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Friday, November 25, 2005


I’ve tried to make sure my children don’t grow up with what I call “the Lincoln Memorial image of God.” We’ve talked about how God is not a man or a woman, and God is not white or black. This came up again the other night at dinner, and Luke responded, “Do you mean God is like Michael Jackson?”

I need all the laughs Luke provides these days since watching my mom decline is so sad and exhausting. She’s been talking about God as well, but her image of the Divine is not as funny as Luke’s.

For the past week my mom has been complaining that she doesn’t understand people who say that God talks to them since He never talks to her. She seems to be a bit hurt about this, like a girl who hasn’t been asked to the prom yet. Yesterday when I asked her what she’d want God to say to her, she answered, “I’ll pick you up tonight.”

She and I both have to work on letting go and waiting. I’ve been anxious this week about the fact that I haven’t had any time to write or exercise, and mom is still resisting hiring more help. I haven’t been able to find some important papers that she says she gave me, and I haven’t been able to relax about our up-in-the air Christmas plans. My own view of God is of one who can comfort us in such times. I guess I could use a divine message myself. In the meantime, I get to laugh every time that Michael Jackson Christmas carol comes on the radio.


Blogger Christian said...

Hi Eileen! Glad to have the internet - I'm hardly ever in the coffee shop these days given my class schedule right now, so I haven't seen you in person for ages. But I have been following your blog, so I don't feel completely out of touch ;-)

Question for you - I'm very curious how you know what you know about God? I'm guessing Scripture plays some role in this (eg. God as spirit, not male or female), but I also suspect there are some things in Scripture which you might not buy (eg. God as Father). And so I'm just wondering how you decide which is which? And how do you know that the conclusions you reach actually correspond to reality?

Btw, I'm not trying to disagree with you over any specifics here - these questions apply to anyone who draws conclusion about God (which is everyone); I'm just interested in how you answer them coming from your particular tradition? And would your husbands answers be any different? (I seem to recall you both come from different backgrounds).

2:55 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks for the comment, Christian. It's good to hear from you. Although I'm a bit sleep-deprived and emotionally worn out today, I'll try to give you a quick answer.

The defining aspect of Quakerism is the belief that we can experience God directly through the immanent divine, which Quakers have called by many names: the Inner Light, the Inward Teacher, the Inward Christ, etc. Quakers are encouraged to take any belief--from our conception of God to our sense of calling--and test it in prayer against what this inner voice tells us. Recognizing that individuals can often be flawed in their discernment, we are also encouraged to test our sense of the Truth against that of members of our community. For example, if a couple feels God is leading them to marriage, they must sit down with a small group of wise people who ask them questions and help them test their discernment. Even so, we Quakers try to remain humble in the belief that God and God's will are always greater than our understanding.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I had a long talk with a relative about this last night. She was quite disturbed that Scripture (in a literal sense) did not figure more authoratatively into the equation for Friends...

3:46 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Scripture is an important part of Friends tradition, though how people understand scripture and how much weight it is given ranges broadly between different branches of Friends. Lone Star Ma's relative might find the Friends in Texas to be very scripture oriented. But here's my question: why do people feel "disturbed" when they encounter someone whose faith experience is different from their own? There's part of me that doesn't like talking about theology for this reason, or at least I don't like talking about it as separate from our everyday lives: how we care for children and aging parents, how we love our spouses, or decide how big a house to own. It seems to me that God and our experiences of God's grace often bring us together, but our ideas and words about God often pull us apart.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

We're Texas Friends and we are not very Scripture-oriented here in South Central Yearly Meeting (I mean, as in taking the Scripture as literal fact that must govern everyone's behavior and thoughts, as my relative did - the Scripture is where we find much inspiration and learning, to be sure); I think it is mainly the programmed folks who would be more in line with what my relative wanted, and still not as much as she wanted. I sometimes avoid talking too much about faith to avoid the problems you mentioned, but I feel that if I respect someone, I have to answer their questions honestly and not avoid them, so I answered her. It disturbs her because she really believes that people who do not believe as she believes will suffer eternal torment in the fires of hell. She loves us and wants us to avoid that fate - I appreciate her concern very much and want her to be at ease...but I have to follow the leadings of my own inner Light and they are just different from hers. Personally, I find most all religious beliefs to be fascinating and, unless they violate someone's human rights, very valid. I just don't see much as being mutually exclusive, but people with a more fundamentalist viewpoint worry about that, sometimes, they do see things as mutually exclusive and I respect that. For me, I just appreciate faith itself.

11:57 AM  

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