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

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

A Woodland Path, Visio Divina

Luke 6:12 During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long.

Deception Pass, August 15, 2014
Deception Pass, August 15, 2014

 

God speaks to us in many ways–through relationships, our experiences, sacred texts such as the Bible and many more. Today I am asking you to “read” a photograph using the practice of Visio Divina, Latin for divine seeing, which is praying with images to listen to God’s words. Todays focus of our pray is a picture of a woodland path.  Using the following four steps explore the images and emotions that the picture brings up for you.  Let the God speak to you through those images and remembered experiences.

  1. Slowly gaze at the picture, 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.
  2. Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination.Where are you in the in the picture? What do you see from that perspective? What do you think lies around the corner? Do you want to continue on the path? Would you walk this path alone or would you rather have a friend along? Why? What deeper meaning emerges?
  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.

Divine Mother surround us in the love of your embrace
Divine Father guide us through the trials of  life
Divine Brother walk with us in light and shadow
Divine Sister Spirit breathe your strength into our hearts
In the midst of the Divine Grace we spend our days

Ruth Jewell, ©August 20, 2014

Walk in the Presence — Prayerful Tuesday

DSCF0434

Ah summer, filled with hot days and warm nights, homemade popsicles and fresh fruit.  On hot days I love to amble over to Yost Park and walk under the tall trees in the cool shade.  I don’t want to exert myself too much; I might after all get too warm.  Therefore today as our spiritual practice for the week I offer a verse from the Psalms.  I present you with the Psalmists simple practice of walking with G-d.

Psalm 116:9 I shall walk before the Lord in the lands of the living. – The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation May your warm summer days be filled with a gentle walk with the Lord.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 12, 2014

Road to Emmaus — Prayerful Tuesday

Road to Emmaus, Rembrandt

Road to Emmaus, Rembrandt

 

The story of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who meet the resurrected Jesus is a familiar story to us all, maybe to familiar. I found this drawing of Rembrandts and it touched me in a way some finished painting cannot. If you look closely you will see it is not a complete drawing, you have the basic outlines some detail is included but most of the fine detail is missing. In a way that is what the scriptural story is for me, the fine details are left out. For instance Rembrandt portrays a young and an older disciple with Jesus but I don’t remember ages being given. For some reason I always pictured the road they were walking on as being isolated but in the background here you see other travelers, is that possible. Jesus is in deep conversation with the two and I often wondered why these two were they the only ones of his disciples not afraid to go out? I could go on forever but then you wouldn’t have a chance to meditate on this drawing.

So today, I offer this drawing for Visio Divina practice. Gaze at the picture and as you focus on the images place yourself in the role of one of the disciples. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. The other disciples are afraid of leaving the upper room but you have chosen to travel. If you had been one of these disciples what would you have thought of this stranger interposing himself on you and your companion? Would you have been afraid?
  2. In what ways does this the teaching of the stranger peak your curiosity.
  3. What is it about the stranger that draws you to him? Does he somehow feel familiar?
  4. Given that some of the women in your group have come back from the tomb telling everyone that Jesus was alive, can you entertain the possibility that you are talking to your risen Lord even if you are afraid to say so out loud.

May Christ meet you on the road and offer you comfort.

 

Ruth Jewell, ©April 29, 2014

 

The Hardest Task

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier
Morning Scripture Psalm 33:12-22

G-d fashioned me from the heart of the SPIRIT,
and all creation with me.
I cannot see the immensity around me,
only the little shelf I stand on do my eyes perceive.

I think my knowledge is so great,
that I no longer need G-d.
Yet all that I am is because of G-d.
All the strength in my arms
is worthless; all the knowledge
of my mind takes me nowhere.
I stand like a child on the side of a mountain
but see only trees, not knowing
much more lies beyond the next bend

I say “I see the mountain,”
I say “I understand,” yet much lays hidden
in caves so deep I cannot imagine.
I think I am so smart,
yet G-d knows how much is still to learn.

My hope for success has no future
without the G- d of creation.
Only the LORD of all
can grace me with life and vision.
Only when I open the ears of my heart
to the SPIRIT within and around me
will I find what my heart seeks.

I hear the voice of the Ancient of Days calling:
“Trust in the LORD, and rest in the SPIRIT.
Only then will your door to life and hope
open wide and your path made smooth.
Our hearts together will beat as one
and they will sing with joy.
The sound of lute and harp
will resound in our ears
and the taste of sweet celestial honey
will delight our mouths.”

All I have to do is trust, to rest, to give to G-d.
Why or why is that so hard?

Let your steadfast love, O LORD,
be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Ruth Jewell ©August 9, 2013

Guns, Fear, and Paranoia

For the last several weeks I have been trying to make sense of the tragedy of Newtown Connecticut and all the rest of the massacres before and since Newtown. I am especially confused by America’s fascination with guns and I must admit I don’t understand.  Why do we need to have everyone armed?  I keep thinking people who carry handguns, or own automatic or semi-automatic weapons are feeding a deep seated inadequacy and guns allow them to feel powerful.  I wouldn’t call such people cowards but they obviously have fear issues that they blow way out of proportion to what the real world offers. And, if someone thinks 6 and 7 year olds are a threat to your life then you really need to see a professional and get counseling. 

The NRA tells us that more guns are the solution to our problem of gun violence, and I respectfully question their thinking and sanity.  How can more guns on the street prevent gun violence?  It didn’t in 1800’s and it won’t now.  Wasn’t it Wyatt Earp in Dodge City who banned guns in town and reduced the level of violence that the town was famous for?  How does the NRA support such a ridiculous statement? 

While I am primarily a vegetarian I accept the fact that some people still hunt for food, especially in Alaska.   But, I just don’t see the sport in killing a living animal. In the lower 48 is it really necessary to go out and kill an animal for food these days?  Can’t people get the same thrill of “hunting” using a camera to “bring home your trophies?  After all you’re in the same outdoor environment and it takes as much, or more, skill to get a good picture than it does to kill an animal.  

I am at a loss as to why anyone would own any weapon other than a single shot rifle.  Everything else is only good for killing another human being.  Unless, of course, you want shredded deer meat you aren’t going to use an automatic rifle to go deer hunting and I can’t imagine what such a weapon would do to bird. 

Unless you have to hunt to put food on your table then there is no excuse or reason to own a gun.  If you are a collector then all your specimens should be permanently disabled and securely locked up to prevent them from being used at any time. 

I am afraid that just like everyone else I don’t have answers other than to say this country needs massive group counseling for paranoia.  The world can be a scary place when you don’t know what tomorrow brings.   But in my experience tomorrow is never as bad as the “so called experts” say it will be and contrary to all rumors the world will not end if individuals do not own weapons used only for killing people. 

Gun violence isn’t about guns, it’s about people, individuals and groups, who see the worst in the future and can’t imagine a world that embraces life rather than death. I have great pity for such people for they live in a world I am totally unfamiliar with.  Such people are sick and should be treated as such, with compassion and sympathy and help for their fears that feed their paranoia.  So maybe that is my solution – group therapy for people who own guns.  I don’t think it would hurt and maybe it would help those who feel a false sense of fear feeding their personal inadequacy, which leads to paranoia, which leads to violence.  Maybe, just maybe, there would be fewer massacres such as Newtown, Portland, Colorado, Seattle, Tacoma, there are too many to name.  Sick people use guns to kill other people, I get that, but what I don’t get is why we don’t address the root cause and that is, unreasoning fear and paranoia in large numbers of people in this country.  We need to address that issue, and then guns won’t matter.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 14, 2013