On Believing Women

Luke 24v11

The story appeared to them to be nonsense, and they would not believe them.

jacarandas

So… seems like women have to jump through some hoops to be believed in some situations. (I’m referring to some of the awful responses to women who have come forward with stories that expose, often high profile men, in the #metoo and other circumstances.)

As I went to sleep a bit worked up by this last night I was reminded that is not a pattern that the Bible sets out for us.

Two women sprang to my mind – One from the Old Testament and another from the New. Women who may have easily been dismissed with the unbelievable message they were given. Women who prove to me that God believes women, God entrusts himself to women and God expects men (and others!) to believe women.

Step up Rahab – what a woman!

She is mentioned in Hebrews 11 the chapter of the the faith greats. She is a gentile so pretty much expressly off limits for the Israelites in terms of marriage material. She is a prostitute… also not winning her any points. And yet! She is also named in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1) and she plays a key role in the battle of Jericho.

Spies are sent into the land to get a sense of what may be in store. They come back with their proverbial tails between their legs – ‘the land is great, but it’s too hard to conquer’ is essentially the feedback they give.

Two spies return with great news. This land is ours to take. They’ve spent the evening in the company of an intelligent, gentile woman who has protected them, reminded them of their past and their faith in God, prophetically declared what will happen, she has encouraged them, strategised with them and they have made her a promise, ‘Our lives for yours.’ (Which they follow through on).

Contextually, Rahab lived in Jericho, the most important Canaanite fortress city in the Jordan Valley, a stronghold in the path of the advancing Israelites. She practises prostitution in a key place of idol worship to Ashtaroth, goddess of the moon. Being one of the vilest and most degrading of the Canaanite religions (it could include child sacrifice and sex acts).

She owns a home in the city walls ‘entertaining’ travellers, being well versed in the history of Israel from the men she has met. Familiar to the king of Jericho, she is called on for information pertaining to the Israelite spies who have entered the city. She chooses to mislead them, hiding the spies. Rahab also provides advice, ensuring their continued safety after they have left her home. At the time her actions would have been viewed as treason with punishment including eye gouging, tongue and hand removal, public humiliation and stoning. Rahab’s overwhelming trust in the God of the Israelites, and her accompanying actions, leave no doubt of the justification of her title as one of the faith heroes.

The message Rahab gave the spies was an unbelievable one, but they believed her. They didn’t try to take advantage of her or dismiss her because of her questionable character. They spent an evening with a prostitute and no-one felt entitled to take anything from her physically. They saw a person who was intelligent, quick thinking, who had much to lose by speaking truth to them, and they believed her. Equally, God entrusted Rahab and Jesus has her named as one of his ancestors. The writer of Hebrews recognises her faith and courage. This is what it looks like to #believewomen and this is our example to follow.

This story could have played out so differently, and sadly I think in many spaces it still would – the foreigner, the woman, the reputation – none of these are unscalable walls to God. May they not be for me.

Woman two – Mary Magdalene.

Mary of all people is perhaps given the most impossible of messages. Standing as we do on this side of Easter it is easy for us to forget that the disciples had no framework for their Messiah to be crucified and no inkling that he would be resurrected. When they heard ‘it is finished‘ it had no wonderful ring to it. It was a funeral bell tolling for all they had believed.

In first century Judaism the testimony of a woman was not permissible in a court of law. So we have a grieving woman, bravely entering a garden as night turns to light only to be delivered the most exceptionally unexpected news and then commissioned to go and tell the others.

Mary is the first apostle. God doesn’t care if her testimony will hold up in a court of law. Jesus is not worried about the fact he is giving his message to a woman, that he is commissioning her before anyone else. Mary is the first choice! Jesus expects his followers to believe her. Mary has been right in the circle of Jesus friends, she is at the cross (most of the blokes had scarpered) and she is named in all the Gospel accounts as the first to encounter the risen one. This commission is given first to a woman, and subversively underscores something of the nature of salvation and mission. “John regarded the apostolic testimony of a woman as valid, effective and approved by Jesus.”[1]

Mary clearly went and told the news. She raised her voice, she declared truth that some were unwilling to receive. Perhaps they put it down to ’emotionalism’ or a ‘fragile mental state’ or something else. I’m glad that didn’t stop her. If this woman Mary could speak truth then I can do the same. If Jesus trusted her and she was bold and courageous maybe this might be true for me too.

The Bible clearly shows us, on more than these two occasions, that God believes women and sees them as valid agents of participating with and declaring what is and will be. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians were more like this too?

Here’s my morning reflections as I sat with these thoughts and the wonder of the women at the empty tomb:

It doesn’t look good for the credibility of the story when a woman, whose testimony does not count, is the bearer of the news

…. but God operates beyond our accepted systems.

It’s hard to deliver news that appears to be nonsense when you don’t have a framework for a crucified or resurrected Messiah

… but God is not limited to all we have understood thus far.

God is…

reframing our perceptions

reestablishing Eden

recalling the lowly to honour

repositioning the honoured to kneel

reordering relationships

exposing our prejudices

entrusting the message to the unexpected

expecting the faithful to respond with humility, faith and joy.

May we not forget that the most unexpected Good News may be delivered to us by the most unlikely of candidates.

Are we listening? or, will we miss out and remain wandering in the desert of our unbelief and prejudice, barred by our smallness and deaf ears from the welcoming voice of the promised land?

Be blessed and be courageous. May we champion all those who choose to speak the truth when their voice shakes and they have much to lose.

MJ x

 

[1] Schneiders, Sandra Marie. Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Crossroad Pub, 2003.

 

 

 

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The Mother Heart of God

It can feel like a slippery fish to start using the term mother for ‘Abba’ God. Yet I am reminded today that the mother heart has its source in the same place as the father heart.

Our words are so limited.

Today I am reflecting on the joy and beauty of the mother’s love for us that exists. These are my reflections.

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Anchor Me

The mother’s heart caterwauls loud within

My child

            notice

            see

            love

            include

 

Now I am a mother I can well appreciate

that ‘dreadful’ mother who approached Jesus

to petition for a place of honour for her sons

 

It is woven into the fabric of my life

this constant temptation

to promote

inflate

favour

 

the overwhelming desire, my constant companion,

for others to see

and notice

and love this child who keeps my wild heart in rhythm

 

What truly astounds me though is to think of you God

the mother heart that is from before beginning

            the mother heart from whom all other mother hearts were fashioned

the fierceness of that love

the depth of that knowing and noticing

the wildness of that advocacy

… now aimed at me, in all my splendid imperfection

 

To think I could be loved, as a daughter

by the very one

who longs to gather

whose name is comfort

who lives to intercede on my behalf

 

How well I know the very real need I have for intercession

yet,

just for a moment

 

Let me wiggle my toes deep

into the wet sand of being loved by you

so deep

I am anchored against the waves

so deep

that every sense knows

I am secure in an eternal mother’s love

 

though I may never comprehend its width

or plumb its depths

 

I am, in all my smallness

able to grasp its beauty, just a little

by knowing my own capacity

for mother’s love.

 

Blessings and love

x Miriam x

Resurrection Sunday

It is the day

for earthquakes that

remove stones that

contained the dead

 

It is the day

to hear the words

Why look for the living

among the dead?

 

The day when angels speak

and mortals quake in silence

shedding their mortality

unlocked and free

 

It is the day to hear your name

on the lips

of the

Resurrected Saviour

 

A day to be embraced

but not to cling

clinging is for the ones

who have something to lose

 

Today is the day

when what is poured out can no longer

be contained:

to time

to location

to a people group

to a gender

to an age

 

Today good news for all people breaks in and announces:

HE IS RISEN

rose stained glass

May your Easter Sunday be filled with joy that cannot be contained, life that knows no limits, the embrace of the One who died to set you free. Miriam x

Holy Week

These are my current musings as I journey Easter-ward.

May it bless you, may you find yourself accompanied on the way toward the narrative of difficulty, death, vigil and resurrection. May you have courage at every part of the journey to wait, to see, to understand and to continue on.

Bless you – wherever you are along the way.

Lords prayer forgiveness

This Week

This is a week to kneel in Gethsemane’s garden

to feel the gravel push hard into thin knee flesh

 

It is a week for letting go

for sweating blood and crying tears

fear

surrender

mercy

 

It is a week to show grace to friends who could not stay awake for us

A week for others to misunderstand the gravity of what we face

 

A week to acknowledge

the heart wants to run

the flesh is weak

the journey may be intensely lonely, despite the thronging crowds

 

It is a day to kneel as light turns to night

to feel the touch of cold hard wind on skin

to long to stay eternally in this moment because the way ahead is dark and dreadful

 

It is a night to remember the One who knelt for me

that I may remember I shall never kneel alone

there is no pit so deep his love is not deeper still*

no chasm so wide he will not cross to make a way for me to come

This is Gethsemane’s week

 *Corrie Ten Boom coined this phrase

 

Christmas Prayer

Hey Lovelies,

I spoke at our church Advent service on Sunday night and I closed with this prayer. May it be a prayer for you this season too.

May we each of us be carried with care and love through this season.

x

stars

God we stand at the edge of this season of wonder. All around us there are noisy carols playing, and family expectations, and things that demand our attention.

Jesus some of us feel as though we have been in the desert for a long time and we’re beginning to wonder if that star has made us a false promise. We’re tired, we’re disappointed, maybe we’re even angry and fearful. Remind us God that we are called to a stable not a palace. Remind us God that we are welcome however far we feel from you tonight.

Holy Spirit – would you breath on us tonight. Would you help us to lay down the burdens we have and hear your voice encouraging us in. For those of us who are stuck in the palace would you give us courage to leave and seek the real king.

In this moment God we hold someone we love before you who seems far away, maybe we even hold ourself as someone far away and we carry them in our heart with us to the stable.

God would you give us back a Christmas of wonder? Would you forgive us for forgetting and make our memories bright with all that you are.

God we give you permission to surprise us again. Help us receive you and love you this Christmas.

For you Jesus are our greatest gift.

 

Truly Known

I arrived at the grounds before the boy. He and his friends were walking together from school and I stood on the far side of the grass breathing in the crisp air of autumn, soaking in its rich hues.

A gravel path lead them to the corner – boys in uniform of similar size and looks. With the sun and the distance I wasn’t sure I’d be confident when he emerged on this common pathway.

And then I saw him… smaller than my little finger in the distance and I knew it was him. Absolutely knew it, the kind of knowing that comes from 10 years of watching in the closest spaces to the furthest distance eyes can reach.

An eye trained from years of watching rather than looking.

The stride, gesture of arm, turn of body, incline of head – so deeply rooted in my knowing that I know them without realising I do.

beachboys4

In that moment I heard that whisper, so clear it could have been a shout, this is the knowing I mean when I talk about the hairs of your head.

This is the knowing that says, before a word is on your tongue I know it completely.

Not a knowing of facts for shows of intelligence or power. A knowing that comes from watching a person you love so much that you drink them in, all of them. A knowing that goes beyond a general description to a knowledge of a person you carry in your bones, in your ears, eyes, taste, nose, touch.

Knowing that begins to demonstrate a measure of how much you love a person.

Not knowledge to prove your love, like favourite flowers or songs. Knowledge that is simply there because you couldn’t not have it. Because you have noticed, you have loved, you have seen – closer than skin and across the assembly hall into a squinted distance.

Let us be reminded today that we are known.

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Truly known – not as a show of omnipotence or omniscience but knowledge that comes from being so dearly loved that we are instantly and totally recognised – every part known, every part loved, precious up close and far away.

As Paul put it, ‘dearly loved.’

I watched this boy across the field as he grew large, he unaware of my presence, my joyful, heart-swell at the all familiar shape of him. I recognised him, loved him and delighted in the thought of him looking up and seeing me watching him. I held my breath for that moment when our eyes saw each other and he knew I was there.

I would be there before he realised it, and I would continue to watch after he turned to play again.

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I would be knowing him whether he was aware of it or not.

Do you remember dear heart that you are known? Not a flashy impressive I can tell you facts and surprise you knowing, a knowing that comes from Someone who has watched, noticed, seen you… always.

Poverty Mentality

As a child it wasn’t often we went to a house where a generous morning or afternoon tea spread was put on, but when there was we were usually told – just one thing (maybe two on an extremely special occasion). I would stand there in fits of indecisiveness wanting to make the perfect decision – desperate to have one of everything, haunted by the idea I might choose something dry and miss out on the truly gooey and delicious.

rocky road

(You can tell I am fully committed to the gooey slice and provision of baking in my adult life!)

I realise I carry this sense of only being allowed one good thing into my theology sometimes. It’s like I have a poverty mentality when it comes to all the goodness and promises of God.

I can believe that, in the death and resurrection of Jesus I have been given the most wonderful, earth-shattering, universe-changing gift. I know I am wholly redeemed, completely forgiven, totally accepted. Yet, suddenly when it comes to believing that the story will work out, the tears and disappointments will bear fruit, the missing out and longings will in some way be redeemed – I’m back to the girl at the morning tea.

I think I’m not allowed more, so I don’t ask. I stop asking, I give up seeking, I no longer lift my hand to knock.

I think that my day-to-day needs don’t matter.

I’ve finished the dialogue because, when the answer didn’t come instantly my way, I think there is no answer to be had. I have forgotten about the fruit born in patience, the character developed in persistence and the overarching deep-down-in-my-bones knowledge that the One who promised is faithful.

I read this by Nicky Gumbel the other day –

If God provided the ultimate sacrifice to meet your greatest need, will he not also provide for all your other needs?

(Jan 10th, Bible in one year app, from alpha international).

Isn’t it crazy to think of someone ready to go on a life-giving rescue mission to bring life to another would then turn around and not care how that life turned out?

That someone would put on a lavish celebration feast for someone then leave them to poverty and starvation afterwards?

plateJesus puts it this way:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12

Maybe our needs aren’t always met the way we hoped they’d be but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care or that we shouldn’t continue to believe for and ask for the ‘daily bread’ required in our lives.

We are invited to a table lavishly spread and to a generous host who can do, provide, and meet with us in ways beyond what we can imagine. We are also called to partner with that generosity as we live out our stories.

Live bold and prayerful dear ones, and may we all know we are offered more than one piece of all the goodness God has to offer.

xxx

** this is not a reflection on gaining prosperity, success and wealth as we might measure it culturally – it’s a reflection about trusting God to meet our needs, to care about our needs and to continue his goodness and generosity towards us all of our lives. **

The Tedium We Have to Do

So I’m sitting here stuffing an abandoned Mother&Son holiday project. The one I was sewing and he was stuffing, until he realised how tedious the stuffing process is.

It’s 34 degrees and I’m breaking out into a sweat just trying to push stuff into the guts of a particularly ‘home-made’ looking cat. It’s strange how, in the most mundane, when things are at their least attractive and most ordinary that we can realise truth.

Because, doing the battle, being glorious and victorious and wonderful… that’s the few moments that follow the hundreds of moments of doing the small, boring, tedious things that make us ready for the big moments.

cat

David – king, composer, leader of armies… he did a lot of time out in a paddock with sheep who, in my limited experience, don’t give a rats about who you are. They will still be stubborn, skittish and downright stupid. He wasn’t born into favour, he wasn’t an overnight success. There was a lot of ‘being faithful in the small‘ before there was any ‘this is your life’ glamour.

Ruth, in the line of Jesus, married to the most eligible of bachelors, she did a whole lot of journey, grieving, choosing her mother-in-law over what was familiar, cultural alienation, judgement, disapproval… all of that. All of that invitation to do the boring, hard, one shuffle at a time, sleep in a field, follow around other people picking up left-overs and act grateful – ness.

Because it’s what we feed ourselves with before the red-carpet event that determines how we will look in our dress in the spotlight when our moment finally comes.

If we want to be a writer – there is much writing unseen, much editing, much drafting and re-drafting and receiving of feedback before we are even ready for the publisher to reject it. The book we read, all shiny on the bookshop shelf, is a result of hundreds of unseen, boring to the point of collapse, missing out, track-pant wearing (ugh…must there be trackies??)…The writer does the tedious work.

The artist does the tedious work

The chef does the tedious work (and then works the most anti-social hours ever, and in the heat and noise and all the cleaning up – why people why?? – chefs are amazing, good food yes please)

So if I say that my passion is the One. If I think that I want to make a life of speaking, or writing, or teaching others then I need to do the tedious work of stuffing in all that I need. I need to feed my body – the whole thing –  to make it firm, to make it ready for the journey, to make sure that when that door does open I am not found naked and unready.

Let’s say that I meet a publisher who’s prepared to look at my manuscripts (which is like gold in the field of writing)… won’t it be to my shame if I have spent years saying how I want to be a writer and when the opportunity comes I don’t have anything to show them. Or what I have to show them is scrappy hurriedly done work, without the drafting, redrafting, refining…. I will miss out.

So as I sit here – stuffing a strange-looking cat toy, sweating and bored I am reminded that the work of the brilliant also includes boring behind the scenes work. It includes heart breaks, disappointments, getting back ups, trying agains, faithfully plugging away when no-one sees except the sheep and the other field workers – both of whom probably regard you as a nuisance.

character

Don’t let’s fool ourselves into believing the lie of the overnight success.

Don’t let’s excuse ourselves from the work that is before us.

Don’t let’s believe that anyone has it all easy and doesn’t have to discipline themselves for the prize they want.

In His kingdom being trustworthy with the small unseen things is seen as an insight into our character and an indication of how we will cope on the big screen. Little things reveal big things about us.

Holy Spirit would you walk with us in the tedious places where we have to choose the hard over the path of least resistance? Would you give us vision and passion that carries us through the difficult places? Would you walk with us Jesus and would we follow your example of waiting, listening, praying, and learning in order to be bearers of much fruit? Father, when we are stuck out in the fields and we are tempted to believe that it doesn’t matter and no-one will ever notice, would you remind us in love and in challenge that you notice, and that we matter to you no matter how hidden we feel?

Reminding myself today to be faithful in the small, the tedious and the necessary in order to be ready for the exceptional, the exciting and the beautiful.

Galatians 6v9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.