Via Transformativa: Music of the Spheres – Sorrow Songs

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before her always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world  and delighting in the human race.
–Proverbs 8:27-31

When we find ourselves singing sorrow songs in our lives we would do well to remember this song of wisdom sung in this ancient proverb. Wisdom isn’t some Johnny-come-lately to the party of creation, she – yes, SHE, wisdom is always feminine – was there when the big bang party went down.

When God established the heavens, she was there. When God made the oceans, she was there, when God created the sky and the waters and the very foundations of this blue boat we call home – wisdom was in on it. What’s more, wisdom is something God takes delight in – and not just now and then, but always. But the really wonderful news is that the Holy delights in the human race.

How often do we delight in the human race? Not very often, I would guess. We’re too busy tearing each other down, gossiping about one another, finding reasons to hate and disparage one another than we are about taking delight in one another.

But, wisdom knows, the fastest way out of singing a sorrow song, is to delight – get downright giddy about everything – and everyone – around you – the heavens, the oceans, the mountains, the trees, the birds, the air you breath.  Take delight in the brother, the sister, the stranger, the friend, the lover, and most especially the enemy. Delight is where wisdom resides, because when we look around at this awesome creation that God has plopped us down in the middle of, we can’t help but see the creative power of wisdom all around us.

The true wisdom of creation is its beauty, but often the most beautiful thing is nature is not the perfect flower or the rightly proportioned tree. Usually, the most beautiful things in this world are wounded – the gnarly roots of ancient tree, the green shoots emerging from the charred ground of a forest destroyed by fire, the craggy side of a mountain assailed for millennia by wind and rain.

The wounded people around us too, they should be a source of delight – because none of us has escaped this life without being wounded. People like you to think they’re perfect and they’ll pay for perfect teeth, perfect hair, a perfect body, a perfect house and career, but nobody gets out to this world without sorrow. Truly wise people can see beyond the façade of perfection and take delight in even the most wounded human being – seeing them with eyes of love and not pity, hatred or disdain.

This is the beauty of wisdom – it comes not from our perfection, but from our woundedness, from our battle scars – from our willingness to take our war weary souls down to the river to pray for healing and restoration and simply ask: Good Lord show me the way.

Breathe deeply.

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.

Via Transformativa: Music of the Spheres – The Universal Language

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

I want both of us
To start talking about this great love
As if you, I, and the Sun were all married
And living in a tiny room,
Helping each other to cook,
Do the wash, Weave and sew,
Care for our beautiful  Animals.
We all leave each morning
To labor on the earth’s field.
No one does not lift a great pack.
I want both of us to start singing like two
Travelling minstrels
About this extraordinary existence
We share, As if You, I, and God were all married
And living in a tiny Room.

-Hafiz

In our Jesus story (John 17:20-26), we find our guy “talking about this great love” – but it goes beyond a simple kind of marriage – this is the great love that not only binds us in unity – but binds us within one another. This is the kind of unity that God wishes she had seen as those ancient Hebrews built their tower of Babel. Instead of seeking that uniformity that gives us a respected name among human beings – Jesus is speaking about true unity – the interbeing of all humanity.

Jesus prays to God “that they may all be one. As you, Holy One, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us …”

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn’s poem on interbeing sounds familiar:

You are me, and I am you.  Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself, so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself, so that you will not have to suffer.
I support you; you support me. I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.

This is the message of Pentecost – that day when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples after Jesus had ascended into heaven. The book of Acts says that when the spirit descended, that common language was restored to the people – they all spoke in different tongues, but they all understood each other.

This is the essence of interbeing – just as music is a universal language – one that unites even strangers who may disagree deeply on other issues – so, too, the Holy Spirit is a uniter – not a divider. When the Holy Spirit descends, there is no you and me, no us and them, no ally or enemy, no friend or stranger – there is simply us – we “inter-are.”

When we understand that our entire being depends upon each other – depends upon me transforming my garbage so you don’t have to suffer, then we understand what it is to be married – one to each other – and to the eternal sun. This is what it means to be one – to be who we are – not just with each other – but within one another.

The heart of the word “compassion” means “to suffer with” – not “suffer for” or even “suffer beside” or “suffer nearby” – but “to suffer with” – to realize that the pain of existence is something we all feel – whether we are rich or poor, privileged or neglected, thin or fat, beautiful or ugly, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Buddhist or Atheist. True unity is the place where the labels dissolve and the love of the Holy runs in, through and around us all.

In this moment we know, we’ve got something between us – and it feels all right.

Breathe deeply.

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.

Via Transformativa: Music of the Spheres – Lullabies

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

Guard me as the apple of the eye;    
hide me in the shadow of your wings, 
from the wicked who despoil me,   
my deadly enemies who surround me. 
They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They track me down; now they surround me;
they set their eyes to cast me to the ground.
They are like a lion eager to tear,
like a young lion lurking in ambush.
Psalm 17:8-12

Reading the Psalms, you get the idea that perhaps these ancient desert dwellers were familiar with lullabies – and they probably were. Scientists have uncovered what they believe to be the oldest lullaby ever found – written some four million years ago in Babylon. The cuneiform script warns the child that their noise has awakened a demon that will eat them if he don’t shut up, right now. I’m sure it had a really catchy tune, too.

The writer of the Psalms, no doubt, took his cue from such lullabies, that beseech our heavenly parent to remember us as the apple of her eye even as the demons of life surround us on all sides.

This is the power of lullabies – while they may remind us of the horrors of life around us, they remind us where our true refuge lies – in the arms of our heavenly parent who comes to us even in the midst of the trials and tribulations of life.

Our lives can seem like a nightmare sometimes, with pressures, like demons or lions, bearing down on us from all directions. In our nightmares, we may feel helpless, but it is the lullaby – the psalm – that reminds us we can confront them when we call out for our mother – the Holy that can overthrow all the demons that plague us and provide us with more than enough comfort and strength.

What this lullaby of a psalm reminds us to do is this: take refuge – but take refuge in the only thing available to us – this present moment – this present moment that is full of the presence of the Holy, full of the mystery of God’s all-encompassing embrace.

That’s so hard for us to do because our minds are constantly at work looking for solutions to the current problem, dreaming of how good things were before the problems arose and how great we’ll feel when the problem goes away. We forget that the only thing available to us right now is … right now.

We can’t take refuge in plans, in the past or in the future. We can only take refuge in the present moment, where the Holy sings us a sweet lullaby, urging us to just let it be, even in the midst of the danger that surrounds us.

Here, in the present moment, the Holy invites us to relax, and breathe deeply.

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.

Via Transformativa: Music of the Spheres – Music of Creation

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our world of video games and downloadable movies at home, many of us don’t venture outside much anymore. A lot of people are like me, preferring the climate controlled comfort of indoor life to the potentially dirty and sweaty environment of the outdoors. We don’t commune with nature much anymore, and it’s to our detriment. We forget our intimate connection to the earth and how important it is that we honor the earth. Instead of honoring it, we tear it up and fight wars over who owns it.

Despite all abundance of real estate agents in the Yellow Pages, not one of us owns any piece of the earth. Leviticus 25:23 reminds us who the true owner is:

“The land is mine,” says God. “With me you are but aliens and tenants.” In other words, we’re hafta farmers. Just like tenants, we hafta take care of where we live. We can’t destroy a rented home and expect the landlord to keep letting us live there! At some point, we’d be evicted. And if we’re not evicted, at least the home would become a place that is unfit to live.

And so it goes with our planet. Unless we accept our responsibility as hafta farmers and begin to truly care for God’s creation, then we face the possibility of destroying our home to the point where it can no longer sustain life.

What this means is that we are all connected. Not one of us can live on this planet without affecting someone else. The choice of car that we drive doesn’t just affect our own pocketbook in terms of gasoline or repairs, but it affects the entire population in the form of carbon dioxide emission.

Do you know how much trash a person throws away, on average, per day? Four pounds. This waste includes substantial amounts of paper and cardboard (40%), as well as yard waste (18%), metals (9%), plastic (8%) and other products. Where does it all go? The answer: more than 70% of this material is buried directly in the ground at landfills. Just throwing away your garbage everyday affects other people on this planet.

If you want to know how your way of living in this world as a consumer impacts those around you, I urge you to take a quiz at earthday.org. This quiz tells you your “ecological footprint” in the world, measuring the impact of individual or household consumption choices in the areas of food, shelter and mobility. I took the quiz and even though I drive a hybrid, my grade was about what I made in botany. According to this test, my ecological footprint is 25 acres, just above the average for this country of 24 acres per person. But, worldwide there exists only 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. So if everyone lived like I do, we would need 5.6 planet earths to sustain each – not all of us – but each of us.

What you do in this world – how you choose to live your life – has a great impact on the rest of the world. Jesus’ disciples understood this. The book of Acts outlines how the early Christians shared their possessions with one another and lived in community – a true community – or commune, owning property together and sharing resources. The result – no one in that community needed for anything.

Think how the world would be if we could live like the disciples did in Acts. What would the world look like if we understood, at a deep level, our connection to everything else? There would be no need for social programs and welfare because there would be no poverty. There would be no need for war, because we would all share our bounty. There would be no need for stealing. There would be no need for lying and cheating. In short, we would realize Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom on earth simply because we realize, at a deep level, that we’re all connected and we either rise or fall together.

Breathe deeply.

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.