Centering Down

photo-nov-06-10-58-37-amCentering Down is an adult spiritual sharing group that takes place in the meetinghouse library every Sunday at 10 AM, before worship. All are welcome to join at any time.

Each week's topic is included in the bulletin. It typically includes a few passages from the minister's message, as well as some queries—questions to stimulate self-examination and thought. We might spend several minutes in silent reflection before anyone speaks. Individuals are encouraged to speak from their own experiences and to listen deeply to one another, allowing a little time for reflection between speakers. In this way, we can come to know one another better and share our unique portion of Light with one another.

The following are recent centering down passages:

But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins
-Luke 5: 38
Throughout their history, the people called Quakers have provided a spiritual anchor of hope during times of cultural turmoil...People want and need assurance that all shall be well. I believe that Friends will be a sign of hope for persons who exhibit certain traits. Here is what I have observed...

Quakerism is attractive to persons who are...OPEN...Open to new ideas and ways of living...To persons who are PLIABLE, who are not set in their ways or living their lives in certitudes...To persons who are INITIATING, who are willing to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth...To persons who are SEEKING, who are looking for new avenues of growth...To persons who are in TRANSITION, who have discovered that the old ways do not spiritually feed them anymore...To persons who are NOT SELF-RIGHTEOUS or JUDGMENTAL, who can grow in a diverse and all-inclusive community of faith...To persons who are QUESTIONING, where queries serve as stepping stones to spiritual growth... To persons who are SELF-AWARE, aware of his or her gifts, behaviors and feelings...To persons who are REFFLECTIVE and who are open to CRITICAL THINKING. Finally, Quakerism is attractive to persons who understand that an important part of a faith tradition is the concern for MINISTRY and SERVICE to the world.

We will not be attractive to everyone...We will be attractive to those who can identify with one or some of the above traits. This gives me hope when there is so much to despair.

What brought you to Cincinnati Friends Meeting?

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place...
-Acts 2:1
Today is the day that Christians around the world celebrate Pentecost. The name comes from the Greek, which means 50th. It signifies 50 days after Easter. As most of you know, Quakers believe that every day is Pentecost, in the same way that they believe that every day is Christmas or Easter. Quakers believe that the same Spirit and Light which blew through those gathered at Pentecost, continues to transform and guide us today. This belief raises the question, "How are the Spirit and Light of God working now?" In many ways, I am sure. Most specifically, however, here is how I have witnessed the Spirit of God working:

First, the Spirit and Light of God are transforming persons filled with confusion and skepticism into persons of faith. Spirit and Light can transform the most hardened skeptics.

Secondly, the transformative power of Spirit and Light are creating community out of isolation and alienation. The pilgrims who came to Jerusalem 50 days after Easter did not know one another. They came from many lands, speaking many different languages. Yet despite their language and cultural differences, they became ONE in the Spirit of God.

Finally, God's Spirit and Light are creating hope out of hopelessness and despair. Despite violence, angry politics and the economy, Quakers and others are addressing a broad range of concerns...Gun violence, poverty, health care, care of the environment, etc. In times like these, and in the words of Mr. Rogers' mother, "Look for the helpers."

Where do you see God's Spirit and Light at work?
"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
-Matthew 12:48
Today we celebrate Mother's Day. According to many, it is a day that we celebrate the Christian home and Christian family. Just how do we define what a Christian family is? I would submit that a family, a family of any faith, is defined by the love of God. If you are trying to love and care for others, especially those who are nearest to you in your family, then you are doing what I believe God wants us to do. All that God wants of us is to love, and this is whether or not we are gay or straight, married or divorced, whether we are single or widowed, whether we are young or old, whether we have or do not have children, and whether or not we make mistakes as a father or mother, or are as perfect as perfect can be.

Jesus was very concerned about the family, and he also changed the definition of just what a family is. He told us that there is only one family that really counts, and that is the family that he came to make us a part of, the family of God. "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my family."

You see, a family is so much more than how it is defined by James Dobson or by the Census Bureau. It includes our nuclear families for sure, but it includes all of us as well. We are the family that God has made, and when we love others, and in that love nurture others and forgive others...when we respect, encourage, and honor others, helping others lift their burdens, we are the family of God.

How was, and how is love expressed in your home?

For you are setting your mind, not on divine things, but on human things.
-Mark 8:33
Setting our minds on "divine things" has become increasingly more difficult. A disturbing trend has developed, especially over the past few decades that threatens our spiritual life as a nation. Many are becoming conscious of what can only be called the desensitizing of America. It shows up in major ways, such as our ever growing callousness to violence and racism, and in small ways, from getting cut-off in traffic, to not saying "Please" or "Thank you." There are however, practices that will help us in the process of becoming more sensitive.

The first practice is Reverence. Reverence begins with an understanding of human limitations. From this grows the capacity to be in awe of whatever lies outside our control.

A second practice is Critical Thinking and Reflection. I believe that this practice is at the core of saving our democracy.

A third practice is Gratitude. It is a practice that is equated with a sense of humility. In expressing gratitude we recognize that we are not alone in this life, and that we are reliant upon God and others for help and support in our daily living.

A fourth practice is Compassion. To be compassionate means to "suffer with" those who are suffering.

Finally, there is the practice of Justice. Public policy must enhance, not diminish the prospects of the least well off.

Have you experienced the desensitizing of our society?