What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Masculine-only Language for God and Rape Culture


I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, with excitement at the possibility of witnessing the first woman in history to become an American president. But I do like what Trump has inadvertently done for women lately. He has made public what is often a private and shame-filled event: the invasion of a woman’s body and person, used as an object of gratification and domination. Conversation is happening that is potentially healing for women and enlightening for men.

My husband courageously wrote today on Facebook about his own journey of realizing that sexual aggression toward women is not about his own moral purity, but about the worth and value of women. He was responding to his colleague’s story of verbal sexual aggression–in church–from a man toward her, just two weeks ago.

My husband writes:  “It took me years to realize that such aggression is embedded in the male culture in which I participated daily at school, work and church. I cannot begin here to unravel that culture but I know that we very much need to do it. And I think we can use Trump’s aggression as a point to begin the discussion. We need men to own their culture and the actions it helps to create. We need to call sexism what it is–abhorrent.”

Sexism is multi-faceted, but we can start with the simple integrity of a human being’s body. Human being? Women are human, and the truth and meaning of that fact needs exploration. Having this discussion with men is healthy. Though they may not want to talk about it, men understand masculinity/machismo culture better than women. When they name it and expose it, its power to control men and women, and boys and girls, decreases. And having discussions about sexual assault with Christian men is healthy, too, because sexism is rampant in the church. (See one man’s articulate rant here).

Masculine-only language for God embeds sexism into the pews, and brings into question the worth of girls and women. On any given Sunday morning around the world, women will walk into a church service where Jesus is Bridegroom, God is Father, and “This is my Father’s World.” Virginia Ramey Mollenkott writes about this language rut: “…because God is husband-like, husbands are godlike. Because God is fatherlike, fathers are godlike. The stage is set for exploitation of girls and women.”

But she continues, “The chances for exploitation are severely curtailed if we go further and recognize the biblical images that say God is womanlike and motherlike, so that women and mothers are in turn godlike.”

Then maybe we will all see the imago dei, the image of God, more clearly in women, and yes, in their very bodies. Could breasts and vagina and curvy hips have anything to do with God? Yes, because women reflect God as much as any one with a penis and broad shoulders walking around (Gen. 1:27).

Like Jesus told Saul when he was jailing and murdering early Christians, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4), Jesus is also asking sexist men, “Why do you continue to assault, abuse, and treat me like an item on a shelf?”

“But Jesus wasn’t a woman!” you may be thinking. Saul persecuted women as well as men (Acts 8:3). The risen Spirit of Jesus didn’t differentiate between them when he stopped Saul on the road to Damascus.

I wonder why not? Doesn’t gender and gender hierarchy matter to Jesus? Not in my reading of the gospels.

Christian men would do well to emulate Jesus, perhaps the only perfectly secure male in history. He didn’t hesitate to talk about God as a woman who lost a coin (Luke 15:8-10), or to compare himself with a hen longing to gather her chicks under wing (Luke 10:34). He gave the Holy Spirit the role of a birthing woman (John 3:5), and indicated that he saw he and his disciples as experiencing the pains of a woman in labor, as Jesus died on the cross (V. Ramey-Mollenkott; John 16:21, 17:1).

Jesus’ many uplifting interactions with women in a patriarchal culture showed the world throughout history how men should relate to women and think about them: as human beings who look like God as much as men do. So, if Jesus went to church in North America in the 21st century, I think He would freely call God “Mother” as well as “Father,”  to show us that God made women in Her image, too–body and soul.



Wisdom as Woman, God as Mother


A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if Wisdom, in Proverbs chapter 8 (also chs. 1 and 9), is the Holy Spirit. The word for Spirit in Hebrew and Aramaic, Ruah, is feminine. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the word wisdom is Sophia, a word with a feminine ending. In the Hebrew language, wisdom, Chokhmah, also has a feminine ending. And Wisdom is clearly a woman in Proverbs.

So it’s a good question, and motivated me to do some investigating.

The passage about personified Wisdom in Proverbs 8 is controversial. Just who is this Wisdom who was with God at the beginning?

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was given birth…” (Prov. 8:22-25, TNIV).

Many have been reminded of Christ by the passage, due to certain descriptions of Jesus in the New Testament. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Paul, in Col. 1:15, writes, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
The writer of Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
Jesus himself mentions wisdom in feminine terms, in Matt. 11:19: “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (TNIV). Perhaps Jesus was thinking of himself, but we know that the idea of wisdom as feminine lingered into New Testament times and that Jesus was comfortable with it.
My Zondervan TNIV Study Bible says wisdom is God in the Matthew 11:19 passage. Go figure, as they don’t see Wisdom as God in Proverbs.
I agree with them on that point, as Jesus differs from Wisdom in that Jesus is God, as well as with God, in these New Testament passages, but Wisdom is something that is needed and esteemed, but not God, in Proverbs 8 and throughout the book. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6).
Interestingly though, if “given birth” is the chosen meaning for the Hebrew word there, as it is in the TNIV, God has a mother relationship to Wisdom.
However, it is likely that Wisdom is Wisdom, not specifically a member of the Trinity. Personification is a literary technique. The writer of Proverbs took an abstract quality that he is praising, and turned it into a person because it worked for his prose.
But Wisdom is personified as a female person, not a male one. Why is Wisdom a woman, especially in a patriarchal culture, and in a book that is often deliberately from a male point of view?
Wisdom is also portrayed as a woman in Ecclesiasticus 24 and in Wisdom of Solomon 6-8. (Note that Luther published the apocrypha as an “intertestamental section” in his Bible in 1534. And Lutheran and Anglican lectionaries include readings from the apocrypha.) The apocryphal literature is evidence that Wisdom was likely commonly seen as a woman.
Egyptians saw wisdom as a woman, too. The ancient Hebrews were influenced by the cultures around them, including Egyptian culture, out of which they emerged in the exodus from Egypt. Perhaps they were just borrowing an idea.
The predominant view among scholars, now, is that Woman Wisdom in Proverbs is a stand-in for The Queen of Heaven, mentioned in Jeremiah 7:18 and Jeremiah 44:15-26. Kind of a remnant from the old goddess religion of the Asherah pole.
Ah, so here there may be a viable clue about Wisdom as Woman. As a holdover from the worship of a goddess, which was a frequent temptation over the worship of an invisible God, we can speculate that Wisdom fulfilled the need to access the feminine in the ancient Israelites’ image of God, which had more of a masculine bent at that time, at least from what we know from the Biblical writers.
We can find this need fulfilled in Catholicism. Protestants complain about “Mary-worship,” but most Catholics will disagree that they worship Mary. Rather they “call her blessed” as is Biblical (Luke 1:46-55). They see her as having a special status in relationship to Jesus. And sometimes that does veer off into such veneration that it seems, from a Protestant point-of-view, to be worship.
Catholics generally do not call God Mother, just like most Protestants. But that’s my argument: the need to relate to the feminine in God and God’s image in the feminine is going to emerge, eventually. There are several books on Sophia as a kind of goddess, by writers who intuit the forgotten feminine within God, but do not feel they have permission to call God “Mother” within traditional Christianity.
For the ancient Israelites, the need for the feminine in the nature of God emerged as Woman Wisdom in Proverbs and apocryphal literature, as they turned their backs on the goddess religions of their neighbors.
What do you think? Who is Woman Wisdom in Proverbs, and why is she there?

Mother God Disguised as a Child


I called on three Athena-like prayer warriors via email, after Marshall’s PTSD symptoms re-emerged with bunny Acorn’s death.

Soon after, Marshall was peaceful again, happy with being mayor of Animal Crossing on his Nintendo.

Yesterday, he went to hippotherapy and music therapy. He learned to groom a horse and got a piano lesson. The therapies are creative, life-giving, healing, an ointment from Mother God our Creator-Healer.

Marshall’s told me more stories lately, while rocking on the rocking chair and resting his face on the back cushion. How all of S.’s ToonTastic characters (Pin, Fiery, Plummy, etc.) would meet a Marshall character she created and call him a jerk and other names. How S.’s posse on the playground circled him one time while S. kicked him, and how a tall boy said to him, “This group is for brutes only; wimps can’t join.”

And how there was a group of kind girls who invited him to their club. And there were gentle boys too who befriended him who weren’t a part of S.’s group. He felt protected when he was in the group of girls.

Where were the grown-ups? Where was Mother God? Where was I, his mother?

I have wondered lately if Mother God feels the pain I do, over what happened to Marshall.

Lauren Winner writes about rarely considered metaphors for God. In her chapter about God as a laboring woman, she writes, “In their darkest hour, the exiles wondered, ‘God, where are you?’ In His final hour Jesus cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In the image of the laboring woman we see that God does not respond with silence. God groans, gasps, and pants–making a new way for exiles, breathing life into the whole of creation, offering God’s body to be broken open for the sake of the world God created.”

It makes sense that God is capable of a great range of emotions like Her creation, and able to express those feelings. How odd it would be for a Spock-like God to make beings with a capacity for feelings, when She had none! I think we all intuit that though feelings do indeed lead us to unwise decisions, they lead us to all our decisions, ultimately.

Feelings are our spiritual life blood, from the Spirit Herself.

So, surely God does suffer over our traumas. Jesus has felt all our weaknesses, our temptations, and feelings, as humans (Heb. 4:15). And Jesus was bullied, too.

Mother God, unlike me, the human mother, was with Marshall each moment he felt trapped and abused by the bully. Mother God was at work to rescue Marshall, but humans weren’t listening.

That tells me again how I need to see our family like a flock of sheep, with Mother God as the Shepherdess. If I learn to hear Her voice better, if we all do, we can go out and find safe pasture. Otherwise there are false shepherds leading and wolves waiting (John 10).

But Mother God was present in the girls who invited Marshall to join their club, and in the boys who played with Marshall without questioning what class he was in.

Part of listening is also seeing: She comes disguised as the child who said, Yes, to love.

Acorn’s Passing: Animals and Mother God


In the middle of the night, our rabbit, Acorn, who lives in the backyard, was mauled by a raccoon or two. We knew they’d been coming in sometimes. But normally they ate cat food, washed their hands in the cat water, and left. (Raccoons have hands more than paws in my estimation).

But last night there was no cat food available. The bunny was available.

We are all grieving and distracted. For about a half an hour, Marshall threatened us with death if we didn’t resurrect the bunny. He said, “I know God can do it if you pray!”

It was a twisted affirmation of both his faith and ours. But he didn’t know how the bunny died because I didn’t tell him. It was a judgment call; one of those mercy lies, I guess.

I am feeling overwhelmed because it is 2:17, in the heat of the afternoon, and forest fires are burning in Willimina, not far from here. The sky here is blocked from color and the usual brilliant summer light. I want to keep my kids in due to the pollution, but can’t. Sam is outside now with Joel.

I guess I am sensing that the animals are suffering there, too. I am (again) thinking through this thing called the Food Chain, theologically. When Marshall was 5, I bought him a gold painted lion and lamb ornament to remind him of the Not Yet. That things will be different some day. He’d cried for fifteen minutes when Joel told him that birds eat bugs. He loves bugs and birds both.

Now, at 9 and a half, he stuffs his tears away in threats and anger. It’s not right, the way things are.

Julian of Norwich’s famous prayer “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well” is preceded by “Sin is necessary, but…”

And I’ve heard the Best of all Possible Worlds talk (Leibniz). Is this it? Could Mother God really do no better? No better way to control animal populations?

The adage “There is a reason for everything” seems hollow in the face of natural forces that destroy.

“There is a season for everything” might be more appropriate: pain and suffering occur, but they are not the final word. They are temporary.

And maybe my distress is partly due to the people-izing of animals. They aren’t people. A rabbit expects to be prey, on some level.

But people are predators, too, like those raccoons. Occasionally the Humane Farming Association sends me their magazines. Thankfully they don’t traumatize me with pictures of suffering. But I get the idea. Animals we eat live horrific lives before we eat them. I feel rather removed from it all, having gone to Fred Meyer’s to take out a pink slab wrapped in plastic and drop it in some boiling water. Organic yes, but the organically fed animals don’t fare better.

All I know is, whatever may have been the best Mother God could do, there’s better days ahead. And we get to help Her make them happen. We get to help Mother God make a new world for the lion and the lamb and the cow. And the bunny, too.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:9, NRSV

What bugs you about the food chain, or do you just not think about it? How would you have done it better if you were Mother God?

Do you get angrier at God when you call Her Mother, or less? Is God the Father more trustworthy when it comes to figuring out the mysterious ways of the Creator?

What part do we play in creating a new world for animals?



Attached to Mother God


“A mother can give her child milk to suck, but our dear mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and he does so most courteously and most tenderly with the holy sacrament, which is the precious food of life itself… The mother can lay the child tenderly to her breast, but our tender mother Jesus, he can familiarly lead us to his blessed breast through his sweet open side….”

Julian of Norwich


I was thinking today, as I was gazing at Sam asleep, that we should all be as attached to Mother God as Sam is to me. Even in his sleep, if he is not in the deep sleep phase, he arches his back and complains if I give him over to Dad to sleep on him.

It’s in the attachment to Mother God that I hear Her voice, and that I grow loyal. It’s in the attachment that I do not flinch when I say Her name to someone who I think might. It’s in the attachment that I move forward to create, with Her, even when it requires courage.

And as any one who has done it can tell you, calling God Mother does require courage. I know there are people who don’t like what I write. And I know hating ideas does morph into hating real people, into put-downs, into plots to sabotage.

It happened to Saul. He thought he was doing the right thing in putting Christians in jail, in murdering them. From Saul’s point of view, he was defending God and Torah. Jesus set him straight, but it took a lot. The bright light of God’s presence, Jesus’ actual voice, and three days of groping in the darkness.

But Saul-who-became-Paul got attached to Jesus, to Mother God, and nothing could stop Paul from being loyal to Jesus, after that (see 2 Cor. 11:21-33 for what Paul went through for Christ).

So, how does attachment to Mother God happen? How do we nurse at Jesus’ side (Julian of Norwich) so often that we can’t be without him, no matter what we go through?

Brother Lawrence called it “the practice of the presence of God,” and he did it throughout the most mundane tasks, like washing dishes. He washed a lot of dishes in his lifetime. Yup, me and Brother Lawrence. But he did the dishes with Jesus, and that changed him.

I will try today to keep remembering the sweet presence of Mother God, and the ever-available milk of the Word, even as I read the fifty-two board books I read every day, wrestle another clean diaper onto my son, and make more blueberry smoothies for my family.

And I will keep writing and prayerfully thinking of God as Mother, even when I know Saul is afoot. He could become Paul any day now.

Does thinking of God as Mother help you keep Her nearer? 

Is it hard to go public with calling God Mother?

Expanding the Mother Metaphor

woman at beach photo-1443505661782-b397f448836b

I have traveled to the limits of the Mother God metaphor lately, at least as applied to God-in-me-as-mother. I want a new way to understand God. I want a vacation, too.

We’re actually at the beach now. But with kids, vacation is just work in a different place. I’m not complaining, too much. I’m just tired.

But more than that, I’m restless. I want to get out. I need to be more than Mama.

Which has led me to the question—what other feminine metaphors fit God besides Mama? Sister, Friend, Grandmother, Auntie….

A lot of feminine metaphors refer to relationship roles.

God as Wife

Including wife, which is another role I have. As crazy as it may sound, Wife is a natural expansion of Mother.

Though Jesus called himself a bridegroom in the gospels, and Paul implied that Christ is the husband of the church, I’ve never heard even a mainline feminist try on the God as Wife metaphor. Too much baggage about submission and weakness and old wives’ tales that goes with “wife.”

That would mean we, the church, are in charge, right, like we tend to think a husband is, in traditional marriages. Come to think of it, the church often does act like we’re the decision makers.

But God as partner, which is gender neutral, sounds more true to life. God never bullies, manipulates, or dominates. Listening to God is the highest form of wisdom. But She’s not going to force us. She’s going to work with us.

We should do away with the word “wife” due to its connotations of being subject to a husband-in-charge, but it’s very much alive. Since the word is not going away from the lives of married women and men, let’s explore the metaphor in relation to God.

Of course, there is no “husband of God.” But because we tend to look down on the role of wife, and all the activities associated with it, we should think carefully about the image of God in married women.

In what way do wives look like God, and might God look like wives? The servanthood implication of wife, the washing-dirty-feet kind of stuff that Jesus did (John 13:1-17), is a big part of the reign of God.

Jesus doesn’t hesitate to speak of God as a woman who lost a coin (Luke 15:8) and searched until she found it. The woman was likely married, a servant to her husband and children; a servant, in fact, to the lost coin. The coin is a metaphor for you and me. Or a metaphor for a child, a friend, or a husband.

Though God can do anything within the limits She has placed on Herself, Jesus came to earth to show us just who God is apart from human ideas about status, greatness and power. Jesus rejected violence and competitive scrambling for followers that some of the religious leaders displayed. Jesus did whatever He saw God doing (John 5:19), and “took the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:6-8).

God as Wife is something to consider, even with, or maybe especially with, the implications we don’t like about wives as the inferior, submissive, serving partner.

If that stretches you a bit too much, try on this passage instead, from Lauren Winner’s Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God:

“‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God Almighty. ‘But I also hate a man covering his wife with violence as with a garment.’

“Here too is an image of God: God as fierce advocate for abused wives. God as the friend who helps you pack up your car and leave. God as the person who helps you put together a safety plan. God as the voice at the other end of the phone when you call the crisis hotline. God as a battered women’s shelter. God as protector of women.”

Jesus, as the perfect reflection of God (Heb. 1:1-4), was among us as a servant (Luke 22:27). His image shines in every one who humbly loves.

Still Christian

I am re-reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, by Sue Monk Kidd, and revisiting my feminist journey. I am (and am not) surprised that Monk Kidd assumes there is no way to stay Christian and be free of patriarchy. She seeks out what seems to be a different religion, one I may be accused of following as I explore various feminine metaphors that might be applied to God.

But, I understand the impulse to exit. I ask myself, Where do I go for community with Mother God? I stay within traditional Christianity (think Clement, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Anselm) but perhaps on the outside of evangelicalism. To really stay firmly committed to referring to God in feminine terms (in addition to the masculine and neuter ones) means I may not belong in today’s evangelical church–yet.

But that’s okay: there’s a place I do have of both escape from incessant motherhood and to Mother God’s community: this nascent blog.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll start to comment so we can become visible to one another as a community experimenting with feminine metaphors for God.

Does “mother” for God simply not resonate for you, but other unusual metaphors do?

What do you fear in exploring feminine metaphors for God? 

Did God as Wife make you crazy? Why?

Is the Holy Spirit Feminine?

Woman and ocean photo-1432807653616-37f5f5c2508e

A few weeks ago, a pastor friend I grew up with told me on Facebook that the word for the Holy Spirit in Greek (pneuma) is masculine, not feminine. He was wanting to show me that God is “masculine in spirit.” Someone may have told him that the Holy Spirit might be viewed as feminine. The following is a reply to him and to every one who has wondered about this.

The nature of language means that a word can be masculine or feminine without any particular meaning attached to that fact. Still, cultures with a feminine word for the Holy Spirit are more open to feminine word pictures for Her. Language changes culture, as culture changes language.

Though my friend is right in what he said about the Greek word for the Holy Spirit being masculine, Semitic (Middle Eastern) languages do have feminine names for the Holy Spirit. Ruach and Shekinah feature in the Old Testament. This may be why Jesus said that you must be “born again” of the Spirit, to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5,6).

The early church mostly spoke Greek or Latin, but Old Testament scholar Tim Bulkeley notes that the church in Syria spoke Syriac, a Semitic language derived from Aramaic, which Jesus spoke. The fathers of the Syriac church at least sometimes spoke of the Spirit as Mother. They referred to the “womb of the Spirit” in their baptismal liturgy, as well as made other feminine references to the Spirit.

What is just as interesting is the way the Spirit is described in the New Testament. What are some stereotypical descriptors of women or a feminine nature? Wikipedia says gentleness, empathy and sensitivity. Another site says we view women generally as caring, compassionate, and emotional. Women are obviously associated with birth and giving life, as well.

And that is what we see in the New Testament associations with the Spirit. Here are just a few:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trust, gentleness, and self-control.” Gal. 5:22a

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'” John 3:5, 6

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” John 6:63

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Cor. 3:6

Even though there are some good reasons to see a feminine nature in the Holy Spirit, there are equally good reasons to see that it belongs to each person of the Trinity, not just the Spirit.

Julian of Norwich, for example, saw feminine, motherly characteristics in Jesus. Julian writes:

So we see that Jesus is the true Mother of our nature, for he made us. He is our mother, too, by grace, because he took our created nature upon himself. All the lovely deeds and tender services that beloved motherhood implies are appropriate to the Second Person.

And because the Muslims are right that God is One (and paradoxically, the Christians are right that God is also three), we know that any characteristic we see in one member of the Trinity also exists in the others.

What do you think?  Do you have any examples or counter-examples of the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit?





God The Mother is For Non-Moms and Men, Too

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I’ve written a lot of posts so far about being a mother, and what that teaches me about God as Mother. But Mother God is for every one–single and married men, with or without children, and single and married women, with or without children. (And children themselves, but that’s for another post.)

I recently re-read journalist Julia Duin’s Quitting Church (2006), especially the section about why women leave the church. She implies that feminine God images in the church would help women stay, during a conversation she had with David Wilkerson in 1998.

She asked him why there were no verses that use feminine pronouns–for human women, not God–in the Daily Calendar he published–like Luke 1:45 or Is. 54:1. He had no answer–nor did he change his calendar.

As a single, childless woman, Duin left the church after her offers to serve were repeatedly rejected. When later she adopted a child and went back, the church welcomed her participation.

People who are not in a typical nuclear family often feel marginalized both in church and out. I don’t want to do that.

So I want to know–single and married women and men without kids: Is Mother God a term you can embrace? What does it mean to you to call God Mother sometimes? I want to hear from men with kids, too, as I suspect a feminine God image can help men in general, yet is still somewhat taboo. I will post more on this, later.

None of us women will ever be fathers, yet we’ve all used the label Father for God. Not being a mother doesn’t need to make Mother God less meaningful as a metaphor for God. Even if, like me, one’s relationship with one’s mother isn’t perfect, and is maybe even painful sometimes.

Sixty percent of the U.S. population emerges out of childhood with a secure psychological attachment to at least one caregiver, often Mom. So most of us can think of “Mother” and “God” and feel the love.

Forty percent of us can’t feel that totally secure love when we think of a parent, but eventually most of us probably attach to someone, a friend or a spouse or a child or an animal. (Being attached only to a child can bring its own problems for the child, however.)

It’s the attachment need that makes the mother metaphor for God so relevant. Even if we didn’t get our needs met, they are still there, no matter our age. We are always going to need a Divine Mom.

With my occasional gripes about my mother as I relate to her as an adult, I know that when I was a kid, she loved me. She was my safe place in the world. And she does make the term Mother God make sense.

Our best notions of Mother are the characteristics of God: always present, always loving, always working on our behalf. There for us, with the spiritual equivalent of hugs, extra attention when sick or sad, special gifts when we least expect them.

Referring to God as Mother means I look for God’s love, expect it, like a loved three-year old child does. He crawls into bed with mom in the middle of the night when he feels scared, because Mom has compassion for him. He confidently asks, as I did, “Mom, play Candy Land with me,” (again) and Mom does.

Even if we have no experience or memories of affection from our mom, someone, sometime, has given us a taste of unconditional love. We can expect the same willingness to give from Mother God, whether it’s that just blooming fragrant lilac tree outside our office window, or, as Teresa of Avila wrote, the gift of a little daisy in the grass.

I often see Her living yet eternal gifts in the birds around me. One crisp day in February, I was walking with Sam in a baby carrier, and we saw dozens of robins flying in and out of a huge holly tree loaded with red berries. I stopped, astonished.

This is a gift of a loving Mother, if I have eyes to see it. It has nothing to do with me being a mother. It’s just Gift, and these gifts are there for each of us.

How about you? How does it help you to call God Mother?



Mother God in a Toddler-Sized Package


When we need something, sometimes the best thing to do is assume Mother God is giving us what we need, already. Then we can turn around to face what (or who) we think is taking something we need from us.

I learned this today. Sam’s sleep has been wonky the past few nights, as in, won’t be put down for the first part of the night. Finally, last night, I could at least sleep most of the night sitting up, with him sleeping on me. But, not well.

This morning, though, he wanted to nurse every ten minutes. I felt snappy and irritable. I wanted my coffee and muffin and to eat in peace for fifteen minutes. My sacred-coffee-space was being violated.coffee photo-1452882033718-1caccfcfe77f

I did get five minutes. But the little toddler hands holding my leg, the arms reaching up, the pattering of following feet, that all continued.

Finally, I gave up. When Joel showed up in the sitting room with Sam (now Joel was following me, too) complaining, “I don’t know what to do with him,” I said, with a tone, “Why don’t you read to him?” He responded according to my tone. I shot back something else that sounded perfectly rational and perfectly edgy.

I sat Sam down though and we read “Pooh’s Sunny Day.” I took him into the bedroom to nurse in the a/c. After a while of that, I realized I felt better. It occurred to me that Sam’s chasing me was good for me. My stress level from tiredness went way down due to all that good prolactin and oxytocin. I got my fix without coffee.

And Joel needed a break, too. His bruised rotator cuff is still hurting because he uses it so often. When he got to stop lifting a 25 pound-er, he cooked us a Chicken-Rice Paleo casserole, which was delicious.

Sam often delivers Mother God to me in a toddler-sized package. It was hard to see God’s gift this morning, but when I did, I could receive peace and give respite to Joel. Sam was meeting our needs, not standing in the way of getting them met.

What or who is chasing you that you’d wish would go away, but is actually Mother God’s gift to you? 


What Would Raffi Do?

Boy reading Bible photo-1442115597578-2d0fb2413734

The first song I heard by Raffi, the Canadian children’s folksinger, was “Biscuits in the Oven.” Tears gathered in my eyes as I danced with 1-year-old Marshall. I sensed this man was responding deeply to a calling to love, that can only come from God. The words were simple, but his voice and music fed my soul.

Recently, we found some of our old Raffi CDs we’d misplaced, and we play them daily. His are the only songs with lyrics that Marshall, my nine-year old Asperkid, will listen to. He, too, knows that Raffi is a mentor, a real presence in our lives calling us to goodness, truth and justice. When Marshall is upset, Raffi calms him.

When Raffi wrote a song called “In the Real World” on his CD “Love Bug,” Marshall said, “He can’t mean it.” But I explained that Raffi really does think the world of trees, flower, sky and sun is better than the online world. He got quiet.

I recently finished Raffi’s autobiography, written in 1998. I couldn’t help but search for a sign of a faith in Christ. One of his grandmothers was deeply evangelical and prayerful, though the pamphlet-giving type. As for Raffi, he wasn’t impressed with Christianity, nor the New Age or yogic philosophy he briefly explored. He was attracted to Taoism in college.

Now he talks about listening to The Creator in prayer and taking his life’s work as a calling. He strives for integrity. The value of caring for children comes first, over money.

It seems to me that Raffi has a sense of being a co-creator with God, and an understanding of the sacredness of children. He’s drawn on the feminine aspects of God intuitively, allowing the Spirit reign in his work and life. The idea for activism for children came to him in a vision. He clearly listens, stays open, to God. Can that happen without believing in Jesus? Yes, I think it happens all over the world every day.

It occurred to me that someone could start a WWRD movement, What Would Raffi Do? But he’d find that over-the-top. Nonetheless, I find great overlap in Raffi’s view of children and Jesus’s.

Raffi starts his autobiography, “Children are the most reasonable people I know.” Jesus said, “Unless you become like a little child, you will never enter the reign of God” (Matt. 18:3). I think Raffi was saying that the values of children right the world again, make adult reason seem paltry. And that they tell the truth when adults would prefer they didn’t. And this too was Jesus’ point. Children enter into the world of faith easily, and this, said Jesus, was the work of God (John 6:29).

Adults aren’t usually so good at taking cues from little humans who are supposed to show respect, more than be respected. But we’ve got a lot to learn. True, Raffi and Jesus are both childless men. But I think they give us tired, just-give-me-ten-minutes-alone-in-the-bathroom parents more objectivity.

In Jesus, we see both a Mother and a Father unlike any most of us have experienced. This divine parent welcomes children in the presence of adults–in a culture where children had little power. Then, in front of those same adults, praises the kids as examples of spiritual maturity (Matt. 19:13-15).

You never hear Jesus scolding a child. And, never a word to parents about discipline. No quoting of Proverbs about not sparing the rod. Just Jesus’ quiet insistence that children understand God and the way things should go, in ways his adult followers did not.

Raffi seems to get that. I have pasted his Covenant for Honouring Children below from his website. So when you get to a hard place in your life with kids–just ask, What Would Jesus and Raffi Do?