“To What Burning Issue Should I Give My Energy?” by Wendy Schlotterbeck

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 18, 2018

Like many of you, I wake up grateful for a new day and a desire to treat others with love and respect. The past few days I have heard birds singing despite the snow! And then I listen to the news and am saddened and angry about what is happening to the children, people of color, the immigrants, refugees, veterans, our food, the earth’s atmosphere, the animals, the list goes on and on. I wrestle with the questions: To what burning issue should I give my energy? How do I make that decision? How do I hear God’s voice? How do I structure my day-to-day activities, fit it all in, with the important work of helping our world? This is my current spiritual dilemma.

Last year, two messages helped me find balance.

Maggie Edmondson talked about the importance of breath – breathing in and breathing out – both equally important for life. We become still and centered, breathing in spiritual strength, then need to breathe out using that strength to do good work. We can’t take another breath in without emptying our lungs. We need spiritual strength to do good work. Then, we need to be out in the world to activate our spirituality.

Craig Freshley called finding balance “savor and save”. Here is this concept in my own words: We become still, savoring the lovely, the beautiful, and then have energy to attend to whatever needs saving.

One and a half years ago New England Yearly Meeting implored all of us, both individually and as Meetings, to take concrete steps focused on two issues:

  1. reducing our impact on climate disruption, and
  2.  examining the scourge of white supremacy in our Quaker culture and practices.

I have valued immensely the discernment of the people gathered to bring focus to these two problems. We have taken steps to work on this and I am grateful to be in a community that takes these issues seriously. I have found this focus helpful as I wrestle with how to decide where to put my energy.

How do we find balance in our Durham Friends community – breathing in as well as out, taking time to both savor and save?

Friends Committee on National Legislation is a lobbying organization in the public interest founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends. FCNL works for social and economic justice, peace, stewardship of the environment, and good government in the United States.

FCNL asked Meetings to discuss the content from the booklet The World We Seek.  In addition, Durham Peace and Social Concerns committee wanted us to read this as a Meeting. They asked us to consider a focus area and gather at a special meeting in March of 2018 to discern “what stirs the heart of Durham Meeting,” what issue calls to us to WORK ON TOGETHER, as a corporate concern or project.

In this booklet are 4 areas.

  1. We seek a world free from war and the threat of war
  2. We seek a society with equity and justice for all
  3. We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled
  4. We seek an earth restored

After reading the booklet, I resonated with everything mentioned… and felt totally overwhelmed by the scope of changes needed to bring about the world we seek!

So, the questions: What issue rises to the top and how do we choose where to put our energy as a Meeting and individually? How do we find balance? What’s the value in addressing an issue? What’s the harm/risk if we don’t?

I struggle with the knowledge that even having this choice is a privilege. I don’t experience the terror of war in my neighborhood or state and have never witnessed war and its aftermath. I am free to travel and work and walk through my community free of the harassment that many others feel daily. I had a good education, a good job with a spacious house and yard, and clean water to drink, good food, good health, good friends. I do not experience the impending fear that tomorrow my life may be in ruins.

I also feel two things:

I feel impelled to work for change because I see the signs that our society and world are being irreparably harmed. As those who try to base our actions from love and the belief that there is that of God in everyone, how do we answer that call?

I also feel weary, because there are so many wrongs that need to be righted. Without a focus, expending energy on all these issues is not sustainable. What is rising in your heart? How will you find balance?

I will close with the words from a song by Donovan from the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon about St Francis of Assisi. “Do few things and do them well” has become a mantra for me, a goal that is currently out of my reach,  but my hope for the future.

If you want your dream to be,

Build it slow and surely.

Small beginnings greater ends.

Heartfelt work grows purely.

If you want to live life free,

Take your time go slowly.

Do few things but do them well.

Simple joys are holy.

Day by day, stone by stone,

Build your secret slowly.

Day by day, you’ll grow, too,

You’ll know heaven’s glory.