Jacks - a tight fisted squeeze of metal that pricked the inside of my palm and the quick release of scattered jewels in a mingled juxtaposition that enabled me to pick them up quickly and efficiently. One bounce of the ball, a swift swoosh in an upward motion - one, two, three, four in a row until they were gone. Another instantaneous release, a second swoosh and again the picking up of metal.
Our images of sexuality are like jacks. We are given little bits of information, observations, knowledge and misconceptions. That, in combination with our hopes and dreams, cause us take pieces of a puzzle in order to decipher the secret code of what it means to be a woman. Muddling through the thick substance of age, ethnicity, cultural diversity, education, gender orientation, history, generational strongholds, religious backgrounds, upbringing, the media, school, home, our environment, boys, men, thoughts and truth. It is no wonder a girl can get lost along the way.
Wonder Woman - I was intimidated by the challenge this month, starting and stalling in a conglomerate of thoughts but in sheer determination, I refuse to give up under the pressure of a little heat. In the triple crown of super heroes, her strength and courage are formidable allies with her colleagues, Superman and Batman.
Three concerts, three Superheroes, three ingredients of the church - in June, Bob Dylan, Superman and grace. In July, the band, Goo Goo Dolls, Batman and a dialog about compassion and in this last summer series, the band, Journey, Wonder Woman and faith.
This month is also about a bouquet of flowers that are mostly white but also include yellow and red in honor of Wonder Woman's star studded, golden corset of intimidating appearance. She stands strong for justice but in this post is submissive only in a posture of humility and faith.
It is a story that includes a beginning, a middle and an end where the brilliance of color is seen through the molding of her character. Flowers go through seasons of wealth and poverty in the elements of sunlight, water and soil. Her shield is one of God's truth and her deflecting armbands of gold originate from a deep reservoir of trust as she learns the character of a savior and a cross.
White flowers - innocence (faith)
There is a scene from a 1996 children's movie, Fly Away Home where a young girl who has been secretly raising an orphaned nest of goose eggs, has matured alongside her ducklings through a journey of protection and struggle. With the help of her father, the two are on a migration path leading her loved ones home. The first color in the bouquet of Wonder Woman has to do with purity, innocence and the belief that there is a happily ever after to the stories we imagine. This is represented in a humming bird who hovers over brightly colored flowers. It is the place of child-like faith.
I love spending time in a real "fairy garden" where imagination springs life in dead places. God breathes life through words, songs and pictures in tangible, concrete ways. It is a place for men and women who believe the best is yet to come and through the salvation of the cross, the eternal kingdom work is taking place through examples of bravery and gestures of compassion where the abundance of water abounds in earthly places.
Every summer I spent one full week at nana/papa's house, alone - I loved this time. Morning routines were normal and predictable but afternoons or excursions were seemingly mundane and uncomplicated: combing through old pennies, painting small porcelain items, playing solitaire, looking through vintage pictures neatly organized, coloring in the hospital waiting room while Nana (Candy striper - volunteer) delivered coffee/tea to patients, going to the movies, visiting relatives where I was surrounded by Italian language, food and laughter or taking BART into San Francisco to see a broadway play.
Simple, uncomplicated gestures that through the years added up to an invaluable cookbook of genuine compassion. While afternoons were fun, the early mornings were a subtle preparation for the evening, the dinner was planned and prepped, the house was immaculate, the laundry was done. It was hard work and an investment in time which eventually spelled out an investment in love. By 4:00, a quick rest with an afternoon television show - no talking - and then minutes before Papa walked through the door, Nana fixed herself up - nothing fancy: clean clothes, hair combed and a little make-up and the three of us talked about our day.
It was a subtle routine but both Nana and Papa made an effort in their appearance; it was a tiny seed of what it meant to be a woman. Money was scarce so each summer when my grandparents gave me a modest budget for school shopping, I considered it a rare scrap for a bird's nest of pillowy white. I loved going shopping with Nana and then carefully hanging clothes on hangers of symbolic twigs of hope and a chirping sound of the life I dreamed.
The quiet moments of rest: there was a green porch swing in the backyard (a sixteenth birthday present for my mother) that I laid on, gently rocking myself where the motion and sound of brushing fabric and rustling leaves were a sweet lullaby swaying me toward sleep. These were the times where my faith was taking hold in the sweet, pleasant feeling of being loved. I gazed up at the leaves on a tree - they looked like gold coins shimmering in sunlight and now as I think back, I think they were.
The sweet sound of a humming bird who stops mid-flight - the best part of my school shopping was not in the times where Nana and I searched (although I adored this time) but in Papa's genuine response. In the moments before or after dinner, I modeled each and every outfit with a confident assurance that I was deeply loved. His gentle smile and authentic affection were priceless gestures of genuine adoration. I am not sure whose smile shone brighter - his love for a grand-daughter or mine in being noticed. Either way, this small act of appreciation spoke volumes of love without a sound uttered. It was simple and pure ... little seeds of femininity taking root in deep, dark soil.
I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel."
A Yellow flower - sunlight (faith)
Wonder Woman was born out of the idea of equality and strength. Her subtle enslavement to bondage is a foreshadowing to the necessary armor of a warrior going into battle. The gong echoes loudly in deep cavernous caves of solitude. God resurrects ALL who seek with a humble heart and, like the sun rising, promises, with brilliant light, a new day.
An hourglass is a calibrated physical timepiece that uses sand falling from an upper container to a lower container to measure a predetermined amount of time. 8 pawns, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 2 rooks, 1 queen and 1 king on a chessboard where the high stakes of a game of checkmate are a scrambled move across black and white geometric squares.
The yellow brick leads a woman down a journey ... hidden are the treasures of precious gold and silver where the compassion, depth and love overflowing cascade like sun filtering through trees of noble stature. The path is the hope of birds whistling, footsteps steady and sure, a whispered hum of a soft, sweet tune on the breathe of a song made from the finest honey in a forest of beauty.
A hopeless romantic, I have always searched for true love's kiss. It began in Kindergarten when I came home from school confessing my desire to change my name to the one five year old princess that had the affections of one five year old prince. Convinced if I changed the letters, the crown would fit. I dreamed not of being taken care of but of climbing trees, building forts and together righting the wrongs of the world. It was the beginnings of the making of images of Wonder Woman, where her golden bracelets abate the misfortunes that fell upon unsuspecting prey. In a simplistic world where endings must be easily condensed to fit into a manageable timeframe, the middle of the story is omitted; there are pieces left out and so the deciphering of a secret code is left in the shadows of grace. A bird whose brilliant yellow and red colors stand strong as a symbolic way back home; it is trust in a holy God that knows your name.
In the midst of writing this month's blog post, my daughter and I wrestled up a couple of quilts, hot liquid, a small dog and gathered our tired bodies into the car in the dark for the purpose of driving to the beach to watch the sunrise. She, being a novice, was equipped with warm clothing while I fumbled for fragments of familiar things on a quiet morning in August. It was an adventure - she put on this song... I hadn't heard it before but I liked it. As I later began again the ardent task of writing (the yellow flower) of Wonder Woman, I thought of a chessboard and sunrises and hope eternal.
This is the journey where something goes wrong and innocence is stollen in a forced play of roulette. I am a woman of faith, and as such, spend time in a posture of humility - on my knees. The bible talks about two sons, one of which is a prodigal and the other, a well intentioned, hard-working son that kept to the narrow path. While two sons must both wrestle with a personal dialog, the external must be reconciled with the internal where a new song is written and rehearsed and lived out in tangible beads of faith.
It was a tiny article hidden in the corner of the front page of the newspaper - there were no names. A young college student was walking back to the dormitory from the library where overgrown brush hid her captors. Men who acted as though they had the privilege to trample upon a flower, whose gardener had lovingly grown it to bloom, sexually assaulted and beat her until the last flutter almost wept. The article was really about money as there was a lawsuit about the necessity to keep trees and bushes trimmed and cleared out. It happened at a normal time in the evening so the blame could not be shifted to inappropriate choices.
A story of romantic love cannot be written without the context of a fallen world where the writing of Wonder Woman evolved. There are paths stricken with the beating of a whip. Stories of violence, power, submission, captivity; the list goes on and on. I was talking with a woman who sat in a courtroom for eight hours waiting to plead a money case on behalf of her mother who waited through countless numbers of sex traffic cases. We still live in a world where an entire school of girls were stollen and sold into marriage, where pornography is on the rise, where the education of women is feared, where some cultures find the practice of female sexual mutilation as a pliable means to curbing desire or fathers willingly handing over daughters for a families economic survival. We need Wonder Woman. We need a holy God.
In a pendulum's swing, images of what it means to be a woman are strewn upon the path like petals of roses ripped from it's stem. Rather than a single flower, it is more of a meadow of indescribable beauty where colors, shapes and fragrance blanket the air with a light touch of sunlight. We stand upon the shoulders of women willing to forge a voice, we stand upon the shoulders of women willing to kneel at the cross. We ask our young girls to be intelligent, funny, athletic, entrepreneurs, volunteers, workers, mothers; we ask them to be the wonder women of the world and then when they become world changers setting examples in faith and love, we hesitate in fear.
I am really stuck this month on the writing of Wonder Woman. I do not have a deep understanding of her Greek Mythological beginnings or in her 1941 debut. I watched the recent movie of Superman verses Batman with a cameo appearance of Wonder Woman and was discouraged by the deep violent battle between the men. I want to say the church will be the answer but then am frustrated when the dialog of femininity doesn't match my concept of what it means to be a woman. I have stacks of work projects, stacks of bills, stacks of household stuff and yet I spent an inordinate amount of time this weekend on writing this post and last weekend on hosting an engagement party for a couple who met at our bible study group.
Discouraged, I woke up at 8:45 am, rolled out of bed and made the 9:15 church start time not because I had to but because of a love relationship with a savior. Because my trust in heavenly things is so passionate, I was willing to squeeze out just a little bit more of the toothpaste of my time in order to hear one of my soon to be college guy friends tell the congregation the word of wisdom God gave him this morning: that we are applying worldly wisdom to our problems and asked the congregation to consider Proverbs 2: 1-5 before he took his place at the guitar on the worship team:
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, marking your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
So how will I finish this month's post? With the treasures of gold and silver, of course.
What if your story is not yet finished? What if we live in a generation where men AND women hear the whisper and say, "i miss you - come back"?
I believe in fairy tales more today than I ever have, not because I believe God is made-up but because I have experienced His grace and have seen the change that hope inspires. Rather than the quick, digestible time frame, God sends people in the midst of the story so that we may begin to see the strong limbs of a tree. In depth and width, that tree was broken and split in two to be bound together as one for the purpose of death and resurrection. God didn't have to come but he wanted to.
A yellow flower - Marilyn Monroe is the epitome of a sex symbol so let's embrace the story of sexuality in a word picture that has nothing to do with sex. I love building things and when my woman friend designed and had her dream home built at the age of 85, I began to trust God's plan. Let's say a girl wanders down that yellow path into a forest of beauty and as she grows weary builds a home in the tallest, strongest tree which sits far above the other trees where the view from the window is spectacular. She constructs her bed with good, white feathers (the middle story experiences), adorns her room with pictures (in the form of ideas) and books (in the form of dialog). She holds on to a deep, abiding desire for a savior she loves and realizes her faith in a holy God was the breathe, color and flight of every part of the treehouse; she looks at the treasures of gold and silver through faith, hope and love.
Then a boy wanders into the forest. He too grows weary and sees the beauty of the tree house but rather than explore the rooms, decides to take rest under it's shade. With an armor to defeat dragons and a faith to lead armies, he sets out on a firm and steady path.
Marilyn Monroe - outward beauty but there was more to her story.
A red flower - romantic love (faith)
Love arrives - in a simple song, it is one of humility, strength and endurance.
Unlike Superman or Batman, it is an understanding of who we are and who we are not. Fragile - men are not born of superhuman strength but, like women, born in God's image.
"Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 26-27
The Third summer concert series is Journey - a rock band formed in San Francisco in 1973. Having earned gold, platinum and diamond album recognition, they continue to entertain music lovers. Having some of their songs safely tucked away in a nostalgic quadrant, I highlight one of their songs: When You Love a Woman - you see your world inside her eyes as a culmination of this month's third super heroine, Wonder Woman; she is a woman of courage and faith.
I cannot possibly speak of a man's perspective; i do not desire to be presumptuous. So i used a song in the current culture, a Work Song, as an illustration of strong, steady footsteps. This, alongside the picture of a heavy, steady locomotive pushing it's way through a forest of trees. The conductor steps out with the humility, grace and strength of a biblical warrior with steady, sure steps and rests in the story (words, pictures, beauty) and then welcomes the heroine (Wonder Woman) to join the justice league toward the pursuit of heavenly things.
Although there are only a handful of woman listed by name in the bible, they are prophets, warriors and women of great depth who stand strong in adversity through the strength of a loving God. They stood (and stand) alongside men who represent the church, not in the power of position, but in the humility of the cross. There was and always has been a struggle inside and outside of the church. Fear deafens the cries of the church's people but Christ whispers hope through the red blood-stained hands and feet of the cross.
I remember standing outside of a public pool having spent 10 days with high school kids feeling and looking confident. In a swoosh of words, like jacks released in a quick motion, a man told me I should dress my age; his gesture eroded my worth in a palpable subtlety over fifteen years ago but God has done some work on the inside and I stand with a humble confidence knowing who I am and who I am not. It just might not make sense to put energy into writing this blog, spending time hearing other people's story or having the courage to face my own dragons but then again ... I am applying earthly wisdom toward heavenly treasures.
Wonder Woman - white, yellow and red; she represents your entire story; it is in the hope that this is not yet the end of the story. In Luke 15, the sheep, the coin and the prodigal son were lost AND THEN found. Whether Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman, there are men and women willing to fight for heavenly things because they are changed for having heard the story of the cross. One name is lifted; his name is Jesus.
Faith is about trust and love. I was going to end with a quick snippet of the song from Mercy Me - Bring the Rain but discovered the video is very much about woman seeking faith so I have included it. May this Sunday in August, be about a story - where there are people willing to listen (and read) about the experiences God has used to deepen character not because they have to - but because they want to. The view from my tree house has lots and lots of (words) books - and not just comic books. May you feel God's embrace - always.
Pictures were provided either by me or through Fotolia, information and links were tied to Wikipedia, songs may be purchased from I-Tunes (Aretha Franklin, Capella Istropolitana, Betty Who, Hozier) and video (Wonder Woman, Marilyn Monroe and Mercy Me) were found on You Tube.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.