Misc Talks from the PNW Quaker Women’s Theology Conferences

PACIFIC NORTHWEST QUAKER WOMEN’S THEOLOGY CONFERENCE
Margery Post Abbott
– 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. As she reports in her Journal, this was anything but an easy, gentle, quiet way of life.

Seventh day rode to Sunderland. 17th being first day was at two meetings, both of my satisfaction. Had at the latter the company of Fanny Paxton much to my comfort. 18th. God up before day and went to a meeting at Shotton which was a small, hard meeting. 19th Set out some hours before day in order for Stockton, having twelve long miles to ride and bad roads with snow, rain and frost made it tedious and very late before we got to meeting. The Friends had met near two hours before we got to it and [I] was forced to sit down in all my wet clothes though not many minutes before I had to stand on my feet and had spending service which occasioned me to sweat violently that is some parts of my body what with the rain and sweat had few dry threads, yet found no bad effects from it.

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 me 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. While at home, she also knew regular times of worship: meetings for worship several times a week, daily times of Bible reading and reflection, plus “opportunities” for worship with a family or a few other people as way opened.
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. These might be meetings for worship with established groups of Friends or “Opportunities” when she would worship with families in their homes. She would at times speak to their condition knowing nothing of them or their lives (in fact she got upset when people tried to fill her in on local gossip when she arrived in a community).
She trusted in the “drawings’ in her mind as leadings of the Spirit. She angered some British Friends when she followed those leadings and insisted on calling for public meetings of non-Quakers to evangelize. In addition, she was asked to preach at the funerals of strangers with little notice and participated in business meetings at monthly meetings, quarterly and yearly meetings as she was led. Through all this she sought to remain aware of the Spirit working in her and through her and to be a vessel for prophecy. As part of her understanding of faithfulness to Christ, she retained 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. She reported the bad feelings and negative comments people made to her which followed this time when she was “brought low” and had no words to speak.
A constant theme in early journals, including Elizabeth Hudson’s, is that 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. Elizabeth expected that she might have to experience the cross daily–to die to sin in daily baptisms of the Spirit, yet above all, she is refreshed by knowing the “Power of Truth” that is over all.

BEING STILL
In January 1747, Elizabeth Hudson set sail for England with a certificate from her Monthly Meeting. She was aware that Spain and France were at war and while the open seas she reports a time when she saw a ship approaching theirs. Her response was not alarm, which was the response of the crew, but to “retire in my mind” and seek the deep stillness of God. While she does not explicitly call the results a miracle, she writes as if the fog which arose and the disappearance of the enemy ship were God’s action:
. . . I found my mind very uneasy about her and expressing my thoughts to my companion found we were of one mind respecting our fears of her being an enemy which is some sort confirmed me in the belief of it and I endeavoured to retire in my mind into that word which is the refuge of righteousness and through divine favour found access to it which proved a strong tower preserving me from all anxious fears save of him who is to be feared and approached with reverence. Had sat but a little time in silence when [I] was called by my companion to come and view the vessel [and] found she was nearer to us that when I went off the deck. Upon which we spake to our captain who with his glass examined her more closely and perceived her bearing down with all her sails out upon us having held us in play until she had got to the windward of us. This discovery greatly alarmed the ship’s company who held it impracticable for us either to make sufficient resistance or run from her as she had such a great advantage of us. I just staid to hear their opinions and retired in great calmness, staying some time before I went up again, and when I did to my very great surprise beheld a thick fog like smoke betwixt us and the other ship which at first sight appeared as if it had been on fire, and varied very little from its first appearance during my observation of it. Our first sight of it was just as the sun set and night came on. So we lost sight of it entirely. We both went to sleep as at other times under no dreadful apprehension but resigned to the will of providence, yet were truly thankful to the Lord for his goodness to us, the sense whereof not only rested in our minds but greatly humbled them.

We too can learn to be still in the face of danger. There are many disciplines which help us in this process–each person will each have to find the one right one. And many people, 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. Elizabeth Hudson reminds me that the appropriate response to difficult situations is to quiet my mind, even if only enough to take deep breaths which settle the anxiety and panic rising within. Turning to the Holy One lifts the restrictions of my own reflexive responses and opens a new freedom where I might act in ways consistent with Love and Truth.

THE EARTH WILL MELT

As I attempt to be still 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.”
One translation of Psalm 46.6 reads: “The nations are in an uproar, the kingdom’s totter; God speaks; the earth melts.” Elizabeth Hudson also speaks of “melting”:

In the morning we set out on our journey and got to a Friend’s house six miles distant to breakfast and that afternoon rode ten miles to another Friend’s house in order to have a meeting there the next day, which being first day it suited well for the people that were not Friends to attend it and by which means we had a large meeting in a barn. Many appeared in the forepart of the meeting [to be] very light and airy, but it pleased the Lord to favour us with the arisings of his heart melthing power which soon melted some of the most vain into tears and a solemn silence spread itself over the whole assembly and to me it was a baptizing time not to be forgot.

While I often find a gentle melting away of tension when I surrender in prayer, opening to the presence of God is not always an easy thing. Our Quaker predecessors often spoke of the “refiner’s fire” which transformed the ego, often with tears and sometimes only after a great internal struggle. In Psalm 46, the earth “melts”– literally turns to mud–before the voice of God. So this word speaks of a great power which is beyond all human comprehension and calls us to listen for and respond faithfully to that still, small voice.

REMAINING FAITHFUL

I find it comforting that most Journals of early Friends report times when they failed to listen to God’s voice. Perhaps there is still hope for me as I learn from them some of the disciplines they used as aids in remaining faithful. As all who traveled 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. A central purpose was to provide a report & accounting to the yearly meeting who paid the way of the minister. But the diary was also a record of their spiritual journey and if later put into Journal form, it would be used as a training guide for young ministers and an inspiration to children, perhaps to be read in some families along with the Bible.
Elizabeth Hudson recorded in her Journal: 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. All of these words served both as a means of being accountable to others and a reminder to herself to stay focused on the Truth–both in her style of reporting accurately the ups and downs of her life and in the broader sense of responding to the drawings of Christ in her heart.

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.

June 30, 1997
Marge Abbott
Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
June 26-29, 1997
THAT WHICH WE WATCH FOR IN ALL PEOPLE
Jesus left there and departed for the district of Tyre and Sidon. It happened that a Canaanite woman living in that area came and cried out to Jesus, “Heir to the House of David, have pity on me! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed.”
Jesus gave her no word of response. The disciples came up and repeatedly said to him, “Please get rid of her! She keeps calling after us.” Finally Jesus turned to the woman and said, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
She then prostrated herself before him with the plea, “Help me Rabbi!” He answered, “But it isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
“True, Rabbi,” she replied, “But even the dogs get to eat scraps that fall from the table.” Jesus then said in reply, “Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass.” At that very moment her daughter was healed. (Matthew 15.21-28 Inclusive NT)

We do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the member, that war against the soul, which we wait for and watch for in all people.

I can’t read these words of Margaret Fell without thinking also of the words of George Fox “answer that of God in your enemies, it will throw them into confusion.” I know early Friends were quite serious about confronting evil but I want to believe that these early Friends had a mischeivious streak in them and acted with a certain lightness. I am pretty sure Fox didn’t, but Margaret, the woman who could recognize a “poor silly gospel” which forbade bright clothes, might have.

What might this mean: “answer that of God in your enemies, it will throw them into confusion”? I find this a wondrous idea. Pacifism is not inert and supplicant. Living out the peace of God is an energetic, active process which is creative in the truest sense of that word: words and actions conceived and born in love.

These words hold two parts in tension. First is the more familiar aspect: we each hold a Seed of God within which responds to Love and Truth like the nestling responds to the mother eagle. Second is the harder part for us. Fell and Fox ask us to witness against the “lusts” which are also present in each one of us, the lusts which war against our souls.
I often wonder who first realized the power of a simple gesture to create uproar? The first generation of Friends were quite creative about this. The class structure in seventeenth century England was oppressive and encouraged arrogance among the privileged. The simple gesture of not doffing one’s hat to those above one in rank had the consequence of throwing some into expolsive fits of anger at this threat to their pride. By treating all people the same and only removing their hats in deference before God, Friends made visible and foolish aristocratic insistence on “Hat honor.” Similarly, they helped destroy the sharp linguistic tool of speaking to superiors as “you” and inferiors as “thou.” Rather than calling everyone “you” which might be the natural reflex today of lifting everyone up, they chose to call people to humility before God, by using “thee” and “thou” to all people.

So what does Jesus have to do with this? He is not our enemy. It is difficult to even think of Jesus doing something wrong. But see yourself present as this Rabbi with a reputation for healing walked through the crowds. Rumors abound that he is the Messiah long promised. Consider being a mother whose child is near death. This man offers one last hope. This mother pushes through the crowd and asks for healing for her child but is rebuffed by silence, then by the disciples and finally directly by Jesus.

Listen to his words “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” He relegates her to something less than human. He refuses her and dismisses her as worthless. And his disciples encourage him in this. On top of that, he is clearly angry and irritated. He is her enemy in this.

Yet, she persists. She makes him hear that he is responding to his all too human lusts, his preoccupation with the world around him and not listening to his heart. Only when the Seed within him responds does he begin to model one part of what it is to live in the reign of God. He finally hears what she is saying. He recognizes that he has fallen short of the work God has called him to. He recalls that his mission is not just to the Jews but to the world, that he is to offer healing to ALL who seek it, not just to a select group. In humility, he responds and heals the child. He does not make excuses. He does not go off to someplace where no one will see him or recognize that he has had to change his behavior. Rather in public, where all can see, he accepts the rebuke of this woman who all around him see as an outcast and unclean, and heals her child. This is an essential part of the things which lead to peace, love and unity.

For no other cause but love to the souls of all people have our sufferings been.

That which we watch for in all people includes both the total love which is of God and the absence of love. When we experience the latter, how do we answer that?
Imagine calling Jesus to account. Being part of the household of God means we must find ways to interact with one another which allows us all to live fully. It means calling each other back to the highest we can attain and reminding one another when we fall short. This is part of what distinguishes a faith community from a sewing circle. When we claim the place we are offered in the household of God, we also buy into the commandment: we are to love one another as God first loved us. When the Light penetrates our souls, we know the fullness of Love. This Light, however, also shows us how we have fallen short and how we might mend our ways.
We are part of a faith community accountable to one another and to God. The Syro-Phoenician woman rebukes Jesus when his vision of God’s love falls short. Jesus has just finished rebuking the Pharisees for being confined by the external law and not understanding the law of written in the heart. Then soon after in his preoccupation, he denies this Gentile woman the mercy she asks for. He acts from the external law, not the inward law.

This woman gives me hope. She gives me courage. She has the courage to go forward and approach this holy man. She does not turn away when he ignores her and the disciples try and shoo her away. She does not avoid conflict. She does not say. “I’m sorry, you’re tired today, I’ll come back tomorrow.” She does what Love requires. In her desperation for her child, she can do nothing else. She acts and speaks with clarity. Her act is creative–it is conceived and born in love.

The Syro-Phoenician woman calls Jesus to account. She asks that he honor his own teachings. She asks that he honor all he knows of God, that he live by the law written on the heart. Out of her desperation, faith and love, she calls him to greater faithfulness.
Here is where I enter into the richer meaning of “answering that of God” in others. If a strange woman on the streets could stir up so much trouble for the disciples and change Jesus’ mind, imagine what might happen when we speak to the Spirit within the hearts of our enemies?

Jesus showed the violence of the response this might engender, so it cannot be done out of thought for the direct consequences to us or those immediately around us.

Jesus and his disciples showed how easy it is for anyone to ignore this call. They were caught up in their own tasks and did not want to deal with this stranger who was not even a Jew. The immediate consequence of persisting may be increased anger and argument.

She saw a truth, the truth that this man was capable of curing her daughter. She would not let go of this and showed the power of love. She bore the anger which was thrown at her. She argued with the holy man who was her last hope. This too is part of the Peace Testimony. For no other cause but love.

Marge Abbott
1997 Women’s Theology Conference/For No Other Cause But Love
November 3, 2015–draft
“We do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, wars and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the member, that war against the soul, which we wait for and watch for in all people.”
I can’t read these words of Margaret Fell’s without also hearing George Fox speaking in my head saying, “answer that of God in your enemies, it will throw them into confusion.” [I want to believe that these early Friends had a mischievous streak in them and acted with a certain lightness. I am pretty sure Fox didn’t, but Margaret, the woman who could recognize a “poor silly gospel” which forbade bright clothes, might have.] Fell and Fox both new from experience that the Light shining in their hearts and in the heart of each person would show them the meaning and reality of love. But it at the same time makes clear to each person when they fall short of living in accord with God’s will. Thus, to call out to that of God in someone who is persecuting you is to show them is right and how they are not doing it.

So we do this with our enemies and it throws them into confusion. This speaks to throwing them off base. We do the unexpected. We call them to love and to what love demands of us and they do not know how to respond. Something in them recognizes the truth of what we say–that of God within them responds in their heart and they hesitate and are confused.

So what does Jesus have to do with this? He is not our enemy. It is difficult to even think of Jesus doing something wrong. But listen to his words “….” He is relegating this woman to something less than human. He refuses her and dismisses her as worthless. And his disciples encourage him in this. On top of that, he is clearly angry and irritated. Yet, when she calls him to account, when she persists, he finally hears what she is saying. He finally recognizes that he has fallen short of the work God has called him to. He recalls that his mission is not just to the Jews but to the world, that he is to offer healing to ALL who seek it, not just to a select group. In humility, he responds and heals the child. He does not make excuses. He does not go off to someplace where no one will see him or recognize that he has had to change his behavior. Rather in public, where all can see, he accepts the rebuke of this woman who all around him see as an outcast and unclean, and heals her child. This is an essential part of the things which lead to peace, love and unity.

“For no other cause but love to the souls of all people have our sufferings been.”
What would make me willing to go out onto a public street and confront a popular teacher who not only was a total stranger, but also from a different people, people who I knew despised me [find a better way to say some of this!!!!]. For me personally, this would be as if I, as one who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus, accosted Billy Graham as he walked along Couch St. or even Mother Teresa. Actually for me, it could be anyone — to go out into a public place and beg someone to heal my child is more than I can imagine because all I can see in doing that is humiliation when I think about it. But she did it. Then she was rejected and taunted. Another good reason to get out of there as quickly as possible. We have no reason to believe this was a powerful woman who expected people to listen to her. The natural reaction would be to leave, humiliated. Instead, she confronted Jesus. She would not leave him alone. She called out to God in him. At first he would not listen. She rebuked him for his arrogant words and he heard the truth in her words and healed her daughter.

What can make someone face certain humiliation, probable failure and perhaps stoning and at the same time give the courage and gift of speaking Truth? This question recalls for me the deep pain I have felt at times over the past couple years as I have gone about the work of transformation which brings me to this place. I can see myself sitting with friends totally humiliated as I struggled for 20 minutes or more simply to speak a word which was on my heart. Nothing short of knowing the close, embracing love of God could make me persevere in this work. Nothing short of the absolute love of her daughter could bring this woman to the feet of Jesus.

This Love which is also Truth, Creation, the All-knowing Way of Life, Power, Light, salvation, and much more takes us out of our self and our conceptions of what we can and cannot do. This Love frees us from all the limits humanity has placed on our life and opens up incredible possibilities if we will follow it no matter where it takes us. Sometimes it asks that we carry the Cross, that we lift a burden from another so they might live. This burden may be a phsyical load. Taking up the Cross may lead to another’s physical healing as it did for the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. It may also affect others in unintended ways. I can see how this woman’s actions led Jesus to greater faithfulness and deeply affected his disciples or else this story would not have been recounted.

Taking up the Cross is an act of love, love for the person and love for their soul. It may mean we have to call them back, push them to live up to the fullness of their own calling, or simply call them back to do what is right. Margaret Fell was certain that this was necessary and spoke again and again of the need for discernment and for watching out for one another to guard against slipping into sinful behaviors. In fact at one point she felt she had to apologize for being stuck on this theme, she felt it was so important. This too is part of the things which make for peace, love and unity.

If Jesus had to be rebuked and was able to acknowledge the rightness of an unclean woman, how much more so must I be able to listen to the unexpected words which speak to me of the consequences of love and show me how I have fallen short. Can I hear? Can I respond with grace and do what is right?
If the Syro-Phoenician woman can find the courage to do all that love impels her to, to seek out someone to heal her daughter and when met with resistance, to force him to act–not with tirades or be belittling him, but by making him see what is right in the Light of God’s love and expecting him to respond, how much more is it incumbent on me to step outside all expectations and limits of society when I am called? Will I listen to the voice of God within me when it calls me forth? Will I find the courage and the creativity to call others to the same?

For no other cause but the love of the souls of all people.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST QUAKER WOMEN’S THEOLOGY CONFERENCE
– JUNE 2000 –
Margery Post Abbott

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.

– 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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