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Quaker, French-speaker, educator, anti-racist; Southern-born & raised, and talking enthusaist.


This God I'm learning to yield to.

I've sometimes mused how liberal Quakerism is often like a twelve-step program in its spirituality or perhaps the other way around.   After all, in liberal Quakerism we all have a "God of our understanding" and for non-theists, even those who use the term God, that God isn't a deity at all.  In twelve step programs, that God, I've been told, can be anything. I've even heard some say it can be a door knob if that god works!  Others have used the acronym Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.) or Group of Drunks/Drug Addicts.  I've heard many a story where someone couldn't fathom the idea of a deity or divinity, so they relied on the collective wisdom, experience and love of a group of recovering people to help them heal spiritually.  I know Quakers for whom God doesn't work for them, but who find power in a Quaker meeting nonetheless.  It's not a wonder to me that there are a number of recovering people (alcoholics, co-dependents, drug addicts, sex addicts) who find quite a bit of comfort and meaning in Quaker meetings.
My concept of God is an omnipresent spirit that abides within me and others, and whose mark is in all creation.  Everything is made by God, designed by God.  This God is the embodiment of Love, though that Love is also beyond my understanding.  I don't see the love as necessarily that which makes me feel good or which will make everything go my way.  But I understand that love to be one that endures, that is faithful, and that in all things, in all trials and tribulations, is ever present and lasts.  The more I yield to that love, the more I act from that love, the more I come into unity with that love and therefore in unity with God.  I don't believe that saves me from the fire. Rather, I believe that it stays with me whether or not the fires consume me.   This love didn't save Jesus from the cross, so I don't expect any difference for me.  However, this love made a miracle out of the cross and for generations to come would speak to millions of God's love and enduring compassion for his creation.
The problem I have had most of my life is learning to turn my will over to God's care.  Before I got married to Russell, we went through a long process with both West Knoxville Friends in TN and Homewood Friends in Baltimore to reach clarity on our desire/call to be wed under the Friends' care.  This required Friends to get to know us and get a sense of our relationship, and for the two of us to make sure that we were spiritually ready to allow these meetings to care for our marriage. That meant allowing them to step in when things were going awry (and at one point, West Knoxville Friends did so)!   It also meant allowing them to help shoulder the burden of marriage, supporting us when we weren't clear how to act, behave or move forward in our relationship.  They were to be our touch stones in marriage.  I imagine turning my will and my life over to the care of God in such a light.
I confess, though, to the same fear that I've had for my entire spiritual journey.  While I've studied Quakerism at length, and have spent some time in the Bible; while I've prayed in silence and with candles and incense; while I've been baptized in the name of the trinity and asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me, I've never trusted God to come into life and yield to his will.  I've held on strongly to my own will through much of my life, trying to control every aspect of my environment. I've praised God when things went well, and sometimes when they did not; but, mostly, I was angry or sullen when things didn't go my way. Lately, I've found that my anxiety has a lot to do with not trusting that God will make all things right.  I've been told that it takes time, and that once I make the decision to turn my life over to God, it doesn't all end there. There is work to be done.  That is where I have stopped in the past.  From the age of 12 when I first remember giving my life to Jesus until the age of 41, I have avoided the most painful part of giving my life over to the Light and allowing the Light to do what must be done.
So, what must be done?  I've made the decision, again, to submit. To yield to the Divine Light Within and to be faithful to what it would have me do.   That means, in my experience and understanding, giving time to God in prayer and silent waiting each day, every day, allowing the Light to search me and show me what must be changed, what must be and what must not be.  It means not doing this alone, but attending meeting for worship regularly as well as other meetings where I may find encouragement, strength and hope to move beyond any patterns and behaviors which are not in keeping with the Light.   This is the part I've dreaded the most, but with the help of people who've done this themselves, whether Quaker or not, I believe I can find that spiritual experience, that psychic change or, as Jesus named it, that spiritual rebirth for which I've longed.



  1. I attend a 12 step group and used to attend quakers. There are similarities with the approach to God between the two. I found quakers spiritually nourishing.

  2. As Sufi Sam Lewis put it, "God is not a concept of God."

    So, all these people who are benefiting from something -- but wouldn't want to call it 'God' -- I wouldn't say that "God doesn't work for them" but rather "They don't like the idea of God." Evidently God likes the idea of them...

    I wanted to invite you to join in 'kwakerskripturestudy.blogspot (.com)' because only another active participant can help keep the thoughts flowing, & you seem to have a few.

    Mainly, though, to suggest comparing notes on how this 'my will vs God's' thing works out in practice. I mean, they aren't either "different things" or "the same"; and it's a little tricky groping for where that edge lies.

    Comment? ---

  3. Two things stood to me: "The more I yield to that love, the more I act from that love, the more I come into unity with that love and therefore in unity with God."

    "Lately, I've found that my anxiety has a lot to do with not trusting that God will make all things right."

    'Friend, thou speak to my condition', as Quakers would once have said (and hopefully still do, somewhere...)

  4. "Hello Kevin-Douglas-of-your-understanding,

    This is God-of-my-understanding. Pleased to meet you. (It's difficult to translate a "getting to know you more seriously" but that's my intention.)

    Wherever you are, I'm the best you have to offer within you. It's very hard sometimes, but I think you know what the best you have to offer is, and it's not always suffering. Sometimes it's absolute joy and partnership and nonjudgment of others and yourself and...let me in, please. I'm a good energy.

    I'd like to know you more conversationally, together, intentionally. No problem if you are limited . That's what I deal with! I'm good at it. Trust me. I won't make any sense to you. Find out more about who I am anyway. You don't have to see me as one thing or another. It's okay if you don't see me clear at all. Friends can be like that. Do you want to?


  5. This is also one of the hardest things for me about being a Christian. And I really think it has a lot to do with the Gay experience.
    When I was younger, growing up in an evangelical background, I was always open to the spirit. Any thing that seemed like it was outside of my normal cognition, every nudge in my soul I attributed to God, and I followed it.

    But when you see fellow spirit aware, spirit filled people, treat there fellow human beings with such disdain. When you've read your Bible and seen how people who were closer to God then you've ever been, believe that viewing and treating people in bigoted, harmful ways is God's will. And when you've watched people manipulate others loyalty to Jesus into harming their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and call it LOVING: suddenly it becomes hard to trust the human ability to perceive God and his will anymore.

    You never want to do to others what you've seen done to yourself or people you care about.

    This is actually why Quakerism seems so appealing to me.
    Quakerism has not been tainted in my personal experience with the same spirit of zealous callousness towards gay people or others, that I've witnessed in my Church and in other Christian denominations.
    And yet at least in theory, Quakers are still wide open to the experience of the spirit. They still believe we can open our hearts to the Spirit of God. That we can know it is him and follow his leading.

    It is also for me, the scariest thing about Quakerism. I don't want to leave myself so vulnerable; and perhaps leave others vulnerable as a result of my influence.

    All that to say I understand how you feel.