Extending Christian oversight

SYCAMORE GROVE: My initial response to the three parts of this query: no, no, and no. As this causes deeper examination, though, I observe a personal uneasiness arising from a sensitivity to those “less fortunate,” a reaction that would prefer to look the away from distress. My first reading of the query – and my response at that moment – is financial. Although not lacking for daily bread, at times in the past several years I’ve been reminded how I am the “less fortunate” one; at other times I’ve been shown just how precarious my own situation is, financially and other ways. Thus, I feel a great inadequateness in responding to the material needs of others, even within the Meeting.

In reading the query again, another facet appears – one involving emotional and spiritual dimensions. A concern for offering material comfort is my attempt to compensate for an inability in extending a more essential kind of assistance. Too often I’ve known “duty” and “obligation” instead of genuine love or even acceptance.

Such feelings of fear and inadequacy are difficult to face, much less confess.

For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good; but me ye have not always. – Mark 14: 7

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

Yarmouth

The Yarmouth Quaker meetinghouse on Cape Cod is distinctive in that the traditional women's side, on the left, was much larger than the men's side, on the right. The reason, we're told, is that many of the men were often out to sea.
The Yarmouth Quaker meetinghouse on Cape Cod is distinctive in that the traditional women’s side, on the left, was much larger than the men’s side, on the right. The reason, we’re told, is that many of the men were often out to sea.

Sharing others’ burdens

JANE’S FALLS: This query seems to have two elements: material goods and emotional conditions. There is so much need all around – the homeless, unemployed, imprisoned, impoverished, illiterate, and so on – that I quickly feel overwhelmed, especially living apart from family and spiritual community within my neighborhood; I feel how little I can do in the face of this, especially when the real needs may be much deeper than those that can be seen. From this sense of great inadequacy, there too often arises a hardening within me, a wall between those in need and myself.

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Community

REHOBOTH MILLS: Being sensitive to needs of others around me who may be in less fortunate circumstances is a weakness on my part. It is too easy to let a hardness come over my heart and a blindness over my eyes, especially in a big city like Rehoboth, where there is so much poverty and hardship it can break your heart. Yes, and much of it along racial lines. And much abuse of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and violence, too. Charity is not the same as the more tender, personal sharing that arises in communion and obedience. When we are in close fellowship – in Christian community one with another – we may more closely share the burdens of others. But I find myself pretty much isolated here, and community is thin; in this apartment complex, the neighbors keep to themselves. I see that I am answering this along the lines of material circumstances. Yet sensitivity to the spiritual needs may be even greater. Many who are materially comfortable are troubled in spirit and require our prayerful support and our words of spiritual encouragement. I have deep gratitude to Ohio Friends who anonymously prayed for me through the dark hours of my separation and divorce. Seeing another Friend whose actions in life give grounds for concern but knowing my counsel would be most unwelcome has been a great difficulty. Prayer has been the only opportunity I have seen there. The pain can be very great, but we know that a suffering love is one aspect of Christ’s concern for each of us. I am finding the many hours of driving I do in my current job often can be a good time for holding others up in prayer.

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Our bodies and minds

JANE’S FALLS: As one who spends most of his work and leisure in sedentary pursuits, I need to make extra effort to maintain regular physical exercise, especially for my arms and upper torso. Mental and emotional health requires me to pay more attention to what I am actually feeling, desiring, thinking, and doing and to examine each of these in a more direct and honest manner; too often I have seen myself as powerless or as a victim and have failed to take responsibility for my situation; healing this outlook and much of the deeply rooted bitterness is requiring the assistance of a professional counselor and seems to be bearing much fruit.

For me, temperance will involve a better integration and interaction of the various components of my life, rather than the careful juggling of each of them as time permits, as has been my custom.

I avoid the use of tobacco and mind-altering drugs and try to be moderate in my intake of alcoholic beverages; with any activity, the moment one feels one must have it or simply does it out of habit, there may be the need to impose a fast – for some people, this can include a television fast; since I do not have a TV, I find need for a book or writing fast from time to time. I have some struggle with being judgmental when it comes to the substance habits of some of my co-workers, even where I would hardly consider myself an example in these things.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who intently looks into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:22-25

SYCAMORE GROVE: I need to be more mindful of regular exercise, other than walking, and a more balanced diet. Health facilities available through my new apartment remove one excuse for not exercising through the winter. Caffeine and alcohol consumption also need to be reduced.

As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now… Joshua 14: 11

WILLOW BROOK: Emotional awareness has always been difficult for me. Four years of pastoral counseling have opened my understanding on that part of my comprehension and action.

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

Addictive substances

REHOBOTH MILLS: A desire for greater unity with Ohio Friends has led me to withdraw from partaking of alcohol, even though it has been a worldly pleasure to me and is so much a part of the working situation I find myself in. Yet new spiritual strength arises in saying no. I acknowledge a need to get more physical exercise; some of the motels I stay in have indoor swimming pools, and I need to return to swimming laps more diligently. And I need to return to weekly hiking, which seems to help both my body and mind. Spiritual practice requires physical control as well. When our health and strength are carelessly impaired, our service to Him is weakened; we owe Him the best service we can muster.

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Mattapoisett

The 1827 Quaker meetinghouse in Mattapoisset, Massachusetts, is one of a string of Friends congregations in communities along Buzzards Bay.
The 1827 Quaker meetinghouse in Mattapoisset, Massachusetts, is one of a string of Friends congregations in communities along Buzzards Bay.

 

Settle in for worship.
Settle in for worship.

 

The heating system's been updated.
The heating system’s been updated.

Daily life at home and in family

SYCAMORE GROVE: My apartment is a sanctuary, a peaceful place of retreat and study. At times this has been difficult when neighbors have been drunken, rowdy, lewd, even drug-dealing – and finally causing me to move to safer environs. But without family, I find very little communal interaction with the rest of the neighborhood, much less the nation. Asking stoned neighbors to turn down the stereo – or having to call police in the middle of the night – turned into some difficult labor in the past year.

My only regular contact with children is through Meeting, but I have felt called more to be present and responsive in the hour of worship than to help out with the children’s First-day classes held at the same time.

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1: 5

AGAMENTICUS LANDING: The Friends responding to this set of queries all have school-age children at home, which means that this summary fits some, but not necessarily most, of our Meeting households.

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Our homes

SYCAMORE GROVE: I maintain my apartment as a sanctuary, a place I consider the Lord’s and not mine alone. There are, though, some activities that may betray this dedication and need greater care. Sometimes, that affront can be as seemingly innocent as a humorous message on my telephone answering machine.

It is difficult to consider my home an influence for good in the community when I hardly know most of my neighbors or when I see such vast differences in their lifestyles and my own.

While much of this query is directed at married couples and their families, it seems that a set of parallel queries for single Friends would arise here. In dating and courtship, I am finding the necessity of being with those who share a belief in and a personal knowledge of Christ; I am discovering the importance of being faithful to the limits scripture places on sexuality outside of marriage, and have faced situations where this faithfulness has led to my being rejected. A home as a place of peace, joy, and contentment becomes a goal, an aspect to consider in evaluating a potential marriage partner, as does the importance of becoming a couple that sets a good Christian example.

There are few children in my life at this point. One couple has, however, asked me to be godfather to their daughter, and this is opening new experiences. Most of the children in my life are those I hold in prayer.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6

WILLOW BROOK: My stepdaughters are adult now. Somehow, they survived.

I’ve failed much. Perhaps I’ve learned some things, but I wish I’d done so much earlier.

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.