Friday, November 23, 2007

Creativity & Sensuality

Is a link between creativity and sensuality? Can one inspire or feed off of the other?

I ask because I've noticed a possible connection between the two in my life. When one wanes, the other seems to wax.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The Spiritual Formation Group

"Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

Apparently the word "Agree" here does not reflect simply a mutual consensus or decision but reflects a state of hramony that can only be reached through prayer and searching. In a sense, we are "like a symphony...we are to practice and to work together, and to pray until we are in tune."

So, it would seem that community is a big factor in our spiritual development. Foster identifies some reasons for this: prevents isolation which is destructive to humanity in the long haul, we are stronger to dowhat is best when we have loving fellowship, and through community comes guidance.

Please take a little time to consider which of the following might reflect your own most urgent need:

  • To grow closer to others
  • To be encouraged by others
  • To learn from others

Saturday, October 06, 2007



Have you ever considered that the everyday aspects of your life --- cleaning house, loving your spouse, going to work---are as important to God as the spiritual aspects? Let's discuss!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Reflection Question

How does Jesus speak the good news of "release to the captives" to your life?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The relevant verses to this discussion can be found in Luke 4:16-20a;42-44.

"But he (Jesus) 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.'

How did you first become aware of the good news of the kingdom of God? Did you hear it proclaimed by a person, or did you read about it in the Bible?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Senses of Charity

Using our hands, smells, textures, eyes, sights, creating sound -- or things that emote their own sounds can be a form of giving, prayer, sensuality. I found 25 things for charity
as I followed a link from Simone's blog,
It's basically just people individually committing to craft 25 things for any charity during a one year period, in the context of others sharing that devotional goal. Make anything, for anyone, anytime. Use your hands and give beauty. I think this is a lovely and possible dream: 25 things in one year. I may try it...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Ordering of Love

I read this poem the other day and find myself returning to it over and over. I love how the author, Madeleine L'Engle, put the words together so that the poem kind of flows in and out of itself. I'd like to share it with those of you who check in here once in a while. If you have not read anything my Madeleine, I recommend her books and poetry highly. This poem is from her book of poetry, "The Ordering of Love".

All That Matters

Out of nothing
out of the void
God created.

Out of
which is
But it is
not a what
or a where
or an opposite
of something
or anything.
Nothing is
we can know.
Does it matter
that matter's mind
must not mind
not knowing
doubly negatively
or in any way

O Mind
that alone knows
O Word
that speaks
to matter
speaks matter
from the unspoken:
that you mind
is all that matters.

Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


What is the Social Justice Tradition?

Throughout the history of the Church men and women have dedicated their lives to caring for the hungry, the poor, the naked, the alienated, the sick, and the imprisoned. The social justice tradition has always called the Church to work for equity in all human relations and social structures.

What are some factors that keep us from getting involved in social justice activities?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Senses As Thresholds of Soul

I read this the other day and thought of our little sub-group here and that maybe some of you would appreciate these words. This is from a lovely book, "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom" by John O'Donohue. Jemila, it goes with what you posted in the larger discussion. (I love those synchronicities)

"The Senses as Thresholds of Soul

For too long, we have believed that the divine is outside us. This belief has strained our longing disastrously. This makes us lonely, since it is human longing that makes us holy. The most beautiful thing about us is our longing; this longing is spiritual and has great depth and wisdom. If you focus your longing on a far away divinity, you put an unfair strain on your longing. Thus it often happens that the longing reaches out toward the distant divine, but because it overstrains itself, it bends back to become cynicism, emptiness, or negativity. This can destroy your sensibility. Yet we do not need to put any strain whatever on our longing. If we believe that the body is in the soul and the soul is divine ground, then the presence of the divine is completely here, close with us.

Being in the soul, the body makes the senses thresholds of soul. When your senses open out to the world, the first presence they encounter is the presence of your soul. To be sensual or sensuous is to be in the presence of your own soul. Wordsworth, careful of the dignity of the senses, wrote that 'pleasure is the tribute we owe to our dignity as human beings'. This is a profoundly spiritual perspective. Your senses link you intimately with the divine within you and around you. Attunement to the senses can limber up the stiffened belief and gentle the hardened outlook. It can warm and heal the atrophied feelings that are the barriers exiling us from ourselves and separating us from eachother. Then we are no longer in exile from the wonderful harvest of divinity that is always secretly gathering within us. Though we will consider each of the senses specifically, it is important to acknowledge that the senses always work compositely. The senses overlap. We can see this in the different responses people have to color, which indicates that colors are not perceived merely visually. "

And he does go on to address the various senses specifically.... and beautifully, I might add.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Reflection Question:

Have you ever been unjustly treated? Have you seen another person being opressed? How did you respond?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The Social Justice Tradition

Reflection Question

In Matthew 25, Jesus chastises those who neglect the needy. He specifcally drew attention to 6 groups of needy people: the hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked, sick, and jailed. Who else might fit into "the least of these" category?

Friday, July 13, 2007


The Social Justice Tradition

Reflection Question

Have you ever been a stranger? Describe some of the feelings you had. Did anyone welcome you? Describe that experience.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What about sexual asynchronicity?

So she wants to do it and he'd rather watch football and eat chips. Or he wants to do it and she'd like a bath and a soothing backrub that is not linked to sexual expectations. Or she wants to do it but not with him because he hasn't been emotionally available. Or he wants to do it, but not with her because he doesn't feel respected. So I'm stereotyping a bit. But what are your thoughts, ladies, on a Christian approach to sexual asynchronicity? How does one love another as oneself in such cases? In Christian circles I have heard so much about "the wife's body belongs to the husband and the husband's to his wife," implying that the person who wants to have sex is always right. It seems to me though, that rape is worse than sexual deprivation, although neither is desirable, and feeling forced to have sex because someone else wants to, even you don't strikes me as sexually exploitive and possible a form of rape.

In my marriage, our rule is, "no pressure, just love," meaning that while naturally one person may feel frustrated or disappointed if the other partner isn't up for lovemaking, that it is of the utmost importance to honor that person by not imposing oneself sexually upon them, or asking them to willingly submit to sex when they don't want to. This has worked pretty well for us. I certainly find myself more attracted to someone who doesn't expect me to "put out" just because he wants some, every time he wants some - so the end result is I want to do it more than if I felt I "had to" to be a good wife.

How do you understand sexual giving in your relationship and what do you make of Paul's thoughts on the matter?

What are your views and experiences?

Friday, June 15, 2007


Which of the following best describes the work of the Spirit in your life? Explain your selection.

- The Spirit has not been a major part of my spiritual life.

- I am beginning to see signs of the Spirit's presence in my life.

- The Spirit is an integral part of my spiritual life.

As above, so below.

Blessings on every one of you.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I apologize for not posting the next item from the Spiritual Formation Workbook in so long. Between work and engaging in the rites of spring on my little slice of heaven on earth here in the midwest, I've been terribly busy. Thanks for continuing to engage in the discussion...I've not been ignoring it and enjoy the thoughtful contributions each of you make.


"(God) has chosen to cultivate the gospel soil of people's lives so that they bear spiritual fruit: 'love, joy, peace, patience,kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control' (Gal. 5:22) ...God lives with his people through the Holy Spirit."

Question: Of the Holy Spirit's fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), which has grown and matured in your life? Which has yet to bloom and grow?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Marriage Without Sex?

A recent conversation on The Ooze has wandered into Spiritual Sensuality territory.

I'm posing this question here out of honest curiousity, not malice. I have no interest in embarrassing or shaming anyone, and I am more than willing to remove the link if necessary. :)

The question:

Is sexal intimacy necessary in order to have a healthy marriage?

Barring situations that are either extreme (disability, etc) or short term and mutually agreed-upon (a la 1 Corinthians 7:5*), I've always thought it was pretty necessary.

What do you think?

* 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I've been thinking about the importance of human touch. It's one of my love languages.

I have a nephew who is about six weeks older than Avriana. I met him for the first time over Easter and was amazed to see how much he craved touch at such a tender age - with it, he was calm and content. Without it, he almost always grew irritable and fussy.

There's also the skin hunger phenomenon among people who live in institutional settings or people who have recently lost a loved one and have few friends: they crave human contact. This hunger can gnaw so deeply into a person's soul that it is often mistaken for a mental or physical illness.

So far, I've been pretty lucky - I was born into a family that is comfortable expressing love via hugs, backrubs, etc. I married someone who is generally the same way. But I know that there are many out there who are living far different lives.

Some questions - answer as few or as many as you'd like.

Do you have enough access to human touch? What do you think needs to change in western culture in order to help more people who are elderly or isolated receive the touch they need? What can the church do to help?

(Edited to add: In case it wasn't clear, I'm referring to the non-sexual varities of touch in this post. I picked the "sexuality and gender relations" label because it appeared to be the closest match to this topic.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007


How do you understand the Holy Spirit's work in your own life?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Practicing the Spirit-Empowered Life

Read John 14:15-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15

Reflection Question: Have you ever had an advocate, someone who pleaded your case before an arbitrator or a referee - or a parent or a teacher? What did he or she do for you?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Welcome Avriana.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What is the Holiness Tradition?

Why did Jesus criticize the Pharisees for focusing on outward action rather than on the inner source of action?

Friday, March 30, 2007

God and the Holiness Tradition

How have you seen disobeying one of God's commands or the power of sin fragment and destroy a person's life?

*And a follow-up question from my ever-heretical mind:

Are God's commands ever contextual? If so, how do we appropriate God's deepest truths to individual situations without falling into the trap of rationalization?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Practicing the Virtuous Life - Thinking it Through

Reflection Question: So, why do you think Jesus did not yield to any of the temptations put before him?

Monday, March 19, 2007

PRACTICING THE VIRTUOUS LIFE (and boy do I need practice!)

Jesus and the Virtuous Life

Read Matthew 4:1-11

Reflection Question: Have you ever had someone come to you and tempt you with an offer that was hard to refuse? Describe the circumstances.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sex as an Act of Worship?

Every once in a while I'll hear a pastor give a sermon in which he (only male pastors have mentioned this thus far in my experience) will mention that sex is an act of worship. I've never heard this idea expanded upon, and a quick google search failed to turn up anything of interest.

In my marriage, sex has been used for many different purposes. Pleasure is the most common one, of course, but other reasons for it have included: comfort, bonding, relief of stress or anxiety, a release of sexual energy, etc etc.

I don't know that we've ever used it as an act of worship, though. I'm not even sure how one would go about doing so, and would be curious to hear anyone's experiences with it.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Choose one of the 5 exercises listed:

1. Set aside 5-10 minutes each day for prayer.

2. Spend 5 to 10 minutes each day in silence.

3. Read selections from a devotional book.

4. Pray the same prayer for 10 minutes each day.

5. Write an original prayer. Read and pray it every day for the next week.

At the end of this week, please feel free to share anything you learn or experience during the time you have spent engaging in one of these practices.


Reflection Question: Think of a moment in your life when you felt very close to God. Can you describe the setting (what were you doing and your surroundings) as well as the experience?


Read the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

Reflection Question: How does this story match your own understanding of what God is like?


"Jesus asked God to 'remove the cup' from him - the cup symbolizing his destiny to die on the cross. Why do you think he prayed this way?"

Friday, March 02, 2007

Practicing the Prayer-filled Life

To start off the next Chapter in the workbook, please read the section entitled "Jesus and the Prayer-filled Life" or if you do not have the book, check out Mark 14:32-36. Spend some time quietly meditating on this passage and note any word, phrase or idea that comes from your time reading these verses.

Reflection Question: What impresses you most about this passage?

Please post any thoughts you have on your time with these verses. Please also share any experiences you have had in your attempts to "practice the prayer-filled life" in your faith journey.

I'll be following up shortly with additional points of discussion from this Chapter. Thanks to each of you for your participation rich it has been already!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Is Birth Sexual?

Yesterday I attended a workshop on writing for publication on the topics of pregnancy and childbirth. The meeting took place in the home of one of my midwives named Christy; sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman was our guest speaker. The participants were mostly midwives, doulas and other homebirth advocates, along with three breastfed babies who happily suckled at their pleasure, while their mothers brainstormed ways of storming the world for natural childbirth. And then there was me. I'm the middle-of-the-road, don't-fit-in-anbody's categories girl; the person who seems drawn to stirring up new ideas (often controversial) made from combining old opposites into something fresh and different.

A big conversation emphasis during the workshop was, not surprisingly, the skyrocketing Ceserean rate and the best ways to help women discover paths to healthy natural births through our personal stories, as well as more political and academic writing. Barbara emphasized the need to meet people in their worldview and find a way of communicating about a holistic approach to birth that resonates with a given audience's needs, rather than trying to convert folks to a totally different style of worldview. On the topic of finding a "hook" for getting holistic pregnancy and birth articles into mainstream publications, I couldn't resist a mostly-joking comment about getting Brittany Spears to have a homebirth next time she becomes pregnant, in hopes that giving birth at home might turn into a hip celebrity thing.

A middle aged woman jumped in and reminded us of the contrversy over the birth statue made in Brittany's image. I expressed my appalled reaction that conservative pro-lifers construed the statue of Spears birthing on all fours as sexual. Okay, it was Brittany Spears, but c'mon, we all know nobody, not even Brit feels sexy all the time, and I don't recall feeling especially like a seductress when I gave birth to my son last year -- on all fours. Primal, yes. I enjoyed pushing, yes. Were there some analogies to a sexual experience? Sure. But sexual?

Many of the women surrounding me rushed into to effuse dramatically, "But of course birth is sexual!," commencing a lively discussion of an upcoming movie called, "orgasmic birth," and the rampant discomfort out culture has acknowledging anything so natural and bodily as birth, much less the sexual nature of what is clinically named "labor and delivery."

Sexual is such a funny, fluid word. Where is the line between sensual and sexual? Between primal and horny? Between carnal instinct and sacred passion? Between physical sensation and biological metaphor? Lines. Lines. What lines?

Is birth sexual? By some definitions, perhaps. By other perspectives it might better be described as primally sensual, pointing toward longing, ache, release and bliss in an analogous, but utterly unique brand of passion. And for others, birth might be more like writing, or running a marathon or surviving an earthquake and realizing something beautiful came of it.

But however you look at it, birth is sacred. Giving birth is so very pro-life, as the statue of Brittany was aptly titled. And life is sexual. Is that so hard for pro-life people to accept?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ending and Beginning (Passing the Peace) Exercise 7

Identifying our Strengths and Weaknesses: Exercise 6

Given to Extremes: Exercise 5

Movements and the Life of Christ: Exercise 4

A Program Flowing Out of the Life of Jesus: Exercise 3

Recognizing Our Strengths: Exercise 2

The Footprints of God: Exercise 1

Spiritual Formation Introduction

Hi women friends,

Welcome! I am excited about this spiritual journey together and feel so blessed that you are here! I'm going to make a separate post for each exercise so that we can all tap into the group and the sharing process on our own time tables, as we feel led. First I thought it would be nice to share a little bit of our experiences and/or perceptions about spiritual formation and what we hope to get out of this group. And if you want to share a random fact A) about yourself, or B) about life/anything, and a favorite quote, that would be cool too.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who's Afraid of Women's Sexuality?

Throughout patriarchal history, women's sexuality and embodied spirituality has been feared, and therefore repressed. Now men can talk openly about penis-size insecurity (and women can joke about the over-big deal they make about it when it's just the girls,) but when will it be okay for guys to come out and say, "I'm afraid of women's sexuality. I'm intimidated by it. I'm afraid of the power it has over me"? Only then can men face their fears and discover that they are capable of honoring a woman's sexuality in a respectful way that brings life and joy, rather than betrayal and exploitation. This is the call of Christ, I believe.

Yet the closest an average Christian man or woman comes to acknowledging men's fear and the disservice it does to both women and men gone unaddressed, is to say, "Please don't wear provocative clothing; it causes your brothers to stumble." Or, "Please dress and act sexy for your husband, otherwise, some other woman might have sexual power over him and he may sleep her her instead." Well I'm here to say, I give men more credit, even if they don't give it to themselves...yet.

Just as women are capable and called not to repress their sexual selves, but to channel vital sensual energy in fabulous, healthy ways that honor our bodies, our souls, our God, our partners and our children who watch us and learn (well not literally;) I' convinced men are capable and called to honor the sacred sexuality, power and beauty of women in ways that respect the sexual, human dignity of men's true selves and women's true selves in Christ, while offering a joyous and faithful example for the children who watch and learn from their parents, who are living letters of Christ.

Lust is really the same as greed, stealing or coveting and in some cases addiction. Love acknowledges beauty without trying to steal it from someone else. Love respects the life force of Beauty without attempting to use it for one's own satisfaction. Love says, "wow, and amen," without needing to control, exploit or possess Beauty. Women's sexuality, proudly, and respectfully carried can elicit responses of worship, not for the woman, but for her Creator, whose womb birthed human beings, with all our blood and love, our feelings, sex and joy in being loved and honored simply for who we are. Yes, all of who we are.

We need a higher standard of control-free self-control -- that is, respect for our own and one another's bodies, spirits and relationships. We need to find our true freedom in Christ to honor one another's full selves out of love rather than controlling each other out of manipulation or insecurity. It's time for a sexual revolution of genuine respect.