Ancient Journeys

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 

Matthew 2:13a Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;

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The winter stretches across bare trees.

And in our book we close the chapter on creation
And turn to the Exodus, to the leaving,
To our new becoming.

The Mystery reveals itself in a different guise
Out of a burning
It says “I will be that I will be, this is my name,
I am everywhere, in all things, and I call you forward.
Now take off your shoes,
The ground you are standing on is holy.”

It is hard to hear and difficult to imagine
Something with us in the pain,
In the exposed rawness,
Something with us in the brokenness of life.

But the voice is persistent, it whispers, it shouts,
“I am all that is. Everywhere you are, there I am.

I am the oneness, the unity of all being
And we are in relationship.
And I call you forward.”

The very ground we stand upon is holy.
There is nothing outside the realm of God.
We live in relationship with everything.

This is our covenant—our agreement with the continual becoming:
To know that every moment is sacred.
To act with reverence for all.
And to listen for the whispered silence
That holds us and calls us forward
To be of use
Within the fragility of all life.*

*Picture and meditation by Rabbi Yael Levy, founder of “A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program,” January 22, 2016, Face Book Page

It seems since the beginning of time we are called to make journeys.  Adam and Eve journeyed from The Garden, Abram and Sarai leave for a place known only to God, and Joseph takes his small family of Mary and Jesus on the dangerous roads to Egypt.  We too make journeys.  In my life time I have journeyed across this country moving from Ohio, to Texas, to Washington, to California, and back to Washington. I have hopes that I won’t have to move again but I never know when God will call me to a new place.

There is one journey I have yet to make.  My father and mother have made it, I have had friends make it and my time will come I have no doubt in that. At some point in the future God will call me to make the last voyage in this life and cross to the next life.  Now that is a BIG journey.  No one has ever returned to tell us that it is safe journey without dangerous places.  In a way we will be making a journey similar to Abram’s and Sarai’s in that only God knows our destination.  And, we have no choice but to trust that God will find us a safe route.

Every living thing and creature in this universe will make the journey; fish or plant, dog or human, all of us will cross to a new life somewhere that only God can lead us.  Like the Hebrews in the desert we will have to look for the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night in order to find the right path.

Last week my beloved Chihuahua, Suzie, passed away.  She let go of this life and followed a new caretaker.  As I held her in my arms and felt her leave, I knew she was now in good hands.  I miss her but like family, friends, and other companions I know someday we will meet and cross the bridge together. Until I too am called, I will hold the memory of Suzie, family, friends, and companions in my heart, which grows to accommodate all the memories of those I love.

Suzie
Suzie

While I miss those who have gone ahead I am comforted by the peace that comes from knowing that I will join them someday and what a party we will have.

Peace and blessings to you all.  May your memories fill you with joy and give you comfort.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 24, 2016

 

Advent, Week Three, Joy – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 32:11 Be glad in LORD and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart

Joy, 3rd Week of Advent; Photo by Ruth Jewell
Joy, 3rd Week of Advent;
Photo by Ruth Jewell

The Psalmist says to “shout for joy, all you upright in heart,” but I am not very joyful, this year and in all honesty I don’t feel ‘upright’ at the moment.  I have been listening to the news, which is something I should stop doing, and all I hear is hate for those different from us.  Different in skin color, gender preference, in faith’s, in cultures you name it and someone has said they need to be ‘controlled’, or denied services, or denied entry into our country. I have see the faces on the news of those who say this country should only be for white, Christian, heterosexual and English speaking people and they aren’t handsome faces.

There are days when I am fearful of the path our country is headed down because there doesn’t seem to be many who are willing to stand up against the voices of hate. When those who we are supposed to trust and respect fill their messages with hate the targets of that hateful speech become targets of violence because people feel they now have permission to act out their own fears in a violent way.

Where is the joy for the families of the victims of the San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, and Oregon mass killings?  Where is the joy for the congregations of the churches and Mosques that have been set on fire? Where is the joy for the refugees struggling to survive in a world turned against them? On Christmas Morning we will open our presents, eat fine meals, and enjoy the company of family yet so many will be remembering loved ones not at the table, or won’t have presents or food to eat.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of light into the world.  That light came into our world in a stable not a palace.  Jesus’ parents were poor struggling peasants not rich CEO’s of some big company. Yet they managed to find joy in the simple presence of cattle, a donkey, and sheep, can we be so fortunate to see joy in the simple things?  Joy in a simple meal, a child’s smile, the wrinkled face of a granny or grandpa. Joy in giving socks, gloves, hats, scarves to someone on the street, joy in the presence of a loved one, or in the warmth of a companion animal.  That is what Christmas is about not gifts, or table burdened with enough food to feed a small village.  Can we offer that joy to someone who might not have joy without our help?  So on your list of gifts add a few more.  Put down sock or gloves for homeless, visit a neighbor or elderly person who will be alone this year, better yet invite them to join you for Christmas day in your home. I guarantee that your Christmas will be brighter and more joyful for giving your  presence and being the gift.

Meditations for a Mindful Advent
Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle WA
2015

Slow down . . .  seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.

An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to know You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.

Joy – The Third Week of Advent
Light three candles and pray “An Advent Prayer.”

Meditation 
Laughter is carbonated holiness.
— Anne Lamott

I would love to live like a river flows,
carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
— John O’Donohue

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, where might you add levity and playfulness?

Evening: As the day ends, where did you find laughter and ease?

Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of joy; include yourself.

Ruth Jewell ©December 15, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

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

Family – Prayerful Tuesday

Mark 3:33-35  33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

My Family
My Family

What makes a family?  Is it the group you are born into or is it the people you gather around you?

I have often thought about the words of Jesus found in Mark about who he saw as family and I am coming to an understanding of what he meant.  For me my family stopped being just the people I am related to by birth a very long time ago.  I was never close with my sister, half-sisters, or half-brother and haven’t seen any of them in well over 30 years.  Growing up I never really knew relatives of either my father or mother. So when my parents passed away it was the ending, so I thought, of family.

But over the years I discovered something amazing. Family is really more of what I make of it than what I am given. And, with that discovery I realized family means the people and companion animals who share in the life I live.

So some of my family are those who care about things that I care about such as justice, compassion, the environment, mercy, kindness and some are those who stick with me through good times and bad, no matter what.  Some of the members of my family have feathers, and some have fur.  Some of my family are newly found relatives of my birth family and some are the members of the family I married into.  Some of my family are people I care so much about that it often hurts to be separated from them or to see them in pain.  All of the them, from recently discovered cousins to members of my faith community, to the children of my husband and their children, and the dogs, birds and other creatures of God who have enriched my life, are my family.  Every one of them have shared and are sharing in my life.  Every one of those connecting lives is a sacred trust that God tells me to cherish, and nurture so that all live in abundant grace.

Who are your family members?  What sacred connections do have and are creating?  Offer a prayer for each and every one of them.  Their love and friendship is what makes your life vibrant and purposeful.  Give them in return your love and friendship.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 17, 2015

Marcus Borg & Gratitude for our Mentors—Prayerful Tuesday

Marcus Borg 1931-2015
Marcus Borg
1931-2015

This last week I heard of the passing of Marcus Borg. I was sadden not just at his passing but because I have learned so much from his writings. I will miss reading his words and having them open up my understanding of Jesus as both human and Divine.  Marcus Borg’s writings were instrumental in changing how I came to look at Jesus, the apostles, and the first century Christians.  He made me think and doubt what I have always believed to be true and to take that doubt and turn it on its head by searching for answers and being comfortable with finding only more questions.

Because of Marcus Borg I began to read scripture, questioning the standard interpretations, searching for what the words printed in the Bible meant to those they were written to, the first century believers in Jesus.  Borg’s books were my first window into the church of the 21st century and why, and how, it is so different from the community of believers in the 1st century.  Reading Borg’s books were instrumental in giving me an interest in pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree and looking at the carefully at the path leading to ordination.  Yes I will miss this Master of Theology who opened doors and, through his writings, fostered a love of scripture, sacred texts, theology, and history.  Whose writing led me on a search for the divine and human Jesus that I wanted in my life.

We do not go through this life alone. There are many people, our mentors, who have walked and are walking with us.  Some mentors we know, some mentors we request or go looking for, some we have not known they were mentors but were our companions for a while, showing us us how to live by living their own quiet, faithful lives.  Some mentors never know they mentored us at all. Marcus Borg was one of my mentors who never knew he walked with me. I am grateful for his life and his words.  I never met him, only read his books, but I felt ‘close’ to this incredible theologian who made Jesus and God accessible to me.

I will never be able to thank him, so, instead I will thank all of my other mentors while I still have time.  My parents, my first grade teacher Miss Wooster, they taught me courage and determination. I am grateful for Pastors from childhood to adulthood that listened to my ravings and didn’t belittle me.  I am grateful for my current pastor, and friend, Laurie, who has been the most gracious and gentle of mentors as I have grown in my faith. I am grateful for friends who let me be me, inspiring me to be the best friend I could be.  I am grateful for my beloved John who has supported me through thick and thin as we have traveled this crazy new journey God has led us both on in the last 15 years.

I am grateful for the love, comfort, and companionship of dogs, cats and birds who have taught me the value of unconditional love. I am grateful for being able to live and work, and play in a world of great beauty, and sorrow.  I am grateful for my life as it is and as it will be and I know that whatever life hands me I know I am not alone, there is always someone standing beside me to offer encouragement.

On this Prayerful Tuesday who are you grateful for?  Who has walked with you on a difficult path or a path of exploration and great joy?  Who walked with you, gave you insights, taught you a lesson of life that you didn’t recognize at the time?  We all have people who have brought meaning to our lives, today offer your gratitude, your thanks for your life’s mentors.

Gracious Presence, I am grateful for all who walk, and have walked, with me on my very bumpy life’s journey. I am grateful for your presence as you have been with me always, even though I don’t recognize you. My spirit is grateful for all I have been given, and thankful for all that is yet to come.  Amen.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 27, 2015

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 well, 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 drawbacks 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 energy and 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 a 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 others 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

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