Shadows – All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day

Do you ever wonder what happens to shadows?  I do, sometimes.  I mean where do they go when the sun goes away?  I have lots of shadows that follow me.  I know they are there even though it’s dark and I can’t see them.  It’s like the monsters under the bed. I know they are there even if I shine a light, I know, you see they skitter into the dark corners where the light never goes.

All Hallows Eve is the beginning of the time of year I have the most difficulty with.  These last two months of the year are thin times when memories and shadows come out of the woodwork of my mind. Yes I have shadows and whether good or bad they are there, a part of me, that follows me wherever I go, whatever I do. And I see more shadows every year and they make me sad for what is gone and what I will never see again.

Dad, 18 years old

Dad, 18 years old

There is the shadow that is my father, once tall and strong He carried my on his shoulders and let me snuggle with him in church, and showed me the beauty of the stars and the light show that is the Aurora Borealis. Dad was the one who said “Ruth, you can accomplish whatever you want all you have to do is dream and then go for it.”  He encouraged me, me his scarred and damaged child, to ride horses, plow a field, drive a farm truck when I was twelve, and hold puppies and kittens in arms with all the love I could give.  He taught me to count by having me feed weanling calves, and gave me a bull calf as pet.  In his eyes I could do anything and I could. Even when Dad became ill, and weak, I could still see his strong shadow standing beside him.  At his death his shadow faded into the wind and while wisps of him cling to my memory he has become a distant shadow.

Mom, 18 years old

Mom, 18 years old

Then there is the shadow of my mother.  A lion hearted woman, who fought for me with ever fiber of her being.  This was the woman who fearlessly took on the school board to make sure that I, her oldest daughter, would enter school at age 6. You see I had been badly injured the previous June and was still recovering and the school didn’t want to “deal” with a “disabled” child.  But I started school on time, all because my Mom had the heart of a lioness and you didn’t mess with Mama Lion.

The shadows have followed me, are following me, wherever I go as I travel this path that leads to whatever life will give me. Some are old friends, some not so friendly, but they are mine just the same.  Whenever I turn around I see them jump into those corners.  I see just a hint of them, small smudges of dark, and gray.  For many years I was afraid of the dark, the shadows that lurk there, but, not anymore.  Today I look for them as reminders of days past, friends cherished and lost, puppy hugs and kitten kisses.

Mom and Pippin, 1988

Mom and Pippin, 1988

Today I see them for what they are, memories, shadows that cannot hurt me unless I let them.  I no longer let the shadows rule over me, rather I let them watch as I face the life I have chosen and do what I feel to be right.  I am learning not to let them make me feel guilty for long ago actions that I cannot change and from which I learned much.  I will let the Shadows stay in the dark and I will light a candle to chase them into the corners. Jesus said no one hides their light under a bushel and He’s right.  To hide my light is to let the shadows rule and I’d rather I placed my light in the open to show me the way to go and to keep the dark, the shadows at bay.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 31, 2014

The Spiritual Gift of Slowing Down – Prayerful Tuesday

tree of life labyrinth

 

Last Friday I had foot surgery to correct arthritis damage to two toes.  I have had day surgeries before and in general they go, just as this one did. But as I waited to be taken in to surgery I began to think of the consequences of my doing this. The benefits are easy to name, the primary ones are, being able to wear my shoes comfortably again and being able to walk without pain in my feet.  But there are also consequences and benefits I hadn’t considered.

For example, I wasn’t going to make an InterPlay group on Saturday that I really wanted to attend, and I wouldn’t be able to make it to church on Sunday.  In fact not until next Thursday will I be able to leave the house.

In addition to being stuck in the house my foot hurts, a lot, and because I can’t take the more popular pain killers, I have a pain medicine that, while it works well, has some drawback like extreme dizziness and fatigue. However, I have begun to see some real benefits, other than walking, that I hadn’t taken into consideration.

First of all I have to slow down, something I don’t often do, and think if what I want to do is really important and necessary.  I have been surprised at how much I do during the day that really is busy work. Simply letting go of those fussy details has been a great relief and I think I am going to continue with that. The things I am able to do right now have real importance, mean something to me, and are getting done better and with less effort.

I also have to say “no” to extra tasks when I am asked for “help.” Setting of boundaries has always been complicated for me.  I never want to “offend” anyone and so often take on tasks that I know I don’t have the time to do nor the more energy or strength to do them. Saying no is one of the hardest things I am trying to learn.  I overextend myself all the time all because I can’t set boundaries and tell someone “no, not today.”

There are benefits of saying no such as more the time for meditation, and pausing to take the time for myself.  I don’t mean short meditation I mean sitting down, which is all I can do anyway right now, for a couple of hours and meditating over a passage of scripture, or something I’ve just read.  Instead of worrying about what I can’t do I have been rediscovering the joy of what I can do in the moment, the return of silence and quiet peace.  Holding Suzie, my Chihuahua, in my lap I have been reconnecting with the Divine in art, literature and music and letting all of it wash over me and renew me.

I have also relearned the joy of receiving the generosity from others.  From hospital staff, to friends, to family, especially my beloved husband John, I have been graced with an amazing amount of love and care. These lovely people have helped me slow down and have given me the space to be right here, right now without feeling guilty.

I am grateful that I am not seriously handicapped or so ill I am unable to learn from this slow time. I am learning to accept with joy the gifts others give me and not feel embarrassed or feel I don’t deserve such grace. I know at some point I will grow impatient with being unable to do exactly what I want, but right now I am grateful for this time of rest and recovery.

Now I know I am not the only one out there who has difficulty in accepting gifts. Therefore, I offer this spiritual practice of saying “thank you” for the gifts you receive this week.  Simply say thank you, don’t elaborate, just accept.  Allow someone to do something for you, or do something for someone else and receive their gratitude with grace.  Recognize the joy of being in the moment and offer a thank you.  Offer your gratitude to the Holy for this time, this place, the people, creation that is the now.  Let the gifts of other to you renew your spirit and let the grace shine out from your heart to those around you.

May your week be filled with joy of gifts unforeseen, and may they bring you peace.

Ruth Jewell, ©October, 28, 2014

Pray Everywhere, Anytime

Prayer, A Light In The Darkness

Prayer, A Light In The Darkness

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –                                  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, (NRSV)

To pray always, without ceasing, seems like an impossible task.  Seeing God in every thing, every action we do, every moment of our lives opens doors of our hearts, and the Spirit of God moves in.  We don’t become Pollyanna’s seeing only the good in people.  We see the suffering and trials of those around us and in seeing God in their faces we open our hearts and let God’s compassion move us to be the arms and legs, the body, of the Holy Spirit.  We are motivated to give the solace, love, support to those who are in need just as Jesus did on the streets and fields of Judea.

The suffering of our communities, nation and world overwhelms, frightens us and as the troubles increase exponentially we ask does prayer really do any good. Offering a prayer for someone walking in the dark places of life, does let them know they aren’t alone, that someone, somewhere is keeping them in their hearts.  But even more important is the prayer that motivates us to be the Christ on the street, to offer food, and help find shelter.  To care for the sick and injured in even small ways that often are not seen in the mad rush to send massive aid.  In fact many times it is the small things we do that mean the most to the recipients.  Each act is an act of prayer, it is an offering, it is remembering to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the incarcerated, and give mercy to the stranger, which all God and Jesus asked us to do.

What does prayer do for us who offer the prayers, perform the actions of prayer?  Well prayer draws us r into the arms of God.  Prayer opens our hearts to the love God and our ears to the words of God calling us to be the Beings we are meant to be.  Below is a lovely video by Lisa Maria Cameron (www.whisperingstars.com ©2007)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQTvt7MC5Q0

As you listen to song and watch the pictures pass before you.  Let your hearts turn to prayer, where ever you are, you don’t even have stop what you are doing and offer a prayer for what lies closest in heart.  Listen; listen carefully in a moment of silence, and throughout your day, for words of encouragement from God.  Look into the faces of each person you meet and see the face of God.  Each of you, all of you, no matter what you do, or have done, is beloved by God.  Let your eyes be opened to love that shines in the eyes of each other, and ears be opened to the voice of God in the voice of the next person you meet.

May the peace of God be with you, now and forever more.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 20, 2014

‘Tis the Season to Duck and Cover

a quiet walk:

Some great advice for the quickly advancing holiday season

Originally posted on Irreverent Rev:

holy days-page-001 (1)

A Confusion of Holy Day Greetings

I’m bracing myself for the inevitable onslaught. I know it’s coming, just as it does every year. It begins the moment the first person utters those two simple, little words: “Happy Holidays!”

And then the sparks fly.

View original 334 more words

Gratitude for Home – Prayerful Tuesday

The From My Deck

The View From My Deck

 

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

I returned home yesterday from a week of traveling.  John and I joked that we could now give recommendations for 4 hotels and 4 different beds if anyone wanted such a thing.  It is not that we didn’t have fun,  the Turner Lecture’s in Yakima was very informative, with lots of insight and just plain good conversation, we loved visiting the Maryhill Museum and had a delightful time at the Maryhill winery (if you like winery’s this is one not to miss).  And, I couldn’t ask for a better end to the trip than the wedding of my beloved cousin Sally to the love of her life, Maggie.  However, I agree with Lin Yutang, home is best for a good rest.

When we returned home we were greeted with barks of joy and two wiggly furry bodies, screeches of mom and dad are home from two excited parrots and the inviting comfort of our own bed.  I am grateful for the comfort of my own bed, the steamy warmth of my own shower, and the cozy comfort of husband and dogs on the couch.  But most of all I am grateful for a silence that feeds a soul drained of its energy by activity and the presence of others who, while I love them all, are a bit needy.  Here at home I am grateful for being alone, but not lonely, for silence that speaks to me, and for rest that feeds me.

So today I am asking you to spend time each day in the coming week with, at least, one gratitude for home.  Every day offer up a prayer of gratitude for something about your home that you are grateful for and let your heart soar with thankfulness for that space you call home.

May your journeys always be so eventful that you are grateful for the return home.

Many Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©October 14, 2014

Journey, A Guided Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

Journey

Journey

 

Galatians 3:26-29 The Message (MSG) 25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.
28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

I am traveling this week. I am attending a wedding in Long Beach WA  this weekend but my first stop was in Yakima where I attended  the Turner Lectures., an interfaith lecture series held every year in the first week of October by the North West Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (NWRCC). The NWRCC invites prominent authors and theologians and hosts for three days of a teaching, discussion, good conversation, and meaningful worship. This year Michael Kinnamon and Carol Howard Merrit are our guest lectures and their talks and discussions of the Past and Future Church: From the Ends of the Earth to Our Doorstep are inspiring. I am part of the team that planned the worship services and one of the elements of our morning worships has been guided meditation on the morning’s scripture. Guided meditation is a wonderful spiritual tool that uses our imagination to enter into story, or scripture, in a very personal way. In our imagination we are feel the warmth of the sun, stirring of the wind, all of the natural elements. We can smell food, or feel the presence of crowds or feel emptiness. Using our imagination we “see” the story from a new perspective, not as a distant reader, but as a participant.

Monday I read Galatians 3:26-29 and led the morning’s guided meditation. I invite you to take a few minutes, get comfortable and listen to the scripture and meditation. The full text of the meditation is below

 

 

I invite you to get comfortable, with feet on the floor

Take a deep breath and another one.

You have been walking a long time you are tired and covered in road dust

Ahead of you a small village appears at the edge of lake. You have arrived

You have been searching anticipating the end of your journey and now it is in sight

Villagers wave to you and you wave in return the people walk out to greet you the young and the old, people of every color in the human rainbow, people wearing clothes of every cultures all come out to welcome you In front the growing group, God, waits for you with open arms

Someone relieves you of your back pack as God enfolds you in an embrace a flask of water is pressed into your hand Jesus, offers you a place to rest, breaks bread with you and offers you wine. you didn’t know how hungry you were.

They take you to the lake where you bathe in it’s cool, refreshing waters when you step out of the water new clothes await you, new shoes, soft as down for your tired feet.

The villagers celebrate your coming with a great dinner food from every culture, every ethnic group all created for a joyful feast

God dances with joy

You are home a child of the village

You have new clothes

you have eaten food that has fed you deeper than any food possibly could

the villagers hand you your pack, cleaned and freshly filled

God, Jesus, and the villagers shoulder their own packs

together you walk on
Together you complete the journey

 

Ruth Jewell, ©October 7, 2014,

A Prayer for the Animals

 

The Resident Fur and Feathered Babies

Freddie and Suzie

Freddie and Suzie

George and Cuddles (AKA Carlos the South American Terrorist)

George and Cuddles (AKA Carlos the South American Terrorist)

Dear Holy Spirit, bless all creatures living and passed on that wing their ways across the sky, walk the good earth, and crawl along the path of life.  Bless companion creatures that help, comfort and provide joy and company to those they live with.  Bless those creatures that work alongside us in conflict and in peace, protect their brave souls and surround them with you love.  Pray for those creatures that have been abused and neglected, help them to find loving forever homes, and bless those angelic souls  that work tirelessly to help all creatures in need.

Oh, and Lord, as much as I am afraid of spiders I ask you to especially bless them, for they do the work you have set before them with great diligence.  All I ask of you is to let those eight legged wonders know that if they stay hidden in my home, I will not harm them.

With gratitude for all your creation, this humblest of creatures thanks you for all of the dogs, cats, birds, cows, horses, chickens, turkeys, and duck that have blessed, and still bless my life.    AMEN

Ruth Jewell, ©October 4, 2014

 

Hand Drawing a Labyrinth Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

Drawing a Cretan or Classical Labyrinth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT9BdWMrvnA

Note: the artist is making a right hand labyrinth, instruction are for a left hand labyrinth. 
The method is the same; the difference is the starting point,
which is from the top left hand short angle line to the top long center line.

I love walking a labyrinth, whether in an indoor or outdoor setting. It is one of the best ways to find the stillness within I need to hear the voice of the Divine.  But sometimes I am nowhere near a labyrinth, so in that case I will use a finger labyrinth. But I don’t always carry one with you, so, what I do is draw my own labyrinth. Drawing a labyrinth can also be a meditative act, which can be done anywhere or anytime I have a few moments to spare.

I have provided the following instruction for drawing the Classical (or Cretan) Labyrinth, which is the simplest to draw.   As you sit down with your paper, take a deep breath to center yourself.  Offer a prayer of intention and begin to draw.  As you make your seed pattern and connect each of the lines and dots give yourself to the process, letting the growing Labyrinth enter into your prayers and meditation.  When you are finished use your finger or pencil too “walk” your labyrinth just as you would with any finger labyrinth.  When you have “exited” offer a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude for these moments of stillness.

Instructions for Drawing Classical (Cretan) Labyrinth

The best way to draw a labyrinth is to begin with a pencil and paper (you might want to include eraser?) We do not know who found it out or invented it, but this method is ingeniously simple and with practice easy to repeat.

It is very important to place your pattern such that you have sufficient space paper for the following steps. Draw the pattern into the lower half of your sheet of paper just slightly left of the center line, making sure you leave enough space on the right and left side and above.

First you draw the basic seed pattern that consists of 4 dots in a square. Inside draw an equal-leg cross. And into each of the 4 small squares resulting I draw a small angle.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

 

Fig. 2. Seed Pattern

Fig. 2. Seed Pattern

 

 

Next you will begin to connect the dots and lines, in sequence, from the left to the right, clockwise all in arc-shaped lines as shown in Fig 3 and Fig. 4

Fig. 3

Fig. 3 The First Arc

 

Fig. 4

Fig. 4 Three of the Equally Spaced Arcs

Begin with the middle line (see Fig. 3 above) this is the center.

Now connect the next free end of the line on the left side to the free dot on the right side with an arc equal distant from the first arch (Fig. 4).  Continue drawing arcs from left to right.  After all of the left side lines and dots have been connected there should be a gap between the bottom left short angle line and the bottom long center line, that is the entrance. Your Labyrinth should look like Fig. 5, if it doesn’t simply start over. Using your finger or a pencil  to “walk” your completed Labyrinth.

Fig. 5 The Finished Labyrinth

Fig. 5 The Finished Labyrinth

 

May your find the stillness within as you walk the labyrinth in it’s many and diverse ways.
Ruth Jewell, ©September 30, 2014

Praying With Nature – Prayerful Tuesday

Vancouver, BC Oct, 2013

Vancouver, BC Oct, 2013

Last night was the Autumnal Equinox.  The Sun crossed that imaginary line in the sky called the celestial equator from north to south.  Spring begins in the southern hemisphere and fall officially begins here in the north.  I don’t know about you but I’ve been feeling ‘fall’ for some time now.  The nights are cooler, the air has that dried leaf smell to it and the light, well, just looks different, fallish you might say. But with all things human we have to have a point in space and time that defines what we already know to be. We humans can be silly.

While summer is my favorite time I have to admit fall has its good points.  There is nothing like taking a walk in the park, leaves crunching beneath my feet, red gold above my head and a blue sky the color of which you only see in fall. This is the time of year I make a pilgrimage into our neighborhood park, Yost Park, and find a quiet corner to sit and pray with nature.  A thank you prayer for a lovely summer, a pray of gratitude that I am able to experience the joys, and beauty of all the seasons.  I reflect on the past summer and all of the joy and sorrow it brought.  As I gaze at the now flaming trees amongst the dark evergreens I allow memory’s to surface of past falls, and allow myself to sink into that deep connection to nature that comes only from giving me permission to feel the creative life of the surrounding world now slowing into slumber.  I often remember past fall walks with my father.  We used to walk through our fields that were once green and bursting with life but now covered in a sleepy haze the ground began to enter its winter sleep.

Fall is a good time for reflection, a time to take stock, a time to remember, and a time for rest. So for this week’s prayer practice I would like to offer you a Prayer of Examen with nature. Being outside and experiencing the smells and sights of the natural world often triggers memories of past walks by yourself or with others.  It gives the experience of the Examen a very immediate and fresh sense, allowing the  old memories to open  a deeper connection to the creator in today’s moment.

Prayer of Examen with Nature:

  1. Take 30 minutes, or more if you like, and go for a walk outside. Find a quiet place where you may sit without interruption.  Note: leave your cell phone at home.
  2. Let this time be just between you and God. In whatever way is most comfortable for you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your memories through your imagination.
  3. As you sit allow a memory to surface of an experience from the past summer or from a previous year where you felt deeply connected with nature and creation.
  4. In your imagination, visit your memory, recall details such as colors, smells, and sounds, even tasted. Take your time in remembering the details. If you have your journal with you may want to write them down.
  5. Walk through your memory, turning it around and viewing it from different angles. Are you with someone, or alone? Where was it? Was it a joyful memory or one that tugs at the heart with sadness?  Not all fall memories are happy ones and those that cause us grief can be just as meaningful as the joyful one.  Linger with your memory; let it soak in.
  6. When you feel you have spent sufficient time with your meditation notice how you feel at this moment and offer any gratitude that arises. Express thankfulness to God in the way that is most natural for you.  You may want to express your gratitude for the part of nature you have spent this time, recognizing the part it played in your imagination.
  7. You may wish to write your insights in your journal or just what you did or did not notice in your memory for later reflection.

May your time of reflection and rest in your quiet corner of creation help shape how you see and experience nature in the coming days and years.  May all creation bless you with rest and healing.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 23, 2014

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