Thursday, March 4, 2010

Called to Be

Since I got back from the last School of the Spirit residency, I have had a strong sense that things are shifting for me. I am having a hard time finding words to describe how I feel, but I will try.

It feels like things are physically changing in my body, or my soul, or maybe both.

One thing that is increasingly clear is that I am called to be a minister. That is terrifying because I don’t know what it means. It feels stronger than being called to ministry, and it is more than the general Quaker idea that we are all ministers. I am afraid that I will screw up, that I will do the wrong thing, that I will not know what I am doing.

I also think that it just means doing what God tells me to do. In some ways, that is comforting, but it is also disconcerting because God and I frequently have different ideas of what I should do.

I did not get any messages to give in meeting between the November and February residencies. It felt like a long time, even though it was just a few months. I noticed my lack of vocal ministry in particular when I visited meetings. For the past year, whenever I have visited meetings, it was more likely than not that I would give vocal ministry. Between November and February, I visited three meetings and didn’t have a thing to say.

Then I gave vocal ministry two weeks in a row, first at the residency and the next week at University Friends Meeting. They were both forms of ministry that I have felt very uncomfortable about in the past: vocal prayer and singing. But they both felt right and good. I also did not experience the days-ahead-of-time dread that I sometimes get when I have to give a message, which was nice. Both messages came very clearly during the meetings, I felt the moment I was supposed to give them, and I did. Even now, I feel okay about them, which is also unusual for me (I tend to second-guess and pick apart vocal ministry a lot, even though I think it’s disrespectful to God).

I had an amazing phone conversation with Noah M last week. I feel like I am still processing a lot of the things we talked about, but one thing in particular felt like a gift. I was saying that I feel comfortable going back and forth between liberal and evangelical Friends because I know the different religious languages, thanks to my childhood in the evangelical church. Noah said that he sees the gift of speaking in tongues as being able to speak different religious languages. I had never thought about that passage that way before and it really resonated with me.

One of the things I feel has been shifting recently is what I feel called to do. The focus I used to have on community doesn’t feel right anymoreit seems like I am called to do something more to do with God. I keep thinking about the message I gave during NPYM annual session last summer, especially this part:
In A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly wrote, “We have mistaken the nature of poverty, and thought it was economic poverty.”

He also said, “The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God.”

Our service is to turn others toward God, in whatever language you use. To turn others toward the Divine, toward the Light, toward Christ, toward Love. That is our service. And I wonder what our lives would look like if we knew it.
I feel like this is my ministry, what I am called to do. In a spiritually impoverished world, God is calling me to turn others toward God, in whatever language. I don’t have any particular idea how to do this, but it feels right.


  1. uh oh, I know what comes after this. It's the E word. Don't panic. It will be ok.

  2. It's good that you "don't have any particular idea how to do this;" that seems like it ought to make you feel inadequate, but it's truly the most adequate way of doing it. There's a lot of waste motion going into people repeating "The Best Way to Say It" when they need to listen instead for "What to Say (or not say) Now."

    This is truly the mission the world needs, prequisite to curing the (still appalling) ills of literal poverty. It's a blessing to know that it isn't merely the task we want, but the best thing we can do.

  3. wow ashley. wow! i had no idea how much your ministry meant to me last year but reading this i can see that the whole course of my beliefs changed because of it.

    this has been my path since july. first really experiencing god and than figuring out how to share that, how to shine that light.

    i do believe that having no particular idea about how to turn people toward god is a great place to be.

    open to spirit and love and the needs of those around you, the language of those around you.

    my heart is filled with love.

    thank you again.

  4. it seems as if you're carrying that "yes" around in your heart for God, and really pressing into everything He desires to do in and through you. it is a good place - but can be a scary place as well. it's a day-by-day thing - being led by His Spirit. may God continue to bless you with His magnificent voice in the days to come, as well as His boldness and courage to face any uncertainty you may have.


  5. Blessings upon you as you go forth to do the will of God.

  6. Friend, I feel in complete sisterhood with thee, even though we don't know each other yet. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. The call you have described sounds like gospel ministry to me. Glad to be working with you!

    Micah Bales

  8. Ashley,

    When I was first coming into any sort of glimmer of understanding of where God was taking me, I had few words to articulate it but was nudged to speak with a fFriend who was walking a few steps farther along the Path from where I was then. She affirmed the weird languagelessness quality of what I was going through and encouraged me to continue to pay attention and to breathe.

    I think of soulful, inward transformations like these as growing pains--something that happens to nearly everyone but so few of us speak openly about what we're going through at the time, in part because it's so hard to describe!

    I continue to think of you and am glad to be able to follow you a bit--and you, me--through the Quaker blogosphere.

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

    P.S. Glad to know you continue to connect with Friends like Noah...

  9. may god shower hi blessings on you for you are doing good job :)


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