BEGINNINGS

Photo by Anders Jildén, Stockholm, Sweden, an Unsplash photo
Photo by Anders Jildén, Stockholm, Sweden, an Unsplash photo

Matins, night

darkest night when fear slides in
lost, lost I have lost the way
fear fills me, all hope has flown
death’s grim voice speaks,
“better to die than face your fear alone.”
has it come so far? Is my life worth anything?
how often have I screamed into the night, “WHY,
why, help me, have mercy, DAMN IT
do you hear me,
hear me before I surrender to the dark, surrender
to the dark

can I take my own life? Yes,
yes I can for in this darkest night it is only death
who welcomes me with open arms,
“come I will take you to where there is no fear,
no darkness, come, let’s end those fears, end your terror filled life” . . .
. . . DAWN BREAKS
out of the light of dawn God speaks,
“I will walk with you out of the darkness,
take my hand.”

Lauds, dawn

I was falling, falling, now caught, held,
lifted up, restored, re-membered, reborn into life
I am awakened to new light a new day, fresh,
never before seen or tasted
ah . . . to be held
in the arms of God,
to feel safe after terror
there is no description of the sweetness,
delight, astonishment at the dawn of re-birth,
to be resurrected by sacred love
for as sure as the crocus pokes its head through
the cold earth each spring, I have been embraced by the light
of dawn, warm golden light, green
growing light, giving new hope, new life, once dead
now tasting the first sweet breath of air

Terce, mid-morning

mornings . . . clean slate, fresh, calm, empty
of the past and filled with
promise of the future
mornings . . . opportunities not yet seen, waiting
to unfold, challenges to grow on
knowledge to gain, to be rolled in,
gathered in and absorbed,
time to learn the tools of life
so begins the journey
I put on my cloak of courage, and
grab my staff of knowledge
learn to walk with new legs, see
with new eyes, hear with new ears, touch
and be touched, revel
in the new sensations that run up my spine
discover new ways of being holy, of being with the holy.
learn to share newly given grace,
grace given you over and over
received over and over, a gift
given again and again
see the world as I have never seen it
bright with vibrant colors, sparkling
waters, perfumed air . . . learn to spread
my wings and fly on the breath of God

Sext, noon

to walk full of energy, riding
the ups and downs of life’s rollercoaster,
work that leaves arms tired, eyes drooping
taking what life has given me and
give back, sharing the graces of
knowledge, faith, love, and justice
using the joys of success as
nourishment and the tears of failure
as water to grow new grace
life upon life, all mixed
up with trials and joys that strengthen
and grow more life

None, mid-afternoon

Joy in a life being well lived
yet learning to let go of those
dreams limited by age, health, and time
no sadness (well maybe a little, transitions are hard after all),
joy at guiding the other beginning life’s journeys
learning it’s ok to let others
run the show, to lead
Oh I’m not done yet, I still
have work to do, things to accomplish
now is my time to be the encourager, the
mentor, the teacher of life’s lessons, to
teach others to lead
Now is my time to find
my peace with who I was, who
I have become and who I will yet be

again the Spirit takes my hand and
leads me on my journey

Vespers, evening

ah, to kick back, to
let go, to relax, day’s
work is done, time to sort
those old memories that
have piled up in my head
to find there a stillness
a being and . . . letting
stillness come in and fill my being
time to pass the torch to those more
able than I, those with more energy,
more time, more life
my place is cheerleader, advisor
and kisser of bumped knees
I am the repository
of life’s joys and sorrows
the keeper of the tales of
adventure and miss-adventure, all to
be passed on so the old ones
will not be forgotten

Compline, night

night, the time of endings, conclusions, laying down to rest
the memories of past loves, fears, angers, joys, and conflicts fade into the darkness
only one light now shines with a blinding brightness
I reach with one hand back in, to
the fading darkness of this life, and
with the other hand I reach out into . . .
the unknown light.
I am torn between leaving and staying,
I am between two worlds, my . . .
fingers slip through the hands of those I love

but, the time has come to be whole again
My time in this place is done, time
to let go, time to lead the way
one . . . last . . . time.
I have no regrets as this life fades,
the past made me who I am
and I am satisfied
the chrysalis of this life is breaking apart,
the butterfly is ready to emerge,
to spread her wings and fly

Ruth Jewell, ©July 2016

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

Spiritual Practice of Intention – Prayerful Tuesday

Empty Tomb Free Biblical Images from www.goodnewsunlimited.com
Empty Tomb
From Free Biblical Images, http://www.goodnewsunlimited.com

1After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” – Matthew 28:1-10

We are now in the season of Easter, yes I said “season,” which is comprised of the weeks from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  This is a time of reflection on what it means to be a Christian and the significance of living a life of God’s people out in the world. Easter season is a time for all of us who are the church to focus on how we are witnesses of the resurrection in our daily lives. In the light of the Easter Season the weekly spiritual practices will focus on how we express the light of the resurrection to those we live and work with and those we meet in our goings and comings.

To begin this series of Spiritual Practices I would like to start with the Spiritual Practice of Intention.  The practice of intention focuses on how you are “being” in the now, this very moment.  Your intentions come from your own understanding of what is important to you in our ever changing world.  When you reflect and meditate on what matters to you, what is most important to your inner self you learn to act out of that intention.  Your commitment to, and actions in, the world around you will begin to reflect what you value most, and what lies within your heart. I am not talking about setting goals rather I am suggesting that you search your heart for what you value most.  What is important about the spiritual practice of intention is you do not want to search for peace, stop thinking, or discover some enlightened thought. Rather you are looking to set an intention, discover what it is that you value most and then do you best to live into that intention as you go about your daily life.

For the practice I would like to suggest you take some time this week and contemplate what matters most to you.  Two or Three times this week set aside 15 to 20 minutes to sit in silence, and explore your inner dreams, wishes, and desires.  What is most important to you? Do you value peace, justice, or mercy, or something else?  Contemplate how you might express that value in the coming weeks of living your daily life. Let yourself rest in the silence and in the voice of your heart offer up a prayer to the Divine asking for guidance and giving gratitude for the grace God has given you.

May the Eternal give you guidance and show you how to live as a child of the Everlasting. Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©March 29, 2016

Welcoming the Stranger – Prayerful Tuesday

“for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. – Matthew 25:35

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Louis Guido Maximilian Jewell (aka Louie) Adopted March 19, 2016
Louis Guido Maximilian Jewell (aka Louie)
Adopted March 19, 2016

I apologize for being late today, but, just returned from the Westar Institute Spring Meeting held in Santa Rosa CA.  I returned a day late because I adopted the cute little fellow above. I ended up staying an extra day to bond with my new little friend before we made the long drive home.

You may be wondering how adopting a dog from shelter is related to a theological meeting but it does fit in quite well actually. A major theme of the meeting was hospitality, the welcoming of the other into our midst.  That other may be someone from a different culture, race, faith tradition, age, or gender.  It also means welcoming the non-human other. God intends us to express our welcome to all creatures, mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and (here’s the hard part for me) insects.  God intended us to care for all nature, human, non-human, plant, and stone for all are children of God.

As I listened to the lectures and discussions I wondered when we lost the ability to care for others, human or non-human.  When did we forget to practice loving the other and caring for the sick, the homeless, and the incarcerated?  It doesn’t matter if the other in need is a man, woman, child, dog, cat, horse, or any other child of God, all deserve to live a good life and to be welcomed into our arms.

Ever since my beloved Suzie died in January from a stroke I have been considering adopting another Chihuahua and while I was in Santa Rosa I visited a Sonoma County Animal Shelter and was introduced to Louie.  I thought about what it means to care for someone other than myself and while a small dog wouldn’t be everyone’s choice it is mine. So we are welcoming into our small home and family a new member. Louie was abandoned on the streets of Santa Rosa; he is between 3 and 5 years and was discarded like trash. A shy little fellow who is way smarter than you’d think.  After all he has lived for some time on the streets, and survived. He is loving, gentle and wants only to be loved.  Just like anyone who has been discarded and forgotten.

So this week, for our spiritual practice, I am asking you to practice hospitality.  I’m not suggesting you go out and adopt a dog or any other animal, although I wouldn’t stop you.  Rather I am suggesting that you see the homeless on the street for the people of God that they are.  You might volunteer to spend a couple of hours helping out at a homeless shelter, food bank, or animal shelter.  If you see a homeless person on the street, offer them a sandwich or granola bar.  When you offer your gift, shake their hand look them in the face and see the Holy Spirit looking back. Talk to Terri Stewart about volunteering at the King County Juvenile Center and learn to see children of the streets as angels in disguise.  If you are interested attend a service of a different faith tradition and listen with open heart and mind. At the end of the week reflect on what you have experienced and learned of the other.  Offer a prayer for all who are forgotten and pushed aside.

Loving, welcoming Spirit may we see your face in the eyes all we meet, human and non-human.  Help us to open our hearts to the stranger in our midst, and welcome them with open arms.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 22, 2016

Blessed are those – Prayerful Tuesday

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6

homeless, by Peter Griffin, PublicDomainPictures.net
homeless, by Peter Griffin, PublicDomainPictures.net

What does it mean to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness? What Jesus was saying is better understood if we understand how the 1st century audience understood righteousness.  A person listening to this scripture in the 1st century would have heard righteousness as justice; so those who “hunger and thirst for justice “will find justice.   However, at least if you listen to the news media, it doesn’t seem as though justice is a priority today.

In this land of so much abundance there are too many who are hungry, homeless, and lost in a world of mental disability and addictions.  Last Tuesday I volunteered at Common Ground in Everett.  About 40 homeless and hungry people and one sweet dog showed up between 8 am and 12 noon, for coffee, tea, sandwiches and snacks.  For 4 hours, 4 days a week people who live on the streets find a warm place to talk, play a few board games, drink coffee and eat snacks, or just sleep in a safe place.

Each and every one of the people served by this small shelter was hungry for justice.  Some are homeless due to alcohol abuse or chemical addictions. Some have mental illnesses, too many are veterans suffering from PTSD.  Some are young people thrown out of their homes by their parents and some are homeless through no real fault of their own.  Some have committed crimes that prevent them from getting a job, but that is a smaller percentage than most people think. Many are homeless because they lost their job and are unable to find another one.  It is one reason why some 50 something’s are on the street.  They were living paycheck to paycheck and when the paycheck was lost so was their housing and everything else.

Every single visitor to Common Ground only wanted enough to survive on, a clean place to live, enough food to eat, and clean clothes to wear.  Is that too much to ask? Each person wanted to be recognized for the person they are, with all the wounds and scars that living a life produces.  Is that such a hard thing to ask for?

Homelessness, hunger, illness aren’t sins or crimes, even though they are often treated that way.  Homelessness is the dirty little secret we want to hide away and tell ourselves it can’t happen to me, or those we love.  Well, the truth is losing your home, and/or your family, everything you hold dear can be lost in a moment. When it happens, you very well may end up on the street asking yourself what happened.

The spiritual practice for the week is to recognize the people on the streets as our brothers and sister, our aunts and uncles, our mothers and fathers.    You might carry with you an extra sandwich, or candy bar and when you meet someone offer it to them.  They may refuse, but most likely they will accept. Shake their hand and let them know you recognize them for who they are, a child of God, a child of humanity. If you are in the position to speak up for those on the street then find a way to do it.  If you are able to volunteer at a shelter the life lesson you receive will change how you view your own life of comfort and abundance.  Even if you believe you have very little it is still more than what those on the streets have.  They believe you are rich, and in meeting them face to face you will recognize how rich you are.  You probably are saying that’s not a spiritual practice but it is spirituality in action, practicing what we are taught in the Gospels.  It does no good to pray if the prayer is not followed up with meaningful action.

May each of you find the Divine in the face of a hungry man, woman, or child and may you be righteous offering justice for those in need.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 23, 2016

Never Alone – Prayerful Tuesday

Matthew 28:20b “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God does not want
us to be burdened
because of sorrows and tempests
that happen in our lives,

because
it has always been so
before miracles happen.

–Julian of Norwich, 14th century Anchoress

Microsoft Clip Art
Microsoft Clip Art

Sorrow, grief whether from unforeseen circumstances or our own doing always seems to lead us to questioning our beliefs and faith. We ask ourselves, the universe, or the Divine “why is this happening to me?”  In our woundedness we nearly always believe we will never be able to recover, to fully live life again.  I know what it feels like, I have been there way too many times and yes I felt totally adrift without friend or companion. Yet I was, we are, never really alone.  There is always someone to lay at their feet your fears and pain. Sometimes we have to look for confidants, and sometimes we only have to open our hearts. When we open up and let the pain scream out the healing process begins.

So yes with time the wounds of our heart, mind and soul do heal and we move on. We learn from our pain and discover new strength deep within that provides the fuel to live a joyful and fulfilling life helping us move into a better place in our lives.  We learn there are relationships that can’t be broken even in the darkest times.  We also learn that from loss great things will grow. The two greatest miracles of sorrow are learning we do have the strength to walk through the dark places in our lives and learning to forgive ourselves.

But when we refuse to look at our sorrows, too afraid of the memories to bring them out into the open where the light is we never learn from our struggles.  By keeping the memories of the painful times of life locked within we never allow ourselves to find the deeper meaning in our sorrows, or the strength that comes from squarely facing them. We never completely heal.

Healing doesn’t mean forgetting because if we forget than we cannot come to an understanding of who we are and are meant to be.  Life isn’t easy; it is full of ups and downs. More than likely we spend more time in the valleys than we do on the mountain tops. But just as a young tree grows stronger when strong winds blow it around we too grow stronger; strong enough to face the next valley, and the next, and the next.  With each one we gain a bit more strength.  Yes, I know all too well that it doesn’t feel like that in the moment but it is true.  Living your life without challenges, or risk of sorrows, isn’t living it is existing and there lies the difference.

Spiritual Practice:

Have your traveled a dark valley?  Did fear keep you from moving forward or from sharing your pain with a friend, pastor, spiritual director, or directly with the Spirit? If you could not let your sorrows out what would help you to find what you need?  Prayer and silence are strong tools for rebuilding our relationship with the Divine.  Offer your fears to the Spirit in your own way of prayer. Confiding in a spiritual director, a close friend, or your pastor may help guide you in your own search for answers. Each journey is different and requires different tools.  Asking for help is not a weakness but strength and a spiritual practice in itself. Let your heart be healed by finding the best tool for you.

Blessings on your journey wherever the road takes you.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 26, 2016

Ancient Journeys

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 

Matthew 2:13a Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;

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The winter stretches across bare trees.

And in our book we close the chapter on creation
And turn to the Exodus, to the leaving,
To our new becoming.

The Mystery reveals itself in a different guise
Out of a burning
It says “I will be that I will be, this is my name,
I am everywhere, in all things, and I call you forward.
Now take off your shoes,
The ground you are standing on is holy.”

It is hard to hear and difficult to imagine
Something with us in the pain,
In the exposed rawness,
Something with us in the brokenness of life.

But the voice is persistent, it whispers, it shouts,
“I am all that is. Everywhere you are, there I am.

I am the oneness, the unity of all being
And we are in relationship.
And I call you forward.”

The very ground we stand upon is holy.
There is nothing outside the realm of God.
We live in relationship with everything.

This is our covenant—our agreement with the continual becoming:
To know that every moment is sacred.
To act with reverence for all.
And to listen for the whispered silence
That holds us and calls us forward
To be of use
Within the fragility of all life.*

*Picture and meditation by Rabbi Yael Levy, founder of “A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program,” January 22, 2016, Face Book Page

It seems since the beginning of time we are called to make journeys.  Adam and Eve journeyed from The Garden, Abram and Sarai leave for a place known only to God, and Joseph takes his small family of Mary and Jesus on the dangerous roads to Egypt.  We too make journeys.  In my life time I have journeyed across this country moving from Ohio, to Texas, to Washington, to California, and back to Washington. I have hopes that I won’t have to move again but I never know when God will call me to a new place.

There is one journey I have yet to make.  My father and mother have made it, I have had friends make it and my time will come I have no doubt in that. At some point in the future God will call me to make the last voyage in this life and cross to the next life.  Now that is a BIG journey.  No one has ever returned to tell us that it is safe journey without dangerous places.  In a way we will be making a journey similar to Abram’s and Sarai’s in that only God knows our destination.  And, we have no choice but to trust that God will find us a safe route.

Every living thing and creature in this universe will make the journey; fish or plant, dog or human, all of us will cross to a new life somewhere that only God can lead us.  Like the Hebrews in the desert we will have to look for the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night in order to find the right path.

Last week my beloved Chihuahua, Suzie, passed away.  She let go of this life and followed a new caretaker.  As I held her in my arms and felt her leave, I knew she was now in good hands.  I miss her but like family, friends, and other companions I know someday we will meet and cross the bridge together. Until I too am called, I will hold the memory of Suzie, family, friends, and companions in my heart, which grows to accommodate all the memories of those I love.

Suzie
Suzie

While I miss those who have gone ahead I am comforted by the peace that comes from knowing that I will join them someday and what a party we will have.

Peace and blessings to you all.  May your memories fill you with joy and give you comfort.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 24, 2016