It’s the end of the year everyone around me is feeling excited, joyful.
Christmas music is playing, wreaths are being hung, trees decorated, the stupid elf is back on the shelf.
Not in my house!
I used to wonder why I felt empty in the last month of the year. not anymore.
I know who I am now.
I feel put upon to decorate! I feel sorry for trees being cut down! I feel sorry for the turkey!
But those aren’t the reasons.
I don’t like Christmas because joy doesn’t only come in the last 4 weeks of the year, happiness doesn’t come in a wrapped box, Jesus isn’t Santa Claus
But that’s just the start.
I dislike what Christmas has become. A self-centered circus to please ourselves when it should be a celebration of God coming to us as love.
What does the birth of baby mean to me?
The image of a God being born as a poor child means we are to love the poor, care for those who do not have enough.
Oh, there’s more.
The child image tells us to love children not just the rich, the healthy, or the perfect, but the poor, the sick, those not like us.
So, who are those children?
The child born to a despised race means we are to love the immigrant, the stranger, the culturally different.
So, the prophets told me what to do.
Do justice: stand up for those being abused, fight injustice Love kindness: feed and clothe the hungry, give freely of your abundance Walk humbly with your God: remember whose you are. do what is right in the eyes of the great Divine.
So, who am I?
I am the one who chooses life I am the one who listens I am the one who gives back as much as I receive I will listen to the prophets and the lessons of The Carpenter I do it all year long not just in the last 4 weeks of the year.
Birthdays make me reflective and as I get older the more
reflection I seem to need. I just had my birthday and I have been contemplating
memories of the last 72 years. I find it
hard to believe that I’m in my 70th decade and it is even harder to
believe I survived all those years.
Have you noticed memories are kind of weird? We never really
remember them as they were but as we want them to be. I also don’t remember
them in order and one memory seems to trigger another that may have happened
years before or years after. But, the
act of remembering is a re-membering of me.
It is a process to remind me from where I came and how each memory
created me. It is a little like a yearly
‘Examen.’ It isn’t just remembering but an accounting of my life. It is an opportunity to remember the good
times and the bad, to forgive others, and to be forgiven, and to offer myself
I find God’s grace in memories, grace I hadn’t noticed when
I was living them. I sometimes discover angels who have been my guides or
protectors that I didn’t recognize when they entered and left my life. Each
grace and angel helped form me into the person I have become. Unfortunately, I
have also recognized a few individuals who lead me from my path, and I had to
struggle to return, often with the help of one of those angels. It is one of
God’s enduring graces that angels come when we need them and it’s usually when
we have gotten everything all wrong.
I have been rescued so many times that my guardian angel carries
an extra-large emergency kit. I am sure
she is grateful I haven’t needed to be rescued for a while. I started very
early with getting my self into trouble. I was 6 when I pulled a deep-fat fryer
down on top of me, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns
over 75% of my body. My memory of the incident is I wasn’t alone, I was being
told I would be alright, and I was. An
angel in the shape of a plastic surgeon came and volunteered to perform all the
skin grafts, paying for the hospital himself, and not charging my parents. Without the skill of Dr. Meany, I would have
been severely crippled. I would have been unable to live a normal life. My
gratitude for the Doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save and heal me has
no bounds. To give back the gift given
to me I have tried to be present to those who have been burnt, giving them
comfort, and sitting and listening to their fears.
Passing on the gifts of grace has become part of who I am. I
have been on the verge of homelessness a couple of times in my life and each
time one of those angels was sent in to help. To pass on that gift I have
helped others who have been on that edge, never expecting I will be repaid but
always expecting that they will pass on their gift of grace. If everyone did that no one would ever be
Those are nice memories, but I also have memories I am not
proud of. In my early 20’s I worked with
a woman who could be abrasive and, quite honestly, we didn’t just not get
along, we disliked each other intensely. I am ashamed to say that I started a
not so nice rumor about her. There was a small, very small, bit of truth to it but
essentially it was an exaggeration of the facts. I never apologized to her, in fact it wasn’t
long after it happened that I left for college. I regret that. I will never see
her again, I don’t even know if she is still alive. A few years ago, during a
ritual of forgiveness, I asked God to let her know, wherever she is, that I am truly
sorry. I also offered a prayer to forgive myself in order to let go of the feelings
of guilt, and, anger I had felt towards her. It took a while to feel within the
forgiveness I sought but eventually I did.
Memories are funny things, I don’t remember the same ones
every year but the ones I do seem to be the ones God wants me to remember. As I am 72 I have a lot of memories, I sincerely
hope I have enough time in the life left to me to ask for forgiveness, and to
express gratitude for those I haven’t remembered yet. Only time will tell.
Birthdays are not something I celebrate, but I find them useful. They offer a time to recognize grace, ask for forgiveness, and find peace in a life that has seen some rocky roads. I have no idea what memories I will form in the next years and I hope they will be good ones. I also hope they won’t be too embarrassing, but if they are, I know God and the angels will be nearby. After all my guardian angel has that huge emergency kit just waiting for me to mess up.
Breath of . . .
Voice of . . .
Touch of . . .
Taste of . . .
Sight of . . .
Smell of . . .
Joy of . . .
Jealousy of . . .
Loyalty of . . .
Sadness of . . .
Anger of . . .
Tears of . . .
Love of . . .
Compassion of . . .
Forgiveness of . . .
Laughter of . . .
Beauty of . . .
Faith of . . .
Grace of . . .
Peace of . . .
It has been some time since I’ve posted something on my blog and the time away has been interesting, restful, and thoughtful. Over the last several months I have practiced three spiritual practices, Meditation, walking prayer, and Lectio Divina that have fed my soul and reawakened my imagination and inspiration, and yes, a little rebellion. Lectio Divina has been most important in raising my awareness of myself and the world around me and I have had a growing desire to share what I hear, feel, and see in scripture meditation. I claim no special expertise or knowledge only heartfelt understanding from my perspective a pericope. I pray that if you meditate on the same scriptures you will find your own insights and open doors.
Isaiah 5:1-7 (NRSV)
1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry!
Reading 1: beloved; judge; righteousness;
Reading 2: break down; devoured; justice; bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry;
This pericope is about God’s justice for Judah for failing to be a people who embrace mercy, justice, peace, and compassion. I sit here and somehow feel we are in the same place now as the people of Judah in 800 BCE. I wouldn’t be surprised if God does something to today’s vineyard, actually I would find God’s action a relief from the horrendous tension.
There are many levels of interpretation to this scripture but on one level we can see how God’s plea to Judah as a plea to us today. After all this country is slipping into a pattern not that different from Judah, or Israel. We have political leaders claiming a faith in God and Christ yet fail to do justice, protect the innocent, or welcome the stranger. These men, and they are mostly men but also women, claim the Bible sanctions their actions of separating children from their parents, cutting health care to the young and the elderly, making health care to expensive for even the average citizen to have, and raising taxes to a level that will keep the poor poorer, and the wealthy wealthier. None of that is sanctioned by God or Christ.
In this passage Isaiah tells the people of Judah God’s justice will result in their destruction. I know God will eventually offer forgiveness (I’ve read ahead) but here Judah doesn’t know that. All they hear, if they are listening, is their little kingdom is going to be destroyed and God tells them why. God expected justice but saw only bloodshed, righteousness but heard only cries of despair and pain and for failing to be the fruit of God’s vineyard they will face destruction and despair.
The parallel between Judah and the United States is too close. There is little justice coming out of Washington D.C., but there is a great deal of turning away from doing good and right. There is no justifiable actions coming from the White House or Congress, only unethical, and morally bankrupt rhetoric from people who enjoy causing pain and suffering on others.
This government likes to call on the scripture to justify their actions. They take a short phrase out of context and wave it around like a sword. The truth is that scripture condemns them as apostates. They embrace the exact opposite of the teachings of God and Jesus. By their own words they have renounced a faith in God in favor of a faith in only themselves. They are their own god!
I cannot call them Christian, or a follower of The God of Abraham, no, they have no faith recognized by those who believe God’s mandate of Justice, Mercy, Compassion and Peace. Isaiah warned Judah what would happen, they didn’t listen and I doubt todays version of Judah will listen either.
A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.
There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.
Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.
Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.
What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.
I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.
Tomorrow, November 8th, is election day and I am becoming increasingly concerned about what will happen tomorrow and in the days and months that follow. This campaign has been so very divisive, hateful, and acrimonious that I fear for the safety of whoever wins and for our own. The name calling on both sides and the call to kill a candidate, the call to commit treason, and murder goes beyond anything we have seen before. We are in a difficult time where we need to step back and rethink our and way forward.
It will not be easy to heal the wounds opened in this election cycle to much hatred and anger has been spewed into our air to make this a comfortable process but we must begin to forgive each other if we are to be the people we profess to be. The spiritual practice of prayer, individual and corporate, helps us focus on each other rather our own selfish interests. Prayer can awaken our concern for the welfare of all and quiet our fears that we are threatened by forces we cannot control. Prayer gives us the courage and strength to take control of who we are as spiritual beings.
To begin I offer a prayer written by the Rev. Kara Markel, a pastor friend of mine, for the Council on Christian Unity, to begin our election day and post-election spiritual practice. As we offer our prayers may we remember Jesus cared for all of us; poor and rich, Christian and non-Christian, Male, female, and differently gendered, and peoples from all cultures and ethnicities. Let us open our hearts to reconciling with each other in prayer.
An Election Prayer
Let us be a people at prayer in these days of waiting:
We pray for our president elect, that they will lead our country with strength and compassion; that they may represent the very best of the United States around the globe; that they may be committed to justice and peace, and bringing our nation together to address our challenges.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for our governors and legislators, that they will be responsive to their whole constituency and enact laws that ensure the wellbeing of all the people they represent.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for all others elected to public office, that their service to their people would be just and beyond reproach; that where ever they serve in local government, schools, or law enforcement, they would treat all people with dignity and serve the common good.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for our nation, our cities, and our neighborhoods, that together we can create a place where all people are respected and safe, where difference of opinion does not lead to violence, and where our combined creativity heals brokenness of all kinds.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray also that regardless of the outcome of this Election Day, we would remember that we are called by Christ to care for our neighbor, pursue peace and work for justice in our communities. Inspire us to work together, across divisions and difference, to create beloved community where ever we can.
Lord, hear our prayer.
From the Council on Christian Unity
written by The Rev. Kara Markell, Pastor
Lake Washington Christian Church
Tomorrow you’ll be brave, you say? Fool! Dive today
From the cliff of what you know into what you can’t know.
You fear the rocks? Better men than you have died on them;
Dying on Love’s rocks is nobler than a life of death.
– Jalal-ud-Din Rumi (Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi,
Daily OM, May 7, 2016 )
It is always “tomorrow” for me, I always want to put off taking that risk until tomorrow. Maybe that is why this saying of Rumi’s means so much to me that I want to share it with you. This week I am offering Rumi’s saying for meditation with Lectio Divina.
Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Focus for a few moments on your breathing; or use a “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” as you gently and 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, The One Spirit is teaching us to listen to the Divine voice, to seek the Spirit in silence. The One Spirit does not reach out and grab us; rather, we are gently invited to go ever more deeply into the presence of the One.
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 the One.
Speak to the One Spirit who has reached out to you. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with the One as you would with someone who you know loves and accepts you. And give to the One Spirit what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience the One by using the word or phrase you have been given as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on the One’s word has awakened. Give to the One Spirit what you have found within your heart.
Rest in the embrace Spirit. And when you are invited to return to your contemplation of Spirits word or to your inner dialogue with the One Spirit, 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 the One Spirit is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
“for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. – Matthew 25:35
I apologize for being late today, but, just returned from the Westar Institute Spring Meeting held in Santa Rosa CA. I returned a day late because I adopted the cute little fellow above. I ended up staying an extra day to bond with my new little friend before we made the long drive home.
You may be wondering how adopting a dog from shelter is related to a theological meeting but it does fit in quite well actually. A major theme of the meeting was hospitality, the welcoming of the other into our midst. That other may be someone from a different culture, race, faith tradition, age, or gender. It also means welcoming the non-human other. God intends us to express our welcome to all creatures, mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and (here’s the hard part for me) insects. God intended us to care for all nature, human, non-human, plant, and stone for all are children of God.
As I listened to the lectures and discussions I wondered when we lost the ability to care for others, human or non-human. When did we forget to practice loving the other and caring for the sick, the homeless, and the incarcerated? It doesn’t matter if the other in need is a man, woman, child, dog, cat, horse, or any other child of God, all deserve to live a good life and to be welcomed into our arms.
Ever since my beloved Suzie died in January from a stroke I have been considering adopting another Chihuahua and while I was in Santa Rosa I visited a Sonoma County Animal Shelter and was introduced to Louie. I thought about what it means to care for someone other than myself and while a small dog wouldn’t be everyone’s choice it is mine. So we are welcoming into our small home and family a new member. Louie was abandoned on the streets of Santa Rosa; he is between 3 and 5 years and was discarded like trash. A shy little fellow who is way smarter than you’d think. After all he has lived for some time on the streets, and survived. He is loving, gentle and wants only to be loved. Just like anyone who has been discarded and forgotten.
So this week, for our spiritual practice, I am asking you to practice hospitality. I’m not suggesting you go out and adopt a dog or any other animal, although I wouldn’t stop you. Rather I am suggesting that you see the homeless on the street for the people of God that they are. You might volunteer to spend a couple of hours helping out at a homeless shelter, food bank, or animal shelter. If you see a homeless person on the street, offer them a sandwich or granola bar. When you offer your gift, shake their hand look them in the face and see the Holy Spirit looking back. Talk to Terri Stewart about volunteering at the King County Juvenile Center and learn to see children of the streets as angels in disguise. If you are interested attend a service of a different faith tradition and listen with open heart and mind. At the end of the week reflect on what you have experienced and learned of the other. Offer a prayer for all who are forgotten and pushed aside.
Loving, welcoming Spirit may we see your face in the eyes all we meet, human and non-human. Help us to open our hearts to the stranger in our midst, and welcome them with open arms.
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?”
Heed the counsel of your own heart, and above all pray to the Most High that you may be guided in the way of truth. Ecclesiasticus 37:13, 15
Caribbean Sea December 16, 2015 Ruth Jewell
I was talking with a friend not long ago and he said his church was reevaluating its mission in the community. One of the questions he asked them was “what do they want to leave behind when they are gone”? What do they want their legacy to be? I thought that was an interesting question that all of us should consider in our lives. What do you want to leave to those who remain after you have passed on to the next world? What do I want to leave?
Contemplating our legacy is a serious question of the spiritual practice of living our lives with intention. Because of that I have been giving this question much thought during my sacred time each day. What is it about my life do I want to pass on to my family, my faith community, the world in general? How will living my life make a difference in this world? I know I don’t want to be remembered for just for doing my job or making a living, for me that is a superficial fact of surviving. I don’t want anyone to say survived the trials of living.
I think I do want to be remembered for being able to listen to a friend in need, for loving even those who I don’t agree with, taking action to right a wrong or feed and clothe the disenfranchised. I want to be remembered for standing and walking those who are growing spiritually and in their relationship with the Divine. I want to be remembered as someone who saw the Great Spirit in all I have met whether they belong to my faith or not, rich and poor, the outcast, the convicted felon, any and all who have been labeled unlovable. The short version is I want to intentionally live my life so that I will be a blessing to all around me. This is what I want, this is how I want my life to be lived and remembered.
I have to admit living into this intention is not easy for me, and I fail more often than I succeed. However, I know that the Great Spirit just says “OK, that didn’t work as you wanted it to, but pick yourself up and start over again, I am still here cheering you on.” So my prayer is for support and guidance and maybe, maybe just maybe I will do better tomorrow.
Each of our lives we are offered a choice of paths to follow. Intentionally choosing the path that leads to a life that grows your Spirit Being is never easy. Choosing an intentional life is always fraught pit falls and road-blocks. But living your life with the intention of being spirit filled and a blessing to those around you will be filled with joy amidst the tears of struggle and dark valleys we all go through. In living an intentional life you are never alone on your journey.
This week ask yourself what legacy do you want to leave? Does the life you live now match up with what you want? What will you do to live a more intentional life?