Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak is one of my all-time favourite books on vocation and discernment. This summer while on my [Mennonite Church Canada] learning tour to the UK, I discovered that the title is actually a quote from the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in their Advices & Queries, #27:
Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak.
The full text of the Advices & Queries is available on line, but I’d never read it until I was given a copy of the booklet at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. The Centre offers courses in spiritual growth, creative arts, and theology; serves as a training, retreat, and conference centre; and offers bed & breakfast for short-term stays. The main building was once the home of well-known Quaker and chocolate-maker George Cadbury.
Advices & Queries, #3:
Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God’s guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God.
At Woodbrooke, the grounds were peaceful with many spots for quiet contemplation.
Advices & Queries, #28:
Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.
I especially loved the Woodbrooke herb garden that has been planted with all of the herbs mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. The herbs are used in the Centre’s kitchen so the herb garden is both a place of contemplation and practical use.
Advices and Queries, #42:
We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.
The Advices & Queries end with a quote from Quaker founder George Fox, 1656:
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.