Unchurch

I have a confession to make. I don’t like “church”. Not “church” in the way most of us think of “church” anyway. We’ve all been at onetime or another whether as a child or adult, a guest to someone who invited us to attend their church, or maybe as a “holiday” church goer attending the Christmas, Easter or Mother’s Day service, maybe even as a member of a church or churches.

We know the drill: met at the door by the greeter who smiles, shakes your hand and thanks you for showing up. The music, traditional or contemporary, the prayer, a couple more songs, the sermon, the plate is passed, another prayer or offer to come forward for prayer and a couple of closing songs then the walk toward the exit to nod and shake hands with a few of the regulars and finally, for the newcomer, the invite from the pastor to come back again.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t have anything against the way we in America have chosen to “church”…..I just don’t fit in. Ever had that experience? That’s really why I don’t like church, I just have always felt like an outsider. Like I’m on the outside looking in. Even when I have been a member, lead a class,  or sang in the music ministry.

For the longest time I just thought that it was my perception and that I just needed to learn to fit in, to be like everyone else and so I did. I spoke “Christianese”, changed the way I dressed so that I blended into whatever the culture of the church “brand” happened to be, carried my Bible, memorized scripture enough so that I could sprinkle conversation with my obvious close relationship with God, attended dozens of women’s Bible groups, and volunteered to do my part so that I could BE a part. The problem was I wasn’t being “me”, I was faking it, pretending to be someone I was not and I didn’t like that.

Fast forward. After a series of events which will be left for a later discussion, I was done with God and church. I had no need for Him or prayer, or the Bible, or the myriad promises the church said God would make a reality; I threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Again after a series of events I decided in my infinite wisdom and grace that I would give God another chance. How very generous of me, right? But in all seriousness I missed God, I missed the relationship. I did not miss all the trimmings, being focused on fitting in. So now what? How was I going to “be” a Christian without feeling like an imposter?

Well first I decided I didn’t have to “label” myself as a “Christian”. Now before anyone takes offense let me make my case, and let’s remember this is my story, not yours. If you identify yourself as a “Christian” I am completely cool with that, no judgment from me whatsoever, so no worries. But for me the word “Christian” had negative connotations because of my experiences in the church and because I had tried so hard to “be” a Christian.

Before abandoning ship I had done study in Messianic Judaism and I liked what I learned, so the “label” I gave myself was “Messianic Gentile”. That is just a fancy shmancy way of saying that I had adopted the mindset of those who were not Jews by birth, rather honored the “Jewishness” of Jesus and the scriptures. Again that’s a discussion for another day.

I started by talking to God, not praying in the traditional sense, but just talking. Mostly I just thanked Him. I thanked Him for my kids, my job, the “things” I had. In short I adopted “an attitude of gratitude”. It was the least I could do, I mean I was still here and kicking so I figured there was hope for me however sorry a human being I was!! In truth I wasn’t even sure God loved me or accepted me anymore because I had been down some not-so-pretty roads in my life since I had abandoned ship. I was dirty, bedraggled, foul mouthed, negative, had been suicidal, and participating in vices I had no intention of giving up and one I still don’t intend to give up, and really that is a relative statement depending upon how you define “vice”. If you find any of that shocking hang onto your hat, but I refuse to apologize for who I am. And that is really where I am going with all of this: none of us should apologize for who we are. God, I reasoned, was either going to love me and accept me for who I was, warts, wounds, scars and all or He wasn’t. It was as simple as that.

Oh yeah, I challenged Him, tested Him, said whatever I thought to Him daring Him to toss me out with the trash, but He didn’t. Imagine that. There were days I shook my fist heavenward, screamed, yelled and stomped my feet better than any 3 year old out there! And STILL He refused to go away!

You see, God is love. The Bible says that and so He can’t do anything else but love us. He loves me and He loves you! Maybe you don’t believe that but He does!

How do I know that? How do we know anything really?? I can’t explain it but I KNOW He didn’t move one step away from me at my worst, He just moved a little closer.

Well what I just said isn’t quite true. I do know because the Bible is our reference manual for God. Now wait before you click me off or flip me off, whichever, it’s all good, I don’t intend to go all “churchy” on you but we can’t talk about God without talking about the Bible. The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and if He is also love then He loves us as we were, as we are, and as we will be. We are at best a messy bunch of misfits on any given day and He knows that better than we do.

So, what has any of that got to do with an “unchurch”? It has everything to do with it. The “unchurch” is for all of us who don’t fit in, never did, never will. For all of us who are messy, bedraggled, insecure, fearful, struggling, rejected and stumbling through life but STILL want a relationship with God. And when I say God I also mean Jesus. The good news is there is a place for us. The “unchurch” is a gathering of people who want to know God, not to have all the do’s and don’ts dumped on us as we walk thru the door. The “unchurch” is anywhere 2 or more are gathered.

It’s time for “church” to be all inclusive. It’s time for us to make our relationship with Him our primary focus. It’s time.

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God, By Any Other Name, Is Still God…..

The mainstream ‘guru’ of spiritualism, Oprah, said she “no longer believes that Jesus is the only way to reach God.” I believe there are various ways to journey with God, but ultimately the journey is with Jesus since Jesus was God embodied in the flesh; in my mind God and Jesus are one and the same. It’s a fairly subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless. Why is it difficult to believe Jesus, or more accurately God, came to different people at different times in history to teach truth and the need for spiritual pursuit? God, by any other name, is still God, as long as the goal is love.

As I have said many times, the heart motivation speaks volumes, yet no man is capable of fully discerning the heart motivation of another. Heart motivations play a part in why we choose to believe the way we do. Many people, including ‘good’ Christians, make snap and often critical judgments about people believing they know the heart motivation behind words or actions when, in fact, they may only see a tiny piece of the whole. Our heart motivations are complex and formed, in part, by upbringing, life experience, education, worldview, religion, or the lack of it. Simply put, judging others heart motivations is left to interpretation without benfit of the whole story. Dangerous ground to trod.

My heart motivation for seeking God other places besides within the church walls was, in part, due to how I was treated within those walls. I was never accepted as one of their own; I was always on the outside looking in because I did not fit their ‘mould’ of a ‘Christian’. Add to that their pre-conceived ideas about ‘proper’ Christian women, and I was placed even farther outside those walls. Not that I had any wild-eyed, off-the-wall ideas about God; rather I didn’t “look the part (I was actually told that!), didn’t act the part, and didn’t adopt the language. The last straw was when the church, more specifically the pastor, determined an abusive family dynamic was more a product of a male “control-issue” than flat-out abuse; not uncommon for Christian men, so I was told. As the pastor teaches, so does the congregation believe. The belief is otherwise known as “submission to male authority” in the home, and elsewhere; its definition left to individual interpretation as church leadership conveniently looks the other way. Fortunately, I emerged from the brain fog of continual abuse and the methodical destruction of my spirit by my ‘controlling’ husband and got out with my kids. Am I bitter? Not in the least! Grateful is the word that comes to mind.

I have also said there is nothing new about New Age philosophy. True, it is a compilation of Buddhism, Hinduism, and a few other “ism’s”, and the philosophies vary from person to person; the one common thread shared by most is acknowledgment of God. And then the semantics race is on! God or Father is right, and any other moniker is wrong, in the eyes of many within the church. Are we to believe Judaism, and even before that, any worship of God is now wrong because Jesus entered the picture? How does that make sense? Oh, I’ve heard all the arguments; the Old Testament was the “Law” and Jesus came to“fulfill” the Law, or the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death therefore they are no longer legit, and other rationalizations. Truly, I would entertain any reasonable argument God intended for the church and Christianity to develop as we know it today, but at this point I don’t believe there are any. The ‘Church’, the early ‘Christian’ movement, and any variation, are the products of man’s interpretation of God mixed with an unhealthy dose of an insatiable need for control over the masses. In its formative years the teachings of Jesus weren’t written in a book; Jesus didn’t have a scribe following Him around taking notes for a “How to” manual. No one was peddling the latest edition, hot off the presses,  from the street corners. The teachings were passed along from person to person, group to group. A kind of spiritual game of telephone, if you will, and we know how that turns out. So, it is safe to assume what we read in the Bible are not always the intended messages from God.

Each of us is a unique creation of the Divine, an extension of Divine Love clothed in flesh, so it would only make sense we would each have our unique perspectives on life and God. Since the beginning of time people have recognized God and worshiped in ways that made sense to them. In Christian circles the question, “if every man will acknowledge Jesus and be saved, how will the indiginous people living in the far reaches of jungles and deserts hear about Jesus?” And the answer is some version of, “Jesus will make Himself known to them in a way they understand”.  Huh? Isn’t that kind of the same as we journey with God in different ways?

So, my friends, love energy is not journey-specific. My beliefs don’t trump yours, nor your path less relevant as judged by others . The goal is oneness with the Divine, unlocking truth, and radiating Divine love energy, not who is more right. In other words, how we get there is not as important is that we get there. We have lost sight of the importance of the journey, exchanging it for dogmatic doctrine and the need to be right. Do I think there is only one way to God? No, I do not…..

Uniting the Two Faces of God…..

2018 has been declared the year of the Divine Feminine. Sounds like we are returning to the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar era, doesn’t it? I remember; I was there. Don’t be frightened, little ones, I promise this will not be as painful as the 1970’s women emerging from their cocoons, burning their bras (does anyone wear them anymore?), and becoming incensed when men offered to open a door, or a jar of pickles for us. Poor things, we did confuse the dears. Oops! My sarcasm is showing. No matter how ‘awakened’ I believe myself to be, the ever-present sarcasm lies just beneath the surface.

God is neither male, nor female, at least not in the way we define male and female. God is energy in its purest form; love. We are spirit, living in a body, having a human experience, yet we often forget we originated from love energy. We are spirit, first. Within the love energy of God are characteristics like strength, intuition, vulnerability, intelligence, gentleness, and empathy, to name a few. None of these is exclusively male or female; love energy is not gender-specific. It is not about who is stronger or more intelligent, nor is it about equating empathy with weakness and gullibility, or favoring logic over intuition. It is realizing all are important and all have a part to play within the Universe.

I listened to a nun speak about the Divine Feminine. To say it was enlightening is an understatement. Within the confines of her doctrinal beliefs and religious orientation was a woman of virtue, intelligence, intuition, strength and massive empathy. She doesn’t let her religious orientation stand in the way of spiritual pursuit, however. In her eyes God is love and embodies all of the positive energetic characteristics of the creation. Within God there is no Catholic, Lutheran, Jew, Muslim, or New Ager. We are all one and understand God in our own way. And, she believes the organized Christian world is male-dominated and the tide needs to change. I would agree. A challenge? Yes, but doable!

Recognizing and embracing the Divine Feminine gives us the opportunity to grow and become more like God. Isn’t that the point; becoming more like God? We have been taught God judges, God punishes, God hates some and loves others, and God requires us to ‘do’ rather than to ‘be’. The Divine Feminine peeks through once in a while throughout the Bible. Man, in his quest for ultimate control has not managed to remove the essence of God from scripture. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) In this case be-ing vs. do-ing. Jesus donned the clothes of humanity and embodied the fullness of God; both the masculine and the feminine. Jesus openly demonstrated gentleness, empathy, an intuitive nature, vulnerability, and strength. The intuitive nature of Jesus was fully matured. He listened and responded to His spirit-self, the part of His being that had come from God, the spark from the larger flame; demonstration of the Divine Feminine dressed in male clothing.

Women bring balance. We tend to the see the good in others, encourage the downtrodden, and see solutions rather than problems. Harkening back to the theories about prehistoric man, some scientists believe prehistoric man demonstrated and operated within the masculine-feminine roles much better than we do, and rightfully so since their lives depended on it. Perhaps there was less competition between the genders than today; the need to cooperate important to survival. The men hunted, remained vigilant to danger, while women nurtured the young and tended to gathering plants to feed the others. Women evolved within groups, developing social skills and sensitivity to relationships. Men fashioned weapons needed for hunting, usually more of a solitary activity unless banding together with other men to capture larger game to feed the little community. Perhaps prehistoric man did have a better handle on balancing the masculine and feminine.

The women of the Bible are included for purpose; to point us toward the Divine Feminine. Each of the women living within the pages of scripture were strong, resilient, intuitive, nurturing, and intelligent. Mary of Magdala is a good example of the Divine Feminine. She complemented Jesus, from all accounts was close to Him, intuitive, sensitive to the voice of God, and nurturing. She complemented the male disciples, as well. Mary was the balance for Peter’s impulsive, brash nature, likely the source of their discord. I admire her for walking away from the disciples when it became obvious Peter’s jealousy stood in the way of Mary’s contribution. Mary recognized Peter’s toxic spirit; a spirit consumed by lack of self-confidence and a need to be top dog. And, perhaps this is where the imbalance began again anew. As the dawn of a new spiritual understanding unfolded, women were prominent, instrumental in bringing the balance of masculine and feminine back to the created world Jesus had demonstrated, but the Church fathers had different ideas.

In today’s modern world we have progressed little in our appreciation for one anothers roles and gifts. Instead of recognizing and celebrating our God-given masculine and feminine characteristics and utilizing them as God intended, we clothe ourselves in jealousy, believing our positions threatened. As we journey with God, each on our own path seeking enlightenment, we need to include gratitude for the character traits we possess and those of others, embracing their collective importance within the Universe. The path to unity within races, gender identities, and religious beliefs lies in recognizing our unity with the Divine. Only then will we be able to appreciate the character traits of the Divine in others and bring healing through understanding and acceptance to a fractured world …..

The Two Faces of God…..

Jesus was a radical feminist. True story. Back in the day when Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, lepers, rabble-rousers, and tax-collectors, He obviously didn’t care what others thought about his choice of friends. And, He caught a fair amount of critcism for it.

Women throughout history have gotten a bad rap. We have been held down, held back, ignored, dismissed, used, abused, stoned, and burned at the stake, It was the same in Jesus’s day; women along with children were to be seen and not heard. A woman’s place was in the home taking care of the hubby, and children. But, Jesus saw women differently. From what we know, He treated them with respect, restored their dignity, and considered them equals. And why not? As far as I am concerned people, not just men, should be treated with respect and dignity, and considered equals. Why have women been considered less worthy than men, subservient, less intelligent, and the ‘weaker sex’ (and I don’t mean physically)?

Recently I read an article written by a religious scholar who believes the Bible elevates women. How so? If we only look at the story of the woman caught in adultery, we see she was thrown before Jesus for judgment and condemnation, men at the ready, stones in hand, waiting for the guilty verdict. Where was the man she was with? Did those who brought the woman before Jesus tell him to be on his way? It is clear from the Biblical account only the woman was to be punished, put to death by stoning. I’m confused as to how the religious scholar interprets these stories, and myriad other text as ‘elevating’ women?

From the writings of Jewish historian Josephus, and the Lost Gospels, discovered in 1945, we see a different view of Jesus’ life and companions. The Gospel of Mary, thought to have been written sometime in the 2nd Century and in reference to Mary Magdalene, portrays Mary differently than the portrayal most in organized religion are told. The Bible implies she was a prostitute, or at the very least, a ‘loose’ woman. Some religious theologians believe she may have been the woman caught in adultery, but there is no significant proof. Many academic theologians studying early church history believe the story of Mary as a prostitute was carefully crafted by the early Church fathers to discredit women. Interesting, and I do not believe that summation is too far off.

The Gospel of Mary gives an accounting of a strong woman, a leader in her own right, intelligent, and a prominent disciple of Jesus. So much so, that the Gospel of Mary describes revelations Jesus shared with her He did not share with His other disciples. Several pages of the Gospel of Mary are missing. The pages that do exist reveal Mary and Peter were at odds with one another, that Peter was jealous of Mary’s close relationship with Jesus. History has tried to discredit Mary, and Jesus for that matter, by implying and sometimes not so subtly, that Jesus and Mary were lovers, and perhaps even married. The Da Vinci Code was written around that very notion. However scandalous, the greater lesson is Mary’s importance in Jesus’ life. According to the lost text, Jesus sought her advice, confided in her, and loved her dearly. From all accounts, Mary eventually left the group of disciples. Did Peter feel his position within the discipleship threatened by Mary, or was it simple jealousy? Historical theologians piecing together the puzzle of history have concluded there is validity to the Lost Gospels, and there may be more hidden somewhere. Some suggest the Lost Gospels were purposefully hidden in favor of the more male-dominated version the early church fathers were constructing. Did the church fathers feel as threatened as Peter?

In an article by a Christian scholar of Jewish history, himself a Jew, the story of creation is presented with a different view than we are familiar; Eve was placed in authority rather than Adam. Interesting concept. Part of the premise of his assertion is the serpent seeking out Eve instead of Adam, not because she was the more vulnerable, or gullible, but because she was in charge. And, due to this tidbit of Biblical lore, the Church fathers changed the story up a bit. Which brings us to the Divine Feminine.

What is the Divine Feminine? The New Age concept-of-the-hour? So much hogwash?  Not as far as I am concerned. Simply put, we are made up of both masculine and feminine characteristics, as is God. We originate from God, therefore we share in the character traits of the Divine. We have been taught to believe, in our male-dominated society, man is superior to woman. We have failed to recognize the need for both sets of character traits to be complete and to reach our highest potential. Stay tuned as we learn more about the Divine Feminine…..

 

More Like God…..

For the record, I am not a Christian hater. I applaud any who seek spiritual awareness and understanding to empower themselves in whatever way best resonates. Some of us feel comfortable, accepted, and vibrate collectively with a congregation, others through spiritual study and practice be it one of the Eastern, Native American, Judaism,  etc. religions. The five (5) major religions according to someone out there are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and New Age. I am opposed to the “New Age” moniker, which I have said before. There really is nothing ‘new’ about it. As long as a religion or belief system focuses on the Divine Source, what others think of as God, and seeks to learn, grow, and become more like God, I’m in favor. As soon as hate creeps in and we segregate, or worse, begin to harm others, it ceases to be a religion, or spiritual endeavor, seeking God.

There is a billboard as you merge onto the major Interstate in my area that reads, “Real Christians Obey the Teachings of Jesus” Absurd statement, not to mention arrogant. I have met a few ‘real Christians’ here and there, but none that would make the above statement with a serious face. How many ‘teachings’ are there? Is there a scorecard? There is a great article in the Huffington Post on the four (4) teachings of Jesus, as seen through the eyes of the author, which is not to say these 4 are all of the teachings, but they are definitely worth pondering.

#1. Jesus alone brings life, not the Bible. In other words, relationship with God, since Jesus is God in the flesh. We can memorize all the scripture we want, but if we don’t internalize God’s essence, the purity of love, and purpose to live it out, what is the point?

#2. We get to heaven by doing. Hmmm…..Nope. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do you?

#3. Jesus didn’t condemn. How many sermons are centered around condemnation? Seems there are lots of ‘Christians” determining who and what is acceptable to God and handing out guilty verdicts, yet Jesus did not condemn. From my understanding of the Bible,  Jesus was harsh with those religious leaders who did the condemning.

#4. Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you. Do we?

The Bible was written by men. The words are theirs, and were carefully chosen. The words and teachings we attribute to God and Jesus were man’s attempt to control others through intimidation, manipulation, and fear. Rest assured, God and Jesus still shine through, and most often in opposition to man’s teachings.

Christian means ‘Christ-like’, which is partly why I choose not to claim the designation. I am fully aware I am not like Christ, and it’s not that I don’t try, but humans are fallible. From my experiences inside the walls, there are plenty who claim the title and flaunt it like a sparkling 10 carat cubic zirconia. And, to be fair, there are some who seem to be living a Christ-like life, yet are quick to admit they are woefully human. I have respect for those few.

At the end of the day, I believe there is room for all who choose relationship with God, with the Divine Creator, and no way is better, or more ‘right’ than another as long as we seek to love. Therein is my criticism of organized religion. The long-held belief that only ‘Christians’ go to heaven, ‘Christianity is the only true religion, and all others, along with their followers, be damned. I have never heard anyone seeking spirituality say the same, however. Those who seek to journey with God and do so in their own way allow others the same. Seems more reasonable to me. We don’t all have to agree on everything and don’t all need to think exactly alike; within the differences we can learn from one another, grow, and become more like God…..

Reality? Perception? Maybe Just Shades of Gray…..?

Why do we all need to believe alike? Better question, do we all need to believe alike? The answer, in my mind, is no, we do not. At the center of all religious divisiveness is the uncompromising belief “I am right and you are wrong”.  We like to believe we are open minded, willing to entertain other ideologies, tolerate others with belief systems different from ours, but when push comes to shove many dig in determined to defend why their beliefs are superior to others. And, often digging in means I don’t have anything to truly base my dogmatic beliefs on except that “I am right and you are not”. Wars are fought, people are brutally killed, and congregations, sects, or the like, split because of differences that cannot be resolved. Perhaps the more accurate statement is a refusal to resolve differences.

I used to be one of those people. Well, to be completely honest, I wanted to be one of those people because I wrongly assumed ‘church people’ knew God. I tried, but still felt like I was on the outside looking in, and wearing a mask to ‘fit in’. Other people were deeply committed to their beliefs, while I, on the other hand, wanted to be deeply committed, but had too many questions. And, it didn’t feel right. For me, at least. As an adult, essentially my belief system was a modification of the one I grew up in. It was far more fundamental, however; all who ascribed were held to strict doctrinal beliefs that included literal interpretation of the Bible, the need to be ‘saved’ from sins, and an attitude of veiled humility to hide the fact that all who believed the same were superior. Hard as I tried, I could not fit a round peg in a square hole.

I believe we all are sparks from the Divine flame, from God. As such, we are all just a bit different from one another, created to think, feel and be, in fitting with our uniqueness. Therefore, our uniqueness will lend itself to a perspective slightly different from another’s, yet we are conditioned to believe the opposite. This is where the feeling of being out of step with others comes in, but I don’t mind being out of step with those on the outside. I have to live with me, and I don’t like feeling divided within. 

The pursuit of God through the practice of spirituality resonates with me. It took me nearly a lifetime to figure that out, but hey, better late than never, right? Spirituality allows me to reach outside the accepted norms, to explore without fear of plunging headlong into satanic worship and ritual. Personally,  I have come to understand the Bible was fashioned in a way to create fear among the masses, to prevent them from questioning, responding to the beat of a different drummer, and yet, one of the most radical people of all time was Jesus. He rubbed the establishment the wrong way, and didn’t care. He lived a life of integrity, love, and loyalty to a Higher Power, at least, that is how I see it. Jesus operated beyond the confines of what others perceived to be reality, thus teaching that reality is perception.

Think about it. What exactly are the stories about Jesus and Peter walking on the water, calming the storm, raising the dead, if not to teach the reality of perception? I sat through many a sermon teaching the acts Jesus performed were available to us, and those were just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Is it the act, or the purpose behind the act of greater import? We could say any acts Jesus performed were so much smoke and mirrors, the stuff of illusions, no different than those performed by modern day illusionists. Collectively, many have accepted the fact the acts Jesus performed were real, and not the stuff of illusion.

Reality is the product of perception. Sounds like a radical statement does it not? But, if you think about it, what would reality be if not perception? Two people could look at the exact same situation and walk away with different perceptions. I may interpret a situation as an opportunity, and you, looking at the very same situation, may see it as failure. Why? Perception, plain and simple. Peter’s perception of reality in terms of water, prior to walking on it’s surface, involved sinking, whereas, on the other hand, Jesus helped Peter to change his perception of the water, and then Peter was able to walk on its surface. Same with raising people from the dead. Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus were dead; Lazarus most sincerely dead having been in the grave three days lest any make the supposition he had merely been in a coma. Jesus perceived the little girl and Lazarus to be alive and well. How?

The ‘how’ certainly was not magical in any way. Jesus was connected to the Divine, to the Higher Power, to the Creator of life, to God. His relationship with God so tight it transcended earthly perception. The lesson was the relationship rather than to walk around raising people from the dead or walking on water. Jesus taught we are capable of living at a level of spiritual connection with God while at the same time living on the earth.

This is the way I read the Bible, view Jesus, experience God. Is it right or wrong? It’s neither. Life and how we experience it is through our perception. Shades of gray…..

Curiosity Did Not Harm the Kitty…..

I am forever curious and have questions about all kinds of things. I want to understand, and yet there are things we are not meant to fully understand, at least not in our limited human experience.

Reincarnation is one of those topics. Before you run screaming in the opposite direction, certain I have flipped off the edge, hear me out. For years, and according to Christian indoctrination, anyone who believes in reincarnation needs to be excommunicated, considered a heretic, or worse, a demon. Exploring the world of spiritual philosophy  has whet my appetite to possibilities Christianity has forbidden. But, do we ask why certain topics are forbidden?

What do most of us know about reincarnation? In general, reincarnation is dying in this lifetime and returning as something or someone else in another; a sort of recycling of the spirit. The word is derived from the Latin, meaning ‘to enter the flesh again.’ Reincarnation is predominantly thought to be a Hindu-Buddhist philosophy, although other philosophies have their versions, as well. The idea is to become better with each successive lifetime, to learn and grow without advantage of knowledge from previous lifetimes. Sounds nearly impossible!

But did you know reincarnation is also accepted within Judaism? The words reincarnation and resurrection are often used interchangeably in Judaism, and the philosophies vary somewhat within Judaism. The concept of reincarnation is usually associated with the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism, and was prevalent in the Middle Ages, however, its origins go back much farther. Originally, like most of the texts, the Kabbalah was an oral history passed down through the years until it landed in written form. Those who practiced mystical Judaism were not the only Jews who believed in reincarnation, however.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were predominate players in Biblical texts regarding Jesus; the Pharisees believed in resurrection and reincarnation, whereas the Sadducees did not, as recorded in scripture and through Flavius Josephus, a first century historian. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus at night to ask about resurrection, what Christianity has skewed to be taught as being “born again”. Jesus had told Nicodemus that man must be ‘born again’; born of water and the spirit. Christianity teaches this by equating water with the physical birth, and the spiritual birth occurring when the Holy Spirit descends upon those who recognize their sinful nature, ask forgiveness, and accept Jesus as Savior; a pivotal doctrine of Christianity. Most teachers of Christianity explain Nicodemus was “confused” by the words of Jesus, but part of the story is conveniently left out. Why would a member of the High Priests be confused by a discussion on resurrection? We are taught Nicodemus sought Jesus in the dark of night, implying he didn’t want anyone to know he was talking with Jesus, and perhaps he didn’t given the fact there was no love lost between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day. However, Nicodemus’s question would have seemed reasonable to any Pharisee; perhaps Nicodemus was getting clarification, maybe because he wanted unequivocal proof his sect was right and the Sadducee’s wrong.

We are taught the Pharisees believed in resurrection, with reincarnation being conveniently left out, yet the words, at that time, were used interchangeably. Christianity teaches resurrection in relation to Jesus and those who accept Christ as Savior, and reincarnation as part of witchcraft and/or paganism. In fact, the Apostle Paul also belonged to the Pharisees, and believed in reincarnation.

The intentionally hidden doesn’t stay hidden forever,  and in 1945 the Gnostic Gospels were discovered, dated as written earlier than the Biblical Gospels, putting a different spin on the 66 books known as the Bible. The Gnostics were a sect of Christians ultimately hunted down and burned at the stake by the Roman Orthodox church. The Gnostics believed knowledge came through the heart, or in communion with the Divine Spirit, whereas the church taught faith as the basis of belief. Gnostics may have considered themselves Christians, for lack of a better description, yet they likely are more closely associated in theology to those subscribing to spiritual pursuit. In the Gnostic Gospels, resurrection and reincarnation are separate concepts; resurrection akin to a spiritual awakening, while one is alive. Spiritual awakening is sought through meditation and study; enlightenment, in other words. Reincarnation occurs because a soul did not awaken during a physical life, therfore, needs to return in order to learn. The Gospel of Philip, one of the Gnostic Gospels, says it this way, “People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken.  If they do not first receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing.”

Gnosticism has been around for centuries and will likely endure for centuries to come. And, for the sake of correct word usage, a Gnostic and an Agnostic are not one and the same, as many believe. Gnostics base their interpretation of the universe and the Divine on knowledge, whereas an Agnostic reveres science to the point the existence of God is in question. One of the more recognizable names in recent history who studied Gnosticism was Carl Jung, the revered early 20th century Swiss psychologist. Many who study spiritualism are familiar with his writings about archetypes. Jung believed archetypes represented universal patterns and images we all share.

So, what is the lesson from all these words? Curiosity doesn’t give us a “go directly to hell” card in the game of life, and it’s okay to learn and explore other possibilities. I cannot accept that curiosity is inherently evil, and suspect the ultimate goal of all subjects ‘forbidden’ has more to do with controlling others, than it does protecting them. Stay tuned…..

When the Sky is Falling…..Part 2……….

Sometimes the lesson within the storm isn’t obvious. Sometimes entrenched fears woven into the fabric of our being go unnoticed, accepted as normal, yet driving our thoughts and actions. We all fear something whether it is illness, poverty, discrimination, criticism, the list is endless. When the thoughts turn into a driving force behind our actions, the result may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because we aren’t consciously aware of the entrenched fear lurking in the shadows, we blame others, or God, or both, or believe we are being punished.

Crises in life are sometimes a result of our fears. Choosing not to face any given crisis or situation, instead wallowing in the negative energy within the situation, or burying our heads in the sand to avoid dealing with a situation only prolongs it. Acknowledge what we fear, what feels out of control, and then take a moment to sort through what is known, not supposed. There is nothing wrong with admitting we are afraid of possible outcomes, what the future may hold, the crisis itself. What is detrimental is letting the fears paralyze us. What is the worst-case scenario? Is worst-case truly a possibility? Often, it is not, yet our fear drives the thought. Fear causes us to feel insecure, we no longer feel safe.  Projecting into the future only serves to increase our fears. It is important to remind ourselves all we truly have is the moment we are currently living.

Long held fears may contribute to the development of a crisis, however, that is not the same as being punished for the fear. I occasionally listen to a speaker who had cancer and subsequently had a near death/death experience. She believes and teaches her fear of cancer eventually led to the diagnosis of cancer. At first blush, I rejected her reasoning, but after listening to her teachings, I believe she is on to something. She says everything in her life was focused on avoiding cancer from what she ate, to exercise, to stress reduction, etc. In other words, her focus was skewed allowing the fear to grow and manifest the very thing she spent her life avoiding. The same principle can be applied to a poverty mindset. My Reiki teacher shared with me her fear of poverty led to a financial crisis resulting in losing everything and having to move back in with her elderly parent. These revelations are extreme and the result of much meditation and time spent seeking higher understanding; they are not an explanation for everyone facing a health or financial crisis. The takeaway lesson is examining our hearts and thought lives, allowing God to reveal long held fears to acknowledge and release for healing.

Sometimes we make the leap to punishment for a perceived sin. God doesn’t punish. Punishment was devised by man to control others. Do I believe some people need to be punished? Absolutely. A society cannot remain civilized without boundaries, that when crossed, require discipline, and punishment, at times. Within the church mindset, often people believe a crisis or negative situation is a result of God’s punishment. I believed that for quite some time, fueled in part, by an abusive husband who wielded the Bible like a machete, and in part because of a religious system that taught sin must be punished. Of course, anything negative in our lives is a result of sin, right? Wrong. Organized religion leaves no room for the fallability of humanity. People make mistakes, plain and simple. Mistakes are not willful intent, however. There is definitely a major distinction between the two, but organized religion often blurs the lines. Early in my “Christian walk” I actually had church mentors tell me sin caused negative events in our lives! The bigger problem was I chose to believe that nonsense and attributed any negative crisis directly to sin in my life. In its own way, that is almost narcissitic thinking!

Corporately, how we react to a crisis situation, is important, as well. Since we are all part of the universal Divine, in other words, God, what I do eventually ripples and will affect others. Dr. Chopra said it this way, “We are ripples of consciousness of the vast ocean of consciousness. If we get agitated and become part of the reactionary and vitriolic behavior sometimes around us, we will only add to the disturbance.” We can apply his words to family situations, work situations, or large scale crises like 9/11, or any myriad crises situations involving a large group of people. When people jump on the bandwagon of negative behavior, their behavior only adds to the overall problem. Attitudes spread, good or bad, positive or negative, an attitude permeates any situation.

Recently, we have had a series of negative events, some devastating, seemingly snowball in our family. Perception is everything, but I wager most would say there appeared to be a snowball effect, or in the words of my mother, a dark cloud hanging over us.  I can say I have progressed spiritually in terms of resilience in the face of adversity, but I have not arrived by any means. In the past, one or two negative events may have rattled my resolve, now it takes more than two. That’s progress, right? On a side note, I also noted emotion has returned, although I cannot say I have appreciated the intensity of it. The deadening of emotion is a side effect of long-term abuse; those who have been there, done that, will understand. So, how do we handle the snowball effect? We deal with what we can, and leave the rest to God. Dwelling on what is outside of our control only adds to the negative energy of an already negative situation.

We are not helpless when the sky is falling. Helplessness leads to paralysis. As long as we draw breath, we have choices, there will be options. Learning the lessons within the crisis will benefit us, too. Nothing in life is without purpose, without an opportunity for growth, without the ability to expand our understanding and lead us to a higher truth…..