Crossroads

We stand at a crossroad. A political, and soul crossroad.  I do not know which one we will take but the choices we make will be the most important ones we will ever make.  I say this with caution, sadness, and with hope. I am not going to tell you how to vote or what to believe, only you can make those choices.  But I am going to ask that you think hard and look deep within before you make your decisions. 

There are questions you need to ask yourself that only you can answer.

  1. What kind of world do you want to live in?  I am not talking just about your neighborhood, state, or country, I mean the world. 
  2. How do you see yourself, or your children, in 50 years?  Do you expect your world to be just as it is now? Because if you do you are sadly deluded.
  3. Do you expect your children and your children’s children to have a better life than you have today? Because if you do you are sadly deluded.
  4. If you are white do believe you will continue to be that privileged group where everything just comes to you?  Well it does not happen today so why the heck do you believe it will be happening in 50 years?  Are you that stupid?

Our world is changing and how we change with it will determine what this world, locally, nationally, and globally will become. Those of you who are afraid of change can fight to stop it, but it will not work, the world will change any way and you will be left behind.  You see we have reached a tipping point environmentally, socially, and politically and the world is never going to be the same no matter how much you cry in your beer.

People of color, culturally different people, people with differing beliefs, the differently gendered, and most of all womxn will no longer accept the white, protestant, Western European, and male world view.  We believe justice, compassion, and kindness, and political and religious freedoms are greater than hate, divisiveness, and political and religious manipulation, and domination.

The majority of people have begun to see the nonsense taught by political and religious leaders for the last three or four millennia for what it is, that one small group of people can protect us from ourselves is a lie. We who are different, who have different skin colors, different genders, and different beliefs from our white male dominators are striking out on our own. We will stand up for each other, we will protect each other, we will walk hand in hand toward a future that will leave our manipulators and dominators behind. Those of us believe in a faith that honors justice, kindness and compassion will change this world and unless you change your ways it will not go well for you.  I am a follower of Jesus, the Carpenter from Nazareth, not everyone is and each culture and belief have their own stories.  My stories come from Jesus and Jesus once told a parable of the rich man and a poor man.  Do you, who claim to know the bible remember it? Since I doubt it let me refresh your memory.

“There was a rich man who feasted sumptuously every day. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table, but the rich man would give him nothing. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died, buried, and was delivered into Hades, where he was tormented with fire.

The rich man looked up into heaven and saw Lazarus sitting beside Abraham. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, Lazarus in like manner evil things yet you failed to comfort him. Now Lazarus is comforted here, and you are in agony.

The rich man said, ‘Then, Father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house for I have five brothers let Lazarus warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘I know Father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ Abraham replied to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”  (Luke 16:10-31)

Just as the rich man was taught the laws of Abraham, we too have been taught by the words of our own prophet Jesus and you who claim to follow this carpenter have failed to do so. Now those of us who are tired of receiving your scraps from your table are banding together and doing what we have been taught some by Jesus, some by Muhammad, some by Moses, Some by the Buddha, and there are many more. We have been taught to do justice, love kindness, walk with our God, however that may be described. We will feed the hungry, care for the poor, the imprisoned, the elderly, the young, and the stranger amongst us.  Everything you have not done.  We will see the divine in the eyes of each and everyone one of us no matter their gender, their beliefs, their skin color, or their culture and we will honor them. We will do everything you have not. 

However, we will do one thing more. We will forgive you.  But while our forgiveness is free it does not relieve you of your responsibility or accountability for the evil you have done in this world.  You who have done so much to the poor, hungry, and homeless. You who have ignored the stranger and abused those who were different, female, and young will have to admit your wrongs.  We will not let you go free, to travel on blithely without punishment for that too is wrong. So, like the rich man your time of abusive domination is over. 

Ruth Jewell, ©October 18, 2020

Blind Mirrors

. . . I sell mirrors in the city of the Blind ~ Kabir

To the blind I say
open your eyes
let the light IN
look in the mirror

He spat in the dirt
he made mud
and put it in my eyes
He told me to wash in the river
I did as he said
my eyes were open

there in the river
I saw
me
my neighbor
my love
my enemy

I saw who I was
before and
now
I saw what was
what could be

I saw
the good
the bad
the might have been

To the blind I say
open your eyes
let the light in
look in the mirror

Ruth Jewell, ©October 14, 2020

Image: Sunlight in a mud puddle

Come Drink

Come drink the water of quiet repose
Let it fill you with cool peace,
quiet it your mind, and
strengthen your heart.
May the sounds of bird, wind and stream
follow as you travel the path of life.
May they give you courage to stand among life’s joys and sorrows.
Blessings of the Earth to you.
Blessings of the Sky to you.
Blessings of the Sea to you.
Blessings of the Sacred Three to you.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 5, 2020

Image: The Guardian of the Woods Face Book Page, Ireland

Birth

We were born in the very first moments of the universe,
Before we could speak, we sang among the stars,
Before we could walk, we leaped from galaxy to galaxy, and
Before we were confined to this lovely planet,
we played with building blocks.
Pushed and pulled together by Energy Divine,
we became who we are today . . .
Creatures of light, of dust, of Energy Divine.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 28, 2020

Image: Bob Holmes, Contemplative Monk Face Book Page, September 28, 2020

Who Am I As A Follower of Jesus, The Carpenter?

When I was a child my father would end the evening’s meal blessing with the following:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk with your God. (Micah 6:8, NRSV).

This what I heard every night until my father died. There was never anything said about the verse. For a number of years, I didn’t even know it came from Micah.  It was just what my father said at the end of the blessing and that was that. Yet those words, said almost in a whisper, bored their way into my consciousness.  Over the years it became kind of a mantra.  Three simple steps for what was required of me.  In time it also became the basis for a great deal of doubt in the people I believed to be faithful leaders in my church.

My family are members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), commonly identified as Disciples. We have been part of this denomination long before it became a denomination in 1962. One of the tenets is it is every person’s responsibility to read the scripture ourselves and determine our own understandings.  That meant we were to question, doubt, and discuss scripture in a respectful way and to give all with a different understand their space to believe. However, it didn’t mean we were not supposed to evolve in our understanding.  We were also responsible for determining the truth, using all the tools available to us. And this is where I really blossomed.

As a young woman I had already begun to doubt some of the long-held beliefs I was told as a child.  Fortunately, my father had encouraged me to question those that held inflexible beliefs. My father wasn’t an educated person, he never made it past 6th grade as he was a coal miners’ son and put to work in the mines by the age of 10. But the one book he did read was the Bible and he developed a healthy, by today’s standard, questioning attitude of what he read.  He never questioned the message but how the message was presented and accepted by those around him. I inherited his questioning mind about scripture and wanted to know what was really said in the first century. I wanted to know what Jesus really said and did, and I didn’t want someone telling me such knowledge was unimportant to my belief. I was already beginning to leave behind the idea of Christianity and starting to believe more in the deeds and words of Jesus as a true belief system.

By the time I was 25 or 30 I was reading the Hebrew Scriptures and becoming more interested in the beliefs that Jesus and his earliest disciples held. I couldn’t read Hebrew, but I did find English translations. I read books on theology and spirituality that gave me new ideas about what Jesus might have done and said.  But it wasn’t until I entered the Seattle School of Theology and Ministry and became an associate of the Weststar Institute (home of the Jesus Seminar) did I really begin to understand what it meant to follow Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth.

Reading theology that used original material and researched the true history of the life of Jesus was inspirational and mind blowing for me. I learned that Christianity was an imperial Faith created by Constantine and maintained by Bishops who wanted power and money.  They mythologized the resurrection in-order to develop a doctrine that would allow a small group of leaders to control and exploit the people they ruled. Because rulers were not to be held accountable, they used this new ‘religion’ to use the Jews as scapegoats for their failures. They used misinterpretations to demonize anyone different from them, creating slaves of indigenous peoples and Africans. They used misinterpretations to demonize women, many of which were held in slave like positions in the family or burnt at the stake as witches.  They created systemic racism, and systemic gender bias simply to keep themselves in power. None of this would have been taught by the Carpenter from Nazareth.  None of this is in keeping with Micah 6:8.

I do not know if Jesus ever read Micah, it is not mentioned anywhere in scripture, but his life followed those three important requirements: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.  Jesus taught and acted to right injustice.  Jesus was kind, merciful and compassionate to the people who needed his help the most, yet he was kind to those who were rich as well. Jesus walked humbly and obediently with the God he loved. He knew that fighting injustice and caring for those the political system and religious order despised would cost him his life, he did it anyway. That is what I believe. 

I must admit I don’t always succeed, but at least I am trying.  John and I have taken into our home those who need us, and we have supported the poor and the hungry.  We have been called foolish and innocents.  Most of those we have helped moved on to better lives and we are happy for them.  Sometimes the help is ignored, or people are unable to sustain themselves for whatever reason, that is life and while the help wasn’t accepted or selfishly grabbed it is ok. Maybe, just maybe, somewhere down the road in their lives they will remember and make changes.  All we can do is hope.

So, who am I as a follower of Jesus, the Carpenter?  I am someone who is trying my hardest to do and say what Jesus did and said: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 19, 2020

Image: Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter, by Ford Maddox Brown, 18520-1856

Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow

There is no future, only the presence,
and the echo of the past. 
What I did yesterday
has grounded me today.
Tomorrow has no meaning,
no place in my reality.
What I do today,
based on yesterday,
will create my tomorrow.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 18, 2020

Image: by Ruth, somewhere in the Yosemite National Forest

I Am Not A Christian!

I am a follower of Jesus, the Carpenter

Why do I say I am not a Christian? Why do I say I am a follower of Jesus, the Carpenter? Why is the distinction important? 

After posting on social media that I was not a Christian but a follower of Jesus the Carpenter I received the above three questions from people who are curious about what I do believe, so this is an answer, sort of.  I say sort of because all of this is still fermenting in my soul, so, there is still much for me to learn.  However, I now, firmly, believe that I am no longer a Christian, I am becoming something new. Well not really new, but new to me and to many I know.  See this is complicated, which means it’s hard to define, but allows for much emotion, and feelings.  So here is my explanation.

From the very beginning I found my faith as a ‘Christian’ difficult. When I asked questions as a child the answers were inadequate and confusing. I was always told I would understand as I got older, that didn’t happen. Instead my questions got more complicated, and the answers more inadequate and more confusing. 

One of the first things I struggled with was the idea of the virgin birth. I grew up a farm kid and I learned the story of the ‘birds and the bees’ by the time I was 5. I knew you had to have a male and a female to get a baby and I knew where those babies came from.  Unfortunately, when I asked about Mary and Jesus, I was told God was the father.  I remember being hushed up at church when I asked the minister if God had sperm during a children’s sermon.  As an adult biologist I understood the concept of parthenogenesis, which is a form of procreation some invertebrates, and some plants, utilize.  By the way it usually only produces female offspring. So, the struggle with the idea of Mary birthing Jesus is an old struggle.

Still I continued to ask questions.  If Jesus’ was so important why don’t we follow what he taught? Why aren’t the parables more important than the resurrection?  Why is Paul so important when it was Jesus we should be talking about?  Did I get answers? No, I did not!  I was told I wouldn’t understand.  Yeah right.

It wasn’t until I started Theological School did I begin to get answers and found other Theologians who were asking the same questions and looking for all of the answers I wanted. It was in class discussions and discussions with professors that I finally began to discover what I had been looking for.  I began to realize that for at least 1800 years we have been misled by people with an agenda that wasn’t Jesus’s and that made me angry. I learned that Christianity is an imperial religion created in the 2nd and 3rd century. It is based on a misinterpretation of Paul and the mythologizing of the Resurrection by Greek Gentiles whose vision of God was based on their own cultural understanding of gods.

When a professor, thank you so much Dr. Cunningham, introduced me to the Westar Institute home of the Jesus Seminar I discovered people who were like me, searching, but they were also finding the answers I wanted. They were having real discussions about the real Jesus and offering anyone who was curious the means to understand the human Jesus, the teacher Jesus who taught a way of life not dogma.

Jesus as a real human was an amazing teacher and he taught in real time. His story has been lost, let’s say misplaced, by those who were enthralled by the story of the resurrection and thereby created him as a God. Jesus’ story, his historical story, is what is important and it was the story told by his 1st century followers.

The story of the Resurrection was hijacked by Constantine who used it to create his own imperial state religion and therefore control his empire. That empire needed a scapegoat for many of its failings. Christianity, a religion based on the Resurrection not on Jesus’ teaching, filled that bill. The Christian religion was used to demonize the Jewish people.

Over the years I have studied both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and have found that it is the teaching of Jesus, and his scripture the Hebrew bible, where I have found my true faith. The dogmatic teaching that Jesus must be God has bothered me and I am now rejecting it. In the last 10 years I have been reading and studying more theologians from the Jesus Seminar who searched for the Historical Jesus and discovered an understanding of scripture I can sink my teeth into. It was in the material by Drs. Brandon Scott and John Dominic Crossan that I discovered the real Jesus who I can follow. Using first century material they delved into the parables and other teachings and, for me at least, have revealed the message that has been forgotten, or ignored.

Do I want to destroy Christianity? Well no, there is much that is good with it. I wouldn’t want to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water.” But I would take what is good, keep that and dump the rest. I want the real teaching of Jesus brought back into the forefront of our hearts and minds and lived as they should be.

Why is this distinction so important?  Well the name ‘Christian’ has for too long been used to justify everything Jesus would have despised.  People who have called, and still call, themselves Christian have used their membership in this imperial cult to justify slavery, keep women as chattel, overthrow governments, genocide, control populations, etc. For 1800 years people have bought a story that is only partly true, and it was used to keep them compliant for their rulers.  Too many wars have been fought, too many people have died, been tortured, and kept in poverty because they followed a “Christian” ruler.  So, yes understanding the difference between a ‘Christian’ and a follower of Jesus is important.

If the faith and teachings of Jesus are to survive then we must change our world vision of Jesus and his followers. We must, and I do mean must, dump the imperial, dogmatic belief that Jesus must be divine for us to believe in him. We need to hear his real story and teachings for what they are, a way of life that can change us as humans.

I don’t know if what I have said makes sense for you, but maybe it will open a pathway to discussions.

Peace and blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©September 16, 2020

Image: Rembrandt workshop, The Head of Christ, 1600. Model believed to be a Sephardic Jew

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

Time, Time . . .

Time, time

I washed my hair tomorrow,
it dried yesterday.
time,          time,                              
                                             time

They say time is linear
that you can’t go back
or forward

I’m not so sure

I saw Gettysburg last week,
I think the confederates won
                           this time.

I think I saw Hitler
or maybe it was Göring.
I don’t know it’s all so confusing.

Time,             time,
                                                   time

I know I saw a spaceman today,
hope in time’s window.
Time moves on.

Time,            time,
                                                   time

Back and forth,
forward, retreat
slow, fast.

Does time make sense?

Does any of it make sense?

Yesterday I died and tomorrow I am born.
I fed a calf last year,
drove off a cliff today.

Do we have enough time
to save ourselves?
Do we have enough time

to save our country, our world?

Time,                time,
                                                              time

Ruth Jewell, ©August 2, 2020

I Turned Off the News

I turned off the news,
disgusted, angry, sad,
not sure what to feel.
I have tears to fit them all.
With raised arms I shout,
     I scream,
          I cry,
              
Guns do not help.
violence does not help.
silence in the face of violence does not help.
        I am at a loss to find what helps.

Ears are blocked with hate.
Hearts are blocked with hate.
Minds are blocked with hate.
    How do we move past the hate.

I hear the names;
     George Floyd,
          Breanna Taylor,
               Travon Martin,
too many to name.
Too many tears.

I see the violence,
police with guns, tear gas, stun grenades,
protestors with guns, bottles, rocks.
I understand the
     frustration,
          fear, and
               anger.
          Answers are not found in violence.
The call for peace,
     compassion,
          understanding of the other
               lost in the chaos.

Leaders call for dialogue and forgiveness
yet that seems so trite,
so little when so much is needed,
     but maybe,
          it’s right.
We need a different way,
we need to let go of old ways.
This world
can’t
wait.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 26, 2020