Thank You – Prayerful Tuesday

Wordle gratitude

32 Let the afflicted see it and be glad!
You who seek God—
let your hearts beat strong again
— Psalm 69: 32 (CEB)

30 But I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth;
among a great crowd I will praise God! 
— Psalm 109:30 (CEB)

This past January John and I visited Boston to celebrate his and our youngest grandson’s birthdays , which fall on the same day.  And, yes I know January is not the ideal time to visit historic Boston and yes we had snow.   However, we just couldn’t miss this celebration of joint Birthdays.

Because the weather was anything but comfortable we all decided to visit the Boston Science Museum and spend the day where it was warm, dry and had lots of exciting things to do and see.  The 2 grandchildren had a great time exploring the human body, looking at dinosaurs and exploring all kinds of interactive exhibits.  For lunch we chose to take our packed lunch to the large busy café and supplement all of our goodies with a few treats.

After making our selections and paying for them I went to get the necessary napkins, forks, spoons and straws needed to eat our lunch.  As I was picking up my things there was a young man restocking the bins as we took things out.  It looked like such an endless job and more than a little boring but he was doing an excellent job of keeping up.   Before I left I turned to him and said “thank you for keeping this area stocked, I’m sure it’s not an easy task.”  Startled he turned and gave me a gruff “thank you.”

After we had finished our lunch and were preparing to leave the area the same young man pushed his way through the crowded exit area and called to me, “Miss, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your thanks.  No one has ever spoken to me that way before and I was afraid I might have offended you so I wanted to make sure you knew how happy I was.”

First of all, I really liked being called miss, no one has called me that in a very long time so he won me over just with that one word.  Well I was happy to bring a little joy into his otherwise boring day with just a few words of thanks from me.  But, what saddened me was his statement NO ONE HAD EVER COMPLIMENTED HIM for doing his job well!  No one ever said thank you! That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard.  It took me all of 2 seconds to express my thanks to the young man and those 2 seconds made his day.  For 2 seconds he wasn’t invisible and unimportant.  No he had been seen, he was important enough for someone to say thank you.  As we were separated by the ever shifting crowd he waved and gives me the biggest, toothiest grin I have ever seen.

Two seconds out of my day added joy to someone else’s.  Gratitude isn’t an emotion or attitude we are to keep to ourselves, no, gratitude is to be given away freely at every opportune moment, even when you yourself are not grateful.  We hear so often we are to be grateful for what God has given us, to express gratitude by thanking God.  Well being grateful for God’s grace comes in many forms.  It was a grace of God that a young man did his boring job well, it was a grace of God that allowed me to see the face of God in the young man and his courage to continue performing a rather menial task even when no noticed how well he did it.  Gratitude for the grace of God comes in many forms, big and small, all are important in the eyes of God.

The Psalms tell us to seek God’s face and to offer our thanks for God’s gifts.  Each one of us is a gift, each one of us has a gift to give, each one of us is the reflection of God, and each one of us carries God within.  So doesn’t it make sense to give thanks to those who reflect the grace of God?

Over the next week begin the habit of saying thank you for the little graces of God.  Offer thanks to the bus driver as you exit, say thank you to the young woman who hands you your morning coffee or say thank you to the washroom attended and see the smiles grow around you.  Offering thanks is an easy spiritual practice and one that brings great joy to the receiver and the giver alike and it is free to give.  It costs you no more than 2 to 5 seconds of your day, surly we can spend 5 seconds to bring hours of joy to someone who feels they are invisible to the rest of the world. Surly we can learn to do that every day, for every person we meet.

Thank you for reading my blog post.  Your presence on my site has made my day and I am grateful for your interest.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 25, 2014

Re-Membering our God Connection, Prayerful Tuesday

Lighting our Fire reconnecting with God
Lighting our Fire
reconnecting with God

For the Celtic Christian their religious life and their everyday life were tightly bound together.  They filled their days with prayer beginning with prayers of thanksgiving for waking up and continuing on to making the fire and milking the cow, all the way to prayers of thanks for the day as they went to their rest.  Today we call their life style of acknowledging the Presence of the Divine the Spiritual Practice of Presence.  This is probably one of the easiest of the spiritual practices because all you have to do is remember to pause when you begin and end a task and pay attention to your surroundings, letting your thoughts travel to God, breathing in grace and breathing out gratitude.  The whole exercise may take no longer than one minute to re-member yourself to the Holy Spirit.

Here are a few examples of when you might mentally pause and turn your thoughts to God.

  1. Before you even rise from your night’s sleep, thank God for a restful night and a new day to be in the presence of the Holy.
  2. As you walk into your place of business, offer a prayer for the people you will meet and work with, asking God for patience and kindness when interact with others.
  3. As you prepare breakfast give thanks for the abundance God has graced you with and offer gratitude for the opportunity to share it with your family or friends.
  4. During your day occasionally pause, breathe deeply and extend gratitude toward God
  5. Before you go to sleep offer a prayer of thanks for a day spent with the Spirit and if there are difficulties during the day (I mean who doesn’t have those rough spots) ask for guidance for the coming day.

Those are just a few of the times you might briefly stop and re-member your place alongside the creator.  I am sure you could name many more.

One of the early prayers of the Celtic people was offered as they laid the morning fire to begin the day and the one below is one of my favorites for it has a double meaning.  It prays not just for lighting the homes hearth, but also the lighting of the hearts’ fire.  Today this is my prayer for each and everyone one of you.

Kindling the Morning Fire

This morning, as I kindle the fire upon my
hearth, I pray that the flame of God’s
love may burn in my heart, and the
heart of all I meet today.

I pray that no envy and malice, no hatred,
or fear, may smother the flame.

I pray that indifference and apathy,
contempt and pride, may no pour
like cold water on the fire.

Instead, may the spark of God’s love light
the love in my heart, that it may burn
brightly through the day.

And may I warm those that are lonely,
whose hearts are cold and lifeless,
so that all may know the comfort of God’s love.[1]

Ruth Jewell, ©February 18, 2014

[1] Van De Weyer, Robert, Celtic Prayers, a book of Celtic devotion, daily prayers and blessings, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1997, pg 26



To Offend the Pharisees – Prayerful Tuesday

Matthew 5;20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

For some reason one of the major meanings of Matt 5: 20 keeps popping up on FaceBook, newspapers, lots of places.  I keep seeing cartoons and memes like these all over the place:

live like Jesus    Wm Wordsworth

Do you think someone is trying to tell us something.

To exceed righteousness of the Pharisees was to be the mirror for the light of God, which meant you don’t see the mirror only the light it reflects.  Living like Jesus is a spiritual practice.  Doing kind and loving acts for others is a spiritual practice.  We don’t have to be thanked for what we do, in fact it is best and most satisfying when such acts are not noticed by anyone other than the Divine.

I challenge each of you this week to do the random act of kindness for someone without letting them know it was you.  Or stop and give a sandwich to a homeless person on the street and simply walk away without thanks.  Give graciously of yourself without asking for anything in return.  Little things, such as smiling to a busy checkout clerk, can make someone’s world a better place to live in. Starting with little acts gives us the courage to do larger acts of justice and kindness. They are one step on the road to a life lived like Jesus.

I have only one request, PLEASE, let me know what you have done and how it made you feel.  I know that this sounds counterintuitive but it isn’t really.  What you are doing will be witnessing to others that they too can change the world, maybe not the whole world but someone’s world.  Think of it this way, if the Gospel writers hadn’t recorded what Jesus did we wouldn’t know how to live like Him. Pass on the gift so others can continue to move it forward.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 11, 2014-02-14


Salt and Light

Salt light

Sermon, Queen Anne Christian Church
February 9, 2014

I was supposed to preach yesterday, but because of snow all of the streets to the church were closed.  You see Queen Anne Christian Church is at the top of Queen Anne Hill and the wise DOT decided it was too dangerous for people to drive up either side of the hill, therefore church was cancelled. So instead I will offer my sermon here.  Enjoy

Matthew 5:13-20 (NRSV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. (Isa. 49:6) A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, [a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In one of the early classes I took with Father Raschko at STM there was this long discussion about the differences between each of the 4 Gospels.  You know, Mark was written first, then Matthew and Luke, who used Mark as a blue print, and John was last and totally different.  Now Father Raschko is a Mark scholar and he loves Mark.  The Gospel of Matthew is OK, but in the words of Father Raschko Matthew was out to correct all of the mistakes Mark had made.  I, in my first or second year enthusiasm decided to sit down and compare them to see if he was right.  Silly me

I have to admit after reading both of them I discovered I loved the Gospel of Mark.  I mean there is that whole messianic message mystery thing he has going on.  You get to the end, all the endings, and it says go back to the beginning, it’s a mystery and who doesn’t love a mystery.  But I found I truly loved the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew doesn’t write about mystery, well not the way Mark does anyway. He writes about an itinerate Jewish Rabbi, he places Jesus within the historical and cultural landscape of God’s very own people.  In Matthew’s Gospel he connects the Hebrew Scriptures and the peoples own history to what Jesus did to fulfill the scripture.  He writes about doing: about being intentional as a follower of Jesus. In a lot of ways the Gospel Matthew is a Do-It-Yourself manual for how to become a follower of Jesus. Matthew connects the actions of Jesus to the law and the prophets. He expected his own community of first century Christians to do the same.

In today’s scripture Jesus gives an introduction to what the mission of his disciples and followers will be. With the words “you are salt, and you are light” He identifies the ground rules for someone who wishes to become one of his followers. Jesus doesn’t say you should be salt, or you might be light, no, he is telling his disciples, the crowd and us, we are salt and we are light for the communities we live in.  It was the disciples and now it is you and I that is to add the goodness into the lives of those we meet, provide balance and savoriness in our communities, just as salt does for the foods we eat. It is us, you and me, who are to intentionally disrupt the status quo and care for the dispossessed, and those who are hungry and ill.  We are to work for justice and show mercy, and be peacemakers, other words we are to stand up for what we believe with no expectations of ever being rewarded. Just as salt does its job without announcing its presence in the food we eat we are to do all these things not to bring ourselves recognition but because that is just what we are supposed to do.  Just as salt is hidden within our food bringing brightness and goodness to the final product, Jesus wants us as his followers to hide within the community and bring brightness and goodness to the world around us. To do otherwise means we have lost our saltiness and not helpful to the work needed by the Kingdom of God.

Jesus then recalls the prophet Isaiah who says:

I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (49:6b)

Jesus tells his disciples “you are the light of the world, to both Jew and Gentile, and you can’t hide the light. We too are to let the light shine. This means we are not just salt and supposed to care for others, fight for justice, extend mercy and be peacemakers without an expectation of a reward we are to be the mirror that reflects God’s light into the darkness we humans so frequently to gather within and around us. We are to reflect the graciously given gift of God’s light within ourselves to illuminate the darkness in our own souls. To recognize and open the dark spaces within our souls so that we are better able to reflect God’s light outward to those around us so they too may live in Gods loving light.

We are to let the light shine without focusing the light on ourselves. We are to care for those around us and to carefully walk with God, not in front, but alongside.  We have to take all the good acts we see being done in the world and go one step farther.  And that means it is not in what we say we do, it is in what we DO that is important. Jesus wants us to be intentionally active in whatever way we are called to be, not sitting on the couch or watching others. We are to be the advocate for the voiceless, the homeless, and the dispossessed. It also means just like a mirror we are only the glass that reflects the glory of God and the Kingdom of God. We are to be behind the light being the lens that focus’ the beam on who those needing the light.

We are to be advocates for social justice, advocates for the hungry, the homeless, the incarcerated, and advocates for peace but we are to say “we have done nothing; it is God working through us that has done these things.”   This is where those Matthew called “scribes and Pharisees” got it wrong. Yes they did good works but they made sure everyone knew it. God’s command is we are to do good acts because it’s the right thing to do, not inflate our own ego’s

Today we have modern “scribes and Pharisees” who do the same thing and sometimes I’m one of them.  The hardest thing for me to do is setting aside my own ego and let God stand in front of me, you see I don’t always like taking a back seat.  I must admit that I am all too often a card carrying member of the Pharisee club and I am not proud of that.  I am sure I am not alone in being a member we are, after all, humans, who make choices sometimes there are good ones and sometimes not so good.  It is a good day when I intentionally start it with the words “today I am the mirror, I am the salt.

Ruth Jewell, © February 10, 2014

Intention as a Spiritual Practice – Prayerful Tuesday



Matthew 5:13-20: (NRSV) 

 13You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
   14You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
   19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I am preaching on Matthew 5:13-20 next Sunday, February 9th, and as I have read and re-read this scripture I have discovered Jesus is talking about a spiritual practice, the spiritual practice of intention.  Everything Jesus did was intentional. He started every day knowing he was going to do the will of the Father, his Father, his Abba.  In this portion of his Sermon on the Mount he is trying to teach all of us we must be intentional about our actions in the world.  It isn’t good enough to say we believe in justice and kindness, rather we are commanded to actually get up out of our chairs and actively walk with God as God continually creates our world and DO justice and kindness. So my spiritual practice for this week is “Intention as a Spiritual Practice.”

You are probably saying right now “well duh” everyone knows that.  If we all know that we are to do justice, kindness, and mercy then why don’t we?  It is because it is easy to say we are going stand up to injustice but it is much harder to actually get out there and get your hands dirty.  So I am going to give you a few suggestion that are simple everyday things you can do just to get you started and in the habit of living an intentional life.

In his book Everyday Spiritual Practice, Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life Scott Alexander explains why a spiritual practices is different from a casual hobby, and “the answer is intentionality, regularity, and depth . . . what shapes your efforts into an everyday spiritual practice is your commitment to making the activity a regular and significant part of your life.”[1]
In addition an everyday practices doesn’t have to be complicated, take a great deal of time, or be physically or economically challenging, it just has to be done every day.

Alexander’s book offers many different activities from the very simple to the more difficult and I am going to suggest only a couple of the less difficult ones to get you started.  I also suggest you find Alexander’s book and read some of the practices if these do not appeal to you.

Everyday Spiritual Practice number 1 is probably the simplest of all to start but can be a hard one to carry out.  Every morning when you arise from sleep say the following:  “Today I will offer kindness to each person and creature I meet this day.”  Then follow through, no matter how frustrated you become during an event.  My suggestion is to repeat your intention several times during the day until the act of offering kindness becomes second nature to you.

Everyday Spiritual Practice number 2 involves caring for the world we live in.  Begin each day with the following state: “I will conserve energy by turning out the lights when I leave a room.” Or you might use recycling, bicycling and/or use city transportation instead of driving as your goal.  What you do is important but it doesn’t have to be difficult and if your way to care for the earth is to eat more foods from the lower end of the food chain instead of taking a bus to work, good for you.

Ok just one more to begin.  Everyday Spiritual Practice number 3 involves the relationships we have with others.  Repeat throughout your day: “I will treat those I live, work, and play with with the respect and kindness they deserve as family members, co-workers, friends, for all are my brothers and sisters of God.”

You might be saying these don’t feel very spiritual to me.  But, what I am saying is that to BE a spiritual being and the being God desires us to be is to approach everything we do, every moment, every day as if we were doing it for the one we call God because in reality we are.

Jesus tells us “as you do it for the least of these you do it for me.”  So when you offer a heartfelt word of thanks to the harried checkout clerk in Safeway you are behaving as Jesus would want you behave and who knows maybe, just maybe, that was Jesus and you didn’t know it.

You see the Spiritual Practice of Intention is basic to walking in the Way of Jesus. Whether you are preparing dinner for your family, taking a casserole to someone who is ill or grieving, or stopping to help a homeless person by offering them half of the sandwich you are carrying all of those are Spiritual Practices. When we place the love of the Divine in front row of the action we are doing a spiritual practice.  Jesus said “let your light shine before others” and how we do that is by gifting our light to those who are struggling in darkness.  Our light will not diminish by giving it away; it grows brighter because more people are shinning with its glow.

Ruth Jewell, © February 4, 2014

[1] Alexander, Scott W.(editor): Everyday Spiritual Practice, Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, Skinner House  Books, Boston, MA 1999 Pg. 5