fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Jubilee!

Jubilee! by Julie McAllen

I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1996. Three times a year my small children and I would travel to their religious conventions which usually left me guilt-ridden, stressed and exhausted from trying to keep two little girls still in stadium seats for 3 days! In 2003 we were traveling home from a convention and stopped for pizza. I gave the kids some quarters to run around and play the video games and blow off steam after maintaining the “perfection” for 3 days that children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to display. A kind man in his 80’s was picking up a pizza. He made the girls laugh by pulling Tootsie rolls out of their ears. Seeing that he had a captive audience, he began making balloon animals as well. It was so healing to see my children at ease laughing and enjoying their childhood. Something within me melted. I recalled the fascination I also had with balloon animals as a child when my parents took me to a restaurant where a college-aged waiter was practicing his craft. I saw God’s love in this elderly gentleman and I whispered to myself that my religion had lied to me about humanity. Contrary to what they were teaching, people outside their organization were not all evil. I was witnessing a display of love and joy and had no idea what religion this man was nor did I care. I only knew there was something genuine there. My wall came down and I hugged him. I thanked him for overturning my stress by such simple acts of kindness. I noticed he was wearing a baseball cap advertising the Winona Clown Club. Though he was not in clown guise at the restaurant, he told me he volunteered as a clown. I was honored to have met this man and I left the pizza joint in a better mood than when I came in. I actually felt closer to God after one hour there than the 3 days spent listening to sermons at the convention. I felt the spirit of love and joy, something I had not felt in a while as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Looking back, I see how God was using this incident to call me home.

Around this same time I began a career as a housecleaner—the inevitable occupation of most women in the Watchtower. I was employed under another couple at the Kingdom Hall. When the time for filing their taxes came, they said in order to be claimed as a sub-contractor, I had to come up with a name for my business. I gave the matter serious thought as I knew this was going to be my means of making a living for sometime. I didn’t want a name that expressed I was somehow more sanitary than the average homeowner but that I was simply freeing up their time. I also knew it was a good idea to use a name that made a quick association to my real name. The word “Jubilee!” came to mind. I looked up the meaning of it in a Bible encyclopedia and it not only became my business name, the concept of it spoke to my spirit.

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. (Lev 25:10)

Proclaiming liberty from housework for my clients fit the bill in what I found in Leviticus 25:10. I would be their jubilee freeing up their time to spend with family after the work day. And the sound of it would help them associate my business name with my real name Julie. The problem of finding a business name was solved, what God was doing in my life at that time was a personal jubilee only to be discovered after He’d given me the name.

The thought of returning to my “own clan” was appealing. The cult mentality of the Witnesses had separated me not only from friends and family, but my identity as well. I was seeking a personal liberation but as one of “Jehovah’s people” hesitant to say so.

As I continued to read from Leviticus 25, I saw a caring God who gave His people rest.

 1 The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6 Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your manservant and maidservant, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7 as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.(Lev 25:1-7)

I wondered why as “Jehovah’s people” we were continually shamed for not doing enough when even the land and the livestock of the Israelites were to observe this Sabbath every seven years. I was into my 7th year as a dedicated door-knocker and I was very tired. The idea of a Sabbath was appealing and  scripturally supported.

As I entered my seventh year as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was being pulled toward this Sabbath rest. I lost the motivation to preach because I became uncertain about our message. Circumstances within the congregation had led me to question if we really had a message of love or forgiveness. When I began missing meetings, I recall telling one sister I was “on sabbatical.”

It was summer 2003 and I’d spent a Saturday at a local festival with my family. We were entertained by jugglers, ventriloquists, magicians, and acrobats. I relished it. On Sunday morning I went to the Kingdom Hall as usual and was bored out of my skull. I couldn’t wait to leave. As I was headed to the door, another sister stopped to chat and asked what my afternoon plans were. “I’m going to see ‘my people’” was what came out of my mouth! I felt such a strong connection to go back to that weekend festival and immerse myself in its joy and creativity. I went alone.

Walking around that crowd, I was given such a hunger to imagine myself free. I pictured myself as one of the entertainers at this fair. One year later, in the summer just prior to my disfellowshiping, I became a caricature artist as part of this same festival. I was with my people. It was a jubilee as I was being liberated and returned to my own clan.

While still an active JW, I had taken on a babysitting job for a substitute teacher. Both my girls were now in elementary school, so I enjoyed my time with her little boy once again playing with puppets and going to the library story time. This mother was part of the parent teacher organization at our school and based on what she noticed in me, asked if I’d be a clown at the next school carnival. I was thrilled at the prospect but had never dressed as a clown before. I agreed stating that I’d come up with something. No stranger to thrift stores, I quickly found enough odd colored clothing to don the motley appearance. I slapped on a cheap rainbow wig and some grease paint and named myself “Jellybean.” I loved it, the kids loved it and I was invited back the next year. My girls are both in high school now and I still do the elementary school carnival every fall.

Though the joy of clowning came natural to me, I knew I needed help with my make-up and a professional wig and clown nose. With precision timing, I found an article in the paper stating that the Winona Clown Club was giving a make-up demonstration and the public was invited to attend. This was a few months after my disfellowshiping. No longer expected to attend kingdom hall meetings, I was free to go to my first clown club meeting on a Thursday night. The gentleman making balloon animals at the pizza place two years prior was there. I recognized his smile and found out his clown persona was “Sparky.” Sparky is now 90 and still walks the parades, twists balloons, and carries an endless supply of Tootsie rolls in his pocket on any given day. I thank God for people like him. For his 90th birthday, I used my gifts as an artist to create a cartoon of him in his clown make-up as “Superclown” complete with Christopher Reeve-like muscles.

Somewhere within this same time period, my daughter was invited to attend a Saturday course for 5th graders called “college for kids” held at the local technical school. These ten-year-olds were allowed to sign up for three courses offered among many. She signed up for making bead jewelry, a fitness class and something else. None of them interested me, but I noticed Clowning 101 was offered. As I sat through the morning invitation with my daughter, the director announced that the parents could now leave unless they wanted to trail along with their child to their classes. I had planned to just go shopping, but instead followed the little clown wannabees hoping the instructor would just assume I was the parent of one of them.

In Clowning 101, the instructor mentioned the University only 20 miles from my home offered a one week long clown camp and was celebrating it’s 25th year that summer! People come from all over the world for this camp. Within 6 months of the darkest period of my life, being disfellowshiped as an apostate to my religion, I was signed up for what proved to be a healing week spent as a clown among the world’s finest and funniest professionals. I had preregistered as “Jellybean,” but as I read the 25th chapter of Leviticus more and noted how I was being liberated and coming home to my people, I realized my clown name would be the same as my cleaning business name. And I informed the staff at clown camp to change my name to “Jubilee!” When I returned home with a new red nose, orange wig, and professional make-up, I joined the Winona Clown club and introduced myself as Jubilee!

The Jubilee year for the Israelites is explained in Leviticus 25.

 8 ” ‘Count off seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. 

13 ” ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property. (Lev 25:8-13)

Though I had not spent 50 years in the Watchtower, I sensed within that God had counted off this period of time for me and my own day of atonement and time to proclaim liberty throughout the land was approaching.

As I realized what had happened to me through the years spent in religion, I understood I’d been given a great gift. I could minister to other hurting people, not through the temporary, yet necessary, relief of laughter as a clown, but something much deeper and lasting. I knew Christ and I knew the difference now between religion and God. As I fell into a role as a support and encouragement to others leaving the Watchtower, I realized the Spirit of God was working through me. I had been tempted by an angel of light known as religion, was held captive in its darkness for 7 years and then set free. Jesus himself, full of Spirit, was also led into a wilderness where he was tempted by the devil as recorded in Luke 4. After his temptation, he went on to proclaim liberty to others still held captive. In Luke 4:18, he quotes from Isaiah 61:1,2 saying,

18″The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 

      because he has anointed me 

      to preach good news to the poor. 

   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 

      and recovery of sight for the blind, 

   to release the oppressed,

And he concludes with

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(Luke 4:18, 19)

I was struck by this. Jesus was attributing to himself the jubilee. His coming was the fulfillment of the jubilee and I was living in his rest. The Son had truly set me free and now I too by the power of Christ was enabled to proclaim liberty to the prisoners of legalistic religious control simply by telling my story. Jesus Christ is a continual jubilee giving recovery of sight to the blind and oppressed.

God amazes me. He heard my prayers for freedom and gave me a name before I was able to understand it. In my employment as Jubilee Cleaners, I liberate my clients from the demands of domestic duties. As Jubilee! the clown I can momentarily free people of their own personal stresses through the blessed distraction of laughter. But my own jubilee story of how Christ freed me from an oppressive religion is my most passionate calling.

 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Rev 2:17)

April 27, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where to go?

churchWhere to go? by Julie McAllen

Where to go? Where to go?

3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. (1 Sam 1:3-7)

It’s a sad fact that sometimes going to the house of the Lord is not filled with rejoicing but weeping.

Even the wise King Solomon advised, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.” (Ecc 5:1)

Though we are told to “not give up meeting together” (Heb 10:25), have you ever been forced into a situation to decide where and with whom you should gather? Whether that question arose due to a major doctrinal dispute, a preference in worship music, or a relocation, the question of where to worship is not a new one. Even before “the church” was established, the question of where to worship was posed to Jesus in an encounter with a Samaritan woman.

 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:19-26)

The woman asked a legitimate question about where to worship God. Pay attention to the answer Jesus gave. Jesus denied that worship was confined to a place and this is consistent with the rest of the New Testament. Under the Old Law Covenant, the temple in Jerusalem was the place to go for worship and instruction but Jesus was preparing people to accept the new covenant in which they would worship God not in any one place, but in Spirit and in truth. Jesus ensured that his followers would be taught by the Holy Spirit excusing them from the need to seek God through the religious leaders found at the temple (John 14:26; 1 John 2:20, 27). Believers themselves would become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Believers themselves would become the Holy Priesthood (1 Pe 2:5, 9). There was no need now to travel to a place of worship, it is within every believer born of His Spirit (John 3:3-8).

In Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin, he also denied the need for a building made by the hands of men and quoted from the prophet Isaiah.

 48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

49 ” ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?

50 Has not my hand made all these things?’ (Acts 7:48-50)

Paul also explained the change in worship: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)

As Jesus was gaining followers, people were coming out of their established, traditional organized places of worship. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and began to say: “What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47, 48) What were these religious leaders afraid of? Jesus was bringing God near, near enough to even dwell inside Jews and Gentiles alike with no need of a special mountain, temple or synagogue. He prophesied the destruction of the temple along with all it’s physical forms of worship (Matt 24:1, 2) Soon there would be no need for a building, the priesthood, animal sacrifices, circumcision or laws on ceremonial foods. As correctly stated by the religious leaders in fear, “if we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

And that is exactly what happened when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. Imagine if your place of worship were destroyed today. Imagine the pastor is gone, the worship team is gone, the great midweek programs, the coffee, the stain glass windows or even the property on which you gathered. Where to go? Where to go?

I can well imagine what a stumbling block this was for the first Jewish converts. No temple? Where will I worship? How will people know I love God if I’m not seen performing the religious duties there? As Jesus’ teachings penetrated the hearts of his chosen disciples, he restated the importance of this new form of worship devoid of everything physical.

 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:63-69)

Peter was in no different predicament then as we sometimes find ourselves today asking to whom shall I go? He understood Jesus himself had the words of eternal life, his very words were full of Spirit and life enabling one to worship in Spirit and in truth. But to follow the way, the truth and the life meant certain persecution from his own religion (Matt 5:11, 12; Matt 10:17-23; Matt 24:9; John 9:22; Acts 13:50), no wonder it says that many of Jesus’ early disciples turned back and no longer followed him. What did they turn back to? Religion. Empty religion devoid of relationship with God.

God did not come to earth to bring a religion to us, He came to restore a relationship with us. Peter verified that with his admission that Christ himself had the words of eternal life. That life was already strengthening him to follow Christ because he knew by doing so he was in danger of losing his religion. What a blessing! If we lost the elements of our religious routine, would we consider it a blessing? To whom would we go?

Gathering for church in a building is not wrong in itself, but if we’ve begun to follow the routine of religion thinking our faith is proven by attending services at a particular church, or shows in the way we dress, how much we contribute to the collection plate, or through our display of bumper stickers and jewelry, we’re not really relying on the Spirit which gives life. The Jews of the first century came to Christ with much difficulty. They did not attend Christian meetings because the people were so nice, the air conditioning worked, the chairs were comfy, the coffee good, or the music was great. They left behind family and friends who chose to stay in the synagogue and the security of a history containing a physical temple, a priesthood, rituals and festivals that made them feel religious, and they came to the bareness of Christ. Likewise, struggles to come to Christ today are not always a conversion from a wild lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll, sometimes it’s the struggle to break free of religion and all its physical trappings and stand bare before Christ who offers nothing but Himself.

Where to go? Where to go?

Keep yourselves in God’s love, Julie

 
 

September 13, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Legalism leads to more obvious sins

Legalism leads to more obvious sins by Julie McAllen

I love the letter to the Galatians! Paul wrote it to Gentile Christians who were being persuaded by Jews to add to their new faith another sort of gospel other than what they’d first accepted. They were thrown into confusion by those who said they had to be circumcised. Paul reasons with them that their faith in Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient. Near as I can tell, he did not write this letter to correct a problem of fornication in the congregation or misuse of the Lord’s Supper as he did in other letters. He wrote it to demonstrate the superiority of grace over works. That was his intent. Even Peter is brought up as an example of one who succumbed to the temptation of legalistic hypocrisy in Gal 2:11-21. Paul warned them that they were falling away from grace and Christ would mean nothing to them if they followed that example. He was not warning them about other sins such as fornication, stealing, lying, etc.

7You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9″A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. (Gal 5:7-11)

Paul doesn’t bring up fornication or drunkenness as the cause for not obeying the truth. He points to the yeast as this persuasion to be circumcised. Trading the gift of grace for an outward show of religious piety. I personally believe the “whoever he may be” mentioned is Peter. So why does Paul bring up the works of the flesh later in Gal 5:19-21? Things like sexual immorality, witchcraft, drunkenness, the very things that strict, staunch religious people warn against all the time? Read the chapter! My opinion is that Paul is warning the Galatians about this little seed, this yeast of proving themselves righteous by works, is alienating them from Christ and will eventually lead them to those more obvious sins which can be seen. I don’t think the Galatians were actually involved in these sins at the time, but because some were beginning to walk in the flesh by trying to prove themselves righteous by circumcision and not eating with certain people in view of the religious elite (Gal 2:12), Paul had to lay out the warning in the latter part of his letter.

16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 1. 19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:16-21)

Legalistic religions who deny their followers the experience of being led by the Spirit, have given them over to the only choice they have––to walk in the flesh. They walk in the flesh to fulfill their religious duties demanded by the leaders. These appear good. Things like showing up for meetings, performing services, abstaining from certain foods or events and mingling with non-believers. Paul does not mention these specifically, but he does say that those who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ and have fallen away from grace (Gal 5:4). Yes, those trying to be justified by doing good works. They are walking in the flesh or sinful nature by this. Therefore, he gives the warning of what that leads to…….sexual immorality, etc. etc. etc. In a religion where no one is allowed to be “born of spirit,” there is a constant struggle between “serving God” and battling the sinful nature. How can a baby even begin to walk before it is born?

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

June 9, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , | 1 Comment

   

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