This is to me the hour of greatest joy I ever had in this world. No ear can hear, no tongue can utter, and no heart can understand the sweet incomes and the refreshings of the spirit of the Lord, which I now feel.
I believe there is something in the mind, or in the heart, that shows its approbation when we do right. I give myself this advice: Do not fear truth, let it be so contrary to inclination and feeling. Never give up the search after it: and let me take courage, and try from the bottom of my heart to do that which I believe truth dictates, if it leads me to be a Quaker or not.
There is but little need to spend time with foolish diversions for time flies away so swiftly by itself; and, when once gone, is never to be recalled.
And dwell in that which is pure of God in you,
for fear that your thoughts get forth, and then evil thoughts get up,
and surmising one against another,
which arises out of the veiled mind, which darkens the pure discerning.
But as you dwell in that which is of God,
it guides you up out of the elementary life,
and out of the mortal into the immortal,
which is hidden from all the fleshly ones,
where is peace and joy eternal to all who can witness the new birth.
Do not make the way to heaven easier in your minds and imaginations than indeed it is; and think it sufficient to live in an outward observance of the ways of God. If your own wills are alive, and your corruptions remain un-mortified, the judgment of God will be your portion. Therefore, in the Lord’s name, come along with me, I have come to declare what I have heard and seen of the Father. Come and examine your conscience. Have you brought your deeds to the light?
Now thou must die in the silence, to the fleshly wisdom, knowledge, reason, and understanding; so thou comest to feel that which brings thee to wait upon God; (thou must die from the other,) that brings thee to feel the power of an endless life, and come to possess it.
Therefore, my dear Friends, keep your watch everyone in your hearts continually, that you may not be betrayed from that pure life, that yields virtue unto your souls, and nourishes up unto eternal life.
There is but a little thing (like a grain of mustard-seed), a weak thing, a foolish thing, even that which is not (to man’s eye), to overcome all this; and yet in this is the power. And here is the great deceit of man; he looks for a great, manifest power in or upon him to begin with, and doth not see how the power is in the little weak stirrings of life in the heart…
Bring all into the worship of God: plow up the fallow ground thresh and get out the corn, that all people may come to the Beginning, to Christ, who was before the world was made. For the chaff has come upon the wheat by transgression. He who treads out the chaff is out of transgression and fathoms transgression. He sees the difference between the precious and the vile and can pick out the wheat from the tares and gather it into the garner. Thus he brings the immortal soul to God, from whom it came. No one worships God but he who comes to the principle of God, which he has transgressed; no one is plowed up but he who comes to the principle of God in him, that he has transgressed. Then he does service to God, then the planting and the watering take place, and the increase comes from God. So the ministers of the spirit must minister to the spirit that has been in captivity in every one, so that with the spirit of Christ people may be led out of captivity up to God, the Father of Spirits, and do service to him, and have unity with him, with the Scriptures, and with one another. This is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you go, so 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. Thereby you can be a blessing in them and make the witness of God in them bless you. Then you will be a sweet savor and a blessing to the Lord God.
The love of God again makes us free, for it draws us to set a low value on those things wherein we are subject to others – our wealth, our position, our reputation, and our life – and to set a high value on those things which no man can take from us – our integrity, our righteousness, our love for all men, and our communion with God.
There is no way to find yourself until you discover how utterly to lose yourself.
I am learning to offer to God my days and my nights, my joy, my work, my pain and my grief…I am learning to use the time I have more wisely…And I am learning to forget at times my puritan conscience which prods me to work without ceasing, and instead, to take time for joy.”
As I grow older, I seem to need more time for inner stillness…This can happen in the midst of daily chores or when walking in a crowd or riding in a train. It means being still, open, reflective, holding within myself the crucible of joy and pain of all the world, and lifting it up to God. Praise comes into it, and thankfulness for all the love I have known and shared, the realization of how much of the time I am carried, supported, upheld by others and the love of God. (During this process) comes the deep sense of unity of all being, the intermeshing of the animate and inanimate, the secular and the scared, the tangible and the intangible…it means just waiting, or just lifting the heart.”
"Attending the death of a loved one is a painful, sometimes disturbing experience. Frequently it has a deeply mysterious quality, somewhat similar to being present at the birth of a child."
Read the entire Friends Journal article, Care of the Dying: A Spiritual Discipline.
We have a testimony about simplicity and we need to think about what that means in the world we’re living in right now. What does it mean to be lean and disciplined and not dependent upon our things?”
Kara Cole Newell, 1982, as quoted in PYM Faith and Practice, 2002
Your home is a work of art created by you, an expression of who you are and what is important to you. If there comes a time that you need to move to a smaller place, the emotional ties to home can be difficult and painful to unloose. It is also a time of spiritual opportunity, an invitation to live out Friends’ beliefs and testimonies, a time of grace and gratitude.
Moving from reluctance or refusal to gratitude is not a journey of chance, but one that should be planned, with directions, rest stops, and view points.
First, it’s helpful if we have been downsizing all along. One couple begins every January going through every closet, drawer, and bookshelf, deciding what is no longer needed, what could be passed on to someone who needs it more. Spending no more than an hour once a week keeps the job from becoming a chore; having boxes or bags at the ready marked ‘Meeting garage sale’ or ‘library book sale’ simplifies the decision making and the clean up.
If you are moving it can be helpful to move first, bringing just what fits your new home. Then dealing with what is left behind is simpler. Consider doing a floor plan with cutouts of pieces you want to take with you so you will know what fits where. It is much harder emotionally to move something and then find that it doesn’t fit. Remember to take what you need, and a few things that say who you are.
Some Friends find that the most difficult decisions involve family pieces that the younger generation does not want. We feel a responsibility to keep that antique bed, the patchwork quilt, in the family. Extend your search for a suitable home for such treasures to more distant family members, ask a museum if it is valuable enough to be included in their collection, or decide what good cause to donate the money to from its sale. Do not allow your life to be held hostage by things.
Sometimes it is a Friend’s children who insist that something be kept: “Dad’s papers are just too important!” Ship the papers to that child. Shortly after he bought his first house one Friend saw a moving van outside: his parents had bundled up all his stuff and sent it to him with no warning.
Taking pictures or a video of your house or particular items may ease the pain of moving. A Friend’s brother arranged similar items together, took a picture, then passed the items on. Having a last party or family gathering in the house allows time to express the feelings involved and the special memories. Another Friend wrapped items she wasn’t moving and everyone chose one as they entered the door.
One week a grandmother put out fancy dishes, another week tea cups, and invited each visiting grandchild to choose one, allowing the grandmother to see where things were going and how much pleasure her grandchildren took in receiving them. A mother handed each adult child a pad and pencil during their visit and asked them to write down what they hoped to inherit; another wrote the child’s name on the item.
One couple remained cheery about their downsizing knowing that all the proceeds from the estate sale were going to their Meeting.
Now, the spiritual part: letting go of what is, in the end, just stuff is a spiritual opportunity to live out the Testimonies of Simplicity and of Stewardship. It can be an outward act of inward removal of that which is not of God. It is an occasion of expressing gratitude for the plenty that we have been given, and for receiving the grace inherent in giving to those in need. It demonstrates to those around us how to live a life, how to deal with life’s diminishments in a gracious spirit.
Take the time to notice your feelings. Don’t do it all in one mad dash to move. Spend time in daily worship offering both your things and your attachment to them to the Creator. Be blessed.
"So often I have heard from Friends the conviction: “When I know that I’m dying I want to die with dignity. I want to end it my own way so that I don’t suffer and I’m not a burden to anyone.” This is an educated, modern approach to the question of dying but one that my experience tells me is not the way to transcend suffering or to realize what Carl Gustav Jung called the last great opportunity in life to experience self‐actualization. In our culture we often see our choices in dying as either an agonizing loss of control and dignity or as a controlled, abbreviated process. I propose a third way. When we can see this time as a sacred opportunity to share what we have learned; move into a final, deep relationship with those we love; and return to the Source, stripped of all that is not essential—then we are living fully into our purpose in life. We are given the opportunity to be the vessel of God’s abundant love.
But, we ask, what of the person who no longer can communicate, due to some illness such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke or a brain tumor? What is the point of such an existence?"
Read the entire Friends Journal article, To Live Fully Until Death: Lessons from the Dying.
"At age 43, I was succeeding and failing as a husband and a father on a daily basis, had done battle with the evils of racism as a community organizer while ignoring the cocoon of white privilege that protected me from them, was alternately laid low and energized by the rejections I received en route to becoming a writer, and had drowned and then surfaced from my first deep-sea dive into clinical depression. I was, in short, a reasonably normal person: a complex and conflicted soul who yearned to be whole."
Read the entire article, Fierce with Reality: Living and Loving Well to the End, by Parker J. Palmer on On Being's website.
by Parker Palmer
The plow has savaged this sweet field
Misshapen clods of earth kicked up
Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view
Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.
I have plowed my life this way
Turned over a whole history
Looking for the roots of what went wrong
Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.
Enough. The job is done.
Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be
Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.
I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons—
The farmer plows to plant a greening season.
Read the entire article, Withering into the Truth, by Parker Palmer on On Being's website.
How to Use Grounding Quotes
Here are some suggestions for exploring the introductory essays, texts, and videos in the Grounding section of each topic. Be creative and consider using different processing techniques over time in order to spark the various learning styles of your participants: discussion, personal reflection, artistic expression, music, worship sharing, creative writing, and deep listening.
Friendly Bible Study
The Friendly Bible Study process applies to Scripture as well as other materials. This process is good for a group of newcomers and old-timers, allowing participants to speak about what is exciting and what is problematic about the text.
Find the Truth
Choose one idea or sentence that rings true for you. Share with a partner an experience you have had that relates to that sentence/idea.
What Do You Notice?
Shorter variations might be: What one phrase or idea sticks out for you? Sit with it for a few minutes and see what rises for you. Now journal/share with a partner.
Draw or doodle in response to this text. Allow yourself to be Spirit-led – what color do you want to pick up, and how do you want to use it? This is not art for to view. This is exploration and expression. Alternatively, invite participants to make a visual or 3D response to the text using art materials such as clay or play dough, magazines for collage, paint, mural paper, pipe cleaners, objects from nature (acorns, feathers, grasses, flowers, seeds, bark), or building blocks or Legos.
Visit the Text in Worship
Sit in worship with this material. Let it work on you. Try not to “think” about it – just let it sit on your lap and soak in. Now, turn to your partner and share something about your visit with this text.
Write your reaction to the text, how it applies to your life today, what you’re grappling with, or what you’re grateful for. Use one of the General Questions for Reflection or free-write. In general, journal writing is kept confidential.
Set it to Music
If you have a group that is willing to be creative, break into small groups and ask each group to write a tune for the quotation or an excerpt (or assign a different quotation to each group). Tunes are a great way to “memorize” quotations so that they will stick with you. Check out Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong for some beautiful examples.
Share a quotation, introductory essay, QuakerSpeak video link, or set of quotations with group participants. In preparation for the next Spiritual Deepening group session, give the participants some “homework” to do. This could include:
- reflecting on the text during their daily spiritual practice or during Meeting for Worship
- journaling about their response to the text
- rewriting the message in their own words
- writing a prayer about the topic
- finding a song, object, or image that represents to them the theme of the message
- creating a piece of art that illustrates their response
As part of your next group sessions, invite participants to share or report back on their homework assignment.
Ask a question that will elicit one-word answers or short phrases. On a flipchart paper, record the responses as participants share. Consider questions such as: What word stands out to me in this text? What feelings arise in my body as I consider this message? What question do I want to ask Spirit about this message? Invite participants to comment on what they notice about the brainstorm list.
Invite participants to briefly contemplate the quotation and then respond to a writing prompt. Create a prompt specifically related to the text or choose one of the General Questions for Reflection.
Pair-Share or Triads
Divide the group into pairs or sets of three to discuss the quotation. Return to a large group and share any themes that arose.
Make it Personal
Rewrite the quote in your own words or to reflect contemporary society and language.
General Questions for Reflection:
- How is the Divine/Truth/Love speaking to me through this text?
- What experience in my life reflects the message of this text?
- What do I have to learn from this message?
- What resonates with me in this quotation?
- What stands out to me in this text?
- What surprised me about this message?
- What questions arise about my life as I contemplate this message?
- What canst thou say? (What do I have to say in response to this message?)
- What feelings arise in my body as I consider this message?
- An image that comes to mind as I listen to this quotation is…
- Where is the growing edge for me around this issue?
- If I could rephrase this message in my own words, I would say…
- This Truth tastes like… (smells like… sounds like… feels like… looks like….)
- In relation to this topic, I used to be.…., but now I’m ……
- I’d like to ask Spirit / the Universe / God / the Inward Teacher ……. about this message.
- The point on my spiritual journey when this idea has been most alive in me was…