Friday, October 30, 2009

The Discarded Woman’s Tale of Rejection

Part 2 of this story series...


That’s how many husbands she’d had.

But this was no Elizabeth Taylor, wearing men on her arm like golden bangles and casting each aside for a more dashing charmer.

This was a woman who had been rejected.

Five times.

Five times she had married, and five times she had been left.

There’s one of two reasons that she had been abandoned – or a combination thereof:

The first would have been just sheer bad luck. Under the Law of Moses, after a man died, his widow was to have been married to his brother. This is so that the deceased’s name could be carried on – and so that the woman would continue to be cared for.

So it is possible that she had been married to five different brothers, who died one after the other.

But there was a second and more probable reason for her predicament.

She may have been barren. A woman unable to produce children was a scourge – so much so, that the Law also allowed a man to divorce her and move on to someone who could give him a son.

Whether she had been married off from one sibling to another … or whether she had been summarily dismissed for her lack of childbearing or any other type of displeasing reason … she was a discarded woman.

Sadly, she was older now, not as desirable as sinewy younger Samaritan women. A sixth husband? That would have been a feat. But like many others who had been discarded, she was in a pickle. No one else would have her. Her reputation was rock-solid now. But the larger issue was that she did not have the means or ability to provide for herself.

So, discarded women like her … often had to resort to prostitution.

She was living with a man, though, one who would not commit to marriage but who would support her monetarily. This seemed to be the best and only solution.

As such, even in this Samaritan culture that was less stringent than that of the Jewish brothers to the south, this woman was a pariah.

No one – not even other women – would have anything to do with her if they wanted to keep their own reputations intact.

The discarded woman had to resort to doing her daily business and errands apart from society.

And that’s why … at high noon, when the sun was burning brightest and hottest, when a breeze failed to even rustle weeds … she set out on a long trek outside the city gates to draw water from a well.

None of the other women would be there. They would be drawing water at the cool times of day, the early morning or twilight. But the discarded woman wanted to avoid their looks askance, their whispers, their pushing her out of the way, their raised eyebrows, their roll of the eyes. She didn’t need that. She already felt badly enough about herself.

She trudged out, water jug perched, sweat beading on her forehead, to Jacob’s Well.

And that’s when she saw Him.

That’s when her entire life changed.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for part 3 of the story …

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Appointment with a Discarded Woman

Part 1 of this story series …

He had an appointment.

He was on a trip home to Galilee.

His route could have taken him along the breathtaking western seacoast of Israel. He would have passed pretty Joppa, named so because the houses there reflected the sun. He would have gone by the Auja River flowing into the sea, where travelers saw the landscape change before their very eyes after crossing. Then He would have crossed the Plain of Sharon, noted for its flowery beauty.

Or, He could have chosen Route #2 … along the Jordan River in the Jordan Valley, rich with vegetation and wildlife galore. It would have been easy for food gathering, and the fresh water and coolness of the riverbed would have been a welcome sight for His weary band of travelers.

But He had an appointment.

And this required Him to choose the third and last Route … through Samaria.


It was home to Samaritans, half-breeds, despised by the Jewish people. Their society combined the worship of Jehovah with that of the many pagan gods. Hundreds of years ago when Israel had been conquered by invaders, the kings of old gave Samaritan land to people other than the Jews. Soon, they intermarried. Soon, they introduced other religions. Soon, the Samaritans were worshipping idols as well as the Jewish God.

Soon … they were reviled, seen as the enemy, by their brothers and sisters to the South.

He didn’t care about any of that. He had a mission in mind. And He had to choose a route through Samaria.

He had an appointment, you see,

an appointment ….

… with a discarded woman.

What does this have to do with a Christian safehouse discussion? Tune in for part 2 of the story …

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Forced Words

Take a moment and evaluate this:

When someone is in a bad spot … They’ve had a car accident and are laid up … They are sick from an unexplained illness … They’re going through a divorce … They’ve lost their job and are struggling financially …. Their family member just died ….

…Or, they’re simply lonely and need someone to listen …

How do you react?

Do you force your words?

In the heat of a moment where you feel embarrassed pity, do you make an offer to help?

If so, what do you say?

What do you promise?

If we love as He loved us, what are we doing … here in Priscilla’s and Aquila’s Place … to be there for those who are in need – physically, emotionally, spiritually?

Do we shrink away?

Do we say, “I’d love to help, but tonight I have Bible study. But I’ll pray for you.”

Do we say, “Call me if you need something!”

Because, see … both of those statements are empty promises. They are forced words. They don’t mean anything.

Be honest. Do you really think that someone who is needy is going to call you? Do you think they will take the risk to swallow their pride and say, “I am in need of help?”

Now what if you say, “Can I do something for you?” and the person actually takes you up on it and says, “Yes, thank you,” do you follow through?

Do you really mean it? Do you intend on action?

Here’s the rub about Christian living:

We can go to church every Sunday, volunteer at the soup kitchen and teach Sunday School. We can worship with our hands in the air while we sing at the top of our lungs and proclaim the salvation of Jesus to the world.

But what if our words don’t have actions to accompany them?

Consider this.

“Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

“I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "’Sounds good. You take care of the faith department; I'll handle the works department.’

“Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

“Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?”

That’s James 2: 14-20.

So what about it?

How are you reacting, or acting, towards the needs of those around you – not just strangers but friends or those in the church who need someone to prop them up?

Are you acting, or are you doling out empty promises, cloaked in polite conversation?

Are you speaking forced words?

Are you loving the way He intends you to love?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Note to Anonymous Commenter

To the Anonymous commenter who continually leaves me messages:

It's a good thing that we don't live in the 1600's, because I am pretty sure you would accuse me of being a witch and burn me at the stake.

If my blog entries are so offensive to you, STOP READING.

I refuse to publish any more of your comments in the future.

This is a "Christian Safehouse."

That means that we support each other. We don't condemn each other. We don't judge each other. We don't suppress each other. We don't belittle each other. We don't deride each other. We are not hateful to each other. We do not speak evil to each other.

This is a safehouse.

Your entry into the conversation does not make it safe.

Therefore, you will be ignored from here on out. This is my final and last note to you.

And I'd advise you to take a hard look at Matthew 7:1 and resolve that within yourself before the day of judgment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recovering from Surgery

Hi everyone,

At the wise counsel of a dear friend, I am taking this post-surgical time to rest and lean into Jesus. I do have stories swirling in my mind that I want to write for you. But my friend pointed out that this is a time for sitting still, listening and absorbing the love that Jesus has for me.

My surgery of a week ago did not go well. I lost a great deal of blood, which has made recovery difficult, and I am also battling the painful after-effects of anesthesia. I covet your prayers, especially as our family deals with "Mommy" being so sick.

When I am ready to finally post an entry, I will announce it on Twitter. You can follow me @heidiraff to know exactly when I am preparing the next story installment.

Thank you so much for your loyal following! It really encourages me immeasurably to see so many of you checking into the blog, and I am looking forward to sharing what Jesus has been teaching me during this time of immense physical suffering.

With gratefulness and love,