Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten about my spiritual journey was said by two different people, a week apart. One right before I had the accident, and the other one right after. It’s been something that I’ve reflected on over and over again: “Control is not a way to God.” What that’s meant to me over the years is to engage in a practice of surrender to Spirit. I find that really challenging, on a personal level, and it’s important exploration for others as well. In the modern world we can get very caught up in the idea that we’re driving the boat, and I think the reality is much more complex than that. Having an ability to let go and see something larger than we might see with our own eyes is really important.
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Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
Brian Drayton, from New England Yearly Meeting, has done some work around ministry, gospel ministry and the call to ministry. He came to Hartford Meeting a few years ago when we were doing a deepening our worship event. He talked about our spiritual diets. “What’s our diet of consumption?” That has come back to me recently. I think about that in terms of our political diet. What are we hearing and understanding about it? But also, as a spiritual people, what are we consuming? What are we listening to? What are we digesting? If part of what you’re digesting is whatever somebody’s ranting about on TV, as opposed to what Lloyd Lee Wilson is writing about…even though that may not be related to immigration debate, it still relates to how we treat other people. We can be grounded in a spiritual faith that still allows us to speak powerfully into a political world. The point of the advice is: What’s our diet? What are the things that we’re consuming that allow us to be in this world? I think that’s really important. The other thing Brian says that I think about sometimes is, he was talking about people getting together and offering support to each other and just going over to one another’s house and sitting in worship-and he was like, “It’d be like wildcat prayer! Out of control!” I think about that phrase sometimes. What if we just allowed ourselves to erupt into prayer? That’s not advice I’m giving, so much as the images that come to me.
We have a lot of young people who work at FCNL, a lot of people in their 20s, and one of the things we’ve done is to talk about mentorship, and think about what it means to be a mentoring community. It’s a work in progress. In addition to being that kind of community, we’re also a very busy community, where people are focused on trying to get their job done, and there’s a sense of urgency about it. But I think the part about it being a mentoring community is, again, having some availability to listen to people, to listen to them about where they are and how they’re growing, and the kinds of questions they ask. People in their 20s are asking a lot of questions. That is a rich, rich time for all of us. Sometimes I have to remember, I didn’t know what I was doing when I was 25, I didn’t know where I wanted to go. The hard part is that we have these great people who come in and work for a while, and then leave us and go work somewhere else. It just breaks my heart, but that’s a natural thing to do. So, trying to be available to them — and this is not just me, there are other people here who are senior staff and who play this role with the younger staff here — both in terms of what our commitment is to social justice, how that comes from a place of faith, and trying to be available to talk about and listen to the kinds of questions people ask. Some of that may be: when you think about your work life, think about who you’re meeting and who you want to be around and who you are watching. Because the fact is that we all watch one another at some level. I think the millennial generation thinks a lot. For the people I meet, authenticity is huge, and so that’s not a far thing to talk from authenticity to integrity. That’s also a piece of…not advice, so much as just a way of living, or trying to be and support.
For more of Diane’s story, click here
Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
There are many Pendle Hill pamphlets that I’ve had the good fortune to read, more frequently than probably anyone else because they’re all right outside my door. I think what’s been most helpful is that, as a collection, I’m able to see the range of voices. What I’m getting at is the multiplicity of viewpoints within Quakerism and within society. I’ve learned to seek them out.
A favorite passage that I turn to sometimes is by Elizabeth Watson. The piece in which she says, “I will not ask for good fortune. I am good fortune.” I love that passage. Though we’ve never touched hands or locked eyes, we meet across time and space. Elise Boulding’s work does the same thing for me.
What I say to other is: be yourself. Be in this moment. Let me know if I can help. Know that you’re held. I don’t think I find myself giving spiritual advice often, but I’d like to test that with people who spend a lot of time with me who might say something very different.
For more of Jen’s story, click here
Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:
I’m thinking back to both the people I spoke about, Warren and Larry. What I learned from Warren was probably more about just watching him and seeing him; it’s more kinesthetic than it is cerebral. He really taught me the value of people and learning how to help people collaborate. He was brilliant at that.
One of the books I really have loved, from a professional standpoint is Good to Great, by Jim Collins. He’s talking from a leadership standpoint about determination and seeing it through. At the same time, he says, be very humble. I’m not aching to get out in front of the masses and wax on. I think it’s just important to keep at it, be consistent, love people through whatever they are going through, and be really loving and tender, and yet decisive and strong.
For more of Gretchen’s story, click here
Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
You don’t need enough light to see the whole path, you only need enough light to see the next step. That has been really really important to me. It’s something somebody said to me right after college. I think about it all the time: you don’t have to know the whole thing, you don’t have to know the whole story, you don’t have to know the whole path, just, how do you make that next faithful step? Whatever it is.
Another piece of advice someone gave to me, and to QVS early on, is to fail early and often. I don’t know if I’d quite say it that way, but I do think that’s been an important lesson. You’re not going to learn new things if you don’t take risks and experiment, if you’re not willing to fail or make mistakes or make a mess. As long as you’re doing it faithfully and with integrity and doing your best.
For more of Christina’s story, click here
Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:
I’m going to go back to Mona Darnell and Sister Mildred. I’ve talked about work, how important work is to me, as a spiritual person. The other piece about work–that I remember Mona speaking about a couple of times, it really stood out–is that there’s a reason why our book is called Faith & Practice, that being a person who lives what they believe takes practice.
When I was a teenager, if Sister Mildred would saw you doing your work, like cutting the grass, in a sloppy or careless way, she’d come over and give you advice: “You remember what the Shakers say: ‘Hands to work and hearts to God.’ It’s important that in your work, you’re also practicing what’s in your heart.” I think those two pieces of advice were the two most important, ever, and I still think about them. And there’s probably no more important advice that I give people in my job. When people call and say, “I’m thinking about applying to be the middle school director at School X. Do you think I can do it?” and somewhere in there, where in most cases I say “yes,” because it’s a person who’s gotten to a place where they should, it’s, “Don’t get discouraged when things get hard. Every single person that you admire in leadership has had to practice to be this person.” We’ve practiced and failed. We’ve practiced and given up on certain things because we know we probably ought to have somebody else we work with do that. Or, we practiced, and that’s what you’re seeing when you say, “I admire this, that, or the other thing.” There are very few people who come right out of the chute and can do it, at least that I’ve met. That’s the single most important piece of advice I’d give: Don’t get discouraged because you have to work at it. Practice.
For more of Drew’s story, click here
Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
I don’t know that I can remember any piece of spiritual advice that has been directed at me. The advice I would tell people is: as long as they are honest and stay with it, they probably are on the right path.
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Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
“Listen well and trust God’s leading.” That’s probably the advice that I would give, too.
For more of Colin’s story, click here