Pastor Stacy Boorn proclaims, “I also think that it’s important for the whole world that the power of women—not just a few women in the United States but women globally—be seen and that the power and the understanding of the Divine Feminine be seen. Not just feminine metaphors, but the real-life females of the world as well, women like yourself.”
In a sentence, Reverend Boorn links the power of God-talk (or in this case, Goddess-talk) to real women and women’s agency in the world. She expands this connection to the earth and all beings. “The world and the whole of the universe are in essence the body of the God/dess, and we jointly share the life forces.”
Alice Martin’s smile is shy and her black eyes observant. When asked to characterize her experience of the Divine, she begins with a story about herchurch. “It was during last year’s croning ceremony. Oh, how can I describe it?” Searching for words, Alice looks toward the altar, allowing me a partial view of her tucked-in crown of hair. She depicts the older women sitting up front in chairs like thrones, how they were honored for their wisdom, how she was moved to tears. “It’s like the floodgates just opened, and I was in this experience of joy. I really felt the presence of God, of Goddess. It was like a down-pouring.”
Alice reaches up with both hands as if parting a curtain. “It felt like this light on me, this golden glow, and this connection to the Source, the Divine. So many times I’ve been struggling against my own feelings of unworthiness and the sense of being oppressed as a woman, as a minority. You have those everyday pressures and then there’s your own emotional baggage that kicks you down and keeps you down, and the task is to dismantle that. But this was just such a moment of ‘I’m of worth. I have value. I have a place.’”
Photo credit: VanViva.com
A Tribute to Mary Liza Rodriguez
Chrissy Fransone was driving home when she passed a homeless woman and her dogs sitting beside the roadway. She heard inside herself a voice that said “Go back to her” and felt its insistence in her solar plexus. She turned her car around and went back to the woman. The woman was Mary Liza Rodriguez, who had prayed that exact afternoon, “Lord, send me a sister” because she felt like she wanted to “end it all” by walking into oncoming traffic. She had had enough of homelessness.
How did Mary become homeless? She grew up poor. Even though she had graduated from a medical assistant program, she had no job and no health insurance, and yet she had a medical condition: a heart murmur. But mostly it was her landlord’s greed that put her on the streets. When the apartment complex where she resided went into receivership, the landlord chose to continue to collect rent from tenants rather than notify them. When the bank finally foreclosed on the property, Mary had two hours to pack up her belongings before the sheriff evicted her. Mary took with her everything she could carry and her dogs. The one relative who offered her shelter told her she’d have to get rid of her dogs. Mary would not abandon her beloved pets, even if it meant living on the streets.
Mary’s heart condition worsened significantly after she lost her home, and it eventually caused her to gain over 100 pounds in water weight. But when Chrissy took Mary in, her long brown hair still had that healthy gleam and her 47-year-old face its beauty.
Chrissy says that Mary lived in her home, on and off, for a year. They became like sisters. “Mary changed my life,” Chrissy says. “She was incredibly funny. Only Mary could make me laugh like she did.” But less than a year into their friendship, Mary passed on. Because of her heart disease, she had been hospitalized
several times. One weekend Chrissy insisted that Mary go to the hospital because she didn’t look well and Chrissy was going out of town. But Mary refused to go to the hospital. She died on her own terms, surrounded by her dogs and Chrissy’s dogs. Congestive heart failure was the stated cause although heart brokenness from the loss of her home could well be the real cause. Mary’s dogs became Chrissy’s “boys”.
A year has passed since Mary’s death. Chrissy, who works as a nanny, says, “Whenever I’m walking the baby, I feel Mary’s presence. I often see a white butterfly and feel that it’s her spirit, Mary’s spirit, because when she was very ill with her heart disease and all the IV tubes in her during her hospitalizations, she would say to me that she just wanted to be able to run again, with the wind in her face. And so when I see the white butterflies, I think of Mary with the wind in her face, flying free.”
God to me
Is my dark-haired mother,
Stroking my forehead
As she lullabies me to sleep.
My Mother is the earth
And all her creatures,
The web that brings us into relationship
With one another.
God to me
Is the Mother
Who spills Her essence into the world,
Creating and calling us to create
From the wombs of our being.
God to me
Is the Mother
Whose voice was drowned out
For most of history,
I find Her in my deepest wisdom.
Alone, I feel Her touch
Upon my brow,
Mothering me still,
Mothering us all.
Dedicated to my mother, Anabelle Dalberg, on Mother’s Day 2004
Artwork from Gaia Goddess of the Earth
From Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine (SkyLight Paths) Photo: Courage Campaign.org
Sister Elena Kelly is tall and broad shouldered. She takes a seat and drapes her dark floral-print skirt over black suede boots. Elena is not your ordinary woman religious. She is starting a convent for transgender women. She made her own transition several years earlier, after serving in the U.S. Navy, raising six kids, becoming ordained in two religious traditions, and founding a nondenominational church in Colorado.
These facts spill from her with ease, with laughter, but her life has been anything but facile. She points to the Divine Mother as the one who sustained her. “My first experience of the Divine Mother,” Elena recalls, “was a long time ago. I wasn’t even five years old yet. My mother was an alcoholic, and my dad was a farmer and gone all day. One day my mom and dad get in this terrible fight, and I’m horrified. I remember running back to my room, getting down on my knees, and saying, ‘Dear Heavenly Mother, the Heavenly Father is not paying attention when I pray. Would you please do something about my parents and make them stop fighting?’ No sooner had I said those words when the house went silent. And I thought to myself, ‘So there is a Divine Mother. I thought so. If there’s a Father, there has to be a Mother.’”
When Elena was still very young, she dreamed, “An angel from heaven—I like to call her Divine Mother—came down from heaven with this big white robe and feathery wings, and she wrapped her arms around me and took me away from that horrible life I had.”
As a teenager, Elena attempted suicide twice. “Mother Mary, the Divine Mother, saved me from killing myself,” Elena asserts. “She’s been there every step of the way. Things happen to me every day that She has ordered and put into place.”
Before reading from my book, Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, I walked with a friend through the redwoods surrounding Stillheart Institute in Woodside, California. As we descended the trail, I ran my fingers over the plush, green moss coating the rocks along the path. I relished the sponginess of the forest floor beneath my feet. I hugged one of the younger redwoods, encircling it with my arms and staring up at its branched, lofty spire as it disappeared into the misty fog.
There in the forest, and later seated before a window with an ample view of the redwoods, I silently offered my prayers as our celebration of International Women’s Day began. The room radiated with the fire’s crackling heat and the pulsating energy of 70 incredible women. Viviana and Hyun Kyung, the women whose stories I read, were present in a special way. They had suffered greatly, and yet had opened their hearts to divine love and the interconnectedness of all life. Their stories offered us insights into our own pains and transformations, our own deaths and rebirths.
Thank you, Stillheart for honoring all women and enabling us to come together on International Women’s Day as we pursue our individual and collective transformation. Thank you for empowering us to celebrate boldly, to nurture our souls, and to share our gifts with the world!
To preview the women’s stories in Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, click here:
For more on Lana Dalberg and a schedule of upcoming events for Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, click here:
Blog originally posted on Stillheart’s website at:
Celebrate International Women’s Day
MARCH 8, 2013 3 – 5 p.m.
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission Street, San Francisco
Author Lana Dalberg
joined by dancers, chanters & drummers
“These multifaceted accounts of spiritual experience in the lives of women both ordinary and remarkable … are generous and inspiring.” – Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program
On this Valentine’s Day, I lift up Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung (center). Dr. Chung has a very big heart, and she exemplifies the compassion of Kwan Yin. In her story in Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, she talks about the loss of her biological mother in her infancy, how it left “a big hole in my heart” and how, through meditation, this heart wound was transformed, becoming her biggest strength. “I learned in meditation that my biggest trauma was my biggest power when it was transformed.”
On this Valentine’s Day, as the plum trees begin to bud, may we glimpse the transformations in our lives and allow ourselves to savor that sweetness, even as they change yet again, and again.
Pictured with Dr. Chung is Arisika Razak and Sridevi Ramanathan, also featured in Birthing God:Women’s Experiences of the Divine.