I was raised in church. Even before I can remember going there, my mother says I would crawl under the pew during late Sunday night service and go to sleep. We went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and several times in between. Others were in Girl Scouts, I was a Missionette. One Sunday the Lakers were playing the Celtics in the Finals, but I still had to go to church. Mom made sure we had plenty of exposure to her God. I guess my mother's God liked perfect attendance.

My mother's God also liked to hear a lot of prayers. I remember that when we had very little in the way of material possessions, my mother bought a round wooden prayer table. She put it in our otherwise sparsely furnished house. Although you could pray anywhere, at any time, she thought it appropriate to have a spot that you could come to in the home -- almost like an altar. Never to be a "one-prayer pony" my mother's God would hear petitions on all sorts of things. From our family he commonly got requests for help with finances, food, abusive husbands, alcoholic husbands, transportation, unemployment and sickness for which there was no insurance or money to seek a doctor. My mother's God, however, must have specialized in children. I always heard my mother praying for her children and the children of others. To this day I still remember many of the special prayers my mother had for me. In particular she always prayed that I would find favor in the eyes of people -- a double-edged sword. I guess my mother's God got lonely without someone to talk with.

My mother's God liked people to share his Word. Although my mother would sometimes preach in church, the majority of her evangelizing was to children. She conducted children's crusades anywhere they would have her. When no pulpit was available she had a trailer painted like a snow-cone that she would pull to the projects. She would pass out tickets to any child she could find. At the appointed hour they would gather around to hear her to perform skits, sing songs and share the Bible. She had a coterie of puppets she would use to make the Bible fun and easily understood. She also would perform as "Gospel Clown." I'm ashamed to say that even I was drafted a few times for these missions. I guess my mother's God liked theatre.

All of these things should make it easy for me to claim my mother's God as my own....but there was more. My mother's God was the head of an exclusive club. It was a club that had no room to consider the beliefs of others. It was a club that didn't let Catholics in because they "worshiped idols." It didn't condone Lutherans because they drank beer. The baptists danced on Saturday night. You get the idea. This God didn't allow for scientific thought on topics of evolution or carbon dating. This God dictated that I had to leave seventh grade English class when we studied Greek mythology. This God didn't allow my mother to talk to me about the menstrual cycle or boys or sex. My mother's God didn't even allow me to listen to any of the music my peers were listening to or to watch television. I guess he didn't care that the teasing I received for being poor was only intensified by the fact that I was so devoid of any knowledge of the things the other kids talked about. Even more, my mother's God didn't give her the wisdom to listen or believe when the topic of sexual abuse arose. My mother's God had a clear agenda which didn't seem to have room for preparing me to do anything other than go to church, pray and work a puppet to sing "Jesus Loves Me."

Is there a way to make my mother's God into my God? Would I even want to?