2017, A NEW YEAR?

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A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.

There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.

Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.

Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.

What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.

I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 3, 2017

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

What do you see? – Prayerful Tuesday

Artist Point, September 15, 2014
Artist Point, September 15, 2014

On Face Book I follow the Anam Cara Ministries page, which posts daily meditations.  I often find one that makes me stop and think and last week the following post drew my attention:

Artistic Afternoons: Look up. (Right now.) What do you see? Write about it. Anam Cara Ministries, November 4, 2015.

I stopped and just looked around me.  Looking up I saw the wind chime I made from small bells given to me by a friend and origami peace doves made by another friend, when the window is open and a breeze comes through it rings as I work at my desk.  There are books, all of which I’ve read, on a shelf above the window. There is a decorative bird cage which I occasionally use to put in small special items, often my grandchildren. And, hanging on the side of the cage are 2 scarves I was given at an InterPlay session.  As I looked at these I realized all of them are part of me, and they connect me to family and friends, present and past, which are part of my life.  In each there is the memory of love shared.  I am grateful to Anam Cara for giving me a priceless gift of memories.

I was grateful for the being reminded of loving memories I had been too busy to notice.  From time to time we all need to be reminded to remember events and people in our past; to remember old hurt and forgive them, or linger on the memories of old friends.  Today I offer Anam Cara’s gift to remember, to forgive, and linger over fond memories of gifts past.  It is a simple practice of observation and being in the moment.  So today “Look up. Maybe look around you.  What do you see? Write about it.”

Blessings on this week’s journey.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 9, 2015

A Moment of Silence – Prayerful Tuesday

Numbers 23:9a for from the top of the mountains I see him, from the hills I behold him;

Mt. Baker, 9/15/14
Mt. Baker, 9/15/14

On this beautiful Tuesday I ask only that you take a moment of silence. Hold in your hearts, the pain, suffering and loss from the deaths in Charleston North Carolina, Chattanooga TN.  To remember the loss of so many who have needlessly died from Sandy Hook, to Marysville.  As we lift up our eyes to the mountains open our hearts to those who suffer; the victims, the families. Hold the perpetrators in your heart as well, pray that light will enter the dark well they live in and bring them out of the darkness of their own making.   Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©July 21, 2015

Letting Go – Prayerful Tuesday

A Walk In Yost Park Canyon
A Walk In Yost Park Canyon

This week’s prayer practice is one a friend of mine taught me in the last couple of weeks.  It is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s practices called “Letgo.”   After I began the practice I realized ‘Letgo’ has many similarities with the Examen and found that I was experiencing some of the same benefits.  As I have begun to settle into this practice I have discovered my days to be calmer and more centered even when the world gets busy.  I am able to separate what is important from what it is not.  The most amazing thing is of the many of events and things I thought were important they just are not priorities any longer.  Instead I am able to focus on what makes my life more enjoyable, beautiful and to just BE.  So I offer this practice as my gift to your well Being.

Letgo Practice

I usually pick a time of day when things are quiet, either early in the morning or just before I go to bed.  I like both times.  The morning time energizes me and the evening time centers me and quiets my mind so that I sleep much better.  But select a time that works best for you.  I do set aside 20 to 25 minutes for each session.

  1. Begin by sitting quietly, concentrating on your breath. Reflect on those things you have let go of in the past.  You many begin your ‘list’ as early in your life as you wish.
  2. Be aware that our conscious attention only catches a small portion of what goes on in lives.
  3. Start with small steps first. Accept that events such as rush hour traffic, broken washers, and burnt dinners will always be there to annoy and frustrate you.  Use these events to practice an acceptance of those things that just happen because it’s life.
  4. Be mindful of those times when you pick up old burden or worry’s and begin to carry them around again. Learn to recognize the old resentments and anger that emerges and ask yourself if you want to continue to hold space in head and heart for them.
  5. Take deep breaths and let the burdens, anger, and resentment flow out with each exhale.
  6. Repeat step 5 as often as necessary until you are able to bring your mindfulness back to the now.

May the peace of God be with you all.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 10, 2015

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