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Love With Everything You’ve Got

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30

Growing up, I always assumed that my mind was the truest, most essential part of me. My thoughts, my memories, my conscious awareness – that’s who I always believed I was.

Many of my most basic understandings changed when I became a Christian, but this set of assumptions about my mind were left mostly unchallenged. Without really considering it too deeply, I continued to apply the logic of “mind over matter” to my relationship with God.

I assumed that a truly deep prayer life would be one in which I was constantly thinking about God, turning my conscious mind towards God. I figured that the point of a prayerful life was to remain mentally vigilant and, whenever I realized that my mind had slipped from awareness of God, to once again orient my mind towards God.

I still think that orienting the mind towards God is an important component of prayer, but lately I’m becoming convinced that this is only one part of being in relationship with God. Have you ever experienced the sensation of waking up from sleep with the feeling that you had been praying in your dreams? Times when your conscious mind was focused on other things, yet your body, your whole being was still somehow, mysteriously connected to God? Sometimes, although I am not mentally thinking about God, I am still loving God with all my heart, soul and strength.

For me, getting too fixated on the mental component can be a stumbling block to a deeper relationship with God. If I make the mistake of thinking that only my mental posture matters, I may miss the ways God wants to be in relationship with me through my heart, my strength, my entire being.

  • What are ways that you have shown love and devotion through parts of yourself other than your mind?
  • How do we show love through our heart, soul and strength, as well as through our mind?
  • Are we loving with everything we’ve got?

Practicing The Presence

I have long been inspired by Brother Lawrence, the 17th-century monk whose writings, compiled in The Practice of the Presence of God, demonstrate the kind of joyous living that is possible if we cultivate a posture of attentiveness to God’s companionship and direction in our everyday activities. Though he was never considered an important person during his lifetime, Lawrence encountered Christ’s real presence throughout the day, in tasks as mundane as washing the dishes.

In my own life, I have experienced periods when God’s presence has been intensely palpable. At times, the Holy Spirit has seemed just as tangibly real as any other person in my life – yes, and somehow realer! Then again, there have been other times when I have not experienced God as present at all, no matter how good my conscious intentions. Most of my life is spent in the space between these two extremes. In general, my awareness of Christ’s presence seems related to my moment-by-moment choice to stay attentive to his still, small voice.

Some days are more challenging than others. I often wake up with half a dozen projects buzzing in my head. My mind flits from task to task, fixated on due dates and the steps between the present moment and the future that I am working for. Yet almost always, if I choose to pay attention, I can hear a voice inviting me deeper. Paying attention to my breath, practicing awareness of my body and my surroundings, God reveals an open space where I can rest in him.

It always amazes me how life simply falls into place when I do choose to accept the invitation to rest in his green pastures. Worries fade, stress falls away, and deadlines somehow still get met – the ones that really needed to get met, anyway. This is the power of Christ’s easy yoke, when I yield to it.

  • How have you experienced Christ’s presence breaking into the midst of your daily routines?
  • Where does the Holy Spirit create space for rest, genuine depth and power in your life?
  • Are there ways that you could choose to become more intentional in practicing of the presence of God?

Restarting A Quaker Church Plant

Do you remember blowing on Nintendo cartridges? Most folks who are around my age will remember the original NES game system. I spent hours playing Nintendo, and I can still hum pretty much the entire soundtrack from Mario Brothers. As much fun as those games were, the thing I remember best is the physical experience of Nintendo. I remember the feel of the controls and the clap of the plastic hood. Above all, I remember the cartridges.

They did not always work. The longer you owned a Nintendo, the more likely it was you were going to have issues with dust collecting on the sensitive electronics at the opening of the cartridge. If the sensors were not clean, the game was liable to have errors that made it unplayable. Blank, white screens and garbled text were common. In order to get games working right, we often resorted to blowing across the sensors. Most of the time, that did the trick. We re-inserted the game and things worked as they were supposed to.
Though we did not realize it at the time, this process of cartridge cleaning taught an important lesson. In Nintendo and in the rest of life, there are moments that call for blowing on the cartridge and starting over. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do but clean the sensor and restart the game.

At Capitol Hill Friends, we have been noticing dust in our system for some time now. Despite a serious and energetic effort over a period of three years, Capitol Hill Friends has not gained the critical mass it needs to ignite a self-sustaining congregation. We have gotten quite good at putting on a weekly event that nurtures those who attend, but we have failed to develop an expanding circle of community.

After an extended period of prayer and corporate discernment, we feel that our present model is no longer an adequate container for the work that God is calling us to do in our city. We sense that our most faithful move at this point is to take a step back and re-evaluate of our entire way of operating as a community. It is time to take the cartridge out and blow on it.
We have been meeting in roughly the same format for almost three years now: We have gathered for Bible reading, singing, worship and a potluck meal. These meetings have generally been very deep, spiritually, and have provided a lot of nurture to those who have come. Yet, the core group of CHF has not substantially changed in the last two years. Probably for a variety of reasons, we have not grown in the way that we need to in order to be a sustainable community.
It feels clear that our present model is not working. The lack of growth over the last few years is equivalent to the White Screen of Death on the old Nintendo. It is time to pull out the cartridge and restart the system. The big question is, what does it look like for Capitol Hill Friends to restart?
Here is what we know right now: The last regular meeting of Capitol Hill Friends for 2012 will be this Sunday, November 4th. For the rest of November and December, the members of Capitol Hill Friends will be doing some intensive visioning and strategizing for the next phase of our life together as a community. We will be doing a lot of praying, and we will continue to listen together to how the Holy Spirit wants to guide and shape us as a community of disciples.
We have a great awareness right now of our deep need for Christ’s life and power in our midst, and we are asking God to clarify our calling, vision and structure as a fellowship. Who are we called to serve? What are we called to teach, and how are we called to teach it? What structures are we called to adopt in order to facilitate the spiritual, emotional and physical thriving of our community, and of the city where we live as a whole? With great awareness of our own weakness and failings, we are seeking God’s way forward for us.

In many ways, the past three years has been a course in what not to do. For my own part, I see that there is a lot of dust on my own sensors – all the illusions that I live in; all the denial that I indulge in. I desperately need the Holy Spirit to blow away the dust so that I can see clearly, and be a faithful vessel of Christ’s love and justice. I have learned a lot in the past three years, both about myself and about some of the realities of organizing a new Christian fellowship in Washington, DC. In many ways, the past three years have been “Seminary: Part 2.” This second dose of ministerial education, though, has been entirely focused on practice, and sometimes the theory has gotten in the way.

Moving forward, I hope to find out what it means for us to be a community of Christian practitioners. What does it mean to practice our faith in ways that tangibly bless the communities where we live? All the teaching in the world is of little use if we are not learning how to live as Christ’s body in the world.
As we continue to engage in this process of discernment, we do have some clarity about how God is calling us to reorganize our meeting format in the coming year. Beginning in January, Capitol Hill Friends plans to adopt a new model that we hope will encourage the development of more bonded community and deeper spiritual practice. Our new format will feature two main components: A weekly small group, and a monthly gathering.
The small group will be a place where each of us can be nurtured in our walk with Jesus, and get equipped for the work that Christ is calling each of us to. This group will be a fellowship for nurturing the spiritual gifts of each person, and developing our capacity to share the good news of Jesus with others in our communities. We will seek to make this an intimate space, where each individual can feel safe bringing their full selves and find support for the journey that Jesus is calling each of us into.
Our monthly gatherings will be creative and energetic programs that engage people from a wide variety of backgrounds and invites them to experience the power of Christ’s living presence in our midst. Each month’s program will be different, and we hope to invite outside presenters to lead our time together. We hope that these monthly gatherings will be a time of edification for our broader community – including Quakers from other Meetings in the area; Christians from other churches; seekers without a faith community; and secular people who are curious about encountering a spiritual faith that is directly dependent on God’s power.
We still have a lot of discernment to do, but these are the basic contours of what our restart looks like: Creating a space for our broader community to creatively explore spiritual teaching and worship, while at the same time nurturing the ongoing development of a smaller core that wants to be part of a mutually supportive community, rooted in Jesus Christ.

As we embark on this next stage of our journey together, please pray for us. If you are living in the DC area, consider whether the small group or our monthly gatherings might be a place for you to plug in and get the support you need for your walk in faith.

Holy Spirit, come blow on us. Clear away all the dust that holds us back from growing in you.

Who Are We Called To Serve?

Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. – Hebrews 13:12-14

There are up-sides to being in crisis, not the least of which is the way that desperation focuses one’s prayer life. If you have been following this blog recently, you know that we at Capitol Hill Friends are wrestling with how to move forward in the face of low energy and the apparent lack of the critical mass necessary to become a self-sustaining community. As you might imagine, God and I have been having some serious conversations lately!

I am learning that I should never underestimate the power of desperate prayer. God truly does draw near to those who are humbled and broken, and coming to the end of my rope has done wonders for my willingness to rely more fully on the Lord’s guidance. In the midst of this soul-searching, I have been amazed at how clearly the Spirit has responded to my prayers. I have asked for direction, and God is providing it.
For years now, one member of Capitol Hill Friends has always been asking, “Who are we called to serve?” Virtually every time we have met together, John has raised this question, to the point that it has become almost a joke among us.
To be quite honest, the question has often annoyed me. I never felt I had a good answer for it, except to say that Capitol Hill Friends is a community for anyone who wants to go deeper in their walk with Christ. I do not not like the idea of picking out a specific market demographic and “selling” God to them. Would we try to be a hipster church for urban twenty-somethings? A family church for couples with small children? A white, middle class church? A multi-racial, inter-class church? To me, “Who are we called to serve?” sounded a lot like, “What is our market niche?”
I am not very interested in viewing the church from a marketing perspective. I do not believe that faith communities are a commodity to be bought and sold. While I understand the need to present the gospel in a way that is culturally appropriate to the place we live, I do not want to pre-determine what demographic our fellowship is aimed at. This commodification cheapens the very idea of the Church. Instead of aspiring to be the body of Christ, our fellowships risk being transformed into little more than social clubs where people of similar class, race and subculture can talk about Jesus.
And yet, the question has nagged at me. Who are we called to serve? What is our particular mission here in the city? There are thousands of local congregations spread out across our region; what use does God have for one more? These questions are not ones of sales pitches and market analysis. These are basic issues of call and spiritual gifts. What is are the specific ways that God wants to use our particular fellowship to reflect the love of Jesus?
As I have prayed about the future of Capitol Hill Friends, God has shown me that there is indeed a particular people that we are called to serve. This people is not a demographic group in any traditional sense. It is not a group bounded by class, ethnicity, sub-culture or political persuasion. Rather, our common experience at Capitol Hill Friends is that we do not match the expectations that the wider culture has of us. In some profound way, we do not quite fit in. We are looking for the city that is to come, not this present one where we reside as sojourners.

In a city that worships power and thrives on appearances, we feel God calling us into friendship with those who are marginal, unimpressive in the eyes of the world. In a culture that glorifies displays of wealth and consumption, we sense God’s invitation to lead lives of simplicity and creativity. In a society that values facts, figures and formal education, we long for God’s true wisdom, which seems like foolishness to the world. In a nation that places a very high value on strength and self-sufficiency, we know that we are weak and in need of God’s help.

Capitol Hill Friends stands in solidarity with those who do not fit into this world’s conceptions of wisdom and power and wealth. We are called to serve those who stand outside the gate of the city, rejected by polite society. Rather than playing dress-up and pretending to be successful, God calls us to stand with the misfits. Because the truth is, we are misfits, too.  

Staying Sane While Fighting Insanity

In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”– Mark 1:35-38

This Saturday, I will be helping to lead a contemplative skills training for folks in the DC area who want to deepen their spiritual lives and explore contemplative practices that help ground us as we engage in social witness. This day-long retreat will be held at the William Penn House, just blocks away from the US Capitol, the Supreme Court, and many other centers of power.

It is, perhaps, a bit ironic for us to hold this retreat on Capitol Hill, in the geographical heart of the very system that often threatens to overwhelm us. Would it not make more sense to hold our retreat outside the city, in a more secluded and idyllic locale?
Maybe. But the reality is that most of us do not have that luxury. While many of us occasionally escape from the pressure cooker of life in Washington, these times away are generally too short and infrequent to form the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Washington is simply too big, and there is too much work to be done. If we are not able to make a sustainable life here where we live and work, this city will eat us alive.
In preparation for this retreat, I have been meditating on Jesus’ prayer practice, and the way that he alternates between engagement with the world and retreat to places of safety and solitude. Jesus models a pattern of action and withdrawal that allows him to remember who he truly is, even as he is constantly pursued by friends, enemies and the ever-present crowds.
Jesus’ practice of cultivating inward groundedness and equilibrium is crucial, because he has nothing else to lean on. Jesus has nowhere to rest his head – literally or figuratively. He is chased from one place to another and rarely allowed much time to simply breathe and settle. Those few moments where Jesus can retreat and remember his mission are truly precious – like oases in the desert.
The two places where Jesus seems to feel most at home is in the solitude of deserted places and in the company of his intimate friends. Jesus demonstrates a deep affinity for deserted places and time alone with God. Before beginning his ministry, Jesus spends 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness before finally being tested by the devil. It is only after this time of solitude, prayer and preparation that he is ready to take the plunge into a three-year ministry that will cost him everything. Throughout those intense years, Jesus withdraws as often as he can, taking opportunities to be alone in prayer with his Father.
But these opportunities are limited. Jesus is always on the go – teaching and caring for his friends; speaking prophetically to those who oppose him; and attending to the needs of the crowds that pursue him relentlessly. Everyone seems to want a piece of Jesus – whether seeking a cure to illness, hope in the face of death, or forgiveness and release from sin. Jesus is even busier than most of us here in DC!
Yet, though Jesus is rarely permitted to be totally alone, it is clear that he finds solace among his inner circle of friends. He does not retreat with them only in order to teach and lead them more effectively – it seems that he also draws strength from their presence. Perhaps the prime example of this comes on the night he is betrayed. Jesus has retreated along with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, as usual. This night, however, is different from the others, and Jesus spends an extended period in fervent prayer, asking God to take away the cup of suffering and death that he sees before him.
At this time of greatest vulnerability, Jesus turns to his most trusted disciples. He asks them to stay awake with him and pray through the night. The fact that he asks this of the disciples demonstrates how Jesus relies on his friends for support and a sense of “home.” The fact that the disciples fail to stay awake with him reveals just how homeless Jesus truly is.
Another, perhaps less well-known example of Jesus’ practice of taking refuge among his friends is his habit of retreating to Bethany. During Jesus’ ministry in the city of Jerusalem, it seems that he does not normally spend the night there. Jerusalem is the site of Jesus’ most intense, confrontational ministry, and after Jesus cleanses the Temple and drives out the moneychangers, he makes a point of leaving the city, spending the night in the nearby town of Bethany.
Why Bethany? That is where Lazarus, Mary and Martha live. It is a place of safety, comfort and support. It is one of the few places on earth where Jesus knows he will be accepted and welcomed in as a friend. Jesus knows that he will never experience that kind of reception in Jerusalem. The capital city is a place of public praise and hidden plots – not friendship. It seems significant that when Jesus does spend the night in Jerusalem it is the very night that he is betrayed and handed over to death.
How does all this relate to our modern lives as people working for justice and mercy here in a different capital city? What can we learn from Jesus’ cycle of retreat and engagement? What are we to make of his pattern of withdrawal into solitude and engagement with the masses, taking refuge among his closest friends while directly confronting the powers that be? How can we develop a similar practice, one that keeps us centered and ready to receive guidance from God?
God knows we need it! Jesus’ ministry was of the most intense variety, but it only lasted for three years. What kind of intentional practices does it take to labor for decadesin America’s fallen Jerusalem, constantly irradiated by the spiritual energy of a city that is founded on the raw exercise of human power? What could it mean to find our own little Bethany, an intimate and supportive community of friends who remind us of who we truly are and encourage us to greater depth and boldness? 

Growing Up in the Kingdom

Walk and talk and laugh with your friends. But behind the scenes keep up the life of simple prayer and inward worship. – Thomas Kelly, 1941

The majority of my life has been spent in formation. My childhood, the time I spent in college, and the three years I spent at seminary were all largely focused on shaping who I would become and what I would do. Though I may have accomplished some things during these years, and probably made an impact on some people’s lives, the first quarter-century of my life was primarily oriented towards preparing me to become a full adult member of society.

In my experience, adulthood came in stages. Theoretically, we Americans are autonomous adults upon reaching our eighteenth birthdays; yet, in reality, the process of becoming a fully-formed member of adult society probably lasts from the early teens until the mid-to-late twenties. Despite the letter of the law that declared me an adult at age 18, I was probably not even half-way through my adolescence at that point.

From infancy to around age twenty-five, my parents, teachers and adult friends all put a lot of emphasis on helping me to discover my latent gifts and passions. They did their best to give me the skills I needed to function well in the adult world. Even seminary was a part of this process, giving me the background and tools I needed to be a well-formed adult Christian. There was a lot I did not learn in Sunday School.

In the last several years, however, something has shifted. The dynamic has changed. No longer am I primarily in the business of being groomed and nurtured. Finally, after decades of longing for it, I am an entry-level adult. For so many years, my job had been to get educated and prepare for the future, but now the future has arrived. Now it is time to put to good use all of the formation that I have been privileged to receive for the past quarter-century.

This transition is a wonderful one. For my entire adolescence, I was chomping at the bit to do great things in the world, to have a meaningful impact. I knew that I was in a formative phase, but I wanted nothing more than to skip formation and go straight into adult action! The time has come.

Yet, as delightful as this transition is in many ways, this new phase of action carries its own unique set of strains and challenges. The outward challenges are obvious: Finding meaningful employment in a collapsed economy; meeting a spouse and starting a family; managing household finances and investing responsibly for the future. Not to mention all of the work – paid or unpaid – that God calls me to in the wider world.

And these outward life changes have a deep spiritual dimension, as well. What is the impact of moving from a life that is primarily concerned with preparation to a new phase of existence that is primarily concerned with action? What is the deeper meaning of this shift from the “inward” to the “outward”?

For me, in practical terms, this transition has resulted in the busiest life I have ever known. I have so much to do every week, and the most important lesson I am learning is how to exercise discernment in what I commit myself to, and how to say “no” more frequently and effectively. It is precisely at this stage in my life that disciplined prayer is becoming more important than ever. If I am not intentional about setting aside time each day to focus entirely on Christ, all the tasks and burdens of this action-oriented life would threaten my equilibrium. It would be easy to get so wrapped up in action that contemplation dries up entirely.

If that happened, it would be a disaster. Taking time for contemplation has higher stakes than ever before. In this new phase of life, I have so much more capacity to do good – or harm – than ever before. As my activity in the world increases, it is all the more crucial that I remain grounded in the Spirit of Truth.

As I continue to explore what it means to live in this phase of heightened activity, I am holding a number of queries for reflection: In my present phase of life, how do I maintain the right balance between contemplation and action? What is the relationship between the inward and the outward life? What steps must I take to ensure that my activity is grounded in prayer, and that my prayer is informed by Spirit-led action? What must I do to maintain the singleness of vision that Jesus teaches us is so important for living in the Kingdom of God?

A Deeper Unity – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #45

Dear friends,

Every year, I imagine that this time around my summer will be a little less crazy. And every year, Yearly Meeting season makes that an impossibility. This month, I spent most of my days out of town, attending Quaker gatherings in New York, Maryland and Ohio. These Yearly Meeting sessions have taken most of my time and attention, leaving me feeling a bit disconnected from my community in DC. The balance between local work and the wider fellowship is delicate, and I anticipate that the coming month will be a time for me to pivot and refocus on local concerns and more sedentary work. Though it has been enriching to dive deeply into the wider world of Friends, I am looking forward to being home for a while.

My first trip out of town was to New York Yearly Meeting, at the Silver Bay YMCA camp on Lake George in upstate New York. Gathering on Lake George meant that when we were not engaged in Yearly Meeting business, we were free to go kayaking or sailing, or to go hiking in the surrounding woods. Though I had attended Yearly Meeting sessions in a variety of beautiful locations, this resort atmosphere was something new!

I felt particularly blessed that Faith and I were able to be present with a number of other visiting Friends, including Jon Watts and Maggie Harrision, who are engaged in a sustained ministry of calling Friends to spiritual nakedness. Jon and Maggie really challenged New York Yearly Meeting during an evening plenary session, urging Friends to set aside the suffocating comfort of respectability and to dive boldly into God’s love. In one particularly intense moment, Maggie asked Friends why the reports from New York Yearly Meeting’s local congregations rarely mentioned God. Isn’t that what this is all about? You could have heard a pin drop as Friends took in what Maggie was saying. And then, someone yelled Amen!

After New York Yearly Meeting, Faith and I drove down to Virginia for a wedding. I had a day back in DC before I was on the road again, this time to Baltimore Yearly Meeting – a fellowship of Quakers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, DC and Maryland. BYM holds it annual gatherings at Frostburg State University, out in the western panhandle of Maryland. Getting there was easy, though, since I routinely travel out that way en route to Ohio and points further west.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting felt familiar. Because I live within the geographical territory of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, I run into BYM Friends a lot – whether visiting their local Meetings, attending their events, or welcoming them at Capitol Hill Friends. Though I am not a member of BYM, visiting their annual sessions did feel like something of a homecoming to me.
The theme of BYM’s gathering this year was “Spirit-led Social Action,” and I had the opportunity to speak with Friends about my experience of God’s leading me to participate in the Occupy movement when it first erupted in the fall of 2011. I spoke as part of a two-person panel during BYM’s Tuesday-night plenary session, sharing what it felt like to be led by the Holy Spirit into social witness that is outside my comfort zone. I would never have chosen to become an organizer for the Occupy movement on my own, but I am so grateful that I was obedient to the promptings of Christ within!

Because I yielded to the quiet but persistent nudges of God in my heart, I am now connected to a broader community of those who are working for economic justice. I have met so many amazing people who have changed my life for the better, and I am hopeful that my presence has a positive influence. During the plenary, I shared how God opens opportunities for me to bear witness to Christ’s love and power within the economic justice community. Most crucially, I spoke about the spiritual dynamics of activism and community organizing, and about the need to stay rooted in the Spirit of God. There are so many other forces that would shake us from our Foundation; if we do not take great care, it is easy to get caught up in a spirit of chaos rather than the Spirit of love, order and peace that Christ sends.

I hope that I was faithful in communicating to Friends that our social witness must be, first and foremost, a testimony to the love, life and power that we experience in the Spirit of Jesus. Specific outcomes are important – sometimes we are called to “win” – but the highest objective must always be to remain faithful to the witness that God desires to bear through our lives. This takes great discernment, a practice that we as Friends of Jesus can bring to these movements.

Following my visit to Baltimore Yearly Meeting, I was only home for a few days before Faith and I were back on the road. Once again, we drove out through western Maryland, but this time our destination was Barnesville, Ohio – the gathering place of Ohio Yearly Meeting. After visiting so many gatherings this summer, it was a blessing to finally come home to the Yearly Meeting where we are members. Visiting among other bodies of Friends is wonderful, but there is a particular joy that comes when we gather with our particular covenanted community. Our care and responsibility for one another guides and sustains me in a special way.

I was really struck this year by the way in which my Yearly Meeting handles disagreement. We had several opportunities to engage in prayerful discernment around hard issues this year, and I felt like we were generally able to keep our conversation grounded in prayer and loving concern for one another. There is a sense in Ohio Yearly Meeting that our unity runs deeper than opinions about particular issues. While outward agreement is ultimately important, I am grateful to experience an inward, spiritual unity that allows us to wrestle with disagreements in a manner that ultimately draws us closer to God in Jesus Christ.

I envision Ohio Yearly Meeting as a circle with Jesus Christ standing at the center. Individuals in our Yearly Meeting stand at various points around the circle; we emphasize different things, and there are places where we are not in full agreement. There were several explicit points of tension this year – including our relationship with Olney Friends School; our testimony against the consumption of alcoholic beverages; and our shared understanding of human sexuality. Each of these are places where we could fall into destructive division and mistrust. But God is teaching us a better way.

As we gather around Jesus and draw nearer to him, we come closer to one another. Submitting ourselves to Christ’s light, we find our individual perspectives relativized (though not invalidated), and we are able to see how God is speaking through those with whom we strongly disagree. There is a deep faith present in Ohio Yearly Meeting that, if we wait together in the light of the Holy Spirit, we will be shown the way forward together.

It is probably safe to assume that all of us will be surprised by what “way forward” looks like. I am learning that having a variety of perspectives in my community can be a sign of good health, despite the fact that, at first glance, it may seem like chaos and disunity. We read in Scripture that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Yet, we know that we ourselves do change, and that our individual human viewpoints are often too limited to embrace the truth that Christ desires to reveal to us.
When we come together as a community in prayer, seeking after the Lord’s will, I experience the Spirit guiding us into greater understanding and unity as a body. We continue to have our own individual perspectives, but they are tempered and refined in the fire of Christ’s light. When we hold our disagreements in loving prayer, the Spirit intercedes within us and binds us together in a deeper unity that surpasses opinions.

At the conclusion of our time together in Barnesville, I felt hopeful for the future of Ohio Yearly Meeting. I had a strong sense that Christ is at work in our midst, and that we are being invited into the new (yet ancient) way of Jesus. God is giving us an opportunity to embrace Jesus’ example, laying down our lives for one another and surrendering our need to be correct. I am learning that the true meaning of strength is to bear the burdens of others – not only physically, but spiritually.

I pray that my life will serve to lighten the burden of those around me, that I may lay aside my own need to be vindicated, remembering that Jesus lay aside every honor and privilege that were rightfully his, bearing the cross for his friends. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave him the name that is above every name. I pray that we in Ohio Yearly Meeting will find this scripture fulfilled in our hearing, that through our shared submission to Jesus we be brought into the fullness of his truth, unity and love.

I anticipate that the next few weeks will allow me to stay closer to home. After so much time away, it will be good to re-connect with my community here in DC. I am also looking forward to making progress on the new Friends United Meeting website, which we plan to roll out around the end of the summer. I must say that although there are many benefits to travel in the service of the gospel, it is not particularly conducive to web development!

One last item before I close: You may recall that this June I was arrested by the US Capitol Police for accompanying my friend Deborah Harris to speak to Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, during his visit to the Senate Banking Committee. I did not expect to be arrested, much less to be jailed for most of the day and accused of falsifying my identity! It also came as a surprise when I learned that my arrest could theoretically be punished by up to six months in prison. But I give praise to God that my co-defendents and I accepted a deal on Monday which will allow the charges against us to be dropped, assuming we do not get re-arrested in the next six months!

I have no idea how prayer works, but it is my experience that there is nothing more powerful than the prayerful petitions of God’s faithful people. I know for a fact that I have a small army of prayer warriors who are interceding on my behalf. Thank you so, so much. Your prayers are making a huge impact on my life. Please do not stop!

In the month ahead, please pray that I be grounded more deeply in the Holy Spirit as I seek to be a faithful worker in my roles with Friends United Meeting, Capitol Hill Friends and Occupy Our Homes DC. I would also ask for you to pray specifically that our community at Capitol Hill Friends be built up in Christ’s power this month. In recent weeks, several active members of our fellowship have moved away to pursue educational opportunities; we need God’s strength and guidance as we continue to serve as a spiritual sanctuary in the midst of our city.
May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all.
In his light and love,
Micah Bales