Join the Women of Easter

Some were mentioned by name.
Others were never identified, but throughout the life of Jesus, we learn that there were “certain women” who traveled with Jesus, who welcomed Him when he needed a meal or a place to stay, who “provided for Him out of their means.”  It is significant that there is no record in Scripture of any of these women flagging in their loyalty, denying Jesus, or abandoning Him when the chips were down.  A group of them were present at the cross, and then, without even realizing the significance of their actions at the time, certain women showed up at the tomb and bore witness to the resurrected Christ.

It was clear that God had chosen them to be there.

Liz Curtis Higgs honors The Women of Easter with her carefully constructed re-telling of the final weeks of Jesus’ life.  Liz focuses on Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene, but also shares the stories of other women as they meander across history’s stage.  Rather than lifting her protagonists out of the story one by one with three distinct bios, she considers them in context as they interact with each other, with Jesus, and with other major players within the narrative arc of Scripture.

With her characteristic humor, insight, and thorough research, Liz shares powerful wisdom from the lives of first-century women that (if we let it!) will impact the way we follow Christ in the 21st century, because, the truth is that you can spot a Woman of Easter by the way she lives:

 Women of Easter are transformed by seeking what is “needful.”  

Mary of Bethany understood that there is a time for bustling around and being productive — and there is a time for quietly listening.  Big Sister Martha must have eventually absorbed some of that lesson along the way, because when their brother Lazarus died, “she who served the food also dished out the truth: “It is for Your coming, [Jesus,] that the world has waited.”  God had chosen one of His faithful women to make the bold proclamation that Jesus’ decisive “I am” was a revelation of His identity.   Martha’s response was a resounding, “Yes, I see that YOU ARE!”

Women of Easter recognize that Jesus endured the cross because we were “the joy set before Him.”

Mary of Bethany understood that when she anointed Jesus’ feet with valuable oil, she was performing an act of worship.  John 12 informs us that “Martha served” that day, and so together, the sisters showed up and met a need in preparation for Jesus’ future act of redemption which, at the time, they could have only dimly understood.

All our worship and all our acts of righteousness flow from the cross.  Just as Jesus took joy in the small gift of a widow, He sees our small gifts, and He rejoices, calling them “good.”

Women of Easter know when to stand back and watch Jesus at work.

Mary of Nazareth (Jesus’ mother) shows up in quiet maturity at the Wedding in Cana, and she set the stage for her Son to perform the first of many signs “through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”  Scripture does not record Jesus saying, “Thanks, mum!” but actions speak louder than words, for while He was hanging on the cross in agony, He made provision for her future by asking John to take her into his home.

While four soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing, four women stood with Him in quiet support:  Mary, Mary’s sister (possibly Salome?), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  These women were standing on a risky piece of real estate, for the Romans were not above inflicting the same terrible punishment upon families of an enemy of the state who was being crucified.  With Jesus’ feet only about a yard above the ground, these women were witnessing His suffering close by — and even so, Jesus was utterly alone in His anguish.  It could not have been an easy vigil for these brave women, but they kept watch while Jesus shook hell’s gates.

Women of Easter stay close to Jesus even when hope seems gone.

While there is no Scriptural evidence that Mary Magdalene was actually a harlot, the Bible does inform us that Jesus cast seven demons out of her.  Her background is . . . challenging, perhaps; nonetheless, she “is mentioned by name fourteen times across all four gospel accounts.”  Loyal, fearless, and willing to do whatever she needed to do to support her beloved Teacher, Mary Magdalene showed up at the garden tomb, not really sure how she was going to achieve her goal of rolling away a huge stone in order to attend to Jesus’ body.  My take-away from this is that when we show up for the impossible, we might be surprised at how God takes care of the details.

Women of Easter realize that it’s all about relationship.

Our first-century sisters didn’t realize that they were going to be eye-witnesses to the most important event in history.  They came to the tomb to attend to the dead body of a much-loved friend/relative and found a living, breathing Savior!  Then, having been commissioned by the risen Christ to share the good news, Mary Magdalene trumpeted the truth that changes everything:  “I have seen the Lord!

Liz shares the encouraging truth that even the very first Easter was not a picture perfect affair.  No.  It was “full of disbelief, fear, and confusion” as even Jesus’ closest disciples struggled to absorb the truth.

Likewise, with our Easter bonnets askew and our Resurrection Sunday dinner menus still up in the air, we are invited to come, by faith, to the empty tomb.  We are invited to rejoice, and we have been charged with the privilege of sharing the good news. By faith, we, too, are The Women of Easter.

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This book was provided by the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

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Sisterhood is Eternal

Unbelieving, I held the phone to my ear.
Joanne?
Sick?
We had always talked by phone every few weeks, but wait . . . how long had it been?
And now a call from her husband with tears in his voice.
I could feel the conversation moving in a direction that I could not absorb:
Hospital
Organ failure
Death
The easy, relaxed freedom of our ties suddenly appeared to have been foolhardy. Although Joanne had been in her seventies, I truly had thought that she would live forever – or at least until we were both “caught up together with Him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

(We spoke of it often.)

Now she was already there, and I hadn’t even given her a proper send off.

Homeschooled sons, a toddler, a baby, and a five-hour drive make for some challenging funeral logistics, but the patient husband and I managed to attend somehow, because I had been asked to share words about Joanne and our friendship — an incredible gift to me in processing the beauty and the loss.

But it was not what helped the most.

Morbid as it sounds, the empty shell of her; the sick body looking so wrong and so hollow pierced the grieving just enough to make room for thanksgiving that God had allowed her to fly free of it. Here’s where the theology gets fuzzy, but “absent from the body, present with the Lord” superseded the void she had left behind, and with Holy-Spirit-fueled certainty, I knew that something stronger than heredity had been passed along to me during our decades-long sisterhood, a genealogy of spirit stronger than blood that came to me through:

Shared ministry in which we lost ourselves in the communication of Truth;
Witnessing her determination to be ordained during her retirement years;
Hours spent in prayer at a messy kitchen table;
Arguments over obscure Scripture passages when I was a headstrong teenager;
Her unshakeable conviction that God had plans for me.
Although it is untraceable from a practical standpoint, still, I ponder this concept:

A genealogy of Spirit – a sharing of faith and calling that runs back through all my known spiritual influences and beyond memory to the time of Christ.

Capture

I’m pondering the eternal sisterhood over at SheLoves Magazine today, and I hope you’ll join me there to read the rest of this post.  And while you’re there, be sure to read the thoughts of others on this month’s topic:  sisterhood.

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No Sanction for Domestic Abuse

Ruth A. Tucker is a story teller.

I have vivid and fond memories from my experience of reading her Dynamic Women of the Bible when it was released in 2014.  As she unfurled and then analyzed the story of each Biblical woman, tiny shards of her own story would poke through the narrative fabric:  an abusive husband, the humiliation of his ministry gaffes and trail of deceit, an unwanted but life-saving divorce.  All of this contributed to Ruth’s sensitivity in sharing the ancient tales, and I closed that book with an enriched understanding of God’s female protagonists — but there was a nagging curiosity, a sense that there was so much more story-behind-the- story that had contributed to Ruth A. Tucker’s strong voice and convictions about the importance of every woman’s story.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife tells Ruth’s  frightening tale:  an intelligent, well-educated young woman marries a charming but deeply dysfunctional man who, almost from the very beginning of their marriage, uses the Bible’s teaching on marriage as a club with which to beat her (and all women) into submission.  Alongside this personal memoir, Ruth steps back to provide historical and theological perspectives that she has gained, and to ask startling questions about how and why she and other women in her position and with her resources would have hidden their husbands’ abuse beneath long sleeves — and lies.

Statistics show that more than 30% of “all women murdered in America are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, or lovers,” and yet women continue to receive counsel that they should “submit” to their abusers — or hints that the abuse they are experiencing may be the result of their own lack of submission.

Careful research probes case studies as diverse as Catherine Dickens (wife of Charles) and Meredith Vieira (television personality).  Actual accounts of court cases and stories of battered wives reveal that present-day unhelpful thinking is built on a history of weakness in defending women from domestic abuse.  Even some of today’s most discerning leaders and thinkers are finally realizing that they have missed the boat.

Ephesians 5 provides a blueprint for family life that is frequently distorted by abusive males or controlling and fearful church leaders.  A careful reading will reveal the truth that:

  1. Patriarchy is not about power.
  2. Leadership does not involve domination.

Truly Biblical teaching will not silence a wife who cries for help, and it will not sanction inappropriate behavior by men who use Scripture as a cloak for their sin.  The issue that hangs like a barbed question mark over the entirety of Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is whether a complementarian reading of Scripture actually leads to abuse of women, or whether the theological abuse and misinterpretation of legitimate Scriptural guidelines are merely a convenient cover for men who would abuse women within (or without) any faith context.  Having been on the receiving end of this misuse of Scripture, Ruth Tucker is understandably leery about “the ‘s’ word.”  My own experience of Ephesians 5:21 mutual submission within marriage from day one has formed my thinking about and reading of Scripture in a different direction, so while I may not agree with Ruth on every point, at the same time, I’ve never had to defend myself against an enraged, Scripture-spewing, out-of-control husband.

Balancing the Biblical scrapbook of family dysfunction, Ruth shares examples from Scripture of strong and decisive women and of men who, like the Apostle Paul, much-maligned “misogynist,” who actually praised his female co-workers for their faithfulness.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is a call to grapple with and to evaluate motives behind theological positions on the family, to provide support to women who are experiencing abuse, and to speak out publicly against domestic violence.  Upheld by a high view of the sovereignty of God, Ruth found hope, and her strong voice rings out with the tough questions that will spark conversation and challenge leadership to look squarely at the issue of the respect and safety of women.  I applaud Ruth for reliving the painful years in order to share in and hopefully to dispel the shame and humiliation of other women who are enduring the “often silent epidemic of domestic abuse” — and its aftermath.  Whatever conclusion one reaches about roles and relationships within the family, there is no Scriptural sanction for domestic abuse.

 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God . . .  21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:1,2,and 21)

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Author Interview: Debbie W. Wilson

Readers are always fascinated by the people behind the books they love.  If you have read Debbie W. Wilson’s new book Little Women, BIG GOD (or if you’ve read my review here on the blog), your mind may be buzzing with questions as mine was.  Debbie has an official website where you can learn that she has a previously published study called Give Yourself a Break; that she and her husband share their “empty nest” with two standard poodles; that she blogs at Refreshing Faith; and that in addition to writing, she is trained as a biblical counselor and serves as a Bible teacher.  However, I had specific questions about her writing and about her new book, so I asked Debbie if she would mind doing an interview for me readers here at Living Our Days. She has graciously agreed, so I invite you to pour a fresh cup of coffee (or tea!) and enjoy our conversation.
1.  Debbie, I really enjoyed reading Little Women, BIG God, and was intrigued by the test at the beginning.  For those who haven’t yet read the book, I’ll quickly explain that the reader answers questions to determine which of the women in Jesus’ genealogy they most resemble.  I came out with a tie between Naomi and Tamar.  (I need to spend some time thinking about that one!)  Do you mind sharing what your results were?  What do you think this reveals about you?
My agent suggested creating a personality test. Since I love reading books on
personality types and have used the DISC profiles with some coaching clients, I
loved the idea. Instead of trying to make these women fit any particular
personality profile, I wrote down traits I observed in them. I came out as Ruth.
When I told my daughter, she said, “Of course you did. I could have told you
 that!” I’m not sure what that means. But I do identify with Ruth’s willingness to
leave home and venture into the unknown to follow God. God has taken me on a
few adventures that meant saying goodbye to the familiar.
2.  I’m interested in the story behind your latest study because you indicate that it came about as a result of a class you taught.  Do you see yourself as a writer who loves to teach or as a teacher who loves to write?
Great question. This study began as a simple summer small group study. I
thought it would be fun to look at these women’s stories from their perspective. I
asked only ten questions about each woman that first study. (You see how much
it has evolved since then.) I had been familiar with the women before, but when I
read their stories from their point of view, the pain and losses each one
experienced touched me deeply. And seeing how God rescued and protected
each one showcased His love and grace for ordinary women everywhere.
I love to learn and share what I’m learning. So maybe I’m a learner who loves to
communicate! I particularly enjoy groups that allow for discussion. We humans
wrestle with common issues. I want people to know they are not alone in their
struggles and to see the relevance of Scripture to their everyday lives.
3.  I loved how you used point of view in getting your readers into the experience of the women you profiled.  For instance, you imagined that Tamar’s hands would have been shaking as she put on her veil.  Can you share a bit about your process for identifying with women who lived centuries ago?
Most people give sensible answers when asked what they dreamed of becoming
when they grew up. I wanted to be Peter Pan or Annie Oakley. I think God
redeemed my gift of imagination for my study of the Bible.
With Tamar, I could imagine her emotions swirling when she remembered how
each of the men in Judah’s family had wronged her, how Judah continued to
deny her the right to a child by withholding his youngest son and by keeping her
a widow, thus not freeing her to marry into another family. I imagined her
trembling as she set her jaw and mind to pick up that prostitute’s veil knowing
that Judah had the power to have her killed but thinking the chance was worth
the risk of death.
4.  Your family is very important to you, and I love that your adult kids are your best friends.  Do you have mentors who have shaped your understanding of Scripture?  Are there favorite writers who have influenced your style or your writing process?  When you have time to read a book “just for fun,” where do you turn?
What great questions! C. S. Lewis is my favorite author. I never get tired of The
Chronicles of Narnia and The Great Divorce. The Lord of the Rings trilogy,
Pilgrim’s Progress, and stories that hold layers of meaning resonate with me.
When we lived in California, Chuck Swindoll was our pastor. I’m sure his good
teaching and emphasis on grace impacted me. Dan Lane, my first director on
staff with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), taught me a simple three-question
method of studying the Bible that made it come alive for me. (I offer a free
download of “How to Get a Personal Word from God” in the sidebar on my
website.) Dan also emphasized the sovereignty of God and the importance of
time with God. I owe a great debt to him.
The writing courses I took from Jerry B. Jenkin’s Christian Writer’s Guild taught
me the importance of tight writing. For entertainment, nothing beats a good
adventure, like a Mrs. Pollifax story, or a mystery for me. Mary Higgins Clark and
Lisa Carter are two authors I enjoy. Lisa lives in the area and her stories are
often set either here or in Arizona where my husband grew up.
5.  What has been your biggest challenge in writing and publishing a book?  With this being your second book (following Give Yourself a Break:  Discover the Secrets to God’s Rest) what advice can you offer to prospective authors?
One of my biggest challenges is to let go. There is always a better way to say
something. Or I gain a new insight. At some point you have to let it go and trust
that God’s Word will accomplish what it was sent out to do (Is. 55:11).
Bible study changed my life, so I want people to experience the relevancy and
power of it. When I tiptoed into the publishing world, I quickly learned publishers prefer regular books. While regular books have greatly impacted me, I felt these two books needed to be Bible studies. So I’d say, if you sense you have a calling, bring your desire to God to see if it is from Him. If it is, persevere. I’m glad I waited until my agent found a publisher that wanted to publish Little Women, Big God as a Bible study. I believe God used the waiting time.
6.  Tucker, our St. Bernard, sends greetings to your two poodles.  Are there other interest that you and your husband share that have drawn you closer during these years of the empty nest?  How has ministering together over the years impacted on your marriage relationship?
Max and Cosette send their greetings to Tucker! Our poodles are part of the
family. Max is 85 pounds of love and stubbornness. Cosette is 54 pounds of play.
Larry and I enjoy the coast especially in the spring and fall. We like to ride bikes,
walk in the sand, and stare at the water. We also take an occasional ballroom
dance class together. I love to dance, and Larry loves me! So we have fun.
Larry and I met when we were both on staff with Cru. I love sharing ministry
together. We have different spiritual gifts and often approach situations from
different perspectives. Larry’s wisdom in dealing with people still astounds me.
Even though, at this point, our ministries are expressed in different venues
(counseling for him, teaching and writing for me) we still discuss and overlap in
some regular activities.
7.  There is a gentleness in your writing and teaching about God that I find to be unique and very comforting.  What do you think has contributed to your portrayal of and emphasis on the love and acceptance of God for his dearly loved people?
Thank you, Michele. I guess we can be oblivious to how we come across. You
aren’t the first person to tell me that. Today I received an email saying, “Your blogs reveal a sensitive heart…put through a fire.” Paul wrote that we comfort with the comfort we have received from God. If comfort comes through then it must be from experiencing Jesus in my own journey.
8.   As a parent of adult children, I’m sure there are things that you look back on with joy, and other things that you wish you could do differently.  What memories give you the greatest joy?  Are there areas that you would like to encourage parents to pay attention to that you have learned in hindsight?
I am goal oriented doer. It takes effort for me to disconnect and be still. I’ve
learned being quiet is a necessary part of being close. You don’t jump into
meaningful conversations. You usually warm up to them. Turning off the engine
and just being with my family is important if I want to build deep connections. My greatest joy is having my children walk with the Lord. The times I’ve seen them stand alone in their faith in order to be true to their Lord thrilled my heart.
9.  Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture or a most influential verse?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:14 NIV) is definitely one of them.
10.  Imagine that it’s a Saturday morning, the sun is shining, you and your husband have a clear calendar for the day.  Describe a perfect Wilson-date!
We enjoy exploring new areas, walking around pretty neighborhoods, gardens, or wooded trails. If we are at the beach, walking in the sand by the ocean and

breathing in the salt air or a bike ride followed by good food! I guess we’re pretty simple folks.

I guess the Wilsons and the Morins are a lot alike in that way! 
Thanks, Debbie, for taking time to chat with me and my readers.  May you experience God’s richest blessings as you share your book with women everywhere who need to be reminded that it’s not the size of their problems that matters, but the size of their God!
Capture
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Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will enjoy reading the work of some fine writers and thinkers.

Little Is Much

At times, the Apostle Paul’s words are so emphatic that I picture him jumping up from his seat and speaking them out loud to whomever is in the room.  For instance, these words from Romans 8:31 in The Message:

 “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”

How indeed, but there are times when I feel pretty small, and I want to give Paul a list — itemized — specifying all the ways I could lose.  Sometimes, I wonder if our heroes of the faith ever felt small and fallible.

Little Women, BIG GOD demonstrates the significance a big God can bring to a life that feels very small and inconsequential.  Debbie Wilson has presented in-depth character studies of five women from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy:  their backgrounds, their challenges, their ordinary lives. Set up as a ten-week Bible study, Little Women, BIG GOD introduces these five women with a personality test in which the reader can discover which of the women best matches her own personality.  (I came out with a tie between Tamar and Ruth, so I need to think about what that means. . .)

Each woman’s story yields eye-opening grace notes:

  1.  Tamar (Week 1) — Pulled from a pagan culture into a sad marriage to Judah’s evil son, Tamar is ill-used and overlooked until, desperate, she takes matters into her own small, trembling hands, (Genesis 38).  Debbie guides her readers to view the mercy and grace of God at work behind the scenes in Tamar’s life.  She points the way toward hope that even ugly situations can be transformed, and miserable beginnings can be redeemed for happier endings.
  2. Rahab (Week 2) — When you long for unshakeable faith, think of Rahab who recognized an opportunity that came from God and then acted upon it.  She would have heard stories, bits and pieces of tales about the God of Israel who freed His people from slavery.  Based on her belief in a big God, she and her entire family were spared when Jericho was destroyed.  Was Rahab justified in lying to protect the spies she had hidden?  Quoting Robertson McQuilkin, Debbie assures us that “the Bible justifies deception in three areas:  inconsequential mutually agreed-upon social arrangement, war, and opposition to criminal activity.”  Like the nuns in the Sound of Music, Rahab acted decisively and her belief did not leave her disappointed.
  3. Ruth (Weeks 3 and 4) — Once again, as in the cases of Tamar and Rahab, faith trumps DNA as a young Moabite woman emerges from disappointment, grief, and desperate circumstances.  The life of Ruth yields valuable lessons on dealing with negative emotions and adjusting to the tumult of major life changes. The stunning truth is that “if Naomi had been comfortable in Moab, we would not be reading her story.”  God uses hard times to move us in a different direction “for our good in order that we may share in his holiness.”  Ruth’s dramatic rescue reveals the wonderful truth that a Redeemer changes everything, and Debbie skillfully guides her readers toward important insights on the nature of true beauty, choosing a soul-mate, and recognizing God’s unfailing goodness and rich provision.
  4. Bathsheba (Weeks 5,6, and 7) — When a powerful king acted like a scoundrel and a philanderer, Bathsheba’s life was turned upside down.  Ensnared in the wreckage of David’s downfall, her journey takes her from exploited victim to respected queen and wise mother to the next king in a tale of beauty for ashes which demonstrates that “God uses the fire of betrayal to refine us.”  Her story yields lessons on the essential life skills of loving and forgiving biblically.  Letting go of injuries requires important clarification between the terms “forgiveness” (which is between the offended party and God) and “reconciliation” (which requires cooperation of both people and is not always possible).  Bathsheba’s life leads women away from wallowing in a victim identity by receiving God’s gift of freedom from the past.
  5. Mary (Weeks 8 and 9) — Like Ruth, Tamar, Bathsheba, and Rahab, the mother of Jesus was not exempt from scandal.  Adored by Catholics, largely ignored by Protestants, and scorned by the wagging tongues of first-century Nazareth, teenaged Mary was entrusted with the role of bearing and raising the Messiah.  A living and breathing testimony to the truth that “nothing shall be impossible with God,” Mary knew the Scriptures well enough that they overflowed spontaneously in her glorious Magnificat. She managed to absorb the hurt of misunderstanding and models for us the discipline of peaceful surrender of our plans, expectations, reputations, safety, and rights to the will of God.  From Mary we realize the beauty of resilience and the necessity of quietly reflecting on our experiences in order to capture the lessons for life.

The story of an ordinary woman — her strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and failings — can have a powerful impact.  Week 10 of the Little Women, BIG GOD study invites the reader to consider crafting an account of her own encounter with God, whether it be a dramatic turning point or a slow-growing realization.  The life of faith is an adventure, especially when an ordinary woman puts herself at the disposal of an extraordinary God!

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This book was provided by Leafwood Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Five Women. Five Stories.

We’ve heard the stories so many times that their plots no longer phase us.
Five husbands?  Sure.
Jewish women publicly washing the Messiah’s feet in costly oil?  Why not?
A show-down in the temple between Grace and Law?  Yeah, it’s fun when Jesus outsmarts the Pharisees.
A desperately ill woman healed in a crowd with just a touch?  Well, um . . . this is the Bible isn’t it?

The Day I Met Jesus opens the imaginary diaries of five New Testament women, allowing us to relive their stories in real time with the benefit of Mary Demuth’s imaginative back story added to set the scene and provide depth.  (If you have ever enjoyed reading Ellen Gunderson Traylor, you will find these stories to be delightful.)  The actual scripture text follows the story and is then skillfully unpacked by Frank Viola.  He alludes to Old Testament background passages, biblical themes found in the story, and helps his readers to place the event in the great arc of redemptive history.  Questions have been provided for each chapter to facilitate individual study or group discussion.

I found that my empathy for the five New Testament women was enhanced by reading the historical and cultural context behind their story.  In addition, Demuth’s sanctified imagination provided very probable and believable circumstances leading them up to the day they met Jesus:
1.  The woman caught in adultery was an abused wife who became a Christ-follower and a witness to the crucifixion, longing to shout, “He who is without sin, crucify this man!”
2.  The prostitute who crashed Simon the Pharisee’s party and anointed Jesus’ feet with oil is portrayed as a victim of rape and, therefore, a teenage runaway.  She learns of a Man who loves outcasts, and following Him, her hungry heart found hope and forgiveness in His gentle teaching on a hillside.  Finally free of her shame, she wanted nothing more than to give Jesus her greatest gift.
3.  The early church named the Samaritan woman Photine [Foteenie] which means “enlightened one.”  As a result of her divine appointment at the well, this desperate woman who, after six failed relationships,  had used up all her chances in life, finally encountered her true Husband — and a Samaritan community met their Messiah.
4.  Tradition has christened the woman with a flow of blood Veronica, and, looking over her shoulder as she writes a final letter to her granddaughter, the reader is invited to relive the years of her shame and anguish.  Ceremonially unclean and suffering from infertility in a culture where either affliction was devastating, Veronica’s desperation created in her an inspiring (and enviable) depth of faith and determination.
5.  Most well-known of the five, but perhaps least understood, is Mary of Bethany who reminds us that even those closest to Jesus are not exempt from disappointment and testing of faith.  Whenever she appears in scripture, Mary honors Christ in a way that demonstrates his true worth.

In The Day I Met Jesus, the reader’s eyes are opened to a way of reading the Bible that most of us miss.  Spare narratives, nameless characters, and minimal backstory, if taken at face value as mere words on a page, will become “just another story.”  With these five memoirs to prime the pump, I’m encouraged to dig deeper into the cultural context, the unspoken motivations, and the presuppositions that drive the characters’ words and actions.  Naturally, the point of these five revealing diaries is not merely to record history, but rather to encourage the reader to consider his or her own meeting with Jesus.  Is it a warm memory of an event that has little significance in the present?  Was it the first meeting in a series of daily encounters that continue to shape your life?  Is it yet to occur?  Jesus welcomes the powerless, the marginalized, the outcast; the educated, the influential, and the elite.  He will welcome you.

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my unbiased review.

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