Who Cares If God is Male or Female?

spiritual beingRecently, I had a discussion with a friend about my journey of finding the Sacred Feminine. They asked me, “Why does it matter if God is male or female?” Good question! Honestly? It doesn’t matter in the actual gender sense. In my opinion, God is both mother and father (see post here where I talked about this). They initially thought that was the point of my journey, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg!

“The Sacred Feminine is a concept that recognizes that “God” ultimately is neither male or female, but a Divine Essence – an essence that is in a unified balance of masculine and feminine principles – a dynamic interdependent ‘immanence’ that pervades all life. The Asian Yin Yang is a good representation of this idea.

However, seeing the divine as an abstract concept of overseeing, distant consciousness, or immanence, is a challenge for most humans, myself included. We all have a basic need to put the inexplicable into tangible form in order to explore and understand our relationship to it. Thus we tend to attribute human characteristics to the unknowable. We name and assign form to an abstract concept in order to relate to it at our level. So the Divine Essence or Absolute has become a “Father” God figure that we were taught to visualize, pray to and imagine having a personal relationship with. In and of itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Unfortunately, seeing the vast, infinite, absolute and indescribable “God” only in the form of masculine metaphor and symbol has severely limited our human spiritual potential and greatly hindered our ability to live in peace and balance on this earth. For the last several thousand years, the dominant religious belief systems of our world have been patriarchal which sanctioned social ethics that elevated God the Father over Mother Earth and men over women.

But it hasn’t always been this way! It is important to remember that for eons before patriarchy, throughout the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages, there were worldwide “Mother/Female and Earth” honoring societies that lived a more egalitarian, sustainable and peaceful culture that thrived without war for thousands of years. It is urgent to rediscover and rebuild the lost memory of those cultures to inform us and inspire us to construct a more stable foundation for society’s future.

Remembering the lost matriarchal civilizations authenticates and validates the significance of the Sacred Feminine and the importance of women and female values.

It is time to balance the masculine and feminine principles within our belief systems, our religious doctrines, our cultural ethics, and within ourselves.

It is time to honor the Sacred Feminine. “Honoring the Sacred Feminine,” in the spiritual sense, means valuing the feminine principle, along with the masculine principle, as equal and fundamental aspects of the Divine. From a planetary level, it means respecting and healing our Mother Earth. From a cultural standpoint, it means reawakening the archetype of the Goddess through entertainment and the arts and using language that gives equal emphasis to “she” and “her.” In the societal sense, it means re-creating the role of Priestess and respecting the contribution of women in business, science, art, and politics, as well as the home and community. In a religious view, it means offering ceremony and service that reaffirms our connection to the divine, the Goddess, the earth, and each other. In the human sense, honoring the Sacred Feminine means especially valuing the innate worth of woman’s body, mind, and soul, as well as appreciating the “feminine” qualities in the male character. “ (Tate, 2014). This is what my journey in re-discovering the Sacred Feminine is all about, my friends.

 

*Tate, Rev. Dr. Karen. (2014). Voices of the Sacred Feminine, Changemakers Books. ISBN: 978-1-78279-510-0.

Love, Authenticity, and Truth

Been a long time…I thought I would give up blogging forever as I moved on to other things, but I have a pull to always write, to dialogue, to share my thoughts and hear the thoughts of others. I’m reading a book right now, “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s provoking some interesting thoughts, touching on some things that I’ve always pondered. So much so that I feel compelled to write Donald Miller about my thoughts, something I don’t normally do. Yet, sadly, I’ve not found a way to connect or contact him. His blog, Storyline, and Facebook page seem to be completely devoid of his personal touch. Instead, it appears he has become more “corporate” and “untouchable,” marketing his new Storyline brand. How sad for me. Therefore, I’m sharing my thoughts publicly instead of privately…to hear your thoughts.

I struggled picking up this book. I thought it would be another holier-than-thou, beat me over the head Christian book that would make me feel guilty for my shortcomings and failings as a “Christian.” But I’m finding that my mind is stirred, my spirituality is simmering, my desire to converse is spilling out of me into this blog post. A good thing, I suppose, when you really look at it.

I have always considered myself a Christian, but the meaning of that has changed as I’ve grown and stretched as a person. It is more about Christian spirituality now. I wince whenever I say that I’m a “Christian,” because I don’t associate myself and my beliefs with the larger, negative view of Christianity. As a matter of fact, I try to distance myself from it, embarrassed and shamed by the vitriol, ugliness, and judgment that radiates from the outspoken right-wing groups. Not to mention the cruelty of things done “in the name of Christ.” My heart aches because of it. I want to scream and shout, “That’s not Jesus! That’s not me! That’s not what it’s all about!”

I’ll be the first to admit my spirituality is messy, unruly, and uncouth. I was raised in the conservative church and chewed up and spit out by the same conservative church. I know all the “rules,” the should’s and should nots. The feeling of not belonging because I’m different, authentic, and have a tendency to question authority. Why would I want to love something that doesn’t love me and who I am now, at this very moment?

I haven’t been back to an organized church since I was vomited out of the church 10 years ago, like a putrid sickness that was contagious. I was beaten and battered, disgraced and shamed, unloved and unwanted because I was me, my authentic self. But isn’t the church supposed to love the unlovable, the different, the cynics, the skeptics, the gay, the drug addicts, the artists, the rebels, the outspoken, the homeless, and still others? That’s what I thought. Apparently, the church did not agree with me. I’m afraid to go back.

Now keep this in mind…I’m not bashing churches as a whole at all. I’m commenting on the ones that I’ve had personal experience with through the years. Yet still, I love God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in His all-consuming, graceful love for me and humanity. At times, I doubt it. How can He love someone like me? Is He even real? Is what I believe in even possible? Or is it all some odd fantasy cooked up by someone and we’ve all been fooled? I worry that I won’t live forever with Him. I’m scared that when I turn to dust, it’s just that….dust. Nothing. Finite. But Jesus says that with Him, we are everlasting, infinite.

I keep coming back to the same two questions…Does He really exist, and if so, Does He really love someone like me?

Traveling Back to My Roots

Tonight, I was reminded of why I write. Thanks, Ben. Ironically, the post on his blog had nothing to do with writing, but after reading that specific post and others on his blog, I felt like I was gulping fresh water after wandering in the arid desert for so long.

When I originally started blogging (many moons ago, and long before this particular blog), my only goal was to share my journey in art, faith, and life with others in the hopes that it might help even just one person struggling in their own journey.  In the past year or so, my train fell off the track. I became more concerned about how many people followed my blog, trying to seem professional, basically worried about my “image”.  I did things I’m not proud of and I wrote things I’m not proud of (most are deleted from here, so don’t go looking to start trouble).

Because I took the “image, self-focused” road, I lost interest in blogging. It became a chore, something that had to be done. It was no longer writing for the pure joy of it and the connection with you. Frankly, I’m ashamed and sad, for you and for me. We missed out on some authentic, honest time together and for that, I’m truly sorry.

My hope is to restore “The Skeptical Optimist” to its true roots…to a blog that shares my messy spirituality, my artistic journey,  and the musings of a skeptical optimist.  Let’s walk this well-worn bumpy road together, my friends….

Living an Authentic Life

Today I’ve been ruminating about my past. Not sure why…maybe it’s the holiday season. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been reading posts from Single Dad Laughing and a lot of them are piercing my heart. Maybe it’s that I’ve been remembering old times while writing my last few posts. Whatever the reason, here I am writing what’s on my mind to you.

My life hasn’t turned out the way I expected it to. Is that any big surprise? Does it ever work the way you expect or want it to go? As the quote goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men….” Seems appropriate, don’t you think? God must shake his head when He sees us plotting our course, having expectations, planning our future. What you expect usually isn’t what happens. Or so it is in my case.

I never thought I’d be where I am in life. I look back at the expectations I had for my life and very few of them have survived. I thought I would be married (I was), have children by age 30, have the white picket fence, have a well-meaning and influential career, involved in church, lots of friends, part of a mommy group, family vacations with my parents (all one happy group), and happy…always happy.

Instead, I’m divorced, in a same-sex relationship, not going to church (and tend to avoid it these days), no children at age 35, still just a secretary, working on building friendships, no family vacations (if you don’t count me and my partner), no mom’s groups, no white picket fence, struggling with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and unsettled.

Although I paint a dire picture, it’s not really…it’s just not what I expected or planned for myself. Sometimes it feels as though it’s a loss of dreams…a loss of what I wanted and expected my life to be at this age. Everything is different. Nothing is the same.

The hardest expectation that is broken is children. I watched the Bones season finale several months ago. Angela has been pregnant most of the season and on the finale, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. As I watched her labor, my heart swelled and broke. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I wistfully gazed at the shining boy. It is the dream I long for…I was born to be a mother. My heart aches when I see others so sweetly blessed. A mix of bittersweet and joy. When will it be my turn? Am I meant to be? I’ve raised many in my past that were not my own and I remember the comforting warmth of their body next to mine, the sweetness of their smell, the heaviness of them in my arms, the wonder of gazing into their clear eyes while their fingers wrapped around mine. It is a hole in my world. Something is missing in my life.

Yet, I’m blessed. I know I am. I have a partner who loves me, a family who loves me, a job that provides, true friends, cats who bring me laughter and smiles, doctors who work to bring me physical relief, a God who is always there by my side walking through my days with me, a house to live in, a garden to dig in, flowers that bloom, a sun that shines…what more could I ask for? I don’t need old expectations. They serve no purpose other than to be broken. Being present in true grace is all I need. Living here and now, always. I was always told by someone dear that I would not live the conventional life…how prophetic those words, more than he could ever know.

Dan has been talking about living an authentic life. You have to read his posts. The depth of love, courageousness, and strength are amazing. I can relate. Several years ago, I decided to live an authentic life. Never did I realize what it would cost me. Never did I realize what I would gain.

Are things perfect? Absolutely not. Nothing is perfect in life. But living authentically is the only way to live. Otherwise, your true self withers way until all that is left is a husk of who you once were or could be. That, my friends, is NOT a life worth living. To live an authentic lifestyle requires re-thinking the importance of life itself. It was, and is, challenging to say the least. However, I do know that when you live an authentic life (even in short bursts), you are living in a way that resonates with your inner being. You avoid connecting yourself with destructive habits, relationships or lifestyles. You are in touch with your real self.

From minute to minute, each day, you are the same “you.” People around you don’t have to guess who you are…they just know. At work, at play, at home, you are the same person. “Authentic self” means possessing inner strength. It also means living a life without manipulation, power plays, and hatred.

Being authentic means creating a path in front of you (and behind you) that feels spiritual and natural. Authenticity means you aren’t afraid of the truth. It also means that you deal with fear in a way that builds character and strengthens you instead of debilitating you. It is not an easy path. In fact, it’s one of the hardest choices I ever made. I have the scars to prove it.

But I’ve discovered that living authentically has created a peace and acceptance within myself. I am someone who lives outside the box, colors outside the lines, finds love in unexpected places, has a heart that is too big to be contained. And my life is lived as I am…as I was meant and continue to be, defying expectations and “normal.”

Are you living an authentic life? Tell me about it! If not, what’s stopping you?

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A Legacy of Love, Compassion, and Grace

My mother-in-law passed away on 5/12/12 at the age of 86. Her death was sudden and quite unexpected as we all used to always joke that she would outlive us all. But life has a way of showing you not to ever take anything for granted.

Her memorial service was this past Saturday and what a memorial service it was! Instead of a funeral, it was a celebration of an extraordinary life. I was in awe of how many lives she had touched personally and how many she had touched beyond her. It is a testament to her character.

As I wrote in a previous post, I regret not spending more time with her and asking questions about her German history. My intention was to write the story of her life during WWII and the Nazi regime. But apparently, there is more to the story than I realized at the time.

A native German from Bavaria, she lived through WWII and the Nazi regime in Germany. She was bombed out of her home three times and left homeless, with only the clothes on her back. She and her family scraped for food and stood in the long lines at the food banks, only to receive a ration of bread and potatoes. Often, their only meal of the day consisted of a boiled potato in water to make “soup.” She was accosted by United States soldiers in Germany who had rape on their minds but was “saved” by a General who happened to be driving by. She and her mother traveled secretively into Russia to visit their Uncle who was wounded in battle.  She swam over four miles in a lake on the dare of her friends for a case of champagne. She was engaged twice to men in Germany, both who died during the War, before she met the U.S. Airforce pilot who became her husband. She was a translator and researcher for the United States military for over 12 years. This was how she met her husband.

After she married, her first son died as an infant in Germany. She then immigrated with her husband to the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 1959. She proceeded to have three more children who are still living on the East Coast. She fought cancer, bravely trooped through the deaths of her husband, and many of her German friends, and so much more.

The events go on and on…yet never did you hear her complain, lament her past, say “woe is me,” or allow pity for her circumstances. There was a consistent theme during her memorial service – forgiveness, grace, compassion, and love. It didn’t matter who you were or what your circumstances were, she loved you and would give you a warm meal and the clothes off her back if that was what you needed. She had a gentle touch, a pure heart, and a giving spirit. I often think of 1 Corinthians 13, which is a Biblical passage usually read at weddings, when I think of her.

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

The Way of Love

1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.   Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

 But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Powerful words. This was her legacy. Person after person could describe the ways in which she loved them and was a light in their lives. This is not to say she was perfect. No one is perfect, as we all well know. But she lived her life with grace and bore truth to that grace.

Her story has become something larger than I ever imagined or knew. It is not only a story of her survival during WWII and the Nazi regime…it is a story of love. I may have missed my chance to tell only the German part of her story, but what I’ve gained is far beyond measure. I can now tell her full story of love, compassion, and grace. God held the story until it was complete. Until I could understand the entire scope of her life and what it means for those of us who are still here in this earthly world.

This is the story that I’m meant to write about her.