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

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

Choosing a Path – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 23: 1-3  The Lord is my shepherd: I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me to water in places of repose; He renews my life; He guides me in right paths as befits his name. (The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation)

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Arizona, 2006

I subscribe to a Native American spirituality site, White Bison (www.whitebison.org), and recently I received the following daily meditation:

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – September 21

“everything is laid out for you. Your path is straight ahead of you. Sometimes it’s invisible but it’s there. You may not know where it’s going, but still you have to follow that path. It’s the path to the Creator. That’s the only path there is.”  — Leon Shenadoah, ONANDAGA

When I read this and held in my heart for awhile I recognized the truth in the statement.  However, I also saw that we are not given just one path, and many paths lead to the Creator.  Every day, every second of every day, we are asked to choose the path we will follow.  The choice is not always clear, nor is always easy.  Most often we are asked to make our choices quickly without thought and while these choices may seem insignificant it won’t be until much later do we realize how important they were.

I don’t have the answers to choosing the “right” path, as if any path could really be wrong. For me when I let go of my ego control and let The Great Spirit take the reins of my life the choices become easier, not easy, but easier.  I know I will still end up walking some dark and dangerous road instead of the one in sunshine, but I will also not feel I am alone on that scary path.

Letting go of our ego and releasing our control is hard spiritual practice to follow and one that I start over with every single day.  But there are rewards.  When I do let go I find that I am at peace with my choice of path and that I can smile and bear the difficulties much better.  Right now I am struggling with letting go and am on a path I am not sure of.  I keep saying ‘I can do this, I don’t need anyone else,’ but I know that is false.  I can’t do my life by myself!  I need the comfort of The Great Spirit and so I practice letting go.   Even though I slip back every day, and there will be doubt,  I grab onto the hand of the Spirit and haul myself up to the next step, the next place.

Do you have difficulty letting go of your control as you choose your paths?  What do you do to help you choose the next path, do you release your control of your life, or do you, just as I do, often say ‘I can do this by myself?’

Ruth Jewell, ©September 29, 2015

 

 

Seeing the Divine – Prayerful Tuesday

Photo by Rabbi Yael Levy, www.mishkan.org/awi, June 29, 2015
Photo by Rabbi Yael Levy, http://www.mishkan.org/awi, June 29, 2015

This week I am offering a meditation from Monday’s FaceBook (FB) page A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program.  I have used these FB daily meditations, and the Rabbi Yael Levy’s Jewish Mindfulness web page, Mishkan Shalom, for my own use for some time now.  I wanted to share with you the beauty of their posts and suggest you explore Rabbi Levy’s web page as a resource for mindfulness and meditation.

Let today’s meditation be your reminder to look for the Divine in all of creation.

Fulfilled is the person who knows that in each moment she dwells in the Divine presence
Fulfilled is the person who knows that in each moment the Divine presence dwells within her.
Always she offers praise.
-Psalm 84:5

May we have the strength and humility to look for the Divine within ourselves.
May we have the courage and faith to recognize the Divine in others.

More mindfulness resources: www.mishkan.org/awi

Ruth Jewell, ©June 30, 2015

Praying With Gratitude – Prayerful Tuesday

Sunset in the South Pacific April 23, 2015 (Ruth Jewell)
Sunset in the South Pacific
April 23, 2015 (Ruth Jewell)

While I was traveling in April I carried a small book with me by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ titled Reimagining the Ignatian Examen.[1] On our sea days when I would sit on the deck of our cruise ship and watch the ocean go by I various meditations for my daily prayer time.

Thibodeaux’s book takes the traditional Examen and includeds a specific focus to use within the prayer practice.  There are 34 different themes and I discovered a number of them to be very helpful for me as I sat in stillness. Over the next several months I will occasionally offer one of the meditations from the book for our Prayerful Tuesday. As today follows Memorial Day when we honor those who have died in service I would like to offer the meditation for Gratitude.

First let me offer a few hints from the book to get you started.

  1. Keep it short. Keeping your Examen under 15 minutes will keep your prayer in the moment and a reminder that this is a check-in with God that reorients your toward the Divine.
  2. Skip to the good parts and don’t get hung up on sin. You only want to dwell on the steps and you want to get to the point rather than linger for an extended period of time. Nor do you want to dwell on all the things that have gone bad or at least you think have gone bad.  God has the facts you don’t have to bore him with a lot of details.
  3. Sometimes, break all the rules. If you feel like it, skip over parts of the Examen you don’t feel you need to do or change them around.
  4. Experiment with different ways of journaling. Tweet-sized, or drawing, or video yourself dancing.  Do whatever moves you in prayer.
  5. Keep it prayerful. Keep the prayer God centered and don’t let your meditation drift into your shopping list or your latest aggravation.  Extra hints: A. ask God to take the lead, ask God to do your Examen for the day; B. Talk to God instead of yourself; C. listen for God’s voice, sit in silence for a moment and let God enter you

Here is how I began and closed my ritual, you may choose something totally different that fits you and the place you’re in spiritually right now:

  1. I stand still for a moment and let my mind quiet.
  2. I repeat Micah 6:8 as I sit down
  3. I place my hands in my lap, palms up, in a gesture of being open to God’s love and grace
  4. I slow my breathing and clear my mind, sitting very still for a moment
  5. I welcome God in to my heart and spirit
  6. Then I begin my Examen

Closure:

  1. I take several very deep breaths as a way to bring myself back to moment
  2. I place my hand on heart and repeat Matthew 28:20b
  3. I journal for a short while before rising from my chair.

Note: I change scriptures from time to time, substituting poetry and prayers.  Remember nothing is written in concrete.

Examen theme of GRATITUDE

  1. Begin in your usual way
  2. Ask God to reveal special blessing in your life this day. As yesterday was Memorial Day, ask God to also reveal the special blessing you’ve received from someone you loved who has passed on.
  3. Ask yourself ‘what am I grateful for today? “Who am I grateful for?’ Name the person(s) gift and offer the following “Lord, I am so grateful for your gift to me of _____.” Repeat this as many times as you need to
  4. Relish each gift in turn, letting them warm your heart. Using prayerful imagination see, feel, hear, touch, sense the gift again
  5. Let the gifts you have received dance in your memory offering your gratitude to God for each one. Offer the following; “Thank you Lord for (neighbor, family, laughter, shared meal, etc.)
  6. End in your usual way.

I truly enjoyed Thibodeaux’s focuses on my trip, they helped me retain a pilgrim attitude to the whole trip and I hope you find today’s focus helpful as much as I did.

Peace and Blessing on your journey

Ruth Jewell, ©May 26, 2015

[1] Thibodeaux SJ, Mark E; Reimagining the Ignatian Examen, Loyola Press, Chicago, IL, 2015

Blind Bartimaeus, Questions. Answers? – Prayerful Tuesday

Mark 10:46-52 46They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus Healing Blind Bartimaeus El-Greco, 1578
Jesus Healing Blind Bartimaeus
El-Greco, 1578

We are rapidly approaching Holy Week and all of the exciting and heartbreaking moments the weeks brings.  In Mark the last story before the Triumphal Entry is of the Healing of Blind Bartimaeus that takes place as Jesus is traveling through Jericho to Jerusalem and his appointed fate.  I am offering the above painting by El-Greco for you to contemplate with the prayer practice of Visio Divina.  I have always found this story from the Gospel of Mark one of the most moving story of courage and faith in scripture.  Bartimaeus doesn’t know how close he is to Jesus; he simply calls out and has faith Jesus will answer him.  The questions Jesus asks of Bartimaeus also draw me into a deeper understanding of sight and I hope you will consider those questions and the responses as well.

May your sight be deepened in preparation for the coming week as your contemplate El‑Greco’s painting and the scripture lesson.

VISO DIVINA

  1. Study the picture 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. Read the Scripture lesson slowly and in meditation. Return to the painting does the scripture alter your perspective of the painting in anyway?  Do the questions and responses open new doors as you gaze at the painting?
  3. 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?
  4. 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? Place yourself in the place of Bartimaeus, and then in the place of a spectator, or one of the Disciples. Does your perspective Change?  What do you feel when you become Bartimaeus or a spectator?  Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
  5. 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 Peace of God be with you as you travel the Holy Week Journey.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 24, 2015