Our Collective Journal

August/September 2011

 

"I have often felt a motion of love to leave some hints

in writing of my experience of the goodness of God." 

--John Woolman  

 

Chapter 2

When was your longing for 

God's Presence unfulfilled?

 

 

Broken Shop Window, photo by Margaret Kellermann  
 

Why?

The scenes of that day are seared in my mind.  Six years and one month ago, I sat at my sister’s bedside and watched her gasp her last breath.  Until that moment I had held on to a tiny remnant of faith for a miracle.  After all, I believed that God could move mountains, and God could respond to our prayers for healing and life.

 

As I painfully grieved her death, I wasn’t aware that I... [more]

 
 

I Never Thought of God as Santa Claus

I never thought of God as Santa Claus or a mail order catalog, so I can’t say I have ever been disap­pointed with God.  But yes, there have been times when my long­ing for God’s presence was unfulfilled.

 

There never seemed to be any external circumstance that set it off. It was just a shift in con­sciousness, like suddenly wak­ing up to the fact that you have been thrown from an airplane and you are hurtling... [more]

 
 

Where was God in all this?

Ten weeks before her due date our first daughter, Annalee, was born. It was traumatic and sud­den and the full might of tech­nology was immediately engaged in keeping her alive. She was rushed off to be intubated. I did not even get a chance to see her or hold her or welcome her to this wild place.  In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Annalee was hooked up to what seemed like a hundred machines... [more]

 
 

The Voice

I haven't heard The Voice since early spring of 2000, more than eleven years ago.  That last time was just a whisper, just four words totaling five syllables:  "This is your story."

 

I had come to anticipate that Voice every few months or years; now I wonder if it will ever come again. The earlier words were clarion calls or short conversa­tions that made God's presence obvious and nearly palpable, leaving me steadied and com­forted.  The... [more]

 
 

Is There Any Place Where God is Not?

“God is always at home.  It is we who have gone out for a walk.”   These words attributed to Meister Eckhart, a mystic in 13th Century Germany, may suggest a reason why I often experience God’s absence, especially in moments of anxiety or fear when I have launched out into some totally new action. At those times I wonder why God can lose me so easily; isn’t he everywhere? Is there any place where he... [more]

 
 

When Was My Longing for God's Presence Unfulfilled?

After some soul searching I came to realize that it is unful­filled every time I try to take charge of it.  Every time I try to make something happen.  When I sit down and think, “I am going to experience God’s presence now!”

 

I can be so entrenched in my brain when I am longing for the presence of the Divine that I for­get to engage my heart or soul.  I am so busy thinking about... [more]

 
 

Drought

Twenty-some years ago, I was living at Stanford University with my two young boys and my first husband, who was attend­ing graduate school. The weather was perfect all the time. Every day we woke to cloudless skies, 70 degree weather, and no rain in the forecast for several more years.

 

We were in the middle of a seven-year drought. No matter; this was California. Water still gushed from the faucets, and the university grass stayed strangely... [more]

 
 

WHERE was God?

My father died in 1995, soon after his second marriage.  He was a gentle man; I learned from him about quiet caring, silence, and love.  But none of these qualities prepared him for the marriage he leapt into after my mother’s slow death from Alzheimer’s.  And it did not take long to see that his new wife was abusing him:  not all his “falls” were accidents; he was belittled in front of others; and money... [more]

 
 

Untitled

Bill and I engaged in what I call “advanced family planning.” We decided to both adopt and make kids from scratch. My most vivid experiences of God’s voice all had to do with adoption. The first came years before we began the process and happened dur­ing open worship. I felt a voice very unlike my own – very de­cisive and commanding – saying to me that adoption would be some­thing that would happen in my... [more]

 
 

Suffering

In 1971 I moved from the West Coast to upstate New York and began working for a literacy organization in Syracuse. Later I travelled to Latin America to document literacy work the organization was doing in Colombia, Panama and Mexico as part of a fund-raising initiative. My job was to describe the organization’s work for its North American donor base.

 

I remember taking along a book by a popular evangelical writer, thinking to use it as... [more]

 
 

Double Search

I can’t do anything about God’s Presence, but I can fail to be open to it, and that is when I am in crisis.  My arrogance and self-will have been at times a barrier to God’s presence for me.  That’s when I am in crisis.  Sometimes it is not easy to be open.  When I am, regardless of other cir­cumstances, God is there.

 

I have been inordinately blessed in my life.  Simply being born white and... [more]

 
 

Lo, I Am With You Always

When I was new at West Hills Friends, a woman stood up in Open Worship and spoke with great emotion about feeling separated from God.  Though she cried out to God with longing and grief, she could not feel God’s presence at all.  I listened to her in shock, for I had never felt that way in my life.  It was as unimaginable to me as hearing someone say they had never seen the sun,... [more]

 
 

The Dark Night

My life was badly off track, and I knew I needed God.  My hus­band and I were separated, my 6-year-old was depressed and acting out, and I was in a painful on-again, off-again relationship with my supervisor “John.”  In frequent prayers, I asked God to take away everything about me that wasn’t good, including my attachment to John.  

 

Things got worse, and I thought God wanted me to try harder.   Scripture says to think about good... [more]

 
 

 

Stories in this Chapter

 

Why?

 

I Never Thought of God as Santa Claus

 

Where was God in all this?

 

The Voice

 

Is There Any Place Where God is Not?

 

When Was My Longing for God's Presence Unfulfilled?

 

Drought

 

WHERE was God?

 

Untitled

 

Suffering

 

Double Search

 

Lo, I Am With You Always

 

The Dark Night