19 November 2007

Discerning the parts of the Whole

In our meeting's adult RE, we have been discussing discernment, what it is, how it works, what blocks us, and so on. We are relating it to discernment individually and for and in the meeting. It's a big topic!

Yesterday, following my AM blogging, and in that discussion at meeting, I came to see at another level how important the worship sharing that is being encouraged within the monthly meetings of Baltimore Yearly Meeting are.

We are a long way from a sense of how to proceed in our disagreement with the policies of Friends United Meeting. So of course, it makes sense to discuss this at the monthly meeting level, where deeper worship and sharing can take place.

What I realized yesterday, is how much support is needed for those who are truly feeling leadings, myself included, and how much discernment at a meeting and individual level is both desired and required.

Our elders are asking us to go within. They are providing us with a summary of information for the benefit of all of us having like knowledge, but the real calling is for worship and listening for God's leading.

I recognized in this session how much I rely on the guidance and forthrightness of those who know me best in my monthly meeting, to help me test my leadings, and to encourage me to bring them forth. I saw that this is also my own job, to listen intently to that of God in the person next to me.

Some of you may be saying, "of course," and I can even say that today, but yesterday morning it was truly an "aha" moment, a calling back to Spirit, a feeling at one with the whole.

We need each part of the body of Christ in order to be the Whole One.

18 November 2007

Is there a conflict here?

Friends, I posted parts of this comment on Johann Maurer's blog about the BYM/FUM conflict, as it has come to be called. As I wrote, I realized that I wanted to post it here as well, and expand a bit, since I have truly been LABORING with this concern since our summer sessions of BYM.

As a member of BYM who was present as this report (of our BYM representatives to FUM) was read, and who has been laboring under this concern for quite some time, I have read and reread your reports Johann, knowing that I wanted to comment, but not quite being able to state my feelings. I am a liberal Friend, who does believe that we are all one body of Christ, though I admit that we all have many definitions of what that means. It was not until I read that simple sentence in the beginning of sailheaven's comment, "There was no confirmation for me that any of the discussion as brought forward was Spirit led, " that I was able to find words for what is stirring inside of me.

What if the indwelling Spirit IS calling us to join and mend the schism between us, but in that mending we must all call into question the very common habits of our everyday existence as Friends? What if we are called to deep worship with one another, in order to see where God is leading us to a new place? In my own understanding, the main difference between a "liberal" and "conservative" Friend is the question of who is saved. I know I am putting myself out on a limb here, and I welcome comments (I will post this comment on my own blog as well for that purpose).

What if, as Philip Gulley says, God saves all people (See If Grace is True)?

What if it is time to put the biblical tenets that the personnel policies of FUM are founded on, that certain behaviors are sin, to the test of worship as one body?

What if this is truly a matter of where God is leading us to TODAY, which may be very different that what we assume is TRUTH?

Are we open to that test of faith? I have had to ask myself that question. If I ask my Friends of all persuasions to sit in worship with me, seeking direction, can I face that the answer might not be what I THINK is right? I believe so, though I cannot say this with total certainty.

Often when I have felt a leading, I have lead myself off course when my own ego and intellect intercepted my vision before it had time to season. How many of us are prey to that?

This has been the hardest challenge of my spiritual journey as a convinced Friend. Over 25 years I have turned more and more to the indwelling Spirit, and it has truly shaped and molded me. I have been blessed to make major life changes as a result, and to be gifted to be present with others through their own life changes.

At the moment that this issue was first addressed within Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which in my memory was at BYM summer sessions several years ago, when Lamar Matthews and others returned from the Trienniel in Rwanda and informed us that he had been disallowed to lead a worship group because of his relationship status, I began to feel a deep rumbling.

This rumbling has not gone away. How could Friends who encountered the loving spirit of a Friend like Lamar possibly deny the workings of the indwelling Christ in his life? The only way, my mind told me, was if the trappings of our religion were followed at the expense of the leading of Spirit. I had unfortunately just had my own experience with this frailty of our human condition, having let a leading I had in another issue be overrun by my own "knowledge" of how a situation should be handled.

The parallels were undeniable. Therefore, I had no choice but to return to silence, knowing that were I to proceed too quickly, I would most likely fall into the same trap of my ego. I have talked to others, attended information sessions, listened with great curiousity to the reports of our intervisitation program and our FUM representatives, and then continued to return to the silence.

It was not until this summer, when I sat listening to the FUM rep. report, that I felt a leading to step forward and volunteer as an alternative rep. to FUM to fill the void left by Rachel Stacy's resignation. This was purely based on one phrase, "Call them to worship," that I kept and still keep hearing in my deepest parts. I'm not sure I know how to do that, except for myself. I know only too well what happens when I don't listen deeply. And I know that I do not hear enough calls to silence in this process.

Please Friends, return to silence and the indwelling Spirit. Consider the possibility of something new, that may be different than we all can see with our limited minds.

16 November 2007

To everything a season

Probably the best and the worst aspects of blogging are the way it reminds you if you have or haven't been paying attention to your spiritual life.

Lately I've been caught up in the physical aspects of my life. As a landscape designer and installer, it's the time of year when things have to be put to bed, the last bulbs have to be planted, and generally there's a flurry of activity as one feels the chill set more and more into the air each day. At times like this, when I could probably use to be more centered, I arise from bed, mind already racing and rush off to work. Often it is mid-morning before things settle down enough that I mutter a quick "Thank you for this day." At the end of the day, I return, tired and worn out, and fall into bed.

After a few days like this, my mental and spiritual state begins to frazzle, and I am reminded that I need to return to my daily spiritual practices. At least it is only a few days. Used to be that months or weeks would go by, and it would be only when my life was falling apart around me that I would be reminded from deep inside of what it is that gives me my balance, that eternal source of all.

I've been thinking of the text, "To everything there is a season..." The other day, as one of my kids was watching a kids TV show, I heard the Dad of the family say, "That means God is always with you, through hard times and good." I've been raised in my early life as a congregationalist, where the passage was taught as, "God has a reason for that happening, whether you know it or see it now, or not." That was a peaceful thing in my teen years, but I outgrew it as I outgrew that community. It certainly makes more sense to me that God is always with me, through every season.

I've been focusing on accepting myself more, just as I believe the Eternal accepts me, through all the phases of my life. Not what others think, not what the community I am a part of thinks as a whole, but what I believe is the way God made me. I have always had my own rhythms and paces of life (don't we all), but I've spent a lot of time in life fighting against them. It was eye-opening to me when I began to study oriental herbology and my sensei pointed out to me that the philosphy of oriental medicine is to flow with the seasons. It was then that I began to see that I did have my own cycles, and began to listen to them.

Now I feel myself finishing the harvest, preparing for the long winter's nap. In my case, that means slowing the pace, going inward, preparing some indoor projects to feed my mind and body, and resting up before the spring's activity. I'm going to try and focus on renewing my spiritual practices, like yoga, writing, and prayer. I'm going to try and resist filling the days so full as I do in the summer, when the sun and the gardens edge me on. This seems like the season for more listening for me.