God

Who Cares If God is Male or Female?

imageRecently, 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.

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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 for our Lovers of Literature (LOL) book club, “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 by 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, trying to get my book club to change it’s mind and choose another book (even though I’m the one who suggested it in the first place). No such luck. I’m stuck with it. 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 vitrol, 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 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 (at the latest), 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 is 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 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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Another Blog? Are You Kidding? Nope, I'm Not.

Yes, I have issues…as any normal person would tell you. What’s my issue now? The fact that I started afourth blog. Yes, you heard me right…a fourth blog. I think I’m crazy. What’s the definition of insane? Not of a sound mind. That’s me! Over here! Waving my hand frantically!

Okay, I’m being silly, but it is a bit crazy that I’ve decided to start yet another blog. It’s called Warrior Child. It’s a blog that I had many years ago which I took down and put back, took down and put back up, took down….well you get the picture.

I’ve decided that it’s time to bring it back. Why, you ask? Good question. Pop on over to my new blog to read why. It explains it all. The blog is about living a very messy Christian faith – no holds barred, no detail unshared. It’s the guts of me.

This blog, Kat-Collins.com, is the “writerly” version of me…or more apt would be my journey specifically as a writer and all things to do with writing. Warrior Child is another side of me. And my memoir blog (hopefully to be a book one day), The Good Wife: Escaping the Shadows of Expectations, is yet another side of me.

As I say on Warrior Child, we are a multifaceted people and we each have a multitude of stories to share. A big part of mine is my journey through faith with God. As I wrote in my little “about blurb” on Warrior Child, I’m a writer and artist. I am someone who colors outside the lines, finds love in unexpected places, and has a heart that is too big to be contained. I believe in a God who doesn’t fit in a crate. And my life is lived as I am…as I was meant and continue to be, defying expectations and the idea of “normal.” I write on Warrior Child about living an authentic life. Real Christianity is messy, erratic, lopsided . . . and gloriously liberating.

Don’t believe me? Wait and see.

 

A Legacy of Love, Compassion, and Grace

My mother-in-law, Liselotte (Lilo for short) 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.

Lilo’s memorial service was this past Saturday (5/19/12) 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 the character of Lilo.

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 her story of her life during WWII and the Nazi regime. But apparently, there is more to the story than I realized at the time.

Lilo, a native German from Bavaria, 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.  Lilo 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, William. Lilo was a translator and researcher for the United States military for over 12 years. This was how she met her husband, William.

After she married, her first son died as an infant in Germany. She then immigrated with William 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, William, and many of her German friends, and so much more.

The events go on and on…yet never did you hear Lilo 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, Lilo 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 Lilo.

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 Lilo’s testimony and her legacy. Person after person could describe the ways in which Lilo 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 Lilo’s life and what it means for those of use who are still here in this earthly world.

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

The Queen, Forgiveness, and a Book Review

It’s not every day that I read a political and techno- thriller with an overarching theme of forgiveness running through it. This was my first Steven James novel and I was quite taken with it. It started a little bumpy as it took me a bit to get used to his style of writing. It also starts out slowly, but hang in there. Trust me, it’s worth it. It was a twisting plot with a surprising end. James delivered a multi-layered storytelling tour de force that not only delivers pulse-pounding suspense, but also deftly explores the rippling effects of the choices we make.

Story: While investigating a double homicide in an isolated northern Wisconsin town, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers uncovers a high-tech conspiracy that twists through long-buried Cold War secrets and targets present-day tensions in the Middle East.

The underlying theme is two-fold: At some point in life, a person you think you know well, can do something so out of character that you wonder if you truly do know them and what is forgiveness. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a fan of Christian novels. Even though I am a Christian, I tend to find them too saccharine, clichéd, and overt. I’ve never been one who believes in bashing someone over the head with religion, of any type or in any form. Yet, Steven James is considered a Christian writer and he’s won awards from some notable Christian organizations for his novels. To be honest? I had no idea he was a Christian writer when I first picked up this book, never would have guessed it reading the book (although I wondered), and if I had known I probably wouldn’t have read it. I’m so glad I didn’t know. The brilliance of knowing a higher power and finding forgiveness was superbly woven throughout the novel. The theme was subtle, and only enriched the pulse pounding thriller.

It made me think. And that’s not a bad thing.

I was struck by the theme of forgiveness. James asks some powerful questions that left me pondering long after I put the novel down. Enough so that it compelled me to write this post. What does forgiving mean? What would be different if I forgave someone? Tessa, Patrick Bower’s stepdaughter in the novel provides an intriguing thought (pardon the lack of page references, but it’s the downside of reading on a Kindle).

I’ve always thought that when you apologize it shouldn’t be for your own benefit, but for that of the other person. I don’t think you should ask someone to forgive you just so you can get something off your chest or quiet your guilty conscience. If an apology isn’t in the other person’s best interests, it’s not serving to reconcile anything. It’s just a subtle form of selfishness.

Tessa struggles with the depth of despair and hopelessness from shooting a man in self-defense. She can’t forget and she doesn’t feel she can forgive herself for committing a crime and ultimately, for feeling good that she shot him because he was trying to kill her. She feels that’s the ultimate sin, her millstone that she must bear. Bowers brings up the point that we run from the past and it chases us; we dive into urgency, but nothing deep is ultimately healed. Tessa is doing her best to avoid facing her fear and guilt. Self-forgiveness becomes the point. Yet, what is self-forgiveness?

It’s not just marginalizing the event or simply acknowledging the pain and then doing your best to ignore it. It has to be more than that or ‘self-forgiveness,’ if there even is such a thing, would just be a caustic form of denial. Tessa defiantly tests the psychotherapist who can’t find an answer or response for her. She puts her foot up on his glass coffee table and says, “If I break this thing, you can forgive the debt I owe you if you want, or you can make me pay for it, but how can I forgive myself for the debt that I owe you?” Self-forgiveness? It seems arrogant that someone could claim to have the power to cancel the debt that they owe God or another person. When you ask someone to forgive you, you’re really asking the other person to sacrifice for the benefit of the relationship. If Tessa would’ve shattered the doctor’s end table and he forgave her, he would’ve been the one to pay for it, the one to sacrifice. But what if you wrong yourself? We’re accountable to someone else besides ourselves. To God. Is it really an act of arrogance to be haunted by guilt? Or is it an act of humility, admitting that you weren’t living up to the standards you set for yourself?

It is possible to spend your entire life blaming yourself for this and that, feeling guilty because you did something and living in fear of the consequences of it. This way of living has you immobilized because you are dwelling in the past (the guilt and blame for what has been) and you cannot enjoy your future (for fear of the consequences of what has been). When you forgive yourself you let go of a part of yourself, the part that wants to keep you trapped inside a circle of blame, shame, guilt and fear. This part of you, which essentially is part of your ego, does not want you to be free of it because ego does not want to relinquish control. This viscous pattern of behavior has the ability to murder your spirit.

In the novel, Tessa shares with Amber a story she read in a Bible she stole from a hotel. Jesus is at a party eating supper when a woman, who is a prostitute and everyone thought was a terrible sinner, is weeping on his feet, pouring expensive perfume over them, and drying them with her hair. Jesus starts talking about how those who’ve been forgiven much love much. But those who haven’t been forgiven much – or don’t realize that they have – don’t end up expressing much love. Jesus says that the woman was forgiven because she loved much. You cannot freely give to the world that which you do not give to yourself. Just as you cannot truly love someone without first loving yourself, you cannot forgive someone without forgiving yourself. When you learn to forgive yourself then and only then will you be able to forgive others. Paradoxically though, when you learn to forgive yourself you will in turn find that you have nothing to forgive others for. But given the context, it should’ve been the other way around – that she loved much because she’d been forgiven much, because that’s what he just explained. So which comes first, forgiveness or love?

Neither. Both love and forgiveness follow something else – a confession of your sins and an acceptance of blood-bought grace. Jesus told the woman washing his feet, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” If you have to do penance or make amends, then it means the forgiveness wasn’t complete, right? If it was, there would be no need for them. If you can make up for the past, why would you need to be forgiven for it? Apart from forgiveness, can you think of any way of dealing with your past that doesn’t involve some form of denial or negotiation? “Mental compartmentalization, rationalization, justification, repression…all forms of denial or just different genres of excuses.” If you don’t find forgiveness, you’ll never end up with peace, just get lost in a maze of comforting excuses.

I think Steven James is on to something.

*Luke 7:36-50, NIV (Biblical reference)

To learn more about Steven James and his books, visit his website.

The Queen (Patrick Bowers Series #5) available at Amazon

This links to an affiliate program.

Published by Revell, 2011

ISBN-13: 9780800733032

Source: Bought Copy (see my Review Policy)

Rating: B+

Copyright © kld/klc for Kat’s Book Reviews. All rights reserved. (see Review Policy)