Eating for the Planet

When I was a teenager, I was inspired by Frances Moore Lappe’s book Diet for a Small Planet. I read it as part of my research for the high school debate team; that year the nation-wide topic was how to globally manage scarce world resources. My debate partner and I chose food as the scarce resource on which we wanted to focus. During my research, I learned that people were dying of famine in other parts of the world not because there was insufficient food to feed everybody, but because it was not distributed equitably. I learned that some people consume vastly more of the world’s resources than others do. Lappe showed that eating certain foods high on the food chain–including beef–uses many times more resources than eating foods lower on the food chain, such as poultry, fish, grains, vegetables, seeds, or fruits. Her book argued that a vegetarian can get all the protein they need. She advocated a meat-free diet in order to make more food available to hungry people around the world. It would also be better for our health, she maintained. When I became aware of how our food choices are also moral and spiritual issues, I decided to become a vegetarian as soon as I left home for college. As a student, I often had to defend my choice in the Swarthmore College dining hall; not eating meat was considered strange and extreme behavior by most of my fellow students.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Many decades later, my diet is still mostly vegetarian—in fact, mostly vegan–but not entirely., and I continue to be concerned about the inequitable use of resources around the planet. Today, like most of us who take science seriously, I am also deeply concerned that our unwise use of the world’s resources has led our small planet into an extreme climate crisis. Unless we change our ways, climate change will continue to accelerate catastrophically. For decades I’ve been hearing how the burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change. I’ve thought of this mostly in terms of fuel for cars, homes, and businesses. Only recently, however, have a number of books and films clarified for me that the ways we eat and do agriculture are also significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

I’d like to tell you about a charming and informative book by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, 2007). In her novels, Kingsolver integrates strong characters and good storytelling with a lot of scientific knowledge. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, subtitled A Year of Food Life, is not a novel, however, but a true account of her family’s efforts to live off only locally-grown food for a full calendar year. This didn’t seem possible in Tucson, Arizona, where they were living, so she, her husband, and two daughters moved to a family farm in Virginia. There they grew a huge garden and raised chickens and turkeys. To supplement their home-grown food sources, they bought locally-grown meats, flour, produce, and more.

For years before making the decision, Kingsolver was increasingly aware of how unsustainable the American way of eating has become. In the first chapter, in a section labeled “Oily Food,” she writes that 17% of our nation’s energy is used for agriculture, including the fuel needed to operate farm machinery plus the petroleum products used to make the fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Once the food is grown and processed, enormous amounts of fuel are then used to transport it long distances. She explains: “Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. The amount of energy used to grow and then transport the food we eat is significantly greater than the energy we get from eating the food.” The book advocates strongly for small farmers and shows how they are disadvantaged by global industrial agriculture systems, which undercut prices, use insane amounts of fuel, and provide inferior and unsustainable food products.

Hard facts and ideas such as these are sprinkled throughout the book. These facts would make for difficult reading, except that the larger part of the book is full of family stories and rapturous descriptions of the food they prepared and the meals they created and ate together, as well as recipes for every month of the year, based on what foods are in season each month. I kept turning the pages because of the often-humorous accounts of the challenges, failures, and successes of growing and eating locally-grown food and raising poultry. Her third grade daughter, Lily, starts her own (eventually successful) business raising chickens for eggs and meat. Kingsolver takes on the more difficult task of raising turkeys. In our industrial food system, domestic turkeys don’t breed or brood–these tasks are done for them, mechanically–so their natural instincts have been diminished, and they imprint on humans rather than on a mother turkey. Accounts of Kingsolver trying to help her turkeys breed with each other are laugh-out-loud funny (especially when the first hen tries to seduce her husband). Once she gets the male and female turkeys to mate with each other, then she has to get the hens to brood on their fertilized eggs.

Kingsolver doesn’t insist that every family try the same experiment her family chooses; instead, she proposes that if “every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels.”

Perhaps the most sobering lines in the book, for me, are these, about the true cost of our current food system, including perishable food delicacies shipped from around the globe: [W]e get it at a price. Most of that is not measured in money, but in untallied debts that will be paid by our children in the currency of extinctions, economic unraveling, and global climate change. … Human manners are wildly inconsistent…but this one takes the cake: the manner in which we’re allowed to steal from future generations, while commanding them not to do that to us…. The conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners.” (66-67)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me think harder about my own food consumption and purchasing practices. For years my husband and I have been doing a little gardening in our backyard and next to our driveway, slowly becoming better acquainted with the earth and its bountiful gifts. (See my blog post about the summer we let the butternut squash take over the yard.) But we only grow a few vegetables, and I depend upon store-bought purchases, including weekly containers of organic greens. Feeling uneasy about the plastic boxes they come in and wanting to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle, this summer we’ve been growing more greens in our yard.

We also joined a local CSA (community-supported agriculture). Each week we’ve been picking up our designated selection of locally-grown organic fruits and vegetables, then eating what’s in season. Usually the cost is a bit higher than buying the same items at the grocery store, and sometimes we get items we wouldn’t choose, such as fennel and nectarines. (Both turned out to be tasty.) But we know that most of our money goes to the farmers, whereas when we buy the same items at the store, most of the money goes to the middlemen and to transportation costs, and only a small percent to the people who actually grow the food. Buying at a weekly farmer’s market is an alternative way to get locally grown produce and support farmers directly.

Like most people, I find it hard to face the facts of climate change and to take in the magnitude of the problem. Part of this paralysis is due to a feeling of overwhelm. The problems seem so large and systematic; how can we possibly learn–collectively–how to live in a very different way? We are like the turkeys bred in such a way that they barely remember essential survival skills. But our bodies evolved to live in harmony with nature. Kingsolver’s book helps me see that returning to older, healthier, and more equitable ways of living can be joyful and connect us with gifts we had forgotten are available in life. Although individual action is not enough to change the ways of the world, nothing will change if individuals and families don’t find the courage to begin doing things differently.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

Eating for the Planet: has concern about the health of your body or the planet caused you to change your diet or habits to a way of eating that’s better for the planet?

© 2021 Marcelle Martin

Consider joining me for a Fall 2021 online course starting Tuesday Sept. 7th,

Exploring Spiritual Practices

In this ten week online course led by Marcelle Martin, we’ll experiment with numerous approaches to meditation, prayer, and presence.  Through these experiments, we’ll seek to know more fully the nature of consciousness, our true self, and our connection to God.   We’ll explore how mindfulness, awareness, and communion with the Divine affects not only our inner and outer lives, but radiates beyond us into the world. We will learn which spiritual practices are most suited to each of us at this time.  We will also explore how to make spiritual practices a more integrated part of our daily lives.  Our online class time will include brief presentations by Marcelle, experiencing different spiritual practices, sharing in pairs and groups, and class discussion.  Most of all, it will involve experimenting with various forms of meditation, prayer, and presence. No particular beliefs in God or prayer are required, only a willingness to earnestly try different kinds of practices, notice what we experience, and listen respectfully to the experiences and beliefs shared by others.

Our basic text is Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality, Volume I: Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends (available from QuakerBooks). We will also discuss the Pendle Hill pamphlet Holding One Another in the Light, by Marcelle Martin.

The Exploring Spiritual Practices course fulfills a requirement to apply for the 2022-2023 Nurturing Faithfulness course, which will be offered at Woolman Hill Retreat Center and online starting in September 2022. There are other ways to fulfill that same requirement, including a weekend retreat, or other classes, programs of study, or equivalent experience of a variety of spiritual practices. For more information about the Nurturing Faithfulness program, go to: http://woolmanhill.org/upcomingprograms/nurturingfaithfulness/

Intrigued? Go HERE to read details and register for Exploring Spiritual Practices. 

Curious but not ready to commit just yet? Watch this 3-minute introductory video.   Sign up here for a free introductory webinar where you can sample the course on September 7th.

If we have enough interest, we may offer a Tuesday morning session, in addition to the 7-9 pm (Eastern time) class.

This course is co-sponsored by New England Quakers in partnership with the Beacon Hill Friends House. It is open to people of diverse faiths.

Posted in Quaker Faith Today | 9 Comments

Healing the Disconnect and Going Deeper Together

When I’ve been invited to give a talk, teach a class, or facilitate a workshop or retreat, a powerful inner, creative, spiritual process is often set in motion. In many cases, the process surely begins long before the invitation arrives or the leading is discerned. I know from reading accounts by Friends in other times as well as from conversations with contemporaries that the spiritual process that brings forward a message or teaching from the Spirit has similar elements for many of us. It comes from beyond, takes form within, and finds expression through words, yes, but also much more.

A leading or invitation often compels my attention in a way that causes other things to drop to the background, at least when I’m not busy procrastinating out of fear of public speaking. During the months or weeks leading up to the event, I notice images and dreams that come, as well as outward events and information that seem to resonate with special meaning. Certain scripture passages or quotes, from early Friends or others, come with a kind of intensity. I listen for themes, for important ideas and questions, and for the stories I need to tell.

My tendency is to be shy and introverted. Afraid of being boring, I hate telling the same story to the same person twice. My preference is to receive the elements of a message, teaching, or class, and let them silently become organized within me, often with notes I write in my journal. I’ve learned not to write down a message, but only to make notes (often in the form of a slide or handout) and to trust that a fresh sharing of whatever I say will have more life for the listeners than something drafted in advance and read aloud. (Wanting to be a perfect speaker, I’ve tried reading my talks in the past, and discovered, to my disappointment, that they aren’t as engaging that way.) Without a script in my hand, I’m vulnerable to the possibility of forgetting what I have to say or not finding the right words. However, I’m also a lot more open to the fresh inspiration of the Spirit and able to spontaneously share more of the Life that often flows into and through me on such occasions.

In advance, elders or spiritual companions can be a big help in the process of drawing forth the teaching, ministry, or plan for the event. Before my recent Pendle Hill lecture entitled “Healing the Disconnect” I felt it was essential that I practice telling my stories to others in advance, even at the risk of boring them and embarrassing myself. Four people generously gave of their time for weeks in advance to hear the stories, ideas, concerns, questions, doubts, hesitations, and inspirations that I shared. Their interest drew forth more than I know and helped me find clarity about what Spirit was actually wanting to focus on. Some of their feedback shaped parts of the eventual talk.

A major integration of many elements of my life took place, including spiritual experiences and theology, all of it brought into focus by the pressing issue of how to respond to the realities of the climate crisis, and how to heal the inner and outer disconnects that leave humanity currently so feeble in curbing our destructive behavior. More came to me than could possibly fit into an evening talk, especially a talk that included a guided meditation and sharing in small groups. At the end of the evening, the questions asked by those present drew forth more.

The ways we engage with each other in bringing forward God’s teaching and ministry are essential: the questions we ask, the attention we give, the feedback that mirrors, encourages and helps us go deeper. As we enter this mutual process, we enter into divine love. It’s part of healing the disconnect that exists in all of us. I’m deeply grateful to those who helped me prepare for that talk.

Into the wee hours of the night after I gave the talk, I thought of many, many things I could have said that would have made my points and my answers to questions more complete. But, nonetheless, I had a peaceful sense that I had been faithful. I knew that what had been integrated inside me, in advance, was part of a larger integration and healing that is happening on a collective level and that it’s far larger than one evening’s consideration. It’s a work for all of us to do, and we all need help doing it.

The morning after the talk, my heart immediately went to those who had signed up, or would sign up, for the upcoming Pendle Hill online workshop/retreat I will be facilitating soon, in which I will have the opportunity to help others with the same work of deep inward listening, receptivity, integration, discernment, and expression.

That workshop starts in two days and there’s still room to join! Below is a link to the recording of the May 3rd talk, and also a link to register for the weekend, “Going Deeper Together.”

Healing the Disconnect: A Pendle Hill online evening with Marcelle Martin, May 3, 2021

(The link to the recording is below the description of the talk.)

The root of all of our social and planetary problems lies in our disconnection from our true nature, from the Earth, and from our divine source. We must learn to operate more from the heart and to become more sensitive to the divine Presence that wants to guide us toward re-connection and healing on every level. Each one of us has amazing capacities to help others become more whole and help move society toward a hopeful future. We all have a contribution to make to the healing that is so needed now. In this talk, using stories and short experiential practices, Marcelle Martin will share from her experiences about how we can help each other heal the disconnect that lies at the root of all our challenges. Link to view recording: https://youtu.be/tIa60epzxgo?t=197

© 2021 Marcelle Martin

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

Posted in Quaker Faith Today | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Healing Meditation

During my morning time of prayer and meditation, while listening for guidance, it came to me to make a recording of the guided meditation/prayer that I offered this Christmas Eve, a short version of the Healing Prayer workshop I first offered on Easter Sunday 2020.

I practiced this meditation several times and then recorded it more than once.  However, it’s still not visually or verbally perfect. Nonetheless, I believe it in some measure conveys the divine love and healing power that wants to reach through all of us into the world. I offer it as a gift for the new year.

I pray that it may it be a blessing to you, and that it may help you be a blessing to others.  With love and gratitude for you,

Marcelle

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

About the images in the video: I took the photo of trees, ground, and sky at Woolman Hill Quaker retreat center in Deerfield, MA. Other photos used in the video were uploaded from Unsplash.com, and feature the work of Simon Rae, Denny Muller, Jon Tyson, and Rosie Fraser. The image of Jesus is a detail from the painting “Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (19th century). I made the quilted wall hanging which hangs on the wall, the image of which is at the end of the video and on the About page of this blog.

Exploring Spiritual Practices

online course this fall with Marcelle Martin

This fall New England Quakers in partnership with the Beacon Hill Friends House, will offer a course on Exploring Spiritual Practices taught by experienced Quaker teacher and author Marcelle Marin. This 10-week online course will offer an opportunity to learn about and experiment with numerous approaches to mediation, prayer, and contemplation.
This course fulfills a requirement to apply for the Nurturing Faithfulness program and is an excellent next step for individuals with any level of familiarity with Quakerism who are looking to go deeper with their spiritual practice.  
Intrigued? Watch this 3-minute introductory video, or go here to read details and register.

Exploring Spiritual Practicesa Fall 2021 online course co-sponsored by NEYM and Beacon Hill Friends House, Tuesdays starting Sept 7th

In this ten week online course led by Marcelle Martin, we’ll experiment with numerous approaches to meditation, prayer, and presence.  Through these experiments, we’ll seek to know more fully the nature of consciousness, our true self, and our connection to God.   We’ll explore how mindfulness, awareness, and communion with the Divine affects not only our inner and outer lives, but radiates beyond us into the world. We will learn which spiritual practices are most suited to each of us at this time.  We will also explore how to make spiritual practices a more integrated part of our daily lives.
Our online class time will include brief presentations by Marcelle, experiencing different spiritual practices, sharing in pairs and groups, and class discussion.  Most of all, it will involve experimenting with various forms of meditation, prayer, and presence. No particular beliefs in God or prayer are required, only a willingness to earnestly try different kinds of practices, notice what we experience, and listen respectfully to the experiences and beliefs shared by others.
 
Our basic text is Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality, Volume I: Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends (available in many meeting libraries and from QuakerBooks). We will also discuss the Pendle Hill pamphlet Holding One Another in the Light, by Marcelle Martin.
 
The Exploring Spiritual Practices course fulfills a requirement to apply for the 2022-2023 Nurturing Faithfulness course, which will be offered at Woolman Hill Retreat Center and online starting in September 2022. There are other ways to fulfill that same requirement, including a weekend retreat or other classes, programs of study, or equivalent experience of a variety of spiritual practices. For more information about the Nurturing Faithfulness program, go to: http://woolmanhill.org/upcomingprograms/nurturingfaithfulness/
Spiritual Practice Those who take the course are encouraged to make time for regular daily spiritual practice of twenty minutes or more. During this time, you might explore different practices each week.  In addition, each person is encouraged to attend a meeting for worship each week (online or in person) and, as time allows, to visit other online or in-person opportunities for various kinds of spiritual practice.
 
Prayer Partners Course participants are encouraged to meet once a week outside of class with a small group or prayer partner (via telephone, Zoom, or in-person meetings arranged by you).  This is a time to share with each other your experiences of trying out the forms of prayer taught in class, and a time to hold each other in the Light.
 
Reading     Most weeks a chapter of the basic text will be given as homework to read in advance.  For those with the time, ability, and desire to read more, supplemental texts will be suggested. 
 
Basic Texts: 
Loring, Patricia, Listening Spirituality, Vol I: Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends.
Martin, Marcelle, Holding One Another in the Light, Pendle Hill pamphlet #385.
 
Journal     Course participants are strongly encouraged to keep a journal.  Queries are offered for reflection and journal writing during class and outside of class.  The journal can be a good resource for your reflections at the end of the term.
 
Presentation     During the final session, you will be invited to share a reflection about your experience and insights during the course.  Some may choose an alternate way to share their reflections, such as artwork or short video.
 
Being Community to One Another     The class will become a community in which we enter more deeply into relationship with the Divine through exploring meditation, prayer, and presence.  Our ways of understanding and expressing what we experience will vary.  We will support each other with deep, respectful listening, engaging in spiritual practices together, and holding one another in the Light.  
Go HERE to read details and register.

Curious but not ready to commit just yet? Sign up here for a free introductory webinar where you can sample the course on September 7th.

Below is information about two books I’ve written about the spiritual life.

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Contemplative spirituality, healing, meditation, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Revolutionary Love

I recently read a moving, powerful book that combines the personal, spiritual, and political, to show how, in the life of author Valarie Kaur, they are one.

Kaur was raised in a faith that taught her to “see no stranger,” that is, to recognize and treat each person as part of oneself. She grew up in rural California, part of the third generation in her family to be a U.S. citizen. Yet from early childhood onward, she experienced painful discrimination against her dark skin, female body, and Sikh religion.

As a student at Stanford University she received a grant to record stories of survivors of the massacres that took place during the 1947 Great Partition that separated India and Pakistan. Before she could fly to India for her research, however, the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center towers took place in New York City on September 11, 2001. Almost immediately, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian Americans became victims of hate crimes by white Americans in the United States. On September 15, domestic terrorism affected Kaur in a deeply personal way when a dear family friend she called Uncle Balbir was shot outside the gas station he owned in Mesa, Arizona, while he was planting flowers.

Kaur changed her research project. She and a cousin with a video camera got in a car and traveled all over the country for months to visit communities where hate crimes had taken place. She interviewed the families, and with the video camera documented what had happened. She also grieved with each community.

She was back at Stanford while the United States prepared for war against Iraq, a war that the government justified using false claims. After months of futile anti-war activism, she participated with other Stanford students in a non-violent direct action on the streets of San Francisco on the morning the United States began raining down bombs on Baghdad. The action was designed to stop morning traffic, “to shut down business as usual” and protest the war. The night before the action, Kaur shifted her name from the group not willing to be arrested to the group willing to risk arrest, if necessary. She wrote, “I wanted to give everything I had to this moment, to give my all to the fight.” She was not prepared, however, when the police came to arrest the line of students blocking traffic and she ended up being the one with the microphone, the person who needed to explain both to the police and to the frustrated commuters the reason for the protest. In that moment Valerie Kaur found her public voice, and something amazing happened. Later she became a Yale-educated civil rights lawyer who worked with her filmmaker husband to let the world know about ongoing attacks against religious and ethnic groups in the United States and to tell the stories of those affected by hate crimes.  In her 2018 TED talk she says, “stories can create the wonder that turns strangers into sisters and brothers.” Indeed, her moving stories taught me to respect and appreciate fellow citizens whose lives I had not understood before.

See No Stranger moves back and forward in Kaur’s life, weaving very personal strands with the stories of her religious faith, of communities affected by hate crimes, and of recent social and political events. She tells about confronting sexual and sexist abuse in her own life and family, and shares intimate accounts of finding the love of her life, addressing health problems, and giving birth to her children. She shows how the personal, spiritual, social, and political are all part of a single tapestry, and reveals how addressing the problems in our world requires attention in all areas of life, as well as respect for all persons. Drawing from her religion, her personal experience, and recent events, she suggests that the only way forward is revolutionary love; love for ourselves, others, and our opponents. 

What does revolutionary love look when dealing with people who have perpetrated abuse and violence against oneself, one’s family, or one’s community?  Kaur shows us what love requires and the steps in the process of reconciliation.  She learned that battling bad systems is more effective in creating change than battling bad people, and that bad people have wounds that need, in one way or another, to be tended. Her story is a compelling illustration of what revolutionary love looks like and how to live it.

Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020, Hardcover, 416 pages) is available at half price from QuakerBooks at https://quakerbooks.org/products/see-no-stranger. ISBN: 9780525509097, 

Valerie Kaur’s TED talk: 3 lessons of revolutionary love in a time of rage

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, Stories that Heal, Working for Peace and Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stay With Me

On the night of this year’s Presidential election, I joined three different online vigils with Friends. Four years ago, I had spent many difficult hours alone on election night before the results were clear. This time around, there were again uncertain and disconcerting early results, but because I joined other Friends in prayer and worship, I was much more aware of the presence of God– among us, in the nation, and in the world.

In the days leading up the 2016 election, the polls had predicted a victory for the Democratic candidate, for whom my husband and I had been canvassing door to door. But the polls turned out to be wrong. By the time my husband went to bed that night, the results were making us uneasy. For the next several hours I sat alone on the sofa, my attention on the televised political commentators, switching channels to hear different interpretations of the election results that were coming in. By midnight the news was worse than alarming. The televised faces of the election workers at Hilary Clinton’s headquarters looked stunned and sad.

Wanting the company of my friends, I went to the computer to see what they were saying on Facebook. It was a little comforting to read messages from a few of them and know I was not alone at that hour. By two am, however, none of my friends were posting any more messages. Nonetheless, I could not go to bed until the outcome was clear. I waited another cold, lonely hour.

Then, from across the ocean, came an email from a Quaker friend, Rachel, in Scotland. Morning had already broken in her country. She was surprised by the news and reached out by email, wondering what was happening in my country. We sent emails back and forth, and I no longer felt alone with that night’s shocking news.

This year at our house, in the days running up to the 2020 election, my husband and I both had one or more difficult—or even heated—phone and Zoom conversations with family members who were voting a different way from us, due to their particular religious beliefs or different ideas of what is good for the country. Fortunately, love under-girded those conversations.

We had known that the early election results in 2020 would significantly favor the incumbent since members of his party had been encouraged to vote in person, while the majority of Democrats had chosen to vote through mail-in ballots because of the ongoing pandemic. The Republican-controlled state legislature in our state, Pennsylvania, had refused to allow early counting of the millions of mail-in ballots that had already been received. So we knew that the first election results would skew Republican. Even so, we were surprised by the margin. This was true in lots of other states, too.

On election day 2020, I was happy to learn that I could join other Quakers in worship throughout the day and coming night. My husband and I began with the Pendle Hill morning meeting for worship at 8:30 pm. Later, we participated in an online training to  call voters whose mail-in ballots had been rejected for irregularities. We gave information about how they could cast a provisional ballot at their polling place. Several times during the day, we walked into the park and checked the lines at our local polling place, happy to see many cars and glad there was no evidence of voter intimidation.

Terry and I ate a quiet dinner together before turning on the evening news for our first dose of election results. Early in the evening, I had assumed that I would alternate back and forth between televised coverage of election results and periods of worship and prayer with others. The results that came in on the 6:30 and 7 pm news were unsettling, and I was grateful for the opportunity to join others in worship and prayer. While most in my community are liberal, Quakers fall on different places in the political spectrum. There was almost no partisan speech during any of the online vigils I attended. Though many of us have a strong preference for one party, our prayers were for the country as a whole, for the health of democracy, and for the future of the world.

The 8:30 pm meeting for worship organized by Pendle Hill and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting was a deeply settling experience. In the silence, I released my anxiety into God and felt blessed by the presence of the Spirit among us. When we introduced ourselves at the end, a couple from Canada assured us they were praying with us, which I found comforting. I next spent some time with those gathered in the vigil organized by New England Yearly Meeting, before joining Friends from Grass Valley Meeting in California for the final thirty minutes of their online meeting for worship. It felt very sweet to be united with Friends on the other side of the country, and I carried that sense of sweetness with me as I turned to the 11 pm evening news.

By then, Terry had gone to bed.  I was alone on the sofa when I heard that Ohio had been called for the Republicans, and that Florida was likely to go that way, too. Advance polls had indicated these two big states would be close, but in both of them the Republicans had won a decisive majority. Furthermore, the early returns from many other states, including my own, were less favorable than expected, though there was still much counting to do. I hadn’t expected, at that hour, such uncertainty about how the election would go.

I was grateful I did not have to stay alone in front of the television listening to commentators giving bad news.  Around midnight, for the second time that night, I joined the all-night vigil being held by Quakers in New England, now the only vigil I knew of that was still continuing. In advance, pairs of Friends had signed up to have “care” for each hour of the all-night vigil. Into the silence they generally offered a reading or prayer aloud. It wasn’t clear how many would join during the night, but the plan was that during any given hour there would always be at least two people present. At the top of each hour, the General Secretary of the Yearly Meeting, a lighted candle on his desk, introduced each new pair.

After an hour, I began to feel a craving to hear the latest poll results and the commentary of tv reporters, even though I knew by then that conclusive results would not be available for days to come. As I made internal movements to leave the room and go back to the tv, the words of a Taize chant came to my mind, a version of the words that Jesus spoke in the garden of Gethsemane as he was struggling in prayer to follow God’s will, even to the cross. He had brought his three closest disciples to the garden with him and asked them to “watch and pray,” i.e., to be in a prayer vigil with him as he faced God alone nearby, deeply afraid. Three times when he checked, he found them asleep and woke them up to pray with him.

Stay with me, remain here with me. Watch and Pray. Watch and Pray.”

I began to sing aloud the words of the chant, even though my video remained muted. I felt that God, Jesus, or the inward Guide was telling me not to abandon the vigil, but to stay in prayer with others.

I stayed, but it was hard to do so. I felt deep anguish about the world, about so many terrible problems that had been exacerbated by the current administration rather than helpfully addressed: climate change, the pandemic, racism and xenophobia, foreign relations, sexism, national disunity, and more. Staying in prayer, with God, in the face of these large challenges and with suffering all over the world required me to keep my heart open and feel pain and vulnerability. I wanted to flee to the television commentary. I knew it would probably not offer any comfort at that late hour, but it would distract me from feeling my anxiety and the condition of the world.

Stay with me, remain here with me. Watch and Pray. Watch and Pray.”

I remembered a painting I had seen at my mother’s house and in other places, an image of Jesus revealing his heart surrounded by a crown of thorns, a big loving heart acutely in touch with the pain of the world. He was inviting us to open our sacred hearts, as well, and join him in that place of deeply loving vulnerability.

Terry woke from sleep and joined the vigil, too. At two-thirty am, I felt very sleepy and went to bed still anxious for the future of the world, but knowing I was not alone. God was with all of us, in our suffering and in our hope. God had been at work in my heart that night, opening and clearing it out, so I could be more available to the Spirit in the time to come.

For days I checked the changing numbers as the counting of ballots continued in my state. The Democrats now held the majority, but the margin was still too close to call the state. On Saturday morning, November 7, I joined an extended meeting for worship (lasting from 10:15 am to noon) with Quakers in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, my spiritual community. Again I felt the power of being in worship and prayer with others, in spite of it being online rather than in person.  Again I felt pulled deep within myself to the place where I was aware of the divine Presence with us, active in the world. It was calming, and my heart felt lighter. I knew that whoever won the election, the challenges ahead for our nation and for all nations will be very great, but I also could feel the divine accompaniment that was being poured out for all.

Friends offered several messages in vocal ministry. About twenty minutes before noon, someone reported she had just received a text message from her daughter asking, “Are you dancing in the streets?” It could only mean one thing. Indeed, the election results had been declared. As a state, Pennsylvania had voted for a change in our nation’s leadership. In the streets of Philadelphia, where the United States became a country centuries ago, there soon was dancing in the streets—and in many other places as well.

God is with those who voted for change, and also with those who voted against change, as well as with those who didn’t or couldn’t vote. Divine love is present unconditionally for all of us. We will need to rest in it, receive it, pass it on, and take heart from it as we collectively face the challenges that are still with us, and those to come. I’m happy for the prospect of times to join again with others in prayer and vigil—in the coming days, years, and decades. May we collectively become better and better able—and willing—to stay awake with God in love and anguish as we seek a healing way forward for all.

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

To read an overview of how early Friends experienced the powerful transformation that resulted from faithfully following the Light of Christ through this spiritual journey, see my 2013 blog post entitled The New Birth.

Posted in Contemplative spirituality, Facing Life with Faith, Living in a Time of Pandemic, Quaker Faith Today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

One Nation Under Love

A poem by Ken Jacobsen, a Quaker who lives in Wisconsin:

One Nation Under Love

   it is good to remember

   in this time of political stress,

   we are all already citizens

   of the country of Love,

   in the democracy of Love,

   one nation under Love,

   the Love that was from the beginning;

   and whoever we may choose in our elections,

   Love has already chosen us,

   to heal us, to make us a more perfect union,

   to make us whole in our hearts,

   and in our land.

                    kpj 10/29/20

Today, along with my fellow citizens of the country of Love–people all over the world—I am praying for a peaceful, fair, truthful outcome to yesterday’s election in the USA.  Even more, I am praying that as a nation and as part of the planetary community of Love, we may honestly address the enormous challenges that face us all.

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, healing, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity, Stories that Heal, Working for Peace and Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Interviewing EarthQuaker Carl Magruder

Recently I had the opportunity to interview an extraordinary Friend, Quaker hospice chaplain and traveling minister Carl Magruder.  At the time of our interview, more than 500 wildfires were raging in the state of California, where he lives.  He spoke of his experience of the start of the fires, and addressed the challenging nature of our era—a time of the Great Unraveling that precedes the Great Turning. He explained why he is a Quaker, described his calls and leadings, and shared his experience as a hospice chaplain.  He told me about seeking support for his spiritual gifts and described the help he has received from Quaker elders and his anchor committee, offering the example of how he was supported while preparing and offering the 2020 FGC Gathering morning Bible Half Hours, with the theme of “Jesus as Trickster.”  At the end of the interview, he spoke of his sense of oneness with the world.  An EarthQuaker, he finds God in the world around him.

Carl wonders at the Jack Pine, whose cones only open and germinate in fire. Can Friends be a people of faith on fire? Surrender our fears to God and find new life and vitality?

If you have difficulty with the link, above, try this one: https://youtu.be/iuo5chxzYcg

The recordings of Carl Magruder’s morning Bible Half Hour sessions at the 2020 virtual Friends General Conference Gathering are available online at Carl Magruder Bible Half Hour Sessions FGC 2020

Carl will facilitate the first Sunday afternoon session of a monthly online Bible Series, entitled “Walking With the Bible” offered jointly by Woolman Hill Retreat Center and Beacon Hill Friends House.  The first session is Sunday, October 4th, 4pm EDT, 1pm Pacific time.  For more information, go to: https://bhfh.org/bible-series

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, Following a Leading, Quaker Faith Today, Supporting Spirit-led Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Healing Prayers for the Nation

At my house, for half a year we’ve been watching the evening news daily.  We’ve discovered that doing so fosters an underlying sense of agitation, which makes it harder to retain a calm, clear connection to God’s love and guiding presence.  Our alarming moment in time asks us to make a more deliberate effort to connect with the divine reality, through prayer, worship, meditation, walks in nature, honest and loving conversations, service, and in other ways.  In my Quaker community a couple weeks ago, we experienced an online meeting for worship that was silent for an hour (a rare occurrence for us).  Afterwards, many who participated spoke of a sense of inward healing, release, restoration, and peace.  We felt strengthened by the Spirit to bring our best efforts to the work and witness we are called to in the world.  At home, we’ve decided to spend less time watching news of the world on tv, and more time attending to the Source of life, which can make all things new.

A group from Swarthmore and Chester Meetings has been convening a “meeting for prayer and healing” once a month for several years.  In mid-March of 2020, we started holding the meeting online, twice a month, on the second and fourth Thursdays.  In the silence, everybody turns their attention to the healing power of the divine Light, centering in the eternal oneness in which all is already whole, healed, and in harmony. In the silent prayer, we open ourselves to participate in the always ongoing universal flow of divine healing energy.  When we find ourselves moved to pray for a particular person or situation, we may speak or pray out loud and invite others to join us in our prayer.

Usually in these meetings for prayer and healing, there are requests to hold several particular people in the Light, as well as situations that are on our hearts.  We alternate between silent prayer and vocal prayer.  Usually by the end of the hour, I have a clear feeling that the Spirit has been at work among us, using us for divine purposes.

Those of us who convene these meetings for prayer and healing are feeling led at this time to focus the upcoming sessions–on the second and fourth Thursdays of September and October–to prayers for the healing of the nation and for wisdom for the people of the U.S.A. as we chose our President.  The Nov 3rd election will have significant repercussions for the whole world, and we invite prayers from all.  We request that the prayers be focused on bringing in God’s love, truth, justice, and peace, and that no particular individuals, candidates, or political parties be named.  Our hope is to strengthen the connection to the divine Reality in which the best choice can by made and not to engage in partisan politics during the meeting for healing.  Our expectation is that during this time of prayer, many of us may find spiritual strength to support our urgent work in support of particular candidates and issues during the months before the election.

To take time together to focus on the Spirit rather than politics is to strengthen the spiritual bonds necessary for the best outcome for the whole world.  Keeping our focus on God during our time of prayer opens us to a wisdom and guidance more true than anything being said on tv or in the media.

We take inspiration from words written by a Friend at the very beginning of the Quaker movement, during a time of great political and spiritual unrest in England:

To the present distracted and broken nation: We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against the other . . . but we are for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace, and unity with God and with one another, that these things may abound.

                                                                        —  Edward Burrough, 1659

Below is a prayer written for our time by a contemporary Friend, Ken Jacobsen:

Oh America, Blessed Community
oh America, blessed community,
we see that our civil war
never quite ended;
dear God of our healing,
teach us to end the civil war in our hearts,
to make a just and loving peace within and among us,
to keep growing and growing our more perfect union,
one nation under God,
amen.
                                          kpj 7/5/20

     *     *     *     *     *

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

The next online meetings for prayer and healing will be on Thursday evenings November 26, and December 10  and 24.  We will continue to pray for our nation in this time of transition, and will also welcome other prayer requests. We meet 7:15 to 8:15 Eastern time on Zoom.  To receive a link to join us online, please fill out this form.  It’s important to answer the questions. 

 

The Pendle Hill pamphlet #382, Holding One Another in the Light, by Marcelle Martin (2006) can be ordered HERE.

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, healing, Living in a Time of Pandemic, prayer, Quaker Faith Today, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Within the Vast Wholeness

Three weeks in the Shenandoah Valley helped me settle better into my place on this wide Earth. It was my first trip since the pandemic began. Lack of other recent travel perhaps helped me open more fully to the awesome expanses in what the locals call “God’s Country.”

I went to Virginia to visit my mother. Our initial efforts at distancing in the same house were awkward, but soon we found a good rhythm. Much of the day I stayed in the spacious basement rooms, which open out onto the lawn in back. I frequently walked the ridge of the housing complex where my mother lives, past comfortable new homes to the far end of the roads, where there are still-open hillside spaces, much of it now marked as lots for sale.

Both from the windows of my mother’s duplex and from the streets along the ridge, I enjoyed wide vistas, including remaining farmland. The openness extended miles, ending in mountains, usually topped by puffy ranges of white clouds, but sometimes covered in mist, or gray clouds of rain. On the clearest days, I could see range beyond range.

Many times when my mother and I took our evening walk, we were awed by splendid, enormous displays of color, sunlight, and cloud.

Walking in these open landscapes, I felt I’d been let out of a closed space into something much larger. This spring and summer, most of my outdoor time was spent close to home, or in the nearby park. My husband and I had dug up more of the yard for garden space and planted many new kinds of seeds. With my hands in the earth, I felt more truly how my body is part of the planet. I’d learned how going barefoot in my backyard helps to literally ground me. 

Like most people, I’m used to spending my time in spaces built on a human scale: rooms inside buildings, fenced yards, city streets lined by sidewalks and buildings. In these human-constructed environments, I and my fellow humans see ourselves as large and important. But walking along a high ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, with a vista miles wide in every direction, it was quite evident that my body is a very small moving part of the Earth. Perhaps one reason we often relax in nature is because of the sense it imparts that life actually unfolds on a larger scale than the scope to which we usually limit ourselves.

The evening news on television focuses mostly on human-sized dramas.  My mother and I watched it every night, seeing distressing scenes from around the world.  During the lead-up to the national political conventions, we listened to campaign rhetoric and political commentary that often exacerbated the differences in our political views. One evening when she revealed her intentions for the next election, I responded with anger and heated arguments. What is at stake is deeply connected for both of us to our spirituality and religious beliefs. We have different ideas about which political party better supports life and respects its sacredness. In my view, one party, while claiming to be Pro Life, is accelerating death on this planet in so many ways, allowing increasing pollution of the air, water, soil, atmosphere, and ecology, damaging or destroying essentials required to sustain life both now and for future generations. This party has removed scores of policies designed to protect the environment, and the behaviors it supports are fueling the catastrophes of climate change. Although one political party is accelerating this destruction significantly more than the other, I am sadly aware that our culture as a wholeincluding both major political parties—has not adequately addressed these huge problems facing our country and the world. Enormous forest fires are raging, polar caps are melting, and massive hurricanes are flattening cities.  Yet the media gives much more news time to smaller events and controversies. The voices that could guide us on a healing path are rarely heard.

Taking morning walks along the ridge helped lift me out of a sense of turmoil into a wider perspective. Nonetheless, every day as I walked past new mini-mansions being build on what was recently farmland and forest, I mourned. Several time I climbed up the highest ridge of the housing complex, and looked beyond. On the other side of the ridge, in several directions, I saw other new housing complexes

Everybody wants a comfortable life in a beautiful place. I certainly do.  Yet, when there is no longer any farmland left in this beautiful valley, refrigerated trucks will bring ever more food to feed those who are chopping down trees, turning up topsoil, and settling here. It’s not clear how we will feed feed our exploding human population when there is no longer enough farmland anywhere to grow food for all, or enough fuel to transport it long distances. Standing on the ridge, a small dot in a large landscape, I had a clearer sense of myself as part of a species rather than primarily as an individual. A species that is recklessly, heedlessly destroying the environment that sustains our lives. I am a part of my culture. For all of my life I, too, have participated in ways of living that are destructively unsustainable.

During my walks, I prayed to know how humanity can move forward in a healing way. I prayed for direction and guidance, for a divine voice from a burning bush. I prayed to understand my part in the divine plan.

Those three weeks were a time for sabbath rest. I let my work on various projects slow down. Gradually, my busy mind became quieter, too. It became more clear how the activity of our minds create human-sized mindscapes in the way that our urban and suburban-spaces create human-sized environments. In both our minds and our human spaces, our activity looms large. In a wider physical landscape, and with a more spacious mental terrain, I could better feel the deeper source of life. I sensed more clearly the slow, powerful pulse of life energy that flows through the earth, and through my body and all bodies.  I sensed the presence of divine presence and guidance, and a softening in my heart.

I heard a quiet inward voice saying, “We’ll find a way of forgiving.” It was an invitation to enter God’s peace. It came with a sense that we can only find the way forward from a place of love, forgiveness, and attentiveness to spiritual realities and the deeper energies that sustain life. The peace I found in the wide landscape and in my sabbath time gave me a sense that even at this late hour, it’s not too late to choose a path toward a hopeful future.

Until the time I said good-bye to my mother at the end of three weeks, both of us were still maintaining six feet of distance.  In parting, as we expressed our love for each other, my Mom reached out.  We hugged each other close, heart to heart.

Within the Vast Wholeness: When has time outdoors helped create greater space inside you?

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

For Information About Upcoming Online Webinars and Courses with Marcelle Martin, click HERE.

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

To order multiple copies of either book, postage free, contact us.

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, environmental activism, Facing Life with Faith, Living in a Time of Pandemic, Stories that Heal | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The Power and Potential of Faithfulness Groups

A couple of hours before my faithfulness group met, an unexpected event triggered strong emotions. I had waited a few months for my turn to give a presentation, and I was dismayed to be in such an emotional state when the day came. I had planned to coolly bring a discernment question. In the moment, however, I felt it was important to offer my whole, authentic self to the group and to speak about my distress, which was related to low-paid compensation for my work. It was embarrassing to admit that in relationship to my ministry among Friends, there are moments when I feel sad, afraid, and angry. However, these trusted Friends had been my spiritual companions for a long time. I knew they would listen in a supportive, loving, and helpful way. That day, my freshly plowed-up distress helped me overcome my habit of withholding certain difficult truths and painful emotions.

Later, group members thanked me for being vulnerable and sharing so honestly. I was grateful to them for lovingly holding what I said in their hearts. Their gentle questions helped me to look more deeply into the causes of my distress and also, eventually, to affirm my path, even with its difficulties. By the end of my time in the group’s focus, I was able to see more clearly and deeply appreciate the larger context of divine love and care in my life. I felt deeply grateful for the freedom I’ve had in my life to follow my call. That time as the focus of my faithfulness group was very healing. It freed me to move on from my distress to my next steps, with a grateful heart.

Faithfulness groups (by a variety of names) have provided an immensely helpful support to me in carrying out a call of spiritual nurture to individuals and communities. Four years ago, I felt a leading to share as widely as possible the practice of faithfulness groups (also called mutual spiritual accountability groups or peers groups).  I’ve done so in a variety of ways, including the publication of A Guide to Faithfulness Groups. A web page about Faithfulness Groups contains links to many kind of helpful resources, including videos, documents, and an audio recording. 

Members of a faithfulness group.

Below is some text from A Guide to Faithfulness Groups (from pages 67-69) about

The Potential of Faithfulness Groups.

Human beings are created with the capacity to be filled with divine love, to live in harmony with God’s will, and to be dedicated to contributing to the greatest good that is possible. We have spiritual senses that can tune us into the loving guidance and energizing power of the Spirit. Faithfulness groups encourage their members to greater boldness in listening and responding to God’s call. For many, this results in a greater willingness to speak truth clearly and an increased ability to love, forgive, and serve others. Some people find they are called to make radical changes or to take great risks for the sake of manifesting God’s love, truth, and justice. A faithfulness group can make God’s work possible by supporting the careful discernment of such a call and helping members make required changes and take the necessary steps. Often, the support and participation of many is needed for faithfulness to become possible.

In our time, we are being called to shed our overemphasis on independence and to focus more on life lived deeply with and for each other. In faithfulness groups, as we open authentically to each other and more trustingly to the divine Presence, we soften our hardened, self-protective boundaries and discover more fully the greater love that unites us with one another in the wholeness of God. Quakers have often had the experience they refer to as a “gathered meeting” in their meetings for worship, an experience of collectively being drawn into a deeper union with one another in the Spirit. This experience can also happen in the silences and prayerful accompaniment of a faithfulness group. Together, members learn to sense the Spirit and hear more clearly the truth of God’s guidance for each and for all. The more people practice this skill with each other, trustingly and whole-heartedly, the better able they are to access this state in other situations, with other people, including the wider group of their faith communities. Faithfulness groups cultivate capacities that are growing in the human race and that can become more accessible to all.

In certain periods in history, it is exceedingly difficult for individuals or groups to go beyond the norms of their times. But at other times, the winds of the Spirit can move powerfully through groups of attentive, faithful people who mutually support each other. It is possible for human beings to waken from the trance of cultural norms, cultivate spiritual sensitivity, and work together to create societies that encourage a new way of life on earth. In our time, this can happen more rapidly than ever before and on a wider scale. It is possible for humanity to live into a hopeful future as we face the enormous challenges and changes that are present and coming in our time. In faithfulness groups, we can help each other activate potentials of the Spirit that we did not previously believe were possible, abilities to receive divine knowledge, to heal, and to connect with other people and the planet on deep spiritual levels. There is great evolutionary potential in small groups of people meeting regularly to help each other pay attention to the Spirit, waken to the Presence of God, fully incarnate the Light of Christ within, and take the leaps of courage and faith that will help us move in the direction of the new and renewed ways of living to which we are being called.

The Power of a Faithfulness Group © 2020 Marcelle Martin

For Information about the upcoming free online webinar about Faithfulness Groups as well as courses with Marcelle Martin, click HERE.

A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.

Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)

Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder.

Posted in Contemplative spirituality, Facing Life with Faith, Quaker Faith Today, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments