Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"And we are not for Names, nor Men, nor Titles of Government, nor are we for this Party, nor against the other, because of its Name and Pretence; but we are for Justice and Mercy, and Truth and Peace, and true Freedom, that these may be exalted in our Nation; and that Goodness, Righteousness, Meekness, Temperance, Peace and Unity with God, and one with another, that these things may abound, and be brought forth abundantly: such a Government are we seeking and waiting for, wherein Truth and Righteousness, Mercy and Justice, Unity and Love, and all the Fruits of Holiness may abound..."

-- Edward Burrough, 1659

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taste and See -- Days 15 and 16

The taste that strikes me the most these past two days is ice cream. Rich, creamy ice cream. Well, actually, not so rich and creamy. Fat free. And no-sugar added, too. Not much like real ice cream after all. While eating it -- the diabetic's attempt at dessert -- I was reminded of a Young Friends gathering at our home in Muncie. It was shortly after I had been diagnosed as a diabetic and was still pining for the real stuff -- but had almost forgotten what it tasted like.

I was in charge of scooping the ice cream into cones and dishes -- good job for me, I guess, since I wouldn't be tempted to skimp on servings in order to hold back ice cream for myself. When the last of the kids and their leaders was served, I gathered up my scoops and headed back indoors. On the way, the one of the scoops started to drip, so I reached my tongue out to catch the drip before it hit the carpet. And was reawakened to just how good real ice cream tasted. It was sooooo gooood.

As I remembered that tonight, I began thinking of the almost real taste of the "ice cream" I eat. A pale imitation. And it set me to wondering how often I settled for a pale imitation in my spiritual life, too. A "lite" portion of God, thank you very much, will suit me just fine -- or will it? Not really. My soul hungers for a taste of the real -- but I get caught up in the business of life and settle for less.

Of course, bodily-speaking, real ice cream could do me in, sending my blood sugar into orbit. And, perhaps, real spirituality would do the same for soul -- but I think it's time to take that chance.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

[on Nature] ... for how could men find the confidence to abuse it, while they should see the great Creator stare them in the face, in all, and every part thereof.

-- William Penn, Reflections and Maxims

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"The sanctity of labour means... that men should come to see in the very work itself something that is of value because it is part of the whole attitude to life which gives the universe its value. Work can never for all people be done 'for the fun of it' nor 'for the love of it' if by love is meant liking, pleasure, delight. But all men can work for the love of God, and take their 'reward' not as reward at all, but as the means to a life that is full of love and service and joy in work and play."

-- Harold Loukes, 1954

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Taste and See -- Days 12-14

Celebration. That's been the predominate tastes of the past three days. That's because Nancy, my sisters (Kathleen, Linda, and Julie) have been getting reading to celebrate our parents 60th anniversary.

Yep, 60 years. Together. Every day one of perfect bliss. Okay, perhaps not perfect bliss (with a kid like me, how could it be bliss?). But still togetherness. So, since it's been a whirlwind of activity, the taste of celebration (primarily for Nancy and me) has been fast food meals while on the road, lots of cake (Nancy baked the cakes for the reception), veggie and cheese trays from the caterer, a complimentary pizza from Josie's (in Columbus, OH -- hand delivered by the manager. Also one of my dad's nicknames for my mother -- Josie), and a Sunday brunch at Salvi's to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday.

And then, this evening, for our Friends in Fellowship worship group, the taste was of celebration, too -- for our after gathering repast was left-overs from the great feasts in Columbus, Ohio. Fitting, I think, that food/taste from our family gathering should be the closing tastes of worship this evening. The family of God -- well, 10 of us anyway -- gathered on the farm for quiet worship and sharing and food.

A blessed weekend, indeed. It tasted good.

-- Brent

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

To be "made perfect in love" is a high state of Christian excellence, and not attainable but by the Love and sacrifice of selfish passions. No degree of resentment can consist with this state. Some persons are apt to profess that they can forgive those whom they suppose to have injured them, when such are brought to know and acknowledge their fault. But that is little else than a disguised pride, seeking for superiority. The love which Christ commanded to his Church goes further than that. "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you."

-- London Yearly Meeting, 1806

Taste and See -- Day 11

The taste of Day 11 was hamburger. A bacon-sharp cheddar cheese hamburger. With french fries loaded up with salt. Yikes! Talk about eating just what the doctor didn't order! To make it healthier, I loaded up veggies -- lettuce, onions, pickles, and tomatoes. And had a diet IBC Root Beer.

Yeah, as if they would cancel out the grease and sodium and fat.

Still, it was delicious. Yummy, indeed. I'd forgotten how good a "real" hamburger tasted as compared to some slapped together thing from a fast food place. I savored it. Not even feeling guilty.

Now unlike my rabbi friend (aka my little brother) Aaron, I don't keep kosher. Well, not as Jews understand it. I do, though, keep a kind of "diabetic kosher" -- a list of foods that are okay for me to partake of and a list that ain't.

As I understand kosher -- and Aaron gave me some really long discourse on it that had me sooo confused by the end that I'm sure I'll get this wrong -- the point of kosher is to make sure you eat food that blesses your body. Which is what my "diabetic kosher" diet plan does.

But, sometimes, every now and then, occasionally, sometimes, I just need a taste o'somethin' that just blesses my taste buds. And so by having the big hamburger and load of fries, my taste buds found themselves blessed yesterday. Mightily.

And then I went back to keeping diabetic kosher.

As I reflected on this breaking of diabetic kosher and its spiritual corollary, I decided it wasn't about yielding to temptation. That would be a good post probably, but one I dont' really want to get into. Confession may be good for the soul, but public confession of all my yieldings to temptation would not be good for my spirit. Instead, I began to think of Paul's injunction in 1 Corinthians 10 that "'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial." I need to always keep, spiritually and physically that question before me -- "Is it beneficial?" Will it bless my body and my soul?

-- Brent

PS In case my good doctor reads this, I did not eat the entire hamburger and I did leave 1/2 of the fries!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"Seek on in patience and in hope. Be earnest in prayer. Do not fall back into selfish indifference, but do whatever thou canst truthfully do, for the help, socially and spiritually, of those around thee. Take comfort from the thought that others have passed through as great a strift, and have come forth into peace and happy trustfulness. If thy soul be walking but in twilight, look towards that quarter of the sky from which light seems to be dawning....Thou wilt yet hear His words as a personal message to thy soul, 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'"

—London Yearly Meeting, 1893

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taste and See -- Day 10

Duck. That's what I had for dinner. Now I must confess, that in spite of what I wrote in my earlier blog, I did not go buy and fix duck for myself. I forgot I had errands to run tonight -- but when I remembered that, I also remembered that those same errands would take me close to one of my favorite eateries. Well, sorta close. Well, within five miles or so.

So off to Zydeco's I went. There was the usual understated greeting by Deb and the warmth and civility of her son Terry, who was waiting tables that even. Deb told me that Carter had prepared duck tonight. Yum. I love duck. And I love Carter's food -- so I knew I was in for a treat.

Indeed, duck over penne pasta with all sorts of other goodies. And Deb threw in a glass of organic vino (very healthy!). I was alone, so I pulled out the new Updike collection of short stories and had a very, very, very nice meal.

Then I remembered I was supposed to be keeping a taste journal. Yikes. So, being the Bible scholar I am, I turned to my handy dandy Bible concordance and looked up the word, "Duck." Which does not appear anywhere in the Christian Bible. Or the Hebrew Bible. I haven't checked the Book of Mormon or any other scriptures, yet.

Which did, oddly enough, remind me that while the Bible is a good rule for life, and profitable for instruction, and the stories of God's interactions with God's people, that it is not all inclusive -- either in its proscriptions for life or against sin. Because, if it were, Carter's duck over penne might have at least some reference therein.

The duck reminded me that God has blessed us in ways that are not spelled out in scripture -- and for that I can be thankful. I don't find ice cream there (sugar free or not), pie, steak, or any number of other tasty foods. Now, were I a literalist, I could say that means that God does not want me to enjoy these things. But since I am not, I see them all as part of the wonders He created and pronounced good.

As Genesis reports, "And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat ..."

I'll take the duck, please. ;-)

-- Brent

Taste and See -- Days 8 & 9

I'm eating like a bachelor again. A diabetic bachelor, to be sure, but a bachelor nonetheless. More like my single days -- eating alone (mostly) and rummaging around the house to figure out what's quick and easy to fix. Nancy's off watching grandkids (teenagers) for four more days, so ...

The meal quality -- and tastes thereof -- have been erratic. The morning oatmeal is consistently inconsistent. I must be the only person who can ruin microwaved oatmeal. Even the cats are avoiding the dregs I set out for them. Lunch has generally been the best meal of the day, taste-wise, as the office is set in the midst of a great restaurant district.

But the evening meals are a whole 'nother story. The past two days have reillustrated for me why "real" food is better than fast food. Monday night was -- in true single guy fashion -- a microwaved pizza. It was filling and not horrible, but rather tasteless -- in spite of my addition of ham (remember all that ham I referred to?) and lots of oregano.

Tuesday evening, I stopped at Gray's Cafeteria (where Hoosiers go to graze) and picked up some baked tilapia, macaroni and cheese, and sugar free cherry pie. Yum. Real food cooked in real ovens by real people. Tasty indeed.

Which made me think about slowing down -- spiritually that is. How often do I just grab a spiritual bit -- the equivalent of a micro-waved meal? A quick hit of scripture, a hurried prayer of out the Book of Common Prayer, etc. And how many times do I really take time -- like the good people at Gray's did on my behalf -- to prepare the tastes that I would enjoy. Looking for the ingredients that would please my spiritual palate and then putting them together with care -- and time.

I have no idea what's on tonight's menu at home. But I've decided to stop at the grocery next to the office and assemble a meal and fix it myself. And I intend to do the same with my spiritual meal, as well. To take time this evening for reading and reflection and prayer and quiet. To let God break through as I enjoy the tastes of the meal I've prepared for me -- and He's prepared for me.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

True leisureliness is a beautiful thing and may not lightly be given away. Indeed, it is one of the outstanding and most wonderful features of the life of Christ that, with all his work in preaching and healing and planning for the Kingdom, he leaves behind this sense of leisure, of time in which to pray and meditate, to stand and stare at the cornfields and fishing boats, and to listen to the confidences of neighbors and passers-by.

Most of us need from time to time the experience of something spacious or space-making, when Time ceases to be the enemy, goad-in-hand, and becomes our friend. To read good literature, gaze on natural beauty, to follow cultivated pursuits until our spirits are refreshed and expanded, will not unfit us for the up and doing of life. Rather will it help us to separate the essential from the unessential, to know where we are really needed and get a sense of proportion. We shall find ourselves giving the effect of leisure even in the midst of a full and busy life. People do not pour their joys or sorrows into the ears of those with an eye on the clock.

--Caroline C. Graveson

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

Trouble of soul can teach us things that raptures never could - not only patience and perseverance, but humility and sympathy with others.

--Edward Grubb

Monday, September 21, 2009

Taste and See -- Days 6 & 7

The primary tastes of these two days were ham and cheese. Nancy is off in southern Indiana watching grandkids (watching them do what, I'm not quite sure) so I am a bachelor for the time being. She left the fridge stocked with various goodies for me -- including ham and cheese. So for Saturday lunch, I had a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich. Then for supper I had ham and sharp cheddar cheese with crackers. Sunday's after-Meeting lunch consisted of a grilled ham and Swiss sandwich.

Imaginative, ain't I.

I did have a steak for supper -- as my sister Julie and her husband Dave stopped by on their way from Montrose, Colorado to our home town of Columbus, Ohio. Off we popped to the local pub -- and I had a filet. Medium rare. Very tasty. Yum...

Which reminded me that, while I like ham and cheese in its many varieties, variety is what adds zest to my meal times. The change of tastes.

Which is true for my spiritual life, as well. While I'm pretty comfortable as Quaker -- I enjoy and grow from the long, deep silences -- and could probably live on the spiritual diet for the rest of my life, I do enjoy the freshness that a change brings. Like my spiritual chats with my friend Beth who's more evangelical that I am. Or my friend Cat (via email) who's decidedly more liberal than I am. And the fresh tastes of reading Phyllis Tickle (an Episcopalian) and Frederick Buechner (Presbyterian) and Tony Jones (Emergent) and A.J. Jacobs (Jewish) and...

My spiritual body is energized by these "out of my ordinary" tastes.

Hmmm, I wonder what I'll have for lunch today. Doubt that it's ham and cheese -- I still have that at home.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

It is not necessary that we should know all mysteries before we begin to follow Christ. To some of us much that is taught of His person and His work may not yet be clear, but so it was with the early disciples. They did not understand at first the mystic union with their Master to which they were called, but they followed Him, and as the followed,there was gradually unfolded to them the fullness of His love and life. If we begin where they began, and follow and they followed, we shall end where they ended, in adoring love.

-- London Yearly Meeting, 1909

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taste and See -- Day Five

I met my friend Beth today for a late lunch to do final planning for our upcoming "Art of Faith" workshop. The menu had all sorts of tempting taste treats, but I went with a simple salad and and chicken salad sandwich. Tasty enough, but ... what made the tastes memorable was not how they felt on my tongue, but rather the company I was keeping. The fellowship I enjoyed.

Which is something we often forget about when we think about taste -- we can't take the sense in isolation. It, like all our senses, involves all of us. And so the taste of salad and chicken salad at Cornerstone reminds me of Beth and the plans we've made for the workshop we're co-leading.

It was a good reminder that, for all my sensory experiences, I do not live in a vacuum -- much of my "sensing" takes place in relationship to others. And that is a gift from God.


Quaker Wisdom for Today

I have assumed a name today for my religious principles - Quaker-Catholicism - having direct spiritual teaching for its distinctive dogma, yet recognising the high worth of all other forms of Faith: a system, in the sense of inclusion, not exclusion; an appreciation of the universal and the various teachings of the Spirit, through the faculties given to us, or independent of them.

--Caroline Fox

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Taste and See -- Day Four

I went Greek today. I had lunch at Aesop's Tables here in Indianapolis. I like Aesop's -- good food, good prices, good company. And I get to visit with my old buddy Bill Brooks (we used to be apartment mates back in our New Castle days). I ordered my usual at Aesop's -- a MaryBeth salad. It's a Greek salad with tatziki and gyro meat. Lamb.

Lamb... hmmm, any spiritual connections there. Only one or one-hundred, I suppose. The one that came immediately to mind was from the gospel of John -- "Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, 'Behold the Lamb of God!'"

Behold, indeed!

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

By the discovery of God, therefore, I do not mean anything mysterious, or mystical, or unattainable. I simply mean becoming acquainted with Him as one becomes acquainted with a human friend; that is, finding out what is His nature, and His character, and coming to under-stand His ways. I mean in short discovering what sort of a Being He really is--whether good or bad, whether kind or unkind, whether selfish or unselfish, whether strong or weak, whether wise or foolish, whether just or unjust. It is of course evident that everything in one's religious life depends upon the sort of God one worships. The character of the worshipper must necessarily be moulded by the character of the object worshipped. If it is a cruel and revengeful God, or a selfish and unjust God, the worshipper will be cruel, and revengeful, and selfish, and unjust, also. if it is a loving, tender, forgiving, unselfish God, the worshipper will be loving, and tender, and forgiving, and unselfish, as well.

-- Hannah Whitall Smith (author, The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taste and See, Day Three

...Water... Cool, Clear Water

My co-worker Nancy and I had to take a little road trip today. So, before we pulled out of the parking lot, Nancy did something that would have been unthinkable not too many years ago -- she ran to the grocery store next to the office and bought us water for the trip.

In the "old" days, we would have arrived our destination parched, unless the driver deigned to stop for a drink. Which, since I was driving, would not have happened. My belief is that once you are on the road you should not stop until you get there if it's fewer than three hours away.

So we hydrated our way to Seymour. Between sips, though, I thought about what a luxury this was -- to have cool, clear water sitting in a cup holder, chilled by the car's air conditioner, and right at hand should I want any. It kept my thirst at bay.

And I thought of all those Bible verses about thirst -- from Exodus 17 ("But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?'") to Nehemiah 9 ("You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.") to Psalm 42 ("My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?").

And, I have to admit, that when I thought of that passage from Psalms, I felt more than a bit guilty. I could easily remember times when I could say "My soul thirsts for water, for the cool clear water God. When can I go and get some water?" (especially on hot summer days out in the prairie or on my tractor) but when is the last time I was so thirsty for God that I would cry, like the Psalmist, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"

I began to feel a little easier when I reflected that I must have that feeling more than I recognize because, for one, every Sunday (or First Day as some of us Quakers say) I do thirst for worship. I want to join fellow seekers on the way to God in a time of coming before God to learn from Him and each other. And I often leave worship feeling that, while my thirst has been partially slaked, I have been privileged to take sips from a deep well and I need to return more often.

And then I think of Jesus and the woman at the well -- "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'"

I say that's what I want -- living water that leaves my thirst satisfied. But then I think, I'm often too satisfied with my spiritual life as it is. Perhaps a little unrequited thirst is a good thing. A very good thing, in fact, for it keeps bringing me back to the well that never will run dry.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

O FRIENDS! with whom my feet have trod
The quiet aisles of prayer,
Glad witness to your zeal for God
And love of man I bear.

I trace your lines of argument;
Your logic linked and strong
I weigh as one who dreads dissent,
And fears a doubt as wrong.

But still my human hands are weak
To hold your iron creeds:
Against the words ye bid me speak
My heart within me pleads.

Who fathoms the Eternal Thought?
Who talks of scheme and plan?
The Lord is God! He needeth not
The poor device of man.

I walk with bare, hushed feet the ground
Ye tread with boldness shod;
I dare not fix with mete and bound
The love and power of God.

Ye praise His justice; even such
His pitying love I deem:
Ye seek a king; I fain would touch
The robe that hath no seam.

Ye see the curse which overbroods
A world of pain and loss;
I hear our Lord’s beatitudes
And prayer upon the cross.

More than your schoolmen teach, within
Myself, alas! I know:
Too dark ye cannot paint the sin,
Too small the merit show.

I bow my forehead to the dust,
I veil mine eyes for shame,
And urge, in trembling self-distrust,
A prayer without a claim.

I see the wrong that round me lies,
I feel the guilt within;
I hear, with groan and travail-cries,
The world confess its sin.

Yet, in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings;
I know that God is good!

Not mine to look where cherubim
And seraphs may not see,
But nothing can be good in Him
Which evil is in me.

The wrong that pains my soul below
I dare not throne above,
I know not of His hate,—I know
His goodness and His love.

I dimly guess from blessings known
Of greater out of sight,
And, with the chastened Psalmist, own
His judgments too are right.

I long for household voices gone,
For vanished smiles I long,
But God hath led my dear ones on,
And He can do no wrong.

I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.

And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruis√ęd reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.

No offering of my own I have,
Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
And plead His love for love.

And so beside the Silent Sea
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.

I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.

O brothers! if my faith is vain,
If hopes like these betray,
Pray for me that my feet may gain
The sure and safer way.

And Thou, O Lord! by whom are seen
Thy creatures as they be,
Forgive me if too close I lean
My human heart on Thee!

-- John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Eternal Goodness"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

Being orderly come together, [you are] not to spend time with needless, unnecessary and fruitless discourses; but to proceed in the wisdom of God, not in the way of the world, as a worldly assembly of men, by hot contests, by seeking to outspeak and over-reach one another in discourse as if it were controversy between party and party of men, or two sides violently striving for dominion, not deciding affairs by the greater vote. But in the wisdom, love and fellowship of God, in gravity, patience, meekness, in unity and concord, submitting one to another in lowliness of heart, and in the holy Spirit of truth and righteousness all things [are] to be carried on; by hearing, and determining every matter coming before you, in love, coolness, gentleness and dear unity; - I say, as one only party, all for the truth of Christ, and for the carrying on the work of the Lord, and assisting one another in whatsoever ability God hath given.

--Edward Burrough

Taste and See -- Day Two

Ah, a cuppa Joe. Java. Brain juice. Cup of tar. Coffee. I have that bitter brew with my breakfast each morning. I'm a pretty obsessive compulsive guy (should there be a hypen there?), so it's oatmeal and coffee seven days out of seven -- unless I'm traveling or we have company. Even then, though, there's one norm -- coffee.

This morning, though, since Beth Booram and I are doing our 30 days of tasting, I thought more about my mugful of mocha. Especially, despite the copious amounts of cream and "pink stuff" (the diabetic's sugar alternative) how it leaves an often slightly bitter aftertaste. Which made me think about words I've spoken over the years. Words that I've said that can't be taken back and leave an awfully bitter aftertaste in my soul and in the souls of those who I've spoken those words to. Words I wished -- often right after they flew from my fevered anger -- I could take back, but knew I could not. Too late. They were gone and on their wounding way. Drinking my coffee, I remembered the words of James --

"the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."

As my mother used to say, "Brent, watch your mouth..." (The only reason she doesn't say it anymore is because I live 200 miles away and she knows it won't do any good, anyhow.)

On a happier note, I watched my mouth at lunch when I had fish and chips. Not quite what Jesus fixed by the Sea of Tiberius after the resurrection, but still they reminded me of the how Jesus called the disciples to be fishers of men. And then it raised the question, what does that mean for me today? How do I call people to Christ? What is my witness? Is it as a smug, arrogant, self-righteous know-it-all? Or as someone who models Christ-like love and compassion? Someone who's winsome? I certainly hope it's the latter.

The fish and chips are still present in my swollen belly. Yikes. Perhaps I should have had the poached salmon!

-- Brent

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taste and See -- Day One

As my faithful reader knows, Beth Booram and I are getting reading to lead a workshop on "The Art of Faith: Awakening Your Senses to the Wonder of God." What you may know know is that (you'll be very surprised) is that as a pair of writers, we are considering turning it into a book.

As part of that idea, Beth and I are both doing 30 days of taste (as opposed to 40 days of purpose?) based on the idea "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) We will each keep a journal of our tasting experiences and how they impact our spiritual lives. So, as part of that journey into the senses, I decided I will keep (most of) my journal on-line.

Today, as usual, the first taste I had was Quaker oats. Yes, predictable. I am a creature of habit. But, since I was trying to pay attention to taste -- which is difficult at that hour for a person who definitely is not a morning person and whose dog was barking at critters all night long -- when the first spoonful hit my palate, I tasted not only the creamy richness of milk covered oats, but also a reminder of my own faith tradition. I am a Quaker after all -- even if I don't look anything like the man on the oats box.

I thought about our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as being intimately interwoven into such things as equality of all people, simplicity of life, peacefulness and resolved to live more closely and fully into them this day. And the coffee helped wake me up so I could actually be aware enough to do that.

Another taste I had during the day was water. I drink a lot of water. I'm not much into soda pop or iced tea (trying to get away from the caffeine). And the purity of the water I had (coming from a filtered source in our office's kitchenette), reminded me of the purity toward which I strive. Though I will never be as pure as the filtered H2O that passed over my palate, it reminded me of the purity of God's love for me and the hope that I have in Him.

One of the final tastes of this day was a glass of Shiraz-Cabernet blend. No, not Welches. It never fails to call to mind that Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine. I doubt that it was a blend, but who knows? All I know is the host of the wedding pronounced it "Good." As does Jesus when He looks over creation on its best days -- it is good. So I need to look for that good in all that I encounter.

This is going to be a month to savor.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"…, oh, how sweet and pleasant it is to the truly spiritual eye to see the several sorts of believers, several forms of Christians in the school of Christ, every one learning their own lesson, performing their own peculiar service, and knowing, owning, and loving one another in their several places and different performances to their Master, to whom they are to give an account, and not to quarrel with one another about their different practices. For this is the true ground of love and unity, not that such a man walks and does just as I do, but because I feel the same Spirit and life in him, and that he walks in his rank, in his own order, in his proper way and place of subjection to that: and this is far more pleasing to me than if he walked just in that track wherein I walk."

-- Isaac Penington

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

There is no debate among the early Quakers as to whether the seat of authority is in the Scriptures, or in the hierarchical leadership, or in synods, or in church tradition. The authority is in the gospel which is the power of God, and which is not of man nor by man, but of God and from Christ.

--Lewis Benson (Catholic Quakerism: A Vision for All Men)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

Before we can bring the message of reconciliation to the world, with, the power and the conviction that God is ever ready to forgive us, we must all be reconciled one to another. We are all Friends. But that is only a sentimental term … unless we can bring order into the House of Love; and, having studied our testimony in all its aspects, leave the things wherein we differ for further consideration, after the manner of Friends, and apply ourselves with all the capacity we possess to uniting and concentrating our efforts to set forth the way of Christ anew in a great and common international order of service... In this gathering of all who bear the name of Friend … can we not rise to the thought and the practice of a great Quaker brotherhood, organised, not to promote the Society of Friends in the world, but to serve the world of God's children by changing the unnatural anger and aversion which makes them enemies into that loving co-operation which will turn the whole world into a society of friends

-- Carl Heath. Heath was a Friend from Great Britain who was instrumental in setting up Quaker Embassies across Europe following WWI and laid the groundwork for the future Quaker United Nations Offices.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Time for a New Yearly Meeting in Indiana

I am finally ready to cave in on this issue. For a long time I have held out that, despite the troubles in Western Yearly Meeting, there was no need for a new yearly meeting. I said that to the so-called Progressives and I have said that to the so-called Evangelicals.

But I have changed my mind. I think it's time for a new Yearly Meeting here in Indiana and I think I'm just the fellow to organize it. No, I don't have any backing for this, other than my own sense of self-appointment, but that's never stopped any Quaker before (well, maybe it has in the past, but doesn't seem to be an issue these days).

To this end, I have contacted an attorney at the law firm of Dewey Cheatum and have asked them to draw up incorporation papers for a new Yearly Meeting. It is to be called "Mid-Indiana Yearly Meeting of Progressive Evangelical & Evangelical Progressive Friends." I wanted to call it Brent Bill Yearly Meeting, but the attorney (an Episcopalian by the way) said that sounded a bit pretentious and haughty and not at all God-led. So I deferred to his wisdom.

The creatures joining me in this proposal for a new Yearly Meeting are my dog Princess and Ebony, one of my cats. The other cat said she didn't want any part of it -- my own fault, I guess. I should have named her Judgement instead of Grace. I did not ask Nancy to participate.

That's because she and I use far different theological language and I didn't want a separation to be the first point of business for the new group. Besides we disagree on how a phrase in Faith and Practice should be interpreted. In Part III there's a section it says under the title "Friendly Method" that, "After due consideration, it is the duty of the clerk of the meeting to weigh carefully various expressions and to state what he or she believes to be the sense of the meeting. Action is by approval of the gathered meeting." Nancy agrees with that. I say that it's all fine and good, but the nuance of that is "approval of the gathered meeting unless they decide something that I disapprove of." I mean, let's face it, some Friends just cannot be trusted to hear the words of God in their souls or through the Bible.

Hence the need for this new Yearly Meeting.

Of course, I will -- I mean the new Yearly Meeting will -- have to write a new Faith and Practice. Here are some of the changes you'll notice:

  • Removing all affiliated groups that I don't like, depending on the day and my mood and whether they agree with me or not.
  • Adding "Faith and Practice" to the Biblical canon. Hey, it worked for the Mormons!
  • Adding a Loyalty Oath for pastors to sign. After all, we want to have a clergy caste now -- this idea that a Quaker pastor is a member like all other members is just plain silly. We know that pastors should have to live up to standards that normal followers of Jesus (aka the laity) shouldn't have to. And besides, what's with this Quaker abhorence to signing stuff? It's not like it's a creed or swearing an oath or anything.
  • Pastors only will be allowed to be part of the Executive Committee, clerks, or other officers of the Yearly Meeting. We really can't trust the "laity" to know God's will for us, now can we?
  • Adding to the Rescinding of Recording portion a section about not agreeing to whatever the current mood of the Yearly Meeting (i.e. Brent) is.

I -- I mean the Yearly Meeting -- would have no assessments for the first year. Or probably any year thereafter, since many Meetings don't pay their share anyhow and still come to Yearly Meeting and complain. If I -- I mean the Yearly Meeting -- does institute assessments, only those people from Meetings who actually pay their full assessment will be allowed to speak. And then only if they agree with what I -- I mean the Yearly Meeting -- thinks.

There won't be any committees. There's no need for them. After all, the Yearly Meeting will all be of one mind and so everyone in it -- Princess, Ebony, and me -- will know what to do.

Oh, and the official scripture verse of the new Yearly Meeting will be John 11:35.

Well, I think those are the highlights. If you're interested in joiningg the new Yearly Meeting I invite you to come to a meeting the second Tuesday of next week. We'll be gathering at the David B. Updegraff Memorial Swimming Pool.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“Love is the hardest lesson in Christianity; but, for that reason, it should be most our care to learn it.”

-- William Penn

Monday, September 07, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

This central affirmation, that the Light of the Christ-like God shines in every person, implies that our knowledge of God is both subjective and objective. ... But it is an equally important part of our faith and practice to recognise that we are not affirming the existence and priority of your light and my light, but of the Light of God, and of the God who is made known to us supremely in Jesus. … It is further checked by the fact that if God is known in measure by every person, our knowledge of him will be largely gained through the experience of others who reverently and humbly seek him.

--L Hugh Doncaster

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

Lofty, ethereal, and intellectual knowledge of God can be obtained in may ways, but true knowledge can be obtained only by God's Spirit shining in upon the heart, enlightening and opening the understanding.

-- Robert Barclay

Friday, September 04, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

It appears to me to be one important means of helping the human mind in a healthy state, that in recreations which are needful for it, it should be trained as much as possible to look to those things that bring profit as well as pleasure with them. ... Surely He who formed the ear and the heart would not have given these tastes and powers without some purpose for them.

-- Elizabeth Fry (1833)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

There is a daily round for beauty as well as for goodness, a world of flowers and books and cinemas and clothes and manners as well as of mountains and masterpieces... God is in all beauty, not only in the natural beauty of earth and sky, but in all fitness of language and rhythm, whether it describe a heavenly vision or a street fight, a Hamlet or a Falstaff, a philosophy or a joke: in all fitness of line and colour and shade, whether seen in the Sistine Madonna or a child's knitted frock: in all fitness of sound and beat and measure, whether the result be Bach's Passion music or a nursery jingle. The quantity of God, so to speak, varies in the different examples, but His quality of beauty in fitness remains the same.

-- Caroline C Graveson. Graveson was a writer and vice-principal of Goldsmiths College (part of the University of London).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

All true worship is inspired by God. The place of worship is the place of dependence, the place of wonder and of power, the place of fellowship and of communion... Worship links us to God and implies faith in a God who is in some sense personal. ... Thus the act of worship presupposes on our part a sense of dependence on God and the acknowledgment of our need of him, and this means that the element of adoration and thanksgiving should always be present in worship. Worship in Christian experience is our response to the God of Love.

-- Robert Davis

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"... the less form in religion the better, since God is a Spirit; for the more mental our worship, the more adequate to the nature of God; the more silent, the more suitable to the language of a Spirit."

-- William Penn