The Loss of a Mothering God: Exploring Noah

Posted on 16 Feb 2019 | 0 comments

Most of our depictions of God are of the old, white guy with a beard in the sky, prepared for judgment. If we’re lucky, we’ve rediscovered the vibrant, multi-faceted and very non-white God who Fathers us with love and power and compassion. But if we’re honest, the concept of a Mother God disrupts us and makes us desperately uncomfortable. It’s no surprise that when The Shack revealed God as an older, loving black Mother that so many of us rooted in traditional Western Christianity lost our ever-loving minds. But some of us felt the whisper of DEEP MAGIC in that story. The Deeper Magic that reminds us that Male & Female, we were created in the image of God. That there’s a Mother in there, the Hen gathering Her chicks under Her wing, or the agony of a torn veil at the death of a son.

When we imagine the story of Noah, we often think of a high and mighty warrior God, smiting most of creation in order to satisfy some sick judgment. We are deeply disturbed, and even with the salvation of one single family and a bunch of animals, the devastation of the planet seems incredibly troubling – despite the rainbow at the end. I mean, it makes total sense to me why Noah goes on a bender within short order after landing.

But I want to re-imagine this story, trusting that God was not distressed by Goddess culture in the ANE, and that God didn’t feel threatened by Tiamat, but that God wanted to provide a counter-narrative to the birthing of conflict of terror and violence that erupted from Tiamat’s womb. I want you to imagine, if you will, that like other women since the dawn of creation, God realized that she was birthing something that had what we might call “failure to thrive.” And this realization led to one of the most heart-wrenching, grief-filled decisions that this Mothering God had to make. Does She allow the toxic, violent, murderous life to poison the whole womb of creation, love, and ordering that She’s gestating and co-laboring for in this primordial world? Or does She make the agonizing decision to flush the dying children from the womb in order to give Noah’s line the best possible chance to survive and create something beautiful? Perhaps the termination of this portion of her gestation was the best possible choice of No. Good. Choice. And maybe, just maybe, God understands the woman’s grief of having our identity and value in society determined by the by-products of our lady parts.

When we imagine the story through this lens, we are transported into a profound counter-narrative to other flood stories and a re-integration and remembrance of creation in the most confounding of stories. We are invited to return to the promise of the Spirit hovering over the waters and breathing life into the most meaningful and life-giving of creations. We are invited into the womb of darkness and despair in order to emerge into the world of light and air.

Noah’s story, then, becomes a place of healing and hope for those who have lost pregnancies, had to terminate them – by choice or by necessity, for those who fail to conceive. The Mothering God understands deeply the loss of women who have pregnancies that fail to thrive in a world that is hell-bent on determining the worth of women by the production of their wombs. The story becomes a beacon of a Mothering God’s understanding of what it is like to see life that you intended for blessing washed away in saline and blood. It invites us into a story of blessing and hope for the imagining that God creates as She blesses woman after woman in the Scriptures not only with children when all hope was lost, but also with purpose and identity, creativity and grit beyond the birthing of babies. We see a Mothering God who gives identity to the childless – like Deborah, Miriam and the daughters of Zelophehad, as well as to those great Mothers who continued the lines and re-enacted the covenant – like Jehochebed, mother of Moses, Sarah and Hagar, Leah & Rebecca & Bilhah & Zilpah and even Elizabeth and Mary. We see a Mothering God who empowers the midwives in Egypt to refuse their orders and continue life, Mary to conceive and bear a son, and Lydia & Euodia & Syntyche & Junia to blaze trails through the new Church.

A Mothering God has a vision to empower women with or without children – whose identity is grounded in their Belovedness as daughters of a profoundly blessing, empowering, nurturing Mother God. We are given worth and beauty in receiving our inherent image from the one who is continually creating, continually caring, continually nurturing, sustaining, innovating, sowing peace and reaping righteousness. We are grounded in a vision of a Mother God who brings life from emptiness and agony in the way that only women can. We are given a view of the power of grief and tears and their necessity to clear the floor for new things to emerge. We are shown that our “womb” is a profound symbol of the power that we have been given to give “birth” to new things in this world with power, strength, and bearing down. Noah gives us hope that no longer are we alone in our grief of stillbirths – our children of flesh or our children of spirit and ideas – and our failed starts and our failures to thrive.

So, I offer this poem, written from the heart of a grieving womb, for those of you with infertility, lost pregnancies, ended pregnancies, and for those women who have no desire to be pregnant at all. Because you are seen by a Mothering God. You are beloved despite your pro-creation or the production of your wombs. You are Beloved because you are a precious half of the image of God, living, breathing, and a custodian of the creative force in the universe for its beautification and its nurture. Blessed be.

From the Dark Waters of a Mothering God

When the dark waters rose
~~There was no seed in Sarah
No light could penetrate the depths
~~There was no seed in Rebecca
of the womb of blood and saline
~~The seed of Tamar ill-conceived
of the waves of darkness and terror
~~Hagar’s child forsaken, feared, abandoned
The womb of the world that was emptied
~~Bathsheba’s agony, thrice endured
As She swallowed the deadly, bitter truth
~~A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping
Her children are failing to thrive
~~Her children are no more
No heartbeat, no soul, no empathy
~~The innocents dashed against a stone
Leprous and diseased from the inside out, devoid of feeling and health
~~The sons smothered before taking a breath
And those bitter herbs of truth taken
~~Yet Hannah & Elizabeth’s tenacious hope
Detached those lives from her heartbeat
~~And the fierceness of Miriam in worship
Created the perfect storm
~~To part the seas for her people
The rain and thunder as those lives were drowned
~~No mother should outlive Her children
Pushing those lives through the birth canal
~~Blood and tears, sweat and agony
Ejected into outer darkness
~~The grief of Mary at the foot of the cross
And A Mother’s tears of Grief that filled the world
~~the veil was torn in two, to remove the barrier
Transformed into a Rainbow of Promise
~~Lydia, Deborah, Junia empowered
The deepest Sorrow of No Good Choice at all
~~Except Surrender
Turned into a glimmer of hope offered
~~the daughters anointed, burning with Spirit
A branch of peace extended
~~Reunited with Her in the cool of the Garden
An understanding reached
~~Her glory revealed, Beloved, Bride, but no longer simply Birthing
Of Her perfect Image revealed in them, the daughters of God

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Music is for Losers

Posted on 3 Aug 2018 | 0 comments

I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in a pub on the north side of the Liffey after the world famous Musical Pub Crawl. It was the “open mic” portion where they allow people to share a song. My goto staple at that point was “At Last” but I didn’t want to sing after the slim, pristine blonde diva who had preceded me with her slightly nasally rendition of some pop classic.

The evening had been spent in not only sacred musical listening, but also storytelling. That night, I heard a phrase that would shape me forever.

History books and newspapers are written by the winners. Music and poetry are written by the losers, the downtrodden, the brokenhearted.

And I realized how true it was. That the songs that stick with us, and that have changed the world – they’ve been written by those who have suffered and who would never be considered “Great” or “Winners.” The Irish took centuries of oppression and turned it into some of the most powerful music the world has ever known. Rock & Roll, the Blues, Jazz… birthed out of African-American post-slave, mid-segregation racial tension and oppression and appropriated by white folks.

Then I realized that the music that I grew up immersed in, resonating with… was all the brokenhearted crying out:

Tracy Chapman

Indigo Girls

Tori Amos

U2

REM

It struck me today that all these musicians of my youth were predecessors to the activists that are gaining steam in the last decade. Tracy Chapman was speaking of the pain and reality of police violence and redlining against people of color in the 80s and 90s. The Indigo Girls were speaking about the struggles of LGBTQ identity – and gendering, and the challenges of intersectionality – well before it hit the Supreme Court. Tori Amos exposed misogyny and rape culture in one of the most poignant and painful ballads the 20th century heard. U2 – social justice, fighting governmental institutions. REM – paradigm shifts, ecological issues, and shifting boundaries.

It made me realize that our culture needs more poets, songwriters, more of the arts, because they tell the stories of those who cannot buy news outlets. We need journalists and historians.

But we need the fraught, anxious energy of Enneagram 4s who are so desperate to uncover and reveal understanding that they expose their very souls in the process. It needs the vehicle and medium of music and art and poetry to help people understand that things don’t always line up in neat, little orderly procession, and that sometimes, life itself is a Shitty First Draft. But we keep at it, and we allow the music to move us in and through it.

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Why #metoo can’t be forgotten…

Posted on 22 Feb 2018 | 0 comments

*trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault

The last few days, watching the students from Parkland has done something inside of me. It’s revitalized a 14 year old me that was fierce, furious, and fantastic. I want to stand with them, and will march with them, and will delight when I see them move mountains. Because they will, and somehow, #neveragain will actually move the mountain of gun culture in this country. I see it, I know it, I believe it.

And even as I stand with #neveragain, and rejoice with these teenagers, I’m struck by the fact that YET AGAIN, it was a young white male. YET AGAIN, it was something where the people in authority failed to see a problem before it got “really bad.” I mean, what is “really bad” if not shooting up a school and killing 17 people?

And that’s where my cry for #metoo to be remembered comes from. Because I can remember being 14 years old, and coming to an administration and begging for help with a young, troubled male, and being silenced and shamed.

Let me paint a picture for you. At 14, I attended one of the wealthiest private schools in Los Angeles. I was not popular, but everyone knew me as the “good” kid. Despite hanging out with a couple wild ones, everyone knew I didn’t party, didn’t date, didn’t really push any boundaries. I had a job, I studied hard, and I went to church – like 4 times a week. I had the record in my class for community service hours. The clothing I wore? If it was rebellious at all, it was in the grunge way. Typical outfit was jeans, t-shirt – well, collared shirt because we had a dress code – but my collared shirts were always flannel shirts, because well, it was the early 90s. I mean, who didn’t? I didn’t wear skimpy clothes because I was super self-conscious and girls in my class and at the school were always calling me shamu or fat (I wasn’t, by the way, but according to LA eating disorder standards, I was). I was a simple girl, who tried to love people, did “Meet me at the pole,” and was in theater, pep band, and the literary magazine editing staff. I didn’t drink, do drugs, date, or even get involved with folks like that. I had crushes, like any 14 year old girl would, but I was terrified to act on them. And at that time, it was only one person that I was crushing on – hi Aidan! – and he didn’t even go to my school. Like, seriously, people. You cannot fabricate a more innocent, “good” girl.

I’m sitting in computer class one day, the teacher is helping someone else, and I ask for help. She says, “I’ll be there in a second.” One of the guys in my class – Evan (because as Anne Lamott says, if he wanted anonymity, he should have behaved better) – offers to help. He walks over, and as I’m trying to understand the coding we are doing, puts his hand on my thigh. I am not involved with this guy, and I don’t even know him well. I push it away, so he puts it back on my thigh and moves it up my leg until he is groping me. I push him away and ask to go to the bathroom. The rest of the day is a fog until I’m lying in my bed at midnight, and can’t sleep and am shaking with terror and feel sick to my stomach and dirty and disgusting.
So I crawl into my mom’s bed and tell her what happened.
And she does *EVERYTHING RIGHT.*

She calls the administration, calls a meeting, threatens police action.

So we get a meeting.

And in the meeting, I have to face not just Evan but his parents. And Mr. Basmajian (again, who if he wanted anonymity should have behaved better), the Dean. Who asks me what I was wearing. And who asks me what I did to entice him. And I have to retell the whole thing in front of Evan, who sits there with a smug look on his face, and his Dad has a smug “boys will be boys” look on his face. And then Mr. Basmajian adds the “boys will be boys” line. And I shrank in that chair. And I got smaller and smaller.

Because I did *EVERYTHING RIGHT.* I *did* go to the authorities. And I was shamed and re-traumatized and re-victimized.

And then I had to leave the room, trusting that they’d do something. And they wouldn’t even let me change classes to a different elective schedule until we threatened legal action against the school.

Here’s a young man – now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Evan was a serial rapist or anything. He was a young man BEHAVING VERY BADLY. He obviously hadn’t been taught important things like “don’t grope women who don’t want to be groped.” And when he did, he was laughed off and told it was ok, because sometimes women just react…

Can I tell you that writing this story has made me shake in fear, cry a little bit, and go through 3 separate EMDR treatments (for PTSD) just to get through it and even be able to talk about it? TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER. Happily married, with a daughter, and having survived rape, domestic violence, and horrific things. This event is the one that scars me and that I never spoke about aloud – because it’s so much a part of our culture.

We write off the bad behavior of our white men, because “it’s just how they are.” Well, let me tell you. I know some pretty amazing men. Men who would *never* consider doing anything like that. They would *never* consider getting guns and using them to sort out their emotional distress. So I’m done with people saying “boys will be boys,” or that the kind of language and “pussy-grabbing” talk coming from the highest echelons of our government is just “locker room talk.” I’m calling bullshit.

Because when we excuse that kind of behavior, we are creating a culture that allows good kids to die at the hands of a young, troubled man who probably should have had some serious consequences in his life leading to help and healing of whatever troubled him. I’m guessing that Evan probably just did what he thought was normal. I’m sure he had his own family issues in which his parents weren’t around or were going through some sort of serious stuff. I have compassion, sure. In all honesty, he probably doesn’t even remember doing it. I get it, it was a blip, because that sort of stuff is common in our culture, and was even more so back in the early nineties.

But man, that was truly messed up. And it shouldn’t be common. Because while Evan probably doesn’t even remember it, I’m traumatized by it and having to heal and rebuild 25 years of life that were scarred by that event. I’m having to live with the regrets of the relationships I sabotaged after that event because of the worthlessness and shame that I felt. I’m having to live with the fear and the emotional distance from others because I’m afraid if they know what was done to me, they’ll blame me, too.

Do you get it? #neveragain is intrinsically tied to this culture that allows men and boys to behave badly, shrugging it off as “normal” when in actuality, it should never be normal. Cancer is common, is normal, but is an aberration. Gun violence is common, is normal, but is an aberration from the Design.

I think the challenge is that we miss out on the goodness of the Gift of this world if we let “Common” and “Normal” dictate our behavior or our legislation. We need to stand with these incredible youngsters in #neveragain, even as we do address the very deep and searing truths of #metoo.

We cannot forget #metoo. We simply cannot.

Because I will not let my daughter’s generation be 1 in 4. I will not let her generation be 1 in 10. I will fight, tooth & nail, to call bullshit and stand for her right to live a life free from the trauma that I – and literally every single woman I know – have experienced. I will fight to give her everything I was denied and that was stolen from me in that office 25 years ago.

#metoo #Iamthe1in4

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Letting Go

Posted on 29 Sep 2017 | 0 comments

10 years ago, I stood with a friend from Dublin, Ireland in a church in Belfast, Ireland. Now for many of you, that comment may seem innocuous enough, without knowing the history of the “Troubles” in Ireland. Leave it to the British Isles to take a religious conflict with violence, terrorism, dehumanization, and significant destruction of community, and simply call it “Troubles.” But there we were. I had come to support a friend deliver a message – I honestly can’t remember what it was, but she asked me to listen for any words from God that might come. So I listened.

A young man stepped forth, and I saw sand slipping through his hands. The tighter he grasped, the faster the sand poured out. And when he simply let go and opened his hands, the sand stayed. Asking further what that might mean, the answer was simple – the tighter you try to grasp and control, the more life will slip through your fingers. When you simply let go, you will realize that not only are you holding sand, but that you stand on the shore of infinite grains of sand – at your fingertips, but also under your feet to allow you to stretch your hands to the sky in surrender and delight.

 

The last year has been one of complete and total surrender – of control, the lies I had to believe in order to survive. For decades, I simply pushed everything as far down inside me as I could, because it was the only coping mechanism I had to live in the world that had been given to me. In the midst of this, I began to realize that I was getting frustrated because I kept getting handed shitty choices – and yes, I made incredible decisions, even with those horrible, shitty choices. But the reality was that I continued allowing others to set the choices for me, and then trying to control the outcome. As a deeply spiritual person, I was falling into the martyrdom/self-sacrifice paradigm, thinking that if I just controlled it enough – if I just nailed myself up on that cross with Jesus…
That somehow it would all be ok.

And honestly, it never was. It was F.I.N.E – freaking out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. But it was never OK.

Because the sand of my reality kept slipping through my fingers.

Until now.

Because I simply…

Let.

Go.

I opened my eyes to the infinite spread of sand beneath my feet, and the arms of the Diving opening, spreading, and longing to catch me when I fell – but also willing to lift me up to fly.

I’ve been loving this song, and letting it wash over me, especially when I forget – which is often. May you be graced today with the release of open hands to receive the Goodness, open hearts to allow perfect love to cast out fear, and open eyes to see the expanse of opportunity in your midst.

You’ve brought me to the end of myself
And this has been the longest road
Just when my hallelujah was tired
You gave me a new song

I’m letting go, I’m letting go
I’m letting go, falling into You

I confess I still get scared sometimes
But perfect love comes rushing in
And all the lies that screamed inside go silent
The moment you begin

You remind me of things forgotten
You unwind me until I’m totally undone
With Your arms around me
Fear was no match for Your love
Now You’ve won me

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From Easter, 2016

Posted on 6 May 2016 | 0 comments

Today is Easter. It feels a bit arbitrarily dated this year, and I almost feel as if I didn’t catch up. I’ve been so caught up in Jewish rhythms this year that my own liturgical rhythms have been a bit more muted. I’m still wrapped up in Purim and deliverance and courage and honor – and so my reflection on Resurrection feels so different this year. We went to church, and it was so uplifting and fun. My  “mom” up here in Canada is a pastor of a dynamic little congregation, and like many other evenings with this family, we have had intense and wonderfully thoughtful and deep conversations about faith and culture and ideas over amazing food and wine. We’ve been trying to figure out an age-appropriate way to talk about Easter with Amanda – but the whole ugly, violent death scenario is hard to reconcile. And you can’t get away from it with this holiday – I still have memories of being 3 or so and crying because they killed a nice man. But it’s a reality, because there can be no empty without a tomb.
I think about the diversity of people that I connect with here in this space. And I don’t want to have a preachy, turn or burny message on this special day in my tradition, but I want each of you to know the depth of love that my faith has given me for each of you – that there is something truly supernatural and miraculous to me about the *grace* that God has given me to love such a wealth of different people with such different backgrounds, faiths, opinions, perspectives, ethnicities, political views, and doctrine with the abandon and compassion that I feel when I think about you. There’s a passage in my sacred texts that I feel encompasses this – and if that same power that raised Christ from the dead is living in you, will He not give life also to you? That power of the resurrection – the power that brings things thought dead back to life – that’s the power in me. That’s the fire that fuels my love for each of you, believing in your dreams, believing in your goodness, believing in the best of each of you – knowing that whatever dies in undue time can, indeed, be brought back to life.
I want to live not just a resurrected life, but a resurrecting life, empowered and empowering each of you – no matter your beliefs or differences – to breathe life back into your dreams and dreams back into your life. To take broken and hurting places and pour as much life and love into them as I can, to bring restoration. To me, the empty tomb is a reminder to GO, to DO, to be present to each of you in a way that brings you life.
I may not always live up to this, but I pray that every year, I get a little bit better, and get a little bit closer to hitting my mark.
In general, this holiday, I am trying to hold sacred space for the resurrecting, life-giving power that I’ve been entrusted with, so that in living life with each one of you, I can impart some sacredness, some mystery, some light, life, and love.
I wish you a Blessed day, and may you find resurrection power flowing through your spirit in the coming season.

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