Light in the Darkness

December is a dark time for me, not just because it is the winter solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, but because I feel alone in the dark. Everyone around me is celebrating and I just don’t have the energy to do more than sit alone in the corner.  I know I’m a strong introvert and do not like large celebrations but that isn’t the reason for my long face.  It is light, I crave light. Warm, yellow, soft, shining, comforting light. I want green growing light to warm my heart and open up my spirit, and here is the amazing thing, I find that light in my belief of a child, who grew into a man, whose message gave, and gives, me hope.  It is my light. 

So, in December during the traditional celebration of light by Christians and Jews alike I find my hope. It is true I don’t believe Jesus was born in December, it is a legend, a nice legend, but a legend none the less. But I love it that we do celebrate when the Earth bends towards the light, and hope comes again for rebirth.  Julia Blum of the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies says it best:

 “So, if the traditional nativity story is just a legend, why do we celebrate Christmas – and why do we celebrate it on the 25th of December? Let’s try to answer this question with the profound words of prophet Isaiah: “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?  The watchman said, “The morning comes, but also the night” [Isa 21:11-12}.  Also, the night… In this world, we are surrounded by night – and we all long for morning: “Watchman, what of the night”. Human beings long for light – and the One Who created us, knows our longing. That’s why, I believe, December 25th is an amazing time—by holding Christmas at the same time as the traditional winter solstice festivals, the message of Christmas has been made crystal clear: in the world’s darkest hour, the “Light of the World” is born! Yes, this date was chosen be men and probably for the wrong reasons, but as often happens, through human weaknesses and mistakes, God still works out His plan. For millions of believers, Christmas is a celebration of the true Light coming into this dark world!”

“In this sense, one can’t miss the connection between Hanukkah and Christmas -because the message of Hanukkah, Festival of Lights, is the same: The Light of God shines in this dark world, and the darkness cannot overcome it! This is not a pagan message: The Divine Light overcomes even the darkest of darkness – and this is what we celebrate on both Hanukkah, on the 25th of Kislev, and Christmas, on the 25th of December!”  (Julia Blum, December 18, 2019, Longing For Light: Christmas And Hanukkah, Israel Institute of Biblical Studies)

Ruth Jewell, ©December 24, 2019

BEGINNINGS

Photo by Anders Jildén, Stockholm, Sweden, an Unsplash photo
Photo by Anders Jildén, Stockholm, Sweden, an Unsplash photo

Matins, night

darkest night when fear slides in
lost, lost I have lost the way
fear fills me, all hope has flown
death’s grim voice speaks,
“better to die than face your fear alone.”
has it come so far? Is my life worth anything?
how often have I screamed into the night, “WHY,
why, help me, have mercy, DAMN IT
do you hear me,
hear me before I surrender to the dark, surrender
to the dark

can I take my own life? Yes,
yes I can for in this darkest night it is only death
who welcomes me with open arms,
“come I will take you to where there is no fear,
no darkness, come, let’s end those fears, end your terror filled life” . . .
. . . DAWN BREAKS
out of the light of dawn God speaks,
“I will walk with you out of the darkness,
take my hand.”

Lauds, dawn

I was falling, falling, now caught, held,
lifted up, restored, re-membered, reborn into life
I am awakened to new light a new day, fresh,
never before seen or tasted
ah . . . to be held
in the arms of God,
to feel safe after terror
there is no description of the sweetness,
delight, astonishment at the dawn of re-birth,
to be resurrected by sacred love
for as sure as the crocus pokes its head through
the cold earth each spring, I have been embraced by the light
of dawn, warm golden light, green
growing light, giving new hope, new life, once dead
now tasting the first sweet breath of air

Terce, mid-morning

mornings . . . clean slate, fresh, calm, empty
of the past and filled with
promise of the future
mornings . . . opportunities not yet seen, waiting
to unfold, challenges to grow on
knowledge to gain, to be rolled in,
gathered in and absorbed,
time to learn the tools of life
so begins the journey
I put on my cloak of courage, and
grab my staff of knowledge
learn to walk with new legs, see
with new eyes, hear with new ears, touch
and be touched, revel
in the new sensations that run up my spine
discover new ways of being holy, of being with the holy.
learn to share newly given grace,
grace given you over and over
received over and over, a gift
given again and again
see the world as I have never seen it
bright with vibrant colors, sparkling
waters, perfumed air . . . learn to spread
my wings and fly on the breath of God

Sext, noon

to walk full of energy, riding
the ups and downs of life’s rollercoaster,
work that leaves arms tired, eyes drooping
taking what life has given me and
give back, sharing the graces of
knowledge, faith, love, and justice
using the joys of success as
nourishment and the tears of failure
as water to grow new grace
life upon life, all mixed
up with trials and joys that strengthen
and grow more life

None, mid-afternoon

Joy in a life being well lived
yet learning to let go of those
dreams limited by age, health, and time
no sadness (well maybe a little, transitions are hard after all),
joy at guiding the other beginning life’s journeys
learning it’s ok to let others
run the show, to lead
Oh I’m not done yet, I still
have work to do, things to accomplish
now is my time to be the encourager, the
mentor, the teacher of life’s lessons, to
teach others to lead
Now is my time to find
my peace with who I was, who
I have become and who I will yet be

again the Spirit takes my hand and
leads me on my journey

Vespers, evening

ah, to kick back, to
let go, to relax, day’s
work is done, time to sort
those old memories that
have piled up in my head
to find there a stillness
a being and . . . letting
stillness come in and fill my being
time to pass the torch to those more
able than I, those with more energy,
more time, more life
my place is cheerleader, advisor
and kisser of bumped knees
I am the repository
of life’s joys and sorrows
the keeper of the tales of
adventure and miss-adventure, all to
be passed on so the old ones
will not be forgotten

Compline, night

night, the time of endings, conclusions, laying down to rest
the memories of past loves, fears, angers, joys, and conflicts fade into the darkness
only one light now shines with a blinding brightness
I reach with one hand back in, to
the fading darkness of this life, and
with the other hand I reach out into . . .
the unknown light.
I am torn between leaving and staying,
I am between two worlds, my . . .
fingers slip through the hands of those I love

but, the time has come to be whole again
My time in this place is done, time
to let go, time to lead the way
one . . . last . . . time.
I have no regrets as this life fades,
the past made me who I am
and I am satisfied
the chrysalis of this life is breaking apart,
the butterfly is ready to emerge,
to spread her wings and fly

Ruth Jewell, ©July 2016

“And the Lord Grieved”

“And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.”  – Genesis 6:6, NRSV)

fire rainbow b
Fire Rainbow Taken Spring 2015

This past weekend I was asked by a Facebook friend to comment on the following meme from the Celtic Christian Tradition.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” (www.facebook.com/CelticChristianTradition, April 30, 2016)

My friend is not a believer in Christianity but he and I have had many an interesting online discussion on faith and beliefs.  I have always found him to be an open minded and intelligent person and so I gladly responded to his request to comment.

“Well I don’t know if saying you believe in Jesus but don’t actually follow his teachings is a cause of atheism or not, but it certainly is the cause of so many to question the values of Christianity.  Just saying you believe in Jesus is like saying the ‘Sun rises in the East,’ it’s a statement. Being faithful to the teachings of Jesus however means you are loyal to those teachings and practice them, or at least do you your best to try, every day.  If you only use the words to carry a message of hate, domination and greed then you have become separated from God and are not longer the blessing you are meant to be.

There is Good in everything, human, animal, plant, all creation and it doesn’t matter how you see the Good.  It only matters that you do.  The Good is what keeps each of us rising up every morning, keeps us loving our neighbors regardless of who they are and keeps us part of the human family.  To deny the Good in anyone, any creature, any part of creation is to be cut off from what makes each of us human. I listen to the hatful rhetoric spouted each day in the news and I don’t see people of faith, I see lost souls, people cut off from what is good and right in our world, and that makes me very sad.

You know I call the Good God, but that is how I see the good in the world.  You see the Good in a different way, a way that gives you peace and a path to follow that is good in the world.  Others see the Good in other ways, but, no matter how we explain the Good to ourselves it is all the same Good. The name may be different but it is still what is Good and Right in the world. We all have the capacity to find and see the Good, whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist.  The Good is still there in the world, universe, all creation and as long as some of us are able to find, see, and honor the Good in each other and creation gives me hope that we will have a world to live in.

I look for the Good in those that hat that is what my tradition tells me to do. But even if that wasn’t part of my tradition I would still look because to otherwise brings me down to the level of those who hat and I don’t want to go there.  If those of us who believed in what is Good were a little more vocal we would drown out the voices of hate and all would know there are still people in this world who believe in doing good rather than speaking hate.”

After I wrote this I recognized how sad it is that there are so many who cannot, or will not see what is Good and Right in this world.  Everything in creation was created good, there was nothing evil or bad about anything brought into being.  Genesis 1:31a reads “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Every morning I see just how good creation is when I feel the warmth of the rising sun and hear the morning songs of birds.  So in my eyes the God is still active in the world I live in. Every creature in all creation is meant to be a blessing to all of creation and to be otherwise is to separate from God and all that is good.  To live outside of the love and light of God hurts God as much as it hurts those living in hate and darkness.  When God’s beloved creatures did first did evil God’s heart was broken (Genesis 6:6).  When we who are human do evil and practice hate instead of love and pretend it is what God wants, when we are not the blessing we are meant to be God calls out to us in pain in sorrow, “not in my Name.”

Every day the news media is filled with the words and images of people professing to be people of faith whose actions do not reflect a faith of any tradition.  So many people who call themselves people of faith in one breath prove they are not in the next breath when they deny the teachings of love, compassion and justice by spouting words of hate and denying justice to those in need.  Yet we who try to be followers of God, or the Good in the world, are enabling these lost souls by not speaking out against the injustice or not standing with those in need.  So we are not innocent by any means.

What do we do then?  We who stand for justice, mercy and compassion need to be the Isaiah’s, Micah’s, and Jeremiah’s of our day. Like the Apostles we need to be the ones who speak with love and compassion, letting those who speak hate that we know them for what they are, lost, wounded, souls and that we are sad for them and will stand with their victims.  None of that is easy, and we cannot expect to change everyone overnight, but, being who we are, blessings to the world, changes the world a little bit at a time.  Kindness and compassion never goes unrewarded and even in the darkest moment the single candle we light shines brighter than then darkness around it.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 2, 2016

I was blind but now I see – Prayerful Tuesday

23He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. – Mark 8:23-25

Walk in the fog by George Holden Publicdomain.net
Walk in the fog by George Holden
Publicdomain.net

In January I had Cataract surgery and I must admit I never knew how much I was missing or how dark my world had become.  One of the first things I noticed was that our light bulbs were a lot brighter and we didn’t need to change them after all.  I also noticed evergreen trees, grass and the leaf buds on our Lilacs were so much greener than they were.  The colors of the crocus and daffodils seemed to pop out like neon lights and I was amazed at how blue the sky was (that is when we had blue sky).  The funniest thing was my IPad mini.  I have a screen saver of stars and low and behold I just discovered there were also clouds in the picture.  I couldn’t see them before.

I thought about the scriptures where Jesus healed those who were blind, especially the one where it took two tries before the man could see clearly. In many ways we are all like that one man.  We see but we don’t really ‘see.’

My sudden clarity in sight has also made me think of all the things we miss because we don’t “see” them, really see them. We see the homeless man standing on the corner but we don’t really see him. We don’t see his pain, or his embarrassment, or his fear.  What we see is a figure, as the blind man said as a walking tree, but we don’t see the human, the child of God who is before us.  How many of you have taken the hand of a homeless person and looked into their eyes and saw the person for who they are, our brother or sister in God.

How many of you have gone to a jail and comforted the mother of a victim, or taken the hand of a felon and said you are loved by God, don’t be afraid.  How many of you have seen children arrested for stealing drugs at their parent’s request  or for stealing to provide for their family’s who are held in Juvenile Detention for a year or more because there parent or guardian can’t get clean from drugs or alcohol and there is no responsible adult to care for them.  How many of you have held someone suffering from mental illness or PTSD and said ‘I’m here, you aren’t alone.’

If you haven’t volunteered at a shelter or soup kitchen yet find the time to do so.  Volunteering there is a lesson in compassion and humility, of seeing people society throws away as our brothers, sisters, and friends who are in pain and afraid.

I am grateful that I am now able to see creation more clearly, the colors in sunrises and sunsets, and to rediscover the beauty of spring flowers.  I love it that I can now see the faces of my friends and family, each and every one of them, more clearly.  I love it that much that had been hidden by my own dark glass has been made clear.  But today there is so much darkness, so much fear, so much hatred that clarity of sight is difficult for us all. Jesus said “I Am the Light of the world.” (John 9:5b) and in the words of the Prophet Mohammad “God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” (Quran 23.35a)  As people of faith we are to be the light that brings sight to the blind.  We are called to bring the light of love, compassion, justice, and peace to a wounded world.

My recommended Spiritual Practice for this week is to open your eyes and SEE the world around you. Take the time to gaze at the beauty of a flower, and marvel at the rebirth of delicate green leaves on a tree. Let the beauty of creation refresh your heart and cleanse your eyes.  Then take the time to see the people around you, offer a sandwich to the homeless man, woman, or teenager on the corner and take the time to look into their eyes and see your brother or sister, your son or daughter.  Let them know they are known for whom they are a child of God.

Gracious Lord, you gave us eyes to see you in the face of all who surround us, to see you in a smiling baby’s face, the wrinkled face of an elderly, in the broken lives of the homeless and the hungry.  In our rush of our daily living we become blind to all the love you have given us and we forget to pass on the love we are given to those in need.  Help us in our blindness Lord.  Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©March 8, 2016

The Work of Christmas Begins

A Poem by Howard Thurman

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,
To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.


Audio of Jim Strathdee singing I Am the Light of the World

Today, January 6th, is Epiphany, the day tradition tells us the Wise Men visited Jesus, Mary and Joseph. My mother used to call this day “little Christmas,” and she would prepare a special meal in the evening. I don’t remember gifts being exchanged but we did eat a lot, and usually finished up the Christmas cookies.  But, it was years later when the song I Am the Light of the World by Jim Strathdee, based on Howard Thurman’s poem, came out that I began to look at this day differently.

Today instead of just thinking about nameless astrologers coming from the east and giving unusual gifts to the Child I see this day as less a celebration and more of a new start to living as Jesus taught.  Thurman’s poem and Strathdee’s music remind us that Christmas isn’t just one day, 12 days, or the 34 days of Epiphany. (Yes, today only begins the season of Epiphany which will end on Ash Wednesday this year on February 10th when Lent begins.) We are called to carry the message of the love of compassion, justice and peace throughout the year.  The season of Epiphany offers us the opportunity to make caring for our fellow travelers on this planet, human or animal, a habit.  A habit that empowers the weak and the young, gives food to the hungry and compassion to our elderly, poor, lonely, homeless, and war torn neighbors in this place we call home.  Strathdee’s hymn is the theme song for our work in the world, the work of Christmas.

Every year we are given the opportunity to begin again as Jesus followers.  Every year we are reminded of who we are, and whose we are. Every year we are given another chance to live our lives in such a way as to bring change to the world.  Every year we are given the chance to accept the radical challenge of being the Christ figure for the people we see and interact with every day. It is a radical idea!  If each of our neighborhoods is changed, even a little, eventually we change the world and Jesus and God never asked us to be more than who we are, only to be the best that we can be.

To live with compassion, love justice and to travel in the company of the Divine is all we are asked to do. I don’t think that means a drastic change in our habits, rather it means we share what we have so that all have enough. Is that really so hard?

So I challenge myself, and you, to begin to change how we live in the world, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, standing up and letting your voice be heard when justice is violated and oh so many other little acts of compassion. Each of us can do something. We don’t have to do everything at once simply pick one to get started, let one act of love become a habit this year.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 6, 2016

Prayers for Christmas Eve — Light in the Darkness

Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”: and there was light
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

Christmas Eve, 2015 Photo by Ruth Jewell
Christmas Eve, 2015
Photo by Ruth Jewell

Light

Light, down into my hole you come,
holding on with cold fingers of fear,
You lift me from the darkness.

Like an otter slipping through a silver stream,
light slips between the weary tangles of fear and mistrust,
spreading out to warm my journey.

Light; joyful, shining, loving, guiding,
rush on; stream out from my heart,
carry me forward; lead me to someone in the dark.

©Ruth Jewell, March 18, 2008

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

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

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

The Light of Christ
Light all five candles and pray “An Advent Prayer.”

Meditations
The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.
–W.H. Murra

The burden which is well borne becomes light.
–Ovid

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, where is Christ’s Light particularly needed?
Evening: Looking back on the day, where did you receive Light?

Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of Christ’s Light; include yourself.

May the light of Christmas bring you joy and be with you throughout the coming year.
Merry Christmas Everyone

Ruth Jewell ©December 24, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel,  Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

 

Advent, Week One – Prayerful Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope – The First Week of Advent

Light one candle 
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.

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

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

let there be light

Genesis 1:1-5: 1In 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.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Sunrise, Edmonds WA, July 5, 2013 Ruth Jewell
Sunrise, Edmonds WA, July 5, 2013
Ruth Jewell

Genesis 1:1-5 is one of my favorite scriptures and I have read, and reread it many times. I can imagine the pleasure God had at that first light because light always gives me pleasure.  To see the sun rise in the morning gives me great pleasure.  The sky goes from velvety black to a dark blue and the birds begin their morning song.  Then the first threads of sunlight break free of the horizon and begin to paint pinks, violets, and rose in the sky.  The color increase to oranges, and yellows until the Earth turns just ever so slightly and the first sliver of the bright sun is visible.  Now there is a grand chorus of bird song to add to the majesty of the morning. For me that is pure magic.

I grew up on a farm in Ohio and before dawn I went out to feed, cattle and horses. In the dark I would stop and watch for the incredible start to the day.  I simply love morning!  I love the return of light!  At those moments I can understand how ancient peoples came to worship the sun. To them it was magic; they didn’t know about the earth’s rotation, they weren’t even sure that the sun would return. For them the welcome sight of the light of day meant they had survived the time of dark and fear and now there was light and hope.

Light warms our home, Earth and produces the chlorophyll for plants to grow and provide the food for all of us animals, humans included. Light, warm light, life giving life.   The very air we breathe is dependent on light and the process of photosynthesis. Our very lives depend on the light that comes from our medium sized star we call the Sun. Without the warmth of the light our planet would be a cold and barren hunk of rock without life.  God breathed the breath of life over the waters and that breath was preceded by light.

Now our planet, in its journey around our sun, is tilting it’s northern face once again away from that life giving, warming light and that means shorter days and longer, colder, dark filled nights.  Oh I know the darkness has its place.  It is a time of rest and renewal for plant and animal alike. And as a person who has lived with the land I know plants and animals need that time of rest, whether it is one short night or the long winter nights.  But I am a creature of the day and already I yearn for the warmth of the spring morning when the sun rises with the trumpet of bird song.

On December 21st I will rejoice and offer a prayer of gratitude as the earth once again tilts the northern hemisphere back to the sun.  Spring will come again, just as it has every other year.  I will watch with growing anticipation the shortening of the night and lengthening of the days. And when that warm spring morning comes the birds and I will be there to welcome the return of the light.

May the light of God and the Universe give you joy this day.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 24, 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

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