Stinky Gospels & Discerning Friends

Most people who read my blog & tweets know that I am a quirky, queer Quaker. In my Quaker meeting we do not have pastors or an program planned for the meeting. Rather we sit in silence for 60 minutes. Sometimes people share a message out of this silence. It’s a quiet sort of anarchy.

Recently someone asked me how I settle down for an hour of silence (perhaps skeptical since I can’t sit still for five minutes.) To quiet myself at Quaker meeting I do a number of things. I try to stay off-line on Sundays, particularly before meeting. I also try to arrive a few minutes early if possible. I sit and focus on my breathing for about 5 minutes. I’ll breath in through my nose for a count of four. Hold my breath for a count of seven. Breath out through my mouth for a count of eight. Sometimes I just breath and count to 300. Basically I’m trying to clear my mind and focus on the present. Sometimes though I panic thinking I might hyperventilate or worse that I have halitosis.

I also bring a note pad with me and a pen for when I get distracted–“You must renew your subscription to Bitch Magazine ASAP!” I write the thought down so I don’t have to obsess about it any longer. In addition, I meditate through writing. This week, for instance, I entered meeting with a query in my head–If I created a Scratch & Sniff Bible, what smells would it contain? I sat still then and began to write bizarre & stimulating ideas. The bloody birth of Jesus there amongst livestock must have been ripe with odors. The fishermen followers of Jesus may have looked so sexy, all muscular and hairy, but likely smelt like a vat of fish awash in body odor. Do the resurrected have that new-born human smell about them? Do their bodies smell fresh and new while their grave clothes reek of rotting corspe?

All this musing in meeting eventually brought me to a message that I shared outloud. I considered a phrase often spoken in my kitchen, usually by my husband Glen to me. Opening a jar tucked away in the back of the fridge or uncovering a bowl of leftovers, he’ll turn to me, “Smell this. Does this smell bad to you?” Thinking of that exchange led me to another phrase I often say to him while I am cooking. I ladle a spoonful of the stuff I’m creating (recipe? What recipe?) and guide it towards his mouth, “Taste this. What do you think it needs?”

In both cases, Smell this/Taste this, we seek discernment, the input from another who may have a different, and potentially useful perspective that may either deter food poisoning or enhance the flavor of meal. In both cases the person seeking discernment exercises humility, inferring, “I may have this wrong. I don’t want to be guided solely by my senses.” The exchanges remind me of Proverbs 11:14,

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

In other words, there are times when we are making decisions–in the kitchen, in our lives, in our work, etc–and we would be wise to seek discernment, get other people’s input and perspectives. Then we can make informed, balanced, wise choices.

So with that in mind, what do you think, should I concoct a Scratch & Sniff Bible? If so, what fragrances/odors should I include/avoid?


This post has 2 Comments

  1. Tarald on November 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I’ve also gotten that question about silent meetings. I like your answer and the cooking anology!

  2. RantWoman on November 8, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    I really like your post, the how to settle into worship part, the how to cope with obsessions, the query, and where the message went!

    The part of me that likes almost any option for non-visual interfaces thinks this would be a wicked fun idea.

    Part of me flies into a rage that is half asthmatic reaction half full-on revellion against the cosmetics industry whenever I encounter stinky magazine inserts thinks this would be a terrible idea.

    Part of me thinks it never actually has to be realized in real space to be a wonderful idea!

    How is that for no darn help in discernment?

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