Each year we do a Daily Reader with daily submissions from Friends around the Northwest, so I thought I'd post them here. (We'll see if I can remember to do it each day, or figure out the "schedule" function so it will do it automatically!) I'm already a couple days behind, so I hope you'll forgive me. The entries follow the "SPICE" theme, with 6 days or so for each topic. Here are the entries for January 1-3:
January 1 – Simplicity
Welcome to the Peace Month 2012 Daily Reader! We hope this month is restful and spiritually revitalizing after the holiday season. This year we’re doing something a little different with Peace Month: we’re looking at several of the ways of living that have come to be known as the “Friends testimonies.” They conveniently spell the acronym SPICE: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality. If you want to know more about these testimonies and their historical foundation, visit www.nwfriends.org/peacemonth and download the document entitled “SPICE: the Friends Testimonies.”
In this reader we will spend several days on each testimony, seen from the perspective of various people around Northwest Yearly Meeting. We hope you will enjoy hearing how other Friends live these biblically-based testimonies, and will be challenged to grow in each of these areas by the Spirit of the Present Christ.
At the beginning of each section we will start with a query from the NWYM Faith & Practice. You are encouraged to spend time meditating on that query and allowing Christ to speak to you about how you are called to live out that testimony in your own life, and how we as a community of Friends in the Northwest are invited to live out that testimony together.
Let’s begin with a query on simplicity.
NWYM Faith & Practice Query 13:
January 2 – Simplicity
“Early Friends were committed to acting truth in their daily lives… at the same time they were quite specific about what would keep them focused on the divine will and what would deflect their attention from it.”
- Thomas Hamm, Quakers in America
Read: James 4:1-2
Simplicity is not just a move to have less stuff; it’s a way of seeing and loving all created things. Much like purity of heart, simplicity is a way of seeing through God’s eyes, a way of recognizing the sacred in all things. Such a view makes one loathe to waste the resources at one's disposal. Simplicity is always a corollary to purity of heart and cannot be separated from that virtue.
Since simplicity recognizes the divine origin in all things, it moves us to love all things according to the Creator’s purpose for them, even those that are manufactured from the Earth’s resources. We find that purpose for created things by being transformed so that we see all things through the eyes of God.
Simplicity sees wealth through God’s eyes as well. Both the rich and the poor encumber themselves with money-making ventures at great cost to their families, their lives (often devoid of joy), and the chance for a meaningful experience of church as community. Thomas Hamm puts it very well: “Luxury is a contagious and killing disease. It creeps into all classes and types of people. The poorest people often exceed others in their ability to indulge their appetite. And the rich frequently wallow in those things that please the lusts of their eye and flesh and pride of life” (Quakers in America, p. 100).
Lastly, simplicity is a deterrent to war and wasteful disputes that grow out of our desire for more. As James indicates, when one puts material things above love, really bad things happen. Greed and covetousness kill the soul and tend to block our love for created things and dull our ears to God’s instruction.
Are you careful not to encumber yourselves with an excess of frivolous possessions?
Are you practiced in keeping your eyes under the discipline of the Holy Spirit?
January 3 – Simplicity
Savoring What You Have
Read: Ecclesiastes 6:9
Wise, wealthy Solomon reflects on life in (often) cynical ways in Ecclesiastes. He draws poignant conclusions. Among them is to enjoy what you have rather than desiring and dreaming about what you don’t have.
That wisdom runs counter to market economics that depend on our staying discontent so that we will keep buying stuff to make us happier. We’re exposed to advertisements and commercials trying to convince us that our life isn’t good enough, and that some new fashion, upgraded technology or car will make it better. What is good for our economy may well be bad for our soul.
Years ago I learned that when I needed something (or thought I did) to look for it among others’ discards, like my office chair (someone’s toss-away that needed refinishing), or the wood we salvaged from a deserted barn and used to finish our Potting Shed, or canning jars I buy at the Good Will store.
In recent years contentment and simplicity has included learning about abundance at our fingertips. We plant seeds and let God, the sun, and rain produce food. Mark and I are small-scale farmers and have found joy in the work of tending vegetables, bees and chickens. Tending dirt and creatures in ways that allow all life that shares this space to flourish reinforces my ideas about contentment and stuff. The most essential “stuff” for survival and wellbeing is under my feet.
A consumerism promising happiness can cause us to lose sight of God’s simple and abundant gifts. Our relationship to Earth isn’t tangential to our existence, rather our ties to Earth are essential to our collective wellbeing. Learning contentment with and care for God’s simple gifts nourishes Life.
Lord, thank you for this good Earth.
Forgive me when I do not love it enough.