Gratitude for Family – Prayerful Tuesday

16But Ruth said,
‘Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
 
17 Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the
 Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’
— Ruth 1:16-17

Jewell Family, 2013 at Mt. Rainer John Paul, Mark, Laura, Liam, Shannon, John (the patriarch), Kent, and in front Amelia
Jewell Family, 2013 at Mt. Rainer
John Paul, Mark, Laura, Liam, Shannon, John (the patriarch), Kent, and in front
Amelia

I have been blessed in the last 16 years to have had some lovely people in my life.  Most of them are not related to be by blood. I seem to make ‘family’ from the people I meet rather than from people I am related to. You see most of my closest blood relatives have passed but regardless of that I was never close to them.  They didn’t understand who I was or what I was.  In my eyes they were often quarrelsome and petty, easily offended and really only wanted me around if I could do something for them. The very idea of simply enjoying each other’s company just for the fun of it never entered their minds. At least that is how I perceived fit.  It is always possible that I was just overly picky.

So I created my own family groups from people I enjoyed being around and who enjoyed being around me.  Most of the time it was a small group but over the last 16 years my ability to create family has reached new heights.  Now I have a very large extended ‘family’ made up of a few cousins I’ve reconnected with, my husband’s family, and those who I have been adopted, and those who have adopted me. It is a rather happy group of people who enjoy each other’s company, even if we don’t always agree on politics or religion or liking chocolate (actually our disagreements are what is the most fun). As a result I am blessed by friendships that go much deeper than being just a friend.  These are people who when I need them they are there, and when they need me I am there for them.

I have never believed the people we meet and interact with in our lives are the result of a coincidence.  No, I believe we are drawn to those who the Spirit knows we need, or who need us, at just the right time. The people who are the most important to us, whether they are relatives or not, are often the ones the Spirit uses to speak to us or provide us with that essential ingredient of life, love.

The lovely people in the above photo are my husband John 2 of his sons, 4 grandchildren and a daughter-in-law what are closer to me as family than most, not all because I do love my newly discovered cousins, of the group I was born into.  They have been there when I am ill, at the celebration of  life’s grand markers, and when I just need someone to talk to. God blessed me with their presence and I am grateful for each of them, they bring joy into my heart.  As Ruth says to Naomi “where [they] go, I will go.”

Your prayer this week is to offer prayers of gratitude for those in your life who have blessed you with their presence.  They may be a relative, or they may be good friends but all are blessing in your life.

My prayer, God I am grateful for the people in my life who I call family.  You, Great Spirit, have blessed my life with compassionate, joyful, generous of heart people, I thank you for each and every one of them. Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©February 16, 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

It is Good?—Prayerful Tuesday

Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612
Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612

“And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10b

In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good.  Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society.  Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be.  It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.

Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good.  So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.

Prayer Practice:

1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.

  1. 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 feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
  2.  Respond to the image with prayer for the world. 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.
  3. 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.

Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now.  All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain.  Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.

Peace, Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2015

 

My 2015 New Years Resolution – Prayerful Tuesday

Cape Cod, Ruth Jewell 2008
Cape Cod, Ruth Jewell
2008

I have been contemplating making a resolution this year.  My track record for keeping resolutions is poorer at best as I rarely make it past Jan 2nd but, maybe this year will be different. You see I am actually thinking about a resolution that fits my life style rather than dramatically changing it. Keeping expectations low can’t hurt this process.

My 2015 resolution is to deepen my prayer life.

I am going to accomplish in two steps.  First I am going to carry a small blank book with me at all times where I can record names of people I am asked to hold in prayer.  That way I won’t forget the name of the person needing prayer even if I don’t know them well or not at all.  I already set aside a portion of my meditation time for intercessory prayers but I often forget the names of those who have asked for prayer.  When that happens the best I can do is a general prayer that holds up everyone who is ill and suffering, while this is lovely and includes the individual it has lost the personal feeling for my prayer.

The second act is to begin practicing a new spiritual practice called “Dedicated Suffering”[1] presented by Jane Marie Thibault in her book Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life, co-authored by Richard L. Morgan.  The purpose is to take the energy surrounding my suffering and asking Christ to ‘transform it into loving-kindness for the chosen person or group being held in prayer.

In the last few years I have had an increasing amount of physical pain in my life and a lot of my life energy is involved with minimizing that pain.  Ms Thibault developed a way to dedicate that energy to Jesus as a gift, then asking Jesus to change that gift into love for a person being held in prayer.

Since I have been doing this only a few days I can’t say I notice major any changes in my life but like all spiritual practices you have to do for a while before you see anything new.  That is why it is called ‘practice.’

As we grow older chronic pain and suffering increases and often limits what we can accomplish each day.  The practice of Dedicated Suffering offers a way to extend our prayers to others and puts the energy of our pain and suffering to good purpose. I offer the following instructions so you may try it for yourselves.  Maybe at the end of 2015 we can compare notes and see how gifting our energy to Christ to provide loving-kindness to those in need has changed our lives.

Dedicating Your Pain and Suffering to Help Others

  1. Find yourself a quiet corner where you may sit silence for a few minutes. Focus on your pain and the energy you are expending to minimize it.
  2. Offer your suffering energy to Jesus as a gift.
  3. Select a person or group in need of your prayers then ask Jesus to accept the energy of you suffering and change it into love for that person or group.
  4. Spend a minute or two imagining Jesus sending love and help to the person or group.
  5. End by offering Jesus a word of gratitude.[2]

While I haven’t been doing this practice for a long time yet I do find that I feel less encumbered by my chronic pain and have just a bit more energy to be the person I am meant to be.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 6, 2015

 

[1] Thibault, Jane Marie and Richard L. Morgan: Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life, Upper Room Books Nashville TN, 2012, Pgs 112-115.

[2] Ibid. pg. 113

A Candle in the Dark – Prayerful Tuesday

It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness
It is better to light one candle
than curse the darkness

 

The news stories of the last few weeks have broken my heart.  Seeing the pictures of wild fires, immigrant children, Palestine, Iraq, and the Ukraine simply overwhelms me with sadness and despair. I think how can one human being do these things to another human being, especially children. I keep asking myself when will this come to an end?  I know it seems as if prayer doesn’t  makes a difference and so it feels like a waste of time to offer your prayers.  But heartfelt prayer often leads us into action and that is prayer indeed.

You see when many people offer prayers they, we,  form a community of prayer and as a community we can do much.  We can write letters, become involved in interfaith and cross cultural groups standing with those who are victims, or we can help with support first responders of a disaster, or help provide long term assistance in the recovery phase of a disaster.  Each action becomes an act prayer offered by each individual and the community they belong to.

Today I am asking you to light a candle and hold the wounded, the lost, the victims, the perpetrators, all who are involved in some way with the violence of this world and the wildfires claiming so many homes.  Hold them in your heart and lift them up to GOD.  As responses to your prayers become involved in ways that will help promote peace, and well being. Choose the level of involvement that you are most comfortable with, the choice is yours.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 22, 2014

Prayer Leading to Action – Prayerful Tuesday

13.07.10 sunrise for blog

 

I have been reading a book titled Never Pray Again[1] that explores prayer leading into action.  I have always been an advocate of prayer that gets me moving in the right direction.  I want prayers that get me up out of my chair, out of my house, out into my neighborhood and community to do my small part in fighting injustice, cleaning up creation, or sitting with someone in need of a friend.  Like the authors I believe that when we say those magic words “I will pray for you” all to often we think that is all we have to do, and that isn’t quite right.  God does answer prayers, but God cannot do it alone.  God needs our arms and legs, and yes even our imagination, to get the job done. We are to not just offer prayers of intercession but also intercede on behalf of those who cannot act by themselves.  We are not to just offer prayers of healing but also enable and encourage those who are wounded so that they may become whole members of the community.  We are not to just to offer prayers of support but also get out on the street and offer ourselves in support of those in need.  We are to shower the love God has gifted us with onto everyone we meet, whether they are friend or enemy.

Just imagine what the world would look like if this became the radical new trend. I can hardly contain myself because it is such an exciting thought.  But reality will and does set in to temper my enthusiasm.  Because I know, and you know, that isn’t happening anytime soon, but we have to start somewhere.  Here are 2 possible things to do that are suggested by the authors:

  1. The next time you someone begging go and grab a couple of meals and sit down with that person and listen to them talk about their problems. When you both have finished your meal thank them and the next time you see them acknowledge them instead of passing them by.  If you can’t sit down with them then, at the very least, give them the meal and ask for their name so you might respond to them as a fellow traveler.
  2. Invite and outsider in.  Find a new person, in your apartment building, neighborhood, workplace or school and invite them to lunch or tea and coffee.  Even if they may not “fit-in” with your normal social group listen to them and get to know them as a person, someone with their own dreams and aspirations.  You might invite them to something you do regularly with others, not as a token, but as a real invitation.

Both of these activities are prayer in action, reaching out to those who we might never have met, sharing ourselves, offering respect, leading to a new wholeness in all.  This is what Jesus did.  If we are to call ourselves followers of Jesus aren’t we obligated to do what he taught us?

Ruth Jewell, ©June 3, 2014

 

[1] Clark, A; D. Hagler; N. Larson, Never Pray Again, Chalice Press, 2014

Never Forget – Prayerful Tuesday

Working Military Dog
Working Military Dog

Yesterday was Memorial Day, the day we remember the service of those who have fought our wars and protect our borders.  We sometimes forget there are more than men in the line of fire. Women are now serving in positions where they too are potentially at risk.  And, there have always been animals, pigeons, and dogs who have laid down their lives for a cause they cannot understand and they do it for the love of the soldier partner.   Today I am asking you to remember in prayer those faithful winged and 4-footed creatures who have willingly give up their lives.

  • As You gaze at the picture take a deep breath and let it out slowly, take a second breath and let it out slowly, let your shoulders relax and your gaze soften.
  • Look deeply at the picture and let the colors and image enter your imagination. What feelings does this bring to the surface?  What memories or stories?  Imagine you are walking are a soldier whose lives and works with this faithful dog, what does that look like and feel like to you.
  • Respond to the image with a prayer for all God’s children who serve in dangerous places on this earth.  Offer a prayer of intercession and gratitude for the service men, service women, and service animals who protect us while we sleep.
  • Continue to gaze at the picture, breathe deeply and rest quietly.  Let God pray in you in silence beyond words.

Ruth Jewell,  ©May 27, 2014

Let There Be Light – Prayerful Tuesday

Auchmithie Milky Way, B&B Photography, 14.05.04
Auchmithie, Scotland Milky Way, B&B Photography, 14.05.04

“And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to light upon the earth.”  Genesis 1:16-17 Walking at night has always been one of my favorite things to do.  I grew up in the country and I have seen the Milky Way spread across the sky with my own eyes.  This picture taken on a Beach in Scotland reminded me of how beautiful the Universe is.  It is because of stars we are alive. We are made of star dust and a star warms our earthen home.  We owe our very existence to the life giving power of stars.  Gaze into the picture, look deep into the mystery, do you see yourself, looking back.  When the skies are clear (I know that is difficult to find here in the Northwest) take walk outside.  Gaze at the star studded sky and dream.

  • As You gaze at the picture take a deep breath and let it out slowly, take a second breath and let it out slowly, let your shoulders relax and your gaze soften.
  • Look deeply at the picture and let the colors of the night sky enter your imagination. What feelings does this bring to the surface?  What memories or stories?  Imagine you are walking on a star studded night, what does that look like and feel like to you.
  • Respond to the image with a prayer for God’s entire universe.  Offer a prayer of intercession and thanksgiving for the abundance God has graces us with.
  • Continue to gaze at the picture, breathe deeply and rest quietly.  Let God pray in you in silence beyond words.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 20, 2014

Creation’s Joy – Prayerful Tuesday

happy mouse

 

One of my favorite things to do when I am sad is to take a walk, preferably in a wooded area, but I have been known to find beautiful sits as I walk down a sidewalk.  Gazing at nature scenes is free for the looking whether you are walking through a forest or down the street.  There is so much beauty and so much delight that it can take your breath away.  This week and next week I am going to use pictures from nature as focus for Visio Divina.  Enjoy looking at the pictures, laugh with the little mouse, enter into the joy of prayer with all of creation.

  • As You gaze at the picture take a deep breath and let it out slowly, take a second breath and let it out slowly, let your shoulders relax and your gaze soften.
  • Look deeply at the picture and let the colors and little mouse enter your imagination. What feelings does this little fellow on a flower bring to the surface?  What memories or stories?  Imagine you are walking down a trail and come on this happy mouse, what does that look like and feel like to you.
  • Respond to the image with a prayer for all of God’s creatures.  Offer a prayer of intercession and thanksgiving for the abundance God has graces us with.
  • Continue to gaze at the picture, breathe deeply and rest quietly.  Let God pray in you in silence beyond words.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 13, 2014

Prayers of Intercession and Petition – Prayerful Tuesday

dove

Ephesians 3:16-19  16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul’s prayer to the readers of the Letter to the Ephesians is an intercessory or petition prayer to the Holy Spirit, offered by Paul on behalf of the believers of Ephesus.  This prayer strikes a deep cord within me today because I am often asked if praying for others is actually beneficial or just words.  According to some prayer does. Richard Schiffman, in a 2012 post on the religious page of Huffington Post[1], makes the case that those who pray are healthier. In fact he states “It doesn’t matter if you pray for yourself or for others, pray to heal an illness or for peace in the world, or simply sit in silence and quiet the mind — the effects appear to be the same.”  Now I’m not calling Mr. Schiffman the world’s best expert but from my own experience I have to agree with him, prayer does help me and does provide comfort for those I pray for.

So why is Paul’s prayer touching me today? Well because today I have been offering a number of prayers for people and so form of prayer is weighing large on my mind today. I offer prayers for others and I keep a prayer list with names of those who ask me to pray for them. However, and I try to be gentle with those who request prayer and let them know that intercessory prayers may have a downside to them, at least from my perspective.  If we expect G-d to answer our prayers the way we do when we order something on Amazon, then we have a deep problem.  A problem that can harm those we offer prayers for and ourselves.

There is an old hymn that says to “take it to God in prayer” and the implication is all will be made well if we pray.  Now I like that old hymn but I also know that God isn’t going to answer my prayers in any way I expect.  Yes, sometimes there is no answer and that is probably God saying “no” to my request, but, sometimes the answer comes in a way I don’t recognize or expect.  It may not be until long after the prayer I understand what the answer is.

Before we go any farther a word of caution, and I want to make this very clear, my experiences are mine, your experiences with pray are yours. The meanings I receive for my prayers will not mean the same thing to you.  So don’t expect what I learn from my prayers will fit neatly into your frame of reference.

That word of caution is what I am trying, in my inept way, to say. Intercessory pray can become wish list for things you want God to fill.  We all have done that, when I was 8 I prayed for a pony and needless to say I didn’t get one and was very disappointed, going in tears to my father asking why God wouldn’t give me a pony.  He words have stuck with me to this day: “God doesn’t give things we want, God gives us the things we need.  God also gives her gifts in her own time, not mine, God listens but picks the moment when what she offers will do the most good for my life with her. I won’t always recognize her gifts right away, but if I am listening and watching I will see them eventually.”  Now I have to admit I had no idea what he was talking about, all I knew was there wasn’t a pony at the end of my bed the next morning.  But I’ve remembered those words and at this stage of my life I am finally learning what he meant and how to offer a prayer of petition, or intercession, for myself and others.

Today I would like to offer Intercessory and Petition Prayers as today’s spiritual practice, it is an important one to learn not just for yourself, but for those you carry within your heart. How I pray may not work for you but I am sure you will find what works best for you. Unplanned prayers happen when there is a necessity for them.  I have offered a prayer at the bedside of someone who was ill or dying, or when something happens that touches me deeply and I feel the need to offer that prayer.  Those prayers are unplanned and speak from my heart.  I don’t know how to give you instructions for those except to listed for the words and they will come.

Most often I offer prayers of intercession and petition following my daily meditation when I am fully centered in God’s presence. For these Prayers or Intercession and Petition I use the following Celtic Circle Prayer[2], a form of prayer used by early Celtic Christians called the Caim or encircling prayer, which goes like this:

Pray for ourselves

Circle me, O God, encircle me with your presence.

Keep joy within, keep bitterness out;
Keep generosity within, keep greed out;
Keep love within, keep self-seeking out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Prayer for those on our heart

Circle, O God, (name the person(s) you are praying for), encircle them with your presence.

Keep wholeness within, keep sickness out;
Keep hope within, keep despair out;
Keep peace within, keep turmoil out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Prayer for Peacemakers

Circle, O God, those who work for peace (you may wish to specifically name people), encircle them with your presence.

Keep wisdom within, keep folly out;
Keep strength within, keep weariness out;
Keep hope within, keep despair out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

For those victims of violence and injustice

Circle, O God, (name people and places), encircle them with your presence.

Keep truth within, keep falsehood out;
Keep compassion within, keep hard-heartedness out;
Keep love within, keep hatred out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

For those who commit acts of violence and injustice

Circle, O Holy Spirit, (name people and places), encircle them with your presence.

Help them to see the truth and to turn away from falsehood;
Help them to learn compassion and leave hard-heartedness behind;
Help them find the courage to turn away from evil;
May they feel your love in a world filled with hate;
Help them to see your light in the darkness.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

I don’t always use every one of these prayers at one time sometimes only one or two, but I find that I am less likely to petition God for selfish reasons when I use this prayer.  If these prayers are helpful for you please feel free to you them, but, you may also have or find a prayer that works better for you and that is just as much a blessing.

My prayer for all of you this day is:

Circle, O Holy Spirit all who read these words, encircle them with your presence.

Keep joy within, keep bitterness out;
Keep generosity within, keep greed out;
Keep love within, keep self-seeking out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©January 7, 2014


[1] Schiffman, Richard, Huffington Post, Religious Page, January 18, 2012
[2] Based on a Prayer from the Gethsemane Chapel, Wells Cathedral, Wells UK.