Ancient Journeys

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 

Matthew 2:13a Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;

12565573_949959378405674_6512857348508030117_n

The winter stretches across bare trees.

And in our book we close the chapter on creation
And turn to the Exodus, to the leaving,
To our new becoming.

The Mystery reveals itself in a different guise
Out of a burning
It says “I will be that I will be, this is my name,
I am everywhere, in all things, and I call you forward.
Now take off your shoes,
The ground you are standing on is holy.”

It is hard to hear and difficult to imagine
Something with us in the pain,
In the exposed rawness,
Something with us in the brokenness of life.

But the voice is persistent, it whispers, it shouts,
“I am all that is. Everywhere you are, there I am.

I am the oneness, the unity of all being
And we are in relationship.
And I call you forward.”

The very ground we stand upon is holy.
There is nothing outside the realm of God.
We live in relationship with everything.

This is our covenant—our agreement with the continual becoming:
To know that every moment is sacred.
To act with reverence for all.
And to listen for the whispered silence
That holds us and calls us forward
To be of use
Within the fragility of all life.*

*Picture and meditation by Rabbi Yael Levy, founder of “A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program,” January 22, 2016, Face Book Page

It seems since the beginning of time we are called to make journeys.  Adam and Eve journeyed from The Garden, Abram and Sarai leave for a place known only to God, and Joseph takes his small family of Mary and Jesus on the dangerous roads to Egypt.  We too make journeys.  In my life time I have journeyed across this country moving from Ohio, to Texas, to Washington, to California, and back to Washington. I have hopes that I won’t have to move again but I never know when God will call me to a new place.

There is one journey I have yet to make.  My father and mother have made it, I have had friends make it and my time will come I have no doubt in that. At some point in the future God will call me to make the last voyage in this life and cross to the next life.  Now that is a BIG journey.  No one has ever returned to tell us that it is safe journey without dangerous places.  In a way we will be making a journey similar to Abram’s and Sarai’s in that only God knows our destination.  And, we have no choice but to trust that God will find us a safe route.

Every living thing and creature in this universe will make the journey; fish or plant, dog or human, all of us will cross to a new life somewhere that only God can lead us.  Like the Hebrews in the desert we will have to look for the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night in order to find the right path.

Last week my beloved Chihuahua, Suzie, passed away.  She let go of this life and followed a new caretaker.  As I held her in my arms and felt her leave, I knew she was now in good hands.  I miss her but like family, friends, and other companions I know someday we will meet and cross the bridge together. Until I too am called, I will hold the memory of Suzie, family, friends, and companions in my heart, which grows to accommodate all the memories of those I love.

Suzie
Suzie

While I miss those who have gone ahead I am comforted by the peace that comes from knowing that I will join them someday and what a party we will have.

Peace and blessings to you all.  May your memories fill you with joy and give you comfort.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 24, 2016

 

I Choose . . .

Microsoft ClipArt
Microsoft ClipArt

 

For the past two years I have been wrestling with how my ministry would be expressed in the world.  This discernment journey has taken me “around the block” and back again many times and during this past summer I had finally made my decision, I choose not to be ordained in my denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I choose not to be a pastor, or a chaplain, or even a spiritual director. I choose to be something else, what that something is has only just begun to take shape.

This may seem inconsequential to most of you but for me it has been a difficult decision.  I graduated in 2013 with my Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) degree and it was with the intention of being ordained, primarily because I believed that is what one did when one received an MDiv. But you see it wasn’t my intention when I entered the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Seattle University in 2007.  At that time I just wanted to be better informed in order to conduct Labyrinth retreats with more meaning.  What happened as I progressed through my degree programs of Spiritual Transformation and MDiv I discovered I had talent and passion for learning and I wanted to share what I learned with others. And the truth of the matter is as an ordained pastor I would not be able to share all that I learned simply by the constraints of the job.  I actually would have a greater voice if I wasn’t ordained.

So I chose to be a scholar, a learner of faith with the purpose of spreading what I learn back in to the world.  This is important because we aren’t 1st century people; we live in the 21st century. That means we have a perspective on our faith that those living in the 1st and 2nd and 3rd centuries did not have. We have a history of being, or not being, people of God, just as the Jewish people of the 1st century had a history of being, or not being, a people of God.  We have had our moments of living as God asked and we have had our moments when we have forgotten God, just as the Jewish people had and have. It is the task of the scholar to educate the people of God of their past and how can we do that if no one studies it?

In the last two years I have become interested in how our Christian faith is connected to our Jewish roots and to our younger sibling in the faith Islam and that interest has led me into the differences in how we read Holy Scripture as compared to our 1st to 3rd century faith ancestors, and the differences are striking. Those differences in perspective has shown me it is important for people to understand what the writings of Paul, Gospel Writers, Jewish Prophets, and Muslim Writers actually wanted their listeners to know, what was the message they were transmitting and how does that message resonate with us today.  All those authors wrote and spoke was revolutionary in their time and I want to recover, at least for myself, that revolutionary message.  I want to know what they wrote that was specific to their time and not relevant in the 21st century and what part of their message guides us forward into our own future. And, I want to share that news, that revolutionary news. I have no illusions that I am going to be another Marcus Borg, or a John Caputo, or anyone else who is way more learned in theology than I will ever be.  But I can read what they have learned and pass it on to those who will listen.

You see scholars are often, well nearly always, not thought of as being relevant to world.  When anyone envisions a scholar it is as a stuffy old man or woman who is a bit rumpled and surrounded by books and papers.  It is someone who is absent minded and lost in the past, with no idea about what is going on in the world today.  But that is not who learners/scholars are.

Scholars are connected to the world by stories, and threads of the past that live in the present and the future.  The old quotation “if we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat it,” has never had more meaning than in today’s world.  We are currently reliving a past history where the disadvantaged and those who are different from us are forgotten and made the objects of hate and fear.  It is the role of the scholar to remind the people of who they are, and whose they are.  It was the role of the prophets in Jewish History, it was the role of John the Baptist, and it was the role of Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad.  All of them called to their people to see each other, everyone, as themselves.  Today we have and had  people like President Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King who have called to us to remember and just like those who went before us too many are not listening.

I will never be an exalted a scholar like Desmond Tutu, or Elisabeth Johnson, Sallie McFague or Elisabeth Schüssler Florenza.  But in my small part maybe I can pass on their learning’s to someone who will become exalted. That is enough for me. As the saying goes I am a very small fish in a very large pond and I am happy with that. To give back what I have been blessed to receive is more than enough.

There are many others like me out there, people who read, and study waiting for the opportunity to pass on what they have discovered beyond academics or a very small circle of friends. What each has is a nugget of truth and bit wisdom that needs to be heard. This choice is not prestigious, very few scholars make it to super star status and I am grateful for that.  But the time has come for the telling of the past mistakes and success’. To help everyone remember that the eyes of the other are your eyes and to harm or denigrate the other is to harm and denigrate yourself. Scholars have a role to play in the world that is greater than writing dusty tomes that will be read by only a few.  The past is relevant to the present and the future and it is important that we remember that.  I would like to add my very small part to that story. To offer a tiny bit of knowledge that just might help someone else see the world differently.

My choice, my decision, my path not the easiest of routes to take, and it wasn’t an easy choice but I choose to be a learner, a scholar, a passer on of knowledge.

My prayer for all of you to listen with open mind and heart to what the teaching says, it just might change your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 15, 2015

Legacy – Prayerful Tuesday

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

DSCF0065

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?

Blessings on your path.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 20, 2015

Audientes Divina, or Hearing God – Prayerful Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

Instructions for Audientes Divina

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

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

Ruth Jewell, ©August 4, 2015

Praying With Gratitude – Prayerful Tuesday

Sunset in the South Pacific April 23, 2015 (Ruth Jewell)
Sunset in the South Pacific
April 23, 2015 (Ruth Jewell)

While I was traveling in April I carried a small book with me by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ titled Reimagining the Ignatian Examen.[1] On our sea days when I would sit on the deck of our cruise ship and watch the ocean go by I various meditations for my daily prayer time.

Thibodeaux’s book takes the traditional Examen and includeds a specific focus to use within the prayer practice.  There are 34 different themes and I discovered a number of them to be very helpful for me as I sat in stillness. Over the next several months I will occasionally offer one of the meditations from the book for our Prayerful Tuesday. As today follows Memorial Day when we honor those who have died in service I would like to offer the meditation for Gratitude.

First let me offer a few hints from the book to get you started.

  1. Keep it short. Keeping your Examen under 15 minutes will keep your prayer in the moment and a reminder that this is a check-in with God that reorients your toward the Divine.
  2. Skip to the good parts and don’t get hung up on sin. You only want to dwell on the steps and you want to get to the point rather than linger for an extended period of time. Nor do you want to dwell on all the things that have gone bad or at least you think have gone bad.  God has the facts you don’t have to bore him with a lot of details.
  3. Sometimes, break all the rules. If you feel like it, skip over parts of the Examen you don’t feel you need to do or change them around.
  4. Experiment with different ways of journaling. Tweet-sized, or drawing, or video yourself dancing.  Do whatever moves you in prayer.
  5. Keep it prayerful. Keep the prayer God centered and don’t let your meditation drift into your shopping list or your latest aggravation.  Extra hints: A. ask God to take the lead, ask God to do your Examen for the day; B. Talk to God instead of yourself; C. listen for God’s voice, sit in silence for a moment and let God enter you

Here is how I began and closed my ritual, you may choose something totally different that fits you and the place you’re in spiritually right now:

  1. I stand still for a moment and let my mind quiet.
  2. I repeat Micah 6:8 as I sit down
  3. I place my hands in my lap, palms up, in a gesture of being open to God’s love and grace
  4. I slow my breathing and clear my mind, sitting very still for a moment
  5. I welcome God in to my heart and spirit
  6. Then I begin my Examen

Closure:

  1. I take several very deep breaths as a way to bring myself back to moment
  2. I place my hand on heart and repeat Matthew 28:20b
  3. I journal for a short while before rising from my chair.

Note: I change scriptures from time to time, substituting poetry and prayers.  Remember nothing is written in concrete.

Examen theme of GRATITUDE

  1. Begin in your usual way
  2. Ask God to reveal special blessing in your life this day. As yesterday was Memorial Day, ask God to also reveal the special blessing you’ve received from someone you loved who has passed on.
  3. Ask yourself ‘what am I grateful for today? “Who am I grateful for?’ Name the person(s) gift and offer the following “Lord, I am so grateful for your gift to me of _____.” Repeat this as many times as you need to
  4. Relish each gift in turn, letting them warm your heart. Using prayerful imagination see, feel, hear, touch, sense the gift again
  5. Let the gifts you have received dance in your memory offering your gratitude to God for each one. Offer the following; “Thank you Lord for (neighbor, family, laughter, shared meal, etc.)
  6. End in your usual way.

I truly enjoyed Thibodeaux’s focuses on my trip, they helped me retain a pilgrim attitude to the whole trip and I hope you find today’s focus helpful as much as I did.

Peace and Blessing on your journey

Ruth Jewell, ©May 26, 2015

[1] Thibodeaux SJ, Mark E; Reimagining the Ignatian Examen, Loyola Press, Chicago, IL, 2015

Encircled in the Arms of Prayer – Prayerful Tuesday

A Celtic Prayer,  from The Celtic Christian Tradition September 25, 2013
A Celtic Prayer,
from The Celtic Christian Tradition
September 25, 2013

We are coming to the end of Lent, a time of quiet reflection.  One aspect of reflection is prayer; prayer for ourselves, the world, those who are suffering, and those who cause suffering.  Today I am offering an ancient form of prayer for this week’s prayer practice called the “encircling prayer.” This particular prayer is based on a prayer I discovered at the Wells Cathedral in Wells England.  It is a lovely prayer in which to hold in our hearts those in need of comfort and support, and for those who lay upon on hearts.  As the above Celtic Prayer offers: ‘May the peace of the tallest mountain and the peace of the smallest stone be your peace.  May the stillness of the stars watch over you.  May the everlasting music of the wave lull you to rest.”

Circle Prayer Based on a Prayer found in the Gethsemane Chapel,
Wells Cathedral, Wells, England
This is a form of prayer used by early Celtic Christians.
It is called the Caim, the encircling prayer.

Putting Ourselves in God’s presence 

Circle me, O God, encircle me with your presence.

Keep joy within, keep bitterness out;
Keep generosity within, keep greed out;
Keep love within, keep self-seeking out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Prayer for Peacemakers

Circle, O God, those who work for peace and Justice in your world, encircle them with your presence.

Keep wisdom within, keep folly out;
Keep strength within, keep weariness out;
Keep hope within, keep despair out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

For victims of violence and injustice

Circle, O God, those who are victims of violence and injustice, encircle them with your presence.

Keep truth within, keep falsehood out;
Keep compassion within, keep hard-heartedness out;
Keep love within, keep hatred out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

 For those who commit acts of violence and injustice

Circle, O God, those who have committed acts of violence and justice, encircle them with your presence.

Help them to see the truth and to turn away from falsehood;
Help them to learn compassion and leave hard-heartedness behind;
Help them find the courage to turn away from evil;
May they feel your love in a world filled with hate;
Help them to see your light in the darkness.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Prayer for those on our heart

Circle, O God, (name the person(s) for whom you are praying), encircle them with your presence.

Keep wholeness within, keep sickness out;
Keep hope within, keep despair out;
Keep peace within, keep turmoil out;
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

In the name of the Sacred Three, the Father Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

A Gethsemane Prayer – Closing

Christ of wounds, Christ of tears,
Christ of the wounds of the piercing,
Hold us in your hands, scarred with love,
Through all our trials and sufferings,
And by your wounds, may we find healing.  Amen.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 17, 2015

 

It is Good?—Prayerful Tuesday

Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612
Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612

“And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10b

In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good.  Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society.  Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be.  It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.

Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good.  So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.

Prayer Practice:

1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.

  1. 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? What feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
  2.  Respond to the image with prayer for the world. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
  3. 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.

Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now.  All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain.  Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.

Peace, Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2015