One God in Family Unity

God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit

Or, if you prefer non-gendered:
Creator
Redeemer
Sustainer

One God in Three Persons

But where, pray tell:
God the Mother
God the Daughter
God the Other

Or, if you prefer non-gendered:
Birther
Nourisher
Teacher

One God in Family Unity

Why so dense a theology?
Why so strained a philosophy?
To explain three in one, or more in one
When the family is there
God’s explanation
For all to see

Except that would mean
Recognizing
Worshipping
The divine feminine:

God the Mother
God the Father
God the Child

Holy Trinity
Holy Family
Whole

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Finding God in the Negative

I am used to the idea of “mountain-top” experiences, finding God in ecstasy and peace. But I often reject the downward experiences, despair and death, depression and disease (dis-ease, unease) as being anti-God, as being a sign of the devil’s work in this world.

And yet, didn’t God make us to experience the good and the bad, negative as well as positive emotions? Jesus prayed with something close to depression and despair in the Garden, Jesus called out to a God whom he could not feel close to him on the cross. Jesus was fully human as well as fully God, but he was without “original sin”. So those so-called negative emotions – Jesus’ feelings of depression and despair and desertion – are not just the result of “original sin” and the distortion of God’s good creation.

Doesn’t that means that I can find God in the negative as well as the positive? I can accept the negative as well as the positive. I do not have to find my way out of the negative to find God.

It was easy for me to recognize and treasure God’s presence at the time of my husband Gordon’s death. There was a timeliness even in the untimeliness; there were many, many small and large mercies; there was a peace that passes understanding, and there was gratitude for the life of a good man.

It was not easy for me to recognize and treasure God’s presence at the time of my unborn twin grandaughters’ death. And yet, when I read what I wrote at the time and later, when I consider what it has led me to become, to value, to release, to feel, then I know that God was there – not in any way that I wanted, but there.

God is there with me no less in my anger with Her than in my peace with Her. And I treasure that immensely.

So I love God for the peace that She blessed me with in Gordon’s life and death and I hate God for taking the twins from us before we had a chance to be blessed by their lives. I love Her for the Scripture and I hate Her for how messed up She is allowing this world to be. I love Her for all She has blessed me with and I hate Her for what She has withheld from me.

And, most of all, I love that She is OK with all of that. She does not ask me to have a peace that I don’t have. She doesn’t ask me to accept quietly Madeleine and Lorien’s deaths. She doesn’t ask me to stop fighting against Her. I don’t have to accept without questioning or rest quietly in Her peace. I don’t have to believe in order to teach, or have a faith that moves mountains in order to love Her Scripture and the fellowship of Her people. I don’t have to feel blessed and confident in troubles and problems and disease. I can be angry and resentful and I can yell at God just like I used to yell at Gordon when I was mad and frustrated, and God will keep on loving me just like Gordon kept on loving me. And, just like I kept on loving Gordon even when I was totally angry and frustrated with him, I can keep on loving God even when I am totally angry and frustrated with Her. It’s a mystery, but love and hate, peace and frustration, gratitude and anger are not incompatible opposites with God – at least not to me.

This, to me, is the most miraculous of all miracles – more miraculous than the creation, incarnation, resurrection, trinity – that I can find God’s love for me when I hate Her as much as when I love Her. “This is love, not that we love God, but that He [She] first loved us.”

History Beautiful and Terrible

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“When you step on this, you are stepping on history,” Woody said as we left the small screen room he built to one side of their Bremo house. Of course when we sit in the screen room we are sitting within history since Woody built it entirely from reclaimed lumber, some from an 1815 barn. But that stone that we step on outside the entrance? That was part of a lock on Thomas Jefferson’s canal that ran from Richmond to Lynchburg before the railroad filled it in and built the railroad line there.

And I stand on this stone, almost certainly put in its original place by enslaved people, as I leave the room timbered with beams almost certainly put in their original place by enslaved people.

Living in Two Worlds

A British psychiatrist once said, “We live in two worlds simultaneously, the internal and the external, and constantly confuse the two.” Or something close to that.

I think, similarly, we live in two worlds simultaneously, the eternal and the now, and constantly confuse the two.

Christ died to save our eternal lives.

Christ lived to show us how to live our best now lives.

The eternal is eternally taken care of, once and for all, once for all, by the cross and the empty tomb. Even if they be but symbols (as sometimes I think they are) what they are meant to symbolize is clear. Death has lost its sting.

But that does not mean that life has lost its challenge. We do not try to live the Beatitudes and the two great commandments to earn eternal life. Eternity is God’s business, not ours. And God has taken care it. We do not earn salvation like a Scouting badge. We are gifted salvation like a birthday present.

Ah, but holiness – now that is quite another thing. To be whole in the now. Wholly loving, wholly forgiving, wholly just, wholly confident of God.

That, now, is something we can work at, get better and worse and better again at. That is why I rewrite psalms, teach Sunday School, work for social justice, and pray.

That is why in eternity I will need neither faith nor hope but will live in Love.

What Was Jesus?

[I wrote this two years ago for a women’s retreat in Valdosta, Georgia.]

Was Jesus:

  • Wanted: I was taught that He was the Messiah the Jews were waiting for; so He must have been wanted, right? But Jews expected a hero-warrior-king. [Jeremiah 23:5: The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.] Romans wanted a puppet king (Herod); Mary wanted to marry Joseph and have kids after marriage. Nobody wanted or expected what happened.
  • Welcomed: Maybe He wasn’t what they expected, but since He was so much MORE than they expected, He was welcomed by them, right? But even His family doubted Him and tried to get Him to stop. [Mark 3:21 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’] In the (almost) end, He was so unwelcome that He was crucified.
  • A liberal or a conservative: Jesus is not our favorite brand of politician; He removed Himself and His kingdom from the politics of this world. [John 18:36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’]
  • A feminist or an anti-feminist: He is a salvation-ist; He did not come to elevate the status of women or to keep them subjugated. He came to save women – and men. Jesus’ ministry and His disciples included women; His parables included women (sweeping the house to find a lost coin), His miracles included women, women anointed Him with oil and tears, cried for Him as He carried His cross, stood at the foot of His cross, went to His tomb, and Mary Magdalene was the first to proclaim the good news of His resurrection. [John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.] But He cannot be called a feminist any more than He can be called a Democrat or Republican – BECAUSE THAT CONCEPT DID NOT EXIST THEN.
  • A social reformer: He did not come to make the world a better place. He came to remind us that this world is not our real home and destiny. [Luke 4:42-43 At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’] Jesus began a powerful social reform movement – one that continues to this day, including His “preferential option for the poor.” But that was not His purpose. His purpose was to deal with sin; social reform is an effect of Jesus’ mission, not His primary mission.
  • A religious reformer: He did not come to reform Judaism; He did not come to start a new religion; He came to tell us that God is with us right where we are; we don’t need religion. [Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’] Repent = metanoia = turn around: The kingdom of heaven is not with the High Priest in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem. The kingdom of heaven is all around you.
  • Christian: He was JEWISH! Matthew chapter 1 establishes Jesus as a Jew (descendant of Abraham) in the kingship line (descendant of David). He was raised, lived and died as a Jew.
  • The savior of the world: Jesus is the savior of individuals; of each person. He did not come to make the world great again, or whole again, or fair again – He came to bring individuals out of the world and into the kingdom of heaven. [Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’]
  • God’s Son: “Son of God” is a (confusing) way of describing God-incarnate; Jesus is God: teach third grade if you don’t get how confusing it really is. [John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.]
  • A man who lived 2,000 years ago: He was born 2,000 years ago; He lives TODAY!
  • The best advice columnist ever: He told us what the Law expected in order to make it clear that we will ALWAYS fail to earn salvation by keeping the law (as St. Paul, St. Augustine, Martin Luther and Nadia Bolz-Weber remind us). Salvation is ours only by “right” of grace: the righteousness of God freely given to us. [Luke 18: 26-27 Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’]
  • My best friend: I “get” my best friends; lots of times I don’t “get” Jesus and I certainly don’t like what He wants of me. My BFFs are pretty easy for me to understand and love. Jesus is full of contradictions. Once we get past the Christmas and Easter feel-good stories, and pay attention to His words and ministry, things can get pretty confusing. Mary couldn’t understand Him consistently, nor could Peter, Thomas, Paul – or even your pastor.

The truth is, I don’t know, from day to day, who Jesus is and will be to me. So I have to keep going back to hang out with Him – I have to keep reading the Bible – to make sure that I am not creating an idol whom I call Jesus.

Here’s what I know: I want to know the Jesus whom Thomas (yes, the one we call Doubting Thomas) knew and I want to respond to him as Thomas responded. Thomas only speaks 3 times in the gospels, all in the gospel of John:

  • John 11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
  • John 14:5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’
  • John 20:28 My lord and my God. (The only time in the Gospels that Jesus is called God.)

I want Jesus to be the person I live and die for; I want to follow Him; I want to acknowledge Him as lord of my life and as God. That’s what I want but, like St. Paul: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Romans 7: 15, 19)

Then my comfort, my peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), my blessed assurance is that I do not have to be consistent because God is consistent in His belief in me, His love for me, His salvation of me. As the old hymn says:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

My Own Blue Moon

“Once in a blue moon”…there is solid cloud cover in Charlottesville this morning so I cannot see the blue moon that weather mavens assure me is there, but I found something even better. Sometime last year, I began to conceive of the third person of the Trinity as not just Spirit but Female. I identified the third person of the Trinity with the feminine Wisdom in the book of Proverbs, and I began using “Lady Wisdom” often to refer to the third person. But although I felt this to be true and necessary, the traditionalist in me worried — when does insight become dangerous deviation? When does the personal give way to the idiosyncratic?

Then, this morning, frustrated in trying to see the blue moon but wide awake, I read this passage in Julian of Norwich’s Showings:

“For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and he keeps us in him. And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us. We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. And the Father is enclosed in us, the Son is enclosed in us, and the Holy Spirit is enclosed in us, almighty, all wisdom and goodness, one God…”

Sometimes it is a disappointment to discover that our thoughts and insights are not unique — and sometimes it is incredibly reassuring.

Praise God, Father Creator, Mother Wisdom, Brother Jesus.

Wherein I finally have some insight into living in the moment

In yoga this morning, as I started a seated forward bend, I got a bit impatient with myself because I couldn’t reach my feet. A few minutes later, as I let go of my impatience and relaxed into the pose (with the teacher’s gentle instruction), I felt my body sinking a bit lower and my index fingers encircle my big toes. Slowly I sat back up.

Later, in Warrior 1, I saw that the young person across from me had her thigh bent almost parallel to the floor. I remembered being able to do that and looked down ruefully at my own thigh, which was still closer to vertical than horizontal. I wanted to be able to do what I could once do. Instead, I focused over the head of the person across from me and let my body relax a little more into the pose. Not a lot, just micro-movements, but I focused on my own body.

Later still, during the final seated mindfulness time, I thought about those moments and I thought that my focus and goal cannot be to be as good as, or better than, I once was; and it cannot be to be as good as, or better than, anyone else. My only focus should be my body right then and there, as it is in that moment. To listen to it, to respect it, and to help it to move freely in that moment.

And then I thought, “I make that same kind of mistake with God.” I too often compare – how strong is my belief compared to what it once was, compared to someone else’s belief? How can I recapture a past certainty, a past peace, a past immersion in liturgy? How can I be as sure as others?

Instead I am going to try to sink into my relationship with God right at the moment I am praying. Just let it be, even if that is doubting God’s existence. Just letting the moment be enough, with whatever I can have of God right then. I’m not quite sure how exactly I will do that. Writing about it is part of helping myself to do that and trying to tell others is part of helping myself to do that.

Even though these words are a very poor reflection of the immediacy and impact of the insight in the moment I had it.