The Dark Night – Prayerful Tuesday

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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

From Strangers to Family

Vancouver BC, October 21, 2014
Vancouver BC, October 21, 2014

Ruth 1:16-17 (CEB)

16But Ruth said,

“Do not urge me to leave you,
to turn back from following you.
Wherever you go, I will go;
and wherever you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.
17Wherever you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the Lord do this to me
and more so,
if even death separates me from you!”

Just over 13 years ago these beautiful words from scripture were read at my wedding.  I have always loved the book of Ruth, and yes one reason is because I was named for her, but, primarily I love it because Ruth took her destiny into her own hands and made a place for herself among strangers.  Like the biblical Ruth my own life has been one of making my place in strange places and with strangers all around me.  My wedding was just one of the many steps along my journey to find the face of God.

Now I really don’t want this rambling to be about John and me rather I want to tell you the best part of my marriage, our grandchildren.  Ok, so they are John’s grandchildren not mine, but the youngest ones have known only me as Grammy Ruth and I love them and their parents as much as if they were my blood relations.  And, I have watched with great joy as the two older ones Granddaughter S and Grandson A grow into loving adults.

Recently John, me and our little Chihuahua Suzie spent a joyous week in Boston with John’s son M and daughter-in-law LB and the littlest grandchildren, Grandson L and Granddaughter A.  John’s birthday is January 17th and he shares it with L who turned 7 this year, so for the first time they decided to celebrate their birthdays together.  Watching L as he opened gifts, as he gently held our little dog Suzie, and talked excitedly about everything was a pleasure all its own.  Holding little A and reading a story to her, playing games, watching as she and her brother played, and squabbled, and listening to giggles, laughter and tears put me in a place of bliss that I can’t really describe to you.

I watched as M and LB did a ballet of sorts as they prepared breakfast and got the kids ready for school.  As I listened I realized just how much M and John sound alike and how much grandson L is growing into a young man so like his father and grandfather.  Granddaughter A has inherited her mother’s artistic talents which she combines with her father’s and Papa John’s determination to succeed and do it well.  Even though she is only 4½ she is determined to dance and draw her life in her own way.

I said my journey was to find the face of God and I do, in all of creation including people.  The most important Faces of God I see is when I look at John early in the morning just before rising, in the faces of M and LB when I spot them waiting for us to come from the plane.  I see God’s face in the sleeping, laughing, crying, and determined faces of Grandson L and Granddaughter A.  I hear God laugh and giggle when Granddaughter A dances and runs in play.  I hear God’s voice when I listen to LB and John talk in the kitchen doing clean up from dinner.  I hear God’s voice as Grandson L talks with so much certainty about how something works in his 7 year old world and see God at work as he figures out how to build a new structure of some sort.

This is the wedding gift that never stops giving. I have found a place here in the midst of strangers.  I have found people I love.  After much searching I have found where I belong.  I have been welcomed and accepted as family and been blessed with the love from John’s 3 sons and 4 grandchildren.  I have watched the two oldest grow into strong adults where a future of unknown adventures lies before them.  I have held in my arms Grandson L and Granddaughter A as newborns and offered my blessings and prayers for God to watch over them.

I have watched each of the grandchildren grow into people I want know.  All of them are young people who question everything and when no one can give them an answer they go in search for it.  Even if Grandson L and Granddaughter A might not believe in a Divine force, they know they have a Grammy who sees that Divine force whenever she looks into their eyes.  It is in the question of why does Grammy believes what she does that opens a door to their own journey of discovery of who they are and where they fit in.

My blessed babies, who are babies no longer, have begun their own journeys.  Someday they too will say “wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay.”   That day lies long in the future but time passes quickly and before you know it they will be searching for what they believe.  My prayer for all four of the Grandchildren is they find what feeds their souls with love, compassion, mercy and a passion for justice.  I pray they build a life that gives more than it takes, a life open to the blessings of God whether they call Her God or not.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 25, 2014

God’s Surprise — Prayerful Tuesday

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God’s Surprise
Paraphrase of Luke 2:26-33

God sent a Messenger to a virgin engaged
to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.
The virgins name was Mary.
As he entered the Messenger greeted Mary:

Greetings!
You are beautiful with God’s beauty,
beautiful inside and out,
God be with you.

Mary was confused by these words
and wondered what this could mean,
but the Messenger said:

Mary, you have nothing to fear.
God has a surprise for you;
You will become pregnant
and give birth to a son
and you will name him Jesus

Ruth Jewell, ©December 24, 2013
(I used the NRSV, The Voice and The Message)