Meet My Tutor, Desire.

The parental NO.

I remember as a kid wanting to attend a weekend away with a group of friends and my parents proclaimed “NO!”

The details are sketchy to me now, but what I experienced deep within was this strong scheming desire to

  • go behind their back
  • to trick them
  • push against being under their authority
  • even plotting how I would “eliminate” them in my life (scary but true and I do not think I am the only kid who has plotted revenge in this way).

Desire was calling, wooing me to make all my own decisions, go where I wanted, do what I wanted to do, with out anyone limiting my “freedom.”

Does desire exist to lead me into a trap?

Like Cain, “…sin is crouching at my door” always, but it’s my desire that unearths the choices set before me. What will I choose? How will I see and engage with my desires?

Often I hear people talk about how God feels far away and absent when this “sin” knocks. But in Cain’s story, we see God walking with Cain in the midst of the “sin” that is at his door. This is not a place of God’s absence, but rather it’s a place that God seems highly engaged with us!

Could desire be the place where my darkest shadows get unearthed? Might what is unearthed be a tilling of my heart to reveal roots of desire?

Years later, as I looked into my daughter’s eyes, this time I was the one issuing the “NO!” Now it was my turn to stand on the other side and face her desire.

What I noticed inside myself was a deep and fierce love for her. This love was so strong that I was more than willing to stand face to face with her desires. I wanted to protect her, from herself, from the world, from the decisions that could cause her harm. My desire stood toe to toe with her desire and, since I was the parent, I won – for the moment.

“Tame your demons and turn them into angels.” – Richard Rohr

How often do I make God far away from anything that I would qualify as a “sinful desire?” To often my thinking is that God is absent, waiting on the “right” side of my decision. But I am coming to see, taste, smell, hear and touch this presence of God with me in the choice.

The simple but profound moment is when I pause and notice that this Presence wants to be with my desires – not to destroy them, but to transform them and me.

My demons are many: pride – gluttony – lust – greed – self-centeredness (I could go on, but you get the idea…)

So today, in this state of having to rest, I am being still and listening to some of my desires:

  • to see marriages healed from the ravages of lust…
  • to kick some sexual sense into the groins of some men I know and love…
  • to experience being free from the shame of not loving some people well…
  • to shake a mother I know and demand she seek help for her addiction…
  • to protect the innocent children hurt by their parent’s choices…
  • to quit casual swearing…
  • to be reconciled to someone I love…
  • to quit having to engage with people who hurt me…
  • to run…

It’s precisely within these desires that God wants to meet me. It’s here that I am invited to “look up” and into my Creator’s face and not rely on my own perceptions. It’s here that is holy ground. Not always pretty, but it is holy…and only from this place will my demons begin to be tamed…

 

~ becky

 

Photo credit.

A blue shovel snow day

They predicted it.

It came.

Snarling traffic, cancelling schools, changing flights it is – a foot of snow!

Minnesota winter living

I have shoveled my driveway three times in the last 12 hours – yes I did say shoveled. How does one can live in Minnesota and not own an operating snow blower? That’s a good question.

When I went out the shovel the driveway for the third time, I couldn’t help but steal a wistful long look at our helpless dead snow blower. My mind began reminiscently wandering to all the years our snow blower had been there for me. All the occasions where it had faithfully trudged through piles upon piles of snow, throwing the accumulating inches into massive heaps that created a driveway snow bunker.

But now, after some 20+ years, the little trusty snow blower can no longer be something I depend on. No, I must let it go and recognize what is before me as my only option– a blue shovel and my very own strength.

 Blue shovel kind of snow day

So I took a “snow day” breaking away from my usual routine of “just-getting-it-done” timetable for snow removal and I decided to let the snow and my resources tutor me:

I felt:

  • snow falling down my unprotected neck…
  • cold wind scratching my cheeks…
  • the weight of snow being lifted chest high…

I saw:

  • footprints of animals – nothing wilder than bunnies and deer…
  • dimpled landscapes of trees releasing snow laden branches…
  • unmarred landscapes of white…
  • children jumping into piles of snow…

I heard:

  • the scrape of my shovel against asphalt…
  • birds singing…
  • airplanes overhead…
  • the soft ping of snowflakes hitting my jacket…
  • a snow blower’s roar to life down the street…

Caught up in the present moment, enjoying my “snow day” with a blue shovel, I was a bit caught off guard when out of the corner of my eye, a neighbor’s massive snow blower came barreling towards me.  I thought of my own snow blower that will be sent to the graveyards this year and realized how many times it had done the very same thing over the years.

Of course I didn’t refuse my neighbor and his snow blowers assistance, but I also realized that both of us were experiencing very different “snow days.”

Happy snow day– hope you are enjoying every moment!

~ becky

When God says “I see you”.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

I read these words over and over. How do I alter the years of thinking that as a woman, I held less of the image of God? What would it be like to claim the image of God within me? To breath the breath of God as life?

I close my eyes, breath deep longing to believe that these ancient words unearth my truest identity – marked by God’s intentional hand. I want to write about it, to share something about how this truth has changed my life. All that seems to come out is this. Can I share?

It’s a truth that is so simple and yet so profound. A moisture fills my eyes and wanting to believe I imagine returning to my…

 

First Breath of Life.

The gentle ferns hold the frame of my body

the air caresses my skin

the sky canopies my bed

the animals anticipate.

It is the day I am formed

held by the earth

and crafted by Your hand.

I am waiting…

created in the garden

I know none of these sensations

yet, I know they are real

I see none of these things

yet, I cannot be dreaming. 

 
The breath that is before me

is an invitation to receive, 

to open my lips

let the air carve and construct my lungs, 

it ignites

the first heartbeat of my soul

it leaps, 

it lurches, 

it releases. 

It activates

life with blood rushing

to every part of my body. 

 
This breath I accept

originated and uttered from my Creator

to sustain and call me to life. 

Opening my eyes

I see the one whose image I bear

because this face before me

says with absolute delight and joy, 

“I SEE YOU!”

 
by becky patton
 
Photo credit. 

Is God ever sad that we were created?

God created human

From the time I was a small child, I heard the creation story from the Bible and saw it acted out on flannel graph displays (Remember those? The flat, little one-dimensional characters we used before the days of the internet?). As an innocent four-year-old little girl, I experienced the drama and emotion of the Creation story as yes, miraculous, but it always had such a dramatic let-down

There we were, in front of the flannel graph display, hearing about the tenderness of God’s creative hands creating this human being, then wham!… out came the snake and the end result of all these wonderful days of creating led to THIS point:

  • the woman sinned
  • she made the man sin too
  • then God sent them away, out of the Garden.

End of story. What had been “very good,” a few verses earlier suddenly became extremely—and totally—bad. 

One of the earliest questions I remember asking after each flannel graphs display was this: “Do you think God was sad we were created?”

I talked this week with a mother whose offspring, the boy she nursed at her breast and carries her DNA, has taken a dark turn towards disordered sexual choices. As we sat together, she cried, raged and asked questions that revealed the precarious edges of hope and despair she walks daily. Now the most loving thing she, as a mother, can do is let go, release and entrust her son to his Creator. 

As we talked, I returned to the original creation story and we talked about how hard it is to “let go” and “release” our children in their own sexual journeys. Her passion rose with these words, “I will forever cherish the beauty of what his life has brought to me, even knowing his choices will create his own pain-filled journey home.”

This young man carries the image of his mother and father, but far deeper and embedded within him is the image of God. Yes, we can make choices that scar, cloud and hide that image, but never is God sorry we exist. Instead God is forever risking letting us go in order to give us the choice to return.

I can only imagine that the hardest moment in creation was watching those beautiful created beings turn and walk away. What if God’s image is embedded in each of us to remind us what we are returning to?

What if God’s image roots and grounds us so we can return?

We were not created from nothing. We were created from the very essence of God. We exist only because God exists at the very core of who we are. If we remove God’s essence from us, we would cease to exist.

Genesis – a fresh look at beginnings and our Creator who will risk everything to remind us we are loved.

~ becky

Photo credit.

What informs our perceptions of sexuality and sex?

sexual foundations

From a very young age I discovered the anatomical differences between a boy and a girl, but sex or sexuality were definitely not talked about. If “it” was talked about it was only in hushed whispers, indicating that “it” was dirtywrongandverybad — whatever “it” was.

My childhood interpretation was that even wondering about sex was bad bad bad. And, just between you and me, I wondered about “it”, a lot.

Long before I had the language to define or clarify my experiences, my sexual foundation was being laid. From my own story, I’ve come to believe that what happens around us creates an environment, and what happens to us creates our interpretation. Something like this:

  • Sex is good…
  • Sex is bad… 
  • Sexuality is PVI (penis vagina intercourse)…
  • Sex is secret…

So where exactly do we get these views of sexuality that influence us?

When I was in Kindergarten, I was learning fundamental life skills like, how to share, hold a pencil, write my name, etc., etc., Also during my Kindergarten years I had my first experiences of sexual abuse.

The sexual abuse I experienced at this time were some of my first sexual experiences; thus they played a large role in forming how I viewed sex, sexuality and how I understood myself as a female. These experiences are some of the many pieces of “baggage” I took with me into my teenage and adult years of life.

All of us have life experiences that work to inform our perception of sexuality and sex. Make no mistake about it, these experiences are there alright, but they can be buried under years of unspoken interpretations and unexplained situations. Life experiences can be complicated and often really messy. Can I get an amen?

But here’s what I want to tell you. These “baggage” experiences, whatever they may be for you, these are NOT the truest essence of how your Creator designed you.

Sexuality and spirituality go together from the very, very beginning and are God’s intentional design. Genesis states that we bear the image of God and that being a man or a woman is about being a sexual being.

Is it possible that God wove these so intricately together for us to find our sexual and spiritual identity defined by who God is and not by what we have experienced?

In my own personal journey of leaving behind some of my earliest “baggage experiences”, God’s invited me to return to the very beginning, to Genesis, to remember the foundational truths about being made in the image of God.

Let’s face it, wading through our “baggage experiences” that surround our view of sex and sexuality can be messy and complicated. But underneath that complicated mess, there is the potential for so much life and hope, it’s extraordinary.

What are some of your “baggage experiences” that have informed your perception of sex and sexuality? What is your foundational view of being made in the image of God?

Join me, won’t you? Let’s hang out in the book of Genesis for awhile because God has been known to do some amazing things when we risk returning to the core of our identity.

~ becky

photo credit.

My Choice – Your Choice | BODY TALK

I am not alone

unless I choose to be

in learning to love my body.

My daily choice is to recognize that every woman

alive is on a journey beside me, with me, ahead and behind me

and we are all making choices

learning

seeking

discovering

begging to see beyond cultural norms

and grasp something that would anchor us

in loving this body that we inhabit.

I do not create the air that is around me,

my body responds to a need and draws it in.

I cannot produce food that provides nourishment,

my body’s appetite will consume calories I choose.

I cannot create ground to hold my weight,

my body challenges my mind, to silence its protests and keep running.

So many choices each day

that draw my attention back to the delicate juncture

of darkness – to reject this body…

of light – to embrace this body…

I juggle the emotions like delicate crystal

wishing this were behind me,

over,

finished.

Instead daily I am invited into a dance

to reclaim

to honor

to embrace,

and choose to return to a deeper identity, scripted in sacred words

“Now listen daughter, don’t miss a word…the King is wild for you.*”

So I meet you my sisters

at the sacred juncture of choice

to be aware of our bodies and

choosing to love that which THE King is wild about.

~ becky

Be sure to stay tuned as there are more BODY TALKS to come dear friends!

*Psalm 45:10 MSG

My Body. My Image | BODY TALK

Welcome to Truessence’s all November long series: BODY TALK. We think this topic is so valuable and important to discuss that we’re taking an entire month to just stop, share stories and notice what’s stirring in each of us around honoring our bodies. Exciting right?

I’m going to start us off with a question (typical, if you know me. I love questions!)

This question is complicated, just like we as women are complicated. This question is one I seem to get often after speaking at a conference or weekend retreat.

And just to make myself clear here, I reserve the right to return to this topic… frequently. Here is what I find brewing right now: How do I nourish my body image?

Some days this is a great question – followed by a strong affirming statement of hope. Yet, sometimes I struggle to find any fiber of strength to hold me up. So that’s why I have to ask myself this question, frequently.

Today I am surrounded by various shapes, sizes and complexities of women all wearing spandex – a great fall running day at the lake. With each jiggle and foot pounding I see body parts that are swaying with beauty, but maybe that is because I feel the vulnerability of my body joined with theirs.

The story I am telling myself is that we are beautiful women, caring well for our bodies and together we are an encouragement to one another. Do I believe this? Most of the time, but I have to be honest there are times when I struggle with the bulges in my waistline, the sagging of once perky body parts and the mysterious way my brain suddenly fails to remember where I parked the car.

What sources do I access to nourish my body image?

There are no two women who share the same body type. And that’s a fact. So how we view our own body is going to impact how we share this body with another. If the “story” we are telling ourselves that a certain shape, size, coloring, image is perfect, then I am looking for something outside of what I am to define my body.

At the risk of sounding simplistic… I have to ask myself… do I really want to be defined by the impossible or do I want to risk seeing my real beauty?

This past winter I had the opportunity to spend a week by the ocean. Every night the sun sank into the ocean’s horizon, same time, same place and always before a gathered crowd. Very evening held a unique beauty – similar, but not the same – a commonality was shared, but IF I had stood and defined what I thought the beauty should look it, I would have completely missed the beauty that was right in front of me  – in that moment.

Ladies, ladies, ladies (and yes men too, but more on that another time)… your body image is unique. Soft parts are necessary, perky parts will fall and yes, we will need to be reminded to keep rediscovering beauty in our bodies as we age (especially in sexual relationships).

First befriend your body and own the beautiful moment of this day, who you are right NOW, then you can pause and see how beauty is not something we define, instead we enter.

Not once in those seven days by the ocean did I see the same display of beauty. Not once was the sky completely the same and identical to the night before. So ladies, maybe we need to keep “running” together and telling ourselves the same story – we all belong, we all carry beauty and it is good.

Care to meet me at the twilight moment and discover the beauty together? I will be the one in spanx pinching my middle and leaving a bulge.

~ becky

PS And speaking our need to keep running together… get ready for Monday when my friend Laura adds her voice to BODY TALK this November by sharing how one intentional, simple choice is impacting her entire family.

Was Jesus Too Holy For Sex?

Have you heard or seen the headlines this past week, about Jesus being married?

While the fourth-century fragment of papyrus is being tested and retested to determine IF it is authentic, the possibility holds a dramatic flare.

Let’s be clear right away, I am not wanting to create a debate on the issue of whether or not it’s true. No, honestly what I am most surprised and interested in noting is the reactions and responses of some of the religious leaders.

In one article Too holy for sex? The problem of a married Jesus states that:

“If Jesus is a normal human being and he is sexual that’s the real fear…”

Wait really? Why are we afraid of this? Are we afraid of Jesus being a sexual being? Or afraid that He might of had a wife? Do either of these things change the truth of Jesus being Jesus?

The foundation of the Christian faith is based on the fact that God sent Jesus to earth through a human woman – her name was Mary. She conceived and carried him within her womb for nine months and ultimately birthed Jesus in a stable. He lived and breathed and walked among us, revealing God to us.

I once heard a great Christian leader of our time, J Phillip Newell say,

“Jesus didn’t come to show us who he was, but rather to show us what we are capable of being.”

And wouldn’t we all agree that sexuality,of all places, is one where we most definitely need to have direction and need to know what we are capable of being? I would say so.

Ok, I know I am treading on delicate ground here and that no one wants to think about the fact that Jesus – yes Jesus – he did have male genitals. I am guessing that he also was daily engaged with his genitals for bodily functions, like men often are… are you getting the picture here? Jesus was fully man and he was also fully holy. So does it make us nervous to think of Jesus as fully human or that in being fully human he was also sexual?

James Tabor a biblical scholar from University of North Carolina remarked,

“You can’t think of Jesus as that (sexual), he’s too holy.”

Jesus too holy to be sexual?  Why do we think that having a wife and assuming they had sex, would some how make Jesus less holy, unless we believe that sex cannot be holy.

There can be discomfort in reexamining our deeply held beliefs about sex and yet the truth is, God created sex and we were created as sexual beings! Who better to know and understand the mystery of integration between physical, emotional and spiritual, than the one who created it?? And do we believe, at our very core, that ALL God created is holy, including sex?

I believe at the core of our spirituality is an invitation to experience our sexuality as something holy, something filled with wonder and exploration. Who better to show us the path to discover holy sexuality than the One who created it?

At some point there will be tests of this piece of papyrus, conclusions will be reached and ultimately this “did Jesus have a wife” question will fall to the background for awhile. Whether or not this drama holds any real evidence about Jesus, it sure has done one thing. It has definitely revealed some core beliefs about how sex is viewed among many religious leaders of our time.

~becky

photo credit can be found: http://bit.ly/P64G53

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day always that takes me back…

Why did I become a mother?

Was I chosen or did I make this happen?

What is a mother really?

And does bearing a child automatically mean being a mother?

Scripture is filled with images of mothers and their engagement with children–with varied outcomes, but the obvious correlation is that we are continually being reminded of God’s love for us.

I believe the Bible is continuing to ask us to see the heart of God. This heart, defined not by gender, but by the capacity to love embodied in both father and mother as the full love of a Creator, to us — the created.

We are created to need a kind of love that is beyond what one human being can give to another.

Physically, I have two lovely beautiful daughters that I adore! I am daily reminded of ways their lives have stretched more than my physical body. It’s my daughters’ very lives, needs and questions that have revealed how little I knew about being a mother.

The walls of home no longer contain daily shrills of laughter and peanut butter fingerprints. My schedule is absent of soccer matches and piano lessons. My sleep patterns are no longer interrupted by the late night squeaky floorboards and a cough from the other room, yet everyday I still experience being a mother–one who seeks to call forth life.

My days hold mothering moments and endless invitations to see those around me.

There is only so much that I can do for my own children, I cannot be everything to them.  Oh do not get me wrong, I long to be the everything to their needs and desires in this life! But alas, God did not design even mothers to be able to do this.

God designed us, as humankind, to bear life. A part of how we bear life is when we recognize our own limitations and the need for others–the need for community.

Oh, I often feel an ache when I see another meeting a deep need with one of my daughter’s. But I also see something more–a gift where God is not only mothering my daughter, but I am too being mothered. It’s like God is saying, “I see you–AND I see your daughter!”

One of my daughter’s gave me a gift this year through a poem she wrote, entitled “Community of Mother’s” that was published on this fabulous blog. But her words, her gift, I believe is more than just for me. It’s a gift that’s for women who are mothers–both biologically and spiritually.

As women, our capacity to hold and see others is healing and deeply needed. Regardless of age and biology, you have the opportunity to call forth life in others.

So Happy Mother’s Day to every woman alive – may you dare to see the beauty of how our lives are interwoven and how together we bring forth life in all that God has made!

~ b.

You can read my daughter’s mother’s day words here. 

Mary Did You Know…

It is Advent season the story of Mary…a baby…a birth…fill our pulpits.

Image

These words of Thomas Merton appeared in my inbox this morning

“The word of God…penetrating our inmost being is more than a communication of light: it is a new birth, the beginning of a new being.”

It made me wonder~

How did Mary, this young, uneducated girl from one of the poorest regions of that time know the scriptures so well? Her utterance in Luke recounts ancient Psalms and articulates their correlation to the Savior she carries, yet to be born.

How did these words utter forth from her? Where did she find them? How did she traverse the years of study to match their truth to this time? I imagine that she would have heard the Hebrew writings in passing or possibly as her brothers studied, but as a woman, she herself would not have had the tutoring to study and learn the significance of these things.

Mary was penetrated with the seed of God.

Image

In saying, “yes” to carry this life within, it dislodged and changed something that stretched and shaped her body.

Did it also shape and stretch her knowledge of the Word from within?

Did the seed she carried now stir to life the sacredness of Psalm’s words?

Image

What seeds of life do we carry within, creating a new beginning…