Do Not Refuse

Do Not Refuse to Enter
Do Not Refuse to Enter

Hebrews 12:18-29 18 You have not come to something* that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20 (For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’ 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly* of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’ 27 This phrase ‘Yet once more’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire. (NRSV)

We come into a new Kingdom, one that cannot be touched, heard, or seen. A Kingdom built on our own blood, tears, and spirit. A Kingdom that cannot be shaken by fears, hate, jealously, ego, and greed, it replaces the old kingdom that failed to grow us in God’s presence and love. I, we, must not reject or fear to enter the New. God consumes the old in the cleansing fire of love and releases me, us all, to walk, no run, from the old and into the new. To freely become the being the Divine Spirit wants me, all of us, to be.

Where is this kingdom you ask? If I can’t touch it or see it how do I know it exists, how do I know I’ve arrived? The new Kingdom is not a place of buildings and nation states. No; this new Kingdom is a way of living, visible only through my, our, actions in the world, our prayers, and our relationship with God. It is a Kingdom of the heart, spirit and soul, held together by love, justice, compassion, mercy, peace and walking humbly with the Divine.

No one is forced to enter and all are welcome in this new Kingdom. People enter one by one, in their own time, and in their own chosen way. No one is forced to stay; all may leave and return whenever they choose. I have been in the Kingdom many times; I have also left it many times. Today I choose to enter and as I look back I see . . . You.

Ruth Jewell ©August 20, 2013

a dream

The telephone rings and I answer it, “hello, this is Mark and there has been an accident.  Amelia was dancing near water in which an electric line had dropped.  She stepped into the water and was electrocuted. She is in the hospital and we don’t know what will happen next.”  Amelia, my sweet granddaughter?  I scream for John and tell him to call the airline for a ticket tonight to B and . . . then I stop my dream.

I tell myself, wait a minute, this is a dream, and Amelia is just fine.  There has been no accident and my little girl has not been hurt.  So why am dreaming this.  I realize this dream isn’t about Amelia at all; it’s about ME and my very active ego-self that wants to be all important.  My ego-self knows just how much I love my granddaughter and would do anything, and I mean anything, to protect her.  So when my ego-self thinks I am at my weakest, ill with the flu, asleep and unaware, it formed this scary dream to plant a seed of self-importance.  Instead of following the dream any further I begin to repeat my daily prayer, “I surrender, O Holy One, this moment, this now of my life, watch over me and guide me, I surrender.”  The dream within a dream ends and I enter a deep, peaceful and restful sleep.

When I woke up the next morning I recognized the “wow” factor in my night’s dream.  In my sleep I had carried on a conversation with myself that allowed me to recognize when my ego-self was trying to trick me and I stopped it.  I actually offered a meditation, in my sleep, to bring me back to a sense of reality that I also recognized and left me calm and able to drift back into a deep sleep.

In the last 6 months I have been doing a lot of thinking about who I truly am, where I am going, and what I am being called to do.  As a result I have spent a great deal of time in meditation and journaling. This deep going within is pulling out new insights from some very dark places within my spirit and where I have been recognizing just how much I have followed my ego-self rather than my true-self throughout my entire life.  Somehow that is beginning to change and I am learning to put my ego-self in its proper place and allowing my true-self to step forward.

I do need my ego-self, it is an important part of who I am.  It helps me make decisions and protects me when I am in danger (whatever that might be).  But the ego-self shouldn’t have the prime spot in my life, following only the ego leads me down a very selfish, self centered pathway and doesn’t allow the true me to shine forth.

My true-self, on the other hand, is the part of me that listens with compassion, offers kindness and mercy, and acts for peace and justice, not for my benefit but for the good of the community around me.   It is my true-self that I want to take the place of primacy in my life, for that is who I truly am, the child of, the partner of, God.  My dream is an example of how desperate my ego-self is to regain control of me and I am finally resisting the temptation to follow that path.

I am in a discernment process to discover where God is calling me to ministry and I must admit I’ve heard that call, but, I am afraid.  It is that fear that my ego-self is using to prevent me from following the path God, Herself, is laying before me.  I know God never asks us to do anything we are incapable of doing, but, She does challenge us to the limit of our abilities.  It is that challenge that is putting fear in my heart.  I guess I haven’t fully surrendered yet and so I sit at a threshold facing the mystery of what is to come.   Right now I am unable to move into that mystery, I am paralyzed by fear and I want to tell God, “no not me, can’t you find someone else to do this, I’m not brave enough, or good enough, to do this.”  However, I keep hearing “It is you I want, don’t be afraid, I am here, won’t you take my hand and step onto my path.”

It has been my experience that if God wants me to do something, and I don’t want to, God will call and plead, begging for me to reconsider.   If I don’t, God stands with me in my choice. When everything doesn’t come out just as I thought, God gently reaches out, puts her arms around me and says with a slight smile, “just how did that work out for you.”  I hate it when God says “I told you so.”  In the end I grow weary of my mediocre plans and “give in” to what God is calling me to. So this time I think I will choose to follow the path God has placed before me instead of going my own way.  I know it will be hard, but it won’t be as hard or painful as it would be if God wasn’t there.

God, I will take your hand and step onto your path. I will accept the challenge even though I am terrified of what might happen.  You have led me this far and I haven’t crashed and burned yet.  I keep saying “I surrender” and I guess this means I am finally beginning to truly commit to that surrender. All that I ask is don’t leave me alone to face the darkness, and protect me in those places that are filled with traps.  I have faith in what you are asking of me and therefore hold me tight and guide me forward.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 18, 2013

Standing at the Door

The Open Hearts Door
The Open Hearts Door

Revelation 3:20- “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door; I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.”

For the last four months I have been on an inward journey.  I don’t know where this journey will lead me, although I am hoping it will help me come to some conclusions about ministry. Beginning in September I did mostly silent prayer or, depending on the day and moment, contemplative prayer.  I would sit for 30 minutes to an hour in silence up to three times a day.  I discovered that I was developing a very quiet place somewhere inside and all of the stress and disappointment of the last year were beginning to slip away. As I felt the need I started adding other practices, a bible study, a new interplay class, and a book study.

Through all of this I wrote in my Journal and added to my blog and one of the repeating themes is I am looking at scripture and readings from a very different perspective and the above scripture from Revelation is a good example.

I am fairly confident that all of you have seen the iconic picture of Jesus standing at a door knocking.  Have you looked closely there is no door handle; the door must be opened from the inside.  This passage from Revelation has been bugging me lately so I started taking it apart and trying to visualize it from a different angle.  The one perspective that seems to intrigue me is what if the door is the one into my heart and the person standing on the outside is me, not Jesus.  The door is ajar but I have to make the effort to push it open and walk in and in my meditations I seem to be standing at the entrance unable to move toward the door.  Sort of like the rodent in one of Rudyard Kipling books where it won’t go into the center of the room but always creeps around the edges.

The reason this perspective seems to be so important is 1) I have always believed part of the creator already resides within me, and for that matter within all of creation; 2) the place behind the door to my heart, or hearts door, represents for me my deepest level of spirituality.  It is the place that knows me best, the good and the bad, and offers forgiveness and grace even when I do not acknowledge it.    So, to me, it makes perfect sense that in the room behind the hearts door I will find G-d because G-d is the root, or grounding, of my very being and where I want to be.  But I am afraid to cross the threshold.

So what does it mean if I am the one outside of my hearts door?  First of all it means that
G-d/Jesus/Holy Spirit is waiting for me to acknowledge the Divine Presence and that that recognition means I am giving up some of the control of my life over to the true being within.  The acknowledging part is fairly easy, but, crossing the threshold and entering into full communion with the Divine is a lot harder.   There are risks to crossing into that sacred place, for one thing I would have to let go of my ego, and many of my desires, such asto always be at the top of everything.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit wants me to be second, third or even last at some task because it challenges me to look deeper at who I am and who I want to be. Because of my unwillingness to let go of my ego, I have spent most of my 65 years standing outside the chamber behind my hearts door and it has resulted in a life where hard lessons are learned and travels on rocky roads are my only choices. I had to hit rock bottom before I could accept that I could not live this life alone, I needed help; I needed love, grace, and forgiveness in order to become who I am.

Fourteen years ago I was at that rock bottom place and my path choices weren’t looking all that appealing.  I have always wondered why we have to be at the worst possible crossroad in order to recognize the grace and forgiveness of G-d, but it does and I am no exception.  Just like John of the Cross I was having my own “dark night of the soul.” It wasn’t until all light in my life had disappeared that I called out to G-d, crossed the threshold and entered into the arms of the Divine.

One result of my turning this scripture around so I stand at the door instead of Jesus is that I become the one to initiate contact with G-d.  G-d, Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes the force that waits for me to decide how, and when I will respond to their call.  I choose to cross the threshold or walk away.  Granted I have had a great deal of preparation for that moment in my life but a willingness to risk everything on an invisible (and to some non-existent) entity does not make the choice any easier.  Maybe that is why it takes those “dark nights” for us to make the choice to let our lives be lead by the Divine.  Unless we have only two choices, life or death, before us we won’t choose life.  We will continue to walk without the guidance of G‑d because that path seems easier to walk than the one G-d and there are so of those distractions to choose from.  But that is an illusion.

I must admit to a lot of darting out the door only to return with bowed head asking for forgiveness.  I am always amazed at the joy the Divine exhibits at the return of this wayward child. I know I am blessed by grace because I can fail G-ds expectations over and over again and return over and over again and I will be welcomed home just as the prodigal son was, with fatted calf and celebration.

See G-d wants us to be inside that sacred room and whenever we leave, the Divine keeps the fires burning for our return.  I like to think that hot chocolate and double chocolate chip cookies are waiting for me to communion with the ground of my being.  All I have to do is cross the threshold.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 29, 2012

June Thoughts

“And God saw that it was good.”
Genesis 1:18b (NRSV)

June is the month of the summer solstice, Mid-Summer, a time of picnics, camping and celebrations of the earth’s abundance.   But here in Washington it never seems very celebratory to me.  After all we have only just begun having warm weather and I always think it’s unfair that the world is turning to winter before summer even begins.   Here in our beloved northwest summer often comes and goes before we even have warm weather, fall and spring are often non-existent and, winter rains and snow hang on with a vise like grip.  We often seem to be just a little out of synch with the rest of the country; warm when everyone else is cool and way too cool when everyone else is scorching.  What’s worse is if we wait 15 minutes everything will change around us.  What was the creator thinking when She formed the American Northwest? Our changing land and weather must bring great joy and laughter to the Creator.

Yet when the sky clears and the sun shines in a canopy of blinding blue we know the special blessing of our home.   We live in a graced land of diversity.  Mountains so high they have snow on them all year, yet deep within their hearts lies the fire of the planet; ground that seems solid beneath our feet yet can shake like a bowl of jelly turning our world upside down. Inviting looking lakes so cold with water from snow melt you can’t swim in them for very long without protection.  An ocean with depths that hide a treasure of animal life found nowhere else like giant octopus nearly as intelligent as we are and whales and salmon of course, can’t forget the salmon.  So I guess God knew what she was doing when she created the magical land we live in.  Each season whether they be hot or cold, wet or dry, cloudy or blinding sun bright gives character, beauty, challenges, change and balance,  . . . life to the place we call home.

The summer solstice, longest day of the year is a time to enjoy the beauty of life in abundance.  Yet it is also the beginning of shorter days and the slide down to winter rains, and snowy days.  The creator never wants us to be bored; always there is change in the air.  The rich smell of roses will change into the smell of wood smoke on the wind and icy blasts will bring the smell of snow and rain down from the mountains; all to be repeated next year.  Change, is what keeps us alive and on June 20th the Earth will begin again to tip away from the warmth of Mother Sun.  But today celebrate the light, revel in the warmth, for tomorrow change will come, to the mountains, the sea, and the land.  Enjoy today the smell of fresh mown grass and roses and listen to song of the robin and of water falling over rock. Tomorrow will bring more change, so live in the moment, enjoy the now, and wait with breathless anticipation for the change that comes tomorrow.


The smell of roses fill the air
and Iris dance in the twilight
of Mid-summer evening
Children race through
the meadow, rings of daisy’s
crown their heads
Creator smiles
blows blessing on the wind
of winter past

Ruth Jewell ©June 2012

Writers Block

I am restless today!  Maybe it’s the sunshine outside calling to me, maybe I’m burnt out with class work and writing papers, or maybe I’ve got to many things on my mind to concentrate.  And, focusing and concentration is what I need to do right now.   Two papers are due for a class on Wednesday and I have put off writing them in some rather inventive ways and some not so inventive.

Going to Church of course is always a great excuse for not writing, so is the fact that I have a cold and therefore out of sorts and of course taking time out to write a blog takes up time.  But my greatest procrastination technique is to pretend I’m meditating.  Who knew how much time the space of silence can fill when I need to write, but can’t.  When I fall asleep during silent prayer I can always say “God knows what my body needs and apparently it was rest.”  And, when I’m caught snoring I have been known to repeat Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  No one believes me of course but it makes me feel better, even if it isn’t what Paul meant.

I often wonder from what depth I drag up the words to put on paper, at other times the lake is way too shallow to allow anything worthwhile from surfacing, and today appears to be one the shallow days.  Did Paul have this problem or did the words always come forth?  From what I’ve read of Paul my guess is he struggled with words as well and just like everyone else who uses WORDS to live by Paul had his good days and bad days.  I think Parker Palmer in the forward to his book The Courage to Teach, (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2007) says it best; “I doubt that I have ever published a page that has not been refried eight or ten or twelve times.”  Yes writing and re-writing is the primary tool of anyone who creates with words.  My motto is if it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing over and over again and my guess is that’s every writer’s motto.  Right now I’m in sixth rewrite and the whole thing still stinks!

I was hoping that writing an entry for my blog would jog (oooo, that rhymes, good for me!) my creative juices.  But, I still feel restless and just want to run as far from my computer as I can get.  Now what else can I do to procrastinate, ah yes clean my study, straighten my books, pet the dog and play with my parrots.  How about another cup of tea, always good for my cold, or just a glass of cold water anything to lubricate my brain in order to get these stupid papers (oh my, did I just say that?) done.

Ok, let me rethink this paper business.  This is my last academic quarter and I have to admit I am burnt out, so I am going to forgive myself for being a little, well more than a little, bit of a procrastination and just relax.  I know it will come (it always does), so I’m going to and get that third cup of tea take a walk and come back when I feel closer to who I am, and not what I think the professor wants.  See you all later.

Ruth Jewell ©April 2012