Burning The Prairie Grass
Every year in parts of the midwest patches of prairie grass are burned to keep invasive grasses out and nurture the native prairie species. You might be asking yourself what does this have to do with being a Quaker or the deepening of spiritual practices? A good question.
Let me start at the beginning. I attended a conference this past weekend at Powell House led by Brent Bill titled "Bad Quakers." The title is a bit deceiving, because even though we heard stories about bad Quakers we used the practice of the queries to sharpen our focus on the Quaker Testimonies. [what is commonly called SPICES -- Spirituality, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship (sometimes Service is substituted here)]
At the end the event, Brent and I were talking about how he takes care of his prairie land in Indiana and a controlled burn came up. It made some sense to me that we were taking about stewardship of his land, but I didn't really understand why at this moment we were talking about it. And there is a connectedness to all things. One thing I did learn is that prairie grass puts roots down several feet into the earth. Regular grass doesn't.
As we drilled down into the testimonies with the queries, we got closer and closer to the essential elements of each one. For me, it was like setting fire to the prairie. Burning off everything that is not needed and making room for the native species to come up and refresh the landscape. And isn't this the essence of continuing revelation? To be in deep spiritual inquiry -- in the NOW -- and see what arises?
Of course the testimony that speaks loudest to me is peace. As a "man of action" I am always thinking about the doing. What peace action can I take that will forward peace? What is the next thing we can do on our committee? These outward manifestations of peace witness are useful and important, but they are only half the story. Like the prairie grass what you see on the surface is only a small part of what is there. What is going on down below? How deep are the roots?
The inward manifestation of peace is the other part of the peace testimony. It is the source, the lodestone, the well spring, and the inspiration for the outward manifestation. The prep work of dwelling in the silence and arriving at clarity for what the peace work will be is deeply important work. This inward time is what can carry peace work a long way. All too often movements are built on the energy and excitement that arises out of opposition, but they peter out because they are not sourced and powered by the infinite working of peace within ourselves.
Movements burn out and activists suffer from exhaustion because they are not grounded in the deep work of being FOR PEACE.
Queries on the Quaker Testimonies:
What To Do With Rage
"To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” ~ James Baldwin
When I saw this quote I thought to myself: "this was me to a tee." If I remove negro from this sentence it was an apt description. From the age of 16 I knew something was amiss. I just couldn't tell what it was. And I got angry and was angry for a long time.
For Baldwin he had to leave the USA to find a place he could call home, he was attacked on the left and the right for being black, gay, a freedom fighter, and outspoken.
And while that direction was right for Baldwin, it is not right for me. If there is one thing I have learned from Quaker meeting it is that you can't run from your thoughts, they follow you wherever you go. For me the transformative power of Quaker Meeting was using the alchemy of silence to change rust into gold. That is changing rage about the way things are through love to create the world we seek.
As we come upon April and consider the world we seek, I ask that members of the meeting consider seven areas that we can share with FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) for our representatives in Washington DC. You can write down seven areas that you feel are important for legislative action and include up to 20 words as a comment on each. Such as:
Dismantling Nuclear Weapons
The world I seek is one where we do not threaten each other with mutually assured destruction, but use that money for constructive purposes such as education and the general uplift of all people.
Rage has it place, but it is only useful for a very narrow thing -- getting into action. If you are angry, offended, and upset by the actions of government that's okay. What are the next steps?
Here's one: Join the Outreach, Peace, and Justice Committee on April 7th at 10 am and share your thoughts.
Some Quaker concerns are:
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