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David Hayward  (http://www.nakedpastor.com/ ) has done it again. He’s drawing a series of a woman…Sophia…who is finding her way. Today’s drawing hit me right in the solar plexus. It’s of Sophia before she escaped…imprisoned by the dictates of men using scripture to enslave her. It hit hard…it hit deep. And it coincides with a discussion amongst a group of women who are at different stages of finding their voices as women…as sexual beings…as the wonderful creatures they were meant to be.

I haven’t yet figured out how to post pictures or sound on here or I’d post David’s drawing as well as a sermon I gave on Mother’s Day several years ago. The Divine Feminine is important…no, it’s essential…to our spiritual growth. In negating the voice of women, men have also muted the feminine within them…and this creates an imbalance. Suppression of the feminine leaves us with only part of the equation. We need the balance. We’ve created feminine archetypes that are impotent except for childbearing and servitude and if a woman chooses to step out and exercise her gifts, she has to rely on the male archetype within her.

We need strong women…spiritually strong women…to raise strong sons and daughters. This will enable men to approach the spiritual on a deeper level. The masculine tends to lead with the intellect. Men need to be able to go beyond that. With out the feminine fully developed they struggle. Women need to be urged out of the role of servant and second class citizen. They need to be encouraged to develop ALL of their gifts. How many women know that God has told them to exercise these gifts only to have men tell them it’s not allowed…that if they were to venture out, they would be disobeying God? By silencing the women the men have denied a crucial part of themselves.

We all need to find our voices…the men as well as the women. Men…encourage your wives and your daughters. You’ll free yourselves. Women…stand tall and become all you can be. The sky is the limit. You don’t have to stay in a mold that men have said you must fit. In the Spirit we are equal. It’s time we lived it.

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Before I could write this segment, I had to purge my life of books and tapes and other things that stood for beliefs that no longer serve me. I no longer need to be taught or to teach things like “25 secrets to answered prayer”, “7 secrets of prosperity”, “The Gospel Way to Abundance”, “The Secret To Victorious Life”. Jesus taught us simply and clearly in “The Sermon On the Mount”….seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall follow after you…When you leave your nets to follow Him and truly put seeking the Kingdom in first place in your life…asking nothing…you will be taken care of. Joel Goldsmith says it’s like joining the military. From day #1 you, your family, your housing, your food, and your healthcare, are provided for. We don’t need a seminar or a book to tell us how to achieve them.

The presence I encounter is very real. It envelopes me…it comforts me. I find it most often in “The Silence”, but I’m aware that its always with me. I ask it for nothing …and I lack for nothing. I’m reluctant to call it God because the word God conjures up things in which I no longer believe. I like Goldsmith’s term “Infinite Invisible” or Andrew Greeley’s “Something Else Altogether”….I’ll probably stick to “the presence” for now. The presence and I are not wholly One yet…(we are, but have not yet manifest in my reality as one, yet)…our relationship is one of warmth, love, comfort, ease. This presence covers me in love…gives me wisdom when I need it. I welcome it’s company. Eventually we will manifest as One…and I will become complete. Until then I will cherish our visits…our time in the silence. This is what the Divine is to me…today’s version, at least.

Purification

I still have to write the final segment of “The Changing Face of God In My Life”…but something seems to have taken precedence. Now, we always thought that ridding  our lives  of Ouija boards, tarot cards, astrology books etc. was the cleaning up from our old lives that was necessary to live a *victorious life*. After writing the first segments of how I’ve viewed God along the way, I have a much bigger job to do. I have over thirty years worth of tapes, CD’s and books… all teaching false doctrine…many of them recordings of my own teachings. As my thinking has evolved, I  planned on giving them to someone who would use them …I had simply outgrown them, I thought. Putting my thoughts on paper, as well as reading some blog posts about Jesus, brought me to the conclusion that I can’t give someone teachings that are blatantly false. This week my daughter is on vacation and she will help me purge my belongings of those things that are contrary to my present beliefs. This is a huge step…much bigger than getting rid of the tarot cards. You see, these things seem *right*…they are talked about in churches every week and yet, they’ll lead someone astray much more readily than a book on seances. What’s worse, is that I taught these things for years…I ask forgiveness of any one I may have harmed by this teaching.

As the years went on, I was in and out of church membership but always seeking. About fifteen years ago, probably more, I read a book titled “Shall We Call God Mother?”…written by a Southern Baptist male. So, God became mother as well as Father. I explored the Divine feminine. I discovered that the Buddha healed several hundred years before Jesus. Hmmm…healing wasn’t just a gift for Christians. I knew the Holy Spirit lived in me but…God was generally external. Then I reached a point of despair…Father…Mother…Brother…all were short circuited by how those words were defined in my sub conscious.   And then I realized that the word God also short circuited into the definition of God given to me by my mother, grandmother and aunts. I needed a way out. I knew someone who went to a Religious Science church and I knew that the beliefs were based on cause and effect and they didn’t care what you called God. I went and began to redefine who/what the creator, maintainer, sustainer of the universe was. I realized I didn’t believe in the God in whom I was told to trust and I had to ferret out those false images from my subconscious.

The first class I took in the new church was “The Power of Decision” based on a book by the same name written by Raymond Charles Barker. I started to learn how the subconscious worked. Then I discovered Thomas Troward. In one of his books he poses the question “What is the natural state of a human being?” I almost answered “I’m a sinner saved by grace” until I realized that the natural state of a human being is that he is made in the image and likeness of God and that everything God is…man is. No, man isn’t God, but has all the same qualities as God. A cup of seawater isn’t the ocean, but tested in a lab they will show that they have the same qualities. That was a biggie. I studied for five years…I became a practitioner…now mind you, being a Religious Scientist doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. You can be a Christian or not…it’s the Science of Mind…originally based on the teachings of Jesus. I began ministerial studies and I left with a year to go. I had learned what I needed and it was time to put what I had learned into practice.

Along the way, I had become aware of a 20th century mystic named Joel Goldsmith. I had bought one of his books and it was waaaay over my head. I was in a resale shop one afternoon and there were two of his books,,,25 cents apiece…I couldn’t leave them there. They were on meditation…about going to God in contemplation of a question, ultimately going into the silence asking nothing…just with “your grace is sufficient…speak Lord, your servant hears.” Now, this was a huge one for me. I used to argue with Jesus about “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall follow…” I’d tell him I didn’t have the time to wait for things to manifest…the rent was due, I needed this, I wanted that, blah, blah, blah. But I followed Goldsmith’s instructions and it was wonderful…until I went backwards and took practitioner training, which is all about getting stuff. About six or seven years ago, after I left Religious Science, I got really serious about the Goldsmith material. And I flourished spiritually. In the midst of a lot of chaos…a body that hasn’t healed from a bad fall…not being able to work…losing my beautiful big apartment…I feel more content than I ever have in 71 years. The God that I have grown to know is different from anything I ever thought that God would be….gentle…all encompasing…ever present. A presence…not quite a feeling, but a knowing, a loving, a caring…indescribable, but that’s no surprise, because who can describe the infinite? He comes to me in the song of a bird…the purr of a cat…in wonderful music…in laughter, in company, in solitude. I can’t explain. All I know is that GOD IS and I AM.

During my twenties and most of my thirties, God was relegated to religion. I seldom went to church, so it wasn’t a matter that troubled me that much. I would engage in an intellectual conversation about the Divine, but I still hadn’t disconnected God from the Roman Catholic church and all its trappings. God, Mary, the Saints, were all lumped into the same heap. There was still the innate feeling that if I went to a church other than a Catholic one, I was doomed. The same went for the bible. So, other than a one time visit to a Baptist church, I basically stayed away. Then the whole “Chariots of the Gods” and “Space Ships of Ezekiel” thing came out and it required a bible to understand. At that time, I was living in a university community and everyone was reading the stuff. No one batted an eye when I went into the College Hill bookstore and bought a bible…not a usual thing in an Ivy league community, unless it was for a course. I read, but it was not with an eye to see truth, but one to see that scripture was written to explain scientific phenomena they couldn’t understand.

I still wanted a spiritual experience…they all came from God, I thought. I read tarot, I did astrology charts, I did other things which I now know were voodoo. Still no spiritual experience. Don’t know what I expected, but I knew I’d know it if I had it…little did I know. I think I was looking for a burning bush or a Damascus road experience and I eventually found some deep experiences…I’m glad I didn’t stop there.

In my late thirties, I had just gotten out of a bad long-term relationship…nothing was going right. I was in my car and I simply called out “God Help!” A week or so later, through a bizarre set of circumstances that I still can’t explain, a trip to the store to buy cleaning supplies found me two cities away in a Christian coffee-house where someone I knew was ministering. Life changed radically, from that moment on. I met the God of the bible…the legalistic one. I met the God of reaping and sowing…Jehovah…or as the faith preachers call Him…the God you make a deal with… everything was cause and effect…obedience. I also encountered healing first hand. I’d had systemic lupus for twenty-six years. I was healed and I began to exhibit healing gifts. Jehovah Rapha was well-known to me. I also learned about demons and the devil and hell and the Jesus of the sinners prayer.

From the beginning, I always questioned…who was Jesus? Who was he really? I was attracted to the mystics. I read Augustine and then found Merton…I found Rumi and hid the books…I inhaled scripture…I learned…but it was always through the lens of the old line Pentecostal church coupled with the faith message. I had the gospel according to Brother Hagin, Brother Copeland, Mike Murdock, Fred Price, with a little Marilyn Hickey thrown in. The healing was working fine for me…the prosperity wasn’t doing so well. I could pray a zillion dollars into your life but it seldom worked for me. Of course, the problem had to be with me. God wanted me to be rich…it was I who couldn’t receive it.

A few days ago, I challenged a group of people to write the gospel according to them…to share what God has and is doing in their lives. We have the stories of what God did eons ago…we need the stories of what God is doing right here and right now. My own “gospel” will be in more than one part…I’m not sure how many…but I need to start with what my beliefs in God have been at different stages of my life.

As a small child, I believed in the God my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother told me about. This was the God who made heaven and earth, who lived waaay up in the sky in heaven and also in all Catholic churches and in the wafer the priest raised at mass (I wasn’t old enough for communion yet). I had to be good or He wouldn’t like me…particularly if I was disobedient. We didn’t pray to Him…at least not most of the time. We prayed to our guardian angel(who reported directly to God), to the Blessed Mother…and to Jesus, particularly at Christmas when we went to the crèche and asked Baby Jesus for anything we wanted.

When I was six, I was sent to instructions for first communion…I didn’t go to Catholic school. God changed a bit and became really scary. We learned about hell and about purgatory. We learned almost straight up that, although we had nothing to do with it, going to anything but a Catholic school was a sin and our parents would be sent to hell for sending us elsewhere. Great stuff to be telling six-year olds. I learned that there were mortal sins and venial sins and that if you died with a mortal sin on your soul, you went straight to hell. I believed in this God until I was about fourteen. Along the way I learned that God had a system. There were indulgences that could counteract sin. Say certain prayers, do certain things, and you had favor with God. Again, God was seldom the person prayed to. Instead we prayed to the Blessed Mother and the saints for intercession. Strange, this God, looking back, but very real while you’re living it. Die while wearing a brown scapula and you go straight to heaven. Go to mass and communion on nine first Fridays or nine first Saturdays and heaven was yours. Pray to St. Jude for the impossible, St.Thomas Aquinis for school. St. Theresa sent you a rose when she answered your prayer. All of this was shmooshed together under the category of God.

When I was a teenager, I began to question…big time…and big time I learned to keep my mouth shut. I asked a priest, a former Army chaplain, a question during a catechism class…whoops…his face got red…he began to sputter… until he boomed BECAUSE THE HOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SAYS SO!!! That ended my questions …for then, at least. I didn’t go to college until I was twenty-one. One of the reasons was that I didn’t want to go to a Catholic college. This was pre-vatican II. My parents were dead set against me going to a Protestant school that would endanger my faith and besides, at some of them, part of commencement was held inside Protestant churches which were forbidden territory to Catholics. So I was twenty-one and still had questions I wanted answered. The Catholic chaplain at the university was known as the “Jazz Priest”. He had a syndicated column and was known world-wide. Suffice to say, I heard a lot of Brubeck and Ella and got no answers. And so it went. I drifted into intellectual agnosticism and stayed there for many years.

THE MOSQUE

“Mosque to be built at Ground Zero”, screamed the headlines. My first thought, like that of many others, was “that’s absurd, insensitive, and it needs to be stopped.” Within hours, the internet was crawling with articles spewing hate against Muslims, proclaiming that terrorists wanted to build a monument to their conquest. And here we are days later and the hatred just keeps on coming…and it’s coming from those who claim to be Christians. No-one seems to be bothered with such trivia as facts. They just keep spewing the hatred…declaring that the mosque will be a breeding ground for terrorists.

So… what are the facts?

The proposed mosque is not a mosque. It’s a community center which will have a place for prayer. The main thrust will be a culinary school and a gym. It will be open to ALL New Yorkers, not just the Muslim community. It’s the Muslim equivalent of the YMCA. Of course there will be a place for prayer. Muslims pray five times a day. If the facility is going to be staffed by Muslims, they must be accommodated. So now, the location. This particular group has been in that neighborhood for years…long before 9/11. And if you want to get technical, the lower East Side has been home to Muslim groups as far back as the late 19th century when there was a section known as “Little Syria”. As for it being at ground zero?  It’s several blocks away and can’t be seen from ground zero.

The Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, who I heard described this week as one of the most evil men in the world, is an American and a Sufi. Right now he’s on a goodwill tour in the east FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT! If there is anyone in the country who can promote goodwill between the Islamic countries and the U.S. it’s this man. To oppose him is to do the terrorists jobs for them. Sufis are Islamic mystics. Their lives are based on peace and love. Read Rumi’s poetry…read Kahlil Gibran…that’s how Sufis think.

The Christian Right is acting disgracefully both as Christians and Americans. The hatred is appalling. The disrespect for the constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, is totally un-American. What has happened to the Republican party? Yes, there were ideological differences between republicans and democrats. The republicans were led by the upper crust while the democrats were the working class…but they worked together for the good of the country once the election was over. There were no hate spewing leaders…particularly against fellow Americans. All of this dissent is just adding fuel to the fire for the terrorist groups. We need to stand together as one nation under God…whatever you choose to call that God…and even if you don’t believe in a God, we are still one nation. After the votes are counted, we have a country to run, not one to sabotage because we didn’t win. The “make-sure- Obama-fails ” crew is an outrage. And most of them say they are Christians. The bible says to pray for elected officials and that doesn’t mean to pray that they die…it means to pray that they are given Divine wisdom to carry out their task. This whole controversy about the mosque that isn’t a mosque is reflective of the current Republican mindset…and the current Republican mindset dishonors the generations that went before us.

At the end of the day, the whole mosque issue is none of our business…it’s between the Imam, his board, and the New York city council.