Jesus Take the Wheel | by Holly Hudley

“God is the map whereby we locate our setting, the water beneath our life raft...the kind of god at work in your life determines the shape and quality of risk at the center of your existence. It matters who you think God is.” -Walter Bruggemann

 

I learned to drive when I was 15. I remember the first time I took a left turn and didn’t really release the wheel to come out of it, so I ended up on the wrong side of the road heading toward oncoming traffic. My dad said only, “Stop the car. Get out.”

It took some time to become a better driver. Within my first years I had no less that 5 speeding tickets and would amass several more plus enough parking violations to pay for the big dig when I lived in Boston. I think I’m a decent driver now...I’ve taken defensive driving at least a half dozen times, and I no longer end up on the wrong side of the road.

I read a meditation from Cynthia Bourgeault today that reminded me of driving. In most countries, there is a “right way” to drive. And it requires attention, peripheral awareness, and personal responsibility.

The belief in Jesus I grew up around lead me to believe that there was a singular “right way” to be a Christian. Jesus could help me in a crisis or absolve me when I messed up. His death and resurrection saved me from facing the hellish outcomes of my so-called sin. He was evoked to explain away senseless deaths, justify wars, and even unjust laws. We also see Jesus get a lot of cred when things go well. Has anyone kept track of the number of touchdowns and winning scores he has in his pocket? For sure he’s up for MVP in all major sports. Or the number of  houses spared in a storm and lights turned back on afterward Jesus is responsible for? He is still working posthumous miracles.

Sure Jesus probably loves us through crisis, screw ups, and wins and losses because he loved pretty much everyone regardless of how well they played. But this kind of faith in Jesus whereby he is some sort of intermediary, a checklist to tick off (salvation—check, personal lord and savior—check, virgin birth—check, maker of wine from water—check),  or even someone to have faith in rather than someone by whom we can set our path...this kind of faith is immature.

Such a belief in Jesus is like first learning how to drive. You don’t know what you’re doing so someone else takes the wheel. The whole purpose of childhood, in fact, is to develop ego strength...to learn to fail and get back up again...to stretch toward personal responsibility and agency. The ego, in a sense, sets us up to have the courage to dive inward. What I am getting at is that Jesus isn’t a set of beliefs, rather he is a set of behaviors. More than anything, he taught us the radical way of transforming consciousness. Cynthia Bourgeault frames it this way: “What does it mean to die before you die? How do you go about losing your life to find the bigger one? Is it possible to live on this planet with a generosity, abundance, fearlessness, and beauty that mirror Divine Being itself?” I think of the quote Bill read by Sarah Grant: “It isn’t The Way because Jesus walked it; Jesus walked it because it is The Way.” This Way is available to us no matter what we believe about Jesus, but his life was a dang good example of it.

Jesus is a wisdom teacher and his way demands that we change from the inside out. He is a shining star and an excellent example of living in love and connection with all that is. We have to die to the very same ego we spent so much time cultivating in childhood in order to discover our truest, most beautiful self. One cannot exist without the other. It’s not about orienting ourselves in the right direction toward a checklist of doctrinal beliefs, but about transforming our way of moving in the world. For me the question I most often ask is How shall I live? And is the way I live upholding the integrity of myself, others, and this planet? I know I’ve still got work to do, and Jesus is not going to take the wheel. At times it would certainly be nice, but it’s up to me to continually become a better driver. Maybe I’ll at least start keeping a Jesus on the dashboard so as not to lose my way.

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Miracles & Meaning | by Holly Hudley

I come today chewing on more questions than answers. I participated in a miracle the other day - a story I’ll tell this Sunday. And as we know Bill has spent some time inviting us to believe that miracles occur everyday. They are all around us. That a butterfly bursts from a cocoon, that the dust of a star creates life, that you and I are here at all amidst so much chaos. Depending on how you define “miracle” its opposite could be God’s wrath or something perfectly ordinary and natural.

In an interview between Krista Tippet and Walter Brueggemann, he says, “When something goes our way, we call it a miracle. When it doesn’t we call it a disastrous disruption.”

I am positive that in some parallel reality, there was another person who experienced the circumstances of my miracle as a disaster. So the questions arise. Can something perfectly ordinary also be miraculous? Am I any more special than anyone else because things went my way that day? {That’s an obvious NO to me, but I can see how some are drawn to believing the opposite to be true.} If we presume God to be active in shaping a miracle, is God also active in shaping a disaster? If I believe God to be all things, the simple but rather difficult answer to swallow is “yes.” And inside of that “yes” is still the problem of limiting our imagination about God as personified. Aristotle referred to God as “the first mover,” an adaptation of which coursed throughout the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and even Karl Marx. His influence is deep. Aristotle’s metaphysical ideas were rooted in the cosmological speculations of early Greek philosophers. These guys took on the age old questions of “Where do we come from? What is our purpose?” Aristotle is often credited with merging scientific reasoning with theological wondering.

The “first mover” moves all things but itself remains unmoved by any prior action. It is perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplates only the perfect contemplation: itself contemplating. {Remember that line about “we are the universe becoming conscious of itself?” It fits here somewhere.} Aristotle wrote, “It is clear then that there is neither place, nor void, nor time outside the heaven. Hence whatever is there, is of such a nature as not to occupy any place, nor does time age it; nor is there any change in any of the things which lie beyond the outermost motion; they continue through their entire duration unalterable and unmodified, living the best and most self sufficient of lives...From [the fulfillment of the whole heaven] derive the being and life which other things, some more or less articulately but others feebly, enjoy.”

Take that and chew on it for a bit. I am left with this: I guess God is kind of huge? Also: the heavens are undefinable, and we are forms that take shape in this realm, forms that have the capacity to emulate the “unmoved mover” in our ability to live an enlarged life.

Does this first unmoved mover shape and interact with our lives? It is said that we live and move and have our being in God; that we are God-created. The larger I envision God, the more shapeless and infinite, the more this actually becomes concrete to me, as miraculous a concept as it is. That God is shapeless but also contained in forms (us for example), that God is infinitesimal and infinite, that God is not you but not other than you....these are nondual ideas, the only ones both complex and simple enough to contain the possibility of God.

The thing is that we are part of this hugeness though we are tiny. God is in both. Miracles are both tiny and huge. God (or the cosmos, as I am prone to calling it) is a container that leans toward expansion and creation. It is also chaotic and destructive. This is just the way it is, and nothing we do or believe changes that fact, but everything we do matters. I just got off the phone with Bill, and of course he gave me a little nugget of wisdom: We humans are meaning makers. We bring and give meaning to the events of our lives and the essential question is really, “Does this enlarge me or reduce me?” And I would add, “Do my actions/beliefs enlarge others or reduce others?”

Drawing by Richard Wingfield  

Drawing by Richard Wingfield 

Synchronicities | by Holly Hudley

I had a quick, sweet, love-filled conversation with my beautiful friend Brooke in which she shared her revelation about Jesus and Christmas and symbols of birth.

I read an article by my brilliant professor, Jacob Sherman, who wrote:

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(Think I liked that one much? Hearts and arrows abound. I instantly shared with Brooke!)

I am writing research papers on hope & kinship while at the same time searching the dregs of my own being for what those mean to me, not just to scholars. I come across these words: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world” (Matthew 5:14, MSG).  The GOD-COLORS!!! I love that.

I cannot think of a better metaphor for the birth of the Christ in the form of Jesus than for us to birth the GOD-COLORS within us. Also. I learned a new word: haeccity. It means “thisness” which in turn means “the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing that make it a particular thing.” What is your thisness?

THEN I had a funny conversation with Bill in which we wondered allowed why words mean certain things and create certain pictures in our minds, and I thought he said something he did not say which gave it an entirely other meaning. I laughed so hard I snorted over the phone. Me snorting has nothing to do with anything except to say that Bill is funny. And I think he wears his God-colors, and they are beautiful.

Sometimes entanglement is hilarious. 

Co-Evolution | by Holly Hudley

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “God is dead.” He rocked the theological and philosophical world of his time. I don’t know if this is what he meant, but the way I have come to interpret the death of God is that the anthropomorphic, human centered, magically intervening God that must be appeased is (and should be) dead. Nietzsche came out of a time where reason triumphed and human invention exploded. Though inflammatory and often taken as such, Nietzsche himself was not a nihilist. An atheist, yes, but no nihilist. He had great faith in human reason and implored the necessity of personal responsibility. The God he proclaimed dead is, frankly, a God I also do no believe in. I wonder if Nietzsche inadvertently called for a new way to believe in reality. The God of reality - the cosmos, the gravitational pull between all things, the relational nature of, well, nature - is as alive as you and me. This relationship between all things exists whether we choose to participate in it or not, whether we believe in it or not.

Bill spoke into this yesterday: We are the universe becoming conscious of itself. We are evolution from the ground up. Everything that ever was is in us, from stardust to the dinosaurs to Mozart. We are stardust in human form. And the amazing thing is our evolution is not static. We are in an ever expanding loop with all of creation. The question is how will we choose to participate? With active hope or as passive bystanders?

For more than 35 million years, elephants have evolved and adapted to a changing earth. To put it into context, our first human ancestors appeared only 5-7 million years ago. Today, scientists observe that about one third of African elephants never grow tusks as an adaptation to avoid poaching. This is their protest to a civil war, a consumerist war not of their making. It is, perhaps, their silent plea to humans to evolve past senseless violence. They are harbingers for our survival and theirs. This dance, where predator and prey must respond and adapt to one another, is called co-evolution. It can be life giving, mutually enhancing, and it can also be destructive.

As Nature continues to adapt to us, her breath grows ever wearier. We’ve got to get it out of our heads that nature is here for us to consume.  We are but part of nature, another step in the universe’s grand project of evolving consciousness. Paul Simon, outstanding lyricist and songwriter, wrote:

Too many people on the bus from the airport

Too many holes in the crust of the earth

The planet groans

Every time it registers another birth...

Never been lonely

Never been lied to

Never had to scuffle in fear

Nothing denied to

Born at the instant

The church bells chime

And the whole world whispering

Born at the right time”

Every single one of us was, I believe, born at the right time. That we are here at all is both a miracle and exactly as it ought to be. How are you, in your own small and unique way, meant to co-evolve in consciousness?

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An allegorical painting by Holly Hudley

Braiding Skywoman, Eve, Our Stories | by Brooke Summers-Perry

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Sometimes text conjures an image. Sometimes an image inspires a story... this morning Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass puts words to my digital collage that celebrates my Irish and Oneida Earth mothers.

"And then they met- the offspring of Skywoman and the children of Eve- and the land around us bears the scars of that meeting, the echoes of our stories. They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I can only imagine the conversation between Eve and Skywoman: "Sister, you got the short end of the stick..."

I take this as a challenge to find a way for my time here to be a time of love, healing, and the curiosity it takes to be creative. To learn from the past, be fully present to what is, to bring light to what can be in the future.

Grace in, Peace out, 

Brooke

Distilling Dowd | by Holly Hudley

During the Michael Dowd lectures, someone issued me a challenge: Distill Michael Dowd into 3 take aways for your next blog post. (Probably a joke, but I’m one to dive straight in to a challenge, so I accept!)

Big Idea #1: What is reality? Or What is God?

(Really, Holly. You’re going to start with that one? Yup!)

The interplay between God-us-reality is an ever turning loop, or spiral. 

  • Reality/God is not separate, or “out there.” If Reality is the natural world around us supported by undeniable facts, it is our source, sustenance, and end. Our participation in this reality in a life-giving, pro-future way matters.

  • Reality/God is in the star and in the stardust, and the stardust is in us. The gifts of death are the atoms of stardust in our bodies.

  • Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, does not go away. 

Big Idea #2: What does it mean to be Pro-Future?

“We are nature becoming aware of itself...The earth was once molten rock, and now it sings opera.” -Brian Thomas Swimme

  • I kept thinking of a video of starlings taking flight in Rome I recently saw. They fly in intricately coordinated, swooping patterns called a murmuration. Did you know that each starling takes on the care of 7 starlings to its left and 7 starlings to its right? In this way, all starlings in a flock are accounted for and all are engaged in a mutually protective dance. I related this to Dowd talking about 7 generations forward and back. We look to our ancestors and ask for wisdom and guidance. We live in the now with a mind toward our descendants, in wonderment of what they’d like us to give. I loved his analogy of the Trinity as the interconnection of the Past, Present, and Future. The entire past is present here as is the entire future. It is here. Now. It is not Other than this. 

  • We don’t end and we don’t begin. We evolve. The stuff we are made of is the same stuff of the first star, of the dinosaurs, of Jesus. We breathe the molecules of their air. That same stuff will become part of other matter - soil, plants, stars in a distant galaxy, and even more up close: our children and our children’s children.

  • How we live is a mirror of how we treat ourselves, others, and all that we view as sacred. To understand this truth in a deep way leads us to live on behalf of LIFE. 

Big Idea #3: What do we do? (My own musings included...)

We sing. 

We sing at the top of our lungs or in a still small voice about the large and small realities we are part of. From the microbiome of our own being to the vastness of the cosmos we offer up our songs. 

We do one small thing on behalf of life starting today. Starting right now. Maybe you’ve never recycled. Time to start. Or maybe you watch a monarch caterpillar munching away at milkweed. You can hear it if you get close enough. Or maybe you consider your investments and whether any of them could have a deeper impact on the environment or economic equity. The little things add up. The little things become easy and they amount to more little things and suddenly you are living a transformed life.

Suddenly you are living on a transformed planet. 

I do believe this is possible. We haven’t hit the tipping point...not yet. We reside in the in between. We have choices to make and songs to sing and great great great grandchildren to consider. What is it, small ones, you would have us do to hand you a life that is full?