Widow

Today I feel led to write about Jesus and his treatment, opinion and honor of women.  Seems to me he went out of his way to level them with men who traditionally put us in a lower category.  2,000 years ago, Jesus was pretty advanced.  I am thinking of the story of “The Widow’s Mite”.  Apparently, people were lined up, dropping various sums of money into the offering plate, and those who were watching commented on how large some of the donations were.

Jesus had noticed a widow in line, who dropped in a tiny amount, but he recognized it was all she had to live on.  In other words, she gave it ALL.  He said, “She has put in more than anyone else.”  This truthful observation shocked some who did not even notice the mite, as it fell among the gold and silver beneath it.

I can picture her moving forward, being jostled about in her faded clothing, aware of her lowly status in such a crowd.  Her feet were probably hurting, and maybe she had poor vision.  But she was on a mission.  She had a penny in her hand, and she wanted to make an offering.  Without fanfare, she let it drop into the receptacle and Jesus noticed.  This tiny event from such a long time ago is recorded in the Bible because Jesus  said, “All the others put in out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on.”

All she had to live on.  Seriously?  If all I had was five dollars, and had not had lunch yet, I doubt I’d drop it into the offering plate at church!  Yet this is what she did, and without expectation of any kind of return.

Jesus recognized her for doing so, and despite the many lofty thoughts running through his mind on this ordinary day, commented on it.  It was included in the Bible for all posterity.  A singular honor for a mite.

The widow gave 100%.  Jesus noticed.  He found it remarkable. 

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Blood Crying Out from the Ground

Blood Sweat and Tears. Number 2

Blood Sweat and Tears. Number 2 (Photo credit: Jakob E)

When Cain killed his baby brother Abel, he thought he got away with it, but the Bible says God confronted him, saying, “His blood cried out to me from the ground.”  It isn’t that God did not see the murder as it happened, but the death was just the beginning of the story.  Cain, in typical sociopathic fashion had already put it out of his mind.  He felt no remorse.

God asked him where his brother was, and Cain replied, “I don’t know.”  Then in an even more off-hand remark, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or in today’s syntax, “How should I know?  I don’t care where he is or what he is doing.”  But the blood soaked soil was ringing into God’s ears at that very moment.

To GOD he said this!  Lying to God’s face is a not a good idea, and Cain paid the price.  He was not struck down, but God put a mark on him, and cursed the ground that had been his line of work.  Cain, from that point on, wandered the world as a marked man.

I have to wonder if this is true of all murders.  Because blood is an important life force, I believe it is.  If so, America is a blood soaked land.  In thinking it over, we must stop lying to ourselves, especially but to God in particular.  We should CARE.  And we do, momentarily, but ten minutes after hearing of another victim we forget about her.  We move on, as if we are not her keeper…

Think of the number of outright murders (in the world at large) we have processed during our lives!  Even if you limit it to premeditated murder, it is a huge number!  Limit it to just America and it is still astonishing.  Daily we hear of another and another and another…and we have come to accept it.  But this unending violence in our streets and homes is sickening beyond comprehension.  All this blood!

This blood cannot be disregarded by a civilized society.  We must never even think of saying to ourselves, much less to God, “How should I know?  Am I responsible for others?”

America’s society of tolerance and restraint has arrived at the point we cannot go on and remain a civilized society.  The violence against innocent women and children at least should force us to cry out to each other and to the Holy God Himself.  We are each other’s keeper, and to continue believing we are only responsible for our own selves and our own well-being is just too thin a cover.

A Scarlet Thread

Mom, I think Jesus was anti-woman.”  I was 22, and everyone knew Mom was a Bible Scholar, deeply immersed in the Bethel Series http://www.bethelseries.com/home.aspx which was an honor in itself.  A handful of students had been carefully selected by the pastor of our church.  It was a two-year commitment, and at the end, these ten hand-selected people would be certified to teach the series to anyone who wanted to attend.

“Why do you say that?” she asked, surprised by my statement, but not threatened.

“Well, he had twelve disciples, and every single one was a MAN.”  I gazed into the face of my mom, expecting her to say I never thought of that! but what she actually said was, “True, but why do you think that was?”

“Because he was anti-woman, and if he despised them then, he probably doesn’t care about them now.”

She nodded, thinking of what she should say to this bit of blasphemy.  I did not flinch.  I waited.

Finally she said, “Tell you what, why don’t you do a Bible study on the life of Jesus as regarding women, and only women, and see what you find.”

I felt a little naked, because I was no Bible scholar.  I was flippant, self-satisfied, and careless regarding things of the faith.  I had been coasting on her coat tails, using her wisdom and knowledge as a convenience during the tough questions of life.

But I heartily accepted her challenge, narcissistically thinking if I could prove Jesus was anti female, I could debunk the rationale for following him.  (It was the early seventies, and most young women had burned their bras by then.  I was probably not wearing my own during this conversation.)

She kind of chuckled and said, “Remember one thing:  It was the men who fell away when he needed them most.  It was the women who stayed by his side.”

I left the house, and went back to my apartment, anxious to delve into my Bible study, determined to uncover examples of females being second class citizens.  Did it not say in the Bible story of his birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth good will to men on whom his favor rests.”?  In the shallow waters of my biblical knowledge, I had openly challenged the Bible in its entirety with a Sunday school understanding of the Christmas story, the Easter story and the saga of the Jews roaming around the desert for forty years, until the ten commandments had been written on stone a couple of times.  Such was the naiivete of my approach!

Mom laughed as I went, unfazed by her wayward daughter, which made me even more resolute.  I am not proud of this history, but I will be forever grateful my mother did not “teach” me in that moment.  She invited me to teach my SELF, and I had no idea what I was about to discover.

The first story to occur to me was the story of his birth.  It made sense to me to begin at his beginning, and follow his life chronologically as he went along, underlining in RED, the many places where he would favor men over women.  What can I SAY?  It made sense to me at the time.

I found out Jesus (in utero) was a human child fathered by the Holy Spirit of God.  I had always accepted this, but it had never occured to me the human, flesh, natural part of him was no man, but issued from a woman, female, and God could have done it any other way, but selected a woman, and not one of any stature, but a young and “ordinary” woman.  The biological DNA of Jesus was female in origin.  God paired with a female to bring about the Son of Man!

At the time, I found this truth astounding.  I closed the Bible, looked out the window and sat there alone, contemplating the meaning of this news, realizing it changed everything I had previously believed.  It wasn’t I had never heard it.  I was schooled in it from birth, but I had never realized it.  From that moment I wondered what ELSE I had heard, but failed to understand.

There is a lineage of four women listed as progenitors of Jesus.  They were Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, not one of them “pure” even by modern standards!  Rahab, for example is labeled as a prostitute.  She is the woman who played an absolutely pivotal role in the story of the Israelites who were preparing to overtake the city where she was “working”.  Laughing…some versions call her an “innkeeper”!

Anyway, somehow two spies were sent into the city to see what they would be up against if they attacked the great city of Jericho.  She took them in, and told them the entire city and all its men were terrified, and emotionally unprepared to resist these special people of God, which was critical information.  When soldiers from the city came looking for the spies, Rahab hid them under stalks of flax on her roof.  She told the soldiers the spies had left, but she did not know which direction they had taken.  The soldiers left the city to hunt them down.  When it was safe, the Israeli spies came down and thanked her.  But she wanted something in return:  She brokered a deal with them to allow her and her family safety when her city of Jericho was attacked.  They would not be killed.

Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua

Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They agreed she would hang a scarlet cord out her window, and she and her family would be spared during the battle of Jericho.  The grateful spies returned to camp and told the Israeli army about the scarlet cord signal ahead of time.  As the story goes, she and her family were the only survivors who walked away.  The battle left neither man nor woman, nor child, nor animal after the walls fell down.  Only Rahab and her mother and brothers walked away.

She joined the victors and lived as part of them thereafter.  An ordinary woman played an extraordinary role in one of the most famous battles ever recorded!  Her life was spared as a reward.  It all seemed so random at the time.  She probably blended in after that.

“God uses the foolish things of this world to confound those things that are wise.”  Rahab was one of the foolish, a street person, and one of female gender.  Even now, a woman of the streets is almost invisible as far as influence in society.  Back then it was more so.

She had no idea it had been anything more than a “deal” even while living out the remainder of her days.  She was a woman of desperation who chose to trust the enemy instead of taking her chances on the streets of Jericho.  She knew the meanness of those streets and the people who walked on them.  She took a chance, and lived to tell the story of how she saved her family with a scarlet cord hung out the window.

She had no idea she would eventually be mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, no awareness he would share her DNA when he was born.  But this is exactly what happened.

No life is random.

F.R.O.G.

I have been reluctant to broadcast my personal relationship to God, because I do not consider myself a very good example of what a Christian should look and act like.  Still, at the very heart of my writing God’s guidance is evident.  Each thing I produce has to past the sniff test of truth, as I understand it before I can expect anyone else to listen!

“Frog” is kind of code among Christian believers.  It is an acronym for Fully Rely On God.

In a confusing array of choices, I take comfort in the guidance of a higher being, one who sees and knows everything.  To know He has a plan, and I am part of it, and not all of it, helps me find security in my reason for existing.  I write from that source.

Often I think about my host of friends who choose not to believe in divine authority.  As God is my witness, I do not look down on them because of this.  I consider them very dear friends, and accept them just as they are, and they do me.  But to drop my pride and reveal I am a “Christian” will cost me something.   To affiliate with those who boldly fly the banner of Christ may cause  finger-pointing by those who consider themselves better Christians…I will never be able to withstand their withering glares, and whispers of unacceptance, and the judgement and rejection.

But to step out and fully rely on God demands I do so publicly.  I have been flamed, brow beaten, disrespected and rejected at times when I timidly shared my faith with someone who was skeptical.  It is a rare atheist who will politely tolerate a Christian’s viewpoint without openly reviling it.  These bullying events have scared me,  and although I remained resolute, I became very cautious.  I became covert, which only served to make me look odd to believers and unbelievers alike!

I do not attend church.  I deliberately work on Sundays because nobody else wants to.  I enjoy sitting quietly at my desk, thinking my own thoughts, praying, working on things I was too busy to work on during the past week.  This day of preparation for the following week is an important service to every one of my co-workers.  I like to think of it as a “sacrifice” I make on behalf of others, to enable them to attend services, be with their families, and so on.  It is pure joy, and I think God accepts it as my Sabbath, or day of rest.

I am deeply embarrassed by “Bible thumpers” and strident Christians who proclaim their own righteousness by disparaging others.  They list their own credentials, and their list of good deeds like a well rehearsed speech on why they qualify to carry the name “Christian”.  When I study God’s Word, I never find where Christ himself ever did this.  It was the Pharisees who acted in such indignant self-righteousness that Jesus rebuked them openly.  No other group received such a severe tongue lashing as this group!

Of course they were angry, and ultimately silenced Jesus by arranging his death.  I think the rest of the story is well-known.  The idea of a human being rising from the dead is a hard thing to convince really happened.  The idea Jesus was a God/Man is even more difficult!  These basic tenets of Christianity are based on faith, not reason.  Each human being is perfectly well-known by God, yet we regard God as a fantasy because of our lack of knowledge about Him.  Our unbelief, though reasonable, does not change the truth of God one bit.  We are free, absolutely free in our choice to bathe in his light, or flee from it.

I relate more closely with the “woman at the well” who  went to draw water at an odd time of day, after all the “righteous” women had finished.  This woman was well-known as a local prostitute, and had a long history in her small town as one who had made wrong choices and was no longer welcome in polite society.  Guess who came to that well at the very same time?  It was the unknown Jesus, a carpenter from the area.

A casual observer in those days would have been astonished and outraged.  No self-respecting Jewish man spoke to any woman in public, much less one of her pedigree.  Yet Jesus did.  But why?  She had no credentials, no authority, no money, nothing of value at all.

Despite this, they had a long conversation together, about her history, her past, and her present.  It was an honest and surprisingly accurate discourse, and she was quite astonished.  But there was no condemnation, despite her record.  She was a Samaritan, not even one of the “Chosen People”.  She had no idea who Jesus was, but she said, “I know that Messiah, (called Christ) is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  and Jesus answered, “I who speak to you, am he.”  This public harlot was the very first person on the planet Jesus revealed he was actually the Messiah!  Openly, and in full view of everyone, she was the first to hear these words.   He is a rule breaker, a man without fear, and one who is able to love someone everyone else condemns.  I cannot get past a person like Jesus!

Neither did she.  She ran back to town and began to tell anyone who would listen about this encounter.  She recognized the truth, accepted it,  and shared it.  She could have refused the offer, but did not.  Each of us will eventually have the same opportunity and choice.  It has nothing to do with our own choices prior to the encounter, but everything to do with whether or not we believe Jesus can find us worth loving just as we are, in all our self judgement, shame, anger, and fear.  The acceptance Jesus demonstrated to such a woman leaves me assured any other person, including me, can be loved and accepted also!

In the coming weeks, I am going to discuss the importance of women in Jesus’ time on earth.  It is an amazing and redemptive saga.

End Of Days…Why Grandmothers Are Like This

I decided to select a photo from my collection from October a few years back, more than a couple of years, really! I chose October 2008, which held a series of pictures of my grandson Cavin on an all day adventure at “Dodie’s House”.   I wish I could insert the entire album! He was maybe twenty months old.   Running in only a diaper, I snapped photos of him in his brother’s cap, my wide-brimmed sun hat, and a bent up cowboy hat. He tried each on in turn, trying out characters, as if to learn who he might become.
He spent an entire day in various get ups, and while I played paparazzi, my photos show him climbing, squatting, licking spoons of brownie mix, wiping his hands on his lil belly. He is inside, outside, devouring slices of watermelon, and patting dogs from the neighborhood. In the series he is never still, and I feel joy in the memory, with a keen awareness of the gift he was to me, and his cavalier disregard for me snapping photos of his antics.
I remember thinking how different boys are from girls in the way they play and do the work of childhood. I had been a mom of girls, never actually knowing how completely my experience differed from my friends who had sons.
Then I got a slew of grandsons, and realized my joy was only beginning!
I admit it was challenging to me to allow the climbing, jumping, and mechanical experimentation that never stopped. Their serious faces, intent on bugs, guns, and machines would change suddenly, brilliantly, into bursts of unbridled movement…and I felt each was on the verge of death if I failed to keep up! It was tiring, aggravating, and scary.
But then there would come this moment in early evening, when the boy would become quiet, truck still in his hand, and the tipping would begin, softly at first, gently, like soft snow falling…the squat became a sit, and the sit, a belly roll, and the army crawl lightly became a rolling over, with one last look at the ceiling before the stillness, a toy truck falling from open fingers, and suddenly silencestillness.
It would come like some kind of spell, right in the midst of chaotic and jerky movement, as if this boy who moments before had been inexhaustible, had accidentally hit the kill switch, the safety switch, the off button, and just fell asleep in his tracks.
This moment, that special and amazing moment happened over and over again, and my mother’s heart would return to me. All of the annoyances of my day seemed sinful on my part, and the shrieks of “No!” and “Watch out!” and “What is wrong with you?” confronted me there, in the waning daylight, and I would silently ask forgiveness for my harshness over his day of development.
It is different when you become a grandmother. We take time. We feel no obligation to get it right.  Yet we are still mothers.  MOTHERS, with all the accompanying guilt, frustrations, hopes, and dreams, while at the same time knowing we will not be there to watch over them when they are growing families of their own unless we are very, very lucky, and do a very, very good job preventing their deaths as we boldly face our OWN.   Whether our time left is short or long, we spend it lavishly, as if we will always be here.

I leaned over him, smelling his breath, turning my face to feel it on my cheek, and counting his eyelashes when I turned back to look at him, marveling at the length of them.  I set my camera on the bedside table, and leaned closer  to study his face for several minutes. The sheer miraculous beauty of the boy with his lashes sweeping over a perfect (but dirty) cheek lying there, with his heavy head crushing his cowboy hat astonished me! I gently tried to take the hat from him, but he stirred, firmly lifting his strong little hand to the top of his head, preventing me from removing the thing. He was a cowboy, at least for that day, and early signs show more of the same. I allowed it then, and allow it today.
I lifted the camera for one last shot. Somehow I needed proof for myself that hard men all over the world had once been like this child. ALL men, all over the world. Yes. ALL.
Were it not for mothers of boys, the world would have destroyed itself long ago. I will never fully understand it, but I am grateful for every girl who is one of those mothers chosen by God to be one of them.

Red cowboy hat

Red cowboy hat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

October 6, 2012

My Bedroom

Does not take a lot of room for “just the two of us”!

This is a snapshot of our sleeping space. In this quiet spot each of us feels safe, secure, warm and cared for, whether we are together or alone. From my side of the bed, I compose drafts, have my devotional time, or “warm up” for the day by being served breakfast in bed. Who knew a cowboy could cook so well, and be so willing?

From his side of the bed he rests, sleeps, passes the time, or heals from his decades as a roughneck, farrier, cowboy, laborer…on the premise he is “giving me space and quiet” while I write. I sleep on a rather regular 11PM to 7AM schedule and he is on a roughly 8PM-4AM sleeping schedule. In this way, we have togetherness with apartness, something we enjoy. There is freedom for us as individuals when nobody is mandating bed time or rising time.

Each of us needs serenity and quiet, and we must allow space for it in our homes. The outside world gets chaotic, and we need safety and peace when we are tired. This is my space for resting when my shoulders droop, and I feel heavy in my heart.