Thinking Cool Thoughts with Lectio and Visio Divina – Prayerful Tuesday

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

 My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

 He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

 The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Yost Park, Edmonds WA March 1, 2007

Yost Park, Edmonds WA
March 1, 2007

You probably are thinking the heat has gotten to my brain, or maybe it’s the pain pills for my back pain. But, on one of the recent warm summer days I picked up a book of poetry and it opened up to one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost.  So in all this heat we’ve been having here in the Northwest I thought this might make for a peaceful, cool meditation using either Lectio Divina with the poem or Visio Divina with the photograph, or do both.

Lectio Divina with Poetry, using poetry to hear God in the silence

  1. Choose either a single verse or the whole poem portion you wish to focus your meditation on.
  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.

Visio Divina with a Photograph

  1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, 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 photo? 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 your thoughts as 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 presence of  the Holy Spirit blow through your heart cooling your spirit and giving you new strength.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 28, 2015

A Moment of Silence – Prayerful Tuesday

Numbers 23:9a for from the top of the mountains I see him, from the hills I behold him;

Mt. Baker, 9/15/14

Mt. Baker, 9/15/14

On this beautiful Tuesday I ask only that you take a moment of silence. Hold in your hearts, the pain, suffering and loss from the deaths in Charleston North Carolina, Chattanooga TN.  To remember the loss of so many who have needlessly died from Sandy Hook, to Marysville.  As we lift up our eyes to the mountains open our hearts to those who suffer; the victims, the families. Hold the perpetrators in your heart as well, pray that light will enter the dark well they live in and bring them out of the darkness of their own making.   Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©July 21, 2015

Ruth’s Health Care Team

Matthew 25:36-40 (selected verses):  “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me . . . Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? . . . “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the one of the least of these by brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

My Health Care Team Group Photo

My Health Care Team
Group Photo

I would like to introduce my home health care team.  In the last they 5 days since I returned home from the hospital following back surgery they have been an awesome team and they deserve recognition.

John,  Mobility and General Care Specialist

John,
Mobility and General Care Specialist

First is John, by beloved husband. He has been amazing helping me get out of bed, up from the couch, and fixing for meals more than just macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.  I couldn’t ask for a better person to be my Mobility and General Care Specialist.

Freddie Discomfort Observer

Freddie
Discomfort Observer

Next up is Freddie, by sweet Zen natured Schipperke.  His job is to sit and watch me constantly every day, every hour, every minute.  To never leave my side, no matter where I am or what I am doing (get the picture). I must admit he seems to know when I am going to be in a lot of pain a beat before I do and he alerts John, the head of the team.  He is a very special fellow with very special talent.

Suzie Pain Control Specialist

Suzie
Pain Control Specialist

Suzie is my Pain Control Specialist.  My l little blind Chihuahua is the best comforter when I am struck by a lot of pain.  She snuggles up tighter and makes small sounds that fill me with calm.  She may be small and she may be blind but she is the love of my life and companion that never wants to leave me.  (Even visiting me in the hospital).

George and Cuddles Moral Booster Team

George and Cuddles
Moral Booster Team

And then there are these two guys, George on the left is a Green Cheeked Amazon, and Cuddles (Aka Carlos the South American Terrorist) on the right is a Cherry Head Conure.  They manage to keep me laughing by their silliness and funny calls.  Without them our house would a lot quieter but a lot less fun.

Well there they are my Health Care Team.  You might not want to hire them but to me they are priceless.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 17, 2015

Prayerful Tuesday

New Zealand, March 2015

New Zealand, March 2015

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.
Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, From Jewish Mindfulness, January 1, 12015

Peace and blessing

Ruth Jewell © July, 14, 2015

Healing Hands – Prayerful Tuesday

Jeremiah 33:6a Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them

Hands of God and Adam Creation, Michangelo

Hands of God and Adam
Creation, Michangelo

In 3 days I am going to enter the hospital for back surgery.  This is an eagerly anticipated event because I have been in so much pain for such a long time and this is my best chance at relief.  But it got me thinking about healing and the value of touching and holding those in pain.  It is not uncommon to be afraid to touch or hold a person in pain, either physical or mental pain, because we don’t want to cause them any additional discomfort.  But, when it comes right down to it those of us who suffer chronic pain want to be held. To feel the gentle touch of another person helps us to know we are cared for and loved, that we aren’t forgotten or discarded.  You see there is much power in the touch of the human hand.

The hands of the surgeon will move across my back and do their best to heal the damaged spine.  The hands of the nurses will offer comfort with a warm blanket, a cool cloth for my head, or simply to touch and let me know I am not alone.  My husband’s hands will hold mine before and after surgery and they will convey his love without words even if I am unable to respond to him.  The hands of the physical therapist will hold me and support me as I regain my strength.  The silent touches, hugs, and holding all convey the message of I care for you, I love you, and you are not alone.

My prayer practice for you this week is to be aware of those in need of your healing touch.  Hold those you love in your arms,  give a hug to someone struggling to make it through the day, or gently touch someone’s hand and let them know they aren’t alone.

I also am going to ask for prayers the surgery on Friday, that it will be successful and that I will be relieved of chronic back pain.

Thank you all, blessings and peace for the coming week.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 7, 2015

Seeing the Divine – Prayerful Tuesday

Photo by Rabbi Yael Levy, www.mishkan.org/awi, June 29, 2015

Photo by Rabbi Yael Levy, http://www.mishkan.org/awi, June 29, 2015

This week I am offering a meditation from Monday’s FaceBook (FB) page A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program.  I have used these FB daily meditations, and the Rabbi Yael Levy’s Jewish Mindfulness web page, Mishkan Shalom, for my own use for some time now.  I wanted to share with you the beauty of their posts and suggest you explore Rabbi Levy’s web page as a resource for mindfulness and meditation.

Let today’s meditation be your reminder to look for the Divine in all of creation.

Fulfilled is the person who knows that in each moment she dwells in the Divine presence
Fulfilled is the person who knows that in each moment the Divine presence dwells within her.
Always she offers praise.
-Psalm 84:5

May we have the strength and humility to look for the Divine within ourselves.
May we have the courage and faith to recognize the Divine in others.

More mindfulness resources: www.mishkan.org/awi

Ruth Jewell, ©June 30, 2015

Stand up and say NO MORE – Prayerful Tuesday

We are all Homo Sapiens sapiens but we will never be Human Beings until we stop just surviving and begin to live in harmony with each other and all creation.  

NO MORE

NO MORE

I have been trying to comprehend the shootings in South Carolina at the First Emanuel AME Church.  Just as the acts in other mass shootings I simply can’t get my mind around a hatred that produces such evil.  I have listened to the prayers for comfort and supplication.  I have listened, unwillingly, to the NRA and other public speakers who blame the church pastor and members, or minimize the acts of the shooter.  I can’t, or won’t, believe that 9 innocent people were the cause nor can I believe the shooter acted without encouragement.

You see, I believe we, you and I,  are to blame for what happened in South Carolina.  You and I, and everyone else regardless of skin color, privilege, ethnicity, or any other cultural classification are equally responsible for pulling the trigger and this is why I believe this.

We refuse to stand against acts of injustice, violence, discrimination, or the use of degrading speech.  We listen politely and shake our heads and tell ourselves that offering a prayer that people will change is enough.  We are afraid of what others might say about us if we stop someone in mid speech and tell them NO, I will not listen to this.  We look the other way when someone abuses another.  We tolerate public servants who degrade people of color, are poor, elderly, or have a religion they don’t follow.  We have tolerated public servants who have spoken as if they are the only ones who matter, who have verbally abused our President and anyone else they disagree with or disagree with them.

We have created this atmosphere of hate and violence found in country today.  Yes, I admit I am right there along with the rest of us.  Have I stood up and defended someone being abused, sometimes yes but not always.  I do it when it is convenient for me and that is not what we are called to do.  We, you and I, are called by the Divine to be better than that.

This week I am recommending a spiritual practice of standing up and defending the voiceless.  I am asking each of you to speak up when you hear someone abusing or degrading someone else.  I am pleading with each of you to stand and be counted when you see injustice happening.  As you go through this week remember this:

8 But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 The Message (MSG)

Ruth Jewell, ©June 23, 2015

A Time to Pause – Prayerful Tuesday

Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

Sunset at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand April 2, 2015, by Ruth Jewell

Sunset at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand
April 2, 2015, by Ruth Jewell

‘Resting from our labors’, this is such a lovely phrase.  Even God knew when to rest and let his new creation be.  He even made it a sacred moment in time.  While scripture identifies the seventh day as a time of rest for most of us there is no real strict rule as to when to take a day of rest, a time of Sabbath. Nor is there a set time limit for how long our rest should be.

Today is Tuesday and most likely you are in the midst of your busy lives.  But, even when we are at our busiest we need, yes need, to take a moment out of our day to center ourselves in order for us to be the people of the Divine.  So I am offering you those few moments.  Take a few minutes and using the Visio Divina instructions below, let yourself rest in your quiet place.  Find your center and spend a moment of rest with God.

  1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, 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 your thoughts as prayer to God.
  4. Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet center. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 16, 2015

An Elder’s Meditation: Accepting and Giving Thanks

Mark 4:26-29  He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

Walking though the  Huon Valley & Tahune Forest Hobart, Tasmania, Australia April 15, 2015, ©Ruth Jewell

Walking though the
Huon Valley & Tahune Forest
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
April 15, 2015, ©Ruth Jewell

This past spring John and I were on a 6½ week pilgrimage of sorts.   Unfortunately 2 hours before we were to be picked up by Shuttle Express I fell in my office and tore or badly bruised the calf muscle of my left leg and also  I refused to go to the emergency room because we would have missed our flight. Well, along with back issues, that fall meant I spent our holiday with a cane and walking as if I was 250 years old.

The fall and my, seemingly forever back problems, meant modifying some of our activities and learning to depend on the graciousness of people in New Zealand and on board our cruise ship..  I was helped by strangers I would never see again to walk up hills, across sand dunes, into cars, buses, and boats.  All they asked for was a simple thank you and a smile.  I cannot begin to express my gratitude to these angels in disguise.  They made our visit to NZ and back to the states a trip of a life time.

Now many of you may also have noticed that I often have a motor mouth (in the case of blogging, motor writing) and when I offer thanks to someone I will chatter on nervously for 10 minutes.  It took 6½ weeks for me to figure out that saying ‘thank you’ or ‘you are a blessing’ was all that was needed.

Learning to stop talking and listen has always been hard for me but what I have discovered this late in my life is when I stop with a smile and thank you I SEE the face of the angel who helped me.  It doesn’t matter what nationality, or skin color, or language they speak, the light shines through.  It isn’t just their job anymore it’s that they have been recognized for who they are.  If I am not speaking or thinking of more to say, I see them for who they are.

You have also probably noticed I have just as much trouble, maybe more, in receiving gratitude.  I am self-deprecating to the extreme.  Probably because I was taught that nothing I did was to be done for any expectation of thanks. But on this trip I was more aware of not just offering thanks but of receiving the gift of graciousness and help.  You see to offer thanks you have to have received something and that gift is hard one for me to accept.  But I learned to stop explaining that I fell, or have a back giving out on me.  I learned to simply take someone’s hand and lean on them for help without explaining how independent I normally am.

The scripture of Mark is one of giving and receiving.  It is giving your time to sow and the harvest is the receiving of God’s blessing (didn’t think I’d work that in did you).  What has finally sunk into my rather thick brain is giving and receiving God’s blessings comes in many forms and I am grateful for the giving and receiving of all the blessings from God’s hands I have received not just on our trip but in my whole lifetime.  It may seem like a small thing but graciously accepting the assistance from a stranger gives me a gift of love and the giver a gift of grace.  The Importance of keeping the ‘thank you’ short and sweet is that it focuses on the gift and the giver rather than my own ego.  It works the other way as well.  Keeping assistance I give to someone else also focuses on the gift I give and the receiver of the gift instead of me.  The giver and the receiver receive the gift of grace and love.  That is a beautifully thing and passing that gift on grows the grace between me and you and opens wider the door of the Kingdom of God.

To all of you, Thank you for being who you are, and many blessing on your many journeys.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 15, 2015

Laughter – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 126:2a our mouths shall be filled with laughter,
our tongues, with songs of joy

happy mouse

Photographer Unknown

Last Christmas Day my gift from Santa was a pinched nerve in my back. Apparently our dear Santa thought that was either funny or I was really bad last year.  Actually the problem is due to the fact that we humans stand upright. If we still walked on our knuckles like other apes we would have fewer problems. But then we wouldn’t be able to see over the tall person, in the tacky Uncle Sam hat, during the 4th of July parade would we.

Any way I digress.  What I am trying to say is in order to deal with the pain I have rediscovered the value of laughter as a spiritual practice.  Like the little mouse above I have learned the grace of sharing my joy at being alive instead of being the grouch my beloved John says I can be.  After all what does he know he only lives with me?

Spending time finding joy in all that is around me, offering that joy as prayer, and letting the response of joyful light to enter deep within does much for my own spiritual well being and for the life of those around me.

I am not the first to promote laughter as a spiritual practice, remember I said I rediscovered this practice.  But it is one we forget when life overwhelms us.  Taking ourselves seriously is important but it is also important to not go to the extreme.  No matter what we do, how we feel, or how badly things have gone there is always something to laugh at, even if it is just ourselves.

Before you all get your knickers in a knot I want you to know I am not making light of those who fight depression every day of their lives. Because depression isn’t a choice it’s an illness that needs to be addressed.  Caring for and helping those who fight mental illness is also a spiritual practice and an important one and something we all need to do.

However, for those of us who are fortunate not to experience depression learning to laugh, to find joy in life, and to bring joy to others is a spiritual practice, a spiritual practice that helps us all to not take ourselves too seriously.  For me laughing at life in general and discovering the joy in simply living each day brings me closer to God, who, I am sure, is laughing along with me.

Today I challenge each and every one of you to find something that brings you joy.  May your joy be your gift others and may it be a door to a deeper inner joy where you and the Holy Spirit have a good laugh.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 9, 2015