That’s how I was introduced prior to giving a speech one time. Everybody chuckled, of course, including me. It was a witty introduction. But part of it nagged at me a bit and I remember it from time to time whilst working the farm this weekend.
Yes, the thousands of trees that have been planted over the years will grow on their own -- so long as they’re kept free of weed entanglement and damage from deer who like to munch on tender young shoots or rub the bark of young trees. That means weeding, mowing, and tying strips of dryer fabric softener sheets on each one (the deer hate the scent as much as I do. So do mice, which is why I tie them in the engine compartment of my truck, so they don’t eat all the wires up. Which they did once!). Let me tell you, that's a lot of cutting and tying. And the prairie has to be burned to kill off the woody growth and destroy weeds. Some, though, don't seem to mind the fire. So the bazillion thistle rosettes (that's a baby thistle, I've learned) that sprouted after the fire, have to be dealt with.
That, in part, is what I’m called to do. But before I was called to that work, I had to be convinced it was important spiritual work. Otherwise, I was just being another do-gooder. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m not a natural do-gooder. So for me to be one that, God sorta has to kick my rear end and say “Pay attention, Brent. You need to do this.”
My first conscious efforts toward earthcare as intentionally spirit work began small. Little things like getting rid of incandescent lightbulbs, wrapping the water heater in a cover, buying a high mpg car, buying energy efficient appliances when the old ones needed replaced. Tiny steps for a tiny soul.
As my soul grew, and an opportunity came to build a house, we designed it to be energy-efficient from its 6 inch thick insulated sidewalls, 8 inch thick insulated roof, triple insulated windows, geo-thermal heating and cooling system and more. Now this wasn’t cheap. Which kept grating my desire to live simply. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it. I could. But rubbed up against another faith matter – earth care/simple living.
Which is the thing about the Quaker way. Jesus’ way. It’s not so easy sometimes. The values it gives us sometimes fit easily together. Other times, not so much.
What’s a bad Quaker to do?
Actually, the question is what is this bad Quaker to do? There is no one answer that fits all of us. Which is part of the delight and frustration of being Friends of Jesus. We are called to determine, with divine assistance, what is ours to do in this world. About peace. Justice. Truth. Simplicity. Care for the earth. Please, God, can’t you just type out instructions and send them to me???
The joy in this comes from, instead of being told and just having to follow set directions, discovering and working with God in the redemption of this world and our souls. We are lead into new places of growth as we discern how we can be more responsible consumers, what wasteful household habits we have, how can we use resources more responsibly, whether to join a community supported agriculture effort, have our church create a community garden in a "food desert”, work for national legislation that regulates or prohibits the use of genetically engineered food, or just LOAF (buy food that is Local, Organic, Animal-Friendly, and Fairly produced and traded).
Of course, it’s not that there’s not stuff to do. There are plenty of things. Rather, it’s what is God calling you to do. Not what are you being guilted into by other people of faith (or even a bad Quaker), but what feels right in your life. What fits – not what is forced. If it doesn’t feel right to you to create a wildlife sanctuary in your backyard and/or on church property, then don’t. Not until you feel it is right and fit and from God. If a leading to make your own naturally based cleaning products*; composting all organic waste — and recycling paper, cardboard, cans and bottles — to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills, sell your car and rely solely on a bike or public transit, and so on is truly from God it will persist. It won’t let you go and will work on your soul. It will also
- come with a sense of joy
- feel life giving, not life draining
- give you the power and will to actually do it!