A mountain moves toward me white and gray, filled with rain suddenly a flash of light one thousand one one thousand two one thousand three one thousand four one thousand five, Boom, Crash five miles, the storm is five … Continue reading
This past week John and I did a bit of gardening. We had a rosemary bush being shaded by another bush and I wanted to move it. So we prepared the new spot where it was to go, dug the new hole and went over to our lovely rosemary bush. Now you should know I planted this bush 6 or 7 years ago and I haven’t touched it to really prune it in 5 years. That means it wasn’t a small bush. For the last 5 years it has been doing a wonderful job of growing as it now stood nearly 5 feet tall and had a spread of closer to 6 feet. But, we started pruning and pruning, and pruning. Some of the branches were more than an inch thick and really woody (great in our fireplace though). After being prickled and rosemary scented by our bush we got down to digging the roots up. I never knew this about rosemary but it puts down ROOTS, not little roots, big ones and deep. Also, they extended farther than the drip line of the bush which made finding the ends of the plant actually very difficult. We ended up cutting a lot of roots because we couldn’t find where they stopped. But we moved our tenacious plant and got it planted in its new home and it is doing well enjoying all the sun it wants and lots of water.
After we were finished and cleaning up I remembered something about rosemary. First of all rosemary, in flower language, means remembrance and that sweet, huge, tough bush reminded me of just how persistent our memories are. Deep within each of us lives a world that was. Sometimes it surfaces when we least expect it whether we want it to or not. But our past makes us who we are and embracing the happy, the sad, the good with the bad memories helps balance our present. Learning from my past mistakes and successes provides me with a road map for my way forward. All of those memories connect me to something greater than just this single moment in time. It is also the memories of those who modeled the best of their lives which have led me to being a better person in my own life.
It is the memory of my parents and how they loved and cared for me that has taught me to be a more loving and caring wife, friend, and grandmother. It was my parent’s determination to model a life that included people of all backgrounds, races, genders, and abilities that has given me a passion for my openness to those who are different from me. It was my father’s love of creation and prayer and silence that has been my model for my spiritual growth throughout my life. It was a first grade teacher’s kindness to this wounded child that taught me anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
The memories I have of wandering open fields, lying in new mown grass, making storybook figures out clouds, and reading a book while I sat in the crook of an old apple tree gave me a love of open spaces. I have precious memories of being awakened at midnight to watch the Aurora Borealis with my father, or going out to our barn to watch as calves or puppies were born that hold a special place in my heart. It is remembering thunder storms roll across our fields and listening as the rain pummeled the tin roof of our barn, or rushed through the branches of the huge pine tree that was just outside my bedroom window that draws me into a place of contemplation and peace like nothing else can.
It is the memory of pulling a deep fat fryer full of hot grease down on top of me that reminds me that accidents happen but I am not alone even in the worst of times. It is the memory of a child in the hospital bed next to me who died during the night that taught me that fresh grief is always inconsolable. It is the memory of uncaring questions by adults and taunts of other children that taught me that sometimes people can be cruel. The memory of my father’s death from cancer keeps me asking “why” questions of God and doubting the fairness of life the Scripture tells me is good. It was being laid off for a year that taught me to let go of my fears, face them, then hand them over to the all surrounding presence that has always been in my life. It is the memory of my discovery of how much I have been surrounded by the Spirit that has changed me from who I was into the person I am today. Memories are the soil of our lives; mine goes deep with plenty of memory leaf compost and with each day. With each new memory made the soil gets deeper and richer.
The best part is that each of us has our own bed of memories to draw upon. Some are wonderful, insightful memories, some are horrid memories we would rather forget entirely, but by facing them we turn those bad memories into rich memory compost. Even the memories of death and destruction have a place in our lives, just as the memories of our mother’s arms around us does. Each memory adds to who we are and allows us to see who we were. Memories are the mirrors of our soul and how our soul has grown into who we are. For the good and bad memories are who we are. In learning to live with what we remember gives us the skills we need to live in the world we share with all of creation.
Creation, life, isn’t always fair or beautiful to our eyes. But, we don’t see the big picture; we see only our very small portion. Like an ant on a forest floor the view of our individual world of reality is very small. What we remember of our past helps us see the greater picture. Memories give us a wider view of the life that lies before us and behind us. Our memories connect us to those we have loved, and hated, giving us a past to live from.
Not having a past cuts us off from our life today. It is the reason those with Alzheimer’s, dementia or traumatic brain injuries that affects memory feel so cut off from the world around them. They have nothing to compare today with so how do they know what today means; how do they relate to people and the world around them. The greatest gift we can give those who cannot remember is to give them a piece of their past to ground them in the now moment of their lives and to do it every moment, every hour, every day we are with them. The joy of someone who discovers their own past is amazing and life giving.
Memories are the soil we stand on, the ground of our lives that allows us to live better lives today and tomorrow. Rosemary, the plant of remembrance, is tough, strong, and sweet and I want to remember my yesterdays to make my tomorrows tough, strong, and sweet.
Ruth Jewell ©April 30, 2013
I am going to embrace
a new found freedom
to live into the moment,
free of the need to run
from task to task, place to place.
Now is the time to savor
the richness of
the experience of the moment.
So I willingly leave behind
the mad hurly burly of the other world
to take up a life that loves
the now with great joy.
I am discovering a life
grown upon a garden
of the past.
I have had a rich past upon which I stand.
My roots go deep
and have grown strong in soil
rich in the compost of living.
The old leaves of my tree of life
have dropped to the ground of my being
returning nutrients to the soil of my life.
Let my arms,
brown and smooth with new growth,
reach for the sun out of the dark rich soil.
My face turns up into the light,
drinking of the Spirit waters of new life
poured into me like a mountain stream
fresh from the glaciers.
My life comes from darkness into light,
I need both to live.
Let the light rule.
Ruth Jewell, ©April 13, 2013
16But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
17Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
23Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
6So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Our book group has been reading and discussing Diana Butler Bass’ book, Christianity After Religion, and in Chapter 6 Bass discusses home and identity. I actually had trouble with this section because I’m not sure what is home for me. I mean I have a home; I live in a house, with my husband, one dog, 2 parrots and a seminary student so that isn’t the issue. What is my question is “what does home mean?”
I grew up in Ohio and moved to a farm when I was 5 years old so for the next 19 years of my life my “home” was this wonderland place chock full of discoveries, and sadness. When I was 24 I moved from the farm and began a kind of nomadic life. I moved every couple of years from home to apartment, state to state, city to city, and moving many times within cities. My latest move was in 2000, when I was married, and moved into the house I am now living. When I moved into this house I told John, this was my last move and I would be carried out of here feet first because I wasn’t going to pack up all my “stuff” again! But, given my past history that may be a wish made on sand and someday I will have to, reluctantly, move from this house.
When we discussed what was home in our book group I realized I was the only one who had no clear sense of home. In fact I have no sense of a home town, or place of origin at all. All of the places I have lived are really far in the past and clouded with time. Does that sound strange to you? It didn’t to me until I began to listen to the stories of home from others. For instance my husband can identify one spot as his hometown, St. Charles Iowa. That is where he was born and grew up and despite not living there for 50 some years he still calls it home.
I can’t do that; there is no one place I would call home. Heck, there are times when I drive up my own driveway that I have to remind myself this is my “home” and I belong here. For me where I am is home. As long as I have my friends, companion critters and now the family I married into I’m home. I don’t have relatives to speak of. My parents have passed on; I haven’t seen any of my family of origin in 40 some years. The family I have is the family I have created around me, a group of individuals, couples, and families I feel strong connections with. Not one of them is a blood relative and that is fine with me. Yet I feel closer to this group than I ever did to my blood relations.
It is not that they all think like I do because they don’t. In fact, my guess is we have become friends because we think differently. But they share something with me that my “own family” never did and that is themselves. If I need a shoulder to cry on I can count on one of them showing up at my door saying, “Ruth, I had a feeling you needed a friend today.” Even when great distance separates us I can sense when a good friend needs me to call and talk. The conversation may be nothing important at all but it means something to my friend and me. I can’t say my own family would ever feel that connected to me.
For me home is where I am, right now, in this place, at this time. It means for me being with God, family, companions, friends, creation in whatever place or time I am in. If I had to suddenly leave the place I currently shelter in I can do it. I would grab what is important: my husband, my companion critters, my backpack throw in my bible and a change of clothes (my vanity wouldn’t let me wear the same underwear two days in a row, I’d add soap as well for cleanliness is next to Godliness),and walk out closing the door behind me. The stuff in the building is just stuff and can be replaced, none of it is important. As long as I have those that I love (and a change of underwear) I’m good to go. Were I end up I’d be HOME.
So I guess I am saying I am “home” wherever I am, I don’t need a specific location to call “home” I just need to feel close to what is important and what is important is love and companionship with those who I love and who love me. God will not abandon me, where I am God is because I experience God in the love I give and receive. What else is needed? Someone once said “home is where your heart is” and maybe what that means is my heart is my home, the ultimate shelter, the ultimate place I meet and live with Love. I am Home.
Ruth Jewell, ©April 12, 2013
Help me to surrender
For I am stubborn
Take my hand
Lead me on the path of letting go
For I am willful
Lord, your prodigal daughter cries out
Help me, lead me
For I am helpless without you
For I am blind
But I want to see
I want to follow you
I am deaf
But I long to hear you
I long to be with you
Ruth Jewell ©March 24, 2013
Matthew 19:16, 21
16 Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’
21Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
This scripture has its roots deep in mosaic history, for it is Moses who tells the children of Israel to choose life over death (Deuteronomy 30:19). Jesus is also asking the rich young man, and me, to choose life over death and as the sadness of the rich young man demonstrates that choice is a lot harder than what it seems.
Choose life or come follow me, same request different words and the rich young man had as much difficulty with that choice as the children of Israel did. One important question left unspoken is “if I choose a life in which I use the best of who I am, will my choices ask a lot of me?” Ah, now I’ve stated the real question and have come to the hard part; if I choose to follow Jesus, and as a result choose life, what do I have to give up? I ask myself will what I choose be what I want or what the Spirit wants. And, if I choose the Spirits path will I have to work hard at it? You see we humans, no matter who we are, will nearly always choose the easy route and the easiest path isn’t always the best one to take if we want to be the best we can be.
I have had two angels who have followed me every day of my life, often sitting on opposite shoulders whispering in my ear. The Angel Ego always tells me take the easy path, why work hard when you don’t have to. “See there are no rocks in this path and you don’t have to expend much energy to be happy.” On the other shoulder sits Angel True Self who is also whispering in my ear and that one asks me what really makes me satisfied an easy life or one that challenges me and leaves me honored to have lived it? Do you see the difference between the two angels, Ego is telling me what to do and I don’t have to think about what my actions will be. True self asks me what I think and leaves the choice up to me. I have to choose, to make a decision and decisions take work, just like taking the path that is difficult. I have to choose what is rewarding and what is not; life over death.
Jesus doesn’t tell the rich young man which is easier rather he offers the hard choice “if you wish to be perfect …,” to have eternal life, this is what will help you reach your goal. It’s a simple statement but the choice is left up to the young man. We don’t know what he chooses in the end, I am hoping that life was his choice and he sold his belongings and followed in Jesus footsteps, but I will never know.
That’s what makes this scripture so important and why, I think Matthew left me hanging. I too have asked Jesus what I must do to have eternal life and Jesus has given me the same answer. Choosing to give up all that you have to follow the life of Jesus in today’s world is never easy. All of us are inundated with advertisements and peer pressure to be some kind of plastic person that has the latest everything. Having ‘stuff’ and being ‘young’ is more important than being a person of integrity. All of us are susceptible to the junk that bombards us daily.
I have had to develop questions to ask myself before I buy anything; is this necessary, do I really need it to live, and the two most important, how much space will this take up in my life and do I have to dust it. I can tell you right now if I have to dust it, it ain’t coming home with me!
My one truly great weakness is books. Not e-books (I still don’t know how people can read on a tiny lighted screen, the light hurts my eyes) but real books, paper or hardbound, I can hold in my hand and feel the weight of. I love the smell of books, the way they feel when I hold them as I curl up in front of the fire place and the connection I feel with the author as I read the printed word. E-readers simply leave me cold and yes I know I’m in the minority but that is OK with me. So I have been known to buy a few books, Ok, a lot of books, and now that I’ve made my confession to my addiction I am at peace and I can continue to buy books.
So we all have our weaknesses and I admit If I had to choose between life and books I would be hard pressed (sorry for the pun) to choose. Think of it this way Jesus isn’t asking us to give up our lives (well he is but not in the way you think) rather he is asking us to make careful choices that enrich our lives and allow us to be open to giving compassion, doing kindness, and working for justice and peace.
Books add meaning to my life and help me see the world through different eyes. That different view helps me see injustice and unkindness in new ways, ways that encourages me to be more like my true self. It is when books become the idol I worship that the problem occurs, then I am blinded to what is wrong in the world and want only to feed my own desires. I hope if that ever happens to me that someone will intercede and help me see the light.
Choosing life or following Jesus doesn’t mean we abandon the world around us. Rather it means we embrace and engage the world just as Jesus did. Jesus loved a good party, good food and fine wines and we too are called to share our parties, food and wine with the world, just as Jesus did. It does not mean we are to become paupers, rather it means we are to use what we have for the good of the community. That is what Jesus meant when he told the young man to sell his goods and give to the poor. Quit being selfish and share your good fortune with those who are in need. God gave each of us the gift of grace and God expects us to pass that gift on to those who are in need of comfort.
It is the concept of “paying it forward.” If you have received help in any way from someone then you are obligated to give help to someone else. Jesus wasn’t the first one to propose paying it forward, all of the prophets before and since have done the same, but, I think his was the most eloquent in stating it.
So what do we do we need to do to have “eternal life?” Well, we pay our lives forward, care for those in need, fight injustice and work for peace. It will require us to give up many of our riches. But at the same time we will be enriched, not with stuff, or pride, but, with knowledge that we have passed on the grace we’ve been gifted and multiplying that gift many times over; just like Jesus did when he broke the loaves and fish. To me that feels like eternal life, peace, happiness and joy all wrapped up in one glowing package.
Ruth Jewell, ©February, 19, 2013
The telephone rings and I answer it, “hello, this is Mark and there has been an accident. Amelia was dancing near water in which an electric line had dropped. She stepped into the water and was electrocuted. She is in the hospital and we don’t know what will happen next.” Amelia, my sweet granddaughter? I scream for John and tell him to call the airline for a ticket tonight to B and . . . then I stop my dream.
I tell myself, wait a minute, this is a dream, and Amelia is just fine. There has been no accident and my little girl has not been hurt. So why am dreaming this. I realize this dream isn’t about Amelia at all; it’s about ME and my very active ego-self that wants to be all important. My ego-self knows just how much I love my granddaughter and would do anything, and I mean anything, to protect her. So when my ego-self thinks I am at my weakest, ill with the flu, asleep and unaware, it formed this scary dream to plant a seed of self-importance. Instead of following the dream any further I begin to repeat my daily prayer, “I surrender, O Holy One, this moment, this now of my life, watch over me and guide me, I surrender.” The dream within a dream ends and I enter a deep, peaceful and restful sleep.
When I woke up the next morning I recognized the “wow” factor in my night’s dream. In my sleep I had carried on a conversation with myself that allowed me to recognize when my ego-self was trying to trick me and I stopped it. I actually offered a meditation, in my sleep, to bring me back to a sense of reality that I also recognized and left me calm and able to drift back into a deep sleep.
In the last 6 months I have been doing a lot of thinking about who I truly am, where I am going, and what I am being called to do. As a result I have spent a great deal of time in meditation and journaling. This deep going within is pulling out new insights from some very dark places within my spirit and where I have been recognizing just how much I have followed my ego-self rather than my true-self throughout my entire life. Somehow that is beginning to change and I am learning to put my ego-self in its proper place and allowing my true-self to step forward.
I do need my ego-self, it is an important part of who I am. It helps me make decisions and protects me when I am in danger (whatever that might be). But the ego-self shouldn’t have the prime spot in my life, following only the ego leads me down a very selfish, self centered pathway and doesn’t allow the true me to shine forth.
My true-self, on the other hand, is the part of me that listens with compassion, offers kindness and mercy, and acts for peace and justice, not for my benefit but for the good of the community around me. It is my true-self that I want to take the place of primacy in my life, for that is who I truly am, the child of, the partner of, God. My dream is an example of how desperate my ego-self is to regain control of me and I am finally resisting the temptation to follow that path.
I am in a discernment process to discover where God is calling me to ministry and I must admit I’ve heard that call, but, I am afraid. It is that fear that my ego-self is using to prevent me from following the path God, Herself, is laying before me. I know God never asks us to do anything we are incapable of doing, but, She does challenge us to the limit of our abilities. It is that challenge that is putting fear in my heart. I guess I haven’t fully surrendered yet and so I sit at a threshold facing the mystery of what is to come. Right now I am unable to move into that mystery, I am paralyzed by fear and I want to tell God, “no not me, can’t you find someone else to do this, I’m not brave enough, or good enough, to do this.” However, I keep hearing “It is you I want, don’t be afraid, I am here, won’t you take my hand and step onto my path.”
It has been my experience that if God wants me to do something, and I don’t want to, God will call and plead, begging for me to reconsider. If I don’t, God stands with me in my choice. When everything doesn’t come out just as I thought, God gently reaches out, puts her arms around me and says with a slight smile, “just how did that work out for you.” I hate it when God says “I told you so.” In the end I grow weary of my mediocre plans and “give in” to what God is calling me to. So this time I think I will choose to follow the path God has placed before me instead of going my own way. I know it will be hard, but it won’t be as hard or painful as it would be if God wasn’t there.
God, I will take your hand and step onto your path. I will accept the challenge even though I am terrified of what might happen. You have led me this far and I haven’t crashed and burned yet. I keep saying “I surrender” and I guess this means I am finally beginning to truly commit to that surrender. All that I ask is don’t leave me alone to face the darkness, and protect me in those places that are filled with traps. I have faith in what you are asking of me and therefore hold me tight and guide me forward.
Ruth Jewell, ©February 18, 2013
Holy One, I am racked by pain,
my flesh is set afire, and
my lungs rattle with every breath.
My nights are filled with terror,
my bed soaked with tears,
I turn to You, O LORD, for help in
I surrender into your healing arms,
my wretched body, my weary spirit,
seeking rest and comfort.
I lay my head upon your breast,
your breath brushes my cheeks, and
cools my fevered brow.
I am held in the arms of the creator,
surrounded by Holy Mystery,
comforted by the stroke of a Doves wing.
You, O Comforter of the weak,
are my salvation in my travail,
you pour strength into my bones,
you fill my spirit with health.
My heart leaps for joy,
You fill me with new courage
to carry on in your light. Light of my life,
Heart of my heart,
I kneel before you with joy and gratitude,
for your blessings carry me forward.
O Giver of Life, thanks and praise
for your healing touch,
Ruth Jewell, ©January 24, 2013
in a hidden cave of my heart
crouches a little girl
she sits in fear
humiliation has taught her
she is unworthy of love … success
better to hide …
to stay silent
a light shines at her feet
a hand reaches out
“come, it is safe”
“come, you are loved”
hope grows …
“can I really believe”
“are you tricking me … again”
“come,” says the light
a hand takes a small hand
one step at a time
out of the dark
Ruth Jewell, ©January 18, 2013