2017, A NEW YEAR?

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A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.

There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.

Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.

Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.

What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.

I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 3, 2017

FALL

Photo by By Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash,  November 2, 1015
Photo by By Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash,
November 2, 1015

Fall has finally arrived in the Northwest. The trees are shedding their leaves, my garden is clean all ready for winter, and the air has turned cold.  The land is preparing to sleep until the earth shifts again and the warm sun returns. I took a walk through Yost Park with the dogs the other day and the air was rich with the scent of wet and rotting leaves.  This is a time for animals to prepare for the coming winter when food is scarce and the land is cold and wet.

Fall is also a time for us to slow down, to sit with a cup of warm tea, coffee, or coco and let the seasons turn.  A time to pull out the afghans and a good book. It is also a time of reflection. It is a time to remember the joys of spring and summer and the many joyful moments.  A time to ask ourselves questions: what have I done this year that will leave it a better place?  Have I spent time caring for others, standing up when injustice rears its ugly head?  Have I taken care of my own spiritual needs? Have I remembered to stop, recharge and renew myself so that I will have the energy to be present to those in need?  This is the time to look back at what I could have done better, and to look forward to how I will improve.  It is also a time to reflect on how I have done my best with all I have even if I didn’t achieve all I wanted to; remembering that doing my best was enough.

This week I challenge you to sit down with a warm cup of something, or maybe a glass of wine, and spend some time on your past year.  Let the joys and celebrations provide the energy to improve what didn’t go so well.  Laugh, cry, and dance your memories of spring and summer.  Remember the sun and wind on your face.  Look back at your achievements and at what didn’t get done.  It is a time to forgive yourself and others. Were you the best you could be?  As the summer ended did you leave the earth a better place, did you care for the disadvantage, or do something to respond to the many, way too many, disasters of the last year?  Look toward the coming year and ask yourself how can I be someone who cares about mercy, justice, and peace?  How can I care for my own spiritual well being?  These aren’t easy questions, and they may take many days to reflect on. But it is dark early now, and it’s cold outside so curl up in your lap robe and reflect on who you are.

May the coming days of fall and winter be a time of rest for your spirit and a time to prepare for the next spring and summer.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 3, 2015

Shepherd Me, O God – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 23:1-3 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul.*He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 

In the last several months I have been struggling to find the calm midst the shootings in Umpqua, the deaths of those fighting wild fires, more shootings (at least one a week), floods, earthquakes, and all of the other disasters that seem to be all that is ever reported by news media.  I know I will not find any meaning in any of these crises, so, I am looking for a way through the noise and pain I hear, read about, and feel within.  Yesterday I found my still point when I happened upon the following poem written by grandfather:

Commentary on the 23rd Psalm

“In pastures green?” Not always: sometimes Thou
who knoweth best, in kindness leadeth me
in weary ways, where heavy shadows be.

And by “still waters?”  No not always so;
oft times the heavy tempest round me blow
and o’er my soul the waves and billows go

But where the storm beats loudest,
and I cry aloud for help, The Master standeth by
and whispers to my soul “Lo, it is I.”

So where He leads me I can safely go,
and in the blest hereafter I shall know,
why, in His wisdom, He hath lead me so.

By Grandfather Rufus Miller, 1937

As I read the familiar lines I remembered I don’t have to understand the why of things.  I don’t have to carry the burdens of the world on my shoulders. I don’t even have try to carry all of the world’s problems. I can’t change the way people treat others, I have no control over how one person treats another. However, I do have control over how I treat those around me.  I do have control of how I respond to the many crises trumpeted in the news.

My grandfather’s poem reminds me that life is not a bed or roses where everything will always be “hot coco, and peanut butter toast by the evening fire.”  No there are bad people in the world and even though I, or my loved ones, have done nothing wrong, or done anything to cause a tragedy, other people will affect my life in both good ways and bad.  I can’t stop it from happening.  I know I can’t stop the hate, but, I can stop the hate from residing in my heart.  I can stop myself from acting out of anger and rage.  I can stop and take a deep breath and let the real me come up from deep inside.  That is all I can do.

For the prayer practice this week I am offering a chant that helps me when I am feeling lost.  It is the refrain of a hymn written by Marty Haugen and below is the score for the chant.  Above is a video of Haugen’s complete hymn.  Watch the above video and when you are feeling a little lost this week sing the refrain.  You don’t have to chant out loud, and you can chant anytime of the day, driving, riding public transit, cooking dinner or even working on that paper for class or the boss.

©1986, GIA Publications, Inc Chalice Hymnal, #734b
©1986, GIA Publications, Inc
Chalice Hymnal, #734b

May you find your still point, and may it bring you comfort.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 27, 2015

Overwhelmed with Sadness – Prayerful Tuesday

Band-Aids don't work anymore, Huffington Post
Band-Aids don’t work anymore, Huffington Post

I have been trying to think about what to say about the Umpqua shootings but my heart is breaking and my mind won’t process this.  So I am asking you for your prayer this week to write letters to your legislators about gun legislation, talk to your neighbors about keeping safe, and get involved in your community and/or church youth programs.  Talk kids and get to know your own children and the children they play with. Keep the kids involved with family and community and help them find safe ways to release anger and frustration.  If you need a gun for hunting then talk to every member of the family about gun safety and keep your guns in a secure gun safe when you aren’t using them.  I know that isn’t much but if all of us become more aware and involved in the efforts to regulate guns in a responsible manner than maybe, just maybe we won’t be speechless anymore.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 6, 2015

It is Good?—Prayerful Tuesday

Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612
Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612

“And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10b

In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good.  Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society.  Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be.  It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.

Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good.  So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.

Prayer Practice:

1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.

  1. Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
  2.  Respond to the image with prayer for the world. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
  3. 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.

Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now.  All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain.  Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.

Peace, Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2015

 

Looking Forward – Looking Back – Prayerful Tuesday

Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Happy New Year 2015 A

Well the New Year is almost upon us and it has been an eventful, but mostly violent, one.  In 2014 it seems we have had more violence than peace, despite the efforts of many.  We have seen hate take over our streets and increase in our government.  Peace on Earth just doesn’t seem to be in our hearts for this baby New Year.

This last year we have seen too many senseless deaths, demonstrations, hateful rhetoric, and downright meanness.  There has been little peace in our world of late.  But this small online community has been a refuge for some. We have offered moments of personal stillness in the rush of our daily lives.  Yet in the face of so much violence prayer doesn’t always seem adequate does it.

But, every time we take a moment to offer a pray for our own peace and for the peace of others we change a piece of our hearts.  Those changes add up and become the change we see around us. We just celebrated the birth of love breaking into the world.  A love that gives out of its abundance, works for justice for all, and walks a path that honors the world we live in. In the light of that love we too can become love expressed in the world, with every prayer we offer and with every prayer action we take, the light of Love shines just a little brighter.  Yes it may seem inadequate but remember you can’t have a beach with one grain of sand.

So my prayer request for each of you this week, as you contemplate the year past and look forward to the year to come, is to offer a prayer for our community that we will find solace in our hearts and compassion and justice in our actions.  Pray for each other.  Pray for local, national, and international governments.  Pray for the children, elderly, and the sick and disabled who are most affected by hate speech and actions.  Let your prayers spill over into the way you act in the world around you.  Remember others are praying as well, you are not alone.  Let every act you do in the coming year be an act of prayer, and offering to the God or Force that guides your path.  Let this be your New Year’s resolution that you will “do justice, and … love kindness, and … walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NRSV).

It is my prayer that, we as a people, will change the world by being the Force in the world for compassion, justice, and love.  Let us learn to walk humbly with whatever Divine Energy each of calls to in the dark.  May each of us this year light a candle of hope each day and let our light shine.

Happy New Year Everyone and may the Love of the Divine be with you in the coming year.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 30, 2014

For Unto Us – Prayerful Tuesday

John 1:1-5  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The Nativity, Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, (1617-1682)
The Nativity,
Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, (1617-1682)

 

This is one of my favorite paintings of the birth of Jesus.  There is just something about the expressions on Mary and Josephs faces as they look at the new small being in their life that draws me in.  I once saw the original in the Boston Museum of Art and this tiny painting on black slate captivated me as no others have.

However, I must admit that despite loving this painting, I don’t see the nativity as an actual historical event.  It has been a long time since I believed in the virgin birth. I am a scientist by training and I know that while ‘virgin’ births do happen in nature, it’s called parthenogenesis, they only occur in certain species of worms and small crustaceans called daphnids.   So this event was a no go for me not long after my first serious biology class. But the importance of the birth story is not in history, it is in the symbolism of new life breaking into the world in the form of God within the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  New life, not of a baby’s, rather a new life lived in a world where all achieve their God given potential. Living in the world as Jesus did, with limitless love and compassion, offering justice and mercy to those who are in need, and offering a peace that fills the soul. Well then again maybe it is like the birth of a baby, for we all experience new insights as new birth within us.

So why I may not believe Jesus was born in an actual stable I do believe he was been born in the stables, and dark corners of our minds, societies, and cultures.  Jesus is the one who birthed new life in those dark recesses of our hearts and minds.  Who lit up the alley ways where suffering, pain, and violence reside bringing the light of love to those who were the unlovable.  In prayer and action we, you and I, continue to carry that light.  We take it to prisons, hospitals, hospice rooms, to the homeless, to the hungry, to anyone in need of the light provided by “The Way.”  At least we are supposed to.

Today I ask you to use the above painting for your Prayerful Tuesday Meditation using Visio Divina.

Visio Divina

  1. Look at the painting slowly, taking a first glance and 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 artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What moves you in this painting? Does it draw you in or call to you in any particular way?
  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 that 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 you be blessed with the birthing of new life within you.  Merry Christmas everyone.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 23, 2014