ASHERAH: SO GOD HAD A WIFE, MAYBE? PROBABLY.
What surprised you about Asherah’s story? What did you learn? What offended you?
How have you been erased? Or how has part of your story been erased?
Did you know about those other stories? What was it like to hear them? What have we lost in forgetting them?
What/who do you identify with in the story?
How are you present to your own life? How are you now invigorated to be present?
- Try using the illustration of Asherah as an icon for meditation. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze. Allow your eyes to move over the image. Notice, distantly, what draws your attention, what loops your eyes make as they move across the image. What do you settle on? What disturbs you? Look into Asherah’s eyes in silence and feel her looking back at you. Breathe slowly and allow your emotions to bubble up—fear, loss, awe, confusion. Sit as long as you feel called to, then slowly come back to yourself. What was that like? What did you learn from Asherah?
What did you already know about Eve? Or what did you think you knew?
What surprised you about this story? With what/who did you identify?
When have you been tempted? By what? How do you feel about it now? What did you learn from being tempted, whether you gave in or not?
Wasn’t that scene in The Lord of the Rings so good? I mean, damn.
What are you grieving? What are you hoping for?
How would the world be different if the Church had gone with original goodness rather than original sin? How would your own faith be different?
- Find some markers or pens or crayons. Whatever you like to doodle with. Sit comfortably with the image of Eve in front of you. (If you prefer, photocopy it first—you have permission to do it just this once…) Take a deep breath. Maybe another one. As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, allow your mind to slow down, soften your gaze. Contemplate your death. Or the death of someone you love. I’m serious. Allow your grief, or the potential for grief to rise. Use the markers or pens or crayons to doodle in her hair. Allow your doodles to be enshrouded in the blackness of her hair. When you are ready, begin to contemplate life and the belovedness of creation. What is hopeful and new on the horizon? Doodle in the white space around her as you contemplate these things. When you’re ready, come back to yourself. What do you notice?
EVE: MOTHER OF ALL LIVING
What stood out for you in Hagar’s story?
Think of/tell a story about when you felt divine presence—what happened? How could you tell it was God/divine? What did you learn from the experience?
What do you do with misogyny, slavery, and xenophobia in the Bible? Ignore it? Internalize it? Fight against it? How do you talk about it to your friends, kids, or people with a different faith experience than yourself?
Would you return to the scene of your oppression if you had an incontrovertible experience of the divine? Why or why not?
In the chapter, Hagar says, “Where are you now, God, and where is your Promise?” When have you asked something like this? What was the response? How did you move forward?
What does God do that you could name God after?
- Try using the illustration of Hagar as an icon for meditation. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze. Allow your eyes to move over the image. Notice, distantly, what draws your attention, what loops your eyes make as they move across the image. What do you settle on? What disturbs you? Look into Hagar’s eyes in silence and feel her looking back at you. Breathe slowly and allow your emotions to bubble up—fear, loss, awe, confusion. Sit as long as you feel called to, then slowly come back to yourself. What was that like? What did you learn from Hagar?
Hagar: Abraham’s Other Woman
What thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations came up for you as you read about the Wives of Ferocity?
Who else can you think of, whether in the news or in your family, who is fierce? What have you learned from them?
Man, slaughtering your enemies gloriously sure is hard work, am I right?
When have you been like Deborah or Jael? When have you sat and watched people coming and going and seen more than their movements? When have you stood up for someone, though it was frightening or dangerous?
Why do you think Jael waited outside her tent? What would bring you do to what she did?
How do you make time to pay attention to the world, to appreciate creation and the people in it? How do you find the courage to work for justice?
- Try using the illustration of Jael as the beginning of a meditation. If you can build a fire outside or in your fireplace, do so. If not, maybe light a candle. If necessary, find an HD crackling fire on YouTube and fullscreen it. Sit comfortably, maybe with a nice laprobe. Relax your gaze and look at the illustration of Jael. Imagine her ferocity burning like a flame. Imagine your own ferocity burning within you. Let your eyes follow the flames surrounding her. When you’re ready, set the illustration aside and gaze into the fire. Imagine the heat at the center of the fire. Follow the flames as they lick away from the center. Imagine the heat and rage and power of the fire within your chest. Breathe slowly into it. Let the flames radiate from your center. Sit with this image for as long as you like. When you’re ready come back to yourself. What did you notice?
Deborah and Jael: Women on Top
What surprised you about this story?
Why is this in the Bible?
What would it be like to hear this passage preached on in church? Beyond the initial “hell, yeah!” How would it change how you view your faith and faith in general if R-rated passages were more common in worship and conversation?
How would you compare your love to something in the world? How would you use sexual or romantic imagery to describe your experience of God? Give it a try—I dare you.
Your body is beautiful. Did you know that? Name at least seven ways that your physical being is beautiful. Maybe go listen to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Who do you let really see you? With whom are you truly vulnerable? Why?
Try using the illustration of the Song of Songs as a jumping-off point for meditation. Stand barefoot in a room where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes; let your mind slow. Rest your palms on your belly and feel it rise and fall as you breathe slowly and deeply. As you continue to breathe, slowly bend at the waist as far as is comfortable, ideally so that your head is upside down and your arms hang towards the floor. Rest your palms on your feet or your calves. Maybe caress them gently. Not in a weird way. Or maybe it is weird to appreciate your body, but it’s good. You are beautiful.
Appreciate how your feet and legs carry you through your life. Slowly move your hands to your thighs and begin to unfold yourself at the waist. Rest your palms on your thighs and feel how substantial they are, feel their power to support you as you walk. Maybe caress them as well. Slowly straighten your spine and move your hands to your ass, cupping and appreciating its shape. Let your hands move to your lower back, maybe press into the muscles there, and appreciate how your spine supports you.
Continue to breathe in and out deeply. Bring your arms to the front and let one hand trail up and down the other arm. Feel the muscles beneath your palm, rub your fingers between the fingers of the opposite hand. Appreciate all your hands can do, both ordinary and sensual. Switch arms. Continuing to breathe deeply, move your hands to your neck, head and face. Explore your scalp and face, appreciating all your brain can do and all your face can express. Appreciate your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your ears. When you’re ready, let your hands drop back to your belly as you breathe in and out deeply a few more times. What did you notice?
Song of Songs: The Sexy, Sexy Bible
With what/who do you identify?
Whose body do you know as intimately as your own? What does that mean to you?
When have you seen miracles (or something you couldn’t explain)? What were they like? How did it change you?
Do you know anyone like my parishioner Mary? What does she teach you about being partnered and being widowed?
What is it like to be alone? (Whether widowed or not.)
Who and what have you grieved? What are you grieving now?
What are you hoping for?
Try a physical meditation based on the illustration of the widow. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze as you look at her. With your eyes or your fingers, slowly trace the lines of her face, her garment, the blackness surrounding her. When you feel centered, set the illustration aside and rest one hand palm-up in your lap. With a finger on your other hand, gently trace the outside edge of your hand beginning at the base of your thumb. Trace the edge up to the tip on an inbreath, then back down into the wide space between thumb and forefinger on an outbreath. Trace up to the tip of the forefinger in an inbreath, back down between the forefinger and middle finger on an outbreath. Continue breathing and tracing slowly, becoming intimately familiar with your hands as you do so. Cherish your fingers and your skin. When you are ready, come back to yourself. What do you notice?
Widows: Those Left Behind
With what/who did you identify?
What surprised you about this story? How revolted are you? How did it make you feel?
Does the metaphor of the Church or God’s people or even yourself as a faithless spouse speak to you? Why or why not?
Some folks, notably liberation theologians, suggest we want a god who gets angry at injustice and pain, that this angry, violent god is exactly what we need in a world filled with war and exploitation. What do you make of that? Where do you need an angry god?
Why do you keep choosing someone or something other than God?
Why should we remember these stories about Wife Jerusalem and not just ignore them? Does it wake you up to the ways you hurt yourself and others? Does it call you to take up arms against toxic masculinity? Does it ask you to choose kindness so these stories can be forgotten in a cloud of caring witnesses?
- Try using the illustration of Jerusalem as an icon for meditation. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze. Allow your eyes to move over the image. Notice, distantly, what draws your attention, what loops your eyes make as they move across the image. What do you settle on? What disturbs you? Look into Jerusalem’s eyes in silence and feel her looking back at you. Breathe slowly and allow your emotions to bubble up—fear, loss, awe, confusion. Sit as long as you feel called to, then slowly come back to yourself. What was that like? What did you learn from Jerusalem?
JERUSALEM: I DON’T LOVE YOU, AND I ALWAYS WILL
What stood out for you in Susanna’s story?
Share a story about a time you felt backed into a corner, whether physically or emotionally—what happened? How do you tell the story now—that is, who is the hero in the story? Where was God in that moment? How did you use or not use your own voice? What did you learn?
How do you respond when something in your life is ambiguous? When something in scripture is ambiguous? Is ambiguity your friend or foe?
What are your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations when you see women being threatened or men acting superior or entitled? Or the other way around?
What cartoon character did you imagine?
When have you cried out for help? What happened?
- Try using the illustration of Susanna as a jumping-off point for meditation. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze. Look at the flame over her head. Examine its shape and texture. Let your eyes follow the spiral or the edges of the flame. Breathe slowly. When you’re ready, set the illustration aside and arrange your arms into a similar posture to Susanna’s, palms up. Close your eyes. Recreate the flame in your mind’s eye. See it shiver in the breeze, gaze at it’s hottest point. Try imagining that flame just inside your forehead, illuminating your thoughts and your path. Let it glow as a comfort and as a call to open yourself. Breathe. Feel the openness of your hands, your willingness to receive. Breathe deeply and slowly. When you are ready, come back to yourself. What do you notice?