Most persons are awakened and set on their new track of life through the quickening and kindling power of some person who becomes for them the instrument of inspiration and of the creation of faith and the vision of a nobler way of life.
Persons are set on fire by someone who is already aflame.
– Rufus Jones
I trace my life through moments when I was able to say “yes,” when I found through the encouragement of others the courage to let go of the shore for the ocean. In countless ways, my life has been shaped by relationship.
Among so many moments, I remember and give thanks for:
- The face of a Friend across my kitchen table, when I was lost for answers, as she took both my hands in hers and taught me to pray out loud
- Walking with a Friend on a beach in the predawn darkness before I brought a prepared message for the first time. His advice: “Risk failing in order to be faithful”
- Just before a workshop out West, a Quaker elder who stopped me with a look, then adjusted my posture with some of the clearest, simplest instruction for ministry I’ve ever received: “Head up, shoulders back, heart open”
- In the depths of a winter night, advice in a time of discernment about whether to let go of one work that had shaped my life, and say “yes” to another: The voice on the phone said, “Sometimes all choices will bring pain. You still have to choose”
- The dedication of Friends serving as my ministry oversight committee–and each companion, mentor, and elder–witnessing, waiting, and watching with me over months and years, caring for the quiet work of God unfolding among us, discerning what it is time for
- The Friend who loved animals, women, poetry, art and God, eyes shining as her life reached its end, embracing the undiscovered country to come, blessing those of us who would remain, challenging me to “go where the Life is”
Every day, the kindling power moving through relationship in Quaker faith community challenges me to say “yes” again. Reaching from Cape Cod to Maine to Connecticut; to Kansas, Ramallah, Cuba, and beyond, each day I’m helped and held by the web of relationships in which I’m blessed to participate.
Relationship is at the heart of Friends practice. It’s carefully woven in our communities through acts of presence, prayer, and participation. The substance of faithful community is formed when we love one another, serve one another, challenge each other to greater faithfulness, and name when and where we see the Spirit at work.
So I wonder:
- What have been your experiences of being met, seen, and encouraged?
- Who have been the instruments of this enlivening and mentorship in your life, and do they know it?
- Where might you be called to offer this care, to share this encouragement, to name the gifts you see?
- How might you challenge, guide, or affirm the Spirit at work in someone in your meeting?
In this season, communities across the world are waiting and watching together in expectant hope. We share stories of Light coming into the world, comforting and amazing us in the midst of fear and desolation. In the unlikeliest of places, Love is born, the fire of Hope is kindled. Through grace and daily choice, we help this happen together.
This month, let’s take the risk that each person we meet could be the kindling that sets our hearts aflame, that reignites our spirits. Risk the possibility that you could give that gift to others. In small acts of service and accompaniment and presence, risk nurture. Risk encouragement. Risk naming the Life you see at work in someone else. Risk participating in the kindling power.
May we come again and again to the sure knowledge that relationship with God and relationship with each other are truly inseparable. May we meet and welcome the Friend in one another.
In faith and service,
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)
P.S.– As a Yearly Meeting, we’re committed to supporting the web of encouragement and mentorship across generations. In February, we’re sponsoring a weekend gathering for Friends who share this yearning. Together, we’ll explore how this happens in our own lives, how we might learn and grow in this service, and how we might help our meeting communities to more fully embrace the ministry of relationship.
Might this opportunity be for you? You can learn more and share your interest in participating here. More information on Partners in Spirit is below.
P.P.S.– Affirming the sacredness of relationship means recognizing the Light in each of our neighbors—especially those from whom fear, hatred, and oppression threaten to separate us.
If you haven’t already, please consider how your meeting might support Love Knows No Borders: a moral call for migrant justice sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and partners, December 10-18–next week. See the article below for more information.