This past weekend I and many others were blessed to spend it in the company of Jim Atwell as a fellow traveler on life's spiritual journey.  Jim is a cheerful and gifted Friend overflowing with love for everyone who has found a fitting home for his gifts and love within the Quaker community.  Jim has a serious physical ailment which he openly discusses in his book Wobbling Home ( http://www.amazon.com/Wobbling-Home-Spiritual-Walk-Parkinsons/dp/09...) as only he can.

Actually on this past weekend there seemed to be quite a few of us wobbling home and I think that this would be a good time to remind us that not only do us two legged creatures need a solid foundation but so too do the organizations that would claim to be spiritual in nature.  There are all kinds of metaphors of spiritual stability but I would suggest that we Quakers have been called to be supported by a three legged stool with the legs being fellowship, service and connection to the Divine.  In my case the divine is Jesus but I don't think that the Divine cares how a meeting understands its connection to him so long as they are connected.  I also think that the beauty of a Quaker fellowship is that not everyone has to be connected to the divine anymore than everyone has to be living a life of service or in strong fellowship with his or her fellow friends.  Of course the stronger each leg is, the heavier the meeting that they can support, but a three legged stool is going to provide stability at least up to some size.  The key is to reduce the wobble by making the legs equal.  If a meeting is strong on service it needs to expand more of its energy on balancing itself.  Like riding a unicycle.  If it has two legs it's a bicycle or motorcycle which has to watch out for sand when it makes a turn.  If a meeting is proud of its spirituality but does not feed the hungry or clothe the naked it will find itself in a Matthew 25 situation.  And while too much partying is never a good thing, we need to share in the joys, trials and tribulations of our fellow travelers to understand our humanness and its need for companionship.  Not only our need but the need of the underprivileged so that service flows not from a legalistic or intellectual spring but from that river within us that never runs dry.  When we dwell in the glory of the Divine presence and stay there it's like damning a river.  We can let it out in spurts to power the downstream villages but before we do that we destroy local villages and trees and habitat.  Eventually silt starts to gather at the bottom, silt that used to provide life giving nutrients to our neighbors.  Silt that kills off oxygen needed by the inhabitants of the water flowing from that God given source and then a clogging even of that source.  I once tasted of the divine so much that I wanted to damn it up and I would have if the choice was mine.  But one day God said it was time to move on and flow in his presence rather than float in it.  Floating was easier.  I didn't have to worry about direction, rocks, obstacles, waterfalls.  But flowing was more useful to Him.

So no leg is self sufficient unto itself.  That's why man invented the cane and God created Eve because it wasn't good for man to be alone.

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Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 5, 2014 at 1:16am

Dear James

"When we dwell in the glory of the Divine presence and stay there it's like damning a river."

I'm thankful the eternal Presence manifests in me, to the transformation of conscious and conscience, in all things and in all activities. Presence is in everything I do and say throughout every moment of daily existence. I rest in the glory of divine presence and stay there all the days of my life. I am in the Eternal Presence of and Presence is in me.

I am the River of Life and in me there is no damnation.

Comment by James C Schultz on 9th mo. 5, 2014 at 8:08am

My analogy is meant for a community more than an individual.  I recall individual analogies of a similar nature using worship, bible study and fellowship and have heard of many others.  Within a community I believe there are members who dedicate themselves to prayer or service.  There are even members who serve the body by making sure no one is forgotten about when they are ill or unable to attend meeting.  A viable meeting needs all three.  Strictly my opinion.  When it comes to God's presence I personally can't be in the fullness of His presence and still do everyday boring stuff.  I know I'm in His presence because He has told me so and I can and do hear from him all the time but there's a difference.  During meeting and other times when I focus I can feel what I call "Presence Lite" but it's not the robust flavor of the full stream.  In my after death experience I felt His presence in a completely different way in that there was a combination of serenity and warmth that I had not experienced before.  I think that members who think that meditation or contemplation is what Meeting for Worship is about need to dig a little deeper to find that stream of presence which flows from the Divine.  It might be a trickle or a river but it's there for everyone to find.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 5, 2014 at 8:50am

Dear James,

"When it comes to God's presence I personally can't be in the fullness of His presence and still do everyday boring stuff."

Yes you can. In the presence of Christ, all the boring stuff in everyday life becomes meditation and contemplation in itself.. His presence is meditation and contemplation in the very activity of everyday life. This is eternity and salvation. What a powerful gift and blessing to live the Life even while cleaning the chicken coop! Praise! In the Light all things are living blessing. The joy of Being/being in the Life even amidst the boring stuff is meditative and contemplative in itself; human being in eternity. This is the beginning and end of communing and community, the Presence illuminating and guiding each individual is community.

Comment by James C Schultz on 9th mo. 5, 2014 at 10:57am

I'll bear that in mind.  I am a Brother Lawrence fan and to that extent we are in perfect agreement.

Comment by Jim Wilson on 9th mo. 5, 2014 at 11:18am

My experience is that the sense of the Presence ebbs and flows.  Like Paul who said that we see through a glass darkly, most of us, most of the time, have only gimpses of the Presence.  These glimpses are profound and sustaining for us through those times when the sense of the Presence is absent.  This ebb and flow is what most people experience.  It is dealt with in the literature on contemplation and prayer in those sections which address the periods of 'dryness', or those periods when one seems disconnected from the source.  The reason the literature deals with these experiences of absence is simply the truth that, for most people, the ebb and flow of the experience of Presence is the reality they live with. 

I believe that it is simply insufficient to insist that anyone can experience the Presence under any and all circumstances.  There are, no doubt, great Sages and Saints who dwell constantly in that experience.  But that is not true for most of us.  Like Mr. Schultz and Paul, I am one of those whose capacities are ordinary; I am not a virtuoso in spiritual matters or spiritual experience.  The experience of grace, of the light of the presence, is granted on occasion, and I am very grateful for it.

 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 5, 2014 at 3:42pm

Dear Jim,

It is a certain truth and obvious that a person's experience in the immediacy of presence ebbs and flows. Some people don't know the experience at all. Some know it very irregularly. Some know it only a few times a year, some know it daily, some know it hourly.

I assume it is obvious. To experience the Light of eternity in all things and all circumstances is not obvious to many, partly because those who do not know the experience downplay the testimony out of admitted lack of experience. It is also not obvious because people who do not know the experience characterize it as out of the ordinary or sage like or the stuff of Saints. This is a false and misleading characterization. There are ordinary people with ordinary lives, like myself, who know the movement of the Light within throughout each day of their lives. These people are mothers and fathers caring for their children or working in an office. They are people doing everyday things and in every way walking in the Presence. For us Presence is the stuff of everyday live. It is the anchor of our life in all things.

Christ's presence is with me in all things; even as I write this. It is for me to share that gift of eternal Presence and eternal salvation.

I am in Christ's presence and Presence is all about me in each daily task.
By the power of the eternal light shining within and transforming my very conscious and conscience, I live the Life in all things. I am contemplative and meditative even in the midst of everyday moments because the Light shines forth within my being and in the actions and tasks of the moments.

Jim, there is another way that trusts, knows and has faith completely in the immediacy of Presence and not outward ways and practices. Give up the outward ways and practices open to the direct immediacy of Presence. Live the Life in each moment and know eternity. This experience is open to all in the power and guidance of the spirit of Christ.

Comment by James C Schultz on 9th mo. 6, 2014 at 9:10am

Keith.  I think this discussion deserves it's own blog and will try to get one up later.  I have a feeling there are more that can share but don't realize the topic has shifted.

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