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Receiving the Light

 If you keep on waiting, even for a bus, it feels if it will never

 come. But just relax and lo!  It appears and you have to

 scramble on. But it is easier to relax if you are better prepared.

 If I get up early enough to wander  round the garden, delight in

 the flowers I pick, read some Quaker Faith & Practice and still

 drive slowly to meeting, my attitude is calmer, more welcoming,

 more open, more loving.

 I know this, yet still so often fail to do it.


 St John of the Cross, one of Christendom’s greatest mystics,

 has advice for when the light just will not come. ‘What we must

 do in the dark night,’ he writes,‘is leave the soul free and

 unencumbered, at rest from knowledge and from thought. We

 must not trouble as to what to think or what to meditate –

  be content, rather, to wait on God peacefully, attentively,

 without anxiety. Not straining to experience or to perceive him.

 Such efforts only disquiet the tranquillity granted to the soul in


 Rosemary Hartill and Vera Dolton [dialogue], Faith into

 Action: All Journeys have a Beginning, The Friend,

 3 August 2007


 Discernment is a bit like wisdom: we sense what it means, but

 we get a bit stumped if we have to explain it or describe it. It

 means sorting out right from wrong. It is a process rather than a

 result, but we use it to represent a variety of different processes:

 or at least what we do in groups this size, and larger; what we

 do in smaller groups (like our own meetings) and what we do

 individually, in private….

  It means listening to God. That’s a problem for many of us as

 we have not found God speaks to us. But we do still have to

 listen to discern. The voice – whether of God, of the Spirit, of the

 leadings of the centred group or the deeply grounded person –

 will come. That is our experience, and it’s inevitable that we

 have different ways of experiencing it and describing that



 We have different ways of testing these experiences. There is a

 good description in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Spirit

 passage [the fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,

 goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control], and

 Friends, along with many other Christians, have used versions

 of this over many centuries. In other faiths and traditions too,

 there are similar accounts of the way in which people have

 heard and tested

  Christine Davis and Douglas Rennie [dialogue] (2007),

  Introduction on Discerning the Way,

The Blackbird

 The blackbird may have evolved in a certain way and just be the

 result of evolution, but on a wet day, when there are grey skies,

 and when the raucous sea-gulls have finally fallen silent and the

 drills have paused in the continuous digging up of the road and

 the traffic slides by more smoothly than usual, the song of a

 blackbird can open depths of meaning, can reveal other aspects

 of being alive.  But we keep these things secret, or write them

 in poems which most people ignore, because we do not have a

 shared vocabulary in which to explore ‘other aspects of being

 alive’, of the soul, of the Spirit….


 There is something within each of us that if nurtured may grow;

 something that shines and lights up the way.  There is a voice

 that needs to be heard….But often it seems that we are afraid

 of the voice that is our own.  It is as though we have to talk with

 the perfect intonations of the collective language, since

 otherwise [we will be pointed out] as different and we may not

 be accepted….We do not always recognise our own voice….

  Of course there needs to be a shared language, but this does

 not mean that all the words need to be immediately recognised.

 What are required are the trust to speak and the confidence to

 listen. There needs to be a willingness to share the same space

 and to seek meaning together.

 Harvey Gillman (2007), Consider the Blackbird –

 Reflections on Spirituality and Language, London: