January 20, 2017

Last evening I was thinking about history, in particular, the history of our country. In 1776 our founding fathers chose to protest and separate from an oppressive imperial government. They chose to fight what they saw as injustice and for the most part they won that battle. Yes, most were elitist, and some were slave holders, they were, to put it mildly, a product of their time. But for the most part they had a vision of a country where each person would have the right to an equal chance at “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I wonder what they would say about today’s inauguration, I believe they wouldn’t be very proud of us right now.

I know, I know, those writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn’t have the foresight to include women, people of color, those with different beliefs, or the LGBQT community in their plans, but, the blueprint was there. And, in more than 200 years we have grown and matured as a nation, as a people, and now most of us see each person in our country as important, valuable, to the success of us all.

Throughout our history, we have struggled to open our understanding of who is an American. In the last 100 years, great strides have been made in insuring the poor, woman, people of color, those with differing gender identities, and those with differing beliefs have the same rights as rich white males. We opened the doors of our country and people from all over the world have enriched our society in every way possible. But now those advancements seem to be coming to an end.

This country elected someone who only sees value in rich white men. This man and his followers see the population of the U.S. as a means to an end, an end that fills their pockets. To accomplish their purpose, they duped other white men into believing they too can be ‘rich’ knowing that what they will do while in office will prevent anyone but themselves from succeeding. They have done it by demonizing the poor, people of color, women, those of differing beliefs, and those with differing gender identities in order to hide their true intent, to make themselves wealthy and more powerful. They don’t have the interest of the country at heart, the only thing they think about is how much power over others they have and how much money fills their coffers. Not a very nice picture of our current government.

Our Founding Fathers weren’t perfect, they owned slaves, they thought the poor should do more, they didn’t acknowledge women as citizens and they certainly didn’t accept anyone who identified with a different gender. Yet they managed to set aside most of their bias’s and conflicts to craft our government’s documents that had the flexibility to, in time, include those who had been excluded. Not perfect men but wise men.

So, are we returning to an ideology that pre-dates our Founding Father’s? I hope not, but, I fear so. In the last eight years, we have seen the rise of hate crimes instigated by the very people we elected into office. The gains we have made in racial and gender equality are threatened by elected officials who use the fear of being marginalized to demonize anyone who is different. Our so-called representatives have built on misconceptions and lies to produce a constituency across the nation that, while they are well off, thinks they are poor and being discriminated against. Most of these representatives have benefited from the social improvements created since World War II, but, apparently, they believe they are the only ones who deserve to be so honored.

In the next four years, we could lose this country to a society reminiscent of Nazi Germany and that scares me. But I also have hope. I have hope because so many people are speaking out, willing to put their hopes and dreams on the line by standing up and defying those that would roll back the achievements we have gained. Women are marching all over this country and all over this world to say we will not allow our hard-earned rights and privileges taken away. People are organizing to combat hate, racism, and violence. They are banding together to promote justice and mercy in the face of those who would take our health care, our education, our environment, our dreams.

My fear is that if we don’t see progress quickly then many will become discouraged and leave the fight. We cannot do waiver, success won’t be easy nor quick rather it will be very difficult. We will face insults and threats on our lives and lively hood, and that is scary. Each one of us has something we can do, whether it is getting out the vote, writing a letter, or marching in protest. There are small to big tasks, and all are important.

So, do not be afraid, you aren’t alone. Participate at whatever level you are most comfortable with, whether it is writing, financial support, all the way up to running for a government position at the Local, State, or Federal level. But do something, be part of the fight, be part of what we are to become.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 20, 2017

“And the Lord Grieved”

“And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.”  – Genesis 6:6, NRSV)

fire rainbow b
Fire Rainbow Taken Spring 2015

This past weekend I was asked by a Facebook friend to comment on the following meme from the Celtic Christian Tradition.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” (www.facebook.com/CelticChristianTradition, April 30, 2016)

My friend is not a believer in Christianity but he and I have had many an interesting online discussion on faith and beliefs.  I have always found him to be an open minded and intelligent person and so I gladly responded to his request to comment.

“Well I don’t know if saying you believe in Jesus but don’t actually follow his teachings is a cause of atheism or not, but it certainly is the cause of so many to question the values of Christianity.  Just saying you believe in Jesus is like saying the ‘Sun rises in the East,’ it’s a statement. Being faithful to the teachings of Jesus however means you are loyal to those teachings and practice them, or at least do you your best to try, every day.  If you only use the words to carry a message of hate, domination and greed then you have become separated from God and are not longer the blessing you are meant to be.

There is Good in everything, human, animal, plant, all creation and it doesn’t matter how you see the Good.  It only matters that you do.  The Good is what keeps each of us rising up every morning, keeps us loving our neighbors regardless of who they are and keeps us part of the human family.  To deny the Good in anyone, any creature, any part of creation is to be cut off from what makes each of us human. I listen to the hatful rhetoric spouted each day in the news and I don’t see people of faith, I see lost souls, people cut off from what is good and right in our world, and that makes me very sad.

You know I call the Good God, but that is how I see the good in the world.  You see the Good in a different way, a way that gives you peace and a path to follow that is good in the world.  Others see the Good in other ways, but, no matter how we explain the Good to ourselves it is all the same Good. The name may be different but it is still what is Good and Right in the world. We all have the capacity to find and see the Good, whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist.  The Good is still there in the world, universe, all creation and as long as some of us are able to find, see, and honor the Good in each other and creation gives me hope that we will have a world to live in.

I look for the Good in those that hat that is what my tradition tells me to do. But even if that wasn’t part of my tradition I would still look because to otherwise brings me down to the level of those who hat and I don’t want to go there.  If those of us who believed in what is Good were a little more vocal we would drown out the voices of hate and all would know there are still people in this world who believe in doing good rather than speaking hate.”

After I wrote this I recognized how sad it is that there are so many who cannot, or will not see what is Good and Right in this world.  Everything in creation was created good, there was nothing evil or bad about anything brought into being.  Genesis 1:31a reads “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Every morning I see just how good creation is when I feel the warmth of the rising sun and hear the morning songs of birds.  So in my eyes the God is still active in the world I live in. Every creature in all creation is meant to be a blessing to all of creation and to be otherwise is to separate from God and all that is good.  To live outside of the love and light of God hurts God as much as it hurts those living in hate and darkness.  When God’s beloved creatures did first did evil God’s heart was broken (Genesis 6:6).  When we who are human do evil and practice hate instead of love and pretend it is what God wants, when we are not the blessing we are meant to be God calls out to us in pain in sorrow, “not in my Name.”

Every day the news media is filled with the words and images of people professing to be people of faith whose actions do not reflect a faith of any tradition.  So many people who call themselves people of faith in one breath prove they are not in the next breath when they deny the teachings of love, compassion and justice by spouting words of hate and denying justice to those in need.  Yet we who try to be followers of God, or the Good in the world, are enabling these lost souls by not speaking out against the injustice or not standing with those in need.  So we are not innocent by any means.

What do we do then?  We who stand for justice, mercy and compassion need to be the Isaiah’s, Micah’s, and Jeremiah’s of our day. Like the Apostles we need to be the ones who speak with love and compassion, letting those who speak hate that we know them for what they are, lost, wounded, souls and that we are sad for them and will stand with their victims.  None of that is easy, and we cannot expect to change everyone overnight, but, being who we are, blessings to the world, changes the world a little bit at a time.  Kindness and compassion never goes unrewarded and even in the darkest moment the single candle we light shines brighter than then darkness around it.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 2, 2016

A Conversation with a Psalmist –Prayerful Tuesday

Come Lord Jesus, hear our prayer
Come Lord Jesus,
hear our prayer

As I am personally preparing for  Christmas I have been disturbed by the amount of violence and death around the world.  Peace on earth does not seem near. So as part of my morning ritual I have been doing Lectio Divina with the Psalms.  They have brought me some comfort but this Psalm struck a chord within me and I wanted to share that with you.  So this is a little different from most of my postings, as it is part of my journaling during my meditation. I am letting you in on a small part of my conversations I held with the Psalmist and God.  They are my insights of the moment, so if I say something you disagree with please be gentle, it is after all a private conversation you are overhearing.  At the end of my journaling you will find the steps for Lectio Divina.  For your own Lectio Divina meditation you may use the whole Psalm, as I did, or only a verse or two.

Psalm 10, The Message (MSG)

 1-2 God, are you avoiding me?
    Where are you when I need you?
Full of hot air, the wicked
    are hot on the trail of the poor.
Trip them up, tangle them up
    in their fine-tuned plots.

I am in the process of preparing for a Longest Night worship service and in reading this Psalm I was struck by how it matched my gut feelings this Advent.   Every day the news is filled with stories from around the world of someone killing someone one else, often many someone’s.  Just last night news came of a hostage situation in Sidney, Australia, just one more story to add to the Ferguson, New Town, Cleveland, Seattle, Portland, Houston, Afghanistan, and Iraq stories of the last number of years.  The list is too long, too many people have died, and too many children have died.  Like the Psalmist I am left wondering “where are you God.”

3-4 The wicked are windbags,
    the swindlers have foul breath.
The wicked snub God,
    their noses stuck high in the air.
Their graffiti are scrawled on the walls:
    “Catch us if you can!” “God is dead.”

This is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration but I do not feel like celebrating.  Our elected leader’s mouth words from the Bible I read every day, yet, their actions tell me they do not believe what they speak.  Are they wicked?  Are they windbags?  Well the wicked part can only be determined by God but the windbag part . . ..  Yes they are windbags, hoping that we who at least try to live a life of compassion will not notice their plans to take the last ounce of God’s abundance all for themselves.  They write bills and say “try and stop me, from denying the basic necessities to those who cannot help being poor, sick, elderly, or a child.

5-6 They care nothing for what you think;
    if you get in their way, they blow you off.
They live (they think) a charmed life:
    “We can’t go wrong. This is our lucky year!”

These insufferable, so called leaders lie and twist the truth until even the best of us are confused and dazed by the avalanche of untruths they let loose on the public. Whether they are religious fundamentalist, political leaders, in the United States, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, British Isles or anywhere they claim the spotlight and they believe no one can stop them.  They are on a role and the rest of us “be damned.”

7-8 They carry a mouthful of hexes,
    their tongues spit venom like adders.
They hide behind ordinary people,
    then pounce on their victims.

They mark the luckless,
    then wait like a hunter in a blind;
When the poor wretch wanders too close,
    they stab him in the back.

10-11 The hapless fool is kicked to the ground,
    the unlucky victim is brutally axed.
He thinks God has dumped him,
    he’s sure that God is indifferent to his plight.

The words they spit from their mouths cause fear in those who have minds that are weak and malleable. Letting these poor souls do the violence they pretend to abhor only to turn on them when they caught in their snares.

12-13 Time to get up, God—get moving.
The luckless think they’re Godforsaken.
They wonder why the wicked scorn God
and get away with it,
Why the wicked are so cocksure
they’ll never come up for audit.

We wait for you O God to respond, to let us know you haven’t forgotten us.  We wait and we wait.

14 But you know all about it—
    the contempt, the abuse.
I dare to believe that the luckless
    will get lucky someday in you.
You won’t let them down:
    orphans won’t be orphans forever.

The Psalmist sings of your knowledge of the violence we see every day.  But do you really hear the cries of the children who have lost limbs to bombs, to parents who have watched as their children are killed in front of them, as ISIS hangs those with different beliefs, as children shoot children?  Have we not sent enough children, parents, loved ones to you to serve as a sacrifice?  Do you care?

15-16 Break the wicked right arms,
    break all the evil left arms.
Search and destroy
    every sign of crime.
God’s grace and order wins;
    godlessness loses.

My heart wants to believe as the Psalmist did that you will intervene in the bloodletting of this world, but I know you will not.  It is not up to you, O God, to set this world back on the track of compassion, justice and peace.  That really is our job.  We are the ones who created these people who mock everything you have wanted for all.  We are the ones who must “gird up our loins” and speak out against injustice, violence, hatred, and war.  Only we who believe in justice, mercy, kindness, peace, compassion will change the lives of those who are oppressed, abused, injured, and starved by those who mock the world as you, O God, planned it.  We must stop cowering in our homes and our places of faith and become the prophets, the messengers, the hands, feet and voice that will bring down those who would enslave us to a life of poverty and misery.  Then, and only then, will the Psalmist’s dream come true.

17-18 The victim’s faint pulse picks up;
    the hearts of the hopeless pump red blood
    as you put your ear to their lips.
Orphans get parents,
    the homeless get homes.
The reign of terror is over,
    the rule of the gang lords is ended.

Gracious Spirit I thank you for this time of blessed meditation.  May the words and images I have seen transform my actions into walking with you in greater joy.  AMEN

Practicing Lectio Divina

  1. Choose the portion of the Scripture you wish to pray.
  2. Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent, focus for a few moments on your breathing.
  3. Read the chosen text through, slowly and gently. Listen to yourself read, let yourself to savor each word and phrase.
  4. Read the text a second time. What words or phrases stick out for you? Remember God speaks to us in silence and in our listening. The words that pop out do so for a reason, pay attention to them.
  5. Read the text a third time. Are there any other words that speak to you?
  6. Sit now in silence, letting the words you have heard, speak to you and for you in your prayer, your conversation with God. What images, ideas, words spring forward?  Or maybe all of them are present in mediation.  Sit with those insights as you experience the presence of God.  Give your insights to God.  Do the insights give you new meaning or transformation of your actions, or prayer life?
  7. Now rest in God’s arms. Let God’s presence give you comfort. Do you feel the pull to return to your meditations? Then begin again. If not close with a prayer of gratitude for the time you have spent in God’s presence and the insights you have received.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 16, 2014