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

Tomorrow You’ll Be Brave – Prayerful Tuesday

Tomorrow you’ll be brave, you say? Fool! Dive today
From the cliff of what you know into what you can’t know.
You fear the rocks? Better men than you have died on them;
Dying on Love’s rocks is nobler than a life of death. 

– Jalal-ud-Din Rumi
(Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi,
Daily OM, May 7, 2016 )

By Alexey Topolyanskiy, Unsplash, February 22, 2016
By Alexey Topolyanskiy, Unsplash, February 22, 2016

It is always “tomorrow” for me, I always want to put off taking that risk until tomorrow.  Maybe that is why this saying of Rumi’s means so much to me that I want to share it with you.  This week I am offering Rumi’s saying for meditation with Lectio Divina.

  • Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Focus for a few moments on your breathing; or use a “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” as you gently and gradually center your thoughts. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
  • Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In Lectio Divina, The One Spirit is teaching us to listen to the Divine voice, to seek the Spirit in silence. The One Spirit does not reach out and grab us; rather, we are gently invited to go ever more deeply into the presence of the One.
  • Take the word or phrase into you center. Hold it in your thoughts and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with the One.
  • Speak to the One Spirit who has reached out to you. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with the One as you would with someone who you know loves and accepts you. And give to the One Spirit what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience the One by using the word or phrase you have been given as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on the One’s word has awakened. Give to the One Spirit what you have found within your heart.
  • Rest in the embrace Spirit. And when you are invited to return to your contemplation of Spirits word or to your inner dialogue with the One Spirit, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that the One Spirit is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 10, 2016

“And the Lord Grieved”

“And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.”  – Genesis 6:6, NRSV)

fire rainbow b
Fire Rainbow Taken Spring 2015

This past weekend I was asked by a Facebook friend to comment on the following meme from the Celtic Christian Tradition.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” (www.facebook.com/CelticChristianTradition, April 30, 2016)

My friend is not a believer in Christianity but he and I have had many an interesting online discussion on faith and beliefs.  I have always found him to be an open minded and intelligent person and so I gladly responded to his request to comment.

“Well I don’t know if saying you believe in Jesus but don’t actually follow his teachings is a cause of atheism or not, but it certainly is the cause of so many to question the values of Christianity.  Just saying you believe in Jesus is like saying the ‘Sun rises in the East,’ it’s a statement. Being faithful to the teachings of Jesus however means you are loyal to those teachings and practice them, or at least do you your best to try, every day.  If you only use the words to carry a message of hate, domination and greed then you have become separated from God and are not longer the blessing you are meant to be.

There is Good in everything, human, animal, plant, all creation and it doesn’t matter how you see the Good.  It only matters that you do.  The Good is what keeps each of us rising up every morning, keeps us loving our neighbors regardless of who they are and keeps us part of the human family.  To deny the Good in anyone, any creature, any part of creation is to be cut off from what makes each of us human. I listen to the hatful rhetoric spouted each day in the news and I don’t see people of faith, I see lost souls, people cut off from what is good and right in our world, and that makes me very sad.

You know I call the Good God, but that is how I see the good in the world.  You see the Good in a different way, a way that gives you peace and a path to follow that is good in the world.  Others see the Good in other ways, but, no matter how we explain the Good to ourselves it is all the same Good. The name may be different but it is still what is Good and Right in the world. We all have the capacity to find and see the Good, whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist.  The Good is still there in the world, universe, all creation and as long as some of us are able to find, see, and honor the Good in each other and creation gives me hope that we will have a world to live in.

I look for the Good in those that hat that is what my tradition tells me to do. But even if that wasn’t part of my tradition I would still look because to otherwise brings me down to the level of those who hat and I don’t want to go there.  If those of us who believed in what is Good were a little more vocal we would drown out the voices of hate and all would know there are still people in this world who believe in doing good rather than speaking hate.”

After I wrote this I recognized how sad it is that there are so many who cannot, or will not see what is Good and Right in this world.  Everything in creation was created good, there was nothing evil or bad about anything brought into being.  Genesis 1:31a reads “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Every morning I see just how good creation is when I feel the warmth of the rising sun and hear the morning songs of birds.  So in my eyes the God is still active in the world I live in. Every creature in all creation is meant to be a blessing to all of creation and to be otherwise is to separate from God and all that is good.  To live outside of the love and light of God hurts God as much as it hurts those living in hate and darkness.  When God’s beloved creatures did first did evil God’s heart was broken (Genesis 6:6).  When we who are human do evil and practice hate instead of love and pretend it is what God wants, when we are not the blessing we are meant to be God calls out to us in pain in sorrow, “not in my Name.”

Every day the news media is filled with the words and images of people professing to be people of faith whose actions do not reflect a faith of any tradition.  So many people who call themselves people of faith in one breath prove they are not in the next breath when they deny the teachings of love, compassion and justice by spouting words of hate and denying justice to those in need.  Yet we who try to be followers of God, or the Good in the world, are enabling these lost souls by not speaking out against the injustice or not standing with those in need.  So we are not innocent by any means.

What do we do then?  We who stand for justice, mercy and compassion need to be the Isaiah’s, Micah’s, and Jeremiah’s of our day. Like the Apostles we need to be the ones who speak with love and compassion, letting those who speak hate that we know them for what they are, lost, wounded, souls and that we are sad for them and will stand with their victims.  None of that is easy, and we cannot expect to change everyone overnight, but, being who we are, blessings to the world, changes the world a little bit at a time.  Kindness and compassion never goes unrewarded and even in the darkest moment the single candle we light shines brighter than then darkness around it.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 2, 2016

Never Alone – Prayerful Tuesday

Matthew 28:20b “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God does not want
us to be burdened
because of sorrows and tempests
that happen in our lives,

because
it has always been so
before miracles happen.

–Julian of Norwich, 14th century Anchoress

Microsoft Clip Art
Microsoft Clip Art

Sorrow, grief whether from unforeseen circumstances or our own doing always seems to lead us to questioning our beliefs and faith. We ask ourselves, the universe, or the Divine “why is this happening to me?”  In our woundedness we nearly always believe we will never be able to recover, to fully live life again.  I know what it feels like, I have been there way too many times and yes I felt totally adrift without friend or companion. Yet I was, we are, never really alone.  There is always someone to lay at their feet your fears and pain. Sometimes we have to look for confidants, and sometimes we only have to open our hearts. When we open up and let the pain scream out the healing process begins.

So yes with time the wounds of our heart, mind and soul do heal and we move on. We learn from our pain and discover new strength deep within that provides the fuel to live a joyful and fulfilling life helping us move into a better place in our lives.  We learn there are relationships that can’t be broken even in the darkest times.  We also learn that from loss great things will grow. The two greatest miracles of sorrow are learning we do have the strength to walk through the dark places in our lives and learning to forgive ourselves.

But when we refuse to look at our sorrows, too afraid of the memories to bring them out into the open where the light is we never learn from our struggles.  By keeping the memories of the painful times of life locked within we never allow ourselves to find the deeper meaning in our sorrows, or the strength that comes from squarely facing them. We never completely heal.

Healing doesn’t mean forgetting because if we forget than we cannot come to an understanding of who we are and are meant to be.  Life isn’t easy; it is full of ups and downs. More than likely we spend more time in the valleys than we do on the mountain tops. But just as a young tree grows stronger when strong winds blow it around we too grow stronger; strong enough to face the next valley, and the next, and the next.  With each one we gain a bit more strength.  Yes, I know all too well that it doesn’t feel like that in the moment but it is true.  Living your life without challenges, or risk of sorrows, isn’t living it is existing and there lies the difference.

Spiritual Practice:

Have your traveled a dark valley?  Did fear keep you from moving forward or from sharing your pain with a friend, pastor, spiritual director, or directly with the Spirit? If you could not let your sorrows out what would help you to find what you need?  Prayer and silence are strong tools for rebuilding our relationship with the Divine.  Offer your fears to the Spirit in your own way of prayer. Confiding in a spiritual director, a close friend, or your pastor may help guide you in your own search for answers. Each journey is different and requires different tools.  Asking for help is not a weakness but strength and a spiritual practice in itself. Let your heart be healed by finding the best tool for you.

Blessings on your journey wherever the road takes you.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 26, 2016

A Thanksgiving Prayer? – Prayerful Tuesday

for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

Matthew 25:35

Artist Unknown
Artist Unknown

Giver of abundant gifts, on this Thanksgiving we celebrate . . . we celebrate. Ah what are we celebrating God?  It seems to me that we have nothing to celebrate, nothing to be thankful for, except empty hearts and soulless comments.

Too many children are dying before our eyes on beaches, in stormy seas, in mountain passes, and refugee camps.  Too many are blinded by their fears, unable to see the path to your love.  I don’t know God, I can’t really think of something to be thankful for this year, you see my eyes are clouded with tears and my heart is screaming in pain for those who are being denied entry into our so called circle of love.  By the way if it is a circle of love would there really be boundaries?

God I don’t know how to say this but I do believe we humans have failed you and maybe it is time to pull the plug on this experiment. We are tired, I know I am, so please just let us go and let us be thankful for the too few moments when we recognized your love and shared it with the world.  Let some other species give being your priestly people a go at it. That task is very plainly to difficult for us. Dogs would be a good choice they love without condition just by being who they are, yes; Dogs would do a good job of being your treasured people.

So I guess I do have something to be thankful for.  I am thankful for your love, for your compassion, your presence in the darkest of times.  I am grateful for the times we danced in the sunlight, and sang at the moon. I am grateful for your faith in us when we have no faith in ourselves.  I am thankful for the many blessings you have given us, sunrises and sunsets, a newborns smile, oh so many gifts. So if it’s alright with you God I will lay my gratitude down at your feet and if it pleases you Lord, I would like to come back as a Dog.    AMEN

Ruth Jewell, ©November 24, 2015

Psalms of Lament and Hope – Prayerful Tuesday

Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, The World God in your mercy, hear our prayers
Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, The World
God in your mercy,
hear our prayers

The only gift I have to offer this week is my sorrow for Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, and all of us.  So I offer the Psalms I go to when I am in the midst of sorrow and pain.  May your hearts be comforted by the words of the psalmist and may you find solace knowing others cry with you.

Psalm 36:1-4 (MSG)
A David Psalm
1-4 The God-rebel tunes in to sedition—
all ears, eager to sin.
He has no regard for God,
he stands insolent before him.
He has smooth-talked himself
into believing
That his evil
will never be noticed.
Words gutter from his mouth,
dishwater dirty.
Can’t remember when he
did anything decent.
Every time he goes to bed,
he fathers another evil plot.
When he’s loose on the streets,
nobody’s safe.
He plays with fire
and doesn’t care who gets burned.

Psalm 42 (NRSV)

1As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”
4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng, and led them in procession
to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
5Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help
6and my God. My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan
and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows have gone over me.
8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?”
10As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
11Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 17, 2015

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