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

FALL

Photo by By Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash,  November 2, 1015
Photo by By Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash,
November 2, 1015

Fall has finally arrived in the Northwest. The trees are shedding their leaves, my garden is clean all ready for winter, and the air has turned cold.  The land is preparing to sleep until the earth shifts again and the warm sun returns. I took a walk through Yost Park with the dogs the other day and the air was rich with the scent of wet and rotting leaves.  This is a time for animals to prepare for the coming winter when food is scarce and the land is cold and wet.

Fall is also a time for us to slow down, to sit with a cup of warm tea, coffee, or coco and let the seasons turn.  A time to pull out the afghans and a good book. It is also a time of reflection. It is a time to remember the joys of spring and summer and the many joyful moments.  A time to ask ourselves questions: what have I done this year that will leave it a better place?  Have I spent time caring for others, standing up when injustice rears its ugly head?  Have I taken care of my own spiritual needs? Have I remembered to stop, recharge and renew myself so that I will have the energy to be present to those in need?  This is the time to look back at what I could have done better, and to look forward to how I will improve.  It is also a time to reflect on how I have done my best with all I have even if I didn’t achieve all I wanted to; remembering that doing my best was enough.

This week I challenge you to sit down with a warm cup of something, or maybe a glass of wine, and spend some time on your past year.  Let the joys and celebrations provide the energy to improve what didn’t go so well.  Laugh, cry, and dance your memories of spring and summer.  Remember the sun and wind on your face.  Look back at your achievements and at what didn’t get done.  It is a time to forgive yourself and others. Were you the best you could be?  As the summer ended did you leave the earth a better place, did you care for the disadvantage, or do something to respond to the many, way too many, disasters of the last year?  Look toward the coming year and ask yourself how can I be someone who cares about mercy, justice, and peace?  How can I care for my own spiritual well being?  These aren’t easy questions, and they may take many days to reflect on. But it is dark early now, and it’s cold outside so curl up in your lap robe and reflect on who you are.

May the coming days of fall and winter be a time of rest for your spirit and a time to prepare for the next spring and summer.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 3, 2015

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

The Voice in the Wind – Prayerful Tuesday

“. . . a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2b, NRSV

Photo, Ruth Jewell, 2014
Photo, Ruth Jewell, 2014

I am sure all of you noticed we had a big windstorm 2 weeks ago.  John and I lost our power on Saturday just before noon and didn’t get it back until after 3 pm on Sunday.  For those of us in Edmonds that was a really long time.  Normally our power losses are quite short due to the presence of the Hospital and the transit center so close to us, but not this time.  What has been most frustrating for John and me is the lost of our internet, which we still don’t have, because we both have things to do.  While I gladly gave up internet access when we were on Holiday in the spring I was not quite so happy without this time.  I have things to do such as writing for my blogs, ordering pet food, doing activities for the committees I am on, you know the daily little things that we don’t normally think about but just do.  However, we have finally been reconnected to the rest of the electronic  world and so I am back at writing.

However, despite my irritation with the loss of technology, I have been thinking about the wind how strong it was, how persistent, and how loud.  Wind, spirit, ruach, the Breath of G-d made me listen whether I wanted to or not.  G-d made me stop and listen.  I slowed down, and I listened to God speak. I heard tears in the wind for those whose lives were lost, in the storm, in the wild fires, in world conflict, and in the madness we call a gun culture. I heard laughter for those who thought technology was everything and, like John and I were, ‘forced’ to read by oil lamp or candle light.

Sometimes we need to stop and listen to the wind.  Sometimes we need to slow down.  Two lives were lost in that storm and we need to stop and offer a prayer.  But for the rest of us our lives will go on with few changes to our daily routine. Saturday was an interruption nothing more unless we choose to learn from slowing down.  Walk outside, or open a door or window, listen to the wind, take in the breath of G-d, listen for the sound of tears and laughter.\

May you feel the breath of G-d as it kisses your cheek, may your hear the still small voice in the gentle breeze, and in your moment of stillness may you know the presence of G-d.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 9, 2015

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Gratitude
Gratitude

Holy Spirit as I sit at this groaning table today, looking so much like a Rockwell painting, help me to remember those in this world who are grateful for a simple bowl of rice and a cup of water.  I often forget how much I really have and fail to remember those who huddle beneath a simple roof and sleep on a dirt floor.

As I sit in the safety of my home help me to remember there are people who look upon the evening sun grateful just to have survived another day.  Help me to be mindful of your great blessings and learn to give more than I receive, to not waste what has been give me, and to share with those who can not help themselves.

Oh Holy Spirit, We thank you, for the feast we spread before us
thank you for the ground it was cradled in,
thank you for the sun and rain that nurtured it
thank you for the farmers who carefully harvested it
thank you for the hands that lovingly prepared it.

May this food feed our bodies
as You feed our souls. Amen

Ruth Jewell, © November 27, 2014

Prepare — Prayerful Tuesday

Preparing Split Pea Soup
Preparing Split Pea Soup

3 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3

The other Sunday I and a friend of mine were in charge of the coffee hour after worship.  It was going to be a cold November day and I wanted to do something different and special for people I care about.  Cherry and I talked it over and decided, since there was an Elders meeting after worship, a light meal of homemade soup, salad and bread would be a perfect offering. Cherry decided on making a chicken soup and bringing the rolls.  I decided on a vegetarian split pea soup and also brought the salad.

I have read and heard the words of the prophet Isaiah all of my life and have loved many of the songs and chants written around this verse.  But as I was preparing the soup for Sunday the words struck me a little deeper.  The picture above is the ingredients for my soup.  Simple wholesome ingredients; dried split peas, herbs, and garlic and onions, from my own garden, and fresh carrots and celery from the farmers market go into making this really simple soup. (Recipe Below)  As I scrubbed the carrots and celery I thought about who would eat my soup and in the process of browning chopped onions and garlic in olive oil the act of making the soup became an act of prayer.

The people who would share in my offering were the people of my faith community and any visitors we might have.  People I love and care about, but, more than that, it was an extended sharing from the communion table. The breaking of bread, the ladling of hot soup all became part of the feast Christ sets before us every Sunday.

As a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we prepare and offer communion every Sunday.  We carefully set out bread and cup and share it with each other and as I prepared this simple meal that would be served after worship we were continuing a 2000 year old tradition of breaking bread and pouring cup then going in to share a common meal.  That is what the first followers of Jesus did.  They shared more than just a piece of bread and thimble full of wine.  They shared a whole meal together, rich or poor, aristocrat or tent maker, all ate from the same serving bowl.

I have helped prepare and serve hot meals for the homeless, and I routinely make up food bags to give to the homeless I see on the streets and while I may not sit down with each person I offer food too it is still communion.  It is a sharing of food, and drink, and recognizing that what I give doesn’t come from me, but from God, Christ, and Holy Spirit.  I am only the servant who is trying to fulfill Christ’s commandment; “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)

In the process of preparing to serve others I am preparing to serve Jesus, to follow, as faithfully as possible, the path Jesus leads me on.  I know I will stumble, but Jesus will be there to pick me up; I will wander off the path, but the Holy Spirit will be there to lead me back; and I will grow weary, but God will be there to cradle me in her arms until I am rested.

The spiritual practice I am inviting you to share in this Advent season is to find the sacred in all that you are preparing for your own celebrations.  In what ways are you preparing for the Lord in your everyday life?  With whom will you celebrate the feast of God?  As you await the birth of the Christ child let your preparations become an act of prayer, for those you love and those you may not know.

May the peace of Christ be with you, always

Ruth’s Pea Soup
about 8 servings

1 lb. dry green or yellow peas
3 quarts of cold water (or 1 qt vegetable stock and 2 quarts cold water)
1 large carrot, sliced in to small pieces
1 small celery stick chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small onion or 4 large green onions
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped fine
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (I like fresh rosemary, summer savory, and thyme)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Pepper to taste

In the bottom of a large pot sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Add the turmeric, stir then add the carrots and celery. Add the peas and cold water into a large saucepan; add the herbs and salt to the saucepan; add the pepper to taste.  Cook over low to medium heat until the peas are very soft.  Remove from the heat and run through a ricer or press through a colander to remove the hulls.  Return the soup to the saucepan and heat to eating temperature.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Notes:  Use only 1 teaspoon of dried mint or herbs when substituting for fresh. I will use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand but I prefer 1 tablespoon each of fresh thyme and summer savory.  If you want a more salty taste you can add a teaspoon of spike or one of the other herbal salt substitutes when cooking.  I also like to sprinkle fresh chopped chives (either onion or garlic) over the sour cream or yogurt when serving.

Source: A Ruth Thompson original recipe that I first made sometime in early 1980’s.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 25, 2014

Shadows – All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day

Do you ever wonder what happens to shadows?  I do, sometimes.  I mean where do they go when the sun goes away?  I have lots of shadows that follow me.  I know they are there even though it’s dark and I can’t see them.  It’s like the monsters under the bed. I know they are there even if I shine a light, I know, you see they skitter into the dark corners where the light never goes.

All Hallows Eve is the beginning of the time of year I have the most difficulty with.  These last two months of the year are thin times when memories and shadows come out of the woodwork of my mind. Yes I have shadows and whether good or bad they are there, a part of me, that follows me wherever I go, whatever I do. And I see more shadows every year and they make me sad for what is gone and what I will never see again.

Dad, 18 years old
Dad, 18 years old

There is the shadow that is my father, once tall and strong He carried my on his shoulders and let me snuggle with him in church, and showed me the beauty of the stars and the light show that is the Aurora Borealis. Dad was the one who said “Ruth, you can accomplish whatever you want all you have to do is dream and then go for it.”  He encouraged me, me his scarred and damaged child, to ride horses, plow a field, drive a farm truck when I was twelve, and hold puppies and kittens in arms with all the love I could give.  He taught me to count by having me feed weanling calves, and gave me a bull calf as pet.  In his eyes I could do anything and I could. Even when Dad became ill, and weak, I could still see his strong shadow standing beside him.  At his death his shadow faded into the wind and while wisps of him cling to my memory he has become a distant shadow.

Mom, 18 years old
Mom, 18 years old

Then there is the shadow of my mother.  A lion hearted woman, who fought for me with ever fiber of her being.  This was the woman who fearlessly took on the school board to make sure that I, her oldest daughter, would enter school at age 6. You see I had been badly injured the previous June and was still recovering and the school didn’t want to “deal” with a “disabled” child.  But I started school on time, all because my Mom had the heart of a lioness and you didn’t mess with Mama Lion.

The shadows have followed me, are following me, wherever I go as I travel this path that leads to whatever life will give me. Some are old friends, some not so friendly, but they are mine just the same.  Whenever I turn around I see them jump into those corners.  I see just a hint of them, small smudges of dark, and gray.  For many years I was afraid of the dark, the shadows that lurk there, but, not anymore.  Today I look for them as reminders of days past, friends cherished and lost, puppy hugs and kitten kisses.

Mom and Pippin, 1988
Mom and Pippin, 1988

Today I see them for what they are, memories, shadows that cannot hurt me unless I let them.  I no longer let the shadows rule over me, rather I let them watch as I face the life I have chosen and do what I feel to be right.  I am learning not to let them make me feel guilty for long ago actions that I cannot change and from which I learned much.  I will let the Shadows stay in the dark and I will light a candle to chase them into the corners. Jesus said no one hides their light under a bushel and He’s right.  To hide my light is to let the shadows rule and I’d rather I placed my light in the open to show me the way to go and to keep the dark, the shadows at bay.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 31, 2014