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

An Election Prayer

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Tomorrow, November 8th, is election day and I am becoming increasingly concerned about what will happen tomorrow and in the days and months that follow. This campaign has been so very divisive, hateful, and acrimonious that I fear for the safety of whoever wins and for our own. The name calling on both sides and the call to kill a candidate, the call to commit treason, and murder goes beyond anything we have seen before. We are in a difficult time where we need to step back and rethink our and way forward.

It will not be easy to heal the wounds opened in this election cycle to much hatred and anger has been spewed into our air to make this a comfortable process but we must begin to forgive each other if we are to be the people we profess to be. The spiritual practice of prayer, individual and corporate, helps us focus on each other rather our own selfish interests. Prayer can awaken our concern for the welfare of all and quiet our fears that we are threatened by forces we cannot control. Prayer gives us the courage and strength to take control of who we are as spiritual beings.

To begin I offer a prayer written by the Rev. Kara Markel, a pastor friend of mine, for the Council on Christian Unity, to begin our election day and post-election spiritual practice. As we offer our prayers may we remember Jesus cared for all of us; poor and rich, Christian and non-Christian, Male, female, and differently gendered, and peoples from all cultures and ethnicities. Let us open our hearts to reconciling with each other in prayer.

An Election Prayer
11/5/2016

Let us be a people at prayer in these days of waiting:

We pray for our president elect, that they will lead our country with strength and compassion; that they may represent the very best of the United States around the globe; that they may be committed to justice and peace, and bringing our nation together to address our challenges.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for our governors and legislators, that they will be responsive to their whole constituency and enact laws that ensure the wellbeing of all the people they represent.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for all others elected to public office, that their service to their people would be just and beyond reproach; that where ever they serve in local government, schools, or law enforcement, they would treat all people with dignity and serve the common good.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for our nation, our cities, and our neighborhoods, that together we can create a place where all people are respected and safe, where difference of opinion does not lead to violence, and where our combined creativity heals brokenness of all kinds.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray also that regardless of the outcome of this Election Day, we would remember that we are called by Christ to care for our neighbor, pursue peace and work for justice in our communities. Inspire us to work together, across divisions and difference, to create beloved community where ever we can.

Lord, hear our prayer.

From the Council on Christian Unity
written by The Rev. Kara Markell, Pastor
Lake Washington Christian Church
Kirkland, Washington

Ruth Jewell, ©November 7, 2016

Open Door – Prayerful Tuesday

“Be an opener of doors”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stan Heywt Gardens Akron, Ohio July, 2005 Photo – Ruth Jewell
Stan Heywt Gardens, Akron, Ohio, July, 2005
Photo – Ruth Jewell

Open doors offer promise and fear, joy and sadness.  Behind an open door there could be grandchildren waiting for fresh baked cookies, or maybe something else, something fearful waits for us.  The above photo of an open door could be deceptive, there might be a garden beyond or there could be a path to a destination we didn’t want to travel.  We will never know until we cross that threshold. Crossing into the unknown is one of the most frightening things we do as humans. The unknown is what we make of it and we can’t confront our fears or live our lives until we are willing to move through the door and confront what lies on the other side.

Today I am offering the spiritual practice of Visio Divina using the photograph above.  Before you begin, sit for a moment with your feet on the floor, close your eyes and breathe deeply, letting your body relax and open your soul’s heart.  Now open your eyes and let your imagination and God’s love lead you through the following steps.

  • Study the photo slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, places and things.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
  • Take a second, deeper, look. What do you see? What draws you in? Engage your imagination and describe what lies beyond the door? What are you leaving? Where do you see yourself in the photo? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
  • What feelings arise within you as you gaze at the photograph? Do you feel fear; are you uncomfortable; are your excited or do you anticipate what you might find?
  • 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? Does the photo bring to mind an instance when you have stood at a door, either opened or closed? Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
  • 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.

Gracious Holy Spirit each day we stand at a new door, where our next challenge lies beyond.  Give us strength to face whatever we find across the threshold. We are grateful for the courage you give us as you accompany us through each door.  Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©March 15, 2016

Prayerful Decisions – Prayerful Tuesday

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1

 

Photo by Joe Beck, Unsplash
Photo by Joe Beck, Unsplash

Today is Super-Tuesday, a day when political parties in mostly southern states choose who they want to run as their Presidential Candidate.  So far in this election we have heard the traditional political rhetoric and a great deal of speech filled with anger, hate, bigotry, greed and plan nonsense. My choice of candidate is not important, no, rather what is important is that each of us look carefully at who is running and who has the American peoples best interest.  Not just white, male, and wealthy, but all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status, choice of faith, where they come from, color of their skin, age, or gender identification. All Americans regardless of whether or not they have U.S. citizenship or hopes to attain American citizenship all must be considered equal participants in our society.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” We cannot serve the people, the Divines own people, if we serve our own self interests. When we love power, money, and status more than we love the people of God, whoever they may be, pain and suffering will be, has been, the result.  We  who call ourselves followers of the Divine, with whatever faith tradition we  choose, must not let those whose primary interest is greed, hate, and power, and not the American people, or the people of the world be elected into a position where they could destroy the fabric of our nation and world.

So today, offer prayers for those voting, that they think carefully of their choices.  To refuse to let false, hateful and self-serving rhetoric sway them.  Rather pray that all people will stand together to push back the evil we are seeing displayed during this election year.

My prayer:  May the hand of every voter be guided by the desire for a country that holds sacred the lives and well being of all who live in American and beyond.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 1, 2016

Ash Wednesday Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

“Therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job: 42:6

“You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.”
Psalm 51:6

God Speaks to Job out of the whirlwind William Blake, 1757-1827
God Speaks to Job out of the whirlwind
William Blake, 1757-1827

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition I knew about Ash Wednesday but the community I worshiped in didn’t celebrate it.  It wasn’t until I was an adult, and living in California, that I really understood that having a smudge of ashes on my forehead meant repentance.  Repentance is not just saying sorry, it means examining my past behavior and then changing what I do in the world, turning my actions around to behave as the faithful follower of Jesus I wish to be. And unless I begin the process of change, or at least try to repent, I have not truthfully repented.  Because repentance is a spiritual practice God knows  I will stumble and have to start all over again.  Failing isn’t seen as failure, but as one more step in changing from the old me to the new me.

In today’s world people blithely say they are giving something up for Lent. Often it is some type of food, drink, or action, such as weight loss or smoking none of which really affect our lives and like New Year’s resolution never keep.  That is not what the repentance of Ash Wednesday or the time of Lent is.  No, it means looking closely at what we do every day and then vowing to the Holy Spirit to change some aspect of our life to fit more closely with the teachings of Jesus.  To do that is a truly meaningful act of fasting and repentance; also a very difficult one.  But remember failing to keep your promise is only failure if you don’t start over right where you left your fasting path.

So the spiritual practice for this week is to prayerfully look at your life and what you do every day.  Is there something in need of changing?  Is there something you could do better, or begin to do, which would bring new meaning to your life?  Then, for your Ash Wednesday statement of repentance, choose to promise God you will repent and change; then practice changing your actions for Lent.  Don’t feel discouraged if it is difficult and you have trouble getting started, just keep trying and taking your discouragement to God in your prayer practice.  After all there is a reason it’s called a “practice.”

May your Lenten meditations and fasting bring joyful changes into your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 9, 2016

I Choose . . .

Microsoft ClipArt
Microsoft ClipArt

 

For the past two years I have been wrestling with how my ministry would be expressed in the world.  This discernment journey has taken me “around the block” and back again many times and during this past summer I had finally made my decision, I choose not to be ordained in my denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I choose not to be a pastor, or a chaplain, or even a spiritual director. I choose to be something else, what that something is has only just begun to take shape.

This may seem inconsequential to most of you but for me it has been a difficult decision.  I graduated in 2013 with my Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) degree and it was with the intention of being ordained, primarily because I believed that is what one did when one received an MDiv. But you see it wasn’t my intention when I entered the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Seattle University in 2007.  At that time I just wanted to be better informed in order to conduct Labyrinth retreats with more meaning.  What happened as I progressed through my degree programs of Spiritual Transformation and MDiv I discovered I had talent and passion for learning and I wanted to share what I learned with others. And the truth of the matter is as an ordained pastor I would not be able to share all that I learned simply by the constraints of the job.  I actually would have a greater voice if I wasn’t ordained.

So I chose to be a scholar, a learner of faith with the purpose of spreading what I learn back in to the world.  This is important because we aren’t 1st century people; we live in the 21st century. That means we have a perspective on our faith that those living in the 1st and 2nd and 3rd centuries did not have. We have a history of being, or not being, people of God, just as the Jewish people of the 1st century had a history of being, or not being, a people of God.  We have had our moments of living as God asked and we have had our moments when we have forgotten God, just as the Jewish people had and have. It is the task of the scholar to educate the people of God of their past and how can we do that if no one studies it?

In the last two years I have become interested in how our Christian faith is connected to our Jewish roots and to our younger sibling in the faith Islam and that interest has led me into the differences in how we read Holy Scripture as compared to our 1st to 3rd century faith ancestors, and the differences are striking. Those differences in perspective has shown me it is important for people to understand what the writings of Paul, Gospel Writers, Jewish Prophets, and Muslim Writers actually wanted their listeners to know, what was the message they were transmitting and how does that message resonate with us today.  All those authors wrote and spoke was revolutionary in their time and I want to recover, at least for myself, that revolutionary message.  I want to know what they wrote that was specific to their time and not relevant in the 21st century and what part of their message guides us forward into our own future. And, I want to share that news, that revolutionary news. I have no illusions that I am going to be another Marcus Borg, or a John Caputo, or anyone else who is way more learned in theology than I will ever be.  But I can read what they have learned and pass it on to those who will listen.

You see scholars are often, well nearly always, not thought of as being relevant to world.  When anyone envisions a scholar it is as a stuffy old man or woman who is a bit rumpled and surrounded by books and papers.  It is someone who is absent minded and lost in the past, with no idea about what is going on in the world today.  But that is not who learners/scholars are.

Scholars are connected to the world by stories, and threads of the past that live in the present and the future.  The old quotation “if we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat it,” has never had more meaning than in today’s world.  We are currently reliving a past history where the disadvantaged and those who are different from us are forgotten and made the objects of hate and fear.  It is the role of the scholar to remind the people of who they are, and whose they are.  It was the role of the prophets in Jewish History, it was the role of John the Baptist, and it was the role of Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad.  All of them called to their people to see each other, everyone, as themselves.  Today we have and had  people like President Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King who have called to us to remember and just like those who went before us too many are not listening.

I will never be an exalted a scholar like Desmond Tutu, or Elisabeth Johnson, Sallie McFague or Elisabeth Schüssler Florenza.  But in my small part maybe I can pass on their learning’s to someone who will become exalted. That is enough for me. As the saying goes I am a very small fish in a very large pond and I am happy with that. To give back what I have been blessed to receive is more than enough.

There are many others like me out there, people who read, and study waiting for the opportunity to pass on what they have discovered beyond academics or a very small circle of friends. What each has is a nugget of truth and bit wisdom that needs to be heard. This choice is not prestigious, very few scholars make it to super star status and I am grateful for that.  But the time has come for the telling of the past mistakes and success’. To help everyone remember that the eyes of the other are your eyes and to harm or denigrate the other is to harm and denigrate yourself. Scholars have a role to play in the world that is greater than writing dusty tomes that will be read by only a few.  The past is relevant to the present and the future and it is important that we remember that.  I would like to add my very small part to that story. To offer a tiny bit of knowledge that just might help someone else see the world differently.

My choice, my decision, my path not the easiest of routes to take, and it wasn’t an easy choice but I choose to be a learner, a scholar, a passer on of knowledge.

My prayer for all of you to listen with open mind and heart to what the teaching says, it just might change your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 15, 2015

Legacy – Prayerful Tuesday

Heed the counsel of your own heart, and above all pray to the Most High that you may be guided in the way of truth.  Ecclesiasticus 37:13, 15

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Caribbean Sea
December 16, 2015
Ruth Jewell

I was talking with a friend not long ago and he said his church was reevaluating its mission in the community.  One of the questions he asked them was “what do they want to leave behind when they are gone”? What do they want their legacy to be?  I thought that was an interesting question that all of us should consider in our lives.  What do you want to leave to those who remain after you have passed on to the next world?  What do I want to leave?

Contemplating our legacy is a serious question of the spiritual practice of living our lives with intention.  Because of that I have been giving this question much thought during my sacred time each day.  What is it about my life do I want to pass on to my family, my faith community, the world in general?  How will living my life make a difference in this world?  I know I don’t want to be remembered for just for doing my job or making a living, for me that is a superficial fact of surviving.  I don’t want anyone to say survived the trials of living.

I think I do want to be remembered for being able to listen to a friend in need, for loving even those who I don’t agree with, taking action to right a wrong or feed and clothe the disenfranchised.  I want to be remembered for standing and walking those who are growing spiritually and in their relationship with the Divine.  I want to be remembered as someone who saw the Great Spirit in all I have met whether they belong to my faith or not, rich and poor, the outcast, the convicted felon, any and all who have been labeled unlovable. The short version is I want to intentionally live my life so that I will be a blessing to all around me. This is what I want, this is how I want my life to be lived and remembered.

I have to admit living into this intention is not easy for me, and I fail more often than I succeed. However, I know that the Great Spirit just says “OK, that didn’t work as you wanted it to, but pick yourself up and start over again, I am still here cheering you on.”   So my prayer is for support and guidance and maybe, maybe just maybe I will do better tomorrow.

Each of our lives we are offered a choice of paths to follow. Intentionally choosing the path that leads to a life that grows your Spirit Being is never easy.  Choosing an intentional life is always fraught pit falls and road-blocks.  But living your life with the intention of being spirit filled and a blessing to those around you will be filled with joy amidst the tears of struggle and dark valleys we all go through. In living an intentional life you are never alone on your journey.

This week ask yourself what legacy do you want to leave? Does the life you live now match up with what you want?  What will you do to live a more intentional life?

Blessings on your path.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 20, 2015