Experimental Testimonies

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.

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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

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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

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.

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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

“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

The Prophetic Stream

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

Cucumbers, Advent and immanence

Yesterday, I finished the last of the cucumbers from our garden.  Or most of it.  The end bit was starting to soften.  I like cucumbers.  Especially the long, skinny kind that cost a dollar or so at the supermarket.  That’s why we grow them–because they’re good and because I’m too cheap to buy them.

The cucumber waCukess the last.  We had saved it in the fridge for weeks.  The last of the tomatoes was appreciated a few weeks ago.

Now we enter a new season.  We start figuring out whether to spring for supermarket cukes, or rely on the less preferred celery sticks.  Will our kale and broccoli yield anything to eat?  How soon?  How much of that box of Fuji apples we got from some friends with an orchard will last for fresh eating?  How much should we sauce?

The autumn sports seasons have finished.  Two local football teams just lost their last games yesterday.  The scholastic soccer teams played out the season not so many days ago.  The election is over, with mixed results around here.  Students have settled into routines of behavior and misbehavior at school.  They are learning.  Last week I started to observe systematically to see how much.  Rains have set in, most days.  Nights can get cold.  We’ve even had our first snowfall on the valley floor–early this year.  Outdoor exercise is harder to find in comfort.

So what’s next?  Is this all there is?  All there will be?  Where do we find glory, or even sufficiency?  Will the days ever stop getting shorter? Continue reading

It is enough

My wife’s mother died early this year.  She was a collector who lived just up the street  from us for almost twenty years.  The last seven months of our lives has been about stuff.  Lots of hers and some of ours.  We’ve carried truck loads of it to the recycle depot, the thrift store and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore–a shop for used building materials.  We’ve given away bunches to neighbors.  Corvallis Antiques sold lots of it before and during an estate sale.

Our floors are being refinished.  We painted the ceiling and walls first.  The living room, dining room and hallway were stripped of furniture, curtains, wall art and baseboards.  It not only stinks in that center part of the house, it echoes.  The floors are curing and giving off gas now.  We can walk through those rooms, but it gives me a headache to remain.  So I’m turned out of our house.

Time for an adventure.

For the first time since college sophomore year, I went camping on my bicycle without support.  I hauled all my own camping and cooking gear.  It worked.  I didn’t take much.  It was only an overnight turnaround to Armitage Park.  About 37 miles there.  I returned on a hilly route–to show myself I could do it, so the return was 60 miles or so.

Armitage ParkArmitage Park still has the classic picnic grounds of my childhood–even if they’ve built a freeway bridge over the top of one end of it.  It now has a campground, which I knew about, but hadn’t seen.  It was filled with large recreational vehicles–some of them towed by semi-truck tractors.  Several pulled box trailers behind them, Continue reading

on Inward weakness

to John Woolman–about the conclusion of Chapter VII:

I’ve been learning for quite some years (It’s not an easy lesson for me.) to accept and treasure the understanding that my own efforts and strengths are minute next to what God can do in a situation.

The poverty of spirit and inward weakness, with which I was much tried the fore part of this journey, has of late appeared to me a dispensation of kindness.  ………..I was led into a deep search, whether in all things my mind was resigned to the will of God; often querying with myself what should be the cause of such inward poverty, and greatly desiring that no secret reserve in my heart might hinder my access to the Divine fountain. In these humbling times I was made watchful, and excited to attend to the secret movings of the heavenly principle in my mind, which prepared the way to some duties that in more easy and prosperous times as to the outward, I believe I should have been in danger of omitting.

          Journal of John Woolman

It’s a reassurance that you’ve found that same experience worth making the underlying theme of this chapter.