Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I’m not sure where God wants me to be, I yearn to feel closer to God although I can’t seem to find the right place or time. Yes I do talk to God, mainly in peace in the bath although I’ve been looking for a long time a place to go, a place to be in peace and to be inspired to let the spirit flow.
Since 2009 I’ve taken an interest in Christianity although I cannot call myself a Christian, I’ve been a practicing Pagan for 15 years although I can’t call myself a Pagan anymore, perhaps I have some Pagan ways but I’m just more in-tune with the earth and the seasons. In 2009 I was divorced and took a rather long drive to Lourdes in the south west of France, beautiful place and full of a wonderful energy and had some great experiences there. I love going into Catholic churches and sitting before Mary & St Therese of Lisieux. St Therese is a complete inspiration to me since visiting Lisieux now on 3 occasions!
I’m not a Catholic, I’ve tried going to masses but something is not right, I just enjoy using their space for my own prayers and reflection although most churches are closed or you get asked why you are there!
What I do love is silent and guided retreats and have been to a couple, wish I could go more often too! I’ve also tried going into Anglican churches but they always seem empty of God to me for some reason, plus there is always some sort of noise like cafes etc!
I’ve continued to look at Quakerism over the last 4 years and wondered if it would be right for me, when I read about the Friends it does tend to tick off so many of my boxes. But I still think for some strange reason that would it be enough? I don’t know why I ask that, maybe it’s a fear of commitment to something that may feel right? I do have local meetings of Friends and have planned to go a few times but never get to do it. I know that to try it would start to answer my questions too.
I’m married now and have a beautiful new born girl called Anwen, we live in Wales (UK) in the valleys. A beautifully rural place with not much in particular going on but there always seems so much to do! (Garden, decorate house, kids, countryside etc.) It’s just that I need to feel this fire for God and not too sure what to do with it. Any ideas?
I have found reading Quaker ministers' journals very helpful in exploring issues of faith. Most of them are not contemporary, but that may be advantageous. Friends seem to have been better grounded in Christian faith and in spiritual life at earlier times than they are today.
If you want something reasonably contemporary, try Lewis Benson, None Were So Clear: http://newfoundationfellowship.estoreadvanced.biz/index.php?p=catal... The book describes Benson's search for authentic Quaker faith.
Presumably, you could order it from New Foundation Fellowship in the UK. Contact Allistair Lomax for information: firstname.lastname@example.org
You might also ask him where to find a list of ministers' journals which are in print.
Hi Graham - greetings from Iceland! :-)
First, let me tell you what I got from your post:
1. You're in touch with nature
2. You have the ability to be silent and listen
3. You long for inspiration and actively search for it
4. You have a burning passion for God, whatever He/She/It may end up being to you
5. You don't fall for the 'bells and smells' of every church you walk into
Graham, you have so many tools at your disposal! :-)
I, too, ventured into the world of paganism. For a long time, actually, like you. Looking back, it was as if God had allowed me to play in the garden alone for a while to see how it all 'worked'. I learned a lot and I read a lot. There's so much left in my heart from the experiences I had during that period.
Paganism was a path I had the privilege to stroll down and it left me with an understanding of some of God's many different faces and a feeling of 'oneness', at times, with His creations. I didn't necessarily realise it was Him guiding me along the path at the time, but now...well, I feel it was ;-)
This burning passion for God that you have, try not to label it. When you want structure, go to church with an open mind. When you want silence and a place to pray, go when no-one's there. When you want guidance, read the Bible or a Quaker faith and practice book like the one here http://qfp.quaker.org.uk/to give you food for thought. When you want that feeling of 'oneness', go into the woods and fields and let Jesus/God/St. Therese of Lisieux guide you along Nature's path and open yourself to the ebb and flow of life.
Your religion is between you and God alone. It's far too big to put into a box. That's why I love being a Quaker, the box is not included ;-)
P.S. Just read up a bit on St. Therese of Lisieux and totally understand why you find her so inspiring. I'm about to go read more...
You entitled this thing "What do I do with this burning feeling for God?" which I find rather compelling....
In the most liberal way possible, with openness to your experiences (and the no-need-to-name-it approach that David suggests)....I'm thinking.... I'm thinking that you already did it. You already did the thing with this burning feeling for God -- because nobody asks that question unless they've fallen in love.
So maybe see where the love takes you? See how this that burns within you wants to identify itself to you. Maybe even break everything down into one tiny step and then another tiny step such as "I'm sitting here listening to God and talking to God and it feels like there's more energy or connection or love or whatever THAT THING IS when i connect with my visceral emotions in this present moment...one by one" Maybe instead for you it's slowly a sense that you want to take crazy-slow, meditative walks seeking the way, walking it out. Maybe you're being drawn toward a gradual clarification about who is most moving to you to read... But I believe that there is the ready opportunity to simply seek the Divine relationship directly.
Unprogrammed Quakers are a mixed bag and there is a conservative branch (more Jesus Christ oriented) and a liberal branch (more likely to include Buddhists, Sufis, and maybe pagans too, but personally I know they sometimes include a good number of the liberals can also be skittish about God and want to keep some distance too). But all that framework well and good, many quakers of all orientations are mystics, believing deferentially in the Light of God within each of us over whatever others would advise you about that Light....
The founder of Quakerism even said (and I paraphrase) "Jesus said this and the prophets said that, but what do YOU say?" So you may find that many quakers won't give you much that's solid but will invite you to really feel that One within you more and more present to you and with you... and will wonder aloud with you what it's drawing you toward. Sometimes it aches for a while and just keeps aching! Sometimes that ache blossoms into a feeling of the ache being satisfied. And sometimes it means that you have a message to give or a gift to share with others, and it won't leave you alone until you find out how to let it speak or breathe or whatever.
I have found God to be confounding and wonderful and yes, worthy of a passionate relationship with! So I just wanted to say thank you for sharing that passionate ache for the Divine.
Just keep talking to him. Pay attention to what is happening around you to see if there is a pattern. When you talk with God make it plain that you know you are capable of being deceived but you are going to trust him to protect you from being deceived unless it's part of some purpose he has for you. Tell God you want to be everything he designed you to be and to give you the grace to do so.
Enjoy the journey. It probably doesn't matter which train you get on. With the right heart all roads lead to Rome. Fellowship with people who love God, avoid doctrines that can block love, and love your neighbor as yourself. Enjoy your family, they are gifts from God who loves them even more than you do.
Wow, thank you so much for the response! :-)
There is so much to think about here and I'll be pondering over it for quite a while, and will keep returning. Wonderful.
There are moments when the spirit surrounds you completely, and you have an incredible sense of it. In that moment love is tangible, and it glows. It's these moments that bring clarity and peace.
In my continued journey to simplify and 'plain' my life it's in these moments I look for to bring a grounding and understanding of myself. Confused as I may be I know something incredible is happening, letting go, feeling a new depth to love and to giving.
For all my selfish ways, I try to look inwards to improve myself and the world close around me, those that I love and care for. But it's a mine-field, filled with distractions that take you away from the path to God. Although, hey one hell of a journey! :-)
So many books open, yet unread.
Good morning Graham,
Blessing and peace to you.
I hesitate for fear of a misplaced word which might hinder your journey.
I will say, watch inside with silence and patience each brush stroke as the master creates the masterpiece which is a you.
As others have indicated, meetings vary enormously. Some might be a great help, and others not. Will Quakerism be enough? I don't think so. A burning feeling for God can not be satisfied by any group. This doesn't mean belonging to a group of God followers isn't a good idea. It is. Whether a local Friends meeting would be a good place for you could only be discovered by visiting and trying it. You already understand that there are avenues which can feed that burning feeling, but don't fully fit. That sounds like a good attitude with which to explore any faith group, including Quakers. They won't be perfect. They may or may not be a good community in which to grow in faith.
"Burning feeling for God"? I would encourage you to unfold yourself in flame. Become "numinous" as its called. You're struggling with Bigger Angels now.
You will be a blessing to some of those around you. A "light" to some. Give "warmth" to others. However, Wales may be a tough place to get a fire going - lots of water literally and culturally.
I can't thank you all enough, so many beautiful words & thoughts.
I take great strength from this and it has allowed me perhaps to take the pressure off myself a little.
Lots of changes at the moment and lots of challenges.
But life is wonderful & I'm incredibly lucky to be surrounded by love.
From a practical viewpoint, I would say that I have never had all my spiritual needs met in one place. I think it is important for all of us to be regularly reevaluating where we are at, and what our needs are, and to make a concerted regular effort to do something about those needs. Unmet needs have a way of growing and causing problems. It is wise to have a plan to address them. I think it's okay, and very normal, to be a part of more than one spiritual community.
Another point I would make is that we all not only have a need for fellowship and inner growth, we also have a need to be of service to others. A very important part of our spiritual life is the part where we are giving outwardly to others. We really can't address that need if we are communing with God on our own. So, it is not just that you might need the Quaker meeting (likewise, insert name of other spiritual community), it is also that the Quaker meeting in a very real way- needs you. The interaction that takes place in community is in and of itself, a vital part of our spiritual life.
One other point I would make is that just the act of being disciplined about the spiritual practice of regularly attending a meeting (Quaker or otherwise) will have it's own rewards. When we discipline ourselves to prioritize this, we will grow. I think it is similar to going to the gym regularly.
I don't think it's completely necessary to be a part of an organized group (i.e. one with a name and a building etc.) but if you are going to piece together your own community of people to have a regular commitment to, it is going to be more difficult for you. One of the benefits of a ready-made spiritual community is that the group has regular meeting times and you don't have to be the one to orchestrate all of that. Another option besides a spiritual community is to volunteer in your community. I think that can provide an opportunity to have a regular commitment, and to give to others.
Just some thoughts-