Father Sue and Why I Don’t Neuter God



I once believed, like many of my big hearted friends, that I could cut all the male/female references out of God and It would resonate for me. I even thought the neutral would work better for me because He would be free of gender. A great Force. An It that was bigger than gender. Bigger than the labels we give to what our limited minds understand.

The Force defies images, but if I try, I come up with objects like mountains, or the sun, the moon or even flowers.

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Then one day I read two books by Sue Monk Kidd that shattered those neutral thoughts.

In The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Kidd talked of needing deep in our souls to connect with the Divine. She talked of how very much we needed to feel a connection as a reflection of ourselves. She even talked of how she felt so steeped in male terms for God that she once slipped and thought of herself as Father Sue while visiting a monastic retreat.

Since reading that book, I’ve awakened to how very repressed the Divine feminine is in our consciousness. I wonder, as Kidd did in another book The Secret Life of Bees, how the world and its balance of power would shift and how it might change if we thought of the Great One as a woman of color. Could we subjugate people if we clearly understood that they reflected the face of the Divine? Could we begin to think of these images as representing the Divine?

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I still respect and admire others’ need to take gender out all together. The Divine is not actually a woman. The Divine is not a man. The Divine is greater and more marvelous than the gender that we assign or that is assigned to us. I once believed God lived on the mountain and, living in the shadow of a volcano, it’s easy to feel the power of inanimate things.


But I am a woman, not a mountain. And I’ve discovered that to reach my best and most wonderful potential, I need to relate to a Goddess, not a God or a great unknowable Force, as fair-minded as that would seem. I don’t even object to terms like Father and Lord when we gather to worship. I feel the deep need of others to name God and relate in that way.

I only wish those male terms were balanced with the words Mother and Lady so both genders in the congregation could relate and see ourselves as reflections of the Divine. Maybe we could even sprinkle in a few neutral terms now and then to remind ourselves of impermanent nature of what we are now.

The idea of Goddess is shocking to me still — much scarier than a Force whose existence people more willingly agree to acknowledge. I’m scared to post this. My friend Shirley challenged me, and I have had a good long pause in posting while I considered what to do.

I am hoping maybe this means I’m ‘starting to get it right’ — that I might be reaching that moment Neil Gaiman described:

“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.”

Whether I am getting it right or not, the She Who Is keeps insisting I write this in ways that won’t let me go. So I will punch the keys, hunt for public domain pictures, and hit publish. The world will keep spinning, and then I can move on to the next words tucked inside me.

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Classics for Four Year Old Granddaughters


My friend Jill asked me this weekend what reading classics I would recommend for her and her soon-to-be four granddaughter. It was a delightfully difficult question to answer. Here are all of my ideas.

Kid Classics Everyone Seems to Know

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (The language in this is amazing. I read that one of the reasons it works so well and is so soothing involves the use of the vowels created in the back of your throat. Ms. Brown is  a wonder.)

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (It is a joy to learn this book as the parent reader. After a time, you can start zipping through the language and the repetition, feeling a little like your tongue is skipping. I especially like the question at the end about asking the mother. “What would you do if your mother asked you?” Quinton always has to ponder this a bit.)

Anything by Eric Carle. (Kieran and I especially liked The Grouchy Ladybug. Quinton loves The Hungry Caterpillar.)

Skippyjon Jones series by Judy Schachner (Although the boys never got hooked on these, I adore this cat and think Jill’s granddaughter might, too.)

My Special Recommendation for Girls

The Paper Bag Princess by Munch with art by Marchenko. (This book is a delightful twist on the rescue a female from the dragon scenario — the heroine does her own brilliant rescuing. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed this more than the boys, but they appreciate my sound effects for the dragon’s actions.)

My Family’s Lesser Known Classics

If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullan (This one is good if you like to sing. The different animals have new lyrics for old lullabies.)

The Little Critter series by Mercer Meyer (Little Critter is a wonder with his trips to the grandparents, experiences with a messy room and, my husband’s favorite: Just Go to Bed.)

One Day, Two Dragons by Lynne Bertrand (An elegant tale of two dragons off to get shots to protect them against things like scale rot and dragon breath.)

Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin (Again, the language rolls off your tongue as you read it. The cows and ducks triumph with words also spices up the plot.)

And, finally, our all time favorite if you only let us have one children’s book forever because you were a cruel overlord or something: 

Four Pups and a Worm by Eric Seltzer (I don’t know many people who have read this one but I adore it. Seltzer has a rhythm that creates an easy flow to the words and an adorable concept. The repeating words helped Kieran learn to read and I see the beginnings of this with Quinton, too.)

“If a pet frog sounds like fun, would 3 cats and a slug lend you one? Never. No. Never. They’re just not that clever. Call four pups and a worm! They lend frogs!”

I’m hoping Jill will check these out from one of my favorite places on the surface of this planet: the library. Then she can chose her favorite or favorites to give her girl. Whatever she does, I’m thrilled she asked me. Tripping through the books in my mind was a blast that beat the trousers off of all that blowing up of explosives I heard last night.