Inward circumcision

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision performed, not by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your natural self. This is circumcision according to Christ.

Source: Colossians – Chapter 2 – Verse 11 – New Jerusalem Bible

Margaret Fell also wrote about the complete stripping of ourselves.

Friends, deal plainly with yourselves, and let the eternal Light search you, and try you, for the good of your souls. For this will deal plainly with you. It will rip you up, and lay you open, and make all manifest which lodges in you…. Therefore all to this come, and by this be searched, and judged, and led and guided.

Margaret Fell, 1656

Hugh Barbour and Arthur Roberts wrote similarly in their general introduction to Early Quaker Writings:

The Light, a metaphor which suggests a searchlight into a well or a candle in a dark closet and not man’s own mental power, is not to be distinguished in early Quaker experience from Christ or the Spirit within men. The Light searched out sin and brought into sight all of a man’s inward emotions and outward acts…

Inwardly Jewish?

George Fox spoke and wrote about being a Jew inwardly.

The sacramental churches care about water baptism.  I’m not Jewish, nor have I ever been sprinkled.  However, I do identify with the passages above.  (‘Nuf said.)

Is the inward searching of the Light that I’ve experienced similar to the inward circumcision that Paul refers to here and in a letter to the Romans?  Is baptism also like that inward searching?

When my sibling wrongs me…

When I’m frustrated and can’t speak, I either act out or I dream of a solution.

Children tend to act out.  Adults dream of solutions.  Sometimes an action or a solution includes revenge.

This seems to hold true among Quakers of all ages.  The religious education program I coordinate for Quaker children has some acting out.  The atmosphere is more violent than the children, their adult leaders or I want it to be.  It’s more violent than most of the group of Friends who employ me might believe.  I guess it’s about on a par with the playgrounds I supervised for public elementary schools.

The large meetiBonnet&fistsngs for business that I (rarely) attend include many ideas for solutions to many contemporary problems.  Some solutions are focused on the group itself, some on regional or world issues.  Sometimes violence or revenge is spoken of or included in a proposed solution.  To sit through such a meeting does violence to the physiology of many of us.  Some of us avoid that hurt by skipping meetings, perhaps while helping with the children’s program.  Some channel the physiological hurt into smart and sharp repartee or open protest.  The words may be aimed at evil in the world or they may be directed at a Friend across the room.

Last week I was blessed to attend a few snippets of my yearly meeting sessions for business.  I’ve served on the Committee on the Discipline for a few years.  Our committee’s co-clerks reported during one of my brief visits to the sessions.  We are a year away from presenting the next version of the Faith and Practice, to be bound subsequent to its acceptance by the yearly meeting.

In response, one Friend asked us to publish the next Faith and Practice on the web.  Whether we want it or not, we should expect information from this Friend on how to make it accessible to those with different visual abilities.  This is a promise to occupy our time.  Seems like beneficial and productive time for a webkeeper or someone from the committee to spend.
Fighting GC mascot
The promise to occupy our time is a small threat, but a threat nonetheless.  The threat to provide us information probably comes out of frustration with publications that are interesting, but inaccessible.  Perhaps our committee itself has published in inaccessible formats in the past.  I confess that many of our recent drafts have been quite hard to find.

There are many clever and profound words traded by liberal Quakers as we meet together and as we converse over meals.  I’ve noticed many of us who can’t or don’t care to partake in that style of interaction absent ourselves from large gathering or large meetings.  Expamples include my father, myself and about half the volunteers for our children’s program.

When one or two children verbally denigrate or irritate another, violence is done to their hearts.  The diminished child is frustrated and sometimes angry.  Among Quaker children I’ve noticed that sometimes turn into a push, a slap or a punch.  Interesting thing with this group: They don’t fight back!  One touch and it’s over.  The whole group gasps, pauses and stops.  This is beyond the pale of what’s expected in this environment.  The one who struck the blow can’t believe what they just did.  Often, they seek reconciliation right away.  The one who’s hurt cries, gets the attention they need and then things go on.
Child spanking
I’ve realized this week that physical aggression has come only from those children with delayed speech or quick impulses.  This is not based on a qualified diagnosis, but on observation through my experienced eyes.

By no means should any children’s program exclude or police any child with slow speech, autism or hyperkinesis.  Moral education is a better solution.  All children–all people–need to learn what to do with frustration, anger and belittlement.

Because I’ve noticed the problem with physical aggression manifested in those with communication differences, it’s vital that my teaching come through many learning modes.  I can’t just sermonize or write about it.  Usually I subject misbehaving children to a seven question interview.  That must be modified from its current oral language dependent format.

This blog post may be just a start for some education. The problem is not just a children’s problem.  By sitting all day in meetings, sharing and interest groups, neglecting our inner children and our living ones, adults do violence to our posteriors and our hearts as well as to our posterity.  We take revenge or compensation out on each other instead of learning to love each other and our neighbors.

Let’s practice the skills of problem solving.  Let’s stand up and play a game about it.  Let’s have a whole yearly meeting session about it.  A theme could be When my sibling wrongs me…

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother….
Matthew 18:15

Lessons from Jesus coming to the big city

For inspiration and learning, I read a page or two of devotional literature as I start my morning prayer time.  In early December, I usually read some prophet–Isaiah or Jeremiah.  Close to Christmas, I start a gospel–Matthew or Luke.  I like to finish a gospel book in the Spring.  I don’t belong to a liturgical church, but I’m coming to see some truth in linking the myths and stories with the seasons around us.  So this selection of reaPalm Sunday inkdings is my personal liturgical calendar.  I’ve written about this before.

After reading the nativity story, I switched gospels this year.  Mark is spare, episodic and full of Jesus advocating for social change and a fair shake for peasants.  A couple of weeks ago, I paused in my reading of Mark to leave Jesus’s terminal week in Jerusalem until the week before Passover on my calendar.  Instead, I found Tom Head’s pamphlet, Envisioning a Moral Economy and the books of Ruth and Esther helpful for focusing.

Yesterday, I started reading these passages.  Jesus doesn’t speak much on the first couple of days.  His actions do provide a powerful message.  This time through, I’m noticing a different message each day.

I’m drawing a lot from a three year old post on the blog of my friend Paul C.  Read it!  It’s powerful. Continue reading

Of late winter observances and evil

It seems that late winter, illness, Lenten fasting, Purim and some Psalms are all of them about evil, which must be faced and seen for a mature spirituality and human functionality to be born in me.

I may even need to stand under evil–or have it as an understanding.  I don’t yet know why it’s around or how to treat it.  I do know it’s there in me and in the world.

The book of Ruth has no villain.  People die, but aren’t killed by others.  One of Naomi’s surviving daughters-in-law chooses to stay with her own people, but that’s not deplored.  Ruth and Boaz are heroes.  Their kinsmen who don’t make heroic choices of sacrifice and alliance with strangers aren’t vilified.  They just didn’t get stories about them into the history books.

Esther’s book has villains–or at least one.  It’s grisly and violent.  This is the story that gets celebrated–in the late winter.

Ruth’s book just gets quoted for engagements.

Let’s face that gristle and gore together: even sometimes in sundae school.  Then stomp our feet on top of it, clean out our pockets, dream of being as beautiful, or at least as preened, as Esther.  After that, we can eat poppy seed pastries and smile.

A Decade Later: 10 Reflections from the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005 — Rachel Guaraldi

Advices for past, present and future thought:

  • Humbly seek out that of God in the way others live, and find what’s deeply right in it.
  • Talk about your spiritual journey explicitly.
  • Find words for that which is hard or strange.
  • Evangelize.  Spread the good news.
  • Never be absolutely sure that you are right.
  • Abandon your forms when they do not fulfill God’s will.
  • Find in your faith things to live humbly by and to die for.
  • Do your work.  Call others to do theirs.
  • With your sins and the sins of your parents: admit them, repent them, heal the wounds.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Have joyful worship.  Do not always be somber.
  • Face your fears and your powerlessness.
  • Have faith.
  • Know who you are spiritually, and trust God to know where you are going.
  • Deny the distractions. Follow only God.
  • Love boldly.  Share deeply.
  • Forgive and forgive and forgive.

Source: A Decade Later: 10 Reflections from the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005 — Rachel Guaraldi

On love, knowledge and prophecy

And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge….–if I am without love, I am nothing.

In the 1970’s, I was in my teens and twenties.  I sought knowledge (along with the sex most of us also seek at that age).  I studied the great classic works of philosophy, poetry, physiTower at St. John's Collegecs and biology.  I learned much of the radical faith of the early Quaker’s.  I started into a particular discipline and studied that, preparing to teach it to children.

In reflection, I don’t think those were the important lessons of that period of my life.

In the 1980’s, I sought to be prophetic.  Perhaps there’s an issue of our day with which we can make a difference in our society or my community.  Can we showcase the Central American refugee to make all see that making war there is wrong?  Can we find dozens, scores or hundreds of nuclear free zones in this community?

In reflection, those efforts don’t seem to have borne lasting fruit.


Knowledge and prophecy haven’t made as much difference to me or to the people around me as love has.

Continue reading

Toward living water, worship, Spirit & Truth

My devotional reading today was from John’s gospel.  Chapter four starts with Jesus meeting a woman at a well in a town in Samaria.  I actually read the notes in my study Bible this time.  They led me to this history of how the Jews came to disrespect Samaritans:
….every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made …. They also worshiped the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed

© 2014 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

© 2014 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

for them in the shrines of the high places.  So they worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.  To this day they continue to practice their former customs.  [1 Kings 17:24-41 NRSV]

So the woman at the well was a pantheist.  Jesus is a Jew, Continue reading

That all may look forward, abide in the simplicity of Truth

More than the well-known postscript of the letter from Quaker elders gathered at Balby, I can use the following these days:

Let us all, in the simplicity of Truth…. abide and dwell, and in the liberty [wherewith] Christ Jesus has made us free, stand fast; that we be not again led back into the errors of those who went before us, who left the power and got into the form, who brought in that darkness which has so long covered the face of the earth, that no footsteps may be left for those who shall come aLook forwardfter, or to walk by example. That all they may be directed [by] and left to the Truth, in it to live and walk, and by it to be guided. That none may look back at us, nor have an eye behind them; but that all may look forward, waiting in the Spirit for the revelation of those glorious things, which are to be made manifest to them.

 

THIS letter was presented and read at the General Meeting at Skipton, the 5th-day of the eighth month, 1659; and was by all Friends owned and approved, and agreed to be observed; and copies thereof to be sent to all Monthly Meetings.

Spiritually following indigestion

Memory of what I said in worship on Sunday

I may be a spiritual follower of indigestion. One of the ways I find my way in the world is by paying attention to what’s “below” and “prior to” my thoughts. Pressures and releases in my midsection are part of that. I get an indicatiAbdominally mild felt senseon of the right or best path from attending to those felt senses.

I tell myself this, along with other experiences, is the Word of the Lord–the Inward Christ, but it may just be abdominally mild cramps or gas bubbles.

You may have a different way to feel what’s below or prior and inward or a different story about the origin of the sense you get. I’m interested in how you sense it and the stories you tell about it. The process you use and the stories you tell are not essential. Nor are mine. They are all important.storyteller

Important questions include:
∙ Are you open to something transcendent?
∙ How does it change your life?
∙ What kind of community does it lead us to build?

In retrospect, much of that still rings true.  My sense is that I was a bit too personally attached to the artistry of my phrasing and speaking.

“Pearls Before Swine” is useful for correction and training in righteousness

Five years ago, I blogged about moment to moment discernment–staying in touch with the Inward Guide.

Patricia Loring has cued me in on the prospects for discovery over a lifetime of a feeling and sensing way of discernment. “Earlier Friends, ” she writes, “often spoke of  ‘feeling after’ Truth…” (Loring, P.  1999. Listening Spirituality:  Corporate Spiritual Practice Among Friends.  Openings Press.  p. 73.)  This is different from the clear life leadings (career, marriage) with which God has shaken me in my boots and brought me to blessings beyond any I could expect.  This is practicing moment-to-moment reliance on the Spirit to help know which street to take or which coat to wear.

To find my way through these choices, I think, I center, I observe how I feel, I sense what kind of pressure there is in my midsection and I notice the results of the choices that are made.  I can’t say how led from without or within I am, but I’m not sure it matters.

What clearly does matter is faithful reflection and consideration of what happens and how it feels.  And being thankful for the blessings we find along the way.

I was reflecting on this subject yesterday in worship.  More was opened to me.  Continue reading