2017, A NEW YEAR?

presentation1_edited

 

A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.

There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.

Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.

Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.

What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.

I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 3, 2017

I Choose . . .

Microsoft ClipArt
Microsoft ClipArt

 

For the past two years I have been wrestling with how my ministry would be expressed in the world.  This discernment journey has taken me “around the block” and back again many times and during this past summer I had finally made my decision, I choose not to be ordained in my denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I choose not to be a pastor, or a chaplain, or even a spiritual director. I choose to be something else, what that something is has only just begun to take shape.

This may seem inconsequential to most of you but for me it has been a difficult decision.  I graduated in 2013 with my Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) degree and it was with the intention of being ordained, primarily because I believed that is what one did when one received an MDiv. But you see it wasn’t my intention when I entered the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Seattle University in 2007.  At that time I just wanted to be better informed in order to conduct Labyrinth retreats with more meaning.  What happened as I progressed through my degree programs of Spiritual Transformation and MDiv I discovered I had talent and passion for learning and I wanted to share what I learned with others. And the truth of the matter is as an ordained pastor I would not be able to share all that I learned simply by the constraints of the job.  I actually would have a greater voice if I wasn’t ordained.

So I chose to be a scholar, a learner of faith with the purpose of spreading what I learn back in to the world.  This is important because we aren’t 1st century people; we live in the 21st century. That means we have a perspective on our faith that those living in the 1st and 2nd and 3rd centuries did not have. We have a history of being, or not being, people of God, just as the Jewish people of the 1st century had a history of being, or not being, a people of God.  We have had our moments of living as God asked and we have had our moments when we have forgotten God, just as the Jewish people had and have. It is the task of the scholar to educate the people of God of their past and how can we do that if no one studies it?

In the last two years I have become interested in how our Christian faith is connected to our Jewish roots and to our younger sibling in the faith Islam and that interest has led me into the differences in how we read Holy Scripture as compared to our 1st to 3rd century faith ancestors, and the differences are striking. Those differences in perspective has shown me it is important for people to understand what the writings of Paul, Gospel Writers, Jewish Prophets, and Muslim Writers actually wanted their listeners to know, what was the message they were transmitting and how does that message resonate with us today.  All those authors wrote and spoke was revolutionary in their time and I want to recover, at least for myself, that revolutionary message.  I want to know what they wrote that was specific to their time and not relevant in the 21st century and what part of their message guides us forward into our own future. And, I want to share that news, that revolutionary news. I have no illusions that I am going to be another Marcus Borg, or a John Caputo, or anyone else who is way more learned in theology than I will ever be.  But I can read what they have learned and pass it on to those who will listen.

You see scholars are often, well nearly always, not thought of as being relevant to world.  When anyone envisions a scholar it is as a stuffy old man or woman who is a bit rumpled and surrounded by books and papers.  It is someone who is absent minded and lost in the past, with no idea about what is going on in the world today.  But that is not who learners/scholars are.

Scholars are connected to the world by stories, and threads of the past that live in the present and the future.  The old quotation “if we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat it,” has never had more meaning than in today’s world.  We are currently reliving a past history where the disadvantaged and those who are different from us are forgotten and made the objects of hate and fear.  It is the role of the scholar to remind the people of who they are, and whose they are.  It was the role of the prophets in Jewish History, it was the role of John the Baptist, and it was the role of Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad.  All of them called to their people to see each other, everyone, as themselves.  Today we have and had  people like President Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King who have called to us to remember and just like those who went before us too many are not listening.

I will never be an exalted a scholar like Desmond Tutu, or Elisabeth Johnson, Sallie McFague or Elisabeth Schüssler Florenza.  But in my small part maybe I can pass on their learning’s to someone who will become exalted. That is enough for me. As the saying goes I am a very small fish in a very large pond and I am happy with that. To give back what I have been blessed to receive is more than enough.

There are many others like me out there, people who read, and study waiting for the opportunity to pass on what they have discovered beyond academics or a very small circle of friends. What each has is a nugget of truth and bit wisdom that needs to be heard. This choice is not prestigious, very few scholars make it to super star status and I am grateful for that.  But the time has come for the telling of the past mistakes and success’. To help everyone remember that the eyes of the other are your eyes and to harm or denigrate the other is to harm and denigrate yourself. Scholars have a role to play in the world that is greater than writing dusty tomes that will be read by only a few.  The past is relevant to the present and the future and it is important that we remember that.  I would like to add my very small part to that story. To offer a tiny bit of knowledge that just might help someone else see the world differently.

My choice, my decision, my path not the easiest of routes to take, and it wasn’t an easy choice but I choose to be a learner, a scholar, a passer on of knowledge.

My prayer for all of you to listen with open mind and heart to what the teaching says, it just might change your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 15, 2015

Less Than Perfect – Prayerful Tuesday

Just Me
Just Me

John Bell is one of my favorite composers and lyricists.  He writes music that reaches deep inside of me and calls to me.  Most of his hymns are short chant type pieces that I am able to sing all day.  On Sunday we sang one of my favorites “Take, O Take Me As I Am” and in the place I currently reside I needed to hear those words.  You see I often wonder if I am worthy of the tasks God asks of me.  Sometimes doubts just creep into the corners of my mind and mock me with all of the mistakes I’ve ever made.

The words of John Bell speak to those doubts, telling me God isn’t looking for perfection.  God is looking for real beings that try, fail, get up and try again.  Well that fits me to a tee.  How do I know this well?  If you look at all the people God has ever called: Moses, Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Paul,  all of them were less than perfect but they had something God needed, faithfulness, determination, grit.  They didn’t give up when they started something that was what God was looking for, not perfection.

So this morning I offer these words of John Bells for you to chant during the week, to remind you that love, caring, compassion, justice, mercy don’t come with perfection they come in the packages they are in, you and I.  We may be less than perfect, but we are who God Seeks.

Take, O Take Me As I Am
John Bell

Take, O take me as I am;
summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart
and live in me.

Vocal Ensemble Eljakim uit Bolsward olv Erwin de Ruijter tijdens
4 colour concert in Bolsward

Ruth Jewell, ©March 25, 2014

a morning prayer

God said "Let  there be light" (ngc4921, NASA)
God said “Let there be light”
(ngc4921, NASA)

May we remember today that we are part of an unfolding story
That calls us to listen to God’s words with intent to action
May we live in the reality of God’s kingdom entering into our lives
May we rejoice in the wonder of God’s eternal presence
May all that we do deepen our awareness of God
May we see in every moment the spark of holiness
And recognize Christ in every encounter
May God’s word burst from the pages of our lives and …
become the life we live
AMEN

Ruth Jewell, ©March 22, 2014

 

Prayerful Tuesday, November, 5, 2013

Open My Eyes That I Might See

 

Autumn Glory
Autumn Glory

Last week John and I took a train ride to Vancouver, BC and while we hoped for some sun it was even cloudier there that at home.  As we walked through Stanley Park I was afraid all my pictures would be gray and drab and then I saw this one.  Yes, if the day had been bright and sunny I suppose this picture would have been brighter. But, the trees in their autumn finery reflecting in the pool made a light all their own.  I just had to “open” my eyes to see it.

Today for Prayerful Tuesday I am inviting you to open your eyes and open your hearts and minds as we practice Visio Divina using the above picture. There is no set time frame for the guided prayer, but I do suggest at least 15 minutes and up to thirty minutes.

  1. As your prayer begins, take a few moments to open your heart and mind to God.
  2. When you are ready, slowly look and notice the image, taking your time to let feelings and thoughts come to you as you take in forms, colors, lines, textures, and shapes.
  3. What does it look like, or remind you of?
  4. What do you find yourself drawn to?
  5. What do you like and not like?
  6. What are your initial thoughts?
  7. What feelings are evoked?
  8. At this point in your prayer simply notice your responses without judgment or evaluation. If you don’t like the image, or the feelings it evokes, notice that this is your initial response and continue to stay open to the image and the prayer.
  9. If you have an immediate idea as to what the image means, again, simply acknowledge that this is your initial response and stay open to “the more” as the prayer unfolds.
  10. As you expand your prayer, return to the image with an open heart and mind. What new thoughts, meanings, and/or feelings arise for you; what initial impressions have expanded deepened.
  11. Explore more fully the meanings that have risen up within you, and the feelings associated with the image and its colors and forms.
  12. Be aware of any assumptions or expectations you bring to the image. No how you responded to the image — delight, disgust, indifference, confusion — prayerfully ponder the reason for your various responses and what they might mean for you.
  13. As you go deeper into your prayer, open yourself to what the image might reveal to you.
  14. What does it and the Holy Spirit want to say, evoke, make known, or express to you as you attend to it in quiet meditation?
  15. Become aware of your feelings, thoughts, desires, and meanings brought up by the image: how they are directly connected to your life.
  16. Does the image hold an important meaning or value for you: does it remind you of an important event or season, or suggest a new or different way of being?
  17. What desires and longings are evoked in your prayer?
  18. How do you find yourself wanting to respond to what you are experiencing?
  19. Offer a prayer to G-d in ways that the image evokes: gratitude, supplication, wonder, lament, confession, dance, song, praise, etc.
  20. As bring your prayer to close, bring to mind or jot down in a journal (whatever way is most helpful for you) the insights you want to remember, any actions you are invited to take, wisdom you hope to embody, or any feelings or thoughts you wish to express and remember.

Close your prayer by resting for a moment in God’s grace and love.  May you see with newly open eyes, heart and mind many new images of G-d in the coming week.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 5, 2013, Picture taken by Ruth Jewell 2013.10.22, prayer practice of Visio Divina adapted from a workshop given by Rev. Nancy Gowler Johnson.

One Body

DSCF0716

1 Corinthians 12:12-13: 12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

This last week I have been giving a great deal of thought to the importance of all of the parts of the body. And, it has given me completely new insights on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. You see I had a blocked gland removed from the underside of my tongue on Thursday and I have learned just how dependent I am on every part of my body. I mean you try drinking, talking, even breathing without using your tongue for awhile and you will understand what I mean! However, given what has been happening in our nation’s capital it seems ironic that it is my tongue that is giving me a problem.

But enough of the gory details! Paul of course is writing to his wayward community in Corinth, which has a few problems getting along with each other. Does that sound familiar? Paul is telling his young Corinthian faith community they need each other because all of them are important and all are equal in the eyes of Christ. Not unlike the conflict we’ve been seeing in our nation’s capital this past week and I am afraid it will take another Apostle Paul for a resolution to this crisis to be resolved.

What might Paul tell our community today? Well one line he might repeat is “the body does not consist of one member but of many” and that each of the members is needed to perform some task that sustains the whole body. No part of the body could say “I do not belong to the body,” the tongue cannot say “I am in pain, so let the eye take my place,” trust me that isn’t going to happen. Just as the fireman cannot say to the man whose house is on fire I am to important to get my hands dirty, therefore I will not help you. That man’s house will burn down you can be pretty certain of that.

Today in Washington DC and in the rest of this country we have people who are saying just that. “I am to important to feed the hungry, or clothe the poor, or help the sick and elderly, or do anything that would make me see you as important in G-d’s eyes. I have my house with all of my barns stuffed with grain and produce that I have worked for and if you can’t take care of yourself, well that’s not my problem.” What these so called “important” people forget is that someone else prepared the ground, sowed the grain, harvested it and stacked it in his barn, they didn’t do it themselves. Just as in Jesus’ story of the rich man with all those full barns, G-d will come and say “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) and it will be too late.

Paul told his community, “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect: whereas our more respectable members do not need this.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-23) Paul’s words ring with the same authority today as they did in the First Century, for those we hold in low esteem in our community are the ones who are harvesting our food, making our clothes and building our houses. Just because they don’t wear a suit and tie, or nice dresses doesn’t make them less valuable to the whole body of our communities. I would love to see the Speaker of the House in the fields of California harvesting lettuce; it would do him and the rest of our politicians good to do some really hard labor. There perspective on what is important would change dramatically, that is if they survive the 14-18 hour, 7 day a week job. Let them live for a year as an elderly person on Medicare and Social Security trying to make ends, trying to pay for food, rent and medical care on the little they have. Or, they could choose to take care of a family whose child has cancer or some other debilitating disorder. Let’s see if they could do any better with the medical bills and all the rest of the needs of a family on $50,000 a year.

Each of the “unimportant people” are part of the body of this country, and of the body of G-d. In fact according to G-d they are more important than those who sit in the “great halls of government.” For G-d tells us all “do not abuse any widow or orphan,” (Exodus 22:22) or “oppress a resident alien.” (Exodus 23:9) But those verses are conveniently forgotten.

We are all part of the body of G-d, of creation and the creator. We are all part of our country and world, whether you are a business person, a working person, a widow, a widower, orphan, or an immigrant to this country or any country. Each and every one of us is important to the wellbeing of us all and the Creator’s purpose for us as a whole people. No one is more important than the other; we all have our tasks to do in this life that will lead us into the next life. This week I learned a lesson that every part of the body is important no matter how insignificant I might think it is.

The tongue can be an instrument for good will, or a sword that hurts and divides us all. My tongue hasn’t always been a good instrument. Just like ever one else there here have been times when I have said hurtful things to others and I can’t take those words back, as much as I might wish too. Yet I have also spoken words of kindness and caring that I hope in the eyes and ears of G-d outweigh the bad.

This week has made me aware of the incredible gift of all parts of the body, the seemingly insignificant, and the ones that I erroneously hold in high honor. We all have the power to be good gifts of the body, the body of our country and world, and the body of the Spirit. No matter how insignificant each of us seems to be each is important to the functioning of this grand creation gifted to us by the creator. Paul ends his short discourse on gifts of the body with the words: “But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” Each of us has the potential within to do even greater things than we do. It takes each of us to encourage those gifts in each other such that we all prosper, just as the Creator wants.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 5, 2013

Journey

Tomorrow
Tomorrow

I am on a journey, a long journey
Begun before I entered my mother’s womb
To be carried on long after
I am finished with this clay pot

I stand on the moving head
of the pin of the now
Behind me is my past
In front of me my future

With every moment my now moves into my future of shifting possibilities
Leaving behind what was for. . . what is
Shadows of my life follow
Hazy outlines of what could be lie before me

I am like a piece in a strange board game
I cannot move backwards
Into the safe yesterday
I can only move forward into uncertainty

G-D the uncertainty frightens me
I want to go back, to the places that I know
I cannot see into the gray tomorrow
I want to know you will be there

My friend, do not be afraid, I am with you
now as I was in your past
I am in the now and travel with you,
I am there already

Ancient of Days I make my choice
I will take your hand
I will go into the shifting sands of uncertainty
My spirit will journey on, my friend calls, I come

Ruth Jewell ©September 28, 2013