Advent, Week Four, Love – Prayerful Tuesday

And now faith, hope, and love abide,
these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Fourth Week of Advent Love Photo by Ruth Jewell
Fourth Week of Advent Love
Photo by Ruth Jewell

FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

faith, hope, love
in faith an elderly Priest and his wife
waited for their first child
in faith a maiden utters the words
“Here Am I”

in love a child leaps in the womb
at the approach of the pregnant Mary
in love a bridegroom
takes a pregnant girl as his wife

in love Mary lays
her first born in a manger
in love the angels sang
and a star appeared

in hope the shepherds
came to the stable
in hope Magi followed a star
to kneel at the feet of a carpenters son

Faith, Hope, Love
all three were needed
for the greatest of miracles
but it was Love that conquered all

Ruth Jewell, December 21, 2015

Meditations for a Mindful Advent
Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle, WA
2015

Slow down . . . seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less  . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.

An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your Goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.

Love – The Fourth Week of Advent
Light four candles and pray “an Advent Prayer.”

Meditation
Snowflakes, leaves, humans, plants, raindrops, stars, molecules, microscopic entities
all come in communities. The singular cannot in reality exist.
— Paula Gunn Allen

All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, call to mind the people you will meet.
Evening: As the day ends, where did you tarry, where did you glimpse the holy?

Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of Love; include yourself

Ruth Jewell ©December 22, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

let there be light

Genesis 1:1-5: 1In 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.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Sunrise, Edmonds WA, July 5, 2013 Ruth Jewell
Sunrise, Edmonds WA, July 5, 2013
Ruth Jewell

Genesis 1:1-5 is one of my favorite scriptures and I have read, and reread it many times. I can imagine the pleasure God had at that first light because light always gives me pleasure.  To see the sun rise in the morning gives me great pleasure.  The sky goes from velvety black to a dark blue and the birds begin their morning song.  Then the first threads of sunlight break free of the horizon and begin to paint pinks, violets, and rose in the sky.  The color increase to oranges, and yellows until the Earth turns just ever so slightly and the first sliver of the bright sun is visible.  Now there is a grand chorus of bird song to add to the majesty of the morning. For me that is pure magic.

I grew up on a farm in Ohio and before dawn I went out to feed, cattle and horses. In the dark I would stop and watch for the incredible start to the day.  I simply love morning!  I love the return of light!  At those moments I can understand how ancient peoples came to worship the sun. To them it was magic; they didn’t know about the earth’s rotation, they weren’t even sure that the sun would return. For them the welcome sight of the light of day meant they had survived the time of dark and fear and now there was light and hope.

Light warms our home, Earth and produces the chlorophyll for plants to grow and provide the food for all of us animals, humans included. Light, warm light, life giving life.   The very air we breathe is dependent on light and the process of photosynthesis. Our very lives depend on the light that comes from our medium sized star we call the Sun. Without the warmth of the light our planet would be a cold and barren hunk of rock without life.  God breathed the breath of life over the waters and that breath was preceded by light.

Now our planet, in its journey around our sun, is tilting it’s northern face once again away from that life giving, warming light and that means shorter days and longer, colder, dark filled nights.  Oh I know the darkness has its place.  It is a time of rest and renewal for plant and animal alike. And as a person who has lived with the land I know plants and animals need that time of rest, whether it is one short night or the long winter nights.  But I am a creature of the day and already I yearn for the warmth of the spring morning when the sun rises with the trumpet of bird song.

On December 21st I will rejoice and offer a prayer of gratitude as the earth once again tilts the northern hemisphere back to the sun.  Spring will come again, just as it has every other year.  I will watch with growing anticipation the shortening of the night and lengthening of the days. And when that warm spring morning comes the birds and I will be there to welcome the return of the light.

May the light of God and the Universe give you joy this day.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 24, 2015

Laughter – Prayerful Tuesday

Psalm 126:2a our mouths shall be filled with laughter,
our tongues, with songs of joy

happy mouse

Photographer Unknown

Last Christmas Day my gift from Santa was a pinched nerve in my back. Apparently our dear Santa thought that was either funny or I was really bad last year.  Actually the problem is due to the fact that we humans stand upright. If we still walked on our knuckles like other apes we would have fewer problems. But then we wouldn’t be able to see over the tall person, in the tacky Uncle Sam hat, during the 4th of July parade would we.

Any way I digress.  What I am trying to say is in order to deal with the pain I have rediscovered the value of laughter as a spiritual practice.  Like the little mouse above I have learned the grace of sharing my joy at being alive instead of being the grouch my beloved John says I can be.  After all what does he know he only lives with me?

Spending time finding joy in all that is around me, offering that joy as prayer, and letting the response of joyful light to enter deep within does much for my own spiritual well being and for the life of those around me.

I am not the first to promote laughter as a spiritual practice, remember I said I rediscovered this practice.  But it is one we forget when life overwhelms us.  Taking ourselves seriously is important but it is also important to not go to the extreme.  No matter what we do, how we feel, or how badly things have gone there is always something to laugh at, even if it is just ourselves.

Before you all get your knickers in a knot I want you to know I am not making light of those who fight depression every day of their lives. Because depression isn’t a choice it’s an illness that needs to be addressed.  Caring for and helping those who fight mental illness is also a spiritual practice and an important one and something we all need to do.

However, for those of us who are fortunate not to experience depression learning to laugh, to find joy in life, and to bring joy to others is a spiritual practice, a spiritual practice that helps us all to not take ourselves too seriously.  For me laughing at life in general and discovering the joy in simply living each day brings me closer to God, who, I am sure, is laughing along with me.

Today I challenge each and every one of you to find something that brings you joy.  May your joy be your gift others and may it be a door to a deeper inner joy where you and the Holy Spirit have a good laugh.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 9, 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

Gratitude for Home – Prayerful Tuesday

The From My Deck
The View From My Deck

 

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

I returned home yesterday from a week of traveling.  John and I joked that we could now give recommendations for 4 hotels and 4 different beds if anyone wanted such a thing.  It is not that we didn’t have fun,  the Turner Lecture’s in Yakima was very informative, with lots of insight and just plain good conversation, we loved visiting the Maryhill Museum and had a delightful time at the Maryhill winery (if you like winery’s this is one not to miss).  And, I couldn’t ask for a better end to the trip than the wedding of my beloved cousin Sally to the love of her life, Maggie.  However, I agree with Lin Yutang, home is best for a good rest.

When we returned home we were greeted with barks of joy and two wiggly furry bodies, screeches of mom and dad are home from two excited parrots and the inviting comfort of our own bed.  I am grateful for the comfort of my own bed, the steamy warmth of my own shower, and the cozy comfort of husband and dogs on the couch.  But most of all I am grateful for a silence that feeds a soul drained of its energy by activity and the presence of others who, while I love them all, are a bit needy.  Here at home I am grateful for being alone, but not lonely, for silence that speaks to me, and for rest that feeds me.

So today I am asking you to spend time each day in the coming week with, at least, one gratitude for home.  Every day offer up a prayer of gratitude for something about your home that you are grateful for and let your heart soar with thankfulness for that space you call home.

May your journeys always be so eventful that you are grateful for the return home.

Many Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©October 14, 2014

The Gift of Be-Longing – Prayerful Tuesday

Belong Gives My Heart Wings
Belong Gives My Heart Wings

Saturday, June 21st, was the summer solstice and I spent the day in a solstice retreat.  It was a time of quiet meditation, laughter, the beginning of new relationships and the renewal of others.  One of our discussions covered how all of us have a ‘longing’ for the companionship of others. I, like most people, was born into a family that served as my primary home of ‘be-longing’ for many years but now the events of normal life has separated me from most of my birth family.  As a result I created my own ‘family’ through relationships with good friends, companion animals, and my husband and his family.

I had never thought of either a birth-family or a self created-family as a holy thing until I read a book by the late John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong.[1] In the very beginning of the book O’Donohue says “When you suppress your wild longing and opt for the predictable and safe forms of belonging, you sin against the rest of Nature that longs to live deeply through you” (pg 5). When we deny our need to belong in relationship with others we deny our true selves and we deny God’s gift of grace of the warm embrace of those who care for us.  Yes being in relationship with any other being entails risk; the risk of loss and grief, and the risk of being betrayed. Yet while all of those risk may/do/will happen the benefit joy of knowing there is someone who understands you and is willing to be there for you totally outweighs any sorrow that may occur in the future.

Yes I have lost people I had been in relationship with for many years to death, relocation, and arguments.  And losing a friend because of anger or betrayal is the hardest lost for it means a break in the sacred bond God had gifted us with. Today I am more aware of my relationships, looking for ways to nurture them instead of poisoning them.  Belonging requires hard work, but like a garden the fruits of the harvest are bountiful and delightful.

Today I ask you to hold in prayer your relationships with your family, friends, companion animals, God and draw strength from knowing you are not alone even when the night is the darkest.

Ruth Jewell, ©June 24, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] O’Donohue, John; Eternal Echoes, Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong, Perennial Publishers, New York, NY, 1999

The Cost of Life

 

Sermon, Queen Anne Christian Church
June 15, 2014

Romans 6:1b-11
Romans 6:1b-11

 

Roman 6:1-11  What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:24-39 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.* 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father,and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

For 10 years I was an environmental consultant performing Human Health and Ecological risk assessments for the military and private concerns.  One of the uses of my reports was to define what would be the cost of a cleanup of a contaminated site both as risk of exposure and monetary cost of cleanup.  The EPA has a basic cleanup target of 1 in 10000 chances of illness or death from exposure to contaminated soil, water, or air.  Of course all is negotiable but that is what is desired. The EPA doesn’t really care about cost but companies do and so does the military.  Cleanup is not popular with those who own the property. There is a balancing act that goes on at the negotiation table between the EPA and the owners of the property. The property owners want to remove as little as possible to keep cost down and the EPA wants as much removed as possible to keep risk down.  When you add in resident and ecological groups to the mix you probably get some idea of how complicated such negotiations can be.  But the key word is negotiable.

Matthew writes in this passage what the cost of discipleship will be for those who follow in the path of Jesus.  He tells his community what the risks are when you commit to following Jesus’ teaching and he doesn’t mince any words and the cost is not negotiable. For those who are faithful to God and Christ will face criticism, be misunderstood, run out town, and face death at the hands of the Romans just as Jesus did.  How is that for a recruiting statement?  I can hear the thought of a potential follower now.  “Ok, my family will disown me, I will most likely be run out of town on rail, I will have my words twisted around to mean something other than what I said, and the Romans are going to kill me, tell me again why I should sign up for this.”  If a follower of the WAY ever thought about the risks they wouldn’t sign up.  I mean would you give up everything to go out and teach others about the WAY of Jesus.  Would you give up the king-size bed, the running water, the clean clothes, or 3 meals a day?  What is amazing to me is that anyone actually did and I am grateful to those who had, and have, the courage to walk that difficult path.

Matthew wanted his community to understand those risks while having the courage to choose a way of life that would be difficult but result in a life lived within God as found in the life of Jesus. Matthew’s words challenge us to stand up for injustice just as Jesus did.  To use our voice to speak for those who are silenced.  To live a life of compassion and peace towards everyone no matter how different they may be from us; from a different culture or socio-economic class, differently abled, or differently gendered, or (and this is the hard part) even if they have done harm to us or someone we love.  Matthew says we are called to right injustice even at the expense of our own comfort, reputation, relationships, financial security, or even our lives.  That is a hard decision to make and I know I (as a risk assessor and a seminary student) that discernment before that decision to be baptized and commit to that life is often very difficult.  And let’s face it the reasons to proceed are not all that well laid out.  So where do we find some answers.

Well before Matthew wrote his Gospel Paul wrote a letter of introduction to the Roman community and in that letter we have this short passage that summarizes reasons for following the WAY and those reasons are just as valid today as they were in the 1st century. Following the WAY was dangerous and even Paul doesn’t deny that but the benefit is a life lived into love.

Paul tells the Romans, and us, that when we commit ourselves to being baptized we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ.  Just as Christ died to sin and lives to God we are to recognize our baptism as dying to sin and living into God.  Notice I didn’t say Christ died FOR our sins, Paul did not believe Jesus died because God wanted a sacrifice for our sins.  No, Jesus death on the cross saves us because God overcame and said No to sin through his resurrection of Christ.  God’s message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to reconcile those who are separated from God back into those loving arms.  Called Atonement, or better still “at-one-ment,” reconciliation is the means of re-membering those who have spent their lives lost in a wilderness far from God back into the body of God through Christ.

When Paul writes “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” he is talking about saying no to sin and moving toward God as experienced in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book Meeting Paul open the verse 6:3-4 to a new insight

“all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

We are graced with newness of life that includes a transformed way we see our world.  A commitment leading to the ritual sacrament of Baptism results in a “renewing of [our] minds.” We being to see the world differently, living our lives into a richer and fuller life in love. We no longer see the world as other and different from ourselves but rather we see ourselves and the world as part of the body of God and Christ.

For Matthew, for Paul and for us these changes and commitments have political implications.  It means we as followers of the WAY are to stand against the “wisdom of this world” as it is known today.  We are to refuse to follow a path that results in harm, injustice, or death for anyone, whether we agree with them or not.

That is hard to do, I know it is hard for me. I too have watched the news and read the papers about mass shootings, people who demonize the poor and needy and I get angry.  Sometimes I say things I might regret because I want them punished; you see I also forget they are part of God’s body.  As a consultant I tried to tell the truth as I calculated it and saw it but I dealt with people who had very different agendas from mine. I grew frustrated and angry at people who only looked at the “bottom line” or a single unachievable number instead of considering how what they had done, and will do, affects those who live in the area, human and ecological.  I wanted things to change and it wasn’t until I realized that the change must begin with me that I knew what I would do. I had to stop seeing the world with a “bottom line” perspective because all of creation, human and non-human are simply too important..

In Matthew Jesus says “Those who find their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”  The life I lost is the one that holds tight to the world I see in the news reports while the life I gain is a life lived in relationship with God. While I often forget that I try to remember, what all of us need to remember are these words of Jesus’ “Do not be afraid … I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Ruth Jewell, ©June 15, 2014