Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth PS 66.1

Photo from the Clergy Coaching Network, September 23, 2019

I wonder if one of religions biggest difficulty is that we cannot respond to joy. We remember and celebrate our failures but do not remember or celebrate our successes. In the Hebrew bible it is the battles that are recorded not the moments of peace. In the Christian New Testament, it is the pain and sorrow that is highlighted not the holding of a child or the details of the wedding.  We live a joyless faith.

Yes, there are moments in scripture where joy can be found but if you stack them up against the moments of violence you will discover that violence tips the scale.  In Christianity the most important holiday is Easter, the resurrection, but it is Maundy Thursday, and “Good” Friday that receives the press. The return of Jesus must have been incredibly wonderful, people must have been overjoyed. But that is not what we hear.

 Why are the happy times, the good times not news? Today the only things on news shows of any kind are who killed who, who challenges who for power, who hates who.  That is not the world I want to live in, but it appears that is the world we have created from the very beginning.

Violence seems to be hardwired into who we are. Our earliest ancestors survived on meat killed by their own hand or by other predators. I get that, I understand the need to eat and feed our families, but there is always a but isn’t there, the vast majority of humans don’t need to kill to eat. Most of us can go down to the local market and get what we need.  Yes, food inequality exists, and it does so because we have people who feel they are the only ones and “hoard” resources.  There are enough resources on this planet to feed every man, woman, and child without letting anyone suffer, or go hungry.

We have that inequality because we have people who claim ownership to more than they need and we have others who will fight, even kill, to get their share. Not a pretty picture of humanity, the supposed children of God. The prophets, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad all tried to change us from petty, hording, selfish people. We haven’t listened, we continue to be selfish, we continue to champion and celebrate hate and violence, and we continue to destroy the planet we live on for our selfish, violent ends.  

But, again with the but, If, just if, we imagined a world where violence didn’t exist what would it look like? What if we celebrated the joy of life lived with each other, what if we celebrated the joy of living on a planet that is amazingly beautiful and filled with joy? How would that world look like, what would we look like? What would our communities look like? You know I can’t imagine it because I have no words for that kind of joy, that kind of celebration, that kind of love. Imagination doesn’t need a written word, but it does need visual ones and within our human existence there are no words, visual or written, that can describe that kind of life. That makes me sad, very sad.

So much of our lives are made up of survival, of protecting ourselves from what is outside our door that we have forgotten life in the “Garden” where fear and hate and struggle were unknown.  I hope we never make it to the stars or find people on other planets because we in our infinitely violent, stupid, selfish ways would destroy them.

All of this doesn’t mean we should stop recognizing suffering and be modern day Pollyanna’s. No that isn’t what this all about, rather it’s about ignoring the good in this world, pushing it aside to revel in sorrow, in violence, in pain, and in hate.  When we push joy aside and only focus on the non-joy (is that a word?) we make our lives smaller and we choose to live lives that are less significant.

We are approaching what should be a time of great joy in the Church calendar. Advent and Christmas should be a time filled with joy of anticipation of new life. We should be celebrating what will come from welcoming the joy of the Eternal Holy Spirits gifts. We won’t though will we? I have grown to hate Advent and Christmas because I see too much selfishness, a selfishness that locks out most of the world’s poor from a share in that joy. At this time of the year we share with those less privileged and then forget about them for the rest of the year. At this time of the year we give, often abundantly, not as an act of grace, but to clean our souls. Jesus taught the joy of giving from our abundance was supposed to happen all year long, every day, every hour. Somehow, we’ve forgotten that.

We humans are the youngest of the species on this planet and unless we change how we view the world we will not survive to be the oldest, and we will take the rest of creation with us.  I hope that will not be the legacy of the sad, strange species called Homo sapiens, sapiens, my fear is it will be.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 23, 2019

Shouting Stones – Prayerful Tuesday

Luke 19:40: He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Power of 10 Are We Alone in the Universe,
Updated May 3, 2011 by Securityscience

Several years ago someone sent me this video that imagines going out from a 1 meter distance by a power of 10 up to 1020 Km or 10 million light years, then coming back to earth to 1 meter starting point and doing a reverse trip into a leaf by a power of ten to 10-16 meters or 100 Atómeters (that’s 0.0000000000000001 meters).  What has always fascinated me we could have kept going forever if we are traveling away from earth, there is no limit that we know of to the distance we can travel.  However, 10-16 is the smallest we can get if we reverse the trip.  After this point all is mystery.  What lies beyond that limit of 10-16?

While this video imagines going into leave they could just have easily imagined entering an atom of a rock.  You see that place of mystery is found in all things, living or what we call non-living.  Whether rock or human both are made of atoms and that means that this place of mystery is found in rocks, humans, our pets, trees, and air.  What mystery does this place hold? What if our connection to all things created is found within this gigantic, tiny, place. What if, this is where the Divine can be found and how would that idea change the way you think about our planet, our universe.

When George Lucas created the story of Star Wars he consulted with the author Joseph Campbell about mythology and how it explains the unexplainable. From those conversations Lucas developed the concept of the “Force” surrounding and being within all things, not unlike this place of mystery in every atom. So might our search for the unexplainable be present within each of us?

Might it be that developing a relationship with the Creator requires us to look within ourselves, to listen to the inner “voice” that whispers to us at the edge of our consciousness. That is what the mystics tell us we should do.  What if we should recognize the presence of the Creator in more than each other? That we should respect all created things, even rocks because the Creator, or however you name or depict the Divine, will be found there.

This week’s meditation

After you watch this video look at your hand and contemplate how the molecules and atoms that make up your hand resemble the greater universe.  Then contemplate how the place of mystery compares to the limitlessness of space. Where might you find the greatest mystery of life?  Contemplate how we as humans are connected to more than each other. Then ask yourself “what can I do, no matter how small, to help reconnect each of us to the Divine?”

Ruth Jewell, ©December 29, 2015.

Blind Bartimaeus, Questions. Answers? – Prayerful Tuesday

Mark 10:46-52 46They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus Healing Blind Bartimaeus El-Greco, 1578
Jesus Healing Blind Bartimaeus
El-Greco, 1578

We are rapidly approaching Holy Week and all of the exciting and heartbreaking moments the weeks brings.  In Mark the last story before the Triumphal Entry is of the Healing of Blind Bartimaeus that takes place as Jesus is traveling through Jericho to Jerusalem and his appointed fate.  I am offering the above painting by El-Greco for you to contemplate with the prayer practice of Visio Divina.  I have always found this story from the Gospel of Mark one of the most moving story of courage and faith in scripture.  Bartimaeus doesn’t know how close he is to Jesus; he simply calls out and has faith Jesus will answer him.  The questions Jesus asks of Bartimaeus also draw me into a deeper understanding of sight and I hope you will consider those questions and the responses as well.

May your sight be deepened in preparation for the coming week as your contemplate El‑Greco’s painting and the scripture lesson.

VISO DIVINA

  1. Study the picture 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. Read the Scripture lesson slowly and in meditation. Return to the painting does the scripture alter your perspective of the painting in anyway?  Do the questions and responses open new doors as you gaze at the painting?
  3. 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?
  4. 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? Place yourself in the place of Bartimaeus, and then in the place of a spectator, or one of the Disciples. Does your perspective Change?  What do you feel when you become Bartimaeus or a spectator?  Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
  5. 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 Peace of God be with you as you travel the Holy Week Journey.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 24, 2015

Breath of Life—Prayerful Tuesday

Genesis 1:1-2, 2:7  1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

2:7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Amos 8:11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

Have you ever been unable to breath?  I mean you just couldn’t get air into your lungs.  I have several friends who suffer from Asthma and they tell me it is the most frightening thing to happen to them.  Without air we can’t live.  It is the first requirement of life, the first thing we do upon birth is to take that first breath and the last thing we do at our passing is to let the last breath go.

Genesis tells us that air is the first gift God gave to the earth. I mean it says so right there in the second verse, “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” and then in chapter 2 God brings man to life by breathing into his nostrils, breath is life.  Without air we don’t live.  Breath, ruach, spirit, is the palpable presence of God in our lives.

I guess that is what makes Amos’ words so scary to me. If the God I trust to be there when I am frightened tells me that She will no longer come to me, that she is separating himself from me that means no air, no breath, no spirit  to enliven my life.  I mean you can’t have words without breath and no words means no breath of God, no life.

With every inhalation we partake of God’s gift of life and with every exhalation we give back life.  We have been doing it since our first breath at birth and will continue until we release our last breath at our dying.  Breathing is a sacred act of life giving; it is the ultimate communion with God and each other.  Turn to the person next to you and watch them breathe, the air they release is the air you take in and the air you release is the air they take in.  Breathing is the most intimate act of our lives.  Breathing connects us to all life, past, present, and future life.

Every breath we take has been blowing across this earth since God blew the wind across the waters.  With ever inhalation we breathe there is a molecule of air breathed, and passed on to us, by Jesus on the cross, Moses as he spoke to the burning bush, Sarah as  she delivered Isaac, Dinosaurs, Amos, even Hitler.  We breathe air given to us as a life gift and how we use it depends on us.

This week I ask that you think about breathing and contemplate who is sharing your breath.  Breathe deeply, take each breath into your lungs and feel the life fill you as your lungs inflate.  Treat each breath as the gift from God that it is, and grace each exhalation with a gift of your own gratitude.  Offer a prayer for those who struggle to breathe and remember how much their life, and yours, depends on the breath of God.  Treat the air as sacred and refrain from fouling it with contaminants.  With every breath you take this week let it be a prayer of thanks to God for the breath of life given at the beginning of time.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 10, 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

Visio Divina, a prayer – Prayerful Tuesday

sodiers in mist

Today is Veterans Day and I would like us to practice Visio Divina using the above pictures by David Bowie of the United Kingdom of Soldiers in the mist that touched me deeply.  Take a few moments to study the picture, breathing deeply and begin your Divine Reading. Think of Visio Divina like this–putting on God-glasses to see how an image illuminates Christ for you.

  1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors or lack of color, 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?
  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.

I offer the poem below as a testament to what I “heard and saw” within the photo and my heart; and as an offering to all who have served, fought, and died in conflicts across time and the globe.  Peace be unto all

a prayer

They walk
into the smoke
filled
mist

The wounded,
the dead,
the lost,
walking to their destiny

They fought
they gave their all
for love
of wife and child
of Parent and sibling

The mist is filled with voices
well done,
thank you,
I love you
I miss you

Each voice a prayer
to send them on their way
to let them know
they are not forgotten
they are loved
that all is OK
despite they suffering
despite their sacrifice

Poppy’s held
music plays
hearts send love
no you are not forgotten
you are always with us
in our hearts
in our souls
in the lives you died to protect
go to your rest
knowing we are
grateful for
the love you gave
the life you gave

We who remain
are blessed by
You who walk
yesterday, today and tomorrow
it is not good-by
it is only until we meet again

Ruth Jewell, ©November 11, 2014

The Dark Night – Prayerful Tuesday

????????????

I watched a PBS program the other night about Shakespeare’s Macbeth and one insight of the host made me sit up and take notice.  The play of Macbeth, as Shakespeare tells it, is about the ego. You see Macbeth let his own and his wife’s ego control his life and I resonate with that. As of late I am wrestling with my own ego issues. Now I doubt I am going to go and kill anyone to get ahead, although metaphorically speaking I may have done that already, but right now I am trying to separate my desires from the desires of God.  To be honest I don’t think I’m doing a very good job.  The question I ask myself (ok questions) ‘is what I want what God wants for me and from me,’ or ‘am I telling God what I want and just assuming that it is what God wants to do.’

You see telling the difference between those two things is really very difficult.  God doesn’t speak in direct ways. Rather, God speaks through the voices of those I love, the actions of others, or my own emotional response to things, but God never makes a telephone call, writes an e-mail, or even makes a Facebook® post, as much as I would appreciate that.  Sitting in silence and letting go of my expectations is wonderful but how long do I sit before I begin to wonder if anyone listening?

So how do proceed?  Well for me it is learning (and re-learning over and over again) patience and letting go of the necessity to be anything other than who I am.  That doesn’t mean I have no ambition it just means that I begin by changing how I view the world around me.  Is the world here for my benefit or am I here for the worlds?   If I am here to benefit the world than what I do should provide those around me with the love, compassion, kindness, justice and peace that God calls me to offer without expecting  a reward or recognition.  For me, as I’m sure everyone else, that is hard to do, we are, after all, ‘required’ to list our skills and what we have done with those skills whenever we apply for job or even volunteer.  I’m not sure putting down my skill as “walking with God” (Micah 6:8) is enough for most people. So that is my dilemma, how do tell the difference between “walking with God” and a desire for getting ahead in this world.

Life is rarely simple and well defined and looking for answers by sitting and listening for a ‘word’ from God is not an easy thing to do.  Currently, I am in one of the proverbial ‘dry places’ in my prayer and spiritual life that happens to all of us. I am questioning whether God is even listening to me, or even if there is a God. Such questions and doubts are difficult to face and are frightening to think I may have wasted my life in pursuit of God.  All I can do is continue to sit in silence and wait; to practice praying the scriptures and pray for an insight; and to pray the call of blind Bartimaeus “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:42). Instead of worrying about not ‘hearing’ from God I ‘should’ understand this is a time for me to rest and let silence enfold me and let the silence create its own richness and prayers that I cannot speak. And maybe I have to remember that I do not have to pursue God.  God actually sits near by waiting for me to surrender my ego and open the eyes of my heart to that Divine presence.  It is remembering prayer isn’t about receiving answers it is about sitting with God, creating space for God to move in my life in ways my ego will never understand.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 1, 2014

WHISPER – Prayerful Tuesday

Visio Divina

20130619 a

sunrise, sunset
listen
do you hear
a whisper
calling.
heart open
spirit quiet
I listen
I hear
a whisper.

As you gaze at the picture what do you feel, what do you hear.  Does the picture lead you somewhere quiet, inside where a whisper is a shout of joy.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 18, 2014

 

Thank You – Prayerful Tuesday

Wordle gratitude

32 Let the afflicted see it and be glad!
You who seek God—
let your hearts beat strong again
— Psalm 69: 32 (CEB)

30 But I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth;
among a great crowd I will praise God! 
— Psalm 109:30 (CEB)

This past January John and I visited Boston to celebrate his and our youngest grandson’s birthdays , which fall on the same day.  And, yes I know January is not the ideal time to visit historic Boston and yes we had snow.   However, we just couldn’t miss this celebration of joint Birthdays.

Because the weather was anything but comfortable we all decided to visit the Boston Science Museum and spend the day where it was warm, dry and had lots of exciting things to do and see.  The 2 grandchildren had a great time exploring the human body, looking at dinosaurs and exploring all kinds of interactive exhibits.  For lunch we chose to take our packed lunch to the large busy café and supplement all of our goodies with a few treats.

After making our selections and paying for them I went to get the necessary napkins, forks, spoons and straws needed to eat our lunch.  As I was picking up my things there was a young man restocking the bins as we took things out.  It looked like such an endless job and more than a little boring but he was doing an excellent job of keeping up.   Before I left I turned to him and said “thank you for keeping this area stocked, I’m sure it’s not an easy task.”  Startled he turned and gave me a gruff “thank you.”

After we had finished our lunch and were preparing to leave the area the same young man pushed his way through the crowded exit area and called to me, “Miss, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your thanks.  No one has ever spoken to me that way before and I was afraid I might have offended you so I wanted to make sure you knew how happy I was.”

First of all, I really liked being called miss, no one has called me that in a very long time so he won me over just with that one word.  Well I was happy to bring a little joy into his otherwise boring day with just a few words of thanks from me.  But, what saddened me was his statement NO ONE HAD EVER COMPLIMENTED HIM for doing his job well!  No one ever said thank you! That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard.  It took me all of 2 seconds to express my thanks to the young man and those 2 seconds made his day.  For 2 seconds he wasn’t invisible and unimportant.  No he had been seen, he was important enough for someone to say thank you.  As we were separated by the ever shifting crowd he waved and gives me the biggest, toothiest grin I have ever seen.

Two seconds out of my day added joy to someone else’s.  Gratitude isn’t an emotion or attitude we are to keep to ourselves, no, gratitude is to be given away freely at every opportune moment, even when you yourself are not grateful.  We hear so often we are to be grateful for what God has given us, to express gratitude by thanking God.  Well being grateful for God’s grace comes in many forms.  It was a grace of God that a young man did his boring job well, it was a grace of God that allowed me to see the face of God in the young man and his courage to continue performing a rather menial task even when no noticed how well he did it.  Gratitude for the grace of God comes in many forms, big and small, all are important in the eyes of God.

The Psalms tell us to seek God’s face and to offer our thanks for God’s gifts.  Each one of us is a gift, each one of us has a gift to give, each one of us is the reflection of God, and each one of us carries God within.  So doesn’t it make sense to give thanks to those who reflect the grace of God?

Over the next week begin the habit of saying thank you for the little graces of God.  Offer thanks to the bus driver as you exit, say thank you to the young woman who hands you your morning coffee or say thank you to the washroom attended and see the smiles grow around you.  Offering thanks is an easy spiritual practice and one that brings great joy to the receiver and the giver alike and it is free to give.  It costs you no more than 2 to 5 seconds of your day, surly we can spend 5 seconds to bring hours of joy to someone who feels they are invisible to the rest of the world. Surly we can learn to do that every day, for every person we meet.

Thank you for reading my blog post.  Your presence on my site has made my day and I am grateful for your interest.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 25, 2014