I'm feeling led to share my story somewhere on this site, but not sure where or how. But rather than do that here I would like to hear from others what they see as the essential difference it makes in our lives to follow the Light of CHRIST versus the Light. Having passed through a phase of my life as a liberal Quaker where I was told the Light is something all humans have and it is not necessarily connected to the historical Jesus I can begin by saying that when I was listening to the Light, I really didn't know what or who I was listening for! What does a Light sound like, anyway, aside from possibly your own conscience, and the nudging of a Presence that leads you to do good in the world? The Bible seemed completely unimportant and mystifying, unless I could somehow use the stories as sources of allegories about various aspects of human life, but it was up to my imagination to see how they could apply to me.

Then fast forward to many years later when God hits me over the head with Jesus, with Christ, with a personal presence that makes me tremble and gasp for breath at times! No more vague Light, but the holy name of Jesus, the sweetest name in the world! I was totally taken by surprise as I had never figured out the connection between Jesus and me, really. But there was no mistaking the message for me now, as every time I put on my new head covering the words "Merciful Jesus" unmistakably would come into my head! What! What does that have to do with a head covering?! Anyway, the game was up and I was shaken to the roots. It was as if God took me by the throat and shook me and turned me every which way but loose (sounds a bit violent for a Quaker, eh?).

The next few weeks were a rollercoaster of ecstatic highs and the depths of despair. I had no idea that the birth of the Light of Christ could be so much work and so painful. I thought it would lead to joy, and instead it is work, and pain, and agony, and ecstasy all mixed together, with God overseeing this new birth.What has helped me to get through it all has been to read the journals of the old Quakers and see over and over again their lives follow very closely what I have gone through.And above all the words "No Cross, No Crown" keep resonating in my head. This is what it is all about.

So, to answer my own question, I don't see the Cross in the Light. I don't see the pain and suffering and personal sacrifice that is involved in this sanctification process that I am going through in the Light. Maybe others will correct me here, but for me I could not get to the Life, to the Peace of God, without the cleansing fires that I have been going through, and only the Light of Christ requires that kind of sacrifice. I am dying and being resurrected for Christ, not for a nameless Light. And yes it matters terribly I think! Nothing matters more in the world than Jesus. To quote Mother Teresa "All for Jesus, all for Jesus".

Would love to hear from other Friends on this topic.

Barb

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I think that the distinction between "cerebral knowledge" and "heart knowledge" (or experiential knowledge) is involved here.  For some, Jesus Christ is an intellectual abstraction or a set of stories from 2000 years ago; for others, He is a living, personal being (present tense) who manifests Himself to people, even some who don't even believe in Him.

Evangeline Booth (General William's daughter) of the Salvation Army was preaching at a meeting one evening, and Max Reich (of a different faith) wandered in out of "curiosity".  As he listened to her, the power of Christ became so intense that Max was overcome, and fled from the scene.  He later became a Christian Friend!  This is what I mean by "experiential knowledge".

Hey Barbara, Sorry it's taken a while for me to get back with you on the question you ask. I have thought a lot about it over the years, and wrote a book on the complexity of my journey. There are many complex journey's out there, I know and everyone comes to terms with it all as best they can. I can't look at it all without looking at it in part in its historical context. From the earliest days of Christianity, there were arguments in the community about the message - how to understand it, how to communicate it, how to settle disagreements about it. It spread pretty fast; it developed a pretty unified face, but underwent great hardship from time to time. When the "state," the Roman Empire, got behind it, it evolved into a more "establishment" type institution; it brought the state's power into the resolution of its disagreements. It knew good times and terrible, corrupt times. It sank in the mire, and it underwent periodic reform. It is very interesting to read Francis Fukuyama's Origins of Political Order and learn how important the Catholic Church in the west was in the development of the ideas of centralized government and especially of the rule of law. As the state grew as a secular institution, it adopted a good many practices the Church had developed over the years; but in the end the origin of the state brought religious and secular realms into conflict.

When I look at the Reformation period and the second wave of reformation that was the environment in which George Fox lived, I am moved by the sense that every one of these prophetic voices, thought that the "good news" of Jesus Christ had been lost in the worldly corruption of the Church and that it could be recovered and re-established on a sounded basis, but only if they broke away from the existing Church. Every one of them thought they had "THE ANSWER" as to how that should come about. Early Friends were perhaps the most revolutionary in their understanding of how the true gospel had been completely lost in the earliest years in an apostasy that set the Church on the wrong course for 1700 years until Fox and other Friends recovered it. The power of Christ's presence in early Friends cannot be denied. But when I look at the history of the movement they started, I cannot help but see that it too fell into the same kinds of conflicts and divisions. Fox and others encountered Christ's power and presence, but they did not solve the dilemma of how to "institutionalize" the foundational message. And they never seemed to consider that the "continuing revelation" idea that they turned to was something the earliest Christians also experienced.  It was the gift that helped them shape the Church from the beginning, not just from 1752 on. We are human. We need in every generation to have the spiritual power rediscovered and re-communicated. God doesn't have any grandchildren someone once said. The "outward" testimony - the scriptures and the writings of "saints" in every denomination, the "outward" signs or sacraments practiced from the very earliest times are not "outward" to those in touch with the Spirit of God. They are intensely real and they are teaching tools to carry the message forward so the next generation's seekers will have the tangible testimonies of millions who went before. I would just urge everyone to see that the denominations -- all of them to some extent -- are just boxes containing parts of the whole. Quakerism in particular, without the scriptural narrative, without the early Friends' reflections on that narrative and its meaning in their lives, without the creed, without sacraments or any link to the tradition from which it came, is a pretty empty box. But joined to these things, it is a powerful witness.

Barbara Smith said:

I am so blessed to hear you all affirming my experience! I have been on this journey seriously for perhaps 35 years (since I married a Christian) and have been searching "Lo here and lo there" since then. I am also fascinated with the question of what "ignites the spark" as Irene put it?! Why now? How? I guess what concerns me is that I see such a huge difference now between where I was looking and what I was seeing/experiencing, and the path I am on now! I am feeling "I wish someone had told me!" though I don't know what they could have said that would have made the difference - maybe nothing. But it makes me wonder if there were more outright on-the-table discussion of the "born again" experience, or "salvation" experience, Quaker-style whether I wouldn't have gotten there a lot sooner? Of course who knows. My husband feels I had to take the path I did, for reasons only God knows.

I am curious, Irene, what you feel the Quakers got wrong? I also have been very touched by mystical Catholic writings - Imitation of Christ, Practice of the Presence of God, and of course anything Mother Teresa wrote.

James, I fully appreciate that others find Him in their own way and time. Hopefully God will show me ways I can help that process for others. But I guess it's the personal aspect of Jesus that makes such a huge difference to me! All the impersonal descriptions of God Buddhist-style are fine, and True etc. but when I'm in spiritual agony I need the arms of Jesus!

So yes, words are just words, but they can also be triggers to Life I think. And I also now understand that somehow the name of Jesus has a mystical reality - which I suppose is why there is so much in the Bible about the name of God and Christ, "praise your name, oh Lord" etc. (never understood that before). I now tremble when reading certain words or passages in the Bible, so words are not that meaningless after all!

Barb
So many wonderful comments here. Jim, you put what I was trying to get at in my title much better than I

"The light is a living presence and it is the presence of Christ which makes it alive, eternally alive. Other configurations of the inward divine presence are too cerebral. Ideas like 'Buddha Nature' or 'Being' or 'True Self' lack a means of connecting with this light; they are not intimate and they tend towards the aloof rather than tending towards love."

I also have spent years working my way through various mystical paths, many experiences I could not explain, and thought I was happy with what I understood of my world. (Along the lines of Ekhart Tolle if you all know him). When, Bam!, I was hit with that Personal Love that I didn't think I was searching for. Actually I would have been searching for it if I had known if even existed! And now that I know what it is, and give it the Name of Jesus, I realize I have indeed encountered Him in the past but didn't know who it was.When I finally got it I could look back over my whole life and it was as if I was looking at a map with the path to God highlighted over 58 years - from earliest childhood to now. Amazing.

It is clear to me now that these things take time, and that makes me loving toward those who are on different parts of the journey. I love the story of Max Reich too. One of my heroes.

Thanks Irene for your reply. I fully understand and agree. The whole subject of ritual and symbolism is very interesting. My head covering is a symbol to me now that I adore for it's obvious ability to remind me of my rebirth and my new love for Jesus.

Kevin-Douglas mentioned the loneliness. This took me by surprise and has been very hard to deal with. I often feel as if no one else is going through anything like this. After reading several of the old Journals I noticed that this was a common feeling after being newly convince, or while going through the process. Then God showed me that there was a reason for this. That I am to learn to depend only on Him for everything and not to turn to others as I tend to do. This feeling was also repeated in several of the journals. So now when I feel the loneliness I know it is part of my "training" as it were.

Thank you all so much for your input. It gives me much food for thought.

How can I get in touch with the Christian Friends group for New York region? I would like that.

Barb

This summer, August 17 through Monday the 20th, there is a gathering of Northeast Christian Friends at Prindle Pond in Carlton, MA (http://www.naturesclassroom.org/nc_prindle.htm). Keep in touch and maybe send me your email, so we can forward you information about it. 

I guess I should tell you where to send your email: rene.lape@gmail.com

Irene Lape said:

This summer, August 17 through Monday the 20th, there is a gathering of Northeast Christian Friends at Prindle Pond in Carlton, MA (http://www.naturesclassroom.org/nc_prindle.htm). Keep in touch and maybe send me your email, so we can forward you information about it. 

Thank you, Friends. I read the post and discussion earlier today, and it has been reverberating within me since then. Jesus showed up in my life about 15 years ago, and the way he continues to actively draw me close and  has been the best thing I've ever experienced. I long to hear Friends and others speak of this reality and call each other closer to it. These stories are feeding that hunger. Here in Minnesota, I used to help organize "Friends of Jesus" gatherings of Quakers, but that faded away. Now I seek communion with others and Jesus whenever and however I can. He keep showing up in new and unexpected ways. 

Thanks Barbara and all the Friends who have responded.  These are powerful testimonies.

A Friend recently asked me why I need to speak of Jesus, why terms like Light or Spirit aren't enough.  My response was, because the Ineffable One has chosen to appear to me through Jesus.  Praise God!

Yet the One Beyond All Names does not appear to everyone through Jesus.  I know this experimentally through knowing profoundly good and spiritual people who use other language, or none at all; I have shared deep worship with people who reject all words.  For me as a grammarian, "worship" is a transitive verb.  I worship God through Christ.  But for some "worship" is intransitive: they worship, and for them that verb can take no direct object.  That does not mean their experience is shallow; it may be much deeper than mine. 

The only thing that really troubles me about Christianity is when I meet someone who feels deep love of Christ and nevertheless believes that Christ cannot love anyone who can't recognize that particular name.  In my heart, I know that the Friend of Friends is multilingual and multicultural, and loves everyone and speaks within everyone using any words or images or feelings without words -- whatever works for that person.  "All God's critters got a place in the choir"  I sing the music that God gives me to sing, and rejoice to hear the song of others, so different from mine.

Susan - I appreciate your comments and have a few responses. First, I used to argue vehemently that there were many ways to see the Truth, that it was all the same Truth etc. So that Jesus was just one of many ways. Now I see that there is only one Christ who died for all human beings, and his Light is in all human beings who come into the world, as it says in John first verse, whether those people recognize it as Christ or not. Not recognizing it does not make it not Christ (three nots in one sentence!). And I appreciate that early Quakers affirmed that there are people (millions in the world maybe) who follow the Truth without ever having heard or using the name of Jesus. Rudolf Steiner (Christian clairvoyant for those who don't know him) said that what Christ did for humanity was done for everyone, whether that individual claims it or not, just like we are all affected by gravity, whether we "believe" in gravity or not. The access to God he gave us went for all humans, not just Christians.

I know many Christians and I've never heard of one who would say that Christ cannot love anyone who can't recognize that name. They might way that the only way to God is through Christ and not mean it in the broad way Quakers mean. In other words they would say you have to BE Christian to be saved. I too feel saddened by that interpretation.

But here's my problem. To me the nitty gritty is in the total self-sacrifice that Christ modelled and requires of us. This is the part that changes lives. We are born again and in effect replaced with Christ. I don't see that happening when you worship a blank, or a nameless Light. Did the Light sacrifice Him/Herself for you? Does the Light Love you with a perfect Love? I'm not asking you personally these things, but this is where I feel there is indeed an essential difference, that it is not just what works for each person, though any given individual may not be ready, or at that point on their journey or whatever to meet Christ. But really their life will not be changed at the deepest levels until that happens.

Tolerance for the beliefs of others is currently PC. But is tolerance and agreeing that what they have found is the end of the road the same thing? Can we be tolerant and at the same time say, you know, there is more beyond where you are now? Now that I have been there, and am now here,I would say that is not only okay but loving to say that.

Wordless worship is wonderful. An experience to be remembered, and it has changed the way I see, or saw, life. But that is not the same as being "born again", which George Fox, and of course Jesus, said is ESSENTIAL to entering the Kingdom of Heaven.


Words, words, words. It is so hard to put any of this into words, but I think it is helpful and important to try.

thanks, Barb

I've got to disagree about what's unique about Jesus...

We've had many martyrs. There were about 2,000 Jews crucified on the road near Nazareth about the same time Jesus was born. We can't know how many got there through hating Romans vs how many for loving their neighbors and their way of life...

What got this man in trouble... was that he embodied a love Who doesn't ask people for self-annihilation, but does offer self-recognition.

To love God with all we've got-- and to know our neighbor (and our enemy) as the same Person who lives in us.

The only replacement needed... is to replace the 'cover stories' of 'who we think we are' with the Life who's teaching us, inside and out.

And that doesn't have to be some sort of self-indulgent retreat into some ideal identity-image. I posted this awhile ago, because this man was telling us what Jesus wants us to know about all the people we fear and despise.

Dear Barbara,

Thanks for considering my comments with thoughtfulness and generosity.  For personal reasons I have kind of an allergy to Rudolf Steiner, but I love that comparison to gravity.

Unfortunately, there indeed are Christians who will say  "that Christ cannot love anyone who can't recognize that name."  I used to use my mother as an example:  a beautiful, loving soul who spent her life serving others as best she could, and took great joy in it, but who didn't believe in God; could she be in heaven?  Most Quakers I asked said that it's for God to decide, and not for us to judge.  But one Friend said, no, she had had a chance to hear the Gospel and rejected it, so she couldn't be in heaven.  I wonder if others might have responded differently if I had not said it was about my mother, and they didn't want me to be hurt. I am not worried about my mother at all, but it makes a good test case.

To me, it's not a matter of tolerance for others, though that's a good thing.  It's a matter of who God is.  What spiritual insight I have been given is all about God's perfect love and care.  That's also the message I hear resounding throughout the whole Bible.   If I believed in a literal heaven and hell, I'd say that like the captain of a sinking ship Jesus is staying in hell until the last soul leaves (and that includes Hitler!) We spit in God's eye, like the Prodigal Son, and God welcomes us home with rejoicing and without reproach.  God, Christ, the Holy Spirit -- the Name beyond all Names --  the Holy One never gives up on anyone, uses any language, any image, any theology, any experience to reach the human heart; whatever will work.  Truly God's love passes all understanding.

You said, "any given individual may not be ready, or at that point on their journey or whatever to meet Christ. But really their life will not be changed at the deepest levels until that happens."  I don't think you can know that.  For you, that is reality and your experience of transformation is deep and very moving.  Testify about it, when and however you can.  But how other souls grow and change at the deepest levels can only be known to God; it's enough to be sure about oneself -- a goal not all attain -- but I suggest that it's hybris to try to guess about what wonders God may be working in the soul of another.

Whittier's poem "The eternal goodness" says it better than I ever could.  Do you know the poem?  Here's a url for it:     http://www.bartleby.com/42/792.html

May God bless you and keep you always.  Thank you for posting this question.

Susan

Susan - Yes as I wrote "their life will not be changed..." I knew it was not really true. We can never know about another soul's life. I also read, I think it was Robert Barclay, specifically say that it is the person's life that determined whether or not that person would "get to heaven" whether or not they profess Christ. But Friends have strayed far from the original understandings in many ways.

Thank you for replying.
Barb

It has been a joy to read what you all have shared. Barb,  you have many sisters and brothers on this journey!  

When I was in my 30s, a few decades ago, I began to inwardly experience Jesus.  Raised in the South, I was a 'cultural Christian' in a small liberal Friends meeting.  I had not heard other Friends in my meeting talk of what I was  experiencing.   Some of these experiences might be called low-key while others felt beyond this time and place, beyond use of words, and took a long time to process-still!  For me, it was a time of deep sensing of the stark contrasts in this world, such as of the triumph of  divine and human love and courage- as well as deep horror and sadness at the suffering people have put on others through time.  I was married and had two little ones and the Desert Storm war was on the horizon. I began to have a knowing that the love and peace of Jesus extended way beyond me, beyond Friends, beyond the Century in which we were living.  I began to "know"  or was "given a knowing" that the Spirit of Christ was with those who suffered, both now and back through time.  I can tell you that I was amazed and that I cried buckets!  It all felt precious to me and I was so grateful.  I had the sensitivity of a new convert!  Beginning to know Jesus, and the experiences were not easy for me to talk about, and I felt a loneliness somewhat like you might be feeling. However, I did begin to share in my meeting. One Friend gave me the gift of going to Pendle Hill! I was able to reach out to Christ-centered "public" Friends, exchanging correspondence as well as meeting with them. Such generosity- a response of, of course, this is what Friends do for each other!  Friends I met through FGC gatherings and Pendle Hill also shared wonderful friendship and fellowship with me. It was a joy to reach out to different branches of Friends. I was active in my meeting and yearly meeting. 

Skipping over the years…I now attend both the same meeting as well as an Episcopal Church. I have felt called beyond the meeting in some ways. I still don't understand all of how I have felt led, but that's ok with me! Kind of humorous really! I co-facillitate a centering prayer group weekly at the church and lead a contemplative Bible study at the meeting. Go figure.  With my husband and another Friend, we worship and have  fellowship with some prisoners at a Quaker worship group in a prison.  The prison visiting is a true gift to me! 

In someways the local meeting has become more diverse. I am not the only native southerner now! There is much more firm acceptance of the practice of listening to the varieties of spiritual experience and language. For example, a sometimes- speaker is an sweet elderly gentleman from Haiti who occasionally speaks or sings a hymn in Creole.   His son-in-law used to interpret, but usually now sees not need!   As we listen to where the words come from, and listen beyond the words, there is not a dry eye in the house! 

I feel that Christ's presence and work is grace given to the world, however it is recognized and whether by what name it is called. Also, am aware that people's spiritual experiences/feelings are so very precious to each person. I do my best to follow the wonderful examples around me- not just among Friends- and listen with love and awe to others. And I share from my heart as best I can. 

Much love,

Alice

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