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
What Wonder Comes When We Least Expect
April 13, 2013
What is the “Liebster Blog Award?”
The Liebster award is given to up and coming bloggers to encourage them to continue their work. What is a Liebster? The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.
It’s an award that was reputedly started in Germany in order to give smaller bloggers recognition for their hard work. You receive this award from a fellow blogger that feels your blog is both worthy & important to them. If you receive this award, there are two rules.
1. You must award 3-5 other bloggers with the award. In this case, it is five.
2. The bloggers awarded must have less than 300 followers.
Participation is completely voluntary and is not limited to any genre or writing for that matter. Basically, the blog can be about anything and simply has to be one that you feel is worthy and that you would like to give recognition to by passing it on.
I am honored to have been nominated by
, it was a lovely surprise to be seen as a blogger worth nominating. Thank you again Sandy’s Hopeful Room.
In the rules of the award I am supposed to nominate 3 to 5 other bloggers but because I am an intermittent blogger I really don’t follow that many. Also this requires a bit of time and writing and I wouldn’t want to force anyone to do something they are uncomfortable with. Therefore I am going to nominate 3 for the award and if all they want to do is accept the nomination as Honorary that is just fine with me. I did some research and found you can accept this as an Honorary Liebster award. So I am accepting this nomination for the Liebster award but leave it open to other to accept as honorary or at whatever level they feel comfortable with. Below are the rules for both:
Here are the rules for receiving this honorary award:
- Accept the award with a statement of gratitude
- Post the award on your blog
If you choose to follow the complete rules here they are:
- Answer the questions the person has posted for them
- Answer the questions that the tagger set for you plus create questions for the people you’ve tagged to answer.
- Choose 5 to 10 people and link them in your post.
- Go to their page and tell them.
- Post the award on your blog
Some Interesting information about me;
- I am a 66 year old perpetual student
- I have just completed my second masters degree, a Masters of Divinity and am discerning whether or not I am called to ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- I am graduating from the School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University on June 16, 2013
- I love to read. I am currently reading Gracias by Henri Nouwen, Written That You May Believe by Sandra Schneiders, and (for about the 10th time) The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
- I love to sit in silence and listen for the word offered me by the All Surrounding Presence
- Life for me is simply one big adventure that I dive into with all I have
- I love visiting our grandchildren in Boston, 4 year old Amelia and 6 year old Liam, for they bring me great joy in their discovery of life.
- I love playing with my two parrots, Green Cheeked Amazon George, and Cherry Head Conure Cuddles (also known as Carlos the South American terror) and our beautiful dog Fred.
- I love to travel with my husband John to new and amazing places
- I love to cook and watch others enjoy the food I prepare
- I love my friends, all of them, from the youngest to the oldest for they enrich my life in ways I cannot explain.
Here are the answers to the questions Sandy has asked of me:
1. Who is my mentor?
My mentor, or I should say mentors, are those who model the best of who they are in life. Three of my mentors are my pastor who has shown me what compassion is; my Regional Minister who has shown me the true meaning of courage; and my husband who has shown me what it means to love and be loved.
2. Who is your favorite author?
Now this is a hard question for I have many favorites. I currently have 4 that I am enamored with: Joyce Rupp, John Phillip Newell, Henri Nouwen, and Brian McLaren.
3. Where did you go on your best vacation and why?
Last December I went on a cruise in the Caribbean. I love cruises they have only as much activity as I want to engage in and a great deal of space and time for meditation and contemplation. The cruise to the Caribbean gave me the opportunity to meet people of another culture and discover their kindness and generosity and offer my gratitude. Our time in Caribbean was a time of engaging creation in unexpected ways.
4. Do you have a motto you live by?
5. If you could be anyone in the world (alive or dead), who would that be?
I’m not sure I could be anyone other than who I am after all it has taken me 66 years of errors and successes to get here. If I were anyone else I would not be who I have become and therefore probably not answering these questions. If anything intrigues me at all it is who I might be if I were born 1 or 2 hundred years into the future. It would be interesting to know how our world, society and culture will survive these tumultuous years. I guess I would really want to know if we a people have grown spiritually or have we given away our humanity.
6. What is your favorite movie?
Now this is a difficult question, as I am not much of a movie person but if I had to choose I think the Princess Bride is one of my favorites. I like movies that are light and escapist or provide me with something to think about. So I also like The Lord of the Rings because it gives me insight into what it means to faithfully follow ones task even if you haven’t actually chosen it. I also love science fiction because it offers today’s issues in new settings that helps me to see them from a different angle.
7. Newspapers, Internet News or Television News?
I am a hard copy, paper reading, and book holding in my hands kind of person. The electronic media leaves me a cold so the newspaper I like is our local paper, The Everett Herald, from Everett Washington.
8. When do you do your best writing?
Five minutes before it’s due. Well not quite that bad, but, I do often wait until the last minute to write something. Although I once wrote a homily for Morning Prayers on the bus in route to chapel and it turned out to be one of my best.
9. Morning person or night person?
I am definitely a morning person.
10. Name one news story that fascinates you right now.
I am currently struggling with all of the issues associated with gun control. I do not understand our countries fascination with weapons and am trying to come to grips with the violence guns, and all weapons, have on our society. I am mortified and saddened by the violence against innocents that happens every day and I am confused by those who claim that more access to violent means will make it all better. No one has given me a satisfactory explanation for any of this horror.
11. What would you want to do if you knew you had one week to live?
What would I do, well I think I would take the time to hold my family in my arms one more time and then sit and watch the sunrise over the Cascade Mountains and set over Puget Sound. I would listening to my dog and birds play, the song sparrows at the feeder and the Jays squabble. That would be my last sounds here on this earth. Then I would open my arms and let the new adventure begin.
So here are my questions for you:
- If you could choose anywhere to live where would it be and why?
- What is you favorite piece of music?
- What is your favorite book?
- What period in time would you most like to live?
- What would be your ideal purpose in life?
- What task is your least favorite, ever?
- What world issue are you current struggling with?
- Name one or two people who have been mentors in your life?
- If you had to live today over in what ways would it be different?
I am nominating the following Bloggers:
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
For the last several weeks I have been trying to make sense of the tragedy of Newtown Connecticut and all the rest of the massacres before and since Newtown. I am especially confused by America’s fascination with guns and I must admit I don’t understand. Why do we need to have everyone armed? I keep thinking people who carry handguns, or own automatic or semi-automatic weapons are feeding a deep seated inadequacy and guns allow them to feel powerful. I wouldn’t call such people cowards but they obviously have fear issues that they blow way out of proportion to what the real world offers. And, if someone thinks 6 and 7 year olds are a threat to your life then you really need to see a professional and get counseling.
The NRA tells us that more guns are the solution to our problem of gun violence, and I respectfully question their thinking and sanity. How can more guns on the street prevent gun violence? It didn’t in 1800’s and it won’t now. Wasn’t it Wyatt Earp in Dodge City who banned guns in town and reduced the level of violence that the town was famous for? How does the NRA support such a ridiculous statement?
While I am primarily a vegetarian I accept the fact that some people still hunt for food, especially in Alaska. But, I just don’t see the sport in killing a living animal. In the lower 48 is it really necessary to go out and kill an animal for food these days? Can’t people get the same thrill of “hunting” using a camera to “bring home your trophies? After all you’re in the same outdoor environment and it takes as much, or more, skill to get a good picture than it does to kill an animal.
I am at a loss as to why anyone would own any weapon other than a single shot rifle. Everything else is only good for killing another human being. Unless, of course, you want shredded deer meat you aren’t going to use an automatic rifle to go deer hunting and I can’t imagine what such a weapon would do to bird.
Unless you have to hunt to put food on your table then there is no excuse or reason to own a gun. If you are a collector then all your specimens should be permanently disabled and securely locked up to prevent them from being used at any time.
I am afraid that just like everyone else I don’t have answers other than to say this country needs massive group counseling for paranoia. The world can be a scary place when you don’t know what tomorrow brings. But in my experience tomorrow is never as bad as the “so called experts” say it will be and contrary to all rumors the world will not end if individuals do not own weapons used only for killing people.
Gun violence isn’t about guns, it’s about people, individuals and groups, who see the worst in the future and can’t imagine a world that embraces life rather than death. I have great pity for such people for they live in a world I am totally unfamiliar with. Such people are sick and should be treated as such, with compassion and sympathy and help for their fears that feed their paranoia. So maybe that is my solution – group therapy for people who own guns. I don’t think it would hurt and maybe it would help those who feel a false sense of fear feeding their personal inadequacy, which leads to paranoia, which leads to violence. Maybe, just maybe, there would be fewer massacres such as Newtown, Portland, Colorado, Seattle, Tacoma, there are too many to name. Sick people use guns to kill other people, I get that, but what I don’t get is why we don’t address the root cause and that is, unreasoning fear and paranoia in large numbers of people in this country. We need to address that issue, and then guns won’t matter.
Ruth Jewell, ©January 14, 2013
Acts 8:14-17 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John* laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:15-22 15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler,* who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
As I was reading the many different stories of Jesus’ baptism this past week I was reminded of my own baptism and the story surrounding it. I was 10 years old when I attended the class that would prepare me, and my entire Sunday school class, for baptism. While I had attended church all my young life, for me, this baptism was more about how cool it would be to suddenly become “Holy” and have all my sins forgiven. I mean my thoughts were, “Wow all of my sins were going to be forgiven, even the ones mom and dad didn’t know about, how cool was that.”
I wasn’t disappointed when the sky didn’t open up and I didn’t hear a voice or see a dove, but I was disappointed that I didn’t “feel” any different. I didn’t feel as if I had been forgiven. However, knowing, at the wise age of 10, that I should feel something I was afraid to say anything because everyone else seemed so darned happy. It would be another 20 years before I felt I was beginning to understand what baptism meant and felt a tug to renew that commitment and asked to be re-baptized. This time I knew that something was different; I just didn’t know what it was. It would take another 20 years of trying to live a good life, failing most times, but, sometimes coming close before I experienced what I call an intervention by the Holy Spirit and had a new enlightenment about what it meant to be part of a faith community.
At the time this happened I was at a very difficult place in my life and my “ah-ha” moment was the most dramatic event to ever happen to me. It changed how I viewed myself and everyone and everything around me in relation to how I envisioned my life with God, Spirit and Christ. Now, events like that do not happen every day or for every person. But, I am grateful for what I experienced and feel blessed to have been given something I feel is special and I try to live into the promise given me that day.
You are probably calculating in your mind “let see 10+20+20=50, she was fifty when baptism finally made sense!” All I can say is I’m a really slow learner. But yes, I didn’t I understand what it meant to be baptized until I was well into my adult years. Your own stories may say you understood before, during or right after you entered and exited the waters of baptism. Every person is different and the Spirit picks the time it will act, we don’t tell the Holy Spirit. Nor do we pick the moment when all of it comes together. In my tradition of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Baptism is believer’s baptism by immersion, just as it was for Jesus. That means we are supposed to know why we do it and for most part I think most of us do, for some of us it just takes a little longer. As Luke tells the story it didn’t come together even for Jesus until after he was baptized and in prayer.
You know we have heard the stories of Jesus’ baptism so often we don’t actually ‘hear’ it when it is read. It is actually only in Mark and Matthew where we have a retelling of John baptizing Jesus. How many of you unconsciously substituted Mark’s or Matthew’s story in the above Luke scripture when you read it and missed the focus of Luke’s telling of the story?
First of all Luke does tell us Jesus was baptized. He doesn’t actually say it was John the Baptist, although most likely it was. But in Verse 3:21, Luke’s story of Jesus’ baptism is almost an afterthought. Jesus was baptized with all of those who came to the Jordan River. He was baptized just like any other person seeking repentance and forgiveness. Nothing special, it was an act of commitment and faith just like every person coming to John at the Jordan River. What is highlighted is that sometime after the baptism when Jesus was in prayer the Spirit descends upon him “like a dove” and he hears God’s voice say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Luke doesn’t focus much on the commitment, repentance and forgiveness of the act of baptism. Instead his focus is on the baptism of the Spirit, just as John tells his audience in Verse 16; “… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Jesus’ baptism is with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit decides when that will happen, and, for Luke prayer plays a huge role in when the Holy Spirit comes.
In the first scripture reading from Acts we read that a Samaritan Community had been baptized but “the Spirit had not yet come upon … them,” so Peter and John travel to Samaria pray for the Holy Spirit and lay “their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was in prayer, Peter and John prayed and the Holy Spirit came. Does this mean that the Spirit will always come in response to prayer … ah … probably not? As I said the Spirit picks the moment when it gives enlightenment, not us.
But Luke’s focus on the act of prayer is the key to our spiritual doors; prayer has a special place in Luke’s Gospel. The Evangelist tells us Jesus is constantly going away to be in prayer, he prays with his disciples, he prays for the sick, the lame, and the possessed. Jesus prays in the garden and on the cross. Jesus’ entire life is a model of a life lived in prayer and the relationship with his Abba that prayer fostered. For Luke the most important thing Jesus taught his disciples was prayer. The way to talk to and build relationship with God is in prayer.
Luke continues his theme of prayer in his second book, the Acts of the Apostles. Following Jesus’ ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem and devoted their time to prayer. They prayed when they replaced Judas with Matthias. When the Holy Spirit descends on them they were all sitting together, my guess is they were praying, as that would have been their practice. The first converts were taught by the Apostles to pray and when the community became too great to lead by themselves, they appointed Stephen and Philip to do community management, so they, the Apostles, could devote themselves to teaching, baptizing and prayer.
I am not saying that Luke ranked baptism as second to prayer, for he doesn’t. Baptism is and will always be the first sacrament. For us Disciples baptism is one of only two sacraments we have, the other being the Lord’s Supper. However, Luke is explaining to his community of Gentile converts that it takes the two together, baptism plus prayer, to fully understand the commitment made in Christ’s name. He is also trying to explain to his community that the Holy Spirit does not always come in direct response to baptism. Sometimes it comes before or after baptism, it is the Spirits choice. Paul experiences Christ and the Spirit on the road to Damascus and is baptized after that dramatic event. As Luke describes Paul and as Paul writes in his letters the act of prayer is an important part of being in a Christian Faith Community. Baptism is the commitment to God and community often in response to prayer. Baptism plus prayer is the key that opens the door of our heart, into that inner place of the Spirit and shows us the way to live a life that is Christ filled, God filled and Spirit filled.
One isn’t more important than the other, in fact, we need both for the key to work, but some of us have locks where the Spirit connects with us first and then we are baptized, sometimes it’s the other way around and sometimes it’s all at the same moment. It is a little like an analogy I picked up from my biologist research days using DNA, RNA and enzymes in comparing how they work in our bodies to how our spiritual DNA, RNA and enzymes might work in our spiritual bodies.
Our Spiritual DNA determines the shape of the RNA and how it will fit together with the enzymes in our bodies. Each has to be a specific shape in order for both to fit together like a lock and key. The enzyme only fits one way in each person and when it does the two together create something new and important to keep us living. I don’t know which of the two, baptism or pray, is the RNA and which the enzyme. I do know that how they fit together in each of us is a specific characteristic for each individual. Both parts are needed in order for the spiritual life to come awake.
Luke knows baptism is important; everyone who comes to Christ is baptized. Everyone who is baptized will have their own experience of Spirit, often whether they recognize it as such or not. The Holy Spirit often speaks so quietly that only a quiet new awareness begins to guide us without our knowing why. Prayer is the tool used by the Spirit to teach us the meaning of baptism and how to be in relationship with God, Christ and Holy Spirit.
How we respond to baptism will be an individual act, how the Spirit guides us is the result of prayer. We can’t have one without the other if we are to live into a Faith Filled Community of God. Baptism is the recognition of our humanness, our humanity and our commitment to something greater than who we are. Prayer is the part that leads to our understanding of what our humanity and commitment means. The two together are the Key that unlocks the door to the Kingdom.
Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2013
Revelation 3:20- “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door; I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.”
For the last four months I have been on an inward journey. I don’t know where this journey will lead me, although I am hoping it will help me come to some conclusions about ministry. Beginning in September I did mostly silent prayer or, depending on the day and moment, contemplative prayer. I would sit for 30 minutes to an hour in silence up to three times a day. I discovered that I was developing a very quiet place somewhere inside and all of the stress and disappointment of the last year were beginning to slip away. As I felt the need I started adding other practices, a bible study, a new interplay class, and a book study.
Through all of this I wrote in my Journal and added to my blog and one of the repeating themes is I am looking at scripture and readings from a very different perspective and the above scripture from Revelation is a good example.
I am fairly confident that all of you have seen the iconic picture of Jesus standing at a door knocking. Have you looked closely there is no door handle; the door must be opened from the inside. This passage from Revelation has been bugging me lately so I started taking it apart and trying to visualize it from a different angle. The one perspective that seems to intrigue me is what if the door is the one into my heart and the person standing on the outside is me, not Jesus. The door is ajar but I have to make the effort to push it open and walk in and in my meditations I seem to be standing at the entrance unable to move toward the door. Sort of like the rodent in one of Rudyard Kipling books where it won’t go into the center of the room but always creeps around the edges.
The reason this perspective seems to be so important is 1) I have always believed part of the creator already resides within me, and for that matter within all of creation; 2) the place behind the door to my heart, or hearts door, represents for me my deepest level of spirituality. It is the place that knows me best, the good and the bad, and offers forgiveness and grace even when I do not acknowledge it. So, to me, it makes perfect sense that in the room behind the hearts door I will find G-d because G-d is the root, or grounding, of my very being and where I want to be. But I am afraid to cross the threshold.
So what does it mean if I am the one outside of my hearts door? First of all it means that
G-d/Jesus/Holy Spirit is waiting for me to acknowledge the Divine Presence and that that recognition means I am giving up some of the control of my life over to the true being within. The acknowledging part is fairly easy, but, crossing the threshold and entering into full communion with the Divine is a lot harder. There are risks to crossing into that sacred place, for one thing I would have to let go of my ego, and many of my desires, such asto always be at the top of everything. Sometimes the Holy Spirit wants me to be second, third or even last at some task because it challenges me to look deeper at who I am and who I want to be. Because of my unwillingness to let go of my ego, I have spent most of my 65 years standing outside the chamber behind my hearts door and it has resulted in a life where hard lessons are learned and travels on rocky roads are my only choices. I had to hit rock bottom before I could accept that I could not live this life alone, I needed help; I needed love, grace, and forgiveness in order to become who I am.
Fourteen years ago I was at that rock bottom place and my path choices weren’t looking all that appealing. I have always wondered why we have to be at the worst possible crossroad in order to recognize the grace and forgiveness of G-d, but it does and I am no exception. Just like John of the Cross I was having my own “dark night of the soul.” It wasn’t until all light in my life had disappeared that I called out to G-d, crossed the threshold and entered into the arms of the Divine.
One result of my turning this scripture around so I stand at the door instead of Jesus is that I become the one to initiate contact with G-d. G-d, Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes the force that waits for me to decide how, and when I will respond to their call. I choose to cross the threshold or walk away. Granted I have had a great deal of preparation for that moment in my life but a willingness to risk everything on an invisible (and to some non-existent) entity does not make the choice any easier. Maybe that is why it takes those “dark nights” for us to make the choice to let our lives be lead by the Divine. Unless we have only two choices, life or death, before us we won’t choose life. We will continue to walk without the guidance of G‑d because that path seems easier to walk than the one G-d and there are so of those distractions to choose from. But that is an illusion.
I must admit to a lot of darting out the door only to return with bowed head asking for forgiveness. I am always amazed at the joy the Divine exhibits at the return of this wayward child. I know I am blessed by grace because I can fail G-ds expectations over and over again and return over and over again and I will be welcomed home just as the prodigal son was, with fatted calf and celebration.
See G-d wants us to be inside that sacred room and whenever we leave, the Divine keeps the fires burning for our return. I like to think that hot chocolate and double chocolate chip cookies are waiting for me to communion with the ground of my being. All I have to do is cross the threshold.
Ruth Jewell, ©December 29, 2012
Jacob was in a delighted panic, there were more people in his Inn than he had ever had before. While giving thanks to the Romans would be condemned by the Temple authorities he was certainly thankful for this emperor’s whim. Now if only he could find time to sit down to enjoy all of those shekels he was collecting. Sara, his wife, was busy in the kitchen cooking a meal for their paying guests and for their own abundant family who weren’t paying because his wife wouldn’t let him charge them. Family, sometimes you can’t live without them but tonight he would like to try.
Now Jacob loved his kind and gentle Sara, but sometimes her kindness was irritating. After all Jacob had to provide for his family. His son, Isaiah, had only just reached manhood, although he was a big help to him tonight. Isaiah was carrying water to all of the paying guests (let his relatives get their own) and taking care of the animals. Jacob’s two girls were busy in the kitchen with their mother and while Elizabeth was still a little small she was working just as hard as her older sister, Rebecca. Over all Jacob was very happy, his Inn was full and he had a box full of money. He should not only be able to pay the tax collector (May YHWH rain fire down on his head!) but also have sufficient money for the next several months. There might even be enough left over to put a little aside for his daughters dowries.
Jacob was suddenly shaken out of his revere by a call from his son.
“Father, there are two more in the courtyard.”
Jacob threw up his hands and ran out to tell them that he had no more room and that they should move on. When Jacob opened the door a tall man greeted him. A very pregnant young woman was perched on a donkey behind him. Jacob had to admit she looked very tired and uncomfortable.
“Excuse me, my wife and I would like a room to spend the night. If you don’t have a room a corner would do. Mary, my wife, is expecting and she is very tired. We have money to pay and I will take care of the donkey myself.”
“I’m sorry we don’t have any rooms,’ Jacob said, “and to be honest with you I don’t think there are rooms free anywhere else in Bethlehem right now. This mandated census has filled all the Inns. My suggestion would be that you go up into the hills above the city and find a cave. At least it would be out of the wind. Good night to you.”
“Jaaa…cob, Isaiah tells me there is a woman with child out there”.
Jacob turned around and groaned as he faced his wife Sara. “Sara we don’t have any room! Where would we put them?” Taking one look at his wife’s face he said “Oh no! I am not giving up my bed! I am tired and will need to get some sleep tonight if I am to deal with all of these people tomorrow!”
Sara patiently looked at her red-faced husband; she knew he wasn’t as hard-hearted as some thought he was, he just had to be nudged once in a while. “Well we can’t turn out a pregnant woman (may the LORD bless her child!), she looks like she is going to deliver any time now! This census is bringing people out on the roads that shouldn’t be there! Don’t you dare send them to the caves! She’s pregnant Jacob, there are thieves up there and they will be robbed or worse! Do you really want that on your hands? Jacob, money isn’t everything.”
Jacob groaned again. “Well, where do you propose we put them?”
“Isaiah”, Sara called, “get me some blankets and a lamp. Jacob, the stable has a corner that is warm and dry, and you won’t charge them either!”
The man at the door had been looking on as the Innkeeper and his wife argued and now said, “Please, we will be glad to pay, we have some of our own supplies, we just need a place to rest.”
“No,” Jacob sighed, “Sara’s right, we can’t charge you for a night in the stable. Isaiah will take you around the back and help his mother get you settled.” Isaiah ran up with the bedding. “Take them around to the stable and fix the stall on the west wall, it’s the driest and warmest. Then come back and help Rebecca take some warm food and wine out to our guests.”
The gentlemen started to protest, “No, sir, it is the least we can do. If you need anything during the night just knock on the door at the back, Isaiah will be sleeping there tonight and he will do what he can.”
The man looked very relieved, “thank you all so very much, you are very kind. This is Mary’s first child and we have traveled so very far today. My name is Joseph and I am a carpenter, if you need anything repaired or need any work done while we are here I will be glad to do it.” Talking softly to his young wife, who turns and smiles her thanks at the innkeeper, Joseph turns, takes the donkey’s lead and follows Isaiah.
Sara looks lovingly at her husband. “You old softy, I knew you couldn’t turn them away.”
“Go, woman, and prepare some food for these people. At least I’ll be able to get that back room lintel fixed. Oh yes, I’ll take him up on his offer, he is an honorable man and I won’t embarrass him, go, go!” Jacob looks outside as he turns to close the door, “my goodness it is bright outside, almost like daylight, there must be a full moon.”
©Ruth Jewell, November 29, 2009
Blessings and Peace to all this Christmastide!
This story was written for the 2009 Christmas Eve Service and I offer it here to all of you as my Christmas Gift.