First Month 31

You see, God’s grace has been revealed to save the whole human race. Titus: 2-11

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In an age that encourages diversity and individualism, we need a common point of reference – a source of definitions and concepts, a foundation on which the superstructure sits.

Language shapes thought, which in turn shapes action and emotion: it can give us, as a people, a mirror. We live within contemporary attitudes that value cynicism, detachment, irony, individualism, sensory bombardment, constant kinetic fever, compulsions, and addictions.

I believe the Bible can counterbalance that, once we liberate it from false constraints and teaching, from the exhortations of those whose hearts are filled with darkness and hate. One way to do that, as Jesus demonstrated, is to turn the verses back on them. Grace is where salvation is revealed.

Perhaps the reason so few of us have found meaning in the Bible arises from a lack of sustained silence and listening, reflection, and yielding. Even when we do face the text, we let our focus get distracted in the wrong thing, asking about Jonah’s big fish, rather than the human drama of hatred and resentment he’s entrapped in – but that part is nothing new! We criticize the patriarchal societal fabric that Naomi and Ruth manage to turn to their own service, rather than perceiving the many ways our own choices and actions are shaped by the societal framework of contemporary America. So how do we nurture grace in our daily encounters?

Now, more than ever, the whole human race needs saving.

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This our spiritual Shepherd hath a tender Regard to the hindmost of his Flock; he gathereth his Lambs with his Arms, and carrieth them in his Bosom, and gently leadeth those that are young. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

First Month 30

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark: 1:16-18

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What authority Jesus embodies! He speaks and people drop what they’re doing and respond.

He doesn’t even need a net to catch them.

But these aren’t just anyone – they’re hungry.

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Therefore you weak and feeble Ones, put your Trust in him; for he giveth Power to the Faint, and in them that have no Might he encreaseth Strength. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

First Month 29

…  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. – Revelation 3:20 and 22  

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The first time I heard free Gospel ministry in meeting, I was repulsed. Revulsion rose in me. Sin? Quakers? Satan? How dare anyone mention such darkness! Now I see that darkness all too clearly in those who reject the Light of the world. I am grateful to the Friends who taught the power of yielding and surrender to Almighty God. Because of my training in Yoga – in meditation, especially – I was quite aware of the nuances of Friends’ Meeting and the movement of the Holy Spirit. But immediately after accepting Christ as Lord and Savior – an act that meant dropping all the intellectual and emotional resistance within me – I realized I had been seeing only half of the life of the meeting. A new reality – strength and depth – opened before me. Obviously, we can learn from other spiritual paths – but not at the price of abandoning our own. We can learn to sit more quietly, with greater focus. We can learn, again, to fast and to maintain our bodies more fitly for service. We can learn what it means to offer ourselves up as living sacrifices. But we must also be careful, lest we clutter our path and stumble. Scripture reminds us how close abominations like infant sacrifice lie to our own calling. There are many spirits, but only one Holy Spirit. Friends forget that Satan is a spirit, too. Quote Penington and the Bible on the dangers of trying to “do it”  (spiritual/goodness/”self-improvement”) on our own – in our own light rather than His Light. Where is the POWER of our modern meetings? Low state in the reports, etc. O heard one described as one big group therapy session – without turning to the Cure.

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That there are many that have borne false Witness against them, yet … their Accusers contradict one another (for both seem to grant we own a Christ) which well they may do, since they differ in Principles amongst themselves; however they agree thus far like Herod and Pilate, to unite against Jesus, so have they against his Followers. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

First Month 28

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me. … – Revelation 3:20 and 22   

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Behind the initial warm-fuzzy response – after all, we see Jesus standing there, not just any beggar – there’s the honest slam-the-door-in-their-face reaction. What gall! He’s practically begging. A Buddhist monk, perchance? As if we have any food worthy of offering.

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And then was the Time of his Love, even when he stood at the Door of our Hearts and knock’d, that he might be entertained by us. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

First Month 27

 [T]o know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. – Psalm 143:8

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I love the repeated Biblical image of walking. It’s step-by-step, in a rhythm that allows us to observe and reflect as we go. It even seems to get into a pace with the heartbeat.

At some point in walking, we find ourselves no longer looking at our feet but looking up and out. That’s when we begin to notice others.

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It is safe to say that few Quakers view Scripture as “the Law.” The texts are too rich and lively for that! Instead, we are free to question, to argue, and to challenge the texts as we dig for the meat inside the shell. For me, this has often taken the form of Godwrestling, drawn from a radical Jewish movement that meets in its members’ homes, where children and adults jointly “wrestle” with a passage, opening asking “What if instead? Maybe the dream was interpreted incorrectly!”

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Because there are many valid ways to read the Bible. Because of this, too, no one will ever understand this library fully. (And stay clear of the person who claims to!) In other words, this is a book we can come to at each stage of our lives and still discover fresh insights and inspiration. Ours is a living faith, with a living God. So we grow.

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So walk and look about. As if you were walking on air.

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Now since God himself is said in Scripture to dwell and walk in his People, why should it be thought arrogant for them to say, Christ in them is the Hope of their Glory? (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)