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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I Am God…..Not Quite

A few years back a famous actress had an awakening, wrote a book, and starred in her own movie about the experience. The last scene of the movie she twirled on a beach, hands and face raised heavenward and shouted, “I am God!” over and over. As one can imagine, the book and movie raised and eyebrow or two. She dropped out of sight for a while after that. Apparently, the world wasn’t ready for her revelation.

I’m not going to lie, I was put off by the scene as well. At the time I was a churchgoing, inerrant Word of God gal, and I thought it blasphemous, as did much of fundamental Christendom. These days I have set my offense aside; I understand where she was coming from, which is not to say that I entirely agree with her.

We are a part of God, we are not God. Whatever name one chooses for the Divine, the Eternal Source, or Wisdom, humanity is part of the whole. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (The Complete Jewish Bible) Here again in the subsequent verses there is evidence of man’s meddling; the remainder of the chapter is centered around obedience and if/then. In other words, if one obeys, then he/she gets, and if one remains close one will be loved. The Bible states God is love. Love is pure, eternal, never changing, and the Divine Source is Love. Within love there is no judgment, there are no demands, no if/then; there is only love. The purity of Source Love transcends the need for discipline, punishment and judgment. When we unite with Source Love, with God, we choose to live within love as well. We are still human and won’t always get it right, but we have a much higher probability of success than having judgment and discipline hanging over our heads driving our choice to love and, like errant children, behave!

Connecting with God, living, breathing, and moving from our spirit-self instead of our ego-self, we see others as spirit beings, living in a body, and having a human experience. The need to compare ourselves to others, compete as if life were a race and the first one to cross the finish line with the most toys wins, or believing ourselves more important than another, fades away. Life isn’t a race, it isn’t about who has what or is better than another. Life is a journey with God, an opportunity to learn, to experience, and to continually deepen our understanding of self to improve relationship with others.

The other day I was listening to a radio seminar on spirituality and the speaker made a statement I have tumbled around in my head several times. She said, “the one is part of the whole”. The subject matter was much more complex, but I centered in on that statement because it made so much sense. A few simple words strung together to describe the relationship between man and the Divine, and for me, the impact of those few words was profound. Not only are we connected to the Divine, but we are connected to everything in the universe, no matter how seemingly insignificant, or powerfully life-changing it may be. Spiritually, most of us can agree, we are connected, but think about the detail of our daily lives. We do not wake each morning and go about our day as an individual entity, an island, as it were, having no impact on or relationship with the world as a whole. We sit down to watch the local and world news while we drink our first cup of coffee, drive to work along with hundreds of others, board an elevator, or take the stairs nodding to others as we walk to our offices, attend meetings, chat with coworkers around the water cooler, send emails, return telephone calls, check our Facebook accounts, update our LinkedIn profile, and Tweet our feelings and thoughts to our followers. Even the bodies we live in function as a whole. Do your lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide apart from the whole of the respiratory and circulatory systems? How about each brain synapse carrying and transmitting billions of bits of information through the nervous system every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day to form our thoughts, store our memories, to signal our glands and organs to function at just the right time, and our muscular and skeletal systems to produce movement? There is relationship within and between everything in the universe. We are never disconnected, and yet many in our world feel isolated, alone, and unheard. How is that possible?

For many their focus is predominantly from the ego-self. It’s all about me; how I will get ahead, what I have, how to get more, how I will get recognized, or appear to work harder than another.  The ego-self isn’t all negative, however. It serves as a warning system that danger is close at hand. We need the ego-self in small doses, but it needs to take a backseat to the spirit-self, not the other way around.

Organized religion dictates believers are to gather together in a place of worship. Once inside the doors the idea is to join with others who are like-minded, edify one another, receive yet another message on the wages of sin, and be told what the next rung of the ladder will be to attain heavenly status. We are encouraged to draw inward and search our hearts for roots of bitterness that need pruning, but as long as our heads are bowed and eyes closed how many actually take part? A cynical look at church life, I know, but it isn’t unrealistic. Much of church life is centered around the appearance of piety, fluency in Christian-ese, and “doing” to receive reward and recognition from God. Is that so very different from how many “in the world” act? Appearance takes precedence over heart motivation; ego clamors to be noticed.

Spiritual maturity, recognizing our oneness with God, the practice of gratitude, is heart work requiring us to take a hard look at attitudes and patterns of behavior, the words we use to describe self and others, and the thoughts that consume our daily lives. For the most part this work is solitary. We can reach out to others for guidance and help, and we should at times, but the bulk of the heart work is between the individual and God. Does the butterfly attend transformation gatherings as it is shaped and formed within the cocoon? The universe is our textbook, our professor is Divine wisdom, but it is our job to tune in. How we tune in is individual, as well. Some meditate, which is just a form of prayer, some read, attend classes, pull inward to search the soul, there is no right or wrong way.

Spirituality teaches we are all at different places in our journey, and why wouldn’t we be? Each has a thread from the overall tapestry. We needn’t all be at the same place, or tuned into the same frequency. There is room for all to grow, to improve, to experience, and we all will learn from one another. When I am reading, listening or researching, I don’t agree with everything, and we aren’t expected to. Some things I tuck away in my mind for later, others I accept, or only partially accept. Kind of like the “I am God” statement: safely tucked away for now…..

 

The Point of the Message…..

Far too much evidence exists of the life of Yeshua there is no valid reason to dispute it. Whether or not the rest of the Bible is literal or allegorical is left for us to decide. Do I really believe Jonah sat in the belly of a whale for three (3) days, or Daniel and his friends walked out of a fiery furnace unharmed? Does it even matter? Should any time or energy be spent arguing the finer points of literal versus allegorical? Not as far as I’m concerned. When we do, we miss the truth, the teachings, and the universal wisdom within the stories.

Consider the story of Job. Was there a Job who sat on an ash heap scraping boils while God and Satan argued over ownership of him? Most of us schooled in organized religion have been taught that Job was faithful to the end and had all that was lost restored to him because Job believed God trustworthy despite enduring agonizing hardships. A very encouraging message for all who face trials and tribulations in life. A lesson on the power of thought and word is also found within Job’s story.

In Chapter 3 of Job we find Job depressed and questioning why he was ever born. Ever felt that way? I have, and likely most of us have been there at one time or another. We don’t like to be uncomfortable or suffer hardship.  Job’s feelings are not out of line for the situation; he had just lost everything near and dear to him. Toward the end of Job’s soliloquy on the nightmare his life had become he says, “for the thing I feared has overwhelmed me, what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25 The Complete Jewish Bible) Job gave voice to fears hidden within his thoughts.

Throughout the Bible there are elaborate explanations for stories so familiar to us we just accept them without question. But do they make sense? Are they supposed to? Maybe I am the aberration, the rebel who just can’t leave the accepted alone? I cannot swallow that God and Satan are playing games with Job’s life, or that God and Satan are even having the conversation. Whether an explanation to man’s suffering or a literal event, the exchange leaves me cold. If God is love, regardless of the eventual outcome, the journey to the outcome is cruel.

Job had fears in his heart, we all do. Do I blame him for giving voice to his fears in the midst of his suffering? No, I don’t, but it gives us insight into Job’s thought life. Job feared loss of family, health, and wealth. The theory that thought creates matter says that whatever we give the most energy to is what the universe gives back to us. Certainly not the occasional thought, but ever present thought; that which consumes our conscious and subconscious mind. His fears were at work long before he sat on his ash heap. I’m sure Job was grateful for all that he had, but I wonder if his fear of losing everything overshadowed his gratitude? The niggling fear crept into his thoughts and grew until the thoughts became his reality.

Our thoughts don’t have magical powers by any means, but everything  is energy and energy has power. It is the foundation of any work; it lights our world, runs our cars and appliances, and gives life to our bodies made up of cells, organs and systems. What we think about matters. Philippians 4:8 says “…brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.” Focusing on the positive brings the positive back to us.

Fast forward to the New Testament. Yeshua was a rebel and challenged the accepted religious mindset of the day. He called out those whose hidden thoughts were to control while their words spoke otherwise. The proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing religion has interpreted to mean those who don’t accept the tenets of a fear based religious system. Yeshua’s entire ministry was a lesson in focusing positive thoughts to bring about a positive outcome. Healing, bringing the dead to life, even His resurrection. Yeshua told His disciples He would suffer and rise again on the third day; both of which are recorded events. None of it requiring one man or group of men to be in charge of others, all of humanity capable of his/her own journey. The reason for Yeshua’s death revolved around the religious leaders’ fear of loss of control. The rest of the story involving Pontius Pilate is surrounded by controversy.

I no longer accept that salvation was the point. The whole of the salvation message is an unhealthy dependence on man and God. The salvation message fosters fear; fear of not making it to heaven without uttering the “magic words”, fear of screwing up, and a dependence on God requiring unquestioning belief in His ultimate control and judgment of our lives, and acceptance of contradictory messages throughout scripture and within doctrinal teachings. What if the sole purpose of Yeshua’s life on earth, the reason Divine took on the flesh of humanity, was to personally teach and demonstrate the creative energy the Divine imparted to man? Fundamental religion teaches that we can have what we say, faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains, and those who believe can heal and raise the dead as Jesus did; creative energy in action, plain and simple.

The new “church” as it went forward after Yeshua’s transition from earthly life to the spirit realm was a continuation of the teaching Yeshua brought to humanity. A lesson far more empowering and useful than a system full of confusing and conflicting messages and fostering dependence on mortal man…..

Seeking the Divine…..

Most of my adult life I have studied scripture, attended Bible studies, listened, pondered, asked questions, taught, and spent a lot of time in prayer. All worthy endeavors, but in the past year I made a major shift in philosophy and belief. None of it has been easy. I have struggled to sort through the mire of religious orthodoxy, opened my mind to new ways of thinking, studied some more, and I found ‘me’ in the process.

For a while I tried to stay within the boundaries of organized religion from outside the walls of church however, the questions and contradictions persisted, everything still sounded rote, and I tried, in vain, to quell thoughts that I was still separated from a true relationship with God. I didn’t have issue with others who found fulfillment in  organized religion, and I still don’t. There is a path for everyone, in my mind, but organized religion with all the trimmings wasn’t my path, and never would be. A journey of self-discovery and relationship with the Divine was born.

Our understanding of God and the journey we walk are individual; there is no “one size fits all”. And why wouldn’t it be? We are not all alike. Yet, those who find themselves outside the accepted mindset of organized religion are subject to the unspoken truth of many in the church today; any who don’t conform to the doctrinal beliefs are wolves in sheep’s clothing, suspect of blasphemy, are woefully misguided, or declared “anti-Christ”. What if we are none of the above? What if we are just sojourners on a path to relationship with the Divine and a journey of self-discovery? Is there a place for us? I believe there is, and at this point I don’t find the study of awakened spirituality and the teachings of Jesus in opposition. Much of what Jesus said and did as recorded in scripture, and found within texts not included in the Bible, lend credence to beliefs and teachings widely accepted in the study and practice of awakened spirituality. Organized religion and awakened spirituality however, needn’t be at odds with one another. There is room for all who seek to know God.

Many are realizing organized religion doesn’t always make sense. The fire and brimstone of yesteryear repackaged in the more acceptable contemporary church service is no longer enough. It has become painfully obvious in the past few years that church leaders and congregants are subject to the same flaws as the rest of humanity and many either deny allegations, offer flimsy excuses, or just plain ignore the misstep completely as if it never happened. Too many within the walls have set themselves above those of us outside the walls. If we have wronged others it just makes good sense to admit fault, ask forgiveness of those we hurt, and move on That’s not so easy for anyone who believes themselves above the imperfections of man.

A trend within the past several years has not gone unnoticed. People are leaving organized religion.  One of our local stations had a special piece on the ten o’clock news one night about this very subject. I tuned in out of curiosity. None of the information was new to me, I have seen and felt the shift coming for a few years now. Empty pews are plentiful in every congregation across the nation.  Few new families are joining or attending churches like in past years when people wanted to give their children a “foundation”.  There are staunch adherents on both sides of the fence. Many new parents say they want their children to decide for themselves, not force them to join in on church-life alongside their parents. Some people state outright the  unruliness of children in this age is a direct result of not attending church, not receiving the “foundation” they did as youngsters. My children were “raised in the church”, immersed in church-life, and all 3 have chosen journeys outside of organized religion as young adults. Sorting through organized religious indoctrination, an unhealthy dose of spiritual abuse compliments of their father, and life in general, has taught them traditional church attendance is not fulfilling, doesn’t answer the tough questions, and exposes them to more hypocrisy than most find in the world outside the church walls. And I can’t say I disagree.

There is spiritual hunger out there in the world. In the course of everyday life people at work, or in my private life, are asking questions, and often the conversations take on a serious tone. Many have been to churches trying to find where they fit in, some have been burned by churches they had joined, and some were raised in the church, but the story is always similar. People want a relationship with God, but they don’t want the hypocrisy of organized religion. At the risk of sounding like an evangelist, we have a God-sized space in us that will only be filled with relationship. We came from Spirit, we will return to Spirit, and our spirits are searching for meaning, for direction, for acceptance and for love. Maybe we cannot accept the whole heaven concept; do good on earth and the pearly gates will open wide. Yet, innate knowledge tells us that life on earth is not all there is. We succeed, we suffer, we get sick, we get better, we work every day to pay our bills and provide for our families, and then we die. Is that it? I believe it is not, but I don’t believe the answers lie within the church.

Science and religion have not been the best of friends, probably since the beginning of time, but within the past several years a meeting of minds has taken shape. Quantum physics has stepped in to say that the concept of “God” may not be so far off; a concept the spiritually aware have known for eons. I believe Jesus taught the basic principles of quantum physics by demonstrating thought becoming matter, and what it means to live from the Divine spirit. The very last thing I would ever attempt is to explain quantum physics to anyone! Math and I are not from the same neighborhood, and likely exist on different planets altogether, but the most basic foundational truth is that all things are energy and consist of wavelengths, frequencies, atoms, particles, and so on. I will gladly leave that entire discussion to Stephen Hawking!

The belief is that the formation of matter is the result of brainwaves; thoughts equal energy; energy equals matter; thoughts equal matter. Communication with the Universal Source, God, to many of us, is done through thought; specifically the frequency of thoughts. Does religion not teach us to pray and “meditate upon the Word”? Prayer and meditation are often done through thought – communication with the Universal Source, or God. We project our thoughts through brainwaves, and these brainwaves represent our consciousness. Brainwaves can be measured, and as a nurse this makes total sense. medical science declares patients brain dead when there is an absence of brainwave activity.

Our consciousness in communication with God tells God what we need, what we want, which in turn creates our reality. Our words and thoughts are often in opposition to one another. Which does God listen and respond to? The thoughts, the language of the universe. God answers our thoughts, our brainwaves, by sending back exactly what we ask for. There is no judgment involved, simply an answer to a need or desire. A gap between science and spirituality still exists, but the chasm is narrowing. At least for many in the scientific field there is now an explanation for what many of us have believed by faith; there is a God in whatever way best fits your definition.

People are searching, and for many the answers organized religion has offered no longer resonate with us. Didn’t Jesus say, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps asking receives; he who keeps seeking finds; and to him who keeps knocking, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7 The Complete Jewish Bible) The Universal Source, God, answers our thoughts…..

Jesus – Perfected Spirit Man (Part 2)

Seeing Yeshua (Jesus) from a spiritual versus religious standpoint gives us a very different picture than the one organized religion paints. He embodied all of the Divine; Yeshua lived and breathed and moved within the Divine. Throughout the Bible we see the evidence of those who had met the Creator, the Divine, the Source, God, and moved within that knowledge. Yeshua and the stories of the New Testament are the culmination of the knowledge individuals had tapped into at various points in Biblical history.

I find it much more plausible and encouraging to see Yeshua as fully human, living out the human experience, while at the same time living from the fullness of the Divine. It was always difficult for me to understand how we were to be “like Jesus”, since by all accounts He was perfected man. How can any of us live as a perfected human subject to the imperfections of human life? We cannot, and so we wake up everyday knowing no matter how hard we try we will never measure up; the stick and the carrot become the promise of perfection in heaven. In the meantime, we live within the endless cycle of sin and forgiveness.

Living from the Divine spirit however, is possible, and Yeshua’s life as a human living the human experience demonstrated the possibilities. To view Jesus and the Bible from this perspective allows us the opportunity to learn and grow every day of our human lives, not having to wait until we are welcomed through the pearly gates. Instead of an endless cycle of sin and forgiveness, we are able to move forward in the process of learning to live from the spirit man. And isn’t that what life should be about? We are here to learn about ourselves, about others, and how we can live together within the Divine spirit of love.

For those who understood Yeshua, lives were transformed. The “prostitute” was able to forgive herself and leave the shackles of living out others opinions of her; the “woman with the issue of blood” understood that her belief, a shift in her concept of reality, brought healing to her infirm body, not Jesus; He had only shown her how when He said “daughter your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48 Good News Translation) Story after story is told within the pages of scripture of the human Jesus demonstrating living from the reality He created. There is nothing magical or mystical about it. Thoughts and words are powerful. Later in the book of James 3:5, it is said life and death are in the power of the tongue.

What we say matters, what we think about matters. All spoken words begin with thoughts. In modern day life we hear, “I can never get ahead”, “I am always broke”, “I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop”, “My family has a history of cancer, so I will probably end up with cancer too”, or “My kids are always brats”. Those words come back to us and bring us exactly what we say. This is the Law of Attraction, and Yeshua’s life and death demonstrated this very concept. Later in Luke 8:52 Jairus’s daughter had died. When Yeshua walked into Jairus’s home Yeshua answered the comments regarding her death with “Don’t cry; the child is not dead—she is only sleeping!” (Good News Translation) Yeshua was laughed at, and that too, is an important point. Living from the spirit self puts us at odds with the world mindset. Those of us who choose a different path are like salmon swimming upstream in a downstream world; conformity is the name of the game, and conformity flies in the face of living from the spirit self.

Following the death of Yeshua, the disciples, men and women, went to the tomb site to prepare the body. Those of us with any church background are well versed in the story of the tomb found empty; only the burial cloths remained. Today, we have the Shroud of Turin with what many believe to be evidence of Yeshua’s resurrection; an image of a man with wounds like those Yeshua was said to have suffered, burned into the cloth. The Shroud is a hotly debated subject from time to time, staunch believers or unbelievers on either side. Whatever individual belief may be, it appears the image was created by a radiation blast of some kind. I find that to be perfectly plausible; we are energy wrapped in human flesh. Yeshua had said He would rise from the dead. If that is true and He did rise from the dead, an image would be left on the cloths. No absolute conclusive evidence exists to my knowledge; it is for each of us to decide. Spoken words with the stated outcome is all we have.

I have come to believe that elaborate stories sprang up around the life of Yeshua to explain the events of His life. Stories that made Yeshua deity, and advocated worship and total dependence upon a God who sat in judgment of His creation, and set impossible standards of behavior, thought and word; a well conceived effort for the few to control the many. Yeshua was and is the ultimate example of living from the spirit self, living within the Divine spirit. Was He the Divine manifest in the flesh of humanity? I believe He was, and yet He lived as we live, subject to the imperfections of this human world. Therein is the challenge; to live from the Divine spirit, from the spirit of ultimate love in a world where few know Divine love. Yeshua showed us the way to live our lives within the Divine, not to devote our lives to religious doctrine and helplessness waiting for our home on the other side. Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing is impossible” (The Complete Jewish Bible) Said another way: To live from the spirit of the Divine, nothing will be impossible. We create our own reality with our thoughts and words. Living within the Divine we will always create a reality of love and peace that will ultimately bring peace in this world. We need not wait until the sweet by and by…..

Jesus – Perfected Spirit Man…..(Part 1)

Was Yeshua (Jesus) a spiritual teacher or a teacher of religion? The answer would appear obvious, but is it? Anyone who has the most basic knowledge and understanding of Jesus would likely agree that Jesus taught from the spirit, or spiritual concepts. But was Jesus religious? Religion defined simply means a belief system involved with the worship of God or gods. A quick read through the Gospels or an hour in any church across the U.S. would lead one to believe Jesus advocated the worship of God. But did He? The Gospels, although massaged by man’s continued attempt to control, still give us a glimpse of a Jesus who lived by the spirit, and the principles He taught are often metaphysical in nature; owing to a reality beyond our immediate perception. In my opinion, the study of metaphysics and spirituality do not stand in opposition to the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus). Sorting through what is likely man’s version versus the reality is the challenge.

I have come to believe that the filthiness of man, sin, in other words, and the need for cleansing in the “blood of the Lamb” is man’s creation. All civilizations have had their own versions of blood sacrifices to appease the gods, to garner God’s favor, and the like. Judaism and Christianity were no different. Christianity took the blood sacrifice of Judaism and sanitized and personalized it in the form of Yeshua; blood need only to be shed once and for all for all mankind. Discipline, too, is a creation of man. All civilizations through the centuries have disciplined others, often basing the need for discipline on some arbitrary set of rules decided upon by those chosen to be in charge. Granted, in order to prevent chaos and maintain civility of a given population there must be rules for the society. The question is who came up with those rules? Did God by divine intervention, or did man, then pass the credit to the Almighty to give weight to the rules? An oft debated subject in Christianity is capital punishment. Vague explanation and confusing and often contradictory references are given when the subject of capital punishment comes up which tells me punishment by death was likely man’s invention.

Years of organized religious indoctrination left me with questions and contradictory messages having no explanation except to resort to the tried and true which is to believe by faith, and God would explain on the other side. Many of these supposedly unexplained acts were said to be available to be performed by believers as well, yet I didn’t actually ever see the manifestation of any, with the exception of “speaking in other tongues” and “prophesying”, which in the cases I saw may have been more motivated by a form of religious hysteria rather than a true demonstration of living from the spirit.

To explain Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water and healing the sick, the authors of the books we know as the Bible, deified Jesus, giving Him supernatural powers; again very much like the mythical gods of literature. I’m not taking anything away from Jesus, here. I do believe He was the embodiment of the Divine in the flesh, and many of the gospels not included in the Bible allude to that, yet those transcripts paint a very different picture of Jesus, a more human version. Suffice it to say we have no one picture of Jesus more accurate than another; it is up to each of us to experience, or choose not to experience Him, in whatever way makes sense to us.

I choose to see Yeshua as fully man, fully human, possessing the spirit of the Divine in its totality. We are sparks from the Divine Flame; God, if you will. Yeshua was fully Divine clothed in flesh, experiencing the world as we experience it. The Divine lived as man subject to all the imperfections of man in an imperfect world. His presence as flesh gave man the opportunity to learn from Him, and He from us.

From what we read of Yeshua’s life, the main principle He lived and breathed is a principle belief in the metaphysical, or spiritual world; through thought and word we create our own reality. If you think about it, the concept is solid. Like begets like. Our thoughts and words have creative power, as it were, so what we think and say most often becomes our reality. A steady diet of “I can’t”, “No one like me”, “I will never have” or my personal favorite, “I can’t afford that, I’m always broke” bear negative fruit in our lives. Is it easy to change our thoughts and words? For most of us the task is a challenge as thought patterns and words are deeply embedded in who we are, but it isn’t impossible. I am far too familiar with this process, but I have set my intention for success! Old dogs can learn new tricks! If we think about people we know and pay close attention to their overall attitude and words we will begin to see the evidence. Successful people think, believe and speak words of success; likewise those who think, believe and speak negatively bear negative fruit. Does it work 100% of the time? Does anything? While living our lives on terra firma we are subject to our humanity, so we all struggle from time to time. A close look at our patterns of thought and word however, reveal much about us and soon the picture that emerges will tell the overriding theme or story of our lives.

Everything about Yeshua’s life on earth started with thought and word; every act, every teaching, every encounter with others. From Biblical and historical references it seems He lived authentically, and often challenged the accepted religious mindset. Throughout the Gospels and beyond we see glimpses of the metaphysical Jesus. Organized religion has focused on the results of the reality Jesus created, missing the lesson of the how. Turning the water into wine, walking on water, raising people from the dead, healing, and reading people; “he didn’t need anyone to inform him about a person, because he knew what was in the person’s heart.” (John 2:25 The Complete Jewish Bible)

Jesus was spirit man perfected, not some mystical being endowed with supernatural powers. His purpose, I believe, more than bringing “salvation” to man was to demonstrate the ability to live from the spirit, having put aside interference from the ego. We can do as Jesus did through thought and word, creating reality and experiencing its results. Again, the thoughts and words we think and speak most often create our reality within the world; the universe listens and responds, positively or negatively, depending upon us to direct the response. This cause and effect are not mystical or supernatural. We are created from energy, energy fuels everything in our universe; thought and word are no different. When the majority of the energy we put out there is positive, positive returns to us, and the reverse is true. Jesus showed us the possibilities. Is it not said in the Bible, “Everything is possible to someone who has trust! (believes)” (Mark 9:23 The Complete Jewish Bible) The statement relates to a story about a father asking Yeshua to heal his son of seizures. I’m not on board with the Biblical explanation of “demons” causing seizures, or anything else for that matter, but that was not the point of the story. Yeshua spoke as He thought and believed; that the boy was free of seizures. No need to add creative flare to the encounter.

We believe as we think and speak. What patterns of thought, word and belief have created your reality…..?

 

Spirituality vs. Religion…..

I have been spending a lot of time researching, listening, and soul-searching the spiritual journey versus the journey by way of organized religion. Most of what I have learned about the spiritual journey I agree with, some is put on a back burner for now, and some information is just interesting to ponder. The belief is we are eternal beings with unique personalities  having a human experience, and in so doing the teachers, practitioners, and novices all have a bit different interpretation of their journey to share with others. Why? Because everyone’s journey is unique to them, plain and simple. Our journeys shouldn’t all look alike. We are all at different levels of spiritual awareness. Naturally, those seeking a higher awareness and deeper relationship with the Divine have greater insight than those beginning their journey. Some of us have no awareness at all and that is okay, too. We aren’t all ready for deeper and higher levels of truth, some will never be in this lifetime.

Organized religion looks at relationship with God differently, at least that has been my experience having been a part of several different denominations, and interacting with many different people over the years, all working their way toward heaven in one way or another. But is that the point? And, it has been my experience, the collective of organized religion expect us all to look and behave very much alike leaving little room for discussion, opinion, or just plain disagreement.

Let’s get real for a moment. Relationship with God, in the Christian paradigm, is centered around acknowledging “sin”, and asking forgiveness for every perceived or actual wrong done to others. Ultimately the belief is that we are committing the act or directing unkind words or deeds toward Jesus, Himself, driving one more nail into His already beaten and broken body. Not to mention we are bereft of any good whatsoever outside of a thorough washing in the blood of Jesus.  

In truth, I have absolutely nothing against organized religion. Everyone should be allowed to journey with the Divine as a unique spirit, in the way that most resonates with them, and yet many within organized religion are quite critical of those who chose a different path of love. Church members pray and intercede on behalf of the “lost souls” who will not be welcomed into the pearly gates should they pass on without “asking Jesus into their hearts”. We need to ask ourselves, if God is love, is He so narrow-minded that His philosophy is “my way or the highway”?

Psychology and just plain observation of others tells us that those who need to vehemently defend their territory are in reality feeling threatened. Who is the defensive rhetoric directed toward? If I am comfortable with my journey and don’t feel the need to defend it I have no need to stir myself into a religious frenzy, but I have certainly seen and experienced exactly that from devout followers.

Humanity is expert at drawing the proverbial line in the sand daring any to believe differently lest the other suffer the consequences. I think we see that being played out everyday the world over. This group is opposed to that group, that race against this race, the list is endless, and in the end everyone suffers; no one wins. Organized religion, especially those in predominantly fundamental churches, practice a veiled form of “we are right, you are wrong”. Don’t believe me? Ever been handed a tract with stories of hell fire and brimstone, found a “Jesus loves you” fake dollar bill on the floor of the mall restroom, or been witness to a prayer vigil asking God to save a particular group of lost souls?

And so, here I am navigating unfamiliar, yet strangely familiar waters. I am at peace with my journey after so many years of struggling to sort out the questions, the contradictions, and make sense of the confusing messages. Not all spiritual teachers and seekers share the same mindset, yet are willing to accept what resonates with another, understanding all of our journeys look different.  Offense is not taken if one understands the Divine as God, while another the Source, and others still Universal Consciousness. There is acceptance for the nuggets of truth found along the path of love, self-discovery and deeper understanding. We are at peace. I have not found this to be true in the world of organized religion.

Many within the walls of church doctrine become agitated, some outright angry, others move on as if those who ask questions are a heavenly lost cause, all driven by perceived threat to their belief system. Salvation of the lost seems to be a joint effort between God and the devout. What if God really doesn’t need help in relationship with the created?

The spiritual journey focuses on change within. Yeshua (Jesus) taught that very principle however, many of those I have had contact with are focused on changing others. Didn’t Yeshua speak to that when He called the religious of His day whitewashed tombs; appearing clean on the outside yet rotting within? Spirit path focuses on change within self to bring about peace, which makes a lot more sense to me. If I am truly peaceful, resonating positive energy, loving others without judgment the attitude is obvious without a word being spoken. On the flip side if I am judging, listing all the things one must do and cannot do to be saved or otherwise acceptable, others will feel defeated, not empowered.

The more I study, read, listen and seek, the more I am convinced Yeshua was teaching as we are to live; from a spirit-centered base, living, breathing, and demonstrating full awareness of the power of the Creator residing in each of us. He lived the reality of a fully actualized  spirit, with a unique soul, living a human existence to show us we have access today to all He embodied. We don’t need to wait until the sweet-by-and-by….

Authenticity…..

Who are you really? Are you living life true to self? These questions can help us determine our level of self-awareness and put us face-to-face with the possibility of the need for change in our lives. Is it ever too late to change? Are you dead yet? If the answer to the last question is “no”, then the answer to the former question is “no” as well. Authentic living, or being true to self allows us the opportunity to live out our truth, the freedom to be who we are on the inside without the need for facades and labels we have donned and embraced.

Each of us consciously and subconsciously decides what will make us acceptable within the world and the microcosm of the world we live in; our family, our group of friends, the workplace and the community. The decisions we make about our acceptability often are a result of labels and the expectations others have for us. At different times throughout our lives we adopt new facades and accept labels others have attached to suit their expectations for us. The labels don’t always fit, yet we often let them define who we are. Facades are the masks we wear to fit in, to present ourselves acceptable in any group or situation, and often they change from group to group, situation to situation. But, do labels and facades represent who we really are on the inside, the spirit and soul who live in the earthly body? Most of us would probably answer a resounding “no”. In essence, we willingly exchanged who we are for who others have decided we are. Often, those whose labels and facades bear negative connotations find themselves at war with self, sadness sets in as they wish the true self was as acceptable to others as the labels and facades have become.

Various definitions exist for authentic living; it is up to each of us to decide what it means to live authentically. For me, sorting through who I am versus who others believe me to be is primary. Self-discovery, in other words. What do my values and beliefs say about me. Which are from what I have been told to value and believe and what I actually value and believe? What patterns of behavior am I repeating over and over that have not served me well? We need to find what resonates with us as individuals. Looking at the totality of our lives we often discover a theme we tend to gravitate toward, a passion where our souls and spirits find the most peace and satisfaction. Should we change careers? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps there is a way for a passion to become a career and that may take time to develop, but often if and until the passion becomes a career we can still find a way to include the passion in our lives.

When I took a look back at my life two overriding themes emerged: healer and teacher. In one capacity or another, in play as a child and in career as an adult, I found myself living out variations of healer and teacher. The career choices haven’t jibed with inward satisfaction, however. I have enjoyed being a nurse in various capacities, and it certainly encompasses both healer and teacher, yet the inward satisfaction was missing. Ignoring the nagging thought I wasn’t where I was most satisfied and peaceful, I decided it was a matter of finding my niche and then satisfaction and peace would follow. Recently, I studied energy healing and became a Reiki practitioner. In sessions with those seeking healing of the mind, body and spirit, my spirit is settled and at peace. Writing, and eventually speaking engagements, provide the same peace and satisfaction. It is to this place I am headed.

Authentic living is like coming home, and yet it has its drawbacks. It can be a lonely place until we regroup and find other like-minded people. People prefer to see us through the lens of their expectations and this is often antithetical to the true self who is taking center stage. Those we considered friends, and even family, may fall away not understanding our shift in beliefs, values or attitude. At some point however, the need to live from the spirit outweighs the need to be a part of the crowd.  Quite truthfully, I never have felt like part of the crowd.

Are you living life true to self? Do you feel like there is a more authentic self waiting to emerge? Are you beginning to see patterns in life that seem to repeat themselves over and over? These and others are the call of God to human spirit. Will you answer and live out your spirit truth…..?