Saturday, October 31, 2009

See the Goodness of the Lord -- Days 10-12

The sights of the past few days have consisted mostly of low, grey clouds and rain. The farm is surrounded by water now. The west branch of White Lick Creek is out of its banks -- roiling along looking like a chocolate malt gone mad. The west field, prone to flooding as it, is partially underwater -- the tree seedlings planted last spring have thrived as a result of the extra moisture of the past few months.

Still, I was more than a bit ready to get out of doors -- even if it was spitting rain and the wind was blustery. So I bundled up, picked up my camera, and headed out.

It was an idea that was both good and bad. It was good, because I saw one of the bald eagles who share our property glide by. I also noticed that the flooding hadn't taken any more creek bank.

It was bad because, now that the trees have mostly lost their foliage, I saw I had a lot of work to do -- mostly young trees needed a limb or two lopped off and some downed limbs that needed to be cleared off the paths and the lifted from the saplings they were crushing.

I was reminded of the farmer who had worked to make a beautiful farm. A visitor remarked to him, "You and God have certainly made a wonderful place here." The farmer thought a few seconds and then said, "Welp, you should have seen it when God had it by himself."

A whole new twist on our being "co-laborers with Christ," eh? God and me working together on restoring this land.

And another part of restoration was something that was painfully obvious today. In spite of all my work in the spring at removing invasive species my work is far from done. The amount of bush honeysuckle that has been taking over the woods that still remains is painfully obvious. It's everywhere, choking out the understory of the forest -- no wildflowers, seedlings, grasses bloom in its choking shade. And the best way I've found to get rid of it is to wrap a log chain around it and pull it out with a tractor.

That is work.

But it's not God's fault. The bush honeysuckle that is here on our farm is not native. Somebody, who thought it looked pretty, planted it here years ago ... and it took over. And it does look pretty -- bright green leaves with red berries. But it takes over. And ruins the rest of the forest.

As I looked at the abundance of these bushes (and lamented the work that is ahead of me) I mused about the spiritual bush honeysuckle in my life. How many things have I planted because they looked pretty -- but that soon took over and choked out the life that I could/should have? Let's just say, way too many -- I don't feel like starting a list for y'all. Or me!

And, just as God's going to allow me to get tractor and chain and pull the real bush honeysuckle out, so too do I get the feeling that God is going to allow me to get out the spiritual tractor and chain (prayer, scripture reading, worship) and get to work on the honeysuckle of the soul.

Maybe that's work best seen on a cloudy day -- but best accomplished on a clearer one.

Oh, look, the sun just came out.

-- Brent

Friday, October 30, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"Jesus saw the truth that men needed and he thought it urgent that that truth should be proclaimed. That trust is handed on to us, but it is a responsibility from which we shrink. We feel that we have a very imperfect grasp of the meaning of the Gospel. Perhaps, after all the earnest seeking of the Church, we are only beginning to see the tremendous implications of it. We dimly see that this Gospel, before it has finished with us, will turn our lives upside down and inside out. Our favourite Quaker vice of caution holds us back. We have much more to learn before we are ready to teach. It is right that we have much to learn; it is right to recognise the heavy responsibility of teaching; but to suppose that we must know everything before we can teach anything is to condemn ourselves to perpetual futility."

-- George B Jeffery

Thursday, October 29, 2009

See the Goodness of the Lord -- Day Nine

I saw a whole new perspective yesterday thanks to the miracle of modern flight. It was a gloomy, rainy, grey day in Indiana. A day that can, if you're a moody sort like I am, just drag you down.

Then I boarded the little jet heading to DC and up through the clouds we soared. As we broke through the cottony greyness, the brilliance of the sun broke through. A whole new vista unfolded beneath and above me. The grey clouds hiding the sun from the surface where I had just been, were actually lit up bright, like a snowy field on a sunny winter day. And the sky was crystal clear. The mood on the plane lifted, folks spirits seemed lighter. Ah, maybe I'm projecting a bit, but that's how it felt to me.

So I spent some time, especially as we passed the peak descent time and started down, looking out the window and watching the clouds -- clouds that looked thick enough to walk across started breaking up, like winter ice on a spring stream. The landscape then broke through and I could watch the trees below me catch the light coming through the breaks in the clouds.

I landed a happier man than I was when I took off (not that that is unusual -- landing always makes me happier) thanks to the the great light that was above the clouds.

And, though you'll not be surprised by this observation, I thought how like life this is. I forget to see beyond the clouds. I forget that the sun is shining. I see only what feels like reality to me ... and the reality is that it is dark and dim and full of despair. My sight remains horizontal and forgets to look vertically -- to where the Sun is shining, where the Light is coming from. Don't forget to consider changing your perspective, Brent, I told myself looking out the plane window. The sun shines even if you don't see it. God is good, even when you don't feel it.


-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"I do not know the course I am to run, all is hid in mystery, but I try to do right in everything... Look up to true religion as the very first of blessings, cherish it, nourish and let it flourish and bloom in my heart; it wants taking care of, it is difficult to obtain. I must not despair or grow sceptical if I do not always feel religious. I felt God as it were, and I must seek to find Him again."

--Elizabeth Fry

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"Do good with what thou hast, or it will do thee no good."

-- William Penn

See The Goodness of the Lord -- Days Seven and Eight

Ah, no scenes of glory to behold these past few days. At least no obvious ones. It has been gloomy and rainy and so has consisted mostly of "inside" days. We've had over an inch of rain in the past 24 hours, so the prairie and field where the new trees were planted are mucky and yucky. And I've been getting ready for a trip to the DC area, so have not gotten home until the sun was going down anyhow.

So my looking for the goodness of the Lord has consisted mostly in looking at what's around me at work. Which is something I need to do more often and more intentionally. So, as I spent the past two days in many meetings with my colleagues, I decided to try to look at them with fresh eyes. After all, it is pretty easy to get used to people you see daily and then take them for granted.

But what I say these past two days, was an amazing assembly of people called together to do God's work. There are men and women; people in their sixties, fifties, forties, thirties (our "twenties" just left the staff); black and white; rural, suburban, and urban; Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Nazarenes, Quakers, Jews, Pentecostals, and more; people who fall all over the map regarding Myers-Briggs and/or Enneagram ratings, etc. And yet, each person here is an amazingly gifted individual. We all work in slightly different ways (even if the task is the same). Our approach to the congregations we consult with is different depending on our styles and personalities. And they are each a blessing to me. They do bring God's light into my life -- often without them knowing it (largely because I rarely say it, which is my fault).

So, by looking at the people I see everyday with intentionality, I was able to see the goodness of the Lord in a refreshed way -- refreshed by those people I am blessed to have in my life on a daily basis.

-- Brent

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"The place of prayer is a precious habitation: ... I saw this habitation to be safe, to be inwardly quiet, when there was great stirrings and commotions in the world."

--John Woolman

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"... Nothing, I believe, can really teach us the nature and meaning of inspiration but personal experience of it. That we may all have such experience if we will but attend to the divine influences in our own hearts, is the cardinal doctrine of Quakerism. Whether this belief, honestly acted on, will manifest itself in the homespun and solid, but only too sober morality of the typical everyday Quaker, or whether it will land us in the mystical fervours of an Isaac Penington, or the apostolic labours of a John Woolman or a Stephen Grellet, must depend chiefly upon our natural temperament and special gifts."

-- Caroline Stephen

See the Goodness of the Lord -- Day Six

Amber, apricot, blond, brick, burgundy, caramel, carmine, cerise, copper, coral, cream, crimson, dusty, flaxen, fuchsia, garnet, honeyed, ivory, magenta, maroon, ochre, peach, pink, puce, pumpkin, rose, ruby, russet, rust, saffron, salmon, scarlet, scarlet, straw, tan, terra cotta, titian, vermilion, and wine.

Those are some of the names of the variations of gold, red, and yellow. And still they are not enough to describe the range of color that I beheld as I strolled in our woods. This multiplicity of hues made my heart sing and blessed my soul.

And that was more than enough for me to see the goodness of the Lord on day six.

-- Brent

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

-- William Penn

See the Goodness of the Lord -- Day Five

Nancy's been washing windows. And, in this house, that a lot of windows. We designed our home, tucked back against the woods as it is, so that we could get as much light into it year around as possible. Of course, besides allowing light in, all the windows afford us magnificent views of every direction.

As part of the design, we chose windows with grids that make the windows look a little more barn-like (after all, we live in a Yankee Barn). Instead of vast sheets of glass, it now looks like we have hundreds of little panes. Which is a good look.

Except they also do something I really hadn't noticed until this morning. In our living room, we have a set of windows that stretches almost 2 1/2 stories. Nancy took some of the grids out while she washed those windows and the vista was amazing. It was as if nothing was in the way. I saw things out those windows in a whole new way. So much so that I even suggested we leave them out for a while.

As I thought about the grids and the view, I began wondering how much of my spiritual vistas are blocked by things I think I'm seeing through. Have I put up decorative grids that limit my view? Things that are pretty and add an element of symmetry (which I love) or aesthetics, but which I could do without and without which I might actually be able to spiritually see much clearer?

Nah, probably not. ;-) But just in case, maybe I'd better do some spiritual window cleaning -- and see what I have to take down to get my soul's glass clear.

-- Brent

Friday, October 23, 2009

See the Goodness of the Lord -- Day Four

I hereby admit to a pleasure that no Quaker should admit: I love "Dirty Harry" movies. I guess I shouldn't worry, too much -- not judging by the number of Friends playing "MafiaWars" on facebook.

But still.

Most of that pleasure is in watching laconic Clint Eastwood. I know he gets criticized for his lack of expression facially and vocally -- I prefer to think of it as understated. And I have seen many of his films.

Last night I watched (on DVD -- I seem to rarely get to a theatre these days) Clint's "Gran Torino." "So what's that got to do with seeing the goodness of the Lord?" my faithful reader asks. Well, Mom, just this...

In "Gran Torino" I saw the transformation of two men -- and the Lord, in my opinion, had no small part in it.

The first man who changed was Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski. Kowalski, retired from Ford, recently widowed, is plain and simple (simple here being, in my opinion, simple-minded) a bigot. And much of the film is about his bigotry. I'd like to say that by the end of the film, he was no longer a bigot, but I don't think that's entirely the case. He's just not as bigoted as before -- he's been worked over by grace and love. Love from the Hmong family next door and grace as presented by a wet behind his baptismal ears Catholic priest. Father Janovich and Kowalksi get off to a rough start -- a start that shows Kowalski's surety about faith and his life. Kowalski tells Janovich, "I confess that I have no desire to confess." But by the end of the film he goes to confession -- and confesses some of the paltriest, everyday sins. Sins we all can relate to at one level. And Kowalski refers the Hmong boy next door as " friend... Thao Vang Lor."

But the biggest transformation is that Kowalski moves from a stance of taking life to giving his life for others. From begetting violence to accepting it unto himself. Which is part of the transformation I saw in the second man -- the man Clint Eastwood.

Here was "Dirty Harry" laying down his weapons and laying down his life. What, I wondered, had led Eastwood to this sacrificial moment? After all, he starred in and directed this piece of film. And if "Gran Torino" is not a film ultimately about redemption, well I don't want to know what it is about.

I was moved by this film and reflected on how the faithful Father Janovich both changed and was changed. The unbelieving Kowalski both changed and was changed. That love triumphed over death and despair -- even if it was a tough love, a love wracked with violence.

With Sue Lor, Thao's sister, I say to Walt, "You're a good man. " That's something I would not have said without much reservation even three-fourths of the way through the film. Which reminded me to let God do God's work in God's time. My job is to be a vehicle, in as much as possible, of God's love and grace. They are irresistible forces. They change people -- sometimes right before our eyes. Fictional -- and real.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"The truth which the artist seeks and which he expresses through his Art is part of the Universal Truth, just as the truth sought and expressed by the philosopher and the scientist and the theologian is part of the Universal Truth. The man who can only see the significance of his own specialised field of vision may not mar his own contribution, but inevitably he will impoverish it. Happy is the artist, the philosopher, the scientist or the theologian who recognizes that all Truth is one."

-- Elfrida Vipont Foulds

Thursday, October 22, 2009

See The Goodness of the Lord -- Day Three

This morning's sunrise stopped me in my tracks, literally. I was sleepily pointing the Toyota down the long lane to the road, letting the tires ride in the tracks, when I looked to the east and beheld a glorious sunrise -- orange, pink, blue, grey, pale yellow. Shadows and light skipping through the sky. The clouds underlit by the sun glowing pink ... no orange ... no tangerine ... no ...

I wish I had my camera with me I thought. Doh! I always have my camera with me -- it's tucked in my new laptop/camera backpack. Uh, the reason I got the backpack!

So I stopped the car, unzipped the bag, pulled out the Nikon and started firing away. But the sky was already different from what it had been when I first noticed it. The prairie grasses and flower stalks seemed a bit less translucent. The brilliancy was fading. It was still beautiful, but muted somewhat as the sun tried to peek through the deepening cloud layer.

As I climbed back into the car, hem of my suit pants damp with dew, I thought about how my lack of awareness and then resultant hesitation had cost me some really good pictures. Yes, I still had enjoyed the pleasure of seeing those magnificent moments, but they were only stored in my memory banks -- which makes them hard to share with the people I love. I did have about ten other shots -- but they were not nearly as powerful as the ones I could have gotten would have been.
Alas, "the would have beens".

I thought then about how many times I'd missed a chance to capture a God-sighting in my soul because I was driving along through life, riding in the tracks. What other things have I missed because I failed to grab the opportunity. Not the opportunity for money or things -- but for beauty and God and the life of the spirit?

The sunrise this morning reminded me of that ... And I have a picture or five to help.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"... the God I know is the source of reality rather than morality, the source of what is rather than what ought to be."

-- Parker Palmer

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

See The Goodness of the Lord -- Day Two

An amazing sight. That's what I experienced today. No, it was not the pink-tinged clouds of the superlative sunrise this morning -- though it was wonderful. It wasn't any of the things that normally capture my photographer's eye.

Instead it was a man with gift. For me.

I was sitting in my office this afternoon when my phone buzzed. "You have a guest," said Janice, one of the Center's administrative assistants. I walked out and there stood Roger.

Roger, for those of you who have not read this blog very long, is a bagger at the O'Malia's store next to our office. He's a very interesting fellow: one I would have ignored though, truth be told, until he opened my eyes with conversation one day. I often stop in that store to grab something for lunch and about five years ago Roger began speaking to me -- first by asking "How's my favorite living Quaker theologian?" (How'd he know I was a Quaker? was my first thought) and then by talking about Kierkegaard and other theologians.

But our conversations had always been confined to the check-out line at the grocery.

Until today. When I came out out into the lobby and there stood Roger, with his ever-present hat on, bundled up for his walk home, and holding a bag. "Hi," he smiled, shyly, and reached the bag out to me. "I was culling my bookshelves and came across some volumes I thought you might enjoy." And he held the bag out tentatively to me.

I took it and he began shuffling sideways toward the door. "I didn't mean to bother you," he said.
"You didn't bother me," I replied lamely. "This is a wonderful gift."

"Well, I hope you enjoy them. Goodbye,now." And he was gone.

I opened up the bag -- double bagged so the weight wouldn't rip through the sack, so like Roger. And there was a collection of Quaker related books -- including the classic Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly. It was all I could do not to weep. Here was this gift of books -- one of the most precious things in the world to me -- from an unlikely friend who is still teaching me to value that of God in everyone one, especially and including those who are not from my social set.

I saw love in action. I saw God in this kind, humble man -- for whom the most I have ever done is have the occasional fleeting conversation about God or politics or human rights or existentialism (about which he knows a great deal more than me) in the check-out line. I was blessed by sighting grace at work -- a humbling vision, clothed as I was in nice, new shoes, shirt and tie and coming as it was clothed in a ball hat and work clothes and a double-bagged set of books.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“I wish the state of enthusiasm I am now in may last, for today I FELT there is a God. I have been devotional and my mind has been led away from the follies that it is mostly wrapped up in.”

-- Elizabeth Fry

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

See the Goodness of the Lord -- Day One

Tonight I sat and watched the golden sun climb the tree trunks as the sun set in west. It's an odd phenomenon -- to think the sun is sinking in the west, but that its light climbs the trees, bathing them in an awesome golden glow. Instead of grabbing my camera, I just sat and watched and marveled.

At one level, it makes no sense -- the light is fading as the sun dips toward the horizon. So how is it that it seems to grow in intensity and actually walk itself up the craggy tree trunks? I know it can all be explained by the physics of light, but it feels much deeper to me. And I rejoice in it.

And I also recall the times that my life has been unexpectedly lit by God, even at times when it felt like light was fading -- the death of a loved one, a tiff with a deep friend, an entering into a shadowy time of life. The the main light was fading, a special soft light often filled a dark corner, illuminating something I could not have seen in the brightness of the noonday sun.

Which is not to say that I enjoy the fading of the light -- spiritual or otherwise. But still, by stopping and looking away from the actual sunlight (which is where I normally look -- after all that's where we all tend to gaze as the day ends) and into the "dark," I found unexpected light. Beautiful light. Warm light. A light that spoke to my soul of the light that shines in the darkness -- and the darkness shall not overcome it.

-- Brent

See The Goodness of the Lord

Dear Friends,

Many of you have followed Beth Booram and me during our 30 Days of Tasting and expressed to us that it was a meaningful experience. Well, how about joining us for our next experiment--30 Days of Seeing?

Beginning tomorrow (10/20), we will start our next sensory focus by paying attention to what we see.

Here's how you can participate:

  • Write in your calendar for the next 30 days a reminder like, "pay attention to seeing."

  • Each day, isolate your sense of seeing and notice the world around you, especially what stands out to you.

  • Then, take a second look at what caught your eye--really look at it.

  • Be open and listen for God to speak to you through what you notice and through honing your marvelous gift of sight.

  • Finally, follow Beth's blog, this blog and/or join us on Facebook and comment about your own experiences.
Please send this post to your friends, family and/or small group and invite them to participate, too!

Beth and I look forward to your collaboration as, together, we awaken our senses to the wonder of God!

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"I saw that the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, had appeared to all men, and that the manifestation of the Spirit of God was given to every man to profit withal. These things I did not see by the help of man, nor by the letter, though they are written in the letter, but I saw them in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His immediate spirit and power..."

-- George Fox

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“Whether breathed into the air or inscribed on paper or broadcast into the depths of space, our words may curse or bless. The work of language deserves our greatest care, for the tongue’s fire may devour the world, or may light the way.”

-- Scott Russell Sanders

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"A religious awakening which does not awaken the sleeper to love has roused him in vain."

-- Jessamyn West

Saturday, October 17, 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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“There is a spirit which I feel, that delights to do no evil, nor to avenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thought to any other: if it be betrayed, it bears it; for its ground and spring are the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned, and takes its kingdom with entreaty, and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it; nor doth it murmur at grief, and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world's joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens, and desolate places of the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection, and eternal holy life.”

-- James Nayler

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ."

-- Lucretia Mott

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"He was holy, humble, harmless, meek, merciful, etc., when among us; to teach us what we should be when he was gone: and yet he is among us still, and in us too, a living and perpetual preacher of the same grace, by his spirit in our consciences."

-- William Penn

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Taste and See -- Days 23-25

The tastes that have been most prominent have been those of autumn -- but not the ones you might expect. I'm not talking about cool apple cider sliding down my throat or pumpkin pie or any of those tastes. No, I'm talking about musty dampness, dryish sawdust, dank diesel fuel, fresh cut wild onions and...

Well, let me explain. About mid-week, the rain started to fall. And fall. And fall. And so no farm work got done in the evenings. But the weather people kept saying that the weekend would be great -- bright and sunny and cool. And the taste of anticipation of all the fall flavors I mentioned above was with me from Wednesday through Friday. And then came Saturday -- as brilliant as the prediction.

So I started by stacking firewood in the woodshed. Laying a fire in the fireplace has to be one of the supreme joys of the cool evenings. But wood is not clean -- especially when you're transferring it from a wood stack down the farm lane to the woodshed behind the house. Every pieces is lifted, tossed, unloaded, stacked -- while bazillions of wood fragments, old leaves, dry grass, and more float through the air and into your nose and mouth. So I tasted various flavors of trees -- oak, cherry, ash. Some dry, some dampish from all the rain. I saw various mice running for their lives as I dismantled their homes in the wood stack (not on purpose -- didn't know the exact addresses). The kittehs especially enjoyed that part -- they are Catholic cats and thus have no tendencies toward the Quaker peace testimony. So Grace and Ebony tasted meeses.

After the wood was stacked, it was time for the final mowing of the lower woods. We'd planted 3,000 trees down there about 4 springs ago and many are getting very tall. Still, to keep the weeds down -- and to give us paths to walk in -- I mow the rows. That's where the taste of diesel fuel and onions came in. I fueled the John Deere and as the fumes floated up from the tractor a few made their way into my mouth (I need to learn to breath with my mouth shut, I guess). Not unpleasant -- just a soupçon of its pungency. Then it was out into the woods, where, to the hint of diesel came fresh mowed grass and wild onion flavor. Also, a taste of black eyed Susan and purple coneflower. Each borne on the the wind as the bushhog mauled them into particles of minute portions.

I love these tastes -- earthy, real, tangible. They speak of stewardship and work and creation. Things which were noble concepts to me as few as seven years ago, but which have become part and parcel of my life since Nancy and I built Ploughshares and began planting trees and prairie. It still is a wonder to me how I ended up here -- a city fellow who thought by this age he'd be living in condo downtown in the arts district.

Yet here I am. Farmer Brent -- voted least likely to plow by his high school class! No, I'm not a "real" farmer -- no crops other than God's adorn these fields. But I "a charge to keep I have..." as the old hymn says. And part of that charge is taking care of that which I've been granted. Ah, 50 acres and fool -- God certainly has a sense of humor. Him planting me here with the crops reminded me of Jesus calling a bunch of fisherman and tax-collector types to be disciples -- to be the bearers of his gospel to the whole wide world. Not a one of them an expert in the field of God-telling.

While I wonder at it all, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:27 -- "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."

Foolish and weak and easily confounded, too, I am. But I enjoy the tastes of autumn -- they remind me of God.

-- Brent

Friday, October 09, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“A feeling of real need is always a good enough reason to pray.”

-Hanna Whitall Smith

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. "

-- Stephen Grellet

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"The art of living must be studied, as must every art. It calls for imagination, so that every advance, every change, is not merely a difference, but a creative act. Achievement, at any level above the lowest, calls for courage to hold on, in spite of current moods, and for exacting self-discipline. The art of Christian living calls for the same self-preparation; but its reward is not merely aesthetic satisfactions. The soul, hungry for God, is fed. Life itself takes on new meaning. Thus it is that we break from the confines of the prisons we have built about ourselves. Thus it is we are brought into the freedom of the Kingdom of God which, every day, through the wide world, is being realised in the hearts of men."

--Horace B Pointing, 1946

Monday, October 05, 2009

Taste and See -- Days 19-22

Smörgåsbord. Besides being a fun word to say (though difficult to type), smörgåsbord is the word that best describes the tastes of the past few days.

First there was almost duck. Almost duck is when your friendly neighborhood chef comes out from the back to visit with you and you say, "So got any duck on the menu tonight" and he says "Not really, but I'll fix it for you" and you say "Cool" and then when the duck gumbo comes begin to dig in and realize, after a few bites, that there is a distinctive flavor you haven't experienced for awhile and look down and see "SHRIMP!!!!!" in the dish and you're allergic to shellfish and your friendly neighborhood chef forgot that you were allergic to shellfish and so threw shrimp in for you just to make it special and you then cannot eat the meal you're hungering for and your friendly neighborhood chef is feeling horrible because he almost poisoned you and you're feeling bad because it wasn't his fault and you don't want him to feel bad and you end up have chicken gumbo, which is very good and which you call "almost duck" the rest of the night.

Then the next day the flavors ranged from the standard morning oatmeal to chicken chili and salad that was barely tasted (but I hear was good) to cheese and crackers. The cheese and crackers and soup and salad were food from the Art of Faith workshop Beth Booram and I led this weekend. They were barely tasted because I was too nervous to enjoy them. The good thing was that cheese was nice and room temperature by the time Nancy and I got home on Saturday night and, with an opened bottle of wine, tasted just right. Added to that, Nancy, our friend Sarah, and I stayed up late wining, cheesing, and chatting about all sorts of things -- art, faith, Mormons, Quakers, Amish, oral histories of Kentucky coal miners, and more.

On Sunday, I started with oatmeal (surprise!) and then for lunch we had thick French toast and fried eggs. Then I went off to the airport, where I met my little brother Aaron and we went into Harry and Izzy's and had a beer (me), diet Coke (him) and shared french fries while watching the Colts game. A plane ride to North Carolina for a meeting then followed. In Durham, we was greeted with a lovely buffet that included oysters on the half-shell and shrimp (somebody is out to get me!!!) and lamp chops and ... well, quite a spread. And good conversation with the other people at the meeting. Then wine and goldfish (the cracker kind!) before bed -- with more conversation.

So I've been sorting out all these flavors -- all good, all interesting, all unique, and all in different locations -- home, Duke University, the Indianapolis airport, the basement of Trinity Church, the patio at the David Thomas Executive Conference Center, and probably a few more places that have escaped my short term memory at the moment. The flavors and their memories are both shaped by the actual tastes and the associations I have for those tastes. Almost duck was great -- because it was a Zydeco's and Deb and Carter are two of my favorite people and I know they love me and weren't trying to poison me (you weren't, were you, Carter?). And the cheese and crackers and wine were superb because Nancy had carefully prepared them for the workshop and then we got to enjoy them and the relaxed conversation after the workshop.

Regardless, this smörgåsbord of tastes has been a blessing. A gift from God out of the riches of God's bounty prepared for me. Yep, for me -- and today, while remembering them, I can see and feel and taste God's goodness to me. It's a lesson I need to keep in mind -- even on days when the buffet is not quite up to my expectations.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"The first gleam of light, 'the first cold light of morning' which gave promise of day with its noontide glories, dawned on me one day at meeting, when I had been meditating on my state in great depression. I seemed to hear the words articulated in my spirit, 'Live up to the light thou hast, and more will be granted thee.' Then I believed that God speaks to man by His Spirit. I strove to lead a more Christian life, in unison with what I knew to be right, and looked for brighter days, not forgetting the blessings that are granted to prayer."

--Caroline Fox, 1841

Friday, October 02, 2009

Quaker Wisdom for Today

“Oh Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone”

-- Elizabeth Fry

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Taste and See -- Days 17-18

Anticipation... that's been the taste the past few days. I know that's not a *real* taste, but still... Beth and I will be leading our first Art of Faith workshop on Saturday and I admit I have been thinking/dreaming/wondering all about how it's going to go. It's been an almost palpable taste.

Sort of like when we'd crank homemade ice cream in backyard. I couldn't taste it while it was being cranked ... except I sortof could. The tang of the salt, the clear water of the melting ice, the smell of the mixture in the canister all combined to create the sense of the taste that is to come.

And that's what I'm experiencing regarding Saturday's workshop -- tasting it as if it had turned out well. That all the ingredients had come together perfectly. Which, God willing, it will.

Which is part of the "whole deal" -- God's will. Beth and I are leading this event because we felt led to do so... that this was something that God wanted us to do. So that taste is also in my mouth -- an anticipated satisfaction for having tasted the Lord's will and found it good.

-- Brent

Quaker Wisdom for Today

"The Inner Light does not lead men to do that which is right in their own eyes, but that which is right in God's eyes. As the Light is One, so its teaching is ultimately (though not superficially) harmonious. In actual experience, it is not found that souls truly looking to the Inner Light as their authority will break away from each other in anarchy."

-- Ellen S Bosanquet, 1927