Morning’s Lectio Divina

 

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Fire in Yosemite National Park, October 2017

It has been some time since I’ve posted something on my blog and the time away has been interesting, restful, and thoughtful. Over the last several months I have practiced three spiritual practices, Meditation, walking prayer, and Lectio Divina that have fed my soul and reawakened my imagination and inspiration, and yes, a little rebellion. Lectio Divina has been most important in raising my awareness of myself and the world around me and I have had a growing desire to share what I hear, feel, and see in scripture meditation. I claim no special expertise or knowledge only heartfelt understanding from my perspective a pericope. I pray that if you meditate on the same scriptures you will find your own insights and open doors.

Isaiah 5:1-7 (NRSV)

1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry!

Meditation:

Reading 1: beloved; judge; righteousness;
Reading 2: break down; devoured; justice; bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry;

This pericope is about God’s justice for Judah for failing to be a people who embrace mercy, justice, peace, and compassion. I sit here and somehow feel we are in the same place now as the people of Judah in 800 BCE. I wouldn’t be surprised if God does something to today’s vineyard, actually I would find God’s action a relief from the horrendous tension.

There are many levels of interpretation to this scripture but on one level we can see how God’s plea to Judah as a plea to us today. After all this country is slipping into a pattern not that different from Judah, or Israel. We have political leaders claiming a faith in God and Christ yet fail to do justice, protect the innocent, or welcome the stranger. These men, and they are mostly men but also women, claim the Bible sanctions their actions of separating children from their parents, cutting health care to the young and the elderly, making health care to expensive for even the average citizen to have, and raising taxes to a level that will keep the poor poorer, and the wealthy wealthier. None of that is sanctioned by God or Christ.

In this passage Isaiah tells the people of Judah God’s justice will result in their destruction. I know God will eventually offer forgiveness (I’ve read ahead) but here Judah doesn’t know that. All they hear, if they are listening, is their little kingdom is going to be destroyed and God tells them why. God expected justice but saw only bloodshed, righteousness but heard only cries of despair and pain and for failing to be the fruit of God’s vineyard they will face destruction and despair.

The parallel between Judah and the United States is too close. There is little justice coming out of Washington D.C., but there is a great deal of turning away from doing good and right. There is no justifiable actions coming from the White House or Congress, only unethical, and morally bankrupt rhetoric from people who enjoy causing pain and suffering on others.

This government likes to call on the scripture to justify their actions. They take a short phrase out of context and wave it around like a sword. The truth is that scripture condemns them as apostates. They embrace the exact opposite of the teachings of God and Jesus. By their own words they have renounced a faith in God in favor of a faith in only themselves. They are their own god!

I cannot call them Christian, or a follower of The God of Abraham, no, they have no faith recognized by those who believe God’s mandate of Justice, Mercy, Compassion and Peace. Isaiah warned Judah what would happen, they didn’t listen and I doubt todays version of Judah will listen either.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 21, 2018

Taking Care—Prayerful Tuesday

The Scream by Van Gogh
The Scream by Van Gogh

For the last three weeks I have been in constant pain due to a pinched nerve in my back.  This fussy nerve has been bothering me for a long time but I refused to listen to it. So now it is fighting back to get the attention it thinks it deserves.  I have never been in so much pain before.   It hurts to lie down, stand up and sit and that my friends are pretty much every possible position there is.  But, I am not asking for sympathy, prayers yes, sympathy no because I got myself here by not listening to my body.

It is always easier to give someone else advice than to take that advice ourselves about taking care of the temple God has graced us with.  Whether we are doing our busy lives or praying we often forget the clay vessel we are embodied with to the detriment of our health and well being both spiritually and physically.

I understand the forgetting the body when we are making a living, I certainly forgot.  After all we are only trying to make a living, feed our family, keep a shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs.  We don’t feed the body with good food rather we go for the quick easy meal of junk food, which is high in fat, calories and low in what we need to be healthy.  We don’t get enough sleep because a job needs to be done and “I, just don’t have the time to rest until it’s finished.” Stress takes its toll with worry about how we will survive if we lose our job, or add a new family member, or move to new community.  We forget to take the time to talk to God, to listen to God, to offer prayers of gratitude and concern to the one, and only, who can relieve our pain and suffering.

The ironic thing is we remember our bodies when they break down, and we remember our spiritual life when we are running on empty to the next event in our lives. That is what has happened to me.  I forgot to care for my body, I refused to listen and I am paying for it now.  But more than that I forgot that caring for my body, caring for my spirit is a prayer practice.

It is important to care for what has been given us the best way we can.  Even when we are given bodies that aren’t perfect, and whose is, we are called by God to care for this vessel as long as we are here enfleshed in this life. In order to care for this body given me I must repent and make changes to how I view my body.  It isn’t an object to worship, but it is a house of prayer.  Good food, exercise, rest and listening are my four healthy habits that will make my house stronger.  My physical house and my spiritual house.

My prayer for all of you this week is take a moment out of your day to sit in silence and offer God your gratitude, take a brisk walk and feel the breath of God on your face, rest in God, letting the healing touch of the Holy Spirit renew your soul and eat with gusto food rich in love and low in Cholesterol.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 20, 2015

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Gratitude
Gratitude

Holy Spirit as I sit at this groaning table today, looking so much like a Rockwell painting, help me to remember those in this world who are grateful for a simple bowl of rice and a cup of water.  I often forget how much I really have and fail to remember those who huddle beneath a simple roof and sleep on a dirt floor.

As I sit in the safety of my home help me to remember there are people who look upon the evening sun grateful just to have survived another day.  Help me to be mindful of your great blessings and learn to give more than I receive, to not waste what has been give me, and to share with those who can not help themselves.

Oh Holy Spirit, We thank you, for the feast we spread before us
thank you for the ground it was cradled in,
thank you for the sun and rain that nurtured it
thank you for the farmers who carefully harvested it
thank you for the hands that lovingly prepared it.

May this food feed our bodies
as You feed our souls. Amen

Ruth Jewell, © November 27, 2014

Prepare — Prayerful Tuesday

Preparing Split Pea Soup
Preparing Split Pea Soup

3 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3

The other Sunday I and a friend of mine were in charge of the coffee hour after worship.  It was going to be a cold November day and I wanted to do something different and special for people I care about.  Cherry and I talked it over and decided, since there was an Elders meeting after worship, a light meal of homemade soup, salad and bread would be a perfect offering. Cherry decided on making a chicken soup and bringing the rolls.  I decided on a vegetarian split pea soup and also brought the salad.

I have read and heard the words of the prophet Isaiah all of my life and have loved many of the songs and chants written around this verse.  But as I was preparing the soup for Sunday the words struck me a little deeper.  The picture above is the ingredients for my soup.  Simple wholesome ingredients; dried split peas, herbs, and garlic and onions, from my own garden, and fresh carrots and celery from the farmers market go into making this really simple soup. (Recipe Below)  As I scrubbed the carrots and celery I thought about who would eat my soup and in the process of browning chopped onions and garlic in olive oil the act of making the soup became an act of prayer.

The people who would share in my offering were the people of my faith community and any visitors we might have.  People I love and care about, but, more than that, it was an extended sharing from the communion table. The breaking of bread, the ladling of hot soup all became part of the feast Christ sets before us every Sunday.

As a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we prepare and offer communion every Sunday.  We carefully set out bread and cup and share it with each other and as I prepared this simple meal that would be served after worship we were continuing a 2000 year old tradition of breaking bread and pouring cup then going in to share a common meal.  That is what the first followers of Jesus did.  They shared more than just a piece of bread and thimble full of wine.  They shared a whole meal together, rich or poor, aristocrat or tent maker, all ate from the same serving bowl.

I have helped prepare and serve hot meals for the homeless, and I routinely make up food bags to give to the homeless I see on the streets and while I may not sit down with each person I offer food too it is still communion.  It is a sharing of food, and drink, and recognizing that what I give doesn’t come from me, but from God, Christ, and Holy Spirit.  I am only the servant who is trying to fulfill Christ’s commandment; “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)

In the process of preparing to serve others I am preparing to serve Jesus, to follow, as faithfully as possible, the path Jesus leads me on.  I know I will stumble, but Jesus will be there to pick me up; I will wander off the path, but the Holy Spirit will be there to lead me back; and I will grow weary, but God will be there to cradle me in her arms until I am rested.

The spiritual practice I am inviting you to share in this Advent season is to find the sacred in all that you are preparing for your own celebrations.  In what ways are you preparing for the Lord in your everyday life?  With whom will you celebrate the feast of God?  As you await the birth of the Christ child let your preparations become an act of prayer, for those you love and those you may not know.

May the peace of Christ be with you, always

Ruth’s Pea Soup
about 8 servings

1 lb. dry green or yellow peas
3 quarts of cold water (or 1 qt vegetable stock and 2 quarts cold water)
1 large carrot, sliced in to small pieces
1 small celery stick chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small onion or 4 large green onions
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped fine
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (I like fresh rosemary, summer savory, and thyme)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Pepper to taste

In the bottom of a large pot sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Add the turmeric, stir then add the carrots and celery. Add the peas and cold water into a large saucepan; add the herbs and salt to the saucepan; add the pepper to taste.  Cook over low to medium heat until the peas are very soft.  Remove from the heat and run through a ricer or press through a colander to remove the hulls.  Return the soup to the saucepan and heat to eating temperature.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Notes:  Use only 1 teaspoon of dried mint or herbs when substituting for fresh. I will use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand but I prefer 1 tablespoon each of fresh thyme and summer savory.  If you want a more salty taste you can add a teaspoon of spike or one of the other herbal salt substitutes when cooking.  I also like to sprinkle fresh chopped chives (either onion or garlic) over the sour cream or yogurt when serving.

Source: A Ruth Thompson original recipe that I first made sometime in early 1980’s.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 25, 2014

Morning Prayer

The Broken Loaf
The Broken Loaf

Communion

Blessing

Holy Presence,
on a day of sharing,
a day of remembering,
a day of covenantal renewal
we ask your blessing on this feast we are to share.

A cup to drink, bread to eat,
the meal you have prepared.
We accept your invitation
to feast
to welcome
all who travel with us. .  . .

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Gratitude for a meal shared
and consumed in love.
We leave your table full,
blessed,
ready to work in the field,
arms bared,
heart full,
outward we go.

No barns necessary
for the bounty we have collected,
all shared,
poor,
rich alike.
With thanks we go forth,
we are enough,
we have enough,
with prayers
we will work
until all have enough.

Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©November 9, 2014

Eating Locally as a Spiritual Practice – Prayerful Tuesday

Harvest Time
Harvest Time

 

What does it mean to eat locally grown foods?  Well it doesn’t mean you eat only food grown in your area.  Rather it means you understand the importance of food or, as my friend David Bell says (Eating Locally, Artistically, justbetweentheridges.wordpress.com), the sacredness of food.  Eating food from a neighbor or a local farmer has less impact on the environment than food grown at great distance from us.  There are few transportation costs, less gas and oil means a smaller carbon footprint.  Most local farmers use fewer pesticides or none at all that leads to less contamination of the environment and fewer chemicals to which we are exposed.  The food is fresher because we are buying directly from the farmer we they can pick the fruit and produce at its peak instead of early because they don’t have to transport it as far.  That leads to better nutrition for us and our families.  The relationships built with farmers means you know where your food comes from and how it is produced.  Those are some of the benefits but what about the sacredness of food?

Well, food is sacred. It is a gift from the Holy Presence to feed our bodies and when we separate ourselves from where it originates we lose a connection with the Holy that is basic to life itself. Throughout scripture food plays an important role in the relationship with God, and with the people of the bible. In Genesis God provided food for Adam and Eve, when they were banned from the Garden God still provided for them.  The Israelites are fed by God with food from heaven; Elijah is cared for by angels; and at the end of his 40 days of temptation, the angels provided for Jesus. Ultimately we celebrate the sacredness of food every Sunday when we bless bread and cup and offer the feast of Jesus at the communion table. Food is important not just to our physical well being but to our spiritual well being as well.  The work a farmer does is not only necessary to our existence it is a holy occupation, a sacred act, a connection between God, earth and us.

This week spiritual practice is to offer thanks at each meal for the food you eat.  Here is the table prayer I use, you may use it or one of your own:

Holy Giver of Life, I thank you for this food before me, thank you for the earth in which it was grown, thank you for sun and rain that nurtured, thank you for the farmer who harvested it, and thank for the hands that prepared it.  May this food feed our bodies as you feed our souls.  Amen.

May your week be filled with wonderful food and abundant grace.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 16, 2014

Summer’s End—Prayerful Tuesday

Harvest Time
Harvest Time

 

The month of August is one of my favorite times of the year a time of reflection and gratitude.  This has always been a slow time of year for me. A time to sit on the porch with a cold glass of iced tea and just sit, letting the warm air surround me, and the end of summer sounds lull me into a lazy half-sleep. There are fresh vegetables from the garden, or farmers market, that make even the simplest meals a feast.  Ice cream tastes better with ripe fat blackberries, or sweet peaches on top.  The trees are making a tired sound as the August breezes blow through leaves that are drying out and getting ready to turn into autumns crowning glory of red and gold.

In May there is excitement, joyousness and expectations in the air, but in August the air begins to get sleepy, tired and a little sad.  In just a few short weeks our children will be back in school, the air will turn cold and instead of juicy watermelon on the back porch it will be hot chocolate with cookies at the kitchen table.

As you can see, for me, August is a time of reflection and remembrance but it is also a time to take stock and explore what I am grateful for.  And, today gratitude fills my thoughts.  I am grateful for the warm sun and gentle rains that have fed my vegetable garden this year.  I have feasted on fresh lettuce, green beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I have been able to put some in our freezer to pull out and remember the warm summer sun in the darkness of winter.  I am grateful for the time spent lying in the shade and letting our dogs use me as a chew toy.  Together John and I have watched the sun set over the Olympic Mountains, turning the gold and purple and the waters of Puget Sound into silver.  I am grateful for walks in Yost Park and along the Edmonds beach, watching children play in forest and sand.  I am grateful for the feeling of life that thrums through me when I watch the sunrise over the trees of Yost Park, turning the sky from dark to bright and the Olympic Mountains pink with the first rays of light. I am grateful for the silence of the morning as I sit and meditate on our deck before sunrise. And, I am grateful for the opportunity to write in my blog, to have the time to read or simply sit and just be.

Gratitude is what warms my heart and gratitude is the spiritual practice I am asking you to join me in this week. You have read some of what I am grateful for now it is your turn.  As this summer winds down what are you grateful for?  Has something, no matter how small, given you pleasure or challenged you this summer? Have you done something that warms your heart and causes’ it to “swell with thanksgiving?” Did you travel, or read a book, or did you just stop and let the summer wash over you?  All of these, and more, are reasons to be grateful.

May G-d bless these your last days of summer with juicy berries and sweet peaches, gentle breezes and warm sunshine.  And, may you heart swell with gratitude for the gifts G-d graces you with.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 26, 2014