They say a picture speaks louder than words. So here are three photos of where I am staying this weekend in Colorado. Sweet! The air is crisp, clear and fresh. The Colorado regional meeting of Friends (Quaker) brought me out to Colorado to deliver a keynote address about inclusion. I will also lead an interest group and help facilitate a session with the teens.
Traveling in the ministry (which is technically what I am doing since I received my travel minute) becomes a dicey thing for me. For one I am a comic and a theatrical performance artist. I work from a script most times. Among unprogrammed Quakers I have gotten the impression that Friends value it when a speaker does not spend too much in preparation before giving a message.
How often I hear people praise speakers who go to the podium without any notes. The message I hear inferred is that one needs to wait on the Spirit/Light and be led in what one says. Too much preparation may limit the intent of the Spirit. As a result, when I start outlining a talk, I experience Quaker guilt (which is far less severe than Catholic or Evangelical guilt). I wonder if I should primarily spend time in silent worship listening to what God has for me to say trusting that when I get up there I will know how to proceed instead of writing notes.
But then I feel like I’m being lazy or irresponsible for not having a plan and a specific direction before I get to the podium. Perhaps somewhere in the middle of that tension lies the answer. I have heard that George Fox spent hours in the fields preaching to the sheep before he spoke to his fellow humans. I often talk through the many ways of saying something before I appear on a TV or radio program. Shoot, even when I go to the doctors or have to talk to a friend about something important, I rehearse various scenarios out loud.
Today I spoke on the phone with my friend Doug in Portland, told him my dilemma and some of my thoughts of where I would like to go/feel led with my talk today. This helps because Doug knows me and my work and we have spent time together in silent prayer over the last year. I got off the phone feeling at peace that it’s going to work out fine with or without notes.
Perhaps the biggest barrier is discerning between what I think the group needs to hear with what I need to say, even if it makes little sense to me. In my mind I may have a clear idea that can be reinforced or influenced by the leaders among a group, but the Spirit may have a completely different direction for me. I’m aware that this kind of talk may drive some of my atheist friends mad. But part of my belief system is that I trust that in each of us is something of God–something wise and beautiful and merciful and thoughtful and revelatory. It is like that treasure that Jesus spoke about in the parable where a man went and buried the treasure and then purchased the field where he hid the treasure.
Sometimes I think that the spiritual life for me is a treasure hunt–a quest to find the treasure buried deep in other people (often a challenge when I am faced with someone who stands as my opponent), and the work of unearthing the treasure that lies within me. We have this treasure in jars of clay, so looking at the packaging, we can so easily assume nothing of value exists in ourselves or others.
Part of the work of worship for me (even when I am not sitting still and quiet) is to tap into that hidden treasure part of me–that kingdom of God within me that Jesus promised–the comforter, the teacher, the seed, the Spirit. And just maybe I can share a little bit of what I find with those around me as I receive from them the treasures they have discovered.
And if all else fails, I can tell a joke.