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:
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