Eating Locally as a Spiritual Practice – Prayerful Tuesday

Harvest Time

Harvest Time

 

What does it mean to eat locally grown foods?  Well it doesn’t mean you eat only food grown in your area.  Rather it means you understand the importance of food or, as my friend David Bell says (Eating Locally, Artistically, justbetweentheridges.wordpress.com), the sacredness of food.  Eating food from a neighbor or a local farmer has less impact on the environment than food grown at great distance from us.  There are few transportation costs, less gas and oil means a smaller carbon footprint.  Most local farmers use fewer pesticides or none at all that leads to less contamination of the environment and fewer chemicals to which we are exposed.  The food is fresher because we are buying directly from the farmer we they can pick the fruit and produce at its peak instead of early because they don’t have to transport it as far.  That leads to better nutrition for us and our families.  The relationships built with farmers means you know where your food comes from and how it is produced.  Those are some of the benefits but what about the sacredness of food?

Well, food is sacred. It is a gift from the Holy Presence to feed our bodies and when we separate ourselves from where it originates we lose a connection with the Holy that is basic to life itself. Throughout scripture food plays an important role in the relationship with God, and with the people of the bible. In Genesis God provided food for Adam and Eve, when they were banned from the Garden God still provided for them.  The Israelites are fed by God with food from heaven; Elijah is cared for by angels; and at the end of his 40 days of temptation, the angels provided for Jesus. Ultimately we celebrate the sacredness of food every Sunday when we bless bread and cup and offer the feast of Jesus at the communion table. Food is important not just to our physical well being but to our spiritual well being as well.  The work a farmer does is not only necessary to our existence it is a holy occupation, a sacred act, a connection between God, earth and us.

This week spiritual practice is to offer thanks at each meal for the food you eat.  Here is the table prayer I use, you may use it or one of your own:

Holy Giver of Life, I thank you for this food before me, thank you for the earth in which it was grown, thank you for sun and rain that nurtured, thank you for the farmer who harvested it, and thank for the hands that prepared it.  May this food feed our bodies as you feed our souls.  Amen.

May your week be filled with wonderful food and abundant grace.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 16, 2014

Eating Locally, Artistically

a quiet walk:

The work a farmer does is not only necessary to our existence it is a holy occupation, a sacred act, a connection between God, earth and us.

Originally posted on Ridged Valley Reflections:

14.09.13

September 13, 2014

Belinda and I were asked to join a ten-day program to eat locally. Folk were hoping to get some statistics on how hard it is to eat food from within a 100-mile radius of our home. We didn’t join in, but it is harvest time and what isn’t grown in our garden is by one of our neighbors. This is our vegetarian time of year and local eating is easy.

The local movement has asked us all to consider eating locally for a while now. The local idea is moving along, but one needs only to drive through town and see the cars at Applebees, McDonald’s, Outback, and the slew of non-local eateries and know it has a long way to go.

Perhaps more folk could enjoy local foods if they understand locally does not mean never eat non-local foods. Rather local eating is about honoring…

View original 436 more words

Forgiveness – Prayerful Tuesday

kneeling prayer sketch croped

Matthew 18:21-22: 21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

This week’s prayer practice comes from the lectionary readings.  In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone and Jesus’ response is an astronomical number. So how many times should we forgive? An infinite number of times.

I have often wondered what brought up that topic for Peter.  Did he have someone he needed to forgive, did one of the other disciples do something that irritated him, or might one of his family been causing him trouble?  I know those are some of the reasons I often need to offer forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.

Hurting someone’s feelings is simply part of being human and living in relationships.  We are not always pleasant to be around anymore than anyone else is and so unless we forgive each other of those hurt feelings we would be carrying a terrible burden that would eventually eat away at our souls.

Several years ago a man entered an Amish school house and killed all of the children before he shot himself. It would have been understandable for the families of those children to be angry and want revenge on the shooters family, but that is not what happened.  Instead they surrounded the widow and her children in love and cared for her and her children in her grief the way they cared for their own grief.  A spokesperson for the Amish community said the best way to remember the lives of the children lost was to offer forgiveness and compassion to the shooters wife and child and if the shooter had survived they would have told him they forgave him. I have known Amish families and I wasn’t surprised by their actions but still it must have been very hard to offer that kind of loving forgiveness.  You see I have carried around some anger for a long time for something someone did to my mother and I need to let forgive the person.  It is time to simply release that anger and offer my forgiveness.  In his book Spiritual Gems of Islam[1] Imam Jamal Rahman offers a meditation practice that guides us in releasing our anger and offering forgiveness even when the person is no longer with us by reaching out to the soul of the person to be forgiven.  Briefly here are the steps to follow:

  1. Begin in a state of meditation or stillness, let yourself feel safe and loved When you are ready call to the soul the person you wish to address
  2. Give yourself permission to experience your feelings this person evokes in you. Notice in your body where those feelings are located.  Feel compassion and mercy for yourself and slowly embrace those feelings
  3. When you are ready allow the feelings of mercy and compassion as a bridge to the persons soul and tell why you are forgiving them.
  4. Offer a prayer in the presence of the person’s soul that expresses your needs in relation to the person. State your heartfelt desire in prayer. End the prayer with whatever is in your highest interest, is manifesting for you now.
  5. As you continue to meditate tell the person’s soul that they have been part of your life but that it is now time to let them go, with love and forgiveness. Jamal recommends a ritual of cutting cords to release your attachment to the person.
  6. Listen for the soul of the other person expressing gratitude for this work of healing. Offer to release the person’s soul and envision his/her soul being embraced by the Holy Spirit.
  7. As you end of your meditation, give yourself permission to be loved by the Spirit and slowly return to awareness.

The above is a brief introduction to the prayer practice but it follows all of the steps.  However, if you are interested in furthering your understanding of this beautiful Sufi meditation I strongly recommend reading Imam Rahman’s book.

Peace to you all, and May your heart open like a flower in forgiving love for the unlovable and the lovable alike.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 9, 2014

[1] Rahman, Imam Jamal, Spirituality of Islam,  Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT, 2013, pgs. 148-150.

All Will Be Well – Prayerful Tuesday

 

Earth taken by Juno satellite, Nasa

Earth taken by Juno satellite, Nasa

For the last couple of days I have been using a prayer book of a collection of Julian of Norwich’s writings as my meditation focus and I would like to share this morning’s prayer with you.

Now our Lord reminded me
of the desire for him I had earlier.
I saw that nothing stood in my way but sin,
and I realized that this is the same for all of us.
And I thought that if there were no sin,
we would all be pure and akin to our Lord
Just as we had been created sinless.
But in my vision, Jesus informed me
of everything necessary for me to know.
And he told me: Sin is necessary,
but everything will turn out for the good,
and all will be well,
and everything will be well.
by the simple word, ”sin”
God reminded me of all that is not good
and of the suffering and grief of all creation,
and above all of the utter shame and sacrifice
he endured for our salvation.
We have all suffered woe and sorrow
as we follow our master Jesus,
and we shall do so until we are utterly purified,
I did not see sin itself,
for it has no real substance,
it is not real:
it can be known only by the suffering it causes,
and even that pain lasts but a while.
And during the woe
we might take consolation in our Lord’s suffering.
And out of his tender love, he consoles us, saying:
True, sin caused this pain, but all will be well.
In his voice I never hear a hint of blame,
and since we who are guilty are not blamed,
why should we in turn blame God?

Julian of Norwich

All will be well, that is a powerful statement of faith, of trust in G-d to always be there.  Sometimes it is hard for me to hold onto those words.  Sometimes they don’t seem true especially in these days when violence and disasters dominate our world.  But Julian of Norwich says “but everything will turn out for the good, and all will be well, and everything will be well” and somehow in this morning’s meditation I find the space to believe that and to trust G-d knows what she is doing.

For this week’s spiritual practice to consider the sins of the world war, pollution, global warming and to hold the victims in your heart and offer prayers for their well being.  As you sit with your prayers listen for a call to work in some way to right an injustice you see this week.

“All will be well”

Ruth Jewell, ©September 2, 2014

Summer’s End—Prayerful Tuesday

Harvest Time

Harvest Time

 

The month of August is one of my favorite times of the year a time of reflection and gratitude.  This has always been a slow time of year for me. A time to sit on the porch with a cold glass of iced tea and just sit, letting the warm air surround me, and the end of summer sounds lull me into a lazy half-sleep. There are fresh vegetables from the garden, or farmers market, that make even the simplest meals a feast.  Ice cream tastes better with ripe fat blackberries, or sweet peaches on top.  The trees are making a tired sound as the August breezes blow through leaves that are drying out and getting ready to turn into autumns crowning glory of red and gold.

In May there is excitement, joyousness and expectations in the air, but in August the air begins to get sleepy, tired and a little sad.  In just a few short weeks our children will be back in school, the air will turn cold and instead of juicy watermelon on the back porch it will be hot chocolate with cookies at the kitchen table.

As you can see, for me, August is a time of reflection and remembrance but it is also a time to take stock and explore what I am grateful for.  And, today gratitude fills my thoughts.  I am grateful for the warm sun and gentle rains that have fed my vegetable garden this year.  I have feasted on fresh lettuce, green beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I have been able to put some in our freezer to pull out and remember the warm summer sun in the darkness of winter.  I am grateful for the time spent lying in the shade and letting our dogs use me as a chew toy.  Together John and I have watched the sun set over the Olympic Mountains, turning the gold and purple and the waters of Puget Sound into silver.  I am grateful for walks in Yost Park and along the Edmonds beach, watching children play in forest and sand.  I am grateful for the feeling of life that thrums through me when I watch the sunrise over the trees of Yost Park, turning the sky from dark to bright and the Olympic Mountains pink with the first rays of light. I am grateful for the silence of the morning as I sit and meditate on our deck before sunrise. And, I am grateful for the opportunity to write in my blog, to have the time to read or simply sit and just be.

Gratitude is what warms my heart and gratitude is the spiritual practice I am asking you to join me in this week. You have read some of what I am grateful for now it is your turn.  As this summer winds down what are you grateful for?  Has something, no matter how small, given you pleasure or challenged you this summer? Have you done something that warms your heart and causes’ it to “swell with thanksgiving?” Did you travel, or read a book, or did you just stop and let the summer wash over you?  All of these, and more, are reasons to be grateful.

May G-d bless these your last days of summer with juicy berries and sweet peaches, gentle breezes and warm sunshine.  And, may you heart swell with gratitude for the gifts G-d graces you with.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 26, 2014

A Woodland Path, Visio Divina

Luke 6:12 During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long.

Deception Pass, August 15, 2014

Deception Pass, August 15, 2014

 

God speaks to us in many ways–through relationships, our experiences, sacred texts such as the Bible and many more. Today I am asking you to “read” a photograph using the practice of Visio Divina, Latin for divine seeing, which is praying with images to listen to God’s words. Todays focus of our pray is a picture of a woodland path.  Using the following four steps explore the images and emotions that the picture brings up for you.  Let the God speak to you through those images and remembered experiences.

  1. Slowly gaze at the picture, taking a first glance noting the colors, 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 in the picture? What do you see from that perspective? What do you think lies around the corner? Do you want to continue on the path? Would you walk this path alone or would you rather have a friend along? Why? 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.

Divine Mother surround us in the love of your embrace
Divine Father guide us through the trials of  life
Divine Brother walk with us in light and shadow
Divine Sister Spirit breathe your strength into our hearts
In the midst of the Divine Grace we spend our days

Ruth Jewell, ©August 20, 2014

Visio Divina, Fishing – Prayerful Tuesday

Matthew 13:47  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.”

 

Fishing

Fishing

 

Today I offer you a moment of reflection using Visio Divina. The photograph is of a young boy fishing on a pier with a cat beside him.  What insights might you find as you slowly gaze into its depths.

  1. As you gaze at the above picture what feelings does it bring up for you?
  2. What elements are you drawn to and why?
  3. What relationships do you see?
  4. Engage your imagination and where would you place yourself in the picture.
  5. Does the image remind you of an experience you’ve had, a person you know or remember, or an issue that is close to your heart?
  6. Find your quiet Center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs.  Rest in the quiet the scene evokes.  Let God pray in you.  Let your prayer to God be beyond words.

the sun and the sea bless you
the air and the earth bless you
the love of the Holy Spirit surround you
the grace of God be upon you, and
the love of Christ surround you
today and every day.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 19, 2014

 

Walk in the Presence — Prayerful Tuesday

DSCF0434

Ah summer, filled with hot days and warm nights, homemade popsicles and fresh fruit.  On hot days I love to amble over to Yost Park and walk under the tall trees in the cool shade.  I don’t want to exert myself too much; I might after all get too warm.  Therefore today as our spiritual practice for the week I offer a verse from the Psalms.  I present you with the Psalmists simple practice of walking with G-d.

Psalm 116:9 I shall walk before the Lord in the lands of the living. – The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation May your warm summer days be filled with a gentle walk with the Lord.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 12, 2014

Sweet Pea and the Narrow Path

DSCF0427 a

Matthew 14:25-33 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Nearly 40 years ago I went on a camping trip that included riding a horse 20 miles every day.  The horse I rode was a rather smallish black mare with a lot of quarter horse in her background.  She was gentle and quiet and when I learned she didn’t have a name I named her Sweet Pea.

One day we came to place where the trail all but disappeared and developed a tilt of maybe 30 to 40° as it extended across the lip of the canyon.  The distance to the bottom of canyon was maybe 100 to 150 ft down.  I needed to trust that my horse would safely carry me across the steep incline without falling to the bottom of the canyon.  I took a deep breath and started across and promptly halted Sweet Pea and froze about ¼ of the way on the path.  We were in very precarious position, on a steep incline and just inches from the edge of the canyon wall and a drop to the bottom would most likely have killed both of us.  I held Sweet Pea in place until she pulled the reins loose in my hand, turned her head as if to say trust me we can do this and she walked the rest of the way across.  As I look back over the years I have begun to learn this moment with Sweet Pea was a turning point for me. I now realize that it was here on a narrow trail in Mexico that I turned onto the path leading to this place in my life. For that first step to happen I had to let go of my fear and anxiety and trust someone else to take control of my life, it just happened to be that a small black horse was the one I put my trust in.

Peter too takes a step of trust when he steps out of the boat and starts to walk toward Jesus but something happened to him and he started to sink.  Yes Jesus saved him and before they get into the boat tells him he needs faith.  Ah, but what is faith and how does Peter or any of us get more of it? I can’t answer the “how” question because for each of us the way to faith will be different.  But I can explore with you what it means to have faith.

The modern definition of faith is not the definition that was understood in the days of Jesus and Peter.  Today we equate faith with religious belief; if you believe in specific religious doctrines you are said to have faith in it.  But, Marcus Borg in Speaking Christian, says in the 1st century faith was expressed by the Latin words fidelitas, faithfulness, and fiducia, trust.

To have faithfulness meant you were committed to, loyal to, held allegiance to, and were attentive to a relationship, Such as our relationship with God.  Faith as faithfulness does not just mean you are not going to follow other gods, but that you are committed and loyal to your relationship with God, and God known as Jesus, and that you attend to that relationship to keep it strong and healthy.

Faith as trust is more than a commitment; it is also a deep trust in God and Jesus.  That trust is so deep that you are willing to get out of your nice safe boat and walk on water, or, ride your horse across a dangerous trail.  The opposite of faith is not infidelity, but “mistrust”—that is anxiety, and that is what happened to Peter.  One moment Peter was striding above the waves, just as Jesus was, and then his fears build into anxiety and he began to mistrust Jesus, so he started sinking.  Jesus is not telling Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  No, what Jesus was really saying was “Peter, why didn’t you trust me to keep you on the surface of the water, why did you mistrust me?”

Isn’t that what we all do? Don’t we all mistrust God and Jesus to fulfill our needs?  And, don’t our plans all too often sink, just as Peter did?  I know it is true for me.  My first steps out of the safety of my boat into the abyss of trust were with Sweet Pea and I froze.  I wasn’t sure I could trust her to carry me across that narrow path to safety.  But something in her eyes told me all would be well and you know what, 40 years later I’m still here.  Since that horseback camping trip in Mexico I have had many moments when I let my mistrust of Jesus keep me from achieving goals I know I could have achieved if I had had faith, if I had trusted, in the one leading me and I know that there will be more of them in my future.

You see I am human and to mistrust God is part of a being human because I have a strong sense of my own independence which wants to rule the day.  And having independence isn’t bad, nor is saying “No” to God and Jesus.  The choice of following or not following must always be mine.  It is when my independent voice says “Yes” that my trust in God and Jesus is the strongest and deepest for then I know with certainty that I am not alone.  I know then that nothing will shake by commitment to, my faithfulness in, the One All Surrounding Presence.

Have any of you ever read John Ortberg’s book If You Want To Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat?  Well Ortberg is right, you do have to step out of the boat, or onto the narrow path, and trust that everything will be all right.  I often wonder if we, if I, can sustain my trust in God long enough to get out of the boat on that raging sea called life and walk across the water?  More often than not we will set ourselves up for failure by allowing our hearts to mistrust Jesus’ promise that He “is with us always.”

Life can be hard task master and the main reason we don’t succeed is often how we see failure and loss of trust.  Losing our trust, our faith does not have to shape who we, you and me, are; it is the way we respond to that loss that shapes us.  Jesus wasn’t ridiculing Peter when he asked why he failed. Rather he was asking a question of Peter, ‘why did you lose your trust.’  Peter may not have understood the question at the time but following the resurrection he did and he stepped out of his nice safe boat big time.  For Peter, learning to walk on water and being rescued by Jesus was his turning point, his moment that began his trip to his own cross.

We too don’t understand the questions Jesus asks us and I am no different.  Right now I am struggling with so many questions that I don’t know which ones I’m asking and which ones God is asking.  All I know is the answers are not forthcoming.

One of the first lessons in trust happens to be learning to wait on God to guide us in the right direction.  We have to wait for the power to be given to us to walk on water.  We have to wait for Jesus to calm the seas for us.  Only then will we make it across that treacherous path or across the water’s surface.  The problem is all of us are impatient; we want results now, not tomorrow, but yesterday.  We want to move forward in our lives and we don’t care how we do it.  One of my favorite phrases is “Give me patience Lord, but hurry” and for many years that fit me to a “T.”  Slowing down and opening my heart and mind, trusting that Jesus will come is extremely hard.  It is putting myself, in utter vulnerability, into Jesus’ hands. It is letting go of what I want and trusting and having faith that Jesus will bring me what I need.

The idea that any of us are self made individuals is a myth.  We all need others in order to survive and thrive in our world.  We have always needed the other, not just in today’s world where we are globally connected, but in all of time we have been in need of the other in our lives.  That other might be our brothers and sisters, it might be the food we hunt or grow but what and who ever it is we cannot survive alone. We have always needed to choose who to trust, who we would have faith in and be faithful to.  We look for what will guide us in ways that will allow us to flourish and let our children flourish. We look to pass on our understanding of the world in a way that teaches our children to trust in something other than themselves or those who only think like them.  We look to trust someone who will honor our independent yes as much as our independent no.  We want to have faith in someone who will show us how to walk on water and skip across dangerous paths.

Peter lost his trust and began to sink but Jesus was there to lift him up and into the safety of the boat.  I lost my trust for a moment but the Holy Spirit said trust in the guide I have given you and together Sweet Pea and I made it safely across.  It has always amazed me as to the number of different ways the Holy Spirit makes herself known to me.  Sometimes I simply have to go with the flow of energy and trust that what will be is what is supposed to happen. It is all about trust. That is what faith is all about.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 10, 2014
Sermon given at Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle, WA

Church Camp, 2014 – Prayerful Tuesday

CYF, Chi Rho Camp Pic, 2014

Mark 10:13-16

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

I spent last week at Gwinwood Christian Retreat Center, [(Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)] as one of the Chi Rho (Jr. High) counselors.  The whole week was a wonderful experience and not just for the kids.  Spending time with children and young people is a prayerful time.  In the voices and faces of the young G-d is evident in all that they do, even the mischief.  Jesus loved children and young people, he tells his disciples they are important to the breaking out of Kingdom of God; time spent with young people is time spent with G-d.

When you are with kids’ prayer comes in many shapes and sizes, in still and playful moments, in laughter and in tears, and in soccer and in worship.  The joy of seeing a young person open their eyes to a new experience of G-d, in priceless.  Hearing their voices around the campfire singing “Peace Like a River” will make you’re your heart swell.

Being a Camp Counselor is an experience you should not miss and if you are offered that opportunity please consider the prayer that is our Young People.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 5, 2014