Dark Questions

This is the beginning of a discussion with myself on the re-visioning of my theology of God.

Dark energy moving
through cell, and bone, and flesh
Life flowing
Life Creating
pushing, pulling primal elements
together, apart

Home is a network
labyrinth, webwork of life
held together by ancient
arms that welcome,
that push back into
new life

Longing for home where
life begins anew
energy, dark ad moving
flowing, entering, leaving
cell, bone, and flesh
beginnings . . .  endings
life creating

Ruth Jewell, ©July 12, 2020

The Man Who Fell from a Cliff, a Parable

A man was walking along a trail high on a cliff when he slipped and fell.  As he fell, he managed to grab a tree root.  The terrified man had no way of getting back up, so he started praying.

“Please God, come and save me! I know you will come. Please come God!”

From the top of the cliff he heard a voice call down, “hello, I have a rope and I am going to throw it down, grab a hold and I will pull you up.”

The man said, “No that’s fine, God will save me, I know God will come, I’m a good person, God will come.”

“Ok” said the voice.

The man continued to pray, “Please God, I know you are there and can hear me, please come and save me!”

From along the cliff face the man heard a voice, “Hello, I’m rock climbing and can come over and help you get down, can you hold on for 10 minutes?” 

The man said, “No I’m fine, God will come and help me, I know God will come.”

“Ok” said the voice.

Now the tree root was getting a bit weak and the man was getting worried God might not show up in time. So, he prayed, really hard.  “Oh God, please, please! I’m begging you to come and save me!  My tree root is weakening, and I am so afraid! Please God come save me!”

A third time the man heard a voice, “Hello up there, we have gathered some friends and we will get a lot of hay and pillows below you to break your fall. In just a few minutes you can let go and we will catch you.”

But again, the man said, “No thanks, I’ve prayed, and I know God has heard me and God will come and get me down, thanks anyway.”

“Ok” said the group of voices.

Suddenly the root broke and the man fell to bottom of the cliff and died. When he reached heaven and saw God he asked.  “Why didn’t you come and save me, I prayed and prayed?”

God smiled and said, “I did come, I sent a man with a rope and you turned him down.  I sent a climber and you turned her down. I sent an entire village, but you turned them down as well. I simply assumed you wanted to die.”

The moral of this story is our prayers are answered always, but often not in the way we expect.  This story also illustrates a point for today’s world.  We have the answers in front of us, we just don’t want to see them. The Holy Spirit has given us the tools to fix our problems but if we don’t wish to use them, then well, She is going to assume we simply want to die.

P.S.: Notice, It was a man who fell from the cliff, if it had been a woman, she would have grabbed that rope in a heartbeat. Women understand a gift when it is given.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 2, 2020

Photo: Microsoft Word, Stock Image

if you wish to be rich

(“The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have.” 
~ Leonard Nimoy)

If you wish to be rich, Love.
Love a child, love a spouse, love your parents,
love a dog or cat or some other companion animal,
love the mountains, love plains,
love the waters of the earth, love the desert,
love the wind, love the stars,
love the animals of the earth,
love the animals of the sea and air,
love yesterday and today and tomorrow,
love the cities, love the farms,
love the poor, love the rich
love the good, love the evil
love justice, love peace, love compassion and mercy,
above all love God.
If you love these, you are rich indeed.

~ Ruth Jewell, ©July 26, 2019

It is Good?—Prayerful Tuesday

Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612
Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612

“And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10b

In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good.  Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society.  Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be.  It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.

Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good.  So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.

Prayer Practice:

1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.

  1. Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
  2.  Respond to the image with prayer for the world. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
  3. Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.

Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now.  All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain.  Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.

Peace, Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2015

 

Journey, A Guided Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

Journey
Journey

 

Galatians 3:26-29 The Message (MSG) 25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.
28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

I am traveling this week. I am attending a wedding in Long Beach WA  this weekend but my first stop was in Yakima where I attended  the Turner Lectures., an interfaith lecture series held every year in the first week of October by the North West Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (NWRCC). The NWRCC invites prominent authors and theologians and hosts for three days of a teaching, discussion, good conversation, and meaningful worship. This year Michael Kinnamon and Carol Howard Merrit are our guest lectures and their talks and discussions of the Past and Future Church: From the Ends of the Earth to Our Doorstep are inspiring. I am part of the team that planned the worship services and one of the elements of our morning worships has been guided meditation on the morning’s scripture. Guided meditation is a wonderful spiritual tool that uses our imagination to enter into story, or scripture, in a very personal way. In our imagination we are feel the warmth of the sun, stirring of the wind, all of the natural elements. We can smell food, or feel the presence of crowds or feel emptiness. Using our imagination we “see” the story from a new perspective, not as a distant reader, but as a participant.

Monday I read Galatians 3:26-29 and led the morning’s guided meditation. I invite you to take a few minutes, get comfortable and listen to the scripture and meditation. The full text of the meditation is below

 

 

I invite you to get comfortable, with feet on the floor

Take a deep breath and another one.

You have been walking a long time you are tired and covered in road dust

Ahead of you a small village appears at the edge of lake. You have arrived

You have been searching anticipating the end of your journey and now it is in sight

Villagers wave to you and you wave in return the people walk out to greet you the young and the old, people of every color in the human rainbow, people wearing clothes of every cultures all come out to welcome you In front the growing group, God, waits for you with open arms

Someone relieves you of your back pack as God enfolds you in an embrace a flask of water is pressed into your hand Jesus, offers you a place to rest, breaks bread with you and offers you wine. you didn’t know how hungry you were.

They take you to the lake where you bathe in it’s cool, refreshing waters when you step out of the water new clothes await you, new shoes, soft as down for your tired feet.

The villagers celebrate your coming with a great dinner food from every culture, every ethnic group all created for a joyful feast

God dances with joy

You are home a child of the village

You have new clothes

you have eaten food that has fed you deeper than any food possibly could

the villagers hand you your pack, cleaned and freshly filled

God, Jesus, and the villagers shoulder their own packs

together you walk on
Together you complete the journey

 

Ruth Jewell, ©October 7, 2014,

Sweet Pea and the Narrow Path

DSCF0427 a

Matthew 14:25-33 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Nearly 40 years ago I went on a camping trip that included riding a horse 20 miles every day.  The horse I rode was a rather smallish black mare with a lot of quarter horse in her background.  She was gentle and quiet and when I learned she didn’t have a name I named her Sweet Pea.

One day we came to place where the trail all but disappeared and developed a tilt of maybe 30 to 40° as it extended across the lip of the canyon.  The distance to the bottom of canyon was maybe 100 to 150 ft down.  I needed to trust that my horse would safely carry me across the steep incline without falling to the bottom of the canyon.  I took a deep breath and started across and promptly halted Sweet Pea and froze about ¼ of the way on the path.  We were in very precarious position, on a steep incline and just inches from the edge of the canyon wall and a drop to the bottom would most likely have killed both of us.  I held Sweet Pea in place until she pulled the reins loose in my hand, turned her head as if to say trust me we can do this and she walked the rest of the way across.  As I look back over the years I have begun to learn this moment with Sweet Pea was a turning point for me. I now realize that it was here on a narrow trail in Mexico that I turned onto the path leading to this place in my life. For that first step to happen I had to let go of my fear and anxiety and trust someone else to take control of my life, it just happened to be that a small black horse was the one I put my trust in.

Peter too takes a step of trust when he steps out of the boat and starts to walk toward Jesus but something happened to him and he started to sink.  Yes Jesus saved him and before they get into the boat tells him he needs faith.  Ah, but what is faith and how does Peter or any of us get more of it? I can’t answer the “how” question because for each of us the way to faith will be different.  But I can explore with you what it means to have faith.

The modern definition of faith is not the definition that was understood in the days of Jesus and Peter.  Today we equate faith with religious belief; if you believe in specific religious doctrines you are said to have faith in it.  But, Marcus Borg in Speaking Christian, says in the 1st century faith was expressed by the Latin words fidelitas, faithfulness, and fiducia, trust.

To have faithfulness meant you were committed to, loyal to, held allegiance to, and were attentive to a relationship, Such as our relationship with God.  Faith as faithfulness does not just mean you are not going to follow other gods, but that you are committed and loyal to your relationship with God, and God known as Jesus, and that you attend to that relationship to keep it strong and healthy.

Faith as trust is more than a commitment; it is also a deep trust in God and Jesus.  That trust is so deep that you are willing to get out of your nice safe boat and walk on water, or, ride your horse across a dangerous trail.  The opposite of faith is not infidelity, but “mistrust”—that is anxiety, and that is what happened to Peter.  One moment Peter was striding above the waves, just as Jesus was, and then his fears build into anxiety and he began to mistrust Jesus, so he started sinking.  Jesus is not telling Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  No, what Jesus was really saying was “Peter, why didn’t you trust me to keep you on the surface of the water, why did you mistrust me?”

Isn’t that what we all do? Don’t we all mistrust God and Jesus to fulfill our needs?  And, don’t our plans all too often sink, just as Peter did?  I know it is true for me.  My first steps out of the safety of my boat into the abyss of trust were with Sweet Pea and I froze.  I wasn’t sure I could trust her to carry me across that narrow path to safety.  But something in her eyes told me all would be well and you know what, 40 years later I’m still here.  Since that horseback camping trip in Mexico I have had many moments when I let my mistrust of Jesus keep me from achieving goals I know I could have achieved if I had had faith, if I had trusted, in the one leading me and I know that there will be more of them in my future.

You see I am human and to mistrust God is part of a being human because I have a strong sense of my own independence which wants to rule the day.  And having independence isn’t bad, nor is saying “No” to God and Jesus.  The choice of following or not following must always be mine.  It is when my independent voice says “Yes” that my trust in God and Jesus is the strongest and deepest for then I know with certainty that I am not alone.  I know then that nothing will shake by commitment to, my faithfulness in, the One All Surrounding Presence.

Have any of you ever read John Ortberg’s book If You Want To Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat?  Well Ortberg is right, you do have to step out of the boat, or onto the narrow path, and trust that everything will be all right.  I often wonder if we, if I, can sustain my trust in God long enough to get out of the boat on that raging sea called life and walk across the water?  More often than not we will set ourselves up for failure by allowing our hearts to mistrust Jesus’ promise that He “is with us always.”

Life can be hard task master and the main reason we don’t succeed is often how we see failure and loss of trust.  Losing our trust, our faith does not have to shape who we, you and me, are; it is the way we respond to that loss that shapes us.  Jesus wasn’t ridiculing Peter when he asked why he failed. Rather he was asking a question of Peter, ‘why did you lose your trust.’  Peter may not have understood the question at the time but following the resurrection he did and he stepped out of his nice safe boat big time.  For Peter, learning to walk on water and being rescued by Jesus was his turning point, his moment that began his trip to his own cross.

We too don’t understand the questions Jesus asks us and I am no different.  Right now I am struggling with so many questions that I don’t know which ones I’m asking and which ones God is asking.  All I know is the answers are not forthcoming.

One of the first lessons in trust happens to be learning to wait on God to guide us in the right direction.  We have to wait for the power to be given to us to walk on water.  We have to wait for Jesus to calm the seas for us.  Only then will we make it across that treacherous path or across the water’s surface.  The problem is all of us are impatient; we want results now, not tomorrow, but yesterday.  We want to move forward in our lives and we don’t care how we do it.  One of my favorite phrases is “Give me patience Lord, but hurry” and for many years that fit me to a “T.”  Slowing down and opening my heart and mind, trusting that Jesus will come is extremely hard.  It is putting myself, in utter vulnerability, into Jesus’ hands. It is letting go of what I want and trusting and having faith that Jesus will bring me what I need.

The idea that any of us are self made individuals is a myth.  We all need others in order to survive and thrive in our world.  We have always needed the other, not just in today’s world where we are globally connected, but in all of time we have been in need of the other in our lives.  That other might be our brothers and sisters, it might be the food we hunt or grow but what and who ever it is we cannot survive alone. We have always needed to choose who to trust, who we would have faith in and be faithful to.  We look for what will guide us in ways that will allow us to flourish and let our children flourish. We look to pass on our understanding of the world in a way that teaches our children to trust in something other than themselves or those who only think like them.  We look to trust someone who will honor our independent yes as much as our independent no.  We want to have faith in someone who will show us how to walk on water and skip across dangerous paths.

Peter lost his trust and began to sink but Jesus was there to lift him up and into the safety of the boat.  I lost my trust for a moment but the Holy Spirit said trust in the guide I have given you and together Sweet Pea and I made it safely across.  It has always amazed me as to the number of different ways the Holy Spirit makes herself known to me.  Sometimes I simply have to go with the flow of energy and trust that what will be is what is supposed to happen. It is all about trust. That is what faith is all about.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 10, 2014
Sermon given at Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle, WA

Rest in God – Prayerful Tuesday

Cape Cod
Cape Cod

 

The only real rest comes
when you’re alone with God
— Rumi

Ruth Jewell, ©June 17, 2014

Prayerful Tuesday, August 20, 2013

She Danced
She Danced

Luke 13: 11-13 11.And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12.When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13.When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. (NRSV)

She Danced

She entered, bent over
bound by pain
all she could see
was the ground at her feet

“Come to me” He said
“I will set you free”
She stood, straight and tall
a smile on her face

With a cry of joy
She danced

Ruth Jewell ©August 19, 2013

Today‘s prayer is to look up from your smart phone, iPad® or tablet and look around you. Reach your arms to the sky, feeling the warm sun on your face. Offer the following prayer Celtic prayer by John Phillip Newell (Celtic Treasure, Daily scriptures and Prayer, Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005) or one of your own to celebrate the joy of being able to dance:

The blessings of heaven,
the blessings of earth,
the blessings of sea and of sky.
On those we love this day
and on every human family
the gifts of heaven,
the gifts of earth,
the gifts of sea and sky.

May your day be a blessed one and may you be a prayer to all you meet.

Ruth Jewell