Via Transformativa: Awake, My Soul! – Soul Friend

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (John 10:1-10), we find our guy talking sheep. This seems to be Jesus’ favorite metaphor, referring to his followers as sheep.

Traditionally, of course, this passage has been read as yet another criticism of other religions. Tradition tells us that it’s only Jesus who can lead us through the gate of heaven and anyone who says Buddha, the millions of Hindu gods, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster can bring you enlightenment is nothing but a thief and a bandit.

Reading the passage that way, however, robs it of its deeper power. This passage isn’t one touting Jesus’ spiritual supremacy – instead, it’s a pretty good primer on how to be an anam cara to everyone we meet in this world.

The image of sheep that Jesus likes to invoke is actually a fairly decent metaphor to describe people. Since few of us live on farms, or may have even grown up on a farm, a petting zoo is as probably as close as we get to a sheep these days. And, when you get near one, you realize, fairly quickly that they’re filthy, stinking animals. They are generally covered in mud and their own waste.

If you can get past that, you’ll probably notice that sheep aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. They usually put themselves in unnecessary danger, simply because they are either suicidal or stupid. Either way, they don’t look out for themselves very well, but they are very adept at following, and they will follow the sheep in front of them no matter where it goes, even if it goes over a cliff.

Sheep also don’t see very well – they have poor depth perception – which is why they need a shepherd to help them find the gate, to poke and prod them so they can get in and out of the pen.

In short, Jesus says, people are a lot like sheep. When you get close to them, it becomes apparent that the clean outside mask they show to the world hides some fairly dirty secrets on the inside and for all our schoolin’ and degrees and things, we’re generally not the smartest animals on the planet. We put ourselves in unnecessary danger all the time, whether it’s skydiving or just getting in our car or our shower every day. We also tend to follow others pretty closely – sometimes blindly – and, metaphorically speaking, our depth perception is not much better than a sheep’s. We all could use a little guidance from somewhere.

Which is where an anam cara can come in pretty handy. The Holy knows that if we can awaken our own soul, and nurture than inner anam cara that we all have, then we can become that shepherd that can help the other sheep in our lives. We can be that trusted voice that others hear and flock to because they know we have only their best interest and safety at heart.

There are other thieves and bandits out there, people who say they want to be our friend, but betray us in the end. An anam cara, however, is one who never betrays us, never leads us astray and never casts us out to the wolves.

An anam cara is someone you can count on like one, two, three – that wonderful, wild companion who prepares the feast when the enemy strikes, that friend who awakens your soul, raids your fridge and leads you beside the still waters of life.

How would it change the way you lived, Jubilants, if you awakened your soul and became your own inner anam cara? How would it change the way you lived, Jubilants, if you realized there are many anam caras, some who may be sitting in this room right now who just waiting to anoint you with their unconditional love?

How would it change the way you lived, Jubilants, if you looked past the dirt and grime life has caked onto other people and saw their inner beauty instead? How would it change the way you lived if you were willing to become their anam cara, to be their comfort in time of distress, their shepherd in times of darkness, their fridge raider?

“What happens when your soul begins to awaken your eyes and your heart and the cells of your body to the great Journey of Love?” Hafiz still asks us today.

Can you feel it, Jubilants?

Don’t be shy. It really is as easy as one, two, three …

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.

Via Transformativa: Awake, My Soul! – Soul Wisdom

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (Matthew 10:7-14), we find our guy about to send his disciples out on their own spiritual journey. Before they go, however, he’s got some words of wisdom to share with them. He tells his disciples, and us thousands of years in the future, that the world is hungry for our wisdom. The world needs to hear about our experiences with the Holy and how we have overcome our own obstacles and learned about the Holy wisdom of our own soul.

Jesus, however, intimately understands that when we share our wisdom, the world will often reject it. People will not listen to us for any number of reasons … they’ll see us as too young, too old, too white, too black, too ethnic, too Southern, too Yankee, too West Coast, too male, too female, too rich, too poor, too gay, too straight, too political, too non-political … too whatever they have to think about us to discount or dismiss our words.

Jesus says, when that happens, don’t try to force your wisdom on anyone. Instead, shake the dust off of your feet and move on. There will be others you meet along the journey who will resonate with your wisdom, and you with theirs. You will be drawn together, perhaps in a community, where you can share your Holy intelligence, learn from each other, and go deeper into the wisdom of each other’s soul.

The disciples may have literally traveled to do that, and some of us may as well, but this can be a spiritual journey, too.  During our own interior journey we may encounter conflict – when the wisdom we uncover along the spiritual path conflicts with what we’ve been taught before by well-meaning parents and institutions.

Jesus invites us to keep the wisdom that resonates with our soul and shake the dust off our feet as we leave behind any previous ideas that may have held us in bondage, just as our Hebrew cousins were enslaved in Egypt.

On my journey, I’ve had to leave behind a lot of ideas that seemed wise at the time including the wisdom of letting others speak for me, or the wisdom that told me I could not use my voice to preach or teach because I am a woman … or because I am gay. I had to abandon any idea that told me I was not good enough, smart enough or wise enough to add my voice to the melting pot of discernment that is constantly spoken into this world.

What Jesus is saying here is that if we are about the Holy’s business of proclaiming God’s love, mercy and justice into this world, we will meet resistance and in that moment we have a choice. We can waste our breath and time on people who won’t listen to us, or we can move along, and seek out those places and people where our wisdom resonates and we find kindred souls.

So, get out the map, Jubilants, lay your finger anywhere down … and don’t be afraid to use your voice – your soul’s wisdom – to love this world good and strong.

Breathe deeply.

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.

Via Transformativa: Awake, My Soul! – Soul Silence

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (Mark 4:35-41), we find him, just like the psalmist (Psalm 46:1-11), calling us to withdraw from the chaos and danger of the world and get on with digging our ditch, to come into that interior silence. Of course, we always read this passage, traditionally, as a real life event in the life of Jesus, and it may have happened just as the scripture writers describe it.

Jesus may well have gotten into a boat with his disciples intending to cross over the sea, but there’s more going on here than just a boat ride. What’s really happening, however, is a metaphor for how most of us live our lives – tossed about by the passing storms in our lives. We’re tossed about by the storms outside of us, whether it’s the loss of a job, a relationship, a loved one – or by smaller storms, the days frustrations of slow drivers, slow check-out clerks and fast days that leave us feeling like we get little to nothing accomplished. There are other storms, too … that storm of thoughts that swirl around in our head, tens of thousands of them each day.

These kinds of thought storms can overwhelm us, and it has a name – the monkey mind. This is when our thoughts, like wild monkeys, screech and run around inside our skulls, swinging from synapse to synapse.

We all have this monkey mind and the fact is it seems to get worse when we take up a practice to diligently dig our ditch. The monkey screeches when we sit and try to be quiet. It throws itself from one side of our cranium to the next when we try to get still. It cackles at us when we try to clear our minds. It feels impossible to escape the monkey mind.

In these times, when the monkey mind is running rampant, and we cannot seem to find peace in our lives, we need to remember we’re not alone in the midst of the storms of life.

What the Holy is telling us through this story is that we have all we need right here in our own boat. The Holy is with us – and the only reason the Holy seems to be asleep when we need her is because we have forgotten that God is already there. We start praying for deliverance, we start looking for ways out here in the world to relieve our suffering or bring us more happiness. But, what we need isn’t out here, it’s in here, already in the boat, calmly sleeping while we feel like the world is about to capsize our boat with wave upon wave of problems and troubles.

In these times we may yell at God just as those disciples yelled at Jesus in the midst of the storm, “Don’t you care that we’re dying? How can you sleep at a time like this?”

And the Holy will respond to us, just as Jesus did to those disciples. “Peace! Be still.”

This is the reminder that whenever life’s waves of worry crash upon our boat that we have the power to speak those same words, “Peace! Be still,” and calm the waters of our minds … and when we approach the world from that place of peace, there is no wave large enough or strong enough to drown us or capsize our boat.

“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asked those disciples and asks us still today.  “Do you still not have any faith?”

Jubilants, we’re not alone in the boat. The Holy rides with us at every moment – but she’s busy digging a ditch. The Holy is always active, cultivating peace and invites us to do the same. The waves headed our way may seem like a tsunami, coming to demolish our lives. But, if we’ve taken the time beforehand to dig our ditch, nothing can destroy us.

Can we overturn or wash up on the shore? Oh, yes. Sometimes devastation comes – but that does not mean that the Holy has abandoned us or peace is beyond our reach. God remains with us through it all.

Let’s be clear, though, God isn’t in our boat to prevent disaster, but to be with us no matter what may come our way. Our faith – our absolute trust in God and our absence of fear – keeps us afloat during the worst storms life may bring our way.

Don’t wait for the conditions out here to be right to start digging your ditch, Jubilants. You don’t need a fancy meditation bench or anything else.

If we start digging our ditch right now, wherever we are, and run to our dreaming whenever we get a free moment, we’ll soon understand that God has already give us the power to say, “Peace, be still!” and find calm in any storm life may bring our way.

So, Jubilants, I invite you, get heavy on with digging your ditch.

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.