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Rahab, Holy Week & Hamilton, A Scarlet Thread

The Scarlet Cord

There was no faithline or family

promises passed on through prayer.

Only a bloodline from Creation’s

start, A scarlet thread bound and

wound together, a cord the color of life

made by a Weaver who dyed it red

with blood. Woven with the loom

of love, a lifeline coming my way~

over the wall and bright enough

for me to see, alone and far away

like Rahab’s spies. Salvation’s

sign let down from Heaven, life ring

through the air, a grasp of new

grace as I welcomed my Omnipresent

Pursuer. No earthly reason to be

ushered in save for God sending a sign

to this wanderer in the land of Jericho.

(from my book Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers)

*****

I haven’t gone by my given name since I was eight years old. There are a few spelling tests and essays poorly pasted into my childhood scrapbook that attest to that. My mother named me Joanna after exactly no one that I can discover in our family tree. It’s a wonder I never asked her why; she died far too young and it didn’t occur to me to query her on the matter before she passed away. I was too busy being 1) young and foolish 2) radically saved and full of myself and 3) raising small children and still foolish about what mattered, i.e. conversations with one’s parents.

My name is Joanna Lee, my ‘in trouble’ name, but I have been called Jody for as long as I can remember.

My grandsons were visiting recently and asked me if my name was in the Bible.

“Actually, it is,” I said. I read them the passage from Luke where the apostle records events of Easter morning. There she was at the tomb, Joanna, right along with the other two Marys.

That story has always surprised me–God’s calling me by name before I was born, in spite of my mother’s and father’s intentions. Or maybe because of; I will never know, but God knew.

My father left our family when I was five years old, my brother was four and my sister Elle two years old. He never came back into my life, an occurrence that still colors my life in some ways. I was raised by a stepfather whose name I took, and then he, too, was out of my life by the time I was fifteen.

*****

I was listening to the soundtrack of “Hamilton” the other day, a musical that has been an anchor for me during this last year of Covidtide. It seems an odd thing to mark a pandemic anniversary by a Broadway musical, but here is why: Lin-Manuel Miranda offered his remarkable creation to the world via the magic of streaming television because theaters were all closed across the country due to Covid.

Instead of running the movie version of the play in theaters as scheduled, the film appeared on my TV screen (thank you, Disney Plus). I watched Hamilton for the first time on the Fourth of July last year when it originally aired.  (Side note: I learned more about American history in 2 1/2 hours than I’d known my entire life. And I went to college.)

The music and lyrics of ‘Hamilton’ are a happy/sad reminder of life during the uncertainty of the pandemic and a marker that we are now one year on the other side of it. Changed. Different. Grateful, I hope.

Besides being inquisitive, (“Nana, I have question….. ” is the way Grandson Number 4 begins most of his sentences), he is also a Broadway musical aficionado After the recent visit and his mention of one of the songs, I decided to find ‘Hamilton’ on Spotify and give the soundtrack a listen again.

Much of the music brought tears to my eyes, particularly the songs about being orphaned. One in particular, “Dear Theodosia” moved me deeply–the lines, “my father wasn’t around….you know that I’ll be around…” made me weep while I stood at my kitchen sink peeling carrots. The truth is like that, welling up when we hear a familiar story buried deep in our bones.

Of course in God’s story we are never orphaned (whether we discover that early or later in life). Regardless of our parents’ presence in our lives, we are named and known by our Heavenly Father. I didn’t learn that my name was in the Bible until I was 40 years old.

Which brings me back to Rahab and Easter morning. 

Rahab’s history as a woman of questionable character reveals her heart for God. As we all know, she appears in the lineage of Christ, a direct ancestor of Christ’s birth. What grace. What mercy. What a perfect picture of redemption.

****

The thread in all this rambling is again, a song. One I discovered this week in the Faithful Project.**  I was scrolling on Instagram and through a rabbit trail found some of my favorite musicians and songwriters–Taylor Leonhardt, Christa Wells, Amy Grant, Ellie Holcomb–gathered (pre pandemic) to write and make music, focusing on women in the Bible.

Three powerful songs have been released so far and they all blew me away:

“This Time I Will Bring Praise” is told from Leah’s point of view. (Written by Kelly Minter, Christy Nockels, and Leslie Jordan). My daughter’s name is Leah.

“A Woman” tells the story of Christ from Mary Magdalene’s point of view.

“Once my name crossed His lips, How could I keep quiet?

I have seen the Lord and He sees me.

He said my name and told me to go and speak.”

My heart soared and broke a little listening to this Easter song told from the point of view of the women at the cross. (Sung by Ellie Holcomb and Amy Grant.)

And “Rahab’s Lullaby” declares that,

“He is God above,

He is God below, …..

There’s no place you’ll be that He cannot go.”

****

And here we are–the scarlet thread. God wraps up my days and weaves His voice through words, music and song, reminding me who He is and Whose I am.

May you find Him, too as Father, Finder and Friend this Holy Week.

———-

**Ann Voskamp, Ruth Chou Simons and Trillia Newbell are some of the women speaking as part of The Faithful Project, along with the musicians. The event is streaming on May 1st. You can pay $29 for the event alone or $59 for the video, book and music.  HERE is the link to register; Compassion International is one of the sponsors.

 

Gilt Gift {a #poem}

Sometimes I guilt myself right out

of joy. Like the surprise of an iridescent

butterfly from an unsightly cocoon,

who would expect this shimmering

show in morning sunlight?

Eyes are trained on Northwest firs

framed in blue, frosted feeders,

feathered presents hidden among

the trees.

I’ve held my breath, wondering.

Did my mother ever ponder stilling

herself, take a moment with the

birds in her California garden? Gaze

restful at morning fog carried

in on marine air? Was she ever at ease

in her troubled life, as she parented

us alone?

I will never know.

I cannot ring her up to ask, there

is no email to send, no letter to write.

She is gone, stolen far too soon.

I consider this feigned injustice.

How wildly unfair I should gather

such beauty as surely she never did,

then abandon my thoughts. No.

I will not leave reason to balance the

ledger, steal this away, too. Feathered

hum of heat, filigreed pane, frosty view.

I drink in sleeping green, hear her

whisper over my shoulder,

Breathe in the brilliant morning.

Surrender second guesses and leave

logic to the philosophers.

I startle to the present, welcome with

wonder this gilt gift, nothing to ponder

but my thanks.

–From my new book “Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems&Prayers” 

****

I share this poem coincidentally on Mothering Sunday, an observance in the U.K. to honor mothers. Mothering Sunday began as an explicitly religious event of the 16th Century, with no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”, which is to say the main church or cathedral of the region. It became a tradition that, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to their mother church for a special service. This pilgrimage was apparently known as “going a-mothering”, and became something of a holiday event, with domestic servants traditionally given the day off to visit their own families as well as their mother church.

If we find ourselves returning to our “mother” church, we may similarly find ourselves returning to Christ, the bringer of joy and restoration in our lives, regardless of our life experience with our own mothers. That was the intent with my poem, to mirror God’s grace to us, His care and love that he so lavishly pours out on us as a parent. Our days are all gift.

Unwrap yours today, friend, and receive it with joy.

-Jody

My Favorite Poem From my New Book

Drawing from my son Aaron, circa 1981

What My Grandkids Will Say About Me on Oprah

When my grandkids talk to Oprah
    about their Nana, the famous writer,
they will say words were my oxygen–
    to read, to write, to share,
and that I spent way too much money
    at Thrift Stores on books by dead authors–
Emily Dickinson, George Herbert, LM Montgomery
    and Keats.

They will also tell her I loved to sing–
    another form of breathing–
and how I embarrassed them in public
    by belting out the “Tomorrow” song from Annie
or grabbing their elbows in the mall
    while shouting “We’re off to see the Wizard!”

They will announce to the world,
    in front of God and everybody,
that my profession as a teacher was their   
    greatest undoing;
constantly coaching them about penmanship,
the correct formation of the letter “a”
    or while reading, pointing out misread syllables in
    a favorite text.

They will oblige Ms. O’s prodding by adding the death 
    knell~
that I couldn’t help myself when it came to learning,
    revealing in hushed tones I often resorted
    to using an encyclopedia as torture 
    (the 1956 World Book edition).

My grandchildren will remind her, however,
    (before the commercial break)
my best qualities were the way I delighted in the world,
    showing them wonders in the garden,
surprises in the grass, the avian miracles of
    chickadees and juncos in the branches 
    or robins in the birdbath.

Most of all, when my grandkids talk to Oprah,
    they will tell her my lungs longed for the breath of
    Heaven, the Word, and how its oxygen proved
    my greatest life support throughout my livelong days.

Tell me friends, if you have grandchildren, what would they tell Oprah how about your life? I would love to hear in the comments.

Also, you can get a copy of my new book by clicking on this link HERE. 

And if you think a friend would enjoy this poem, you can click on the Share buttons below. Thanks!

Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers is HERE!

Available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or from your independent bookseller.

Hey Dear Readers–rejoice with me?

Almost nine months to the day since I began paying attention to the nudge from God to publish my poetry, Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers has been officially birthed into the world. As a self-published author, one never knows what surprises await and – ta da! – here’s my book ahead of time. (I originally chose Jan. 26th as Book Day, but what do you know? It’s an 11th Day of Christmas gift.

I do hope you’ll consider buying a copy for yourself, especially if you’ve thought, “I don’t like poetry,” or “I don’t get poetry.” The poems are anchored in creation and the every day and will point readers to beauty and the wisdom of paying attention.

PRAISE FOR “HEARTS ON PILGRIMAGE-POEMS & PRAYERS”

“I recommend reading Hearts on Pilgrimage under an open sky, accompanied by a warm cup of tea. These poems ring with the joy of nature and the sweetness to be found in the ordinary moment. As Jody Collins says in the preface, “Annual cycles of our physical world also mirror our interior lives,” a point well made herein. A teacher-poet, Jody’s poems teach us to see, to hear—to notice our lives, and let the simple gifts arriving in each common moment move us to a place of praise and intimacy with God.” ~Laura Boggess, author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World and Waiting for Neruda’s Memoirs

“Collins work is deliberate, her cadence soothing. As I read, I find myself taking in deeper breaths and sighing, everything slowing around me. ‘Bring the wind of your spirit and build anew,’ she writes. Indeed. Except here the spirit arrives on the wind of her words, and I can feel something new building inside of me.”     ~Shawn Smucker, author of Light from Distant Stars

“In Hearts on Pilgrimage, poet Jody Collins pays detailed attention to our world and the language we use to describe it. At times playful, always articulate, Collins skillfully weaves poems exploring the overlap of our internal and external worlds of awareness and observation. Full of questions and patient listening, Collins writes our hearts toward home with words that “fly, lunar-drawn, to the sky.” ~Kelly Chripczuk, Author/Speaker at thiscontemplativelife.org. 

 “In Hearts on Pilgrimage, Jody Collins takes her readers on a journey of delight and discovery.  Each deftly rendered image – from doing dishes in the dark to listening to birdsong – paints a portrait of the mysteries that lay just beyond our reach.  Full of warmth and insight, Collins’ poems invite you to take a seat at the table, drink deeply of everyday moments, and enter the presence of God.”   ~Laura Kauffman, author of Carolina Clay: A Collection of Poems on Love and Loss

The poems of Hearts on Pilgrimage find the sacred in the everyday — a spider’s web, the music of the wind, the pattern in the sky, a flower in a field. But Collins does more: she sees, with a poet’s eye, the everyday holiness of the image in an ultrasound, the voice of a grandchild, and the natural process of aging. The collection is an exercise in startling stillness.” ~Glynn Young, contributing editor at Tweetspeak Poetry and author of the five Dancing Priest novels and Poetry at Work

“In her newest release, Hearts on Pilgrimage – Poems & Prayers, Jody Collins offers readers a beautifully crafted and artfully organized collection. This work invites readers onto the page as pilgrims on a seasonal journey of becoming aware, of both God’s presence and His created beauty. Collins’ poems and prayers come from an earthy richness, born from the soil of profoundly personal storytelling as she unearths the world around her. Each work meets us in our own humanity as co-sojourners, where poems are readable, relatable and approachable in their crafting. Well-written and well-timed in its release into the world, Hearts on Pilgrimage is the perfect antidote for the world of 2020 and beyond; for it is a book of hope.” ~Elizabeth Marshall, writer at elizabethmarshall.com.

“In Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers, Jody Collins delights in things most of us take for granted—the ruby postscript of a raspberry, the honeyed breeze of dawn, and chip-clacking juncos. She ponders single pantry ingredients shelved in the dark—safe but isolated. Collins carves her heart on and houses hope in these pages, inviting us to find our own balance in beauty and to seek God’s presence in every season. ~Sandra Heska King, Community Care & Social Media at Tweetspeak Poetry, Photographer/Writer at sandraheskaking.com

“Collins had me at the word, “Pilgrimage.”  Wrapped in the certain rhythm of seasons, she lends us her eyes to see the wonder and everyday beauty of dishes in the dark or a baby bird’s first solo flight. Whatever season you’re in, Jody’s soulful words in Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers will meet you with comfort, hope, and joy for your journey. ~Kim Hyland, author of The Imperfect Woman: Letting Go of the Need to Have it All Together, founder Winsome Retreat.” 

Original watercolor for cover by the gifted Laura Winslow

Publishing a book of poetry, noticing the good, true, and beautiful, seems a fruitless endeavor in the midst of the world’s current challenges and heartache. But we will always have trouble and sorrow with us. While we live in a fallen world, we live with a risen Savior, and God’s invisible Kingdom is there for us to see if we are looking. 

As you read this work through the year or match it to your current season, I pray you will find an echo of our Creator’s voice while walking your own path. There is much to behold, and I look forward to pointing the way, showing you what I see and hear. Then I hope you’ll find time to jot your own poetic thoughts in the margins.

We are all on pilgrimage. Come walk with me? 

You can order SIGNED COPIES of “Hearts on Pilgrimage” directly from me for $12.50 (incl. postage) Click on the envelope icon above my photo on the right to send me an email and I’ll have a copy on its way.

Or order your copy today by clicking HERE.

 

It’s Almost Here–Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers

It’s the fourth day of Christmas and I’m sitting at my dining table while shadows play on the Advent wreath and the dishwasher hums.

The post-holiday lull has begun, that in-between time where memories of enjoying my family’s company, complete with six noisy grandkids, partner with a looking-forward frame of mind to a new year and a new book.

Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers is allllmoooost finished; the final touches are being added to the cover and I am working on the electronic download of the book as well.  Since I’m self-publishing the process is a little nerve-wracking as all the details of content, design and cover are up to me (and a remarkable design gal for who I am eternally grateful.) Come mid-January we should be ready to launch. I so look forward to having some poetic inspiration available and in readers’ hands soon. The book will be available on Amazon and orderable wherever books are sold.

If you’d like be one of the first to receive an announcement of the book’s release, just click HERE.

In the meantime, may I offer you the title poem?

Pilgrimage

Since I am coming to that holy room…

            I shall be made thy music. -John Donne

Our journey home begins

daily with the sun. And a map.

Oriented by true north, that

compass which magnets

us in subtle, insistent ways, we move.

Deep and invisible, His song draws

us on as we come ’round again

in a thousand turns to the sound

of that voice.

We are Peregrinus, pilgrims

wandering place to place,

straining for an echo of melody,

words to a song we forgot we knew.

Forever we crease and fold our maps,

spilling tea as we travel, stain and blur

lines as we learn the way.

We look up. Scan the signs,

slow down, take note.

*****

No. Not a map, a musical score,

vellum notes traced over time

played on heart’s harp, tuning

our ears ever more finely to the

pitch, not of His voice, but His tent,

that dwelling place where we finally

meno with Him. Home at last.

Plating the Bread of Life {a #poem}

Bed askew with straw, rummaged      

leftovers of the menageries’ last meal.

A stone space quarried like the heart of a 

small ark, opening just enough 

to cradle the straw.

The stall, open planks no match for the midnight 

chill, gaps lasering light, streaming in on stone.

Mother draped in simple cloth, teenaged

hands trembling as she lays her infant 

in the place of the animals’ meal.

Suckling sounds as He stares, still, into the sky 

where the host of Heaven lift voices 

through the spheres

Announcing His presentation, 

which, as the young father recalls, 

would at last be everything.

Merry Christmas, friends.

We Interrupt your Holiday Preparations With a “Hearts on Pilgrimage” Book Update

To new followers here–Welcome! And for those faithful readers & friends–an update:
Anyone who’s decided to write, edit or release a book in the last nine months of #lifeinthetimeofcorona might be considered misguided, but that’s exactly what I’ve been up to. My book of poetry--Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers–will, God willing, be released at the end of January 2021. Publishing a book of poetry, with an eye on the beauty of Creation and leaning towards God seems a fruitless endeavor in the midst of the current challenges and heartache. But we will always have trouble and sorrow with us; who couldn’t use more beauty and goodness right about now-ish? ⁣
Exactly. ⁣

When I began the draft of Hearts on Pilgrimage it was early Spring 2020, which is the season when life came to a slow and completely weird halt for all of us. (Side note: that seems like y e a r s ago, doesn’t it?) I will never look at Spring the same way again, but I am hopeful. And that is the purpose of Spring—God’s eternal message that new life will come from what seems lifeless and gone.

I have been humbled by responses from early readers who have endorsed the work in glowing terms, for which I give God the praise. It’s such a gift when people “get” your work and the intent shines through. Here’s a thought from friend Glynn Young.


I hope you’ll keep your eyes open for my little book when it releases into the wild. The early book launch campaign will begin soon in the middle of the Christmas season–I do hope you’ll consider sharing about H o P when you see a graphic go by. Who couldn’t use the gift of poetry in the coming year?

Until next time~

Jody

If you want to find out more about the process and background of Hearts on Pilgrimage, you can read that HERE.
Note: This is a draft of the book cover featuring the beautiful artwork of watercolor artist Laura Winslow. 

Anna Waits {a #poem}

Light is coming
she’d heard and read,
and widowed, she had
nothing calling her name
but His across the years
like an echo from The Garden
so long ago.
She’d been seeking
(was He hiding?),
steadfastly determined,
for what else was her life
but this–an always looking
in the temple courts,
trusting the doorway would
be darkened some day
when Light came into the room.

(sharing from the Archives)

So, What About Santa Claus?

My husband and his sister JoBeth, circa 1950

((I’m so glad you asked.))

People are putting up Christmas trees early this year as we are all desperate for familiar anchors of joy and happiness in days gone by. We long for the comfort of traditions, the sights and sounds of the season, and what could be a more common sight than Santa Claus? Except this year there are none…. sigh.

Weaving together the wonder of Christmas involves one part birth of our Savior and one part life of a saint. The real-life character in question is a real-life saint–Nicholas, to be exact. It would be easy to blame our culture and their cashing in, literally, on the character of Santa Claus, but let’s not be so hasty. You might be surprised to learn the real story of St. Nick.

NICHOLAS WAS A REAL SWELL GUY

St. Nicholas of Myra, from a village in modern Turkey. The church calendar recognizes his generous life with the feast day of St. Nicholas on December 6. And no wonder; He was a generous man as well as a champion of the poor, employing people to make clothing for the needy and distributing food to the hungry. One of the best-known stories about him provides a toehold on the origin of Christmas stockings. (Sorry.)

Nicholas had a friend, a wealthy shipping merchant, who lost all of his ships and their cargo during a violent storm. The man was devastated because he had three daughters of marrying age and with this loss went any chance of contributing wealth to their dowries. Nicholas wanted to help. He had the resources, but he knew his friend would hesitate to take charity. Nicholas came up with a plan; after dark one night, he dropped a bag of gold coins through the open window of the eldest daughter’s room. Some of the coins fell into a stocking that had been hung out to dry. His generous act became the tradition we have hundreds of years later of hanging those stockings “by the chimney with care.”

If your family celebrates the birth of Jesus as the central focus of Christmas, bringing Santa into the mix can be sticky business. Some families deal with that in a stellar way. One family I know observes the church feast day of St. Nicholas as the day they open their family stockings. You may consider doing this, using it not only as an opportunity to tell your children about the real St. Nick but also to spread out the bounty of Christmas morning to more than a single day.

When I posed the Santa question on social media a couple of Christmases ago, my friend Marcie responded, “We do full-out Santa. Make lists, leave the fireplace doors open so he can get in the house, cookies and milk, carrots for the reindeer. The biggest and best present is left until Christmas Eve and it’s from Santa. Childhood is so fleeting, I’m going to eke out every bit of magic I can before my kids are too old to believe anymore.”

“Christmas,” she continued, “is absolutely the day we celebrate Jesus and his birthday. My kids have never questioned why Santa exists on Jesus’ birthday. It’s two completely separate things in their minds.”

The Day I Cleaned the Front of My Fridge & Found the Heart of Advent

The arrival of Advent marks the beginning of the church year, anchored  on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In the year of our Lord 2020, the date is November 29th. Side note–New this year for 2020 FREE PRINTABLE cards for each Sunday of Advent. Just click HERE.

The word ‘advent’ is from the Latin word ‘veni’–adventus–coming. The cornerstone of the Advent season is the idea of making room for God to come.  It is a time of waiting, as Mary did, with the impossible promise that a Saviour would be born, the miracle of light coming to a dark world.

What does that have to do with refrigerators? Let me share.

Several Novembers ago we ordered new kitchen appliances. Everything started when the microwave died. This led to a conversation about the refrigerator which had been humming its way loudly to a definite motor-y end. We dug out the paperwork and discovered it was 17 years old.

20161128_102313

Here’s a photo of our kitchen on Thanksgiving 2000, one year after we got it, all brand spanking new. That’s my daughter Leah the chef basting the turkey. (And no, I will not talk about the psychedelic flooring.)

After a thorough appliance reconnoiter, husband and I decided to join the Black Friday crowds and head to Home Depot to shop the sales. Four hours later, we had ordered for the first time in our 35 plus years of being married, a matching fridge, dishwasher, microwave and range.  In stainless steel. We are so de rigueur.

Maybe my dear readers are already aware of what such a purchase entails, but I don’t think we considered exactly how arduous ‘out with the old, in with the new’ would be under such circumstances.   The ensuing chores involved five hours of cleaning of stove and frig–outsides only–and cleaning of the floors underneath. I was appalled at the debris and gunk on the sides of our range. I blame 16 years of coffee prep. And under the frig? I will also not talk about that.

I had been notified via my daughter in our Thanksgiving conversations a few nights’ previous that magnets do not stick to stainless steel. Oh. I did not know that.  Well, there go the grandkids’ photos and artwork. There go my magnets from Laguna Beach and Yosemite, my favorite of Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory, Scripture cards, quotes I liked.  A veritable bulletin board available 24/7, reminding me constantly of All the Things.

People, places, Bible verses, photographs. Football schedules, equivalent baking measures, an encyclopedia of input and information.  It would all have to go.

So, empty box in hand, I swept the surface clean and windexed it to its glorious, brand-new, former self.

My words are a paltry representation of the change that came over me after that clean sweep. Every time I walked into the kitchen I literally breathed a peaceful sigh. Husband and I remarked many times throughout the next day at how pleased we were with the empty space, that it seemed quieter in the kitchen because all the noise on the fridge was gone.