Recovering our personal deity-storyline

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I have recently become aware of how many (maybe all) religions of the world have a colonizing ethos; they think they have the ‘truth’, the ‘whole truth’ and ‘nothing but the truth’ so help them god! And some of them believe that their deity will help them … but only them, not the ‘infidels’, the ‘unenlightened’, the ‘low castes’, the ‘pagans’, the ‘heretics’, the ‘unbelievers’. Some such believers cross oceans and land to share the ‘truth’ of their deity(ies). Christianity, my chosen and inherited faith practice, possibly trumps most of the others in that it has moved around the globe declaring all sorts of ‘truths’ regarding culture, life-style, dress-codes, beliefs, values, ceremonies and deity definitions. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally enamored with the possibility of a deity that is defined by love; who came to validate our humanity by living as one of us, and secured our spiritual freedom by passing through death into new endless life. I am on board with all that. And my Christ-freed life is hugely satisfying (albeit sometimes difficult) as I explore what it means to have the spirit of the divine living in my humble human being.

So, what is my problem? My concern is that christianity (and possibly other religions) has often dragged around a whole pile of unhelpful cultural and deity-beliefs with it. The Hebrew scriptures clearly predict the coming of Christ (the Messiah) and provide a consistent deity-narrative leading up to the birth of this god-human two thousand years ago. The Jews had faith in a father-god figure who had given them rules to live by and a sacrifice-system to deal with their inability to maintain purity by keeping all the rules. There were priests whos’ job it was to maintain the ‘holiness’ of the Israelites using animal blood to atone for their sins (rule-breaking). Then Christ (a Jew/Israelite) turned up and figuratively (and literally on one occasion) turned the tables upside-down; presenting a completely re-created deity concept to the Jewish and non-Jewish people living in the world around him. With all this as background, I will now make my point …

If there is a deity who is defined by love and moves towards human beings with tenderness and a desire for relationship (as Christians and some Jews believe), this deity must surely be interested in all human beings and every race of human beings. It is beyond belief to think that this deity has not been relating in some way to human beings throughout time and geographical location. Indeed, most cultures from ancient times up until the present, have had a concept of deity(ies) and a desire to relate in meaningful ways to divine being(s). As I contemplate some of these more ancient understandings of deity, I experience a personal recovery (or re-formation) of my appreciation of a creator god who incorporates traits that have been missed by the Jewish-Christian narrative. I am not Jewish. My deity-storyline does not come from the land of Israel or the Middle East. My ethnic heritage comes predominantly from Europe and my lived-life heritage comes from the Australian landscape. So, I have specifically explored the ancient spirituality of these two places and discovered that something in me resonates more authentically with the deity-beliefs and spiritual practices of these peoples. For example, the understanding of a feminine divine/mother god is hugely important to me but sadly lacking in most modern-day christian faith communities. See What happened to the Great Goddess? for more details on this. And, spiritual practices common to indigenous Australian Aboriginals including dadirri (deep listening to nature) and care of country, are very meaningful to me on a daily basis as I seek to relate to divine spirit with integrity and honesty.

Because of this search for a personally-consistent spiritual narrative, I have discovered a much richer experience of a loving deity whose existence I have believed in since childhood. Therefore, with confidence, I encourage you to explore your ethnic deity history as well as the beliefs of the indigenous people who first lived on the land you now call home.

As Reepicheep (the mouse from Narnia) says, ‘This is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear’ … or through disinterest!

Faith in the Feminine; Our Heritage

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(I dedicate this piece of writing to my faith-filled and faithful Mother who is turning 80. The first two stanzas are taken from Heb11:1-3)

Faith is being assured of what we hope for;

convinced of what we cannot see.

This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed

by Eloihym’s voice (through an unfolding),

so that what is seen is not made out of what is visible.

By faith, ‘Eve’ walked with Yahweh in the beginning

when the earth garden was fattened and newly formed.

She was complete, unashamed and fearless.

By faith, Sarah received a promise,

received a pregnancy

and gave birth to a child in old-age.

Because of faith, Hagar cried out in the desert and was seen.

She still gives testimony to divine mercy and providence;

God shows no favouritism.

Being led by faith, Rebekah left her home and family

to be united with a stranger.

She fulfilled her destiny and became the mother of a great nation.

By faith, Rachel and Leah endured the trickery of their father

to remain faithful to their sisterhood.

Together with Bilhah and Zilpah, they birthed the twelve tribes of Israel.

With faith, Rahab risked her life and way-of-life

to hide two Israelites.

She was saved and became one of them.

Because of her faith, Abigail kept the precepts of equity and generosity

regardless of her husband’s pride.

And she was exalted.

Being led by faith, Judith put aside her mourning to attend to justice.

With her courage and planning,

she overcame the violence of the enemy.

By faith, Esther used her voice and exalted position for good

and was willing to sacrifice her life to save a people.

She was honoured.

By faith, many women who’s names we do not know:

endured great suffering and oppression;

re-deemed themselves and their children;

administered justice for the vulnerable;

abated their own comfort and safety for the needs of others;

received back their dead and renourished them into full health;

believed God and were considered righteous;

birthed ideas and revolutions and children of integrity.

By faith, Mary continued to fulfill her own destiny

even when being criticized.

She was given the higher calling.

Because of faith, Martha believed Christ could raise the dead

and that he might choose to.

She received the miracle she hoped for.

By faith, a compromised woman was willing to receive protection and grace

instead of death by stoning.

She was given a new beginning.

Because of faith, the widow in the temple gave what she had

and not what she didn’t have.

She was given a sacred legacy.

Led by faith, the Samaritan woman put aside her reputation

to provide refreshment for a Jewish man.

She earnt the right of acceptance and the reward of living water.

By faith, the Canaanite woman spoke back to Christ

and insisted on her daughter’s healing.

She was given what she contended for.

By faith, Miriam danced and sang the songs of freedom

By faith, Ruth and Naomi danced and sang the songs of redemption

By faith, Deborah danced and sang the songs of victory

By faith, Mary danced and sang the songs of salvation

By faith, Sophia danced and sang the songs of wisdom

By faith, the bleeding woman danced and sang the songs of healing

By faith, Joanna danced and sang the songs of resurrection

By faith, we dance and sing the songs of El shaddai;

we are complete, loved and unashamed.

We are people of faith.

Learning transformation from a tree

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(by Judyth Morley)

 A few years ago, I felt like an environmental vandal removing a beautiful Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus Robusta) from our back yard.  

Over the years this beautiful tree had weathered many storms in its life.  Through it all and, despite the setbacks it faced, it hung on to dear life and continued to grow to the best of its ability.  The root system invaded our storm water drain and blocked our sewerage as it fought hard for survival and, through all these different stages, we tried to save her.

Finally, the weight from all the battles she faced meant we had to make the tough decision to chop her down before she fell on our neighbour’s house.

I was absolutely devastated to do this.  Most of her was made into fire wood but, a piece of her was given to a friend who took the wood to his local Men’s Shed to work with.  

Yesterday, I got the most beautiful gift back … made from my tree … in the form of a bowl.  

I am absolutely blown away by this gesture and in awe of the beauty of the timber.  Here it is, still with all its imperfections from the storms it weathered … yet those imperfections are what make it unique and beautiful for its next phase in life as a bowl.  A plain boring piece of wood doesn’t present in the same way as a piece of wood that has survived and seen many storms and hardships.  

This reminds me of our lives.

The most beautiful people are the ones who have survived hardship, heartache or trauma. They may still have obvious scars – but those scars are what make them unique and beautiful.  

Understanding and supporting these individuals without judgement, is what eventually brings them through their trials to be something more beautiful in the end.  

The scars on people are beautiful and unique – whether seen or unseen.  They stand testament to lives that are magnificent and the stories people hold are life changing.

this innocent man

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I spent some time with the God-man, Jesus

He looked like any ordinary man –

in fact, he looked a bit like me.

I didn’t spend a lot of time with him,

but long enough.

I was not there at the beginning,

like Mary his mother;

full of trust and willing vulnerability.

Sometimes, at my best, I figure

there must be a God who is in control.

I did not see Jesus grow into a child,

then into an adolescent,

and finally a man.

I was not present – nor were any others

when after his baptism,

he was led into the desert for 40 days.

Here, his companion was the devil,

and here, he was tempted as all of us are.

But he did no wrong – unlike me.

I was not Peter, or James, or Bartholamew;

chosen to be close to the God-man,

chosen to be his constant companions –

his disciples, his friends.

Neither was I the mad man

who lived amongst the tombs;

denied any dignity of being human,

ruled by a legion of demons.

I could have been him –

God knows, I’ve been harassed

and taunted by the powers of evil.

Jesus freed this mad man

and restored his humanity.

No-one was beyond the God-man’s help;

all women, and men, were considered worthy.

Then, there were the children.

His friends tried to chase them away

No, no – ‘Let the little ones come to me

for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Unless you have faith like them,

you will not enter my home.’

I was not the Roman officer whose servant was dying.

He said to the God-man:

‘Just say the word and he will be healed.’

What faith had he – and his servant was healed.

Or the father whose son was in trouble,

who said to the God-man:

‘I believe, help my disbelief.’

Or the non-Jewish mother,

who insisted Jesus heal her daughter:

‘Even the dogs under the table

eat the crumbs that fall from the table.’

All these had faith …

and were given what they asked for.

I was not at the temple

the day Jesus caused a scene.

I would like to have seen that.

He was angry –

the greedy exploiting the worshipper,

the Jew excluding the Gentile;

‘turning God’s house of prayer

into a den of thieves.’

Anyway, he turned the money tables over,

and drove out the culprits – and their animals

with an idle rope.

No-one got hurt –

only their pride suffered.

I was not Judas, Jesus’ friend,

who handed him over

to those who would kill him.

But I could have been Judas;

I have betrayed friends before.

I also know the pain of being betrayed –

it hurts.

Judas did it for thirty pieces of silver,

then threw it away and hung himself.

He couldn’t live with the remorse –

I don’t blame him.

But maybe he should have waited

for the story to finish.

No, I wasn’t Simon of Cyrene

who was prepared to carry

Jesus’ cross for a while.

The God-man had been beat up,

he couldn’t carry his own cross.

I carried mine.

And no, I wasn’t the good thief,

who turned to Jesus on the cross

in those final moments of life:

‘Remember me, Jesus

when you come as king.’

He was accepted, and promised:

‘Today, you will be with me in paradise.’

You see, I am the other thief;

the obnoxious thief,

the angry man,

the stubborn one,

the one with no fear of God.

‘Aren’t you the Messiah?’

I spat at him.

‘Save yourself, and us!’

I demanded.

Excruciating pain,

the anguish of certain death,

brought out my worst –

my fury.

If this God-man could save me,

Why wouldn’t he?

The other man rebuked me:

‘Don’t you fear God?

You and I are punished for guilty acts.

This man is given the same sentence,

yet has done no wrong.’

He has a point.

Whose justice is this?

This innocent man.

This innocent lamb.

The Lamb of God.

Learning Love

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(by Hannah Beattie)

What is the meaning of life?

This is one of the most well known existential questions. However, I think that many of us are perhaps more interested in knowing what is the meaning of my life. What is my purpose here on earth? What should I invest my time and energy in? I think that this question is pondered by atheists, agnostics, deists and theists alike.

The other day my boyfriend and I were reading about eternity. And I was suddenly struck by the question, what is my purpose on earth? I believe in life after death… But in the meantime…?!

As I thought about this, I was fairly certain that my purpose wasn’t the pursuit of fame and fortune. Nor was it even happiness, a house or the most meaningful and cool job. So what was my purpose here on earth?

In a drop down, light bulb moment, I felt that I understood my mission statement for life on earth. And I hazard to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it might be a mission statement for all of us.

To learn love.

Learn to love others. Learn to be loved by others.

Learn to love Creator. Learn to be loved by Creator.

And learn to love ourselves.

I couldn’t believe that my purpose on earth might be that simple!
I’m sure many of us have read wordy mission statements with their accompanying visions, values, objectives, sub-objectives, KPIs, deliverables etc etc. But this mission statement, to me, is delightfully simple. And I couldn’t help but think that in line with Creator’s grace and love of creativity, that it can be lived out as a teacher, mother, engineer, pastor, baker, grandpa, barista, volunteer, dog lover, student or nurse. Unlike many weighty, exhausting mission statements, I think that this mission statement is life-giving. Not burdensome. For me, as I’ve thought about it, it is not something that I feel I need to add to my list of things I should do. Instead I think it is a (great!) place to live my life from! To learn love.

So what does it all mean?! I think maybe our goal on earth is to learn, practice and grow in love. My understanding of eternity is that it is a place of perfect love, where we live in a perfect loving relationship with Creator and others. So, I think, that it makes sense that maybe we begin learning love here on earth…

the well

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(by Basti Meredith)

A captured soul

Strung to the world

A desolate man

Easily as broken as twine

Oh broken man

Lost in the dark

Oh weary shadow

Has your well run dry?

Why, in the depths,

Of the darkest night

Do you choose to dwell

Void of the light?

Oh don’t you see

The sea flowing blue

You blew your final wick

And the wicked fell to you

If a shadow I am

A shadow I’ll be

Blinded to light

Cursed to never see

Broken, wretched

Never to see

The sea of which you speak

It can’t be for me

I’m lost I’m cold

I’m scarred I’m numb

My well is dried

My waters wrung

If only I could see

This sea you bring

The brink of my undoing

Would flee within

Oh mighty shadow

Oh great one

You are barely broken

You’re just unstrung

I’ve planted a seed

That grows only by night

Soon it will blossom

And bring forth light

For what good is the sun

Without the moon

Plant your feet

You’ll see light soon

The moon is needed

To guide the sea

The waves they flow

By night indeed

I have no sight

For there is no light

This sea you speak

I’ll never reach

There is no light

In the depths of the deep

But you’ve seen the sea

It surrounds your feet

And what of my well?

Dried as it is

Without any water

I can not live

Oh weary shadow

How can that be?

No well can run dry

In the bottom of my sea

For the seed that I planted

Is your well in the dark

Let it fire your eyes

And light up your path

Missa Birrarung

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(by David Tuke)

Glory be to Eloihym our Creator;

Eagle powerful and knowing

Glory be to Eloihym the Christ;

Speaking to us at dawn and at dusk

Glory be to Eloihym the Spirit;

The land ever present beneath our feet

As it was in the Dreaming,

You are now in our songs as we travel

and ever will be

until we shall dream again …