When people hear the world Quaker, their brains tend to go directly to oats. That’s not surprising since it’s hard to go to through a grocery store and not see the smiling visage of the Quaker Oats® man. But Quaker Oats has nothing to do with “real” Quakers. In fact, some of us don’t even like oats. We are into SPICE, though. Especially as the New Year begins.
As I admit in my book, Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker, I’m pretty bad at being good. And that includes making and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Yeah, right. Resolutions last— well, in my case at least—for about a week. Maybe you’re like me in that. So instead of making resolutions, how about inviting God to help you put some SPICE in your life in the coming year?
Quakers see these things as integral parts of living in the way of Jesus. They’re not just for Quakers. All of God’s children benefit from them.
Our lives are noisy. And busy. And crammed full of stuff. So taking time for silence—even if it’s just a minute or two—may seem impossible. The point of Quaker silence is just to be quiet, though. It’s to be quiet enough to hear God’s voice. The Voice of direction, assistance, guidance, compassion, and more. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, well, that might just be the perfect time to get still and listen for and to God!
It’s not just about world affairs. What I need help being peaceful about are my annoying co-workers or neighbors. It’s easier if, with God’s help, I remember that God loves them more than they—or I—know. As I listen to the Holy Spirit, I find myself more aware of the peace that grace extends to me. Then it’s easier to extend peace to others. Jesus tells me I’m called to be a peacemaker; being a peace-maker doesn’t necessarily mean that my life will be all peaceful and sweet. It just means that I won’t be the one causing chaos and doing un-peaceful things. What can you do at work or home to create peace?
According to a Gallup Poll, car salespeople and men and women in Congress are the least trusted people in the United States. That’s because the perception is that they lie. Can I be trusted? I hope so. We all want to be around people of integrity. One question I try to remember to ask before I speak is, Are my words and actions right now flowing out of what I believe? A second is, Are these words and actions really true and necessary?
As a kid, my hero was the Lone Ranger. The classic loner figure fit with my introverted nature. It took me a long time to realize that the only way the Lone Ranger made it out of many a nasty situation was due to help from Tonto. Community. A small community, just the two of them, but community nonetheless. And so, even on those Sundays when it’s gloomy and the bed feels so good or those cold nights when the fire’s warm, I go to be with my Friends. Make sure to take time for your faith community—whether they gather in a building, on-line, or at the local coffee shop. A daily check-in is a reminder that we don’t travel the Jesus way alone.
Quakers believe that there is “That of God in everyone.” That belief comes from John 1:9, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” Everyone being the operative word. My friend Katie wears a t-shirt that says “Jesus Loves Everybody… but I’m His Favorite.” The fact is we are all God’s favorites. In a world that offers us plenty of opportunities to practice prejudice (sexism, racism, classism, regionalism, religionism), Jesus calls us to treat each other well. Are you open to and appreciative of everyone? Do you, in Jesus’ name, treat others with consideration and esteem?
We are on a pilgrimage to goodness and fulfillment and God. Putting SPICE in our lives is not about achieving sainthood suddenly; we won’t. Rather, adding SPICE to daily living is about walking so close to God that we begin to live as the fullest possible human beings. Being full of SPICE leads us to our best selves—and a life of soulful satisfaction.
Brent Bill is the author of Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, a Quaker minister, photographer, and retreat leader. He holds an MA in Quaker Studies from Earlham School of Religion (a Quaker seminary), and has been a recorded (ordained to non-Quakers) Friends minister for thirty years. He has also served as pastor in Friends meetings (churches) large and small, rural and urban. After more than eleven years as executive vice president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, Bill now travels and speaks across the country serving as the coordinator of a project to seed new Quaker congregations across the United States and Canada. Bill resides in Mooresville, Indiana. You can find him online at brentbill.com.