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…..

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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…..?

A Journey of Truth…..Leaving Fear-Based Religion Behind

I am a seeker of truth and wisdom, and have spent the better part of my adult life on a journey for higher truth. The interesting thing about journeys is that often there are bends and twists in the road, sometimes we detour as the road less traveled beckons and the journey becomes an adventure.

In my nineteenth year I attended a religious crusade and left a born-again, saved Christian. Not altogether sure what that meant, I did feel differently, refreshed, and as luck would have it, fell headlong into the Charismatic theology by virtue of marriage. Immersed in this exciting twist on the rote religion of my childhood, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge. Any number of events were likely to happen on any given Sunday; prophesy, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, people being slain in the spirit, in other words, falling out under the power. Praise and worship was fresh, not the dusty tunes retrieved from the catacombs found in every hymnal in the country, not that I think that’s a bad thing, just boring at times. Let’s face it, the majority of the hymns aren’t the liveliest melodies known to man.

Over the years I studied, prayed, listened, and asked questions. The more questions I asked, the more questions I had, and the crazy thing is the answers didn’t always make sense to me, which usually ended with, “it will all make sense in heaven”, or some similar response. But, I didn’t want to wait for an answer, and more importantly, most of the whole didn’t resonate with me; it felt like a puzzle where the pieces didn’t quite fit together so the puzzle-builder pushed and squished the pieces together so they kinda-sorta fit together, but not really. No one else I knew seemed to have the questions I did, and they seemed pretty content swallowing doctrine that didn’t make sense to me, so I concluded I was the oddball, God’s problem child.

An abusive relationship and life got in the way, so I put aside the questions in an effort to merely survive. Once out of the relationship, and mad at God, which is another story, God and I found tolerable ground and we declared a truce, of sorts. The truce became the journey I am on, and here we are today, still journeying with God although we took a detour.

Before I go any further I need to be clear; I am not a church-hater. I think for many the safety of church life is necessary, comfortable, and easy. Lots of people sit in pews week after week and then go about their daily lives keeping the two separate. Some earnestly seek God trying to understand the deeper truths, doing their best to live lives within the boundaries of the Bible and church doctrine, some just like to belong to a group. All are welcome, or so they say. The truth is that all are not welcome; those of us who poke and prod, who are judged as not fitting in, as not having enough faith, or just plain being trouble-makers are not welcome, not really. And so, we fall away, some for good, and some looking for God elsewhere, outside the church walls, and, hold onto your hat, He does exist outside the church walls!

Being outside the church walls has been a blessing for me. The journey, much like that of the ancients who have passed before me, those without advantage of church walls, doctrine, theology-educated pastors, has brought me to the place I am today; a place of deeper and broader understanding of God, of life, of people, and of myself. Free of doctrine that was confusing, suffocating, limiting and most of all, fear-based, I am able to see myself through the eyes of God, not through the eyes of the church, or the world, a view devoid of judgments, thou shalt-nots, and shoulds. It’s not a journey that all can or want to take, but all are welcome on the journey; it is a journey of self-discovery, gratitude, forgiveness, and most of all love; learning to love self and others through the eyes of God, and not through the harsh lens of the church and the world.

The teachings and doctrines of western Christianity are fear-based. A founding tenet of fundamental, Bible-based churches is the need for salvation. Why? Because in their eyes we are born corrupt, evil, we are subject to a “fallen nature” before even one breath is drawn. The “Sinner’s Prayer is a mea culpa of sorts; it’s my fault, I’m guilty, I’m not worthy, and so we come to Jesus asking forgiveness for all of our sins, faults, flaws, we are in need of forgiveness for being human. The purpose of salvation is the avoidance of hell, we gain entrance into heaven through confession of unworthiness, some even go so far as stating that without salvation we are deserving of eternal damnation. If that isn’t fear-based I don’t know what is.

Studying church history and reading the Bible through the eyes of a loving God I have come to a radically different conclusion than what the church teaches. Man has meddled in the texts that became the sixty-six books we know as the Bible. The meddling, by and large, is a result of man’s insatiable, ego-driven, need to control, the desire for personal power, leading to the development of man-made rules and boundaries not necessarily in line with the mindset of God. The Bible declares that God is love, that He is merciful, slow to anger and quick to forgive, that all are welcome in His kingdom, all are welcome to ask and receive, and yet man has decided that none of that is quite true, making God out to be a liar, a fabricator of half truths that reel us in only to find out that there is a high ladder reaching toward heaven we must climb to be considered worthy. Am I reading it wrong? I don’t think so.

In the beginning God declared all He created “good”, and yet somehow we became fallen, tainted beings, worthy of eternal punishment for being human, for exercising our free will and making a poor, ego-centered decision, in need of being rescued from eternal damnation through a spoken prayer. All who speak the prayer will be saved, but what of those who speak it out of fear, their heart motivation being skewed by the desire to avoid the fires of hell more than establishing a relationship with Jesus?

Rapidly approaching my 60th year on planet earth, well in a few years anyway, I am done with fear-based theology. No longer do I choose to be held captive by man’s hellfire and brimstone teachings, nor do I choose to be elevated above others. That’s the other side of the coin of western fundamental Christianity; those who believe themselves to be the chosen of God, worthy of elevated status by virtue of the Sinner’s prayer, the us/them mentality that looks down on those outside the church walls, those who say they accept and love but judge nonetheless based on their set of standards that are not accepting or loving in the least. What I have chosen is to live a spiritual existence, in communion with God, the Universal Light, the Creator, the label we attach inconsequential; an existence living in communion and seeing others through the eyes of love and not judgment, an existence that acknowledges the worth and value of the whole of creation, not just a select few, on a journey to bring God to those who need to know He is a God of love and mercy, compassion and acceptance, a God who declared His creation good, and still believes in the goodness of all…..

Creation….A Last Thought……For Now!

Supposing the Bible is a collection of stories, allegorical teaching, poems, and the like, what can we learn from the story of creation?

“In the beginning God created….” All religions, and the vast majority of spiritual teachers and seekers believe there to be a Creator, a Universal Life Force, a Higher Intelligence that existed before man, and was responsible, in some way, for creation. I was never a proponent of the “Big Bang” theory, or the “we are star stuff” mindset, mainly because at its core is the thought all things were formed by so many atoms and gases swirling around and bumping into one another creating life. I don’t believe the existence of life to be that random. Created by extraterrestrials? No, I can’t swallow that either. I prefer to be more simple-minded.

Creation, according to the Bible, began with a thought leading to the spoken word; the thought and word became matter, created things, and the things were declared “good”. God created man in His image and put man in the Garden. It is my contention that Eden was a Utopia of sorts, from our perspective, a place where thought became reality, Adam and Eve “walked” with God, in other words, they were one with Him on a spiritual level. Life was abundant all around the newly created beings, and they enjoyed their lives, living, learning, and breathing higher spiritual truths.

One day that all changed; evil does not exist apart from choice and Eve chose to exercise her right to choose. Here is another area I part ways with traditional church teaching; according to the Bible God handed out punishments, as it were. As sentient beings endowed with the ability to choose, we screw up, choose unwisely, make mistakes, and part of our mission on planet earth is to learn from those mistakes, to enable us to make better choices next time. Mistakes carry with them their own consequences, do they not?

The point of the Creation story is that there is a Creator, a God, a Universal Light or Power, we are not here by accident. The Garden represents a relationship with the Creator that was present before life on planet earth, and the relationship we will fully return to after we have completed our lifetime here. Adam and Eve lost that tight relationship with the Creator; Yeshua’s (Jesus) life and death on earth restored the relationship.

Down through history there have been those who walked closely with God; Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, the prophets, to name a few. These chosen few were enlightened, gave us glimpses of living an enlightened life, and all of them had faults, slipped up from time to time just like we do. The Creator, as well, in the form of Yeshua, came once again to walk among His creation; to give us the opportunity to learn from Him and He from us. Yeshua’s death restored the relationship Adam had lost; the relationship available to every person on the face of the earth, not just a chosen few. Enlightenment is for all of us, no longer do we need to be spectators in the game of life. The more I research church history, the more I read scripture, the more I am convinced that man adulterated what we have come to know as the Bible. Why? Power and control.

Man is comprised of an ego, and a soul, or spirit. The ego identifies with the physical body, the senses, and believes itself to be separate from others and God, is self-serving, hungry for personal power and control, and is the root of our fears, worry and anger; it also is the self-preservation part of ourselves which is needed from time to time, so it’s not always a bad thing. Judgment of others emanates from the ego self, as do stress, anxiety, our need to be right and not have our actions thoughts, and words questioned.  The soul is the higher self, connected to God, to Universal Wisdom. When we are spiritually awakened the higher self comes forward, much to the dismay of the ego. The higher self seeks wisdom and understanding from the Life Source, from God, desiring to live in peace and love, putting others before self. Adam and Eve were created and lived from the higher self in the Garden; the Garden representative of the free flow of communication with God, not necessarily a physical place. The ego came forward in the form of the serpent, as the story goes, and challenged Eve’s understanding of her oneness with God, the Creator. She faltered, as we all can and do, when ego feels threatened by the higher self, and she chose to listen to the serpent, the ego, instead of what she knew to be truth. The fall was merely the expression of man’s ego taking the lead, gaining the foreground when before they lived from the spirit, from the soul, the higher self in direct communion with God. In the Garden ego and the higher self existed in balance and we know this because evil, as it was called, or ego, does not exist without choice; choice was always there, subdued by the higher self. And that is the battle each of us faces; the battle between the ego and the higher self, said another way, if you like, the battle between good and evil. I believe the reason Adam and Eve were “kicked out” of the Garden was to protect mankind in the short and long run. The Tree of Life was immortality; God, the Universal Life Force was, is, and always will be, and only created and existed from a righteous standpoint, if you will, choosing only that which is good, but Adam and Eve had proven they could not successfully keep the ego subdued and consequently were capable of choosing self over spirit, evil over good. Immortality in that state would be chaos, at best! I realize this is a rather simplistic way to look at the overall picture, but words are limiting to adequately explain higher spiritual truth, at least for me at this moment!

I do not believe God punishes. Choice brings it’s own consequences, what some believe to be punishment. The battle between ego and spirit was now in full force within the first humans as evidenced by their awareness of being naked after choosing to follow ego instead of spirit; “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked.” (Genesis 3:7 The Complete Jewish Bible) Further, in Genesis 3:9-10  ADONAI, God, called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” (The Complete Jewish Bible) Separation; ego had usurped the place the soul, the spirit, had once held and fear crept in. Outside the place of spirit-centeredness Adam could no longer call forth what he needed, the Garden experience was gone, for now, and man would journey through life separate from God, separate from the Light and Life Source with whom he once walked in union. Living in abundance was outside his grasp and he would toil by the sweat of his brow. And so began man’s journey to return to the fullness of living from the spirit, living in the fullness of the image and reflection of his Creator…..  

Creation, Original Sin, And All That Good Stuff Part 2…..

Adam and Eve hanging out in the Garden, nurturing and caring for the creation and living in a state of gratitude; life was good and abundant, with Adam and Eve the benevolent leaders of all creation, no need to subdue or bring anything into submission, so far, so good. Enter the serpent; that crafty creature who twisted the words of the Creator leading the first humans into doubt. We know the rest of the story, right, at least what is recorded in the Bible; Eve ate of the fruit, offered it to Adam, he ate, and voila, sin was born. God comes along looking for the man and woman who were now aware of their nakedness and were hiding. Of course, God knew what had happened, but He wanted their version of the story. Long story short, Adam blames Eve, then God hands out the consequences. Adam had enjoyed “avad”; caring for and nurturing the creation, but now he would “atsav” – toil by the sweat of his brow. No longer would Adam speak and the creation would respond.

This is where the subject of free will and original sin come into Christian theology. Here’s my take on it; God gave free will to man when man was created, it existed in man from the moment Adam was fashioned from the elements of the earth. The problem was not that Eve chose to exercise her free will, the problem was that she and Adam had been given dominion over the entire earth and were to subdue its inhabitants, the serpent included; they were to walk among the creation as the benevolent leaders, keeping the creation in check, so to speak, not letting any in creation get the upper hand. The serpent, however, did take the upper hand by introducing doubt, telling a half-truth, skewing the words of the Creator, and instead of Eve subduing the serpent, she chose to have a conversation and allowed the serpent plant a seed of doubt.

God’s directive had been clear, so what happened with Eve? I don’t believe the act of eating the fruit was the “sin”, the disobedient act that led to what the church views as “original sin” resulting in condemnation of all mankind. Rather, I believe Eve allowed her heart motivation to be affected by her conversation with the serpent; she wanted the knowledge the tree offered, and she didn’t take into consideration that her decision would affect others. Isn’t that self-centeredness? When our heart motivations are inward centered, centered on self, instead of outward centered, centered on others, we choose wrongly.

Man, made in the image and likeness of God, operated within free will from the get-go. God is free to exercise His will freely so it stands to reason that man would enjoy that as well. God is Love, He is merciful, kind and just, and only chooses to act righteously.  Eve’s decision did not take into consideration how her one act would affect Adam. As the story goes, Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever; forever able to make self-centered choices. Wow, wouldn’t that create a lot of unnecessary havoc!

So, let’s talk about “original sin”; the concept identified by the church as the reason we all need salvation. The church contends because Adam and Eve sinned, every person from that time forward would be born a sinful being, in essence, from the moment we are conceived we are doomed without having done a thing! If free will got Adam and Eve in trouble, how is it that a fetus, so many cells destined to become a human, has already sinned by virtue of fertilization? Doesn’t make sense, at least not to me. Further, in Genesis 4, in the story of Cain and Abel (Adam and Eve’s sons), Cain kills Abel and God curses Cain. Are we to assume man from Cain on down, now has received a second helping of condemnation for his sin?

The Creation story, as is much of the Bible, is just that, a story, which is not to say that it is falsehood; only that a story is man’s interpretation of higher spiritual principles and concepts. We understand what we do not know through the eyes of what we do know. The Catholic Bible says as much in the pages explaining how the Bible came to be, along with other interesting facts and ideas, so not even the church supposedly built on Peter, the Rock, the first church, believes the Bible to be a book of absolute fact; rather the Bible is God’s inspired Word as seen through the eyes of man in story, poem, allegory, and the like.

Original sin, a foundational doctrine of the church, teaches man screwed up and thereby cursed all of mankind necessitating the need for a Savior, the One we know as Jesus. The church fails to answer questions that we have all likely had, at one time or another, and have passed off as a mystery God will reveal in the sweet by and by. Study of church history will show that original sin is a post-New Testament idea, and did not enter any teachings until after the time of Jesus. Interesting, is it not? Yeshua (Jesus) never mentioned it. To further challenge the church mindset, the original script and characters involved were Jewish, and as is often the case, a different picture emerges. In Hebraic thought, sin is merely an act of disobedience, a wrong choice, the opposite of righteousness, and speaks to our relationship with God, our nature as humans, versus a flaw in our character.

When God created man He declared him good, so how did man become flawed? Man was created in the image of God, endowed with the ability to choose; free choice, as it were. Evil, or disobedience is a choice rather than a thing, or creature, as we are often taught; the serpent in the Garden being the embodiment of evil. God did not “create” evil, it doesn’t exist without choice. Why would a loving God create evil to trip up the created He called “good”?

Church history is enlightening; it gives one a very different view of the Bible and of man. The doctrines we have come to know and believe as the inerrant Word of God is, in reality, a doctrinal soup based on the theories and interpretations of Augustine and embellished by various writers that were not established until after the advent of the New Testament church. These theories and interpretations have been used to justify man’s nature and the traditions and practices of modern religion; we accept them without questioning their source. It is my firm belief that there is a God, a Universal Life and Light, a Power greater than ourselves, and that we have been created in His image. Man, however, has done a fine job of creating God in his image…..

Creation, Original Sin, And All That Good Stuff Part 1…..

What are your thoughts on the creation story? We can’t stop there, after all the story of creation runs headlong into the concept of “original sin”; the sin of Adam and Eve eating of the fruit resulting in condemnation for all mankind. Me being me, I have thought a lot about it and researched it from the church perspective and the Jewish perspective and have concluded, once again, the story we are so familiar with is just that, a story. Keep in mind, man creates stories using the familiar to explain the complex. To explain the creation of the earth we have the story version we read in the Bible that contrasts with the scientific version of evolution; the solution to the creation/evolution debate, I suspect, lies somewhere between the two.

For the sake of conversation, let’s lean toward the creation story, as recorded, understanding God, the Creator, is capable of all things and is not limited by man’s finite imagination. I do believe in a Creator, a Supreme Intelligence, a Universal Power, God, and I believe at the conclusion of His creation efforts He declared all that He created good, including man. Following that line of thinking, let’s assume there was a conversation between Adam, Eve and God setting the boundaries for the Garden, in other words, don’t eat from the Tree of Good and Evil.

Backing up to the beginning, God had created the whole earth, so when Adam was created God put him in the Garden. (Genesis 2). God decided Adam needed a partner and from a rib Eve was created. Then God said to be ”fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 The Complete Jewish Bible) Notice it says “fill” the earth, “subdue it” and “rule over” it. Adam and Eve were not meant to stay in the Garden forever, which should lead us to understand that God knew Adam and Eve would choose to listen to the serpent rather than the directive they were given. We don’t ever catch God “off guard”; He is fully aware of our fallibility and loves us in spite of our flaws and faults. We were created “in His image”, we are not clones.

So what exactly does it mean to “subdue” the earth and “rule over” all that is within it? English is so limited. It is truly difficult to get the full understanding and meaning of the original Hebrew. The verb form of the word subdue is “kavash” and literally means to place a foot on the neck of the conquered enemy, to demonstrate submission of the enemy; figuratively, kavash means to bring a nation or a people into submission, stop the shenanigans. Ever heard or said, “I’m putting the kabash on that right now” ? My grandmother used to say it. Same concept. Dominion or to rule over something in the Hebrew is a different word; “radah”, and means to descend, go down, wander and spread. Its literal translation alludes to rule by going down and walking among the subjects as an equal.

Man has massaged the scriptures many times over through the centuries, but I still believe God watches over His Word to ensure the gold remains intact, ready to be mined by those willing to search and find, so I don’t think it accidental that subdue and dominion are both used in the same scripture. Together the two words relate to a relationship with all of creation. The creation is to provide for humankind, and we are to learn from the creation, always acting as a benevolent leader, not a dictator.

“On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.” (Genesis 2:2-3 The Complete Jewish Bible) Anyone who has ever darkened the doorway of a church or Sunday School class knows that on the seventh day of creation God rested and that is why church is on Sunday, at least for much of western Christianity. What we haven’t been told is why God rested; “so that it (all that He had created) itself could produce.” God was done, out of the creation biz, now the job of creation was in the hands of humankind, and humankind had been put in charge. Created in the image of God, man would “produce” like God had; makes sense, right? Adam didn’t know any differently. How did God produce? According to the scripture, He spoke, so man would produce by speaking to bring what he needed into being. Perhaps Adam told the trees to bear fruit, told the rain to fall? We don’t really know. What is recorded says in Genesis 2:5, “ADONAI, God, took the person and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.” (The Complete Jewish Bible). Cultivate at this point is “avad” and means to serve both the creation and worship the Creator; cultivate after the conversation with the serpent became “atsav” meaning “to toil”; very different connotation. Mankind was created from the earth and in turn was to care for it, nurture it and all of creation, and in so doing is serving the Creator, worshiping the Creator, in other words, in relationship with God. Worship is simply living in a state of gratitude. Adam enjoyed the creation, lived in abundance and not by the sweat of his brow as he will eventually do. Enter the serpent…..

In His Image…..

Without salvation and the “Sinner’s Prayer” we are unworthy of His love, unworthy of His blessings, unworthy of His sacrifice. Unworthiness is the battle cry of Western Christianity, and yet is it sound theology?

“So God created humankind in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 The Complete Jewish Bible) Think about that for a moment in the light of the opening paragraph. Does it say that we were created unworthy? No, it doesn’t. We didn’t lose our worth, or the image of the Creator in the Garden, as many believe. And yet, we as believers, Christians, seekers, whatever we choose to call ourselves, embrace the falsehood of unworthiness, wearing it as a badge of honor. Some who claim no spiritual path believe themselves unworthy. Whose voice are we listening to?

In the book of 1 John, the disciple is explaining how we are to know if a teaching is from God or from another source, in this case credit is given to the “spirit of the Anti-Messiah”. John teaches that those voices from God, in other words, people who teach from a Godly position, acknowledge Yeshua (Jesus) and love others because God loves. That seems pretty straightforward and reasonable. In my opinion, one of the more well known and misinterpreted verses from 1 John is “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 The Complete Jewish Bible) I have heard that verse preached on too many times to remember and the message always boiled down to God in us (being saved) and the devil who is in the world (not being saved). Do I believe in an actual “devil”? No, not in this sense of the word, but the idea, and the word itself creates fear, and I don’t believe that was the intended message.

After much study, prayer, and soul-searching I have come to the conclusion that the Bible is not literal, most of it anyway. No surprise there! Rather, the Bible was written from the perspective of the understanding and culture of the day, heavily influenced by man, as it is today. Does that mean it is wrong? Absolutely not. I believe God watches over the essence of His Word, His message. Man seeks to understand his world from what he knows in his world at that moment. It is why Yeshua (Jesus) taught in parables; people could understand spiritual principles in terms of the familiar. People for centuries believed illness was due to demonic possession, natural disaster was a result of sin and required sacrifice, and the like; today we believe differently. I do believe God communicates with His people and often it will be through the familiar, but we do need to bump what we believe He communicates against what we believe to be true; God is love. Creating fear is not of God. Operating from an attitude of fear is not of God.

Religion is based on fear. That is a radical statement, but if you think about it, religion has taught us to fear God, fear “sin”, fear the “devil”. In so doing, journey with God, relationship with Yeshua (Jesus) is steeped in fear. We are told to accept Jesus as Savior, confess Him as Lord, or we risk the fires of hell, so I question how many come seeking true relationship with God versus ensuring entrance into heaven? Even if we don’t truly believe in heaven or hell, the thought niggles in the back of the mind, what if? Religious tracts, and “Fires of Hell” performances at local churches during the Halloween season center on that very theme. We start children on their journey with God in Sunday school classes teaching songs and lessons about Jesus loving the little children, we see pictures of children gathered around Jesus while He holds a lamb on His lap, and then somewhere along the line we transition to approaching Yeshua (Jesus) in fear of condemnation should we stray far from the path of righteousness.  Fear creeps in, wriggling its way into our subconscious, and sometimes consciousness, edging out the still, small voice of our Creator in whose image we were created. The voice we lend an ear to is the voice of the world, the lying tongue whose bold declaration is that of unworthiness.

John differentiated the two voices; the greater voice being the one inside of us, and the lesser voice, the lying tongue of the world. The voice inside of us whispers to our spirits, bearing witness to our worth as having been created in the very image of God. The voice of the world clamors loudly proclaiming our unworthiness, the mistaken idea that we don’t measure up; and the crazy fact is we listen to that voice! What’s more is often that same voice speaks from the pulpit.

I must give the world credit where credit is due, however. Humanity has the uncanny ability to adapt. In a world that seeks to diminish the image of God within each of us through berating one another, setting impossibly high standards of achievement, ensuring we feel better about ourselves by verbally slicing and dicing our perceived competitors, we also manage to clothe ourselves in robes of false self-esteem and self-worth; an illusion that can be ripped from our spirit in a moment. The evidence is everywhere we look. Bruised and bloodied bodies of humanity painfully crawling through life, figuratively speaking, having been battered by cruelty in word and deed.

But what if, for a moment, we believed, we embraced the voice of the Creator whispering in our spirits that we were created in His very image? What if, instead of looking at ourselves in the mirror of the world, we viewed ourselves in the mirror of the Most High? How differently would we see ourselves? How might we live our lives differently? Am I speaking of elevating self to the status of God? Never! Are we risking becoming narcissistic, egotistical beings? Absolutely not! Believing ourselves made in the image of God humbles us. We no longer need to compete with others for position in a world that glorifies status. Instead we seek to serve others realizing others are also fashioned in the image of God; there is no need for competition. We will see one another as the image of God and not as belonging to a particular race, religion, socioeconomic group, educational background, or sexual orientation different from ours. Made in His image means we have the wisdom of the Most High available to us; we don’t need to seek out other sources for interpretation. 1 John 4:4 takes on new meaning. The voice of God in our spirits speaks to us and His message is greater than the world’s message; we are created in His image, not the image the world will create for us. The darkness of fear is banished in the light of God’s message that we are worthy in His sight…..