Bread of Heaven

This morning I arose early and decided I would make bread.  I wanted to give some of my home-made jam and a loaf of bread to the doctor who repaired my wrist allowing me to be able to make bread, by hand, for the first time in a year. 

The making of bread has always been sacred to me. There is something mystical about watching yeast bubble up, folding it into flour and then watching dough expand and grow. I have often listened to music or I would sing a chant when I bake but, because it wasn’t even 5 am I chose instead to repeat scripture and the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9b-15 (NRSV) came to mind:

9b Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Along with Matthew 13:33: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

As I chanted the verses I made them my own and, in the process, I came to a quiet point, a still point of creation.  I felt the bread take form beneath my hands. Soft dough becoming elastic and springy, and rolled into a ball Then I allowed the mystery to take place as it swelled into a soft white pillow.  Taking that pillow and forming two loaves and baking them until they looked like gold was just as satisfying as any work of art. I was given a gift in the mystery of yeast, flour, milk, salt and butter. I offered the first slice of the warm bread to John, who pronounced it yummy.

I also offered my gratitude to the doctor who made it possible, I offered a prayer for the rain, soil, sun and farmers who nurtured and harvested the ingredients that went into the making.  My bread became holy, it became the Bread of Life, the Bread of Heaven.

My Mother Spirit who art in and about me . . .
       scald 2 cups of rich milk
Sacred is your name . . .
       add 2 T sugar, 2 t sea salt, 1 T butter until dissolved,
       set aside to cool a bit

Your beloved kingdom is like yeast . . .
       dissolve 2¼ t yeast, and ¼ t sugar in ¼ cup warm (110° t0 120° F) water
       in a large mixing bowl until bubbling
       measure out 6½ cups sifted flour, set aside

That a woman mixes in with her flour. . .
       add 3 cups of flour to the bubbling yeast and the milk mixture
       beat with a heavy spoon until the batter is smooth,

And in Your Kingdom  . . .
I will do Your will . . .
       add additional flour until a stiff dough forms
       and the dough leaves the side of the dough

As together we create Your heaven . . . 
       turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface
       knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

 Until all of it was growing and bubbling with love and joy.
       form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes
       butter a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl
       turning it so the top surface of the dough is covered in the butter
       cover and set aside, in a warm place until it has risen double in size,
       about 1 hour.

Give to each of us bread to sustain our lives . . .
       when doubled punch down and let rise again for 45 minutes
       until doubled in size.

Forgive us when we walk away from you . . .
       when doubled, punch down and divide in half
        and form into two loaves.
       place in greased and, lightly, floured bread pans,
       let rise until double, about 1 hour.

As we forgive those who in their fear and anger walk away from us . . .
       when doubled bake 35 minutes at 400°F
Do not bring us into a  time of trial,  . . .
       remove from oven and let cool before slicing

But deliver us from,
and teach us to do kindness for,
Those who would do us harm.
      
       Eat one loaf and give the other away.
Now and Forever, Amen

The bread recipe is from an old Farm Journal cookbook called Homemade Bread, A Belmont Tower Book, New York, NY, 1969.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 13, 2020

A Collect

They/Them of beginning
     and endings
They/Them breath
calls you to be
partners, followers
co-creators, caretakers

We bring into They/Them silence
whispered gifts of
morning songs and
evening prayer

For we are grateful
Holy gratitude

Ruth Jewell, ©July 14, 2020

Image: Sunrise, Edmonds, WA, June 12, 2014, photo, Ruth Jewell

Genesis 1:26

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (NRSV)

To whom were you speaking
when you created humans?
Who did you consult, an unborn Adam or,
other gods just stopping by
to see how you were doing?

I’m asking for a friend
‘cause I think you
need new consultants.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 10, 2020

Image: detail Michelangelo, Creation of Adam

A Walk in the Woods

Today, I went into the woods
cool shadows covered me
soft breezes kissed me
my footsteps muffled by last year’s leaves
I breathe deeply
scents of leaf, violet, and damp earth surround me
robin, finch, and woodpecker serenade me
rabbit, doe, and fox walk beside me.
I walked in the woods today
creation sang her glory
life in all her splendor surrounded me
The Creator held me in her arms

Ruth Jewell, ©April 14, 2020
Photo: The Guardian of the Woods

House of Worship

. . . Long ago, Long ago

Long ago this was a great house of worship
Men came from far and wide
To hear powerful leaders speak of God

. . . Today, Today

Today I am old and only my bones remain
The grass, the flowers, the trees worship here now
Fox, and mice, and birds all congregate

. . . Now, Now

Now sermons are the gentle whispers of wind and rain
Mice lead with tiny voiced prayers
Wrens lead a choir of sparrows and finches

. . . Prayer, Prayer’s

No more the loud prayers for men’s pride
Now there is a gentle offering of gratitude and
The Creator’s voice, the world’s hope, and the prayer for another day

Ruth Jewell, ©March 9, 2020
Photo: The Guardian of the Woods, March 3, 2020

GOD SAID

Sunrise, Edmonds WA September 2, 2013 Ruth Jewell
Sunrise, Edmonds WA
September 2, 2013
Ruth Jewell

I have been trying to make sense of the events of the last week. The deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, the Dallas Police targeted and killed, and the bombings in Iraq and Turkey. And, just today a new shooting in Michigan. My heart is filled with sadness and tears and I could only cry out to God “Where Are YOU.”

“God where were you . . .
when suicide bombers chose to end their lives and take the innocent with them?
Where were you when 29 men and woman
enjoying a night out were used as target practice?
Where are you when cops shoot people,
when people shoot people,
when cops are targeted,
When people die, the good and the bad?”

God where are you . . .
when we are filled with emptiness by shooting after shooting,
when bombings and assaults become common place?
Where are you when we turn the news on and
another child has died, another cop is killed,
another person of color, differing abilities, or characteristics is assaulted or killed?”

“Why Oh God do you not answer?”

God said “I am there . . .
Holding the bodies as they bleed,
I am there leading the survivors’ out of danger.
I am there, holding the victim’s family’s in my arms
I am there in the broken hearts of witnesses, law enforcement.”

“When the darkness is greatest
I will sit with you, and listen to your sorrows,
I will hold you in my arms when you are weary.”
All I can do is lead the dying home to my arms,
to comfort those left behind, if they let me.”

“When pain and grief grip you
I will be there to tell you everything will be alright.
When you scream into the night,
I will come and comfort you,
I will dry your tears, and wrap you in my embrace.”

“I will be there when you are weary and in pain,
I will be there to lift you up, and comfort you,
All you have to do is call”.

God said, “I cry when you do not hear my voice, and
I cannot stop you from harming each other,
that choice is yours alone.

“All I can do is encourage each of you to stand up for justice and mercy.
All I can do is hope your hearts will soften
and let the love I have for each of you awaken your love for each other.
All I can do is wait for you to choose the path of justice, mercy, love and peace
between your selves and all that is created.”

God says “I gave you the choice of right or wrong,
It is up to you to choose. I will not make that choice for you
nor will I force you to choose one path over another!”

“You asked for freedom, it is your responsibility to choose.
Choose to use that freedom wisely.”

Ruth Jewell ©, July 11, 2016

 

Spirit and Flesh – Prayerful Tuesday

A Meditation from the Works of Julian of Norwich

Stained Glass window of Julian of Norwich, Church of St. Julian, Norwich UK

Stained Glass window of Julian of Norwich,
Church of St. Julian, Norwich UK

For just as our bodies are clothed in garments,
our flesh enclosed by our skin,
our hearts centered in our body,
so are we, spirit and flesh,
clothed head to toe in the goodness of God.
But this metaphor hardly does justice,
for all things will decline and wear out.
God’s goodness, however, is everlasting,
and is incomparably nearer to us than our very flesh.

Julian of Norwich 14th century Anchorite

We are clothed in God, clothed in the goodness of God. These words have been especially comforting to me today as last week was an especially difficult one.  Just knowing God, Spirit, and Christ are closer to me than my own flesh has kept me going.

Spiritual Practice:

During the day be especially sensitive to when God is present.  At day’s end  remember the times when you noticed God’s blessed presence. How did you feel?

Ruth Jewell, ©January 19, 2016

The Work of Christmas Begins

A Poem by Howard Thurman

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,
To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.


Audio of Jim Strathdee singing I Am the Light of the World

Today, January 6th, is Epiphany, the day tradition tells us the Wise Men visited Jesus, Mary and Joseph. My mother used to call this day “little Christmas,” and she would prepare a special meal in the evening. I don’t remember gifts being exchanged but we did eat a lot, and usually finished up the Christmas cookies.  But, it was years later when the song I Am the Light of the World by Jim Strathdee, based on Howard Thurman’s poem, came out that I began to look at this day differently.

Today instead of just thinking about nameless astrologers coming from the east and giving unusual gifts to the Child I see this day as less a celebration and more of a new start to living as Jesus taught.  Thurman’s poem and Strathdee’s music remind us that Christmas isn’t just one day, 12 days, or the 34 days of Epiphany. (Yes, today only begins the season of Epiphany which will end on Ash Wednesday this year on February 10th when Lent begins.) We are called to carry the message of the love of compassion, justice and peace throughout the year.  The season of Epiphany offers us the opportunity to make caring for our fellow travelers on this planet, human or animal, a habit.  A habit that empowers the weak and the young, gives food to the hungry and compassion to our elderly, poor, lonely, homeless, and war torn neighbors in this place we call home.  Strathdee’s hymn is the theme song for our work in the world, the work of Christmas.

Every year we are given the opportunity to begin again as Jesus followers.  Every year we are reminded of who we are, and whose we are. Every year we are given another chance to live our lives in such a way as to bring change to the world.  Every year we are given the chance to accept the radical challenge of being the Christ figure for the people we see and interact with every day. It is a radical idea!  If each of our neighborhoods is changed, even a little, eventually we change the world and Jesus and God never asked us to be more than who we are, only to be the best that we can be.

To live with compassion, love justice and to travel in the company of the Divine is all we are asked to do. I don’t think that means a drastic change in our habits, rather it means we share what we have so that all have enough. Is that really so hard?

So I challenge myself, and you, to begin to change how we live in the world, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, standing up and letting your voice be heard when justice is violated and oh so many other little acts of compassion. Each of us can do something. We don’t have to do everything at once simply pick one to get started, let one act of love become a habit this year.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 6, 2016

Shouting Stones – Prayerful Tuesday

Luke 19:40: He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Power of 10 Are We Alone in the Universe,
Updated May 3, 2011 by Securityscience

Several years ago someone sent me this video that imagines going out from a 1 meter distance by a power of 10 up to 1020 Km or 10 million light years, then coming back to earth to 1 meter starting point and doing a reverse trip into a leaf by a power of ten to 10-16 meters or 100 Atómeters (that’s 0.0000000000000001 meters).  What has always fascinated me we could have kept going forever if we are traveling away from earth, there is no limit that we know of to the distance we can travel.  However, 10-16 is the smallest we can get if we reverse the trip.  After this point all is mystery.  What lies beyond that limit of 10-16?

While this video imagines going into leave they could just have easily imagined entering an atom of a rock.  You see that place of mystery is found in all things, living or what we call non-living.  Whether rock or human both are made of atoms and that means that this place of mystery is found in rocks, humans, our pets, trees, and air.  What mystery does this place hold? What if our connection to all things created is found within this gigantic, tiny, place. What if, this is where the Divine can be found and how would that idea change the way you think about our planet, our universe.

When George Lucas created the story of Star Wars he consulted with the author Joseph Campbell about mythology and how it explains the unexplainable. From those conversations Lucas developed the concept of the “Force” surrounding and being within all things, not unlike this place of mystery in every atom. So might our search for the unexplainable be present within each of us?

Might it be that developing a relationship with the Creator requires us to look within ourselves, to listen to the inner “voice” that whispers to us at the edge of our consciousness. That is what the mystics tell us we should do.  What if we should recognize the presence of the Creator in more than each other? That we should respect all created things, even rocks because the Creator, or however you name or depict the Divine, will be found there.

This week’s meditation

After you watch this video look at your hand and contemplate how the molecules and atoms that make up your hand resemble the greater universe.  Then contemplate how the place of mystery compares to the limitlessness of space. Where might you find the greatest mystery of life?  Contemplate how we as humans are connected to more than each other. Then ask yourself “what can I do, no matter how small, to help reconnect each of us to the Divine?”

Ruth Jewell, ©December 29, 2015.

FALL

Photo by By Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash,  November 2, 1015
Photo by By Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash,
November 2, 1015

Fall has finally arrived in the Northwest. The trees are shedding their leaves, my garden is clean all ready for winter, and the air has turned cold.  The land is preparing to sleep until the earth shifts again and the warm sun returns. I took a walk through Yost Park with the dogs the other day and the air was rich with the scent of wet and rotting leaves.  This is a time for animals to prepare for the coming winter when food is scarce and the land is cold and wet.

Fall is also a time for us to slow down, to sit with a cup of warm tea, coffee, or coco and let the seasons turn.  A time to pull out the afghans and a good book. It is also a time of reflection. It is a time to remember the joys of spring and summer and the many joyful moments.  A time to ask ourselves questions: what have I done this year that will leave it a better place?  Have I spent time caring for others, standing up when injustice rears its ugly head?  Have I taken care of my own spiritual needs? Have I remembered to stop, recharge and renew myself so that I will have the energy to be present to those in need?  This is the time to look back at what I could have done better, and to look forward to how I will improve.  It is also a time to reflect on how I have done my best with all I have even if I didn’t achieve all I wanted to; remembering that doing my best was enough.

This week I challenge you to sit down with a warm cup of something, or maybe a glass of wine, and spend some time on your past year.  Let the joys and celebrations provide the energy to improve what didn’t go so well.  Laugh, cry, and dance your memories of spring and summer.  Remember the sun and wind on your face.  Look back at your achievements and at what didn’t get done.  It is a time to forgive yourself and others. Were you the best you could be?  As the summer ended did you leave the earth a better place, did you care for the disadvantage, or do something to respond to the many, way too many, disasters of the last year?  Look toward the coming year and ask yourself how can I be someone who cares about mercy, justice, and peace?  How can I care for my own spiritual well being?  These aren’t easy questions, and they may take many days to reflect on. But it is dark early now, and it’s cold outside so curl up in your lap robe and reflect on who you are.

May the coming days of fall and winter be a time of rest for your spirit and a time to prepare for the next spring and summer.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 3, 2015