"For 350 years Quakers have been living out of a spiritual center in a way of life they call 'plain living.' Their accumulated experience and distilled wisdom have much to offer those of us seeking greater simplicity today," writes Catherine Whitmire, a Quaker who holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School. This sturdy and soul-satisfying collection of quotations from the tradition that emphasizes silence, peacemaking, and conscience is a holy book of deep illumination and ethical insights.

Early on Whitmire takes a crack at defining the essence of her subject: "Living simply means adopting a lifestyle that avoids the unnecessary accumulation of material items, or what Quakers have often referred to as 'cumber.' It helps us seek outward detachment from the things of the world in order to focus our lives on the leadings of Spirit. Living simply entails clearing our lives and our houses of spiritual and material clutter so as to create more space for faithful living."

The spirituality of George Fox, Thomas Kelly, John Woolman, Douglas Steere, and others speaks forcefully to the dis-eases of our time — rampant consumerism, workaholism, addictions of all kinds, stress, affluenza, and incivility. These Quaker seers challenge us to discern the presence of God in the center of our lives, to find beauty in common places, to live peacefully, to treat the earth with reverence, and to practice gracious living.

In 1652 George Fox admonished fellow Quakers: "Let your lives speak." On these pages, you'll see the unfolding of many different lives and the ways in which these devotees of quietude have dealt with work, time, money, parenting, aging, grief, prayer, and reconciliation. More than anything else, this treasure chest of inspiration demonstrates the spiritual practice of beauty.