GOD IS THE EYE OF THE STORM

PACIFIC NORTHWEST QUAKER WOMEN’S THEOLOGY CONFERENCE
JUNE 2000

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. (PSALM 46.10)

GOD IS THE EYE OF THE STORM

My life this spring feels like the storm is crashing around me. Much of this is associated with a 90 year old woman who has always been full of vigor and
strength and whom I dearly love. I have had to sit with her as she deals with pain so intense she wants to die. I have had to sit with her as frustrations
build and she feels useless and helpless.

My life is lived day to day and sometimes hour to hour as her condition changes. Being present for her is so clearly what I am called to do right
now even though it throws all my plans into chaos.

Elizabeth Hudson (1722-1783) was in her twenties when in 1748 she set off on a travel in the ministry to the British Isles. This was anything
but an easy, gentle, quiet way of life. [Read p. 199 middle]

Women like Elizabeth Hudson have much to tell us about the work of God in the human heart. She knew times of retirement and physical solitude where she encountered the divine reality. Elizabeth was one who wrestled with the Spirit for several years before she gave into the call to ministry, so even these times of
solitude were not necessarily easy or quiet in the heart. She makes us laugh when she speaks of a dear friend’s excellent library and how that incited in her a “lust
for books which was distracting her from knowing the revelation of God in the secrets of her heart. She also knew regular times of worship, often regular worship several times a week plus “opportunities” when she would find herself in worship with a family or a few other people as way opened.

But hers was definitely not a quiet life as she ventured forth in the ministry. Like many others, she often would travel daily for many miles on horseback,
sometimes until after dark through the rain and mud. She faced storms at sea and privateers. She got lost in the forest and lost in cities when her guide did not
know the person she was supposed to stay with. She lodged with strangers several times a week. She was ill. Yet still, she was expected to speak at meetings almost daily, sometimes more than once a day:
– meetings for worship with established groups of Friends
– “Opportunities” when she would worship with families in their homes and be expected to sense and speak to their condition knowing nothing of them or their lives.
– Expected to be aware of “drawings’ in her mind as to when to call for public meetings of non-Quakers to evangelize
– To preach at the funerals of strangers with little notice
– to participate in business meetings at monthly meetings, quarterly and yearly meetings
– The courage and trust to sit in silence when she felt no promptings of the Spirit in worship for hours sometimes!! even though people might have journeyed many miles to hear her speak. The bad feelings which followed this time of being “brought low.”
– Expectations of subduing “the creature” what we might call the ego letting go all human desires and feelings in order to be an instrument of God’s will
– Expectation that she might have to experience the cross daily to die to sin in daily baptisms of the Spirit
– Knowing the “Power of Truth” that is over all.

Through all this she was expected to remain aware of the Spirit working in her and through her and to be a vessel for prophecy. This brings me back to what I think was an essential aspect of her life the years of wrestling, sometimes in solitude before she started in her public ministry. There she came to know the workings of her own heart and the ways in which God reached her as well as her own manner of resistance. In this time and in the regular meetings for worship and with the guidance of older Friends, she learned what it is to center down and how to discern the leadings of God in the heart.

BREATHING EXERCISE:

On one part of her trip, Elizabeth Hudson was on the open seas during war time and several times her ship was chased by enemy ships. One time when she saw a ship [read p. 143/144] and resultant sense of thankfulness.

We too can learn to be still in the face of danger. There are many disciplines which help us in this process you will each have to find the one right for you, and
you, like me, may find that different ways work under different circumstances. Sometimes I find centering prayer is right. At other times a song. Sometimes all I can do is simply quiet my breathing. This last method is the basis of a simple exercise I want to share with you.

– Watch your breath without trying to change it. See what it feels like in your body.
– pranayama, or the practice of breathing exercises in yoga (the science of the search for the soul) a lengthy process/ still a beginner after 10 years.
– I’m one who panics & forgets how to breath, so simply stop following my instructions if this happens to you.
– or this may feel foolish and you may want to giggle. Or be conscious of your stomach growling as it is time for dinner
– Visualize early Friends sitting in worship. straight backs, both feet on the floor. Sit like this yourself and see yourself in “the Presence in the Midst”

– Elizabeth Hudson speaks of sitting still as others buzz around her

– Watch your breath without trying to change it. See what it feels like in your body.
– posture affects our breathing and our sense of groundedness

– Hold your hand on your belly and Gradually deepen your breath into your hand. (note: anxiety and panic = short, quick breaths, often high in the chest)
– slow, deep breaths into the belly tend to steady us and make space for awareness and Compassion
– Let go of the tensions in your jaw. Smile around your eyes.
– Delight in the Presence of the Holy One and in all these Friends around you
– Simply feel this. Let the words fall away as you watch your breath move gently in and out. If you are distracted, laugh inwardly and return to watch your breath. You may feel the pulsing of the blood in your fingers or the beating of your heart. If so, then you know something of being still.

THE EARTH WILL MELT

“The nations are in an uproar, the kingdom’s totter; God speaks; the Earth melts.” (Psalm 46.6)

As I try and discern the Presence of God and know if I am on the path drawn by the Light, one of the indicators I have learned to respect is the
simple release of tension in my body. As I pray, or as I read the Bible, or reflect on a problem, when my shoulders drop and the tension in my neck breaks, I pay
attention. It is as if the tension melts away inside me. That is one way I recognize the voice of God in my life those quiet nudges which Elizabeth Hudson spoke of as “drawings of the mind.”

[Read p. 135 on “meltings”]

As all who travelled in the ministry were expected to do, Elizabeth Hudson kept a diary, which she later used to create her Journal. These diaries had several aspects and were clearly part of the discipline of the Inward Life as well as having several outward purposes:
– Report & accounting to the yearly meeting who paid their way
– A record of their spiritual journey
– A training guide for young ministers
– An inspiration to children & read daily in some families along with the Bible.

In her Journal, a minister would be expected to record:
– Periods of doubt
– Inward baptisms of the Spirit
– Inward communion with Christ
– Growth in her faith
– dreams which offered Divine revelation
– Miracles wrought by God in her travels, including times when
God acted to save her life or that of her companions.

I want to leave you with the thought of stillness on a city bus in the heart of downtown Portland. This has become one of my places of refuge in fact, I am
often so distracted I am not really to be trusted behind the wheel of a car. In the bus, I may simply let myself feel the vibrations of the engine and the bumps of the road. I am usually aware of the people around me and try to sense something of their condition as an indicator of the condition of humankind. The noise
and action swirl around me and I am drawn out of myself and into something larger which I do not understand and cannot control. A place of trust. And steadiness. A place where I can feel the air move around me and know the measure of my own breath. A place where I can see each leaf in a passing tree. A place of stillness and solitude. A place where the earth melts.

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