A Quiet Walk

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants,

For awhile now I have had this inner turmoil about the immigrants coming to our southern border with hopes of finding a better life here in the U.S. only to find hate, guns, abuse, and separated families at the gate. With our nation’s birthday happening in a few days I have been thinking about the quote of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus, found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I am afraid the “golden door” is no more, it has turned black, rotted through, and replaced with an AK‑47.  

Nothing in my experience has prepared me for a father and his young daughter, trying to find a safe haven, drowning on the doorstep of this country. Nothing in my experience has prepared me for the separation of families at the border, children from new-born to teenagers placed in concentration camps where they are physically, mentally, and sexually abused.

As a student of history, I know how the Indigenous people were treated, I know how slavery turned people into non-humans. But I had thought we, as a nation, had grown beyond such bias and racist mentality.  Yes, I know, I am wrong. Yes, I know that underneath a very thin façade of politeness there has always been people who boil with anger and hate. But a girl can hope, can’t she?

White people, white old men who were afraid of losing God knows what came out of the woodwork with hate and violence claiming they were somehow better, more valuable, than people of color, the poor, the disabled, and the homeless. They blame anyone different from them for all their troubles.  It doesn’t make any difference that what that trouble might be, it’s not their fault.

It is time for those of us descended from white Europeans to stop being hypocrites and accept the responsibility for the historical abuse and death of anyone not white. The privilege we claim as our right was never given to us; we stole it from those who could not fight back.

Since the beginning of time humans have been a violent species, a greedy species, a selfish species.  It may be that we are incapable of being compassionate, merciful, and lovers of justice and peace. It may be that hate of those who are different is hardwired into our psyche’s. I most certainly hope that is not true. I am praying that our bloated species can change, find a new way to live in harmony with each other and with the natural world. 

Nearly every prophet from all sacred faiths have tried to teach us how to be one with each other. As a follower of Christ, I try to remember what Jesus said to his disciples just before his arrest and crucifixion:

34 . . .‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 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, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:34-40

That seems pretty clear to me. It plainly states how we are to treat the disadvantaged, and where did he learn this. Why from His scripture. Because God sent many prophets to teach the Israelites how to treat each other and those who were strangers in their land. Even before the Hebrews left Mt. Sinai God tells them:

“33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. “
 – Leviticus 19:33

And did the Hebrew people listen? Of course not and over the centuries prophets came along with the same message.  So, a thousand years later, as Jerusalem is besieged the Lord tells Zechariah pretty much what Moses told them:

9 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; 10 do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. – Zechariah 7:9-10

And did the Israelites listen? Of course not. Jerusalem fell and the rulers and wealthy were packed off to Babylon. This is a small piece of the greater history where one tribe failed to listen and learn. The sad fact is no tribes, communities, cultures, or nations have ever learned from their prophets that treating each and every person in their communities fairly, honestly, with compassion, mercy and justice is how they would succeed as nations.  We in the United States are no different.

As a nation, a world, and as a species we stand at a crossroad. Too many nations hold in their hands the means of destroying all humanity, along with every other living thing on this planet. Unless all of us, in every nation change how we treat the least of us so that every living thing on this old earth has what they need to thrive and survive we will face extinction. 

Why is it so hard to give out of our abundance to those in need? It shouldn’t be. If our neighbor has enough to eat, a place to sleep, the means to thrive and succeed then we benefit as well.  If we learn to live with the natural world treating other species with respect and making sure they have what they need we will benefit as well. If we treat the earth with respect, learning to live in our habitat without destroying it then we benefit.  Why is that so hard?

We share DNA with every living thing, human, non-human, and plant, we are them and they are us.  We share the building blocks of our cells with the mountains, sea, air, and the soil, we are them and they are us. We are the poor. We are the homeless. We are the other.  Yes, each of us is different and that is a good thing. But, we share more than we are different.

I have led you all on a rant and rave, I wish I felt better letting of steam, but I don’t. I am not a fortuneteller and I can’t predict how the world will turn out.  I am old enough that I am certain that my fears will not be answered in my lifetime. But they will in my, our, grandchildren’s time and I pray we finally learn to “love one another as we love ourselves.”

Ruth Jewell, © July 1, 2019

Today the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II will be joined by members of the Poor Peoples Campaign to demand justice from the Trump Administration. My thoughts and prayers go with them because this administration has no respect for the poor or disadvantaged. We have seen in the deserts of the Southwest how they have criminalized compassion and, as a result, I do not expect Dr. Barber or the Poor Peoples Campaign to be welcomed with compassion. I offer this prayer for their safety and that closed hearts will be opened.

WE COME THIS DAY

We come this day to the Father,
We come this day to the Son,
We come to the Holy Spirit powerful;
We come this day with God,
We come this day with Christ,
We come with the Spirit of love and kindness.

We come this day to open closed hearts to the Creator,
We come this day to heal wounded hearts of hate and fear,
We come this day to heal the blind, to see Jesus in our brother, our sister,
We come this day to set the fire of holiness in each other.
We come this day to shout God’s words of justice, mercy and compassion.

God, and Spirit, and Jesus,
From the crown of our heads
To the soles of our feet;
We come with our reputation,
We come with our testimony,
We come to you, Jesus;
Jesus, guide us, shelter us. AMEN

-Adapted by Ruth Jewell, June 11, 2019

Ruth Jewell, ©June 11, 2019

Over the years I have practiced many different types of meditations.  However, in the last year or so my meditation time has become erratic, as a result so has my well-being. So I recently began to meditate again, and being the crazy person I am, I volunteered to lead a six-week Centering Prayer session at my church, Queen Anne Christian Church.  Which has me working really hard to re‑integrate prayer into my daily schedule.  You would think that wouldn’t be hard for me as I am retired and haven’t many obligations outside my home.  I should have plenty of time right. But never underestimate the power of procrastination or the ability of a retired person to fill up their days. Besides, I’ve done this before, this should be easy, right, NOT.

The process of Centering Prayer isn’t difficult, but it is hard, and I know that’s a contradiction. I have learned it is harder to give up control and enter into a meaningful and restful prayer time than it is to read about it.  There is a reason such prayers are called “practice” because that is what you have to do. Our post‑modern minds resist the act of sitting in silence and letting go of daily matters, it wants to control our time, and it will fight back when we do practice a meditative prayer. A minds rebellion takes the form of “monkey mind” or having the inner voice inside of our head keep up a running chatter and we can’t get quiet in order in meditator. This is where that annoying word “practice” comes in.

Practice is the only way shut down the chatter, when you finally succeed then you will experience the quiet that allows you to ‘hear’, feel the presence of God?  One thing I do when I am starting, or restarting, a new meditation practice is to limit the length of time I meditate. Currently I am only meditating for 20 minutes at a time. Any longer and I can’t keep day to day, mundane things from intruding. In centering prayer, you select a word or short phrase, repeating it softly to help focus the prayer and settle the mind. I admit to making good use of my centering word in fact, when I first restarted my centering prayer, I think I spent the whole 20 minutes saying it and still the day’s trivia called to me.

One addition to my prayer time is helping me along.  I am holding my Chihuahua’s as I meditate. Their soft breathing /snores, and warm, soft bodies provides an extra barrier to daily interruptions.  I know many can’t hold a pet, but, if you have a pet you can hold or have sit near you, they are a comfort. 

Esmerelda and Louis

  If you live with someone they can, and often do, become an obstacle to meditative prayer.  You need to spend in prayer should be a quiet time, with no distractions. However, when there is someone else you need, or wants, will intrude on your quiet time, especially when you have children.  Husbands, wives, and children often don’t understand why you want to sit in silence and have time alone for 20 or so minutes. It is not just yourself who must work to enter into a rhythm of daily prayer, your family also has to know about, understand and accept that for 20 or 30 minutes a day you are unavailable. That is, unless someone breaks a bone or is bleeding, I end my meditation for those. We all have those events we cannot nor should ignore and that is perfectly OK.  After all prayer time isn’t something we have to do, it something we want to do and enjoy while we do it.  I have found that setting up a space designated for my prayer/meditation time.  I have a table, candles, a chair with a soft blanket and a dog bed for my meditation partners. It’s one of my favorite places.  

Those are my struggles with centering prayer. I’m sure others will experience different issues. I know many who struggle with “monkey mind,” and I have troubles with monkey mind as well. Over time, with practice, I have been able to somewhat quiet the babble in my head. It will happen for you as well, just don’t dwell on it and realize that it is a normal response when starting meditation.

If any of you practice a contemplative spiritual practice or are starting one, I send you my prayers for peace, silence, joy, and rest.  May you find your moment with the Holy Spirit.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 3, 2019

Thomas where were you when Jesus came?
What was so important
you couldn’t stay for a while longer?

Did you have to do that all important
laundry, or groceries, or maybe clean a closet?
What could have drawn you away?
I know how it is to have all those tasks
to always have no time to finish those all important tasks.

I understand you Thomas
I am like you, . . .
to busy to stop
to busy to listen
to busy to wait

You won’t believe unless you see
you must feel the wounds to have faith
Oh so like you am I . . .
I too wasn’t there to see and touch the master
and sometimes I find it hard to believe,
to just have faith.

It took you the touch of the Master to believe
I have the words he spoke to my heart to believe
It took you putting your hands in his wounds to believe
I have his love warming my spirit to believe
I have not seen the Master as you have done
But I have seen the Master in the face of a newborn child,
in the morning sunrise and evening sunset,
Yes I’ve seen the Master, for the he is all around me
If you weren’t so busy you would see the Master too

Ruth Jewell, ©April 23, 2019

Doubting Thomas, 1634
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669, Pushkin Museum, Moscow

They walked the dusty road with him
not knowing who he was
with every word he spoke, a fire burned within
yet they didn’t recognize him

Are we not like Cleopas and his companion
when with us in the dark he walks
closed are the eyes of our hearts  
we cannot see the one who
sets our souls on fire

It was the breaking of bread
they recognized
the source of their desire,
their Lord

In the breaking of our bread
we recognize our Lord
we see our Lord, we hear our Lord, when . . .
we share our bread with outcasts
the disinherited
it is in the eyes of the hungry we see . . .

the face of Christ

~Ruth Jewell, ©April 22, 2019

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona,
by Ruth Jewell, 2005

She sits in the Garden
tears mar her cheeks
confused, frightened
where did they take him
where have they hidden him
Mary . .  . .

Her heart stops, she can’t breath
it is his voice, it looks like him,
yet he, he, he . .  .
she steps closer
a whisper, Rabbouni

Bursting into the upper room,
she dances from person to person, He lives
He lives, I saw Him
I touched Him
I spoke to Him, He Lives

He Lives
Oh Joy beyond Joy
O Love beyond Love
HE LIVES
Ruth Jewell, ©April 21, 2019

Photo by Susn Matthiessen on Unsplash
Tiko Giorgadz, unsplash

She sat in the corner
eyes dry, there are no more tears
her heart ached for her baby boy
the world so bright now dark
“my baby, my son”

“A sword will pierce your soul,” he said
he came to die they said
but, . . . .
I carried him under my heart
I cradled him in  my arms
he was my son, my first born

~Ruth Jewell, ©April 20, 2019

You call this Friday good
but today the Good died
all love hung on a cross
the sky cried
the earth broke it’s heart
the darkness of the soul covered the earth

We hide behind locked doors
grief grips our hearts
fear takes our minds
we wait for the knock
we wait to be dragged to our own cross
we wait, . . . we wait

~ Ruth Jewell, ©April 19, 2019

Christ Cruicified, El Greco, 15.41-1614
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