REHOBOTH MILLS: As long as there is any darkness in our hearts – anger, greed, lust, hatred, or whatever – the causes of war and other violence fester. We need to continually invite His light to fill us, that we might be pure and loving. We must become wholly enlisted in the Lamb’s War – the war against the Adversary – to bring true peace to the world and help establish God’s Kingdom here on earth. We are reminded (Ephesians 6:10-18) to put on the full armor of God in this struggle “not against flesh and blood, but against … the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We must remember to maintain a Christian love for those serving in military positions, for they, too, are made in God’s image, and many of them serve in the belief that they are working for good.
I am troubled by the extent to which our tax money – to say nothing of our entire economy – is subverted to the ever growing voracious appetite of the military-industrial complex, which only increases the insecurity of the world and does nothing to build up the things that can greatly relieve the difficulties of this planet – the much-needed education, agricultural relief and reform, redistribution of wealth, improved health, birth control, and so on. I admire those who refuse to pay their war taxes but have not been convinced in my own heart that such action is directed; attempting to give to peaceful causes an amount equal to what I pay in the support of the military is a goal I am attempting, but often falling short of fulfilling. Renewed effort is needed. There can be no true peace until the salvation of Jesus Christ reigns in the hearts of all mankind. The Lamb’s War must be victorious first within each of us who hear His call.
JANE’S FALLS: I sense that too often these days, Friends in general are far more willing to tell nations how to conduct their affairs than we are to counsel each other in maintaining our own lives in true peace and love. Unfortunately, we’re too ready to dismiss as “a personal matter” instances that feed the roots of hurt and violence. If we want peace in this world, we must act fairly and justly in all of facets of our lives.
It is easy to condemn the military and forget that many of those involved in its ranks do so out of sincerity and their understanding of Scripture. We must, however, labor faithfully against those who try to wrap the flag around the cross, who pervert Christ’s salvation to all peoples as one meant instead only for Americans.
If we are to take away the occasion of all wars, we must consider the current conflict over abortion, recognizing that outlawing the practice would not end deaths. The problem arises from a sex-saturated, materialistic, self-centered society that inculcates its values in nearly every American home through the seemingly innocuous television set. How do we counter this influence, except as a “people set apart”?
The Lamb’s War goes way beyond politics. The real battle is “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).
As a journalist, the ethic of remaining professionally objective means I cannot have a voting, active membership in any group other than my church (the editor who first stated this principle obviously was not a Friend, considering the voting part!). The necessity of hearing and reporting both sides as fairly as possible, in the hopes that Truth will win out in the end, can greatly desensitize a reporter or editor – especially in issues where evil and good are clearly at stake. The Adversary, who works by confusion, can easily enter if we are not vigilant in our own lives. Interestingly, however, I am not finding my work any different here on one of the most conservative newspapers in the country than it was on far more liberal organizations. Perhaps my most important job, professionally, is seeing that both sides are heard, rather than only those that are in power.
WILLOW BROOK: There are too many, including those at hand, for whom I cannot see “that of God” in their being. The failure is mine.
For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.