Tomorrow You’ll Be Brave – Prayerful Tuesday

Tomorrow you’ll be brave, you say? Fool! Dive today
From the cliff of what you know into what you can’t know.
You fear the rocks? Better men than you have died on them;
Dying on Love’s rocks is nobler than a life of death. 

– Jalal-ud-Din Rumi
(Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi,
Daily OM, May 7, 2016 )

By Alexey Topolyanskiy, Unsplash, February 22, 2016
By Alexey Topolyanskiy, Unsplash, February 22, 2016

It is always “tomorrow” for me, I always want to put off taking that risk until tomorrow.  Maybe that is why this saying of Rumi’s means so much to me that I want to share it with you.  This week I am offering Rumi’s saying for meditation with Lectio Divina.

  • Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Focus for a few moments on your breathing; or use a “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” as you gently and gradually center your thoughts. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
  • Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In Lectio Divina, The One Spirit is teaching us to listen to the Divine voice, to seek the Spirit in silence. The One Spirit does not reach out and grab us; rather, we are gently invited to go ever more deeply into the presence of the One.
  • Take the word or phrase into you center. Hold it in your thoughts and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with the One.
  • Speak to the One Spirit who has reached out to you. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with the One as you would with someone who you know loves and accepts you. And give to the One Spirit what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience the One by using the word or phrase you have been given as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on the One’s word has awakened. Give to the One Spirit what you have found within your heart.
  • Rest in the embrace Spirit. And when you are invited to return to your contemplation of Spirits word or to your inner dialogue with the One Spirit, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that the One Spirit is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 10, 2016

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

What will be, will be – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 131:1-2 God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.

I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content. (MSG)

Akaroa, New Zealand, April 9, 2015 taken by Ruth Jewell©
Akaroa, New Zealand, April 9, 2015
taken by Ruth Jewell©

One of the benefits of a sabbatical is having the time to stop and let the world go by. In fact I have begun to practice an extension of stopping that I call “what will be, will be.” On my trip I would wake in the morning and intentionally decided to let the day unfold as God intended for it to happen, making few plans, being open to opportunities to meet people or visit a place I hadn’t been before, taking the time to really listen to the person I just met, stopping and really seeing the world around me and the hardest of all, trying not to control my days events.  What I discovered was I was more relaxed and rested at the end of the day than this normally anxious introvert is.

This is more than mindfulness or being in the moment.  It is letting the Divine control the day, opening my eyes to the Good in each person I meet and greeting them with the Good within me.  This is an intense letting go of my expectations of how things ‘should’ be and seeing how they are/can be beautiful and insightful.

Of course I couldn’t do this every day.  Sometimes we had already made plans in advance so those intentional days weren’t every day, even on a vacation.  But I did make them happen often, and probably more often than I will be able to do now that I am home. However, I do wish to maintain this spiritual practice and hope my ability to let go and let God control my days increase. Here are a few suggestions to help you, and me, get started.  As I get better at this, or you, we might add suggestions or take some away, we will just have to wait and see how God unfolds this practice.

  1. Begin the day with silent prayer ending with a prayer for patience and openness
  2. As you start your day and continue through your tasks really notice what you are doing, see the people you are with, taste the food you eat, notice your surroundings, even the ugliest of areas has beauty if you look.
  3. As time allows stop for a moment and breathe deeply, if possible sit and let God into your day, your heart
  4. Let God into the moments of confusion and frustration, breathe deeply, say a prayer, let others express themselves and be aware of their hurt and pain, or joy and celebration. Recognize they too have the Divine within and welcome them.  (This is the hardest part, so do not be surprised if you fail, just keep trying)
  5. At the end of your day, sit again in silence; let your heart and mind reflect on your day, the good and the bad hold those you meet that are hurting in prayer, and offer gratitude for those who are celebrating.
  6. End by offering your own prayer of gratitude.

We all can’t take 6 weeks or even a day of sabbatical, but we all can let the Divine into our daily lives. We can offer one of our ‘normal’ busy days to God, and changing how we see our tasks and the people we interact with helps us change how we see the world.  It costs nothing to offer praise or condolences, or to sit and listen to someone’s story but the gift is priceless.

Blessings on your Journey

Ruth Jewell, ©June 2, 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

Breath of Life—Prayerful Tuesday

Genesis 1:1-2, 2:7  1:1 In 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.

2:7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Amos 8:11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

Have you ever been unable to breath?  I mean you just couldn’t get air into your lungs.  I have several friends who suffer from Asthma and they tell me it is the most frightening thing to happen to them.  Without air we can’t live.  It is the first requirement of life, the first thing we do upon birth is to take that first breath and the last thing we do at our passing is to let the last breath go.

Genesis tells us that air is the first gift God gave to the earth. I mean it says so right there in the second verse, “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” and then in chapter 2 God brings man to life by breathing into his nostrils, breath is life.  Without air we don’t live.  Breath, ruach, spirit, is the palpable presence of God in our lives.

I guess that is what makes Amos’ words so scary to me. If the God I trust to be there when I am frightened tells me that She will no longer come to me, that she is separating himself from me that means no air, no breath, no spirit  to enliven my life.  I mean you can’t have words without breath and no words means no breath of God, no life.

With every inhalation we partake of God’s gift of life and with every exhalation we give back life.  We have been doing it since our first breath at birth and will continue until we release our last breath at our dying.  Breathing is a sacred act of life giving; it is the ultimate communion with God and each other.  Turn to the person next to you and watch them breathe, the air they release is the air you take in and the air you release is the air they take in.  Breathing is the most intimate act of our lives.  Breathing connects us to all life, past, present, and future life.

Every breath we take has been blowing across this earth since God blew the wind across the waters.  With ever inhalation we breathe there is a molecule of air breathed, and passed on to us, by Jesus on the cross, Moses as he spoke to the burning bush, Sarah as  she delivered Isaac, Dinosaurs, Amos, even Hitler.  We breathe air given to us as a life gift and how we use it depends on us.

This week I ask that you think about breathing and contemplate who is sharing your breath.  Breathe deeply, take each breath into your lungs and feel the life fill you as your lungs inflate.  Treat each breath as the gift from God that it is, and grace each exhalation with a gift of your own gratitude.  Offer a prayer for those who struggle to breathe and remember how much their life, and yours, depends on the breath of God.  Treat the air as sacred and refrain from fouling it with contaminants.  With every breath you take this week let it be a prayer of thanks to God for the breath of life given at the beginning of time.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 10, 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

 

The Spiritual Gift of Slowing Down – Prayerful Tuesday

tree of life labyrinth

 

Last Friday I had foot surgery to correct arthritis damage to two toes.  I have had day surgeries before and in general they go well, just as this one did. But as I waited to be taken in to surgery I began to think of the consequences of my doing this. The benefits are easy to name, the primary ones are, being able to wear my shoes comfortably again and being able to walk without pain in my feet.  But there are also consequences and benefits I hadn’t considered.

For example, I wasn’t going to make an InterPlay group on Saturday that I really wanted to attend, and I wouldn’t be able to make it to church on Sunday.  In fact not until next Thursday will I be able to leave the house.

In addition to being stuck in the house my foot hurts, a lot, and because I can’t take the more popular pain killers, I have a pain medicine that, while it works well, has some drawbacks like extreme dizziness and fatigue. However, I have begun to see some real benefits, other than walking, that I hadn’t taken into consideration.

First of all I have to slow down, something I don’t often do, and think if what I want to do is really important and necessary.  I have been surprised at how much I do during the day that really is busy work. Simply letting go of those fussy details has been a great relief and I think I am going to continue with that. The things I am able to do right now have real importance, mean something to me, and are getting done better and with less effort.

I also have to say “no” to extra tasks when I am asked for “help.” Setting of boundaries has always been complicated for me.  I never want to “offend” anyone and so often take on tasks that I know I don’t have the time to do nor the energy and strength to do them. Saying no is one of the hardest things I am trying to learn.  I overextend myself all the time all because I can’t set boundaries and tell someone “no, not today.”

There are benefits of saying no such as more the time for meditation, and pausing to take the time for myself.  I don’t mean a short meditation I mean sitting down, which is all I can do anyway right now, for a couple of hours and meditating over a passage of scripture, or something I’ve just read.  Instead of worrying about what I can’t do I have been rediscovering the joy of what I can do in the moment, the return of silence and quiet peace.  Holding Suzie, my Chihuahua, in my lap I have been reconnecting with the Divine in art, literature and music and letting all of it wash over me and renew me.

I have also relearned the joy of receiving the generosity from others.  From hospital staff, to friends, to family, especially my beloved husband John, I have been graced with an amazing amount of love and care. These lovely people have helped me slow down and have given me the space to be right here, right now without feeling guilty.

I am grateful that I am not seriously handicapped or so ill I am unable to learn from this slow time. I am learning to accept with joy the gifts others give me and not feel embarrassed or feel I don’t deserve such grace. I know at some point I will grow impatient with being unable to do exactly what I want, but right now I am grateful for this time of rest and recovery.

Now I know I am not the only one out there who has difficulty in accepting gifts. Therefore, I offer this spiritual practice of saying “thank you” for the gifts you receive this week.  Simply say thank you, don’t elaborate, just accept.  Allow someone to do something for you, or do something for someone else and receive their gratitude with grace.  Recognize the joy of being in the moment and offer a thank you.  Offer your gratitude to the Holy for this time, this place, the people, creation that is the now.  Let the gifts of others to you renew your spirit and let the grace shine out from your heart to those around you.

May your week be filled with joy of gifts unforeseen, and may they bring you peace.

Ruth Jewell, ©October, 28, 2014