Quaker

Sitting in weekly silent Quaker worship has provided me both the freedom and nurture for ongoing, continued spiritual growth and discovery. That, in turn, led me to join with the Society of Friends, as Quakers are formally known, and to treasure its communities of faith where I’ve settled. Guided by sets of questions (the queries) rather than creeds, and by direct, daily experience rather than ethereal speculation, Friends embody a radical Christianity that emphasizes simplicity, equality, honesty, nonviolence and pacifism, and personal integrity.

As clerk (the presiding officer) at Friends business sessions, where all decisions are made in unity, without ever taking a vote, I’ve learned to sense that one individual, rather than the majority, may be closer to the optimal outcome – and to allow room for “Way to open” as others unite around that position or even a third, unanticipated solution that may surface to our awareness. When we’re faithful and closely follow our Guide, the process of reaching unity can be exquisite. When we fall short, though, what we feel can be excruciating, demanding forgiveness and contrition.

My close examination of the writings of the original “Children of the Light” and “Seekers After Truth” in mid-1600s Britain has convinced me that the first Quakers perceived an alternative Christianity – one they dared not voice fully, given the deadly consequences of the blasphemy laws of the period. Couched in their interlocking metaphors of the Light, the Seed, and the Truth is an outline strikingly different from conventional interpretations of Christ.

An overview of my conclusions is available in Revolutionary Light, a free PDF booklet available from Thistle/Flinch editions. For your own copy, simply click here.

Light 1

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The story of the Garden of Eden – brief enough to fit within the concept of flash fiction or microfiction – is an endlessly fascinating tale, once freed from its traditional confines. For starters, there’s no Original Sin in the text and no real reason for Eve to bear the brunt of the blame. Why doesn’t Adam come to her rescue, anyway?

For me, this Creation story (the second one in the Bible, at that) encapsulates the beginning of human history and its subsequent struggles. As the centerpiece of my reflections, I ponder some of the dimensions suggested in the Eden events. No matter how far we go, I still feel we’re only scratching the surface of endless implications.

Two additional essays here follow alternate pathways the expulsion from Eden could quickly follow. One, confined to Genesis, leaps to Noah and the Great Flood, which can be seen as yet another Creation story in the Bible. The other could link straight to Job and his tribulations.

Crucially, these are not the children’s book versions we typically encounter. Definitely not, even with all the animals on board.

Eden 1

For Eden Embraced, a free Thistle/Flinch PDF edition, click here.

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Living through repeated seasons – especially as they occur within a particular locale or sequence of places – allows for initial experiences that are revisited, amplified, and revised in their similarities and variations over the years. There’s the annual cycle, of course, with expectations that may be met, surpassed, or fail to occur. There’s also the reality of aging – individually and within a group. Perhaps, over time, learning will lead to wisdom. Or teaching will inspire a new generation to continue.

The reflections in Seasons of the Spirit span more than four decades of my practice within the Society of Friends (Quakers), including phases from universalist to historically traditional and on to convergent outlooks. They’re deeply personal, even flawed – and ongoing.

Seasons 1

For this free Thistle/Flinch PDF edition, click here.

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Religion Turned Upside Down lays out an alternative Christianity based on the interlocking metaphors of the Light, Seed, and Truth that were so central to the early Quaker movement. It’s a startling vision.

Spirituality

Religion Turned Upside Down

Enjoy this collection and more at Thistle/Flinch editions.

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COMING IN NOVEMBER 2017: Originating as brief essays for the Dover Meeting’s newsletter, Stillwater investigates dimensions of daily practice in a life of faith. While focused on Quaker perspectives, the reflections are intended as inspiration for people in all spiritual traditions.

Spirituality

Stillwater

Enjoy this collection and more at Thistle/Flinch editions.

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Related work has appeared in the magazines Friends Journal, Quaker Life, and Quaker Theology. I have presented workshops at New England Yearly Meeting and the 2012 gathering of Friends General Conference.

My essays on Quaker spirituality also appear at my blog As Light Is Sown.

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Along the way, I’ve skirted traditional Plainness.

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