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.