Open Door – Prayerful Tuesday

“Be an opener of doors”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stan Heywt Gardens Akron, Ohio July, 2005 Photo – Ruth Jewell
Stan Heywt Gardens, Akron, Ohio, July, 2005
Photo – Ruth Jewell

Open doors offer promise and fear, joy and sadness.  Behind an open door there could be grandchildren waiting for fresh baked cookies, or maybe something else, something fearful waits for us.  The above photo of an open door could be deceptive, there might be a garden beyond or there could be a path to a destination we didn’t want to travel.  We will never know until we cross that threshold. Crossing into the unknown is one of the most frightening things we do as humans. The unknown is what we make of it and we can’t confront our fears or live our lives until we are willing to move through the door and confront what lies on the other side.

Today I am offering the spiritual practice of Visio Divina using the photograph above.  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 photo slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, places and 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. What do you see? What draws you in? Engage your imagination and describe what lies beyond the door? What are you leaving? Where do you see yourself in the photo? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
  • What feelings arise within you as you gaze at the photograph? Do you feel fear; are you uncomfortable; are your excited or do you anticipate what you might find?
  • 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? Does the photo bring to mind an instance when you have stood at a door, either opened or closed? Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
  • 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.

Gracious Holy Spirit each day we stand at a new door, where our next challenge lies beyond.  Give us strength to face whatever we find across the threshold. We are grateful for the courage you give us as you accompany us through each door.  Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©March 15, 2016

Advent, Week Four, Love – Prayerful Tuesday

And now faith, hope, and love abide,
these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Fourth Week of Advent Love Photo by Ruth Jewell
Fourth Week of Advent Love
Photo by Ruth Jewell

FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

faith, hope, love
in faith an elderly Priest and his wife
waited for their first child
in faith a maiden utters the words
“Here Am I”

in love a child leaps in the womb
at the approach of the pregnant Mary
in love a bridegroom
takes a pregnant girl as his wife

in love Mary lays
her first born in a manger
in love the angels sang
and a star appeared

in hope the shepherds
came to the stable
in hope Magi followed a star
to kneel at the feet of a carpenters son

Faith, Hope, Love
all three were needed
for the greatest of miracles
but it was Love that conquered all

Ruth Jewell, December 21, 2015

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 You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.

Love – The Fourth Week of Advent
Light four candles and pray “an Advent Prayer.”

Meditation
Snowflakes, leaves, humans, plants, raindrops, stars, molecules, microscopic entities
all come in communities. The singular cannot in reality exist.
— Paula Gunn Allen

All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, call to mind the people you will meet.
Evening: As the day ends, where did you tarry, where did you glimpse the holy?

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

Ruth Jewell ©December 22, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

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

Eyes to See– Prayerful Tuesday

Vermont Meadow, June 22, 2006
Vermont Meadow, June 22, 2006

Today my prayer offering is a Celtic poem that reminds us to stop and see the world around us, To see the creator in all that we encounter.  The Pearl of Great Price will be found not in your wallet, or fame, rather  it is in the a field of flowers bright with sunshine, an elderly person who welcomes your presence, a babe in arms who snuggles into your heart.  Let those who have eyes to see and hears to hear.

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone on my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Daily Readings from Prayers & Praises in the Celtic Tradition
introduced and edited by A. M. Allchin and Ester de Waal
Templegate Publishers, Springfield, Illinois, 1987

Ruth Jewell, ©September 22, 2015

You Are Invited . . .

Matthew 22:1-14 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The above text is about how we are invited into God’s grace. However, what we do with that grace is entirely up to us.  We can ignore it, accept it but only on our terms, or completely live into the gift of grace.  What we do will be our choice and that choice will determine how we live our lives.  The following is the text of the sermon I preached on August 23, 2015, at my home church, Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA.

On a warm June afternoon in 2000 I was sitting at the entrance to the primary hotel in Vallejo CA.  I was waiting for a bus to come and deliver John to me who was taking the bus from the Oakland airport. I could hardly contain myself, you see in just a few short weeks I would be retiring from my consulting job and moving back to Edmonds. John was coming to help me pack-up the apartment and drive with me back to WA.  We would be married in September.  This was the beginning of 6 months of celebration that has extended into nearly 15 years. I had accepted an invitation, I said yes. I knew that in that acceptance I would now be living a new life and one that would require me to make the choice to change from a life of taking care of only me to taking care of someone else. Now that’s a huge change for someone who was 53 and never married.  But it was a choice that I have been grateful for ever since.  As a result I was blessed with a new life that has had its challenges and its joys. That’s what happens when you chose to transform your life.  Life can be a bed of roses, but what you must remember is roses have thorns and you can be sure you will sometimes get stuck with one, or more, of those thorns.

The scripture from Matthew is not only about choosing between accepting and refusing an invitation to a wedding banquet given by a King, it is about choosing between accepting or refusing to live a transformed life of free grace in the way we were meant to live. And, to deciding to live a transformed life means accepting all of that life of grace.  It means we are to commit to live that life no matter what gets thrown at us or how many thorns we run into.  Living a transformed life of grace doesn’t mean there won’t be thorns, or potholes, or great sorrows on your path. It means we have the strength to walk through them.

Matthew’s version of this story, which is also found in the Gospel of Luke, is actually two parables about invitations. It’s a story about a king, who wants to invite people to celebrate the wedding of his son with a banquet.  Matthew adds two additional details to the story; the first is when some of the king’s friends’ killed his slaves and he attacks and wipes out the kingdoms of those who committed those atrocities.[1] It is accepted by most interpreters that this part of the parable, Verses 6 and 7, are an interpretation of Matthew’s who is reading back into this parable the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Matthew adds it because within his community he has people who are struggling with the loss of their ancestral home.  It is not believed to be part of the original parable from the time of Jesus, the oldest version of which is found in the Sayings of Q. Actually these verses are much more characteristic of an interpretation of God from the Hebrew Text rather than the life and teachings of Jesus.[2],[3] Matthew’s second addition are the last 4 verses, verses 11-14,  of the story where Jesus tells one more story of the banquet[4] and this addition is very important in the way Matthew wants us to understand and respond to the divine invitation to a new life.  Together these two parables are stories about the life choices we make and what we do with those choices.

So here we have a story of a King, who traditionally is identified with God, and throws a wedding party for his son, Jesus. Those are the traditional interpretations of Matthew’s King and Son.  But I want to you think about a what if.  What if we look at this story from a different perspective? What if we turn it upside down? What if instead of the King being God the King is Jesus who’s throwing a wedding banquet for the Children of God who he invites to live a new life?  How will that perspective change the way we hear and see these parables?

Now even though the Matthew’s setting of the parable is Jesus defending himself before the religious authorities Matthew wasn’t referring to “the Jewish authorities” as the ones who refused to attend, or that the ones who came were only “Gentiles.” Rather, most interpreters now believe Matthew was addressing his own conflicted community who he wanted to live a transformed life.[5]  The Jewish Jesus followers of Matthew’s community were struggling with the loss of the temple and his Gentile Jesus followers were struggling with whether they should or should not become Jewish. All this would have made for many conflicts between the different factions and Matthew is trying to bridge the gap between them.  I too am not suggesting that there are specific groups being discussed in these parables. So depending on which version you like the best, think of the players in the 1st century as Matthew’s neighbors or in our very own community as our neighbors right now in the 21st century.

So here is how the story might sound if we told it as if Jesus was throwing this shindig? The guests Jesus first invites to his amazing banquet are those he expects will accept the invitation because they already understand, or he thinks they do, what it means to live the transformed life He is offering them.  Jesus wants them to come and celebrate with Him, to become part of the new life that only happens when we accept the Divine invitation.  An invitation of free grace to live the life we are meant to live in the presence of God, Jesus and Holy Spirit.  So he sends his disciples out to bring his guests to the party; the food is ready, wine is poured, the orchestra is tuning up for an all night event.  But his disciples come back and tell him all have refused, all are too busy with the details of life, the minutia of daily living.  So what does he do, after all he has a hall prepared, food on the table, wine chilling, and musicians waiting?  Well, Jesus did just what he told his disciples to do when he sent them out to preach and the invitations they gave were refused. He “dusted the dirt from His sandals” and turns his back on those who refused him and sends his disciples out again into the streets and to the city gates to bring in whomever they find to the party, the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy.  With the diligence of his disciples the hall is soon filled to overflowing.

Who were the people from the streets? Well if we think of who are the people of the streets in the 21st century you might first of all think of the homeless tent encampments, or the people living under a bridge, or the man or woman standing on the corner with a sign that says “Homeless vet, needs food and job.” And think of the shop keepers in the poorest parts of any town. It was people like these who were the ones who were welcomed into Jesus’ party. They were the nobodies of the town and here they were going to a big party given by the most important person in town. Can you imagine how they felt?  Can’t you just hear them as they walk to the mansion, “Jesus invited me, me, to his party,” “You too, I can’t believe it,” “I was invited too, and get this, the man said come as I am, how cool is that.”  Unlike Jesus’ first guests these guests weren’t concerned about who would be attending.  It didn’t matter to them that the person next to them was a drug addict, a thief, a prostitute, a shop keeper, or a prosperous business person. They didn’t care if Jesus was failing or succeeding in life. They were excited about being invited.  They understood the importance of being invited to this banquet, this table.  They wanted to have new lives.  Unlike those first invited they knew their old lives weren’t working for them and they were willing to change and live new lives, transformed lives of grace that had meaning.

As the guests enter the hall they see the banquet tables set up with every food imaginable, roast lamb, poached fish, pastries, bowls of fruit, cool drinks, and wine, good wine, not the cheap stuff.  In the corner an orchestra was playing, with real instruments not a wash tub and jug band. Everyone was celebrating, drinking, eating, and dancing to the wonderful music. That is, everyone except this one guy who had piled his plate up with everything it would hold and was eating it in the corner telling anyone who would listen, “well it’s about time this Jesus dude recognized just who makes this town what it is.”  “I deserved this invitation, but don’t expect me to go overboard for him; this is what we should have had all along. In fact I think I will just take everything I can. And I’m going to let this Jesus person know that I’m not going to do anything unless I really want to just because he invited me to this party.”

When Jesus comes in to join his guests he sees this guy in the corner and he says “Ah, excuse me, why aren’t you celebrating. This is a joyous occasion, you come expecting to be fed but you won’t celebrate your new life.  You come in and can’t see the joy of living a life of peace, and justice.  You blame me for your suffering but you did nothing to help those who suffered as well. I was there to help but you wouldn’t come out, is that my fault? You accepted my invitation to grace but only on your terms? It doesn’t sound to me like you understand what it means to come to one of my banquets; I don’t think you belong here, yet.  Show this guy out until he understands what it means to come celebrate a transformed life.”

Jesus knew people had options in their lives. The trouble was those options weren’t working for the majority of the people. True the religious authorities and the Roman authorities were doing ok, but if you look at the number of people who were killed in order for someone else to advance socially or politically their options weren’t working for them either.  So along comes Jesus with an alternative way of living a life that didn’t involve beating up, or tearing down someone else. But Jesus wasn’t offering a new idea.  For centuries the Prophets of Israel were telling the people the same thing. Moses says in Deuteronomy (30:19b) “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”  Every Prophet since Moses, including Jesus, has said the very same thing and the people listened and accepted life, for little while, then the ‘easier’ way of greed and self-centeredness takes precedence and the original message of grace goes by the way side.

But what does it mean to choose life?  Well “When you say ‘Yes’ to life you say ‘Amen’ to all of life as a package deal. Thereafter the so-called problems you have with personal injustice do not arise. You renounce your concept of victimhood and the old impulse to complain about being unfairly treated.” A “commitment to life  . . . refuses to make any distinction between your outer life and your inner life, or between secular and sacred spheres of life, or between loving God, loving all of life, or loving one’s neighbor. Nor does it distinguish between your current life concerns or your eternal concerns. On the contrary, it simply calls for an unhesitating and unreserved ethical response to the call of life, the call of Jesus, God, and Holy Spirit – right where you are at this moment in time, at this point in your life,” to live a life where you defend justice for all and refuse to accept injustice for anyone as an expedient to living.[6] That is what Jesus taught, that’s grace. It’s not new information, its old stuff we haven’t listened to, at least not for long time.

That is what happened to our disgruntled guest.  He may have accepted the Divine invitation of free grace to attend the banquet, but his acceptance had no depth to it, it never went beyond saying I’m here, thanks for the food, see you later. He was glad to accept the invitation to grace but on his terms only. He never truly transformed his whole life.  He never saw that living in the presence of Jesus meant he had to let the inner life make its way to the outer side of who he was.  It meant he had to share the love, peace and abundance of grace with everyone he met, not hoard it. He came to the banquet not because he wanted to live a life transformed but because he wanted what he could get and then live as he always had.  That’s not change, it is not celebration and it’s not joy, and it is not committing to living a transformed life. It’s keeping the old life and saying it was good enough in the past it will be good enough now.

No matter how you tell today’s story it’s about Divine invitations, the acceptance of grace, and how you live once you’ve accepted God’s grace. When John asked me to marry him, I had a number of options.  Like the first invited guests I could have refused and that would have been that.  I don’t know where I would have been 15 years later but I am quite certain it wouldn’t have been here.  But I did say yes and again to that yes I had options as to how I was going to live within this new relationship.  One, I could continue to behave as I have always behaved.  Taking care of me, making sure I had what I wanted and what I needed.  Yes John would be there but our relationship would not have been very deep because I wouldn’t have let him into the deeper part of me, the part of me that would have built the relationship where both of us would have benefited.  These two options were not the ones I chose.  Instead I let John into my heart and said we are partners and what I do and what you do will affect and change who we both are.  We looked at the covenant of our marriage and said we do this together as one, not as two people living their own lives in one house.  When I accepted John’s invitation to marry, when I accepted that covenant, I had no clue as to what that might look like, but I knew I was going to have to change if I was going to make my life with John. And yes it hasn’t always been sunshine and flowers.  Sometimes we have had our thorny moments. But it was because we chose to live a life together as one that we had the strength to overcome all thorns and rocks in our path. While my wedding story wasn’t about God’s grace specifically, by accepting my invitation I discovered grace in a way I did not expect, and that is how it sometimes work.

Jesus invites us to a banquet of grace, he welcomes every single one of us to His table, and He doesn’t ask questions about our past or how many times we haven’t understood, He wants us to come and join Him. To laugh and sing and eat together, to tell jokes, and play games.  To dance to the music that life brings us, and cry together when life brings us sorrows. Jesus asks us to change who we are at our deepest level and live grace filled lives that don’t see differences between us, whether they are gender, racial, religious beliefs, cultural, social, or political.

We can change the world we live in, we can change the world by being the people we are meant to be, a people of grace, by being a people who refuse to accept evil, greed, and self-centeredness as the status quo.  We can change the world by refusing to accept that war is the only solution, or that homelessness and hunger is just part of life.  We can change the world by seeing each other as the Children of God, living the life God meant us to live.

The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted, wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers. . . .  Jesus goes to town, stands on the street corner, and invites everyone within the sound of his voice: Come, rich and poor alike, come the worthy and the unworthy, come with me, oh come, and celebrate the wedding of our spirits with me! I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread, carefully selected wines. Leave your lives of self-centeredness, loneliness, fear, poverty, greed, and come, celebrate with me! Come celebrate a life with meaning, a life of grace. Come change your lives, remember to live transformed, not only your inner selves, but also your outer selves.  Put on your cloak of joy and celebration and come, walk up the street to a life with meaning.”[7]

Moses said: “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

Ruth Jewell, ©August 28, 2015

[1] Hare, Douglas R.A.: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Matthew, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, pg 251-252
[2] Miller, Robert J; Editor, The Complete Gospels, Annotated Scholars Version, Polebridge Press, Sonoma, California, 1992, pg 98
[3] Hare, Douglas R.A.: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Matthew, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, pg 251-252
[4] Allen, Ronald J. & Clark M. Williamson; Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2004, pg.76-78
[5] Hare, Douglas R.A.: Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Matthew, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1993, pg 251-253
[6] Cupitt, Don: Life, Life, Polebridge Press, Santa Rosa, CA, 2003, pg 6-7.
[7] Proverbs 9:1-6

The Angel’s Voices

Mt. Baker, WA, from Artist Point, Photo by Ruth Jewell, 14.09.15
Mt. Baker, WA, from Artist Point,
Photo by Ruth Jewell, 14.09.15

Prepared for a Sermon at Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle WA
January 18th, 2015

Scripture: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Have you ever had that feeling you are being watched and you turn around and around to see who is there?   I have and I must admit it often feels creepy!  Someone is watching me, why, who are they, what do they want, will they hurt me?  Some might say these are the questions of a paranoid mind, but, given the status of our world today, not uncommon in these days of uncertainty, fear, and, let’s be honest, at least a little hate, ok a lot of hate.

So when I read the Psalm for this week I had to really think what it means to be “watched,” “known,” by God.  This Psalm is telling me that I am being watched, by God no less.  Is that a good thing or should I be afraid, really afraid.  As I was contemplating these verses I remembered an incident out of my childhood.  It was a memory of being known by God and knowing it was keeping me safe.

Nearly 62 years ago I was severely burnt and spent 6 months in hospital healing and having reconstructive surgery.   In reality I am blessed to be here, because I should have died that summer, but didn’t.  However, I did spend a great deal of time on a children’s ward of a Cleveland Hospital.  There were number of other children there as well, just as injured and ill as me and one little boy and I became good friends.  I do not remember his name; I do remember he was dying.   He was a little older than I was but could not walk; I could get up and walk a little but couldn’t read as well as he could.  I would get books and games to play with and he would read the harder books.

Children will often tell another child something important when they aren’t sure their parents would understand or listen.  So one day he told me that he knew he didn’t have long to live and he wanted me to tell his parents he was ok with it.  You see he had a guardian angel who stayed by his side and the angel had told him he would be going soon and no longer in pain, his parents would be sad for awhile but they would remember him forever.

One night I awoke to a great deal of crying and saw the mother holding the little boy.  I remembered what he had asked me to do so I crawled out of my bed and tried to tell them that the boy was OK, and that he was with his angel now.  However, before I got very far with that a nurse scooped me up and put me back in my bed saying something patronizing.  I never really talked about that incident again; I understood what I had to say was pretty unimportant to adults and not worth listening to. It was the thought of the time that children didn’t understand death or God and it was, and is, a wrong thought.

Being known by God, being watched by God, children understand that, after all they are always being watched.  By parents, teachers, friends, family members who want to keep them safe.  So knowing God is watching them is no big deal, just one more person on the list to keep them safe.  Besides isn’t there something comforting knowing you have a guardian angel nearby, how cool is that.

From the time they are formed in the dark, cavern of their mother’s womb they are cradled and whispered to by angels.  By 18 weeks of pregnancy the embryo begins to hear his first sounds, Mom’s heart beat, the movement of her blood, and bowel sounds.  He also hears His Mom’s and Dad’s voice, music, laughter, and tears.  To him it’s, Angels voices coming from, everywhere.  Children know they are being watched, searched out as they are being formed in the dark.

After birth we are still connected to those angels, only now they have blurry faces, but they can see the angels smile at them and hear their whispers and while breast feeding they still hear the comforting sound of Mom’s heartbeat.

It is a sad fact that as we grow we forget those connections to the mystery of our beginnings.  We let other sounds carry us away from the angel’s voices, the whispers that we are beloved and we are watched over. We, who were made so carefully, struggle to be free of the binders, free of being hemmed in from behind and before. We, who in secret were made so wonderfully and woven of star dust and love, want to run free of the restrictions of God, angels, or anyone else.

Yet there is a part of us that yearns to be known.  Oh we may fight it, rebel and run away because we want to “do it our way.”  But really, at some level, isn’t it comforting to know just how beloved we are?  The Psalmist said “My days are all inscribed in Your Ledger; Days not yet shaped—each one of them is counted.”[1] Those counted days are from the moment we are conceived in flesh to the moment we let go of this body and return to God.  Yes we still have days that God has counted that we know nothing about, yet.  But God is still watching and still planning, or more likely, revising our life plan based on our latest actions.

You see I’ve never been a big proponent of predestination, were God has planned our lives out before we are born.  No I am a firm believer in free will and our obligation to choose life over death.  We, you and I, must choose to follow one path over another and depending on our choices our life is rewritten again and again.  I know that because I have had my life rewritten all because I’ve made some rather dumb choices in my life.  My guess is we all have, because we are human, we are embodied; we are separated from that light of God and God deliberately put us on our own resources for a purpose we do not know.  (My first question for God when I return is “what were you thinking.”)

What the Psalmist tells us is even in our bad choices we are watched, cared for, beloved, held safe, and not alone.  God keeps us in God’s thoughts; we are never far from the Divine mind.  “How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.”  “I am still with You,” God is with me.  Matthew writes that Jesus’ last words to his disciples were, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  We have that promise.  God has not left us alone, Jesus has not left us alone, the angels are still whispering, if, only we listen.

Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi translated verse 14 as follows, “I am overcome with thanks at Your awesome wonders, Your astonishing works, of which my soul is aware.”  Our souls know what God does, what Jesus does, even when we are unconscious to those actions.  Our souls know even when we reject God’s call that we are not alone.  That we are watched over and having our lives rewritten again and again based on whether we chose life or death.

Those angel whispers, messages of comfort from the Holy, still hold for each and every one of us.   That first sound we heard in our mothers’ wombs, the first whisper of life from the sacred, was a heartbeat.  It still is the whisper of life for all of us.  Without our hearts beating strong and level life will fade.  But it is not just the heart of our flesh that we need.  We also need the voice of the heart of our souls, our spirit, to truly live life as God intended.  Remember Moses’ last words “choose life.”  The messengers of God, the angels voices all whisper, “choose life.”

Ruth Jewell, ©January 17, 2015

[1] Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Zalman, Psalms in a translation for praying, Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Philadelphia, PA, 2014.

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