Vol. XXV, No. 11 December 2012

"Is there enough Silence for the Word to be heard?"

Joyful greetings, dear friends! It is easy to feel the joy of this sacred time of year. But then we remember: All time is sacred, and joy is always with us! We are surrounded by it; it holds us in constant embrace. We cannot escape it: The joy in which we dwell is everywhere, as distant as the farthest star and as close as the depths of our own hearts. We have only to become aware and awake, accepting and attentive, to claim it. As Nan Merrill has written, "Awakening to our divine nature is a peace-filled, joy-filled, and creative way of being." As we rest in the Silence, may we come to know the Sacred joy that fills the universe around us.

The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.

~ Martin Buber

Joy has the power to open our hearts, remove fear, instill hope, and foster healing. Joy leads us to wisdom, because it connects us to all we are—our mind, heart, power, and spirit. Joy stimulates our immune system, increases our energy, and gives us mental clarity. It helps us heighten our level of consciousness so we can more readily tap our inner wisdom. Instead of agonizing over decisions, we become more able to simply listen within and know what to do.

~ from FINDING JOY by Charlotte Davis Kasl

Joy is a piercing desire, a mystical longing both painful and sweet: a kind of homesickness for a home we scarcely remember.

~ Deborah Smith Douglas, in Weavings XV:4

For this joy is close to you,
it is in you!
None of you has a spirit so heavy
nor an intelligence so feeble,
none of you is so far from God
not to be able to find this joy
in God.

~ Meister Eckhart

"You sense the pure joy from her. And it's nice to touch that. Because we're all so skeptical—I know I am. But even the skeptics begin to believe in God just because she's so happy. And it's not like she's preaching. This woman is just joy and happiness, period. . . . The first time you meet her, you think she's not real, not normal. But in twenty years I've never seen her change. There's an exuberance about her relationship with God, her relationship with people. Just joy, happiness, love. It's what we're born to be, and wish we could be."

~ Fr. Joe Carroll in THE PRISON ANGEL by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan

We know joy when we are happy to take from life what is given. When we experience the joy of the soul and higher states of consciousness, this joy is the essence of completion and fulfillment. There is nothing that can add to it or take away from it. Joy is our natural state.

~ from BODY OF TIME, SOUL OF ETERNITY by Jerry Thomas

The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own fake self and enter by Love into union with the Life who dwells and sings with the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.

~ Thomas Merton

Dance, my heart! Dance today with joy.
The strains of love fill the days and the
nights with music, and the world is
listening to its melodies.
Made with joy, life and death dance to
the rhythm of this music. The hills
and the sea and the earth dance.
The world of man dances in laughter and tears.
Why put on the robe of the monk, and
live aloof from the world in lonely pride?
Behold! My heart dances in the delight of
a hundred arts; and the Creator
is well pleased.


I praise You in the silence
of my heart,
for your steadfast love,
O my Beloved;
I offer prayers of gratitude
O Holy One of the universe.
My heart leaps for joy, as
I whisper to You
in the night—
my soul also, which You
renew within me.

~ from PSALMS FOR PRAYING by Nan Merrill

Joy is wisdom, time an endless song.

~ William Butler Yeats

Barnaby was like a mood, a fragrance of the harmonious inner life, permeating everything with which he came into contact. He knew sorrow and he knew joy, and he held them in a delicate balance of serenity and peace. He knew how to respond equally joyfully to an invitation to walk or talk or sit together, which seems to me to be a particular kind of training in grace—a willingness to respond easily and happily to even the most modest adventure together. Perhaps it could be said that within his framework of being a dog, he lived life as a spiritual exercise.

~ from MYSTICAL DOGS by Jean Houston

Always, when we are still, we may hear the song of Life pouring joyously through our consciousness. We have only to listen, for it is always there. If we would catch the vision of the joy meant to be ours, we must dry our tears, lay aside our fears, and think from the inspirational center within us, which is nothing less than the Divine singing its song of life.

~ Earnest Holmes

While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy
We see into the life of things.

~ William Wadsworth

Joy is the echo of God's life in us.

~ Columba Mormion

May you appreciate the unfolding of your creative joy as your imagination soars. May you leap for joy with faith in God's timing . . . May you let go of bitterness, and allow forgiveness to graciously fill your life. May you experience joy in the moment, and move forth with the word of God. May playfulness infuse the serious purpose of your life. And may you share the joy of that play and laughter so that others, too, might find happiness.

~ from JOY by Beverly Elaine Eanes

Dear Friends,

It’s a glowingly lovely early autumn day as I write this at Rolling Ridge. Our community garden is a riot of bright zinnias and marigolds; most of the vegetable plants have gone to seed. The garden deserves this rest and celebration, having yielded beans, peppers, blackberries, tomatoes and much more. The season of gratitude for an abundant harvest is at hand, inspiring me to tell you how the work of Friends of Silence this year has yielded its own rich harvest and to ask for your prayerful and financial support so that the Letter can continue to nurture a growing community.

Last year Bob wrote to tell you the story of how the work of Friends of Silence came to dwell here beside this garden nestled in 1400 acres of wilderness in West Virginia. He recalled how in her last days with us in this world Nan Merrill gave him a colorful bundle of past Friends of Silence Letters saying, “take my baby.” And he did, carrying Nan’s ministry to his home at Rolling Ridge, a nature preserve in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Here Friends of Silence has taken root and grown. Continuing with Anne Strader, four of us, Bob, Trish, Mary Ann and I, came together to hold Nan’s dream with listening and receptive spirits. We promised to hold fast to the heart of Friends of Silence, the monthly Letter, and we have. We understood that Nan’s hope for the life of her baby went beyond the Letter, and we endeavored to nurture Friends of Silence in new directions as they emerged.

We knew this would be quite a journey, and Bob asked for your prayers. We are grateful and humbled, one year later, to have experienced how bountifully those prayers have been answered.

Nan’s dream included establishing an actual, physical dwelling place where the readers and participants in Friends of Silence could come for renewal, rest and, of course, silence. Almost a year ago, in November, 2011, Friends of Silence became a partner of Still Point Mountain Retreat, a lovely three-bedroom cabin on a forested rise overlooking the Shenandoah River. Here many lovers of silence have come to contemplate the splendor of God’s creation while taking part in personal or programmed retreats. A smaller cabin, the River House, is similarly available for those who crave solitude closer to the bank of the Shenandoah.

Near the Still Point cabin is a simple, one-room building once known as “the writer’s cottage.” Tucked under stately oaks and birch, its rear wall is a large window that looks onto a walking labyrinth and the forest beyond. During the spring and early summer, many friends came together to transform the small structure, giving it a new hardwood floor, fresh paint inside and out, a modestly lovely deck, and an attached restroom with a clean and natural composting toilet and gravity sink.

The cottage is now the home of Nan’s collection of many books on spirituality, wisdom and faith. Trish, our own resident contemplative artist, spent time making the cottage interior a serene space in which to read and reflect. She took time also to organize the collection, which is lovingly arranged on simple shelves lining two walls of the cottage.

Still Point became the site for the birth of the Friends of Silence Retreat Ministry. Under Friends of Silence sponsorship, this year women have come to share their life journeys as well as their handcrafts and spirituality; girls spent a week learning from mentors in the arts and exploring their own expressions; Trish led a retreat on Nan’s interpretations of the psalms, using Psalms for Praying; in August, more than 60 people came to take part in the Pilgrimage of Peace, built around daily sung prayer and silence.

Reflections on these retreats and the immeasurable possibilities of being in silence while surrounded by sacred wilderness are recorded in the “blog-style” email launched this year, Inside Friends of Silence, which now goes out to nearly 900 online readers.

The Friends of Silence website is slowly unfolding into an ever-deepening well of resources and nourishment for those on a path of Silence. More and more quotes from all the Friends of Silence Letters are being cataloged and stored in a searchable database. We are poised to inaugurate courses and retreats that can be taken online, the first one aptly titled, “Befriending Silence.”

Recently I reflected on the first steps taken in the labyrinth, which is in the clearing behind the Friends of Silence Library at Still Point. This labyrinth was the work of the Pilgrimage of Peace, whose participants built it during the retreat using stones gathered from the land. At the conclusion of the Pilgrimage, we were the first group to walk its circular pattern, blessing all who would come after. It was an overcast morning, tender rain having just stopped as we began to walk. The gray light softened the edges of the forest as the leaves whispered above us. I thought about first steps, how Nan’s baby is taking them, here, surrounded by a Loving Presence, embraced by trees and morning mist. I believe she would rejoice.

The winding path still lies ahead, of course, with many more steps to go. The budding of the FOS retreat ministry has been enabled by retreat fees, thus growing Friends of Silence without taking away from its heart, the Letter. The Letter is sent to thousands completely without charge or subscription cost. Its publication and distribution still depends solely on contributions from readers. Your generosity enables Nan’s baby to thrive, because the Letter at its heart will remain full of life. Please make a contribution to sustain Nan’s baby today.

Your friend in Silence,


Lindsay McLaughlin
Email: lindsay.rollingridge@gmail.com
Phone: 304.724.1069

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