Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage: Preparing for a Trumpian Administration

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days.

These words of Harry Emerson Fosdick ring true for many of us today as we face the inauguration as President of the United States a man whose values run contrary to ours as people of faith. Well, people of our peculiar faith, at any rate. 

The president-elect claims to be a person of faith, after all. Many of us Friends wonder what kind of faith it is  that denigrates racial and gender differences, speaks of and objectifies women as sexual toys, mocks and slanders those with religious and political positions that don't align with his, praises those who are "principalities, ... powers, ... the rulers of the darkness of this world", ... the list could on. But, this is not the first time that we Quakers have, throughout our multi-century history, often found ourselves on the "wrong" side of government, elected or otherwise.

The question for many of us today is how to respond. How to act. We could give into despair. We could retreat into inaction in word and deed. We could remain silent; safe in our quiet Quaker congregations of mostly middle-class whiteness. I know I could. 

So I've been thinking a lot about what my call is during this time -- and perhaps the next almost a decade. I'm starting with three things.

One, I've just taken the Matthew 25 pledge at Sojourners.There I said I'd make an active, ongoing commitment to protect and stand with vulnerable people in the name of Jesus, particularly in support of these groups:
  • Undocumented immigrants threatened with mass deportation
  • African Americans and other people of color threatened by racial profiling
  • Muslims threatened with "banning," monitoring, and even registration
Second, I'm going to reread one of most the formative books of my faith -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer's
The Cost of Discipleship. My copy of this compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency is well worn. And while I don't agree with everything that Bonhoeffer writes in it, I am challenged by these thoughts from a man whose life and thought were exemplified a new type of leadership inspired by a Gospel imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty.

Third, I'm ordering a copy of the brand new Praying for Justice: A Lectionary of Christian Concern. This book, published by Barclay Press, (a Quaker publishing house), was put into print in no small part in response to the recent US presidential election. As its description says, "this book is not free of agenda. It is an act of resistance. God is greater than any politician, political system, or nation. And now is the time for people of faith to act in tangible, costly, and courageous ways. This book calls upon Christians to live into wisdom, prudence, compassion, humility, and discernment, to pursue the heart of God’s kingdom vision: a society in which all are valued as individuals bearing God’s image."

These are small steps, I know.  But I don't know what they'll lead to. All I know is that I have to do something that affirms my belief as a Christian that my life is about depending upon and following God and not about which politicians "control" the United States of America. My allegiance is not to a flag, but to the Eternal Lover of My Soul. The platform I espouse (albeit not always well) is that of a not-so-simple son of a carpenter from Galilee.

I need to continue to write words of Light and Love and Good News. I need to live a life that models the words of Galatians -- "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." And I may need to speak Truth to Power in ways that are new, but true, to me and my prayer to have wisdom and courage for the living of these days.

Monday, December 19, 2016

desert spirit's fire!: Brent Bill: Holy Silence

"The Quaker view that all of life, including silence, is sacramental is based in the Bible as well as in Friendly faith. It is a practice solidly grounded in Christian theology, history, and Scripture." Holy Silence, page 21.

I've read, blogged, and reviewed several of Brent's books and always appreciate that they're never too long, that he has close connections to nature, the environment, the land (I hope so, because he's a farmer!) and especially that all of them emphasize ways we can live closer to God and to all of God's creation...

desert spirit's fire!: Brent Bill: Holy Silence: Holy Silence : The Gift of Quaker Spirituality by J.Brent Bill on Amazon. "The Quaker view that all of life, including silence, is s...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence Is Not A Waste of Time

“Value the opportunity to think unguided by the world. Learn what you feel you need to know, let other information pass. No moment of silence is a waste of time.”

Rachel Needham, quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice: Second Edition, #2:17.

From Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, 2nd edition

Friday, December 16, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Taking Time Silence -- and God

Do you want to live in such an amazing divine Presence that life is transformed and transfigured and transmuted into peace and power and glory and miracle?” If we can honestly answer, “Yes,” then Kelly’s response is, “If you do, you can. But if you say you haven’t the time to go down into the recreating silences, I can only say to you, 'Then you don’t really want to. . . . For . . . we find time for what we really want to do.'”

quotation by Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, 120.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence -- Heard in the Heart

“So, be still and quiet, and silent before the Lord, not putting up any request to the Father, nor cherishing any desire in thee, but in the Seed’s lowly nature and purely springing life; and the Lord give thee the clear discerning, in the lowly Seed, of all that springs and arises in thy heart.”

Isaac Pennington, quoted by Roger J. Vanden Busch in “The Value of Silence in Quaker Spirituality,” Spirituality Today, Winter 1985, Vol. 37, 326–335.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence Kindles Our Souls

"In silence which is active, the Inner Light begins to glow—a tiny spark. For the flame to be kindled and to grow, subtle argument and the clamor of our emotions must be stilled. It is by an attention full of love that we enable the Inner Light to blaze and illuminate our dwelling and to make of our whole being a source from which this Light may shine out. Words must be purified in a redemptive silence if they are to bear the message of peace. The right to speak is a call to the duty of listening. Speech has no meaning unless there are attentive minds and silent hearts. Silence is the welcoming acceptance of the other. The word born of silence must be received in silence."

Pierre Lacout, quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice: Second Edition, #2:12.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence Is A Holy Whisper

“There is a divine Abyss within us all, a holy Infinite Center, a Heart, a Life who speaks in us and through us to the world. We have all heard this holy Whisper at times.”

Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, 116.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence and Service

"Quakers find in silence a deepening process bringing us into our hearts where we meet God, are empowered, and finally led to the service of others.”

Roger J. Vanden Busch “The Value of Silence in Quaker Spirituality,” Spirituality Today, Winter 1985, Vol. 37, 326–335.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence = SoulSpeak

“Quakers do have something very special to offer the dying and the bereaved . . .namely that we are at home in silence. Not only are we thoroughly used to it and unembarrassed by it, but we know something about sharing it, encountering others in its depths and, above all, letting ourselves be used in it.” Sharing spiritual silence with another person who dwells in that soulful space where words don’t matter, sustains the invisible, eternal bond of love and God. It moves us into the eternal mystery beyond verbal expression. Only the soul, not the mind, can express our deepest feelings."

Diana Lampen, Facing Death (London: Quaker Home Service, 1979), 22, 27.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence and Pain

“Hush, hush, lest you cause pain to your friend. Even in loving words there is the power to hurt and to wound. Silence is best when the ways of the Lord are hidden from our eyes.”

Shlomo Du Nour, Adiel (New Milford, CT: The Toby Press, 2002), p. 93.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: God Speaks in the Silence

". . . God was waiting in the depths of my being to talk to me if I would only get still enough to hear His voice.

"I thought this would be a very easy matter, and so I began to get still. But I had no sooner commenced than a perfect pandemonium of voices reached my ears, a thousand clamoring notes from without and within, until I could hear nothing but their noise and din. Some of them were my own voice, some of them were my own questions, some of them were my own cares, some of them were my very prayers. Others were the suggestions of the tempter and the voices of the world’s turmoil. Never before did there seem so many things to be done, to be said, to be thought; and in every direction I was pushed and pulled, and greeted with noisy acclamations of unspeakable unrest. It seemed necessary for me to listen to some of them, and to answer some of them; but God said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Then came the conflict of thoughts for the morrow, and its duties and cares; but God said, “Be still.” And as I listened and slowly learned to obey, and shut my ears to every sound, I found after awhile that when the other voices ceased, or I ceased to hear them, there was a still, small voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible tenderness, power, and comfort. As I listened, it became to me the voice of prayer, and the voice of wisdom, and the voice of duty, and I did not need to think so hard, or pray so hard, or trust so hard, but that “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit in my heart was God’s prayer in my secret soul, was God’s answer to all my questions, was God’s life and strength for soul and body, and became the substance of all knowledge, and all prayer, and all blessing; for it was the living God Himself as my life and my all."

Martin Hope Sutton, “Silence: # 553.” Used by permission of the Tract Association of Friends, www.tractassociation.org/hitec.htm.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: A Silence that Strengthens

"Carry some quiet around inside thee. Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit, from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord from whence cometh life; whereby thou mayest receive the strength and power to allay all storms and tempests."

George Fox, quoted at www.bible.org/illus/r/r-50.htm.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: A Restoring Silence

"As I silence myself I become more sensitive to the sounds around me, and I do not block them out. The songs of the birds, the rustle of the wind, children in the playground, the roar of an airplane overhead are all taken into my worship. . . . I think of myself like the tree planted by the 'rivers of water' in Psalm 1, sucking up God’s gift of life and being restored."

Tayeko Yamanouchi, quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice: Second Edition (London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends ((Quakers)) in Britain), #2:54.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence Refreshes and Renews

“True silence is the rest of the mind; and is to the spirit, what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”

William Penn, quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice: Second Edition (London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends ((Quakers)) in Britain), #20:11.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence Brings Peace

"[spiritual silence leads us to a life of] unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It but it occupies all our time. . . . And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.” 

Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941), 124.

From Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, 2nd edition

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: An Expectant Silence

“[Holy silence consists of] that brazen expectation [of hearing the voice of God] . . ."

Scott Russell Sanders, The Force of Spirit (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2000), 155.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: A Guiding Silence

"God is above all the God of the normal. In the common facts and circumstances of life, He draws near to us, quietly. He teaches us in the routine of life’s trifles, gently and unnoticed His guidance comes to us through the channels of ‘reason [and] judgment.’ . . . [W]e have been taught by Him when we least suspected it; we have been guided . . . though the guiding hand rested upon us so lightly that we were unaware of its touch."

William Littleboy, quoted in Christian Faith and Practice in the Experience of the Society of Friends, #82.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence = Communion?

“In silence, without rite or symbol, we have known the Spirit of Christ so convincingly present . . . [that] this is our Eucharist and our Communion.”

London Yearly Meeting, 1928, quoted in Christian Faith and Practice in the Experience of the Society of Friends, #241.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Silence in a Noisy Season: Silence -- A Living Experience

"The inward way of the Spirit is believed not to be dependent upon outward rites, ceremonies, or liturgical aids to worship, but it is maintained that 'the presence of Christ in the midst' can be a living experience for all who open themselves to the Spirit of God. This openness and living experience is achieved through silence."

Wilmer Cooper, Friends and the Sacraments (Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1981)