A Quiet Walk

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants,

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

Birthdays make me reflective and as I get older the more reflection I seem to need. I just had my birthday and I have been contemplating memories of the last 72 years.  I find it hard to believe that I’m in my 70th decade and it is even harder to believe I survived all those years. 

Have you noticed memories are kind of weird? We never really remember them as they were but as we want them to be. I also don’t remember them in order and one memory seems to trigger another that may have happened years before or years after.  But, the act of remembering is a re-membering of me.  It is a process to remind me from where I came and how each memory created me.  It is a little like a yearly ‘Examen.’ It isn’t just remembering but an accounting of my life.  It is an opportunity to remember the good times and the bad, to forgive others, and to be forgiven, and to offer myself forgiveness.

I find God’s grace in memories, grace I hadn’t noticed when I was living them. I sometimes discover angels who have been my guides or protectors that I didn’t recognize when they entered and left my life. Each grace and angel helped form me into the person I have become. Unfortunately, I have also recognized a few individuals who lead me from my path, and I had to struggle to return, often with the help of one of those angels. It is one of God’s enduring graces that angels come when we need them and it’s usually when we have gotten everything all wrong.

I have been rescued so many times that my guardian angel carries an extra-large emergency kit.  I am sure she is grateful I haven’t needed to be rescued for a while. I started very early with getting my self into trouble. I was 6 when I pulled a deep-fat fryer down on top of me, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 75% of my body. My memory of the incident is I wasn’t alone, I was being told I would be alright, and I was.  An angel in the shape of a plastic surgeon came and volunteered to perform all the skin grafts, paying for the hospital himself, and not charging my parents.  Without the skill of Dr. Meany, I would have been severely crippled. I would have been unable to live a normal life. My gratitude for the Doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save and heal me has no bounds.  To give back the gift given to me I have tried to be present to those who have been burnt, giving them comfort, and sitting and listening to their fears.

Passing on the gifts of grace has become part of who I am. I have been on the verge of homelessness a couple of times in my life and each time one of those angels was sent in to help. To pass on that gift I have helped others who have been on that edge, never expecting I will be repaid but always expecting that they will pass on their gift of grace.  If everyone did that no one would ever be homeless.

Those are nice memories, but I also have memories I am not proud of.  In my early 20’s I worked with a woman who could be abrasive and, quite honestly, we didn’t just not get along, we disliked each other intensely. I am ashamed to say that I started a not so nice rumor about her. There was a small, very small, bit of truth to it but essentially it was an exaggeration of the facts.  I never apologized to her, in fact it wasn’t long after it happened that I left for college. I regret that. I will never see her again, I don’t even know if she is still alive. A few years ago, during a ritual of forgiveness, I asked God to let her know, wherever she is, that I am truly sorry. I also offered a prayer to forgive myself in order to let go of the feelings of guilt, and, anger I had felt towards her. It took a while to feel within the forgiveness I sought but eventually I did.

Memories are funny things, I don’t remember the same ones every year but the ones I do seem to be the ones God wants me to remember.  As I am 72 I have a lot of memories, I sincerely hope I have enough time in the life left to me to ask for forgiveness, and to express gratitude for those I haven’t remembered yet.  Only time will tell. 

Birthdays are not something I celebrate, but I find them useful.  They offer a time to recognize grace, ask for forgiveness, and find peace in a life that has seen some rocky roads.  I have no idea what memories I will form in the next years and I hope they will be good ones. I also hope they won’t be too embarrassing, but if they are, I know God and the angels will be nearby.  After all my guardian angel has that huge emergency kit just waiting for me to mess up.

Betty Buckley – Memory (1983 Tony Awards)

Ruth Jewell, © March 12, 2019

%d bloggers like this: