Thomas R. Kelly
God is at work in the world. It is not we alone who are at work in the world, frantically finishing a work to be offered to God.... He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.
He is the center and source of action, not the end-point of thought.
Christian practice is not exhausted by outward deeds. These are the fruits, not the roots.
Placed in the shadows, we are happy to pick up a straw for the love of God. No task is so small as to distress us, no honor so great as to turn our heads.
Unless the willingness is present to be stripped of our last earthly dignity and hope, and yet still praise Him, we have no message in this our day of refugees, bodily and spiritual. Nor have we yielded to the monitions of the Inner Instructor.
The life that intends to be wholly obedient, wholly submissive, wholly listening, is astonishing in its completeness.
The energizing, dynamic center is not in us but in the Divine Presence in which we share. Religion is not our concern; it is God's concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at work, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine.
Count on God knocking.
Do you really want to live your lives, every moment of your lives, in His Presence?... If you do, then you can.
...I think it well not only to talk about the mystic's experience and the practice of the presence of God, but also to discuss the relation of the Sense of Presence to the will. I feel definitely that the significant factor in religion is a permanent attitude of the will, rather than a less permanent, more variable state of exaltation.... And as individual mystics who are led deep into the heart of devotion learn to be weaned away from reliance on special times of vision, learn not to clamor perpetually for height but to walk in shadows and valleys, and dry places, for months and years together, so must group worshipers learn that worship is fully valid when there are no thrills, no special sense of covering, but chiefly valleys and dry places. Misunderstandings, heartaches, and questionings have been caused by excessive demands for special experiences, for their enjoyment and for their prolongation. But I am persuaded that a deep sifting of religion leads us down to the will, steadfastly oriented toward the will of God. In that steadfastness of the will one walks serene and unperturbed, praying only, "Thy will be done."
Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed.
The main point is not that a new song is put into our mouths; the point is that a new song is put into our mouths.
Why want, and yearn, and struggle, when the Now contains all one could ever wish for, and more?
Is religion subjective? Nay, its soul is in objectivity, in an Other whose Life is our true life, whose Love is our love, whose Joy is our joy, whose Peace is our peace, whose Burdens are our burdens, whose Will is our will.
For surely all things of value are most certainly made secure through Him.
Letter to Lois Kelly, August 11, 1938:
My darling daughter, Lois Dear:
I wrote a letter just to Mother. Now I want to write a letter just to you. For I love my dear little daughter so very much, and I want to tell you so. Mother writes that you have been a sweet girl this summer. I hope you have had a wonderful time Macy. I can imagine the boat races you have seen, and the tramps through the woods, and the trips to Popham. And you have been singing in the choir! That is fine. I am so glad.
There are so many things here that I keep wanting you to see. If I were to describe them all, it would take up a book. But, more than that, there are people here I wish you could know, and experiences here I wish you could have. How I do wish you could come here for a year, and live in a German family of the finest kind, and we could take a girl from the same home for a year in America. Wouldn't you love that? There is a beautiful atmosphere to German life, when you get away from the noise of the big cities, something that you can never forget. There is a German Quaker family in Berlin who would be perfect, except that the girl is too grown-up. You would want a family with a daughter your own age. Then you would be with her here a year and then she came to us for a year....
They have beautiful songs here, and the young people wander in the forest (something like the Maine forests), and sing songs on their picnics. And they appreciate beautiful pictures. And, besides, dear little girl, a great cloud of sadness and sorrow lies over the world, and you are nearly old enough to understand more of it, from the inside. For sadness, and sorrow, and suffering are not things to run away from, but to live through, and understand. And if you are brave enough, and understanding enough, you will be a richer little girl, in your soul. For I see more and more that all the great souls must go through this shadow and find the sunlight beyond. But, my dear little Lois, you don't understand this yet, and don't try to. The time will come when you can....
Now, darling little girl, I must stop this letter, and get it in the mail to you. I love you so very, very much - and dear darling Mother, and precious Dickey. Give them all lots of kisses from me. I won't be long now, from the time you get this letter, till I get back. Won't that be great? Will any of you meet the boat? Oceans and oceans of dear love to you and all.
Your own Daddy
began coming over to Thomas Kelly's home one evening each week to talk and read together of books of mutual interest. They lived on a mixed diet of St. Augustine's Confessions and Gibran's The Prophet for the first few weeks and had an easy time of silence together after the readings. During the next two years they read a number of books of devotional literature together: Père Grou, Meister Eckhart, Brother Lawrence, Letters by a Modern Mystic, The Little Flowers of St. Francis, and then, quite naturally, the New Testament and the Psalms. The group grew until it often had six or seven students. At times no one would appear. But Thomas Kelly was always on hand.
-- Douglas V. Steere, "A Biographical Memoir," in Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion