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Young children have a natural connection with the divine, believing they are a part of all that is around them and they are at the center. They also have a curiosity, which they express unashamed. I celebrate the families that allow their children to have their own voices from birth. Their curiosity and creativity should be encouraged.

Children often ask very insightful questions. Dismissing them can squelch their innate desire to learn, though sometimes itís tough when one is busy. One should always stop and answer in a fashion that will encourage more prompting, even if it means to ask them to hold their much-deserved questions until a bit later. I keep a list on the refrigerator for times such as these. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the question and answer when there is more quality time to devote to them. Of course, kids will still catch you off guard with a good one.


Storytime
by Mike Wimmer

My six-year-old granddaughter broached the subject of God recently while we drove from her house to mine.

"Granny, God loves all people, doesn't he?"

I thought for a moment and said, "Yes, I believe God does love all people."

"He loves the good people and he loves the bad people, huh?"

I smiled, not quite sure where this was going but I decided to keep the door open. "Yes," I said, "I think you're right."

She was silent a moment before continuing. "Why does God love the bad people?"

I knew this would result in one of those moments when I wish I had the wisdom of the ages at my fingertips. It was time to launch the difference-between-people-and-bad-things-people-do concept.

I continued. "You know how sometimes kids make wrong decisions or do bad things?"

"Uh, huh," she said. "One day Caroline hit me at play time and she got in trouble."

"Well, even though Caroline did something wrong, her parents still love her, right? Maybe God is a little bit like that."

I looked in the rear view mirror and she seemed deep in six-year-old thought. Whew, I made it through that one.

"Gran? Is God always a boy? Or do girls have a girl God?"

I hesitated. "That's a really good question," I said, buying time. Damn, this one was much harder and maybe needs to be a refrigerator question.

"Because if God is a boy, that doesn't seem fair," she added.

Already she was investigating the Almighty Unseen and recognizing the imbalance. I was fortunate in my rearing as a Catholic, in that I was exposed to the feminine side of the divine in learning of Mary who was revered. I often talked to "her" in times of confusion, as a mother to a mother -- as a woman who would be understood by another woman.

Leaving the Catholic faith partially had to do with judgments, control, and patriarchal limitations; however, I still held respect for that belief. I kept many sacred teachings and rituals of my childhood, though I remained at first unchurched for a number of years. During that time, I took for granted my faith exposure until sitting in a circle of women discussing feminist theology, where the concept of the feminine face of God was brought up. Many women there identified God as a domineering, rule-wielding punisher, which had been their experiences in the religions of their childhood -- a concept that they now rejected. This perception was foreign to me. Possibly my exposure to the feminine side of the divine in early childhood shaped me with a broader concept of Mother/Father God, Creator, Spirit as an ideal which was not confined within the parameters mere humans placed.

I reflected on the valuable advice my father gave me about rearing children before I answered my granddaughter.

"Always be honest with what your values are," he said. "Do not teach your children one way and have them discover that you do not believe or follow your own teachings."

My granddaughter waited patiently for my response to her dilemma of a gender-based God.

I took a deep breath. "I don't think God is either one, Alyssa. I Think God is a great spirit, the greatest of them all. Maybe we just say 'he' or 'she' because we don't know what else to call 'him' or 'her.'" We got out of the car and I took her hand, leading her to the door. Her face was pinched in confusion. I was afraid I had made matters worse.

I faced her and crouched down. "God isn't a person, rather I think God is the love people have inside of them," I poked her belly, "and their creativity, and feelings, and kindness, and doesn't really have a face or a body."

"My teacher said God lives in my heart," she said.

"Well that would certainly make sense because I see all of that in you." I set my purse down on the kitchen table upon entering the house and guided her to my rocking chair. I hefted her to my lap as I plopped on the velvet cushion. My Dalmatian was panting in excitement to have us home and Alyssa drew away from his hot breath. I reached out and petted his neck.

"Maybe God is in all things living and growing," I said, "all things beautiful like sunsets and the ocean and the full moon. And maybe God is even in all the animals like Duncan, here."

She screwed up her face and giggled. "Ewe-eee, Granny! God is not Duncan!"

I smiled. "No, but maybe God is how we feel about Duncan."

"Love," she said, nodding her head.

"Yes -- love," I repeated in return.

She lay back on my chest and I slowly rocked forward and backward in the silent house.

Alyssa sighed. "I love you, Granny."

I smiled. I never tire of hearing that. "And I love you too, Alyssa."

She looked upside down at me, eyebrows raised, grinning. "Can I have a cookie now?"

The theology lesson was obviously over.

Bio: Debbie Cannatella lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is a watercolorist, stained glass artist, and writer of fantasy and women's fiction. She is a 44-year-young grandmother of three who believes children should be raised in the midst of creativity. She enjoys drumming, art, hanging out with her granddaughter, spending time at the family camp in the woods by a lake, art, making soap and lotions, exotic dinners, gardening, and of course, art. Her web site is www.cannatella.net, and her e-mail address is DLCannatella@cox.net.

The Gift of Thanks | My New Regiment
Children and Their Divine Questions
SPIRIT: A Woman's Journal and Guide to Discovering
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