it. Apparently, for David, to be a man meant to know God, know God’s commands, walk obediently with God and to remember what God has done and what God promises to do.

So go ahead – be a man. I dare you.