Resonant Lessons from Nature, Scripture, and Experience

Cover photo by Brandon

I don’t take for granted what a privilege it is to be able to write this column every few weeks for you to read. I always look forward to rereading the contents of the magazine and asking myself, how does Spirit, through the words of these Friends, resonate with me today? My answer today is that it resonates deeply.

Today, it’s a bright day in Philadelphia, on the doorstep of spring. As I write from my kitchen table, I find that I keep getting distracted by glimpses of the birds outside. Today a pair of downy woodpeckers have been frequenting the suet cage hanging on the stone wall outside my front window, their high-contrast black-and-creamy-white bodies hanging upside down, tails tucked, taking their time. House finches and song sparrows arrive like clockwork at the tube feeder for black-oil sunflower seeds. Brilliant red and golden northern cardinals swoop down to gather what falls, where they coexist more or less peacefully with the mourning doves who have been there all along. None of these birds is exotic where I live. They’re just our “everyday folks.” I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Like the increasing whiteness of my beard, the avocation of birding has settled in and become a part of my life over the past few years almost without me realizing it was happening. When I read Rebecca Heider’s piece for this issue, “A Quaker Guide to Birdwatching,” I immediately understood why I find this pastime so well suited to my Quaker countenance. Like Rebecca, I’ve come to love walking the paths at Dixon Meadow Preserve, the seasonal arrivals and departures of species familiar and novel, the discipline of returning to a place often, dwelling there, and being open to the lessons revealed.

John Andrew Gallery’s “The Gospel Model of Fatherly Love” is a lesson unfolding for me, too. With a poignant reminiscence as his starting point, John teases out meaning and queries from stories of fathers in the Gospels, finally reflecting on his own arc of fatherhood now that his sons are grown. As a father to two sons myself, I found his essay to be relevant and thought-provoking.

It is always tempting to reflect on the present moment and claim it to be unique, unprecedented: extreme in some new way. While no doubt this can be true in some ways and at some times, as J. E. McNeil lays out in “Planting Ourselves in Time and Place,” I find it oddly comforting to recognize that the deep divisions I see all around me in my country and in our world are far from unprecedented. There is wisdom to be gained from Friend J. E.’s example of confronting seemingly intractable divides with a recognition of that of God in the other and an acceptance of the different paths that have led each of us to where we stand today.

Now it’s your turn: how does Spirit, through these stories, resonate with you today? I hope you’ll consider this query and let us know what surfaces for you.

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