From the Margins: Pharaoh’s Daughter

Soul Thirst

I was princess of all Egypt. But, powerful as I was, I could not foresee the penalties of my mercy. Had I a future vision of the Egypt I see today, would I have made the same choice? I know not, for I cannot imagine life without my adopted son. And I came to think so little, to care so little about his race or station, that when he rescued his own people, I counted myself forsaken. My son connected me with these slave people in ways I never expected. What, after all, has Power to do with weakness? We, the Egyptians, were Power. At least, so I believed until the day my eye caught something floating in the Nile River reeds.

I came down that day to bathe, accompanied by my slave girls. I was always accompanied. A princess is without solitude, even in her bath. I cleansed myself far from the killing waters. Our soldiers drowned the Hebrew baby boys downstream; I told myself my bathing waters were clean and pure. I told myself Father did what he had to do. And then I thought of other things. I was, after all, a princess, and one day, when I had reigned long as queen and traveled to Duat, even then my slaves would serve me. Buried with me, they would serve me in the afterlife. I was Power. Eternal Power. Slaves were interchangeable, doting pets to be replaced when they grew old and troublesome. I took little or no notice of any of them. Until that day at the river.

I bid my slave girl fetch the strange object. She waded out, waist deep, and was soon lost among the reeds. In time I saw her, straining to wade back carrying the burden. Exhausted, she finally laid it on the waters and guided it, floating, within the circle of her arms, until she reached me. She looked up, fearful. “Heavy,” she said.

But I had no fear—not then. I lifted the lid and the baby within wailed. A Hebrew baby: I recognized the coarse weave of the blanket. What a countenance he had. His infant eyes saw and claimed me. I had never before truly looked into the face of a Hebrew slave. If this is what they were…I could not let this one die when it is in my power to save him.

The sister appeared at my side, as resolve took shape in my heart. I knew who she was from the hungry eagerness in her eyes; it was all she could do not to snatch up the child and soothe his wailing. I assented to her suggestion of a wet nurse, amazed at the ingenuity of these peoples’ women. The mother appeared, fearful but determined, and we struck our bargain. I would protect her as she raised her son, even pay her to do it, until he was weaned. But then he would be a son of Egypt and I his mother. We never discussed the child’s parentage; it was our unspoken understanding.

Across his growing years, we faithfully kept our pact. I gave him an Egyptian name, but in deference to his mother’s courage, one that bore a pun from the Hebrew language: Moses, to draw out. I little knew Moses would draw out from Egypt its great Power—and mine.

I raised him in Egypt’s ways, but his blood was Hebrew. In the end it was to them his heart turned. He would make them free. And to do so, he would rip from Mother Egypt, from me, the riches we had so long enjoyed.

My son is gone; wandering the desert with his slave nation. He left Egypt bereft; our crops ruined, our cattle sickened, our firstborn and our army dead. What Father Pharaoh sowed in infanticide returned to him—and to all of us–full measure: justice meted out by my adopted son and his Hebrew God.

Resentful eyes turn on me as I walk the palace halls. To them I am the mother of their sorrow. I will carry their blame throughout my life. If I could choose again when I lifted the lid of that basket, would I not, myself, cast the infant boy into the Nile? Or would I again rescue the boy child in his basket boat? I see again his eyes, his face.

I would save him again. In an instant.

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From the Margins

Soul Thirst

Each week of Lent, I’ll share a “personal bio” of a biblical woman. The Bible I love dedicates full chapters to some of these women while others are rendered nameless.

Why this Lenten practice? Two reasons. First, the Bible’s narrative is largely told through men about men, with women playing supportive roles. As a woman, I wonder about the lives of these long-ago sisters. What were these stories, seen through their eyes?

But it’s larger than that, which brings me to Reason 2. Due to their gender and culture, these women lived at the margins. Choices made by the Powerful wrenched women from their homes, labeled them pariahs, stole their dignity and, sometimes, their lives. Looking into and through these women’s eyes, we see in our culture’s marginalized (perhaps it’s you, perhaps it’s me) full souls deserving respect, freedom, and love.

As we read of these women, God’s love moves like a thread: weaving our stories into theirs. That thread connects and ennobles us all—all genders, the powerful, the marginalized. We find we can love our neighbors—and ourselves.

Could there be a truth more worthy of Lenten contemplation?

I hope to see you here next week, Feb. 10, on Ash Wednesday, as we share our first story from the margins.

Taking It To the Streets–Warning: Temples on the Move

Pentecost

Warning: Extreme God Geekiness to follow.

So many specs!

  1. Prophet Ezekiel receives a full-on tour of the worship house in God, enthroned, will place the soles of God’s feet. Once the Israelites learn their lesson, Ezekiel is to provide them complete specs for the edifice (Eze. 43, 44).
  2. The book of Exodus provides specifications for building the tabernacle: a moveable worship house.
  3. Generous ink is given in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles to the building specs for Solomon’s temple.
  4. Ezra and Nehemiah describe the raising of the Jerusalem temple.

I wonder why Scripture focuses so much attention on the layout and construction of a worship house. What difference do the measurements make (except for the perfect cube of the Holy of Holies—that’s a clear metaphor)? But the types of wood, metal, and fabric? The building’s exact length, breadth, and height?

I posed the question to my husband, who reminded me that the Ark of the Covenant, which was also made to exact specifications and which resided in the Holy of Holies, is believed to be a perfect conductor of power, which is why the priests carried it on poles and why Ussah died when he placed hands on the Ark to prevent it falling (2 Sam. 6). (I hope God greeted Ussah personally at heaven’s gate with a fruit basket and an apology.) It’s also what melted faces and made Indiana Jones famous in his first crusade.

Could it be that, like the Ark of the Covenant, houses of worship were designed to conduct God power: that these specs were blueprints for the perfect conduit? The idea’s mind blowing, because Jesus called Himself a temple (John 2:19) and Paul extends that role to each of us (1 Cor. 6:19). To recap: scripture details a temple-yet-to-be, a moveable tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, and the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus called His body a temple, and Paul described our bodies in the same fashion.

What if we are constructed to conduct God power? What if we have within us the force to transform what we touch? What if each of us is a carefully, thoughtfully, lovingly designed and constructed temple, engineered to transit God power? What if we just need to clear away some sludge to access that power(hence, spiritual practices)? What if, instead of feeling shame at our bodies’ needs and urges, namely hunger, thirst, and desire, we recognize these as temple furnishings? What if, instead of shaming ourselves for our humanness, we give thanks for our temples and their incarnated capacities. What if ours is not a religion of shame, self-abnegation, and self-denial, but one of yes, of full-hearted embodiment, of self- acceptance, of love power?

What do we do with such potency, literally, at hand? We’d each serve out of our true selves, expending our resident power in a unique, personalized fashion. And honor others in doing the same. We’d home in on those needs our particular specs address. And honor others in doing the same.

We are holy dynamos let loose on a hurting world. Let’s go out there and give ‘em heaven.

Tanks & Convertibles

Small Justices

A close friend recently received one of THOSE evaluations. You know the kind: the sort that makes you want to spit nails, then nosedive into a deep hole and pull in the dirt over you. It put me to thinking once again about evaluations: about how we need them and how I generally hate them. I’ve gotten the awful kind: “I cannot muster significant passion for your work to represent it to publishers” (ouch!) And “this is perfect, don’t dare change a thing” (gag).

We’ve all gotten evaluated: by a teacher, by a boss, by those we served. And how often did those evaluations empower and encourage us? Not often enough. So let’s consider what ails most forms of evaluation, and then envision healthier possibilities.

Imagine one of those faux tanks with darkened windows motoring down the roadway, muscling your smaller vehicle aside. You yield—who wouldn’t with potential destruction filling the rearview mirror? As you shift lanes and restart your heart you wonder, Who’s behind the wheel of that monster?

Now imagine on the same stretch of road a convertible, top down, cruising, the driver hailing you. S/he gives a thumbs-up for your excellent lane change and, when needed, hollers, “You’re straddling my lane: over to the left, please.” Which vehicle and driver has the best potential for producing long-term positive effects on your driving?

The faux tank serves as a metaphor for our current evaluation modes and the convertible for our hoped-for evaluation vehicle. So just what ails that tank?

  • Misuse of Power: I am in a position of power over you; I can do to you as I wish. In tank-styled evaluation the evaluator dares the recipient to disagree. Want to keep your job? Get a referral? Pass my class? I have determined what is wrong with you. Accept it. Move aside.
  • Misuse of Anonymity: Driving around in a giant, insulated tin car encourages arrogant (size does matter) and aggressive (take that!) behavior. Aggressive impulses inherent in our human condition take the wheel behind those tinted windows. In the same way, anonymous evaluations that exclude the give and take of egalitarian relationships bring out the harpy in evaluators. “Had it been me, I would have known to do X, but he did Y and made a mess of it.” The evaluated is denied the opportunity to express his/her truth or even to request clarification.
  • Misuse of Guidelines: Those white lines on the highway serve a purpose, but they also limit direction. That’s needed when we’re driving, but black and white thinking undermines out-of-the-box thought and action. Evaluation forms laid out in yes/no, either/or, poor/fair/good, effective/ineffective formats inhibit an evaluator’s experience of the evaluated. Postmodernists have shown us the limitations of black and white thinking, but our evaluation methodology has yet to catch up. Let’s make room for the creative ATVs to maneuver.
  • Misuse of Perspective: We now add a commanding and impatient passenger to our faux tank: “Get me there now.” The faux tank driver barrels down the highway, assessing your vehicle as s/he blows by. How can you get a thoughtful or thorough evaluation? In the same way, evaluators are handed forms at the end of a seminar, the close of a class, or when the webinar wraps. There’s good reason for the practice—few participants respond to evaluations provided later. But urging folks to evaluate when their minds are already heading toward the parking lot replaces accuracy with expediency. Recall a teacher or a boss who impacted your life for good. How long did it take to appreciate that person’s work?

More vehicular thoughts next time! What are your thoughts so far?

Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in circumstances confronting him. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

Gotta Love Pirates!

Rock Star Pirate (negative)

Who doesn’t love pirates? Well, anyone whose ship they’ve boarded, I suppose, but most of us get to admire them from some distance, delighting in their splashy (pun intended) wardrobes, their “take-charge” attitudes, and their unique approach to the English language.

In my book, Pirate = Powerful Attitude, and we can all use a bit of that. So I’m creating Skull & Crossbones for various vocations. That way, everyone can haul on some Pirate-tude for “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” on Sept. 19. Thus far I have Arrrtist, Farrrmer, Surrrgeon, Rock Starrrr (pictured), Marrriachi, Bakerrrr, & Barrrber.

So shiver me timbers, how I’d love to include your vocation, whether it contains any rrrrs or not! Send along your ideas, me Hearties, and I’ll put me noggin & pen to work. Savvy?

Click here to view the other Skull & Crossbones.