Advent, Week One – Prayerful Tuesday

Deuteronomy 18:15-18 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

Hope;  Photo by Ruth Jewell
Hope, the 1st Week of Advent;
Photo by Ruth Jewell

Advent is a time of preparation, longing, and anticipation.  While shopping, feasting, and celebrating have become part of the season they are not what Advent is about.  In fact Advent traditional was a time of fasting just as Lent is.  It is time to stop and reflect on what God has done and is about to do.  It is a time to get ready for the child that brings us the good news.  At my home Church Queen Anne Christian Church in Seattle we are taking this time to slow down and to be mindful of the graciousness of the creator. As faith community we want to buy less stuff and give more love, to slow our pace and live into the hope given by the gift of the Christ Child.   So during this season of Advent I am going to share the Advent meditations we are following at Queen Anne Christian Church.  May you find hope, peace, joy, and love as you prepare for the birth of love.

Meditations for a Mindful Advent
Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle WA
2015

Slow down . . .  seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.

An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to know You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.

Hope – The First Week of Advent

Light one candle 
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.

Meditations 
At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.
— Christopher Reeve
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.
You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
— David Lloyd George
Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, what dream of hope calls to you?
Evening: As you look back on your day, where did you find hope?
Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of hope; include yourself.​

Ruth Jewell ©December 1, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

An Elder’s Meditation: Accepting and Giving Thanks

Mark 4:26-29  He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

Walking though the  Huon Valley & Tahune Forest Hobart, Tasmania, Australia April 15, 2015, ©Ruth Jewell
Walking though the
Huon Valley & Tahune Forest
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
April 15, 2015, ©Ruth Jewell

This past spring John and I were on a 6½ week pilgrimage of sorts.   Unfortunately 2 hours before we were to be picked up by Shuttle Express I fell in my office and tore or badly bruised the calf muscle of my left leg and also  I refused to go to the emergency room because we would have missed our flight. Well, along with back issues, that fall meant I spent our holiday with a cane and walking as if I was 250 years old.

The fall and my, seemingly forever back problems, meant modifying some of our activities and learning to depend on the graciousness of people in New Zealand and on board our cruise ship..  I was helped by strangers I would never see again to walk up hills, across sand dunes, into cars, buses, and boats.  All they asked for was a simple thank you and a smile.  I cannot begin to express my gratitude to these angels in disguise.  They made our visit to NZ and back to the states a trip of a life time.

Now many of you may also have noticed that I often have a motor mouth (in the case of blogging, motor writing) and when I offer thanks to someone I will chatter on nervously for 10 minutes.  It took 6½ weeks for me to figure out that saying ‘thank you’ or ‘you are a blessing’ was all that was needed.

Learning to stop talking and listen has always been hard for me but what I have discovered this late in my life is when I stop with a smile and thank you I SEE the face of the angel who helped me.  It doesn’t matter what nationality, or skin color, or language they speak, the light shines through.  It isn’t just their job anymore it’s that they have been recognized for who they are.  If I am not speaking or thinking of more to say, I see them for who they are.

You have also probably noticed I have just as much trouble, maybe more, in receiving gratitude.  I am self-deprecating to the extreme.  Probably because I was taught that nothing I did was to be done for any expectation of thanks. But on this trip I was more aware of not just offering thanks but of receiving the gift of graciousness and help.  You see to offer thanks you have to have received something and that gift is hard one for me to accept.  But I learned to stop explaining that I fell, or have a back giving out on me.  I learned to simply take someone’s hand and lean on them for help without explaining how independent I normally am.

The scripture of Mark is one of giving and receiving.  It is giving your time to sow and the harvest is the receiving of God’s blessing (didn’t think I’d work that in did you).  What has finally sunk into my rather thick brain is giving and receiving God’s blessings comes in many forms and I am grateful for the giving and receiving of all the blessings from God’s hands I have received not just on our trip but in my whole lifetime.  It may seem like a small thing but graciously accepting the assistance from a stranger gives me a gift of love and the giver a gift of grace.  The Importance of keeping the ‘thank you’ short and sweet is that it focuses on the gift and the giver rather than my own ego.  It works the other way as well.  Keeping assistance I give to someone else also focuses on the gift I give and the receiver of the gift instead of me.  The giver and the receiver receive the gift of grace and love.  That is a beautifully thing and passing that gift on grows the grace between me and you and opens wider the door of the Kingdom of God.

To all of you, Thank you for being who you are, and many blessing on your many journeys.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 15, 2015

Looking Forward – Looking Back – Prayerful Tuesday

Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Happy New Year 2015 A

Well the New Year is almost upon us and it has been an eventful, but mostly violent, one.  In 2014 it seems we have had more violence than peace, despite the efforts of many.  We have seen hate take over our streets and increase in our government.  Peace on Earth just doesn’t seem to be in our hearts for this baby New Year.

This last year we have seen too many senseless deaths, demonstrations, hateful rhetoric, and downright meanness.  There has been little peace in our world of late.  But this small online community has been a refuge for some. We have offered moments of personal stillness in the rush of our daily lives.  Yet in the face of so much violence prayer doesn’t always seem adequate does it.

But, every time we take a moment to offer a pray for our own peace and for the peace of others we change a piece of our hearts.  Those changes add up and become the change we see around us. We just celebrated the birth of love breaking into the world.  A love that gives out of its abundance, works for justice for all, and walks a path that honors the world we live in. In the light of that love we too can become love expressed in the world, with every prayer we offer and with every prayer action we take, the light of Love shines just a little brighter.  Yes it may seem inadequate but remember you can’t have a beach with one grain of sand.

So my prayer request for each of you this week, as you contemplate the year past and look forward to the year to come, is to offer a prayer for our community that we will find solace in our hearts and compassion and justice in our actions.  Pray for each other.  Pray for local, national, and international governments.  Pray for the children, elderly, and the sick and disabled who are most affected by hate speech and actions.  Let your prayers spill over into the way you act in the world around you.  Remember others are praying as well, you are not alone.  Let every act you do in the coming year be an act of prayer, and offering to the God or Force that guides your path.  Let this be your New Year’s resolution that you will “do justice, and … love kindness, and … walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NRSV).

It is my prayer that, we as a people, will change the world by being the Force in the world for compassion, justice, and love.  Let us learn to walk humbly with whatever Divine Energy each of calls to in the dark.  May each of us this year light a candle of hope each day and let our light shine.

Happy New Year Everyone and may the Love of the Divine be with you in the coming year.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 30, 2014

For Unto Us – Prayerful Tuesday

John 1:1-5  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The Nativity, Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, (1617-1682)
The Nativity,
Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, (1617-1682)

 

This is one of my favorite paintings of the birth of Jesus.  There is just something about the expressions on Mary and Josephs faces as they look at the new small being in their life that draws me in.  I once saw the original in the Boston Museum of Art and this tiny painting on black slate captivated me as no others have.

However, I must admit that despite loving this painting, I don’t see the nativity as an actual historical event.  It has been a long time since I believed in the virgin birth. I am a scientist by training and I know that while ‘virgin’ births do happen in nature, it’s called parthenogenesis, they only occur in certain species of worms and small crustaceans called daphnids.   So this event was a no go for me not long after my first serious biology class. But the importance of the birth story is not in history, it is in the symbolism of new life breaking into the world in the form of God within the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  New life, not of a baby’s, rather a new life lived in a world where all achieve their God given potential. Living in the world as Jesus did, with limitless love and compassion, offering justice and mercy to those who are in need, and offering a peace that fills the soul. Well then again maybe it is like the birth of a baby, for we all experience new insights as new birth within us.

So why I may not believe Jesus was born in an actual stable I do believe he was been born in the stables, and dark corners of our minds, societies, and cultures.  Jesus is the one who birthed new life in those dark recesses of our hearts and minds.  Who lit up the alley ways where suffering, pain, and violence reside bringing the light of love to those who were the unlovable.  In prayer and action we, you and I, continue to carry that light.  We take it to prisons, hospitals, hospice rooms, to the homeless, to the hungry, to anyone in need of the light provided by “The Way.”  At least we are supposed to.

Today I ask you to use the above painting for your Prayerful Tuesday Meditation using Visio Divina.

Visio Divina

  1. Look at the painting 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. 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? What moves you in this painting? Does it draw you in or call to you in any particular way?
  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.

May you be blessed with the birthing of new life within you.  Merry Christmas everyone.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 23, 2014

What would you do? – Prayerful Tuesday

  13And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*

Luke 2:13-14

Nicolaes Berchem, Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1656
Nicolaes Berchem, Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1656

God speaks to us in many ways–through relationships, our experiences, sacred texts such as the Bible and many more. Like Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, Visio Divina is Latin for divine seeing, praying with images to listen to God’s words. Think of Visio Divina as if you were putting on God-glasses to see how an image illuminates the Christ within you.  Like Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading, Visio Divina has four steps: Use the  above painting by a Dutch artist Nicolaes Berchem painted around 1650, titled Annunciation to the Shepherds.

  1. Look slowly and carefully at the painting, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. We are preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, how does the paint help you prepare? If you would like, jot down a few words about the image in your journal.
  2. Now take deeper second look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Place yourself in the painting; are you a shepherd, a sheep, or angel? What do you see from that perspective? What emotions rise up for you? If you were a sheep what might you feel? If you were a shepherd how would you respond to the message of the angels? What else do you feel, or see in the painting? If you would like jot down your thoughts and feelings in your journal
  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.

May the song of the angels be with you as you go about your preparations for Christmas.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 9, 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

From Strangers to Family

Vancouver BC, October 21, 2014
Vancouver BC, October 21, 2014

Ruth 1:16-17 (CEB)

16But Ruth said,

“Do not urge me to leave you,
to turn back from following you.
Wherever you go, I will go;
and wherever you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.
17Wherever you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the Lord do this to me
and more so,
if even death separates me from you!”

Just over 13 years ago these beautiful words from scripture were read at my wedding.  I have always loved the book of Ruth, and yes one reason is because I was named for her, but, primarily I love it because Ruth took her destiny into her own hands and made a place for herself among strangers.  Like the biblical Ruth my own life has been one of making my place in strange places and with strangers all around me.  My wedding was just one of the many steps along my journey to find the face of God.

Now I really don’t want this rambling to be about John and me rather I want to tell you the best part of my marriage, our grandchildren.  Ok, so they are John’s grandchildren not mine, but the youngest ones have known only me as Grammy Ruth and I love them and their parents as much as if they were my blood relations.  And, I have watched with great joy as the two older ones Granddaughter S and Grandson A grow into loving adults.

Recently John, me and our little Chihuahua Suzie spent a joyous week in Boston with John’s son M and daughter-in-law LB and the littlest grandchildren, Grandson L and Granddaughter A.  John’s birthday is January 17th and he shares it with L who turned 7 this year, so for the first time they decided to celebrate their birthdays together.  Watching L as he opened gifts, as he gently held our little dog Suzie, and talked excitedly about everything was a pleasure all its own.  Holding little A and reading a story to her, playing games, watching as she and her brother played, and squabbled, and listening to giggles, laughter and tears put me in a place of bliss that I can’t really describe to you.

I watched as M and LB did a ballet of sorts as they prepared breakfast and got the kids ready for school.  As I listened I realized just how much M and John sound alike and how much grandson L is growing into a young man so like his father and grandfather.  Granddaughter A has inherited her mother’s artistic talents which she combines with her father’s and Papa John’s determination to succeed and do it well.  Even though she is only 4½ she is determined to dance and draw her life in her own way.

I said my journey was to find the face of God and I do, in all of creation including people.  The most important Faces of God I see is when I look at John early in the morning just before rising, in the faces of M and LB when I spot them waiting for us to come from the plane.  I see God’s face in the sleeping, laughing, crying, and determined faces of Grandson L and Granddaughter A.  I hear God laugh and giggle when Granddaughter A dances and runs in play.  I hear God’s voice when I listen to LB and John talk in the kitchen doing clean up from dinner.  I hear God’s voice as Grandson L talks with so much certainty about how something works in his 7 year old world and see God at work as he figures out how to build a new structure of some sort.

This is the wedding gift that never stops giving. I have found a place here in the midst of strangers.  I have found people I love.  After much searching I have found where I belong.  I have been welcomed and accepted as family and been blessed with the love from John’s 3 sons and 4 grandchildren.  I have watched the two oldest grow into strong adults where a future of unknown adventures lies before them.  I have held in my arms Grandson L and Granddaughter A as newborns and offered my blessings and prayers for God to watch over them.

I have watched each of the grandchildren grow into people I want know.  All of them are young people who question everything and when no one can give them an answer they go in search for it.  Even if Grandson L and Granddaughter A might not believe in a Divine force, they know they have a Grammy who sees that Divine force whenever she looks into their eyes.  It is in the question of why does Grammy believes what she does that opens a door to their own journey of discovery of who they are and where they fit in.

My blessed babies, who are babies no longer, have begun their own journeys.  Someday they too will say “wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay.”   That day lies long in the future but time passes quickly and before you know it they will be searching for what they believe.  My prayer for all four of the Grandchildren is they find what feeds their souls with love, compassion, mercy and a passion for justice.  I pray they build a life that gives more than it takes, a life open to the blessings of God whether they call Her God or not.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 25, 2014