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Monday, April 19, 2010

52 Prayers Has Moved to a New Website!

My loving and supportive husband has suprised me with a brand spankin' new website for my blogging enjoyment! To continue reading about my religious escapades, click the link below.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Islamic Faith

As mentioned previously, I'm going to do my research related posts from now on based on what I found interesting or relevant instead of translating pages of information regarding the faith.

Interesting facts:

A believer in the Islamic faith is referred to as a Muslim
Muslim means "one who submits to God (Allah)" in Arabic
Muslim is the 2nd largest religion in the world following Christianity
There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide
Prophet Muhammad is considered by Muslims to be the "Final prophet" of Allah for the world
Muslims pray 5 times a day
Islam means "peace through the submission of God"
Muslims neither worship or pray to Muhammad

Muslim beliefs:

Muslims believe in one true God, His name is Allah

Muslims believe in many Messengers from Allah: Noah, Adam, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad etc.

Muslims believe that Jesus and all his apostles, Abraham, Noah and Moses were all Muslim (which again means one who completely submits to the will of God)

Muslims believe that Allah should be worshiped, but worshiping of Allah's creations should not take place. For example: Tree-worshippers, Buddha, Jesus (all of Allah's creation, not Allah Himself)

Muslims believe that worshiping false idols is an unforgivable sin which seals their fate in the afterlife.

Muslims believe the greatest good of man is to worship ONLY Allah. Muslims believe the greatest evil in the world is to worship ANY form of Allah's creation (this includes, Jesus, Buddha, Hinduism etc.)

Muslims believe every child is born with a natural belief in Allah and an inborn inclination to worship Him alone called in Arabic the "Fitrah"

Muslims believe that 2 angels are responsible for every person. They believe that angels are assigned certain functions such as revelation, rain and plant growing, taking away peoples souls after death, watching over embryos in wombs, protecting human beings, and recording men's deeds

Muslims believed that the original Bible was the Word of God, yet the one of today is distorted by man. They believe that the scriptures were meant for a limited time. When the Qur'an was established, it revealed the Bibles changes and distortions.

Muslims believe the Qu'ran is the literal Holy Word of Allah, revealed to Muhammad but written down by his companions
It was revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel

Interesting parallels between Christians and Muslim teachings:

Muslims believe in Judgment day and refer to it as the "Day of Resurrection" where bodies will be raised and Allah will be glorified

Muslims believe in the Holy Spirit. They believe this same spirit is what gave Moses the 10 commandments

Muslims believe in an "anti-Christ" it's name is

Muslims believe in the concept of sin and that Allah forgives sins of those who ask for it

Muslims believe Allah created the Heavens and the Earth in six days

Muslims believe Allah sits on His throne

Muslims believe in that Allah's books include: The Torah and The Gospels, Psalms, and the Tablets given to Abraham and Moses

Muslims many times refer to Allah as "Lord"

Muslims place much emphasis on faith (Inman) and ask that Muslims believe in Allah with their hearts, confess with their mouths, and act with their bodies (much like Christians: Confess with mouth that Christ is Lord, Faith in hearts, obedience)

Muslims believe in worshiping no other Gods (including Christ) however, it is much like the First Commandment if you believe Christ is God.

Muslims believe in Heaven and Hell

To learn more about the Islamic Faith, check out

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Richmond Friend's: Part: 2

This is Part 2 of the Richmond Friend's post. What can I was a long hour!

Here's how the conversation went pretty much from start to finish:

Me: So, yeah, sorry about my judgments regarding this Quaker woman, God.

Him: I told you that you're already forgiven. You're human but do your best to stop that. Let's move past this though, I have much more to talk with you about.

Me: Okay, thank you for your forgiveness. Where should we begin, God?

Him: You tell me. What would you like to talk with Me about?

Me: Well, first off, is this You or me talking?

Him: I am.

Me. Okay, I guess that means You. It doesn't feel like me. I just can't believe you're still talking. I'm used to your one liners God. I can't imagine you'll be with me this whole hour. I bet 5 minutes from now I'm going over my weekly TO DO list in my head.

Him: Let's not talk about the next 55 minutes, okay? Let's focus on the present. Anything you'd like to talk about?

Me: Well, sure, let's start with this new found search for You.

Him: Glad you brought that up. I challenge you to not think of this so much as a search.

Me: Well, how could I not? I'm searching for truth.

Him: We're with you now. So what is it you're searching for?

Me: We? Actually, I understand why you're saying "We". No need to clarify. It's like that book the Shack, right? How funny that you're now saying We though. That's new, but I think I dig it.
Okay, so you're telling me that since you're here with me now I don't need to search for you.... Okay, I get that, God. But what about all the books I'm reading on Jesus and my Bible study with the Pastor every Wednesday? Do you not want me to look for You then either?

They: We just don't want you to approach us as something outside of yourself. We're right here with you. All you really need is to commune with Us. But continue reading if you like. Continue studying Our Word for sure. It's good for you to strengthen your faith if those books help you. But it's important for you to know this Truth: We're already here with you, right now and We will always be with you as long as you continue down this path.

Me: Wait, did you mean to say "as long as" meaning, you might leave me if I don't continue down this spiritual path? Could God ever leave my life?

They: Nope. We're always here. As long as you want us to be of course and as long as you continue to Love us.

Me: Oh, and by Love you mean to keep your Commandments and have a relationship with You.

They: Exactly.

Me: Okay, so since I have you All here, let me ask. Is the Bible true?

Them: Yes. It is Our Word. It is 100% truth.

Me: I knew it! But I just don't understand how so many people interpret it differently then?

Them: I never said that people are Truth. I said Our Word is. It is never changing. It is what We say it is. But only the Spirit can reveal It's Truth to people. People can't understand it (even though it's 100% truth) without the Spirit revealing itself through revelation. The Book is quite magical to say the least.

Me: you're saying that the Truth is in the Word and we should know it through the Holy Spirit not our own human understanding, meaning our own interpretations.

Them: Yes, through Us.

Me: Well, I hope You reveal it to me.

They: We will continue to do what you allow Us to do. If you ask, it is already given.

Me: Well is there something I can do to better worship and serve you God? I guess I'm asking: How do you think I'm doing in life?

They: Glad you asked. You have not been given the gift of interpreting the Bible through Spirit and giving it to others. You have tried to understand it instead of allowing it to reveal itself like We say It does. We have shown you it's truth and will continue to. But you can not share that truth through indepth knowledge of the Scripture with other people. It's not your gift, We haven't called you to do so, not now anyway.

Me: I can't? Well why not? Don't you want me to tell people about You?

Them: We do. But not like this. Understanding the Bible and sharing it with others is not your gift. You can't have all gifts, Jessica. Yours are special, but different. Talk about it, question it, sure. But don't say what it means unless you allow Us to say what it means. You don't know yet.

ME: Oh, got it. So basically, being a pastor is not in my future? But people like my Pastor on Wednesday, they have this spiritual gift of understanding the Bible?

Them: Yes. Your pastor understands because the Spirit has shown it to Him. It is his gift.

Me: Okay, well I didn't think that gift was for me anyway. It seemed to go "against the grain" when I tried to understand the Bible and tell people about it. But I was open to being a pastor if that's what You were calling me to do and I was just missing it. You know that, right God? That I'm ready for however you want me to serve you best.

Them: We know you are. And that's why We're telling you teaching scripture is not for you, if we didn't think you were ready to hear it, we'd just omit that part and let you try and save the world yourself.

Me: Well then what is my gift?

Them: You already know the spiritual gifts We've given you.

Me: I think I do. Can I run them by you so you can tell me if I'm right?

Them: Of course.

Me: The blog and coaching. I'm supposed to help coach people and write about you, those are my gifts.

Them: Well, you have it somewhat right.

Me: Somewhat? Where am I missing it? Is there more? Less? You know God, I'm open to whatever you will have me do.

Them: We know. Which is why we're ready to give you the understanding you've been asking of Us.

Me: Great! Let's hear it!

Them: The blog and your writing is for you. Not for other people. The coaching is for others, not necessarily for you.

Me: So I shouldn't share the blog anymore? What do you mean "for me" and "for others"?

Them: Keep writing in your blog. Don't worry about the blessings or whose reading. Just keep continuing to write about Us. You MUST be obedient in this. However, We are having you continue writing for your own good, not the good of others. This is for YOU to have a strengthened faith. For you to be accountable for continuing your relationship with Us. If We choose to bless you here, great. We may not choose this as your blessing in the way you think of it though. Instead, you are to write the blog in obedience to Us. And you are to obey because it is good for strengthening your faith. It is good. And that's all you need right now. The blog is not yours. It is ours. And I am using it for your good, not necessarily for the good of others. So don't worry about every word you write and whether or not you are helping spread our message through it. Just write the truth and We will strengthen your faith through that Truth. And We will do with OUR blog, what We see fit.

Me: Wow. So my words mean nothing to others when I write? It's just for me only? That's disappointing, I guess. I put so much time into it.

Them: Your disappointment is proof that it continues to be for YOU, not for others and you haven't even allowed it to be for Us. Your words you say. All glory be given to Us. Not you.

Me: You're right! Oh thank you God for pointing that out. I can't believe I'm saying this.... But I love when you show me my weakness. This understanding of myself is nothing short of strict discipline and I desire it. What about the coaching? How is that not for me but for others?

Them: I'm calling you for service of others.

Me: Service, huh? Through coaching?

Them: Through serving. In your coaching sessions, you are serving others. Think of each coaching client you've had thus far. All 4. What do they know of you?

Me: They know I care about them.

Them: What else?

Me: They know I want them to succeed.

Them: What else?

Me: They know I want them to be happy and encouraged.

Them: What else?

Me: They know I'm willing to go above and beyond a traditional coaching role to a doing role if it benefits them in some capacity. They know I'm willing to give my time. My energy. They know that I would spend my time outside of our sessions doing for them. They know that without really even knowing much about them, I love them. And to be honest, they all know that I do this because of YOU.

Them: Bingo. There you go. Witness by serving. Not by your scriptural knowledge but through service they will see Us. Serve and give of yourself and let them know who YOU serve. It's not forced; it's natural, it's not "against the grain" as you like to call it. You've already done it without knowing or thinking about it. This is your calling from Us. Share Us by serving people.

Me: *Ahem* well God, they actually pay me for this service. Should they continue to pay me? Or since this is your service should I do it for free?

Them: Any financial blessing you receive is a gift. So allow it. But if someone can not afford your love and help, give it anyway. For free.

Me: Okay, well how often should I be doing this?

Them: Constantly, Always be Serving.

Me: Well, what about our web design business?

Them: You will always be blessed financially with or without your help in your husband's business.

Me: Okay. Actually that's easy for me to believe, God. Because I've always just felt blessed financially like I understood that I was just supposed to have money.

Them: You always will be. It is a gift from Us. You're welcome.

Me: I was going to say thank you but you beat me to the punch.

Them: We know. Anything else you want to know?

Me: Let's see. What about my marriage?

Them: Another blessing given to you by Us. You're welcome.

Me: But we'll have hard times like everyone else and we'll have to....

(They interrupted me) Them: Stop using the human idea of having to struggle and just accept the Truth. We've blessed you financially and we've blessed your marriage. No struggle needed. They are gifts offered by Us. You shall not struggle in the sense that everyone tells you that you will. You are blessed by Us. There is no struggle here if you just allow Us to do what we do in your marriage.

Me. Thank you.

Them: Anything else?

Me: Okay, about my marriage, so you say it's good. What about my spiritual development and it co-existing with my marriage? I fear that if I go in one direction, he may go in another.

Them: As we said...your marriage is blessed by Us. The two of you have, and will have, a marriage like We intended people to have from the beginning. You will grow together, not apart. We are telling you the Truth.

Me: Thank you.

Them: What else would you like to discuss?

Me: Well let's see. How about my friend Susie. She really wants a baby. Since you and I are talking I may as well Susie going to get pregnant? Is prophecy something you'll reveal to me as a gift too? She really wants to.

Them: Whether or not she gets to bear a child isn't your concern. We will tell you this.... She has been conversing with Us just as you have. She will share in Our blessings the same way you have. And Our will be done. That's all you need to know.

Me: She has? I didn't know that!!!

Them: You have enough to worry about with your own journey, there was no need for Us to reveal her journey to you.

Me: Fair enough. Well I hope it is your will for Susie to have a baby. She REALLY wants it.

Them: We know what her desire is. WE will bless her the way We see fit.

Me: Okay, sorry. You already said to kinda stay out of it. I will. Glad to hear she's talking with you though.

Them: So are We. Your desire for Susie to Love us pleases Us.

Me: That's a good question, let's look at that for a moment....Do You All get happy or is that an emotion just for us humans?

Them: We are certainly pleased when people commune with Us if that's what you mean.

Me: So me talking with you makes you happy.

Them: Nothing makes us happier than your love.

Me: I'm glad I could make you happy, God. I didn't realize I had that ability to do that since you're God and all.

Them: You have pleased us much lately. Continue to let Us guide you on your path.

Me: I want to be guided. I want you to light my way. Like the song! A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I love that song!

Them: We do too. And it is just like that song. We are looking to show you all things. You just need to talk with Us. Like you are right now.

Me: What else should I ask of you since I have your ear?

I turned around at this point and looked at the clock, I had 20 minutes left until the service was over.

Me: Okay, God. I have a whole 20 minutes, what should we cover? Oh! How about how my brother Jon in seminary. You must have great things in store for him, right?

Them: Jon pleases us much. We have decided that you two should gather continually in Our name for your sake.

Me: For my sake?

Them: For both your sakes. You and Jon are talking about Us because We decided that the two of you needed one another to strengthen eachother's faith. Not that you couldn't find Us without each other, but having a family member who is equally yoked helps clarify many things for the two of you. I've gifted you both with one another so that you will grow strong in Us. The power of two in my name is more awesome than you could ever imagine.

Me: Great. I'm so happy for that. I love Jon so much.

Them: We know you do. We have blessed you both. Just be patient in all things.

Me: How about my friend Bobby and Mary? I've been praying God for you to illuminate the lives of both Bobby and Mary with your Spirit. Are you going to do that?

Them: We will.

Me: Can you clarify the meaning of that? Are You going to make sure that they both have You?

Them: Everyone already has Us. They just have to have understanding of that truth. Remember, I came for the Jew and the Gentile.

Me: Oh no, this isn't going to go in the direction I think is it? That frustrating direction I keep coming to about who gets the Kingdom and who doesn't? I don't want to think or talk about that anymore.

Them: And so you shouldn't. I'm glad you brought this up. You have been defending Our name in Our honor with arguments and logic. You know better. First, you know so little about the Bible yet you use It to spread the Word. Stop it. This is not your gift as We've told you before. Your gift is service. Not to understand who gets Us. We came for everyone. Bobby, Susie, Mary, Everyone.

Me: But that's big because Mary and Bobby have both asked me whether or not they get you if they don't believe in the story of Jesus. How shall I answer?

Them: With Love. With Service. As We called you to do. When asked, tell them about Me, but tell them you don't know about everyone else. Because YOU DON'T.

Me: So let me get this straight. If I pray for Bobby and Mary to find You and then if they ask me, (who clearly has found you otherwise we wouldn't be talking right now) what the truth is, I shouldn't tell them?

Them: How can you tell them truth if you don't know it?

Me: But i do, I know THIS.

Them: Then this is what you should tell them. Tell them with your gifts. Which are what again?

Me: Service and encouragement.

Them: Perfect. So from now on, try not to defend Our honor with argument or defend it with scripture. Instead, use your gifts to spread our gospel and say "I DONT KNOW" for the parts you are unsure of. Service and encouragement, that's what you are responsible for.

Me: So for instance, I should help serve Bobby and Mary and that's how you want me to witness.

Them: Exactly. But Our only request is that when you do, during your service, you let them know why you serve them with no strings attached. Not because of you and your goodness, but because God has asked you to.

Me: I can do that. I think I'm feeling much better about not having self-importance these days. I am finding less of a need for recognition from others. I still have a long way to go, I know. But I feel like I'm making strides in that department.

Them: We see that is so. And it is good. But you're human and you will stumble, continue to stay close to Us and We will continue to make you more like Us.

Me: Oh good. Can you do me a favor and make me humble? Can you continue to give me understanding? And faith?

Them: Yes, this is Our promise to you. Our will be done.

Me: Thank you so much for this conversation.

I opened one eye and checked out the time behind me. I had 3 minutes left.

Me: So we only have 3 more minutes.

Them: Anything else you want to know about Us?

Me: I just want to thank You....All of You, I guess.

Them: You're welcome.

Me: Can you please keep me strong in my faith?

Them: All you need to do is believe that We are real. That this conversation is real. When you open your eyes and re-enter the world, just remember you spoke with Us today and that's the reality of all this. Don't equate it to talking to yourself. Know it for what it is and you will be doing Our will and We will continue to show ourselves to you and your faith with multiply beyond your dreams. We are Real.

Me: Okay. I can do that. This conversation IS REAL. This conversation is Real. This conversation is Real.

Them: I am.

Me: Thank you.

Them: Thank you, it has been Our pleasure talking with you today.

I opened my eyes and the rest of the congregation did as well. Everyone stood up and one by one, we broke our silence by saying good morning to one another and shaking each others hands. The woman I had assumed was a mean old Amish lady made her way toward me. The minute our eyes connected, I could see her Light shining. I thanked God silently. She said, "you're new aren't you? How did you hear about us?" I told her I was new to the service and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Which was a complete understatement. I wanted to shout, "Do you know that God talks back??!!!" but I had a sneaky suspicion she already knew.

As I left the service I looked back at the modestly dressed woman one last time and my heart filled with joy and peace. She offered me a warm inviting smile as if she knew that I had judged her and then had asked God for forgiveness. I felt that she too had offered her own personal forgiveness to me without hesitation. I smiled back at the Spirit I had come to know so well. The same Spirit her and I both shared. I knew with certainty that the past hour was indeed very Real and we were real Friends.

To learn about what I think is by leaps and bounds the best service I have attended so far, check out the Richmond Friend's website at:

Richmond Friends Meeting #16

At 9am this morning I drove to 4500 Kensington Avenue and parked my car outside of the Richmond's Friends Meeting, otherwise known as a Quaker service. The simple church sat on the corner of a tree lined street in one of the most beautiful areas of Richmond. Since the silent service didn't start until 9:30, I parked my car in the direct path of the sun's warm rays and let it illuminate the car as I tuned in to a Christian radio program and listened intently while sipping my delicious cup of Panera coffee.

The radio preacher chose a sermon relating to the healing power of God. He challenged us to pray for those inflicted with disease so that they may be miraculously healed through the power of the Spirit. The man said we could do greater things than even Jesus if we only believed. He was so inspirational that I found myself regretful that I was about to attend a silent Quaker service instead of a charismatic sermon that I now find myself anticipating all week. I thought, "I would really love to hear about God this morning instead of sit in silence for an hour." I'm continually amazed at how ignorant I am to the reality that God already exists within me and its not something I need to seek outside of myself.

At exactly 9:29 and probably 59 seconds, I hesitantly said goodbye to my charismatic preacher, and to my incredible cup of joe and approached the Meeting. When I first entered, a bold sign read "please no phones, food, or drink." I made sure my phone was turned off and then took a seat in an empty pew. It was easy to do so since at that time, me and another woman were the only ones there. She was a modest woman who appeared to be in her upper 40's. She was ordinary looking, with simple dress. She wore a button up long sleeve blouse, glasses and her hair was pulled back into a low, messy bun. Her cotton pants may have revealed her ankles had they not been covered by a thick pair of tall white gym socks. Since she was the only one in the room and I had no one else to criticize based on their appearance alone so my mind drifted off imaging the life she led outside of this Quaker service. In my vision, I saw her sipping hot water with her sister while visiting their small hometown in Pennsylvania. In my ridiculous imagination, I had made this woman up to be Amish, not Quaker. I envisioned her sister's house without electricity and how their log cabin home had a horse and buggy parked outside. Out back were several of those little wood heat furnaces I've see on infomercials with men and really long beards chopping wood. It's interesting how my mind immediately painted this picture of several religious stereotypes instead of initially trying to see the light of God within her. I had also determined that she was unfriendly. I thought she looked kinda mean since she wasn't smiling big at me when I entered. For a moment, I considered the fact that she might be, but then drew my own conclusion that if she was in this room and had the same intentions I did, to commune with the Holy Spirit, she couldn't be this cold, rigid Amish character I had made up in my head. In the first place, she's not Amish, I have no clue if she has a sister and her character, one would assume, may be much like the Spirit she communes with daily. At the very least, I knew I would be slapping my own hand for judging her spirit without even speaking a word to her. Then, as other people began to enter the area where we sat, I realized something quite interesting about myself and my character. First, I'm what my husband would call judgy McJudgerson. I assumed this lady is a mean Amish woman with a sister in Pennsylvania without electricity because of how she's dressed. But secondly, I think I assumed she wasn't nice because she wasn't giving me a huge smile and an over the top welcome. And I made this assumption when we weren't supposed to be talking. Hence, SILENT service.... so I'm not sure why I was expecting a salesman like greeting where she immediately met me at the door to let me know how happy she was to see me. And so, I began my one hour silent worship service asking for forgiveness from God for judging people based on appearances. He let me know that He had already forgiven me for this deed, and asked that we now begin what would be an hour long conversation with one another. And when I say this, I don't mean an hour of me praying and having this "knowing" that I was being heard, no, I mean, I spoke then He spoke, then I spoke, and then THEY spoke. I had no idea that in the next 55 minutes in this Friends meeting , I was going to have a very REAL Conversation with God. And that THEY had been wanting to converse with me for quite some time.

When the last person entered the church, there seemed to be a congregation of about 8 people. I didn't know if I was supposed to close my eyes or whether people would say anything but I just followed the others lead and closed my eyes and kept my mouth shut. For a brief moment, I wondered if this was going to be the same excruciating meditation that I was used to where I'd try to silence my mind but would think of about a million other things, but much to my surprise, the hour didn't seem like an hour, it went by in the blink of an eye. Time flies when you're talking to God like you would your neighbor, I guess.

My conversation with God can found be here:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Quaker Community

I've decided from now on I'm only going to give a brief bit of information about the services I'm going to attend each week. It takes a lot of time and research, and quite honestly, if anyone wants to learn about it, they can pick up an Encyclopedia just as easily as I can. Instead, I will give a couple of bullet points that I find relevant and interesting about each faith.

Quakers are:

...referred to as both Quakers and Friends.
...members of the Religious Society of Friends
.....self proclaimed pacifists interested in social equality, integrity, and simplicity.


Quaker's religious groups were formed in the 1600's when there was much turmoil in England.

Quaker's were formed as a means to restore "original Christianity" that was not corrupted by the church.

Quakers, like many other Christians, were imprisoned, tortured and executed for their beliefs.

Quaker's were separated into 3 groups in the 19th century:

a) Liberal: maintain the traditional practice of meetings based on expectant silence but most have abandoned Christianity to pursue various universalist philosophies

b) Pastoral: neo-Protestant Pastoral Quakers introduced hired priests and programmed (pre-planned) worship services. They are very similar in look, practice, and belief to typical Protestant churches.

c) Conservative Quakers: rejected both departures from the original vision and still retain the Christian beliefs and the waiting silent worship practiced by the original Friends.

None of the surviving groups retain the wholeness of the original Quaker witness, which was a balance between relying on the Inward Light, identitifying the historical Jesus as the eternal Christ.

There are 300,000 Friends worldwide today, most fall into the Pastoral group.


We believe that God is accessible to everyone-- now, today, here--and that Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Word of God, the Inward Light, is willing to teach us individually how to come to Him and how to live our lives.

We believe that because the Holy Spirit is willing to speak to us, personally, that it is our highest duty to listen. It is then our immediate obligation to act in accordance with His will.

Conservative Quakers (which is where I'll be attending) identifies the Light as both the historical, living Jesus, and as the Grace of God extended to people that simultaneously makes us conscious of our sins, forgives them, and gives us the strength and the will to overcome them.

The Light might be explained as the outpouring of the loving influence of God, extended to all people as the means of their potential salvation. Quakers also see the Light as "That of God in every man," that measure of the Holy Spirit given to us that is sufficient to work our soul's salvation, if we do not resist it.

Because all people-- Quaker or not-- have always had direct and immediate access to God, we believe that all other sources of religious understanding are inessential and subordinate, including scriptures, church authority, tradition, reason, and formal religious education.

Quaker's believe that it is the Spirit Himself who is the first authority of truth, not the writings of His human interpreters, however faithful. If not resisted, the same Spirit will guide all of us individually, and will provide a personal relationship with God based on direct experience of His presence, guidance, and love.

Conservative Quakers believe in complete integrity in worship and in life. All of life is sacramental, every day is holy, and the details are important. Because they are unnecessary to God and historically have distracted people from genuine communion with Him, we dispense with rites and ceremonies, ritualized sacraments, sacred books and buildings, creeds, clergy, and holy days.

Quaker's manner of daily living is an expression of worship in everything they do, and they are directed to seek divine guidance for their everyday activities. Simplicity and absolute honesty are religious expectations.


Friends Historical Society of Philadelphia Volume XI; 1922

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hope Church Sunrise Service #15

At 7am on Easter morning, I drove up to Hope Church for their outdoor sunrise service. Interestingly enough, the sun had already risen about 20 minutes before. But that didn't bother me any. Especially since I had only woken up at 6:50, wiped the sleep out of my eyes and hopped in the car. For a brief moment, since I had overslept I considered staying home and having my own intimate sunrise service on my back deck but something about it just didn't feel right.

While driving to the church, I couldn't help but recognize the rainbow of colors that blanketed the morning sky. Shades of pink, purple, orange, blue, white and yellow created the most amazing picture. I found myself mesmerized by it. So much so that I had to remind myself to keep an eye on the road, not the sky. As I looked up at it's vastness, I realized that there is so much I don't understand about God and our existence. And I felt such gratitude for all I did not know because if I did, and my human understanding was enough to capture all of it, the Spirit of God would lose so much of it's luster, so much of it's magnificent mystery.

When I arrived, about 100 people, all looking equally sleepy-eyed gathered around the church's band and Pastor as we listened to worship music and silently prayed to Jesus Christ. I found myself this morning in particular feeling so grateful for what God does for me. For the blessings he's given my family. For the blessings he's given me with this project. And thankful for the opportunity to just know him. I was particularly thankful for my new found desire to know God with all my heart.

The service only lasted 30 minutes. An outdoor band played a few worship songs, read a few bible verses from the gospels, and it ended with communion. The pastor had told us that anyone wanting to partake could form a line to eat of the bread and wine in remembrance of Christ. Even though I would be attending the 8:45 service at the Episcopalian church where I knew I'd do it then, I did feel compelled to get in line. I walked up to the front and the kind pastor wished me a happy Easter, and handed me what he called "the bread of life". I put it in my mouth only after dunking it in the glass of wine which represented the blood of the Lamb. As soon as it crossed my lips I immediately regretted that decision. Ashamed to say, I just couldn't swallow it, regardless of what it represented. I knew if I did swallow this soggy piece of cardboard, it would not be good....for anyone. So it sat, for the next 10 minutes atop my tongue until I I finally got to my car and managed to slyly spit it out. When I was finally alone, I laughed to myself at how ridiculous I can sometimes be. I told God that I hoped I hadn't offended him but this cardboardy bread was just too much to bare. I then requested that at the 8:45 service, he serve maybe a nice honey wheat....and actually, thank GOD....he answered my prayer.

To learn more about Hope Church (whose incredibly awesome tagline is Hope Church: A Good place to Find Life) you can take a look at their website here: I'll certainly be attending a traditional service there soon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shady Grove United Methodist: Tenebrae Service #14

At 7pm on Good Friday, I attended the Shady Grove United Methodist Church off of Pouncey Tract in Glen Allen, VA for Tenebrae service. I had never attended an event such as this but I had a feeling it would be right up my alley.

Tenebrae is celebrated before Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Holy Saturday during Holy Week and is recognized by many Catholic and Protestant churches. The Protestant version of the distinctive ceremony includes a series of songs, readings or chants from the gospels which describe the time between the Last Supper and the death of Jesus Christ, and many times include the last 7 words that Christ spoke before he gave up his life.

When I entered the Shady Grove sanctuary area, there seemed to be a spirit of mourning amoung those in attendance, including myself. A very simple wooden cross set the stage for what was nearing. From my limited research I knew I was to expect a dramatic representation of the days before Christ died, but I had no idea exactly how moved I would be when I left that night.

I took a seat in the middle of a pew as the congregation filled up the space. When we were finally all settled in, a somber looking man, wearing all black stood in the front of the room, holding a lit candle. The choir stood behind all of us and began to sing praises to God as they slowly walked down the aisle. One by one, with an unlit candle in their hands, they met the lone man who offered them light by sharing his flame and lighting their candles. When the entire choir, dressed from head to toe in black had joined the man and they were all facing us, they began to act out the gospel of the last days of Christ in song. They sang, and spoke the words that the apostoles had spoken some, 2000 years ago.

The show started at 7pm when the sun was still shining. Slowly, during the service, as the sun set, the room started to darken. First, the overhead lights were dimmed, then, as the sun fell down on the earth, the lights in the sanctuary did as well until the candles they held were the only lights we saw. They sang in glorious, beautiful praise and the service was delightful, but the truth was we were mourning. This wasn't just acting. We were a somber bunch. For almost 15 minutes straight, in a dimly lit room, we all sang sweetly to God and mourned the loss of our Savior.

Jesus like a Lamb to the slaughter.
Jesus like a Lamb to be slain.
Jesus to your death you are nearing
Jesus the Lamb of God.

One by one, the remaining candles were gradually snuffed out as they finished the passages that represented the flight of the disciples and the approach of dark hate of Jesus enemies and finally the Passion of the Christ. With only one candle left burning, the man who portrayed Jesus, stood with the cross behind him, looking up to heaven with real tears in his eyes, and screamed "Abba!" and "forgive them, for they know not what they do" and finally "it is finished."

In that moment, the final flame disappeared and the sanctuary was completely dark. All I could hear was sniffling all around me. Maybe because I myself was crying like a 2 year old. For what seemed like a lifetime, we all sat, silently in prayer. The final words spoken were a brief recollection of the time Jesus was in the tomb.

To conclude the ceremony, the man portraying Jesus asked us to please leave the place in silence. Not one word was spoken by anyone until we all got into our cars.

If you're looking for a church in the West End of Richmond and you'd like to learn more about Shady Grove United Methodist, visit their website here: