Recently I attended a Friends Meeting (Quaker) in England where I am currently on tour and despaired when an odd message began to form in my head (or heart or spirit or wherever these messages form).
For those of you who don’t know about how many Quaker meetings work, we gather in silence. Typically we don’t have a greeting or opening statements, we just sit and hopefully settle down to listen. Then we listen some more. In my case I sit and seek to pay attention to God. I stop the frenzied musings that clog my head, push to the side all of the pressing issues, concerns and interests that typically occupy me, and like lower case paul who reads this blog, I attempt to be still and know God.
If someone in the meeting feels they have something to share, they can stand up and give brief “vocal ministry” to the group. For my part I go through an intense process of trying to figure out if the thought in my head is simply meant for me to consider, for the group, or just drift wood landing on the shore of my consciousness. I also sit with with the message to see if I should give it right then and there or if it is something better left to a later time. Once I spent over six months with the same message sitting in the queue of my brain waiting and watching for the green light to share it. For me it is an intuitive process where I simply know that it is right and the right time. No doubt I get it wrong sometimes, and if the Quaker process works well, someone will “elder” me and suggest that perhaps my message did not rise to the level of vocal ministry (which is a nice way of saying yours was a rubbish message that interrupted what could have been a nice quiet meeting.)
At the Quaker meeting I recently attended there was a spate of messages on a variety of topics, and I confess I judged that most of them did not move or affect me (but then it is not all about me). At one point it got outright chaotic (well in Quaker terms) when one person rose to speak for the second time in the meeting (it is generally understood that a person typically will only give a message once during a meeting). During her second message the Friend shared how she has a particular mental illness and has been feeling much better lately. Then she sat down. Another woman immediately got up and began to sermonize about how she didn’t believe there was such a thing as mental illness, but before she could go further, the woman who spoke up previously stood and pronounced, You silly girl, and then exited the meeting. This effectively silenced the “silly girl” who then sat down. True Quaker drama! (I confess that seeing the woman with the mental illness stand up and speak truth to foolishness inspired and pleased me.)
As these things often go, the meeting sorted itself out and as it continued on in silence and some less dramatic messages. In the midst of these proceedings words formed in my head, strange wacky words that I did not wish to share. That’s all these British Quakers needed after such a dramatic series of events to have the American Quaker stand up and give an odd-ball message. Since they scheduled me to speak to the meeting for an hour later in the day, I sat on my message, wrote it down then told it to my audience along with the rest of my presentation.
And what was the wacky message???
A Quaker, a warthog and a palm tree walk into a pub. Looking up from behind the counter, the bartender shouts, “Hey, we don’t serve your kind here!”
The three look at each other.
The Quaker thinks, “What a pity and shame the injustice these two face in the world. I must organize a committee,” and the Quaker immediately leaves the pub.
The warthog snorts, “I have been kicked out of better holes than this one!” and warthog stomps out the door.
The palm tree, which comes from a long line of palm trees that have weathered great storms, bending to withstand mighty winds, settles itself there in the pub. It takes in carbon dioxide and puts out oxygen. It cleanses the dingy air and flourishes.