In its June/July 2014: Concepts of God issue, Friends Journal published a rich series of articles, including the following:
- “On the Porch with God” by Sarah Katreen Hoggatt
- “Exploring New Images of God” by Bruce Birchard
- “Naming God” by Jane O’Shields-Hayner
- “Mystical Experience” by Donald W. McCormick
One piece in particular, “Friends and God,” offers short personal reflections from seven different Friends.
In the September 2014: Forum section, readers shared a number of thoughtful responses to June/July 2014 and earlier issues.
The present blog post excerpts three seemingly unrelated contributions which all, nonetheless, speak to those who struggle to give spoken witness to their spiritual experience.
Note: Friends Journal has unlocked the following normally subscriber-only articles as a service to QUF readers and invites them to subscribe to Friends Journal.
“Viewpoint: Sliding into silence”
Dyck Vermilye, Taos, N.M.
Friend Vermilye ponders those moments during worship when an individual moves from silence, “refraining from speech,” into stillness, being “tranquil, calm, and serene.” When all or most of a meeting moves from silence into stillness, Friends experience a covered meeting.
In that place a variety of experiences become possible. For one, it is a time when one can experience an epiphany or have a sudden insight into an unresolved problem. For another, the stillness provides the space and impetus for reaching a decision about some action that had been festering unresolved for some time….
Our custom of speaking of God’s voice in connection with times of worship seems quite restricting. God’s voice can come to us any time, anywhere, and in any form. It would be useful to broaden our expectations of when we can be reached by God.
“Friends and God”
Judith Reynolds Brown, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Friend Brown looks to the differences between experiences of God and words about God:
Here is a query: Does calling myself someone influenced by the concept of God from many faiths and ways of worshiping diminish the God whom Christians have worshiped and experienced for all the years since the man we call Jesus, or the Christ, lived?
To answer this query, I intuitively look to my experience of this God rather than looking for words to describe the way this loving Force operates in my life…. [It] is in trying to describe my beliefs about him that I fall into inadequacy and conflict with others.
If I concentrate on my experience of the love of this God, my sense of the truth, affirmations about life that this Force presents to humans, and the beauty of the natural world, then I am moved to thank this God. Looked at this way, rather than being diminished, isn’t this God augmented?….
Words can be misleading when they stand alone in framing our beliefs. Rather than struggling to define our words when speaking with others of different faiths, why not describe the experience we feel?
“Tiptoeing around ideas”
JIll Hurst-Wahl, Syracuse, N.Y.
Isn’t it interesting that the speaker in meeting for worship (or another Quaker gathering) is often asked to modify his or her words in order to appease the listener (“Religious Wounding: What Can Our Meetings’ Elders Do?” by Mariellen Gilpin, FJ May)?
That leaves us tiptoeing around thoughts and ideas. Rather than having rich conversations, we have conversations where much of the meaning may be left to the side.
Even the parables of Jesus put a burden on the hearer, knowing that each person might hear and take away something slightly different from parables that were laced with meaning.
- June/July 2014: Concepts of God
- September 2014: “Forum”
- May 2014: “Religious Wounding: What Can Our Meetings’ Elders Do?” by Mariellen Gilpin
Sitting Meditation, by Mike Shell
While visiting in Melbourne Beach, FL (10/14/2012). It seems an apt metaphor for the deepest truth of meditation: the one sitting becomes simply a shadow within the larger Reality seen by the Watcher.