4 Amazing Women, 2 Weddings, 1 Weekend

ML, Aubrey, Heather, Judy
ML, Aubrey, Heather, Judy

Last weekend was a busy one.   I have 4 amazing friends all four who chose that weekend to marry. Not only that but one of the brides from Sunday officiated and married the first two on Saturday.  Just how cool is that!  None of this would have even been possible if R 74 had not passed and it would have been, and it was, a crime that these 4 beautiful, intelligent and loving women were unable to publically celebrate their love just as every other loving couple does.  It is with gratitude and thanks to the people of Washington State who past R 74.  If any of you ask was it worth it?  All you have to do is look at the faces of these 4 beautiful people. 

On January 23 Heather and Aubrey celebrated their commitment and love with great fanfare and joy. On Sunday January 24 ML and Judy celebrated their 19 years together with a joyful ceremony of commitment and love.  So with great love, congratulations and the raising of the wedding cup I congratulate the joining of two couples who belong together. 

Heather and Aubrey may you live long lives together.  May the strength you gain from each other sustain you over the rough places in your journey, and may your hearts soar together when all is smooth sailing. 

ML and Judy, over the last 19 years you have loved each other unconditionally even when our state said you couldn’t.  Such love deserves to be recognized and celebrated. God blessed your union 19 years ago and you have waited long enough to celebrate that blessing.  Thank you for sharing your joy with the rest of us.

As each of you travel together on life’s journey may the Holy Spirit surround you, may Christ lift you up if you stumble, and may God hold you in palm of Her hand whenever you are weary.  Shalom my friends.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 25, 2013

A Prayer for Healing

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
my trial.

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

Wounded Child

wounded child
wounded child

in a hidden cave of my heart
crouches a little girl
battered, scared
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 …
maybe …
“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

Guns, Fear, and Paranoia

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

It Was In Prayer

Prayer is the KeySermon preached at Queen Anne Christian Church, January 13, 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