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  Leadings of the Spirit 2008

Moderator: Colleen Finzel

For the first Brown Bag Discussion of the year, a group of Friends gathered in the Schoolhouse at Downingtown Friends Meeting to discuss Leadings of the Spirit that they had had during 2008. Through the discussion, it came out that not everyone knew what leadings were and what do if they had one.

What is a leading?

Often a leading is based on a foundation. We donít know where itís going to go, but we just throw it out there.

Where do leadings come from?

A leading doesnít come from the head. It comes from the heart, so said one of our Meetingís senior members. "I had what was a very unusual experience for me many years agoĖcalling up someone at Meeting and asking them if theyíd like to have a clearness committee," she added. And as far as Iím concerned, it came from nowhere, but, obviously, it did come from some place. And that was my first understanding of what a leading could be."

A person who now comes to our Meeting but previously attended several others, noted that trust is a huge issue in sharing feelings or ideas with another person.

He added, "I recently had an experience that I just felt I didnít know what to do. This was something I agreed to do a year ago, and it bothered me that I didnít have any good reason not to do it, other than my resistance. It wasnít anything I hadnít done before, but I definitely felt a clarity in that I just didnít want to do it. I tried talking myself out of it by explaining away the resistance. But then I decided to give into the resistance and trust it for no other reason than trust."

"The trust thing for me was that it may not just be about you," he continued. "We get these vibes about us that our yes or nos are all about our lives. But, all of sudden, things opened up for me when I was really just called to trust without having to give a lot of reasons for resistanceĖand that it may not be about me. For me, the confirmation of thatĖand I sat for a long time thinking about itĖwas just so easy. And when I was finished speaking with my spiritual director, I had such peace. I knew what I did was right, and I had no more reason to explain that feeling than I had to explain resistance before. When it was over, I hung up the phone and I felt this sense of peace. And I have no explanation for the reason I resisted or the reason for the peace, other than what I called a leading of the spirit And I really do trust the outcome of this way beyond my knowing."

Sometimes we hear a voice, and we try to override that voice. Itís whispering to us. Itís important to seek out someone to help get us our of ourselves. Readings, which often mean nothing to other people, may cause bells to start ringing and a sense of clarity to surface. For some itís almost like looking down on themselves from a different vantage point.

Does trust say something about resistance? Do they go on at the same time?

What closes one door causes another to open. Our moderator wonders if sometimes people might find leadings offputting. "What has the light done for you and through you?," she asked. "Thatís another way of thinking about it."

Has the light worked through you this past year? Did it illuminate your own path or were you able to touch other people?

"The idea of this Web site, for instance, began in a meeting of our Nominating Committee, when a member noted that we were having trouble getting to people to tell them what positions were open on various committeesĖbecause we were having trouble filling some positions," said our Webmaster. "So I said what we needed was a Web site. We had one a while back but eventually it died. The Web site idea just started to mushroom after thatĖand that became a sort of leading for me."

So who do you call if you think you have a leading?

Probably the most logical person should contact would be their overseer. Our moderatorís concern was that not a lot of people in Meeting are aware that the clearness committee process is there for leadings. Sure, they know it for marriage or becoming a member of Meeting, but there are other ways of using this process. Often a leading is more formal and might require the involvement of Meeting as a whole. A person may have an idea thatís telling them something, but theyíre shaped by the community.

Where do ideas for leadings come from?

For some, greeting before Meeting for Worship is a spiritual leading. Itís something that person wants to do. For others, itís teaching First Day SchoolĖnot just teaching it, but making a difference in our Young Friends program.

One of our Meeting members dedicated to working with Young Friends said, "Once the thing is resolved, then I feel that now itís a leading. Itís a leading that came to me. I didnít have any lightbulb when I got this leading to do the orientation. I didnít invent anythingĖthe class had been there beforeĖbut I felt that I needed to do this. I brought this up to Worship and Ministry and a couple of months went by and nothing happened. So I did it myself. I did the research. I was really torn. Should I get the program ready. I wasnít sure if it would go or not. How it all comes together. Thatís been a new experience for me. I managed to reconcile this. If I do the program, Ok. If not, OK. The way I reconciled it was that Iím one person in the world, and Iíve seen the program.

The thing about a leading is that you put your heart and soul into it, but youíre not attached to the outcome. You follow the leading, but you may not know where itís going to take you.

Is it common with leadings for a person who has one to take the initiative?

Sometimes, the Quaker process is too long, and the person gets impatient. They know that what they want to do is important, and it just canít wait. But what if itís more about the personís ego.

Will their leading be in sync with where the Meeting is? If so, will the community support it? But if itís somehow not, then it seems itís time to back up and requery their attachment to the outcome of their leading. They need to figure out whether itís them or about the community? Thus, communities can be very helpful in keeping us humbly available to God.

Serendipity can also come into play when dealing with leadings. "What started out as simply designing our Web site has grown into a leading to help our Meeting communicate better with the new technologyĖnot just our Web site, but how we handle our directory, our Google Group, etc.," added our Webmaster.

If the ego is too involved, something canít grow and a person canít be open to somebody elseís interpretation. Or they canít be open to someone else saying, ĎIs that the best way?í That seems to be the struggle, but the community aspect of itĖthe idea of something growing as a community effortĖthat is a sign that the leading is not a personal thing.

A leading comes out of acting from the heart. And loving the community and wanting to share that with it.

Read about the Opening Exercises on Leadings

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