Tag Archive | faith

BIRTHING GOD: WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES

“Birthing God. Kenosis.” These three words come to me in the middle of the night. The first two words provoke an apt title for my book. But the third stumps me. Not remembering “kenosis” from my seminary daDark madonna & childys, I fling back my covers to look it up and discover that it signifies self-emptying in ancient Greek. Back in bed, I try to sleep, but the notion of self-emptying echoes inside me, reminding me of the Buddhist concept of no-self: not a cipher or empty sack, but a receptivity to Spirit that makes incarnation possible.

Women, I realize, empty themselves all the time, making room for the spouse or the child and his or her attendant needs. I think of Mary—an unwed woman, a girl. What is her response to a divine being who tells her that she is pregnant when circumstances dictated that she could be stoned for that condition?

“Let it be to me according to your word,” Mary is said to have responded, opening her life to the risk and the potential of divine inspiration. Receptivity, desire for connection, making room for another: these attributes express women’s most fundamental ways of being in the world.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In preparing for this book, I interviewed many women, and everything they shared reinforced one simple treasure: however we name Spirit, we receive it with deep-hearted openness. Our receptivity is active, recognizing the value we bring to relationship by trusting and honoring the God within; by experiencing Spirit as soul mate; by glimpsing the Divine all around us; and by allowing God to cradle and nourish us. At the same time, our spirituality is a process, unfolding and growing with each passing day. Our spiritual stories are full of missteps and unabashed celebration. They are narratives of suffering and of hope; lessons in shedding fear and learning to love ourselves.

Ours are embodied stories that begin with emptying so that we can glimpse the Holy Other, this Light who appears in ways unplanned, unexpected, and unsettling. Our lives are the surprise that begins with the response, “Let it be.”

Excerpted from Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine.  Order it now and share as a holiday gift!

Passing It On

 

Today is All Saints Day, when all my beloved departeds dance and swirl at the back of my mind, emerging whole from memories.

They remind me to cherish each moment and live fully engaged. A friend who is a cancer survivor once embraced me with an awareness like that. Many times he had been within striking distance of death, but none so close as his battle with colon cancer. I had not seen him for over a decade, but when he saw me, he hugged me tightly and said that he cherished me. His words were not romantic or trite. They felt pressed down into an essence wrung from illness and the certainty of death—an awareness that allowed him to freely express affection and gratitude every remaining day of his life.

This message is similar to the one my longtime mentor and pastor, Reverend Gustav Schulz, gave me the night before his funeral. I dreamt that I was in his church and he urged me to join in singing the song, “Pass it on.” During his adult life, Gus had participated in the civil rights movement, the Sanctuary movement, anti-war movements, homeless advocacy, and the movement to reunite North and South Korea. His was a hard act to follow. But here in my dream, Gus was encouraging me to take up the torch and to pass it on.

So I sang “Pass it On,” for Gus in my dream, and in my waking life, I renewed my commitment to struggle for social and environmental justice. On days like today, I feel the presence of Gus and many other peace makers, and I remember to pass on their legacy of struggle and hope.

Get Down into Joy

Sadaya Zimmerle transmits both lightness and spark over the phone, reminding me of her high-energy step as she led the Dances of Universal Peace that I’d attended. “At the Mendocino Sufi camp,” she says, “we get to do the dances for days. Tears come to my eyes, and I feel deeply held and loved and fully accepted. In the midst of dancing and also in chanting, I feel a deep clarity like I’m on the right track, and a deep well of joy. I might come to the Sufi dancing with all kinds of things on my chest, and it’s like that stuff gets sloughed off. Whatever pain I have gets gradually shed toward the surface, and I get down into joy.”

Sadaya’s selection is from Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine. To see a preview, click on the link and then on the Google preview button.

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Worth. Value. Place.

Alice Martin“I’m of  worth. I have value. I have a place.”

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

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From Homelessness to Sisterhood

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 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

mary Rodriguez with Chrissy

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”.

tiff infomation

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.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

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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,

And yet,

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

from  Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine

Artwork from Gaia Goddess of the Earth

REVEREND ELENA KELLY AND THE DIVINE MOTHER

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.”

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