• “I Know That I am a thought in God” – Sermon for Advent

    Our daughter M. 2009

    This is the message I gave at Deep River Friends Meeting December 16, 2022 based on Luke 1: 46-55:

    46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

    Birth Narratives

    In our family, the advent season is extra special. M, our middle daughter, was born on Nov 27, 2009. Just a few days before the start of advent on the liturgical calendar.

    L, our oldest daughter, was born on December 19, 2007. She was due on Christmas, but thankfully my wife Emily’s prayers were heard and L was born 6 days before. Now she doesn’t have to competing for spotlight with the Son of God.

    As you can see advent is special in our house the birthday boy, Jesus, notwithstanding.

    Advent is a time of waiting and joyful anticipation of arrival. It is very much like the Quaker concept of “expectant waiting” that we share together in open worship.

    In our waiting, we expect for something to happen.

    There is so much build up to the moment of a birth. And, I think, what can be just as important, is the experience and memory of birth and sharing those memories over time.

    One of the practices that we do each year with the kids is we have a special birthday dinner where the kids pick what they want to eat. Sometimes we make a meal, sometimes we go out to eat, but in either case, over dinner Emily and I pitch in to tell our celebrant their birth story.

    • L’s is focused around the anticipation of our first child. Her birth made us parents and a family is a new way.
    • M’s birth involves being born in water.
    • C’s involves time, patience, and a sense of calm.

    Each birth and birth story is special. Each year the details remain more or less consistent due to Emily’s high functioning memory, no matter how much I try and add exaggerations to the story.

    But those stories do adapt and change as they get older and we get to see more of their personalities. What from those early memories do they need to hear and know now?

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  • Grief is Disconnection

    Burning a Corona Virus as a Ritual

    A repost from November 16, 2022

    Today, I was approached by a member of my workplace about hosting a space for grieving for folks who continue to struggle after painful decisions made in 2019-2020. The desire for this person was to process grief with the hope that we could find a space to do that as a workplace and community.

    For backstory: In the fall of 2020 and Spring of 2021 my office organized, I think 4 of these opportunities. The first couple were well-attended but then attendance dipped. Then another member of the community approach me and wanted me to plan something (he had not attended the first 4 we hosted). I told this person that I would do if if they helped plan something. We did and it was nice but only a couple folks came. I began to wonder who we were doing these for. Finally, another group came together, and this time we came up with an idea for an embodied approach to grieving. We made a life-sized COVID cell and invited folks to fill it with their grievances and we burned the thing down.

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  • An Interview About the Quaker World

    Robert Bell, from Guilford College, interviewed me and did a really nice write up about the new book Rhiannon Grant and I co-edited.

    The book is unique in its approach to Quaker Studies for a variety of reasons, including those we invited to write, the chapters covered, and some of the methodology behind the formation of the content. For one, we are proud of the book having a number of biographical offerings throughout the book, following inspiration from McClendon’s “Biography as Theology,” acting as case studies for how individuals have lived out their witness in the world.

    Read Bell’s piece on The Quaker World here.

    Get a copy of the book on Amazon or Routledge Books.

  • The Internet is Fun Again (Some of it anyway)

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    For some reason, as much as I loved Twitter, it began to feel like a chore. Probably in part because:

    – I follow way too many people there
    – All the ads and sifting you have to do mentally
    – How much the algorithm controls what you see and who you interact with
    – It all moves so fast and I always felt like I could never keep up

    I’m enjoying the simple delight of returning to this blog and using #Mastadon. Meeting new people there. Finding that a mircoblog site like Mastadon can be well done without all the algorithims, ads, and “big names.” Learning new networks and communities is a joy to me. I don’t feel like I have to be on constantly to have a place there but I do feel like I want to check things out with no real pressure to perform and get boosts. I also like watching other people get excited to discover these new systems.

    Case in point, a couple weeks ago I was waiting for an invite to a new app (Ivory which is now out in the App Store), hoping to get a link to be an alpha tester. Sitting there refreshing the developer’s Mastadon page repeatedly for 10 mins struck me as something I have never done before – at least not for an app. Even though I didn’t get in, the excitement was fun and kind of silly. Then I realized, I’m enjoying the internet again.

    Since that point, and with the implosion of Twitter, I decided to rebuild this blog. Move it over to its own host again, and start sharing and investing again in the site. I’ve had it for such a long time and it has been such an important part of my life, career, and ministry that it seemed the obvious place to put my renewed energy and creativity.

    I’m looking forward to sharing more. If you want to subscribe to my weekly digest, I will be posting to my substack for that. But everything of importance will be shared here first.

  • Wisdom from Richard Foster on Focus

    Shawn Blanc shared a great short post yesterday titled: Six Principles for Focus and Simplicity. Those post shares wisdom from the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, a Quaker and well-known spiritual teacher and author. It’s worth re-sharing here:

    In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster lists several principles for the outward expression of simplicity. These are things which someone could use or do in their attempt to flesh out the meaning of simplicity in the modern life.

    Here are six of Foster’s suggestions:

    • Develop a deeper appreciation for nature.
    • Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
    • Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
    • Develop a habit of giving things away; de-accumulate.
    • Shun whatever would distract you from your main goal.
    • Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
    -Richard Foster

    Read and Share Shawn Blanc’s post over on his site: Six Principles for Focus and Simplicity