Sleepless nights…

Ahhhh, I’ve reached that stage in life where I do not sleep well most nights.  Up and down. Knees hurt, feet hurt.  I hate taking pills stronger than an Advil so this is not a cry for sleep aids!!

What I do want to write about though is one thing that does help me get back to sleep when I am not dealing with the aching knees or gouty feet.

I pick a verse(s) of Scripture and say it over and over in my mind and it almost always settles me down, calms any anxieties or fears and I go back to sleep.  Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trust in You.”  It works; it truly does. The other night when I was worrying about all the evil in the world/this country/my town, right down to my neighborhood, the verse that came to mind was John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.”

 Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Be anxious about nothing but pray about everything.  I have literally been doing this for quite some time now and it is a WONDERFUL tool that works amazingly.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t cling to the promises of God, of Jesus, literally, when I was going to meetings like I do now.  I don’t think too many others did either.  The reason I say that is because now when I might mention to a professing friend or relative how I am now literally putting God’s Word to the test, they are noticeably uncomfortable.  Are they uncomfortable because I am the one quoting Scripture and I shouldn’t be because I now have no right to do that because I don’t go to meetings anymore? Or are they uncomfortable because I am using Scripture in my every day conversation? Or would they be uncomfortable talking about any Scripture outside of a meeting setting?  I don’t know.  I wonder if I was still going to meetings and was talking about Scripture to the degree I am writing about, how it would be received.  I don’t know the answer to that either.

Another verse I pray often is “Deliver me from evil.”  Jesus suggested we pray that and I do.  I have been praying that for years now.

Another source of help I discovered a while back that helps me rest at night is a wonderful book of prayers called Yours is the Day, Lord….Yours is the Night” by Jeanie and David Gushee.  In the introduction of this book, the authors write:  This book “includes Christian prayers from every continent in the habitable world.  We primarily designed it with individuals in mind, to assist Christians in their daily prayer times with God.  This book is not meant to serve as a substitute for spontaneous Christian prayers but as a springboard for them.  We hope you will use these morning prayers as we do — as a way to wake up and greet the new day with God, inspired by the noble aspirations of some of the heroes of the faith, followed by talking with God about the feelings in our own hearts. The evening prayers close the day, asking for God’s blessing as we lose ourselves to sleep.  We find that they combine nicely with a personal prayer as we drift off, thanking God for the good aspects of the day just concluded.”  What I love the most is the authors of the prayers they have compiled span decades and centuries.  I love the honest and often eloquent prayers of individuals who may have lived centuries ago and yet obviously had a very real and relevant relationship with God.

I want to conclude this post by copying a few of the evening prayers I love the most.  Again, I highly recommend this book.  It is beautiful.

———————–

For New Year’s Day it was:

Grant, O Lord,
That as the years change,
I may find rest in Your eternal changelessness
secure in the faith that,
while we come and go,
and life changes around us,
You are always the same,
Guiding us with Your wisdom,
and protecting us with Your love.

Amen    (William Temple 1881-1944)

Watch, dear Lord,
with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
bless your dying ones,
soothe Your suffering ones,
pity your afflicted ones,
shield your joyous ones,
and all for Your love’s sake.

Amen (Augustine of Hippo 354-430)

Lord,
Abide with me,
Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens,
Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail
And comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
O abide with me.

Amen (Henry Francis Lyte 1793-1847)

Calm me, O Lord, as You stilled the storm
Still me, O Lord; keep me from harm.
Let all the storms within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in Your peace.

Amen (Celtic prayer)

O Merciful God, eternal light, shining in darkness…
since Thou has appointed the night for rest and the day for labor,
we beseech Thee grant that our bodies may rest in peace and quietness,
that afterward they may be able to endure the labor they must bear….
Defend us against all the assaults of the devil and take us
Into Thy holy protection.
And although we have not passed this day
without greatly sinning against Thee,
we beseech Thee to hide our sins with Thy mercy,
as Thou hidest all things on Earth with the darkness of the night….
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen (John Calvin 1509-1564)

 

Christmas posts Old & New

Hmmmmmm….that is a play on words to some of you!  Anyway, I re-released a Christmas post I wrote last year and it is right below this one. Because it was released last year, the notice does not go out to let you know there is a new post.   I’m planning on writing a new (hence the “new” part of Posts Old & New) before Christmas…honest!  I have a super busy day at work today as well as next Monday and Tuesday but then I have 5 days off (hurray!) so am dreaming about time to reflect, pray, read and write!

More later!

Christmas is coming!

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”  Those words mean so much to me now since I have left the meetings (they did before but we were discouraged from acknowledging Christmas songs about Jesus). But now, I can truly celebrate Christmas and it has brought me so much joy every year.

Since most of my readers have an association with the meeting church, you will know Christmas was ignored for the most part. Certainly the part that had anything to do with Jesus and His birth.  The fellowship leaves Christ out of Christmas and that, to me, is one of the greatest ironies of all.  I now find it very sad….and strange.

The explanation given was “we celebrate the birth of Christ every day and we don’t know the exact date of his birth anyway.” So, therefore celebrating Christmas was wrong because that is what religious people do,

The truth is, the birth of Christ was hardly ever talked about except in an occasional Gospel meeting.  The death of Christ was every Sunday morning during communion.  Of course, folks could have given thanks often for Jesus birth in their private prayers.  During my journey the last 10 years whenever I would come to the Christmas question in my mind, here was my conclusion.

Most churches agree that we don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth.  The date has been ‘established’ in history but the date isn’t the point of the holiday — Jesus is.  There simply cannot be anything wrong with the Christian’s devoting a day to collectively give thanks for the greatest day of all time; the birth of Jesus.  For Him to hear a loud “Halleluiah! Praise Him!  He is born!“, must bring Him great joy.  He must surely thrill at the sound of Christmas songs being sung in His Honor and glory throughout the world in churches, homes, and cars, wherever!

The first year I went to a church during the holiday season and we sang songs like Silent Night, O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem, I wept with sheer joy at the beauty and privilege of finally getting to sing those songs collectively.  I love Christmas Eve services; the room of the sanctuary is absolutely gorgeous with lights, candles, decorations. We all light candles and sing praises to Him and hear the old old story once again.

It saddens me that the friends totally leave Christ out of Christmas, like much of the world does.  The friends will sometimes exchange gifts, and some are brave enough to have Christmas trees.  I remember clearly in the mid 1960’s here on the West Coat of the US, the workers suddenly decided that Christmas trees were unlawful.  Up until then, we always had one!  What on earth???

The very fact fact that the two most celebrated Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter, are ones the friends and workers find pagan and refuse to acknowledge, is just wrong!

OK….now that I’ve had my say, let me share what Christmas means to me this year in particular.

I am really feeling the need of Christmas this year. I keep thinking of, and listening to, Amy Grant’s song, “I need a Silent Night, a Holy Night. To hear an angel sing in the chaos and the noise. I need a midnight clear, a little hope right here.”  I need the spirit, the comfort, the beauty, the decorations, the lights, the ambiance of Christmas now. Maybe more than ever before. I put my outside lights up last weekend. I couldn’t wait. I need to be enveloped in that part of it. Not the commercialism of it but the holiness, beauty and spirit of it.  Hearth and home, as my boss often refers to the holidays. I like that.

I thought I was going to have the best Christmas ever this year because I thought I’d be sharing it with a someone, but that dream did not come true.  I don’t yet know with whom I am celebrating it with or if I will be alone. But we are never truly alone, are we.

 

The Calling to be Single

I want to write a bit about the calling to be single.  I am so thankful that 1 Corinthians 7 talks about being single as well as those who are married, or widowed.  Verse 17 says, “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.”

Verses 32-35 say:  IAn unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.  But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 3and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

I love the admonition:  For unmarried men — Be concerned about the Lord’s affairs.  For unmarried women – Be concerned about the Lord’s affairs.  Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.  I personally love that last phrase.  And then for both groups, “that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”  That is a beautiful calling if you ask me.

One last subject I want to address, something I had to deal with when leaving the Work, and then even more so when I eventually left the meetings altogether, is what I did with the new found freedom I had.  As I was slowly discovering the Gospel of Grace, I became more and more aware that God was not judging me on my outward appearance but rather on my heart and its motives and desires.  So, little by little I stepped into some of those new areas of freedom as far as my appearance went and it was so much fun and so liberating!  I felt feminine and pretty as never before.  I knew the group disapproved but, contrary to what they assumed, it was not an act of rebellion but an act of freedom.

In other areas of freedom, yes, I tried some previously “sinful” things but gradually, I came to the same conclusion that Paul did when he wrote, “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10: 23-24 in my NIV Bible, the heading over these verses is “The Believer’s Freedom”.  Paul goes on to write “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  That is grace; not manmade rules or living by the expectations of others but making all choices in light of whether or not it will be for the glory of God.  That whole section in that chapter (verses 23-33) is so clear about this matter. “Why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?”  

Have I made some foolish choices and decisions since leaving the Work and leaving the fellowship? Of course. But leaving both of these were not among them.  I am still a work in progress. Just this morning I was giving thanks to God for His forgiveness and mercy shown to me over and over again when I have been rebellious, foolish, stubborn, unkind, unloving, impatient, judgmental, critical and even cynical at times.  For my lack of faith and trust in Him at times.  But He has stood by me no matter what and been  a very real Presence in my life and has assured me over and over again that I am not alone.

Praise be to Him forever and forever. Amen.

Gifts and Callings

In the meeting fellowship, there are two callings for your life:  Saint or servant. Or, another way of putting it;  Worker or friend.  (Being a friend is another word for being a layman) I was 46 when I left the Work.  By the time most of the friends reach their middle years, they have been married for years. So leaving the work and being a part of the “saint” world is really difficult to become a part of because you have very little in common with them because you have never been married, had children, owned a home, had bills, or worked among “outsiders” (their terminology).  I have struggled at times with feeling a failure as a woman, not as a person, because I have never been a wife, mother or a grandmother.  Just evidence of more cruel messages from Satan.

Sometimes ex-workers marry another ex-worker and they attract quite a bit of attention for a while mostly because folks aren’t used to seeing them in that role, but after a while, people get used to seeing them together and life goes on.  But ex-workers who don’t marry are often misunderstood and it’s not an easy place to be.  For whatever reason, some just don’t get married and people jump to all kinds of unfair conclusions.  Yes, ex-workers have “issues” but come on, everyone has issues no matter where you are living and hiding!

So another adjustment upon leaving the Work was to finding my new calling in life and discovering my God given gifts and then figuring out ways to use them.  I wrote in the previous paragraphs there are basically two acknowledged callings for a person’s life but scripturally there are many more along with gifting that are never discussed or acknowledged in any meaningful way.

Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 12:4-31, 14:1, 1 Peter 4:10-11 in the NIV translation.  I love 2 Timothy 1:9

“He has called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace”  Verse 6 “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.”  We DO have a God given gift!  Paul goes on to tell them to tell of his gifting and calling in verse 11: “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.”

Romans 12:4-9 tell us that first of all, we have to openly acknowledge that we all have different gifts.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is in serving, let him serve; if it is in teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.’ (Emphasis mine)

The key phrases bolded in this section point out the meeting fellowship’s failure to acknowledge that we have God-given gifts. There are many with various gifts that don’t necessarily include preaching but could be used and encouraged with the backing of the ministry in really beneficial ways elsewhere in the group. I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t when these gifts are all really good things and used for a good purpose.

I remember one time when this subject of gifts actually came up at a morning Bible study at preps. An middle aged brother was acknowledging that he had a gift of writing but sadly, he had very limited time and opportunity to use that gift because his worker life was filled with so many other things he had to do and be which were not his gifting.  Again, the fact that gifting is not acknowledged is a travesty, and this brother’s situation was just one case of this.  He could write the most beautiful and eloquent letters, and had things been different for him in that group (he has since passed), he could have written a book that would have been rich and full of God’s grace and majesty.  He truly saw the Lord high and lifted up.

We all know that many workers do not have the gift of teaching or evangelizing yet in that system, all are forced to try.  It’s very hard for some workers to do this and it makes it difficult for the listener as well.  Some excel at being a good listener instead.  Some have the gift of wisdom.  Some are encouragers.  Some excel at serving.  Whatever their giftings are, you can recognize them by how and when the worker was the most peaceful, the happiest, most energized and the most content.  Whatever part of their day (week or year) found them this way, was when they were operating according to their personal gifts.

When were they the most stressed, uncomfortable?  This was when they are being forced to act outside of their gifting, and trust me, no one benefits.  It doesn’t mean you never get outside of your comfort zone; but getting outside of your comfort zone in the area of your gifting is where you grow and stretch.  Yet the workers are forced to perform in areas that are just not suited to them and so….it leads to stress, “nerves”, depression, frustration, and health issues.  What a waste of talents.  I have seen countless workers have to rest or leave the Work because of these very issues; issues that could have been avoided if the meeting system operated differently.

When I was young, I felt I had a calling into the Work.  I question that now but there is no point dwelling on that.  Then, I felt I had a calling to care for my mother her last years.  I knew I was right when I should be those years.  Since her passing, I have struggled to find my calling again.  I have seen it in glimpses now and again but not in complete clarity.  This blog has been part of that answer to God’s call which is to write and encourage. What I have thus far failed to mention as far as being an adjustment outside of the Work and then for me, ultimately outside of the meeting group entirely, is replacing all the misinterpretation of Scripture I had been taught and taught myself with what is Truth.  Getting the Pharisee-ism out of me like Paul the Apostle had to do for his first 3 years upon meeting Jesus.  I think that is why it has taken me such a long time to find my way again.  There are still un-scriptural messages running around in my head that are keeping areas in my life stuck. I continually have to pray for wisdom, understanding and clarity.  But at least I have the freedom now to do that and the air to breath to do it in.  Thank you Jesus.

Leaving the Work (Part 2)

When I first began writing on this subject I had no idea how much lay buried just under the surface. The more I wrote, the more that came up.

It’s an interesting paradox that Sunday morning meeting, the very place where the most comfort should be found, I now found the most awkward.  I felt conspicuous and never more so than at convention. At first, it never occurred to me that I now had a choice as to whether or not I went to every meeting. It was hard to read the friends and other workers, but I knew on some level they were greatly disappointed in me and hurt. I felt alone in many ways but very grateful for a couple of friends who reached out in love and not judgment.

It was like overnight I no longer mattered to anyone.  I felt punished by the group and the subliminal message was loud and clear: “Get back where you belong!” My mother was still alive and perhaps most thought I would go back in the Work after she passed. I understand now a little better how hard it is on the friends when a worker leaves; it shakes them for a while.  It’s disappointing and hurtful. They want to be able to count on the workers being faithful.  But faithful to what?  To whom?

There were SO MANY adjustments to life outside!  Some were funny such as “what is a debit card and an ATM?”  I missed out on two decades of music (the 80’s and the 90’s) and culture which made me seem really naive to those in the workplace. One wonderful surprise was that I interviewed well for jobs and the Lord has blessed me with some wonderful ones, the last one I have been at for over 9 years now.  A friend in Great Falls, Montana helped me build my resume while I was still in the Work!  She had a pretty clear idea where I was headed.  But perhaps one of the biggest and rather embarrassing things to admit to was going from being a semi-big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a little pond. Three years later when I would leave the fellowship altogether, I had to adjust to being a very small fish in a VERY big pond… an ocean!

It was a liberating time and yet a humbling or almost rather a humiliating time; depending on where I focused.  Part of me wanted a keep a very low profile now within the group and part of me didn’t want to.  It was an adjustment from being treated like a rock star; (ALL the workers are treated this way by the friends) to now just being in the audience and not even allowed back stage. I found myself retreating more and more and since my spiritual journey was now taking me on a much less traveled road than most in the group, it was easier to avoid them than to interact with them.  I had so much to talk to God about during those days (I still do!).

Being in the Work really feeds your pride, self confidence and sense of worth and when you leave, Satan tries to steal all of it.  I had to let God show me my value and worth in His sight and that took a long while. The journey, however, has been so rich, deep and amazing though and I have been blessed over and over again.  God is truly a debtor to no one.

When you leave the Work….Part One

The other morning, while praying, a former sister worker came to mind which hadn’t crossed my thoughts in a while. She hasn’t been out of the Work very long, just a couple of years. We never labored on the same Staff but the few times I did see her through the years, there was a close bond with her.

Pleasing God is much easier than pleasing people.

Thinking of her out of the Work now, I couldn’t help realize how relieved she must be (like me) to finally be “out”. Away from the ceaseless striving be good enough she endured for over 20 years. The ceaseless striving to please people, co-workers and overseers that never thought she was good enough. When all along, God was more than pleased with her. Pleasing God is much easier than pleasing people. What a relief it must be to her now, wherever she is and whatever she is doing, to just be able to be herself and to be free from the endless expectations of people. To have her own nest. To be able to decorate her apartment or home, to cook, and nurture herself. To be normal. To rest, recover, regroup. To have things the same for a change instead of constantly changing. To sleep in the same bed with the same pillow with the same noises in the house. To not have to live out of suitcase. (I HATE living out of suitcase now even if it is only for a weekend.) To not be confined to spending most of your time in a bedroom. To be the hostess not always the guest. Thinking of her brought back all the physical and emotional blessings I remember enjoying so much as a result of no longer being in the work.

It takes much longer to get free from all the psychological and spiritual ties; because making the decision to leave the Work is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make in your Worker life. That one decision sets so much in motion for you within that group. Way too much. It shouldn’t be that traumatic. We didn’t take a “vow” that we would stay our whole lives after all. Yes, we purposed to do that, but sometimes you just can’t stay and truth be told, there are many who perhaps should leave but never do.

I will always have a special place in my heart for anyone who was once in the Work and for whatever reason, is no longer there. They will always have the worker “label” on them within the group and will usually be considered a 2nd class citizen after they leave. They will be misunderstood by most BUT, will be so much freer and happier I can almost guarantee. They now will only be in bondage if they choose to be.

Some have been put out of the Work by their overseers. My heart breaks for them and I can only begin to imagine the feelings that result from this. The shock, shame, pain, embarrassment, fear, isolation and panic. This isn’t something I experienced but I imagine it would be somewhat like getting fired from a job (just sort of). For those who do experience the ordeal of being put out of the Work, I would think that once you get over the initial horrible feelings there would be a relief that at least those men would no longer be able to dictate how to live your life. I remember very well what a huge relief it was for me thinking that when I left a few brother workers in particular would NEVER AGAIN have any power over my life.

Leaving the Work you get very little, if any, financial help from the ministry. Unless you have a family who is able to help, it can be very difficult to survive. I don’t remember how much money I had in my wallet when I came home but a year later, I received $150 from my former overseer. This after nearly 22 years of service! But I’m afraid the attitude of many is like one of the local “friends” here told his non-professing brother, “Well, she went in with nothing and she deserves to come out with nothing!” One couple in this field where I live helped me out when I came home. (I personally think the group should be ashamed of themselves how they treat former workers.) I have heard from workers in other states who received much more financial help and I am very glad for that.

Anyway, back to my sister worker friend. I would love to sit down with her for a cup of coffee and just share our hearts. She will always be in mine. She suffered too much for too long and yet she had some really happy times there too I know. She deserves the very best now and I know she loves Jesus now more than she ever has before.

There is life after the Work, yes ma’am there is… And it is good!