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Saturday, October 21, 2006


I’ve noticed that lately my blog posts have been less about parenting and spirituality and more about political and community issues. Not that there’s anything wrong with those questions, it’s just that it’s a little bit of a red flag to me when I don’t mention God for a while.

Several years ago, before I had children, I was in a period of asking what God wanted me to do next. I took long walks in the woods, wrote in my journal and prayed every day. Now I’m at another turning point, I think, but my prayers for guidance are squeezed between our other bedtime prayers: thanks that our nephew is back safely from Iraq, petitions for Luke’s tooth to come out soon and for Megan’s sniffles, and by the way God, could I have some guidance about my work. Knowing that nature has often brought me closer to the divine, I tried to take a long walk in the woods with the dog, but he dove into the poison ivy after a squirrel, and I spent the whole time trying to lure him out. Finally I started the car which brought him charging out of the woods and into the back seat, so I closed the car door and drove home without any great insights, except the obvious one, that my dog is still not to be trusted off a leash.

When I was new to Quakerism, I spoke in meeting for worship more often and had clearer leadings. I had started to notice that this was happening less frequently when I went to a workshop on prayer over a year ago. The teacher said that sometimes God answers us less frequently when we’re further on the path (giving us fewer messages in meeting for worship, for example) because we need it less. This was a comforting explanation. Then Tom made another point last weekend: he said that a former spiritual director of his said that God doesn’t always tell us to do one specific thing. Often God gives us choices, and what we’re asked to do is to be faithful to the choices we’ve made.

This makes sense because I keep coming back to the call to be faithful to parenting as my number one job. After that, I still feel that writing, teaching, and volunteering in my community are the things I’m meant to do. So I have a lot of clarity, really. The only question has been about what writing I should be focused on.

This week I felt pulled again into the Wisdom to Know the Difference writing, which has drawn me for a long time. I think one of the things that has held me back from throwing myself into that project has been my obsession with racial issues last spring. I have about forty pages of notes for a book that never made itself clear, and I’ve felt a little silly just changing course. But I had a conversation at the coffee shop the other day with a fellow writer, who mentions God’s role in her life in a refreshingly open way. She was speculating on the blessings that might come out of her I-Pod being stolen and her hard drive crashing right in a row, and the things that God might be trying to teach her. I starting thinking about all the positive things that came out of my race research last spring and realized that many wonderful blessings sprung from that, even if a book didn’t. First, I grew myself and hopefully have become a more aware citizen and parent. Second, I developed a course proposal for UArts that I think will meet a need. Third, I made a wonderful new friend and deepened some existing friendships through the interviews I did. Fourth, I helped to revive the diversity committee at our school, which I think could play a positive role. And fifth, I wrote an essay that brought me some healing with my mother, which was how the whole thing started. Recognizing these blessings confirms my sense that I wasn’t wasting my time, even if that work didn’t result (yet, at least) in a book.

I think part of what I tend to do is what Quakers call “outrunning your guide.” In other words, maybe God asked me to write an essay, and I jumped to the conclusion that a book would be even better. I think that’s the other reason I’ve been cautious this time jumping into another project. I don’t want to outrun my guide. So I’m taking it a day at a time, trying to ask for guidance in the morning, not just a bed time. That seems to be working.


Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

I love the concept of "not outrunning your guide."

In the new DVD The Secret,(google what is the secret) one of the people interviewed talked about there not being one set purpose for our lives. More like an open invitation to creativity in every moment. I liked that. I'm fulfilling my purpose in every moment I decide to listen for and act with God. Then...I blow it, but there is the next moment to try again.

2:53 PM  
Blogger naturalmom said...

I'm glad you are working your way toward more clearness in your work. Keep it up! I like the imagery of "outrunning your guide". That's a Quakerism I hadn't heard yet, but it's a useful one!


12:06 AM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Just speaking personally, the times when I've had the most frequent experiences of being led and guided have been times when I have simultaneously felt a deep hunger for God, and entertained very wrong-headed ideas about what I should be doing. When either the hunger or the wrong-headed ideas have subsided, my experiences of leadings have becoming fewer and less vivid.

But I am carefully saying "experiences of leadings", rather than "leadings", because -- much like you! -- I think that when my hunger and resistance are lessened, I am often led without realizing it.

There's an old story pastors tell of a man who dreams he is walking along the beach with Christ. "Hullo! Where did you come from?" says the man. "I have always been here with you," Christ answers mildly.

Then the man looks back and notices that, just a few feet back, there is only one set of footprints on the sand. "What about back then?" he asks, indicating the solitary footprints.

"That was when I was carrying you," says Christ.

7:53 AM  

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