More Conversation

John, the first time I read through the second chapter of your Journal (1743–1748), I didn’t have much reply.  My own state of heart was pretty barren.  On this second time through, I’m finding some reflections in my own life.

I had a great regard for him, and felt a strong inclination, after matters were settled, to speak to him concerning his conduct in that case; but being a youth, and he far advanced in age and experience, my way appeared difficult; after some days’ deliberation, and inward seeking to the Lord for assistance, I was made subject, so that I expressed what lay upon me in a way which became my youth and his years; and though it was a hard task to me it was well taken, and I believe was useful to us both.

That’s an experience I have had, though less and less as I age.  I’ve heard it referred to as “youngering.”  Sometimes, those who have less status or fewer years have a clear role in reminding their elders of the Guide and principles that they profess to live by. Continue reading

Dear John #5


Referring to Abraham Farrington’s ministry, you phrased your description, “In both these meetings my ancient companion was engaged to preach largely in the love of the gospel.”

That’s not a phrasing I would have used, but it does open some windows to me on how vocal ministry is an act of love.  I’m considering this morning how much our speaking flows from the love Friends hold each other in.  Usually I consider ministry as an act of obedience to God, or of passing on the Light as received.  It is that, but your phrasing has pointed me to the relationship between minister and flock.

I’ve long recognized the importance of a healthy school community in the teaching I do.  When the relationships between students, staff and parents are caring and interwoven, the learning and teaching is enriched greatly.  You’re bringing me to remember how much the ministry in a Friends meeting or a church can be a product of the love and community that is present there.


Dear John, fourth entry


You wrote:

I was now led to look seriously at the means by which I was drawn from the pure truth, and learned that if I would live such a life as the faithful servants of God lived, I must not go into company as heretofore in my own will, but all the cravings of sense must be governed by a Divine principle. 

That helps me in my addictions and back slidings.  It’s kind of like where I’d like my rule making with the news to end up.  When I’m touching a newspaper currently, I don’t have the faculty to discern the governing of a Divine principle. Continue reading

Dear John, day 3


Your experience with vanities sounds like mine with my addictions.  When my own discrimination and decision making is part of the moral calculus of what I should engage in, I’m lost to the addiction.  I can even be recognizing, beyond my thinking brain, that I’m just justifying my actions.  I keep on justifying them.  In response, I’ve taken to rule making, at least for now.

The current addiction I’m shedding–or at least coming to terms with (Yes, that’s probably a justification.)–is to news.  After I read the paper my prayers are distracted by worry and the world’s judgments.  Since I pray first thing in the morning, I can easily keep to a rule of no news before that.  Our current delivery is about 6:20 am.  That gives me the paper for breakfast, after prayer time.John Woolman

On Sundays, the rule I use is not before worship.  When worship was at 11:00 am, that was harder than currently.  Now I just have to hold out until my 9:00 departure for the 9:45 meeting.

I’ve found that if I even touch the newspaper, I start to temporize and experiment.  “Would reading the funnies count?”  “What about the sports section?”  “Here’s a human interest story; I’ll limit myself to just it.”

I usually end up reading more.

If I really want to find a life of continuous prayer, what will I have to do?

I see rule making as a means to clear my heart to remain open so that I can listen and follow guidance from God.  The guidance of Christ that sustains or provides judgment is the true remedy for this addiction–and others.  I make rules just to provide a guidance from outside the immediate moment that will head off the temporizing of my addiction laden personal discriminations.

Conversation with John Woolman, second day


Please tell me about vanity and foolish jesting, so I might recognize them in my own life.   I do some jesting and feel called to a life work of celebration, yet I’m not sure these are in vain.  What makes them foolish?  Is it the content–or my intent?

Illness seems to create points in your life where openings from the Lord can occur.   Have you any spiritual practices during illness that engender this?  When I’m sick, sometimes I drop my morning prayer time.  I have a sense that’s a mistake.  Your stories tell me that’s a period when my life can open even more to God.

Thanks for writing the Journal, John.  In just the first few pages, it’s helping me.

Conversations With Remarkable Quakers

This proposal came to our meeting last fall. The proposers and the Committee on Ministry and Oversight felt ready to implement it this winter.  The first two group meetings are happening this week.


Conversations With Remarkable Quakers

Feeling a hunger for deeper understanding of our Quaker forebears’ insights and ways of applying leadings to their whole life situation, we are proposing the start of a small group to commit to a structured relationship with these forebears through their writings, our contemplative responses, our group meetings, and our own willingness to change our lives to be more congruous with our Quaker testimonies.

We propose to select one remarkable Quaker at a time, to read their writings (journals, essays, letters, etc.), and to examine them in personal daily contemplative prayer and in small group discussion together.We want to examine how this relational process affects our own lives, and how to embody that resulting “leading”.

We propose using various processes of contemplative prayer, personal journaling, personal reading (individually) and commitment to meet together regularly to process the relationship as a group. We will search as a group for the expression of the testimonies that results, and for ways to embody that expression in real life. Continue reading

Conversation with John Woolman, first day

Some thoughts on the first few pages of The Journal of John Woolman

John, you said each of these things about the influences toward the good in your mind:

The pious instructions of my parents were often fresh in my mind, when I happened to be among wicked children, and were of use to me.

He whose tender mercies are over all his works hath placed a principle in the human mind, which incites to exercise goodness towards every living creature…

So which is the most important in your life?  Parental instruction?  The Word in your mind?

Which is most influential in my life?  Continue reading