Laying Self Aside

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roy Stephenson at the 2013 Yearly Meeting of Quakers in Britain spoke of {discernment} in terms of ‘putting oneself in a place where on tries to see things with God’s eyes’ as a form of prayer. He continued:

“”It means accepting great risk, because what a situation needs could mean self-sacrifice, and we are loath to open ourselves to that. Even Jesus in Gethsemane found that hard: no wonder it was said that he sweated blood. But his final prayer there — ‘not my will but thine’– feels like the ultimate example of a prayer of discernment. It implies a total laying-aside of self; yet Jesus wouldn’t be Jesus without this crucifixion of personal wants. This example matters, because it is true for every one of us. We all need the humility, and the courage, to lay self aside and make space for the Divine to do its work. Then we will be our true selves, and yet enable something greater than ourselves.””

(Quoted in Ben Pink Dandelion’s 2014 Swarthmore Lecture, “Open for Transformation”)

“Writing is not a Craft…it is a Testimony”

And it was here that Robinson brought up fear: How it has come to keep us at bay from our best selves, the selves that could and should “do something.” In her case, that “something” has been writing. For Robinson, writing is not a craft; it is “testimony,” a bearing witness: an act that demands much of its maker, not least of which is the courage to reveal what one loves.

“A lot of people who actually believe in the sacredness of life, they write things that are horrible, desolating things, ” Robinson said. “Because, for some reason, this deeper belief doesn’t turn the world. . . . It comes down to fear; the fear of making self-revelation of the seriousness of ‘I sense a sacredness in things.’ ”

“The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson”,

Heading to the States

I may not post for a bit. I’m heading to the USA because my mom will be put in hospice care this week and I want to see her before she dies. I will be gone for 6 weeks or more and in blog land if you don’t post for that long, people think you’ve stopped. But I suppose that’s life on the Internet. Facebook and Twitter feeds scroll by so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up, even in real-time.

But now I’m called to ‘real time’ with family and friends I haven’t seen in over a year or more. I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it.  Even if my mother hangs on until I’ve gone back home, I will have had that last conversation with her and have known I’ve done all I needed to do; be there and be reconciled.

Are you able to contemplate your death and the death of those closest to you? Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully. In bereavement, give yourself time to grieve. When others mourn, let your love embrace them. (Advices and Queries 30, Quaker Faith and Practice chapter 1)

‘When Time ceases to be the enemy’

There is, it sometimes seems, an excess of religious and social busyness these days, a round of committees and conferences and journeyings, of which the cost in ‘peaceable wisdom’ is not sufficiently counted. Sometimes we appear overmuch to count as merit our participation in these things… At least we ought to make sure that we sacrifice our leisure for something worthy. True leisureliness is a beautiful thing and may not lightly be given away. Indeed, it is one of the outstanding and most wonderful features of the life of Christ that, with all his work in preaching and healing and planning for the Kingdom, he leaves behind this sense of leisure, of time in which to pray and meditate, to stand and stare at the cornfields and fishing boats, and to listen to the confidences of neighbours and passers-by…

Most of us need from time to time the experience of something spacious or space-making, when Time ceases to be the enemy, goad-in-hand, and becomes our friend. To read good literature, gaze on natural beauty, to follow cultivated pursuits until our spirits are refreshed and expanded, will not unfit us for the up and doing of life, whether of personal or church affairs. Rather will it help us to separate the essential from the unessential, to know where we are really needed and get a sense of proportion. We shall find ourselves giving the effect of leisure even in the midst of a full and busy life. People do not pour their joys or sorrows into the ears of those with an eye on the clock.

Caroline C Graveson, 1937, Quaker Faith and Practice 21.22

I had a good phone conversation with Eleanor from Woodbrooke Study Centre in Birmingham. This will be the site for many courses I will take over the next two years in the Equipping for Ministry study. She was curious which tutor to pair me with based on the answers I provided on the application. I told her that Caroline Graveson’s words resonated with me, especially the need for “space-making”. How often do we make space for ourselves to just be, or create, or to refresh and expand our spirits. She felt, rightly, that I exist in my head most of the time. I could sense she discerned what I needed from the course and we ended on a constructive note. Her last words were to urge me to be open to any possibility of discovery. I like the sound of that!

I am looking forward to this. Despite my mother’s failing health and despite my own questionable health (chronic hives, etc.) I am eager to go in whatever direction I find in this experience.

Protecting Psychic Spaces

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve not posted in a while because I’ve needed a ‘blog’ vacation. My mind is aswirl with news, Quaker tasks, media such as Facebook and Twitter, and personal reflection. It’s very easy to get used to posting small bits and bobs on Facebook and feel that you’ve taken the time to blog about something. On top of it, I am considering and applied for a two-year Equipping for Ministry course at Woodbrooke Study Centre and I’m also busy being my local meeting Treasurer and Area Meeting Assistant Clerk. I love being busy and realise how much of my feelings of inadequacy result from not having an outlet for my skills. Everyone wants to feel needed after all.

Beside it all is my mother’s illness, which may call me away at the last-minute. If it doesn’t, I’ll be visiting the States during Thanksgiving and hope I can stay and help as much as I can before I have to return.  I look forward to this time of year a lot. Thanksgiving has always been a time of family visiting, worship, and dinner and I can’t help but think this may be my mother’s last Thanksgiving.  It will be both a sad and joyous time.

I hope to be enriched by all the experiences coming up and not be lax in updating blogs along the way. The danger of burnout is immense. There is also a danger of feeling like I cannot get a handle on any one thing and I’m hoping the Equipping course will help me focus on my corner of the world and let all else fall away. I cannot fix the world and I shouldn’t let its ills get to me. I have to be careful to protect my psychic boundaries and not become overburdened with others’ problems and actions.

I wish I might emphasise how a life becomes simplified when dominated by faithfulness to a few concerns. Too many of us have too many irons in the fire. We get distracted by the intellectual claim to our interest in a thousand and one good things, and before we know it we are pulled and hauled breathlessly along by an over-burdened programme of good committees and good undertakings. I am persuaded that this fevered life of church workers is not wholesome. Undertakings get plastered on from the outside because we can’t turn down a friend. Acceptance of service on a weighty committee should really depend upon an answering imperative within us, not merely upon a rational calculation of the factors involved. The concern-orientated life is ordered and organised from within. And we learn to say No as well as Yes by attending to the guidance of inner responsibility. Quaker simplicity needs to be expressed not merely in dress and architecture and height of tombstones but also in the structure of a relatively simplified and co-ordinated life-programme of social responsibilities.

Thomas R Kelly, 1941, Quaker Faith and Practice 20.36

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