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

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

I Choose . . .

Microsoft ClipArt
Microsoft ClipArt

 

For the past two years I have been wrestling with how my ministry would be expressed in the world.  This discernment journey has taken me “around the block” and back again many times and during this past summer I had finally made my decision, I choose not to be ordained in my denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I choose not to be a pastor, or a chaplain, or even a spiritual director. I choose to be something else, what that something is has only just begun to take shape.

This may seem inconsequential to most of you but for me it has been a difficult decision.  I graduated in 2013 with my Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) degree and it was with the intention of being ordained, primarily because I believed that is what one did when one received an MDiv. But you see it wasn’t my intention when I entered the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Seattle University in 2007.  At that time I just wanted to be better informed in order to conduct Labyrinth retreats with more meaning.  What happened as I progressed through my degree programs of Spiritual Transformation and MDiv I discovered I had talent and passion for learning and I wanted to share what I learned with others. And the truth of the matter is as an ordained pastor I would not be able to share all that I learned simply by the constraints of the job.  I actually would have a greater voice if I wasn’t ordained.

So I chose to be a scholar, a learner of faith with the purpose of spreading what I learn back in to the world.  This is important because we aren’t 1st century people; we live in the 21st century. That means we have a perspective on our faith that those living in the 1st and 2nd and 3rd centuries did not have. We have a history of being, or not being, people of God, just as the Jewish people of the 1st century had a history of being, or not being, a people of God.  We have had our moments of living as God asked and we have had our moments when we have forgotten God, just as the Jewish people had and have. It is the task of the scholar to educate the people of God of their past and how can we do that if no one studies it?

In the last two years I have become interested in how our Christian faith is connected to our Jewish roots and to our younger sibling in the faith Islam and that interest has led me into the differences in how we read Holy Scripture as compared to our 1st to 3rd century faith ancestors, and the differences are striking. Those differences in perspective has shown me it is important for people to understand what the writings of Paul, Gospel Writers, Jewish Prophets, and Muslim Writers actually wanted their listeners to know, what was the message they were transmitting and how does that message resonate with us today.  All those authors wrote and spoke was revolutionary in their time and I want to recover, at least for myself, that revolutionary message.  I want to know what they wrote that was specific to their time and not relevant in the 21st century and what part of their message guides us forward into our own future. And, I want to share that news, that revolutionary news. I have no illusions that I am going to be another Marcus Borg, or a John Caputo, or anyone else who is way more learned in theology than I will ever be.  But I can read what they have learned and pass it on to those who will listen.

You see scholars are often, well nearly always, not thought of as being relevant to world.  When anyone envisions a scholar it is as a stuffy old man or woman who is a bit rumpled and surrounded by books and papers.  It is someone who is absent minded and lost in the past, with no idea about what is going on in the world today.  But that is not who learners/scholars are.

Scholars are connected to the world by stories, and threads of the past that live in the present and the future.  The old quotation “if we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat it,” has never had more meaning than in today’s world.  We are currently reliving a past history where the disadvantaged and those who are different from us are forgotten and made the objects of hate and fear.  It is the role of the scholar to remind the people of who they are, and whose they are.  It was the role of the prophets in Jewish History, it was the role of John the Baptist, and it was the role of Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad.  All of them called to their people to see each other, everyone, as themselves.  Today we have and had  people like President Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King who have called to us to remember and just like those who went before us too many are not listening.

I will never be an exalted a scholar like Desmond Tutu, or Elisabeth Johnson, Sallie McFague or Elisabeth Schüssler Florenza.  But in my small part maybe I can pass on their learning’s to someone who will become exalted. That is enough for me. As the saying goes I am a very small fish in a very large pond and I am happy with that. To give back what I have been blessed to receive is more than enough.

There are many others like me out there, people who read, and study waiting for the opportunity to pass on what they have discovered beyond academics or a very small circle of friends. What each has is a nugget of truth and bit wisdom that needs to be heard. This choice is not prestigious, very few scholars make it to super star status and I am grateful for that.  But the time has come for the telling of the past mistakes and success’. To help everyone remember that the eyes of the other are your eyes and to harm or denigrate the other is to harm and denigrate yourself. Scholars have a role to play in the world that is greater than writing dusty tomes that will be read by only a few.  The past is relevant to the present and the future and it is important that we remember that.  I would like to add my very small part to that story. To offer a tiny bit of knowledge that just might help someone else see the world differently.

My choice, my decision, my path not the easiest of routes to take, and it wasn’t an easy choice but I choose to be a learner, a scholar, a passer on of knowledge.

My prayer for all of you to listen with open mind and heart to what the teaching says, it just might change your life.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 15, 2015

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

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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

An Opportunity for Grace in the Face of Hateful Protest

This is one of the most moving and forceful articles you will read this week.  Amy Piatt is a minister of the WORD in every way possible. Source: An Opportunity for Grace in the Face of Hateful Protest

The Good Samaritan – Prayerful Tuesday

 

Jan Wijnants, Parable of the Good Samaritan, 1670
              Jan Wijnants, Parable of the Good Samaritan, 1670

Luke 10:33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ The Message)

I have watched the news media’s reports on desperate flights of Syrian’s and Iraqi’s to Europe with a breaking heart.  I have donated funds to the Week of Compassion for their relief drive but it hasn’t helped the pain in my chest.  This morning’s meditation scripture was the Good Samaritan and it seeded so appropriate for me right now as I am trying to discern what else I can do for people half the world away.  So today my prayer practice for you is to sit down with this painting and this scripture and let God speak to you maybe together we can find our way on this difficult road.

Directions for Lectio Divina

  • Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Focus for a few moments on their breathing; or use a “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” you gently recite to 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, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.
  • 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 God.
  • Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to him what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
  • Rest in God’s embrace. And when he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, 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 God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Sometimes in Lectio Divina, you may return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for Lectio Divina. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your Lectio Divina, as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio Divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Directions for Visio Divina

  • Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, 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. 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?
  • 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? 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.

May compassion fill our hearts and like the Good Samaritan care for our fellow travelers in the world.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 15, 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