adaption, breath of joy, dreams, op-ed, singing, Summertime

Let Songs Be Heard and Not Sighs

Something rather good has erupted like pollen from this past spring and then the addition of summer’s social isolation. My mind has been drifting.

All by itself, it is dredging up memories, mostly good ones. I mean, the really, really good memories are from the innocence and wonder of a typical American childhood, really distant memories – from lifetimes ago – when we were still allowed to spend pennies at the store, and nobody told us the mint was not making coin.

Simply Summer Breath of Joy

A recent National Geographic study polled many people around the world—including more than 600 featured in just one study—who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to wellbeing while we’re awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious.

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed, the study concludes,

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things.

Deirdre Barrett, Harvard University

This week I woke up in one of those post-dream phases where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either: the best time to rein in the edges of your dream and frame it before it is erased by cornflakes and coffee and morning light.

I remained as still as possible to capture the details.

We were all back in elementary school. As dreams rarely make sense, my classmates included pint-sized versions of people I have known throughout my lifetime, even my grandmother.

No matter that she was in grade school a full 60+ years before I was; dreams are like that.

Let it be

So anyway. We were out on the playground. It was recess and lunchtime and a cluster of us were sitting cross-legged in a circle near the swing set. I remember there was a teeter-totter there, too.

We were trading lunches.

Two Twinkies for a homemade cookie.
Bologna for a PBJ.
An apple for a Hershey Bar

A kid named Robert was in the circle, and he had a liverwurst sandwich. This detail rang true – there really was a kid named Robert in the first grade whose mom packed a liverwurst sandwich nearly every day; Robert seemed to like it and rarely traded it out. He probably wouldn’t have very many takers, anyway.

I mean, liverwurst.

It was only a dream, but it had real slices of reality sandwiched in.
Maybe you, too, did your share of lunchtime negotiations back in the day.
You got rid of those vegetables and Mom was none the wiser.

Trading lunches was a childhood career for me

Those murky-dream-drenched lunch swaps – snippets of real memories rising to greet me during the Great Sequester of 2020.

A metaphor for what we seem to be doing these days ~

Opening our lunch pail, assessing the situation, and looking up to see what tastes better on that day. Negotiating a trade, pooling our resources, helping each other survive the “liverwurst” of life.

What if?
What if we traded sorrows for singing?
Worry for watchfulness…
Anxiety for trust.
News grazing for window gazing.
Deep breathing for stress eating….
Curiosity for despair.
These are good swaps, life-lifters.
Switching out the bologna for a ribeye; 
trading the mundane for the moment you will savor 
and return to it again and again
for a tasty reminder during a day of scarcity.

There’s a song lyric from a favorite musical that goes like this:

The clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.

Godspell

What a glorious swap.

A chorus of songs rising up to conquer the gloom – a goofy, ravaged, joyful mix of imperfect voices. Gathering momentum, drowning out the cries and the sighs.

We will wake from this dreamlike state one day, looking to each other for guidance into the light of a New Normal.

Pass me the Corn Flakes, I can hardly wait.

Kathy Joy, wordsmith, event speaker
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adaption, boys and men, featured, G.K. Johnson, GK Johnson, Israel, op-ed, simply summer, Summertime, The Zealots

Magdala By the Sea

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

A hiking trip through Israel was one of the inspirations for my debut novel, The Zealots, appearing on shelves in January of 2021.

I first saw this incredible painting when my husband and I visited the ancient town of Magdala located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The painting, named ‘The Encounter’, by Daniel Cariola, takes up an entire wall in the Duc in Altum spiritual center.

As I sat on the rough-hewn stone bench across from the larger-than-life depiction of a woman’s hand snaked through a maze of dusty, sandaled feet, (view link to The Encounter) I was transported to a time over two thousand years ago.

***

When the bleeding first began she didn’t worry. Like all women, her menses arrived regularly. As required by law she gathered up her mat, some clothes, water, and food and bade farewell to her husband and children.

Wedding Scene from The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

She walked outside the gates of Capernaum and joined the other women gathered in tents on the outskirts of the city. They shared this in common: they were all considered unclean so long as their menses continued. Once the bleeding stopped they would complete the ritual purification rites and rejoin their families in town. The women were far from bemoaning their temporary exile, however. In fact, they thanked Adonai for the respite from their daily responsibilities, enjoying the time of community, and the rest with the other women.

She anticipated returning to town after seven days, the normal duration of her cycle, the required time by law. When the bleeding did not cease after seven days she refused to worry. A woman’s body was an unpredictable thing. She would enjoy the extra day of rest and return home soon. After ten days she began to worry. Her young daughter brought more food and asked when she would return home. She tried to reassure her, “soon.” Surely the bleeding would stop tomorrow.

Another week passed and then another.

It became a singular torture to see the other women come and go back to their husbands, their children, their bodies dependable and self-healing. Her body, broken.

She cried out to Adonai to stop the flow of blood. Her husband and sons sent messages to her. They often stood at a distance from the tents, their conversation disjointed and awkward. She tried not to cry when her daughter visited. Was this curse to pass down to the little one? Each time her daughter visited, she seemed a little older for carrying the duties belonging to her mother at home, a little more resigned to the fact that her mother now lived outside the gates. Magdala not only experienced the physical cramping, but also the cramp of guilt, resignation, loss, humiliation.

Many nights the woman cried herself to sleep, craving her husband’s arms around her, longing to touch her sons’ faces.

Months passed, then years.

The woman’s daughter soon joined the women who came to the tent every few weeks, but empty years had untangled their ties as mother and daughter. The girl seemed guarded and withdrawn. Other women treated her like a leper. They worried the issue was a contagion. Shamed and confused, Magdala grieved her years. The bleeding was a thief! Every morning and evening she removed and replaced the bloody cloths that evidenced her required isolation.

Watching her numbness to the physical pain and a growing bitterness to the emotional pain that tore at his wife’s heart, her husband had commissioned many doctors to try to find a cure over the years. None had been successful.

Where was Adonai?

What had she done that she was being punished–as people insinuated?

One day a friend arrived in the tent bearing news of a traveling rabbi. The man spoke like no other teacher and healed the sick and lame. The woman begged those who came to the tent for news of the great rabbi. She sat enraptured, listening to the accounts. At night she dreamed that the rabbi came to the tent and healed her, but when she awoke she knew it was impossible. Those in the tent were unclean. No man would ever enter the tent.

It had been twelve years since the bleeding began.

Magdala had missed the marriages of her children.

She hadn’t been home to share in daily intimate conversations with her husband, or touch the softened wrinkles that time had worn in his face. She was in the tent when her daughter gave birth to her first child, and had listened, tears streaming down her face, as her daughters-in-law described her grandchildren. She had missed so much.

In that moment she wished the bleeding would consume her.

When she heard that the rabbi was in Capernaum that day, the woman made a decision.

It was unlawful for her, an unclean woman, to leave the tent. If she were discovered she would be publicly humiliated, punished, forced outside the city, and her actions would bring dishonor on her family. But she was desperate. Hadn’t all of these things already happened to her and to them? From what she had been told, large crowds followed the rabbi everywhere he went. If she could simply touch the hem of his garment, perhaps then her prayers would be noticed as the physical reality they were.

She crept from the tent and covered her head with her cloak. She kept her face to the ground and joined those entering the city, glancing up furtively every so often. Maybe she would be seen as a foreigner. No-one had seen her up close in years. She hurried to the hope of a savior.

It wasn’t difficult to find the rabbi as the streams of people surrounding her carried her to where he stood, surrounded by his disciples. She listened. He spoke with authority just as they said. But how was she to get close enough to touch him?

Years of pain and desperation had worn away her pride. She began pressing through the crowd, one hand grasping her shawl over her face, so that only her eyes were visible. If anyone discovered who she was she would be removed from the crowd, this she knew.

Perfumed people stood with sweaty. Thickly, their robes overwhelmed her. They complained and elbowed her as she pressed past them, hunched over against the pain. Soon she stood just the space of another person from the rabbi, but here the people jostled one another, each wanting to be as close to the man as possible.

She sank to her knees and crawled around the leather-thonged feet. A curse rang out above her. She was kicked and stepped on, but still, she reached forward, her eyes fixed on the white linen tunic only a couple of steps from her. Finally, she was close enough. She stretched desperately to touch the hem of his tunic.

A jolt of pain wrenched through her then left entirely.

She sank back on her heels and was knocked over by someone. She didn’t care about that. Delighted in the complete absence of cramps, she also realized that the helpless river was stopped. She was healed. She could feel it.

Tentatively she stood to her feet. Drops of sweat and dust rolled down her forehead and neck.

Her back hunched, a body instinctively trained from years of pain. Yet now she felt nothing, no spasms or pangs. She drew her shoulders back, forcing herself to stand tall. Still no pain. A sigh of relief slipped from behind lips still covered by her cloak. She had forgotten how it felt to be well.

As the wonder enveloped the town of Magdala, the Rabbi in the white tunic turned and looked straight at her.

“Who touched me?” He questioned, looking into her eyes.

One of his disciples gestured to the masses surrounding them, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

“Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out of me.” The Rabbi replied. His eyes continued to hold hers, and the woman began to tremble. She fell to her knees. Those surrounding her drew back, hundreds of eyes now looking at her and the Rabbi. Voices quieted.

“I…I’m sorry, Rabbi.” The woman pulled back the shawl covering her head and face and heard some around her voice their recognition.

“I have been bleeding…for years now. None were able to heal me. I have been separated from my family…” Salty tears ran down her cheeks; she could taste them. She glanced up and saw her husband’s astounded face in the crowd.

“I heard about you…about the miracles you do. I had to see if you could heal me. I touched your garment and immediately I felt the bleeding stop.”

Tears flowed down her husband’s face. The woman wanted to stand and throw herself into his arms, but she restrained herself. What was the Rabbi going to do now that he had singled her out of the healthy crowd?

She hadn’t sent him messages about healing her before touching his robe. She, an unclean woman, had touched a holy man against the law, and had she made him unclean? Would he withdraw the healing and demand punishment? Would he make her pay for her disobedience to the law?

Trembling, she waited. She looked up into the Rabbi’s face.

Rather than condemnation, she saw his kindness.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

The crowds around her surged back to life, surrounding her. She shakily made her stance and wiped the hair from her eyes. Though people studied her, curiously, no one laid hands on her. She was free to go.

She flinched when a hand landed firmly on her shoulder and turned. Her husband stood before her. Without waiting a moment longer she fell into his arms. The tears they shared were tears of wonder, victory in love, and peace.

The town recognized that this rabbi had singled her out and pronounced her healed. Yet surely he was more than an ordinary rabbi making pronouncements.

“Where is he? Please thank him!” She turned to locate the Rabbi again among the people, but he was already blocked from her view. Still no pain.

Ref: Luke 8:43-48 NLT

G.K. Johnson is the debut author of The Zealots, a story of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot, a story for boys and men. Johnson is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

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The Zealots, coming soon. For men and boys. Illustration and cover design by James Dawson.
About The Zealots by G.K. Johnson
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analysis, Big Creek Appalachia, Faith, featured, leadership, op-ed, rethink, scrutinize, Summertime, Tonya Jewel Blessing

LEADING THE WAY

By Tonya Jewel Blessing

I am a leader. As a woman in leadership, some days I feel great about leadership and other days. . . not so much.

Leadership is the ability to influence others into following your lead. It comes in a variety of forms and is defined in numerous ways. Making presentations, forming a company, bookmaking, posting articles, publishing blog posts, teaching and coaching, and other expressions are readily available to peruse principles for leading others.  
 
I train leaders. I am a partner in ministry. I teach, inspire, and preach in a variety of settings. I also write books. For me, one of the key ways I measure leadership is through effective communication. Am I communicating biblical principles in what I do and what I say?

In a time when there is great fear… LEADERS are more necessary than at any other time. (anonymous)

In order to communicate biblical principles, I need to experience daily intimacy with God. I want to use tactical, God-inspired, insights in my communication.
 
Another way is to gauge whether others are able to hear my words. Lately, I’ve been testing whether I communicate in ways others can hear, not merely the way I voice my vowels and consonants but also hear me in a way that they are able to live out those words in their own world. It isn’t just once that my husband has told me I have talked around issues of importance so that when I am done speaking, I may have left people wondering about the heart of what I have said.

T-Junction

I’m working on direct and healthy communication by a method of asking some questions. Have I presented my point? Have I given applicable examples? Have I given too little information, or have I rambled and overwhelmed the audience with too much?
 
It is likewise vital to me that others can emulate my leadership. I want my strides along the paths we walk as leaders to be in a clear direction not just speak about guiding lights as principles. Combining my words and actions, is my model of leadership effective? Can others put Jesus-living into practice?
 
As women in leadership, my prayer is that each of us becomes great communicators through words and deeds. I hope that those who view our lives and listen to our words are personally moved forward and are able to move those around them in a good and wise direction.

Tonya Jewel Blessing
Tonya Jewel

Tonya Jewel Blessing is a sought-after teacher and speaker. She is the author of The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries. Her writing leads the way for Christian authors to write difficult scenes of gender and sexuality in fiction.

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