Common Ground and the Practice of Hospitality – Prayerful Tuesday

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Matthew 18:20

Welcoming the Other Microsoft Free Clip Art
Welcoming the Other
Microsoft Free Clip Art

On Monday this week I volunteered at Common Ground, a Hospitality Space in Everett, WA. From Monday through Thursday, from 8 AM to 12 Noon, the homeless or those who live on the edge of homelessness come in for coffee, tea, and whatever snacks the Space receives by donation.  While the makeup of the guests varies from day to day many come every morning and have discovered they will be received with a cheerful smile and an invitation to eat and talk.  This is true communion for four mornings a week.  The Pastors Rebecca and Luke Sumner have created a space where everyone feels safe and welcome.  This is a place where food, warm drink, and an available ear for listening are always present.  This is also hospitality at its finest.

For this Easter Season I am offering spiritual practices that reflect how we are witnesses of and express the light of the resurrection.  When I volunteer at Common Ground I am witnessing firsthand the light of Christ’s resurrection in two young pastors and with their volunteers.  When a person comes in to Common Ground they are not turned away, rather, Luke and his volunteers make sure each one is fed and offered a warm drink.  When they have socks, hats, gloves or scarves they hand those out, making sure those who need them the most are the first ones to receive them.   Volunteers sit down with the guests and get to know them as people not just as that unkempt person on the corner.  As a volunteer I have found that the most important thing I can do is begin a conversation and then simply listen to often amazing stories of life that I normally only read about. I discover just how much alike we all are.

Yes there are those who drink too much, who abuse drugs, those whose mental illness has dropped them through the cracks of society and those who are just down on their luck. But at Common Ground none of that matters, all are fellow humans trying to make it in this life, all are beloved Children of God who only want to be seen and accepted for who they are.  I am always tired when I leave Common Ground but I am also filled with an different kind of energy that keeps me coming back to visit with those I have met before and those I have yet to meet.

Common Ground may not look like a sacred space but it is. Here are the people Jesus of Nazareth spoke to first, ate with, joked with, and made the ultimate sacrifice for.  Here I see the resurrection light shining in the Pastors, the volunteers, and the community that is forming out of street people and the discarded people of society.  This is a spiritual practice that offers the concrete results of love in the form of food, drink and conversation and hands on spiritual practice where progress is heard in the proffered “thank you, I really appreciate what you do here.”

This week I offer the spiritual practice of hospitality. Sometime this week go out of your way to welcome someone or make someone comfortable.    For example when I used to ride the bus to and from work or class I often would sit down next to a young mother; young mothers nearly always seem a bit frazzled.  I would start up a conversation and then let them talk about their children and how their day is going.  They mothers and the children often left the bus with a smile on their faces and I had just made a new friend.  Hospitality isn’t just feeding or clothing the stranger, it’s really about being a real person to each and everyone you meet and being compassionate and honest in your speech and actions.  To accept someone different from you is a magical beginning to new ways of seeing the world no matter who you are.

During this week may you discover that a full heart comes from emptying yourself by giving kindness and hospitality to others.

Ruth Jewell, ©April 5, 2016

Taking Care—Prayerful Tuesday

The Scream by Van Gogh
The Scream by Van Gogh

For the last three weeks I have been in constant pain due to a pinched nerve in my back.  This fussy nerve has been bothering me for a long time but I refused to listen to it. So now it is fighting back to get the attention it thinks it deserves.  I have never been in so much pain before.   It hurts to lie down, stand up and sit and that my friends are pretty much every possible position there is.  But, I am not asking for sympathy, prayers yes, sympathy no because I got myself here by not listening to my body.

It is always easier to give someone else advice than to take that advice ourselves about taking care of the temple God has graced us with.  Whether we are doing our busy lives or praying we often forget the clay vessel we are embodied with to the detriment of our health and well being both spiritually and physically.

I understand the forgetting the body when we are making a living, I certainly forgot.  After all we are only trying to make a living, feed our family, keep a shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs.  We don’t feed the body with good food rather we go for the quick easy meal of junk food, which is high in fat, calories and low in what we need to be healthy.  We don’t get enough sleep because a job needs to be done and “I, just don’t have the time to rest until it’s finished.” Stress takes its toll with worry about how we will survive if we lose our job, or add a new family member, or move to new community.  We forget to take the time to talk to God, to listen to God, to offer prayers of gratitude and concern to the one, and only, who can relieve our pain and suffering.

The ironic thing is we remember our bodies when they break down, and we remember our spiritual life when we are running on empty to the next event in our lives. That is what has happened to me.  I forgot to care for my body, I refused to listen and I am paying for it now.  But more than that I forgot that caring for my body, caring for my spirit is a prayer practice.

It is important to care for what has been given us the best way we can.  Even when we are given bodies that aren’t perfect, and whose is, we are called by God to care for this vessel as long as we are here enfleshed in this life. In order to care for this body given me I must repent and make changes to how I view my body.  It isn’t an object to worship, but it is a house of prayer.  Good food, exercise, rest and listening are my four healthy habits that will make my house stronger.  My physical house and my spiritual house.

My prayer for all of you this week is take a moment out of your day to sit in silence and offer God your gratitude, take a brisk walk and feel the breath of God on your face, rest in God, letting the healing touch of the Holy Spirit renew your soul and eat with gusto food rich in love and low in Cholesterol.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 20, 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

 

Looking Forward – Looking Back – Prayerful Tuesday

Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Happy New Year 2015 A

Well the New Year is almost upon us and it has been an eventful, but mostly violent, one.  In 2014 it seems we have had more violence than peace, despite the efforts of many.  We have seen hate take over our streets and increase in our government.  Peace on Earth just doesn’t seem to be in our hearts for this baby New Year.

This last year we have seen too many senseless deaths, demonstrations, hateful rhetoric, and downright meanness.  There has been little peace in our world of late.  But this small online community has been a refuge for some. We have offered moments of personal stillness in the rush of our daily lives.  Yet in the face of so much violence prayer doesn’t always seem adequate does it.

But, every time we take a moment to offer a pray for our own peace and for the peace of others we change a piece of our hearts.  Those changes add up and become the change we see around us. We just celebrated the birth of love breaking into the world.  A love that gives out of its abundance, works for justice for all, and walks a path that honors the world we live in. In the light of that love we too can become love expressed in the world, with every prayer we offer and with every prayer action we take, the light of Love shines just a little brighter.  Yes it may seem inadequate but remember you can’t have a beach with one grain of sand.

So my prayer request for each of you this week, as you contemplate the year past and look forward to the year to come, is to offer a prayer for our community that we will find solace in our hearts and compassion and justice in our actions.  Pray for each other.  Pray for local, national, and international governments.  Pray for the children, elderly, and the sick and disabled who are most affected by hate speech and actions.  Let your prayers spill over into the way you act in the world around you.  Remember others are praying as well, you are not alone.  Let every act you do in the coming year be an act of prayer, and offering to the God or Force that guides your path.  Let this be your New Year’s resolution that you will “do justice, and … love kindness, and … walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NRSV).

It is my prayer that, we as a people, will change the world by being the Force in the world for compassion, justice, and love.  Let us learn to walk humbly with whatever Divine Energy each of calls to in the dark.  May each of us this year light a candle of hope each day and let our light shine.

Happy New Year Everyone and may the Love of the Divine be with you in the coming year.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 30, 2014

The Spiritual Practice of Giving – Prayerful Tuesday

Being, A Light  In The Darkness
Being, A Light
In The Darkness

I am one of many people who do not look forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas.  To me this time of the year represents the loss of way to many people I have cared about.  So I usually don’t do much celebration and what I do is forced and tiring.  Instead of celebrating the way most people do I have always used this time of year for reflection and giving to those in need.

All year round I practice the Spiritual Practice of giving, donating to those who are in need, but at this time of the year it takes on new meaning and helps with the depression I get every year. I practice this in many different ways; collecting food for the Food Bank, going through my closet and donating clothes I haven’t worn all year to Goodwill or the Salvation army, volunteer at a shelter, gather up grocery bags of food that includes dog food, blankets, caps, gloves and socks and hand them out to the homeless I encounter on the street. All of my giving is anonymous with no concern for what the gift is used for or any expectation of being repaid.  And, while I know my small efforts won’t change much doing something for someone else helps me remember how good my life is and that despite feeling depressed I actually have a life worth sharing.

This week’s Spiritual Practice is the Practice of Giving, of sharing from your abundance without strings attached, just giving out of the love you have of God, Christ, Holy Spirit, and all of humanity.  I would also like to recommend that this Spiritual Practice of Giving extend through the New Year.  Do something each week where you give to those who need it in some way; the food bank, shelters, or someone on the street.  Even if all you give is a welcome and a smile that acknowledges the humanity of all people that is more than some people will get all year.

May you find new ways to share your compassion for those in need, giving out of your abundant life to ensure others will have life.

Ruth Jewell, ©November 18, 2014

Pray Everywhere, Anytime

Prayer, A Light In The Darkness
Prayer, A Light In The Darkness

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –                                  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, (NRSV)

To pray always, without ceasing, seems like an impossible task.  Seeing God in every thing, every action we do, every moment of our lives opens doors of our hearts, and the Spirit of God moves in.  We don’t become Pollyanna’s seeing only the good in people.  We see the suffering and trials of those around us and in seeing God in their faces we open our hearts and let God’s compassion move us to be the arms and legs, the body, of the Holy Spirit.  We are motivated to give the solace, love, support to those who are in need just as Jesus did on the streets and fields of Judea.

The suffering of our communities, nation and world overwhelms, frightens us and as the troubles increase exponentially we ask does prayer really do any good. Offering a prayer for someone walking in the dark places of life, does let them know they aren’t alone, that someone, somewhere is keeping them in their hearts.  But even more important is the prayer that motivates us to be the Christ on the street, to offer food, and help find shelter.  To care for the sick and injured in even small ways that often are not seen in the mad rush to send massive aid.  In fact many times it is the small things we do that mean the most to the recipients.  Each act is an act of prayer, it is an offering, it is remembering to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the incarcerated, and give mercy to the stranger, which all God and Jesus asked us to do.

What does prayer do for us who offer the prayers, perform the actions of prayer?  Well prayer draws us r into the arms of God.  Prayer opens our hearts to the love God and our ears to the words of God calling us to be the Beings we are meant to be.  Below is a lovely video by Lisa Maria Cameron (www.whisperingstars.com ©2007)

As you listen to song and watch the pictures pass before you.  Let your hearts turn to prayer, where ever you are, you don’t even have stop what you are doing and offer a prayer for what lies closest in heart.  Listen; listen carefully in a moment of silence, and throughout your day, for words of encouragement from God.  Look into the faces of each person you meet and see the face of God.  Each of you, all of you, no matter what you do, or have done, is beloved by God.  Let your eyes be opened to love that shines in the eyes of each other, and ears be opened to the voice of God in the voice of the next person you meet.

May the peace of God be with you, now and forever more.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 20, 2014

Forgiveness – Prayerful Tuesday

kneeling prayer sketch croped

Matthew 18:21-22: 21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

This week’s prayer practice comes from the lectionary readings.  In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone and Jesus’ response is an astronomical number. So how many times should we forgive? An infinite number of times.

I have often wondered what brought up that topic for Peter.  Did he have someone he needed to forgive, did one of the other disciples do something that irritated him, or might one of his family been causing him trouble?  I know those are some of the reasons I often need to offer forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.

Hurting someone’s feelings is simply part of being human and living in relationships.  We are not always pleasant to be around anymore than anyone else is and so unless we forgive each other of those hurt feelings we would be carrying a terrible burden that would eventually eat away at our souls.

Several years ago a man entered an Amish school house and killed all of the children before he shot himself. It would have been understandable for the families of those children to be angry and want revenge on the shooters family, but that is not what happened.  Instead they surrounded the widow and her children in love and cared for her and her children in her grief the way they cared for their own grief.  A spokesperson for the Amish community said the best way to remember the lives of the children lost was to offer forgiveness and compassion to the shooters wife and child and if the shooter had survived they would have told him they forgave him. I have known Amish families and I wasn’t surprised by their actions but still it must have been very hard to offer that kind of loving forgiveness.  You see I have carried around some anger for a long time for something someone did to my mother and I need to let forgive the person.  It is time to simply release that anger and offer my forgiveness.  In his book Spiritual Gems of Islam[1] Imam Jamal Rahman offers a meditation practice that guides us in releasing our anger and offering forgiveness even when the person is no longer with us by reaching out to the soul of the person to be forgiven.  Briefly here are the steps to follow:

  1. Begin in a state of meditation or stillness, let yourself feel safe and loved When you are ready call to the soul the person you wish to address
  2. Give yourself permission to experience your feelings this person evokes in you. Notice in your body where those feelings are located.  Feel compassion and mercy for yourself and slowly embrace those feelings
  3. When you are ready allow the feelings of mercy and compassion as a bridge to the persons soul and tell why you are forgiving them.
  4. Offer a prayer in the presence of the person’s soul that expresses your needs in relation to the person. State your heartfelt desire in prayer. End the prayer with whatever is in your highest interest, is manifesting for you now.
  5. As you continue to meditate tell the person’s soul that they have been part of your life but that it is now time to let them go, with love and forgiveness. Jamal recommends a ritual of cutting cords to release your attachment to the person.
  6. Listen for the soul of the other person expressing gratitude for this work of healing. Offer to release the person’s soul and envision his/her soul being embraced by the Holy Spirit.
  7. As you end of your meditation, give yourself permission to be loved by the Spirit and slowly return to awareness.

The above is a brief introduction to the prayer practice but it follows all of the steps.  However, if you are interested in furthering your understanding of this beautiful Sufi meditation I strongly recommend reading Imam Rahman’s book.

Peace to you all, and May your heart open like a flower in forgiving love for the unlovable and the lovable alike.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 9, 2014

[1] Rahman, Imam Jamal, Spirituality of Islam,  Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT, 2013, pgs. 148-150.

Summer’s End—Prayerful Tuesday

Harvest Time
Harvest Time

 

The month of August is one of my favorite times of the year a time of reflection and gratitude.  This has always been a slow time of year for me. A time to sit on the porch with a cold glass of iced tea and just sit, letting the warm air surround me, and the end of summer sounds lull me into a lazy half-sleep. There are fresh vegetables from the garden, or farmers market, that make even the simplest meals a feast.  Ice cream tastes better with ripe fat blackberries, or sweet peaches on top.  The trees are making a tired sound as the August breezes blow through leaves that are drying out and getting ready to turn into autumns crowning glory of red and gold.

In May there is excitement, joyousness and expectations in the air, but in August the air begins to get sleepy, tired and a little sad.  In just a few short weeks our children will be back in school, the air will turn cold and instead of juicy watermelon on the back porch it will be hot chocolate with cookies at the kitchen table.

As you can see, for me, August is a time of reflection and remembrance but it is also a time to take stock and explore what I am grateful for.  And, today gratitude fills my thoughts.  I am grateful for the warm sun and gentle rains that have fed my vegetable garden this year.  I have feasted on fresh lettuce, green beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I have been able to put some in our freezer to pull out and remember the warm summer sun in the darkness of winter.  I am grateful for the time spent lying in the shade and letting our dogs use me as a chew toy.  Together John and I have watched the sun set over the Olympic Mountains, turning the gold and purple and the waters of Puget Sound into silver.  I am grateful for walks in Yost Park and along the Edmonds beach, watching children play in forest and sand.  I am grateful for the feeling of life that thrums through me when I watch the sunrise over the trees of Yost Park, turning the sky from dark to bright and the Olympic Mountains pink with the first rays of light. I am grateful for the silence of the morning as I sit and meditate on our deck before sunrise. And, I am grateful for the opportunity to write in my blog, to have the time to read or simply sit and just be.

Gratitude is what warms my heart and gratitude is the spiritual practice I am asking you to join me in this week. You have read some of what I am grateful for now it is your turn.  As this summer winds down what are you grateful for?  Has something, no matter how small, given you pleasure or challenged you this summer? Have you done something that warms your heart and causes’ it to “swell with thanksgiving?” Did you travel, or read a book, or did you just stop and let the summer wash over you?  All of these, and more, are reasons to be grateful.

May G-d bless these your last days of summer with juicy berries and sweet peaches, gentle breezes and warm sunshine.  And, may you heart swell with gratitude for the gifts G-d graces you with.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 26, 2014