Welcoming the Stranger – 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

DSCF3027 a

Louis Guido Maximilian Jewell (aka Louie) Adopted March 19, 2016
Louis Guido Maximilian Jewell (aka Louie)
Adopted March 19, 2016

I apologize for being late today, but, just returned from the Westar Institute Spring Meeting held in Santa Rosa CA.  I returned a day late because I adopted the cute little fellow above. I ended up staying an extra day to bond with my new little friend before we made the long drive home.

You may be wondering how adopting a dog from shelter is related to a theological meeting but it does fit in quite well actually. A major theme of the meeting was hospitality, the welcoming of the other into our midst.  That other may be someone from a different culture, race, faith tradition, age, or gender.  It also means welcoming the non-human other. God intends us to express our welcome to all creatures, mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and (here’s the hard part for me) insects.  God intended us to care for all nature, human, non-human, plant, and stone for all are children of God.

As I listened to the lectures and discussions I wondered when we lost the ability to care for others, human or non-human.  When did we forget to practice loving the other and caring for the sick, the homeless, and the incarcerated?  It doesn’t matter if the other in need is a man, woman, child, dog, cat, horse, or any other child of God, all deserve to live a good life and to be welcomed into our arms.

Ever since my beloved Suzie died in January from a stroke I have been considering adopting another Chihuahua and while I was in Santa Rosa I visited a Sonoma County Animal Shelter and was introduced to Louie.  I thought about what it means to care for someone other than myself and while a small dog wouldn’t be everyone’s choice it is mine. So we are welcoming into our small home and family a new member. Louie was abandoned on the streets of Santa Rosa; he is between 3 and 5 years and was discarded like trash. A shy little fellow who is way smarter than you’d think.  After all he has lived for some time on the streets, and survived. He is loving, gentle and wants only to be loved.  Just like anyone who has been discarded and forgotten.

So this week, for our spiritual practice, I am asking you to practice hospitality.  I’m not suggesting you go out and adopt a dog or any other animal, although I wouldn’t stop you.  Rather I am suggesting that you see the homeless on the street for the people of God that they are.  You might volunteer to spend a couple of hours helping out at a homeless shelter, food bank, or animal shelter.  If you see a homeless person on the street, offer them a sandwich or granola bar.  When you offer your gift, shake their hand look them in the face and see the Holy Spirit looking back. Talk to Terri Stewart about volunteering at the King County Juvenile Center and learn to see children of the streets as angels in disguise.  If you are interested attend a service of a different faith tradition and listen with open heart and mind. At the end of the week reflect on what you have experienced and learned of the other.  Offer a prayer for all who are forgotten and pushed aside.

Loving, welcoming Spirit may we see your face in the eyes all we meet, human and non-human.  Help us to open our hearts to the stranger in our midst, and welcome them with open arms.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 22, 2016

Prayers, Wildfires in Washington and Oregon – Prayerful Tuesday

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

Table Mountain, Smoke Plume, KOMO TV
Table Mountain, Smoke Plume, KOMO TV
A wildfire burns behind a home on Twisp River Road, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 in Twisp, Wash. Authorities on Wednesday afternoon urged people in the north-central Washington town to evacuate because of a fast-moving wildfire. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A wildfire burns behind a home on Twisp River Road, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hotshot Firefighters Pausing to Honor Fallen Firefighters Okanagan Co. WA ABC TV, August 19, 2015
Hotshot Firefighters Pausing to Honor
Fallen Firefighters, Okanagan Co. WA
ABC TV, August 19, 2015

Today I am asking you to offer prayers for those in the fire zones in Washington and Oregon and for the families and friends of the three firefighters who lost their lives in a fire storm August 19, 2015.  These men and women turn and run into the fire to protect, our homes, our loved ones, and the forests and animals that live there.  To them we owe our gratitude and prayers.

So today I ask you to offer a prayer for our all our fire fighters many who come from across the country and the globe to help protect our homes and planet, May the Holy Spirit keep them safe. Offer prayers of comfort for those who live in the fire zone and have lost their homes to the flames.  Offer a prayer for the environment and the creatures who live there. And finally pray for rain, soaking rain, without lightening, to give our land rest.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 25, 2015

In The Beginning . . . – Prayerful Tuesday

Genesis 1:1a In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

45th Anniversary of the Earth Rise Photo, NASA
45th Anniversary of the Earth Rise Photo, NASA

Genesis 1-2:4 The Message (MSG)

1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day One.

6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;
separate water from water!”
God made sky.
He separated the water under sky
from the water above sky.
And there it was:
he named sky the Heavens;
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Two.

9-10 God spoke: “Separate!
Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
Land, appear!”
And there it was.
God named the land Earth.
He named the pooled water Ocean.
God saw that it was good.

11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Three.

14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out!
Shine in Heaven’s sky!
Separate Day from Night.
Mark seasons and days and years,
Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.”
And there it was.

16-19 God made two big lights, the larger
to take charge of Day,
The smaller to be in charge of Night;
and he made the stars.
God placed them in the heavenly sky
to light up Earth
And oversee Day and Night,
to separate light and dark.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Four.

20-23 God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!
Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!”
God created the huge whales,
all the swarm of life in the waters,
And every kind and species of flying birds.
God saw that it was good.
God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean!
Birds, reproduce on Earth!”
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Five.

24-25 God spoke: “Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind:
cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.”
And there it was:
wild animals of every kind,
Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug.
God saw that it was good.

26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
given them to you for food.
To all animals and all birds,
everything that moves and breathes,
I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
And there it was.

31 God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Six.

1Heaven and Earth were finished,
down to the last detail.

2-4 By the seventh day
God had finished his work.
On the seventh day
he rested from all his work.
God blessed the seventh day.
He made it a Holy Day
Because on that day he rested from his work,
all the creating God had done.

This is the story of how it all started,
of Heaven and Earth when they were created.

These verses from Genesis have always been some of my favorites of Biblical Scripture.  The poetic depiction of creation never fails to lift my spirits, especially when I step outside on a clear night and look up into the starry expanse.  In these days of fear, violence, and injustice we often forget that we are part of a something bigger than we can imagine.

We cannot minimize the injustice we see between races, gender groups, cultures and social-economic groups but we also need to see our world as it is and put all of that in a perspective of who we are, and what we are meant to be.  We are better than the injustice we see, or the violence we do. We have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to remember that the earth came into being because of huge forces of which we are just very small parts. To live as if we are the only ones who are important in all the universe is hubris at its greatest.

Today I offer both Lectio Divina and Visio Divina as prayer practices.  Pray the first photograph of our great big blue marble in the universal sky.  Or pray all the scripture reading or just a part of it.  But this week spend time with the knowledge that we are part of the universe, every one of us, good or bad, rich or poor, healthy or ill.  Sit with the wisdom of the universe, remember are we all made up of the same elements as the stars in the sky, and all of it came from the very beginning of the very small dot, which became the explosion of creation.

Instructions for Lectio Divina:

  • Choose a portion of the text or all of the Scriptures you wish to pray with. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text. The amount of text covered is in God’s hands, not yours.
  • Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Focus for a few moments on their breathing; or use a “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” you gently recite to 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, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.
  • 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 God.
  • Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to him what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
  • Rest in God’s embrace. And when he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, 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 God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
  • Sometimes in Lectio Divina, you may return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for Lectio Divina. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your Lectio Divina, as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio Divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures. In addition it is often helpful to journal your insights, writing often helps clarify what we have heard.

Instruction for Visio Divina:

  • Study the picture slowly, 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.
  • 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?
  • 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 your thoughts as prayer to God.
  • 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 hear the music of the universe this week.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 18, 2015

Ruth’s Health Care Team

Matthew 25:36-40 (selected verses):  “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me . . . Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? . . . “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the one of the least of these by brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

My Health Care Team Group Photo
My Health Care Team
Group Photo

I would like to introduce my home health care team.  In the last they 5 days since I returned home from the hospital following back surgery they have been an awesome team and they deserve recognition.

John,  Mobility and General Care Specialist
John,
Mobility and General Care Specialist

First is John, by beloved husband. He has been amazing helping me get out of bed, up from the couch, and fixing for meals more than just macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.  I couldn’t ask for a better person to be my Mobility and General Care Specialist.

Freddie Discomfort Observer
Freddie
Discomfort Observer

Next up is Freddie, by sweet Zen natured Schipperke.  His job is to sit and watch me constantly every day, every hour, every minute.  To never leave my side, no matter where I am or what I am doing (get the picture). I must admit he seems to know when I am going to be in a lot of pain a beat before I do and he alerts John, the head of the team.  He is a very special fellow with very special talent.

Suzie Pain Control Specialist
Suzie
Pain Control Specialist

Suzie is my Pain Control Specialist.  My l little blind Chihuahua is the best comforter when I am struck by a lot of pain.  She snuggles up tighter and makes small sounds that fill me with calm.  She may be small and she may be blind but she is the love of my life and companion that never wants to leave me.  (Even visiting me in the hospital).

George and Cuddles Moral Booster Team
George and Cuddles
Moral Booster Team

And then there are these two guys, George on the left is a Green Cheeked Amazon, and Cuddles (Aka Carlos the South American Terrorist) on the right is a Cherry Head Conure.  They manage to keep me laughing by their silliness and funny calls.  Without them our house would a lot quieter but a lot less fun.

Well there they are my Health Care Team.  You might not want to hire them but to me they are priceless.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 17, 2015

Christmas Morn

Milky Way and Night Sky, NASA
Milky Way and Night Sky, NASA

hushed moments
short I know
lights on tree glow
silent prayers sent out to the world
loud whispers come from above
“shhh, do you think he’s been”
“let’s go down and look”
foots steps on stairs
children squeals of delight
parents sighs of relief
hushed moments
short I know

Ruth Jewell, ©December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

All Means ALL

All means ALL
All means ALL

My thoughts over the last couple of months have been over whelmed by the violence, the bullying, the tragedy, and the anger that has played across my TV screen, computer, radio and newspaper in the last couple of months.  I have seen the quote by some famous person that reads “those who keep silent in the face of evil are giving their approval,” or the pictures’ displaying one perspective versus another and which one has the greatest validity.  I am left speechless and in pain.  Yes I have heard that even one small act of mercy changes someone and I have used those very words myself many times. Do what you can and ‘wait,’ wait for minds to change, or for hearts to open,  . . . wait for what.

The scripture for Sunday came from Isaiah and begins with “Comfort, O Comfort my people” (40:1), but, I’m sorry I don’t feel that comfort.  I offer prayers, I read, and I listen.  I volunteer at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, here at church, and lead the occasional spiritual retreat and labyrinth walk, yet, except for Juvenile Detention CTR, I feel as if I am “preaching to the choir,” so to speak.  Where in all of these days of suffering, and confusion does the offering come that provides more than my comfort and brings a justly faithful, hopeful, loving comfort to those who do not share my skin color, or language, or culture, or gender, or abilities, or whatever makes them different from the so called “main stream” of the population.

This meditation was intended to be an inspirational moment.  But I am not feeling very inspirational, just too much has happened in the last couple of months.  So I ask your forgiveness for talking through some of my thoughts.  I live in a world that appears to be falling apart as I sit my comfortable, warm home.  I keep asking what will stop the building blocks our lives from tumbling into the abyss.

I am afraid we are headed into a storm of our own making that will destroy us.  We won’t need to be invaded, no; we are doing a grand job of destruction all by ourselves.   Voices of change and compassion, justice, mercy, and peace are drowned out by hateful speech by bullies in high places.  The actions and words of those high placed bullies give permission to those who fear the unknown to be violent and destructive at the ground roots level.  Hateful speech and actions becomes a cancer eating away at our will to fight against justice and mercy.

So I sit in my little home office, offering prayers, and volunteering when the opportunity arises.  I do my small acts that I pray are being added to other small acts, but I don’t know if any of it will be enough. Our denominations GLBQ organization used the slogan “All Means ALL” at our last national General Assembly.  They wanted to get the message across that everyone matters, despite gender identification, skin color, religion, or culture everyone is important.  There are very few slogans I actually believe in, but I believe in that one.  If I can do nothing other than let each and every person know how much they matter in my life, in the life of my Faith Community, and in the life of the greater community we are all part of then I have done the best I can.  That will have to be enough.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 8, 2014

Shadows – All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day

Do you ever wonder what happens to shadows?  I do, sometimes.  I mean where do they go when the sun goes away?  I have lots of shadows that follow me.  I know they are there even though it’s dark and I can’t see them.  It’s like the monsters under the bed. I know they are there even if I shine a light, I know, you see they skitter into the dark corners where the light never goes.

All Hallows Eve is the beginning of the time of year I have the most difficulty with.  These last two months of the year are thin times when memories and shadows come out of the woodwork of my mind. Yes I have shadows and whether good or bad they are there, a part of me, that follows me wherever I go, whatever I do. And I see more shadows every year and they make me sad for what is gone and what I will never see again.

Dad, 18 years old
Dad, 18 years old

There is the shadow that is my father, once tall and strong He carried my on his shoulders and let me snuggle with him in church, and showed me the beauty of the stars and the light show that is the Aurora Borealis. Dad was the one who said “Ruth, you can accomplish whatever you want all you have to do is dream and then go for it.”  He encouraged me, me his scarred and damaged child, to ride horses, plow a field, drive a farm truck when I was twelve, and hold puppies and kittens in arms with all the love I could give.  He taught me to count by having me feed weanling calves, and gave me a bull calf as pet.  In his eyes I could do anything and I could. Even when Dad became ill, and weak, I could still see his strong shadow standing beside him.  At his death his shadow faded into the wind and while wisps of him cling to my memory he has become a distant shadow.

Mom, 18 years old
Mom, 18 years old

Then there is the shadow of my mother.  A lion hearted woman, who fought for me with ever fiber of her being.  This was the woman who fearlessly took on the school board to make sure that I, her oldest daughter, would enter school at age 6. You see I had been badly injured the previous June and was still recovering and the school didn’t want to “deal” with a “disabled” child.  But I started school on time, all because my Mom had the heart of a lioness and you didn’t mess with Mama Lion.

The shadows have followed me, are following me, wherever I go as I travel this path that leads to whatever life will give me. Some are old friends, some not so friendly, but they are mine just the same.  Whenever I turn around I see them jump into those corners.  I see just a hint of them, small smudges of dark, and gray.  For many years I was afraid of the dark, the shadows that lurk there, but, not anymore.  Today I look for them as reminders of days past, friends cherished and lost, puppy hugs and kitten kisses.

Mom and Pippin, 1988
Mom and Pippin, 1988

Today I see them for what they are, memories, shadows that cannot hurt me unless I let them.  I no longer let the shadows rule over me, rather I let them watch as I face the life I have chosen and do what I feel to be right.  I am learning not to let them make me feel guilty for long ago actions that I cannot change and from which I learned much.  I will let the Shadows stay in the dark and I will light a candle to chase them into the corners. Jesus said no one hides their light under a bushel and He’s right.  To hide my light is to let the shadows rule and I’d rather I placed my light in the open to show me the way to go and to keep the dark, the shadows at bay.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 31, 2014