Tag Archive | faith

Birthing God and Christianity

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CHRISTIANITY AS AN EMBODIED RELIGION

Rachel Brunns is a spirited and thoughtful young woman who was a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps when I interviewed her.  She is currently studying theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Rachel, who is from Minnesota but spent some time in the Andes of Peru where she experienced the Divine Feminine in Pachamama [Earth Mother], told me, “Christianity, at its core, is an earthly, embodied religion. It’s something I hope we can reclaim.”

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Send me your thoughts!

 

 

Photo credit: Viva Van Assen

Why we do social justice…

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Reverend Debbie Lee is one of forty women interviewed in Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine.

Debbie says that she experiences God in the multitude. When asked about her faith and her work for immigrant rights, she responds, “Spirituality is why we do social justice. It’s what makes social justice work.”

Debbie Lee is a United Church of Christ minister and the Director of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigrant Rights

http://www.icir-clue.blogspot.com/

Advance Praise for Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine

Birthing God cover

“At last, a vibrant investigation into the lived spirituality of God-intoxicated women! Lana Dalberg’s Birthing God is more than a series of snapshots into the lives and thoughts of deeply spiritual women; it is a glimpse into the living Divine as She makes Herself known to us through these amazing seekers. The result is a spirituality of radical openness that offers a much-needed alternative to the closed-hearted and narrow-minded spirituality that dominates so much of contemporary religion.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature

Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine cover

Birthing God: Women's Experiences of the Divine cover

Happy New Year to you! My blessing this coming year is a book, Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, available March 1 from Skylight Paths Publishing. After laboring long hours and completing nearly sixty interviews, I am excited to bring it into the world, and of course, I want to share it with you!

In Birthing God, 40 women of different faiths describe inspirational, spirit-filled moments: a Korean student feels the hands of God supporting her despite excruciating torture; a grieving pastor walks a labyrinth and rediscovers the Rock of her existence; a human rights advocate re-encounters Allah in an intensely visceral moment in the sun; a Salvadoran peasant woman under fire discovers within herself the God who gives her courage. Each woman’s story invites reflection and the deepening of one’s own spiritual practices, whatever they might be.

Join me in celebrating the release of Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine!
http://www.skylightpaths.com/page/product/978-1-59473-480-9

The Next Big Thing: My New Project

What is the title of your book?

Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine. It will be published by SkyLight Paths Publishing in March 2013.

Where did the idea come from for this book?

I’ve had a variety of experiences of Spirit, including mystical visions and nature-based revelations, and I was curious to learn about other women’s experiences of the Divine.

What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely nonfiction, although I crafted the interviews into narratives so that they read like stories.

How long did it take to write the first draft?

A year and two months. My goal was to interview 50 women by International Women’s Day. By the time I was done, I had interviewed nearly 60 women in total.

What actors would you use for a movie rendition of your book?

Hhhmmm. There’s 40 women’s stories, so I’d have to think of a lot of women actors: Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Michelle Yeoh, Ellen DeGeneres, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Vanessa Redgrave…

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In Birthing God, 40 women relate spirit-filled moments: a grieving pastor walks a labyrinth and rediscovers the Rock of her existence; a human rights advocate re-encounters Allah in an intensely visceral moment in the sun; an educator, moved by an ancestral vision, launches a global tree-planting project to heal the wounds of slavery; a revolutionary awakens from a coma and realizes that all of life is infused with Spirit. Each woman’s story invites readers to deepen and enliven their own spiritual practices. Oops, that was two sentences!

Will it be self published or represented by an agency?

My publisher is SkyLight Paths Publishing (www.skylightpaths.com).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My own mystical encounters and a craving to hear other women share their experiences since most spiritual accounts are authored by men.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

While spiritual memoirs abound, not many showcase 40 women’s spiritual stories in one book. The closest cousin to my book is the anthology, Women, Spirituality, and Transformative Leadership (SkyLight Paths 2011), where 30 women contribute their thoughts on women’s spirituality and the imperative for women’s transforming leadership in the world.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The stories sizzle with insight and intensity. For example, a Korean theologian and dharma teacher describes feeling the inexplicable consolation of God’s hands while she was being tortured in a South Korean prison. In another story, a Salvadoran under fire discovers within herself the God who gives her courage. (If it sounds like I’m totally jazzed by these stories, I am!)

Thanks to Lindsey Crittenden for inviting me to participate in this blog chain!

http://loveinshallah.com/contributors-2/

Ayesha Mattu’s first book, Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women  was featured globally by media including the New York Times, NPR, BBC, Washington Post, The Guardian, Times of India, Dawn Pakistan and The Jakarta Post. She is working on a family memoir about three generations of Pakistani Sufi women, and blogs at Love InshAllah. http://loveinshallah.com/contributors-2/

Come celebrate my new book, Birthing God!

Great news! Skylight Paths Publishing will be publishing my book, Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine in early 2013.

In Birthing God, forty women relate spirit-filled moments: a grieving pastor walks a labyrinth and rediscovers the Rock of her existence; a human rights advocate re-encounters Allah in an intensely visceral moment in the sun; an educator, moved by an ancestral vision, launches a global tree-planting project to heal the wounds of slavery; a revolutionary awakens from a coma and realizes that all of life is infused with Spirit; a peasant woman under fire discovers within herself the God who gives her courage; and a disabled doctor, embraced by Shekinah, turns her heart to rabbinical studies. Each woman’s story invites readers to deepen and enliven their own spiritual practices.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, join with me in celebration this coming weekend at the 6th   annual herconference November 2-4 at herchurch, where I will be leading a workshop. See http://herconferencesf.org/workshops/ for more details. Hope to see you there!

Visions of Mother

In my early forties, an amazing thing happened. I began meditating daily, at first in my bedroom closet so as not to awaken my husband, and later in a small room he built for me in the garage. In those precious moments of meditation, I let go of fears and other distractions and rested gently in the breath. Visions appeared, fragrant from another realm: oceans and forest streams with eddying pools where four-legged animals gathered to drink.

Indian madonna and child, Annabel Landaverde

During that period, as my body shifted towards change, towards menopause, my inner spirit opened itself to the larger Spirit, and I came face to face with the Mother. Scenes unfurled on my inner eye in undulating landscapes, and She stepped into them. A tall African woman, the Mother was someone my heart recognized instantly. There were others, including Joan of Arc, armored and mounted on her horse, and several indigenous images of Mother.

In the visions the Mother cared for me, providing me nourishment, clothing, walking sticks, and gemstone necklaces that spoke to me of my inestimable worth in Her eyes. These waking visions were reinforced by dreams and gave rise to my desire to know other women’s stories and to hear their experiences of the Divine. After interviewing nearly fifty women of different faiths, I realized that however we name Spirit, we receive it with deep-hearted openness. Like Mary, our lives are the surprise that begins with the response, “Let it be.”

June Solstice

We gathered before sunrise at the Puerta del Sol, an ancient Incan Sun Gate located a short walk from the Sacred Valley Retreat Center. For the ancient Incas, all life stemmed from the sun. They crafted their temples and other buildings with precise attention to the angle of the sun’s rays and the play of shadows. During the solstices, Inca initiates would place themselves at designated points where the first rays of the rising sun would illuminate their foreheads.

We followed this ritual at the Sun Gate in Yucay. I sat between rows of nubby stalks in a recently harvested cornfield. Before closing my eyes, I glimpsed the tomb-cliffs I had hiked to the day before. From there, my gaze traced Incan stone terraces and stone-lined irrigation channels all the way down to the stone steps of the Sun Gate. I closed my eyes to meditate. As the sun rose above the mountain, the first rays warmed my crown and then my forehead, and I felt tremendous power and gratitude welling up within me and swirling like the intense red patterns that played on my inner eye.

What a gift to allow myself to be here, I realized. What a gift to allow myself to live fully aware, dedicated to letting myself bloom. Here in this mountain valley, I could hear more clearly. Insights arose spontaneously, including:

  1. Honor the body and harbor the tender soul.

    Woman at the Inti Raymi celebration of the June Solstice

  2. Breathe into strength, the power deep within.
  3. Love openheartedly.
  4. Live in gratitude—great, great gratitude.
  5. Realize that death is a calm passing over, a sweetness not to be feared.

Back at the retreat center, I meditated for the remainder of the solstice day. By mid-afternoon, the garden and surrounding fields appeared to be both resting and abuzz with some hidden vigor and translucent sap. The poinsettia blazed red in the late afternoon sun. Off in the distance, a donkey brayed, a dog barked, and a chorus ensued. Beside me, the ewe tucked her legs beneath her woolly belly and chewed her cud.

All around me, shadows skirted the mountains, and I admired their bastion strength. Out loud I wondered how best to live my life.

The response:

  1. Live upturned like a daisy, heart open to the sun or the kiss of a child.
  2. Walk, every day, in the pulse of life. Walk with gratitude and awe, seeing the alive-ness and connectedness of everything.
  3. Meditate daily. Cultivate the inner richness.
  4. Every day, push the envelope of your courage. See what more emerges.
  5. Most of all, remember that you are part of this beauty. Remember your birthright to peace, abundance, and love.

Magnificence of the Andes

Camino a Las Tumbas/Path to the Tombs

On day 4 in the Andes, I hiked with Avishai* and two fellow travelers to the pre-Incan tombs that I could see from a trail near the farmhouse. From the distance, the round holes that punctuated the reddish swath of rock reminded me of the red cliff homes of the ancient Anasazi people of the U.S. Southwest. Our climb to the pre-Incan tombs was very steep, particular the last ascent, which was like scaling a cliff. As I pulled myself up by handfuls of thorny bushes, I told myself to not look down because I suddenly remembered I was afraid of heights.

When the four of us finally reached the rock shelf housing the three tombs, which were round and open-mouthed like red clay ovens, we sat in silence for a long while. There, next to the ancestors’ tombs and the cliff’s perilous edge, I reflected on fear and the need to befriend it.

As I rose to face the precipitous edge, Avishai counseled that faith and practice come from the same root word in Hebrew. Faith and practice cannot be separated. To have faith is to act on it, to walk. He encouraged me to trust my body and its intuitive ability to select the right footholds. And so I descended, trusting my body and befriending the gaping expanse.

Facing the edge, I now realize, was the best experience of the day. Too often the unknown is muddied by apprehension simply because we lack the ability to imagine it any other way.

View from the tombs.

At the tombs.

*Avishai and Viviana are my hosts and the proud proprietors of the Sacred Valley Retreat and Bed &Breakfast

Mission

I aim to empower women to claim their innate connectedness to Spirit. My book Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine is a first step. So far I have interviewed 35 women on their experiences of the Divine, and I hope to interview more.