Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

A Time for Everything

1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Time keeps coming to the forefront lately. Time is running out before our country defaults on its debt, I have too much time on my hands as I heal from surgery, buy this whatever before time runs out and the price increases. People don’t have time for each other because they spend their time working, or listening to their IPods© and searching the web for who knows what; time is running out to save the planet, time, time, time.  I could go on and on but I won’t I don’t have the  time for that. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for
everything, but is there, I wonder sometimes.

God has given us some wonderful words but we rarely take the time to listen to them or digest their meaning for the time we live in. I often wondered what it would be like if we actually stopped and let time flow past us; just being in the moment and letting time have her way with us. Well in these last two weeks I have been forced to do just that and in all honesty I feel guilty that I have so
much time to do nothing.

Where in our past lives have I learned that sitting still and watching the clouds drift by is wasting time!  Even our children haven’t the time to do unstructured play. From the moment a child is born we plan their every moment, play dates, team activities, toys that stimulate the brain rather than teach contemplation and imagination. Can’t waste time or they won’t make it into college.

When I was growing up I had time to roam fields, lie on the grass and watch clouds become rabbits, puppies, or sailing ships I pretended to sail away to faraway lands. Do our children, do we, take the time to do that anymore.  Ecclesiastes says there is time for everything, so why are we running out of time?

There is a time to work, and a time for play, there is time to love and yes a time to hate, there is a time to forgive ourselves, and a time to forgive others. We have the time to do what we really need to do in our lives, if only we recognize the time keeper isn’t pushing us, we are pushing ourselves.  God, Christ, Spirit
only wants us to take the time to listen to the sound of the birds, feel the breath of God on our cheeks, see the beauty in the world, the beauty of people, mountains, plants and animals. All the great Divine asks is that we stop for a moment each day and offer thanks for the time we have here in this life before we pass into the next.

We stand on the head of a pin, and that is our present moment, in the next moment that pin disappears and another will take its place. We need to feel the smoothness of the pin’s head, to see the world at this moment, this time, and stop worrying about what the next moment, the next pin, will be like. Each will be different, but each will have its own delight, and sorrow, to offer us.

There is time to be who we are, time to learn to be who we are, the Spirit Being lives in this moment not the last or the next. Time exists only on this pin head and I want to be in this moment, to hear the whisper of God’s voice saying “here I Am,” and to feel the breath of God kiss my cheek. I want to be who I am supposed to be a Spirit Being in a clay body that will one day return to who I am, part of the Great Spirit, and take with me into that life memories that enrich the Great Spirit who lives in us all.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 22, 2011

My Eden

The other night I was reading the Introduction to the Sacred Journey, by Frederick Buchner, the first essay in a book for a fall class and something clicked for me.  Buchner opens his introduction by saying

“…theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography, and that what a theologian is doing is examining as honestly as he can the rough-and-tumble of his own experience with all its ups and downs, its mysteries, and loose ends, and expressing in logical, abstract terms the truths about human life and about God that he believes he has found implicit there.”  Simpler Living
Compassionate Life
, edited and compiled by Michael Schut, published by
Living the Good News, 2001, pg 19.

This short phrase started me thinking of my own experience, as a child, a young adult and as a now (throat clearing) mature adult.  What experiences have made me who I am and have brought me to my current understanding of God?  I guess if I start at the beginning I would have to say it was living with a group of dysfunctional adults that taught me to laugh at myself, and them, and then turn to what I felt at the time to be real.

I was born just after World War II, yes I’m one of the baby boomers that is going to wreck our economy, into a family that would have been called “white trash” and that was the most polite words for people like us. Yet my parents never treated their children as if we were poor. We were rich in so many ways, we may not have had money but we had friends. Friends from many cultures and races and my favorites were the Greek Orthodox families because we had two Easters and two Christmas’, think about it. It was the sharing of culture, food, and the misery we all felt in those early years after the war that gave such joy to our lives. I think the big turning point came when our family moved to a small farm near Oberlin, Ohio where I began to learn just what it meant to live in Eden.

I was five years old when the wonders of open fields, puppies, yellow chicks, sunshine, and hiding places in lilac bushes entered my life. Have you ever hidden from your sister by scrunching down in the middle of a fragrant lilac bush and giggling as she passes you by, only to be discovered by a wet nosed, hairy puppy? Or have you held a small yellow puff ball of a chick in your hand and have it peep into your ear? Before I was 6 I’d seen a cow drop her first
calf (they birth standing up by the way) and watched as the little heifer took
her first steps. I’ve seen blind puppies find their way to their mother for their first drink of life and I’ve seen chickens killed so I might eat Sunday dinner. Life and death are part of living on a farm; seeds sown in spring become yellow grain in summer and flour for a cake at Christmas. We live through the death of so much around us, and I learned that at a very early age.

I also learned accidents happen whether God wants them to or not. I was six when I accidently pulled a deep fat fryer full of hot oil down on top of me and was burnt over 75% of my body. A doctor working in a large hospital who, after reading about a small farm girl in a little town, called my parents and tells them “I coming to get your daughter, I’ll pay the hospital bill and you don’t have to pay me” and so  I spent the summer in a hospital far from my home struggling to survive. Yet even there I found that Eden followed me because this young resident is the reason I can walk, use both of my arms, and can face the world with a nearly scar free gaze.

Coming home meant discovering anew the wonders of life in Eden. I did discover I had limitations, but I also learned I had friends, furry and feathered ones. My best buddies became the animals on the farm. The ducks would follow me all over the place, the dog would let no one come close to me, and the chickens would sit in my lap and make clucking noises. The kittens would romp in front of me and entertain me with their antics as they chased butterflies and Katydids. I was never bored or without someone to cuddle.

Summers become fall and fall turns to winter and snow creates its own
wonders. When I was little all snow falls were huge and sled rides were a wonder to behold. But most of all was the smell of entering a warm barn. Even today the smell of hay, grain, cattle, goats, horses, and pigeons flood my memory of winter. I loved curling up in the horses manger and listen to their munching of the hay and smelling their breath as they snorted at me. I also loved the way the horses would push small pieces of grain to the edge of their food boxes so the meadow mice might come and feast. Yes the mice came in during the winter and called our barn home. In spring they disappeared as they found better places in the fields but in the winter they scampered everywhere and climbed high to escape the cats, although the Barn Owls were always a problem for them. I watched as one of my favorite chickens, Myrtle, would fly up to the back of an old roan mare where she always spent the night. And I listened every morning as my father swore at the goats who always escaped their pen just to climb onto the car roof to irritate him.

I guess my favorite barn yard companion was a bull named George. This was the sweetest, most loveable and biggest baby you would ever meet. He weighed in at around 1000 pounds and stood a good 6 feet at the shoulder. I on the other hand we was about 4 foot tall and weighed about 70 pounds and this bull would follow me like a lost puppy just so I could pick black berries for him at the far end of the pasture all because he didn’t like the thorns. I remember when there was a prison break at the prison farm 20 miles from our home and one of the escapees took refuge in the barn. Like an idiot he decided to hide in Georges stall who promptly pinned him to the wall and would not let the police in to get him.  George wasn’t hurting him, he was actually licking him rather sloppily but the police weren’t taking chances. To add injury to everyone’s pride dad asked me a 10 year old, who as I said didn’t weigh much more than 70 pounds, to lead George out to the pasture. Out comes George snuffling my pockets for carrots and while we went into the pasture the police took into custody a very wet and scared prisoner. That is one night I will never forget!

George is long gone now, just as all the rest of my childhood companions. But
in those years of animals, warm sunshine, soft rain, magical thunder storms, and snow covered orchards I learned that God is in the world in a way that all we have to do is open our eyes to see. My parents did not protect me from the life and death of living.  Friends died, animal and human, but life sprang forth in equal time. Eden and the Kingdom of God, doesn’t mean there is no pain to experience, but all of the pain only makes the joy of life more beautiful. People ask why bad things happen to good people, and I want to tell them the low points in life lead us to high mountains where God speaks in thunder and whispers. But we can’t live on the top of mountains!  There is a reason that
our lives are lived in the valleys, which is where the rain is held in soil warmed by the sun; and where drought brings hard times to challenge us into new growth.

Today I live on the side of the mountain, and I am blessed to say that I still travel to the valleys of life that challenge me into seeing God in new ways.  I am also blessed in knowing that I visit the mountain tops where my strength is renewed by the whispers and the thunder of Gods voice telling me to have courage as I re-enter the valley.

May each of you find the courage to traverse the valley, make it to the
mountain top and hear the voice of God, and, may each of you find your own Eden where God holds you in her loving arms.

Peace and blessings to all.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 17, 2011

Frustration and Patience

I am discovering that patience is not my forte!  Spinal surgery was two weeks ago and now I am growing anxious to be up and doing, but I am not allowed to lift anything over  five pounds. and because of neck collars and bifocals I can’t see anything below my nose.  So no exciting walks, no rearranging files (they all weigh over five pounds, actually you’d be surprised what weighs more
than five pounds.), no cooking because I can’t see the stove top clearly, and worst of all reading is difficult because I have to hold the book up high to get it
in focus.  As a result I am slowly going crazy.  I am now surprised that three
weeks ago I was looking forward to a time of quiet reflection but now all I can
do is slowly let the crazy out in little bursts so I won’t go mad.

At times I feel like I am one of the Desert Mothers sitting quietly in her cave and wondering what to do with fingers that fidget!  I would be one of those beginning pilgrims who would go to her Amma and ask what should I do, how do I listen, and what am I listening for?  Our lives are built on being busy and that was as true for the Desert Mothers and Fathers as it is for us and I can’t be busy, I don’t have anything to be busy with.  This is so frustrating on one hand yet also a great lesson in being still, if I could just learn it.

Spiritual Practices are called practices for a reason and learning how to just be and practice those moments of silence, and wonder is way more difficult than anyone would think.  It is so much easier to read about listening for the God than actually doing it.  I must admit that I am struggling with being still in order for the voice of God to enter my heart and heal my distress.  Creating stillness within has been more than difficult in the last week or so than I could ever have imagined.  I actually have this image of God sitting in the corner of our deck just rolling with laughter at my attempts to sit still and find my quiet center.   I have always believed God has an amazing sense of humor and we are his greatest source of entertainment and I think today I must be high on her list.

Maybe what God wants me to see is the humor in this whole situation, to be able to laugh at myself and give myself a break by not trying quite so hard to be still and to let the joy in just being free of responsibilities for a little while sinks in.  I have always believed that working hard and being efficient is what I was supposed to do, well maybe that isn’t the case.  Maybe like the Ammas of the Desert I need to return to my cave and listen.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 16, 2011

The Power of Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I don’t think I ever really understood Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians until the last couple of weeks.  On July 1, 2011 I entered the hospital for surgery due to an old neck injury and in the weeks preceding and the week following the surgery I have felt surrounded by a large dome of something which I can only call prayer.  Even when I was in the worst pain ever and felt all alone I had reminders of those that cared for me were holding my spirit in their hearts.  I was only supposed to be in the hospital for 3 days but due to complications it ended up being there for 5, a discouraging time to be sure. 

Yet, holding on to a set of prayer beads made for me by Pastor Laurie I felt a presence that kept telling me “I won’t leave you alone.”   And you know what … I wasn’t!  There was a nursing staff that came when I need them most and offered not just medical help but words of comfort.  There was a Chaplain, Father John, who came in to offer prayer and a reminder that I wasn’t alone, that people I didn’t even know were there beside me.  I was surrounded by something outside the world of science that enhanced the scientific and medical efforts in ways medical staff and doctors cannot explain but I know exists.    

Paul said to “give thanks in all circumstances,” even when things are darkest and you think that all is lost and no one cares.  I am discovering that Paul is right; now that is hard for me to say because Paul and I have a very uneasy relationship.  Prayer, rejoicing and giving thanks even when the world feels darkest is what keeps me from falling into the abyss.  I love the prayer “God’s Promise” written by Ron Mills (see the previous post) and I kept repeating it during that difficult hospital stay.  It gave me the courage to deal with pain, loneliness and fear, I wasn’t alone. 

And so I rejoice and give thanks for all of the those who offered their prayers of love and healing, I could not have made it through those dark moments without the dome of prayer you surrounded me with.  Blessings and Peace to you all

Ruth Jewell, ©2011

The Prayer: God’s Promise

I will be with you, that’s my promise
I will shine when you can’t see
Everywhere you travel is everywhere I’ll be
Trust me for that first step, leave the journey up to me
I will be with you,
I’ll shine when you can’t see.

You are with me, that’s your promise
You shine when I can’t see
Everywhere I travel is everywhere You’ll be
I’ll trust you for the first step and leave the journey up to you
You will be with me
You’ll shine when I can’t see

You will be with me
You’ll shine when I can’t see

God’s Promise written by Ron Mills, ©2002; 2nd verse adapted by Ruth Jewell,  ©2011