Growing into God

Growing into God

Author: Thomas Chavez, preface and editing by Julie Gorham

Growing into God – Practicing the Science of Spirituality

Do you truly experience and feel unity with God and others in your life? Or, do you feel disconnected and your heart knows there must be more? Christ the Healer offers ongoing education on the topic of Christian mysticism, also known as Christian contemplation. Growing into God means understanding how to become one with God. Mystics and teachers from the earliest history in Christian wisdom led the way. Now, we see the Life of Christ is the a transformative model for how we get there.

Gain or refresh new understandings and integrative practices to engage the transforming Christ path with a romp through Gabrielle’s brilliant synthesis of science, spirituality, and the best of the Bible.  with practical insights on how to achieve unity through the Christ path model. It’s a contemporary road map to unification for all people and all times. 

Early history – Roadmap to a spiritual life – Purgation, Purification & Unity

The 3rd century theologian/mystic, Origen of Alexandria, draws from three books of Jewish wisdom literature – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs which provide a metaphorical “map” of the spiritual life. Like Proverbs, with its emphasis on right living and moral conduct, Origen saw the first stage of the mystical life as involving purgation or purification of all that impedes our search for God. The second stage, corresponding to Ecclesiastes, marks the illumination that comes as we learn to access the wisdom of the Holy Spirit within. Finally, the joyful eroticism of the Song of Songs represents the union with God that is the promise of the contemplative life.* 

While these primary principles identify the key components to attaining oneness with God, they do. 

The Christ path Model lays the foundation for how we can achieve an open our heart, and exchange the experiences of ‘hell on earth’ for a new condition of ‘heaven on earth within our hearts’. We are here for the kin-dom of heaven. This is not a physical place, but a condition of the heart where the virtues of love abound, for all. 

A conversation with Thomas:

Julie – Thomas, can tell me more about purgation and the sequential of the events based on the “initiations” of the Christ path?

Thomas – The original idea was purgation (purging, cleaning out, sitting empty) was that once you are clean enough, there’s a moment of enlightenment. This process of purgation leads to the 1st initiation of the Christ path. We ask the question “Is this all there is?” and “What’s wrong with my life?” Once our hearts can open, we suddenly notice we can love everybody. That’s the birth of Christ in the heart.

That experience goes on for a while, and we live with it and like it, then we come to the place we traditionally call the dark night of the senses. We are in this together – “I love my neighbors, I love my family, I love the world I live in, then I go into depression, and I come out of that”. That’s the 2nd initiation. 

We purge that through, and we have another illuminated moment which we call the transcendence, and it is in the life of Jesus – that moment when he was on the mountain with his executive team, and he lights up so bright they fall on their faces.

People who are not Jesus, in this 3rd initiation, the world experiences them and they experience the world as “lucky” “wonderful teachers”, because they shine, and our culture, if we get there, our culture tends to expect us to stay there.

And then that goes on until we come to the 4th initiation, which tracks the crucifixion of Jesus. In the crucifixion, we lose this connection to light and to God, and to everything, and we are in this place that resonates with the voice on the “My God My God, why has thou forsaken me. I’m reaching through my soul to God, and my soul has blown away and disappeared, and I don’t recognize my connection to higher.

After we plum the depths of that, we come to the place where there’s no separation between being and being, I am God, I am an expression of God, I’m not in the presence of God, I’m not looking at God, but God is looking out through my eyes, I am ascending.

We’d love to hear from you!



No Matter What Porch Concert at Hilldale UCC

No Matter What Porch Concert at Hilldale UCC

By: Julie Gorham

When Hillsdale UCC asked me if I would like to perform a porch concert at Hillsdale for a community event in September, I was excited. And, I knew it was a huge effort.

With only three months to prepare, It was time to be creative. Could I of us pull it off with such little time? Probably, but playing alone felt a bit lackluster.

A bigger idea emerged.

After experiencing synergy with the CtH A.R.T.S Group, it became clear there were other shining stars in our group whom I asked to join – Musician and Vocalist Heather Dennis, and Vocalist & Cajon Player, Jill Crisci. All three of us have a deep passion for music, and were already writing music. That was pretty exciting!

We only had three months to pull together enough songs for a concert, so when both Heather and Jill had agreed, we met week after week to present new material to each other and see what would emerge. Trying to synthesize our voices and instruments to music that was essentially new for the three of us to play together was pretty fun, and a bit challenging at times. If there wasn’t a concert on the table, we could have relaxed a bit more, and just had fun. But, we knew the date was approaching fast and we are all naturally competitive. It would be difficult to not give it our all, and present a meaningful array of music that would inspire the young and the mature alike. What an ask!

All three of us had original songs, but the question was  – Are we ready to share them with the world? Were they ready enough to present? Mostly not, but I knew we could do it. And we did.

Breath on Me was the first song that we practiced, followed by an original instrumental by Heather Dennis, called and an Irish tune, Come by the Hills. Julie had been working on completing quite a few instrumentals, but one in particular struck Heather and she said she had lyrics. This was a musical surprise, and quite a treat. Jill had inspiration for Breathe on me, with a beautiful chorus, and she was able to find nuances in that song that turned out to be quite lovely, and enhanced the song.

It was quite a collaboration in such a short time, and I’m deeply grateful for Jill and Heather’s participation, especially in light of schedule demands. We learned a lot, laughed a lot, and made quite a few mistakes at the live concert… but nobody noticed, only us. I look forward to a time we can get back together and pick up where we left off, and maybe even with more collaboration. We shall see! Special thanks to Mark Mcreevey for his help with amps and mics. What a fun learning experience!

  • Free Yourself – Instrumental on guitar, drums & keys
  • Waterfall – Instrumental on guitar, drum & keys
  • Holy Holy Holy – Sung by Jill, accompanied by guitar & keys
  • Hello – Sung by Jill, accompanied by guitar
  • Say My Name – Sung by Jill, accompanied by guitar
  • When We Walk Together – accompanied by guitar, keys and drum
  • Come By the Hills – Sung by Heather, accompanied by guitar & drum 
  • The Subtle Chase – Sung by Heather accompanied by guitar & drum
  • Rainbow Connection – Sung by Jill, accompanied by guitar
  • Mama Tree – Piano by Heather
  • Music Box Dancer – Piano by Heather
  • Venus By Tuesday – Poem by Heather
  • Breathe on Me – Sung by all with guitar and piano
What if ‘True’ Christianity Is More Than We Have Ever Known?

What if ‘True’ Christianity Is More Than We Have Ever Known?

By: Thomas Chavez, Heather Dennis & Julie Gorham

“We don’t want anybody telling us what to do, what to think, or what to believe!” This was the first thing out of anyone’s mouth at the inaugural gathering of what was to become Christ the Healer, United Church of Christ. This focus group had been called together by Gabrielle and I, and we got our fundamental marching orders from its participants: in twenty-four years there has never once been a preaching service at CtH, UCC. And in these twenty-four years of existence, we can honestly affirm that no two meetings of our group have been carbon copies of each other.

That is not to say that preaching has never happened among us. When new folk discover that we are a group that has practiced the art of listening to one another (Friends in Grace), many take this as their big chance. When this happens pontification, glittering generalities, and personal opinion are likely to flow over us like glop from an overheated glue pot. But, what is most valuable is to hear the visitor’s personal experience, unvarnished efforts at self-evolvement, and interactions with spirit (however achieved). We are not so interested in their conclusions, surmises, doctrines, and declarations of “You damned well should.” In this manner, through group exploration, shared and individual study, hard-won experience, and practice, we all learn. And in learning, we teach one another. Eventually everyone figures this out, or moves on.

For those who stick around, this process has been both satisfying and extraordinarily enlightening. But nobody gets the benefit who did not invest in their evolution by making the commitment to heal, and allowing the necessary time to grow. This requires being willing to lovingly face the deeper realities within, together.

Spiritual growth is not a cookie-cutter process, and the old methods often leave people feeling dissatisfied and stuck in life. This journey has demanded that we examine the long and somewhat tortured history of our Christian heritage. Here, we are sharing with you our most valuable treasures from this close examination which apply to us today. This will be more complicated than it sounds because everything about our Christian “thought world” affects everything else in that ecosystem of belief.

Christianity is like a single tapestry of understanding, every thread pulling upon every other. When we come to understand any one thing about scripture or tradition more completely, everything else that we believe naturally shifts to make room for this change in our understanding. One of the greatest challenges Christian truth-seekers face is that there are so many varied interpretations of Biblical wisdom and instruction. How do we interpret teachings of a God who appears in parts jealous, angry, and vengeful, and yet claims to be loving? How do we make sense of the iconoclastic Rabbi – Jesus Christ – we meet in the pages of the New Testament? Because there are so many seeming contradictions within scripture, it seems almost inevitable for there to be divisions, and regrettably, conflicts arising from them.

Most of us learned what we know about Christianity from Sunday school, sermons, and regular Bible studies, but there is a rich world of knowledge beyond this. The teachings we encounter through such devotions are often valuable, but may be incomplete and in need of closer examination.

If you are feeling incomplete in your understanding of Christianity, and searching for a more unified, compassionate perspective, then we hope that you find the reflections shared in our blogs riveting, delightful, and illuminating.

What if The genius exhibited by Jesus through his commandments, parables and living example, and thus the “true” Christianity that grows from that genius is way, way more than we have ever known? Come, help us find out!

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 2

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 2

We Don’t Need to Change the Story, Just Change Our Eyes as We Read.

The entire point of this two-part blog post, of which this is the second half, comes down to this one statement: What we find when we each read and ponder passages in our Bible is a stirring together of our own previous personal scholarship, and what the complexity in the neuro-networks of our individual brains allows us to see.

In earlier posts, I have focused on many “missings” in the scholarship of most people who profess to be Christian. So let’s look at the other part of our issue this time, OK? To do this in a fun way, here is an exciting “What if?” In a recent talk given at our sister church, Hillsdale Community UCC, our own Christ the Healer UCC co-organizer, Gabrielle asked the question, “What if all of that serious stuff that Jesus is remembered as having declared with great solemnity, had really been tossed lovingly at his listeners with a smile on his face and a chuckle in his voice?”

That would be a mind-blower wouldn’t it? If this so-called suffering man of sorrows had been showing off a life of unconditional joy in his own thought, word, and deed? The implications of this idea are more than explosive, they would be an earthquake under the entire twin enterprises of teaching Christian thought, and of our understanding of his message. Most importantly of all, we would have a clear demonstration of why the tales about Jesus and what he did, and what he said were called “Gospels” which means “Good news,” from the first, bearing in mind that some folks look at the doctrine that says, “Believe that I am God, or you go straight to hell,” as anything but good news. Let’s test out a couple of more-or-less random samples paraphrased to make them more sharply pointed, alright?

There is one shocking story where Jesus is recorded as rebuffing a Canaanite woman who begs for a healing of her daughter, with the chilling words “When the children of Israel go hungry, should I give food to the dogs?” Hardly a loving, all-embracing attitude right? This passage has occasioned a lot of ducking, shuffling, jinking, and excuse-making down the centuries, but whatever is said to slide past the bad impression, these words that dismiss a non-Jewish woman as a dog continue to create an unpleasant stir in many hearts. But what if, Jesus, already established as a famously clever debater, was laughingly playing to the surrounding crowd, poking fun at their tribal prejudice, rather than showing off his own? If that is the case, then his instant cave, when the quick-witted foreign woman shoots back with her own saucy answer, “Even the dogs under the table get to eat scraps,” makes far more sense.

Well, OK, you might say, but what in the Bible can possibly tell us that Jesus had a sense of humor? He always seems like such a hard-core sobersides. My reply has to be multi-layered and nuanced, so please follow along carefully. Our first step is to admit that thousands of years of worshipful tradition, along with a groveling style of reaction to what is called “high Christology” – which means putting our first attention on the ancient doctrine that Christ is fully God, in preference to balancing that understanding with the co-equal doctrine that Christ is also fully human. This co-equal doctrine was issued, by the way, by a Council of Bishops at the very same long-ago moment. The result is that this impression has been stamped into nearly everyone’s mind. So, let us examine that.

If Christ is fully God along with being fully human, then what we know about God applies to him, right? So, let’s consult Isaiah, where in one passage we find that prophet, speaking for God, declaring, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts, nor are your ways, my ways.” Deity, which is one and only one absolute totality, needs no self-protection at all. Deity merely loves, and does so joyfully. That is Jesus’ actual inner nature, and ours too, once we can find it under our knee jerk need to battle for our lives.

Returning to Jesus’ stories and sticking with his relation to women, let’s examine the story of his being buttonholed by a bunch of self-righteous men, heavy rocks already in hand, who bring him a woman, saying “This slut was caught right in the act of committing adultery. Speak your holy judgment, teacher, and join us in stoning her to death.” The story says that he bent down and wrote in the dust. What if he was simply hiding his knowing smile from the boys, whose hearts he knew? What if he was giving them time to hunger for, then hang on his coming words? “OK, then let the one without sin throw the first stone.” Then he looks down again. When he looks up the woman and he are alone, and she is still alive. When he addresses her directly, his tone is fatherly, loving, and smilingly kind as well as sad, not a thundering admonishment. Instead amounting to a directive: “Go home, clean up, think about what has happened, and miss the mark no more. Your sin is forgiven, but you must learn to do better.”

Or how about his dealings with that iconic pair of sisters, Mary and Martha? Jesus the itinerant Rabbi has slogged into Bethany, just two miles outside of Jerusalem proper, and is putting up at their house. It is clear that he has been their guest before, and they are very familiar with one another. Both women are excited with the visit and determined to get the most out of the evening. Mary by taking advantage of Jesus’ teaching and general aura, Martha by honoring her beloved guest with the best feast that she can prepare. She sets to with a will, yet it is soon obvious to her that she has bitten off too much. She can not get it all done in time. Many are the highly responsible adults who read these words will recognize that sudden, sinking feeling, and recognize also, what happens next.

Put yourself in the scene. You are Martha, your big gift is about to flop, your nerves are stretched thin, and you are about to snap. Instead of presenting Jesus with warmth and celebration the way you had planned, you go to the teacher with a whine instead. A further humiliation. “Rabbi, don’t you even care that my sister has left me alone in the kitchen? Tell her to come out and do her part the way she should!” Then hear Jesus’s sweet reply, imagining that he smiles, lowers his voice and speaks softly, teasing slightly, maybe pulling at the strings of her apron. “Martha, Martha you get so distracted by so many things! There is only one thing that’s important, and Mary has zeroed in on that very thing. Calm down, take a rest, maybe some of the others will lend a hand, maybe I will help out when my teaching job is done for the evening. It is all going to be all right.” How do you react to this picture?

Or, how about this: The same family in the town of Bethany, the brother, Lazarus took ill days ago. Jesus the miracle worker was sent for, but for some unknown reason he has dragged his feet for a total of four days, and Lazarus has died. When the Rabbi reaches the dwelling, Martha, who has been on the lookout, meets him on the road. “Master! You are here at last. If you had been here in time, my brother would not have died. In the ensuing dialogue, Jesus gets Martha to declare that she knows that his is the awaited “Anointed One,” in a manner that implies that God’s grace will of course respond to his word even at this late date. Then he says that they should go to the tomb, implying that they will pray together.

Meanwhile the weepy, more volatile Mary has also rushed out, and stings him with the same message. “Had you been here, our brother would not have died!” delivered with an undertone of, “Didn’t you care enough?” When they get to the tomb a big group of mourners is loitering about, everyone down-hearted. Jesus weeps to see their pain. That is when he orders the huge stone wheel that blocks the tomb be rolled aside and Martha, ever the practical one, squeals in protest, “It has been four days! It will stink!” Yet what has been ordered is accomplished, and Jesus, showing of his chops at last, yodels into the cavity that has been carved into that limestone ridge, “Lazarus come out!” And of course, in our story, Lazarus does.

Does the above amount to historically accurate reportage like something we might expect to see in the New York Times? I absolutely have no way of knowing, and sort of suspect not, but I can say this with confidence: “At the deepest level available to me today, it is definitely true.” If you are eager to have ever deeper levels of reality within your own grasp, or merely wish to explore the “whichness of why,” and what makes that old mystery tick: please, sign up joyfully, delightedly, ebulliently to receive our Christ the Healer UCC newsletter.

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Join our interactive community, take part in our exercises and offerings, and participate in the ongoing, ever-evolving fun. We are ready to welcome you with wide-open arms!

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 1

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 1

The setup – issue – so-called problem

One of the most valuable insights that repeatedly arises for us in the fields of psychology, philosophy, sociology, meta-position studies of theology, and communications theory that we find being explained through recent developments in neuroscience, is that we, humans, do not see things as they are, as we all so fondly like to pretend, but as we are. It is the most hateful who are easiest to hate. The most dedicated to love who are easiest to love. The most afraid of theft who are tempted to steal, the most jealous who are most liable to turn faithless. We are stuck in front of our mirrors. Thus our many traditions, cultures, political opinions, or other strongly held commitments that we can’t understand why someone would see in any other way.

This situation can lead to estrangement, conflict, and war. The implications for religion, theological reflection, and for Christians, in particular, are gargantuan. To put the issue baldly, what we find when we each read and ponder passages in our Bible is a stirring together of our own previous personal scholarship, and what the complexity in the neuro-networks of our individual brains allows us to see.

This is universally true, not just for us moderns – who look at those two thousand years (or more) old passages in English translations, which have twenty to fifty centuries of years separation from their cultural context – but for each translator or translation committee that rendered Latin into English, and those who previously wrote down Latin from Classical Greek, and those who had rendered Hebrew into Greek, and for us, the still earlier editors who transferred memories spoken in Aramaic, the vernacular tongue of Jesus’ place and time, into Temple Hebrew, a related language, but emphatically not the same.

Moreover, and most important of all, we must remember that the traditions and habits that we all follow, most of us without much personal thought, have been laid down by the many, many thousands of preachers and teachers of previous generations who influenced our traditions, who lived in their own times and cultures, and faced their own problems, worries, and psychological misfires through the lens of their own cultural biases.

What then are we to do? Give up? Many tens of millions in both Europe and North America who have confronted aspects of this problem, or run up against emotional sour points, have done just that. Not to blame these folks, every human knows her or his own needs best, but I sorrow for these unfortunates. They are missing out. When approached with exuberance and trust, the Gospels are an endless source of inspiration, personal and emotional support, and credible, down-to-earth information about how we (the human species) are hard-wired. And they provide information about what we can do with the downsides of those existing neurological apparent impediments to spiritual growth. Every wonderful, valuable thing that we need is there, in those stories, just buried under encrustations of historical misuse and sadly ignorant misrepresentation.

Again there is no possible use to be gained in blaming our predecessors: they, one and all, were simply doing their best with what they had – just as we in the twenty-first century still must do what our descendants are sure to recognize as our own best, however inadequate. But let it be said that many, many threads of slow, painstaking evolutionary development have at last come together to give us, in this and following generations, a delightful chance to do better. That is, if our species’ previous mistakes are not allowed to eradicate our breed entirely in the next few decades. For details of how the hopeful, bright, and ebullient side of this observation can be realized by connecting with Christ the Healer UCC, keep your eyes on this space. It will not be long in appearing. And if you cannot wait, you are always invited to join in on the fun just by asking to become enthusiastically involved today.

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The Original Purpose of the Christian Movement  (Continued)

The Original Purpose of the Christian Movement (Continued)

Part B. Why we at CtH seem so different – The Denominations

By Thomas Chavez

It is rushed to my attention that by talking about how all of our many denominations tend to identify the main channel of Christian understanding with their own place in an ever-widening delta of flow, I seem to be dissing denominations. Yet, Christ the Healer UCC is itself a member community embraced by a denomination, and we embrace that denomination in turn. I had better explain this, right?

Let’s start with a gallop through UCC history and see what makes it an admirable companion on our CtH spiritual journey. UCC stands for United Church of Christ, with the strong emphasis on UNITED, as there already existed a Church Of Christ before Our unified denomination formed. Sadly, for decades radio, TV, and newspaper reporters and editors when mentioning various reasons why the UCC had done something newsworthy, The members of the Church of Christ, and especially the “Conservative “group would gnash their teeth, because both Theologically and Politically, our UCCC’s point of view, at least in “This world” terms looks especially “Progressive.”, How did this come to be?

The United Church of Christ we know today is the continuously evolved outcome of than twenty centuries of constant effort to understand Our ancestral Hebrew vision of God, firmly rooted in the Jewish declaration: “Know O’ Israel that the Lord, your God is ONE!” The foundation for all western Monotheism. We share this with many, many denominations. But in the USA we are the only denomination that has lived this out by being the result of a merger of five previously existing denominations, four with significant membership, one a bit less so.

Yet that is not our only major distinction. Living out oneness has over the years shown up in striking ways in our heritage. One of our predecessor denominations was instrumental in organizing support for escaped slaves who had in the 1830s taken over the slave ship Amistad, upon which that group of captured Africans had been bound for sale in the slaveholding American South. This coalition of believers in extending love to the apparent “Other” paid for the defense of these escaped captives in both the court of law and of public opinion and continued to gather and spend resources for the benefit of oppressed black Americans for more than a century and a half onward. One predecessor denomination was the first to ordain women, more than a decade before the American Civil war. Both white and black Ancestors of what became the UCC followed directly on the heels of Union troops as the Confederacy met military defeat, founding hospitals, schools, and churches as they went. One of the results of this effort is that one of the denominational strands that later merged itself into the UCC was a distinctly African American strand.

One of our predecessor denominations made sure that widely separated communities spread all through the western frontier had spiritual comfort and connection, riding horseback huge distances from group to group to accomplish this. A bit closer to our time, the UCC itself was the first denomination in the US to ordain an openly Gay person over forty years ago. Over the decades since, as other denominations have been convulsed over this issue, leading in some cases to more splits, our churches have often become refuges for homosexual Christians rejected by their childhood churches. Yet, as a denomination, we never attempt to chase out any congregation that cannot bring itself to come on board with such a position. We are a loving home for everyone, including those with whom we no longer agree. We as the UCC constantly declare that “God is still speaking,” and often ask ourselves how we might discern what God has most recently communicated. The list of firsts and commitment to the best for all of creation, including not merely humans and human institutions, but for the living environment goes on, both nationally and locally. Since its founding twenty-five years ago, Christ the Healer UCC has been at the forefront of these environmental, peace-promoting, inclusion of the other sorts of efforts to be widening of welcome, and embrace of the formerly marginalized. We are committed to waking up, growing up, cleaning up, and showing up for the Kin-dom of heaven. That is our covenantal pledge. Yet we are not the usual sort of activist community. We fit into this tradition by listening ever more deeply for the evolutionary impulses of our hearts which we learn to attune to creator, creation, and one another. As we become ever more well-practiced at these exercises and consequently change, our commitment to both personal and planetary transformation grows apace, and we do stuff from that growing edge. Want in on the fun? We welcome you with open hearts and arms.

Like this article? Read the first in this series: The Original Purpose of the Christian Movement – Part A. Why we at CtH seem so different