Thursday, November 25, 2010

Teach us, and show us the Way.

OE class of 2006 listening to the stories of Helen and Clayton.

While we are all giving thanks, let's take time to remember our Native brothers and sisters.

Take a moment of silence to mourn and honor Native ancestors 
and the struggle of our Native brothers and sisters to survive even today.

We need to continue to educate ourselves and remember to ask: 
Teach us, and show us the Way.  


Chinook Blessing

We call upon the earth, our planet home, with its beautiful depths and soaring heights, 
its vitality and abundance of life, and together we ask that it:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the mountains, the Cascades and the Olympics, the high green valleys and meadows filled with wild flowers, the snows that never melt,the summits of intense silence, and we ask that they:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, 
that flow in our rivers and streams, 
that fall upon our gardens and fields and we ask that they:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the land which grows our food, the nurturing soil, 
the fertile fields the abundant gardens and orchards, and we ask that they:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with the earth in their roots and the heavens in their branches, the fir and the pine and the cedar, 
and we ask them to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests and the seas,
our brothers and sisters the wolves and deer, the eagle and dove, 
the great whales and dolphin, the beautiful Orca and salmon who share our Northwest home, and we ask them to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon all those who have lived on this earth,our ancestors and our friends, who dreamed the best for future generations, and upon whose lives our lives are built, and with thanksgiving, we call upon them to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

And lastly, we call upon all that we hold most sacred, the presence and power of the Great Spirit of love and truth which flows through all the Universe, to be with us to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

Monday, November 22, 2010 you still have electricity?

When I (Mark) told friends and family that I would be a "Quaker" youth pastor, many folks began asking questions like,  "So, does that mean you are going to live without electricity?" or, "isn't that like"

I completely understand the confusion. Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish seem to be lumped into the same grouping. So, now that Beth and I have been here for a while, I figured it would be helpful to shed some light (haha) on what it means to be Quaker, especially as a youth pastor at West Hills Friends. Please know that I am fairly new to the Quaker or Friends (without going into a history lesson, the terms Quaker and Friends are used similar) tradition, I have a lot to learn myself.

Firstly, I should say, that I feel at home in the Friends tradition. Why? Probably because I identify myself within some of the core beliefs of Friends. Of course, each of these "beliefs," and my place within them, deserve pages of elaboration. Brevity will prevail here.

Friends believe that "there is that of God in everyone." This presence of God in each person is often described as  Light (thus my chuckle after using the phrase "shed some light" above). This has many implications for the ways in which Friends approach worship, leadership, prayer, and communication. Ultimately, these implications establish a "different" type of gathering for worship. When you acknowledge that "there is that of God in everyone," the common assumptions that pastors, ministers, priests, etc. have a special access to God are challenged. Therefore, most Quakers spend time sitting in silence during their time for worship. The silence creates a space for everyone to listen to God, and if they feel inclined, to speak about what they are hearing. For Quakers this time is sacred, mainly because it is acknowledging that God is moving in everyone gathered together in that space. The words of anyone and everyone in that space are sacred.

How awesome is that? This belief (which some of you may recognize as namaste, which with several meetings, may be translated as "that which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you") opens doors instead of closing them. It is a belief of welcoming, of peace, of respect, and honor.

So, as a Quaker at West Hills Friends, I am proud that it is a place of welcome. It is a place that allows everyone to be heard and respected. Beth and I are comfortable and happy here for these reasons, and more.

As the youth pastor at West Hills Friends I acknowledge that I am not a "super Christian." I am entrusted as a part of the community to listen to God especially as it pertains to the youth who gather there. I have been released from some of the typical responsibilities of secular life to focus more time and energy towards discerning the needs of the young people at West Hills. For this I feel both thankful, and deeply responsible to the community...they have made it financially possible for me to do this.

I realize that some of the language in this post may be confusing...I hope that it is making some sense. Part of the reason this blog exists is to communicate with folks who I cannot see/talk with on a regular basis. I wish we could be having this conversation in person.

I will continue sharing why being a Quaker is unique, and uniquely awesome. As I said above, there are many implications for holding the belief that "there is that of God in everyone." I focused on a few, I hope to elaborate further in future posts.

in other news...Beth and I will be returning to Pennsylvania for Christmas! We will be in town from December 23-January 1st! Yay!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


moss covered Oregon!
You couldn't tell it from reading this blog, but Beth and I have been having a BLAST here in Oregon. Please do not mistake the silence on this forum for the last few months as a sign that our lives have been boring. Just the opposite in fact, we have been rolling, dare I say bathing, in the beauty and creativity of Portland, and of the West Hills Friends community.

I have been reflecting on restoration as of late. Our time in Denver was filled with its share of challenges, especially as they relate to our understanding of how God works in our lives. When you start to doubt the beliefs you have about how God leads, and about how God provides, you must then go through a process of restoring, or correcting those original beliefs. These last few months have been a process of restoration. Questions like, "How did we end up here?" and thus, "How was God working in this process" have been circulating in my mind as of late.

I'm not totally interested in discussing the theological and biblical workings of this, because I am more apt to simply say that God leads in a much different way then I originally thought. What if God isn't that condemning, anti-imaginative, anti-creative, anti-playful voice on my shoulder? What if God, instead, is the voice saying, "I dare you...just for a DREAM, go absolutely wild, I have NOTHING to say to you to stop you from dreaming." If that is God's voice, then I have to say that we listened to the voice of God, and here we are.

When a community like West Hills Friends gives you the opportunity to respond to that voice of God, you naturally feel unbelievably thankful. One of the many things I am thankful for is that because of them, many things have been restored to me.