Tag Archives: simplicity

Truth in the Wilderness

(Sorry about the lateness, I have spent most of the last 3 weeks with a nasty head cold and chest infection.)

Sermon notes are below the video.

Finding the truth can be a very difficult thing sometimes. Often we are blinded by the images around us, are tainted by the various forms of groupthink that try to set our identity. When we start living out the truth, the guardians of the groupthink will come after us with questions, especially when we step away from the power centers. John the Baptist preached from the outskirts and when the political leaders of his people came to see if he could be used, they found instead the truth.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”[g] 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah,[h] nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28

  • Who are the “Jews” in John?
  • Questioning identity from power. Underlying questions.
  • The kingmakers had come to see if John could be manipulated.
  • I am not the one that can save. Important truth for us to remember. People want someone else to take responsibility.
  • I am not someone from the past. John was fully engaged in the present and wasn’t going to let those in power pigeonhole him into the mold of someone who came before.
  • I am not the prophet. Nuance: “a” vs. “the” Flattery and manipulation are a tool of those in the center of societal power.
  • The voice in the wilderness “Make straight the way of the Lord.”
  • John’s locating himself in the wilderness kept him from the temptation to go along with the status quo.
  • If you don’t have the qualifications that come from our understanding, by what authority do you do x?
  • Truth is found in a humble place, away from the centers of human power and greatness.
  • In the centers of human power and greatness authority, power, truth, etc is used to promote self over others.
  • John points to the one true God and doesn’t exalt himself but shares the truth with humility.
  • We, like John the Baptist, are called to point to Jesus, to clear the path so that others can approach the Lord. As we enter into open worship…

 

No Place to Lay His Head

Click here to listen to the sermon inspired by the following notes.

When we think about Jesus, we tend to think in terms of images we have seen in movies or classical artwork, not the image on the front of today’s bulletin. What is so difficult to consider is that Jesus stepped out of the mainstream of Jewish society and spoke from the margins. In a very real way he was able to say and do many things he couldn’t otherwise because of his marginal location in that society.

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22

1) Jesus trying to ditch the crowds…again!
2) Teacher of the law was a respected position in society. Served as local judges in outlying regions.
3) Jesus did not have a home, and this was a strategic decision on his part. (Play Rich Mullins’ You did not have a home.)
4) Simplicity means not being owned by the things/obligations of this world.
5) We repeat the phrase that we have been bought by a price, and then return to the old masters.
6) We fear the margins, but Jesus shows us that a church that is operating on the margins of society is being faithful.
7) The obligations towards family can come to distract us as well.
8) Following Jesus means making decisions that could marginalize us within our society, family and circles of friends, and Jesus is challenging us.
9) Take stock regularly and do an audit of time, money, and obligations. Think hard about what those say our priorities are.
10) Simplicity is not about stuff, it is about focus. Are the things/people/obligations in my life helping me focus on God’s call or are they distractions?

Cultivating Gratitude

Hi Faithful Readers and Listeners,

I will be a little out of the loop for the next month since I am getting carpal tunnel surgery on both hands this coming Friday. There may be some posts, but don’t count on any kind of consistency or regularity until mid January. Thanks for your prayers and your concern. Now to our post:

Click here to download and listen.

Notes:

As we enter the Holiday season, I would like us to take the time to reflect on the many gifts and blessings that God has given us over the last year. We are pressured in the Holiday Season to do more, to rush more, to buy more, and so often I lose sight of just how blessed I am right now. Today I would to call us to practice the important spiritual discipline of gratitude. Often we spend time in gratitude over things and the ways God has provided, today I want to take you into a slightly different mental space, and talk about the ways we are blessed through our brothers and sisters. Paul writes to the community in Thessalonica:

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:12-18

  • Acknowledging those who work behind the scenes: Tammi Doty, Margaret Mankins, Carolyn Morse, Sheila Borgman, Gene Smith, Phil McLain, Leland Lee, and more.
  • Introduce the gratitude sheets and ask everyone to write at least one person’s name and reason for gratitude.
  • Live in “peace.” Shalom – right relationship
  • Warn- encourage – help, all requires patience.
  • Do not repay but do what is good for each other and everyone else. Tell the giving to an enemy story.
  • Rejoice, pray, give thanks – these are all connected and are all disciplines and make patience, etc. possible.

Wisdom in Giving and Receiving

(Click here to listen to full version. Outline is below.)

Today we are looking at one of the most misinterpreted passages in Jesus’ teachings, and one of the most simple to understand. The Sermon on the Mount is a rich mine of guidance for us, and sometimes we have to dig a bit deeper to understand exactly what Jesus was referring to. In today’s text we will need to do a little bit of unpacking of the cultural context to understand what it means to be wise with all of the gifts we have to offer, even as we pattern ourselves after the giver of all good and perfect gifts. In other words we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our understanding.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:6-12

  • Pigs, feral dogs, Roman soldiers and Jewish collaborators. Be careful with the gifts you have to give so that they are most effectively employed.
  • Prosperity gospel, context of seeking first kingdom. Kingdom is priority for Christian living, not personal prosperity. Gifts are given in excess so that we may become givers ourselves. Not just money.
  • Law is summed up in treating others with same consideration and generosity we would like to receive.

 

Where the Heart Is

(Click here to listen.)

There are a couple of things that I am led to address as the pastor of this community. The first is to thank you for the prayers you have poured out for Analise and us, there were times in the last couple of weeks that your prayers were what held me together. There are times in our lives when we need others prayers to make it through and by God’s grace we are. The second is to speak a bit about what is happening in Ferguson, and the larger conversation about race that still needs to happen in this country. I grew up in neighborhoods very much like Fergusen and can confirm that there are some members of our nation’s police forces that forget the “and serve” part of the motto that says “To protect and serve.” This happens most often with people of minority status and reflects some of the prejudices that have been active in our country for a very long time. As Christians we have a responsibility to speak the truth and while the expressions of violent rage are indeed counterproductive, we must admit that the rage we are witnessing is not without cause. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that riots are “the language of the unheard.” The question that I see as most important for us to answer is: What are we as a church called to do here, where we live, to bridge the divides that all too obviously still exist in our society? As Christians our first response to the kinds of tragedy we are witnessing is to fall to our knees. All too often we step out and act or speak before consulting with God and we speak to what we see before inviting God to examine our hearts. We have a responsibility to represent the kingdom of God and we cannot do that in isolated and segregated churches or without a proper foundation of prayer. Many of you have asked me what we can do in this climate of crisis we are in and I have a proposal that I want to lay before you: I would like to open the doors of our church from 8AM to 8PM Monday through Saturday for any who desire to come and pray. This will require some volunteers to be here hosting prayer times, but can any of us see the news and say that we don’t need centers of prayer to be open in our communities? I also want to invite you to consider ways in which God may be calling us to mourn with our brothers and sisters who are mourning in Missouri, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Nepal, West Africa and the neighborhoods in which we live. Can I get a quick show of hands on who would be interested in hosting prayer times here at the church? Thank you.

As I was preparing for this week’s sermon, I looked at the upcoming text, and as I prayed over the text on fasting, I got the sense that it was ground that didn’t need to be covered again since it was a continuation of the prayer theme from three weeks ago in which we talked about the ways we can abuse public acts of piety to place our glory ahead of God’s. Jesus’ top priority was the work of spreading the kingdom, and as he invested his teaching in the disciples he gave them tools to help diagnose their priorities and warnings about how placing other priorities ahead of God’s work causes a divided life. God’s call on us is not to divide our allegiances and loyalties between the things of this world and God, but to instead place our entire being, way of life, and value systems into the hands that knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We live in a society that is based on the consumption of goods and services, more so than at any other time in history. This society teaches us that what we produce and consume is the measure of our worth as human beings, and everything is designed to fail or be used up. That attitude bleeds over into our opinions on the value of human beings and we see interactions like those in Fergusen and elsewhere in which people are treated as disposable. This is what happens when we place value in finite things, and Jesus gives us words from God to check ourselves.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:19-21

Now that Jesus has addressed the controversial topics of sex and power he turns his attention to money and the ways we determine value. These teachings of Jesus are not intended to shame us, but instead to invite us into relationships that have their value in the things of God. Jesus begins by warning us about storing up what the world around us holds to be valuable. Let me give you an example from the past, does anyone remember beanie babies? These were small stuffed animals that were mass produced and marketed as “collectibles.” They were released in an artificial scarcity with a slick marketing campaign. Many people got caught up in the craze and jumped on the bandwagon with some paying upwards of $200 for a single stuffed toy. This bubble eventually burst, but not without some people losing a lot of money in their speculation. The things marketed to us as valuable can all too easily turn out to be worthless in the long run, and Jesus is reminding us that there is only one place in which our investment is safe.

There is no security here on this earth. Let me repeat that: no matter what anyone tells you or promises, there is no place on this globe or in this universe in which any of us will be secure from loss. The flowers fade, the grass withers and our flesh is as dust, my future hangs on my feeblest breath. Every town and city will wither and every nation will eventually crumble. Every currency will collapse, every bit in our bitcoins will be set to zero. Little geek humor reference: there are 10 kinds of people in the world…those who understand binary and those who don’t. In binary there are only two numbers, zero and one so 10 would be two in decimal. Every corporation will close its doors and its books. Even the very world we tread on is susceptible to the dangers of space. Nowhere that life exists can be secure. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the next part which says don’t worry, and we will get there in a few weeks. For now Jesus is telling his disciples that trust and hope placed in the things and powers of this world is misplaced. Hope and trust cannot be supported by things doomed to fail.

There is only one source of hope and trust, one source for security that is not dependent on circumstances. When what we treasure is the joy that comes from being in the presence of the God whose love caused the universe to exist, there is nothing more needed to feel a sense of security, and nothing will shake us, not even other people’s religious opinions. I we are feeling insecure in our faith or life, it might be time to do some prayerful evaluation to discover what we might be trusting in that isn’t God. Where is my treasure invested? That might just tell me where my priorities are.

The next passage requires a bit of explanation since there is a bit of a translation issue here. The word Jesus uses that our bibles translate as “healthy” implies generosity and the word we translate as “unhealthy” implies stinginess. When we don’t allow ourselves to be controlled by accumulating things or wealth we look at others with generous and healthy eyes. This is a consequence of living in the light of God’s truth, that nothing is more valuable than the treasure of serving God. When we look upon others with the understanding that our treasure is entirely in God’s hands we can be healthy in the ways we give to others. Jesus hasn’t really changed the topic that he has been talking about, just approaching the need to have right relationships built on the foundation of God’s loving grace and mercy from a different angle each time. Every display of unhealthiness and darkness comes from being afraid of losing what we rely on. It comes from treasuring that which is fleeting in its very nature. When we are deceived into believing that things or money are where our value lies, we look out at others in unhealthy ways, we hoard what we have. The fear of loss will then begin to taint our relationships and as we gather our things up to hide them and keep them away from others. That fear and anxiety will then begin to dominate our thinking and any disagreement will be perceived as a threat to the house of cards we have built on the shifting sands of worldly power, reputation, or wealth. Why is it that Jesus could hang around the people that his society deemed worthless? What was it that prevented the Pharisees from hanging out with the tax collectors, gluttons, hookers, and other broken types? He did not treasure the things or opinions of the world, but instead invested himself fully in the love of God. This is the source of power and courage, that God is with us and we can serve him. This is what can enable us to truly befriend the people who our society tells us are threats. What would it mean for us as Clackamas Park Friends Church to place our treasure, the resources we have been gifted with, entirely into God’s hands to be used up and given away without fear of loss? What kind of faith statement would it be for us to declare with our actions that we trust the generosity of God to overcome our fear of loss? That we could lose every worldly possession and still rejoice because our treasure is secure in God?

Friends, if there is fear in our lives it comes from having something other than God’s priorities guiding our actions. I can only speak this from my own experience of this truth given us by Jesus: when I am fearful it is because I am trusting in something that can be shaken. This is the hard truth that Jesus gives us today: we can only serve one master, there can never be “God and” there is only “God or”. I really would like there to be some way for me to serve God and money, God and food, God and my family, but as soon as I allow for any other master, no matter how important that master is to follow in this world, the door to fear has opened because of my idolatry. Every one of us in this room has something that it is most easy for us to slip an unconscious “and” into our lives, something that we tend to focus on instead of God. Let us take the time now to renew our determination to follow God and God alone.

Let us begin our time of silence with a time of confession and renew our focus. Friends, every day we must get up, face into the unhealthy patterns of this world and ask God to give us the strength to resist the temptation to put other things first in our lives. We are called together as a body to help each other resist, to help each other overcome, to redirect each other’s attention and priorities back to God as our eyes slip off the mark. Let us take this time of open worship to confess our fears to God, renew our determination to serve God alone, and resolve to support each other as we face into the unhealthy patterns of fear that close us off from the generosity that comes from serving  God. Let us put everything with God that our treasure may be stored up in His presence and our hearts reside in his steadfast love. Let us pray.

Poking Holes in Public Holiness

(Click here to listen. Speaker’s Note: The audio version of this sermon deviates from and significantly improves on the printed text below.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, we have seen how Jesus consistently raises the bar for his disciples from the letter of the law which kills to the spirit of the law which brings life. From a faith that is self-centered to a faith that is God-centered. Today’s text is no different, and the critique Jesus levels has been echoed repeatedly through the centuries. One of my favorite Dilbert comics is a conversation between Dogbert and Ratbert in which Dogbert had just cashed out as CEO of a company and was going to turn his attention to Philanthropy. Ratbert, being the comic foil, asks if that is the study of people named Phil to which Dogbert replies “It’s mostly about watching people beg and having buildings named after me.” In Jesus’ time the practice of giving alms to the poor was a part of Hebrew tradition and throughout the scriptures there are commands to care for the poor, the stranger, the alien, the orphan and the widow. The awesome thing was that the Jewish people really did make a big deal about the importance of their acts of charity, and their theology reflected it. However, as with many good works, there came a time in which a line of glorification was crossed. The line between glorifying God and glorifying self gets blurry awfully fast sometimes, and Jesus was fully aware of that fact. In today’s teaching Jesus addresses some of the things that will help us to keep our eyes on the mark of God’s glory.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4

Today’s text is one that we can struggle with applying, so to get our minds on the same page I want to share one way I saw this done. In a large high school like the one I attended the statistical likelihood of someone experiencing tragedy was pretty high, and we often heard through the grapevine how someone’s parent had cancer or was getting divorced. What was really interesting was that usually within two days of the tragedy making the rounds of the school, a bouquet of handpicked flowers addressed to the student would appear overnight. Nobody could figure out who was doing this, and it had a hugely positive effect on the student body. I still couldn’t tell you who, but it had to be someone or some people on the staff who had access to the student address records. Regardless of who did it, on the back of each card was the 23rd Psalm. Whoever did this found a way to apply today’s text and led others to share secret acts of compassion in ways that point to the goodness of the God who inspires them.

When we give in secret, without strings or even allowing others to know who is doing the giving there are some amazing opportunities that open up. The first opportunity is for God to be glorified. When I was growing up in the ministry in New York, we were trying to feed 25-40 people three meals a day and some months we used all of the tricks the third worlders who lived with us knew about stretching food. Occasionally a miracle would happen. We would open our front door in the morning and there on the porch would be bags and bags of food. There would be no note or anything to identify where this came from other than the name of the store on the shopping bags. That food came from God, and everyone in our house knew it. When whoever left that food did it in secret they turned away from credit and acclaim so the people who were living with us would know that the source of this food was Jesus. God received the glory.

There was something else that happened as well, when miracles occur it doesn’t feel like a handout. There is no weird relational dynamic that places the giver over the receiver because nobody knows where things came from. One of the dynamics that Jesus is really addressing here is giving with an eye towards exerting influence or control over others. When we don’t let our left hand know what the right hand is doing in our giving we are exercising a very important act of trust. We are expressing a trust that God will be glorified and we trust that the right things will be done in God’s church without our exerting financial influence over the process.

These acts of trust and faith are not easy, and we are bombarded constantly with the message that other people are not trustworthy, especially people in the church, especially the fallible people who lead our churches. Don’t hear me say that we should not have checks and balances, but that those checks and balances need to be disconnected from personal financial involvement. The problem is one of a misplaced sense of ownership, and I must confess that I have heard that little voice in my soul that says things like “I am a consistent giver so the leaders had better listen to me.” and “Hey, this is my church because I help support it.” and even “I helped found this church and everyone knows I give to make this ministry happen so my voice needs to be heard on this.” I think all of us have heard variations on those themes and have had to check ourselves with the reminder that “No. This is God’s church and I have to submit to his leading.” All glory, authority, control, and power belong to God and God alone, and Jesus is helping us find ways to silence those voices that tempt us to think otherwise.

Jesus is doing more here than keeping us from trying to Lord it over others because of the amount of money we are able to give. He is reminding us of the answer to one of the big questions of life “Why am I here?” Humanity has asked this question for as long as there has been the ability to think about it. For a majority of my life, the answers that I would give, even in theologically prettied up language, were mostly variations on the theme of do the best I can for myself and my family. As I have been part of the Friends and experienced the challenge to live simply, below my means, God has used that to help me focus on the purpose we all are created for: To glorify God; to serve God’s purposes in the world and to show by my trust that God is worthy of the glory, worthy of honor, worthy of praise. When I surrender my desire to control and let my giving be hidden from others, I create an opportunity for others to experience the goodness of God. In that experience of God’s goodness, maybe, just maybe a seed will be planted and God can be glorified in another person’s life as they accept the gift of Jesus.

Jesus is reminding us in today’s teaching to once again keep our eyes on the end game. The mark we aim at is that mark of loving perfection which we see in Jesus. We need his help to keep our eyes focused on that, and Jesus points out for us the reward that comes from following him and his purposes in the world. God’s glory is shown and when we are in his presence we get to hear the words we so long to hear: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” As we enter into our time of open worship take the first five minutes of silence to allow your thoughts to quiet. As we consider this teaching of Jesus maybe you will be inspired to an act of creative hidden generosity. What joy can we bring to others so that they might give glory to our God? Who knows, maybe if enough of us take on this task we can begin to see the fulfillment of the promise in Habakkuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Let us pray.

 

Pacifist-Aggressive

I have been wanting to write something about this topic for a while, and have needed some time to collect my thoughts and to do some serious self-examination. I have been part of the Mennonites, Brethren, and the Friends and must agree that we do violence in the ways we use our testimonies as litmus tests or proofs to kill conversation and/or kill challenges to how we are living out our testimonies. The conflict avoidance of the “Peace churches” can feel extremely passive aggressive when you actually want to figure out how to handle not living up to testimonies. Recently, Wess Daniels posted on his blog an article titled When Peace Preserves Violence and spoke of the ways we abstract ourselves from violence that arises (knowingly and unknowingly) from the choices we make. He then advocates a need to stop talking about peace and actually make our communities into places in which peace can be found. I have to say that I both agree and disagree with Wess’ conclusions in that I do think we need to actually live into our testimony to peace rather than merely paying it lip service or using it against others. Where I disagree with Wess is in stopping talk about the peace testimony. It feels really weird to talk about killing the peace testimony. (My interpretation of Wess’ words advocating letting the peace testimony die.) I think that we have, for the most part, already stopped talking about the peace testimony in the Evangelical Friends unless we are around like-minded Friends and are griping about those naive hippies who hold it over our heads like some kind of litmus test or about those fundamentalist Friends in name only who want to dilute our witness. I have heard both of those statements from people in various places in reference to the peace testimony and it breaks my heart when we dishonor each others’ voices in that way. I wish that it was just the peace testimony we handled this way, but my experience is that we tend to handle almost every testimony as if it were a past achievement rather than our hope for the future.

While I don’t agree that we need to stop talking about our testimonies, we do need to change the way we talk about them. I would like to propose that we treat our testimonies as ideals rather than norms. Let me explain: An ideal is a goal that requires sacrifice and deep personal change over the course of a lifetime to live up to, while a norm prescribes specific behaviors in order to be considered part of the community. When we try to make the achievement of an ideal the norm we dishonor those who are striving towards the ideal, and we short circuit any conversation about how we don’t match up to the ideal. We allow for all sorts of nuance and diversity of opinion over the simplicity testimony because we see how difficult it is to live up to a simple lifestyle in a complex world. Why can’t we have that same grace in our discussions about other testimonies? Why can we not acknowledge how difficult it is to live up to the peace testimony in a violent world?

As I process this I need to ask the question “Are any of the things we call testimonies actually testimonies?” It seems like the language of testimony is not helpful since a testimony really is about something that we have accomplished or do accomplish. Maybe calling these things testimonies is an arrogant misrepresentation of the current state of affairs in the Friends that is leading us into legalism and rebellion. So I do agree that the way we are talking is unhelpful, but to stop the conversation seems equally counter-productive. Action is important, but we need to at least think about and discuss with others what direction our action needs to go in. To that end, maybe we need to revive the language of “advices”. Instead of the “x” testimony we would have advices towards peace, simplicity, integrity, community, and equality, this would inject a much needed humility into our discussions of issues. We could say things like “How are you struggling with the advices towards peace?” or “How has the Spirit led you in your response to the advices towards simplicity?” We could be open with the ways we struggle with living up to the measure of the light that has been given to us and not worry about whether someone else’s weakness matches up to our strengths and vice versa. What we need is a testimony of humility, one that says:

We openly admit to not living up to the ideals we strive towards, but are committed to walking beside each other as we struggle on. We hope to learn from our mistakes and missteps, but sometimes it takes us a while to recognize them. We are committed to  the people we disagree with, knowing that our own understanding of God and the divine will may never be wholly accurate and must be challenged in ways each of us would prefer not to be. Each of us has a skewed perspective and it is through relationship with people unlike ourselves that we can grow.

I desperately want the conversation to go on, since I still struggle. I still have two cars and live in a single family dwelling with about half the lights in the house on and an abundance of kitchen gadgets. I still yell at my kids when they get me really frustrated. I still hide certain opinions and feelings in order to be thought better of. I still don’t know most of my neighbors. And I still look down on people whose opinions seem “stupid” to me. In other words I don’t actually live up to ANY of our testimonies, but I really, desperately, want to. I think we can do a good enough job of beating ourselves up over our perceived failings that we don’t need to inflict that on others. Maybe our meetings can become healing places, not because we live up to the testimonies, but because we are committed to helping each other reach for ideals that feel unreachable alone. So lets not give up on ideals that we have striven towards for hundreds of years but instead figure out what the next step is towards them. We can’t take that next step if we “kill” discussion of a core piece of our identity. We can take that next step if we admit to how we have struggled in the past and try to learn from our mistakes and thus fail forward.