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!

You are God’s Message

While reading posts on Facebook I came across this quote from Oswald ChambersMy Utmost for His Highest:

As His disciples, our lives must be a holy example of the reality of our message. It takes a heart broken by conviction of sin, baptized by the Holy Spirit, and crushed into submission to God’s purpose to make a person’s life a holy example of God’s message. The purpose of Pentecost was to make the disciples the incarnation of what they preached so that they would literally become God’s message in the flesh: ‘you shall be witnesses to Me’ (Acts 1:8). Before God’s message can liberate other people, His liberation must first be real in you.

I find it quite similar to this quote from George Fox, his famous ‘that of God’ epistle:

Bring all into the worship of God. Plough up the fallow ground… And none are ploughed up but he who comes to the principle of God in him which he hath transgressed. Then he doth service to God; then the planting and the watering and the increase from God cometh. So the ministers of the Spirit must minister to the Spirit that is transgressed and in prison, which hath been in captivity in every one; whereby with the same Spirit people must be led out of captivity up to God, the Father of spirits, and do service to him and have unity with him, with the Scriptures and with one another. And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one. (Quaker Faith and Practice 19:32, 5th Ed.)

Fox is clearly saying that there is that spark of God in everyone because we are all born into this world with a soul created by God. However, some of us transgress that soul and our spirits are in captivity to hatred, evil, murder, faithlessness, disloyalty, disobedience, and any other thing that makes the world worse. Those who have the Spirit of God through a new spiritual birth, as Fox believed he had, are called to stir up that of God in others by example, by exhortation, and no doubt by prayer. “Be patterns” Fox says. Be a “holy example” says Chambers.

Chambers, a Scottish Baptist teacher and evangelist, wrote what has become the Protestant world’s most popular Christian devotional and one of my favorites. It would seem that Fox was a precursor to Chambers’ evangelistic devotional rhetoric.  Where Fox differed was proclaiming no need for preachers to expound the movings of the Holy Spirit of God.  And they both obviously believed that our lives were the most convincing messages of God’s love and Spirit in the world. We can shout and talk and argue all we like on Facebook, Twitter, or following meetings for worship but if we truly have that of God within us others will see it and recognize it and answer it.