Meditation on Psalm 81

You heard me when I called, . . . and
You caught me as I fell
I rested in your arms as
You carried me from darkness into light

You dried my tears, and
You lifted my fears from my shoulders
I leaned upon your breast, . . . and
I heard you call me beloved

Even when I ignore you
You do not abandon me
Even when I walk away
You wait for me to return

I do not deserve your love, . . . yet
I choose to accept or refuse,
then . . .
I hear you call me beloved

Ruth Jewell, ©July 28, 2017

Spring Dreams

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
— Psalm 42:1

16.05.02, 13139365_1016045755130369_7403150044559668209_n
Photo by A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program, May 2, 2016 http://www.mishkan.org/awi, (used by permission)

This picture from the Jewish Mindfulness Face Book page started me day-dreaming about standing on the bridge and listening to the forest around me and I thought how lovely and restful. So today I offer you an opportunity for a little springtime dreaming.  I invite you to use this photo for the practice of Visio Divina. Before you begin, sit for a moment with your feet on the floor, close your eyes and breathe deeply, letting your body relax and open your soul’s heart.  Now open your eyes and let your imagination and God’s love lead you through the following steps.

  • Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, trees, the water, places and things. Imagine what smells you might detect, water, earth, green growing 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 picture? 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.

May all your dreams be filled with flowing streams, warm sunshine and cool shade.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 3, 2016

Ash Wednesday Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

“Therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job: 42:6

“You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.”
Psalm 51:6

God Speaks to Job out of the whirlwind William Blake, 1757-1827
God Speaks to Job out of the whirlwind
William Blake, 1757-1827

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition I knew about Ash Wednesday but the community I worshiped in didn’t celebrate it.  It wasn’t until I was an adult, and living in California, that I really understood that having a smudge of ashes on my forehead meant repentance.  Repentance is not just saying sorry, it means examining my past behavior and then changing what I do in the world, turning my actions around to behave as the faithful follower of Jesus I wish to be. And unless I begin the process of change, or at least try to repent, I have not truthfully repented.  Because repentance is a spiritual practice God knows  I will stumble and have to start all over again.  Failing isn’t seen as failure, but as one more step in changing from the old me to the new me.

In today’s world people blithely say they are giving something up for Lent. Often it is some type of food, drink, or action, such as weight loss or smoking none of which really affect our lives and like New Year’s resolution never keep.  That is not what the repentance of Ash Wednesday or the time of Lent is.  No, it means looking closely at what we do every day and then vowing to the Holy Spirit to change some aspect of our life to fit more closely with the teachings of Jesus.  To do that is a truly meaningful act of fasting and repentance; also a very difficult one.  But remember failing to keep your promise is only failure if you don’t start over right where you left your fasting path.

So the spiritual practice for this week is to prayerfully look at your life and what you do every day.  Is there something in need of changing?  Is there something you could do better, or begin to do, which would bring new meaning to your life?  Then, for your Ash Wednesday statement of repentance, choose to promise God you will repent and change; then practice changing your actions for Lent.  Don’t feel discouraged if it is difficult and you have trouble getting started, just keep trying and taking your discouragement to God in your prayer practice.  After all there is a reason it’s called a “practice.”

May your Lenten meditations and fasting bring joyful changes into your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 9, 2016

Advent, Week Three, Joy – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 32:11 Be glad in LORD and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart

Joy, 3rd Week of Advent; Photo by Ruth Jewell
Joy, 3rd Week of Advent;
Photo by Ruth Jewell

The Psalmist says to “shout for joy, all you upright in heart,” but I am not very joyful, this year and in all honesty I don’t feel ‘upright’ at the moment.  I have been listening to the news, which is something I should stop doing, and all I hear is hate for those different from us.  Different in skin color, gender preference, in faith’s, in cultures you name it and someone has said they need to be ‘controlled’, or denied services, or denied entry into our country. I have see the faces on the news of those who say this country should only be for white, Christian, heterosexual and English speaking people and they aren’t handsome faces.

There are days when I am fearful of the path our country is headed down because there doesn’t seem to be many who are willing to stand up against the voices of hate. When those who we are supposed to trust and respect fill their messages with hate the targets of that hateful speech become targets of violence because people feel they now have permission to act out their own fears in a violent way.

Where is the joy for the families of the victims of the San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, and Oregon mass killings?  Where is the joy for the congregations of the churches and Mosques that have been set on fire? Where is the joy for the refugees struggling to survive in a world turned against them? On Christmas Morning we will open our presents, eat fine meals, and enjoy the company of family yet so many will be remembering loved ones not at the table, or won’t have presents or food to eat.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of light into the world.  That light came into our world in a stable not a palace.  Jesus’ parents were poor struggling peasants not rich CEO’s of some big company. Yet they managed to find joy in the simple presence of cattle, a donkey, and sheep, can we be so fortunate to see joy in the simple things?  Joy in a simple meal, a child’s smile, the wrinkled face of a granny or grandpa. Joy in giving socks, gloves, hats, scarves to someone on the street, joy in the presence of a loved one, or in the warmth of a companion animal.  That is what Christmas is about not gifts, or table burdened with enough food to feed a small village.  Can we offer that joy to someone who might not have joy without our help?  So on your list of gifts add a few more.  Put down sock or gloves for homeless, visit a neighbor or elderly person who will be alone this year, better yet invite them to join you for Christmas day in your home. I guarantee that your Christmas will be brighter and more joyful for giving your  presence and being the gift.

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.

Joy – The Third Week of Advent
Light three candles and pray “An Advent Prayer.”

Meditation 
Laughter is carbonated holiness.
— Anne Lamott

I would love to live like a river flows,
carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
— John O’Donohue

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, where might you add levity and playfulness?

Evening: As the day ends, where did you find laughter and ease?

Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of joy; include yourself.

Ruth Jewell ©December 15, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

Advent, Week Two, Peace – Prayerful Tuesday

Numbers 6:26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

Psalms 29:11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Peace, 2nd Week of Advent; Photo by Ruth Jewell
Peace, 2nd Week of Advent;
Photo by Ruth Jewell

Peace certainly seems in short supply this year.  We are preparing for the birth of light yet darkness seems to rule in so many places. My heart is heavy with sorrow for those who have been torn from their homes and are finding their presence in other countries is unwanted.  I am ashamed of so many of my fellow American for buying into a fear that leaves people, many of them children, cold, hungry and without shelter. I am glad I live in a state willing to provide safe harbor for those fleeing violence in their homelands. While the transition will be difficult for the refugees I pray that they will find a place among us where they will enrich our lives in so many ways. I will welcome each and everyone one of them and offer my help in any way I can.

My heart also breaks for those who are victims of the growing violence within our own borders. Offering prayers for peace is such a little thing and often feels inadequate, yet, when those prayers motivate us into an action that prevents violence and provides a place of safety and peace then prayer is powerful indeed. And, we can be seeds of peace by offering gratitude for what we have, by saying we love ourselves and our neighbor, by opening our hands to help someone rather than lead off with a fist, by giving everyday to those who are not as fortunate as we are, and these are only a few of the things we can do to promote a peaceful place.  Prayer is only a first step it is the second step that tells others what we are made of.

Yes peace is in short supply and that is why it is so important for each of us to plant our own small seed and maybe by the New Year we will have a forest.

My prayer for you is peace. Peace of mind, peace of spirit, a peace that comes only from being peace and giving peace away.

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.

Peace – The Second Week of Advent

Light two candles
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.

Meditations
We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives,
so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt,
that peace and abundance may manifest for all.
— Dorothy Day

An apology is the superglue of life.
It can repair just about anything.
— Lynn Johnston

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, what seeds of peace could you sow?
Evening: Looking back on the day, where did you find peace?

Prayer 
Offer a prayer for those in need of peace; include yourself.

Ruth Jewell ©December 8, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

Psalms of Lament and Hope – Prayerful Tuesday

Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, The World God in your mercy, hear our prayers
Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, The World
God in your mercy,
hear our prayers

The only gift I have to offer this week is my sorrow for Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, and all of us.  So I offer the Psalms I go to when I am in the midst of sorrow and pain.  May your hearts be comforted by the words of the psalmist and may you find solace knowing others cry with you.

Psalm 36:1-4 (MSG)
A David Psalm
1-4 The God-rebel tunes in to sedition—
all ears, eager to sin.
He has no regard for God,
he stands insolent before him.
He has smooth-talked himself
into believing
That his evil
will never be noticed.
Words gutter from his mouth,
dishwater dirty.
Can’t remember when he
did anything decent.
Every time he goes to bed,
he fathers another evil plot.
When he’s loose on the streets,
nobody’s safe.
He plays with fire
and doesn’t care who gets burned.

Psalm 42 (NRSV)

1As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”
4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng, and led them in procession
to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
5Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help
6and my God. My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan
and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows have gone over me.
8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?”
10As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
11Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 17, 2015

Shepherd Me, O God – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 23:1-3 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul.*He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 

In the last several months I have been struggling to find the calm midst the shootings in Umpqua, the deaths of those fighting wild fires, more shootings (at least one a week), floods, earthquakes, and all of the other disasters that seem to be all that is ever reported by news media.  I know I will not find any meaning in any of these crises, so, I am looking for a way through the noise and pain I hear, read about, and feel within.  Yesterday I found my still point when I happened upon the following poem written by grandfather:

Commentary on the 23rd Psalm

“In pastures green?” Not always: sometimes Thou
who knoweth best, in kindness leadeth me
in weary ways, where heavy shadows be.

And by “still waters?”  No not always so;
oft times the heavy tempest round me blow
and o’er my soul the waves and billows go

But where the storm beats loudest,
and I cry aloud for help, The Master standeth by
and whispers to my soul “Lo, it is I.”

So where He leads me I can safely go,
and in the blest hereafter I shall know,
why, in His wisdom, He hath lead me so.

By Grandfather Rufus Miller, 1937

As I read the familiar lines I remembered I don’t have to understand the why of things.  I don’t have to carry the burdens of the world on my shoulders. I don’t even have try to carry all of the world’s problems. I can’t change the way people treat others, I have no control over how one person treats another. However, I do have control over how I treat those around me.  I do have control of how I respond to the many crises trumpeted in the news.

My grandfather’s poem reminds me that life is not a bed or roses where everything will always be “hot coco, and peanut butter toast by the evening fire.”  No there are bad people in the world and even though I, or my loved ones, have done nothing wrong, or done anything to cause a tragedy, other people will affect my life in both good ways and bad.  I can’t stop it from happening.  I know I can’t stop the hate, but, I can stop the hate from residing in my heart.  I can stop myself from acting out of anger and rage.  I can stop and take a deep breath and let the real me come up from deep inside.  That is all I can do.

For the prayer practice this week I am offering a chant that helps me when I am feeling lost.  It is the refrain of a hymn written by Marty Haugen and below is the score for the chant.  Above is a video of Haugen’s complete hymn.  Watch the above video and when you are feeling a little lost this week sing the refrain.  You don’t have to chant out loud, and you can chant anytime of the day, driving, riding public transit, cooking dinner or even working on that paper for class or the boss.

©1986, GIA Publications, Inc Chalice Hymnal, #734b
©1986, GIA Publications, Inc
Chalice Hymnal, #734b

May you find your still point, and may it bring you comfort.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 27, 2015