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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A Spark From the Flame…..

Who are you? Who are we? Probably one of the best descriptions given to humanity I have heard so far is we are spiritual beings having a human experience. I like that, and it sums up the purpose of our existence in one sentence; short and sweet.

Too many of us get that statement turned around and then live our lives from a human standpoint while walking a spiritual journey. If we flip it around and view ourselves as spiritual beings first, our journey becomes primary and we begin to live life from the source of our existence, seeking truth and putting truth to work in our physical lives. The authentic self steps forward and the facades we have donned to meet the standards of the world are bagged up and tossed aside like ill-fitting clothing.

Living from the authentic self is scary and exciting all at the same time; kind of like putting on a swimsuit and going to the beach when we don’t match the Barbie doll body type we imagine romping the sand and sea, and then realizing most of the people on the beach look just like us. Authentic-self living means rising above the needs of the ego; to be right, recognized, and in control. Authentic-self living also means we march to the beat of the drum of our spirit; live the truth the Creator whispers to our spirits. We won’t all have the same journey, but the lessons are similar. We all need to learn to live from a center of love and acceptance of others, learn how to love self and exercise self-compassion when we screw up, deem ourselves unworthy or unacceptable, and along the way discover our individual life purpose.

As we settle into the awakening to our true self, or spirit self, transformation occurs. We begin to see others as sojourners on their own path, and do not feel the need to fashion another’s path into one that looks like ours. Church-life for me felt out of step, I didn’t see things the way others did, didn’t feel compelled to speak the same language, or mold myself into something I was not. Believe me, I tried, but it felt fake, hollow, not true to who I was on the inside. If church life speaks to you, fills you up to overflowing and resonates to the core of your being, by all means follow that path; it is meant for you!

Authentic living has its downside, however. As we speak from the heart others may become uncomfortable because it becomes obvious pretty quickly our focus is different, our interpretation of the world is not consistent with mainstream thinking, the accepted norm. The language of love is too harsh for some, and too soft for others, and positive thinking in the midst of turmoil looks like a denial of the facts.

Allowing the authentic self to take the driver’s seat helps us to see patterns in our lives that have brought us to the place we are today instead of a collection of haphazard events. When we are open to the leading of the Universal Intelligence, to God, we are able to see patterns of behavior and thinking, both good and bad. We begin to understand what and who has influenced the totality of our lives, and the experiences of life take the shape of our calling, our life purpose. I realized that in one capacity or another I have spent my life teaching and healing, having taught in academic, medical, and church settings, and listening to the wide variety of people who have come with heavy hearts, confusion, indecision, trauma, or questions seeking answers, compassion, understanding or direction. My life has been a journey to discover my niche, where I belong, knowing that my calling is teaching and healing. Becoming a Reiki practitioner has led down an interesting road of healing and teaching I hadn’t anticipated, but now I see it as part of the calling. Writing and public speaking is another aspect of that calling unfolding before me.

We are the sparks from the Universal Light, from God, the Father of Lights. Yeshua said it another way; “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing.” (John 15:5 The Complete Jewish Bible) From a metaphysical standpoint that is almost a “Captain Obvious” statement because sparks apart from the flame die out pretty quickly, yet His point is well taken. Yeshua was speaking a foundational spiritual truth; we are an extension of the Universal Light, and to the Universal Light we will return when our physical bodies wear out. Recognizing the source and living from it empowers us, the energy of the Creator flows through us as we create our lives through thought, word and deed.

Individual sparks can illuminate a speck of space; collectively many sparks can light a room, and many, many more a world. As a world community this is our calling. As more and more awaken and walk a journey of discovery, love, wisdom and authentic-self living, our world will become a reflection of the Father of Lights……

 

The Universal Flame…..

Who is God? How do you picture the Creator of the universe and all that is within it? I have thought a great deal about this lately. Is He a bearded guy sitting on a throne waiting for us to screw up so He can punish? Does He keep a record book of everything we say, think or do in life? When we die will He judge us and send us to heaven or hell depending upon the severity of our sins? Images like these may sound childlike, but many people hold similar images of God in their heads.  

Man has created God in his image instead of the other way around. In a way our vision of God is human-like, endowed with the characteristics of man, both good and bad. God is known by many descriptive names: Healer, Emmanuel, Jehovah Rapha, Our Provider, Father, to name a few. Christians believe these to be facets of His overall personality, if you will, but in reality we are only privy to a speck of the total picture because of our limited understanding. God has always existed, and that in itself is a very difficult concept for finite man to grasp; God is energy, love energy, as it were, and energy cannot be destroyed, lending to His eternal nature.

Creating God in our image has resulted in a false and limited view of the Divine. The ‘gods’ of mythology were created in man’s image and yet we are aware that God, the Universal Source, and the ‘gods’ of mythology are radically different; one being real and the others the stuff of lore. As humans we have to put concepts in terms we can wrap our heads around; the images we create serve us for a time, but we need to grow and move beyond the one or two dimensional characters we fashion in our heads to a greater depth of understanding. We need to think outside the box.

A careful walk through the books known collectively as The Bible will reveal the human characteristics we have given to Universal Wisdom. God told Moses His name was “I AM”, which, if you think about it, is quite descriptive. The problem is that man added his own adjectives to the name “I AM” and created a god with human characteristics. We use terms like, “vengeful”, “forgiving”, “merciful”, “angry”, “jealous” and many others. Each is an adjective that describes the many characteristics of man. The Bible does say in several places that God is love, and truthfully, that is as far as we need to go in any description of God. Within love there is mercy, understanding, compassion, tenderness, and acceptance. Man adding adjectives has assigned God human characteristics. What purpose do the adjectives serve? The purpose benefits man alone; to those who seek to control others on their spiritual journey. The focus of the additional adjectives turns the table on us: “I need to be forgiven”, I made God mad”, I need to be pleasing to God”, keeping man beholden to man in search of absolution for “sins”. We spend effort and time seeking forgiveness and mercy instead of traveling our journey to reach higher levels of spiritual awareness and understanding. The reality is that God unequivocally knows we will make mistakes, we are here to learn and the learning process requires mistakes. Karma, what goes around comes around, what we sow we will reap, will answer to “bad” things we have done requiring correction. God doesn’t punish, He has no need to punish; God is love, plain and simple and He loves His creation unconditionally.

We were created in the image of God, in the image of the Universal Energy which means we are capable of the same unconditional love. Bound by this earthly plane and our finite understanding we cannot attain the level of unconditional love that characterizes God, but we can learn the lessons along the way teaching us the way of love, the need for awakening to the higher spiritual self and viewing self and others differently through the eyes of love and compassionate understanding. I have heard us described as sparks from the Universal Energy Source; I like that, and believe it quite descriptive and accurate. A spark is an image of the original fire, is it not?

Looking outside the box of organized and traditional religion, we are able to imagine God in a different way, and for me, this has resulted in  the feeling of having arrived home. The image of God as pure energy, pure love, pure wisdom, has awakened me to a higher understanding, resonated truth throughout my entire being as never before. I see people differently, I am far less judging, far more compassionate, and find myself more at peace with life as it unfolds. The vision of God as a brilliant light radiating love and sharing the wisdom of the universe is freeing. Within the radiant love of the Father of Lights there is acceptance for who I am, flaws and all, mercy for the times I fall, compassion for the days I feel the weight of the world and experience the wounds man inflicts. I am energized to pick myself up again and walk forward and upward toward deeper understanding. I am bathed in peace, the peace that passes all understanding, the kind of peace Yeshua (Jesus) referred to.

I’m not going to lie, I battled fear for a moment; fear that I was stepping off into the demonic abyss. The indoctrinated fears of organized religion run deep, and it is no small task to overcome years of conditioned belief. At first the journey was a daily task to put aside former belief and open my mind to truth new to me, to the wisdom of the universe.

Who is God? In the end the question is personal, and no one can answer that question for us. The journey is personal. The wisdom and knowledge we accumulate along the way is meant to encourage us toward a higher level of understanding self, others, and God, the Universal Energy that flows through each of us. Collectively, the knowledge and wisdom we learn is meant to create the bigger picture; the picture of pure love…..

Do Unto Others; A Lesson in Self-Compassion…..

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We typically think of the Golden Rule as an outward action and yet it is important to treat ourselves gently, too. Being kind to self is known as “self-compassion”.

To better understand what kind of a friend we are to self begins with listening to our “self-talk; all those thoughts that trip across our brain cells all day long every day. Most of us are hard on ourselves, even cruel, at times. Where does self-talk originate?

Coming into this world our spirit-self has left the Eternal Flame, the Father of Lights, God, to experience life on earth. We are born a unique personality into a human body possessing an eternal spirit. Our purpose is to experience life and hopefully learn from our experiences and about ourselves. We live in a world of duality. Everything has an opposite; light and dark, love and hate, winner and loser, up and down, happy and sad, and the list goes on. The information we receive into our conscious and subconscious mind are full of these dual messages. What we do with some of the dual messages is up to us.

Depending upon our upbringing, our individual personalities, and our life experiences we will subconsciously embrace these messages. Within a short period of time these messages become our self-talk. As we embrace and subsequently use these messages the self-talk reveals a lot about what we think and feel toward self. Most of us have an overriding theme to our self-talk, either positive or negative. Realizing this explanation is a simplistic view of a complex issue, we get the idea, right?

When life is difficult what messages go through our brains? “This is your fault. If you weren’t such a mess and a loser this wouldn’t have happened” Or maybe we hear, “I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough”. When life goes our way do we hear, “I don’t deserve this”, or “Life is going too well; I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”? Self-critical messages like these are harmful to our well being leading to poor self-esteem, poor self-worth and depression, and prevent us from the reality of being the unique brilliant spirit we are. Trust me on this one – I am a graduate of the university of life and experience! Alas, we have the capacity to learn, grow, and change our thoughts, our lives, and our realities. When any negative thought trips across our brain cells in response to a situation or a negative comment from another, we can stop the negative thought in its tracks and replace it with a positive thought. Many of us fall into the trap of internalizing a negative situation or comment adopting it as part of our self-talk as if it is our reality instead of what it truly is; a negative situation or comment outside of our control. The process is neither easy, nor quick, especially since many of us have deeply embedded negative self-talk messages going through our brains daily.

Emerging from the mire of negative self-talk is a process that goes hand-in-hand with practicing self-compassion. The realization we are not subject to the opinions of others will help us rewrite the story our negative thoughts have written. Many of those opinions have shaped the stories of our lives, much like a self-fulfilling prophecy; we believe something about ourselves and in turn our behavior reflects the belief. Recognizing there is a pattern to our beliefs about self and subsequent behavior allows us to intervene, to interrupt the erroneous belief and replace it with a truth, and then we behave according to the new truth. We needn’t start a complete overhaul of negative thinking, however. Replacing negative self-talk with positive messages is a journey; a journey of discovery and healing, a rewrite of one page at a time.

Enter self-compassion. We are taught in church we need to forgive others so that God can forgive us. I agree forgiveness toward others is a healthier response than allowing anger and bitterness to build and consume us, yet the one person to whom we rarely extend forgiveness is self. We are our worst critic; we use words far more harsh with ourselves than others would toss our way. Not only that, but we cannot leave it alone, repeatedly berating and beating ourselves up for minor transgressions leading to the poor self-esteem, poor self-worth, and depression. One of the definitions for depression is anger turned inward, and we know how destructive and life-robbing depression can be. At the end of the day all of us are fallible human beings; we make mistakes, wrong decisions, say mean things to others in the heat of the moment, and judge others based upon very little information.

I part ways with the Christian belief that we are sinful beings in need of forgiveness requiring us to come before God and humbly apologize for everything we have ever done in our lives, begging His forgiveness for transgressions we may or may not even remember from the time of our birth. For many of us that is our first introduction to being “saved”; we crawl to the altar having been told we are flawed, filthy rags bereft of hope outside of salvation and a thorough cleansing in the blood of the Lamb. We repeat a few words and walk away “saved” because we have “confessed” our unworthiness to a Holy God. Truthfully, I never really understood that line of thinking, and I am one of those people who cannot just wholeheartedly swallow something I don’t understand, or at least makes sense on some level.

The reality is we are spirit beings having a human experience and within the experiences of living through our humanness we will make mistakes, wrong decisions and intentionally or unintentionally hurt others. In the process the goal is to learn from the mistakes, recognize the wrong decisions, and when possible, right the wrongs done to others. We are not our thoughts and actions; we are a spark from the Universal Consciousness many of us know as God. God is pure love, and it is from this love source we came and will return.

Fortunately, I finally did come to the conclusion I can have a relationship with Yeshua, the Divine Energy, and forego man’s attempt to control the relationship through organized religion. In the process I am learning the value of self-compassion. I choose to see myself through the Divine; a spark from the flame of pure love and to rise above the dual messages of the world and live from the spirit-self core whose essence is love. Loving others begins with loving self and accepting the flaws, and forgiving ourselves for the mistakes and missteps of our humanity. They are nothing more than the learning experiences along the journey of life…..

Goddess or Doormat…..

Pablo Picasso was credited as saying that women were either goddesses or doormats. Arguably one of the great artists of our time, his character seemed bereft of morals, and yet his insatiable appetite for female attention, adoration, or sexual favor likely lent itself to his opinion of women.

He was right; women are either one or the other. Viewed another way, we either value ourselves or we do not. Certainly, men have self-esteem and self-worth issues, but women seem to have cornered the market in undervaluing themselves. We can blame our mothers, society, the church, and we wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect in that assessment, but perhaps a better way to overcome esteem and worth issues would be to confront them head-on. Society as a whole has progressed rapidly through the 20th century, yet many women are still stuck on the gerbil wheel of poor self-esteem.

Another “how to” book is not needed to help us regain our self-worth; most of us have read our share and still stand in front of a mirror and cruelly point out all of the flaws of the image looking back at us. The opening book of the Bible tells us humanity was created in the image of the Creator. Our self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth need to reflect the reality of who we are, not some airbrushed, nipped and tucked image on a magazine cover, or an ideal so unrealistic the impossibility alone leaves us shattered. Too often we waste time, energy, and resources looking for the “fix” to our imperfections instead of honoring the unique person we are. Granted, the voices and noise of the carnal world are loud, sometimes deafeningly so, and yet the small voice inside, the voice of the Creator, is speaking words of love, acceptance, and encouragement to those who will listen.

Throughout the Bible we can still find glimpses of the true voice of the Creator; not the voice of God created by man. You see, man has given human characteristics to the Divine so the image most of us have of the Divine life energy we all share, often sounds harsh, punishing, and condemning. Do we really need another voice in our head telling us we don’t measure up? No, we don’t, and the sad fact is the voice of condemnation is the one most of us listen to all day, every day. No wonder we walk around heads hung low, apologizing, as it were, for our imperfections.

There are so many voices in the world tripping over one another telling us we don’t measure up, fit in, or meet the standard, but we never stop to ask whose standard we are trying to meet. The voice of the Creator is the quiet voice of the spirit, whispering eternal love, peace, and compassion toward self and others. The voice is quiet to cause us to stop and listen, to get into that space where the voice of the world is blocked and the one we hear is the Divine. Be still and know that I am God, we say, but don’t do it; rather we work all the harder to prove we are worthy. The latest diet craze, more exercise, memorize more scriptures, pray longer, build a bigger house, buy more toys, nip this, tuck that, and the list goes on and on searching for the one thing that will make us feel acceptable, worthy, or feel that we measure up, and the reality is we are acceptable, we are worthy, we measure up today, this moment. When we are able to embrace this one simple truth, we will breath a sigh of relief and give opportunity for the true self to emerge, the one that listens only to the voice of the Divine, to the voice of Him who created us in His image, the image of light and love, peace and compassion.

Sounds easy enough, but alas, it continues to prove one of the highest hurdles to overcome. We have been conditioned to tune our ears to the voice of the world. The ego is in constant need of attention, stroking, and reassurance. Catering to the needs of the ego is exhausting work, but we are so used to the noise of the world and the needs of the ego we scarcely realize how tired we have become, how beaten down we feel. Rest is available. Renewal is within reach, my friends. Be still and know that I am God is more than a scripture, a trite statement on a bookmark, or a slogan on a coffee cup. Be still is a call to all who are burdened, all who are searching for rest, for wisdom, for knowledge, for revitalization, for awakening to a new level of understanding.

Ever find yourself in the half asleep, half awake state of being during the night when the answer to a problem suddenly drops into your head? The mind, body and spirit are totally relaxed during the twilight sleep and open to hearing the voice of Wisdom, the voice of the Divine. At that moment you have tapped into the higher self, the higher consciousness and joined spirits with the Creator. We were designed to live and breath and move in this way; easily and with grace, but we have allowed the cares, worries and fears of the world to weigh us down.

Get comfortable, put on some calm, meditative music and close your eyes, block out the noise of the mind and listen to the still voice deep within. In the beginning it will require practice to shut down the voices of the world and the ego, but the reward is worth the effort. Peace settles in, the body relaxes as the love of the Divine begins to flow over, around, and through mind, body, and spirit; wisdom permeates the higher self bringing self into deeper understanding. Allow the light and energy of the Divine to fill you to overflowing, remind you that you are created in His image, fully alive, fully beautiful, fully capable. So many scriptures in the Bible speak to these very things, yet we don’t recognize them as the voice of Divine Wisdom. We are more plugged into the voice of man, the voice of the world that tears us down, and we are willing to accept these words, but not the words of the Creator.

Women, particularly, need to listen and embrace the voice of the Divine, the voice that speaks words of love, words of acceptance and worth. When we come to an understanding of who we are in Him, that we are created in His image, an embodied spirit of intelligence, healing, compassion, mercy and tenderness, we will be able to hold our head up and take our rightful place as goddess instead of doormat.

Goddess sounds so heady, doesn’t it? Yet, to me “goddess” is a character word, a word describing the gentle nature of created woman, created from the rib of man to walk beside, not beneath. We cannot afford to cast aside our true nature; too many of us have accepted and walked the path of the doormat, and in so doing we deny the life-giving characteristics of our created nature.

Start with an affirmation that you will repeat each day as often as you think of it. At first the affirming words will sound like a lie, an untruth, but let us remember before accepting the words of the world, the lies of not measuring up, your spirit listened to the words of the Divine. The Bible says we can ask for anything in His name and He will answer; said another way, what we put out there comes back to us. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s time the goddess in you comes forward to take her rightful place…..

The Golden in Golden Rule…..

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Many of us are raised knowing this statement, sometimes called “ The Golden Rule” and many of us associate it with the Bible. While the essence of “The Golden Rule” is in the Bible, every spiritually-based religion centered in love has a similar tenet. Hinduism, Confucianism, and Judaism have their Golden Rule statements as well; basically, don’t do to others what you don’t want done to yourself. All have a Karmic reference, too. The Bible states we reap what we sow, others state some form of “what goes around, comes around”. Christianity did not corner the market on spiritualism, so why is Christianity marketed as superior to all other journeys?

Christianity has Yeshua (Jesus) at it’s center; God incarnate who took the form of man to restore relationship with man to Himself. I am totally on board with that. And, I believe, all of the other spiritually-based religions of love derived their tenets from the teachings of Yeshua. All civilizations no matter how remote or primitive acknowledge God in some form. The Bible says the Word of God will reach all mankind, and Christianity has taken it upon themselves to bring their form of religion to unsaved man, but is that what God had in mind? Christian missionaries believing they are doing the work of God infiltrate areas they believe to be heathen and build churches, dress the inhabitants in proper church clothes, preach, teach and baptize in an effort to create more cookie-cutter Christians, saved, sealed and delivered to the Almighty. I am not okay with that.

God is not bound by a finite mind like man, and so I believe that God very well may have taken the form of an angelic being or spirit teacher at different times throughout history to teach higher truth to people the world over. Perhaps the teaching was done within the context of  a particular region’s understanding of God? Is it necessary we all adhere to the dogmatic teachings of the church, say the “sinner’s prayer” in order to be saved, or are baptized in water to have relationship with the Divine? For some the answer is “yes”, but others may prefer to take a different path to God. Is one better than another? As long as the goal is relationship with the Creator, the Divine, with God, does it really matter?

Christianity wasn’t an exclusive religion until Constantine declared it so in the 4th Century and all other spiritual paths took a back seat; the perceived superiority of Christianity took hold. Constantine instituted many observances we associate with Christianity, and many people associate with the Bible and Jesus. It was Constantine who declared December 25 the day of Jesus’ birth, Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, and is responsible for Sunday worship and the requisite day of rest. Speculation also exists that Constantine may have used his influence to add his own thoughts and beliefs to the text we know as the Bible. Constantine’s influence on “Christianity” was both good and not-so-good; clearly he helped shift the growing cult of Jesus followers into high gear and established Christianity as the one, true religion in his and many others opinions, but is it the only way to God? I don’t believe it is. The bigger question may be why are we here?

What is man’s purpose? What are we to learn during our earthly lives? In Romans 12:18 Paul says, “ If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people.” (The Complete Jewish Bible) I have been known to include this verse in wedding cards, and I think it demonstrates that God has a sense of humor. When has man ever been able to live in peace with others? The reality is that our mission, should we choose to accept it while we live and breath on this earthly plane, is to learn to live in peace with all of creation. That’s easier said than done, for sure. Some find living in peace with creation easy, others find it challenging at best. So, here we are hanging out on terra firma, doing our best to survive in a world of opposing forces; love vs hate, positive vs negative, life vs death, organization vs chaos, the list goes on and on. And, the fact remains we are still here for a reason, so for those who have ears to hear we are called to come together to bring forth love and peace in an otherwise unloving world. We are here to learn to rise above the opposing forces and seek only love in every situation we encounter, to radiate love toward all without judgment.

Exactly how are we to bring forward love and peace? All work begins with us, inside working outward. Like Paul said, “….to the extent that it depends on you….” One by one, awakened spirit by awakened spirit, we set our intention to live in love and peace with all of creation. The positive energy one person intentions collectively joined with others of like mind and spirit will spread. We who hear and respond will set intention to live from the higher-self subduing ego and putting aside fear of being misunderstood, humiliated, or shunned by those who do not understand, which is no easy task by any means. It will require us to live above the cacophony and chaos of a world driven by ego, which is to say the “I, I, I” mentality. We hear a different drummer, respond to a higher purpose. We may be looked upon as “weird” but that only speaks to the opinion of others. Yeshua did not lend his energy toward the negative opinions of others, rather He spent His time teaching those who would listen and respond.

Yeshua lived by the Golden Rule. One day, according to Matthew and Luke, while Yeshua was in conversation with a religious leader hoping to trap Him into misstating the Torah, Yeshua recited the Shema; the “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength” passage, adding “and love your neighbor as yourself”. The religious leader went on to attempt to argue the smaller point of defining “neighbor”. Living from the ego-self, the religious leader was inciting an argument; Yeshua patiently continued to teach, living above the invite to participate in the shenanigans of the ego. We can learn much from that one interaction; higher-self vs ego-self.

When we choose to live from the ego we often hurt others with words or deeds, we use others as a doormat, put our needs above the needs of others, and wish others ill will. Choosing to live from the spirit-self we seek truth, seek to love and lend a hand, an ear, a shoulder, and seek to do good, to purpose in our hearts to do what is right. There is nothing “mystical” or “weird” about spirit-living.

How do we live from the higher-self? We begin by asking from which self do we generally operate in everyday life? In this way we identify patterns of communication and interaction with others. If the majority of our interactions with others are fraught with vying for the last word in any conversation, needing to be right, judging before truly hearing the heart of another, we are likely living from the ego-self. The power to change how we act in any situation, or in communication with any person lies within our control. Living from the higher-self requires effort to seek the Divine, to fill ourselves from the fount of love and peace found in oneness with the Divine, and practice the wisdom from within. The more challenges we meet from the higher-self, the easier it will become. No task worth undertaking is ever easy, is it?

The Golden Rule is not a tit-for-tat. Regardless of how we are treated by others, living from the spirit requires us to treat others as we would like to be treated without expecting the same from others. We set ourselves up for failure if we expect others to live from the spirit when we have chosen to do so. The only free will, or control available to us is to choose our reactions and words in any interaction with another. The Golden Rule is a good tenet to live by. The question is, do we exercise the rule to ensure better treatment from others, or to seek to do good regardless of the outcome? One leads to disappointment, the other to a spirit-led life…..

The Loretto Chapel; Intersection Between Man and the Divine

Years ago my then-husband and I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico. I fell in love with the state, the culture, the architecture, the jewelry, and the history. The city, and much of the state, is a mixture of their history and modern day nestled within the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain range. During that trip, Santa Fe became my favorite place on the face of the earth. It is there that I feel most at peace, and life makes sense.

Recently, one of my twin daughters and I traveled to Santa Fe to celebrate their 25th birthday. She, too, shares my love of the southwest, particularly Santa Fe. One of our favorite places is the Loretto Chapel, a tiny mission chapel, established in 1853 by the Sisters of Our Lady of Lights positioned at the end of the Santa Fe Trail. The sisters had traveled from St. Louis to Santa Fe in answer to a call from Bishop Lamy to start a girls school and church in the southwest capitol of Santa Fe.

The Gothic chapel is ornate for its day, and given the Basilica next door, rather unassuming, except for the miracle staircase that has fascinated and confounded many since it’s construction. The Chapel was finished in 1858, however, no access to the choir loft had been constructed. Most choirs at the time were comprised of young boys who used ladders, but the Loretto school was a girls school and thus required a less dangerous way to reach the loft. Local carpenters were consulted, but given the size of the Chapel, a traditional staircase would not fit and so the sisters took to prayer to solve their dilemma.

For nine (9) days the sisters prayed the Novena to St Joseph, the earthly father of Yeshua (Jesus) and a carpenter by trade, to meet their need of a staircase to the choir loft. On the final day of the Novena, according to legend, a man came to the Chapel, tools loaded on his donkey, looking for work. The man worked diligently for months to build the spiral staircase from the main floor to the loft, his only tools being a hammer, a saw, a carpenter’s square, and tubs of hot water to bend the wood. The staircase has no center support and is said to have been constructed without nails, only wooden pegs, makes 2 complete 360 degree turns and has 33 steps; the number of years Yeshua is believed to have lived on the earth. The wood used for the staircase is not indigenous to the southwest; reports are the wood is a product of Alaska.  When the staircase was finished, the man left without pay or a word of any kind to the sisters. An ad was taken out in the paper for any information about the mysterious carpenter as the sisters wanted to offer their gratitude and payment for the staircase and answer to their prayers. The man had vanished.

Whether the builder was Yeshua, Joseph, or a divinely inspired man, it matters not; visiting the Chapel is a spiritual and reverent experience. Any way you look at it, the staircase is a mystery and it’s history only adds to the legend. Do I believe the staircase was built by the hand of God? Yes, I do. It doesn’t matter who actually built the masterpiece; what matters is that heaven met earth in answer to prayers faithfully and earnestly spoken by the Sisters of Loretto. To me, the staircase is evidence that earthly concerns are of import to the Divine, and an inspiration to us to continue our journey with God.

From the first time I entered the Chapel of Loretto, and each time since, it has been a profoundly spiritual experience. The construction is truly a masterpiece in its own right despite the questions surrounding its builder. Each stair is precisely built, obviously designed and erected by a highly skilled professional. Given the limited space, tools, and materials, it cannot be anything but a Divinely created structure.

My daughter and I visited the Chapel twice during this visit. I am a people-watcher anyway, and watching others view the miracle staircase is interesting by itself. The vast majority of people are clearly impressed, if not awestruck; a reverential awe is present within the walls of the Chapel much of the time. Most sit quietly for a moment contemplating the beauty and paradoxical simplicity and complexity of its construction; others pray and light candles at the altar as well.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience and the miracle staircase touches a part of our spirit being. People from all manner of spiritual or religious background, and perhaps some neither spiritual nor religious visit the Chapel. It would not be a reach to surmise that the majority walk away with some sense of having experienced the Divine, if only for a moment. The Divine, God, is all around us.

Throughout history God has set before man evidences of a Universal Light, or Consciousness, many of us know as God. It is my firm belief these evidences, like the miracle staircase, are an intersection between the spiritual and the earthly realms, evidence of a Higher Consciousness, a Universal Flame from Whom we all originated, and it is to this Flame we are drawn…..

Wading In Deeper…..

The deeper I wade into the world of living a spiritual existence, the more I read the Bible from a metaphysical standpoint. For years I was skeptical, scared, actually, of considering possibilities beyond interpretation of scripture through the eyes of man. I have said many times over; God watches over His Word, and I believe He has and does, but in my eyes, the Word has taken on new meaning. The essence of the spiritual knowledge we need to function from our spirit self is all there, laid out in black and white, despite man’s attempt to derail the instruction. Some come to understand the knowledge hidden within the scriptures from a totally different road, but in the end, all roads lead to the same place, which is not to say that I believe all religions lead to the same place; the place of spiritual awakening. I also believe Christianity has fought against that knowledge for centuries, choosing to shroud it in fear, control its dissemination, instead of sharing it with all of mankind.

The many contradictions in scripture had me tangled in a knot of confusion for years, believing we are not to understand, simply to trust; but trust what? We are taught to trust man’s interpretation, that certain people are given the gift of insight to discern deeper spiritual truth, and the truth is that thinking is hogwash! Spiritual truth is available to all who come seeking, who come asking, who accept and receive the truths.

During my lifetime I have studied psychology, the Bible, and now spirituality; within each there are clues to living a spirit-centered life, and the pieces fit together because within each discipline the same pieces exist. Many psychological principles have simply been repackaged from Biblical teaching and viewed through the lens of spirituality. Each of the philosophies lead to understanding man and his relationship to others, the world at large, and his spiritual center, whether we call it God, the Universe, or Universal Intelligence. Man seeks to know why he exists, his purpose, and what lessons is he to learn from his time on planet earth.

Yeshua (Jesus), while He wore the clothes of humanity, spent the majority of His time, from what we can glean in scripture, with people; He taught, He healed, He prayed. Looking at the Beatitudes, the “blessed are” speech Yeshua delivered affectionately known as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Yeshua is not blessing the different types of people mentioned; rather the word for blessing is related to the state of being the blessed are to be in, their heart condition. Reading the passage it is clear man has had his hand in the interpretation of the message, however, the message is still there. Our state of being, our heart condition is of great importance to God, to the Universe, for within the heart are man’s motivations.

It is my firm belief that the Beatitudes speak to our spirit self, to spiritual pursuit for awakening, enlightenment, or if you prefer, knowledge and wisdom. I am learning to overlook exercises in semantics; too often we trip ourselves up and focus on the wrong things because we disagree with the use of a word! Yeshua was teaching deeper spiritual truth and if we solely interpret the Sermon on the Mount’s meaning to our physical existence we miss the point entirely, but more importantly, our view is skewed and our focus becomes earthly gain. For instance: “How blessed are the poor in spirit for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3 The Complete Jewish Bible) I have heard it preached that poverty is a virtue and the Kingdom’s riches will one day be mine, but this also is often interpreted to mean material gain. Poverty is not a virtue, and Kingdom riches have little to do with material possessions. Poor in spirit, going back to original texts, means we are humble, not full of ourselves. Kingdom riches in the Aramaic, the word Yeshua most likely used, means to expand our spiritual potential. We notice that the phrase “Kingdom of heaven” and “heaven” are used frequently in the Bible and the interpretation of spiritual enlightenment would apply.

Pressing onward, the second Beatitude says, “How blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” On the surface we would think the interpretation relates to those who are sad, have lost a loved one, or the like. Looking at the verse from the Aramaic, the language of Yeshua, “to mourn” has nothing to do with sadness; rather the meaning is rooted in a passion toward, or being eager for transformation. Comforted, then, would mean further growth in our spirit life, soul growth being the result.

What about the third Beatitude? How blessed are the meek for they will inherit the Land!” If we are to follow the example and aspire to be like Yeshua, we have to admit Yeshua was anything but meek! He turned the known world, at that time, upside down, and challenged the religious leaders often; Yeshua was not “Baby Jesus meek and mild.” Meek in the early texts had a feeling of nonresistance, being open to truth and wisdom, and the earth refers to spiritual awakening; following through, our goal is heaven and spiritual enlightenment.

As a seeker of truth and wisdom, the Bible has opened up, my understanding expanded exponentially, each day a clearer picture of what God’s Word has for each of us. We are all on a journey and God welcomes each of us to join Him in deeper understanding. Is it time to wade in and get your feet wet…..?