“Think Global, Act Local: We n’ de ya ho”
By Rev. Don Ludwig, October 25, 2020
Psalm 1, A Book of Psalms (1991) and Black Elk Speaks, by Black Elk
We n’ de ya ho
We n’ de ya ho. We n’ de ya ho is a Cherokee statement of faith and greeting. Literally translated it means that “I am of Great Spirit. It is so (or simply A-men)”. The Lakota medicine man Lame Deer says that the Great Spirit “is not like a human being. . . . The Great Spirit is a power that lives in us.” This concept of Great Spirit perhaps resembles the Elohim God of the Hebrew canon, the personal form of God―the God who is in each of us, walks beside each of us in the Garden of Eden, and is present in everything around us.
Most or perhaps all Native Americans see the entire universe as being alive—and that all things are connected to this living universe. As Elder Joshua Wetsit framed it long ago: “Our Indian religion is all one religion, the Great Spirit. We’re thankful that we’re on this Mother Earth. The first thing we do when we wake up in the morning is to be thankful to the Great Spirit for Mother Earth: how we live, what it produces, what keeps everything alive.”
In the myths and legends of the Cherokee people there is a belief concerning a mysterious lake, high in the upper reaches of the Smoky, Blue Ridge Mountains. It is said that all the mountain animals well know of this mysterious” healing lake” and go there to be healed of their wounds.
It is said that whenever a Black Bear is wounded by hunters, or in battle with another bear or large animal, the Black Bear will make the long journey to this mysterious lake. Arriving at the edge of the mountain lake, the Black Bear will plunge into the cool refreshing lake waters on one side of the lake, then swim across the lake to the opposite shoreline. Legend says when the Black Bear exits on the opposite shore, they’re completely healed of all their wounds.
Healing waters are the things of legend and myth that exist throughout the world and other cultures. Healing waters breathe life into our very soul. In our Christian faith, baptism provides us space to become well with our soul―to connect with ourselves, each other and the living God that is in us and upon us.
Sacred Places and Soul Searching
I remember the days of my youth, when I was in my Jr. High and early high school years, I had discovered my hiding place away from the crazy world of my dysfunctional family. It was an Oasis of nature, a park like setting, with a flowing stream in the middle of Spokane. In the years that I would go to my special place, I never saw another human there. It may have something to do with the fact that I had to climb a fence and enter a “No Trespassing” zone in order to get there! Oh, the days of my youth. But that place became my second home―a place where my soul went to become energized and replenished. I would go there to read the bible or toss rocks into the stream, but mostly I would go there to listen to my soul and be in touch with Spirit.
These days I have had the luxury of coming to our church building on most days and sometimes just going to the Sanctuary where it is always still and quiet. I sit and reflect. So many worship services and events have happened here over the years, so many encounters, so many moments. And now it is still kind of a surreal experience to preach in this empty sanctuary in front of a camera. Oh how I miss your physical presence in this sacred space. I miss the laughter and the tears and the hugs and the gathering in a circle. Those memories and this space have sustained me these days.
All of us carry those places with us that we might call safe and sacred ―places that feed our very soul―places that have shaped us and that we too have shaped. Where are those places that help you connect, or maybe reconnect to your soul?
When Native Americans speak of the soul they are talking about that which we claim as our core, our center―that which is constant, does not change, no matter what it is we face, no matter where it is we are. All religions have talked about the soul. The Christian mystic Thomas Merton called soul the true self. Buddhists call it original nature or big self. Quakers call it the inner teacher or the inner light while Quaker Parker Palmer takes it further to say that the soul is what keeps us connected to the community where we find life. Hasidic Jews call it a spark of the divine. Humanists call it identity and integrity.
Storms Around Us
However you may define the soul, all of these descriptions recognize that the core of our being gives us strength and perseverance amidst life’s struggles. I was recently reminded of an image that was helpful. In the Midwest, farmers could face terrible blizzards in the winter, blizzards so bad that you could get lost between the barn and your homes because the snow and wind were so fierce. Sometimes people could disappear in the blizzard and not be found until spring. So they found a solution to this. As soon as a blizzard would set in they would tie a rope between the barn and the house so that they could use that as a guide to get between the buildings when things were that bad. That is part of how they survived. That is part of how they knew they could be guided safely home, even in the worst of storms.
Life these days can feel like a storm. There is much that would call us in the direction of cynicism and even despair. Some of us have even disappeared. One of the paradoxes of our times is that in the midst of so much connection, in the midst of so much information, it can be so easy to feel isolated and alone.
A Shared Vision
But even in these times my friends, our faith and the Great Spirit calls us to have vision for who we are and what we can be―to reach down deep into our soul―to grab hold of that rope between the barn and the house―to travel to that mysterious lake with healing waters―and carry on. No matter what life brings us―We n’ de ya ho―we can carry on.
Native American Crazy Horse had a prophecy―a vision―perhaps it can be your vision too: “Upon suffering beyond suffering: The Red Nation (or I will add: the nation of America…..the good people of Southminster….) shall rise again and (WE) shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations, when all the colors of humankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.”
Do you see that vision? “For when you are at that center within you and I am in that place within me, we shall be as one.”
We n’ de ya ho, my friends. I am of Great Spirit. A-men.