Spoken from the Silence

The idea behind Quaker worship is that if we wait and listen expectantly, God/Jesus/ Spirit (by whatever name we know it) will speak to us and inform us about how to live holy lives. We can extend that idea, based on the omnipresence of the Spirit to say that we can access this “resource” anywhere: we don’t need to be in a church to find or hear God speaking. Initially, we may find that there are places where there is less “noise” to interfere with our ability to hear the still small voice of Truth. Sometimes we hear messages that should be shared with others. When a post is prefaced “spoken in meeting,” it is such a message. Ideally we are conduits for the direct ministry of Spirit to us or the community, though it is acknowledged that we all have “filters” and frequently are only able to perceive part of a larger Truth. What I write down is based on recollection after the fact. It frequently lacks the precise language, imagery, or detail of the original message.

Two messages follow, spoken on different days.

6-21-14. We say we don’t have time for this or that. We fill our lives with stuff, and pay someone to mow our grass, so to speak. What is required is a radical reordering of our lives. That is not what I was going to say, but that’s the way spirit is.
As an evil capitalist, I hire people for a variety of reasons. Horsepower is defined as work done per unit time. So one reason to hire employees is to get more work done. Add another rat to the wheel. A second reason is if I lack the skills to do the work and I need someone who has specific skills I lack. I can weld and fabricate, but I make more “money” if I work on trees and pay someone else to do the work for me. In the context of Meeting, “money” and work are similar: they are analogous to the work of the meeting, its ministries, and our ability to accomplish our goals. This is an example of opportunity cost. Some things are far more difficult to do alone, such as lifting heavy things or lowering branches from trees. Then another person can be essential. If we are enlarging our ministry through the employment of others, that’s rightly ordered. If we’re ducking the work that has been laid on our hearts, that’s not.
It can be easy to be self-righteous and say “look what great things we’re doing” when you’re not doing anything. In the hiring of employees, it is essential to be mindful. Issues of oversight and the unwillingness to fire non-performers should not be confused with the need to get work done.
The fact is that we make time for the things that are important to us. We have no problem paying for our Quaker organizations to do our work for us: FCNL, AFSC, FWCC. We can argue that if we believe legislative issues are that important, we should be in DC lobbying. When we build our lives to fit our ministries, all else follows and our lives are radically reordered. ###

6-29. Query at Quakers in Business: When faced with challenges, how has faith supported business?
Through observation, I have come to believe that the Quaker assertions that God is present and that way opens, are true.
While on the surface, it appears that my business is cutting trees in the woods and around houses, it might be more accurate to say that the work is problem solving. A single tree can weigh 40,000 pounds. It may be next to a house, garden, 15,000-volt power line…the list goes on. Or it may be in the woods on a hill steep enough to roll even the most stable machine, across a wetland, encircled by other trees…that list goes on, too.
It is often true that I seem to be looking at a wall of polished granite, tall and smooth. No way “up” (forward, as Friends say), is evident. My practice has become to sit with the matter at hand and seek direction. What are the observed beginning conditions? Where do I want them to end up: brush pile to chip, pile of logs or firewood? What are the things “in the way” of accomplishing the work? What are possible solutions? This is where the granite begins to show that it is not as smooth and monolithic as it first appeared. By sitting in prayer with the work, textures (handholds and paths) begin to emerge from the smoothness of the face. Prayer leads to answers.
This process sounds a lot like scientific method or 6-point problem solving. The difference is that rather than being an intellectual activity where the solutions are derived from our brain-work, an interior kind of work, we are looking outside ourselves to hear what other truth (solutions) there might be. Near the end of 1 Cor. 13, Paul writes “for [now] we know only in part… we see in a mirror dimly.”
This sort of prayer is more like a conversation. I ask. God responds. She knows my abilities and limits. Sometimes I have to walk away and look again in the morning with a set of rested eyes. What seemed undoable the afternoon before is (relatively) simple in the morning. The voice says “see, if you put the rope in that fork, tie it to the branch there, and cut it this way, all will be well.”
This lead us to the second place faith supports business: God is directly and always accessible. When we learn to live by faith rather than our own “wits,” amazing things happen.
We are able to redefine success so that it is consistent with the teachings of Christ. Rather than focusing solely on the riches of this (earthly) world, we pursue the fruits of the Spirit. This is not always easy. The “world” tells us to keep up with the Joneses, get a trophy wife (or husband), have a big house, worry, pursue, acquire, never mind the cost. Pursuing “fruits” frees us from the expectations of the world and allows us to focus on “true riches.” To say that the opinions of others don’t matter sounds callous and is dangerous. We have to be aware that even when we disagree with others, they too have that of God in them, which means they have truth to impart to us as well. That makes it so we can’t dismiss them out of hand. Still, when actions don’t match words (integrity), the act and art of faithfulness requires us to speak our own truth. This requires us to be open to the concept of a convergent or central truth. That is the essence of the third way. This practice is known among Quakers as “speaking truth to power.” Often it is Goliath who wields authority. David is in the position of telling him where he errs.

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