Monday, August 18, 2008

In God's Hands

I have a lot of anxieties. In fact I’m a rather anxious person by nature. I worry about just about everything. So pretty much as soon as I when through clearness a little under a year ago for a call to ministry through writing I began to worry. My worries weren’t really founded in anything in particular, but they did cause me to pretty much freeze up inside. For a few months I totally spiritually froze refusing to open up to God at all in anyway without realizing that was what I was doing. I was like a small child curled up in bed under the covers in terror; terror of my calling and terror of the fact that I had publicly acknowledged that calling. Slowly though, through prayer and the ministry of other Friends I began to uncurl. Still my writing remained difficult and rare. Where as before my clearness committee my writing flowed through me much as vocal ministry in meeting did, after my clearness committee writing became slow and painful with me second-guessing myself at every step. What I should have done was seek out other Friends to help guide and elder me through my fears, but even the prospect of that was frightening. So I decided this fear of my own gifts and callings was going to have to be between myself and God. If God wanted my to minister in that way then God would have to see me through my fear so I could do it. I still attended Quaker functions, I still participate in Quaker life, I still spoke in Meeting, I still conversed with Friends but part of me, the part of me that my writing had come out of seemed to be listening instead of speaking. Slowly, over time my fear lessened. I began to write. At first the writing took the form of poetry, my first love. Over time though I began to write more like I had before I went through clearness. At Baltimore Yearly meeting I wrote three articles and edited an earlier piece within a twenty-four hour period. The writing I did then was incredibly easy, flowing through me almost faster then I could write it down. I was also filled with the overwhelming sense that what I was writing was Truth as I experienced it. At the end of writing one piece I sat back and realized I had no anxiety about what I had written. I did not feel the need to second-guess myself, or worry about how others would perceive my message; I had been faithful that was all that mattered. To me writing is serving God and if we trust serving God is our greatest

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stewards of Christ

“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves”(James 1:22)

I am attending Baltimore Yearly Meeting and once more I am reminded of the message I received throughout the young adult Friends conference in Richmond IN. There has been such an emphasis in these yearly meeting sessions on work taking place over seas, including long discussions in business meeting and interest groups. I had several long discussions with Friends regarding African Friends, and have thought more and more about the nature of the mission work carried out by FUM and Evangelical Friends. Yet the more I think and talk about this work the more a message comes to me. The same message that came to me in Richmond IN. The work we need to do is here. Right now, right here in our monthly, quarterly and yearly meeting.

I remember from the Richmond conference one young adult Friend recounted her struggle to acknowledge that her calling was still real and Spirit led even though it would entail work here in America instead of traveling to work abroad as all her other Quaker friends where doing. As much as I think the work we do aboard is wonderful, needful, and truly Spirit led, I wonder how much work within our own American communities both Quaker and otherwise goes undone. I feel we spend so much time concentrating our attention and energy else where that it does not leave us much of either to tackle problems closer to home. I am not advocating us ending our services all over the globe. I just feel a mounting unease. All I ever here of is work friends are doing else where when I personally witness the suffering and need here in America everyday.

In a list of services Friends where engaged in one Friend mentioned services in America then hastily explained that he was speaking of prison ministry. We are all truly blessed by every Friend who feels and heeds the call to prison ministries, but I wonder about our lack of commitment to other areas of suffering in America. I think it is some times easier for us to pretend, subconsciously, that the only poverty, hunger, death, homelessness, discrimination, and inhuman violence is taking place in other countries not our own. However as we all intellectually know this is not the truth. Yet as we struggle to build the kingdom of God we must reach out to all people at home and abroad. Nor do I think one group more needful then the other.

There is also the issue of the state of the Religious Society of Friends. I find it uncomfortable to watch Friends spending so much time worrying and discussing Friends in African or South America when we have our own troubles and needs here in America. I think dialog between us and Africans Friends is both needful and a blessing but I worry when a whole discussion on FUM only ever focuses the African Friends when there are plenty of FUM Friends here in America. I also feel uncomfortable when Friends spend all there time discussing work abroad and money to be sent abroad while real problems and needs exist within their own Yearly Meeting I feel for the sake of all Friends, the spiritual health of the Religious Society of Friends should be addressed first. I feel it is hard for us to aid others when we are in desperate need of spiritual aid ourselves.

When I was in Richmond IN I received a simple message over and over again. The message was that the real work of the Religious Society of Friends needed to happen at the month, quarterly and yearly meeting levels. That the spiritual well being of the society as a whole could only be preserved by working from these levels, by healing and renewing on a more intimate community level. I also received the very strong message that Friends needed to spend more time working in their own communities at large. We as Friends I believe tend to struggle with the ideals of radical Christian hospitality, and I would like to see more of an emphasis paid to that within our meeting bodies. We acts with such loving, nurturing kindness, and grace towards those in need throughout the world. I would dearly love, and truly wish to see the same grace offered other Friends here in our home meetings and the communities these meeting are located in. May the Spirit of Christ guide us abroad, at home and within our hearts.