Jesus IS our Savior

A professing man in my area passed recently and his daughter had a conversation with him before he passed about whether or not he believed Jesus was his savior.   I’m not going to comment further on that conversation as it really isn’t mine to share.  However, a friend and I have been having this conversation among ourselves (she used to go to meetings) and we were wondering did we really believe Jesus was our Savior while in the meetings.

I always believed (when I was in meetings) that Jesus was my Savior but I didn’t always believe that what He did for me (us) was enough.  It was great what He did, but I believed that now, in turn, I had to do my part in order to secure my salvation.  I just didn’t need to simply believe He was my Savior (that concept was actually made fun of because that was what ‘religious’ people believed, and we certainly didn’t want to be one of those kind of people.)

All the works I was taught in meetings had to do with helping me to move my salvation to the desired end.  But I obviously did not believe Jesus was my Savior completely because I was never sure of my salvation.

It goes back to control.  The workers had control over the friends through all the unwritten rules that, if kept, would give the friend a good funeral and the hope of eternal life. If the workers were ever to let go of that control, and simply encourage their flock to believe in the Grace of God and that, yes, by believing in Jesus Christ and confessing their sins, they would be saved, they then (the workers) could sit back and watch God work in individual lives in amazing ways.  They wouldn’t be able to ‘control’ people, and yes, people would make mistakes and mess things up.  But life is messy and we all screw up. The only one who didn’t was Jesus.

The workers could instead point people back to Jesus over and over again when they screwed up and tell the people that He could put all the pieces of their lives back together again. What the workers don’t know, is that, if they believed that and lived by that, their lives would be so much easier.  They wouldn’t be worrying about ‘fixing’ someones life but instead, point them to the One who could fix things.  All too often as a worker myself, I would come up with some solution of things to do, when all I would have needed to do was point them back to Jesus over and over again.  THAT is part of the Good News of the Gospel.

I’m not sure a person could totally believe Jesus was their Savior unless you embraced the Gospel of Grace as well.  If the workers embraced Grace, it would change EVERYTHING.

We never heard once at that recent funeral about Jesus sacrifice being ENOUGH. Period.  In fact, we barely heard the name of Jesus at all.  Need I say more?

Why the secrecy?

Recently, it came to my attention some things the Workers & Friends are doing regarding “hiding” what goes on in their group, and it just baffled me.  I wasn’t aware until just a few days ago that workers lists no longer have addresses on them. I’m assuming they only have the workers names and their field on them.  The explanation given to me was that they didn’t want their information to “get in the wrong hands”.  The workers list in my day would include name, field, mailing address and phone numbers…not their social security numbers or any banking information.  That is what the rest of us have to worry about getting in the wrong hands!

There was a funeral here locally last week and the daughter of the deceased (it was her father who passed) lives in Australia and wasn’t able to attend.  At her mother’s funeral a couple of years ago (she wasn’t able to attend that one either), her niece recorded the service with her I-pad but the daughter told me on Facebook just today that she wasn’t allowed to view that funeral because, once again, their fear that it might get in the wrong hands!!  It was her mother’s funeral!  The family did not want the niece recording the fathers funeral last week but she did on her phone anyway and she sent it.  Good for her!

During the convention season here, a 800 number is given to a select few so they can listen, free of charge at home if they are unable to attend the convention.  I know a number of friends who take advantage of that service and they really appreciate it.  Two years ago, that number was shared with me and I listened in on a couple of meetings.  I appreciated hearing the hymns and identifying voices in both prayer and testimony.  When I asked for the number last summer, I was told I would have to go through one of the workers in order to get that number now.  And, now I hear they have discontinued that service altogether for guess what reason? “It might get in the wrong hands.”

The workers are obviously unaware that just about every church nowadays broadcasts their services over a live stream on the internet.  It’s great if you are unable to be there or have to miss a sermon that you wanted to hear.

It just doesn’t make sense.  They want newcomers to “join” their group yet they are bound up in fear that someone will find out about them.  What are they afraid of?  Are they doing anything illegal? If so, then they need to fix it and make things right.  Are they afraid of getting shut down?  If the Lord wants them to continue meeting publicly, don’t they trust Him to make sure they can?  Are they afraid of being found out because of the money involved that is never reported?  Well, make it right!  Get that non-profit status and/or report your earnings and pay taxes like the rest of the real world.  They are not being honest at all and yet, no one ever looks at it that way.  But they could be!  They say they have ‘nothing to hide’ but obviously they do or they wouldn’t be operating in such a state of secrecy.  Are they afraid of publicity at their conventions?  Well, newspaper articles have been written before, people have picketed conventions before.  If they were truly living IN THE LIGHT, there would be no need for secrecy.  Are they afraid of abusers being found out and reported? Well, thankfully that IS coming to the light nowadays and being dealt with and hopefully stopped.

Secrecy is different than discretion.  Discretion is defined as: “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.”  Every business has it’s CEO’s or Board of Director’s meetings and things are discussed there and documented and made available to the general public if requested.  And yes, there are many a private conversation and/or discussion.  Not everyone is in the “know” nor do they need to be.  But the meeting group isn’t so much afraid of their own knowing what is going on as they are of the ‘world’ knowing what is going on.  And once again, I’m sitting here racking my brain trying to figure out what information they are afraid of the “world” finding out.

Decades ago the book “The Secret Sect” was written about the meeting group so obviously, it has been an issue for a long time.  I hope and pray that more and more people in that group stop and consider the secrecy part of things and encourage the workers to truly “walk in the light” and not in darkness.  It’s so much more freeing and healthy in the light.  Also, let us not forget that iconic verse “God is love and perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment.”  Amen.  Why torment yourself or allow yourself to be tormented when torment is never coming from God?

 

When you need room to grow

Hello!

Oh my, it has been a long, long while since I have posted anything new.  I truly feel like I’ve said everything I set out to say, and that is why there has been a silence.   This morning, however, some new thoughts started coming and I didn’t want them to get away.

I saw a clearer picture of myself this morning than I had previously seen in Jesus words of Matthew 9:17.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

This verse helps to explain why I had to leave the meetings back in 2006.  By that point, I was trying to pour my new wine into the old wineskins and it just didn’t work.  The new wine was my growing relationship with God and new revelations of not only who I was, but more importantly, who He was.  Jesus said if you try to force those back in the old wineskins, the skin would burst from the pressure,  spilling the wine and ruining the skins.  What a perfect analogy.  New wine must be stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.

I tried so hard to “fit” the new ways of understanding into my professing life for a few years.  I wanted to stay so I could share what I was finding with others in the hopes that it would inspire them to also “ask, seek and knock”. I have heard of some through the years that are staying in meetings because of that very desire; even though they see many things about the System that are not right.   But the growing frustration I felt while trying to do that lead me to eventually feeling like I would truly explode!  I would drive away from meetings extremely frustrated because it was all so ho hum, so same-ole-same-ole.  There was nothing fresh and new.  Everyone seemed content where they were spiritually.  I was excited about God and about Jesus and I was yearning for someone else to not only feel that way as well but be willing to act upon it.  Talk about it.  Dig deeper than ever before.  Be willing to think outside the professing box.

The wineskin was what held the wine and it had to be new when there was new wine so that it could expand and get only better with time.  The meeting system, the group and what they believed, became old and it wasn’t stretching at all any more. (Ironically, the group seems to be proud of that fact.)  It didn’t have the capacity to hold anything new or anything fresh.  It burst within me because the pressure became too great.  I had to put everything within me into something new.

I’m reminded of what someone once told me years ago.  He had been professing and even in the Work for a few years but eventually left the meetings entirely because he said he was meeting with people who didn’t want to grow any more spiritually or emotionally but had he asked them that, they would have denied it completely.  But the reality is that folks are afraid to ask, seek or knock because it has been told them for so long that if they did, they would end up “outside”.  And yes, this may be true.  But you end up outside of the group only.  

You do not end up outside of God, His love, or outside of Christ (unless you choose to put yourself there), or outside of other Christians or outside of the Kingdom of God. You don’t end up outside of heaven, or outside of forgiveness, or salvation, or mercy or God’s grace. You find new friends, and new people to have fellowship with.  You find new translations of the Bible which make it fresh again.  You find new music to listen to and new ways of worshiping Christ.  You find new ways of studying the Bible and new ways of praying that simple amaze you. You find new teachers to listen to or read about.  You find your heart so full of God and at peace, not to mention happy and thankful,  like never before. You understand freedom in Christ and what is so amazing about Grace.  You want to be a better person like never before.  There is room in the new wineskin for all the new wine pouring in.  It is wonderful! Fear of change can be so paralyzing, and the devil knows that, so he tells us that staying in the status quo feels like the only way to survive.   But wouldn’t you rather thrive than just survive?  Think about it.

 

 

 

What ifs, if only’s & regrets

 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)  

I don’t think there is a person alive that doesn’t have some regrets about a decision or decisions they have made and that wouldn’t like a do-over or a second chance.

The regrets, what ifs and if only’s can keep me awake at night.  Life hasn’t gone how I planned in some ways.  Not according to my girlhood dreams anyway.  Or the high ideals I had in my 20’s.

I see many homeless people everyday downtown where I work and I’m sure there isn’t a one of them that wouldn’t give anything for a do-over of some point in their lives.  But again, I doubt there is a single person walking around that feels like they have made every single perfect decision.  Jesus is the only one who could have walked through life feeling that way.  What an amazing feeling that must have been.

But, as the cliche goes, it’s what we do with the regrets that determines so much.  Easier said than done.  That is where the above mentioned Scripture comes in.  Paul certainly did some things he regretted but he said that above all, he wanted to know Christ AND to do his best to forget the past and press on towards the future.  For myself, that is not a one-time thing but something I have to do over and over because  I keep bringing the past up in my mind and blaming the past rather than accepting it for what it is and moving on.  I think doing those 2 things together makes a huge difference:  Wanting to know Christ more as a result of the regrets and the if only’s and the what if’s because He was there with us during everything.  During the poor choices or bad decisions.  He knows every detail involved but He has an overall view of each of those events that we don’t have unless we ask Him for it.  Once we can see those experiences/choices through His eyes, it really helps to forget the past and move forward.

Yes, we have to live with our choices and that is the bitter pill we have to swallow every day.  I regret giving all those years to a system that wasn’t true.  I regret a few decisions I have made in the last  16 years that have affected me physically and financially.  I regret being so slow to see things and change things in relationships.  I know there are people still in the meetings who look at me and tsk tsk and say things like “she got what she deserved” but I know I am forgiven and accepted in the Beloved.

One of the biggest obstacles for me was erasing the message I was taught all my life while in the meetings that God punishes us for our decisions forever.  I’m not sure I even believed I was truly forgiven and that God had honestly forgotten my poor choice.  That He sees everything through the eyes of restoration and renewal.  Nothing we do or say catches Him by surprise.  He is totally prepared to handle all our mess ups.  I lived under the shadow of I have to try harder, be better, do more to somehow atone for what I did or said because I wasn’t taught that Jesus had already done everything to take care of all of my sin.  God’s amazing ability to forgive and go on, which is called His Grace, was not preached at all.  So it left me feeling depressed, not good enough at times, or else superior and judgmental of others who had made mistakes I hadn’t made.  But once I stepped back and took in His Amazing Grace, I then totally wanted to make future decisions more prayerfully and carefully and be a better person on every level.  That also is not preached in the meetings.  They don’t believe in the Gospel of Grace because they think it means we can just do whatever we want and we will be forgiven because His grace is sufficient.  The Apostle Paul wrestled with the same question and came to the conclusion, “God forbid!”  I honestly do not know why the workers avoid that portion of scripture because God’s Grace is the most freeing message ever told.  But they prefer legalism and control sadly.

Paul said he wanted to know the power of the resurrection and I do too.  Bring new life to dead places, new hope to hopeless areas, new inspiration from painful memories.  Jesus didn’t have regrets but He knew plenty of suffering in His life because of our messes so He knows what to do and He remembers how it feels.  We have no reason to live under the weight of guilt and regret; doing so is a needless use of our energy.  Do we believe His message?  All of it?  Dare we?  YES! We dare!

 

 

 

God’s Quietness

An evening prayer from “Your’s is the Day, Lord, Your’s is the Night” by Jeanie & David Gushee recently read:

Lord God:

Drop Thy still dew of quietness

Till all our stirrings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of Thy peace.

 Amen

 Drop THY still dew of quietness….still…not as in, continual, but still as in shhhh.  His shhhhh….dew of quietness dropping on me.  I’ve always heard much about my responsibility to be quiet before God but here it suggests the Lord bringing His quietness to me.  Yes, He can be loud as thunder and we’ve heard many times about His still small voice as well.  But I loved this poetic expression of Him in a way I hadn’t considered before.  He is quiet in an oh so soothing, comforting and enveloping way and He will send His quiet to us like dew falling. Dew can’t be seen until it is.  I love and need quiet more and more.  I seek it out and go places where I can find even moments of it.  But His quiet is in a whole different arena.  His quiet can suddenly settle on my frantic, harried, weary mind and there is rest of mind.  On nights when I cannot sleep but I can make dozens of to-do lists, what I need is rest of mind….shhhh….His quiet to descend.  Not my effort but His blessing.  Drop Thy still dew of quietness so I can sleep.

I highly recommend the above mentioned book of prayers for the morning and the evening.  They are from every century and for me, are stepping stones for my own prayers to be added. They pray for things I would otherwise never consider and I love the insight they provide.  These prayers are rich and beautiful and I marvel every day at how people of every age knew God and depended on Him and how very real He has been in every age; contrary completely to how I was raised to believe and I am so thankful my eyes were opened to see differently.  The people who penned those prayers were not faking it but writing from their hearts and their very own personal relationship with God.  How arrogant I once was to think that only the people who went to meetings had prayers that reached God.  Lord, forgive!

Fill the Earth!

Genesis 1:28 “Then God said….fill the earth…”

Fill the earth He said.  I’ve always read that before and thought only of recreation; fill the earth with people and more animals.  But the other day I looked at it a different way and it meant so much more.

Fill the earth as in; fill it with your dreams, your hopes, your love, your talents and gifts.  Fill the earth with goodness and mercy, with grace, with kindness.  Don’t just exist in this lifetime or just go through the motions or simply take up space.  Treasure every single day of this glorious life and contribute something good back to it.  I like to think that when God created each of us, He couldn’t wait to see what we were going to do with our God given moments; what we were going to do with life and what we were going to do with our mistakes and wrong turns, dashed dreams and heartbreaks as well as our blessings, open doors, and wise choices.

Fill the earth with Him, with His Holy Spirit, with Jesus and with His Word.  Fill our individual piece of this earth with those things, no matter what our circumstances.  God did not create this earth and everything in it just for the sake of reproduction.  He gave us everything in heaven and on earth to have rich, full, meaningful, insightful lives. We are all different and our lives are all going to look different.  God didn’t tell us all to be alike or choose alike or look alike.  Our lives can be small but they don’t have to be.  They can be small but they don’t have to be shallow or selfish.  He just said, Fill the earth.

So, my friends, fill the earth wherever you are.

The journey after leaving the meetings

Recently I finished reading “Leaving Church” by Barbara Brown Taylor and the last few chapters are about the years after she left the priesthood that she was involved in for 20 some years.  Much of her experience after leaving echo mine.  Not just my experience of leaving the Work (ministry) but even more so after leaving the fellowship I was raised in.  I thought perhaps they may also resonate with some of my readers who have recently left the meetings as well.

She writes about the seminary.  What that translated to me in my experience is the Work or ministry but it could also just mean the structure of the meeting group as a whole.

The clear message was that God did not live at the seminary.  God lived in the world.  The seminary existed so that people had a place to try and make sense of their experience in the world, as well as a community to support them while they did.”

I have written this before, but one of my greatest joys since leaving the meeting group is being allowed to see God in newer, bigger ways.  That process just keeps happening.  I have been praying the last couple of weeks that He would show me Himself in ways I have never imagined before.  Not only is He everywhere, but He is still invested everywhere.  The world is so broken now and I find myself wondering if God is still here or has He turned His back on us.  But I know He is still here.  In all this darkness, confusion and mess, above it all, He is here.  Now.  He is still in control.  He has not been chased away by the Darkness; His Light still prevails. I just need to look for Him in places I haven’t before.

I have since sensed Him in the morning air, in the wind, in the presence of trees, in the sky, in rivers as never before.  I live in the City so getting out in nature is not often possible but I do have access to the above things often and feeling Him so near in those places is amazing.  And comforting.  I suddenly do not feel alone but protected.  There is a contemporary Christian song that talks about Him being the very air we breathe.

When Barbara wrote about God living in the world and not just the safety of the seminary, I think anyone with an involvement in the meetings will know why that sentence meant something to me.  We were taught that the world was evil, all of it basically, and the last thing we wanted to do was be in it anymore than we had to.  Worshiping God in the world or even in nature was thought of as “odd” and it made most uncomfortable.  Even acknowledging God in the wind or a breeze on your face or the coolness of the morning air would have been “weird”.

But, like she also writes, the meetings had a definite purpose.  It was our safe haven.  It was our retreat until it no longer was.  Until we needed something different, something newer, something bigger.

The author writes something else profound, “I may have left the house, but I not left the relationship.”  Many assume when you leave the meeting group that you have left God as well because, in their minds, those two are synonymous.  They aren’t at all.  Oh, I wish those still in the meetings could understand and accept that of those of us who are still very much in touch with God but just not involved in the group anymore.

Taylor also writes another interesting thought regarding church:

“What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe?  What if they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of chastened for not doing more at church?  What if the church’s job were to move people out of the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God needed them more in the world than in the church?”

I want to be a part of a church like that.

Which brings me to an admittance I haven’t made before on the blog.  I don’t attend church anymore.  I just can’t bring myself to go.  It’s not that there was anything wrong with any of it but it just wasn’t what I needed anymore.  I’m just not the same person as I was a few years ago.  This was made so apparent to me recently when I ran into a gal that was in numerous Bible studies I facilitated at the church I used to attend.  She was all excited about the new study she had just begun after missing a few years of it, and as I listened to her, all I felt was glad for her but glad it wasn’t me.  The older I get I seem to just want to be alone on Sunday morning worshiping Jesus; not with a crowd, not even a small one.  The only church I would gladly attend would be with any of my girlfriends who are former meeting gals themselves.  I would feel heard and understood there as well as supported and it would be pure joy to be there for them in that capacity as well.

One more quote from “Leaving Church“.

“I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place.  We are a motley crew, distinguished not only by our inability to explain ourselves to those who are more certain of their beliefs than we are but in many cases by our distance from the centers of our faith communities as well. Like campers who have bonded over cook fires far from home, we remain grateful for the provisions that we have brought with us from those cupboards, but we also find them more delicious when we share them with one another under the stars.  This wilderness experience sets up a real dilemma for some of us, since we know how much we owe to the traditions that shaped us.  We would not be who we are without them, and we continue to draw real sustenance from them, but in so far as those same traditions discourage us from being with one another, we cannot go home again.  In one way or another, every one of us has gotten the message that God made us different that we might know one another, and that how we treat one another is the best expression of our belief.”

I really like this and it is so true regarding where I am right now.  The bond I have with my friends who have also left the meetings is real, rich, deep and strong.  Leaving the group affects each of us at profound levels and it takes years to process everything.   I prefer small groups to large ones, good conversation are my kind of party.  Church is sharing where we are now with God and where He is with us rather than churchy phrases and sermons.  I need connections with people I trust and I am blessed to have several friends who fall into that category.  I see God in them and I want to learn from them as well as just love them and support them.

Please know that these thoughts are just about where I am now and where I’ve come from.  They are my journey; not what I think yours should be.  I have not forsaken the assembly of other believers; I just do not get to be in that kind of assembly very often.  But when I do, it is precious to me.  Absolutely precious.