Jan Wood: Room for the Infinite

Welcome Friends! As we worship this evening, may the Light of Christ spark something new and beautiful among us. May our prophetic voice find new expression. May our hands be used to build a more just and peaceful world. May our feet be used to bring Good News to those most desperate to hear it. And may our fellowship be kindled by that Refiner’s fire—leaving us more lovely and more holy than we might ever be on our own.

-from the bulletin for Saturday Evening Meeting for Worship


Saturday evening worship was led by Kelly Kellum of North Carolina Yearly Meeting, with music provided by Laura Dungan and Aaron Fowler of Great Plains Yearly Meeting. Friends on the facing bench also included Lon Fendall of Northwest Yearly Meeting, Rosario Concepción Fernández of Cuba Yearly Meeting, and Karla Jay of Western Yearly Meeting. The Scripture passages, Colossians 2:9-10 and 3:1-3, were read in Spanish and English by Rosario and Karla, and they also offered a moving bilingual prayer.

Christopher Sammond introduced Jan Wood, Friend from Northwest Yearly Meeting and Director of GOOD NEWS Associates, who ministered in Word and Spirit. He noted the incongruity in having a Friend from an FUM/FGC Yearly Meeting introduce a Friend from an EFI Yearly Meeting across the country, but said that Jan’s ministry habitually crosses over such boundaries. Jan brought her years of ministry and personal experience to bear as gathered Friends explored all the Room there is for the Infinite in our lives.

One of the illustrations that she offered was about job descriptions that she believes we have confused. Jesus was clear, she said, that his job was to convict and judge and bring to repentance, whereas the only job that we have been given is that of the lover. We want to get those roles backward, to imagine that judging is our job and Jesus will take care of the loving.

She asked us to consider whether or not we were fully trusting in Jesus’ ways. When Jesus tells us how to live, do we believe it? And as we come to believe it more, how are we remade?

Not content to leave things abstract, Jan offered four practical hints to enlarge the space of the Eternal Now in us. The first was advice on practicing the presence of God- or, more accurately, practicing being present to the love that is constantly present with us. “Bring that union to your mind as many times as you can,” she said. “Try talking to Jesus like a partner, like a friend, like a person who is with you.”

Jan referenced the importance of Frank Laubach’s Game of Minutes in her own spiritual life, eliciting recognition from gathered Friends. The Game of Minutes challenged Christians to be in communion with Christ for one second out of every minute. Laubach acknowledged the seeming impossibility of this task, but said that perfecting the process wasn’t the point—the goal of the Game of Minutes is to teach oneself to focus on Jesus. Jan found this game to be spiritually transformative and recommended the game to Friends as a practical way to grow in Christ.

The second practical hint that Jan offered was the Gleaning Principle. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the farmers were told not to harvest the corners of the field. This allowed the poor to come and pick produce.

Jan made this ancient agricultural practice relevant to 21st century Friends by asking us to leave margins in our lives, not to fill our lives to the very edges. She reminded Friends that leaving blank spaces our calendars will allow us to retain enough energy to be present to the ministry that we are being called to moment by moment.

To describe her third practical hint, Jan shared her love of macro-photography. She enjoys using lenses to take pictures of things so small that we could not normally see them, to celebrate the beauty in these small things.

As a spiritual practice, however, she encouraged Friends to do the opposite. “Zoom out,” she said. “See the world from the perspective of heaven. See the hurt you have suffered and let it be in its right side,” proportional to the wideness and depth of the kingdom of the infinite.

Zooming out brings us into God’s perspective. It allows us to see our opinions and struggles and hurts and setbacks and sins as meaningful, but also as small matters compared to the great redemptive plan of God that stretches throughout space and history. Zooming out lets us own our experiences while remembering how tiny, in the face of the infinite, they ultimitely are.

Practical hint number four: remember that God is in me and God is in you, but God is also in the space in between us.

Friends are excellent at remembering that there is that of God in everyone, but we struggle more with seeing God in the spaces that separate us from one another. Jan invited gathered Friends to recognize that all Friends in the worship space were cushioned and held by the God in between. She invited us to think of God in terms of the possibilities that exist as we reach through the in between space to connect with one another. She said, “relationships and communities change when we recognize that God in between.”

Jan ended her speaking time with an easy version of spirituality, for those who were intimidated by her four practical hints. She simply said,

“Here’s the easy version: picture right now that you’re a sponge. Picture a big tub of water, the love of God and all of God’s purposes. Dive in and soak up as much of God’s heart as you can. Is your inner sponge getting big? Big? Bigger?

Okay. Now I want you to go get everybody wet.”

 

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