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.

 

Finding My Name~an Easter Week Story

When my mother was taken by cancer at the age of 55 and I was 33, there was no estate to divide, no money to deposit, no silver to share. After she was gone, I wasn’t saddened by the loss of anything tangible like an inheritance, but because there were questions I would never have answers to.

For instance, where did my name come from?

When my mother passed, I felt unsettled about this piece of my life. The older I got, my identity and family history became more and more important. I had never heard the background, the whys or whos of my name.  There was no connection to the past, no legacy left via family stories with the particulars. This left me feeling un-moored– although I’d been Jody as long as I could remember, certainly she had intentionally chosen the name Joanna, but why?

It never occurred to me to ask my her while she was alive.

My mother was Helen Elizabeth. Names matter; and I got neither name. I really would have liked Elizabeth, perhaps for a middle name. No, I was Joanna Lee–Where did ‘Joanna’ come from? And how did I become ‘Jody’? (Of course when I was little I was called by my ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!”)

The question remained, Who was I named after? So imagine my joy when several years after my mother died, I read the name ‘Joanna’ in the passage in Luke recalling Jesus’ resurrection story. 

Peter & I, Good Friday {a #poem}

cropped-jody-photos-6.jpg

After the garden—

The giving away, the giving up

The ghastly truth poured out,

Words like threadbare sheets

Could not cover the lies,

I do not know him!

Yet He Who Can Be Known

Returned for this one,

Walking first in The Way

Then across the waves,

Wooing with words and

An outstretched hand,

Covering falsehoods with

A grace-laced cloak of

Red, the once and for all act

Voicing louder than any denial

You are the Rock. Let me build

Something great in you.

And so He begins, over-

Turning stones, handing them

One at a time and I palm them

Facedown at the cross, build

An altar of pebble truths,

They mark my freedom and we

Turn, walk together on

The Way, solid under my feet.

Cross Words

     
     W
     CROSS
     R
     D
     S
Lamb. Perfect. Hung.
Alone. Naked. For me.
Abandoned. Blamed. Spit on.
Mocked. Forsaken. For me.
Loving. Spotless. Alone.
For love.
Blood poured out. For me.
Broken. Crying.
Praying. Dying.
A garden beginning,
A garden His ending.
On a hill he hung
for me.

~~~~~~~~~
J.L. Collins 2012