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.

October 4, 2012

Psalm 137

Psalm 137 (Photo credit: Mouse)

To be on the planet at all is a stupendous opportunity!  Each of us has the chance to improve conditions here, clarifying and identifying situations that could be ameliorated by our special attention.

How frequently I become overwhelmed with “things that something should be done about”!

It is so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of problems.  The planet is too large for me!  The old platitude occurs to me today:  Bloom where you are planted.  I have always chafed at the idea of being planted.  I yearn for lightness, airiness, freedom.  Still…

We all need the good earth to pull sap into our veins, to stay hydrated, to fully live.  My daily practice is to open the Holy scriptures before the day is fully underway.  Here is what I do:  I ask God to lead me to what I need.  Then, I open the Bible randomly to a place in the Old Testament, the story of the Jewish people, the chosen family of God.  His miraculous interactions with ordinary people all through it make exciting reading.  Though often callous and rebellious, God reached down to guide and protect them from their many enemies.

Next, I open randomly to the New Testament, reading the pages in front of me, and finishing at least one chapter.  They are usually short.  The sayings of Jesus are in red ink in my version.  But quite often, the passages I am reading are all in black.  Both provide immediacy and intimacy for me, drawing me (small inconsequential human) to know there is a plan, has always been a plan, and I am counted.  I have a part to play.

Next I go to Proverbs, a book of 31 chapters, one for each day.  Pithy, wise, simple to understand, if I were only be able to read one book, it would be Proverbs.  Today is October 4, so I read Chapter 4.  Verse 23 is circled in my Bible:  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  I ponder its meaning.

Last of all, I randomly select a Psalm.  For me, the Psalms are a book of comfort and reassurance.  Once I have read a chapter, I feel refreshed and close my Bible.  The entire process is about 15-20 minutes.  If I want to, I can read more, but normally I do not.  I am a busy girl!

The immediacy of knowing God is with me, even when I seriously doubt it, as others have done since the very beginning, way before my time, and long before these books were written consoles me.  I relax, knowing it has never been just up to me to solve every temporal problem on earth.  All things work together in some mysterious way.  All we have to do is align ourselves with goodness, love, light and peace, to get a perspective of knowing when we have choices, to make good ones.  It is a VERY individual walk, yet it affects the entirety.

I must bloom today, but could not do so if I had not been firmly planted first.