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

Some Quarantine Observations

In the roughly 2 months since the stay home order was given, I have made some very un-scientific observations:

  1. I haven’t been much affected by the stay-at-home order.  It is what John and I did before this started. Except for going to church and groceries we didn’t go anywhere.
  2. I have actually heard from more people in the last 2 months than we had all last year. 
  3. Wearing a mask while shopping is kinda weird, I keep wanting to go into a bank, not to do anything, just go in.
  4. I am shocked at the level of ineptitude we, as a nation, are accepting from our federal government.
  5. I am totally grateful for the leadership of our faith community, my state and local governments. They deserve medals.
  6. I am heart broken by the number of people who have been exposed to and sickened by the virus, some because of people so selfish that they pass the virus on only because they don’t want to be inconvenienced by a face mask or a stay at home order.
  7. I am amazed and stunned, by the heroism of the nurses, doctors, medical house cleaning staff, postal carriers, grocery store clerks, police, and fireman who have continued to be the front line of defense. (I apologize if I have forgotten anyone.)
  8. I am angered by those who, with guns and lawsuits, attempt to intimidate our hero’s. They also sadden me because they are being manipulated by wealthy, greedy, power hungry, men who are following a corrupt leader.
  9. I have discovered some wonderful benefits to being told to stay home. I have been able to attend and participate in the Westar Institutes Seminars online and will take a poetry class this summer from the Grunwald Guild. All via ZOOM.  I would not have been able to do any of that if this hadn’t happened. (One of my questions even lead to a commitment to include gender roles in the next phase of the Westar’s Christianity Seminar, WOOT!)
  10. I have also been able to see all of our family, from across the country, on a regular schedule because of ZOOM meetings.  It has been so much fun to see everyone.
  11. I love it that I have a legitimate reason to read books by the bushel, as if I ever needed one.
  12. My garden is amazing, our garage is now cleaner that it has been in 40 years, and I have developed 5 new recipes that came out really good.  I have also created more that a dozen really bad recipes.  I am pleased that John has been a good sport and eaten the good and the bad.
  13. While church has been a bit weird and awkward, it has shown me how much our weekly sessions mean to me. Seeing each congregation member and our devoted and amazing pastor Luke and his assistant Mary make my week.

What does any of this mean, well, probably nothing. I keep trying to remember that none of us are alone. We have each other and the Holy Divine still walks with us. Still despite all that I know, have seen, and experienced I am sometimes afraid. Afraid for our grandchildren, and the children of our friends.  I am afraid for those who work with the homeless with little to no protective gear and pray every day for their safety.  My fear leads to anger when I hear of the lack of concern for our indigenous neighbors, all people of color, people who are disabled and therefore especially at risk, and the elderly who, unlike John and I, are confined within an institution.

I am also afraid for our nation, I am afraid for my family, and I am afraid for my community. I do not know what the future will bring. I pray, I hope, I pray,

Ruth Jewell, ©May 24, 2020
Photo: Troublesome Creek, WA, 2006, by Ruth Jewell

A Prayer for the Journey

As we continue to struggle with isolation, fears surrounding Covid-19, too much information, the lack of information, and misinformation I offer this prayer as we all journey the road together.

Ruth Jewell, ©April 28, 2020

Photo: Bryce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona, 2005, by Ruth Jewell.

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

House of Worship

. . . Long ago, Long ago

Long ago this was a great house of worship
Men came from far and wide
To hear powerful leaders speak of God

. . . Today, Today

Today I am old and only my bones remain
The grass, the flowers, the trees worship here now
Fox, and mice, and birds all congregate

. . . Now, Now

Now sermons are the gentle whispers of wind and rain
Mice lead with tiny voiced prayers
Wrens lead a choir of sparrows and finches

. . . Prayer, Prayer’s

No more the loud prayers for men’s pride
Now there is a gentle offering of gratitude and
The Creator’s voice, the world’s hope, and the prayer for another day

Ruth Jewell, ©March 9, 2020
Photo: The Guardian of the Woods, March 3, 2020

The Jesus Prayer

Mark 10:46-52

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

I love Bartimaeus and have gained insight from his persistence in his call to Jesus. Yet, I often wonder if most people who use the prayer understand its implications. The story itself has many layers. The blind Bartimaeus had a strength we often do not have.

First, the story takes place after Jesus has made his 3rd prediction of his coming death and has turned toward Jerusalem. As Jesus and the disciples leave Jericho Bartimaeus calls until Jesus acknowledges him from there the real meat of the story happens. Bart is calling at a critical time as Jesus is now focused on what will happen in Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus stops and answers Bart’s call. I am reminded of all the times I have called on Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit and wonder if I too have made my petition at an inopportune time. It is a grace that Jesus responds to Bart. This gives me hope.

Second, Jesus doesn’t just heal him rather, Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants from Him. Bart must articulate, say out loud, he wants to see. Bart must not only admit his need he must believe in the words Jesus will speak. It is in Bart’s belief in Jesus that he is made to see. He sees not just the world around him but the truth of what he sees. It has always been hard for me to speak my needs. I am always afraid I will be ridiculed or told that what I need is not important. I admit that my belief hasn’t always been as strong as Bart’s was that day in Jericho. Opening my heart and soul to my Creator has not been easy. But, I am a work in progress and I do believe the Holy Spirit is patient with me.

But there is one more piece that is often lost, Bart follows Jesus. Does he follow Him all the way to the end and the resurrection, we don’t know? But in the question and answer of the story, and the following the path that the story takes real meaning. We can ask for mercy, but what do we really want from Jesus. Bart followed Jesus on a difficult path, a road that led to Crucifixion, and yes, resurrection. But also, much pain and suffering. We don’t know if Bart stayed the course. I would like to think he did. But it gives me pause to think when I offer this prayer, what will I do when I am offered the opportunity to see.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 27, 2020

Photo: unknown, (this was sent to me as is, if you know the author please let me know)

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

Prayers: Moral Witness Wednesday

Today the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II will be joined by members of the Poor Peoples Campaign to demand justice from the Trump Administration. My thoughts and prayers go with them because this administration has no respect for the poor or disadvantaged. We have seen in the deserts of the Southwest how they have criminalized compassion and, as a result, I do not expect Dr. Barber or the Poor Peoples Campaign to be welcomed with compassion. I offer this prayer for their safety and that closed hearts will be opened.

WE COME THIS DAY

We come this day to the Father,
We come this day to the Son,
We come to the Holy Spirit powerful;
We come this day with God,
We come this day with Christ,
We come with the Spirit of love and kindness.

We come this day to open closed hearts to the Creator,
We come this day to heal wounded hearts of hate and fear,
We come this day to heal the blind, to see Jesus in our brother, our sister,
We come this day to set the fire of holiness in each other.
We come this day to shout God’s words of justice, mercy and compassion.

God, and Spirit, and Jesus,
From the crown of our heads
To the soles of our feet;
We come with our reputation,
We come with our testimony,
We come to you, Jesus;
Jesus, guide us, shelter us. AMEN

-Adapted by Ruth Jewell, June 11, 2019

Ruth Jewell, ©June 11, 2019