Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015 - J for Joy

Still rather stuck with my blog, even after I for Interruption, at last I found a subject for J but have found it difficult to write. 

What do Quakers have to say about Joy? Friends through the centuries have found joy for themselves in the Quaker way but have often seemed to others grave and serious in their demeanour to the point of joylessness.

In many passages in Quaker Faith & Practice joy is mentioned and we are urged to share our joys as well as our sorrows, but how often do we do this? When there are so many troubles in the world and we are aware of and trying to assuage the troubles in the lives of those we know, do we hold back from sharing the joy in our own lives for fear of making others feel worse?

When I thought about this I realised that in not expressing my joy I am falling short. True friendship, which is such an important part of a true Quaker community, means being free to share anything - not just serious concerns and troubling problems but small happinesses and deep joys. William Blake perhaps puts it best in this short poem.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so,
We were made for joy and woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015 - I for Interruption

It has been almost a month since I wrote for this blog and I was behind with my schedule before that. In itself that should not be a problem but this time there was more to it than just my usual procrastination. I was interrupted by a computer crash.

Most of my research and photo files were backed up or could be recovered so it wasn't such a devastating event as it might have been, but I still felt bereft and helpless. It made me realise how much of my daily life and well-being depends on my computer and forced me re-assess my priorities.

Luckily this interruption coincided with a Facebook request (yes I could still access Facebook via my tablet) from a friend facing chemotherapy for soft knitted hats to wear when she lost her hair, so I had a project which needed doing at once. I also got out of the house more in order to look at art, to appreciate the world around me and even to do some gardening.

Now that the interruption is over and I am back in front of my computer the lesson I have learned is not simply to spend less time in front of a screen but to try to balance my life better so that I do not invest my computer with such an overwhelming importance.

I thought that I would end this post by quoting from Advices and Queries 41 about simplicity, but when I considered further it seems to me that number 11 is more relevant -
'Be honest with yourself. What unpalatable truths might you be evading? When you recognise your shortcomings, do not let that discourage you...'

Friday, May 08, 2015

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015 - H for Hope

Speaking as someone who has often been tempted to give in to depression and despair, part of me is surprised that I now find myself called to hope -  and not just to stand still in that hope but to travel hopefully.

Britain Yearly Meeting this year was particularly inspiring and we wrote minutes that committed us to work for peace, justice and  equality. It is easy to be cynical and think of these as just words but I am convinced that there is a spirit alive among us that will lead us on to action. I hope there is.

For me the decision to hope, while still acknowledging the despair around us and the obstacles that we will have to overcome, is one I can unite with. I found it best expressed in the concluding minute to Yearly Meeting.

"'I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God.'
(George Fox, 1647)

We have set off once again from this Yearly Meeting on the long journey illumined by the Love of God, to challenge the principalities and powers of this world, and to work towards the establishment of the peaceable Kingdom. May we travel in hope, loving both our fellow travellers and those who will oppose us, and pray that in our travellings the light may break in upon us more and more."