Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: May 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Breaking the Limits - Beyond

This weekend I learned first-hand that I can do far more than I ever thought I could. Finding this out was very freeing and opened my eyes to a new whole world of possibilities, not anything specific, but a general question of, "What can I now do I didn't think I could before?" Limits were removed, labels fell away, and I saw myself anew.

Sunday afternoon I joined my roommate and her young adult group on a trip to Glen Eden Beach, south of Lincoln City. While people unloaded their bags around our chosen spot, I took my camera down to the shore to take pictures. I love photography. It is much like poetry. In both, you bring people's attention to beauty they might have missed. When I was satiated with that, I walked back up and joined a frisbee game a couple of people had going. I also love frisbee. It is so much fun! We were tossing it back and forth in a large circle which included a very skilled stranger who had joined us in the fun. Then someone came up with the bright idea of altering the game to ultimate frisbee. Ultimate frisbee, for those of you who don't know, is similar to football in that you want to get the frisbee to your team's goal. Like in basketball, you can only take two and a half steps until you have to throw to a teammate. There is no tackling.

Let me paint another picture for you. Me in the ninth grade. Actually, this probably goes for anytime from fifth grade on. I was not sports inclined- to say the least. I had low self-confidence which was convenient as it matched my low place on the social totem pole. I was the one slowing walking back and forth along the basketball court trailing behind the kids zipping back and forth. I did this because I had to, but I hated it. My mind was usually somewhere far away.

Slowly over the years, my youth group's softball games helped, I have become much more comfortable getting in the middle of a game and having fun doing it. Still, running up and down a HUGE field of sand did give me a half a moment of pause. But that was it. I hardly even noticed it, I just thought, "Fun!" This thought alone surprised me later when I realized how much I'd grown. But that wasn't the end of it. Soon after the game started, I helped my team of three get a goal. I was so excited! Then after a lot of running up and down the field, we were a little tired by this time, the other team got a goal. We were now tied. I then found myself near the goal racing to catch the white frisbee above me. Not only did I catch it, but when I caught it, I was within the two and a half steps of the goal. I leaped across the goal line and commenced jumped up and down wildly, shouting the whole time. A little thing for another person, a HUGE thing for me. I made a goal. Me! No longer am I inept at sports, but I can do it! Not only can I make the goal. But I can make the winning goal! I am that cool, I can play sports and love doing it! Bring it on!

The other thing I learned this weekend was not to underestimate the mountains I can climb. In this case, literally. My two friends, Sean and Julie, and I do a lot of hiking together. Yesterday was our first one of the season and our chosen path led up to Angel's Rest in the Columbia Gorge. The guidebook said it was a 1,400 feet ascent in 2.3 miles and then you backtrack that for the way down. That's a lot and I was nervouse. I had a dress rehearsal for a dance show the next day and didn't want to dance for two and a half hours on sore legs. But let me tell you, the climb wasn't that hard and it was worth it. Step by step, joy by joy, we walked the trail and enjoyed the magnificent view at the top. It would not have been my first choice to start the season with. I would have started with something simpler, not so challenging. But now I'm glad we started with this one because for the rest of the season, I'll look at the more challenging hikes and think, "No problem! We can do that!" We broke the my self-contained limits first thing out of the gate. It will make a difference for the rest of the year.

I don't tell you this just to share a neat adventure, though it was. These were limits I had placed on myself, which for me, also represents limits I put on myself in my life. Making that goal and climbing that viewpoint showed me the person I really am, the one God sees fully, who is so much bigger than who I see myself to be. I am sure this is true for all of us. We put so many limits on ourselves, even backed up with previous history. But don't let your past limit who you become now and in the future. You can still do things you never thought you could.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quaker Youth Book Project Submission Guidelines

"The Call for Submissions is now available and includes submission guidelines for writing and art and suggested topics and queries. All Friends ages 15-35 are invited to submit their creative work. Click here to get the full Call for Submissions as text and as a pdf download to share with your Friends meeting, church, youth group, community etc. or look at the guidelines below. Submissions are being accepted NOW and the final deadline is February 28th, 2009.

Click here to meet the editorial board -nine young adult Friends from all branches of the Religious Society of Friends and all over the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Kenya, Bolivia and Canada.

Note the new e-mail address for the project: quipyouthbook@gmail.com.
Stay tuned for writing and art workshop opportunities in the near future!"

Call for Submissions

The Quaker Youth Book Project of Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) will feature short, multilingual, non-fiction prose, poetry and visual art by international young Quakers, approximately between the ages of 15-35, from all branches of the Religious Society of Friends, including programmed, unprogrammed, conservative and evangelical traditions.

The creative work included will focus on the personal spiritual experiences, beliefs and identities of contemporary young Friends. We will actively engage the questions, concerns, joys and life transitions of teenage and young adult Friends and envision the book as both a resource for them and for monthly meetings and churches striving to understand and support the needs of their younger members. We aim to create a book that will spark discussion and dialogue, speak to and lift up growing youth movement, ministry and leadership in Quakerism, and act as a catalyst for growth and renewal within the Religious Society of Friends. The book will be edited by an editorial board of young adult Friends from all branches of the Society and all over the world.

The editorial board is interested in well-crafted pieces of writing and art, but above all we are interested in openness, sincerity and honesty, and are excited to hear what younger Friends have to say. For ideas or suggestions on what to write about, please see the suggested topics and questions on the reverse of this flyer.

Submission guidelines:

Friends ages 15-35 are invited to submit up to five pieces of writing and/or visual art. We encourage Friends to carefully select the works they submit. Membership in a Quaker meeting or church is not required.

Though the primary age range for this project is 15-35, we will also accept pieces from Friends who fall outside of that age range but identify as a teenage or young adult Friend.
All submissions should include the name, address, phone number, e-mail, and Friends affiliation of the writer and/or artist. A short, two sentence biography of the writer/artist is optional.
Prose, essays etc. should be approximately 200 to 2000 words, to a maximum of four typed pages. Handwritten pieces are also welcome. Poems should be a maximum of 100 lines.
Visual art such as paintings, collage, photographs, etc. should be submitted in their original form or as a digital scan or photograph with a minim
um quality of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Digitized images are preferred but not required. All original works of visual art will be returned to the artist after the selection process has been completed. Visual art will be reproduced in black and white in the book.

Friends are invited to submit written pieces in whatever language they feel most comfortable. The editorial board will be working with submissions primarily in English and Spanish, but we are confident we will be able to provide translation services for most languages spoken by Friends.
Submissions will be accepted until February 28h, 2009

Submissions should be sent to
quipyouthbook@gmail.com or mailed to:
Quaker Youth Book Project of QUIP
1216 Arch Street #2B
Philadelphia PA 19143

In some instances, editorial board members may also receive submissions and writing workshop leaders and others may collect submissions if they are in communication with an editorial board member or the project coordinator.

Contact Angelina Conti, project coordinator, with any and all questions at:

Suggested topics and questions to consider:

At its first meeting in April 2008, the editorial board developed a long list of questions for consideration and inspiration. Those questions are divided here into three sections, which may or may not be reflected structurally in the finished book. Given the diversity of the Religious Society of Friends, some of the questions may not apply or appeal to everyone. Feel free to write about any that interest you and ignore those that don’t. Also feel free to interpret them as you see fit, both in scope and medium. These are topics the editorial board is excited about, but please do not feel limited by them.

What it means to be a Friend in the wider world today: culture, technology, faith in practice
  • How does your faith inspire you to act within your own community and/or cultural context? With what concerns (environment, political issues, war, poverty, etc) does your faith compel you engage? When confronted with violence and injustice, how does your faith compel you to act?
  • How do you live faithfully in a society that may not share your values? How far will you go for what you believe? How are you working for change in your own community?
  • Are there ways in which you are using modern technology to express your faith or develop your faith community? Are there ways in which modern technology impedes your spiritual development, faithfulness or practice? If so, how?
  • How have you trespassed, and how have others trespassed against you? (See Mathew 6.12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” and “Perdónanos nuestras deudas, como también nosotros perdonamos a nuestros deudores.”)

Individual experience: mysticism, faith, conversion, prayer
  • How do you pray? How important is prayer in your life?
  • What role does worship play in your life and what does it look, sound and feel like when you worship with Friends? How do you choose who you worship with? How does worship bring you closer to the people you worship with?
  • What are some of your experiences of the Divine? How do you integrate visionary experiences with modern life?
  • How does God find and touch you? How have your experiences with the Divine/God/Jesus/Inner Light changed/saved/transformed you? How is God still working on you?
  • Describe your conversion experiences, or how you became a Friend. If you grew up a Friend, how have you come to identify as a Friend? Have you made a choice to do so?
  • What is your experience with discerning spiritual gifts, callings or vocations? How have you responded to your calling?
  • What role has faith played in the big decisions and changes (work, education, relocation, family) in your life? How does Quakerism relate to marriage in your society? How does your faith relate to your sexuality? How does your faith manifest in your daily life?
  • How do you listen for the Inner Voice? What does it sound like?

Where we are going as Friends?

  • What do you value about history of the Religious Society of Friends and how does that affect your faith today? How are you and your Friends’ community similar to and different from historical Friends?
  • What are your (positive, negative, or neutral) experiences with the diversity of Friends today? What have been your experiences with conflict, reconciliation, cooperation, and healing within your Friends’ communities and within the wider world of Friends?
  • What has been your experience of being a young person within the Religious Society of Friends? What are your hopes for the future role of young people within the Religious Society of Friends?
  • How do you relate to or partner with other local and global religious traditions?
  • How have friendships with both older and younger Friends affected your spiritual development? Do you make use of the organizational structures and individual Friends in your community (clearness committees, pastors, elders, accountability partners, spiritual advisors, trustees) in supporting you in times of change? How do you cultivate ministry work in your greater society?
  • What are your hopes for the future of the Religious Society of Friends?


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Truth About Sex

Yesterday morning I was sitting in a health classroom with a bunch of seventh graders, both boys and girls, watching a video called, “The Truth About Sex”. It made me sick. I felt like I had taken a bunch of toxins into my body and I wanted to spew them out. The students took in the same toxins but what made me want to scream and spit nails was that they have no idea what they heard was utterly not anything close to the truth. That video made me want to shut that movie off and have an open discussion with them about sex. With the prospect of talking about sex with middle schoolers, you can tell how angry I was! Not being the head teacher though, I couldn’t do it, but oh, how I wanted to!

The good part of the video, or the better part at least, was when they used the same tactic they used in my Driver’s Ed class to make us safe drivers, scare the hell out of them. They took people who were having unprotected sex to teen parents houses, to a health clinic to see pictures of sexually transmitted diseases, which they also showed, and to the pregnancy center to see if they were or were not pregnant. They weren’t pregnant but they were by this time very grateful to hear that. The girl asked immediately for birth control.

The part that infuriated me was the video took the stance that you all are going to have sex, it’s a part of the teenage years, so here is what to avoid. They never once encouraged them to wait, they never once told them there are lots of people who are still virgins and that it is a choice, and they never once talked about sex only within an intimate, long-term committed relationship. They also told them via interviews with teenage boys that guys just want sex. They don’t care about you, they just want it any way they can get it and will tell girls whatever they want to hear so they can have somewhere to “stick it”. After all, testosterone controls the sex drive and guys have a lot of it and girls don’t so guys are sex crazed maniacs, they “think about it all the time.” So basically, they told the guys it’s okay to let your sex drive run your life and it’s okay to only see girls as sexual objects. Then they told the girls that you aren’t supposed to want sex because you’re a girl and that guys only want sex. Can you see why I was INFURIATED?

Okay, girls? It is perfectly normal to want sex. It’s how we’re built. Our sexuality is a beautiful part of who we are. It shapes us and we can express our sexuality no matter what kind of relationship we’re in. Sex is a choice, not everyone is doing it, and it is a wise choice to wait until you are in a long-term and intimately committed relationship. For many, this means waiting to experience sex with another until marriage. Physical intimacy needs to be directly correlated with emotional intimacy. They develop together with sex and a life-commitment tied together. Sex is not a one night stand, it is something two people work at and enjoy together over time. A friend once told me that how good a kiss is, is directly proportional to how much you care about the person. Sex is much the same.

Guys? You have NOOOOO excuse for letting your sex drive run your life. Girls, and women, are not a place to stick it. We are people, not receptacles. And your choice of how far to go should NEVER be dependant on the woman. You need to have your own sexual limits and stick to them. Sex is for long-term commitments, not one-night-stands that will mean nothing to you in the morning besides the memory of a good orgasm. That is absolute shit and stinks to high heaven. You have no idea what you are doing to your soul. Sexuality is not just a physical sensation, your sexuality is deeply interconnected with your spirituality and emotions. One affects the other and especially at such a young age, you have no idea what you are getting into.

So though I am sure none of those kids who watched that video will read this blog, maybe someone else who needs to hear this will. And all you parents? Please, please, talk to your kids about this. They really are facing these issues a lot younger than you think, they need to hear from you for they are obviously not getting the right messages at school.

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A God Who Looks Like Me

Saturday night I went to go see LiveWire! up in Portland. I think the author interviews are my favorite. Being an author can be quite solitary at times so it’s always fun to hear about it from another’s point of view. It’s nice to know there are others living that life and working with the same kinds of things you are.

One of the interviews I found most intriguing was actually with a musician, not an author, who said something along the lines of there is no God or that he himself doesn’t believe in God. In light of what I’ve been discussing here and reading about, I found this very interesting. We have a view in our culture of God as a judge ready to smite anyone who may cross the line. He is the God of wrath, who looks at us with disgust unless he sees we have “accepted Christ into our hearts.” Even then, this God doesn’t see us who are still sinful, but Christ who is pure. And this world? Yeah, that going to crap too, the world is only going to get worse from here so just expect it. His wrath against the nations is coming soon! Hmm… I’d have to agree with the musician on this one. I don’t believe in this god either. I don’t think this god exists and I think it is FAR past time for the religious to realize this. You think I’m kidding? I’ve heard this all in church before, it’s incredibly, bewailing sad, the view people have of God. Because it is simply not true and these beliefs are abusing people’s souls. It turns them away from who God truly is.

God doesn’t see Jesus when he/she looks at us. She sees us. She sees the beautiful people she created, each unique and precious. We are not “covered up” by Jesus, Jesus helps bring God into clarity and helps us see who she is, not the other way around. And God, or Papa as I like to call her, is not waiting up there to smite us as soon as we do something wrong. She knows better than any human who we are and has far more compassion for us than we give to ourselves. Jesus himself said he came to give us life and life abundantly. Does that sound like a rule-laden life to you? In fact, I’m having a hard time remembering a time when Jesus made a point of following the rules. I don’t think he ever did. We do not follow the rules to get into heaven and avoid “God’s wrath”. When we are in relationship with God, we are also growing into life-giving relationships with others and with the earth. The rules are gone, life enters in.

I think if this young man had the view of God as loving, grace-giving, and compassionate, I think he would have had an easier time believing that God exists. I also think if our culture had the feminine and masculine divine balanced, more people like him would be able to talk to her. More people would be comfortable approaching her if they saw something besides a bolt of lightening in her hand.

To this end, I found the book I have previously mentioned I first saw at a conference in the Columbia Gorge during a workshop on the feminine divine. It’s called, “A God Who Looks Like Me: Discovering a Woman-Affirming Spirituality” by Patricia Lynn Reilly. I’m only a few chapters into it but would already highly recommend it. You can find it here at Amazon. I found it at my local library so you might be able to find a copy at yours as well. I will be using the book as blog fodder for a while as I think it has a lot of good things to say on this topic. I am looking forward to the conversations that will ensue.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Living Life - Paint Away!

One afternoon in my "Ministry To and With Adults" class at George Fox Seminary, a fellow student was showing us some group exercises we could use by actually having us do them. One of these "ice-breakers" was a rotational discussion. We were in two rows of facing chairs with three questions on the board. When you moved to the next chair, your partner picked a question to ask you and you got to answer for three uniterupted minutes. At one point in the exercise, I was seated across from our professor and before asking me her chosen question, she tweaked it a little into, "If you died tomorrow, what would regret not having done?" My answer surprised me but right out of my mouth bounded the reply, "Painting. I would regret not having painted." My answer haunted me. It was one of those unfiltered answers I know came from a deep place I still wanted to explore. So, in typical Sarah fashion, I went out and bought a set of acrylic paints, a table easel, some paintbrushes, and a book. No time like the present! Though a small group in another class was keeping me accountable to paint as one of my goals for the term, I only did a bit of it. I like to do things when they have a purpose behind them, something I will do with the art I create.

Since I have been getting into watercolors lately, my acrylics hadn't been taken out for some time until I thought of a gift for my friend's birthday. After much thought, I made some blank cards for her out of my photography portfolio. Then I thought it would be fun to paint a box for them to go into. Remembering I had a book on this topic, "Acrylic Decorative Painting", I pulled it out and started reading. The author told me all kinds of things about sealant, finish, brushstokes, and painting techniques. I was in seventh heaven and I'm still only half-way through! For a few days, I slowly added one layer after another to this blank wooden box, using new techniques I had learned the night before.

Though a beginner's piece, I cannot tell you how much fun I had painting it! It looks far better than what I would have expected of myself and the result pleased me. I am now really excited to paint some more and to see how much I can learn from my other books. (I have several on painting now.)

So let me ask you what my proffessor asked me. "If you died tomorrow, what would you regret not having done?" Now go do that thing or start working towards it. Don't put it off. Life can go quickly, don't waste this most precious of gifts. Live your life, really live it-whatever that means for you. No matter what.

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Exploring Life (and Dance) in Pants with Chains

This month our tap dancing troupe is getting ready for our show on May 31st. Part of the preparations is planning out and obtaining our costumes. To this end, my friend Jennifer who lives in Portland did us a favor by picking up some pants of various sizes at a store at the Lloyd Center they had on hold for us. Last night, I stopped by her condo to pick them up before going on to a meeting I had driven up for. After saying our hello's, she carefully raised her eyebrows and weighing every word with incredulity, asked me, "Sarah, have you SEEN these pants?!" "Yes, I have!!!" was my enthusiastic answer. "Ooookay" then after a moment of thought, "They do match your haircut."

When I got home, I tried them on and was actually rather surprised at how comfortable I felt wearing them. Think urban gangster meets Stomp meets short spiky hair and you may have an idea of what you would see if you saw me. All I need now is a black t-shirt with a big skull on it. Maybe I could wear that to meeting next week...

If you would have told me even a year ago when I was head to toe in red and black sparkles including a very short dress and fishnet tights with rhinestones, that I would look like this now, I would have believed you I think, but I also would have been extremely curious as to what happened between then and now. I think the feminine divine is to blame and in turn God. God put me up to it I'll say. Well, not really, but God certainly did help the process along. I think it also has to do with all the thought I have put in to someone's advice that I should enjoy my late twenties and not grow up so fast. I am seriously tempted to take a picture of me in these black and hot pink pants with zippers, buckles, and chains, along with my now very short and sometimes spikey hair and bring it with me when I next see them. Could be fun.

I tell you this because it illustrates the freedom I feel and live in as I've become more comfortable as me. I'm not so concerned with what other people think. I respect and would like the approval of people I trust, but if I have carefully thought something out, brought it up with Papa, and still believe I am right in my choice, I won't budge. I have come to a point where I've realized it is more important that God and I are happy with my life more than anyone else. Though the pants are not something I would wear as a regular part of my wardrobe, I am excited to own them. I think it also gives me pleasure to know I'm crossing lines, living outside the box which is precisely where I'm happiest. My friend Jennifer scanned through this blog while I was up there and she called me a "rabble rouser". That was one of the nicest compliments right up there with the "crazy" one I got two weeks ago.

For those who don't know me except for this blog, let me balance out this picture for you. Though the image of crazed feminist is quite funny to me, I'm pretty down to earth. After all, I live in the Northwest. You can usually find me during my non-working hours in jeans and a sweater walking with no umbrella through the rain, pulling out a recycling bin with a late in one hand headed toward a pub to get a microbrew for the other. And though I am deeply enjoying exploring this topic of the feminine divine among other topics with you, it is that, an exploration. I am learning how to incorporate this into how I live my life as I go as I am hoping you are as well. Perhaps that is why there is a lot of stories from my own life here. This blog is not just a theological discussion, but also voices the praxis of where the theology crosses and alters my own life.

We we're discussing blogs last night in a small discussion group I'm a part of. (The reason I was up in Portland.) Out of the five women, I was the only one who reads blogs or writes one. SInce we are studying the enneagram, (personality growth), my fellow "4" commented how I may be getting something out of this by sharing myself with you. I think there is something to that but I don't think that it's wrong. They didn't either. I'm the personality type that likes sharing things about my life. I'm also used to having my thoughts in print anyway and open for the world to read. Perhaps another posting will be on this dichotomy between a public and private life. But I write this because perhaps hearing my story helps you better recognize things in your own, or at least lets you know others are thinking about some of the same things you are whether we agree or not, chained pants among them. Have a great day!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

My Publishing Website

In addition to this blog, I run a website for my publishing company. There you can read past newsletters dating back to 2004. Each one has a story from my life with a point, much like my blog. You can also find poetry and devotional samples from the books. The address is www.SpiritWaterPublications.com. There is also a guest book to sign if you would like. Enjoy!


Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Journey into the Feminine Divine with Sue Monk Kidd

I want to talk to you a lot more about the Feminine Divine. To do this though, I first want to share with you how I became interested in this topic and how it has changed me.

It all started inocently enough. Sister Antoinette, a woman I enjoy visiting with out at Mt. Angel Abbey, suggested I read "The Secret Life of Bees". Having no idea what it was about, (how bees miraculously fly perhaps?), I didn't track it down. On top of that, with all of the reading, projects, and papers I had to complete before finishing my graduate degree, I didn't have a lot of time budgeted for extracurricular reading. However, I quickly learned God has a very different idea of the difference between extracurriclar reading and reading that is required.

I was house sitting in the fall for a professor/friend of mine up in Vancouver, Washington over Thanksgiving. Having many of the same intellectual and spiritual interests as I, which would make sense considering how many classes I had with her, I was really looking forward to having access to her personal library. Looking through her shelves, I came across her copy of "The Secret Life of Bees". I was soon enthralled with the story. It's about a white teenager who escapes from her physically abusive father and finds herself at the home of "the calendar sisters"-May, June, and August, three black women who worship the black Madonna. They raise bees and sell their honey, teaching the girl the business and helping her to heal along the way. I loved it, it was a fantastic story and it was my first foray into the feminine divine. I told the woman I was seeing for spiritual direction at the time about the book and she suggested I also read "The Mermaid Chair" and "The Dance of the Dissendant Daughter" both by the same author. I was still finishing my program so put I them off. God though, did not.

Right before Christmas, I was on my regular rounds of author tables and holiday bazaars. I love doing these for not only do I get to talk with the public about my books, but I also get to "talk shop" with the other authors, always one of our favorite parts of any fair or bazaar. Next to me was Dolores Dahl, one of my favorite poets who is also a dear friend. She was reading, you guessed it, "The Mermaid Chair"! Seeing my interest, she told she would mail it to me when finished. A few weeks later, the book showed up in my post office box with the note I could keep it. This book pissed me off. It's written well and reminds me a bit of the island my aunt lives on I love to spend time at, but it is about a woman's discovery of her deep femininity, creativity, and power within through having an affair with a monk. The monk part didn't bother me, neither did the sexual content, it was the possibility of divorce without caring for the other partner. A friend of mine was going through a divorce at the time so it was hitting too close to home for me. However, after reflection, I really appreciated this woman's discovery of her inner strength and her artistic expression.

Now I was intrigued. "The Dance of the Dissedant Daughter" was supposed to be the author's auto-biography. While talking with a friend nearly a year later, she told me she had a copy of a book in her car she had previously mentioned to me. When she handed the book to me, I was shocked, it was of course, "The Dance of the Dissedant Daughter". I think God knew I needed to read the two fiction books before delving into this one. This one, knocked my socks off and opened up a whole new world of truth and reality. This woman studied the feminine divine for herself after becoming fed up with the overwhelming male images in the Chrisitian church. I love being told a good story and thoroughly liked this one. Though from the perspective of a middle-aged woman, I still got a lot from it.

This book launched me into my own study of the feminine divine. Soon I was perusing books such as "History of the Goddess" and "Women Who Run with the Wolves". Online, I looked up sexuality, both for myself and in relation to my work as a spiritual director. The topic seemed to come up in conversations and being able to talk about what I was learning and sharing ideas with others was a gift. Then about a month ago, I was one of the speakers at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference where I attended a workshop on "The Feminine Divine". Sitting there in a lively discussion, I almost cried, it felt so good to hear other women use the word "Goddess" and exploring the beauty of upholding feminine images of God alongside the masculine ones so prominent in our culture. I also came away with another book to read. I don't have the title with me at the moment, but it will be fun to see how God brings it across my path just when I need to read it.

Shortly after reading Sue Monk Kidd's autobiography of her spiritual jounrney, I was cutting pears one Sunday morning when God asked me, "So what would I look like as a woman?" Caught off guard, I thought about Kidd's image of a wizened old woman, long white hair, wrinkled face and all. That didn't fit for me but then came an image that did. I told God, "You're a black woman." You tell it like it is, you're in a person's face with a strong voice. You're also gentle and wise, loving, and kind. You're someone a person can depend on. I know this is a gross over-exageration of a black woman but I hope upholding them as an image of God helps your irritation. Della Reese's character of Tess on Touched by an Angel also has a great influence here. As a person, Della Reese is someone I admire and respect. She reminds me of God. (Read her autobiography, it's wonderful!)

A few weeks after this, a friend who was auditting Spirituality and Suffering with me (I took it for fun) told me about this book called, "The Shack". The little she told me didn't sound that great until I KEPT hearing about it, again and again and again so I bought my own copy and settled on the couch one afternoon to read it. When I got to the part about Papa opening the cabin's door to Mack, I gasped audibly. The author, William P. Young, wrote God the Father as a black woman. Jesus was an Arab, and the Holy Spirit was an Asian woman. I LOVED it. The conversations Mack has with the three, especially with Papa have stayed with me ever since. As a person who loves spiritual images, Papa has become a very powerful one for me. She tells it like it is and speaks with Mack openly, with understanding and compassion. She is someone who is very approachable. I needed this image of God. I needed this Mother who understood my growth as a woman and who could help me in that, who dances around the kitchen listening to rock music that hasn't been written yet while stiring biscuit batter. Though God is not woman, or man, She/He gives us images, including personal images, that strengthen our bond and help us know God better. Even so, I know that no image, male, female, or any image from the natural world, can ever fully describe who God is. It all falls GROSSLY short of seeing the One we love fully. Still, I think the feminine divine certainly brings some missing pieces back into the picture.

Since we already dealt with the biblical issue, let me address another question I would expect to hear. "I have never heard of this in church. Are you still Christian?" The reason few have heard of this in church is because most western Christian churches still don't discuss female images of God. Femininity is still something that needs to be hidden and covered up in many communities. The more we hide and ignore the feminine images of God, the less we will honor those qualitites within ourselves. The same works the other way around, the more we hide our own femaleness, the more we ignore God. If you think you can know God while ignoring a part of your humanity, you are gravely mistaken. We cannot know God without accepting that of God within ourselves.

Because female images of God are mostly ignored at best, surpressed at worst, in many churches, those who embrace them live on the edges of the church, the fringe if you will. I am one of these. I am not happy with the rule-laden prevalant view of "living in faith". I would rather break the rules than keep them for they bind far too many people in a rigid world where God embraces you only if you meet certain standards of looks and behavior. This should not be so. The God I know loves EVERYBODY, even those who bash the rules over other people's heads as if to dent them into the shape they want. (By the way, this never really works. All it is doing is bashing that person's soul.)

I still consider myself a Christian in that I love God and I do believe Jesus is God and lived with us to show us what a relationship with God is like. I also believe God gives us freedom, real freedom, life without a rule list of do's and dont's, things to follow. If you are in relationship with God and letting God guide you, making choices together, (God respects our choices), you will also be living in right relationship with yourself, with others, and with the earth. Or I should say, you and I are in the process of living this way. Living a free life is a result of loving God. You don't follow the rules to be "approved" by God, God already loves us, everybody, male AND female.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Quote from Wess's Blog

I really appreciated this comment on Wess's blog by Makeesha and want to repost it here.

"This is an issue of “big feelings” for me. So hopefully I won’t get too crazy in my response. First, modesty is a good value IN SO FAR AS IT GOES. But too often, esp. in the christian world, we try to define what that means in specific terms without understanding and communicating that the specifics are societal.

And even worse, we promote modesty from the wrong angle. It becomes about the man instead of being about the woman. It becomes about acceptance from God based on what a woman wears. In other words, I should dress modestly because my body creates some sort of temptation. My body isn’t about me, my body is about the man, about society. It’s an object to be controlled and preached about from the pulpit. My body is scary and shameful because it causes others to sin. My breasts aren’t beautiful creations that have 2 purposes of sexual pleasure and providing food and bonding for my progeny - they are temptations. My shape is to be veiled because it’s bad, because it causes my brothers to stumble. I am the object. I am the sin. I am the receiver. These are the messages the church sends when dealing with this issue. Regardless of the intent, this is what many many women hear - for some, it creates shame that causes the woman to hide away, to cover, to follow the rules - for others it creates a shame that causes the woman to seek validation by uncovering.

I take issue with your friend’s attitude on so many levels but mostly I want to caution you as a mom of daughters quite a bit older than your itty bitty. Do not make this about society or the man. Make this about your daughter and her beautiful body created by God to be enjoyed and cherished. If you lift her up and talk to her about the person she wants to “put out there”, you likely won’t have any problems with issues of “modesty”. If from the beginning you teach her strength and self dignity and identity in Christ and promote healthy boundaries, she will make godly decisions about her own body.

As for “skin in church”, I think it’s a bit silly to be honest. If cleavage is causing the men in your church to have fits in their pants, then you need to be addressing why the men are oversexed, not why the women are showing cleavage. And then you lift up that woman with love and affirmation because it’s what she deserves, not to get her to wear a turtle neck.

** note: the “you” is generic"

Modesty - Breasts Included?

My fellow editorial board member, C. Wess Daniels, has opened a "five gallon bucket of worms" as Peggy put it with his blog post titled, "Modesty: Too Much Skin (At Church and Elsewhere)?", http://gatheringinlight.com/. Within a 24 hour period he had over 30 comments which inspired Peggy to call for a women's blogorama on the topic, see http://www.sillypoorgospel.blogspot.com/ for her posts. As I have a lot to say on this subject, I am going to break it up with this first post focussing on the feminine divine and women's breasts.

I start this conversation with the feminine divine because I think ignoring feminine images of God lies at the root of the problem of how we view women. If we honored and upheld feminine images of God as well as masculine ones, we would value women as human beings as much as we do men and women's bodies would not be something to just cover up while calling it "holy modesty." We would honor their bodies like artists painting or sculpting a nude.

For months I have been studying the feminine divine and sexuality. It has been extremely interesting and has opened up a whole new world of thought for me. God is so often referred to in the male pronoun but in our culture, rarely in the female. Why is that? If God is neither male nor female and both women and men are made in God's image, can we not use both sets of pronouns? If referring to God as Her bothers you, ask yourself why. Why does it bother you to see images of women as images of God? For centuries, women have been reffered to as the evil and sinful gender, the one's to be hidden and covered up. Not only does that do GREAT damage to women, but also to God for SHE is hidden and covered up as well. Through my own exploration of the feminine divine, I have found that by reclaiming God-transcendant and including the feminine, I feel powerful, connected with God in a whole new way, and more at home in my own skin. It is easier to believe I have "that of God within."

The few times I have mentioned this to others, I have heard several times, "Where is that in the Bible? That's not biblical!" Oh, my dear, yes it is! It is biblical. Though I am not usually one to back up what I believe with biblical texts, I will do so here so we can get through this question. Do you remember the story about the woman looking for her lost coin? The woman symbolized God looking for us! Jesus also refered to God in feminine terms when he compared God to a hen sheltering her chicks under her wings. There is also Sophia, the personification of wisdom who calls out in the streets. This is also an image of Jesus/God. And have you heard one of the Hebrew names for God, El Shaddai? El Shaddai means "the large breasted one". My question to you is, if one of the oldest names for God refers to breasts and we as women are supposed to cover them up, what does that mean for who God is? I don't mean that God has breasts, it's the metaphore of life and nuturarnce, but if God honors breasts, why don't we? These are just a smattering of God in feminine terms in the Bible, there are many more.

In Wess's blog, he quotes a woman, though doesn't agree with her, named Annie as saying in her blog:
"–there is a female feature we call breasts. they can also be referred to as “boobies,” or “the twins,” or “the rack,” or “jugs,” so on, so forth.
–most men find this particular feature interesting. tempting. and amazing.
–upon catching a glimpse of said feature (regardless of how much is actually exposed), it is likely for a man’s mind to go to places it shouldn’t.
–with above knowledge, women, you now are educated and have no excuse."

Excuse me? MEN have no excuse. Breasts are breasts! They are a part of our bodies and not something to be hidden away and covered up. There are cultures where women go around bare chested and it's normal. The reason men are so excited by breasts is because they are culturally conditioned to be so. Go back a hundred years and it was the ankles. Women did not show the ankles for it would excite the lusts of men. Are men so animalistic that they can't control themselves if they see a bit of bare flesh? What about all those times when you men take your shirts off? Are you not tempting us women to let our minds go where they should not? What a shitty double standard that is! We are not in control of YOUR behavior. YOUR behavior is YOUR choice and if you can't control yourself when I'm wearing a low cut shirt, than you have far more serious problems than you think.

When I reopened my publishing website,
http://www.spiritwaterpublications.com/, I recieved a comment on my guestbook I decided to leave on there. Here is what "Kay" wrote:

Dear Sarah, I came across your page while looking for a website for Rainbow West. You have a nice website, and a beautiful smile. May I make a suggestion as an older woman in the Lord? In your photo, you are wearing a top that comes very close to revealing more of your femininity than I think you intend. My husband and I work with teenage boys and they have shared with us that it's really hard for them to keep their hearts and minds pure when young women call attention to their bodies in any way that's the least bit suggestive. That doesn't mean you can't be "current", but I would encourage you to be mindful of showing too much skin or too much shape. We also work with young ladies and it's fun and exciting to see them be creative with today's fashion, yet do it in a way that truly brings honor and glory to the Lord. I hope you take this right and that the Lord uses it for His glory in your life. I also pray that He blesses you mightily! Love in Christ, Kay

This is what my friend Gene wrote nearly a year later:

The first thing I noticed was that the vast majority of those writing were female. So, I debated about adding my words. Then I came to the prudish comment about your attire in your staff photo and I wanted to hurl. People with their heads that far into the sand would attend an exhibit like "Body Worlds 3" and leave in disgust because the human body was shown in its entirety; rather than marvel at how fearsomely and awesomely we are made. This is the same attitude that covered the legs of the piano-forte so its "limbs" were not exposed. The site is fantastic! I am pleased to have made your acquaintance. "The cookie lady."

The other day I wore that shirt in question again and realized how high cut it really is for me now. I now have other shirts that look nice but go far lower and it was interesting to realize my change in perspecitive. I also now own and wear a two piece bathing suit which I bought as I became more comfortable in my body and I love going to the pool in it. I do not wear these things to "excite men". My body was not made for their pleasure. It was made for mine. I feel comfortbale and I like wearing low cut shirts when I feel like it. Deal with it. I am a woman and I am not to be "covered up" and "hidden" but I CHOOSE to honor my body by presenting it to myself, God, and others when I want to, in a way I like without thought to how it will affect men's oversexed drive.

Here in Oregon there is an event called "The Country Fair". I had heard about it for years so finally went for the first time last summer with a male friend of mine. To picture The Country Fair, think hippieville meets the woods meets Woodstock. It's AWESOME. It feels like you are transported to another world, as if you are visiting an EXTENSIVE village that has been there for decades, everything is so intertwined into the trees and branches and medows. It is a sight to see you will never forget. There are so many amazing sights. Part of the culture at The Country Fair are painted chests. Many women walk around with beautifully painted bodies, bare breasts included. It's perfectly normal and you just accept that this is the way it is. I LOVED it. While I chose to wear my shirt, I appreciated the open sexuality and pride in their bodies these women exhibited. You may be asking at this point about my male friend. What was his reaction? As far as I could tell, it was very similar to my own. I am sure he appreciated their bodies as I did, but he was wasn't staring after them, they were just another face in the crowd. Modestly is such a cultural thing. In Europe, they are much more accepting of the nude human body than we are here in America. For such a sex-crazed culture, we certainly don't talk about sexuality much or are very accepting of our bodies. Personally, I prefer a culture more like The Country Fair where bodies are seen as art and not just sexual objects. While sexuality is a part of who we are, we ARE sexual beings after all, it does not define the whole of who we are. Just as breasts are involved in sexuality but are not JUST sexual.

I will conclude this portion of the conversation by saying I do believe in wearing clothing, in blending in with the surrounding culture, but I am going to choose what I wear by how I want to be presented, by what I want to say about myself, and by what I feel comfortable in. It is not your choice. It is mine. Breasts included.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Its... Its... LiveWire! Radio Show!

Every morning this week I have walked by a set of open doors with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting around me. I love this smell and it has been a great reminder of the verse, "His mercies are new every morning." In the original language, these words allude to the baking of bread every morning that would be eaten duing the day. It is a lovely, beautiful smell to start my morning with. In my life, a lot of things seem to be coming into being all at once like several loaves of bread being served up out of the oven at once. There are many new paths to take, many new things to enjoy. So much so, that I feel like I am entering into a new chapter in my life, not because of any major life change, but I can hear the music going into a new and rather surprising movement. I like it, it is filled with many of the things I have wanted to do in my life but wasn't sure how they would come about. It is quite exciting even as as they come with a long list of "To Do's".

In the midst of all this, God, or Papa as I have come to call Her, (See "The Shack" by William P. Young - www.TheShackBook.com. That's another post), has brought things into my life that feed my love to laugh and to make others laugh in turn. The biggest one of these is a live radio show called LiveWire! Their tagline is "Variety for the eyes, vaudville for the mind." And they certainly deliver. I discovered this show through an actress I know, also incredible, who is in many of the comedy sketches they perform. For months I had been wanting to check it out but until April, I had been unable to attend their show. Then, in late March, I heard some of their broadcast before I headed in to see a play at the Salem Repretory Theatre, my favorite theatre troupe. What I heard made me laugh so hard that I knew I had to see this show in person. So for April, I made it a priority, bought the ticket, and made plans to go after attending my niece's second birthday party in Portland, Oregon. (Portland is where they record the show in front of the live audience.) I knew the general area around the Aladin Theatre so had little trouble finding a place to park and easily saw the line stretching around the block to get in. Once in this old style theatre, I found a seat near the front, (usually my favorite place in any theatre), next to someone who turned out to be the author they were interviewing that night. I was excited. I knew this was going to be good and just the sort of thing I loved. From the beginning, with music, interesting interviews, comedy, and audience participation, I was in my element. If I had tried, I could not have created something more lively or entertaining. I think I was laughing most of the time, it was SOOOO funny!

The interview with the author was one of my favorite parts as she said many things I took to heart such as, "If you can't marry money, don't marry insecurity." What she meant by this was don't marry someone who is not supportive of your work as a musician, artist, writer, dancer, or whatnot. Marry someone who will encourage you, believe in you, and encourage your creativity. As a single artist in my late twenties, this was fantastic advice. I think I will always remember it. She was someone who wrote hugely succesful science fiction books starting in the 50's and 60's continuing into today and raised a family when doing both was unheard of. She said in those days, you usually had books or kids, not both, and they came from the same place. As an author myself, I knew exactly what she meant. Being an author of a published book is like having a kid and writing and publishing it is like giving birth. It is a common metaphor within the author circuit. During intermission, I asked her how she did it, published books and raised a family at the same time? She told me her husband had been incredibly supportive by sharing in the taking care of the kids and the house so she would have time to write. It was so nice to know both could indeed be done. I think there are many artists out there with kids and it does take a supportive spouse and/or community aruond them that values their art and works in partnership with them. If I ever marry, that is is a quality I'll be looking for. My art is incredibally important to me and vital to who I am as a person.

So as an artist, I loved the creative elements of LiveWire! It's a fun show led by lots of very creative and fun people. I would highly recomend it to anyone who loves to laugh, is open to all types of expression, and can enjoy irreverence in the good humor in which it is written and performed.

The day after their show I looked up their website, www.LiveWireRadio.com, and listened to their podcasts of previous shows while I worked on a quilt a woman in California commissioned me to make. I must admit, I spent most of that Sunday afternoon in laughter. Even their interviews are both interesting and filled with humor. At a time when so much is going on in my life and it feels like I always have a long list of things to get done, laughter is a wonderful and delightful release. No matter how many times I listen to those shows, they still make me grin and laugh. I highly reccomend them, especially if you live outside the area and can't go see a live recording.

So thank you LiveWire! for doing what you do, you have brought a lot of laughter and joy into the lives of many including my own. I already have plans to see the May 17th show and am looking forward to going again, and again, and again... You made a fan out of me!

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

More Pictures

Here are the long promised photos from North Carolina. I'm going to look into finding a site I can put more onto and will let you know if I do. I have also written about the trip and posted some pictures on my writing website, www.SpiritWaterPublications.com under the May newsletter.


Israel Independence Day

Sometimes open worship is hard for me to sit still in, I want to MOVE!!! I will openly admit, this does detract from my being a good Quaker. Recently I was putting on some perfume and a fellow Quaker asked me, “You weren’t raised a Quaker, were you?” I confirmed this and she responded many Quakers don’t wear perfume at conferences because so many people have medical problems with the scents. I don’t know how many wear perfume at home but I thought this quite funny- that someone could tell I was not raised a Quaker by the small habits I do within my day. So I will tell you, there are things I do and believe that deviate from “historical Quakerism”. On top of that, being a Quaker is only a part of my life, it does not define who I am or my spirituality. It is an ingredient among others.

For example, back to open worship this morning, I wanted to stretch out my arms and legs, I wanted to play, I wanted to worship God with my body! This morning was one of those mornings. I wiggled, I tapped my feet, I shifted, I looked around, I thought about all the things that are swirling around in my life and I looked at the clock, several times. One person spoke about how worship was work and sometimes she didn’t want to do it. I was appropriately chastised, (though I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way), but it didn’t help my wiggles. Worshipping was not the problem. Sitting still the whole time was my difficulty. Being inside was hard. I thought about going to the art table and painting something but wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. What I really wanted to do was dance!

At five till twelve, we ended it, I made my announcement about the upcoming writer’s night, and I was out of there like a shot out of a cannon. My destination as I raced through the town was the Jewish temple I attend. (Another large ingrediant.) I had told my friend, Stacey, earlier that morning I would meet her there to show her the quilt I had just finished and join her for Israeli dancing as it is Israeli’s Independence Day. When I got there, I showed her the quilt first then we walked over to where people were eating lunch outside and drinking strawberry lemonades. They had already set up a speaker and cordless microphone for the music. While Stacey put on the microphone, I talked with her sister-in-law and parents-in-law, all fantastic people I am blessed to know.

We started first with “Mayim”, a song about water, quite appropriate since it is a beautiful blue sky afternoon. It was so fun to finally MOVE! We danced with grapevines, trachezias, kicks, claps, and shouts! Sometimes we snapped, sometimes we wiggled our toushies, but all of the time, we had fun! We were joyful! Some of my favorites are Yo-Ya and Zodiac. Stacey and I had turned Zodiac into a tap dancing duet last year and performed it at the World Beat Festival. It has always since been one of my favorites.

I enjoy my Quaker meeting, I do. That is why I go. They are the place I am growing out of. But quite frankly, they can be a quiet, subdued bunch and I am much more outgoing, even flamboyant. That is why I was surprised to discover on my recent travels that Quakers in general, are touchy-feely. My meeting is not touchy-feely. Judaism tends to be more robust, more gregarious, more joy-filled. At least where you can see it. So my meeting may be where I'm planted, but my branches are reaching out to many places. I feel quite at home at temple with my fellow Jews and this afternoon was a wonderful reminder of why. I value both Quakerism and Judiasm and hold them in each hand, not letting one overshadow the other, but living in paradoxical tandem. After all, truth is often found it the tension between two other truths. This, I know to be true as I worship God in silence and in dance.

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