My Nativity Scene

This is my Nativity Scene. It was purchased in November, or December, of 1946 by my parents, probably from Woolworths for less than $10. It is the Nativity Scene I have had all my life.  As you can see a wise man has gone for a walk, some sheep have wandered off, two camels got tired of waiting for their riders and the angel looks like she was mucking out the cow’s stall. While this cheap, plaster of Paris set, which is chipped and dusty has no monetary value, at 74 years of age it is priceless to me. 

My parents used this scene to explain to me what Christmas was all about.  Not presents given or received, not Santa, not even joyful celebration. Rather Christmas is about God reminding us that They/Them are one of us. God became a human to remind us that They/Them walks with us, sits with us, listens to us, pray with us, dance and sing with us, cry with us, grieve with us, be disappointed with us, to doubt with us and then, . . . then discover that the Great Divine is right here to comfort us. The Great Divine surrounds us, moves through us, is part of every molecule of the clay vessel we call a body.  They/Them is present in every animate and inanimate object of the universe. We cannot escape the presence of the Universal Divine for They/Them are part of every fiber of our being. 

Love is recognizing we are here with each other, and the Divine Creator loved us enough to become one of us just to remind us of that. From the beginning we are created to be one with They/Them, She/He, how ever you address the one Universal Presence that came down to us 2000, 1000, 74 years ago, or right this moment. 

I do not celebrate Christmas the way most people do, never have and never will.  But I offer this prayer to every one of you: 

May the love of the Universal Divine come into your hearts.
May you remember the Holy is incarnated within you.
May the sacred light shine forth from you.
May you shine out as bright as the star in the East with Love’s gift of
     Justice, Kindness, and Peace.

Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©December 24, 2020

So, I Don’t Like Christmas

It’s the end of the year
everyone around me is
feeling excited, joyful.

Not me!

Christmas music is playing,
wreaths are being hung,
trees decorated,
the stupid elf is back on the shelf.

Not in my house!

I used to wonder why I
felt empty in the last month of the year.
not anymore.

I know who I am now.

I feel put upon to decorate!
I feel sorry for trees being cut down!
I feel sorry for the turkey!

But those aren’t the reasons.

I don’t like Christmas because
joy doesn’t only come in the last 4 weeks of the year,
happiness doesn’t come in a wrapped box,
Jesus isn’t Santa Claus

But that’s just the start.

I dislike what Christmas has become.
A self-centered circus to please ourselves
when it should be a celebration of God
coming to us as love.

What does the birth of baby mean to me?

The image of a God being born as a poor child
means we are to love the poor,
care for those who do not have enough.

Oh, there’s more.

The child image tells us to love children
not just the rich, the healthy, or the perfect,
but the poor, the sick, those not like us.

So, who are those children?

The child born to a despised race
means we are to love the immigrant,
the stranger, the culturally different.

So, the prophets told me what to do.

Do justice: stand up for those being abused,
      fight injustice
Love kindness: feed and clothe the hungry,
      give freely of your abundance
Walk humbly with your God: remember whose you are.
      do what is right in the eyes of the great Divine.

So, who am I?

I am the one who chooses life
I am the one who listens
I am the one who gives back as much as I receive
I will listen to the prophets and the lessons of The Carpenter
I do it all year long not just in the last 4 weeks of the year.

This is who I am.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 4, 2020

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

love has a fur coat

Blessed one in coat of fur
    warm body, sweet breath
    tiny paw tucked in my hand
    dark eyes gaze into mine
    ears pricked,
          listening to my voice
    small pink tongue
          licks my nose

You trot along beside me
   head held high
   tail wagging a mile a minute
You tell the world
   this is my Mom
          don’t you bother her
I may be small but mighty

Blessed small furry friend
   jumping and spinning in greeting
you have the courage of a wolf
the mind of a cunning fox
the heart of angel
you are my comfort
   snuggled close,
   warm joy in a fur coat

Blessings small furry person
who holds my heart
in his paws.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 17, 2020

Image: Louis Guido Maximillian Jewell

You and I Together

We began this journey with
paint brushes and camping gear

We laughed and sang and
danced down the aisle

We traveled the world
you and I

Eucalyptus trees, canals, sandy beaches, forests
memories, time, love, together

Now we, you and I, hold memories close
forgotten in time

I listen as the past closes a door
the future comes to soon

We are traveling a new road,
a road well traveled

Still an adventure
still a journey

So, I light a candle to bless the past
I ring the bell to bless what will come

You are my light
my blessing

We travel together,
always together, never alone
 
We who are one
are never alone

Ruth Jewell, ©July 12, 2020

What Lies Around The Corner?

What lies around the corner?

Light plays on green leaves.
Bird song carries on the breeze.
Warm air surrounds.
And, you ask, “What lies around the corner?”

Why is that important?
Why is the moment not enough?
Why do you long for tomorrow?
Why is this moment not enough?

We miss so much
in our rush to be somewhere.
We lose our way
when we can’t see today.

Stop for moment and
let the wind touch your cheek.
Wait for tomorrow
for today is enough.

Let tomorrow take care of tomorrow.
Hold this moment in time.
Let light, and love, and peace
take its place in your heart.

Let tomorrow take care of tomorrow.
Let now be important for once.
Let today be enough for the moment.
Let peace, light, and love heal your soul.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 21, 2020
Photo: Yost Park, Edmonds Wa, August 2006, by Ruth Jewell

How Do I …

How do I put into words
A grief so deep
It scalds my heart?

How does
This soul so lonely say
I miss you?

You are my love, and
You are drifting away
Bit by bit I am losing you.

Some days you are you, and
Some days a little more
Is gone.

I want to tell you
To stay, don’t go, but
You don’t understand.

I love you,
I always will,
And I miss you.

How do I put into words
A grief so deep
It scalds my heart?

Ruth Jewell, ©May 4, 2020

I Thought I saw You

I thought I saw you
down there at the end of the lane.
Was it you I saw
holding a violet to you breast?
Was it you I saw
gazing into the distant hills
with such a far away look?
Were you waiting
for someone you love
to come and hold you?

I thought I saw you
down there at the end of the lane.
Was it you with tears
filling your eyes?
Did I see you reach
into emptiness hoping
someone would reach back?

I thought I saw you
down there at the end the lane
waiting for someone.
I saw you kneel in the grass
with violets all around and
I watched you pray.
As you stand and walk away
I prayed for you.

My spirit reaches out to you,
surrounding you, supporting you,
loving you, sending your heart strength.
It is all I have to offer
I cannot promise
all will be well.
I can only watch and guard.
I can only send courage and walk with you,
wait with you.
I cannot give you all you want.
All I can give, from my end of the lane,
is love and hope.

Ruth Jewel, ©March 16, 2020
Photo: The Guardian of the Woods

Cooking with the Holy Spirit

I stayed home from church today.  I stayed to make soup with the Holy Spirit. Not just any soup mind you, but my own Vegetable Soup. You know the kind, soup filled with chopped fresh potatoes, celery, carrots, turnips, garlic and shallot and fresh herbs.  All of them carefully chopped up into bit sized pieces.   

There is something comforting about chopping vegetables, watching the pile grow. Each vegetable adding their own special color, fragrance, and appeal to the pile.  Shallots and garlic add their pungent scents, while potatoes add earthiness and carrots and tomatoes add a bit of sweetness. I did notice that the carrot coins kept rolling around the counter as if they wanted to escape. Celery’s spiciness is always appealing to me. I love the color contrast between the red pepper and the parsley it always makes me smile and HS, that’s Holy Spirit for those of you not on speaking terms, said, “my favorite is the hot banana pepper you add in just the right amount to give a bit of heat to the soup. Please don’t tell Jesus that he thinks I’m weird.”  

HS, and I discussed the value of each vegetable and whether or not it was suitable for such a wonderful soup. We pared and peeled when needed and over-all we decided I had picked good vegetables from the market. HS also reminded me that I had some fresh tomatoes that would add a nice bit of freshness. These were the last from my garden, so I offered a prayer and HS blessed them. I mean you can’t have too many prayers or too many blessings, can you?

I then went out into my garden and HS and I picked rosemary, sage and fennel. Thanking each one for their contribution to the soup.  We only took a little of the thyme because it needs to grow a bit more, it’s a bit over picked, and HS said the basil was just too tired and needs to go live with her now. 

HS asked if I had any frozen or canned vegetables available and looking through the freezer, I found a packet of squash and peas adding them to my growing pile of vegetables. In the pantry, I found corn, beans, and garbanzo beans which when rinsed to remove excess salt (who wants that in their soup) added them to the bowl. 

After browning the shallot and garlic, adding chopped fresh turmeric and a couple strands of saffron (yes. I use saffron) I dumped all of the chopped, frozen, and canned veg’s into the pot along with vegetable broth, water, and all of the chopped herbs.  HS asked me “will you be adding the secret ingredient” and I said “Shhh, If I tell it wouldn’t be a secret.”  HS blessed our efforts and our soup is now simmering to wonderful goodness.  We are currently considering baking a loaf of bread.

I suppose you think I am weird, imagining I am cooking alongside the Holy Spirit. Well one, I don’t care what you think, and two, how do you know I wasn’t.  You see I often feel I am not alone, that someone walks beside me, or sits with me as I read. I guess I could be insane, but I rather think that it doesn’t matter.  I sit and meditate, I offer prayers, and they must go somewhere don’t they. So why couldn’t the Holy Spirit come and spend time with me as I cook?

I’m not one to run around and brag or tell people “Jesus saves” (he doesn’t by the way, but I’ll save that thought for later). I rather let what I do and say inform people. I will share this soup with others, guests, (Luke hint, hint) and of course my husband will enjoy our efforts.  I have been known to take soup to those who need it because feeding others always brings a smile to their faces, and mine, besides it is a mandate of the Holy Spirit. 

To create something that will nourishes others is such a wonderful feeling.  To feel the vegetable in your hand, pick it from the ground or vine gives me a connection with all creation. I know where my food comes from, how it was grown I watched the sun shine on the baby plants and the rain water it. I watched as the bees pollinated my tomato blossoms and herb blossoms and we shook the dirt off of potatoes, carrots, and onions, so yes, I know where my food comes from and who to thank. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the HS to offer my thanks for food that feeds my body as her presence feeds my spirit.  So, if I think the Holy Spirit is right there with me in the kitchen it means I know who to thank for all I have received. 

“Ah, Ruth”

“Yes HS”

“Why not share your recipe and a prayer, now that you have made everyone hungry?”

“What a wonderful idea.”

“Ok, here is my Basic Vegetable soup recipe for you to change up and make your own.”

My prayer for you is:

Holy Spirit, we ask you to bless the ground that nourished our vegetables, the sun that shone upon them, and the rain that watered them. Bless the hands that harvested and carried them to us and bless the hands that prepared them.  May this soup bless our bodies as you bless our souls. AMEN

Ruth’s Vegetable Soup
(This recipe freezes well)

4 cups vegetable broth or 2 cups broth and 2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Vegetables: (all vegetables are optional, add meat if you wish)

Potatoes, diced
Turnips, diced
Carrots (diced), Peas, Corn either Fresh, frozen, or canned
Celery, diced
½ of a small to medium shallot, diced
1-3 garlic cloves, minced,
1 15oz. Can diced tomatoes
1 or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, diced
½ to 1 red pepper, diced
Either 1-3 small hot banana Peppers, or 2 chipotle peppers, (+1 to 2 tsps. adobe sauce), Diced

Spices and Herbs: (change up the herbs to your taste)

1 teaspoon dry Turmeric or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Turmeric
few threads of saffron
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
½ teaspoon Herbs de Provence
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
2 fresh bay leaves
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt the oil and butter in a large soup pot, add the onions and garlic. Add the turmeric and saffron, cook until the onions are soft and golden.  Add the celery and peppers to the pot stir until covered in the turmeric liquid.  Add the rest of the vegetables, broth (or broth/water), herbs and spices.  Simmer for 1 to 2 hours until all vegetables are “al dente.”  Serve hot with fresh bread. If you wish top with sharp cheddar cheese and chives.  

Note: This is an easily modified recipe.  You can add squash, or other vegetables, or change herbs or spices (I use Turmeric because of its anti-cancer properties). Fresh Parsley is lovely.  You can add meat to this but I am a vegetarian so that is problematic for me.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 13, 2019

God’s Prayer

Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets, M.S. Burrows & J.M. Sweeney
Hampton Roads Publishing, 2019, pg. 70

Yesterday I received my copy of Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets and with some excitement opened the book, to this random page. It took me only a moment to read the few lines of the poem, but a lot longer for the shock to quiet, and the wonder set in. You see there have been more moments in my life than I care to admit that God has offered this prayer for me. This 7-line poem, inspired by Eckhart’s Selected Writings, was an unlooked-for blessing in a moment of need. Because today, you see, I needed to be reminded that God prays for me, that God wants me.

In the hours since I read the poem, I have thought of the many different ways I’ve answered Gods prayer and how many times I’ve ignored it. Over the years I’ve spent time talking to God asking why God would want to be born in me, me, a not so good, not so joyful, not so loving human.  A human filled with anger, frustration, confusion and, I’m just going to say this, hate. What would the Divine Being find worthy in me, despite my constantly ignoring the gift?

I’m afraid, even to this day, I haven’t found a whole lot of answers to my questions for God. Unfortunately, God can be quite silent on the reasons why, but persistent in praying. I guess I will have to be satisfied with knowing God wants me to have grace, especially since I remember many of the strange, wonderful, and mystical moments I have experienced. Before I offer a story that illustrates this, let me digress for just a bit.

The idea that God wants the Spirits grace to belong to me, us, that God prays we will want grace given, full abundant grace, without strings attached, has always felt just a little odd. God’s grace is a gift fit for royal/holy beings, and it is being given to you and me! Why wouldn’t any of us want such a gift? As humans we are used to knowing that nothing in this life is free. There are always strings attached, we may not see them, may not even be aware of them, but they are there. Yet here is the Divine just handing it out, for free.

God says the gift of grace is freely, abundantly given and without the necessity of paying back. To me that means in God’s eyes you and I are royal, holy beings, all we have to do is accept the gift. More importantly God wants to be born within us, to become part of us, and that means you and I become part of God. Now that is an offer we cannot turn down, right. Well we can and do turn it down for many reasons such as stubbornness, stupidity, or more likely fear. To be part of God, part of the creator, means we are partners in creation, and that means we are responsible for the care and wellbeing of creation and each other. That means we are to care for the weak, the young, the elderly, the stranger whether they are like us or not. So, yes all of us have turned God down, repeatably. The thing is God keeps asking, God never gives up on us. That is the God I know, a God who keeps trying, and keeps asking no matter how scared, stubborn, or stupid we might be.

Pride can be both a good and a bad trait, unfortunately for me pride is not always the best trait to have. Thirty or so years ago I thought I knew it all, I didn’t need God in my life, I didn’t need anyone, and, in my arrogance, I chose to do some things I’m now not very proud of. I didn’t break the law, but I hurt people who had trusted me. When I came to my senses, I realized somethings had to change but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Life can be funny sometimes and in one of those moments I had an experience that changed how I saw myself, my relationship with the Divine, and my relationship with the rest of creation. So, here is the first time I found God’s grace freely given.

As a graduate student at the University of Houston School of Public Health I often had the opportunity to go along with the biologists on bird banding trips in the Gulf of Mexico. We would band baby gulls and terns in the morning and then spend a couple of hours swimming in the gulf before returning to school. On this occasion I was floating along, I don’t swim so I was simply bobbing along while wearing a life vest, I was enjoying the warm water and the sun when I felt something brush against my leg. I looked down into the water and couldn’t see anything, so I thought I was imagining it when I felt it again.  My friend called from the boat and told me to be very still and hold my hand out at the surface of the water.  I didn’t know why I should, but I did.

To my amazement a fin appeared under my hand and a dolphin rose up and pulled me along in the water. I looked into the water and there were 3 or 4 dolphins swimming around me. At first, they moved me away from the boat and just let me “ride” against them. I could hear clicks and squeaks and they seemed to want to talk to me.  So, I talked to them, I was told later for about 15 to 20 minutes, which seemed to pass like seconds. For some unknown reason I told them about my fears, how confused I was, and how unkind I’d been. Amazingly they moved in closer and seemed to “hug” me, the air around me took on a golden color and I felt something within I had never felt before. Slowly they guided me back to our boat and sank into the gulf. Before I knew it, I was being pulled from the water. My friends told me they had never seen anything like it before. I, on the hand, seemed to be in this bubble of serenity. For the rest of the trip friends told me I had this rather goofy smile on my face.

I can’t say that everything was wonderful following that experience but, inside I felt a wall come down and the Divine stepping in. Life is still life, and not all events are perfect, but I found that letting go and letting someone else lead me gave me a new perspective on how to live my life. God’s prayer that I would want the grace given, that I would welcome the birth of God within had been answered that day. There have been other moments when I have forgotten the God within. But after going my own way and needing to be reminded as to who I am, who I belonged to, I would renew my relationship with God. I have found this is an ongoing process for me and suspect it is for everyone. But that moment in the Gulf of Mexico was the first time, and a special moment that has helped me recognize God’s presence, and God’s reminders.

When I opened my copy of this book of poems and saw this prayer it made me smile, it made my memories smile, it made me open my arms and once again welcome God. If nothing else this little prayer has made the whole book worthwhile. I desired God’s grace. I opened my heart and God has moved in. I am part of God, God is part of me, I am God’s partner in this amazing creative universe. I pray I am a good part (at least most of the time). Now my prayer for you:

May you desire God’s grace,
grace freely, abundantly, given,
so that God will be born within you.
Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©September 25, 2019