Closing the book

The Daybook project now officially comes to a close. It’s been an intense and enlightening enterprise, but for me now comes a time of moving onward on other fronts. Since the entries remain posted in the archive, you are certainly invited to call them up through the year – especially if you came aboard once we were well in progress.

One of the biggest surprises for me has come in the participation, as it were, by Elizabeth Bathurst, a brilliant though little known Quaker from the early days of the movement. Setting up the daily presentations in their three-part format and leaving the third one to her, they often seemed to pop up as a mini-Quaker Meeting for worship, with messages that were not intended to flow neatly one into the next but rather bounce off each other, the way the Spirit often moves in our gathered silence. I hope Elizabeth has found an appreciation and welcome in a new circle of Friends today.

The next question is just where this blog is headed in the coming year. The pace of postings will slow down, for certain. For the first half of the year, at least, these will present a monthly consideration of new ways Friends might go about doing the things that keep us together as a community of faith. There will also be photos of Quaker meetinghouses and related scenes.

And I imagine there will be some wild-card kinds of entries.

Thank you for sitting with me through the past year. Let’s see what else develops.

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New Year’s Day

on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:2

Here, in the closing chapter of the large book we know as the Bible, we return to the Tree of Life from Genesis 2 at the very beginning of the story. This tree, which grew near the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, now appears as the long-sought healing in the human sojourn.

Hearing the passage, I am reminded of one mother’s message on Sunday morning as she told of a time her daughter ran afoul of a stinging nettle plant. Desperate, the mother called another Friend, one wise in the ways of the woods. “Find the nettle plant,” came the advice, “and near it will be another plant. Collect its leaves and make a poultice to apply to the itching skin.”

And it worked. There was healing in its leaves.

Note, too, the related message: Often in life we need to return to the scene of a conflict, rather than flee from it. The resolution will be found there.

*   *   *

The Apostle wishes their Perfection; and thus he concludes his Epistle to them … Finally Brethren, farewel, be perfect, &c. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 31

It is time to seek the LORD – Hosea 10:12

*   *   *

We started the year with this text.

It’s not a bad way to end it, either.

Maybe there’s just no escaping.

*   *   *

Here is free Grace indeed, free Love indeed: O! do you but yield yourselves the Subjects of his Love, and he will set your Souls at Liberty, that Sin shall not have Dominion over you, only obey his Voice, and he will soon subdue your Enemies for you, and remove that which letteth out of your Way, and that you may know when the Time of Visitation is upon you, I’ll leave this Mark with you, even then when you feel the Son of God knocking at the Door of your Hearts, that he may come in and sup with you, then I say is the Time, when the Year of Jubilee is approaching to you, when those that are in Bondage may be set at Liberty, which if you refuse to accept of it, and will not be set free when the Year of God’s Release is proclaimed unto you, how can you expect any other, but that your spiritual Task-master will obtain Leave to bore your Ears to the Posts of his Doors, and make you his Servants for ever? (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 30

His throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10

*   *   *

For a moment, I thought we were still in the book of Revelation.

In some ways, I see the Bible as a great workbook – take the whole collection, but feel free to argue with it, to ask “What if instead of X, so-and-so had done Y or Z …” to wonder if so-and-so really did interpret a dream correctly or act rightly … or to even say, “I cannot accept that view and here’s why.” That’s even before we get to the question, “Did it really happen?” Much less, “Did it really happen that way?”

As I look back, I find myself less concerned with historical accuracy and ever more focused on the reported experiences of a lived faith, especially as it strives increasingly toward an alternative society of peace, justice, and equality. Not just a society, at that, but a whole world – one renewed in Universal Love.

Look who sits at the head of the court there, then.

*   *   *

For this I write in the Openings of Life, and from the Motion of the good Spirit of my God, do I declare unto you, viz. That none of ye were absolutely excluded from Eternity; well knowing, that a Measure of his Grace hath been freely tendred to every one of you; because his Love extendeth universally, and he is crying, Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the Waters of Life: And he that hath no Money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy Wine and Milk, without Money and without Price. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 29

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And the child was snatched up to God and to his throne. – Revelation 12:1-5 (NIV)

*   *   *

The Nativity stories we hear repeated and preached each Christmas are the ones in Matthew and Luke. This one, however, with its cosmic scope and fiery combat, is largely overlooked.

There’s no time in this vision for Magi or gift-giving. We need to act quickly. We need to be vigilant. And we need to remember the safety of our Savior.

*   *   *

O! come, come away, haste out of Babylon, while the Deliverer is near you, so will he turn back your Captivity like Rivers in the South, and conduct you to Canaan, the Land of everlasting Rest, where Praises shall spring up in your Souls, to the Glory of his Name, even to all Eternity. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 28

In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus. – Hebrews 2:8-9 (NIV)

*   *   *

In our own time, we are left to see Jesus in other people – those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Often, they appear where we least expect. Be ready, all the same, and welcoming.

*   *   *

Yea, it is that Word of Reconciliation, which God hath committed to such as himself hath called, to make them Ambassadors for his Son Christ Jesus; by the Ministry of which, they turn People from Darkness to Light, and from the Power of Satan unto God, that they may receive Forgiveness of Sins, and Inheritance among them that are sanctified, through Faith that is in Christ Jesus. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 27

Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3

*   *   *

In the traditional liturgical calendar, today in the Third Day of Christmas. (And many of you thought it all ended on Christmas morning?)

Here’s a reminder of how much of the season revolves around children. I appreciate that gift of the Christ Child!

Pay special attention, then, for their examples of how we may more fully live in delightful obedience to the Holy Spirit.

*   *   *

And with this I’ll leave you, though much more might be said; yet when all is said that can be, ’tis the feeling Sense of the inward Operation of this Divine Principle, that alone can satisfactorily inform ye; which that you may experience in yourselves, and so be happy, is the hearty Desire of your Soul’s Friend, who writes this unto you. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 26

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. – Hebrews 1:1-3

*   *   *

The Logos, or Word, invoked at the opening of the gospel of John is manifested in the person of Jesus. See what he did. Hear what he taught. Do what he directed.

Now continue in the Light, the Spirit of Christ. See what it illuminates. Listen to what it reveals. Go where it leads through the universe.

*   *   *

‘Tis that Divine Principle of Life which brings the glad Tidings of Salvation near unto all, by which they may be put into a Capacity of receiving the Grace of God in the Gift thereof, which he hath purposed in the Appearance of the Son of his Love, to bestow upon as many as shall believe: This being the everlasting Gospel that Paul gloried in, I am not ashamed of the Gospel, saith he, for it is the Power of God unto Salvation, to every one that believeth. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 25

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

*   *   *

This awareness is amplified by George Fox in his 1661 declaration to King Charles II: “And this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and do so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight any war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.”

Our Quaker testimonies clearly rest upon an acknowledgement of one Truth – and one Inward Light beaming through each of us. What makes Friends’ comprehension of this Truth and Light unique is our recognition that each of us will possess a differing experience. Thus, because our individual experiences and perceptions of the Holy One vary, it is essential that we need to come together as a gathered body to test our understandings in the collective wisdom of our fellow “seekers after Truth,” and a sharing of the insights we have found. We cannot have a genuine Christianity without that.

If any person says the inward Spirit leads him or her to action contrary to Bible teaching, it is not from the Holy Spirit of Christ, for his Spirit does not change from one situation to the next.

*   *   *

He is that true Light, who lighteth every Man that cometh into the World. And this is he whom the Father promised by the Mouth of his Prophet, saying, I will give thee for a Covenant of the People, for a Light of the Gentiles. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 24

Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old. Lamentations 5:21 (NRSV)

*   *   *

So just how did I come to where I am in regard to Holy Scripture? Curiously, it was through my exposure to Friends. All along the way, there have been those who gently questioned and prodded. In Indiana, there was Norris Wentworth’s observation that many of the redeeming values of Western civilization arise from Judeo-Christian witness expressed in the Bible. A billboard in Iowa, “Jesus died for your sins,” made me ponder the long-lasting weight these concepts hold in the lives of believers. There was a ninety-nine-year-old Wilburite cousin (a relationship I didn’t know then), zeroing her eyes in on me as she asked what I thought of the Bible. There was Myrtle Bailey, a recorded minister in Winona Meeting in Ohio, gifted in quoting the right Bible verse to express each occasion. And Ed Kirk’s speaking in worship at Middleton, spending a dozen minutes or more on references to lambs and the blood of the Lamb, a message that nearly sent me running from the meetinghouse, yet I didn’t.

All of it nurturing ongoing relationship and discovery. At times, even rediscovery.

*   *   *

This is he, that hath laid down his Life for us, and took it up again, for saith he, I have Power so to do. And by the same Power that raised his own Body out of the Grave, doth and will he raise up the Souls and Bodies of Believers to glorify his great Name. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)