To Be a Blessing – Prayerful Tuesday

Be generous: invest in acts of charity.
Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around.
Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.
— Ecclesiastes 11:1a, 2, The Message

Mom and Pippin, 1988 bMy Mother 1988
Steven F Austin St. Park, TX
©Ruth Jewell, 2016

A recent meditation had the following journal question “If you knew you were dying what would you write or say to your children or grandchildren?”  That question stopped me cold.  What would I say to grandson and granddaughter, Liam and Amelia?  How would I describe my love, and fears, for them?  How would I tell them of my life lived with my own loves, fears, and regrets? What would I say, what would you say?

During this Easter season I have been writing about the ways we express our feelings of the resurrection, and the many ways we witness to others our faith in the resurrection.  Sharing ourselves with the next generation is also a witness to our beliefs in the resurrection. The question above is an important one, challenging us to inspect our past and present lives and how that information could impact the lives that follow us.  I thought long and hard about what I would, will, say to my grandchildren and all of it wasn’t bright flowers and sunshine.

What might say, well I would of course tell them I love them very much, how grateful I am for having them in my life, and I will miss them.  I would ask for their forgiveness in my part for leaving them a world that is wounded and in pain, and a political system that doesn’t function.  I would tell them that no matter what they do in life their parents and I would always love them from wherever we are.  While their future is impacted by the world I leave behind it is still their future to make into what ever dream they reach for.  Following those dreams may not be easy, or always fun, but are worth the effort if they truly believe in them.  I would also tell them it is OK that they don’t believe in the Divine as I do, but, discovering their own pathway to something greater than themselves is important in finding their moral, loving, compassionate lives.  I would want them to stand up against injustice even when it is hard to do so, to see the good in people and all creation even when the night is darkest.  I want them to climb their most difficult mountains and to not be afraid of the challenges because I will be right there beside them cheering them on. I want my grandchildren to be fearless in the face adversity, to be strong when everyone else is weak, and to be gentle when touched by beauty.

What I want most for my beloved Liam and Amelia is to live a life that is not self-centered but other-centered. I want them to live a life that sees the best in the worst, the beauty in the ugly, and love in what is hatred.  I can’t leave them with much but when I make my final passage from this world to the next I want them to know I cared about them, and want them to be the best at whatever they want to be.

So that is some of what I would tell my grandchildren, what would be in your letter to your children?  We live in and uncertain world and we never know when our last day in this world will arrive.  We all too often leave too much unsaid to those we love the most.  So my journal question to you this week is: “If you knew you were dying what would you write or say to your children or grandchildren?”

May you find the words in your heart for those you leave behind.

Ruth Jewell, ©April 26, 2016

Choosing a Path – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 23: 1-3  The Lord is my shepherd: I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me to water in places of repose; He renews my life; He guides me in right paths as befits his name. (The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation)

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Arizona, 2006

I subscribe to a Native American spirituality site, White Bison (www.whitebison.org), and recently I received the following daily meditation:

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – September 21

“everything is laid out for you. Your path is straight ahead of you. Sometimes it’s invisible but it’s there. You may not know where it’s going, but still you have to follow that path. It’s the path to the Creator. That’s the only path there is.”  — Leon Shenadoah, ONANDAGA

When I read this and held in my heart for awhile I recognized the truth in the statement.  However, I also saw that we are not given just one path, and many paths lead to the Creator.  Every day, every second of every day, we are asked to choose the path we will follow.  The choice is not always clear, nor is always easy.  Most often we are asked to make our choices quickly without thought and while these choices may seem insignificant it won’t be until much later do we realize how important they were.

I don’t have the answers to choosing the “right” path, as if any path could really be wrong. For me when I let go of my ego control and let The Great Spirit take the reins of my life the choices become easier, not easy, but easier.  I know I will still end up walking some dark and dangerous road instead of the one in sunshine, but I will also not feel I am alone on that scary path.

Letting go of our ego and releasing our control is hard spiritual practice to follow and one that I start over with every single day.  But there are rewards.  When I do let go I find that I am at peace with my choice of path and that I can smile and bear the difficulties much better.  Right now I am struggling with letting go and am on a path I am not sure of.  I keep saying ‘I can do this, I don’t need anyone else,’ but I know that is false.  I can’t do my life by myself!  I need the comfort of The Great Spirit and so I practice letting go.   Even though I slip back every day, and there will be doubt,  I grab onto the hand of the Spirit and haul myself up to the next step, the next place.

Do you have difficulty letting go of your control as you choose your paths?  What do you do to help you choose the next path, do you release your control of your life, or do you, just as I do, often say ‘I can do this by myself?’

Ruth Jewell, ©September 29, 2015

 

 

The Voice in the Wind – Prayerful Tuesday

“. . . a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2b, NRSV

Photo, Ruth Jewell, 2014
Photo, Ruth Jewell, 2014

I am sure all of you noticed we had a big windstorm 2 weeks ago.  John and I lost our power on Saturday just before noon and didn’t get it back until after 3 pm on Sunday.  For those of us in Edmonds that was a really long time.  Normally our power losses are quite short due to the presence of the Hospital and the transit center so close to us, but not this time.  What has been most frustrating for John and me is the lost of our internet, which we still don’t have, because we both have things to do.  While I gladly gave up internet access when we were on Holiday in the spring I was not quite so happy without this time.  I have things to do such as writing for my blogs, ordering pet food, doing activities for the committees I am on, you know the daily little things that we don’t normally think about but just do.  However, we have finally been reconnected to the rest of the electronic  world and so I am back at writing.

However, despite my irritation with the loss of technology, I have been thinking about the wind how strong it was, how persistent, and how loud.  Wind, spirit, ruach, the Breath of G-d made me listen whether I wanted to or not.  G-d made me stop and listen.  I slowed down, and I listened to God speak. I heard tears in the wind for those whose lives were lost, in the storm, in the wild fires, in world conflict, and in the madness we call a gun culture. I heard laughter for those who thought technology was everything and, like John and I were, ‘forced’ to read by oil lamp or candle light.

Sometimes we need to stop and listen to the wind.  Sometimes we need to slow down.  Two lives were lost in that storm and we need to stop and offer a prayer.  But for the rest of us our lives will go on with few changes to our daily routine. Saturday was an interruption nothing more unless we choose to learn from slowing down.  Walk outside, or open a door or window, listen to the wind, take in the breath of G-d, listen for the sound of tears and laughter.\

May you feel the breath of G-d as it kisses your cheek, may your hear the still small voice in the gentle breeze, and in your moment of stillness may you know the presence of G-d.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 9, 2015

Audientes Divina, or Hearing God – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 95:7 For he is our God, . . . O that today you would hearken to his voice!

In the last couple of weeks as I have been recuperating from back surgery I have listened to a fair amount of music.  Music centers me and reduces the amount of pain I have which means I can take fewer pain meds and that means fewer side effects.

As I was listening one day to Barbers “Adigio for Strings” I realized I was practicing a form of Lectio Divina, I hadn’t noticed doing that before and since then have purposely practiced what I call Audientes (that’s Latin for hearing) Divina.  I have discovered some interesting insights and, I must admit, a greater sense of being as I went deeper into the music, or rather the music went deeper into me.

So I don’t know if anyone else has ever practiced this before, or have thought about it like this, but I am offering what I have been doing as a gift of my recuperation.  Below you will find a clip of Samuel Barber’s Adigio for Strings and the instructions for my practice. I usually listen to chants, or instrumental pieces but I am sure there are other genres that produce the same meditative moments.  If you find this useful, since this is a new way to “Hear God” as a practice at least from this perspective, please, let me know what types of music you use to enter into the quite center.  Who knows maybe I too will hear the still small voice in something I haven’t tried before.

Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings, op.11. Uncut
Original broadcast from the Albert Hall in London September 15 2001.
Leonard Slatkin conducts the BBC Orchestra.

Instructions for Audientes Divina

  1. With your eyes closed listen to the music and let the music wash over you, entering deeply into your consciousness; what images does the music bring up for you?  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
  2. Listen for a second time, with your eyes closed, as you listen let the music carry you deeper into your center. What in the music moves your closer to your inner center? What do you feel as you listen? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the music, or has it transported you to somewhere else? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
  3.  Respond to what you are feeling and your images with prayer. Did your experience of the music remind you of, a particular experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Or, as you listened to the music did it offer a deeper understanding of being part of the universe, life itself. Offer your thoughts to the Divine as an offering of who you, where you are at this moment and as a blessing for the journey you will continue on.
  4. Rest in your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Let your body relax and set your mind free to hear what the God has to say to you words that have no sound.

May you hear the voice of the Divine in the music of life.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 4, 2015

What will be, will be – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 131:1-2 God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.

I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content. (MSG)

Akaroa, New Zealand, April 9, 2015 taken by Ruth Jewell©
Akaroa, New Zealand, April 9, 2015
taken by Ruth Jewell©

One of the benefits of a sabbatical is having the time to stop and let the world go by. In fact I have begun to practice an extension of stopping that I call “what will be, will be.” On my trip I would wake in the morning and intentionally decided to let the day unfold as God intended for it to happen, making few plans, being open to opportunities to meet people or visit a place I hadn’t been before, taking the time to really listen to the person I just met, stopping and really seeing the world around me and the hardest of all, trying not to control my days events.  What I discovered was I was more relaxed and rested at the end of the day than this normally anxious introvert is.

This is more than mindfulness or being in the moment.  It is letting the Divine control the day, opening my eyes to the Good in each person I meet and greeting them with the Good within me.  This is an intense letting go of my expectations of how things ‘should’ be and seeing how they are/can be beautiful and insightful.

Of course I couldn’t do this every day.  Sometimes we had already made plans in advance so those intentional days weren’t every day, even on a vacation.  But I did make them happen often, and probably more often than I will be able to do now that I am home. However, I do wish to maintain this spiritual practice and hope my ability to let go and let God control my days increase. Here are a few suggestions to help you, and me, get started.  As I get better at this, or you, we might add suggestions or take some away, we will just have to wait and see how God unfolds this practice.

  1. Begin the day with silent prayer ending with a prayer for patience and openness
  2. As you start your day and continue through your tasks really notice what you are doing, see the people you are with, taste the food you eat, notice your surroundings, even the ugliest of areas has beauty if you look.
  3. As time allows stop for a moment and breathe deeply, if possible sit and let God into your day, your heart
  4. Let God into the moments of confusion and frustration, breathe deeply, say a prayer, let others express themselves and be aware of their hurt and pain, or joy and celebration. Recognize they too have the Divine within and welcome them.  (This is the hardest part, so do not be surprised if you fail, just keep trying)
  5. At the end of your day, sit again in silence; let your heart and mind reflect on your day, the good and the bad hold those you meet that are hurting in prayer, and offer gratitude for those who are celebrating.
  6. End by offering your own prayer of gratitude.

We all can’t take 6 weeks or even a day of sabbatical, but we all can let the Divine into our daily lives. We can offer one of our ‘normal’ busy days to God, and changing how we see our tasks and the people we interact with helps us change how we see the world.  It costs nothing to offer praise or condolences, or to sit and listen to someone’s story but the gift is priceless.

Blessings on your Journey

Ruth Jewell, ©June 2, 2015

Letting Go – Prayerful Tuesday

A Walk In Yost Park Canyon
A Walk In Yost Park Canyon

This week’s prayer practice is one a friend of mine taught me in the last couple of weeks.  It is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s practices called “Letgo.”   After I began the practice I realized ‘Letgo’ has many similarities with the Examen and found that I was experiencing some of the same benefits.  As I have begun to settle into this practice I have discovered my days to be calmer and more centered even when the world gets busy.  I am able to separate what is important from what it is not.  The most amazing thing is of the many of events and things I thought were important they just are not priorities any longer.  Instead I am able to focus on what makes my life more enjoyable, beautiful and to just BE.  So I offer this practice as my gift to your well Being.

Letgo Practice

I usually pick a time of day when things are quiet, either early in the morning or just before I go to bed.  I like both times.  The morning time energizes me and the evening time centers me and quiets my mind so that I sleep much better.  But select a time that works best for you.  I do set aside 20 to 25 minutes for each session.

  1. Begin by sitting quietly, concentrating on your breath. Reflect on those things you have let go of in the past.  You many begin your ‘list’ as early in your life as you wish.
  2. Be aware that our conscious attention only catches a small portion of what goes on in lives.
  3. Start with small steps first. Accept that events such as rush hour traffic, broken washers, and burnt dinners will always be there to annoy and frustrate you.  Use these events to practice an acceptance of those things that just happen because it’s life.
  4. Be mindful of those times when you pick up old burden or worry’s and begin to carry them around again. Learn to recognize the old resentments and anger that emerges and ask yourself if you want to continue to hold space in head and heart for them.
  5. Take deep breaths and let the burdens, anger, and resentment flow out with each exhale.
  6. Repeat step 5 as often as necessary until you are able to bring your mindfulness back to the now.

May the peace of God be with you all.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 10, 2015

Taking Care—Prayerful Tuesday

The Scream by Van Gogh
The Scream by Van Gogh

For the last three weeks I have been in constant pain due to a pinched nerve in my back.  This fussy nerve has been bothering me for a long time but I refused to listen to it. So now it is fighting back to get the attention it thinks it deserves.  I have never been in so much pain before.   It hurts to lie down, stand up and sit and that my friends are pretty much every possible position there is.  But, I am not asking for sympathy, prayers yes, sympathy no because I got myself here by not listening to my body.

It is always easier to give someone else advice than to take that advice ourselves about taking care of the temple God has graced us with.  Whether we are doing our busy lives or praying we often forget the clay vessel we are embodied with to the detriment of our health and well being both spiritually and physically.

I understand the forgetting the body when we are making a living, I certainly forgot.  After all we are only trying to make a living, feed our family, keep a shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs.  We don’t feed the body with good food rather we go for the quick easy meal of junk food, which is high in fat, calories and low in what we need to be healthy.  We don’t get enough sleep because a job needs to be done and “I, just don’t have the time to rest until it’s finished.” Stress takes its toll with worry about how we will survive if we lose our job, or add a new family member, or move to new community.  We forget to take the time to talk to God, to listen to God, to offer prayers of gratitude and concern to the one, and only, who can relieve our pain and suffering.

The ironic thing is we remember our bodies when they break down, and we remember our spiritual life when we are running on empty to the next event in our lives. That is what has happened to me.  I forgot to care for my body, I refused to listen and I am paying for it now.  But more than that I forgot that caring for my body, caring for my spirit is a prayer practice.

It is important to care for what has been given us the best way we can.  Even when we are given bodies that aren’t perfect, and whose is, we are called by God to care for this vessel as long as we are here enfleshed in this life. In order to care for this body given me I must repent and make changes to how I view my body.  It isn’t an object to worship, but it is a house of prayer.  Good food, exercise, rest and listening are my four healthy habits that will make my house stronger.  My physical house and my spiritual house.

My prayer for all of you this week is take a moment out of your day to sit in silence and offer God your gratitude, take a brisk walk and feel the breath of God on your face, rest in God, letting the healing touch of the Holy Spirit renew your soul and eat with gusto food rich in love and low in Cholesterol.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 20, 2015