Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir

JLWcov
About my book Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit (published by DreamSeeker Books in 2011).

Book-jacket Praise for JESUS LOVES WOMEN

An honest, piercing, blunt, lyrical, remarkable writer about the endless chambers of joy and pain in the heart.”—Brian Doyle, Author of the novel Mink River

“Finally, the body is getting its due as the normal and gifted vehicle for Spirit! It has taken us a long time to realize the Christian obvious, and Tricia Gates Brown is making it both more obvious and thoroughly Christian.”—Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Author, Falling Upward

“Like a late night talk with my best friend, Tricia’s book gave me intimate insights into her life, my life and God’s love for us. Her fresh, rich words draw me to examine my life and God’s movement through it. By openly sharing the secrets we typically hide, she invites us to give ourselves the grace God does and to journey toward unreserved living and loving.”—Susan Mark Landis, former Minister of Peace and Justice, Mennonite Church USA

“Jesus Loves Women is a story of grace, of how through the healing beauty of the Pacific coast and the friendship of a Trappist monk, Tricia awakens to a mystical understanding of God’s unconditional love. It is the story of how one woman finds freedom from the shame, social conventions, and religious pieties that constrict the lives of all women.”—James Loney, in the Foreword; Author of Captivity: 118 Days inIraq and the Struggle for a World Without War

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Hipfish Review of “Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit”
Nancy Slavin

Tricia Gates Brown’s memoir, Jesus Loves Women, has only three words in the title, and any one of them alone could deter the prototypical Hipfish reader (read: non-denominational, feminist, free-thinking individual) from picking up the book. “Jesus” scares some people. “Love” scares plenty of people. And “Women,” as a capital lettered word and a sex, let’s be honest here, scare lots of people, too.  But put them all together, along with a subtitle that says, “a memoir of body and spirit,” and suddenly the book begs questions that makes readers want to open its pages.

I’m one of those people who scares easily upon hearing Jesus in a sentence because, for me, too many people (read: fundamentalist Christians) have used Jesus’ name while justifying unhelpful and, often, hurtful action. But in Brown’s memoir, Jesus is a not simply the son of God who bears the cross of our sins, but a mentor to study, a person to emulate, a helper to meditate upon, and a teacher who advocates self-love and self-respect.

Spanning from youth to middle age, Jesus Loves Women tells the story of one individual woman’s journey into spiritual authenticity.  The memoir covers a lot of ground including: a childhood spent navigating a fundamentalist home and community, first love and sexual awakenings, an early marriage rife with stereotypical gender role expectations and emotional control, single motherhood, academic theological study and self-imposed pressure to achieve, a second marriage, a second divorce, and a few international peace keeping missions.  Brown handles shifts in time and age without any major jolts – the narrative balances story and summary; it weaves both ideas and memories into a fine cloth. Additionally, although Brown’s book reveals several ill-advised decisions and wrong turns, the narrative voice is thoughtful, contemplative, and honest without being either a shame-a-log or overly self-absorbed. This memoir gives – as all good memoirs should give – its readers a chance to reconsider their own beliefs and paradigms; in this case those ideas we hold about womanhood, religion, war, sexuality, kindness, and what to do with our own hidden corners of secrecy and shame.

The book answers many of the questions the title begs, such as: how can women not know, in this day and age, that Jesus loves them?  And, based on the tagline of the book, can a woman express true Christ-like love and still be a sexual being?  How does one balance body and spirit anyway?  Even though my upbringing wasn’t fundamentalist or even Christian, so much of what Brown meditates upon in her memoir, I related to as an every day woman, like mistakenly trying to find Christ-love through the approval of men, or trying to achieve academic and literary success in order to prove my worth as a person, or feeling confusion about my right as a woman to be a sensual being, or wondering what spiritual purpose my life holds.

Set primarily in the Pacific Northwest, Brown, writes about our lush area with memorable sensory detail.  “Lively woods…hold their breath till morning, when birds burst into chorus and deer cut paths to the paltry streams sauntering through the hills.”  (About my old haunt of Oceanside, she writes, “Oceansideis spellbinding….Light prances on the water.  Cloudscapes part and converge, billowing gradations of white and basalt-gray with gossamer sideburns, layers of steely blue.” I wished all over again I still lived there).  But with all the locations in the book, from the Willamette Valley’s influential abbey, to Scotland, to Canada, and back to the Oregon coast, Brown’s writing makes me feel as if I’ve been to those places, and offers metaphors for the narrator’s various emotional states, which, in turn, makes me feel like I’m getting to know a friend.

Jesus Loves Women is impressive in its scope of thought and its coverage of so many aspects of one woman’s life.  To write about any individual life is hard enough, but to also manage to articulate truths about female sexuality and longing, violence and peace, and self-health and solitude, raises Brown’s memoir to the level of being a book one keeps close by on the shelf.  The kind of book we can turn to again and again to learn from and to relate to and open in order to remember our spirits.

~ Nancy Slavin
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MWR Review of “Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit”

Melanie Springer Mock

 

Tricia Gates Brown, whose previous work includes two books about Christian Peacemaker Teams, turns in this work to her own life — to her experiences growing up in a conservative, evangelical family, and to her discovery of God’s love for her.

Gates Brown frames her memoir around the visits she makes to Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, just outside of Lafayette, Ore. The Abbey, nestled in the Willamette Valley foothills, becomes a sanctuary for the writer, whose unsettled life searches for its anchor. She finds one, of a kind, in Martin, a Mexican-American monk who serves her burritos and listens to her story.

Throughout the memoir, Gates Brown returns again and again to The Abbey and to Martin, allowing her narrative about love and love lost, heartache and redemption, to unspool around these visits. Gates Brown finds comfort in Martin’s continual reassurance that Jesus loves women — that Jesus loves her — a point that becomes the resonant theme guiding the book.

That Jesus loves women as much as men may seem obvious. But, as Gates Brown rightly argues, many churches have conveyed a different message: that men and their gifts, their voices, their ideas, are valued more by God.

She writes: “It was certainly obvious to me that women needed men, girls needed boys. Males apparently exemplified all that was right with God. So if women and girls were to be saved, they had to be washed in the blood of the man.”

This misguided understanding of God and God’s love becomes a driving force in Gates Brown’s life, causing her to make complex decisions in her desire to seek the attention of men, and so of God. Her longing to be accepted compels sexual experiences that cycle into shame, disappointment and more distance from the God she seeks.

Gates Brown is unflinching in her details of failed relationships, which include two divorces and a dalliance with a man whose enigmatic past could — when seen through certain lenses — spell danger for Gates Brown and her daughter.

Reading about these men and their own brokenness is especially difficult, and as I read, I wondered what they and their families feel about being portrayed so starkly, their own lives opened in this way to an audience. This is, of course, a potential problem with any memoir, andJesus Loves Women is no exception. Our stories our always intertwined with others’ stories, and to tell about one person’s experience will mean telling about another’s.

Gates Brown moves toward redemption as Martin from The Abbey serves as her shepherd and guide. His friendship, and his reassurance that Jesus loves women, allows Gates Brown to find healing: to discover that Jesus loves “clumsy and broken” women too, and that “connectedness to God does not exempt us from struggle, from losing our heads on occasion and breaking our own hearts with our bumbling. It does bathe the experience in love … the love of God.”

By her memoir’s end, Gates Brown has found peace — peace with her broken relationships, peace with herself, peace with God. Such peace comes in great part through a series of “grace notes” that remind her of God’s close presence, even in moments of loneliness and fear. She and her daughter are living inland from the Oregon coast, in a cottage restored by the hands of her community and friends — a reminder again of “love, love, love,” the words with which her narrative concludes.

Despite this redemptive and affirmative ending, Jesus Loves Women will not resonate with all readers. Certainly it will speak to many of those who have been the victim of overwhelming brokenness by the church and who have heard from others that Jesus does not embrace them because they are women, or divorced, or gay, or addicted. For these readers, the healing journey Gates Brown takes might well be not only instructive, but palliative, too.

Still, other readers (and I include myself here) might struggle to understand Gates Brown’s life story. While I also grew up believing God’s favor rested with men, my response to that message did not take the same path Gates Brown followed. Reading Jesus Loves Women is, for me, complicated by this reality.

This is the beauty of the memoir: We step into the writer’s experience and discover what it is like to live as someone else. In Jesus Loves Women we learn what it means to be broken by a theology centered on shame and self-righteousness — and then to find the healing and redemption of the gospel: that Jesus loves us in all our brokenness.

There is liberty in that realization, Gates Brown reminds us, and also this: that some of our brothers and sisters still seek the truth that will set them free.

~ Mennonite Weekly Review

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Online Reviews…

From Amazon.com…

I received this book as a Christmas gift from my wife, who bought it at Ekani Books in Manzanita. Tricia Gates Brown is an excellent writer and the book was an engaging, compelling read.

While it is a memoir, Brown does a good job of focusing her storyteller’s lens so that the emerging narrative is not just an accounting of one woman’s life, but a testimony about a way through shame toward openhearted acceptance of women’s bodies and sexuality. Coming out of a strict Southern Baptist childhood, I especially appreciated her description of how the church loves men — how men in all the leadership roles in the church teaches girls that men are more loved, that women have a moral debt to make up for. This view is perhaps an “old complaint” among women and yet our churches today are slow to change. Tricia captured my own experience exactly, and conveyed it with clarity and compassion.

I appreciated the author’s honesty and the way she allowed the act of writing to challenge her. It seemed to me that much of her story must have been hard to tell, not only because of the judgment of others in her community, but because of shame and that internal critic that (again, back to the Baptists) tells us that a moral life is necessarily one lived according to the rules. The rules don’t provide an option for a woman to divorce a good husband, even if her emotional and spiritual life is at stake. That is the gift of this book…that Tricia is able to tell her story without looking away, even when it is embarrassing or disappointing. I finished the book thinking that Tricia is a good role model for courageous writing. Highly recommended.
— Elizabeth Simson, Portland, Oregon

Jesus Loves Women by Tricia Gates Brown is a rare tale of honesty and spirituality, and a celebration of living into all of who we are. It will take you to the edge of what you believe and encourage you to look further.

Lyrical and probing, Jesus Loves Women brings to mind Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea and is reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’sEat Pray Love, except that it feels more accessible in its quest and longing.

The landscape of this book is familiar, not only geographically, but spiritually and emotionally as well, which is where it captures my heart. The forgiveness that Tricia discovers is offered for all of us. The value in being what God made us to be is waiting to be discovered. She takes us on her journey fromOregon to Scotland, back to Newberg, and then to the ocean’s edge; an idyllic setting for lonely conflicts and painful realizations.

Through it all, Tricia struggles to listen for the messages God sends and to be open to possibilities that she learned as a child just don’t exist. She finds the light and fire inside that keep her alive and growing.

The book is organized around the author’s relationships, from childhood to the present – family, partners, and deep soul friends. In giving herself away, she discovers that Jesus loves women. She discovers that women’s loving is given and given and given again, just as Christ taught and lived. There is never a reason to stop. And when you are born to do this, to give and love and share, with no thought for judgment or scarcity, it is a freedom to be yourself. You can be shushed no more.

I think many women will find themselves in these pages. This book is inspiration to learn the lessons of listening, trusting and being clear and honest with ourselves; forgiving the mistakes, and embracing the tangible joys within and around us. Read about Tricia’s journey and then set out on your own.
–Janelle A. Olivarez

From Cherice at quakeroatslive.blogspot.com

I’m excited to review this new book, Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit, by my friend Tricia Gates Brown. (For those of you to whom it’s important, she also has strong ties with Friends.) This book tells her story in beautiful, vulnerable prose that draws the reader in. I found myself thinking about her story and wanting to get back to reading it in the many moments of my day when I couldn’t just sit around reading! It hooked me just as much as a good novel, although I have to admit it was a little weird reading such personal information about the life of someone I know. Somehow it feels different when reading a novel, or even a memoir of someone unknown to me, but since I know her and many of the others in the book, it felt a little voyeuristic to be so captivated by reading it.

But really, that’s my only criticism of this book. Tricia’s style managed to be engaging, readable, profound, deep, centering, humorous, sad and meaningful all in one book.

I appreciated the theme of the book, which you can begin to pick up on in the title. This is a spiritual memoir, but for Tricia, spirit is so bound up with the physical experience of herself and the world that this “spiritual” memoir comes off much different from the contemplative work one might imagine. She tells of her upbringing in a Christian denomination that caused her to feel less-than-human as a woman, and to find shame in her physical being. This book tells her journey of discovery as she seeks and finds God in the world around her, in relationships, in love and in herself. Tricia has a PhD in New Testament Literature, and she manages to incorporate some excellent, well-researched thought into this book in a way that definitely doesn’t sound preachy but is confident and insightful. She tells of the misconceptions of much of the present-day American church regarding Jesus’ view of women, the body and the created world, and paints a breathtaking picture of true Life as an embodied spirit.

Tricia is a gifted writer–I’ve read her dissertation, enjoyed her music and the poetry therein, and appreciated other articles I’ve read by her. Her memoir is no different. She writes it almost as poetry, describing the scenes around her with words that bring each moment to life. The insights she shares are deep and worth listening to. I am grateful she had the courage to share her story with such vulnerability.

In some ways, this memoir reminds me of another favorite book of mine, Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter. The power of Sue Monk Kidd’s work is in her creativity as she forms new ways to worship; much of the power of Tricia Gates Brown’s work is in her word crafting and ability to tell a story, and in her complete and utter honesty, even about her mistakes. She is gracious and forgiving to others and to herself.

In case you couldn’t tell, I definitely recommend this book!

From Deb at goodreads.com

I picked up this book over Labor Day weekend on a little vacation on the Oregon coast. It was in my favorite Manzanita bookshop as a book by a local author. The title grabbed my attention as well as the endorsements on the back from Susan Mark Landis, former Minister of Peace and Justice of the Mennonite Church USA, and James Loney, who was the Christian Peacemaker Team member who spent 118 days in captivity in Iraq. So the book hit on some of my favorite themes–Jesus, feminism, peace and justice.

This is a memoir of Tricia’s life from growing up in a legalistic fundamentalist church through several unsuccessful marriages and relationships. She confronts the shame she felt as a woman with passionate, sensual desires and her self-described addiction to unhealthy relationships. She comes to accept that Jesus loves her.–not in spite of who she is as a woman, but because of who she is.

“Mystics tell us to wake up each day fully aware of who we are, the good and the bad, and deeply grateful we are loved through it all. In awareness, they tell us, we see that God and others love us despite our failures, and we finally understand love. We stop working so hard to earn love and become reflections of the love we can finally, clearly see. This is true freedom.”

If you’re interested in feminism, grace, and mystical spirituality (not so much on Jesus, exactly). This would be a good book to explore. I’d love to hear what a few other readers think.

More Amazon.com reviews…

“Jesus Loves Women is a heartful memoir, beautifully written. Tricia’s passionate spirit unfurls as courageous living, deep reflection, and gorgeous descriptions of the world around her; the story of a life in quest and discovery of love, truth, and self. I read quickly, feasting on poetic writing that calls us to the wonder and sensuality of the world and being alive in it. I read deeply, bending page corners as reminders to revisit wisdom and inspiration that touches my life. In a world that values male over female, I anticipate Tricia’s brave storytelling will be excellent company for many a woman making her way from the outskirts of faith into the heart of her own strength, truth, and spiritual connection. Jesus Loves Women is a powerful and empowering story of the journey of being fully alive, fully human, and fully woman–learning how to trust ourselves, travel our truth, and live in our skin, embodied.” K. Madrone

“This is a remarkable book, not only for the compelling life story of the author, but also in the way she shares her struggles to connect the dots and to open herself up to the mystery of God. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time, and I had a hard time putting it down. It is beautifully written, filled with revealing truth and important insights. I found myself comparing this book to Cry Pain, Cry Hope by Elizabeth O’Connor. I didn’t rush to finish it, preferring to savor each page, each insight. I would not normally be drawn to a book with the title of Jesus Loves Women, but this book went in profound directions I had not anticipated. I highly recommend this book.”  D. Stitt

“Jesus Loves Women was astonishingly refreshing to me. In so many ways it echoed my own childhood and young adulthood. Honesty and deep introspection allow the reader to fully comprehend the depth of both despair, hope and spiritual comfort finally found, and follow the intellectual and emotional struggles she went through to find healing. Beautifully written, with a depth of self-revelation and analysis I’ve seldom encountered, the book is a huge gift to those of us scarred by “traditional” religious dogma. It’s gifts are of hope, trust and renewed belief in truly unconditional love.” G. G.

 

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