Love Wins

Reading time: 2 minutes.

As I was stopped at a traffic light a few weeks ago, I saw a bumper-sticker on the car in front of me.  It was, as far as bumper stickers go, quite small, with tiny black words written on a white background.  I squinted and read out loud “Love Wins.”

Love Wins.

I giggled and said it again, louder, “LOVE WINS.”

What a wonderfully defiant little bumper sticker.  It didn’t have bright, neon colors, a flashy picture, or a trademark brand icon (though I’ve seen some others on-line that do).  It was the simplicity of the statement that made it so powerful, and it has stayed with me ever since.

Love Wins.

Every day, we are told and shown the contrary, of course—watch the news (or pretty much any TV show) and see in technicolor the tragedies that stricken our communities.  Go to an elementary school playground and listen to how children taunt each other.  Even our churches, the very places that should be filled with graceful actions, are decidedly graceless sometimes.

Our world isn’t full of hatred, but its people certainly are–they express it openly to each other, almost gleefully.  As Americans, we revel in the joy of the First Amendment and the rights it grants us, as well we should; yet, does this mean we can say anything we want simply because we have the freedom to do so?

This conversation is going on around kitchen tables, water coolers, and Keurig coffee makers across our country, and it is a good thing. We should be discussing the delicate balance between words we think are hysterically funny and edgy, but which are perceived as cruel or racist to others.  I keep hearing people say, “I am so tired of everyone trying to be so politically correct all the time!  It’s so stupid!”  I agree, it is hard to know what someone else may find offensive, as it’s possible to be offended by just about anything.

That said, I also think we must not give up on trying to speak words that lift others up.  As a Christian, I know I have to do this, and it is one of the most difficult tasks given to us by Jesus himself.  It is, therefore, not a task we can take lightly.  We should always be making that attempt, and when it backfires, we should have the courage to apologize for our words and actions.

I believe in the ligaments, tendons, and bones of my being that “Love Wins.”  It wins because, unlike hatred, it is in it for the long haul.  It is an out-laster, and is, frankly, a stubborn so-and-so.

B-Flat Christian, you were made for higher ways of thinking and being. Hatred might sell news coverage, magazines, books, movies…it will inspire millions of Youtube videos and tweets for a moment. Do not accept hateful words from yourself or others; do not let them suck you in to their vortex. Instead, make it a certainty that “Love Wins” with your words. You were born to “Speak Life.”

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Blessing for a New Year

Reading time: 1 min.

From a benediction offered by Pastor Ronald Higdon.  Read it, and dare to believe these things could come to pass in your life.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.

May God give you grace never to sell yourself short;

grace to risk something big for something good;

grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth

and too small for anything but love.

So may God take your minds and think through them;

May God take your lips and speak through them;

May God take your hearts and set them on fire.

Thank you for all who have responded to my blogs, either on Facebook, or on the blog itself.  I have appreciated your company so much.  Continue on this journey with me, B-Flat Christian.  We have lots more matches to light.

 

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Mary: One Tough Chick

Reading Time: 2 mins.

After hearing all of the scriptural readings up to today, I have come to this conclusion (and perhaps one you’ve already thought about, too):

Mary was one tough chick.

No, really.  I have been pregnant, and let me tell you, it was not pretty.  I have friends who did the whole “glowing” thing while they were pregnant, and who rhapsodized about how much they loved everything about the process.  I was not one of those pregnant women.  I was a grumpy pregnant woman.  I did not glow.  I did not rhapsodize.  I was roughly the size of Idaho with hemorrhoids that would make even the most macho man weep in pain and irritation.  I was large, unwieldy, sweaty, and exhausted.  I was also a bit of a whiner (startling, I know).  Yet, I had a “smooth sailing” go of things, while it seems that Mary’s road was bumpy, both figuratively, and literally.

Every time I read the Christmas Story in Luke, I am astonished by Mary’s raw strength and dogged perseverance. She is not flustered by a visit from a fiery angel.  She is not shaken by the angel’s news about her coming pregnancy.  She is not cowed by the blatant stares of others as she walks down the street, or by the look of deep disappointment in her parents’ eyes.   The worst was Joseph’s incredulity, then utter silence; but even that did not deter her from accepting her responsibility.

What I admire most about Mary, however, is her sheer physical strength. At nine months within her pregnancy, she walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is around 96 miles according to Google.  That’s nearly 100 miles.  She rode a donkey some of that time, more than likely, but she probably walked some, too. Once she got to Bethlehem, the situation only got worse.  Her labor pains started, but there was no Super 8 in sight, no hospital with doctors or nurses ready to deliver her baby in a clean, germ-free room.

Having a baby is not only excruciating; it is messy.  There is a lot of pain, a lot of screaming, and a lot of blood.  The Bible doesn’t talk about the graphic part of delivering a baby, but giving birth, even when it is a “normal delivery,” requires every ounce of resilience one can summon up.  I think most women—including me—would have broken under the hardships Mary had to endure.  Not Mary, and God knew she wouldn’t.  He knew she was tough.

When I see ancient paintings of Mary, her face often looks serene, calm, and infinitely nonplussed.  In my imagination, Mary does not look like a passionless beauty with perfect hair.  She is wiry, scrappy, and her eyes sparkle and challenge you. She squares her shoulders and says, “Alright.  Bring it on. I’ve got this one.”

Be grateful this day, B-Flat Christian, that Mary was one tough chick, and celebrate the struggles she was willing to endure to give—even you– The Light of the World.

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Smile

Reading Time: 2 minutes

On Facebook the other day, a friend described how she said “Good morning” to a passing couple while out on a walk, and the couple looked past her and did not answer.  She was hurt, and rightly so; it hurts to be ignored or snubbed.  Some of the comments to her post said things like, “Don’t judge—you never know the battles others are going through,” and “maybe the couple had just experienced some horrible trauma and just couldn’t respond” etc.—all valid comments.  Nevertheless, I still feel strongly that, when spoken to, it is only polite to smile, to give a nod, or to say, “Hello” in return.  It takes little to no effort, but it goes a long way toward civility. It is an acknowledgment of “You exist, I exist, fine.”

I told my friend that I, too, have experienced this phenomenon in our town numerous times. For example, I have been walking on the Quittie Park trail, literally three feet from a young man heading towards me; our eyes met, I said, “Hello.” He stared straight ahead and kept right on walking. Perhaps he was deaf; perhaps he didn’t speak English; perhaps any number of things. Even in the grocery store, I speak to people as I pass if our eyes meet, saying “Good morning,” or a similar greeting, and I have had people stare at me as if I were a Yeti.

I grew up in the Virginia, and in the south, if someone greets you, you greet them back, no matter what type of day you’re having. Experiencing the belligerent stares of others has taken some getting used to.

Three years ago, my family and I drove down to vacation at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. We wound our way down I95 South, stopping at numerous restaurants, rest areas, and gas stations. Everywhere we went, people smiled and started conversations with us about nearly anything. At one point, my son leaned over to me, and said quietly, “Mom, why are all these people talking to us?” I smiled and said, “Because they’re being friendly.” He raised his eyebrows, “Oh. OK.”

A few days later, while we were out on a walk, a car drove by us and the driver waved. My son watched the car drive by and said, “Do you know them?”

I said, “Nope.”

He looked confused. “Then why did they wave?”

I put my arm around him. “Because they’re being friendly. They saw us, we saw them, and they waved, so we waved back. It’s just being polite.”

While this was strange to them at first, my kids eventually began to really like it. It is one of the things I miss the most about living in the south. I’m not saying there aren’t rude people in the south, but on the whole, it has not been my experience.

So, what’s a B-Flat Christian to do? Should I get angry and force people to interact with me? Should I not speak to anyone else, assuming they won’t talk to me, either? Ah, but that would be the easy way out.  That way, I’m not hurt because I haven’t let myself be vulnerable.

I’ve thought a lot about it, and I try not to let it bother me anymore. Yet, I refuse to give up, either. If I lock eyes with someone, I still say, “Hello,” or at least, nod my head. If they are having a terrible day, at least they’ve had one person smile and speak a kind word to them.

By the way, look out. I WILL smile at you. I WILL speak to you.  And if I know you, I am very, very likely to hug you, too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Insomnia

 

Reading time: 3 minutes

 

I was suddenly roused from sleep by the sound of my dog shaking himself noisily.  He finished this spastic dance with a loud, staccato sneeze.  I turned over and fluffed my pillow.  I moved to my left side, my stomach, my back. I was hot, then just as suddenly, cold.  I was awake, and was not going back to sleep any time soon.

Returning to teaching after my sabbatical and post-radiation has been as I thought it would be—challenging. The insanity of accomplishing my day presses on my chest like the elephant in the COPD commercial for Spiriva.  My mind teems with a seemingly impossible to complete to-do list. I lie awake, fretting, How am I going to make it through the day tomorrow (or should I say, TODAY)?  I’m going to be so busy.  I need all the energy I can get. I’m going to be exhausted. I’ve battled with insomnia for several years now.  It doesn’t happen to me frequently, but when it occurs, it can be extremely annoying. I decided to get up, as I usually do, and read to reset my sleep routine and calm my racing mind.

I settled into a chair, snuggled up in a blanket, and began reading.  I have been reading the Old Testament, revisiting all the classic narratives of the establishment of God’s relationship with humans.  It’s all there—infidelity, murder, war, plagues, rape, incest…as well as hope, love, faithfulness, peace, passion, freedom.  As I began reading 1 Samuel, I realized I was being reintroduced to a fellow insomniac: Samuel. Of course, it wasn’t poor Samuel’s mind that was keeping him awake, but the voice of God.

The story is in 1 Samuel chapter three.  As a baby, Samuel’s mother promised him to the Lord, and has begun his apprenticeship in the temple to the priest there, Eli.  Samuel and Eli have gotten comfortable and are nodding to sleep, kept company by the dimly glowing lamp of God.  As his eyes are closing, however, Samuel hears a voice sharply call his name.  Instantly, Samuel wakes and rushes to find Eli, asking what Eli wants of him.  Eli, grumpy at being awakened after just going to sleep, tells Samuel to go back to bed.  The same thing happens two more times before Eli realizes what is happening. When Samuel comes to him for the third time, Eli gives Samuel instructions:

1 Samuel 3

 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

 Samuel does exactly as Eli orders, using Eli’s exact words.  It is with this statement that Samuel begins a dialogue with God that lasts his entire life. The life of a prophet is a dicey one, as a prophet’s job as a mouthpiece of the Lord is often to proclaim uncomfortable news.  This happens to Samuel right away when he realizes it’s going to be his unpleasant job to explain the Lord’s displeasure with Eli and his family… not the most comfortable position to be in for Samuel, as The New Prophet On the Block.

After re-reading Samuel’s story, I am trying to view my insomnia through a different lens now. When I am awakened, I pause, and I try not to be immediately annoyed. I give myself a chance to fall back to sleep, but if I don’t, I get up, find a comfortable chair, wrap up in a blanket, and wait.  I hear the gentle tick tick of the clock on the wall and listen to the creaking of our house as it settles.  I breathe quietly, slowly, rhythmically. I whisper Samuel’s (actually Eli’s) words exactly: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” I haven’t gotten a direct response yet, but I have spent much more quality time with God in the dark hours of the night. My guess is, He’s appreciated it more since I’m too tired to bug Him about everything else I’ve been casting at His feet (not that I don’t do that as well, too).

Then, I read a bit and return to bed. Usually, I go right to sleep. Such a precious commodity, sleep. I hope I get some tonight.

 

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RONDO

Reading Time: 2 minutes

[For Cathy and Judy, and all the Crows of the present and past]

Rondo: [according to oxforddictionaries.com]:

  • “A musical form with a recurring leading theme, often found in the final movement of a sonata or concerto.”

  • A rondo’s form is comprised of a refrain that is repeated between other melodic material, called “episodes”

  • Its form is often A B A C A

Every summer, my family descends upon a wonderful little barrier island in North Carolina called Emerald Isle. Scads of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents gather together to relax and enjoy each other’s company. The days stretch as long and as wide as the sugary sands of the beach.   The nights are filled with delicious seafood, competitive games (Scrabble and Poker are favorites), and endless conversations, all accompanied by the soundtrack of rushing surf. This year was no exception. It was lovely to see everyone and to see how their children progress, seemingly overnight, from toddling babies into willowy teenagers.

One morning as I sat in my beach chair chatting with my cousin, Tracy, I saw her watching her little boy dig busily in the sand beside my teenaged son (Shelby) and my husband (Doug). “Look at them,” she said, grinning. “You know, I remember being little and Doug digging big holes in the sand for us. Then, when I got older, I remember playing with Shelby when he was a tiny little boy…” She paused and laughed. “Now, Shelby is playing with my little one! Isn’t it amazing?” I agreed. It IS amazing to watch time wash by and, wave by wave, gradually alter the coast-line of our lives. It’s a cycle that is still miraculous to me.

What also continues to astound me is to watch my nieces and nephews as they have children. These kids (so they’re in their twenties—they’re still frozen in time for me as kids) whom I babysat and diapered are now having babies of their own. “The Kids Table” at which all the nieces and nephews gathered together to enjoy raucous meal times has become “The Second Adult Table.” We will need to buy another “Kids Table” to accommodate the new little beach combers that keep appearing. Our hearts are as full as our beach house now!

The celebration of new little ones is tinged with a bit of sadness, too, because we remember that not all of our family members are present each year. Some live too far away to come regularly; some have other commitments; and some are no longer with us. It is this dichotomy we have come to take part in every year—the predictable “sameness” of the location and the traditions we uphold, juxtaposed by the constant change of new and aging faces. The absent faces may not be here, but they live on through the stories we re-tell about them every year.

I am already counting the days until next summer…

Precious soul, do not delay

Embark on the wondrous journey

To the sea of meaning!

Remember, you have passed through many stages

Do not resist, surrender to the journey.

Wash your wings from the earth’s clay

And follow the trail of those before you.

Do not linger in the potter’s shop

Break the jug and flow with the stream of life.

Rush down from the mountain to the sea

For the mountain offers no refuge.

Do not wander east or west

Aim straight at the sun!

From its light, like the moon,

You will sometimes be a crescent

And sometimes full. [p. 42]

From Rumi’s Little Book of Life: The Garden of the Soul the Heart and the Spirit. Translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2012. Given to me by my dearest of friends, Kari Skipper.

 

 

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Breath

I started this blog as a commentary to celebrate and study the joy of the common, every day, ordinary (B-Flat), things in life. I’ve decided I’d like to write using themes that you, Dear Reader, can suggest. So, here’s the first:

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Breath.

  • The very essence of life…

  • Not just drawing air in, but exhaling it out…

  • The basis for one of English’s most uplifting words—”inspire,” and all of its derivatives (from the Latin verb “inspirare,” meaning “to breathe”).

    According to Genesis 2:7, God literally breathes Adam to life, suggesting that breath is the source of humankind’s creation. References to the breath of God appear numerous times later in the Bible, too. God’s breath can be something that creates abundance of life, fills followers with faith, and symbolizes a holy presence; its power can also wreak havoc, terror, and confusion. All of these aspects were revealed at the first Christian Pentecost, or “The Fiftieth Day” (meaning the Fiftieth Day after Passover).

    Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, one of my favorite days in the liturgical calendar. This amazing account of the Holy Spirit being gifted to the disciples is one of the most colorful stories in the Bible (Acts 2). Some Christians are uncomfortable with anything being portrayed as “magical” in the Bible, but I can’t imagine you could call this occurrence anything but miraculous. Along with several other believers, the disciples were gathered in a room, praying, talking, and waiting for the next step God would reveal in the new plan, now that Jesus was no longer on earth to guide them.

    God’s plan comes with the primitive elemental forces of air and fire. A rush of violent wind, the breath of God, fills every space and corner in the room.  This is no wafting breeze, no gentle zephyr wind you might feel on a morning in June; no, this was like experiencing a raging tornado at close range. Fire in the form of tongues of flame—one of the oldest signs of the presence of the Holy of Holies—appears above the heads of the disciples. It was miraculous, but it was more than likely terrifying as well to all who witnessed it. It seems that God decided to “take the theatrical route” to shake the disciples from out of their current posture of waiting into a more dynamic posture of acting. God’s breath is transformed into the Holy Spirit, roaring through the room, enflaming the disciples and early Christians to begin spreading Jesus’s story to all the ends of the earth.

    It is also in this way that breath and flame inspire language, in that the disciples are suddenly able to speak languages that had previously been unknown to them. Language is a give and take of breath, an inhalation and exhalation. It is also listening (taking in), and it is speaking (giving out). Language ignites communication and kindles understanding.

    Language is not just spoken, however; language is also written, and was to be vitally present in scripture and in the future teachings of early Christians like the apostle Paul. Paul himself even states that “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

    Perhaps some might read the Bible and question Paul’s belief that all of it is inspired by God. If it were truly inspired by God, wouldn’t everything that happens in the Bible be fair?  Wouldn’t all the accounts of the gospel match up perfectly with no discrepancies? Wouldn’t all of God’s prophets, disciples, rulers, and kings be fine, upstanding citizens? And what about all the “smiting” God seemed to enjoy doing in the Old Testament?

    There is certainly much to ponder in these age-old questions, and the answer may be that there is no answer—none that will entirely satisfy us anyway. In his sermon entitled “Is the Bible Inspired?,” the Rev. Dr. James C. Howell states it this way:

Yes, this is All the Scripture that is inspired.  Messy, human, broken, miserably lacking in potential and lackluster in performance.  Why would God use such a book?  Because God wanted the book to  make sense to people like us.  Because God wanted to redeem the broken, lackluster and messy.  God’s very project to save us was to become one of us, and a poor, no account guy from out in the middle of nowhere who recruited few followers, and those failed him.  He was accused of partying too heartily, carousing with the wrong types, then he died a brutal, criminal death, a shameful showing for a sad human being, much less God almighty. This is God’s story, and this is my story and yours.  And it really is a stunningly beautiful story.

So let us breathe in the story. Let us feel the mighty wind swirl around us. Let us feel the heat of a holy flame alight above us. Let us even be afraid for a moment or two. Then, let us be divinely inspired by God’s breath to speak of the hope we know is ours to share.

[Please take a moment now and suggest a word for the next blog. Come on—help me out!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weeds

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Finally, an achingly gorgeous day outside….the sky, a crisp blue with snowy clouds, a gentle breeze, the smell of hyacinths in the air. I love spring-time, especially when the days get longer and longer and the sun shines high in the sky, well into the evening. More sun means more plants, too–it’s time to get the garden ready. I am not a gifted gardener, though I do enjoy having some flowers and a small vegetable garden.

 

Perhaps you’ll think I’m strange (if you don’t already), but one thing I enjoy when preparing my garden is pulling weeds. There’s something so satisfying about grabbing a weed and hearing that little pop! as it releases its hold on the earth. Reveling in the progress at the end of a long weed-pulling session is so wonderful—to finally see clear ground again that becomes a canvas for new plants.

 

Though I confess I like being the weed “puller”, I am now experiencing what it is like to be the “pullee” as well. I am realizing more and more that being a B-Flat Christian can also be synonymous with being a Comfortable Christian. I was planted here in my garden and, over the years, have pushed my roots gradually into the warm soil of safety. I have had the sunshine of good health and have been watered with blessings of family, personal success, and daily bread.

 

I am now noticing as I have been luxuriating in my soil that some weeds are beginning to be pulled from around me, and frankly, it is a scary feeling. These weeds have surrounded me and have made me feel secure. They shield me from the elements and they encircle me in their leafy comfort. Nevertheless, they are weeds. I am finding myself saying, “Wait a minute, Lord, you brought me here! I’m doing good things—the things I thought you wanted me to do! Why are you pulling up that weed? It was a nice weed! It was pretty! It was green and even had a sweet little flower!” That’s when I hear the pop! and in an instant, that weed is gone, and I am left, staring at the newly-opened spaces around me, startled, bereft, and vulnerable.

 

Now that some of those weeds are gone, however, I am noticing that I am able to stretch out the leaves of my spirit and grow into the spots that were once held by those weeds. I am growing inward and outward in ways that I am only just beginning to comprehend. Maybe the weeds were protecting me, but they may have also been sheltering me from being more than B-Flat. They may have even been hindering me, even if they were pretty and green.

 

I am learning that I am becoming tired of being secure in my B-Flat garden. Every day, God is pulling away more and more of my security, but is surrounding me by other plants—people—who are nurturing and feeding me. They are spurring me on, creating buds of inspiration I never could have imagined.

 

I have much to face in the next few weeks. Here is the truly worrisome thing: I think that though God is done with pulling for now, He may now be in the process of getting a shovel. Some of those weeds do not want to come out and a stronger tool might be used to force them to release their hold. I am ready.

 

Jeremiah 17:7-9

New International Version (NIV)

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Endings and Beginnings

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Luke 2:

6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 

John19:

41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

 

The bookends of a life—birth, death—two states of being we humans all experience. At some point, all of us (I wish, though I know it’s not true for everyone) were lovingly placed in a crib by our parents for a nap. Later on, we will all be prepared for burial and our remains will be put in an urn or in a coffin, to be returned once again to the earth.

 

Being placed, being laid down, is not a common occurrence when we are able-bodied, healthy adults. Usually, it happens only when you are not able to do it for yourself. It is a sign of total surrender, of ultimate trust, when you are gathered up in someone else’s arms and put to rest.

 

I had the chance to be gathered and put to rest yesterday in an MRI machine. A week ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I needed an MRI to get a better look at what’s happening. The sweet nurses gently helped me lie down on the sliding bed-pad on my stomach and get situated comfortably. After putting in an IV line and strapping on my headphones (I needed some of U2’s Unforgettable Fire to give me courage through this process), my body slid into the MRI tube.

 

Not to be maudlin about it, but it was a bit like being in a tomb; a wave of claustrophobia washed over me initially, and I had to concentrate on breathing low and deeply. To help myself stay calm, I began to focus on the words of U2’s haunting ballad “Bad”:

 

Let it go

This desperation

Dislocation

Separation, condemnation

Revelation in temptation

Isolation, desolation

Let it go

And so fade away

To let it go

And so fade away

I’m wide awake

Wide awake

I’m not sleeping

Oh, no, no, no.

 

Other than my arms falling asleep, my panic was manageable and I was able to stay centered and relaxed through that exceedingly long half hour. When it was over, the nurses came back in and, taking my arms, gently helped me sit up. They were wonderful. It is incredibly sobering to be at someone else’s mercy and in their care.

 

This is the first step in my journey with breast cancer. I know that sounds like an overused cliché, but it is going to be a journey. I’m going to a place I’ve never been, though I have ridden on the Cancer Highway before with my husband in 2010. Can’t say I liked the ride, and probably won’t enjoy this one much, either, but my exit number came up. It’s time to go.

 

I will be honest and say I had no idea where I got the idea to begin this blog. I have never blogged before, never really read anyone else’s blogs on a regular basis. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to start a diary; I’ve never been able to be consistent and follow through with it. I’ve never thought what I had to say was particularly important or memorable. I’m B-Flat, after all.

 

Now I know that God has been reading my blog, too, and even is writing it for me, in a way. He read that part where I said I was a boring, ordinary, B-Flat Christian who had a boring, ordinary, B-Flat life. I am sure He chuckled quite a bit, rubbing His hands, saying, “Hmmmmm, really? Okey dokey, let’s see how we can fix that.” I don’t mean to say He decided to “smite” me, per se; rather, I think He decided to begin a new way of life for me. God already knew I had breast cancer, and that my blog would be a way of working through my feelings about it—and about other things I’ve been thinking about, too. Sometimes beginnings have to start with a big push, and then, with lying down in submission and surrender.

 

Cancer affects millions of other B-Flat people. I look forward to hearing their Cancer Journeys and determining what it is I’m supposed to absorb from this. I am going to try to allow myself to be gathered up, drawn in, hugged tightly, and trust that I will be laid down where I can rest and learn.

 

 

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A Walk In the Dark

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This morning, I was awakened at 5:15am by the voice of a determined little bird. His tiny voice pierced the darkness outside my window, throbbing with joy as he tried to appeal to his brethren birds to join his operatic solo. I sighed as I lay there in bed, slowly unfurling the activities of the upcoming day, hoping to fall back asleep. My mind continued to wander, no matter how much I tried to settle down. Eventually, I started thinking about the Holy week to come, with its busy rehearsals and preparations for our church services on Thursday, Friday, and finally, Sunday. So much to do.

 

I finally got up, lifted the shade, and peeped out the window. I couldn’t see my little bird, but I could hear some other birds adding their lusty voices to the chorus outside in the darkness. As I looked out in the yard still draped in stars and shadows, I began to think about how bleak it would have been when Mary Magdalene picked her way through the darkness on her way to visit Jesus’s tomb. Perhaps it was a morning just like this.

 

The gospels differ in their account of who was walking with Mary to share in the agonizing process of anointing Jesus’s body, but to me, it doesn’t really matter; it was a group of devoted followers, and they were women, not one of the disciples. Hope was not even remotely on the horizon for Mary Magdalene and these other women; hope had died with Jesus. They weren’t even sure if they’d be able to get into the tomb in the first place since the tomb was to have been sealed, both by a large stone, and by the Emperor’s seal (you can see pictures of tombs and how they were sealed in this manner through the wonders of google).

 

My guess is, these B-flat women had no idea how it was going to happen, but they were going to do everything in their power to do what needed to be done. They had no game plan about how that stone was going to be moved, or how to get past any guards who might be stationed there keeping watch. Still, no matter how tired, no matter how frightened, no matter how desolate they were, they were going to anoint Jesus’s body, not just because it was following Jewish law, but because they were determined. They desperately longed to return some small ounce of dignity to one who had suffered and died in an unthinkably brutal way. Additionally, preparing his body might aid in accepting the irrevocable fact that Jesus was indeed dead. When they arrive, however, the open tomb awaits them, and the resurrection story begins. It begins with angels dressed in white, with linen that no longer clings to a dead body, and with the joyous shouts of women.

 

I had never thought of this on a deeper level until after reading Lee Strobel’s The Case for Easter recently in my church’s book study group. In it, Strobel uses his skills as a journalist and editor for the Chicago Tribune to determine if the resurrection could possibly be proven based on facts and evidence. In an interview, renowned theologian, William Lane Craig, asserts that one of the key points proving the authenticity of the resurrection is that the gospel writers report openly that women found the empty tomb.

 

“Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb—Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that—like it or not—they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status.” (p. 50)

 

What is humorous, and annoying, I suppose, is that immediately after the women rush back to explain what they had seen, the disciples don’t believe them, according to Luke 24:11. I understand why they wouldn’t; everyone had seen Jesus’s very public trial, torture, and death. It’s no surprise that the women would be viewed as being hysterical and maybe even a little nuts. Angels? An unsealed and empty tomb? Jesus walking and talking? To even remotely acknowledge such claims could bring much unwanted attention to the disciples and might even warrant some Roman guards dropping by for a fairly uncomfortable little “chat.” This news needed to be kept quiet; these women needed to keep their mouths shut.

 

I think it is troubling that some women’s voices continue to be ignored or silenced all together in some churches even now. I was reminded recently of a friend of mine, Cheryl, who was a pastor in my home church. After she attended seminary, she was ready to be ordained to begin her pastoral career. The church Cheryl had grown up in, who had fostered her burgeoning belief, who had inspired her call to seek a career in the church, refused to ordain her, simply because she was a woman. In their minds, it was not “biblical” that women serve in church leadership roles.

 

When viewing the facts of the resurrection, however, I simply don’t see how one can draw this conclusion. In all the gospel accounts, women were there. Women, too, were constantly in the company of Jesus and the disciples. From all accounts, Jesus treated women (and many people considered to be unclean or unworthy according to Jewish law) with respect that was uncharacteristic for most males of the time. While the disciples certainly began the process of disseminating Christianity into the world at large, other women are mentioned in the Bible as having taken leadership roles in the early church as well (such as Priscilla, who is mentioned several times by Paul).

 

I have no doubt that one of the main goals of Jesus’s ministry was to include everyone in sharing in God’s loving plan, and that meant that everyone had a shot, no exclusions. Over and over, Jesus warns of how Samaritans, poor widows, and even little children are just as worthy of a place at God’s table—maybe even more so—than the strict keepers of the law. Later on, even Gentiles took their rightful place in proclaiming the good news and furthering the mission.

 

And remember, that city of debauchery and hedonism, whose leaders put Jesus to death—ROME—is now the very heart of the Catholic Church. Who could ever have imagined THAT on the first Easter? Certainly not Caesar, and certainly not the disciples.

 

Let us all take that walk with Mary Magdalene, a lowly but fierce B-Flat woman, at 5:15am on that Easter morning. Let us be astonished, whispering “Rabboni!” in total shock; and with sudden awareness, believe.

 

 

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