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

A free online workshop on Healing Prayer with Marcelle Martin will be offered two times in September:   

Sunday, Sept 20 (4 pm ET, 1 pm PT, 9 pm GMT),  and  Monday, Sept 21 (1 pm ET, 10 am PT, 6 pm GMT).

To receive a Zoom link to participate, please fill out this FORM

The next online meetings for prayer and healing will be on Thursday evenings September 10 and 24, and October 8 and 22.  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 , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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 , , , , , , , , | 13 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’d 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

Where Does Healing Begin?

I’ve struggled with the sense of being led to write this blog post.  Surely, God, others are better qualified, have more to say, have greater wisdom on the subject of racism and white supremacy!  No doubt others are better able to help us find the way toward healing?  Yes, of course, I hear.  But this is a task for everybody, not just the most qualified.  

Since the pandemic was declared in March, my husband and I have been watching both national and world news.  On Monday May 25, 2020, along with the rest of the nation—and later the world–we were stunned and horrified to watch video footage of a Black man being murdered on a street in Minneapolis, a policeman pressing a knee down on his neck, calmly looking into the video camera of the young bystander who was recording the event. Equally terrible murders of those in police or state custody and in the hands of mobs have been happening in this country for centuries, but until recently it has been rare to see video footage of such an event.  In the days following George Floyd’s death, the tv news reported protests, looting, and burning of buildings in Minneapolis and soon in other cities, as well.

Photo by Tony Zhen on Unsplash

At dinnertime on Friday, May 29, I saw on television that events at the peaceful protests in nearby Philadelphia had turned violent. Police cars had been set on fire, along with a Starbucks beside City Hall. A line of shielded police had slowly moved both the peaceful protesters and violent agitators farther and farther away from City Hall. The crowd began to move into nearby streets. In the next hours, we saw live footage of looters breaking glass storefronts and carrying armloads of stuff out of the stores, setting fire in some places. Similar events were taking place in cities across the nation. By midnight, when the news ended, firemen were pouring streams of water on a tall burning building in Center City; the fire had spread to two other buildings nearby.

Like many other liberal white people in the nation, my husband and I were in sympathy with the peaceful protesters. We would have joined them if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic. Even violent outrage seemed understandable, although counter-productive. To us, however, the looting seemed baffling. We discovered a 15-minute video made by Trevor Noah that was very helpful. Entitled “George Floyd and the Dominos of Racial Injustice,” he spoke of white privilege and how the social contract by which people are supposed to live is so consistently violated in the experience of people of color. They themselves are looted every day, he said.

After the pandemic began, I had signed up for a five-week online course on Healing in the Gospels, offered by the Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia.* Each week we looked at one or two of the healings recorded in the gospels, focusing primarily on those in Mark. We examined several layers of healing, not only physical healing or release from evil spirits, but also healing from oppressive and injurious social structures. We spoke about the social laws that declared people with leprosy or menstruating women “untouchable.” We discussed how Jesus addressed both the physical and social healing needed.

I have long been moved by the story in Mark 5:25-34 of the woman who had been continuously menstruating for twelve years. She had spent all her money on so-called healers who had been unable to cure her. She was now not only ill, but also poor. As an “untouchable,” she was forbidden to touch the rabbi Yeshua, whose healing gifts she had heard about. Nonetheless, she joined a crowd gathered around him, got near, and took hold of his robe. The story is remarkable for many reasons. One is that Jesus did not see her or intend to heal her. The healing simply flowed out of him. He knew it had happened because he felt a power leaving him, and stopped to find out who had touched him. When the woman told her story, Jesus did not chastise her for violating the social and religious laws; instead he praised her faith and called her “daughter.”

The last session of the gospels course took place after weeks of nation-wide and then global protest of racist social structures. We looked at the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30. Just before the encounter happens, authorities in Jewish territory have been increasing their challenges of the unconventional behavior of Jesus and his disciples. Needing a break, to rest and pray, Jesus is tired and has traveled out of Jewish territory. A Greek-speaking Syrophoenician woman, whose child is possessed, has heard about his healing abilities and interrupts his quiet retreat. She comes to request that he heal her little girl.

She belongs to a group of people that Jews of the time disdainfully referred to as “dogs.” Knowing this gave our class a new lens to look at what happened in the exchange between the woman and Jesus. I was brought up believing that Jesus was always perfect from the beginning. Yet he responds to her request with an ethnic slur. His idea of himself at that point is that his mission is to the Jewish people only (‘the children of the House of Israel”), not to non-Jews like her. He doesn’t want to waste his gifts on others.

It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” he tells her.

The Syrophoenician woman responds in a remarkable way. She doesn’t dispute his idea about his mission or protest about his rude slur. Wanting healing for her daughter, she lets that go. Instead, she challenges him another way.

Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” she says.

Like the woman healed of the issue of blood, this woman draws a healing from Jesus. She has taught him something, and he acknowledges that she is right. “For this saying,” he tells her, “you may go your way—the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

I once heard a scholar explain that the Greek word Jesus used in this passage for “saying” is “logos.” Logos means more than just a wise answer or saying. In early Christian writings (which were originally in Greek), the word was used to signify the principle of God active in Creation. It’s the word used in John’s gospel to describe the Wisdom of God, which incarnated in Jesus. So Jesus is acknowledging that with her response, the woman has taught him some divine wisdom. The healing God intends extends beyond the boundaries set by religious and social authorities and biases; it is meant for everyone.

One of the primary things that this passage of Mark teaches me is that even Jesus needed help to examine his limited self-concepts and ethnic prejudices. This passage gives a model of Jesus having his biases challenged and changed. This is a model for all of us.

Western civilization is possessed by many evil spirits, traumas, injuries, and illnesses. Divine and human healing of all kinds is needed. We must look inside ourselves, face the racism that has been ingrained and internalized in all members of society, and see the horrific consequences. We must examine our biases and prejudices. Those who have been shielded by social privileges must learn more about how this privilege has been used to oppress people and to keep the privileged from knowing the real effects of collective beliefs, behaviors, social policies, and laws.

In the 1960s, during another time of major social unrest over oppression of black people, James Baldwin wrote The Fire Next Time, in which he describes his upbringing in Harlem and the terrible dilemma that faced him and all young black men as they grew out of childhood. He does not mince words in talking about the horror of white supremacy and its effect on his people. Yet he concludes his essay not only with warning, but also with words of invitation to all people to participate in healing:

Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise. If we—and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others—do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!

Last week, on PBS, I watched “I Am Not Your Negro”, a powerful documentary based on writing by James Baldwin about the lives and assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. The documentary includes powerful clips from an interview he gave on the Dick Cavett show. It also provides images to illustrate the horrific history of oppression of Black people in the United States. He insists that the idea of a “Negro” is a creation of the white people who have denied the full humanity, rights and dignity of people they have shamefully oppressed.

As can be seen in this short trailer for the movie, Baldwin insists that racial healing in the United States requires white people to stop being shallow and ignorant, and to see inside ourselves the truth of our prejudices and the way we project onto others.  

It’s a painful, humbling, and necessary task. Even Jesus needed to face and overcome his prejudices.

Looking inside ourselves and learning the truth about systemic racism are necessary steps, but many steps are called for. Each one of us must seek individually and collectively to learn how God is calling us to participate in truth, justice, and healing. Quaker Voluntary Service, a Quaker organization “living at the intersection of transformational spirituality and activism” has created a web page to help all of us think about our next steps.  It’s entitled What is your right next step?  It offers links to resources to follow up in whatever ways each of us is called to action.

Where do we begin healing?

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

*The Alternative Seminary is a program of biblical and theological study and reflection designed to foster an authentic biblical witness in the modern world.  

Posted in Living in a Time of Pandemic, Radical Christianity, Stories that Heal, Working for Peace and Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Power of Healing Prayer

We all have the capacity to be channels of powerful, divine, healing love.  The more we practice this, the more we are likely to experience that power flowing through us to a world in need.

As a child I said prayers, alone in my bed.  For a while I believed that if I said the same prayer each night, in the same words, my prayer would be granted.  Before I went to sleep I asked for long, happy, healthy lives for all my family members. 

In the following decades, family members faced various health and emotional challenges, some of us bigger challenges than others, but on the whole we were mostly healthy and happy.  In my mid-fifties, I found myself silently saying to God,  “Thank you, you have answered those prayers.”  Then I realized I had inner knowing that something was about to change.  Soon, my father was diagnosed with an illness that resulted in his death several years later.

Although I had a belief, early, in the effectiveness of prayer, it wasn’t until well into my adult life that I had began to actually feel the healing power of prayer.  Several times, I felt other’s prayers helping to release me from fear or painful emotional states, or giving me energy and courage in difficult circumstances.  And sometimes, while praying for others, I could feel strong energy moving through my hands (whether that person was nearby or far away.)  In a few cases, it seemed that physical healings experienced by me or by others were connected to prayer.

One autumn morning, during an overnight retreat with my small deeply-bonded Quaker community, we were called upon to pray for the beloved friend of one of our members, a woman who was scheduled to have an invasive surgery to remove a large tumor in her head.  Our prayers for this distant person were heart-felt.  After a period of silence and spoken words, a huge gust of wind circled the building, sending a swirl of golden leaves past the windows.  The prayer was finished. We felt that something had happened, but we didn’t know what.  Later we learned that during that same morning, in a distant city, that woman had felt something change inside her.  She didn’t know what.  Nor had she known we would be praying for her.  A couple days later, however, when she returned to the cancer center to be measured for her head surgery, they could no longer find any sign of the tumor.  She remained cancer-free for a couple more years.

In the Scriptures and probably in every culture, we can find many accounts of mysterious and miraculous healings.  At the same time, we probably all know people who have intensely prayed for a physical healing for themselves or others who did not experience the kind of healing they wanted; we may have experienced this ourselves.  Many people have told me that in childhood they prayed for a dying grandparent or another loved one, who died nonetheless.  This left them doubting the existence of God. 

There are a multitude of ways to conceive of the Eternal Being and also innumerable ways to pray.  There are many different beliefs about the power prayer can have–or doesn’t have.  Opening ourselves to be channels of divine healing requires humility.  Although we may have strong ideas about what we want to happen, and these ideas may be good, we must let the mysterious power of God come through us without being able to know or control exactly what form healing might take.  Even though so much about healing prayer is out of our control, the power is real.  We are all invited to be channels of divine healing for others and for the world.   If we open up to do so, much healing can happen–emotional, spiritual, physical, social, environmental–especially when we unite in doing this collectively.  Society itself and human culture can undergo profound transformation and healing as more people join together in praying for collective wholeness and well-being, not only for ourselves but for the planet.

In this time when people everywhere are experiencing fear, loss, illness, sadness, overwhelm, and disruption of their lives, I pray that more and more of us will turn to God and open ourselves to become channels of the divine healing Love that wants to reach, teach, guide, and heal us now.

Nothing can stop the silent flight of prayers

Later in the summer (2020) I will be holding a free online workshop on Healing Prayer

Are you willing to allow God’s healing power to flow through you to others and the world?  In this interactive online workshop, we will practice becoming more receptive to the divine healing available to all, and try out a few different forms of prayer, including praying with a Scripture story of a healing done by Jesus.  In pairs and small groups, we’ll share our experiences with one another.

There is no charge for the Saturday workshop (which is a repeat of one offered in April).  Fill out the registration form below, and you’ll be sent a Zoom link to connect with the workshop via computer, tablet, iphone, android, or land line phone. 

Also

A six-week online course on Healing Prayer  following after the webinar

Please indicate when you register for the workshop if you’re interested in receiving information about the 6-week online course and whether you prefer 7 pm Eastern time or 10:30 am Eastern time (4 pm or 7:30 am Pacific; 10 pm or 3:30 pm London.)

Marcelle Martin is the author of Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey, A Guide to Faithfulness Groupsand the Pendle Hill pamphlet, Holding One Another in the Light. A member of Swarthmore Friends Meeting, she has led workshops at retreat centers and Quaker meetings across the United States. She was the resident Quaker Studies teacher at Pendle Hill for four years and is a core teacher for the 9-month program, “Nurturing Faithfulness.” For many years she has helped to facilitate regular meetings for prayer and healing. On her blog, A Whole Heart (awholeheart.com), she shares inspiration to help us be all God has created us to be. She lives in Chester, PA with her husband, Terry.

To receive a Zoom link to participate in the May 23rd free online workshop on Healing Prayer, 1 pm Eastern time, please fill out this form and press “Submit.”

If your answers don’t appear above after you click on “submit,” ie if this form does not seem to work for you, please Contact Us to send your email address to Marcelle.

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

Holding One Another pamphlet cover a

man arms outstretched red sky shah-rokh-AMwEpSGALSU-unsplash

 

Posted in All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, Living in a Time of Pandemic, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity, spiritual practices, Stories that Heal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Beginning Our Self-Isolation

Early in the first week in isolation, Terry and I felt shaken, both by the changes that were going on so quickly, inside our house and in the world, and by new pressures on our marriage.

As a couple, we began our self-isolation (or self-quarantine) on Friday evening, March 13, 2020. For weeks we had been following the news about the spread of the new coronavirus in other countries, and the first reports from the USA. Our government was pooh-poohing the danger. At first Terry was, too. After all, thousands of people die every year from the flu. Surely the news reports were sensationalism, he thought. But I, at least, was getting enough information to stock up on some extra food supplies, mostly bags of dried beans.

In the second week of March, however, in written news, we started seeing detailed analyses of how the virus had spread in other countries and projections of what rate it would soon be spreading in ours, the severity of the crisis depending upon whether or not we took serious measures to control the spread. Some sources urged us to help “flatten the curve. By reducing the rate at which the virus spread, we could lessen the severity of the burden on our health care system.

Terry, now taking the danger more seriously than I, urged me to cancel my trip to California. I prayed about it and still felt drawn to go. But three nights in a row, in the middle of the night, I found myself awake and anxious. 

On Wednesday, March 11 the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, saying that the coronavirus epidemic would reach all countries on the globe. The president of our country and his aides were still minimizing the danger, but by Thursday, March 12, some big organizations in the US had decided that stringent measures were necessary. Terry explained to me that if the National Basketball Association had suspended its season and the NCAA basketball tournament was canceled, that meant the danger of mass contagion must be great, since multi-million-dollar businesses would not stop their revenues for anything less than a severe threat. In the Philadelphia area, reports of possible exposure by staff or students at certain schools led to the first school closures. Online we found more information and detailed analysis. Two nearby workshops I was scheduled to facilitate during the second half of March were postponed. I canceled my trip to California.

By Thursday night, March 12, we had read enough to be convinced that it was time for isolation, both to protect ourselves (we are both over 60) and to protect others in case we had already caught the virus (which we couldn’t know because the incubation period without symptoms can be long.) We decided it would be okay to one last time attend our regularly scheduled, sparsely attended Meeting for Prayer and Healing, held at local Chester Meeting.  Maintaining large distances between us and refraining from hugs or the laying on of hands, we found ourselves drawn into a deep silence, in prayer. I took a long lingering look at my friends that night as we left the meetinghouse, wondering when we would meet together in person again, and if we would all be together then. 

After we got home, we decided we’d do some last outside errands the next day, and then begin our self-isolation.  However, many others had also become convinced that same day of the seriousness of the crisis. By 8 am the next morning, stores were running out of cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Terry called me from the parking lot of the nearest large grocery store. He said the lot was jammed with cars and he didn’t have time to shop because he was expected to help out at the home of his best friend, who is ill.

Going online immediately to order cleaning supplies and food, I discovered that even online most disinfectants were sold out, and many types of food were scarce, tooAfter hours spent that Friday morning shopping online, I stepped out into the sunshine to walk to the pharmacy. The birds were chirping; I heard them more clearly than usual. The world seemed different, but I realized that it was not the world, but I, who had changed dramatically. I had taken in a new understanding of reality; understanding that a pandemic was unfolding that would have serious, painful consequences for our society and for many communities, families, and individuals, including people I know and love.

At our small local pharmacy, there were only a few customers. I waited as they filled my prescription, and meanwhile I bought two small bottles of 70& alcohol (the limit), one small bottle of hand sanitizer, and some sugar-free cough drops. (All of these items had been “Out of Stock” when I tried to order them online that morning). I paid with a credit card and was not eager to touch the plastic pen used by every customer who signed the key pad. I felt awkward and embarrassed as I wrapped the pen in a tissue before signing my name. After leaving the pharmacy, I looked in the windows of the grocery store nearby and decided not to stand in line with the crowds of people congregating with full shopping carts.

Terry spent most of the day with his friend, knowing it would be the last time they’d be together in person for a while. By the time he was ready to attempt another grocery run, he had heard that there were empty shelves in the nearby stores. So he drove out beyond the suburbs until he found a store that still had food (though no toilet paper, bleach, or alcohol wipes).

After Terry and I both arrived home, we showed each other the supplies we’d gathered, pleased with ourselves. Then we began a new, more vigorous round of wiping doorknobs, counters, faucet handles, etc. Terry’s mother had raised her sons to clean very thoroughly, including mopping floors in a certain way. I was brought up by a father who taught us emergency-preparedness. During my elementary and middle school years my father was worried about nuclear bombs, and I’d taken a workshop with the Girl Scouts on creating a family emergency shelter. Terry and I both think the other person is a bit obsessive about the particular areas in which we were trained as children, but on Friday the 13th these were helpful and complementary skills as we began our isolation for a period of time whose duration is unknown.

That first evening, we felt competent. We watched a movie and ate popcorn.

The next morning, however, we quarreled about something minor. That made us realize we were more affected by the pressures of our new situation than we had realized. This was sobering. After all, we had only just begun.

Beginning Our Self-Isolation: What happened as you learned about the pandemic and contemplated ways your life would need to change? What has that experience been like?

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

Do you have a sewing machine? Here’s a way to help out, making DIY masks, helpful for seniors or others until the supply of medical masks becomes adequate.  Some suggest putting a washable cloth mask over a medical mask, if you have one, because the cloth mask can be washed.  These masks need to be washed and kept dry.  There’s a link to research studies of which fabrics make the best filters and are most breathable. https://www.drstreicher.com/dr-streicher-blog/2020/3/a-surgeon-sewing-a-surgical-mask

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.)

Posted in Facing Life with Faith, Living in a Time of Pandemic | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Creating Loving Community by Supporting Faithfulness

When I prayed about my Pendle Hill lecture in advance–held it in the Light and listened inwardly for God’s guidance–two strong messages came to me.  The first was to let the event BE what it was talking about.  This meant that I needed to invite my community to support my faithfulness.  It meant letting myself be vulnerable and admitting to many people that I was in need of their help.

So, I did.  I spoke with my faithfulness group, and they helped draw out more about my growing edges in faithfulness.  I enlisted my husband’s help several times as I prepared. He invited me to reflect on my intentions and consider how best to help the group experience what I would be talking about.  I invited a member of my meeting’s oversight committee for my ministry to serve as my elder during the talk; she sat near me and held me and the gathering in the Light.  Eight days beforehand, I stood up at Swarthmore Meeting during the time for prayer requests, and said I was in the “high anxiety” stage before the lecture.  I asked my faith community to hold me in the Light.  Afterward, I was deeply moved that numerous people let me know they would do so.  Several offered encouragement and reassurance; some spoke of their own experience preparing for a talk.  One member of my meeting told me that when the college students she teaches are nervous about giving a talk, she tells them, “Someone may benefit from what you have to say.”  Her words spoke to my heart and reminded me that I didn’t need to strive for some ideal of an inspired speaker.  I needed, instead, to think about offering something that might be helpful to those listening.

Seeking to be as open as possible to the spiritual support of my community, I also sent numerous emails asking Friends to hold me in the Light.  I even posted messages on Facebook asking for prayers.  I received many supportive messages in response, from all over the country and even beyond.  On the day of the talk, I felt an intensity of spiritual power present that wanted to move through me and reach out to others.  I was heartened by the presence of those who attended in person; I know many came out in order to show support.

In this photo people are raising their hands when I asked who had experienced “holy ground” while participating in a clearness committee. Photo by Swarthmore Meeting member Lois Sellers.

The second strong piece of instruction I received when I prayed about the lecture beforehand was to let God’s love flow through my heart.  Each time I came back to this during moments of listening for divine guidance, I was more aware of the reality of a powerful compassionate divine love for humanity–something so much larger than myself– a sacred reality upholding our human one.  I sensed God’s desire to guide and help us in the complex and troubling times in which we live.  The climate changes we human beings have set in motion by widespread burning of fossil fuels (and through many other behaviors) threaten the future of all species on this planet, including ours.  And yet, in this time of increasing climate-related catastrophes and  social break-downs, possibilities exist for a new, more sustainable and Spirit-led way of life to emerge among us.  By encouraging one another to listen attentively for our calls and leadings, planted within us by the Spirit, and by helping each other clear away any inner or outer obstacles to faithfulness, we can create loving communities able to make a difference and show new possibilities in our time.

I talked about skills we can use to help each other notice the subtle movements of the Spirit within us and pay closer attention to the divine truth alive in our hearts.  I described the benefits of clearness committees to help each other discern true Spirit-led calls and leadings to action.  I told about some difficult challenges I faced in a clearness process, and why that challenge was so helpful.  And I explained why getting clear about how God is prompting us to action is just the beginning, since we need ongoing discernment as a call or leading unfolds.  Here is the videorecording of the talk, now on YouTube:

As I prepared for the talk, my mind wanted to pin down what I would say in advance.  However, I’ve learned that when I read a  text out loud, I’m less able to convey the message the Spirit wants to give.  Reading is one remove from fresh inspiration, and my voice and my connection with those present are more dull when I’m reading.  So I write notes, instead, as reminders of the topics I could speak about, if so inspired in the moment.  When actually speaking, some things come that I hadn’t planned, and others fall away.  I had more notes for what to talk about than time to speak.  I’m left wondering how and when I will share the second part of the talk; perhaps in future writing.

I’m heartened to learn that in addition to those who came to hear the lecture in person, a large number were watching the livestream.  Some members of Lake Forest Meeting (IL), Roanoke Meeting (VA) and Brooklyn Meeting (NY) even gathered in groups to watch the livestream together and talk about it.  I’ve heard about some who decided to start faithfulness groups in their meetings, or to reflect more on what kinds of small groups could best support the spiritual vitality among them.

There is a gap between the message and guidance I sensed that God wants to communicate with us, and what I was able to convey during my talk. There is a whole lot more divine love and healing directed at the Quaker community and at humanity everywhere than I or others are receiving and transmitting now. My ego swings between the temptation to grandiosity and an unhealthy delight in attacking all my efforts. The critic inside me finds much to critique, but that inner voice is not the one that can best help me to sense to what extent I was faithful and how and where I held back, and why. The support of loving friends can assist me to explore this, with the intention of all of us continuing to grow in our ability to cooperate with the divine love and wisdom that wants to shape our lives.

In my preparation for the talk, I sensed a message or teaching that needs to come to and through all of us, in loving conversation with one another and in mutual receptive listening. We need the faithful ministry of all the members of our community, near and far, and of those beyond our community also. Our cooperative growth in faithfulness, as we struggle to open up together to the divine Light, is the work of the Spirit within and among us.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the newest Pendle Hill pamphlet, by Emily Provance, Spiritual Gifts, Beloved Community, and Covenant. Here is the synopsis, from the Pendle Hill website:

God speaks to all people and gives us all spiritual gifts – and yet these gifts are not all the same. We are organizers, pray-ers, workers, carers, innovators, provocateurs, and healers. Why? Because we’re made to fit together like puzzle pieces, as we name, affirm, and nurture spiritual gifts and ministries. In the author’s view, this fitting together is at the heart of what it means to be a covenant people, a people given to the care of one another and charged with building the kingdom of God on Earth. It’s easy to settle for less than covenant; it’s scary to stretch for the wholeness of God’s promise. We, collectively, face a choice of who to be.”

Collectively, in loving, faithful community, may we help each other birth the new way of being human in this world that we are laboring to allow to come to birth in our time, the birth described in Romans 8:14 as “the revealing of the children of God.”  When we learn to live together and to make full use of the spiritual gifts offered to us, in loving community, we will help liberate creation from the terrible bondage it is suffering now.

All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the Children of God. (Romans 8:14–19, 21 RSV)

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

For information and videos about faithfulness groups, go HERE.

For information and videos about clearness committees, go 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

For information about upcoming courses and workshops with Marcelle, go to Teaching and Upcoming Workshops.

After the lecture, with a Spirit-filled Swarthmore College student.

Posted in Facing Life with Faith, Following a Leading, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Gift of Deeper Listening

The best gifts can’t be wrapped.

Being lovingly present with another person in a way that helps them attend more deeply to themselves and to the presence of God with them is a better gift than any material object.  Certain conversations are luminous in my memory, times when another person’s or a group’s listening and gentle questions have helped me express truth that I had been concealing even from myself.  I treasure the moments when others have helped me listen to hidden aspects of myself that I might otherwise have neglected, or encouraged me to pay attention to grace I’ve experienced or to fleeting guidance that has lighted my way on the path of faithfulness.

We can learn skills that help us listen to other people in a way that allows them to access and express the truth in their hearts.  First of all, we learn to quiet our own minds as we listen to another.  It’s natural for an inner commentary to take place when we hear someone speak, but we don’t have to give attention to that commentary.  We can let it go and learn to listen without judgment, analysis, or opinions.  We can be quietly present in a way that allows the sacredness of the other person and of the moment to fill our attention.  We can learn to listen not only to the words they say but also to the way in which they speak, the tone of voice, to their joy or sadness, their fear or enthusiasm.  We can pay attention to the language of their body, such as the arms folded over the chest, the constriction in the throat, or the radiance that comes when people are speaking their deepest truth.  We can attend, also, to the silent presence of what more wants to be said.

When someone shares their pains or challenges, most of us are quick to offer suggestions or opinions.  At times these can be helpful, especially when solicited, but a deeper kind of listening can help someone tune in to their own inner knowing and to divine guidance.  In the long run, helping another person to attend to the trustworthy source of wisdom within is far more helpful than suggestions, however wise.

Offering questions can be an important part of deep listening, if the questions are simple and their purpose is to help the speaker explore their inner knowing more fully.  Some questions ask for factual information.  Other questions invite the speaker to engage in intellectual reflection or analysis.  These questions have their uses, but another kind of question is designed to help someone pay attention to the movement of the Spirit within them, or to the work of God in their lives, minds, and hearts.  Our culture generally does not encourage us to pay attention inwardly, and most of us miss the subtle movements and and whispered guidance of the divine voice within.  A question that helps evoke our awareness and draw our attention to the presence of the divine is a great gift, along with our loving willingness to be with another person as they explore this.

Asking evoking questions requires self-discipline on the part of the listener, the discipline not to insert our own opinions or stories, the discipline of really being present for the sake of the other person’s discovery of their truth.  The one who offers the question must also be listening inwardly, as we search for the simple query that can invite our friend into deeper exploration and expression.

What seems to most help or hinder your attentiveness to God?

What images or phrases or scripture passages seem to be sources of guidance at this time?

In which situations do you feel you are most authentic and faithful to what you were most truly made to be?

If we pay attention carefully as the speaker tells us about their inner and spiritual experiences, we may notice that when they say something tears come, or a radiant smile.  At such moments the best way to help the speaker explore more deeply is simply to ask them to say more about where the tears or smile are coming from.   Or if they have described a moment of grace, we can invite them to return to that and say more about it.  When we help another person look more deeply–in a feeling rather than analytical way–at how God has been at work in them and in their life, or if we help them go back to a moment of grace and savor it, they may notice more about how the Spirit is with them, guiding, teaching, healing, or loving them.  This may unlock hidden insights or truths waiting to be brought into awareness and expressed.

What do you experience when you pray about what God is asking of you?

In this new 8 1/2-minute video by Rachel Guaraldi, several Friends speak about our experience of using evoking questions to help another person listen inwardly to the wisdom and divine guidance that is available there.

Evoking questions can be used in spiritual friendships, clearness committees, faithfulness groups, spiritual direction, and any situation in which there is an intention to help another person explore more deeply their experience and awareness of God and the divine presence.  It is a priceless gift, more valuable that diamonds, rubies, computers, cars, or anything material.

How is the Spirit working within you? What are you learning?

© 2020 Marcelle Martin

Marcelle’s new book 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, Contemplative spirituality, Facing Life with Faith, Following a Leading, Mysticism, Quaker Faith Today, spiritual practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Moses Of Her People

“Harriet,” the first feature-length film about liberator and abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman, emphasizes the prophetic nature of her extraordinary gifts.

In school I learned only a few brief facts about Harriet Tubman: she escaped from slavery and then, bravely, went back repeatedly to lead others to freedom.  “Harriet” dramatizes the life of a remarkable woman guided by God, called the Moses of her people.

The movie does not show her childhood.  She was born enslaved on the eastern shore of Maryland.  Starting around age six, along with siblings, she was hired out to work as a servant on other plantations.  By age 13, she was working in the fields.  One day, she stepped between an overseer and an escaping slave.  A two-pound metal weight hurled toward the one who was fleeing hit her in the forehead..   The resulting injury was nearly fatal.  Young Minty (as she was called then) survived, but ever afterwards had narcoleptic spells, falling suddenly into a sleep-like state, in which she often had visions and heard the voice of God.

The movie begins with her falling into one of these spells and seeing a traumatic scene from her past that haunts her: two sisters being carted away for sale “down South.”  Her memories and the guidance that comes in visions are central to her story; so is her prayer life.  For dramatic purposes, the screenwriter highlights her relationship with Gideon, the son of the plantation owner.  As a child, he had been sickly, and Minty had prayed for his health.  In return, the boy had asked his father to keep Minty when he sold her sisters.  When Minty and her husband, a free man, seek to enforce a will in which her mother, she, and her siblings had been granted freedom, the slavemaster is enraged and warns his son against having a “favorite slave.”  When the man dies suddenly, Gideon swears to sell Minty. Those sold South never return, so she decides to escape.

In a moving scene, from the edge of the plantation, the young woman sings a good-bye song, her way of letting her family know she is leaving.   In secret, the locations and names of some people involved in the Underground Railroad are revealed to her.   With courage, persistence, and divine guidance, she manages to outrun and outwit pursuing dogs, trackers, and the slavemaster’s son.

It was 1849 when she escaped to freedom, walking 100 miles, through Delaware and then into the free state of Pennsylvania.  In Philadelphia she found the office of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.  From there she was taken to a boarding house and helped to find a job as a servant.

It was quite remarkable that she emancipated herself with so little help from others, but that is not the reason that the freedom name she claimed, Harriet Tubman, is widely known today.  She was not content to live free in Philadelphia while family members remained in bondage.  Against the advice of others, Harriet went back to the plantation where she had been enslaved.   She made numerous extremely perilous trips down south and led 70 enslaved people to freedom.  Following divine guidance, she eluded capture again and again, in spite of increasing notoriety and a higher and higher price put on her head.  Often dressing as a man, she became known as the Moses of her people.  None of those she led out of slavery were captured.  During the Civil War she served as a scout and spy for the Union.  As we see in the finale of the movie, she commanded black Union soldiers on the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina, which freed 730 slaves.  Harriet Tubman was the first woman to lead a U.S. military operation.

“Harriet” is visually very beautiful.  The moment when she crosses the border into Pennsylvania–the moment of entering a free state–is filmed at sunrise, with golden sunlight streaming onto her face and upon the fields and hills around her.  Much of the movie was filmed outdoors, in woods and fields, along rivers, on bridges, under sunny and starry skies.  The elegant period costumes worn by the free people who work for abolition and participate in the Underground Railroad are beautiful, in contrast to the ragged clothing worn by enslaved people.  But however they are clothed, whether free or enslaved, the beauty of all the black people in this film shines clearly.  The movie highlights their strength, determination, courage, and love for each other.  We see scarred backs and faces, mere hints at the horrors of slavery and at the twisted psyches of those who enslave others.  Considering the subject, the violence shown is limited.  The movie has a PG-13 rating. The most violent scene is the beating to death of a free black woman who had given assistance to Harriet.

The director, Kosi Lemmons, a woman, co-authored the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard.  In shaping the drama of the film, they made the choice to emphasize the prophetic nature of Harriet Tubman’s call.  “God don’t mean people to own people,” Tubman says in a climactic scene when she and Gideon, son on her former slavemaster, meet each other face to face in the woods, after years of his furious pursuit.  She is like Moses not only because she led enslaved people to freedom, but also because God speaks to her and guides her in a remarkable, direct way.  Like a Biblical prophet, Tubman sees the future that is coming, the terrible Civil War fought by those trying to preserve the evil institution of slavery. She also sees the end of slavery and the freedom God intends for her people.

The portrait of Harriet as a prophet guided by God is not an invention of the screenwriters. A contemporary, Quaker Thomas Garrett, whose Wilmington, DE home was a station on the Underground Railroad, said of Tubman in 1868, “I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken directly to her soul…and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.”

“Harriet” gives testimony to the courage and indomitable spirit of a gifted woman and of a beautiful people determined to be free.  It is also gives witness to the fact that God desires freedom and dignity for all and that the inward voice of God leads people on the path of liberation.  This movie recounts history, but it is a story for our time.

 

© 2019 Marcelle Martin

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.

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.

 

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.)

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

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 All of Life is Sacred, Facing Life with Faith, Following a Leading, Radical Christianity, Stories that Heal, Working for Peace and Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Something Grew Wild in Our Backyard

Something wild and amazing happened in our backyard this summer.  Four little butternut squash plants, started from seeds stuck in a bit of dirt, grew wild at the back of our yard, beside the garage.  Surprised and amused at how they grew, we decided to let them spread, and see what happened.    

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We had bought our house from a woman who loved flowers and flowering bushes and trees.  The enchanting little back yard had been so inviting.  But Terry and I love to grow things we can eat.  So in our first spring in our new home, we planted some beans and tomatoes and basil between the rose and lilac bushes.   The squirrels ate the beans, the hot sun was too harsh for the tomatoes, and the basil didn’t grow large.  We discovered that tomatoes and basil grow much better in a little strip of dirt beside the driveway.  Last summer when two volunteer squash plants grew out of our backyard compost pile, I replanted them beside the driveway.  One withered, but the other sent runners in the narrow space between two garages and produced ten butternut squashes.  So this spring, I planted two seedlings on each side of the garage, and stuck four more in the little plot my husband prepared in the back of the yard, mixing dirt with compost and half a bag of peat moss left by the previous owner.

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Apparantly, the spot that was only mildly welcoming to tomatoes and basil was just right for the squash.  They grew.

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And grew.  The sight of it filled me with joy at the fertility, creativity, and intelligence of the earth, which knows how to spread out like this, when given the right conditions and a chance to do what it loves to do: create life and grow.

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At first, we moved the vines out of the way to mow the grass, and then set the vines back in place.  Then we stopped mowing under them, and let them just take over.

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Under the big green leaves, squash plants were growing.

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We had roses, tomatoes, and squash all mingled together.  But mostly squash!

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We began harvesting, cooking butternut squash soup, which we love, and giving them away.

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Before the first hard frost came, we finally cleared the vines off the yard and harvested the last remaining squashes.

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From the four plants beside the driveway and the four in the backyard, we harvested 74 butternut squashes this year.  We’re delighted and thankful.  We’ll have butternut squash soup all winter.  We hope you enjoyed seeing the bit of wildness that grew in our yard this summer.  Perhaps it will give you ideas for next spring.

Happy Thanksgiving!

@ 2019 Marcelle Martin

At this Thanksgiving, I’m also thankful for the publication of my new book, A Guide to Faithfulness Groups, which explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by a community that practices ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance.  The practice of faithfulness groups supports individuals of any faith to allow the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.

In the 25-minute video, An Introduction to Faithfulness Groups, seven Friends speak about Faithfulness Groups and their potential for renewing spiritual vitality.

A one-day workshop, Faithfulness Groups: A Deeper Awareness, was video-recorded in November 2019 and is available to watch for freeMore details can be found at: https://releasingministry.org/releasing-ministry-alliance-opps

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers. Focusing on ten elements, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life in this world, in our time. The book was 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 Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey  and A Guide to Faithfulness Groups 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

 

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