We are a few days into the season of Lent, traditionally a time of increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for Christians. I like to also do some additional spiritual reading and I am loving the reflections on stories about women in the Bible that my friend Rev. Pat Raube is sharing this year through her blog, A Swimmer in the Fount.
I admit that I am feeling discouraged this year, though. Trying to live a life of charity and advocating for social justice has become even more difficult here in the United States, with many threats to human dignity and to our environment. No matter how hard I try, I can’t protect people from difficulties or make things better for them.
At church this morning, I was looking toward the altar when something caught my eye. Instead of decorating with fresh flowers and plants, during Lent many churches feature bare branches, and our church has two fairly large trees on either side of the altar. I noticed that, high in the tree on the right side, the tip of a branch had broken and was hanging down, held by some bark or wood fibers.
I feel like that bit of broken branch, hanging down, bare, and useless. Still, it is in a place where it is protected from wind, so it won’t be disconnected entirely from the tree. Maybe enough connection remains that, when the sap rises, there can be some healing or some new growth from the brokenness.
Today, though, it does not feel that way.
My friend, Rev. Pat Raube, has been sharing Advent meditations on her blog every evening in Advent. I wanted to share this one in particular with my readers because it deals with the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. I love that Elizabeth is the first to proclaim Mary as mother of the Messiah. While we most often hear that her son John is the herald of Jesus, Elizabeth is the first herald of the Gospel before John or Jesus is born: http://swimmerinthefount.blogspot.com/2015/12/advent-4-monday-blessed.html
On Wednesday, I went to hear my friend Pat Raube and Martha Spong of RevGalBlogPals read from their new book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. It’s one of those rare times when a publisher offered a book deal because of a blog. It was great to be able to attend the reading and get my book signed.
Pat’s reading included a reference to her daughter’s name – Joan – and for whom she was named. I immediately thought of a welcome ceremony that Pat’s soul-sisters of Sarah’s Circle had held for Joan as an infant, which featured a coat of many colors that Pat had made for Joan. It also included a personal blessing from each person in attendance, given verbally at the time and recorded in a book which Pat gave to Joan when she turned sixteen.
When we had a bite to eat together after the reading, the Sarah’s Circle members in attendance were reminiscing about that day and telling stories about names and their meanings and how we came to be called what we are called.
Even though Joan is about to graduate from Oberlin later this month – with Michelle Obama as commencement speaker! – I remember that I had written my blessing to her about the origin of our name. Joan (and Joanne) come from a Hebrew root and I have heard them translated as “God is gracious” or “gift of God” or my favorite “God’s gracious gift.” The last is the one I chose to incorporate into my blessing for Joan.
When I was a first year at Smith thirty-six years ago, I studied Latin with Professor Skulsky. One day she went through the class and told us all the origin of our names, although she was disappointed that none of us had names with Latin roots, like Amanda, which means “the woman who ought to be loved.”
Years later, there was a rise in popularity of Amanda as a name for new babies. My younger daughter had a number of same age Amandas in her class. I wonder if they knew the meaning of their name…
[Update: This post now has a postscript.]
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is: “name.” Please join us! Find out how here: http://lindaghill.com/2015/05/08/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-915/
Badge by Doobster @Mindful Digressions