Best of Reflections
Women, in this Reflections issue, celebrate abundant harvest and signs of dormancy, as we gather and crunch dried leaves beneath our feet. I wonder what we make of this autumn in our own lives, our congregations, and yes, in our nation. With the strength of our faith, we reach out to connect to sacred words and signs that we are guided, and are not alone.
In the words of religious and spiritual models, we have encouragement. Christian mystic Julian of Norwich writes, "I know that at times I will be troubled, I know that at times I will be belabored, I know that I will be disquieted, but I believe that I will not be overcome."
Etty Hillesum, Dutch Holocaust victim, journals, "God take me by your hand. I shall evade none of the tempest life has in store for me. I shall try to face it as best as I can... I shall try to spread my warmth, of my genuine love for others wherever I go."
And from the wisdom of the Spanish Muslim Mystic Ibn al-Arabi we hear, "God sighs to become known in us. Allah reveals himself. The sorrow of the unknown God is softened in and through us."
In the pieces here, we acknowledge the struggles and resistance with Rabbi Kedar's "Learning from it All" prayer and in the ode of St. Teresa by poet Pucciani; find responses to life's challenges in poems and essays; employ the arts to reflect truth and harmony with bold canvases from Nabeela Rehman, and discover ways drama can "Bring us Together."
Women of SoulSpace Interfaith choose to seek common ground and a setting for honest, respectful exchange, acknowledging our distinct paths and practices. We offer hope to one another, a precious gift.
Please give yourself some time with Reflections, to enjoy, savor, and send your responses our way.
Foundress and Editor
Mary of Bethany: One Who Listened
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus was the unconventional one who neglected "women's work" to listen to the stories and parables of Jesus. She stands for joy in the present, thankfulness, equality, and faith in God's plans.
Over the hills, I see the light of dawn, the gift of a new day. But I have learned that there are many kinds of light and many kinds of gifts.
I am Mary, from Bethany. My father was a merchant who often made journeys to foreign lands in search of special things to sell in the city. He always brought back small gifts for me and my sister Martha, and my brother, Lazarus. Each time father arrived home, I would sit spellbound, listening to him describe where he had been. And when his guests visited, I would curl up in a corner, unseen, to listen. Men in strange robes and turbans, sharing stories of faraway places and mysteries...how I longed to know all this and be part of it! But I was a girl, and women have their place.
Another man visited often--Jesus-- and although his robes were not fancy, the stories he told were more fascinating than those of the traveling merchants. Once, when Jesus was at our house, all the men had settled around him as he spoke. Quietly, I slipped into the room and sat outside the circle, hoping that no one would notice. But someone did -- Martha.
From the kitchen, she motioned insistently for me to come help her prepare food for the men. I shook my head. She scowled at me and gestured more forcefully. This time, Jesus and my father saw our little drama. Father said, "Mary, help your sister." But Jesus stopped him, and offered me the choice to stay or go. I chose to stay. His acceptance gave me the strength to ignore the grumbling of my sister and the disdain of some of the men who see women as dust, not sunlight.
Jesus began to speak again and I was transported, lost in his words. When he was done, I went to help Martha. She would not look at me. I said, "Martha, please understand me. I am not like you, content to accept the role placed on us by men." I saw anger flash in her eyes. "It is you who do not know me," she said pushing past me through the door to serve our guests. Perhaps she is right.
And now comes this dawn, after that dark Friday. I have much to think about. Jesus did so much for me. He gave me three gifts.
The first gift was to allow me to witness his inner world for just a small piece of time. To sit at his feet and hear his words, not muffled through a door or told by someone else, but straight from his mouth. He gave me the joy of basking in the light of his wisdom.
The second gift -- a miracle, restoring life to my brother, Lazarus! Because Jesus understood our sorrow, he commanded the tomb to give up its hostage. He brought my brother from darkness to a new light.
And now this last, greatest gift -- the gift of his own life.
Once I craved a man's world with learning and travel, but I see now that this pales beside the life I will have if I live what Jesus taught. Being a woman will not hinder me, for he welcomed everyone, and his message was for all people.
How can I repay these gifts? How can I share his light? Perhaps, I can tell my story to women who are struggling to find meaning in their lives. They must know that they are beloved daughters of God, that they too can lead others to the ways of Jesus.
believe that we can all be gifts. I believe that we can all be the light.
From The Women of Holy Week by Veronica Hughes and Deborah Landis
The paintings below, Stepping Stones and Three School Girls were pointed by Nabeela Rehman, Muslim. To learn more about the artist, visit www.firebrushblog.com