Why I Really Went to Bible Study This Morning

One time a journalist supposedly asked a bishop, “Do you really believe that prayer changes things?” And the bishop answered, “Well, when I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't.”

The painter Picasso supposedly said, “Inspiration comes, but it has to find you working.”

This is a long story.

I went to Bible study at my new meeting for the first time today. That’s two and a half years since I started coming here, for those who are keeping track at home. Over the last 15 years or so, when I might have been interested in going to Bible study, mostly I have said to my husband, “That’s okay, dear, you go. I’ll stay home and bring the children to meeting for worship later.” And really, it was fine. But now I realize we are in a new phase of life – our children could walk themselves to Meeting without us if they had to, and I can go to Bible study if I want to.

So yesterday, Chris and I went to a daylong conference organized by our new yearly meeting for Friends interested in Ministry and Worship. Really, we went as a favor to the organizer. We stepped in at the last minute to lead an afternoon workshop on adult religious education. (We showed a Nooma film with Rob Bell, among other things!) But in the morning, we were talking to another Friend from our new meeting about the Bible study he was planning to lead today and the blueberry coffee cake he was planning to make, and I said, hmm, maybe I should go.

Last night Chris and I talked about the logistics, and it turned out that the boys were willing to go early if they could get a ride and have some blueberry coffee cake, so we decided to all go. Then just before bed, Chris informed me that the group was reading the Gospel of Thomas, and I was skeptical. I haven’t studied the ordinary Bible enough, do I want to start on the Gnostic Gospels too? I decided I was just really tired, and that I ought to go, because it’s my meeting community not because of whichever book they’re reading. So I said, well, I’m not setting my alarm. If I wake up in time to go, that’s great, but if not, I’m going to sleep as long as I need to.

But lo and behold, I was wide awake and ready to leave by 9:30 am. We got to the meetinghouse, got some coffee and a choice between banana-nut or blueberry-orange breads. Yum. Then I had to ask Chris, so where does this group actually meet? He pointed to the room under the stairs at the back of the kitchen. There were five of us for Bible study today, and the reading was interesting and the worship-sharing was interesting, but I think now that’s not really why I was meant to go today.

I had never fully been in that room before. I didn’t know there was a lending library in there. I had only seen the historical books in the library room upstairs. There were a lot of good books in the collection. On the shelves across the room from where I was sitting, I saw a book I’ve been wanting to read for a couple of years now, called Sustaining Our Spirits: Women Leaders Thriving for Today and Tomorrow. It was recommended to me by Mary Ellen McNish, one of the authors. So that was cool.  And when I walked over to look more closely, I found another book that I really need to read right now, called Leading from Within: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead from the Center for Courage and Renewal (Parker Palmer’s outfit). Here’s a poem that I really needed this week:
Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

--Wendell Berry
But the real reason I went to Bible study this morning is because I have to show up for the things that are happening at my meeting. I have to say yes to the long form improv scene that is the life of my spiritual community. Worship this morning was so full for me. Full of new insights and old lessons and bubbling over with ideas. I needed that. I needed Bible study this morning. I needed the workshop yesterday afternoon. I need the community that gathered there, and here. I need to say yes to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, not just no to all the things that feel like distractions from my job and my family life.

Thy will, Lord, not mine.

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Blogger Daniel Francis said...

I like the structure your Meeting has. Its really a privilege to find a meeting so interested in opportunities for spiritual nurture and religious education.

1/30/2014 5:39 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks for commenting, Daniel. I think there are often more opportunities when we are looking for them. Tomorrow we are going to Breakfast with a Friend - which is just a before-meeting meal once a month. Which I usually forget about until we arrive just before meeting for worship. But tomorrow we are going to make an effort.

2/01/2014 8:02 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm glad you went! As someone who is often leading a bible study it makes it so much more interesting when others show up.

Also, It's funny to me that you referenced improv as I've been using Patricia Ryan Madson's book "Improv Wisdom" in a number of my sermons lately. One was on "presence" and the importance of showing up!

2/02/2014 10:56 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

For me the important part of improv technique is that to keep the scene going, you have to say yes to whatever happens and work with it.

And the bible study leader asked me to please come again.

In a slightly related topic, I'm bummed that the man (Quaker, actor, director, father, minister) who introduced me to the concept of long-form improv is no longer going to be our Friday night speaker at the FWCC event in Sacramento next month. He got a real acting gig in Philly. But you can read his blog instead. It's called Showman-Shaman.

2/03/2014 7:40 PM  
Blogger Kim Ranger said...

How did you find Thomas, Robin? I think there is a lot to think about in that gospel.

6/17/2014 11:52 AM  

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