This I Believe

I’ve been a logger and a tree climber most of my life. Sometimes that means people disrespect me for the work that I do, but I think that is usually because they don’t understand what I do. I live outdoors. I work in all kinds of weather. The work is hard physically, and at least if you choose to engage it intellectually, it can be demanding that way as well. It requires you to think on your feet, to understand such complex things as vectors, centers of mass, reactive forces, business management and problem solving. And over the years, understanding of these things has all been shown to me by studying what happens and why.
I was introduced to the Quakers as a young teenager, at my older brother’s wedding. At the time I would’ve said that I was an atheist or agnostic. My own spiritual trajectory has been the reverse of many of my friends. Today, I call myself a Christian.
George Fox is often portrayed as the originator of the Quakers. It’s funny the things that stick with us, and the things that slide on by. In his Journal, Fox wrote “this I knew experimentally.” That stuck with me. My parents were both scientists and they encouraged my curiosity. I decided to try an experimental approach to the Bible, God, and my exploration of faith.
The Bible exhorts us to do many things, most of which contemporary society considers outrageous, unrealistic, or irrelevant to today’s life. But I decided to try, in the spirit of experiment, and to see what would be given to me. I decided to try to pray without ceasing, as the apostle Paul tells us we should. As a logger, my work is punctuated by periods of intense activity followed by relatively quiescent ones. I’m in the woods by myself much of the time. I’m my own boss. And what I discovered was that “seek and you shall find” actually works.
I actively sought to listen. Insight was given. I intentionally sought to give thanks in all things, even if they didn’t suit me. The skidder broke down. Hallelujah! I actively sought that of God in all people, a fundamental Quaker belief. Love your enemies. They are your teachers. I actively looked for the presence of God in the world around me. A treasure hunt: the presence was everywhere. And I came to actively practice ministry. As you have done to the least of these…. Whenever, wherever I sought, answers were given. My life was transformed.
My parents raised me Unitarian. My early concept of ministry was that of words delivered from a pulpit by a man in a long black robe in stand-up-sit-down church. When I came to Quakerism, my concept of ministry changed because the Quakers profess the ministry of all believers. I understood that God was accessible in the silence of worship on Sunday morning. But then I took a step further with the experimental approach, and asked “where else can I hear what God has to say to me?” It turned out that ministry knew no bounds.
The silence of worship, it turned out, was like training wheels on a bicycle. Once I knew how to access the presence, the still small voice, it did not matter whether the chainsaw was screaming or the skidder was roaring. God was present all around me, and in me as well.

Audio recording available here.

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