I met my F/friend Yola almost thirty years ago, on Platform 1 at Northampton station. At the time, we were both commuting to London, and happened to catch the same trains every day. It was she who introduced me to a tiny (filofax page sized) booklet called Advices and Queries, The forty-two advices and queries cover just twelve pages.
Yet I cannot think of many other books that have had a more fundamental effect on the way I think and on how I live my life. Alfred Hall's Beliefs of a Unitarian, perhaps, but few others. I keep a copy in my handbag, and am currently on my third one, having literally read the first two to pieces.
You may wonder how such a slim volume could have such an influence on anyone. It is a good illustration of how quality is so much more important than quantity. Each advice or query is written in the simplest terms. Each is a profound challenge to me, personally. Each calls me to be the best Sue Woolley I can be, and to live my life in as authentic a way as possible. Let me share some luminous sentences that have made me think deeply about what I believe, and, more importantly, about how I live my everyday life:
5. Take time to learn about other people's experiences of the Light ... As you learn from others, can you in turn give freely from what you have gained?
7. Be aware of the spirit of God at work in the ordinary activities and experience of your daily life. Spiritual learning continues throughout life, and often in unexpected ways. There is inspiration to be found all around us ... Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come?
17. Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God, and each must find the way to be true to it.
27. Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opporunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak.
32. Bring into God's light those emotions, attitudes, and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace.
37/38. Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? ... If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity, are you prepared to resist it?
41. Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle, freely chosen, is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford.
Such short, simple sentences. Such huge, complex challenges. Each time it's not just a declaration of belief, it's a challenge to do something about this in your own life. This is what I find so powerful about Advices and Queries. And why they have become, in a very real way, my personal 42 commandments. Living up to them may take the rest of my life.