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.
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
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
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
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
Bill Taber seems to have much to say to liberal Friends with Conservative leanings. I’ve often seen a copy of his pamphlet Four Doors to Meeting for Worship in the hands of some of my friends, or seen it quoted. When my local meeting was giving away duplicates from our library, I picked up several Pendle Hill pamphlets and have been using them as devotional reading.
The latest to reach my coffee table is The Prophetic Stream which has yielded some precious insights. I’ve typed several passages into my file of quotes to use for email signatures. I also plan to pass them on to be considered for the next edition of our yearly meeting’s Faith and Practice.
Check out these three:
This lifelong Quaker, a skilled craftsman, was well past middle age when he felt nudged to begin a daily devotional reading and worship in the early morning before he went to work. He had done this for many months with no significant change when, Continue reading
From the stories of Moses and the prophets who followed him, we learn of three major tasks of a prophet. Put very simply, the prophet’s first task is to discover the law; the second task is to show how the law can–or must–be put into practice; and the third task is to make spirit available.
-Bill Taber. The Prophetic Stream, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #256. (1984). Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill.
Perhaps the role of the sport official is to be a prophet on the field of play. The tasks are similar: the official must learn the laws of the game, then s/he shows, corrects and instructs the competitors how to put them into practice. The third–and I think summative–task is to make the spirit of the game available to all in the arena. I’m less certain about this third task of the referee, so I’ll write more about it here.
No one else in the arena represents the sport itself as certainly and purely as the officials. The competitors are bound up in love for their team, the need to prove themselves and the desires to win or to represent the school or city. Coaches want to develop, protect and promote the athletes and team that they work for. The spectators are typically motivated by love for an individual or perhaps the whole team. The referee knows none of that. Continue reading
As the Central Friends (middle school age group) of North Pacific Yearly Meeting gathered to open their 2014 annual session, they began to formulate what they refer to as a code of conduct.
It was written on paper pulled from a recycle or trash bin and torn into scraps, each with an imperative sentence attributed to a different superhero from comics and popular culture. The scraps were taped to a human form, half-kneeling, made of clear plastic packing tape which had also been salvaged from a disposal bin. The sculpture was winged.
-The Hulk Continue reading