Via Positiva: Room at the Table – Room for Yourself

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (Luke 17:20-27,33), I could imagine Jesus breaking into the Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine” as he walked with the Pharisees in this passage. Talk about a group of people seeking for some definitive … these were the guys. What was definitive for them – the be all and end all of life – was the law. They believed, like so many modern-day Pharisees still believe, that if they lived by the strict letter of the law, they would win God’s favor. So, they sought after God’s kingdom all the time – looking outward to laws and rules to follow to please God.

Jesus tells them they’ve got it all backward. You can obey the laws all you want, Jesus says, but until you realize where the kingdom really exists, all your effort will be in vain. You can obey every single law ever written, but if you don’t realize that the Holy lives within us – that the Kingdom of God exists inside of each of us – all that rule keeping will make us nothing but vain morality cops, angry at world that won’t keep the rules we believe God gave us.

We can’t make our lives secure with anything outside of ourselves, Jesus tries to tell them. All the rules, sacrifices, jobs, relationships, possessions that we cling to – they are all impermanent. Like our egos, they wither like grass. The only thing that lasts is your eternal Self, that soul that is neither born nor dies.  This life we are living is but a parenthesis in eternity – we are all part of that eternal being, that field of quantum energy that is the Holy.  Our task in this parenthesis, is to cleave to that Holy self, welcome it, and live into it so we can be welcoming, compassionate, loving, peaceful and merciful human beings to everyone we meet in this life.

This is our only task in this world, Jubilants, to welcome ourselves and others without condition – which is part of that soul expansion we talked about in our last via – opening our soul until everyone, including ourselves, are made welcome. Whatever we do in the meantime … whatever career, mate or house we choose to live in … is our chance to reflect to the world that inner peace and love we have achieved.

We are here to change the world, Jubilants, to make it more welcoming for us all. But the world out here only changes when we change the world in here. If you want the world to be more loving, more just, more peaceful, more joyful, then cultivate all of those qualities in yourself, and the world will change.

Think that’s a bit Pollyanna? Imagine if we all understood that. It’s what Jesus was trying to teach … when you realize the kingdom is already here … already in you, then you understand that the only world you can control is in here – and if we would all embrace that idea, then our outside world would reflect that.

Be the change you want to see seems like such a trite statement … but it’s absolutely true. You cannot change any other person in this world. You can only change you. Stop frustrating yourself by arguing with those who disagree with your or getting angry at the way the world is changing or the direction we’re going. You can’t change any of that … without changing yourself first.

Breathe deeply.

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Welcome to the Via Positiva: Room at the Table

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

As a child, I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in our home were always a big production. This was the time of year when mom and dad would pull the extra table leaves out of storage and magically make the dining room table two-sizes bigger to accommodate all the family and other guests who would gather at the table.

The table itself was then impeccably decorated with the finest China we owned, appointed with freshly polished, real silverware and glimmering gravy boats and bowls taken out only for these special occasions. In the end, the turkey, ham, stuffing, gravies, potatoes, yams and vegetables made the already beautiful table smell so good. You couldn’t wait to sit down at that table and take part in the family fellowship.

However, as a child, that beautiful and bountiful table was not set for you. Instead, there was a bare, rickety card table, holding the barest essentials of salt, pepper, and the everyday plates, cups and bent and marred tableware. This was called, “The Children’s Table,” and it was far less inviting and appetizing than Adult Table.

You knew, though, that you had graduated in both age and respect within the family when one day, as you headed over the adult table to fix your plate and take your usual place at the lowly children’s table, one of your parents stopped you and pointed out that you now had a place set at the adult table.

What a glorious day that is … to graduate from the children’s table, where your cousins and siblings had begun to make the meal unbearable with their childish talk and antics … up to the deeper, more engaging conversations at the adult table.

As we consider the state of the world today, however, we can see that many segments of our own society remain at the spiritual children’s table … relegated to the margins, given scraps from the adult table with their real needs largely ignored. Our world has increasingly segregated itself into separate tables where the like-minded, or the ethnically or spiritually similar all gather together, excluding those who don’t think, or look, or worship as they do.

This is not the state of the world that the Holy calls us to tolerate. Instead, the Holy commands us to make room at the table for everyone. There are no children or adult tables, white or black or brown tables, Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Tea Party tables. There are no Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist tables.

There is but one table in this world – the table of unity – that the Holy calls us to create, not just in this world, but in our own heart. We cannot relegate anyone to the children’s table of this world, no matter how different or other we may consider their ways and beliefs to be. Instead, the Holy calls us to constantly say yes to those who seek to come to our table, to put a few more leaves and magically expand it to fit everyone who seeks room at the table.

Oh, Yeah!

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Via Transformativa: Awake, My Soul! – Compost Living

By Jubilant Bill Harris

God lies in wait for us with nothing so much as love.
Now love is like a fishhook.
A fisher cannot catch a fish unless the fish first
picks up the hook. If the fish swallows the hook, no matter how it may squirm and turn the fisher is
is certain of the fish. Love is the same way. Whoever is
captured by love takes up the hook in such a fashion
that foot and hand, mouth and eyes, heart and all
that is in that person must always belong to God.
Therefore, look only for this fishhook, and you will be happily caught.
The more you are caught, the more you will be liberated.

–Meister Eckart

I have to admit, when I picked this meditation title, “Awaken My Soul to Compost Living,” I didn’t know much about compost. Unknown to me, I live with somebody who knows all about composting. When I told her the title of my meditation, she excitedly started telling me all about compost. For example, I didn’t know there was a difference between compost and fertilizer. As it turns out, there is. Compost is all that organic waste put in a great big pile and allowed to ferment. Now, if you want the compost to be really rich and enhanced, you add fertilizer. The fertilizer is the manure. I also found out that, if you want to really jump start your compost’s fermentation, you add the manure.

I quickly realized this worked out really well. We can think of all the stuff of our everyday lives—the people that push our buttons, the long lines at the grocery store, the traffic jams, the hassles at work—all that stuff we consider the waste of daily life, as the organic compost. Then we can think of all that really nasty, painful, scary stuff that comes into our lives as the manure, the fertilizer. It’s when we put these two aspects of our lives together, we have the potential for a really rich, fertile, organic life—a natural, not a synthetic, artificial life. It’s all the raw material of soul expansion. It’s the material which enables us to become fully human, fully alive, to become who we really are!

This is exactly what Meister Eckhart is talking about when he invites us to be caught by the hook of God’s love. When we let ourselves be caught by God’s love, all that we are, all that’s in us belongs to God, including the pain in the butt stuff, and the really nasty painful stuff.

The more we let ourselves be caught by God’s love, the more we are liberated! The more we find the inner freedom to be who and what we truly are. And who and what are we, when we fully embrace our human destiny? We are beings filled to overflowing with the freedom to express love, joy and peace, in time and space—in concrete, nitty gritty human situations. As Candace said last, twice in fact, the only thing God call us to do is let our souls expand—to let ourselves become who we really are.

Meister Eckhart also gives us an important clue as to how we actually do this. He says, “look only for this fishhook.” The way every single thing in our lives begins to become the raw material for soul expansion is intention. We decide. We choose to live our lives consciously instead of on cruise control. We consciously and intentionally decide what we want our lives to really be about. Or, if you’re like me, you decide, forget, then remember, re-decide and then do it over and over again. Jesus said the same thing as Meister Eckhart. He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be added.” Another way to say it is—focus first on the Divine dimension of life and you will become fully, freely and completely yourself.

Breathe Deeply

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Via Transformativa: Awake, My Soul! – Soul Expansion

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (Luke 8:40-48), we find a powerful example of both soul constriction and soul expansion. We find Jesus walking through a town on the way to the home of Jairus, a synagogue leader who has asked Jesus to heal his daughter.

As he walks, a crowd gathers around him and the disciples are trying to hustle him through the bodies pressing in around them. This is a moment of constriction for both Jesus and his disciples. They were on a mission and these people were getting in their way, distracting them from their important business.

We all experience this kind of pressure. We all have goals and things we want to get done, but the world insists on getting in our way … traffic jams, slow lines at the grocery store, bosses asking us to do more and more tasks that take us away from the work we need to get done, friends asking for our time, family intruding on our space.

We just want to complete the things we really want to do, but there are so many intrusions, we begin to constrict, to cut ourselves off, to shrink our soul and look for ways to avoid dealing with the pressures of the world.

Suddenly, though, Jesus realizes that someone has touched him … and not just in the way the crowd is pressing up against him. No, someone really touched him … in a way that expanded his soul. He turns to find the person who has snapped him out of his constriction and finds a woman who has been suffering from  hemorrhages for twelve years.

You can imagine this woman has been through the wringer over the past 12 years. She’s probably sought healing from all manner of practitioners, from priests to faith-healers to shamans or other medicine men – all to no avail. She had a choice in this moment when Jesus passed by. She could stay constricted and simply accept her weakened condition, or she could seek to expand her soul and reach out to someone she believed could help her.

She chose to expand, to stop listening to world’s opinion and diagnosis of her and in her expansion, she expanded Jesus as well. In that moment, he was caught up in the rush of the world – being herded along by his disciples to complete his very important mission. But, when he had that moment of mindfulness, that moment when he became aware of the need of the woman, he stopped and opened his heart to her.

In that moment, what Jesus may have wanted to say was, “How dare you touch me! Don’t you see I am on an important mission?”

Instead, he said what was needed in this moment: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

These are the words of grace that can only come from an expanded soul, someone who knows that what needs to be said in this world are words of love, compassion and mercy – healing words that expand not just our own soul – but the souls of everyone we meet.

Breathe deeply. 

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Via Transformativa: Awake! My Soul! – Sacred Soul Space

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Hebrew scripture reading (Genesis 32:22-32) we find our ancient Israelite cousin Jacob trying to get some rest, but figure appears and wrestles with him all night long.

Before the struggle ends, the unknown man wounds Jacob, but blesses him as well, telling him from now on his name will be called Israel because he has struggled with both God and humanity and survived. In the morning, Jacob consecrates this spot as sacred, naming it “Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’

In this passage we see the characteristics of what makes a place sacred. First, it’s a place of struggle, which when you consider this first characteristic, you realize that every single place we are in our life is a place of struggle. That famous quote, ascribed to the philosopher Plato, holds true for us all, “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.”

Right now, in this safe and sacred place, we are all fighting a battle, all wrestling with angels and demons, searching for the path that will awaken our soul and bring us into a sacred place where we can be blessed.

What Jacob teaches us is that everywhere is sacred space, and everything and everyone we encounter is God in disguise, waiting to bless us if only we’ll not give up the battle to be blessed. And yes, rest assured Jubilants, this world will wound you, sometimes deeply. It may not be apparent from the outside, but every single one of us walks through this life with a limp.

None of us has come through life unscathed by suffering, untouched by despair and heartache and tragedy. We are all marked, all out of joint in some area of our spirit.

But, even in this injured state, the Holy invites us to raise our glass, sing our song, listen with joy to the songs of others, and realize that no matter where we are, it’s all sacred space. Whether we’re in a bar, a church, the desert or stuck in traffic, every place is holy if only we’ll stop and acknowledge that God’s presence is there, inviting us to wrestle with the deep questions – a struggle that can wound, yes – but it’s the only struggle worth engaging in, because when we wrestle with God, with the Holy questions of life, we are ultimately blessed, able to raise our glass and join in the eternal song of the Holy.

Breathe deeply. 

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