February 24, 2023

How does the Truth prosper with thee?

I find myself flipping through the few pages of notes I took during Martin Kelley's workshop on Truth, spending the most time rereading those that are related to the age-old Quaker query How does the Truth prosper with thee?

I can count the number of times I've been asked that question on one hand. The rarity of the greeting catches me up short each time. And I feel cared for, valued as a Friend. When I hear it posed to me, I have to slow myself down, take a few breaths, and touch base with the Guide, listening inwardly for the answers to a few related questions:

How has God shown up in my life lately?
Have I been faithful to the nudges and leadings I have been Given?
What do I grapple with and what insight might the Living Principle be bringing to me?

Have I acted out of malice lately rather than love; am I right with God?

In my experience, a cherished friend doesn't ask the question lightly, and so I want to be sure I give an honest reply. 


Since Martin's workshop, I've been teasing out the different parts of the query, starting with --


Sometimes queries that Quakers use for Friends and our meetings to consider start with the word Do: Do we come to meeting for worship with hearts and mind prepared? Do we cultivate a forgiving spirit...?

Would it make a difference if the old-time query were phrased as "Does the Truth prosper with thee?"? Would it be overly easy to answer "Yes" as easily as so many of us now answer "How are you?" with the single, empty word "Fine"? Would we slow ourselves down before replying, sinking into a deeper place within ourselves to ask "Does the Truth prosper with me or not?" And if we were the questioner, how willing and open would we be to ask a follow-up question regardless of the answer:

"Oh...? the Truth prospers with thee. How so?" and "Oh... the Truth doesn't prosper with thee: what is thy concern? what's going on; what troubles thee?"

Instead, the question starts with the word How, which may take more time and space to consider.


I'm aware that the question isn't "How does your truth prosper with thee?" It's "How does the Truth prosper with thee?" The question doesn't ask what new learnings you have uncovered for yourself--about people, about justice, about living in these Covid times--although these individual truths are a part of the capital T Truth. For me, the question presumes that there is a single Truth, the Truth, that is accessible to all of us, and either we move toward it in our lifetime--sometimes in a nonlinear way--or we move away from it, missing the mark.

Perhaps this question asks us to consider if we are being exercised by some spiritual struggle or by a personal dilemma that might help us see more clearly what God is asking of us. Perhaps the few moments of private inward consideration illuminates or begins to incubate the smallest bit of unexpressed spiritual discontent or persistent nudge that we have been feeling and will ultimately need to act on.

Gosh, do I even know what I am wanting to express here...? My words seem so inadequate...


Perhaps the first word HOW connects with this word, PROSPER. If the Truth can prosper, it means it can also languish, so how does the Truth get cultivated within our hearts, minds, and spirits? Is there something in particular that we can do to be sure the Truth does prosper? 

Similarly: How do we keep the Truth from languishing on our watch and in our lives? Are we doing what God asks of us? Are we lagging behind the Guide; are we consistently outrunning it or ignoring it?  Are we living up to our measure of Light in each moment so that more Light and Truth may be given us? 


As God sometimes does while we grapple with and reach for clarity, while writing this post I came across these words from a pamphlet written by Bill and Fran Taber on The Witness of Conservative Friends, 2004:

Truth could mean God, or the will of God, or the whole meaning of the gospel, or Christ the Light, the Life. Truth [for early Conservative Friends] was something to be in, to be lived in. To be in the Truth was to be in touch with the Light and to live according to its guidance. To be in the Truth was to be in living communion not only with the Light but also with all those who are guided by the Light. (p. 16)

How does the Truth prosper with thee? How does the Light--the whole kit-and-caboodle of what we strive for in our flawed wholeness--prosper with thee? How does the Inward Teacher or the Loving Principle prosper within thee? How does the movement of Love prosper with thee? 


February 19, 2023

Re-entry, Truth, and Being Hounded

In the middle part of Second Month 2023, three different Friends on three different occasions, none knowing one another, said to me that they had known of me through The Good Raised Up before having ever met me.

That got my attention.

Back when I started this blog in 2005, I was writing because I felt my experiences among Friends and my take on Quakerism differed from what many other unprogrammed Friends in North America were writing and talking about. Through what came to be known as the Quaker blogosphere, I found other Friends striving to put into words what didn't sit well with them about our shared faith; what Quaker principles seemed to have become watered down or even to have disappeared. I found blogs by Liberal Friends and Conservative-leaning Friends like myself who wanted a more vibrant Quakerism; by programmed Friends who were reaching for something too; and by Conservative Friends who also felt they were Given something to lift up. To this day I still believe we were ministering to one another through our writings, and the Truth of what we shared with one another shaped me then and perhaps shapes me still.

In addition, I have come to believe that I live my life not in a straight line from birth to death but in a series of small and large circles: from birth to learning; from growth to forgetting; from remembering to prideful living; from brokenness to humility; from deep love and connection to separateness; from despair to faithfulness. On and on, round and round. And always the Loving Principle accompanies me, even when I forget or retreat from the Spirit.

So here I am, returned to the first of what might evolve into more frequent online times of writing, reflecting, re-examining, and writing again. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and maybe before that, there have been nudges for me to take up this blog again, putting fingers to keyboard, but Way never seemed to open fully enough, until an Opening came at this time.

Martin Kelley's online retreat on Truth

Perhaps electronic and digital communication have their own large and small circles too. I moved on from blogging and delved into Facebook and Twitter for awhile; my time there seems to have slowed if not run its full course. Through another online platform, though, Martin Kelley and I reconnected at the first part of this month, and in just a couple weeks, I learned he would be facilitating an online event on Truth. I'm not a big fan of online workshops but something about the topic, the person guiding the sessions, and the timing of them all indicated that Way was opening for me to participate.

I thought there would be at least a few dozen of us, given Martin's enormous work over many years in cultivating QuakerQuaker, an online community of Quakers from across the branches of the Religious Society of Friends. I was surprisingly relieved to see fewer than 20 of us online: this was going to be a more intimate experience.

After taking note of the size of the group, I noticed how multiracial it was! Living in the midwestern United States for as long as I have, and worshiping with Quakers here for nearly just as long, has made me forget how much racial diversity there actually is in certain North American cities and in a few Quaker meetings. I also make the assumption that the host organization for the event, the Quaker meetings near it, and Martin have been doing a fair amount of antiracism work, but I may never know how the Spirit led each of us to be with one another on that particular Friday and Saturday.

Anyway, I took some notes and recognized the familiar nudges and yearnings to carve out time to gather my thoughts. I have musings about Truth and its relationship to continuing revelation; who gets to define Truth and how it gets misused in service to oppression and white supremacy; and the relationship between Truth and capital-L Love. I think those topics will wait for another post, along with unpacking the greeting that Martin invited us to use when introducing ourselves: How does the Truth prosper with thee? Just listing these topics here gets me seeking inwardly all over again--the fruit of a worthwhile workshop!

The Hound of Heaven

In the online platform where Martin and I reconnected, and after the workshop-retreat, Martin tagged me, shared a link to a post in The Good Raised Up, and added "...we really should hound her to restart [her blog]." I had to chuckle: another nudge from the community and/or from the Spirit, pointing me to what may be Way opening...? And "hounding" someone sounded familiar, so I looked it up:

The concept of being hounded is one that Thomas Kelly spoke about in Philadelphia in his 1939 William Penn Lecture on Holy Obedience.  In 2005, I too had written about the concept of being hounded, in my post God is a monster with claws. Kelly puts it in the Quaker frame of obedience; I put it in the frame of a brief exchange with a child in my worship community at the time.

Well, it's good to be back online here, for however long or short Way is open. Thanks for reading me once again.