It’s always nice to get an inspiring email. This email is from a Friend at Quaker Books that I have not met yet but the sentiment in the text rings true to me. I also want to put in a plug for my friend Steve’s book (bottom,left, “Letters to a Fellow Seeker”) that will be coming out shortly. I had a small part in helping Steve’s project come to life and I can recommend it highly!
In This Issue
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from Chel Avery
Earlier this month I spent a long weekend with a most amazing group of people at the annual conference of QUIP (Quakers Uniting in Publications) where Quaker writers, publishers, and book sellers from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain converged to talk about the ministry of the word. I can’t think of a better kind of people to spend time with!
On the last day, as we closed with an hour of worship, someone offered a bit of ministry that has been working on me. I can’t reproduce that message here, but I can describe the thoughts it has inspired since.
Quakers have sometimes called ourselves “Publishers of Truth.” But how can truth be published? On those rare, precious occasions when we apprehend Perfect Truth, it is gone again in a flash. Undiluted truth has a life span in our awareness like one of those subatomic particles that vanishes in the same second that it is created—too immediate, too here-and-now to last longer than an instant.
But we hold fast to whatever reminds us of those encounters with pure truth. We hold on to the imperfect words, the thoughts we had after the recognition, the splinters that point back to what we knew was there, or what we may encounter again if we try hard enough. We mark passages in our books, we publish quotations in our books of Faith and Practice, we talk to each other about what we’ve heard and seen and dreamed about. “Here,” we say to one another (but in other words than these). “Look! Truth passed this way and left a mark. Watch with me—it may return!”
Occasionally, I will be reading a book and I will come upon a passage that lights a fire inside me, a passage that points so powerfully to something thrilling that I can’t keep it to myself. And if I happen to be alone when this happens, I have been known to jump to my feet and read the passage to the wall, then turn and read it to all the other walls in succession. (Let’s face it, the walls are more attentive than the cats.) I may sound crazy, but I tell you this on the assumption that you would have similar stories to tell.
I have been thinking of those moments, and I realize that as well expressed as those passages may be, it is not just their own power that ignites the fire—it is the hint of what lies beyond. The universe out of which these words came must contain wonders!
The remainder of this letter is focused on a few favorite short passages. Out of context, they are just good quotations, but even in that diminished form, they are can still be keys. They remind me that there is Something to be understood, just beyond my grasp. May one of them open a door for you.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
Oxford Study Bible (1 Cor. 13:1)
I have two degrees in communications and have studied three languages, but this verse is the most important thing I know about communication. When I read it, I sometimes wonder why I went to graduate school, where it was definitely not part of the curriculum.
Whatever your eye falls on—for it will fall on what you love—will lead you to the questions of your life, the questions that are incumbent upon you to answer, because that is how the mind works in concert with the eye. The things of this world draw us where we need to go.
The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker Buddhist Shepherd (p. 95), by Mary Rose O’Reilley
O’Reilley is both a poet and a philosopher. She writes the most amazing things!
This love of people is well-nigh as amazing as the love of God. Do we want to help people because we feel sorry for them, or because we genuinely love them? The world needs something deeper than pity; it needs love.
A Testament of Devotion (p. 123) by Thomas R. Kelly
Has any Quaker ever written a more underlinable book than this one?
you do not need words
From Parsonage to Prison: Collected Poems (p. 14) by Janeal Turnbull Ravndal
Such human, compassionate, sometimes gritty, sometimes hilarious poems!
I’ve come to believe that the willingness to be baffled and stay baffled is part of my identity and one of my birthright gifts. I mean “gift” seriously: bafflement has energized my life, . . . Writers are sometimes regarded as experts on the subjects they write about. But I’ve never written on a topic that I’ve mastered or figured out. Once I arrive at what some might call expertise, I get bored, and writing is hard enough without working on something I find boring. I write about things that baffle me even after I’ve written about them, which is to say that I write about things whose mystery seems bottomless to me.
The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradiction in the Christian Life (p. xxxiii) by Parker J. Palmer
So many of us have benefited richly from Parker Palmer’s perplexity!
The salty smell of the sea reminds me of the vastness of God’s creation. That smell reminds me, too, that the same God who created the Midwest with its deep dirt, woods and glens, rivers and streams, and masses of wildflowers also made this place with its unique beauty of sand, sea, sun, horizon, maritime woods and marshes.
I admit to having seen little of this world. Yet the sights and smells of each place I visit show me dimensions of God that I could not have apprehended anywhere else. “All the way to heaven is heaven,” said Catherine Sienna. My travels show me that Catherine was right.
Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God (p. 172) by J. Brent Bill and Beth A. Booram
This passage was suggested to me by Joe Paluck, our intern from Drexel University. Read Joe’s interview with J. Brent Bill, co-author of the book.
QuakerBooks of FGC will offer a 15% discount on each of these books until June 10.
If you attend the FGC Gathering in Kingston Rhode Island during the first week of July, please come see us at the Gathering Store, or drop into various author and book club events we will be hosting throughout the week.
Peace to you,
Letters to a Fellow Seeker: A Short Introduction to the Quaker Way by Steve Chase. In seven personal letters to a fictional correspondent, the writer –a member of the Quaker Quest travel team– introduces newcomers to the Quaker faith through powerful, personal stories. Written as an invitation to inquirers, this book will also stimulate discussion among longtime friends about how we experience and remain true to the Quaker way.
John Woolman’s Path to the Peaceable Kingdom: A Quaker in the British Empire by Geoffrey Plank
“A carefully researched and quietly brilliant work that provides a genuinely new perspective on a familiar figure in the history of antislavery.” – Christopher Brown, Columbia University