Ramblings on a Rainy After Thanksgiving Day

It is the small things in life that delight me the most.  This morning we took one of our pumpkin pies to a friend and then went to Third Place Books to sell some old books and maybe pick up a new one.  The rain was coming down hard and it was so dreary, yet, I had, have, this amazing sense of delight in just being here in this world, at this moment in time.  I want to feel guilty because I don’t have anything really pressing me right now, but, I don’t.  I enjoyed sharing a cup of tea with John as we each ate a cookie while waiting to find out how many books the store would buy.  It was so much fun just sitting across from him and laughing at something he said.  I can’t remember how long it has been since I’ve done that.  I took particular delight in discovering that the store credit the books bought me was enough to buy a brand new one for 92 cents.  And, it wasn’t a book I had to read for a class either, YEAH. 

My life in the last number of years has been filled with tasks to do either at home, for family, for Church, or for school and I have often felt overwhelmed.  Suddenly I have time to be just here and I am feeling quite blessed and graced by the Divines permission to be silly if I want to be.  I have taken this space to just be me; to wait on and listen for some WORD from the Holy Spirit as to what direction my life will take now.  I know at some point I will grow weary with this much time for myself and I will become anxious for G-d to speak to me.  But, I am not ready yet, I am having way too much fun waking up each morning and telling John “I don’t know what my day will be like, but it will unfold before me and I will be amazed.”

Today is the day after Thanksgiving and John is in the living room watching 2 football games at a time (I’m not sure how he keeps them straight) and I have just finished a Dune novel.  The rain continues but I feel the Sun behind the soggy clouds and know that my day is really filled with light.  I have begun packing for my graduation gift trip in December and I am filled with joy at the thought of spending time alone with John.  I am in a sunny bubble even with all the clouds.

The last time I felt this way was just before my wedding in 2000. I felt then that I was particularly blessed by the Spirit because I couldn’t stop smiling or laughing.  I kept giving things away just because I wanted everyone to share in my good fortune and happiness.  As I prepared for that big day I felt filled by Spirit and light and that is how I feel right now.  Kind of giddy, and silly, and confused in a happy way, and … well you get the idea. 

It is not as if I don’t have things to do, because I do.  I am writing a proposal for an advisor concerning my future ministry, I’ve begun writing my thoughts for my ordination paper and I am discovering some things I would like to do the first of the year at church.  But right now I am free.  Like a butterfly in a garden I can flit from flower to flower, or just sit and admire the view.  Yes, responsibilities will return but right now I am happy, and free of worry.  Those other things will take care of themselves for a little while more or at least until I hear that WORD from G-d who says “Now go forth.”  I can wait.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 23, 2012

A Thanksgiving Prayer

The Feast comes in many forms;

bread and wine
in remembrance
of a life given in love

A sandwich shared
on street corners
and alley ways

A comforting hand
strong and sure
when life’s troubles overcome

A mother’s loving gaze
upon her new born babe
tears of joy fill her eyes

A child safely home
from battlefields
in faraway places

Today, we offer thanks

thanks for food shared
for the blessedness of family and friends
for the grace of being able
to sit at our groaning board

We who are blessed
offer prayers for
those who are far away
those who do not have enough
those who suffer from illness, and,
those who struggle to recover from disaster

So in gratitude and with humble hearts

We thank you, Oh Holy Spirit for the feast laid befor us.
thank you for the ground it was cradled in,
thank you for the sun and rain that nurtured it
thank you for the farmers who carefully harvested it
thank you for the hands that lovingly prepared it.
May this food feed our bodies
as You feed our souls.  Amen

Ruth Jewell ©November 22, 2012


Evening Over Puget Sound

Mark 14:36 36He said, ‘Abba,* Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

I know Advent is only a few weeks away (have you done your Christmas shopping yet?) but it is this verse from Mark that has played over and over in my mind for weeks now.  Jesus is in the garden and asking that he be spared but he surrenders to what will happen and for that reason we have the resurrection and our Faith Tradition. 

Now I am not one who believes that G-d incarnated Himself just to be hung on a cross for my sins or anyones sins.  My belief is that G-d had hoped, we, his most recalcitrant creation would listen to the Word of Jesus and transform our lives and the world.  I believe that for two reasons: first, Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples and anyone who was listening that the Kingdom of G-d was now, not in some future date, but now.  And, I believe today the Kingdom is now if only we open eyes and ears to see and listen as G-d intends.  But we don’t because, well, we don’t. 

The second reason is the G-d I know and love would never deliberately send a beloved child to their death.  Yes I know we have lots of stories in the Bible of G-d using violence but we have even more stories and words that express how much G-d loves and cares for us, especially those who are marginalized.  So Jesus was hung on the cross because of the blindness and deafness of the people he only wanted to transform.  We today are still pounding those nails into Jesus hands and feet because we are still blind and deaf.  We have yet to transform and recognize the Kingdom all around us.

And, that brings me to my latest meditation.  First of all the imagery of the cup has been an important one for me for over a year.  I have wrestled with the cup placed before me and realized how bitter that can be.  I also know just how sweet the cup is. I was devastated when a small minded official denied me a temporary visa to study in Switzerland and that was a bitter cup to swallow.  But I have discovered how sweet the cup has been in the last number of  week’s as I have come to new insights about who I am as a spiritual being, and what my future ministry will be with God.

But the primary image is of Jesus’ surrender to the path laid before him, saying not my will but yours.  Surrender, that word is loaded with many images.  There is the image of a soldier standing in front of his company waving a white flag as they surrender to an enemy.  Or, picture a child being held down by a bully and crying “uncle” in order to get away from their tormentor.  But it also has some wonderful positive images.  Surrendering can also mean release from suffering.  I have been with the elderly who have surrendered to the inevitable and come to a time of peace about the end of their lives.  I was with my father in the last days of his life as he lay dying from cancer and I watched his face as it became peaceful and accepting of his discovery he wasn’t going to overcome the illness, but instead was headed toward something sweet, even if he didn’t know what that was. 

But it is the image of an individual who has reached rock bottom in their lives from substance abuse or something they have done or has been done to them when the ultimate surrender happens that has the most importance for me.  It is the image of someone who has nowhere else to go but up that holds my attention.  I have been in that place partly of my own doing and partly of the worlds.  I know what it means to be at the bottom of a well and yelling at G-d, “I give up; you fix it because I can’t.”  It took a great deal of faith and trust for me to let go and let G-d take over.  I am a control freak, at least over my own life, and always want, and still do, to take the reins and run with them.  I want to tell G-d what I will do rather than wait and listen for what G‑d wants.

But there is a liberating feeling to that surrender to G-d’s plan.  While I have to keep reminding myself that I surrendered remembering it opens me to the possibilities of seeing and hearing in a totally new way. I see everything around me differently, everything becomes new.  It is as if I have put on a new pair of glasses and now I see clearly for the first time in many years. Does that analogy sound familiar to you? It should.

In each of the Gospels we have stories of Jesus healing the blind and opening the ears of the deaf.  These may or may not have been factual healings.  Jesus was known as a healer and I have no doubt that he was an exceptional one.  But these may also have been metaphorical stories about people who are spiritually blind and deaf who reconnect with G-d and creation.  They find the path that lead back to G-d and life. 

I want to say I have again found the path, but I must admit I seem to keep losing it.  Mostly because of my own ego and arrogance that tells me I can do better by myself.  But I am blessed that G-d has had so much patience with me. Letting me stray and then return with a bruised and humbled ego, kissing my wounds and saying “welcome home.”   This prodigal daughter must constantly pray, ‘I surrender,” because otherwise I forget. 

I am currently in a period of discernment about what direction my life and ministry will take.  It is hard waiting for G-d to speak, but I am praying over and over again, “I surrender, let not my will but yours be my life.”  I am beginning to see a path again and it is in the feeling of being surrounded by loving arms that is keeping me pointed towards that path.  I don’t know if I am ‘seeing’ correctly yet but I have time to figure that out.  There will be a cup at the path I will have to drink from, sweet or bitter, I don’t know which it will be, but if I have true faith.  If I am committed, loyal, hold my allegiance to, and grow my relationship with, G-d I know I will be Ok; more than Ok, sweetly happy. 

“I surrender to you Oh Holy One,
in you I put my trust,
in you I give my loyalty and allegiance,
my life is in your hands.

If I should stray from your arms
guide me back with your love.
Open my eyes to see your light,
open my ears to hear your voice.

Love holds the key,
life is the door,
surrender turns the handle.
You oh Beloved wait on the other side.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 13, 2012

NOTE: I did not request the highlighted words, they just appeared.  I am trying to find out how to remove them, but if I can’t please know that Wordpress added them not me.

A Cloud of Witnesses

My Cloud of Witnesses

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before

13:2  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  (NRSV)

Last Sunday at Queen Anne Christian Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we celebrated All Saints Day by remembering all those who have gone before us to their reward.  Now in the Disciples church All Saints day is not usually a day we celebrate.  It’s not that we don’t remember those who have gone ahead of us but we Disciples often pick other days to remember them, such as Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Sunday, Veterans Day, or a day that holds meaning for a particular congregation.  Queen Anne does this on the Sunday following November 1st and this year that day was Sunday November 4th.

I don’t want you to think I’m making light of this memorial, I’m not.  I just want you to understand that for many Disciples the remembrance of our passed on saints is anytime we call them to mind and recognize their influence in our lives.  Pastor Laurie demonstrated that belief in a unique way during her sermon.  She handed out slips of paper with a picture of a tree on it and asked us to draw leaves that represented the saints in our lives, past and present.  With pencil or pen in hand all of us began diagramming who in our lives had the most influence.  As I was writing mine the above 2 verses of Hebrews came to mind, mainly because I was so amazed at the number of people I considered part of my “cloud of witnesses” and “saints.” 

I of course had to put my father at the base of the tree because he was my first real spiritual teacher, but, along with him there is the minister that first allowed me to really question my theology and not give me answers.  There are the surgeons who treated me and saved my life when I was 6 when I was severely burnt, nor can I forget my first grade teacher Miss. Wooster, who was handicapped and warmly welcomed into her class this little girl who was swathed in bandages.  These saints were the first to model the act of being compassionate and merciful; they wouldn’t be the last.

On my tree are the names of my elderly neighbors who taught me the joy of just being alive.  Winnie and Joe took life as it came, the good and the bad, and made the most of the time they had on earth.  They were a generous couple who shared their lives with me, my husband and any dog that walked into their lives.  In fact I don’t believe either of them ever met a dog they didn’t like.  Winnie’s motto was “dogs rule” and in her house they did. 

I added authors I’ve never met but have read and learned so much from.  At the roots of my tree there are the Founders of my tradition Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone whose theology of ecumenism has rung through my life like a bell and is the corner stone of my faith.  There theology was passed down to me through my Great-great grandparents, Great Uncle, grandparents, and parents and now my time has come to pass it on, like a torch.  Farther up the tree are authors, teachers, friends and people I can no longer name but remember their teachings.  There are political leaders too such as John F. Kennedy whose life and death left a great impression on me and next to him is President Obama who tries to be as forthright as he can in very difficult situations and I recognize his courage can also be a model for me. There are so many more it is impossible to name them all and the tree just isn’t big enough. 

The author of Hebrews tells us we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and that we need to remember to be gracious and liberal with our hospitality because we never know when the stranger will be one of our saints who teach us something new.  But I think there is something we often don’t think about and that is the influence we have on others.  What if by our hospitality we have changed the stranger and we become the saint.  Have you ever thought you could be a witness to the love of G-d? 

Modesty, shyness or social convention often keeps us from thinking we might be a “saint” for someone else.  In fact we are often taught to take little notice of how we help others because we aren’t supposed to take credit or be proud of what we do.  Remember the old chestnut “pride goeth before the fall?” Pride was one of the 7 deadly sins and was to be controlled at all cost.  But Jesus never taught that, in fact he wanted people to be models of his “new way” of living and you can’t do that if you hide.   Jesus says don’t put your light under a bushel rather place it on a hill for all to see.  The fact of the matter is, it takes hard work and practice to be hospitable to unpleasant people in difficult situations but it is that kindness and mercy that starts the change in the other and it began with you. 

All of the people on my tree didn’t think they were saints or witnesses, but they were.  They modeled a way of life I wanted to emulate.  They may not have ever heard of Hebrews or Micah but they lived their lives as if they did and that’s what is important.  I meet people every day, sales clerks, teachers and fellow students, the homeless and how I treat them is a reflection of what I learned from my cloud of witnesses.  I learned a smile and a thank you to store clerk can make their day; that offering my lunch to someone who is hungry on the street will fill a hungry place within.  My witnesses and saints have taught me to be generous, kind, and merciful; giving me a way to walk with G-d that is serving me well and hopefully a good witness for someone else.

Who are your witnesses and saints?  Can you fill out your own tree with people past and present who have made a difference in your life?  Can you make another tree where your presence has made a difference in someone else’s life? 

Think about and let me know.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 6, 2012

NOTE: I don’t know where the links in the posting come from. I didn’t ask for them and I am trying to figure out how to get rid of them. I just wanted you to know I didn’t authorize them in any way.