Quakerism in ILYM will die in our generation, unless we as a Society stop saying, “Ain’t it awful.” It’s time to wake up and, in Joan Pine’s words at a recent Ministry and Advancement committee meeting, “Pray til the power of the Lord comes down.” 


There’s a problem with prayer.  The trouble with praying for the power of the Lord is that often the Lord says, “You need to work, and work hard. You need to change your ways.  Change is the hardest work there is. I’ll help with the leadings, and Way will Open, but only if you put your back into the work of changing yourself—your priorities, your choices.”  The reward of praying for the power of the Lord to come down is that lives can change for the better, and the future of our Society can change for the better, when we work hard, not only at listening for divine guidance, but in actually doing what the Lord doth require of us.


When I was a leader of my 12 Step group for mental sufferers I noticed that every group member worked very hard. Some of us worked hard at changing ourselves, and we were rewarded far beyond our wildest dreams; often in a very short time.  We said of one another, “You’re a walking miracle.”  Other group members, also truly lovely souls, worked just as hard—at not changing.  They attended meetings and enjoyed the positivity. They complained about how rough being a mental patient was, but when someone gently suggested the least little thing they could do to work on themselves, their eyes glazed over.  They hung up the phone—often literally.  Those of us who got better got lots better.  Those who didn’t… most of those friends are dead, long before their time, and the remaining two are vegging in nursing homes. Waiting to die. Waiting for the next bingo game to distract them from their pain. The life-lesson I draw from this experience is that being willing to change is the hardest work there is—and absolutely the most rewarding. And, changing is highly correlated to living longer, living better.  Joy is the Fountain of Youth.  Joy comes from discovering true efficaciousness lies in working on oneself.


How many of those old-time prophets cried, “Repent”?  All they really were saying was, “Change your ways. Choose life.”  If we are to live—to survive as a Religious Society of Friends—we have to give up our comfortableness about our Quaker ways of talking only to one another, our habits of substituting middle class nice guyism for what is Real spiritually, our Quaker jargon as a substitute for the Truth it once represented, our “Ain’t it awful” as a substitute for changing ourselves.  We have to give up, and wake up.  We have to get real—with ourselves first of all, and by that means, re-discover what is real in Quakerism.  “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” Jesus said.  Are our meetings offering those hungry sheep the Quaker equivalent of junk food? 


All any of us in the Religious Society of Friends have to offer is ourselves—our gifts, our experiences, our passion for the Real, our gut-hunger to feed hungry sheep real food—soul food.  Or not.  Self-satisfied religions die.  Let us choose life.

Views: 588

Comment by William F Rushby on 7th mo. 15, 2012 at 8:08am

A word fitly spoken!!  We want great new things to happen, but we don't want to "get out of the way" so they can happen.

Comment by Isabel Penraeth on 7th mo. 15, 2012 at 10:21am

Deuteronomy 30 (King James)

15See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 15, 2012 at 10:40am

What the leadership of my Meeting will probably not want to hear.

Why are they 'the leadership'? Because they do, in fact, represent the dominant belief-system of the group far better than I do. (But then, actual humans do have our saving inconsistencies.) Will give this another shot this morning, when we will be allegedly "defining our philosophy". So many things to goof on, so many temptations to say 'What can one do?!' Thanks!

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 7th mo. 20, 2012 at 2:33pm

If one wants to choose Life, change oneself, and change our Society, one had better (to borrow a phrase from Daniel Berrigan) "look good on wood."

Comment by Mariellen Gilpin on 7th mo. 20, 2012 at 4:46pm

I obviously am out of the culture, Patricia. What did Daniel Berrigan mean?  Is the phrase a reference to looking good in one's coffin?

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 7th mo. 20, 2012 at 5:52pm

Perhaps the meaning of the phrase would be clear in its context. The full line from Berrigan is this: "If you want to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood." The meaning is that if you follow the way of life and truth, you will encounter the same resistance that Jesus did, as well as did other prophets. Isaiah gives different expression to the same idea in 59:15: "...he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey."

I think that you put your finger on what needs to happen and why when you wrote: "We have to get real—with ourselves first of all, and by that means, re-discover what is real in Quakerism."

Comment by Mariellen Gilpin on 7th mo. 20, 2012 at 6:04pm

So, apparently the reference is indeed to a good-looking corpse in a coffin, then? Does one hafta be good-looking to qualify?  Maybe there is a wiggle-room clause?

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 7th mo. 20, 2012 at 7:33pm

Best wishes on getting real. ;-)


Comment by Bill Samuel on 7th mo. 21, 2012 at 8:29am

Mariellen, Dan Berrigan's reference is to what happened to our Lord and Savior when he challenged the accepted ways - they nailed him to wood and left him to die. It's not about how we look in a coffin. It's about accepting the suffering the world often metes out to those that live by different values. It's figurative, not literal, since we don't kill people by nailing them to wood anymore. But you have to be prepared to be beaten, tortured, imprisoned, executed, etc. if you want to really follow Jesus.

Comment by Mariellen Gilpin on 7th mo. 21, 2012 at 10:18am

Or worse yet, Bill -- be shunned by your fellow Quakers (shriek).  Who was it who said we need to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents?  That seems to be the only antidote to ending up beaten, tortured, etc and so forth.


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