More than the well-known postscript of the letter from Quaker elders gathered at Balby, I can use the following these days:
Let us all, in the simplicity of Truth…. abide and dwell, and in the liberty [wherewith] Christ Jesus has made us free, stand fast; that we be not again led back into the errors of those who went before us, who left the power and got into the form, who brought in that darkness which has so long covered the face of the earth, that no footsteps may be left for those who shall come after, or to walk by example. That all they may be directed [by] and left to the Truth, in it to live and walk, and by it to be guided. That none may look back at us, nor have an eye behind them; but that all may look forward, waiting in the Spirit for the revelation of those glorious things, which are to be made manifest to them.
THIS letter was presented and read at the General Meeting at Skipton, the 5th-day of the eighth month, 1659; and was by all Friends owned and approved, and agreed to be observed; and copies thereof to be sent to all Monthly Meetings.
Memory of what I said in worship on Sunday
I may be a spiritual follower of indigestion. One of the ways I find my way in the world is by paying attention to what’s “below” and “prior to” my thoughts. Pressures and releases in my midsection are part of that. I get an indication of the right or best path from attending to those felt senses.
I tell myself this, along with other experiences, is the Word of the Lord–the Inward Christ, but it may just be abdominally mild cramps or gas bubbles.
You may have a different way to feel what’s below or prior and inward or a different story about the origin of the sense you get. I’m interested in how you sense it and the stories you tell about it. The process you use and the stories you tell are not essential. Nor are mine. They are all important.
Important questions include:
∙ Are you open to something transcendent?
∙ How does it change your life?
∙ What kind of community does it lead us to build?
In retrospect, much of that still rings true. My sense is that I was a bit too personally attached to the artistry of my phrasing and speaking.
Five years ago, I blogged about moment to moment discernment–staying in touch with the Inward Guide.
Patricia Loring has cued me in on the prospects for discovery over a lifetime of a feeling and sensing way of discernment. “Earlier Friends, ” she writes, “often spoke of ‘feeling after’ Truth…” (Loring, P. 1999. Listening Spirituality: Corporate Spiritual Practice Among Friends. Openings Press. p. 73.) This is different from the clear life leadings (career, marriage) with which God has shaken me in my boots and brought me to blessings beyond any I could expect. This is practicing moment-to-moment reliance on the Spirit to help know which street to take or which coat to wear.
To find my way through these choices, I think, I center, I observe how I feel, I sense what kind of pressure there is in my midsection and I notice the results of the choices that are made. I can’t say how led from without or within I am, but I’m not sure it matters.
What clearly does matter is faithful reflection and consideration of what happens and how it feels. And being thankful for the blessings we find along the way.
I was reflecting on this subject yesterday in worship. More was opened to me. Continue reading
Bill Taber seems to have much to say to liberal Friends with Conservative leanings. I’ve often seen a copy of his pamphlet Four Doors to Meeting for Worship in the hands of some of my friends, or seen it quoted. When my local meeting was giving away duplicates from our library, I picked up several Pendle Hill pamphlets and have been using them as devotional reading.
The latest to reach my coffee table is The Prophetic Stream which has yielded some precious insights. I’ve typed several passages into my file of quotes to use for email signatures. I also plan to pass them on to be considered for the next edition of our yearly meeting’s Faith and Practice.
Check out these three:
This lifelong Quaker, a skilled craftsman, was well past middle age when he felt nudged to begin a daily devotional reading and worship in the early morning before he went to work. He had done this for many months with no significant change when, Continue reading
From the stories of Moses and the prophets who followed him, we learn of three major tasks of a prophet. Put very simply, the prophet’s first task is to discover the law; the second task is to show how the law can–or must–be put into practice; and the third task is to make spirit available.
-Bill Taber. The Prophetic Stream, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #256. (1984). Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill.
Perhaps the role of the sport official is to be a prophet on the field of play. The tasks are similar: the official must learn the laws of the game, then s/he shows, corrects and instructs the competitors how to put them into practice. The third–and I think summative–task is to make the spirit of the game available to all in the arena. I’m less certain about this third task of the referee, so I’ll write more about it here.
No one else in the arena represents the sport itself as certainly and purely as the officials. The competitors are bound up in love for their team, the need to prove themselves and the desires to win or to represent the school or city. Coaches want to develop, protect and promote the athletes and team that they work for. The spectators are typically motivated by love for an individual or perhaps the whole team. The referee knows none of that. Continue reading
As the Central Friends (middle school age group) of North Pacific Yearly Meeting gathered to open their 2014 annual session, they began to formulate what they refer to as a code of conduct.
It was written on paper pulled from a recycle or trash bin and torn into scraps, each with an imperative sentence attributed to a different superhero from comics and popular culture. The scraps were taped to a human form, half-kneeling, made of clear plastic packing tape which had also been salvaged from a disposal bin. The sculpture was winged.
-The Hulk Continue reading
In his recent guest post at Gathering In Light, Chad Stephenson concluded:
Often Quakers lament the way teens or young adults drift apart from their Meeting. In our school [San Francisco Friends], it is in middle school when choice and freedoms to decide that meeting is “boring” is met not with an “oh-well, that’s adolescence” but with a call to better engender education. Practice through using silence as an opening to class, to meetings, and even actually teaching what good worship feels like and what good ministry sounds like articulates what Quakers believe in an accessible, developmentally appropriate way. Curiosity, scaffolding, and engagement will build the muscle of worship.
I am encouraged by the possibility of education as one way to stem this tide among Quaker youth. Young people who have learned well and practiced regularly will know its value, whether they choose to use it now or later in their lives. One teacher colleague spoke in ministry recently of how a student who grew up going to Quaker schools years ago but hadn’t attended a meeting since leaving had asked her to share silence with him when they met just to have the experience again.
Quaker meetings provide the element of faith and practice which schools can only touch upon. The power that we are offered in Meeting should be offered to youth in developmentally significant times, so they feel included and valued. Roles for them in leadership, finance, care for other children, and other capacities bring them into closer practice and ownership of the Meeting. As we hold them closer, they will take a closer look at how Quaker values of “that of God” in everyone is a both unique and powerful way of worship that they can join us in.
This morning, as I was hiking on a local hill,
“Further Along” by -Wink-, courtesy of Flickr.com/Creative Commons.
I thought that if meeting is a muscle and Chad has suggested some exercises for its development, then what would the workout be for the full body of Friends practice and faith? Please excuse my stretched metaphor. I’m a teacher of physical activity and fitness.
Indeed, recent reflections on several blogs about teaching Friends’ faith have touched a resonant chord for me. I’ve been seeking ways to initiate youth into Quakerism since it was opened to me last Spring that, “We have no coming of age ritual in Quakerism. No first confession and communion, ba(r)t mitzvah, or vision quest. Perhaps our older children need an experience that marks that.” Continue reading
Cherice published some Truth over at quaker oats live: “It’s absurd to assume people can actually hear the Spirit, but if we don’t believe this, what’s the point of faith?“
scribed at the Willamette Quarterly Meeting Men’s Retreat
Big Bear Camp, Walton, OR
All is in different order but still right ordered at the Men’s Retreat.
Words came to me in early morning worship. Without excitement, urgency or other inspirational signs. The words were, Continue reading
Meeting took a blessedly long time today. Worship, twilight meeting, introductions (brief info beyond names from each of us this time), announcements (Feeling domestic, I skipped out and laid out some of the potluck.), conversation, one childs play (Pajama Walking, scene one), potluck, followed by the most anticipated eventfor me, at least.
This last happening was a first effort by the whole meeting toward a report on the state of our Society. We drew from a hat and read what different Friends have written in response to two prompts:
∙ let us ask the Inner Light to show us what in our individual spiritual practice is strong, and
∙ what could use more encouragement and support…
Ten Friends showed up; others wrote brief answers, but didn’t come. To me, this seemed a good way to begin. Its personal. Its introspective. It asks about our spiritual practice. Its reminiscent of some of the first Queries, such as, How, among Friends, did Truth advance since last Yearly Meeting and how do they fare in relation to peace and unity? This annual report on the state of the Society is what some Friends seem to have adapted from the practice of more frequently minuting answers to the queries. Continue reading