On Death

Mom

Came back from a month in the USA. My mother died July 6 on the day before I was due to fly back to the UK. She was ready to go and ready to make that transition to the place she saw as ‘heaven’. I’m not so sure I believe in heaven anymore, especially not the kind that she did.  But I’m glad she looked forward to going somewhere that she felt at home.

She, and all of my family, have faith that the Christian heaven described by evangelicalism is real and that when believers get there they will be ‘rewarded’ for good service.  Their faith is much like working at a job your entire life and earning retirement, and isn’t that just the American way? The industrious Puritanism of Americans has persisted since the first Pilgrims sailed over and set up shop in Plymouth Massachusetts. ‘He who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat’ was their motto (paraphrased 2 Thessalonians 3:10). I used to believe this adamantly, but it is a bit of a ruthless way to live isn’t it? No one takes into account those unable to find jobs, the disabled, the homeless.  All of this philosophy was predicated on the visions of one man who changed a simple faith in Jesus’ message about God’s Kingdom  into a world religion that so little resembles what Jesus actually taught in the few snippets of gospels that we can claim to be authentic.

I felt like a bit of an outsider, sitting with my mother, my sister, her husband, and the traveling elder; who was there to lead the prayers and the singing hymns. It was comforting for her to hear what she had grown up hearing in church and that’s why I did not protest the weird doctrines of Rapture and End Time Apocalypse that they so much look forward to. Like those who don’t work, their faith leaves the world to the activity of God at the end of it all. They welcome the conflicts between nations and it leaves believers free to not worry too much about climate change or toxic water or military industrialization. They believe that their God, who is so devoted to Free Will that he compels no one to believe, will come to the end of Life and Time here on earth and will move men and armies about like children’s toys. Their God will take the free will out of countries and people to fulfil some obscure end known only to Him (sic) and a chosen few who’ve studied their bibles correctly.

And it is comforting to think that all of the chaos in today’s world is out of our hands and not ours to change. It’s too big a task to ask us to change the minds and hearts of the murderous ISIL leader or the mad Korean dictator or even the mild-mannered Prime Minister who wants to defund benefits so that the rich may prosper even more. What can I as a single person do against the wealth and corruption of the United States Congress or the United Nations or Parliament?

Perhaps what I can do, as I did with my mother, is provide a calm centre, wipe a brow, give a sip of water, and hold a hand during the worst moments of those around me and at meeting for worship. I can’t hold the world’s hand, but I can hold a single hand of someone in pain at my local meeting. I can’t give the world water, but perhaps I can help make water available locally by campaigning with my Quaker friends against toxic waste in our waterways. I look at the entire world and I am overwhelmed. I need to keep my sights on what’s immediately before me and perhaps believe, or have faith, that God will indeed take care of the rest.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.   Hebrews 4:9

Imposterism; when the outside doesn’t match the inside

I came to write a post about feeling foolish today. I searched bible gateway for verses about fools and frauds. I searched Google for ‘I feel like an imposter’ and found a surprising article about Imposterism. There is actually a word for it!

I’ve not written here much because I am feeling less and less like a Quaker these days. Even more so, in as my role as Treasurer of my local meeting I had to give some information about last year’s accounts. To be clear, I’m not an accountant and I’ve never done professional bookkeeping. I pretty much approach it as a household budget and only after a woman I respect convinced me to give it a go. After reporting at local meeting, I was asked ordinary accounting questions I didn’t know and was looked upon somewhat pitifully by the business people in the seats around me. Some even asked if I’d ever been told how to do accounts and I said no. Obviously mine were not the ‘usual’. I came away deflated and certainly feeling incompetent. I know they were being helpful. I know they were being kind. But that never helps when you feel incompetent.

But that’s not what makes me feel less a Quaker. What makes me feel less sympathetic to the Quaker way is the relentless political focus of British Quakers to the exclusion of spirituality and nourishing the Spirit at Quaker meetings.  Sure, they talk about spirituality but even the atheists do that among them. I long for the days of what some would consider ‘too much Jesus’ because at least he would be mentioned and discussed! I follow Quaker Twitter accounts and see nothing but politics and wonder, Am I in a church or a political party? I know that some treat politics like their religion, but I have no confidence in politics to solve the world’s ills.

To me, the world is not spiritual enough. A personal and spiritual revolution needs to take place, not a political one. I am not an anarchist or a complete socialist. I see the good things in capitalism. I think personal responsibility goes a long way in preventing social ills. I believe in life as a precious thing making me consistently anti-death penalty and pro-life in all areas. Gay people should be treated just like everyone else, yet I am sick of hearing about everyone’s sexuality constantly in news and social media. Sexuality is no one’s business and it is certainly not part of my politics because I don’t define myself by my sexual preferences. Most horrifying of all, is that I am not a pacifist. The big P is the chief testimony among Quakers and I don’t believe in absolute pacifism. If it weren’t for violence in my life I would not be here now. You need to protect yourself and your life from those who would abuse it. I believe more in traditional marriage than I originally thought. So I can feel the Quaker house tumbling down around me. I have built a house on sand and not rock.

I suppose all of these views make me what some would call ‘conservative’ but I am so over labels, even religious ones. So, yes, is it any wonder I feel foolish and like a fraud in the British Quaker movement? Highly competent liberal people with whom I really have nothing in common. I feel more comfortable in a small town Baptist church while holding a few radical liberal ideas. But at least we sing hymns and read the bible and talk about Jesus. I did not feel foolish there or embarrass myself. I am up to that task and even shine a little. I’d rather be that big fish in a little pond.

So yes, I feel like an imposter. I’ve put on a Quaker suit too big for me.

Godinterest Offers ‘WordPress for Religion’

pilgrim52:

There’s a new blog space for those with religion. I’m not sure they could offer anything more comprehensive than WordPress, but if you feel stifled in your religious expression, you might go support them.

Originally posted on Godinterest Blog:

Godinterest.org Offers ‘WordPress for Religion’

LONDON,Pr Newswire April 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Great Britain is not the place to find a bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus.”  Britons tend to be tolerant and respectful of Muslim and Hindu religious observances, but not their own. Godinterest Blogs, as the name implies, is designed with religion in mind.  The site was developed by Dean Jones, a 36-year-old project manager and Saint Martins, university of the arts post graduate who said, “Godinterest.org gives occasion to a whole new set ofconversations about religion in public life that represents a tremendous opportunity for publication, discussion and critique of a kind never seen before.”

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150406/196638

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150406/196639

The growing influence of blogs is indisputable. Most would agree that the mainstream press is looking more like the blogosphere.  Old newspapers and magazines now host blogs by reporters on their websites. Because of their ease of publication and use, blogs have changed the shape…

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Minding the Spirit is Hard Work

picture of flowersOnce again I am Woodbrooke Centre. This time, I am on my first week of a two-week long residential requirement during my Equipping for Ministry course.

After arriving yesterday after a long, but pretty much stress-free bus trip, we had dinner and then our first ‘getting to know each other again’ session. Most days at Woodbrooke begin very early and end late with, what sometimes seems to be, long sessions of sharing, reading, and listening. We interspersed these times with breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and periods of silent worship, along with the usual chatting with friends between sessions.

I am finding that working on your spirituality is much harder than just working at everyday tasks and jobs at home or in the workplace. Perhaps because most modern tasks and job-related skills contain long periods of mindless, robotic motions and paper pushing. Working on one’s soul, however, requires that you stay present and focused most of the day even through to bedtime.

Today I devoted myself to beginning the discipline of eating breakfast at the silent table, attending meeting for worship for 30 minutes, and deliberately slowing myself down. I’ve noticed already that it helps so much with my attitude during the day. As for slowing down, I only realize I am rushing too much after having an accident on the stairs. I’ve noticed this during my working days back in the USA as well. I will be rushing, not paying attention, and turn my ankle or fall down some steps or up the steps. I am going too fast for conditions. Last night, I missed a step and caught myself going down the last three stairs in a fall. Fortunately, grabbing the stair rail did not prevent the fall completely, but made it much less worse than it could have been by slowing the inevitable. Only a bruised shin to show for it.

I also have the horrible habit of waking up and getting stuck in to work and activities without easing into it and then becoming irritated at normal requests or incidents. Mornings, for me, have always been a good time for a spiritual discipline, but I have failed to do it on more than one occasion and I’ve failed to give myself permission to persist. Being here at Woodbrooke gives some structure to begin again, but it will be my responsibility to maintain it after I get home.  I am fortunate that my husband, who is also a Quaker, understands the importance of needing a time of silence and easing into daily activities. He is on a different daily clock than I am most of the time, so it’s challenging. But, I know we can make it work.

I am so blessed to be on the course and that I am able to have the support of my husband and my meeting. These things cannot be rushed and all things come to fruition in time and waiting and silence. I am happy and content at this time in my life and that’s saying something!