The Nativity message is the message not only of joy but of the joy; the great joy which all the people of the world have always expected without fully realizing what it was.
-Thomas Merton, Love and Living
When I was an adolescent, the Evangelical Protestants hit me up with messages of fear. Most of the Catholics I’ve known came out of their youth bearing much guilt. Merton is the first I’ve known to appeal to a universal expectation of great joy. That’s cool.
It fits better with my experience of salvation. I didn’t fear the wrath of my father. I bore no great guilt for my childhood transgressions. I couldn’t empathize with my Catholic friends and the Evangelical promise of damnation somehow didn’t scare me. Maybe both should have been effective, but they weren’t.
The promise of God’s love came to me through my parents, First Day school teachers and inwardly in my heart. The Catholics and Evangelicals I got to know well also held it there for me.
Before I accepted this great joy I had to work through other stuff, such as my intellectual resistance to losing control and a fear of losing status among my college educated Friends. Maybe those are just guilt and fear dressed upper crust clothing.
I’m not sure where this leads now. Anybody else got an idea?
My wife and I have been driving for two weeks: Joseph, OR. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Fort Collins, Colorado. Yellowstone. Camping along the way: Southern Idaho. Eastern Utah. At the bottom of the Black Canyon. On a street outside our nephew’s apartment building. In the boondocks of northern Colorado, eastern Idaho and eastern Oregon. Home day before yesterday.
Corvallis Ride of Silence 2013
Ride of Silence yesterday evening. I coordinated and led, seeking a still place inside me below the details of pace and regrouping.
I must have found it, because this morning I feel it every time I seek it. Just as still and sure as ever. But this time the still place has bumps and jiggles, with a sensation of traveling.
In considering Quaker testimonies yesterday, the leader of our session of religious exploration asked us to check inside to see what arose as something we do in relation to what leads us. Then we each spoke a sentence about it.
I don’t gamble. I don’t use illegal drugs. I wear simple clothing. I speak plainly. This is to keep a simple mind. (I chose the last sentence to share with the group.)
I don’t think I chose these because they are negative testimonies–things I restrain myself from. I chose them because I’ve been able to experiment with them. I’ve found an expression of me that works best.
2016 Electoral Map
It’s the morning after a presidential election. We still have the same country we had last week. Similar to what we had in summer 2008. It still has an ineffective system of government that can’t be dictated to by a single leader. We are still diverse, divided, corrupt, sexist and racist.
Today, there’s a good share of it that now realizes those differences. Eight years ago, a mostly different segment of the population figured out their nation had shifted underneath them.
I hope 2016 is more like 1968 than 1948. Continue reading
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
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 meetings 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. Continue reading
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 readings 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
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.
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
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, physics 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.