All you who love the light, you love God and Christ, and if you love it and obey it, it will lead you out of darkness, out of your evil deeds into the light of life, into the way of peace and into the life and power of truth.
Give over thine own willing, give over thine own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee: and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.
Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new; and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me; and it was shewed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue. I was at a stand in my mind whether I should practise physic for the good of mankind, seeing the nature and virtues of the creatures were so opened to me by the Lord. But I was immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam’s in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus that should never fall. And the Lord shewed me that such as were faithful to Him, in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell; in which the admirable works of the creation, and the virtues thereof, may be known through the openings of that divine Word of wisdom and power by which they were made. Great things did the Lord lead me unto, and wonderful depths were opened unto me beyond what can by words be declared; but as people come into subjection to the Spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being.
Consider the experience of the young Samuel Bownas, who was to become a faithful and effective traveling Quaker minister in the 18th century: Samuel records in his journal that at a First Day meeting in late 1696, “. . . a young woman, named Anne Wilson, was there and preached; she was very zealous, and fixing my eye upon her, she with a great zeal pointed her finger at me, uttering these words with much power: 'A traditional Quaker, thou comest to meeting as thou went from it (the last time) and goes from it as thou came to it, but art no better for thy coming; what wilt thou do in the end?' This was so pat to my then condition, that, like Saul, I was smitten to the ground, as it might be said, but turning my thoughts inward, in secret I cried, 'Lord, what shall I do to help it?' and a voice as it were spoke in my heart saying, 'Look unto me, and I will help thee;' and I found much comfort, that made me shed abundance of tears." After this meeting the change in his life was remarkable: "I longed for the meeting-day, and thought it a very long week. When the time of meeting came, my mind was soon fixed and staid upon God, and I found an uncommon enjoyment that gave me great satisfaction, my understanding being opened, and all the faculties of my mind so quick, that I seemed another man." Suddenly, he found new levels of understanding about the Bible which had been “as a sealed book to me,” about preaching “in the power and the Spirit,” and about the enormous difference between a Quakerism “only by education” and a Quakerism truly alive to the Spirit.
“…I can truly say that my mind has been more and more concerned for the working down everything which would get above the good Seed. I think we are never safe unless we feel the plough of God’s power and the hammer thereof so operating in us as to break us into tenderness…”
To all my dear Brethren and Sisters, who are in the Light, Children of the Light, who are obedient to the Light… be faithful and obedient to this which is Eternal, and leads into the unity and oneness… be of one mind and live in peace… And as the Lord hath loved you with his Everlasting Love, and visited you, and hath made manifest his Eternal Light in you, so let that love constrain you to love one another and to be serviceable to one another.
To you...who are seekers, to you, young and old who have toiled all night and found nothing, but who want to launch out into the deeps and let down your nets for a draught, I want to speak, as simply, as tenderly, as clearly as I can. For God can be found...There is a Divine Center into which your life can slip, a new and absolute orientation to God, a Center where you can live with Him (Her) and out of which you see all of life through new and radiant vision tinged with new sorrows and pangs, new joys unspeakable and full of glory.
Further Reading: Patricia Loring's Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends. Vol. 1 is an essential Quaker spiritual formation text, which grew out of workshops that Pat Loring led for Friends for years. In this volume, Loring explores many personal practices which can help to sharpen one's perception of God. She suggests setting aside time each day for spiritual refreshment, "'a time of retirement' from outward concerns and activities, to attend exclusively to the movement of the Spirit." She explores many possible practices and offers ingredients for Friends to make time for the holy in one's daily life. She offers a feast from which we can discover a rich daily meal.
Further Reading: Hailed by many as the best modern book on Christian spirituality, Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline explores the "classic Disciplines," or central spiritual practices, of the Christian faith. Along the way, Quaker Pastor Richard Foster shows that it is only by and through these practices that the true path to spiritual growth can be found. Dividing the Disciplines into three movements of the Spirit, Foster shows how each of these areas contribute to a balanced spiritual life. The inward Disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study offer avenues of personal examination and change. The outward Disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service help prepare us to make the world a better place. The corporate Disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration bring us nearer to one another and to God.
How, then, shall we lay hold of that Life and Power, and live the life of prayer without ceasing? By quiet, persistent practice in turning of all our being, day and night in prayer and inward surrender, . . . Lapses and forgettings are so frequent. Our surroundings grow so exciting. But when you catch yourself again, lose no time in self-recriminations, but breathe a silent prayer for forgiveness and begin again, just as you are.
(up to third heaven)
Fluttering wings descend on me,
To calm and cool my anxiety
That rages in my spirit which burns;
For God's outstretched hand it yearns.
Fluttering wings drive the wind;
And by it, to heave I ascend
Where the breath of God falls on me
Like waves of unimaginable ecstasy.
Fluttering wings have carried me
Far beyond the borders of credulity
To where eyes have seen and ears have heard
The reality of the Living Word.
in the stillness of the quiet,
if we listen
we can hear the whisper
in the heart
giving strength to weakness,
courage to fear,
hope to despair ...
At first, it may be that all we can manage is to stand quietly in the vicinity of the teacher- we may have no more strength than that, or perhaps we cannot see what to do. In his presence, however, as well a through his teaching, we start to get the hang of things, the way to look at ourselves, and at the world we inhabit, and we start to see what we need to do, or stop doing, in order to feel more in harmony with his life, to free the Seed of it, and encourage the growth of it in our feeling and thinking, willing and doing.
In my own life, it took hard work. I soon learned to spend part of meeting reviewing the week and learning to relax physically. I found psychology I knew very helpful. I am supposed to be strong and loving, but I know I am often weak and vindictive. Part of the spiritual life is to bring out these things and recognise them, disarming them and offering them to God instead of leaving them in dark, autodestructive secrecy. That is part of being searched and healed. The same goes for an expression of the anger we all have in us, the hidden antagonism toward members of our own family and meeting. In silence I was able to uncover my illusions. This process is part of the searching work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Its pain is a necessary part of the mystery, for one is bearing ones’s own personal cross. Some wise Friends have discerned a sacrificial and therefore sacramental, significance in worship in stillness.
Be honest with yourself. What unpalatable truths might you be evading? When you recognise your shortcomings, do not let that discourage you. In worship together we can find the assurance of God’s love and the strength to go on with renewed courage.
We are part of a faith tradition of being called to a transformed life that allows all of us to act as agents of God’s transformation of the world. We use the term ‘convincement’ (that is, conviction--originally referring to the way in which we find ourselves ‘convicted’ of our prior life), as shorthand to refer to this transforming process. We are convinced as Friends when we also realise that Quakerism is to be the next vehicle for our faith journey. There are six aspects to this process as we read about it in the lives of early Friends: God (1) breaks into our lives, (2) shows us our life as it really is, often in all its shortcomings, (3) offers us the opportunity to change in line with these new insights, and (4) gives us the energy and direction to lead a new life. We (5) find ourselves gathered into communities of like experience and like understanding, and (6) use our Spirit-led lives to try and change the world.
Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.
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.
The past six years have been my time of silence -- a time for prayer, a time for thought, a time to listen to God and man. As I listen to God, I receive hope out of inescapable despair; from man I hear mostly a college of confusion, ignorance, sin, arrogance, and ultimate despair, which drives me once again into the Silence to God for assurance and hope ... You are, therefore, an ember in a smoldering fire to me. You may be enough to rekindle a flame ..
[George Fox] made it quite clear [in his early writings] how people were to find the truth that would free them and how they could live their lives on the basis of that truth. In fact, the validity of what he was telling them depended entirely on their being able to access the truth for themselves and test it in their own experience. So his initial message was always the same: give up your dependence on doctrines, rituals, preachers and everything else that is external to you, and find the light within you because that will teach you all you need to know. And you already know what the light is, because it’s that that makes you uncomfortable about the things you do wrong. So take note of those uncomfortable feelings, and let ‘the light in your conscience’ show you what they’re all about. If you allow it to, the light will show you the whole truth of your life, and if you then accept that truth, if will set you free--free from guilt and shame, but also free from the powerful desires that made you act wrongly in the first place.
If we do not make the necessity for inner transformation clear, if Friends do not show those persons attracted to us by our concerns for a right social order that a shift to the Quaker gestalt is at the heart of our social activism, we fail them in three respects. First, we fail to show them how to be equipped to be truly effective in their own social concerns work--how to be faithful to the divine will and in harmony with the Gospel Order. Second, we fail to share with them the basis for their personal protection against the very evils which concern them, and other similar dangers. They are vulnerable to “burn-out” and worse, if their concern for their fellow human beings, and the rest of creation, is not tempered with a new way of seeing the world and understanding of how to move in it. Most importantly, though, by failing to communicate the need for an inner transformation we have failed to share the Gospel; we have abdicated the Great Commission. In our hasty desire for the fruit of right social order, we have neglected the Root from which all good fruit springs.
Burning: A Reflection on One Morning's Message
I live in that life and power which takes away the occasion of war.
I live in that life and power which creates the Kingdom of God beneath my feet as I walk.
There is no wordly power with such potential for transformation.
I hate seeing vocal ministry written down. It seems so dry without the context of worship, the resonance of the human voice, filled with God's power, filling the container of the worshipping space. Not so much breaking the silence, but emerging from it. Written out, they are just words.
When I spoke them I was burning. The first person to speak in meeting that morning had given a speed-of-light declaration about Friends and wealth, a lecture on Quaker history combined with a call to accumulate monetary resources for the defense of progressive values. It felt to me like a denial of Jesus' teaching and a denunciation of God's power. Must we rely on mammon to achieve transformation?
So I burned. And rose, after a few moments' pause, to repeat Fox's words, to speak that there is no power greater than a faithful life. I took my seat again and sat, shaking, for the remainder of the worship. I felt clear that I had spoken faithfully, but had to remind myself to release ego attachment to the message. If I was faithful, then the message was not mine.
This is the ministry I have been given so far in my life: to sit with friends in waiting worship, to speak as led my best understanding of what Quakerism is called to do and be, to bear the power of that. Then, to keep an eye on my sneaky ego, to stay as low as I can in the Truth that is God's alone.
It is not easy work. I am so imperfect, and the challenges are great. I fail more often than not, and Friends resist the messages even (especially?) at the times I manage to be mostly faithful. I have found some incredible mentors, but they are geographically scattered. I am often overwhelmed by despair at the gap between my vision (God's vision, I hope) and the reality of the meetings I worship in. Other Quakers, it seems, are as imperfect as I am.
I stay and labor - not without whining, complaining, and threatening to defect - because I have no choice. Because God has given me a clear leading to ministry within the Religious Society of Friends; because Quaker belief and practice are embedded in me at a molecular level; because I am deeply in love with a vision of what Quakerism has the potential to be, what it is as a sweet, pure, totally butt-kicking concept.
The concept is about the unfiltered relationship between humanity and the creator God. About deconstructing spiritual hierarchy and reconstructing God's kingdom of justice. It is human beings submitting to the guidance of an awesome, benevolent, and tenderly present God because they believe with all their hearts in a transformed world.
When we speak, dear God,
May it be for your glory, and not for our own.
May it be for Truth, out of love.
May our practice of Truth create Truth.
Teach us who and what we are to be,
As teachers and ministers, as writers and prophets,
As lovers, above all.
Kody Gabriel Hersh
Miami Monthly Meeting, Southeastern Yearly Meeting (Friends General Conference - Friends United Meeting)
In the Midst of Iniquity
In the midst of iniquity
I can rejoice;
When the fog of attonement
Rolls down the from the hills
I carry the Light of the Lord within me;
With this lantern to guide me
I shall not stumble
And shall come to dwell in
The palace of righteousness.
Heather C. Meehan
Westbury Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting (Friends General Conference - Friends United Meeting)
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…