Articles & News

Reedwood Friends Church Seeks Full-Time Pastor

Friends United Meeting - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 7:38am

Reedwood Friends Church, an independent, multi-cultural Quaker Church, located in southeast Portland, Oregon, and until recently a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting, is seeking applications for a full-time pastor.

They are seeking an experienced Christ-centered pastor who has a proven track record in effective community building and organizing, a strong ability to recruit, supervise and energize volunteers, experience working with cross-cultural and inter-generational communities. Successful candidates will deliver challenging and inspiring sermons and show a demonstrated ability to pursue active, continuous personal, professional and spiritual development.

For complete job description go to www.reedwood.org. Applications may be made by sending a cover letter, CV/resume, and written statement showing personal commitment to Quaker values and testimonies to jobs@reedwood.org.

Categories: Articles & News

AFSC South Star Newsletter: Spring 2018

American Friends Service Committee - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 2:51am
AFSC South Star Newsletter Spring 2018 Cover Photo: Photo: AFSC

The spring 2018 issue of the South Star shares work the AFSC is doing to loosen the hold that the roots of oppression have on poor and marginalized communities. Our South Region weed-pullers have been hard at work in the West Virginia teachers’ strike, in offering sanctuary to five undocumented individuals in North Carolina; to literally planting the seeds of growth in community farms in New Orleans and Baltimore; and in so many more places, in many more ways.

Categories: Articles & News

Hold Israel accountable for killing Palestinian protesters in Gaza

American Friends Service Committee - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 1:27pm

Israel’s use of lethal military force against protesters is illegal and immoral. Email your member of Congress today to tell them that Palestinians have the right to protest without it costing them their lives.

Categories: Articles & News

April 2018 Full Issue Access

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:35am
Members can download the full PDF or read any article online (see links below). Features: “Nurturing Growth and Healing through Stories” by Astuti Bijlefeld, “Balancing Acts” by Ruthe Schoder-Ehri, “Meeting for Worship for Healing” by Richard K. Lee and Sarah M. Lloyd, “The Cost of a Healing Gift” by John Jeremiah Edminster. Poetry: “A Day of Waiting” by
Categories: Articles & News

Among Friends: Holding in the Light

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:30am
I sat, scared and feigning calm, on the crinkly paper of an exam table in a surgeon’s office, my spouse in the chair beside me. I remember the waiting. It had been three weeks since the biopsy, with no word at all about what they found, and the minutes waiting for the surgeon to come in felt especially concentrated. We had been hearing the click of her high-heeled shoes, back and forth down the hall. They were going to click into our room, the surgeon a picture of competence and certitude, and we were going to hear
Categories: Articles & News

Nurturing Growth and Healing through Stories

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:25am

@milosz_g

Early each spring, my garden offers me images for the work I do as chaplain. Some days as I walk through the garden, there is mud everywhere. There is much to be cleaned up, and there are stark reminders of last year’s mistakes and failures. I begin to think how much work this garden will require. On some of these days, I wonder what makes me think that the garden will turn out any better this year.

On most days, however, I see more than last summer’s shortcoming. I see the mud but also the possibilities. I actually look forward to the coming work and know that I will bring with me the lessons from past successes as well as failures. Those are the days that the garden holds promise and endless possibilities. On those days, I know for sure that this time the garden is going to be good! These are my images for the work I do as chaplain: walking through the mud; seeing possibilities; and watching for signs of growth that point to hope, as new life begins to reach for the light.

In this setting, hope and signs of growth often lie buried deep beneath the surface. In this space, through sharing stories, we find ways to uncover hope and to notice small signs of new life beginning to take hold.

During the past five years, much of my chaplaincy work has been with veterans in a substance abuse treatment program. Several times a week, we meet in small groups to explore the role of spirituality in recovery. At their best, these groups become a space for listening, for giving voice to the big questions, and for allowing these questions to sit with us. Many veterans come to this place weary and heavy-laden indeed. They carry burdens of grief or guilt, loss or shame: burdens some of them have already carried for decades. They come with the humility to be honest about the wreckage they have left behind and with the courage to ask for help.

In this setting, hope and signs of growth often lie buried deep beneath the surface. In this space, through sharing stories, we find ways to uncover hope and to notice small signs of new life beginning to take hold. We switch to another language, to another way of looking at the world and at ourselves. This is no longer the language of facts and proof and differences; this is the language of imagination and possibilities and connections. Stories are the language of spirituality. Spirituality pertains to what gives meaning and purpose to our lives, provides a framework, and offers continuity and community. As Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham write in The Spirituality of Imperfection, human beings throughout history have resorted to the medium of stories, “which use words in ways that go beyond words to speak the language of the heart.”

A story may catch us off-guard when we suddenly recognize ourselves in it. Stories can charm their way past our defenses, bypass our resistance, and overturn our ready answers. Standing in a long tradition of master storytellers, Jesus often taught through parables. To those who already had all the answers and who were sure they always knew right from wrong, Jesus would respond with a story: “There was a man who had two sons” or “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Stories work because we recognize the people and situations in them, and we will likely meet ourselves in there. God and truth and right are no longer abstracts in a story: they are suddenly there in our midst. In Storycatcher, Christina Baldwin quotes from the Hasidic tradition: “What is truer than truth? The Story.”

As we relearn how to tell and to listen to stories, they are no longer “just stories”—they become truer than truth. There are times in a group that the change in the room is tangible: people relax and may even sit back while we all become listeners as someone begins, “Here is a story, a true story.” As people begin to tell and hear and value their own stories, they may also begin to change and give new shape to the narratives of their lives. It can happen that someone comes across the answer he or she has been searching for, already contained within the story. There is always awe in the silence that follows such a revelation and awe in the voices that gently ask the speaker, “Did you hear what you just said?”

The language of spirituality is the vocabulary of hope, in Kurtz and Ketcham’s elegant phrasing. Spirituality offers guidance and direction. More than explanations, spirituality offers forgiveness. Hope, direction, and forgiveness are what veterans in my groups are searching for. With each new group, we return to the Exodus story as a narrative of the long, long road to freedom. Especially in this setting, it becomes clear that this journey is not only a geographical but also a spiritual journey. Far more than “changing people, places, and things,” this journey requires changing the way we see ourselves. All travelers on this road are not merely changing where they are but who they believe they are. Since spirituality is about “how I see myself and my place in the world,” one of my tasks is to listen for changes in another’s self-understanding. Even finding a starting point for this journey can require real courage. Often as we begin this conversation, someone in the back of the room will say, barely audibly, “I don’t even know who I am.” As we talk about the losses veterans carry with them, more than one will name the most painful loss: “I lost my way, my soul, myself.”

While watching growth happen is a joy, watching grace happen is a gift.

Blade of Light by Cherry Rahn, a sculptor and painter and a member of Central Finger Lakes Meeting in Geneva, N.Y.

In this particular garden where there often is a lethal lack of hope, heartbreak and enormous challenges grow like weeds. There can be open resistance and even hostility. The question is never far away: what makes anyone think it will turn out better this time? Any growth is all the more precious because, here, hope is always a fragile sprout. Here we know the odds, the very real dangers, and setbacks. We know that some veterans will leave the program in anger, in impatience, or in despair. We know that some may return again years later, ready to change, and that some may not live through their first weekend out.

While watching growth happen is a joy, watching grace happen is a gift. In one group, this exchange took place between a veteran in his 60s and another veteran a good 30 years younger: “Listen to me, brother: you don’t want to keep doing this; you can still change.” The response: “I hear you. I love you, man, but in 30 years I don’t want to end up sitting where you are now.” Direction, guidance, acceptance, hope, love—it was all there.

Some weeks ago, a very young man in the group of newcomers mustered the courage to ask a question that was haunting him. He described his struggle with drugs and his failing to live up to his good intentions, saying, “I can’t do what I really want to do, and I keep doing things I don’t want to do.” The word his church’s leaders had used to judge him when he went to them for help was seared in his memory. He asked, “Do you think that makes me defective?“ Silently I said, “Thank you, Paul,” for allowing me to respond with confidence, “No, that makes you human” (Rom. 7:19). The young man let out a long breath as others silently nodded their agreement. Spirituality is the language of hope.

Of course, the image and metaphor of the garden is ancient. The glorious hymn of awe and praise that is the first chapter of Genesis is followed by this image in the second, “and the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen. 2:8). As soon as the Holy One had called light and skies and stars, seas and mountains into being with a word, the real work began. God looks at this world and at us as a gardener does, seeing this year’s potential and not last year’s failures. Like any gardener, God looks around, sees the endless possibilities, and gets to work. And the work continues, some of us planting, some watering, while God gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6).

The post Nurturing Growth and Healing through Stories appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Balancing Acts

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:20am

©PerfectLazybones

 

Healing is a dynamic and a kinetic, a fluid action, a movement toward balance and peace. Our true north, our core nature, is homeostasis: a place of balance and peace. Our human organism seeks this at all times, as we breathe and as we are breathed. We seek balance as we eat and as we are eaten away; we balance as we sing, as we are sung. These are truths that I know from my life, and this is my invocation: O Mystery, bring me to a still point, to soft equilibrium.

I was a nurse for 35 years. This profession for me was an earnest combination of altruism and endless curiosity. Nursing was a tireless meeting of others in need: assessing, responding, encouraging, cleaning, instructing, documenting, praising, coaxing. We often juggled the needs of several sets of patients at once at a busy childbirth center, with a public health caseload, or in a village outreach program. My family, marriage, and sons needed many of these same skills. Considering what constitutes healing was often set aside until I felt that I had time to rest and ponder. At meeting for worship on First Day, I would sit down and sink into the silence, accompanied by the thousands of tiny interactions of my busy week, and know that I could finally allow all this to return to Source.

In this prepared ground, this milieu of meeting together, the Great Mystery is most welcome.

The most useful core concept that animated my practice was this: You nurse with your self. This was relatively radical—to the root—and a concept usually reserved for classes in the four-year nursing education programs’ courses in nursing philosophy. It was not well understood by many of my coworkers, supervisors, and administrators. Nursing as one human being actually being with another was captured neither in the National League for Nursing (NLN) professional board examinations, nor the hospital documentation matrices, nor efficiency time studies.

Yet, for me, this tenet survived through all those years of long hospital shifts, and later as a public health nurse, meeting impoverished young teens and families in the complex urban “jungle” of Seattle or in an Alaskan village. This took time. This was a priority. This became even more true as my experience deepened and I questioned whether healing actually resulted from my efforts to apply conventional medical interventions, or whether healing was a rather mysterious occurrence for both myself and my patients or clients.

You nurse with your self. This interpersonal dynamic—this meeting of souls—was present when all the hard stuff and all the good stuff happened through those years. This is the golden filament that carried through from allopathic nursing and into holistic medicine when I became a classical homeopath. I love this process; I stay with this.

In homeopathic consultation and healing—as in Quaker meeting for worship—there is a belief in the presence and power of the vital force or the inner Light in each being. Both worship and homeopathy invite and employ expectant presence and patient waiting. At best, there is a release of attachment, judgment, and assumptions. Deep listening ensues.

In this prepared ground, this milieu of meeting together, the Great Mystery is most welcome. Mystery—and the unfolding of a person, body and soul—is listened for and longed for. Space is made for right and true energies. And in this way, whatever is out of balance, that which is wonky or wobbly or seemingly broken beyond repair, arrives as well, often cloaked with veils of mystery. These are fascinating to a homeopath or a seeker: these teasing tendrils of life experience and personal expression. Homeopathy calls this the constitutional self-regulating core of being, as it unfolds in conversation, in gesture, and often in silence. For me, it is the fleeting precious arrival of the numinous between us.

We are privileged to discover together that this sweet spot is the occasion of healing. Dynamic and elusive, healing is one of the loveliest gifts of human existence. As one self truly encounters another, as pain or puzzle is expressed, witnessed, and held, there opens a space for a shift, however tiny, toward the good, toward the just, toward the true.

Healing is cherished and invited but ever mysterious: sometimes dancing just beyond our reach, other times sneaking up on us from behind in a dream.

The task is to stay here, quietly, perhaps longer than feels comfortable, away from value judgments, associations, and explanations. As we just rest in the silence together, what can and will emerge is some indication or some clue to lead the way toward the wholeness, the healing, or health that is sought.

This moment may not look or feel like what we want. A dying patient may not get up and say, “Well that was a close call, but I’m not going to die now.” Yet a deep healing can have occurred in the conversation or silence, in the meeting of souls, in the realization of the precious gift of life and choice.

Overt recognition of healing in the labor room may be eclipsed by the excited welcome of a glossy, sputtering new being, yet the mother and all who attend her have witnessed a miracle. The mother takes with her a knowing in her flesh and bones that she has been incredibly brave and that she has participated in the most intimate way in the incubation and bringing forth of new life.

There may not have been anything wrong in her pregnancy and labor; there may not have been a diagnosis or problem for the hospital problem list. Yet great healing has occurred! For this moment at least, all the time when she doubted her own character, strength, and abilities has dissolved. She knows, in her fatigue and great amazement, that now she has arrived at a new place and time. She is new, in relationship, as the healing vessel for this child and for herself. She’s done what she didn’t believe possible, and she has been witnessed and accompanied.

In all of this, healing is a dynamic and elusive force. Healing is cherished and invited but ever mysterious: sometimes dancing just beyond our reach, other times sneaking up on us from behind in a dream. Healing is a verb: a slowing, flowing movement toward balance, toward the good. Healing is always occurring on a continuum, a trajectory of goodness.

I feel incredibly grateful for all the opportunities given to me to meet another and to meet myself. We become partners together in a healing process. We all can nurse ourselves toward the goodness of being ever more fully human.

The post Balancing Acts appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Meeting for Worship for Healing

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:15am

© Burlingham

Meeting for worship for healing (healing prayer) is a gathering for the purpose of holding people, concerns, and situations in the Light. Jesus Christ was a healer. There are 42 stories of his healings in the New Testament, and he assured those whom he called “friends,” rather than “servants” (John 15:15), that they would be able to do the same miracles he did and even more (14:12). Healing has been an activity of Friends from the very beginning. George Fox, James Nayler, Elizabeth Hooton, Mary Penington, and other members of the Valiant Sixty were healers, but records of their healing work were suppressed out of fear of persecution: Friends did not wish anyone to think they were drawing upon or claiming occult powers. George Fox recorded his miraculous healings in a book in order to prove that he followed in the footsteps of Jesus, having the intention it be published after his death. This book, however, and other mentions of healing work were suppressed by Friends of his time, and remained in the shadows until the mid-twentieth century.

Historian Henry J. Cadbury reconstructed some of the book of miracles using the index of Fox’s writings, Fox’s letters, and his unedited Journal. It was published as George Fox’s Book of Miracles in 1948, with an extensive introduction and notes relating to the healing activities of early Friends. It was reprinted by Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) in 2000. Friends Fellowship of Healing, in England, has supported the healing work of Friends and meetings for worship for healing since 1935. It has among its publications many pamphlets dealing with healing, including George Fox and the Healing Ministry by R. D. Hodges. Healing and miracles did not stop when the Valiant Sixty passed on.

Richard Lee first encountered meeting for worship for healing in the home of his English Quaker grandmother when he visited her in Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, in the late 1960s. Although she was part of a continuous practice passed down from early Friends, it was little known and rarely practiced by North American Friends at the time. The tradition of meeting for worship for healing rose out of early Friends meetings for sufferings during the time when Quakers were being persecuted and thrown in jail on the slightest pretext, often leaving children, livestock, and crops behind and in need of care. At these meetings for sufferings, Friends would gather and worship with attention to what needed to be done to alleviate suffering brought on by persecution. As led by the Spirit during worship, they would then divide up tasks. When the persecutions subsided, the focus changed to folks who were ailing. Gradually, some of the meetings for sufferings evolved into meetings for worship for healing.

Wholeness can come in many different ways. People can receive their heart’s desire as a result of healing prayer, but sometimes the problem presented is a metaphor for something else in life that requires a person to explore further.

© Tatyana

Richard’s grandmother Florence Rose Morgan began instructing him in the ways of healing prayer when he visited her several times in his late teens and early 20s. She held meeting for worship for healing in her home, following the tradition passed down to her through the Foresters of the Forest of Dean in Cinderford, where she spent most of her adult life. Based on this tradition, she appreciated the work of James Nayler more than that of George Fox, although she recognized them both as healers. Friends she knew in Arlingham had records of early Friends meetings for sufferings going back to the 1600s, and they shared this information with Richard in 1966.

In the mid-1980s, Richard began holding occasional meetings for worship for healing in his home. He and Verne and Shirley Bechill also offered them at Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and at the Friends General Conference Gathering as an interest group. In the early 1990s, he traveled to meetings throughout North America and visited England, where he interviewed elderly Friends who had lived into the tradition. He also met with representatives of the Friends Fellowship of Healing and collected their published materials. In 1994, Richard established a regular monthly meeting for worship for healing in his home under the care of Red Cedar Meeting in Lansing, Michigan, that continues to this day.

Meeting for worship for healing is a Quaker meeting for worship that differs from First-day worship in that the clerk directs the attention of worshipers to the persons, concerns, and situations for which healing prayer has been requested. Messages are welcomed. Laying on of hands is also welcomed, if the person requesting healing is comfortable with that. Meeting for worship for healing is not exactly “faith healing,” nor is it shamanic or Reiki. It is, however, friendly to and supplements other healing modalities including Western medicine. Laying on of hands, in particular, can be an important supplement to Western medicine, which rarely includes touch. The purpose of healing prayer is to shift the energy in and around the person or situation in the direction of wholeness. It is usually not intercessory prayer. Spirit is present within and around us all the time and illuminates the worship for Friends from within. Friends assembled often experience a sense of being surrounded by Light or warmth or a loving Presence. Holding the person or situation in the Light both corporately and individually, we join with Spirit to help make the change that is needed.

Wholeness can come in many different ways. People can receive their heart’s desire as a result of healing prayer, but sometimes the problem presented is a metaphor for something else in life that requires a person to explore further. We may discover that someone or something close—an herb, a pet, a family member—can open the door to healing. The emotions around the request can be important. When meeting on behalf of someone seriously or dangerously ill or something direly wrong, it’s important for us to share our fears when the request is first mentioned, and then later, as led by the clerk, go into worship and see what Spirit can do. When physical healing is experienced, it is important to check the situation out with medical or other professionals. Our group has experienced what many of us would term miracles.

Red Cedar Meeting’s meeting for worship for healing is held from 7–9:00 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, and usually there are at least eight to ten of us who faithfully come together to hold individuals, concerns, or situations in the Light. Some Friends come early to help with setting up and having the important preliminary social conversations. Others arrive when they can and slip in quietly, if worship has started. It is better to come late than not to come at all. Healing prayer can take a lot of energy, so there is always food plus a variety of hot teas.

The formal part of the evening begins with the clerk asking for signs of hope, including updates on folks who were held in the Light at earlier meetings for worship for healing. Richard places great importance on the training of clerks, and he has been at this for 23 years, so we have a lot of folks who can serve. Someone clerking for the first time will find a lot of guidance and support from other participants. The group helps the clerk compile the list. Generally, we aim to keep our primary list of requests to around eight, giving priority to folks who are physically present. It’s important to keep requests confidential within the group. After a period of centering, as the clerk is led, he or she will introduce the requests one at a time into our gathered worship, and we will hold it in the Light with full attention. Each clerk has her or his own style of determining the order of the requests and the length of time devoted to each one.

Friends also have their own approaches to healing prayer, and very different experiences of the presence of Spirit. Some folks see colors; others visualize physical problems in detail; some are led to sing or to give vocal ministry as they would in a First-day meeting for worship. Others may be led to laying on of hands. Since not everyone is comfortable with being touched, a chair is placed in the center of the healing circle and persons who wish laying on of hands and who are able can move to it when their request is presented by the clerk. Persons who stay in place in the circle will be held in the Light but not physically touched, unless they have requested it. When those requesting can’t be physically present, worshiping with us from wherever they are can be helpful. Toward the end of our worship, folks are encouraged to name other individuals or concerns, expanding our healing prayer to include many more requests than the original seven or eight. We aim to keep a framing silence after each offering. We find that as the evening progresses, the worship deepens. Sometimes Friends experience a very deep connection to each other and to the Spirit, and the closing of worship is difficult because it is truly covered.

Before the next meeting for worship for healing, we usually follow up and check in with folks who have been held in the Light in the previous gathering. Our aim is for wholeness, recognizing that a situation might be part of a larger picture. We each approach the Light as we are individually and corporately led, and we are careful to pray as the focus person would wish. Therefore, we don’t pray in judgment or condemnation. We also don’t pray for someone who does not wish for prayers. At the end of the evening, Friends often share our individual and corporate experiences that have come out of the worship. Sometimes the conversations continue well into the evening.

Wholeness may manifest immediately or slowly over time, and sometimes it is achieved only after the person dies: a good death can be a form of healing.

© Feel good studio

Coming into wholeness can take a variety of forms. After healing prayer, a friend facing surgery might find during pre-op testing that the surgery is no longer required. A Friend may realize during healing prayer that a long-standing family feud is being caused by his own greed. A Friend may discover while being held in the Light that forgiving someone instead of wanting to kick him may allow a stubborn ankle sprain to heal. Vocal ministry heard during healing prayer may lead a Friend to a new attitude, a new course of action, or a new doctor. Wholeness may manifest immediately or slowly over time, and sometimes it is achieved only after the person dies: a good death can be a form of healing.

Since 1994 Richard has led or co-led 22 weeklong workshops at the Friends General Conference Gathering. Sarah Lloyd, Richard’s assistant, has been the person of presence at the last two. The workshop size has ranged from 8 to 35 Friends. These workshops have “taught Friends how to do it” while also providing a space for individuals, families, and friends to experience healing. Richard has also led more than 30 workshops at Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and done weekend workshops for monthly meetings. For more descriptive, historical, and background information in support of the meeting for worship for healing, please go to the resources page on the Red Cedar Meeting website, Redcedarfriends.org, and type “Meeting for Healing Resources” in the search box.

This work is all a blessing, and healing can “confound the calculus of rationality” as South African Friend and physicist George F. R. Ellis once remarked. Please feel free to join us in healing prayer on the third Monday of the month from wherever you are. We welcome folks to share their own experiences in Quaker meeting for worship for healing. Strive to be open to miracles, Friends, in your own lives.

The post Meeting for Worship for Healing appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

The Cost of a Healing Gift

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:10am

© kreus

“Know the virtue of a healing tongue and how to use it.” —James Nayler (1618–1660)

“This anointing is for real. Don’t abuse it.” I woke with my palms buzzing, hearing a voice in my mind saying these words. I’d heard that voice before, and it had a ring of authentic divinity to it, though I couldn’t explain why I thought so. But surely many of my Quaker readers have read “The Lord said to me” in George Fox’s Journal, and perhaps also Isaac Penington’s famous outburst, “This is he, this is he; there is not another, there never was another!” Well, Friend, these things still happen, and I guess that’s what keeps Quaker faith in continuing and immediate revelation alive. God may reveal Godself as He, She, or It, but God does talk to us. (I’ll be using the pronoun “He” in this account only because that’s truest to my personal experience of the Divine Person.)

That voice had first spoken to me years earlier, not long after I’d made a formal offering of myself to God, inspired by my reading of nineteenth-century Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life:

Do you, then, now at this moment, surrender yourself wholly to Him? Then, my dear friend, begin at once to reckon that you are His, that He has taken you, and that He is working in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Shortly after that surrender, I heard that voice say, “I give ear.”

The Naming of the Gift

I’d just recently returned from a Christ-centered Friends weekend conference at New York Yearly Meeting’s Powell House, where a gifted namer of Friends’ gifts had identified me as carrying a gift of healing. (Me? Really? Well, coworkers at the box factory had told me that my hands took away their headaches … but a divine gift?) At the end of the gathering, she put her hands over mine, and blessed and “sealed” the gift. And now, a few mornings later, I was hearing confirmation from on high—with a warning attached: no abuse of the gift.

To hear “this anointing is for real” left my mind silent for a moment. Then, predictably, my mind and feelings went wild: What does this mean? What’s next?

I felt fear, of course, that I’d “abuse” the gift in some way that would put me into disfavor with God that I’d rue forever: I certainly wouldn’t ask for money! “Freely ye have received,” Jesus said (Matt. 10:8); “freely give.” Would I fall prey to sexual temptation? I hoped not! But might a subtler temptation blind-side me, like a desire to please and impress people? Or might I abuse the gift by self-protectively hiding it under a bushel?

At the same time, I felt excited to imagine that I might have a miracle worker’s career opening up before me. Bzz! From now on my hands might buzz to tell me that they were “charged” and ready to work wonders. Bzz! They’d tell me where the cancer or the kidney stone was, I’d lay them where the buzzing was loudest, and presto! when the buzzing stopped, I’d know I was done and the patient was cured. It was a little boy’s fantasy of having magical powers, with no doubts, no ambiguities, no failures, no grief over sufferers left unhealed. Problem was, my hands never buzzed again. I sometimes tell people that it’s a “blind gift”: it’s not given to me to know when or how it’s working; I just pray that healing occurs. And enough people report improvement, or heat from my hands, that I persist in offering hands-on prayer.

By the grace of God, I had my life partner, Elizabeth, to share my experience with, and she took the news of the buzzing palms and the interior locution soberly. She’d gone to that weekend conference with me, and had her own gifts of wisdom; discernment; and healing named, blessed, and sealed there. She’d heard the divine voice at times, too.

The prospect of inviting spirit guides reminded me that my gift had been from the Holy Spirit, who would surely be spirit guide enough.

Growing into Giftedness

With encouragement from other Quaker healers, Elizabeth and I began to study techniques of hands-on healing: we went to weekend training workshops; we read the writings of Christian healers; shamanic healers; and practitioners of Reiki, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and homeopathy. I longed to be able to inspect people’s etheric and astral bodies, their chakras and marmas, with a diagnostician’s eye. So long as it involved no straying from Christ, I aspired to know how to mobilize healing virtues in plant spirits, minerals, colors, and sounds, and how to recognize “holy” places.

But none of that connected for us. Then I came to realize that whatever healing knowledge there was to be found in these disciplines, the Omniscient Teacher knew it all already, and He could guide my hands and mobilize healing energies as He knew best. My part is to pray for the patient innocently, willing only to be Christ’s instrument as I lay hands on. Sometimes I imagine His hands superimposed on mine, dark nail-wounds at the center.

Elizabeth and I dropped out of one training program when we were told that at “Level 3” we’d be encouraged to connect with “spirit guides.” We both smelled temptation. But the prospect of inviting spirit guides reminded me that my gift had been from the Holy Spirit, who would surely be spirit guide enough.

I’ve learned to listen to my own moods, as well as body feelings, as possible indicators of a patient’s condition.

Traditional Chinese medicine finds times of day medically relevant, and medical astrology names better and worse times for healing, but no one knew the right time better for my visit to Carla than the Holy Spirit did. Carla was an old friend who’d gone on to medical school and become an MD. Her pituitary gland was overfunctioning, causing Cushing’s disease, and I’d heard she’d gone into the hospital for corrective surgery. I’d had another errand to run in the city, and her hospital was on the way to it, so, I thought, why not pay Carla a visit? I happened to come to her bedside a few hours after the surgery, as she was plunging into a life-threatening Addison’s disease crisis from pituitary underfunctioning. Did my prayer help? Only God knows: but Carla told me later that my timing had been perfect. I’d call it providential.

I learned an important lesson about healing one evening when, in a casual moonlit conversation with a neighbor on our adjacent doorsteps, she told me of her thyroid trouble, and I offered to lay hands on her neck. Whoosh! No sooner had I touched her skin than I felt powerful, unanticipated sexual arousal. “I’ve never been unfaithful to my husband,” she blurted out nervously: she’d felt it, too. No more touching women without a third party present! I’ve made exceptions to this rule since then, but only rarely, and with awareness of the danger involved.

Along the way, I’ve learned some other lessons about being affected by contact with patients. No one else’s sickness has ever made me feel physically sick, but I was once plunged into an inexplicable mood of despair by the close presence of a woman, who then revealed that her husband was dying of cancer. So I’ve learned to listen to my own moods, as well as body feelings, as possible indicators of a patient’s condition.

Growing into Discipline

But the most challenging limitation that my gift imposed on me was one that only dawned on me gradually. It was about discipline of my speech and thoughts.

First, I met two other Christian healers, Wallace and Vanessa, who, like so many (including myself), had been made aware by a miraculous hands-on intervention that the gifts of healing evidenced in the early church (1 Cor. 12:9, 28) had never been taken from it. This had made them eager to seek out other churches in Manhattan that had healing ministries, and someone at the Friends quarterly meeting office had given them the names of Elizabeth and me. The rest, as they say, is history. Through their ministry, I received the training preparatory to membership in the International Order of Saint Luke the Physician (OSL), a body of “clergy, health professionals, and lay people who feel called to make Jesus’s ministry of healing a regular part of our vocation.” I was inducted into the OSL on October 12, 2013.

Part of that training was the systematic study of the healings of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. In those healing stories, I noticed a pattern: Jesus, when about to do a healing, never imputed the morbid condition (leprosy, blindness, deformity) to His patient; instead, his words anticipated the healing He intended to bring about: “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk!”;  “The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth.” To my dismay, I thought I’d found a contrary example in His statement “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14), but upon inspection of the original Greek, I learned that Jesus had said “Lazarus died”: a declaration of a past occurrence but not of a present state. My conclusion was to not risk reinforcing the undesirable condition by talking or writing as if it’s the truth of the situation. Instead I help realize the desired state by naming and celebrating it as if your words had the creative power to help it come true.

The Call to Truthful and Harmless Speech

It grew on me that this was part of a more general calling to what I call “truthful and harmless speech.” The apostle James, challenging all believers to tame the tongue, warns us not to let blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth (Jas. 3:10); Paul also advises, “Bless, and curse not” (Rom. 12:14). This happens to be a teaching of spiritual wisdom worldwide: right speech is one of the components of the Noble Eightfold Path of Theravada Buddhism, and the Hindus’ Bhagavad Gita (17:15) prescribes an “austerity of speech” that limits speech to the inoffensive, the truthful, the desirable, and the practice of reading Scripture. It may seem, of course, that the truth is at times quite offensive and undesirable, and I must charge a person with, say, lying. But instead of calling him a liar (which would be “offensive,” and also “undesirable” in the sense of tending to fix him in that identity permanently), I may simply call his statements untrue, and exercise my option of hoping and praying for his repentance of a frequent recourse to untruth, as I was led to repent of my own. There’s a difference.

Any feelings in my heart of the person’s otherness would tend to subvert that connectedness: gender otherness, ethnic or racial otherness, political or religious otherness, particularly any “other” that, by its very nature, is engaged in a competition for dominance or survival with “my” kind.

Right Livelihood, Nonpartisanship, and Chastity of Thought

None of this taming of the tongue, I realized, would be possible without my abstinence from employment where my superiors would require as part of my work my telling untruths or making  evil appear good (Isa. 5:20). Perhaps a Buddhist would say that right speech requires right mindfulness and right livelihood, two other aspects of the Eightfold Path. By the grace of God, I’m now retired from a world of industry, commerce, and mass persuasion, where I was sometimes complicit in corporate truth bending (may God forgive me). Healers, like other framers of prayer, must mean what they say.

Another realization came when I realized that I must not engage in a contest of wills with a person I wish to heal (2 Tim. 2:24). This meant, for me, ceasing to vote in national elections, although I also had other reasons for doing that, chiefly that I couldn’t, in good conscience, express a preference for one armed Caesar over another armed Caesar. That would be voicing a desire for a lesser evil over a greater evil, after Christ had forbidden me to choose evil at all. Paul warned, long ago, against the kind of sophistry that justifies evil means by the supposedly “good” ends they serve (Rom. 3:8).

But I’ll expand further on the connection I feel between the healer’s call and political nonpartisanship: when I do healing work, “I” step back and ask Christ-in-me to work, which I believe He does in concert with Christ-in-the-other-person, Christ being in no way divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Any feelings in my heart of the person’s otherness would tend to subvert that connectedness: gender otherness, ethnic or racial otherness, political or religious otherness, particularly any “other” that, by its very nature, is engaged in a competition for dominance or survival with “my” kind.

It should take only a moment’s reflection to realize that one can’t hope to tame the tongue if one is exercising no restraint on the heart: “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). To maintain harmless speech, I must steer the heart not only away from violent desires but also from lustful ones, greedy ones, and self-serving ones of all kinds that go beyond the simple demands of self-care. They will still be there in the heart, of course; the point is not to encourage them. I call this discipline “chastity of thought.” If I should happen to fall in love with someone who is not my wife, I may sober myself up with the memory of something I heard the divine voice say one morning when I saw a heartbreakingly beautiful young woman out of my bus window on my way to work: “So you love her, do you? Have you prayed for her?”

The post The Cost of a Healing Gift appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

A Day of Waiting

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:05am

© Richard Griffin

 

Holy Saturday waits
Like a patch of dirt in the lawn
Nothing happening
But shoots, then buds appear
Followed by tomatoes, squash and beans.

Holy Saturday looks dull
It’s the spring in a can
Just boring coils of gray metal
Doing nothing,
Worthless scrap
But waiting 
For the lid to come off.

Hope lost
And was buried.
Nothing to do but go home
And put one heavy foot in front of the other
Because it’s Holy Saturday
And nothing’s happening.

But then Mary shows up with funeral spices
And the gardener whispers her name
And she gets the surprise of her life.
It’s Holy Saturday
Like so many days
Nothing is happening

But the joy

Is in

How

Wrong

We are.

The post A Day of Waiting appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Passages

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 2:00am
© digitalskillet1 Perhaps my death will be like Dad’s, surrounded by children and the chaplain and the hospice nurse and some aides on staff who had come to love him, too, singing and praying him on his
Categories: Articles & News

Forum April 2018

Friends Journal - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 1:55am
Mismanaging fear Thank you for “The Trouble with ‘Strangers’” (Gerri Williams, FJ Feb.). I agree that we need to establish firm limits around people who are intent on mismanaging fear by demonizing others. It is good to maintain a level of compassion for their suffering but never compromise the truth arising from the facts of history. As I see it, the Trump supporters and those who subscribe to fundamentalist beliefs are entrenched in judging themselves and others. It makes them very fearful and angry. They have difficult work to do
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