Divorce, Grief, LEARNING JOURNEYS, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

JESUS LISTENED TO WOMEN ABUSED BY THE PATRIARCHIAL SYSTEM

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WOMEN HE REDEEMED

Jesus must have known and understood the abuse, lack of value and respect as well as the generational trauma that women had to endure, that was the result of the old system when he sought out the women whose stories are told in the New Testament. In his book “The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels, “ Frank Viola gives voice to these women’s stories from their perspective of living in the cultural context of that time. Although the stories have been fictionalized the context was thoroughly researched.

THE ADULTRESS

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The woman ‘caught’ in adultery, had a back story too. Abused by her husband she was vulnerable to the plans of others. Nowhere do we hear of the man, because Jesus knew this was a ‘set-up’ job to trip him up. When you read this story, do you take then words at face value and not think about the person behind the words? Everyone has a back story, but women’s voices were silenced in the system they lived in, and they were vulnerable to the abuse of others.

THE SINFUL WOMAN

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“The ‘sinful woman (prostitute)’ who had entered into Simon the Pharisee’s house uninvited, while he was entertaining Jesus. She stood behind Jesus and broke open her alabaster jar of perfume anointing him, and with her tears and hair washed Jesus’ feet. What was her back story? As a rejected, abused, or single woman she had little choice in earning her living, but Jesus never condemned her he used her as an example of love and compassion to the hard-hearted, legalist Pharisees who had not washed his feet when he entered their house. When do we hold the shield of propriety and the Law as a shield to prevent people from encountering Jesus?

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

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The Samaritan woman was yet another example of how a woman who had had unfortunate marital experiences was forced into further difficulties by the patriarchal system, that used women for their own ends. In using her back story Jesus was able to not only redeem her but use her to bring others to Him, a missionary to the Samaritans. Even his disciples were aghast that he should be sitting talking to a Samaritan woman alone. Jesus was willing to risk his reputation in front of his best friends to bring redemption to this woman.

THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD

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The woman with blood issues fell afoul of the purification laws that kept her isolated from others and in a poor and weak state of health. Her desperation led her to reach out to touch this Jesus she had heard about to help her when she was untouchable by anyone else in her society. I was so touched at the compassion of Jesus for this woman who was desperate. So many women live in desperate situations, which force them to act in ways that they would not need too if the laws and the judgements of others had compassion for their situation and helped them instead of isolating them.

MARY OF BETHANY

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Mary of Bethany’s story opened me to a completely new perspective on her. I had always considered her to be the ‘saint’ in the story as I had been told it. Her backstory was one of poor self-image and comparison to her siblings. Martha, her older sister was blessed with the gift of hospitality, as was her late mother. Lazarus, her brother, was a handsome and gregarious young man, and her father a man full of faith and goodness whom Jesus had healed of leprosy. Mary never felt she was enough, she felt an outsider, a thinker, the different one, only fit to mull over matters of the heart, with no gifts or talents that were useful or apparent. She broke convention sitting at Jesus feet as a woman, yet Jesus commended her as he could read her heart and knew she was near the Kingdom he was teaching the others about. She later generously used up her jar of spikenard perfume to anoint Jesus and was accused of being ‘wasteful’ by one of the disciples. For someone who had found their self-worth restored by Jesus, that was very hurtful.

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The different backstories on each of these women, that have been researched and brought into context of the times they were living in, although fictionalized still point to the very character of God and Jesus as being a supporter of the widows, the orphans, the aliens, oppressed and underprivileged. These women if they lived today would still more than likely be marginalized because of the systems that kept them in their circumstances, often play out into lives of women today. What systems can you think of that would affect these women today? Do you know of any women who have been unjustly treated because of their circumstances or the things that have been done to them? How can we be like Jesus to them?

These women if they had lived today would still more than likely be marginalized because of the systems that kept them in their circumstances, often play out into the lives of women today”

I have really enjoyed reading these books and listening to the sermons that have highlighted God’s compassionate redeeming love for abused and marginalized women. I have written reviews for both the books I have researched, if you wanted to read them for yourself. “Women of the Bible Speak Out” by Marlo Schalesky and “The Day I Met Jesus” by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth.  The Sermons can be found on YouTube Christ City Church.

If you have not yet read the first part of this story it can be found here Jesus Listened to Women

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Divorce, Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, LEARNING JOURNEYS, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

JESUS LISTENED TO THE WOMEN’S VOICES OF THOSE IN HIS GENEALOGY

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The sermon series run in our church during Advent highlighted the women in Jesus’ genealogy.  This is probably the first time I have heard these women being honored as part of Jesus genealogy. As I sat and listened to their stories, I wondered why I had not heard their point of view before. As an explorer of ideas and concepts, it struck me that preachers were generally male, the times the stories were written in were times of the patriarchal order and systems when women were not considered important other than to be breeders of children to carry on the male line. Being barren was the worst fate to befall a woman in those days. Women’s voices in general had been shut down or downplayed. Yet they carried the inner scars in the cells in their bodies and carried their generational trauma forward to the next generation.

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I then read a book on five women’s encounters with Jesus where their stories were told. Tears filled my eyes as I read of the compassion, lack of judgement and redemption for each of these women. At the same time, I felt He was redeeming the stories of the women in his genealogy, healing the generational trauma in their bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits. Jesus heard their cries for someone to listen to their story.

I will give a brief outline to the stories of the women in Jesus’ genealogy in this blog post and the stories of the five women that Jesus brought wholeness to in the following blog post as I want you to have time to think about these women and their back stories, how you viewed them in the past and what you may feel about them now you have viewed them from a different perspective.

BEFORE JESUS WAS BORN – HIS GENEALOGY

Tamar

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Tamar was a Canaanite woman that Judah married to first one son then another. When both sons died without progeny, Judah did not do what was demanded of him by the same custom as he married his sons to Tamar, to marry her to another son or find her a husband. She felt rejected and discarded, and her dignity stripped when Judah told her to go to her parents’ house and live as a widow. She used her own initiative with the only possibility open to her, that of a prostitute. Judah went to the prostitute and slept with her. The child born from that encounter was Perez, part of the genealogy of Jesus. I have never heard a sermon explain why Judah went to a prostitute! But he said, “She is more righteous than I,” eventually giving her the recognition that he should have done at first. Read the laws in Deuteronomy 25:5 and 26:12, Judah had broken both those laws as the Tamar was also a ‘stranger’ in the land.

Rahab

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Joshua sent two spies out to,” Go, look out the land,” They ended up in Jericho at a prostitute’s house! Now that part of the story was explained to me in the past: what were they doing there instead of looking out at the land! Yet, Rahab is part of the genealogy of Jesus she was the mother of Boaz. James said, “was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” By preserving the lives of the spies, for whatever reason she was a prostitute or that they were visiting her, she and her families’ lives were saved and she was considered righteous.

Ruth

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Ruth was a Moabitess, immigrant foreigner. She was faithful to her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. As widows they were destitute in the patriarchal system where only men could provide a living for a woman. Through her faithfulness to Naomi, they took the initiative, took an enormous risk to Ruth’s reputation to ask for marriage for Ruth to Boaz, calling on the same Deuteronomic laws of protection for widows. Yet, she found favor in both God and Boaz eyes, who took her as his wife. The women encouraged Naomi, “For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him [Obed] birth.” Obed became the grandfather of Kind David.

Bathsheba

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An innocent woman, taking her purification bath in her courtyard where she thought she had some privacy, was unaware of the lustful stare of King David whose palace overlooked her rooftop. She had no say in refusing the King when he sent for her. She was taken to his palace where he used her as he would. To hide his sin King David had her husband Uriah killed. Not only was Bathsheba raped, but her husband was also killed, and now she was a pregnant widow, probably the worst position a women could be in.

When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. Once the time of mourning was over, David tried to rectify his sin and brough her to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son.”

When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. Once the time of mourning was over, David tried to rectify his sin and brought her to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord, and although he repented, his family life was dysfunctional as a consequence. When David was dying his son Adonijah placed himself on the throne. Bathsheba went into King David to remind him he had sworn to her that Solomon his son will be king after him. She reminded him that she and Solomon would be treated as criminals once David died. David rectified the matter and placed Solomon on the throne. When Solomon acceded to the throne, he had a throne brought for his mother and Bathsheba sat as his right hand, in a position of power. God upheld her dignity in the terrible circumstances she was forced into.

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When you look at these women’s stories from a completely different perspective, you hear their cries for justice in a patriarchal system that marginalized them as human beings made in the image of God. You see the hand of God moving to vindicate them and bring them into a place where they are given justice and the honor of being part of the genealogy of Jesus.

Jesus must have known and understood this when he sought out the women whose stories I will share in my next blog. [ to be continued…..] 

I would love to have your comments on this perspective. You can respond in the What are Your Thought box.

If you are interested to hear the sermon series, it can be found on You Tube Christ City Church. The two books I have read and used as reference as well are “The Day I met Jesus” by Frank Viola and “Women of the Bible Speak out” by Marlo Schalesky

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

MY TEARS ARE COLLECTED IN A BOTTLE

On a visit to Pennsylvania the friend I visited would collect water in containers at the local spring.  I was fascinated by this; as we searched for the spring which was hidden away alongside a small road. We carried our empty containers down to the collecting pipes and filled them. Once the containers were full, they became heavy and more difficult to maneuver. That was the week’s drinking water supply and it made me realize if you must collect and carry your own water, you won’t waste a drop!  We have lost that sense of preciousness of water, by having it on tap when we turn on the faucet.  How much do we waste?

When we look from the perspective of water as a precious commodity it really helps to understand why wars were fought over wells and springs in the past. Armies needed to set up camp at a spring so that their horses and men could be watered and refreshed. King Hezekiah had prepared for war by fortifying Jerusalem and constructing an underground tunnel to bring fresh water into the city from a spring outside the walls, as he knew they would be under siege. He decided to plug the springs outside so the enemy could not have access to water.

The children of Israel camped a long time in Elim where there were twelve springs of water and palm trees. God promised them the land they were going to was a land of brooks, pools, gushing springs, valleys, and hills. Can you imagine after being in the desert for such a long time, thirsty for lack of water what this promise meant to them, not having to search for water and carry it with them until the next place they could find water? When they arrived in the Promised Land, Caleb gave his daughter some land for a wedding gift but it was desert, so she asked him for land with springs as well.

When a very dear friend of mine died her daughter asked me to do a painting for her from Psalm 84:6 “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!” this reminded her of her Mom’s life and her last struggle with cancer. We all prayed so hard for healing, and believed it would come, but after a short struggle my friend died. We were all devastated that this precious woman could go so quickly. Yes, when we go through the loss of a dear friend or family member, we shed many tears, our eyes will leak at the slightest thing and yet this is a necessary part of the grieving process.  Grief helps us to treasure those tears, they are valuable in processing the loss and remembering all the good and wonderful blessings we received through that person’s life. Not a tear is wasted, in fact the psalmist said ‘You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.” Just as I came to realize when you must collect your own water, you wont waste it. How amazing that God will not let your tears be wasted either. He stores them for refreshment later.

There will come a time when you will be happy and joyful again, when you have processed the loss and accepted it was part of your life’s journey. The prophet Isaiah puts it so well, “The lame man will leap up like a deer, and those who could not speak will shout and sing! Springs will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” You will also have treasured memories in your heart, those tears you shed will become like pools of blessing as you remember the precious life of your loved one and that life is not limited to the here and now but is eternal.

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

FLOWERS ARE A BLESSING ON YOUR HEAD

“Blessings reaching to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills”

I don’t know about you, but my favorite time of the year is when the flower growing season is at its height.  The diversity of plants and flowers has fascinated me since I was a child as we eagerly looked for flame lilies (our national flower) and ground orchids in the veld, around Christmas time, and we would fill a big copper bowl with our findings!  I was looking for a verse that would describe the joy I felt in flowers, and I came across this verse in Genesis “blessings of the grain and flowers, blessings reaching to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. These shall be the blessings upon the head of Joseph who was exiled from his brothers.”  O wow!  That really spoke to me about God’s provision of blessing in flowers when we are feel low.  Have you ever looked across the hillsides when the hills are alive with yellow and purple flowers? Absolute glory!

Joseph had been sold off into slavery by his brothers as a young boy.  He must have felt so alone, and yet here God said the flowers will be a blessing on his head!  After I had been divorced and felt rejected, feeling like a slave with the hard grind of making ends meet after living in a beautiful home with gardens.  I was living in a small upstairs apartment with no garden at the time but was able to turn this around when I could walk around the local parks filled with beautiful rose gardens and enjoy them as if they were mine. The huge benefit of this was I did not have to be responsible to watering them, pruning or feeding them. I could just enjoy them!  This is surely what God meant about the blessing of the flowers, they are just there to be enjoyed.

When I was widowed, people kindly sent me flowers. The flowers at my late husband’s funeral were a beautiful symbol of his life and the colors of his Dutch background with huge orange day lilies. Flowers have a language of their own and the type and color can be symbols for feelings.  Red roses for love, white for a wedding, white lilies for death.  Nations have their own national flower; it is like a banner that rallies you. When you experience grief through the loss of a significant person in your life, flowers help to comfort and cheer you through the dark days. Elton John rewrote the words of” Candle in the Wind” to sing at Princess Diana’s funeral, he said ‘Goodbye England’s rose”, what a comfort that was to the English people as they mourned her loss.

As an artist, I have painted or photographed many a flower and they are still one of my favorite subjects. Flowers are used as decoration in so many places, they are architectural features on buildings and play a part in rituals and ceremonies.   The lampstands and decorations for the Israelites Tabernacle and Temple had almond flowers, rosebuds and open flowers and palm tree carved into the cedar panels, these were often covered in gold leaf. Some of the most beautiful classical gardens are drawn with small green hedges or borders and different colored flower panels in the spaces.  Cities sometimes use flowers to decorate a garden crest motif at the entrance of the city.

When you are going through times of grief and tears, when you are feeling shunned and sent away.  When you are feeling alone, go and find a garden, look at the flowers, enjoy them and meditate on them, remember God gave us flowers as a blessing. There is an old hymn about Jesus walking and talking in the garden while the dew was still on the roses. Look at those flowers and see if you can meet with Jesus and talk out your grief with him.         

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

YOU WILL NOT BE BURNED

2019-03-02 09.44.52For the past three weeks I have spoken about wind, how it disperses seed to grow, lifts us above our circumstances and give us energy to move forward.  Today I want to focus on fire which is also a necessary element to growth.  

There is a beautiful flower in Cape Town, in fact the national flower of South Africa, the Protea. This plant amongst other ‘fynbos’ plants requires fire before the seeds can germinate.  Fynbos needs to burn at least every decade to keep regenerating the species and the local ecosystem. Dormant seeds which may have been buried under the soil for a few years are triggered by the heat of the fire to stimulate growth. The fire burns out all the old undergrowth and seeds that have been carried away or buried by rodents, birds, ants and insects lie waiting and when the rain comes continue with the growth process. Depending on the heat of the fire, some may only be triggered to germinate after waiting fifty years! Fire can occur naturally with a lightning strike, accidentally with sun rays through a broken glass shard or deliberately with arson. Fires are unpredictable and so it is with the germination of different seeds after each fire and its intensity and how soon the rain falls after the fire! This is such a marvelous example of what is was like at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit arrived with wind and fire to empower the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His continued work in the world today. They did not know what would happen next! Neither do we – growth happens in unexpected ways, in fits and starts.

Sometimes when we are going through a time of intense grief and struggle, trials and tribulations, God is using the same process that the protea requires. Perhaps there are a lot of old ideas and beliefs that hinder us and need to be burnt out.  Perhaps our ‘shell’ is so hard it takes the extreme heat of the trials to trigger growth for us.  Perhaps it is the timing – it is also unpredictable.  How often we want the predictable and understandable, our routines and comfort zones.  It may then take an extremely hot fire to move us to growth. We need to learn to let go of the predictable when we go through these life transitions and rather hold on with faith, that at the right time and conditions we will grow and flourish and maybe even bloom in the desert.

Fire in the Bible had a very special symbolism. God said, ‘When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not consume you.’ God stood with Shadrach, Mesheck and Abednego in the fiery furnace and they were not burned. So, Moses was given his commission at the burning bush; Isaiah was given his when the seraphim placed a burning coal on his lips and sent him on his mission. Fire is used to refine gold and silver to burn off the dross, it symbolizes holiness, intersession and worship and incense on the altar as our prayers ascend to God.

If we were to look at our current trials through the lens of God’s growth and refining process, it enables us to use the energy of the heat to spurt on new growth and momentum in moving forward.  We may not know what happens next, but if we allow the process to take place, will we indeed bloom like the beautiful King Protea and know that God is still working with us and preparing us for our mission in life.