‘When Time ceases to be the enemy’

There is, it sometimes seems, an excess of religious and social busyness these days, a round of committees and conferences and journeyings, of which the cost in ‘peaceable wisdom’ is not sufficiently counted. Sometimes we appear overmuch to count as merit our participation in these things… At least we ought to make sure that we sacrifice our leisure for something worthy. 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 neighbours 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, whether of personal or church affairs. 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, 1937, Quaker Faith and Practice 21.22

I had a good phone conversation with Eleanor from Woodbrooke Study Centre in Birmingham. This will be the site for many courses I will take over the next two years in the Equipping for Ministry study. She was curious which tutor to pair me with based on the answers I provided on the application. I told her that Caroline Graveson’s words resonated with me, especially the need for “space-making”. How often do we make space for ourselves to just be, or create, or to refresh and expand our spirits. She felt, rightly, that I exist in my head most of the time. I could sense she discerned what I needed from the course and we ended on a constructive note. Her last words were to urge me to be open to any possibility of discovery. I like the sound of that!

I am looking forward to this. Despite my mother’s failing health and despite my own questionable health (chronic hives, etc.) I am eager to go in whatever direction I find in this experience.

Protecting Psychic Spaces

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve not posted in a while because I’ve needed a ‘blog’ vacation. My mind is aswirl with news, Quaker tasks, media such as Facebook and Twitter, and personal reflection. It’s very easy to get used to posting small bits and bobs on Facebook and feel that you’ve taken the time to blog about something. On top of it, I am considering and applied for a two-year Equipping for Ministry course at Woodbrooke Study Centre and I’m also busy being my local meeting Treasurer and Area Meeting Assistant Clerk. I love being busy and realise how much of my feelings of inadequacy result from not having an outlet for my skills. Everyone wants to feel needed after all.

Beside it all is my mother’s illness, which may call me away at the last-minute. If it doesn’t, I’ll be visiting the States during Thanksgiving and hope I can stay and help as much as I can before I have to return.  I look forward to this time of year a lot. Thanksgiving has always been a time of family visiting, worship, and dinner and I can’t help but think this may be my mother’s last Thanksgiving.  It will be both a sad and joyous time.

I hope to be enriched by all the experiences coming up and not be lax in updating blogs along the way. The danger of burnout is immense. There is also a danger of feeling like I cannot get a handle on any one thing and I’m hoping the Equipping course will help me focus on my corner of the world and let all else fall away. I cannot fix the world and I shouldn’t let its ills get to me. I have to be careful to protect my psychic boundaries and not become overburdened with others’ problems and actions.

I wish I might emphasise how a life becomes simplified when dominated by faithfulness to a few concerns. Too many of us have too many irons in the fire. We get distracted by the intellectual claim to our interest in a thousand and one good things, and before we know it we are pulled and hauled breathlessly along by an over-burdened programme of good committees and good undertakings. I am persuaded that this fevered life of church workers is not wholesome. Undertakings get plastered on from the outside because we can’t turn down a friend. Acceptance of service on a weighty committee should really depend upon an answering imperative within us, not merely upon a rational calculation of the factors involved. The concern-orientated life is ordered and organised from within. And we learn to say No as well as Yes by attending to the guidance of inner responsibility. Quaker simplicity needs to be expressed not merely in dress and architecture and height of tombstones but also in the structure of a relatively simplified and co-ordinated life-programme of social responsibilities.

Thomas R Kelly, 1941, Quaker Faith and Practice 20.36

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You Are That

Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript of a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.
This universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself;
everything that you want,
you are already that.

Rumi Quatrain

Simplistic Explanations and ‘Nether Regions’

I fear I’ve lapsed into taking the easy road and the least resistant for me; simple explanations about difficult subjects.

This is the mindset of fundamentalism. This mindset finds the world too complicated, too horrible, or too difficult to face. This mindset casts about for the appropriate people, things, or ideologies to blame and then provides a ‘better’ answer usually with equally punitive measures. Every ideology does it. Yet, it prevents deeper thinking about complicated issues and if this world is anything, it’s complicated.

How about a little film to put things into proper perspective?

Balancing Peace and Control

Rotherham shown within England

Rotherham shown within England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The daily news out of the UK has been quite alarming for me. And quite jarring. I come from the USA, which in many ways is a country that some perceive as naive in the ways of the world. In the course of history America is still in its adolescence and some of us look to other countries, like the UK for instance, as sort of grandfatherly figures that have seen more of the world than we have. We are rebellious toward our ancestor, but most of us hold a modicum of respect for the monarchy and great respect for the wisdom that is evident in its halls of academe and journalism.

Yet, I find myself sickened by the deep, deep culture of misogyny that I’ve found here. Grown women are often still referred to as ‘girls’, newspapers publish topless photos, and women torture themselves into the most grotesque fashions to attract attention. It’s not surprising then to see a culture that simultaneously infantalizes women while insisting their girls be adults at the age of 16! The abuse that women and girls suffer at the hands of men like Jimmy Saville and now the reports coming out of Rotherham has not only angered me, but filled me with despair at how deep and systemic the human rot has been allowed to penetrate. The levels of corruption run as deep as the police department, the Rotherham Council, and even beyond. I have no doubt in my mind that with the full cooperation of men in power, and the women who support them, this has been going on for decades.  (see rochdale, oxford, etc.)  This is a sick and twisted mindset that sees vulnerable girls as useless fodder for their sexual deviance and, let’s face it, greed and profit. Yet there it is and no one in power seems to care. They are busy passing off responsibility down the line to others. Don’t get me wrong, America has its own problems with violence, but this issue hits particularly close to home.

Usually when faced with these things I see in the news, I react as a person first and a religious person second. I am not saintly enough nor disciplined enough that my first response isn’t one of retaliation and invective. I admit it. Usually, when it comes to religious or spiritual principles, I have to butt up against the real world to test the kind of idea I’m being sold; my experience, education, and intuition being the first things I turn to to tell me of and idea or principle’s Truth. This is all we have, really, first. So when I read the headlines I was livid. I know what it’s like to be ignored when such things go on behind the scenes. And because these girls were from troubled and poor homes, they were not given consideration or believed.

After consulting myself and finding no answer for a situation or question, I then move to what others have said, written, experienced about an issue. How has a situation been addressed in the past, or has it even been addressed?  This is where the Scriptures of other faiths come in as well as books like Quaker Faith and Practice. An ardent evangelical Christian would go to the Scriptures of their faith FIRST because they believe the Christian bible to be God’s direct word to mankind but I tend to agree with Thomas Paine:

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it. (The Age of Reason, part I)

It’s at this point that I can either accept or reject the advice I read from other sources. After all ancient writings do NOT have the answer to all things, especially modern day problems. This is where the Light, Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, Cosmic Truth, or whatever we want to call it, comes into play.  If it is true, as I believe, that the God of the universe provides a consistent and true message to humankind throughout the history of the world then I have to find the consistent and true message and reject all corruptions of that message.

This is also where I accept or reject the purely humanistic and non-spiritual attempts to solve a situation.  How do humanistic ideologies hope to solve a problem that I believe is a deep seated spiritual one? Do I support what non-spiritual humans have to offer the situation? Does it work? What are they hoping to achieve? Is it merely a bandaging of wounds already inflicted or how can it be stopped at the source?  How can I work in tandem with those who offer purely political solutions?

After all the searching, I naturally gravitate toward an answer for me that provides comfort and hope and insight into how to tackle the spiritual problem first. After exhausting other ideologies and politics, for me, the last refuge always seems to be the Christian scriptures and its message of changing hearts before minds. Only in it do I find the spiritual sustenance that the world and all its depravities cannot answer. I believe that when we change our hearts we can change our minds and the bible is full of changed hearts and a yearning God who wants to help us change them. I believe change comes from the inside and cannot be legislated or imposed judiciously. You can try to keep order that way, but I don’t hold out hope that more laws are the answer.

Unlike those who take their scriptures too far, I don’t seek to find ‘God’s commands’ in order to impose them on others to fit my narrow view of society. I don’t insist that others believe what I believe or they will die. I don’t use the scriptures to justify my raping and pillaging towns and cities after killing people for no other reason than that they were born in a different place. Ancient ways have to give way for modern enlightened views after all.

No, in all the mess that men have recorded in their scriptures, I look for the poetry and the hope that surely HAS to leak out eventually from hearts trying to aim for God. Everyone has their own method for seeking Light. Everyone believes differently about the solutions they feel are correct. In the end, it’s down to me and what I’m going to do about it. So after a long explanatory process about what usually happens over the course of a few days,  I come to bedtime and last night’s reading of Psalm 37, all of which is worthy of quoting, but a couple things stood out for me:

8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

And in the Light of God’s reassurance that someone was in control and I didn’t have to be, for now, I went to sleep.