God is He/She

For years I struggled with the idea of a God who was prone to angry fits, wrath, vengeance, punishment and remote up there in the Heavens. I wondered, is there more to Him? To this? I knew He was a God of love, too, but it seemed I had to always play hide and seek with Him to experience His transcendent love. I grew up a pastor’s kid, in more churches than I can count, and unfortunately, saw the dark side, the seedy underbelly of religion. Religion damaged me. Hurt me. Hated me for who I am and what I wanted to be. I became an outsider, a non-believer, an outcast from the church. But I never stopped pursuing the God I wanted…a God of love. And He, or should I say SHE, never stopped pursuing me.

As far as I can remember, my art has always channeled various forms of women….naked, voluptuous, pregnant, scarred, damaged, broken, pieces, radiance, life-giving, and so on. It was variations of the same embodiment, the Sacred Feminine. Although at the time, I didn’t realize who SHE was and how much She was pursuing me. She appeared continuously in my art, begging to be seen in Her wholeness, Her Oneness. It is only within the past two years that I have come to discover who She really is. She is the Sacred Divine Feminine, the Goddess. She is the love and nurturing Mother Earth. She is the other side of God. Without Her, there is no complete Him.

In our Western Judeo-Christian culture, we have been dominated by a masculine, heavenly God. He is one who banished us from paradise. He was the God of wrath, tempered occasionally with love and kindness, but woe to the one who got on His bad side! Then it became hell-fire and brimstone, an emphasis on our human failings and sinfulness. Over the years, morality engraved fear rather than love into our religious culture, stressing human inadequacy and leaving a trail of repression and neurosis. How much has this image of a remote and wrathful deity influenced our relationship to the divine? I fear, too much.

When God is relegated to the heavens it is easy to lose touch with the divine in everyday life. We come to know Him only as a distant authoritarian father. We feel alienated, impotent, uncared-for, unprotected, isolated, and no longer an integral part of the great wholeness of life. We lose our purpose in life. The sacred wholeness of life belongs to the feminine aspect of the divine, the Great Goddess. For Her every act is sacred; every blade of grass, every creature is a part of the Great Oneness. In contrast to His awe-inspiring transcendence, She embodies the caring divine presence.

Banishing God to the heavens, we lost touch with the sacredness of the earth and its many forms of life. Reinstating the Goddess means restoring the sacredness of a nurturing, all-embracing divinity. God’s masculine omnipotence and transcendence need to be balanced by the feminine aspects of care and nearness. God is both Mother and Father. We are wrong to restrict our image of a transcendent deity to the patriarchal power-drive. Reinstating the feminine, all-embracing Goddess does not mean we reject the masculine deity. They are One, each a piece of the other.

She is the Love I crave, the Oneness and Wholeness of life and reconnecting with myself and Mother Earth. I have always believed that you can’t have one side of God without the other. There is no masculine without the feminine. It requires balance. If there must be retribution and omnipotence, there must be nurturing love and connection. Otherwise, we are left to wander in a soulless, dark world where nothing matters and the patriarchal power-driven image will dominate, as it has for the last few centuries, causing ruin, heartbreak, and despair.

What is The Sacred Feminine?

WHAT IS THE SACRED FEMININE?

I find my path in life is always taking surprising directions, yet there is a constant theme of “I Am Mother” and the Sacred Feminine. It has only become more apparent in the past year and a half, during my studies in Art Therapy. But what does the “Sacred Feminine” mean? Or when someone says the divine feminine is the way to healing and enlightenment? Is it a Christian concept? Buddhist? Pagan? Wiccan? New Age? Is it even tied to religion? Or is it a spiritual concept? 

The answer is simple. The divine feminine is the goddess in all traditions and has been since the beginning of time. These traditions are a mystical, magical, powerful, part of primal Mother Earth. They symbolize balance and healing, renewal and restoration. The feminine principle is one of nurturing love, acceptance, understanding, compassion, insight, intuition, creativity, forgiveness, healing and wisdom. Whatever your beliefs and choice of traditions are, whether She appears to you as Ishtar or Mari, Gaia or Quan Yin, as the great Mother Mary or Magdalene, or as one of the pantheon of goddesses from ancient Egypt or Greece or Rome, to Africa or the Middle East, to the cults of the Black Madonna, or whether she is spun from one of the archetypes of the indigenous tribes, such as Spider Woman, the divine feminine is still the primordial She who creates from a central source.

The sacred feminine is a term we use for that mysterious source of all life, the wellspring of creation. The big She. The feminine force that births both male and female forms. The circle that contains both yin and yang. The portal between the worlds. She is by nature indefinable, yet her presence has been experienced so tangibly by peoples of the earth from the beginning of time, that She has been honored and deified in many forms as the bringer of life, growth, decline, death, and rebirth by many ancient cultures. The Goddess is our primary life force on the planet. If we don’t utilize the love, nurturing, understanding, and kindness of the divine feminine within all of us, we will not survive. We need this essence to return balance to our world, our bodies, and our lives.

The Divine Feminine is this unseen dimension of soul to which we are connected through our instincts, our feelings, and the longing imagination of our heart. Soul is not limited to our own psychic life. Soul is invisible nature, the immense web of relationships that is concealed beneath the veil of matter. It is something both inconceivable and immeasurable to which we belong, in which we live – an intermediate dimension between our physical world and the deep unknowable ground of being. 

The Divine Mother is asking us to trust and protect life, to work with her in all we do, opening our understanding to the knowledge that we are not separate from herself but an expression of her being. The unknown dimension of soul is our conduit to the Divine. Cut off from soul, the mind becomes impoverished, rigid, dogmatic, and inflated. In compensation for this loss of relationship with soul, it becomes driven by the need for ever more power and control. The journey in search of the unknown dimension of soul, back the way we have come, toward nature and the ground of our own nature, is difficult and even dangerous because it asks that we relinquish the certainty of deeply held beliefs, both religious and scientific. It means opening ourselves to discovery. The Sacred Feminine is urging us to open our minds to a new vision of reality, a revelation of all cosmic life as a divine unity. For those awakened to this vision, to be born a human being is not to be born into a fallen, flawed world of sin and illusion, cut off from the divine; it is to be born into a world lit by an invisible radiance, ensouled by Divine Presence, graced and sustained by incandescent light and love.

Love, Authenticity, and Truth

Been a long time…I thought I would give up blogging forever as I moved on to other things, but I have a pull to always write, to dialogue, to share my thoughts and hear the thoughts of others. I’m reading a book right now, “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s provoking some interesting thoughts, touching on some things that I’ve always pondered. So much so that I feel compelled to write Donald Miller about my thoughts, something I don’t normally do. Yet, sadly, I’ve not found a way to connect or contact him. His blog, Storyline, and Facebook page seem to be completely devoid of his personal touch. Instead, it appears he has become more “corporate” and “untouchable,” marketing his new Storyline brand. How sad for me. Therefore, I’m sharing my thoughts publicly instead of privately…to hear your thoughts.

I struggled picking up this book. I thought it would be another holier-than-thou, beat me over the head Christian book that would make me feel guilty for my shortcomings and failings as a “Christian.” But I’m finding that my mind is stirred, my spirituality is simmering, my desire to converse is spilling out of me into this blog post. A good thing, I suppose, when you really look at it.

I have always considered myself a Christian, but the meaning of that has changed as I’ve grown and stretched as a person. It is more about Christian spirituality now. I wince whenever I say that I’m a “Christian,” because I don’t associate myself and my beliefs with the larger, negative view of Christianity. As a matter of fact, I try to distance myself from it, embarrassed and shamed by the vitriol, ugliness, and judgment that radiates from the outspoken right-wing groups. Not to mention the cruelty of things done “in the name of Christ.” My heart aches because of it. I want to scream and shout, “That’s not Jesus! That’s not me! That’s not what it’s all about!”

I’ll be the first to admit my spirituality is messy, unruly, and uncouth. I was raised in the conservative church and chewed up and spit out by the same conservative church. I know all the “rules,” the should’s and should nots. The feeling of not belonging because I’m different, authentic, and have a tendency to question authority. Why would I want to love something that doesn’t love me and who I am now, at this very moment?

I haven’t been back to an organized church since I was vomited out of the church 10 years ago, like a putrid sickness that was contagious. I was beaten and battered, disgraced and shamed, unloved and unwanted because I was me, my authentic self. But isn’t the church supposed to love the unlovable, the different, the cynics, the skeptics, the gay, the drug addicts, the artists, the rebels, the outspoken, the homeless, and still others? That’s what I thought. Apparently, the church did not agree with me. I’m afraid to go back.

Now keep this in mind…I’m not bashing churches as a whole at all. I’m commenting on the ones that I’ve had personal experience with through the years. Yet still, I love God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in His all-consuming, graceful love for me and humanity. At times, I doubt it. How can He love someone like me? Is He even real? Is what I believe in even possible? Or is it all some odd fantasy cooked up by someone and we’ve all been fooled? I worry that I won’t live forever with Him. I’m scared that when I turn to dust, it’s just that….dust. Nothing. Finite. But Jesus says that with Him, we are everlasting, infinite.

I keep coming back to the same two questions…Does He really exist, and if so, Does He really love someone like me?

A Life List, Not New Year’s Resolutions or a Bucket List

new year resolution

It’s a new year which often means resolutions. A long time I decided that I do not like nor do I create New Year’s resolutions. In my opinion, it was just setting myself up to fail. And fail it did. Miserably. Instead, I’ve been inspired to create a “Life List” which is my version of a bucket list. It isn’t about the things I want to do before I die, but because I want to live. Lesley, at Bucket List Publications, shared a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that I think says it well: “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” This applies to my art as well as my life philosophy. I always believe in trying something at least once. I may have fear, anxiety, and nerves about it, but usually, although not always (no spiders for me, thank you very much), the joy of having the experience outweighs the negatives.

Not only did I create a “Life List” of things I want to do, but I created a “Completed Life List” of things I’ve already done! It was awe-inspiring to look at that completed list and realize how much I’ve truly accomplished in my short 36 years. I highly recommend compiling both lists, and as you complete an item on the “Life List,” move it to the “Completed Life List.” The memories that come flooding back each time I read the completed list is one of my most treasured moments. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” Here’s to living life to the fullest!

Traveling Back to My Roots

Tonight, I was reminded of why I write. Thanks, Ben. Ironically, the post on his blog had nothing to do with writing, but after reading that specific post and others on his blog, I felt like I was gulping fresh water after wandering in the arid desert for so long.

When I originally started blogging (many moons ago, and long before this particular blog), my only goal was to share my journey in art, faith, and life with others in the hopes that it might help even just one person struggling in their own journey.  In the past year or so, my train fell off the track. I became more concerned about how many people followed my blog, trying to seem professional, basically worried about my “image”.  I did things I’m not proud of and I wrote things I’m not proud of (most are deleted from here, so don’t go looking to start trouble).

Because I took the “image, self-focused” road, I lost interest in blogging. It became a chore, something that had to be done. It was no longer writing for the pure joy of it and the connection with you. Frankly, I’m ashamed and sad, for you and for me. We missed out on some authentic, honest time together and for that, I’m truly sorry.

My hope is to restore “The Skeptical Optimist” to its true roots…to a blog that shares my messy spirituality, my artistic journey,  and the musings of a skeptical optimist.  Let’s walk this well-worn bumpy road together, my friends….

Too Much Stuff and Chorizo Vodka Pizza

Finally…finally…I made the Chorizo Vodka Pizza recipe. I had every intention of posting it two weeks ago, but the pizza didn’t come out of the oven quite to my satisfaction. Oh, it tasted good, don’t get me wrong! But it had way too much olive oil on it. Looked like Mt. Vesuvius exploded on the pizza, and not in a good way. Must remind myself that to drizzle olive oil is to apply it in sparingly small bits – not guzzles of slick oil. Oops. The pourer poured faster than the pouree expected it to and lo and behold, a not-so-magical, dripping, gooey cheese mess appeared. But since the flavors were delicious, I just had to give it another go.

MUCH more successful results the second time around ‘cause I remembered…drizzle, not pour…less is definitely more. Now that I think about it, it’s a philosophy that I try to live by – no, not drizzle, silly, but less is more. Every year, around this time, I start getting the urge to purge. To start fresh. Anew. To breathe and clear away the cobwebs, detritus, and mounds of matter that has collected in the corners. To begin the new year without the clutter of the old years.
078We started with the dining room, hauling away the old, ratty computer desk (Come on, who uses desktops at home, anymore?…I won’t make fun of you if you do…Dinosaur). Already, the room looked three sizes bigger. Then away went the cat tree dust collector, which the cats rarely used  (they much prefer the radiators, tables, couches, and humans). OMG. What is that? Not dust bunnies, my friends, but dust rats. Think New York City rats. Between the cat hair and the dust from living, we could have made another cat. I’m sure you’re grateful that we threw it all away, instead. I believe in recycling, but even that would have been a bit much for me.

In comes the wine refrigerator that someone gave us as a gift over 2 years ago. It has sat in the basement all this time, not cooling any wine…still in the box, as a matter of fact. Now we have this delightful little wine corner with all our supplies – glasses, tools, and of course, the wine! And I now have a photograph “studio” where the cat tree used to sit. Lots of natural sunlight and space. It doesn’t mean that my photographs will magically improve overnight, but it’s definitely an improvement.

Speaking of too much stuff, a 2005 study yielded some eye-opening results: the average family is drowning in clutter. Surprised? I doubt it. They released a book, Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century, with pictures that revealed garages filled to the ceiling with boxes, old toys, lawn equipment, and housewares. In fact, the researchers found that 75% of the houses surveyed had garages so chock-full of stuff, there was no room for a car. Can you guess why we’re addicted to watching Hoarders on TV? It rationalizes our piles of junk. We aren’t THAT bad, so we must be doing okay. Really?

Not only does clutter affect our living space, but it’s been proven that it actually elevates our stress hormone levels. When it comes to dealing with stuff overflow, most of us can admit to giving up. We become so overwhelmed by the chaos, that we feel hopeless at fixing it. Sometimes it feels like that the junk in our closets, garages, and storage rooms multiply when our backs are turned. It’s easier than ever to buy in bulk, or to simply bring home more than intended.

Instead of cowering in front of the mess, challenge yourself to clean it out this month. Start the new year with a clean slate. Learn to slow down and practice conscious consumption by filling your homes with meaningful items that you love. And, maybe, instead of more stuff, choose hearts, minds, and people who care more about YOU than what you have.

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A New Year Fizzle – Happy 2013 to Me

So 2013 didn’t start off with the positive bang that I had hoped for. Instead of peace, love, and joy, I got a scary potential health diagnosis and every dish I created this weekend flopped. Okay, flopped may be a strong word, but they didn’t meet my standards for sharing them on this blog.

In 2007, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  Since then, its been a long, painful road from finding doctors that understand fibro, to learning treatments for it, to adjusting my lifestyle.  Because of insurance changes when I started my new job 2 years ago, I had to switch all of my doctors. Extremely frustrating when you don’t have a medical issue to anxiety, hysterics-inducing when you do have a medical issue, especially one as challenging as Fibromyalgia.

I’ve more or less accepted the diagnosis, although at times I still kick and scream in frustration. There’s no specific treatment and there is no cure. It is what it is. Living with a chronic pain syndrome is life-changing, to say the least. Many don’t understand it or don’t believe it because on the outside, I look “fine.” Believe me, I’m far from fine. But my intention is to not complain about it because I don’t want pity. Too much pride, I suppose.

On New Year’s Eve, I had my first appointment with my new rheumatologist (my fourth). She was reading my most recent blood work and asking unusual, in-depth questions. She wanted to know if any if my other doctors had brought up some of my abnormal blood results. Some, but they brushed it off, saying it’s all just fibro and nothing more. The doctor was surprised. She proceeded to tell me that based on my results, my history, and my physical difficulties, she suspects I have rheumatoid arthritis and/or lupus. What? Seriously? And no other doctor ever bothered to investigate further?

Those are much more serious diagnoses than fibromyalgia. NOT what I wanted to hear beginning the new year. It’s not definitive yet. I have three pages of lab orders that I have to get done, more doctor appointments, and so on. I’m praying it’s “only fibro.” Never thought I’d say that!

I’m trying to stay positive and focus on good things.

As for the less than stellar new year beginning, I’ll take it in stride. Why borrow worries for things yet undetermined and unseen? So to cheer me up, tell me what you cooked and how you celebrated the New Year!

P.S. If you have any questions about fibromyalgia, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, feel free to ask! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it out for you. Or share your thoughts!

Happy New Year, my friends!