I Am God’s Beloved

October 10th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

I have been out-of-pocket, as I cared for my mother after a serious fall and hip surgery. This is the one thing I have written during this time where my attention has been so focused on being a caregiver, and it is inspired by Romans 12:1-2. Being the adult child and caregiver is tough, and these words–although originally written as a blessing for my husband at his birthday–have comforted me as well. I can use my creativity and love to heal any situation.

So can you!

-Jacqueline

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So here’s what I want you to do, so you might see God helping you—working in you and through you:

Take your everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing the gift of your life, which comes directly from God, is the best thing you can do for your life. Just fix your attention on God.

Feeling anxious? Fix your attention on God.

Feeling overwhelmed? Fix your attention on God.

Not sure what the next step is? Fix your attention on God.

Need to connect with others and support them? Fix your attention on God.

Ask yourself: What does God want of me in this moment? You’ll be changed from the inside out.

When we recognize what God wants from us, and quickly respond to it, we achieve peace. God always brings the best out of you, developing well-formed maturity in you. God never leaves you or wastes any experience you have. Everything can be used for God’s good—in your life and in the lives of others.

Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of God’s family. We were created with a purpose and with gifts. You have gifts! These must come into the world for God’s love and consciousness to be realized in you and in others. Be the person God created you to be and fully let your light shine—this is your spirituality. Let us be what we were made to be, without comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

You were made to be: a whole person, with a full and loving heart, with softness and kindness, creative and able to see things from all perspectives, intelligent, open to the moving of the Spirit, a seeker, one with eyes and heart open to awe, to be wise and understanding, a patient teacher, a good friend, a beloved partner, a nurturer, a parent, and the best damn hugger around.

You are loved and secure in that love. Loved by me. Loved by God. You are not alone, so stay connected to all of your sources of love, friendship, connection, and call.

I give you this mantra to hold as you journey towards greater personal authority, responsibility, and integrity (that place where who you believe yourself to be and the person you share with the world is in balance and the same):

I am God’s beloved.

Everyone my life connects with is God’s beloved.

I bring the fullness of my gifts into the world to honor God and myself.

I can meet any challenge because I meet it with my gifts and with love

#YesAllWomen

May 28th, 2014 § 10 Comments

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In 2007 I went through a year of dating pretty much any guy I could. I had been through a terrible break-up the Christmas before, so I wanted to get out there, date around, meet a lot of people and open myself up. In the end, I found myself saying “no thank you” to a lot of guys. Later, I could see that it was a year of the power of my own “No.” And I needed that after receiving a very powerful “no” myself.

I found these men through all sorts of ways, including online dating. One guy I met through Match.com was a chef, stated that he was close to his parents, and he lived north of me. He invited me to meet him at The Breakers in Palm Beach for brunch. It was a public place—and with a good friend knowing where and with whom I was meeting—off I went.

The first words out of his mouth were, “You’re prettier than I thought you would be.”

That comment set me on edge. Give a compliment. Don’t give a compliment. But whatever you do, please don’t put down in the midst of a compliment. It ruins it.

Let’s just say that the brunch went downhill from there. I am a pretty forthright person, but I also believe in the power of logic to let a guy down softly. I told him that I just did not see this going further than lunch because let’s face it, when would we ever see each other? He was all working nights at his restaurant, and I was all working days with hospice. His reply was that I would be spending a lot of time at his condo and vice versa. Well, at that point I had to cut him and his aspirations of ever seeing my abode off. He did not take it well. At. All.

There, in the restaurant, he went off on me. He called me a cow, and he told me that I was a pig for luring him out to pay for my lunch at such a nice restaurant. He told me that no man would ever want me. He told me that I deserved to be lonely the rest of my life. Seeing as he had already paid the bill, I calmly told him that I did not appreciate his demeanor and that it was time to go. My heart was racing as I got up to leave because I did not want him to see my car, but I also wanted to get the hell away from him. I let him go ahead of me in the valet, and standing there in front of strangers he yelled at me as he got in his car.

“You’re a real cunt; you know that?”

A little old lady in her brightly colored Palm Beach finest placed her wrinkled hand on my arm and leaned in to whisper, “Asshole.”

“Right there with you. I guess you could say the first date was also the last one!” I told her chuckling.

But I was not laughing really. Really I was scared. Really I was running down all the ways he had to contact me—anonymous email, phone number that on Caller ID showed my stepfather’s name, but not where I lived. He knew I worked for hospice. He could find me if he looked hard enough, even with just my first name. Shit.

Later that night I got an email from him telling me again what a bitch I was and how manipulated he felt by me into taking me to such a nice place to eat. He ranted on about how it was women like me that made him hate women for being the “greedy little bitches” we all proved to be. He told me that he thought that because I was a hospice chaplain I would have been different. He told me that he had half a mind to come and teach me a lesson. He also told me that I owed him over $200 for lunch, his gas money, and his time. I immediately blocked his email address. I also never replied, but I did talk to a friend about having her HUGE former football player/current cop male friend go deliver his money to him in pennies.

But mostly, I was scared shitless. I went over the whole conversation in my head again and again. I got a bad vibe from him (my good gut working…thank you very much!), and I had tried to just back away as politely as possible. I did nothing but reject him. Rejection alone was reason enough to call me every name in the book. He, obviously, needed to work on his own core and get some help. He was the one who had issues. But there I was trying to figure out what I did to provoke him. Where did I go wrong?

I was not thinking this because I deserved what he said. I was thinking this because I wanted to make sure it never happened again. But what defense did I have against flat out misogynistic unhealthy thinking?

In the hours following the killings in California the hashtag #YesAllWomen went viral in response to the “manifesto” of Elliot Rodger who committed these murders. No matter how we frame his mental health issues (and I for one am sick and tired of calling anyone who does something unthinkable “crazy”) and access to guns, we must also look deeply at the ways in which he spoke about women and his desire to annihilate us. As Sasha Weiss in the New Yorker points out, “reading his manifesto, you can make out, through the distortions of his raging mind, the outlines of mainstream American cultural values: Beauty and strength are rewarded. Women are prizes to be won, reflections of a man’s social capital.”

#YesAllWomen is a response to the ways ALL WOMEN are subjected to living in a rape culture. I have to be honest…I don’t want to live in a rape culture. I don’t even want to ADMIT that I live in a rape culture because having already been assaulted, I want to believe that it is in the past not in the present. That is my own denial. But we do, and I think the terrifying rise of bullying—including cyber bullying, publishing erotic photos of ex-girlfriends without their permission, taking photos up women’s skirts (which is not something the law protects us from), homophobia, hate mongering, teen suicide after social media bullying, etc.—speaks to this fact.

I also believe that shifting our language and understanding of God from male-centered to female-centered is part of how we create a cultural shift. As long as God is a man, then inherently what men do to participate in this rape culture is “blessed” by this male god. However, when we worship a female god—the Divine Feminine or Mother God—we begin to take away the ultimate power differential from men, i.e. that whatever they are doing they are doing at the behest of this male god. “It is God’s will.” “It is His will.” are banished from the lexicon and the praxis.

Some argue for a god who is simply neither male nor female, but a neutered god is still male in the minds and hearts of most. As Ntozake Shange writes, “we need a god who bleeds now whose wounds are not the end of anything.” In the Feminine Divine we find this god. A Mother who is giving birth, creating, sustaining at her very breast, and correcting her children so they might live fuller happier lives. We cannot change the course of history—and truly challenge violence against women and our culture of rape—without first changing how we speak about God and how we speak about God’s daughters in our houses of worship. #YesAllWomen is not enough. If you are attending a place of worship and women are denied full participation and leadership for any reason, even your house of worship is participating in this rape culture—and it is doing it with the full weight of “It is God’s will.”

I can hear some of you screaming at me right here, “But Jacqueline! Can’t we just agree to disagree? It is just how some people translate their holy texts and understand their religion. Should we not be tolerant of religious difference?”

Sure, we could get into all sorts of hermeneutical conversations about our holy texts. I would talk about how slavery is in the Bible and blessed. “Slaves obey your masters.” is an actual commandment. I would ask you if you would sit through a sermon calling upon good Christians to have slaves? I would ponder if you would tell the young women and children in sexual slavery to “obey?” I would ask you if that is why you do not participate in abolitionist activities, even though there are approximately 27 million slaves worldwide right this very minute?

And you would get uncomfortable and tell me it is just not the same thing.

But it is exactly the same thing. You cannot have male dominated spiritual practices and leadership without the subjugation of women. And the subjugation of women equals a rape culture. A rape culture equals women and children being used and seen as objects to possess. As former President Jimmy Carter put it: “The truth is that male religious leaders have had—and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.”*

But let’s have a different conversation. Think of the woman you most love in the world. Imagine her at the age of ten. Take her by the hand and lead her to the sofa. Look her in the eyes. Tell her how much you love her and want what is best for her. Now tell her that she deserves to be raped if she looks the “wrong” way. Now tell her that she deserves to grow up, go to college and graduate school, but that no matter what she does on the whole she will never earn as much as her male counterparts. Tell her that if she is murdered it will most likely be by someone she knows. Tell her that god loves her equally but, not really, because god favors boys over girls, penises over vaginas. Tell her that her contributions will always go through the filter of “for a girl.” Tell her god is really a man, and that she is not really made in his image. Tell her that in order to keep deserving to be loved she must be skinny, white, rich, submissive, and married.

Can you do that?

Yeah. Me neither.

#YesAllWomen points to the ramifications of the subjugation of women, but it does not get at the religious root cause. Women must stand up and refuse to participate in any spiritual or religious expression that requires their submission and spiritual authority to the men around them. Instead we must demand that our houses of worship be places of both respect and full participation for all persons. And the men who agree must renounce their own places of privilege and domination. We need to welcome Mother God into our worship. We need to venerate the feminine expressions of God. We need to proclaim from our pulpits and our pews that ALL women—skinny women, curvy women, white women, black women, brown women, straight women, gay women, bisexual women, transgender women, rich women, middle class women, poor women, educated women, and uneducated women—are holy. And when we do, we raise up not only the Woman but her children as well.

And who of us is not Her child?

*Jimmy Carter in The Age: “Losing my religion for equality.” July 15, 2009