Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trying to be Humble ~ Bruce Arnold

"I gradually moved away from the emphasis on plainness, and back to calling it simplicity.  What I had learned, stayed with me, but the perspective underwent a gradual and subtle shift.Now, thirty years later, I am wondering about the wisdom of that. Many Friends are once again feeling the call to plainness.

First, I want to say that my suspicion that it takes community to have a real, vital expression of plainness is proving to be accurate. It may be, in our current situation, that this community is more “virtual” than was possible before. People who might never have met can now, through internet social networking media, question each other, support each other, serve as role models for each other. As this discussion grows, and more people engage with the effort, I expect that actual (or “analog”) communities will grow, in which people in the same Yearly Meetings (and not just the Conservative ones), or even the same local Meetings, will be practising plainness together, face to face and not just keyboard to keyboard......

What is plainness, then, and why is it different from simplicity? I am struggling to answer this question, myself. While I find it useful to distinguish the two, it is hard to come up with a pat definition that can withstand all objections.I know this, though: plainness has more to do with trying to be humble than it does with trying to be good."

Bruce Arnold

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Artwork from Matthew Hopkins

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Learn to Limit Yourself ~ Henri-Frédéric Amiel

"Learn to limit yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality."

Henri-Frédéric Amiel

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Destroyer of Happiness ~ 'Wee Dragon'

"I don’t want to leave a legacy of life evasion to my children.  The legacy that was left to me.  I want to teach them to love life, to embrace it, and to look to G-d, no matter the circumstances.  I realize that my chances of teaching that to them, when I do not do it myself, are slim indeed.  I remember a childhood of being disciplined or silenced for expressing a negative emotion.  I remember thinking that my negative  feelings were the cause of my mother’s stony silences, of my father’s anxieties.  I remember wondering how it was that I came to be the Great Destroyer of Happiness, how I destroyed my family with my SELF.  Oh, how I don’t want my children to feel that!

This human condition is messy at best, devastating at its worst.  I don’t want to wake up one day, with my kids grown and wrinkles on my face, and realize that I wasted so many days just trying to get to the next day.  I want to learn to embrace what is NOW, and to open myself up to seeing the beauty that G-d has placed in it.  Now, just to get out of this trap of a head.  I want nothing more than to pull down these lofty and theological ideals that I hold into the mess of my daily life."

More at my favourite blog of all time,  Please visit it, but be prepared for a level of simplicity and honesty that will affect you and stay with you.

Artwork by Mariann Johansen-Ellis at

Friday, November 23, 2012

Occupied with Things ~ Rufus M. Jones

"Sometimes _ Oh joy! when the inward weather is just right; when selfish impulse has been hushed; when the clouds and shadows, which sin makes, are swept away and genuine love makes the whole inner atmosphere pure and free from haze, then I know that I find a beyond which before was nowhere in sight and might easily not have been suspected. I can not decide whether this extended range of sight is due to alterations in myself or whether it is due to some sudden increase of spiritual visibility in the great reality itself. I only know the fact. Before, I was occupied with things; now, I commune with God and am as sure of Him as I am of the mountains beyond my lake, which my sceptical visitor has not yet seen."

Rufus M. Jones 

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Artwork  Barnett Freedman

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Speak Well of Them ~ Amish Rules of a Godly Life

"Do not speak evil of friends; rather, speak well of them wherein they deserve praise. What is not praiseworthy keep to yourself. Slanderings and scornful gossip are poison to any friendship. If you are present when others speak disrespectfully of one who is absent, search first your own heart before joining in; without doubt you will find there the same (or greater) shortcomings. This should move you to better yourself, and yet keep you from speaking evil of others and belittling them."

Taken from the Amish book 'Rules of a Godly Life'

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Everything Cannot be Untied- Henri Frederic Amiel

"A man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is en-wrapped  for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and his life."

-  Henri Frederic Amiel

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Lord of all Hopefulness ~ Jan Struther

"Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares can destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day."

Jan Struther

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I know this as a childhood hymn sung to this old Irish tune

Music from the excellent Purple Hulls

Monday, November 19, 2012

Out -of-Step ~ Ellen M. Ross

"Sometimes I feel painfully out-of-step with the world around me. Perhaps I’d have fit in better in some other era, in a more simple time. And yet, as a student of Quaker history, I know there has been no “simple time.” Some days my yearning to make a better world and my fear that I cannot make any meaningful difference pervade my every step.

In these dark moments, history comforts me. In the eighteenth century, people with sensibilities similar to mine took meaningful action in their own lives. My solace comes in stories of these Quakers—people who worked to change themselves, their families, their communities; who accepted the misunderstanding of the world around them and persevered in working for what they believed."

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Light and Life ~ William Penn

"It is not opinion, or speculation, or notions of what is true, or assent to or the subscription of articles or propositions, though never so soundly worded, that ... makes a man a true believer or a true Christian. But it is a conformity of mind and practice to the will of God, in all holiness of conversation, according to the dictates of this Divine principle of Light and Life in the soul which denotes a person truly a child of God."

~  William Penn, 1692

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Art of Living ~ Horace B Pointing

"The art of living must be studied, as must every art. It calls for imagination, so that every advance, every change, is not merely a difference, but a creative act. Achievement, at any level above the lowest, calls for courage to hold on, in spite of current moods, and for exacting self-discipline. The art of Christian living calls for the same self-preparation; but its reward is not merely aesthetic satisfactions. The soul, hungry for God, is fed. Life itself takes on new meaning. Thus it is that we break from the confines of the prisons we have built about ourselves. Thus it is we are brought into the freedom of the Kingdom of God which, every day, through the wide world, is being realised in the hearts of men."

Horace B Pointing

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Artwork by Mariann Johansen-Ellis

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gathered Into the Barn ~ George Fox

"Bring all into the worship of God. Plough up the fallow ground. Thresh and get out the corn; that the seed, the wheat, may be gathered into the barn: that to the beginning all people may come; to Christ, who was before the world was made. For the chaff is come upon the wheat by transgression. He that treads it out is out of transgression, fathoms transgression, puts a difference between the precious and the vile, can pick out the wheat from the tares, and gather into the garner; so brings to the lively hope the immortal soul, into God out of which it came. None worship God but who come to the principle of God, which they have transgressed. None are ploughed up but he who comes to the principle of God in him, that he hath transgressed. Then he doth service to God; then is the planting, watering, and increase from God."

George Fox

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Like-minded People ~ Melancholy Jane

"Ever since I left home at a fairly young age, I have been seeking a community of like-minded people. It’s a dream of mine to live among friends who think like I do, feel like I do, and make choices similar to mine. I’m still searching for that community, and until I find it, I’m quite happy to make do in the community where I find myself. Every place I’ve lived for the past several years, I’ve tried to integrate myself into the fabric of the place.......

This is one way that the Quaker testimony of community has woven itself into my life and the life of my family. We try very hard to connect to the people living around us. That means our neighbors, our classmates, and the people who work in and around the places where we live our local lives.

My family is very lucky in that we live in a village, which means that we walk to school, the supermarket, the dentist, the bank, the coffee shop, even the local knitting store and second-hand store. As we walk, we see people we know and people we don’t know. Walking with my kids gives me the opportunity to talk with them about the people in our lives, the people all around us. They see me speaking amiably with strangers, greeting friends, and giving and receiving help as it’s needed. These connections with our community are a part of our everyday lives."

More at the simple, but all the better for that, blog ~

Artist Edward Bawden

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Growth ~ Kenneth Boulding

"The purpose of our growth in life is to bring us into unity with the universe into which we are born, to make us aware that we are not lonely individual meteors hurtling blindly through an abysmal dark, but living parts of a living whole. As we grow we learn to love more and more: first ourselves; then the family within the small kingdom of the home; then the school, the wider circle of friends, the home community, the college, and the still wider community of the nation; and finally, the greatest country of all, which has no boundaries this side of Hell, and perhaps not even there. In some this process of enlargement is arrested at an intermediate stage, and then love turns in upon itself and becomes sour. Some have never truly loved anything but themselves - perhaps `because their first outreachings were received with coldness and lack of sympathy - and then love quickly turns putrid, and becomes greed, and lust, and turns even to self-disgust."

 ~ Kenneth Boulding

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Artist Barnett Freedman

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love Everything ~ Fyodor Mikhail Dostoyevsky

"Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love. "

Fyodor Mikhail Dostoyevsky

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Your Life is a Leaf ~ Leonard Cohen

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

Leonard Cohen

 The Sisters of Mercy on facebook

Art by Penny Peckham -

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Fit Things Together ~ Corita Kent

"Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us. To create means to relate. The root meaning of the word art is "to fit together" and we all do this every day. Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are creating - whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day."

 ~ Corita Kent

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Art by ~  Corita Kent

Monday, November 5, 2012

Collective Wisdom ~ Max Carter

"A notable aspect of Amish society is the ability to take new technologies and ideas, put them “on probation” to see how they affect core principles, and then make an informed decision about whether to adopt them. We modern Quakers are more prone to accept whatever new thing is coming down the pike, realizing only later that we should have been more careful in welcoming Trojan horses into our lives.......
How may we more effectively use the collective wisdom of our heritage and our community to assure that we march into the future wisely?"

~ Max Carter

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Quiet My Body ~ Francis Brown

"I shared in meeting the other day a little prayer, a definition of prayer, that is not Quaker but which helps me. This little definition is that prayer is a quieting of your mind and an opening of yourself to a larger awareness. And that’s exactly what I do when I go into Quaker meeting. First of all, I just try to quiet my body -- that isn’t very hard for me at my age, but it‘s very hard for young kids. But the hardest thing is to quiet your racing mind, you know, your thinking and intellectual pursuits, and quiet your spirit and just open yourself up to a larger awareness—that’s the presence of God—and take it from there."

–Francis Brown

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Wall hanging to be found at Belfast Meeting House (Fredrick Street)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Frayed around the Edges ~ Pamela Haines

"To mend something well, you have to understand how it’s put together. How do the seams work in a dress? What is the process of knitting that will allow me to repair a long unravelling  It can be hard when, in order to fix something, you have to take a first step that makes it worse. I don’t mind disassembling things; if I just pay attention I have a fair amount of confidence that I can get them back together. But with my wobbly dining room chairs I needed the support of a more experienced friend to know that, before they could be solidly re-glued  I had to knock the joints completely apart. Once I had good access to all those pegs and holes, it was easy to know what to do.....

Then there is the relationship that gets broken or torn or frayed around the edges. The impulse to just throw it out and get a new one can be strong. But we can practice mending here as well—acknowledging our part, listening from the heart, saying we’re sorry, not giving up on ourselves or the other person, putting in the time to be in contact. What if we thought of mending as a critical activity in our quest for a truly liveable world? Then every time we sewed a button, every time we apologized, or repaired something rather than throwing it out, we could remember that we are building the skills, muscles, and attitudes that are needed to make our world whole."

~ Pamela Haines

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I woulod love to give full credit for the quilting, but all I can find out is that it was made by 'Amy'.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Times and Seasons ~ Caroline Stephen

"There are lives so rounded and crowned by their completed deeds of love, that death seems to have appeared in the fullness of their prime only to consecrate them for ever; others stand apart from human ties in a solitude which makes time seem of little consequence, and the grave a not unfamiliar country... We do not know to what unfathomable necessities the times and seasons of life and death may correspond; and as little do we know, in looking at each other's lives, what may be unfolding or what may be concluded, as seen from within. That which seems to others a cutting short of activity, may be to ourselves the laying down of arms no longer needed; our eyes may see the haven, where our friends can see only the storm; or if we cannot see a fitness in the time of our death, is that a strange thing in such a life as this?"

Caroline Stephen

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Artist Edward Bawden

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