Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wax on, Wax off

I was 19 when the movie "The Karate Kid" came out, although I don't think I actually saw it until it hit cable where I watched it numerous times. The movie came to mind last week as I reflected on George Fox's epistles.

In the movie, a young man named Daniel enlists the aid of the local handyman, Mr. Miyagi, to learn karate. But Mr. Miyagi's teaching methods are not what Daniel expects. One day he is painting a huge fence, up.. down.. up.. down.., not side-to-side. Another time he has to sand the floor in slow, circular motions. He also ends up waxing Mr. Miyagi's collection of classic cars, where Mr. Miyagi imparts the famous "Wax on, wax off". All this time, Daniel is getting more and more anxious to learn karate, and eventually he blows up and accuses Mr. Miyagi of treating him like his own personal slave instead of teaching him karate. It is then that Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that the repetitive motions he has been going through with these chores have been his training and that his body has learned these motions well.

While George Fox didn't write "wax on, wax off", at least not that I have come across, he still had a simple message. In epistle after epistle he advises us to wait - "wait in the light", "wait in the life and power", "wait upon the Lord", "wait in the pure spirit". Another variation is keep - "keep close to the light", "keep close to the Lord". Over and over he gives that simple message that if we wait in the light, God will purify us and bring us closer to him. I think sometimes we get anxious and expect something more complicated, just as Daniel asked Mr. Miyagi "when am I going to learn how to punch?" For many of us, this purification we undergo is a slow, almost imperceptible process that only becomes clear as we reflect back on it.

Isaac Penington reflected this same simple idea when he wrote:

Give over thine own willing, give over thine own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything, and sink down to the seed which God sows in thy heart and let that be in thee, and grow in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion.

Perhaps Mr. Miyagi would have advised Daniel to "Give over thine own desiring to learn how to punch, and let karate be in thee, and grow in thee and act in thee."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Lamb's War & Activism

One thing that has troubled me for a while is that while many peace-oriented Quaker activities may be inspired by the Holy Spirit, the activities themselves seem to lack any awareness or acknowledgment of that spirit. Some Friends seem to have no trouble saying ugly things about their political opponents. One of the things I have struggled with is that in an effort to "love their enemies", some Friends just take the "enemy" label off one group of people and place it on another.

Chuck Fager helped clarify things for me when he spoke about Quaker House during a session at the North Carolina Yearly Meeting - Conservative gathering. In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote about "spiritual armor", and I have read this passage numerous times ("the belt of truth", "the breastplate of integrity", etc.) What I managed to miss time after time was Ephesians 6:12, which in the Revised English Bible says:

For our struggle is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark age, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Chuck spoke about the same thing - that the "Lamb's War" is not against people, but against "principalities and powers". I did not realize at first that Chuck was quoting Paul, but I came across the passage the next day (or it was shown to me, the Holy Spirit can be subtle). When we take that passage to heart, I think it transforms how we deal with people who would otherwise be our opponents. We are not fighting against them, but the powers, the system, that they are caught up in. This separation, to me, helps us continue to deal with people in love without sowing further seeds of war.

Just to put in a plug for Quaker House, they have been doing a "Truth in Recruitment" campaign - trying to tell people things that the recruiters may not tell them. They have recently posted a YouTube video of Sergeant Abe, the honest recruiter. They also put out a flyer about the enlistment document.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Worshipping Among Conservative Friends (again)

Ceal and I arrived home last night after attending the 310th annual gathering of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Conservative). Friends may remember me gushing about attending the meeting last year and wonder if I would have that same enthusiasm after another visit (I wondered this myself). I have to say my enthusiasm is different this year, it feels deeper - it wasn't all new to me, the sudden awakening experience of being among Friends who speak the same language as me was not much of a factor this year (upon reflection, last year was more a discovery of a language I had mostly lost or covered up). Instead, I found myself peacefully and joyfully refreshed by the ever-present spirit of worship.

There were remarkably few conversations about "what is Quakerism" or "liberal vs. conservative" or "theist vs. non-theist". For the most part, it was beyond that, and was at the place of "are we serving God as best we can?" or "how can we do better"? I felt that there was a good balance of inward-vs-outward service to God - there was a deep sense of care for our world and its inhabitants that permeated the meetings.

I found after the closing worship a sadness in feeling a little disconnected. I felt like someone from across the country attending a family reunion where the family members all live close to each other. It wasn't a feeling of abandonment or feeling unwelcome, there was a longing to have a more constant fellowship with them.

I know that once again this meeting changed me for the better, and in ways that I may not recognize for some time (maybe never). I'll probably have more to say about it in the days and weeks ahead.