It was two days before the presidential election. Fresh in my mind were images of Hurricane Sandy flooding New York City and New Jersey, and the frightening memory of having being caught on a sweltering day in a derecho that swept 800 miles from Chicago to Washington, DC. Tremendous winds had uprooted and snapped enormous trees and cut power to 4.2 million people. I was also troubled by a video of one presidential candidate mocking the other for wanting to address climate change.
As I went to meeting for worship that Sunday morning, I was praying for my country to make a wise choice on Election Day. But I also knew that lowering the dangerously high level of CO2 emissions in the earth’s atmosphere and stopping the rise of the oceans requires more than changing public policy. To use Quaker terminology, I was being “exercised” spiritually. I did not know that my first public blog was about to be born.
Eighteen months earlier, I had created practice blogs on both WordPress and Blogger. I had not notified anybody about them, and they were hidden on the web. I was busy working on two books, one telling the story about the radical, charismatic beginning of the Quaker movement, and a shorter one describing ten elements of the transforming spiritual journey made by early Friends. At Earlham School of Religion’s annual Writers’ Colloquium, I had just attended a workshop on making better use of the internet. For weeks I had been trying a new writing practice to help me listen to the voice of my heart.
In the silence of an unprogrammed meeting for worship that First Day morning, those of us gathered with Clear Creek Meeting were palpably gathered by the Spirit. I felt deeply stirred, and the prayer for the world I had been praying took shape in words. My heart pounded. I stood and spoke. After I sat down again, I quaked. It felt like something had cracked open, perhaps my own heart. At home after meeting, I woke from my afternoon nap knowing I needed to share the message and prayer more widely.
My partner was away, and I had no constraints on my time. In a burst of pure creative joy I started a new blog, and named it A Whole Heart. I wrote my message and sent out news to everyone I knew. It was viewed 405 times the next day, the eve of the election.
It has been a whole year since then, and more. I have written blog posts about all ten elements of the Quaker spiritual journey, both as experienced by early Quakers and by Friends today. As best I could, in those posts I described the transformation caused by turning one’s life over to the direction of the Light, the Spirit of Christ.
Now, on the eve of Christmas 2013, I am remembering a vivid dream I had in 1996. In the dream I was sitting at a table with the man who was my partner at the time. He was drinking a Coke, and I was reheating mushy corn pasta. Jesus was speaking to us. In my dream Jesus told us that in the future there would come a time when troubles in the world would cause a great spiritual hunger. He showed us an earthquake, a tsunami (I did not know the word at the time), and a nuclear melt down. He looked at the miserable food we were eating. We were supposed to be able to meet people’s spiritual hunger when the time came.
“Feed my food, my people,” Jesus pleaded.
On WordPress, when you create a blog, they give you a form for your first post, entitled “Hello World!” The night I created my first practice blog, the title of the first post gave me pause. What was the message I had for the world?
According to the UTC time zone, by which WordPress dates blogs, it was March 11, 2011. At the same time that I was composing the words of that first practice blog post, trying out my message for the world, tremendous energy was being released deep inside the earth. On the other side of the planet. Japan had been trembling for days with small earthquakes. Exactly three hours after I pushed “send” on that post entitled “Hello World!” one of the most powerful earthquakes in human history ripped through the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
Registering 9.0 on the Richter Scale, it shifted the earth’s axis by several inches and moved parts of the main island of Japan almost 8 feet closer to North America. Enormous tsunami waves rose out of the ocean, rising as high as 40 meters (around 130 feet) and crashing inland as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles). More than a million buildings were damaged; 129,225 of them totally collapsed. Almost 16,000 people died. Like some nuclear reactors in the United States, the six nuclear reactors in Fukushima had been built over a earthquake fault line. Two of the six reactors at Fukushima completely disappeared, and the remaining four suffered damage, followed by explosions. Across Japan more than 4 million people were left without power. With no electricity to operate the cooling systems in the remaining Fukushima nuclear reactors, fuel rods overheated and melted down. Radioactivity was released into the air and the local area was evacuated.
When I heard news of the devastation in Japan, the “Hello World!” message I had sent out just hours earlier seemed tiny. From the age of five I’d had known that I had been born to write–and to publish what I’d written. But the message I was meant to release was still hidden inside. By November 2012, however, when A Whole Heart was born, I was ready to share with the world what I had been learning both from the Inward Teacher and from my study of the powerful inward transformation and outward witness of the first community of Quakers. Now that I have done so, at least in this initial way, I believe I have begun sharing the food that Jesus wants me to offer to those who are hungering spiritually.
The disaster of the Fukushima nuclear reactors is far from over. Hundreds of tons of radioactive water have been released already into the Pacific Ocean. A very delicate operation has begun to move the 1,300 fuel rods in Reactor number 4 to a safer location. A single broken rod could set off many times more devastation than the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Reactor number 4 is in better condition that Reactors number 1, 2, and 3, because it was not in operation at the time of the tsunami. No one knows how long it will take to close down the four reactors left at Fukushima, or if it can be done without causing more damage to the planet than even the climate changes set in motion.
To address the planetary challenges of this precarious time, a widespread change of heart is required, a surrender to God’s guidance and the inward work of the Spirit. The transformation that the first generation of Quakers collectively made is an example to all of us of the collective transformation required in our time.
I have more to say about all of this, and I hope to learn more from Friends today about how we are experiencing the inward transformation of the Light in our time. I intend, also, with help from Friends, to publish a short book about what I’ve learned from early Friends, a book that can be used as a study guide by Quaker meetings and other groups.
In spite of the reckless way we human beings have been harnessing, burning, and consuming energy, divine guidance is still available to show us a way to a hopeful future. May we learn collectively to turn to the divine Presence alive within each person, which early Quakers knew as the Light of Christ, receive its guidance, and allow it to become the center and guiding force in our lives, not only individually but also collectively. May the Spirit of Christ be born within and among us again in power, in this time.
* * * * * This post is part of a series about Ten Elements of the Quaker Spiritual Journey.
A four-day opportunity to explore this material will take place at Pendle Hill Retreat Center, Wallingford, PA, May 11-15th, 2014. In the Life and Power of God: on the Spiritual Journey with Early Friends.
A Whole Heart has a page on Bibliography.
© 2013 Marcelle Martin