Tag Archive: discernment


you put yourself out there

footscray graffiti orange black white house with a couch and cat on the porch

You put yourself out there.
You put yourself out.
You put your Self out.
Here I am.

made or Made?

reflection a poem about self-determination Talitha Fraser identity Bar Josephine

made or Made?
how much autonomy
for self-determination
do we ever really have?
My working and undoing
are in You.
I look outside,
I look inside.
I cannot reconcile
why I’m here.
I would fear except that
I find the true in You.

Talitha Fraser

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We can sometimes find ourselves at a crossroads in our life – this job or that, this community or that, this city/country or that… these times can be terribly isolating as we wear well-worn tracks in our own minds going over what we know (again and again) but not knowing how best to move forward.

A Quaker Discernment Circle can be a good way to move forward through any liminal space. These circles hold space for deep listening to your own heart and wisdom and God’s call. This space doesn’t critique and is not intended to be intellectually analysing or deconstructing but hearing spiritually.

Invite as many people as you would like – but it’s easier if it’s not unwieldy and you can all fit around a common table or lounge room floor. This might be 6-10 people say. Good qualities are: people you trust, people who know you well, people that ask good questions, people that are invested in you, friends/mentors/elders…

Quaker expressions  use a lot of silence. Silence is active worship.You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.

In our silence we are together and connected to others present. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…) take a thought as it comes, dwell on it as you need to – it may or may not become ‘ministry’ (you might merely hold or pray it silently without expressing it aloud), someone else might say it, it may not need to be said.  In this listening silence there is no veil(s) between you and God and these intentional spaces can provide ministry that is uncanny to what’s on your heart and mind.

While someone might ask a question aloud…  They do not give “answers”.  Only you have your own answers to deepen your spiritual life.

A loose framework for a Discernment Circle might look something like the following:

Introduction – A facilitator/host says what the space is for and gives and overview of the circle

[silence as we become present to the person
and the purpose of the circle]

Presentation – when they’re ready, the person who is discerning takes as much time as they need to describe what the choices are that lie before them and any/all the ways that is conflicted in their heart/mind/body/spirit.

[silence – the voice of the discerner is held
without judgement or interruption]

Open and Honest Questions – those present may ask questions, they may not. The discerner may elect to answer aloud, they may not. The purpose of the questions isn’t to seek answers (resolve/close) but to open new channels of thought for consideration (broaden/open) thus the questions should be framed an open-ended queries rather than being binary.

[silence – explores the possibilities that may have been opened,
what might this mean for what was first shared]

Mirroring – those present may repeat words or phrases from the discerners presentation that have stood out/echoed/resonated and feel significant.  Sometimes when we are trying to make a choice we can lose sight of what is most important but as we talk there are often clues in our tone, emotion and vocabulary. In this space our community can echo these back to us and help us hear our own deepest yearning. n.b. don’t critique or explain, let the discerners own discernment speak for itself.

[silence – this time of holding the discerner at the center,
their fears and longings, can create a lot of vulnerability.
We are yet “holding”, what can be encouraged and strengthened
as we send this person out?]

Affirmations and Celebrations – it is likely that the discerner has shared a breadth of what they feel called to and responsible for, this is a space for those present to share encouragement that builds up and resources this person as they continue along their Way. What can be affirmed about their passion? What have they shown deep caring for and commitment to? What qualities are demonstrated in the desire to discern well and deeply in whatever choice is being made?

Note: some people might like to have pens and paper on hand for prompts or pictures and it’s sometimes nice to give these to the discerner at the end of the circle.

The Indigenous Hospitality House are hosting learning circles on a breadth of topics. Here are Samara’s reflections on the Quaker session. Photo credit to IHH.

quaker-circle

Start with silence – business meetings, weddings, funerals, protests… this is an intentional mechanism for listening to the prophetic voice.
On the table in front of us we have flowers [something from creation], the Bible, and “our book” [the Quaker queries and advices].
Calm, relax, let go, forget day/tasks/concerns.
Be present.
For me this is often about my body yielding and a remembering of the nature of love to change.
A service might go an hour or more, let’s try and go for 10 mins and close with “Thank you friends”
These spaces
– don’t critique
– not intellectually analysing/deconstructing
…but hearing spiritually.
Spaces are to address spiritual wellbeing. To provide a space to see and understand spiritually.
Quakers believe no priest of minister can do it for you. The hour of silence is an hour of active worship. You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.
Someone might ask a question aloud… [Quakers might reference their queries and advices book if relevant]. They do not give “answers”
Only you have your own answer to deepen your spiritual life.
e.g. “I want to talk about why I’m sad…”
“We can, but what makes you happy?”
The process reframes.
SILENCE
– together
– connected to others present
– not worried about what your thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…)
– take a thought, dwell on it as you need to – may or may not become ministry.
– no veil(s) between me and God
– ministry uncanny to what’s on your heart/mind.

 

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 1: Partnering with God

We value the opportunity of participating in the Missio Dei (mission of God). Through persistence in prayer, we seek to recognise where God is at work in Footscray, and become co-workers with Christ.

Biblical basis: Psalm 127:1, Luke 18:7, 1 Cor 3:9


 

Let’s read the value together. What words stand out? Any you don’t know?

What does being a partner mean? What are some different examples of partners?

business partner, relationships, sport teams, partner in crime, duet…

What sorts of things do partners do for each other?

work together, help out, trust, backup in tough times, share responsibility…

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?


Psalm 127:1-2

Unless you’ve commissioned the building project, LORD,
……..attempting construction would be futile.
Unless you’re in charge of security, LORD,
……..our gates and guards are a waste of effort.
We could work ourselves to the bone for nothing;
……..first on the job in the morning, last home at night,
…………….and what would we have to show for it?
……..Nothing but heartaches and ulcers.
You, LORD, long for us to slow down.
……..We can relax and trust in your loving care.

 

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

Luke 18: 1-8

Jesus told this story to encourage people to be persistent in prayer and never lose heart:

Once upon a time there was a town magistrate who took no notice of God and had no respect for anyone. There was a widowed woman in the town who had very little in the way of resources or influence, but who kept contacting the magistrate and demanding that he take action to protect her rights in a dispute with a powerful opponent. For a while he just kept brushing her off, but eventually he said to himself, “I couldn’t care less what happens to this woman, and all her talk of God’s justice means nothing to me; but I’m going to give her what she wants because I’m sick to death of her nagging and I just want to get her off my back.”

And the Lord commented on his story, saying:

“Do you hear the point in what the callous magistrate is saying? If he can be pressured into acting for justice, can’t you see how much more certain it is that God will bring about justice for those who have dedicated themselves to God and cry out for help night and day. Will God brush them off and ignore their pleas. You can take it from me: God will waste no time in bringing about justice for them. And yet, will the New Human find much of that sort of persistent faith on earth when he makes his entrance?

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

1 Cor 3:5-9

 Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

 The Message


Reflection time

What can we learn from the bible about living the value of “Partnering with God”?

  • Building bricks… Some of these things that we said partners do for each other – how are we doing them for God now? Or how could we start? Share a story…
  • Postcards… Persistence in prayer… what is God telling us is worthy of attention in Footscray? What should we focus on?
  • Stones… is there anything that should be left out of what we are building together here? What are the things that stop us choosing the right bricks?

 

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Droop St Dreaming

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“Shared belief and
shared thinking
requires a
shared language”

– with Rowan Castle

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Apologies for my bitsy notes my hand wasn’t keeping up very well! Premise is this: What if our experience of the declining position and viability of the Western Church were good news?  What if the confusion, failure, and ‘lost-ness’ of this ecclesial ‘dark night’ could be inhabited as a space where new ways of being church and of engaging the needs of the world might be revealed and lived into?  This lecture will explore how the practice of contemplation might enable us to embrace rather than resist this experience, reconnect with the gospel dynamic of death and resurrection, and also be renewed for participation in divine liturgy, mission and justice.

photo source: http://www.eremos.org.au

Late 20th century saw a resurgence of contemplative practice, Merton, Keating, John Main – disciplined practice of silent prayer – waiting on God in deepening receptivity.

Not our own thoughts, even spiritual ones.  Contemplative practice is healing for our culture – slowness, connectedness, way/method of prayer – grow into a personal relationship with God. Mystic = personal experience of God.  Not a passing emotional state or passed down from leaders.  In meditation we verify the truths of our own faith.  What can mediation offer to the whole church body?  Reconnects to gospel death and resurrection – engaging the decline and disorientation.  “Emptiness” in he life of faith.  Meditation – laying aside thought and waiting on God – demanding practice.  Planning, worrying, daydreaming… need to lay aside self-consciousness itself.  Thoughts carry egoic identification with it.  Deep subversion of the self.  It takes nerve to become quiet.  Radical self-forgetting.  Described by Cassian – “complete simplicity that demands not less than everything”;  Buddhist – “eye that sees everything but not itself”;  Main – “hand yourself over and hold nothing back, become self-dispossessed so as to receive our life back as a gift”.  Experienced differently as individuals, how will it be experienced as a church?  Jesus gives self to God.  We claim vocation to be like Christ.  Church won’t give it’s life/identity over – seeks to secure its identity – doesn’t like questions or change.  Fails to realise the transformation it proclaims.  What does ecclesial emptying look like?

liturgy

In ‘Writing the Icon of the Heart’, Ross describes being on a boat surrounded by icebergs and glaciers “stupefied by glory” – went to do communion.  Inadequate to where they were. Cup and wine were an intrusion.  Would have been okay if reached for our hands in silence or to pass elements but no, pulled out the book and started to read the words I usually loved. Words that shrank rather than grew…Distraction.  Not illuminating.  Need to get in touch with alienation…  playacting.  Not in touch with God, or my sin, or grace – went home frustrated.

Liturgy needs to point beyond itself, not be – or try to make itself – at the centre.  Needs to emerge from deep listening and pre-packaged agenda is IN the way not OPENING up a way.  our lives are already sacred and liturgy tries to remind us of that (doesn’t give us/make us sacred).

Words affect who we are and our becoming – affect our formation.  Liturgy can’t be an end to itself.  Must be willing to talk about self-dispossession and be willing to be dispossessed… not more relevant or ‘contemporary’ – a liturgy will be effective only insofar as it effaces itself.  Every true sign must be self-effacing.  Must start in silence and be listening and responding to what is given.

mission

does your church have meetings about getting new people to come and how to make them stay?  do we extend good hospitality?  is our community growing?  sustaining? are we seen as welcoming? are we living up to our own idea of how welcoming we are?  Genuine desire to do justice and be justified (confirmed we’re doing the right thing). Self-referencing and self-conscious… self-centred instead of “just”.

Genuine desire to welcome, but also desire to be ‘seen’ as “most inclusive parish” >> this is death dealing.  Reassured not to see identity as “good”,  give ourselves wholly, handing over ecclesial consciousness instead of wondering how we’re doing it >> get on with it.

Other experiences of Benedictus:

Community made up of secondary teachers (high needs students: drugs), climate change scientists, paediatrician, counsellors, lawyers, healthcare workers… don’t want to take energy from their vocation.  Encourage and resource them to do the good work they are already called to… church might not “socially engaged”.  Freedom, integrity and passion to love.

Encourage formation in contemplative ways – engage the world in different ways.  Reflective peer groups.  Signs of life and new ways of being.  Relate to unhelpful patterns with awareness.  “Why do I have this conversation with my mother every time…” , complaints about work but not making change… structured formation, how can you be liberated?  Church calls us to this.   Formation… in God’s work in the world, lay formation/lay ministry… not calling people into church building but equipping and sending out.  Take these vocations as seriously as it takes its own.  Can the church serve people as they serve the world?  Not a church trying to preserve its own place and identity.  But one that consents to its own self-effacement – we might not know if this group makes a different in individuals visiting once or regulars going back to their work… we might never know.  Faithful communities point away from themselves.  Well-meaning/patronising/complacent when needing the accolade of knowing the difference its making.  Church needs to be faithful to its own vocation, as it discerns.

There is still gender related injustice.  Anglican delegation of women in ministry “keep agitating”, lots of energy but little progress.  Agitating a sign of false spirit.  Agitating is a block to healing – avoiding what was necessary.  Stop.  Risk being fully present to the worlds pain and our response to it… discern your response out of that.  Social action… not saying ‘do nothing’ but Rowan Williams ‘internal contemplation, makes space for truth, for Gods’s reality to come through.’

Depth, broken openness required of us as individuals and communities.  Transformation of imagination and relationships – climate change, reconciliation with indigenous, gender… need to become aware of what we resist and fear.  Let our hearts break open to receive larger vision.  UN: St George slaying the dragon/Isaiah weapons to ploughshares… Leunig does this through prophetic invitation that inspires a bigger imagination.

what can we do?

Prayer of the heart: poverty/listening.  Formation/contemplative action.  Gift of our present ecclesial circumstances (moments of unintentional contemplation – moment of truth/revelation, stripped of illusion) inner alien and unsettling truth.  Discovering ourselves to be less than we thought.  Inadequacies.  Deprived of familiar comforts – social status, political power… running on empty.  Stave off descent into emptiness.  What if rather than resisting we embrace the empty space?  Disciples – didn’t know what they were hoping for.  Poverty o spirit – reaching of our boundaries of being (can’t go on by ourselves) – made bigger.  Be with broken-heartedness and poverty… live into the gift of new and expanded life.  Not all at once… but little bits.

Need to be adequate to depths of worlds need, let go of limiting identity – let ourselves go – fall empty-handed into the hands of the living God.  Follow Jesus into depth of death and chaos.

 Become uncreated to be created.  Broken to be a blessing to all.

Anabaptist/Quaker traditions haven’t had the identity/power in the same ways – what can these traditions offer us?  Still need to be accountable to self.  Still ways to manipulate e.g. silence can be wielded to mean something.  Is the leader and the liturgy connected to deep ground?  Not about individual preference/styles or arguing against communal worship.  Sign is the vehicle that takes us to the encounter.

The church has no place of its own to secure and no need to be defensive.

 

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