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Quaker Practice

Acceptance

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. ~ AA Serenity Prayer

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Quaker Practice

The Case for Words

In a blog a few months ago, I made the Case for Silence in a Quaker Meeting. Today I want to make the Case for Words.

When Quakers worship, the silence inside the Meeting House occasionally is broken by someone who rises to share a message they feel moved to say. These messages are usually simple, and most have a universal element, since messages should be shared only if they offer something to others. So, yes, we Quakers worship in silence, but we also listen – to God, to each other, to our own hearts – and share that with the community around us.

Why allow the silence to be disrupted in this way? Sometimes a Meeting for Worship is silent for the entire hour, leaving a deep sense of fulfillment. Silence is necessary to hear what God might be telling us, or to sift through the whirl of thoughts so we can make sense of our lives or the world. Sometimes, however, the silence is challenging, as we may be inclined to turn away from this inner voice; sometimes we might lose the inner voice in the comfort of the silence. 

Which is why words matter. Quakers call these messages Vocal Ministry, and the words are often what bring us together. We worship together –rather than alone in our homes — in part because the words we share enrich our experience. Some of the most simple and beautiful messages I’ve ever heard were shared at Quaker Meeting. A heartfelt message can open up a whole world in my head. When I am spiritually cold, the messages in Meeting feel like warm mittens handed to me by friends, and the wide range of spiritual insights can feed me for days.

Sometimes messages are shared using words that make some people uncomfortable, as we all have our own experience of God. When that happens, I try to remember this guidance from the British Yearly Meeting: “When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Receive the vocal ministry of others in a tender and creative spirit; reach for the meaning deep within it, recognizing that even if it is not God’s word for you, it may be so for others.”

One of my favorite messages was shared by a Reno Friend who stood up one day to quote from the Quran: “If the day of judgment erupts while you are planting a new tree, carry on and plant it.” She linked these words to her deep concern and love for the natural world. Her message speaks to me still.

Wendy Swallow, RFM Blog Editor

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.

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Quaker Practice

The Magic of Meeting for Business

Few people love a meeting, but most organizations hold meetings because they have essential business to accomplish. Quaker Meetings are no different:  once a month, most Quaker Meetings hold what is formally known as “Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.” To be honest, a Quaker Meeting for Business is unlike most meetings I’ve had to attend in my life, either for work or with community organizations. And the key to the difference is in the formal name.

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Quaker Practice

The Case for Silence

There is something about the stillness of midwinter that soothes the soul. Much of the natural world sleeps. Though the wind still blows and birds hop about searching for seeds, for the most part the cold and dark confer a deep, healing silence.

Many of us who attend Quaker Meeting on Sundays are drawn by the opportunity to sit in communal silence for an hour. The Quaker silence started, in part, as a reaction to church services of the seventeenth century, which were filled with ritual and liturgy. Early Quakers believed, instead, that each person must come to her or his own understanding and experience of God. The silence is a chance to listen for God – the stillness enables us to quiet the busyness of our brains and discern what God might want us to hear. It requires waiting.

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Quaker Practice

The Dark Side of Gratitude

January, the season of resolutions, is always a time when I vow to do better with my Gratitude Practice. I usually start out strong, listing three things every day that I am grateful for, but – inevitably – sometime in the cold, dark days of February when it looks like winter will never end, I give it up. I’m not sure why. But I found a clue the other day: a note to myself that I should write a blog about the dark side of gratitude. And that was all it said; I had no idea what I had meant when I made that note months earlier.

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Quaker Practice

The Hold-In-The-Light List

Every First Day, at the end of Silent Worship, the clerk of Reno Friends Meeting reads the Hold-in-the-Light List. This is a list of all those we are “holding in the Light of God.” It usually includes the names of loved-ones we are concerned about because of illness, injury or trouble, and also a statement extending our concern to “all those who live in places where there is strife and need.” In difficult times, the list can get quite long.

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Quaker Practice

The Gifts of Silence

My husband and I were hiking on a ridge above Lake Tahoe recently when I suddenly realized I could hear almost nothing. This happens out west – if you go far enough off-road you can often find a place beyond the whine of the highway or the hum of the city. We were hiking late in the day, so there were few others around. Even the birds were quiet. The tall pines and slanting light made it feel like we were walking through holy space, the world hushed in reverence.

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Quaker Practice

The Book of Joy

In March I went on a retreat to Graeagle. My friend, Peggy, sent along The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. What an amazing teaching this book was for me during my sacred time! It was exactly what I needed. Before my retreat, I had been feeling increasingly hopeless about the future of humanity and all of our relations that share this planet with us. This is a familiar issue for me and one I’ve blogged about before.

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Quaker Practice

Growing Old, Gracefully

The Reno Friends monthly book club recently met to ponder both the challenges and blessings of growing older. Or at least to try and find a few blessings.

Our book for the month was On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Growing Old, by Quaker writer Parker Palmer, a primer to both the yin and yang of the aging experience.

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Quaker Practice

Contentment

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~ Lao Tzu

Lately I’ve been reflecting on contentment, curious about why I have been feeling increasingly content. January is usually when we resolve to change for the better, not a time to be content. I think what has changed for me this year is that I’m slowly dropping a lifelong habit of perfectionism; perfectionism and contentment do not make good bedfellows. In my practices of Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga and meditation, I’ve been focusing on being present and in complete acceptance with what is happening in the moment, what I can and cannot do. Perhaps after many years of practice, something is sinking in more deeply. Maybe it is part of aging and accepting of reality. Probably, it’s a combination of practices and life experience. There are blessings in getting older!