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

What would you do? – Prayerful Tuesday

  13And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*

Luke 2:13-14

Nicolaes Berchem, Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1656

Nicolaes Berchem, Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1656

God speaks to us in many ways–through relationships, our experiences, sacred texts such as the Bible and many more. Like Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, Visio Divina is Latin for divine seeing, praying with images to listen to God’s words. Think of Visio Divina as if you were putting on God-glasses to see how an image illuminates the Christ within you.  Like Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading, Visio Divina has four steps: Use the  above painting by a Dutch artist Nicolaes Berchem painted around 1650, titled Annunciation to the Shepherds.

  1. Look slowly and carefully at the painting, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. We are preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, how does the paint help you prepare? If you would like, jot down a few words about the image in your journal.
  2. Now take deeper second look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Place yourself in the painting; are you a shepherd, a sheep, or angel? What do you see from that perspective? What emotions rise up for you? If you were a sheep what might you feel? If you were a shepherd how would you respond to the message of the angels? What else do you feel, or see in the painting? If you would like jot down your thoughts and feelings in your journal
  3.  Respond to the image with prayer. 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.
  4. 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.

May the song of the angels be with you as you go about your preparations for Christmas.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 9, 2014

All Means ALL

All means ALL

All means ALL

My thoughts over the last couple of months have been over whelmed by the violence, the bullying, the tragedy, and the anger that has played across my TV screen, computer, radio and newspaper in the last couple of months.  I have seen the quote by some famous person that reads “those who keep silent in the face of evil are giving their approval,” or the pictures’ displaying one perspective versus another and which one has the greatest validity.  I am left speechless and in pain.  Yes I have heard that even one small act of mercy changes someone and I have used those very words myself many times. Do what you can and ‘wait,’ wait for minds to change, or for hearts to open,  . . . wait for what.

The scripture for Sunday came from Isaiah and begins with “Comfort, O Comfort my people” (40:1), but, I’m sorry I don’t feel that comfort.  I offer prayers, I read, and I listen.  I volunteer at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, here at church, and lead the occasional spiritual retreat and labyrinth walk, yet, except for Juvenile Detention CTR, I feel as if I am “preaching to the choir,” so to speak.  Where in all of these days of suffering, and confusion does the offering come that provides more than my comfort and brings a justly faithful, hopeful, loving comfort to those who do not share my skin color, or language, or culture, or gender, or abilities, or whatever makes them different from the so called “main stream” of the population.

This meditation was intended to be an inspirational moment.  But I am not feeling very inspirational, just too much has happened in the last couple of months.  So I ask your forgiveness for talking through some of my thoughts.  I live in a world that appears to be falling apart as I sit my comfortable, warm home.  I keep asking what will stop the building blocks our lives from tumbling into the abyss.

I am afraid we are headed into a storm of our own making that will destroy us.  We won’t need to be invaded, no; we are doing a grand job of destruction all by ourselves.   Voices of change and compassion, justice, mercy, and peace are drowned out by hateful speech by bullies in high places.  The actions and words of those high placed bullies give permission to those who fear the unknown to be violent and destructive at the ground roots level.  Hateful speech and actions becomes a cancer eating away at our will to fight against justice and mercy.

So I sit in my little home office, offering prayers, and volunteering when the opportunity arises.  I do my small acts that I pray are being added to other small acts, but I don’t know if any of it will be enough. Our denominations GLBQ organization used the slogan “All Means ALL” at our last national General Assembly.  They wanted to get the message across that everyone matters, despite gender identification, skin color, religion, or culture everyone is important.  There are very few slogans I actually believe in, but I believe in that one.  If I can do nothing other than let each and every person know how much they matter in my life, in the life of my Faith Community, and in the life of the greater community we are all part of then I have done the best I can.  That will have to be enough.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 8, 2014

Prepare the Way – Prayerful Tuesday

A New Day is Coming

A New Day is Coming

Matthew 3:3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

Unfortunately I never had children.  However, I have been blessed to be Grammy to my husband John’s two youngest grandchildren.  I remember how excited I was to hear our Daughter-in-Law, Laura, tell us she was pregnant and I could hardly wait to see this new addition to our family.  Liam was born on John’s birthday in 2007 and he is now 7 year old, actually soon to be 8 and is becoming a wonderful young man.

I have been thinking about what it took to prepare for Liam’s arrival.  So many things go into preparing for newborn; baby clothes, blankets, crib, diapers, binkies, blankets, toys, rattles, bottles, booties, the list is endless.  And you can be sure you will forget something in all the hustle bustle of getting ready.

We are in the first week of Advent and I was thinking about what Mary would have done to get ready.  The first thing she would have to do was tell her intended husband she was pregnant and I can only imagine how the conversation went.

“Ah Joseph, I have to tell you something.”

“Yes Mary what is it.”

“Now I want you sit down and listen to what I say, I know it will be hard to understand, I don’t understand myself, but this is the truth.”

“Just tell me Mary, it will be ok.”

“ Weeell, 3 months ago I was visited by an angel of the Lord and he told me that I had been chosen above all other women, to bear the child of the Most High. He said the Holy Spirit would come upon me and, ah, it happened, I’m pregnant.”

Silence.

“ Ah, Mary , you are telling me your pregnant, and it is YHYW’s child. That’s a little hard to believe.”

“I know but, before you do anything, like report me to the temple authorities, just think about it.”

“Ok, I’ll think about it, but this I will tell you the wedding is off but I won’t have you taken before the authorities, I still love you and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“You will know what’s best to do Joseph.”

Mary was a teenager, maybe as young as 13 years, being an unwed mother in the first century was not an acceptable practice. Stoning of the woman was the rule and Mary had right to be afraid.  She didn’t know what Joseph would do.  She didn’t know that He would be visited by the same angel who would tell him he has nothing to fear.  Mary, like any young woman who finds herself pregnant, was fearful of what could happen to her.  Just preparing to tell those she hoped loved her would be a fearful experience. Her pregnancy would bring shame and humiliation upon her family and Joseph so simply getting the courage to tell of her predicament would take time.  Maybe that is why she went to visit her Cousin Elizabeth to gather the courage to tell her wonderful, terrifying secret.

In the next 4 weeks we too will be preparing.  No we aren’t in Mary’s sandals, but, we have those things that terrify us as we get ready for the celebration the Christ Child’s birth.  We have our own secrets that we keep buried within us. In the last couple of years the racial bias, gender bias, bias against women, poor, and elderly have come out into the open.  All of us, me included, carry some level of all those biases.  It is learning to admit that I, we all, carry fear toward someone different that raises those fears and biases from subconscious to conscious where they light of day can heal them.

Advent is about preparation, it is about hope, it is about faith, it is about love, it is about peace entering where angels fear to tread.  This advent I am taking my fears out of the shadows and finding the way to heal the wounds they cause. Letting the light of hope, faith, and love change them from fear to acceptance.  In prayer, in meditation, and with Advent prayer books I am working, trying hard, to change how I see the world.

What fears, what biases cause you to afraid of someone from a different faith, with a different color skin, is poor, or elderly keeping you from experiencing the amazing peace, hope, faith and love that the presence of the Christ child offers to you?  I invite you to ponder the above scripture this week, to pray about how to prepare your heart for the celebration of the Christ’s birth.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 2, 2014

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Gratitude

Gratitude

Holy Spirit as I sit at this groaning table today, looking so much like a Rockwell painting, help me to remember those in this world who are grateful for a simple bowl of rice and a cup of water.  I often forget how much I really have and fail to remember those who huddle beneath a simple roof and sleep on a dirt floor.

As I sit in the safety of my home help me to remember there are people who look upon the evening sun grateful just to have survived another day.  Help me to be mindful of your great blessings and learn to give more than I receive, to not waste what has been give me, and to share with those who can not help themselves.

Oh Holy Spirit, We thank you, for the feast we spread before us
thank you for the ground it was cradled in,
thank you for the sun and rain that nurtured it
thank you for the farmers who carefully harvested it
thank you for the hands that lovingly prepared it.

May this food feed our bodies
as You feed our souls. Amen

Ruth Jewell, © November 27, 2014

Prepare — Prayerful Tuesday

Preparing Split Pea Soup

Preparing Split Pea Soup

3 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3

The other Sunday I and a friend of mine were in charge of the coffee hour after worship.  It was going to be a cold November day and I wanted to do something different and special for people I care about.  Cherry and I talked it over and decided, since there was an Elders meeting after worship, a light meal of homemade soup, salad and bread would be a perfect offering. Cherry decided on making a chicken soup and bringing the rolls.  I decided on a vegetarian split pea soup and also brought the salad.

I have read and heard the words of the prophet Isaiah all of my life and have loved many of the songs and chants written around this verse.  But as I was preparing the soup for Sunday the words struck me a little deeper.  The picture above is the ingredients for my soup.  Simple wholesome ingredients; dried split peas, herbs, and garlic and onions, from my own garden, and fresh carrots and celery from the farmers market go into making this really simple soup. (Recipe Below)  As I scrubbed the carrots and celery I thought about who would eat my soup and in the process of browning chopped onions and garlic in olive oil the act of making the soup became an act of prayer.

The people who would share in my offering were the people of my faith community and any visitors we might have.  People I love and care about, but, more than that, it was an extended sharing from the communion table. The breaking of bread, the ladling of hot soup all became part of the feast Christ sets before us every Sunday.

As a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we prepare and offer communion every Sunday.  We carefully set out bread and cup and share it with each other and as I prepared this simple meal that would be served after worship we were continuing a 2000 year old tradition of breaking bread and pouring cup then going in to share a common meal.  That is what the first followers of Jesus did.  They shared more than just a piece of bread and thimble full of wine.  They shared a whole meal together, rich or poor, aristocrat or tent maker, all ate from the same serving bowl.

I have helped prepare and serve hot meals for the homeless, and I routinely make up food bags to give to the homeless I see on the streets and while I may not sit down with each person I offer food too it is still communion.  It is a sharing of food, and drink, and recognizing that what I give doesn’t come from me, but from God, Christ, and Holy Spirit.  I am only the servant who is trying to fulfill Christ’s commandment; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (Matthew 25:35)

In the process of preparing to serve others I am preparing to serve Jesus, to follow, as faithfully as possible, the path Jesus leads me on.  I know I will stumble, but Jesus will be there to pick me up; I will wander off the path, but the Holy Spirit will be there to lead me back; and I will grow weary, but God will be there to cradle me in her arms until I am rested.

The spiritual practice I am inviting you to share in this Advent season is to find the sacred in all that you are preparing for your own celebrations.  In what ways are you preparing for the Lord in your everyday life?  With whom will you celebrate the feast of God?  As you await the birth of the Christ child let your preparations become an act of prayer, for those you love and those you may not know.

May the peace of Christ be with you, always

Ruth’s Pea Soup
about 8 servings

1 lb. dry green or yellow peas
3 quarts of cold water (or 1 qt vegetable stock and 2 quarts cold water)
1 large carrot, sliced in to small pieces
1 small celery stick chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small onion or 4 large green onions
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped fine
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (I like fresh rosemary, summer savory, and thyme)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Pepper to taste

In the bottom of a large pot sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Add the turmeric, stir then add the carrots and celery. Add the peas and cold water into a large saucepan; add the herbs and salt to the saucepan; add the pepper to taste.  Cook over low to medium heat until the peas are very soft.  Remove from the heat and run through a ricer or press through a colander to remove the hulls.  Return the soup to the saucepan and heat to eating temperature.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Notes:  Use only 1 teaspoon of dried mint or herbs when substituting for fresh. I will use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand but I prefer 1 tablespoon each of fresh thyme and summer savory.  If you want a more salty taste you can add a teaspoon of spike or one of the other herbal salt substitutes when cooking.  I also like to sprinkle fresh chopped chives (either onion or garlic) over the sour cream or yogurt when serving.

Source: A Ruth Thompson original recipe that I first made sometime in early 1980’s.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 25, 2014

The Spiritual Practice of Giving – Prayerful Tuesday

Being, A Light  In The Darkness

Being, A Light
In The Darkness

I am one of many people who do not look forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas.  To me this time of the year represents the loss of way to many people I have cared about.  So I usually don’t do much celebration and what I do is forced and tiring.  Instead of celebrating the way most people do I have always used this time of year for reflection and giving to those in need.

All year round I practice the Spiritual Practice of giving, donating to those who are in need, but at this time of the year it takes on new meaning and helps with the depression I get every year. I practice this in many different ways; collecting food for the Food Bank, going through my closet and donating clothes I haven’t worn all year to Goodwill or the Salvation army, volunteer at a shelter, gather up grocery bags of food that includes dog food, blankets, caps, gloves and socks and hand them out to the homeless I encounter on the street. All of my giving is anonymous with no concern for what the gift is used for or any expectation of being repaid.  And, while I know my small efforts won’t change much doing something for someone else helps me remember how good my life is and that despite feeling depressed I actually have a life worth sharing.

This week’s Spiritual Practice is the Practice of Giving, of sharing from your abundance without strings attached, just giving out of the love you have of God, Christ, Holy Spirit, and all of humanity.  I would also like to recommend that this Spiritual Practice of Giving extend through the New Year.  Do something each week where you give to those who need it in some way; the food bank, shelters, or someone on the street.  Even if all you give is a welcome and a smile that acknowledges the humanity of all people that is more than some people will get all year.

May you find new ways to share your compassion for those in need, giving out of your abundant life to ensure others will have life.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 18, 2014

Visio Divina, a prayer – Prayerful Tuesday

sodiers in mist

Today is Veterans Day and I would like us to practice Visio Divina using the above pictures by David Bowie of the United Kingdom of Soldiers in the mist that touched me deeply.  Take a few moments to study the picture, breathing deeply and begin your Divine Reading. Think of Visio Divina like this–putting on God-glasses to see how an image illuminates Christ for you.

  1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors or lack of color, people, places and things.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
  2. 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?
  3.  Respond to the image with prayer. 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.
  4. 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.

I offer the poem below as a testament to what I “heard and saw” within the photo and my heart; and as an offering to all who have served, fought, and died in conflicts across time and the globe.  Peace be unto all

a prayer

They walk
into the smoke
filled
mist

The wounded,
the dead,
the lost,
walking to their destiny

They fought
they gave their all
for love
of wife and child
of Parent and sibling

The mist is filled with voices
well done,
thank you,
I love you
I miss you

Each voice a prayer
to send them on their way
to let them know
they are not forgotten
they are loved
that all is OK
despite they suffering
despite their sacrifice

Poppy’s held
music plays
hearts send love
no you are not forgotten
you are always with us
in our hearts
in our souls
in the lives you died to protect
go to your rest
knowing we are
grateful for
the love you gave
the life you gave

We who remain
are blessed by
You who walk
yesterday, today and tomorrow
it is not good-by
it is only until we meet again

Ruth Jewell, ©November 11, 2014

Morning Prayer

The Broken Loaf

The Broken Loaf

Communion

Blessing

Holy Presence,
on a day of sharing,
a day of remembering,
a day of covenantal renewal
we ask your blessing on this feast we are to share.

A cup to drink, bread to eat,
the meal you have prepared.
We accept your invitation
to feast
to welcome
all who travel with us. .  . .

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Gratitude for a meal shared
and consumed in love.
We leave your table full,
blessed,
ready to work in the field,
arms bared,
heart full,
outward we go.

No barns necessary
for the bounty we have collected,
all shared,
poor,
rich alike.
With thanks we go forth,
we are enough,
we have enough,
with prayers
we will work
until all have enough.

Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©November 9, 2014

Morning Prayer

Let The Light Shine

Let The Light Shine

 

Let those whose hearts are chained with hate, fear and greed hear the call of love, courage and generosity. Let the light break the chain of hate for those whose are different, the chain of fear of having a point of view challenged, the chain of greed that locks all out of the heart and feeds hate and fear. Let the light shine and hearts open.    Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©November 7, 2014