Tag Archive | women’s stories

Loved for Who I Am

meditation image In my dream this morning, I was with my youngest daughter and parking my car when I discovered I’d gone down the wrong street – I had mistaken the way back to my own home! So I parked and got out of my car and ten minutes later, I couldn’t find it and couldn’t even remember what it looked like! To me, my vehicle and my home are dream symbols of my life. And right now, I am feeling a little lost, a little off course. I am working very hard at my new job, and I am not taking the time I need for myself. As I give my job my everything, my personal life disappears from view. But identifying this imbalance is the first step to helping me find what I need to restore the balance. Daily meditation is key. The Divine Mother grounds me because She is right within me. I lose sight of that truth in the whirlwind of daily pressures and tasks. In meditation, I take the time to listen, to be in Her presence, which is also my unguarded presence. I create the quiet where She can enter, and I feel myself loved not for what I do but for who I am.

Lana Dalberg, author of Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine

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!

Gratitude for Everything We Are Given—and Not Given

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Viviana’s story ends in gratitude, but begins with illnesses. She had polio as an infant, and typhoid as a young adult. “When I was nineteen years old, I was in a coma. I was at the University at Trujillo in Northern Peru and working for a political party. I was working in the slums, and I would eat anything, and I got typhoid. I didn’t know I had it. I just kept going. I felt dizzy. I felt fevers, but since I come from Cusco, from the mountains, and the university was in the hot area, I thought it was just the heat. I started to throw up, and still I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I said, ‘This is going to pass.’ Then I went on a hunger strike with other students, professors, doctors, nurses, and that’s when the typhoid got worse. But the hunger strike was very important to me. We were asking for health rights and protection for the prostitutes because in Trujillo there was a very large red-light district, and there were women coming from different parts of Peru. At the time I didn’t know much about human trafficking. But we knew the levels of exploitation, and there were a lot of sexually transmitted diseases. And because of that, we wanted to organize the women and develop a union with them.”

Viviana was on the hunger strike until one day she collapsed. “When I was unconscious, they took me to the emergency room. I was in a coma for a month. During that time, there was a moment when my mother and the doctors thought that I was going to die. That is the only time that I was fully conscious, fully aware of everything: my ability to choose, my inner power, my knowing of an existence of a different reality that is not this physical world.

“The moment I remember is suddenly I saw my mother, and the doctors and the nurse, and the boyfriend I had at the time, and a few of my other friends all gathered around me because they all thought that I was going to die. In the coma, I could see them. My mother was holding my hand, and she was pressing my hand and telling me, ‘Please, feel my hand, feel my hand.’ And I remember wanting to talk to her. I wanted to tell her, ‘I’m not dying, I’m here,’ but my body didn’t respond. They were telling my mother that they couldn’t keep the IV needles in me, that they couldn’t find more veins. They were going to look in my feet, they said, and a nurse touched my foot. For the first time in that month, I felt my foot. I felt it in a way that I cannot describe. I cannot explain that feeling of her hand on my foot. It was like it was entering my foot. It was like it was one with my foot. After that, I had this experience of choosing, and I thought, ‘What do I want? Do I want to come back?’ And I came back. I chose to be alive. And after that, I changed. It changed my life completely.”

For seOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAveral years, Viviana worked with shamans in Peru and Mexico. She lived in California and studied transpersonal and integrative psychology. About two years ago, she returned to her homeland to develop a retreat center. Together with her husband, she also runs an orphanage called Niños del Sol. Viviana describes the village and surrounding mountains. “It is a place to remember your own magic, a place to educate your consciousness as you connect with the Mother Earth and all its elements.

“There you realize that the main prayer is gratitude—gratitude for everything we are given, as well as for everything we are not given.”

Excerpted from  Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine

Life-Giving Water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWorld Water Day was March 22. I admit that I didn’t do anything special, but it got me thinking about water, life’s most essential ingredient. In California today, 99.8% of the state is in moderate to extreme drought. How do we live with decreasing amounts of water? What do we do about global warming, which is melting our snowpack and increasing evaporation from our extremely low reservoirs?

I, for one, aim to get more informed. I challenge myself to:

  • *  Savor water, especially now that it is less plentiful.
  • *  Save and reuse water. Here’s how:
  • Install water-efficient showerheads.
  • Take shorter showers and turn off the shower while lathering.
  • Use a cup instead of leaving the tap running while brushing teeth.
  • Regularly check for leaks.
  • Reuse water from rinsing or boiling by letting it cool and then watering plants with it.
  • Use a pail of water to wash your car rather than a hose.
  • Rinse dishes in a sinkpan rather than under running water.
  • Use a pan of hot water to defrost frozen food rather than running hot water.

Green_LakeOf course, these are just a few ideas to get us started! Joining activities to protect our sources for clean water is another action item. Water is our most precious resources, so let’ s outdo ourselves in keeping it renewable and available for all.

Sources:

 http://www.waterreuse.org/

http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday

http://theenergycollective.com/josephromm/358331/yes-manmade-global-warming-worsening-california-s-epic-drought

http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/proposed-rule-will-help-clean-up-america-s-dirty-waters

Drumming for Mother Earth

Dionne photo

“I drum for Mother Earth,” says Dionne, one of the women interviewed in Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine. Of Yurok-Karuk descent, Dionne has been a drummer since she was ten and has felt the pulse of the earth in her blood.

We all can be drumming for Mother Earth – in the drum circles that Dionne leads at herchurch*, but also in our lives, by attuning ourselves to others and by listening and responding to the rhythm of this planet. We begin by celebrating the rhythm of our own bodies as part of planet earth’s mega-rhythm. The beating of our heart. The rush of our lungs. The swish of our gait. Listen. Tune in. Awareness is the first step. And prayer is the second. “I pray for mother earth with my drumming,” says Dionne. I echo her sentiment: I pray for mother earth with my breathing. May each inhalation, each exhalation be a “thank you” borne of awareness and a desire to live attuned to those around me, all throbbing in harmony and the will to do good.

*Women’s drumming at herchurch (678 Portola, SF) is on every third Wednesday from 5:45 – 6:45 p.m. Feel free to drop by! Drumming every first and third Sunday during 10:30 a.m. Sunday service also.

God Among Us

Hermanas.1Remembering the Martyrs

Thirty-three years ago today, four U.S. church women were martyred in El Salvador. They had been working with the Salvadoran poor, Ita Ford and Maura Clarke in Chalatenango, and Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan in La Libertad. They were returning from a retreat when their vehicle was stopped by the Salvadoran National Guard at a road block. Their desecrated bodies were discovered in a mass grave a few kilometers away. Today we commemorate Ita, Maura, Dorothy, and Jean, and what better way to celebrate their lives then to continue their legacy of working with the Salvadoran poor.

In honor of the U.S. church women martyred this day in 1980, I am excerpting from Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine my interview with Sister Teresa, who continues their pastoral work in Chalatenango.

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Dressed in light cotton and sandals, Sister Teresa motions for me to take a seat in the tiny adobe-style house she shares with four other women religious in San Jose Las Flores, El Salvador. For nearly four decades, she tells me, she has lived and worked among Latin American’s impoverished communities. “For me, vocation has been very much defined as living my life among the poor.”

Still it was a big shock for Teresa—“un choque grande”—to arrive at the nearly destroyed community of San Jose Las Flores in the midst of El Salvador’s civil war. For Teresa, “the shock was to realize how far I was from the great suffering that so many people were living.” Yet one day, during her contemplation time, she heard God speaking to her inwardly. “It was a crisis but also a great revelation. God told me clearly in the words spoken to Moisés: ‘Take off your sandals, because this place, the place you are entering, is holy ground.’” At another time, Teresa recounts, “In a state of prayer, I felt Jesús come and take hold of my shoulder. ‘This is your place,’ he said. ‘I want you right here.’”

God was telling her in no uncertain terms that this community she was serving in the midst of extreme poverty, isolation, and war was holy, the dwelling place of the Almighty. “After that experience, each day I felt more dedicated, with greater commitment—entrega—because to me it was clear that the people were the face of the suffering, crucified Christ, with their willingness to give their lives for the good of all, and at the same time, they also exemplified the resurrected Christ with their vitality, solidarity, and courage.”

Sister Teresa describes the constant shelling in the surrounding hills, the periodic military incursions and occupations of their small village, the strafing of helicopters flying overhead, and the fear that these acts generated. “During the war,” Teresa says, “the Armed Forces High Command required that I and the other sisters with me report to them every two weeks. When we left the community to go report ourselves, the people entered into a state of fear. When we returned, they shouted, ‘Ay! The sisters have returned!’” Teresa laughs. “We didn’t feel that it was really about us, but rather that the people felt this presence of God that for them was tangible with our reappearance.” The people also perceived God’s accompaniment, Teresa says, in the miracles they witnessed as they survived attack after attack on their community.

She stretches out her hand and places it on the flower-dappled tablecloth. “This is my experience of God, in the people who are an expression of the incarnate Christ. In the midst of the war, the people here showed joy, solidarity, and compassion. They were available to one another. When terrible things happened, they were afraid; they wept and trembled, but nothing stopped them from having faith and moving forward. It was an experience that changed my way of being.”

Teresa ducks her gray head slightly before revealing her affluent background. “See, I am from the bourgeoisie in my country, and I was able to study. But my greatest education has been the poor, to see their living conditions, to feel how everything is denied them, to feel how much they are underestimated, how much they are despised. I feel their condition in my being”—her hand moves to her chest—“and their reality changed me, converted me. Encountering the poor, you encounter yourself with God in a totally different way.”

Excerpted from “Teresa: God Among Us” in Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine .

Maria leyó de Jeremías frente de la iglesia en Las FloresOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gratitude: a Wellspring of Joy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis past weekend, I joined with friends to celebrate and deepen our gratitude—gratitude for the earth, for home, for friends and family, for the Divine, and for each other.

I learned from these dear friends that we receive so many gifts daily that some we  take for granted, like the moment we are free of pain or the moment we inhale another breath.

But if we awake to the wonder of each day, we see that every moment is replete with grace and possibility. Gratitude flows, a wellspring of joy.

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Pictured here is Viviana of Cuzco, Peru, whose story of wonder and gratitude appears in my book,  Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine