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

women sitting on a wooden bench
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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.

a hijab woman leaning on the wall
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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

a woman standing beside the coffin
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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

sexy ethnic prostitute in bdsm collar lying on bed and biting red strap
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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

woman wearing brown headdress
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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

woman holding flowers in hands in water
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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.

women working together
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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

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, LEARNING JOURNEYS, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

10 THINGS LOCKDOWNS HAVE TAUGHT ME

I doubt that 2021 will go down in history as the best year ever for many people. It has been a long grinding year of wondering when this pandemic will be over and we can get back to normal again. Normal may have already happened for some of you, but for us living here in Washington DC, we have spent the last 18 months basically in isolation with few external trips for pleasure or necessity. I have lived and worked most of this time in an 8’x10′ space that serves as a bedroom, office, and studio. What lessons did I learn from this confinement?

1. Acceptance

Sometimes, there is nothing to be done to change your circumstances, so you must accept what is and then decide how best you can function and use the limited parameters within which you must work.

2. Fear vs. Safety

Do I need to know everything going on around me? We decided not to listen to the news anymore as the bad news got us down and was not good for our mental health. So many stories the media put out were fear-mongering. We could not change anything for anyone, so it was best to switch off from this constant stream of negativity.

3. Benefits of Online Shopping

A positive came in online shopping, a more organized approach to shopping. Making a list in the store app of things we were running low on or ran out of made shopping a breeze. We could either do a pick-up or home delivery once the no delivery charge threshold is met. There was no more being tempted by items put in the way of shoppers waiting at the till.

4. Healthy Eating

We soon learned to make our own delicious healthy meals and only had a take-out delivered when running low on time or ring the changes on a Friday night. We made our own bread and consequently ingested far fewer preservatives or additives.

5. Less Commute time.

Time and money spent on commuting were saved by working from home. Although this also required some adjustments to our routines, especially working across time zones, we had to make sure we got sufficient breaks. So, although working from home was positive, it also became necessary to manage the time spent working a bit better.

6. Need for Exercise

This really became apparent after sitting at a desk and not getting up to walk to the commute or shops etc. We made a concerted effort to take a walk around the block or several blocks most days, regular home yoga practice, and outdoor strength training with an instructor. To keep our motivation up (which was necessary at times), we participated in a few Online Sport challenges. I surprised myself by getting a medal for my age group to complete the course!

7. Need for Community

This is probably the biggest challenge of the pandemic, not being able to interact with your community, clubs, friends, church meetings, etc. Zoom meetings kept us going, but they indeed were a poor substitute for being able to see a person’s body language. Participation in group discussions was much more difficult. Yet, at the same time, it enabled us to embrace technology as a tool and adapt.

8. Need for friendships and connection.

I joined writing and artist groups and met some beautiful people I would not have done had I not been confined. You can choose your interest groups, and I have learned some fascinating things by joining Map, Art, and Culture Societies. I have tried to be more diligent in connecting with family and friends, some responded, and some didn’t.

9. Activities in confined spaces

Books I published over the year
Books

I had to look at the practical ways I could utilize my time and space to survive these past months. I could write and paint if the paintings or drawings were small enough to fit on my desk and choose mediums that were easy to manage in confined spaces. I also had time to meditate, read and learn. This allowed me to help other writers by reviewing their work or doing beta reading for them. I was able to expand my creativity and get to a deeper level of understanding of art and writing processes. I could also deconstruct past learning and beliefs and replace them with new enlightened thoughts and beliefs.

10. I can survive

When we are not challenged to draw on our inner resources, we become dependent on external things to make us happy. We have not built sufficient resilience to do what it takes to keep ourselves Safe, Happy, and Fit, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Paintings I did over the year
Paintings

Surviving eighteen months of isolation and minimal contact with the outside world has been a time for inner reflection, drawing on the wells of inspiration and experience. I know that I have been able to survive and create despite everything that would have put me down in the past. Modern technology has been a blessing and, at the same time, a curse. I chose to hold onto the blessings which rewarded me with increased skills and connections with new friends. I had to let go of the expectations that I needed to be physically present to function in the world and do everything I would have done before.

When we emerge from this winter of isolation, may our roots have grown deeper to draw from that inner well, the knowledge, wisdom, and power inspired by the Holy Spirit to change our world. We will have built resilience to handle any further disruptions in our lives that we may yet encounter.

Deryn van der Tang

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

REFLECTIONS ON SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY WHILST IN A TRANSITION

Guest blog by Denise McLoughlin tips and hints for facing the inevitable journey into older age.

When one is going into a new phase of life… Crossing another bridge – maybe the slightly fearful bridge to old age and all it entails- then it could be time to take stock  of where you stand in relation to your spirit, mind and body!

SPIRIT.

 Sunday – my day of rest and the time to meditate or look inwards -I thought I would share this wisdom I have encountered in various of my Quiet time books, one of which is “Streams in the Desert” by a lady called L B Cowman. Over the years I have found real treasures in this little book to guide me on my daily path. For example: ” Everything is possible for him who believes ” Mark 9:23

The “everything “mentioned here does not always come simply by asking, because God is always seeking to teach you the way of faith. Your training for a life of faith requires many areas of learning, including the trial of faith, the discipline of faith, the patience of faith, and the courage of faith. Often you will pass through many phases of faith before you finally realize the result of faith- namely, the victory of faith.

When you have made your request to God, and the answer still has not come, what are you to do? Keep on believing His word. Do not be swayed by what you feel or see. Then as you stand firm, your power and experience are being developed, strengthened and deepened. God will often purposely delay in giving you the answer, and in fact the delay is just as much the answer to your prayer as is the fulfilment when it comes. (ref. Streams in the Desert, L Cowman, 12th May pg 191)

SOUL OR MIND

About the soul or mind side of life there is so much to say… I think the most important thing for me is to take control of thoughts because as you think, so you are! It is so easy to fall into a negative pattern of thinking, especially in today’s world.

I like to turn my thoughts to the positive and part of this is to embrace your life! I try to make my life a celebration because being alive is so special and time is short…. I make my days as pleasant and festive as possible! As we get older there is a tendency to get stuck in a rut and stagnating and not having an open mind …. We should counteract that by doing new things…learn something new- whether it is mastering your smartphone or learning a language or taking up dancing …in all its wonderful forms… or setting up your Bucket List… things you still want to do…. if you don’t think about it and plan for it.. you might never do it!!!

I made a Power Point presentation of my list and have actually achieved  some of my dreams like my road trips with the conversion of my car into a campercar… enabling me to travel on a budget.

THE BODY

When I had to face my ageing body, there is a lot to be said. What comes to my mind is that it is the only body we ‘ve got and as we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” we should look after our bodies… we all know we need exercise but if you are naturally a bit lazy like I am, this could be a schlep… I have, however, discovered how good one feels after a nice fairly brisk walk, out in nature …or even up and down the streets of your suburb, as I have recently started doing. Now if one has kept up with the part that technology plays in today’s life, then may I suggest that on your  smartphone you download a little app called Runkeeper which works with GPS and tells you how far,  and how fast  you have walked… nice encouragement I find.  Just think how impressed your children and friends will be when you show them the visual map tracked on your App! You can also compete against yourself and improve your fitness.

Then of course there is the whole boring thing of eating right or your diet. I once went on the Banting lifestyle for three months and felt wonderfully energetic, lost some weight and it worked.

Then there is the matter of sleep or rest … I find that if I read until the wee hours of the night, I battle to fall asleep, likewise if I am on my cell phone busy with Facebook or whatever, my brain won’t switch off.  I read about digital burnout and how technology in the forms of cell phone, computers email etc can affect your sleeping pattern – something to take into consideration.

 I now made a rule to switch off everything around 9.30 …to then start with a quiet routine eg a warm bath, a book( not too a  stimulating one ) and low light (candlelight in these load shedding days * South African phenomenon due to inadequate electrical provision* ) is perfect. They say you should try and go to bed more or less at the same time every night…it seems to work!

I am coping with the transition of getting older by adapting my lifestyle and trying to stick to good habits. In this way I care for my body, soul and perhaps most importantly my spiritual life!

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized, Widowhood

REFLECTIONS ON RETIREMENT

Gazing across the still lake at Claremont Gardens in Surrey, the golden reflection of trees looked up at me mirroring the great oaks and beech trees along the water’s edge. This beautiful sight caused me to reflect on the last two years since my retirement and my first visit back to the UK since I went to live in the USA.  This was a major transition, from working to having time on my hands, from living alone to living with my family and learning yet another culture in new land and dealing with the ubiquitous bureaucracy!

I had spent several years on planning for this move, so adapting to the new culture was not too difficult having visited with family on numerous occasions. On arrival in the USA I was exhausted from the past few years of a strenuous job and the handing over process, of saying goodbye to family and friends and going through the immigration process.  This was probably more emotionally draining than anything else. My body felt very tired and I even wondered if I had some dreaded disease, I felt so bad. This was a time to ‘Be still and know that I am God’.  Quite often we are not even aware of how tired we can become in serving others, we give because we enjoy helping others, we give because we know that is what God has called us to do, but even Jesus grew weary in his earthly body and needed to go aside to rest and pray. It is important to allow your physical and emotional body to recover from a big transition. 

Looking at the tranquil water of the lake, I could feel the rest and calmness in my body, something that I had not been able to experience when I was working, always expecting an emergency phone call or my mind working on a problem that needed to be solved. I had to learn once again to be mindful, to live in the moment, to appreciate my environment and what I could see, I needed to learn to tune into the ‘still small voice’ in contemplative prayer and allow God’s voice just to tell me how much He loved me again.  It is easy to lose the focus of God’s goodness when you are in transitions as there is so much going on.

It was important to hear God’s voice saying, ‘well done, you have added value to my Kingdom, rest here awhile to recharge before your next assignment’. Your value is not determined by the work you do, so when you are no longer working you feel you have no value.  Your value is determined by the fact you are a Child of God, His daughter or son and just because you are, you are valuable. So, taking the time to be still and re-establish the strong foundation of who I was in Christ was very important to me.

Taking time to explore new places, find a new church and a new group of friends and different ways of worshipping, doing art or writing all became part of the journey into my new life. Reflecting on the past and knowing my giftings and strengths, putting them out before God as to what plans He has for me to use them in this new venture of retirement required time.  Two whole years have passed, and I am now ready for the next adventure in what plans God has for me.  I have written an Amazon best-seller in the Christian Liberation category. I have joined the Creative team in my church giving an outlet for some of my gifts, I have created my on-line presence of blogging, art gallery and e-course. I have met and made so many new friends from diverse backgrounds that have made me explore even deeper the meaning of life.

I think most of all I have learned that ‘in quietness and confidence will be your strength’, as God reveals things to me day by day with the people He puts in my life to support and help going through difficult life circumstances. He has given me that compassion and caring for them and some creative solutions that they can use to help themselves through hard days.

One day I asked my son what was the one thing he felt I had given him of value and he told me it was living with me through such a variety of life circumstances, that we had survived and succeeded and he was able to apply that foundation and confidence to his life, and that all three of my children had come out not only survivors but winners in successful careers and family lives.

I think the main take away from my reflections must be that difficult and diverse life circumstances build resilience and faith in Someone who is bigger than you, who cares for you, protects and provides even though you may not see it in the moment. It is with gratitude I embraced all the challenging times to bring me to this place of quiet restfulness and peace.

Seasons of Life, Transitions, Uncategorized

CHANGE OF SEASON

How Do you know when you are entering a new season of your life? 

Traveling to Pennsylvania on the coach, I was left in no doubt that the landscape was transitioning into fall! No longer, fresh green leaves, but leaves in every shade from dark green through yellow, red and bronze. Nature shows us the change of season through the landscape when it is moving into a new season. So, what signs do we look out for when we are changing a season in our life? 

Graduating from school, college or university draws a distinct line on the past childhood. You are now entering the world as an adult where you will find your place in the workforce.  After some years of enjoying the freedom of earning your own livelihood, you desire to settle down and share your life and the search for love and happiness with a life mate and starting a new family begins.  

Waiting for the arrival, a pregnant couple prepares a home and space to receive the child by attending prenatal classes and learning all that they can about parenthood. After years of child rearing and being a family together, one by one, children leave the nest to become independent adults. They leave a void that is sometimes hard to fill, if the children have been the main focus of the family. This can be an unsettling transition as you are no longer needed in your role of nurturing, provider parents. The empty nest syndrome can kick in as there is often a gap of several years as the children settle into their new lives, often too busy to call home. This is a hard transition for parents into the new role of friend or mentor to their offspring, but it is a necessary transition and needs preparation and wisdom from the parents.  

The circle makes a full turn as their children complete their education and become independent working adults and find a mate, marry and settle down. Transitioning into being grandparents is probably the most beautiful of all transitions. It can be expected or unexpected, but the entry into the world of your grandchildren is magical as you hold the precious little bundle of joy for the first time. Again, wisdom and knowing your boundaries is required, leaving the parents to make their own mistakes and learn from them, only giving advice when asked for. 

The signs of the next transition are usually physical. You can see them in the mirror! You can feel them in your energy levels, retirement from the nine to five job is on the horizon. Even if your boss hasn’t told you yet. This is a time you should have been planning for, putting some money aside for retirement, taking up new hobbies and interests, getting involved in the community and your church. 

The transition into retirement will often depend on how much planning you put into it as to how easy it is to change your identity and role in the world. Without adequate planning, some people end up feeling they no longer have any worth, which of course is not true. Effort needs to be made to create a vibrant retirement at the pace you choose.  

During the course of the natural and expected seasons of life, our pathway can sometimes be   completely disrupted by unexpected events like the death of a child, divorce or widowhood or chronic illness, forcing us into a new season. After we have stabilized new growth can begin and we enter a new season. 

One of the transitions that are part of the cycle of life is the death of your parents pushing you to the top of the family tree. This can be quite intimidating as you come to terms with your own mortality. 

As the trees shed their leaves and the bare branches stand in the icy cold, similar are the signs as you enter that final cycle of your life. Often it is your health that strips our independence, and you need to be taken care of by others. It can just be a slow decline of strength and faculties, sight, hearing and taste. Then just as a winter storm can strike and the tree falls, your body switch can turn off and you’re gone from this earth. That final transition to those who believe in Christ as their Savior are promised to be changed into the eternal bodies to live with God forever. This transition requires that you have faith, which you should have been nurturing during your preparation for the latter years. 

Yes, the signs of transition are all about us. Do we recognize them? Do we desire them, plan and expect and prepare for them?