Since we just saw England celebrate the 70 years of the reign by Queen Elizabeth II, I thought I would share her comments for my Friday list of laughter and wisdom (even though i am a day late.)
Grief is the price we pay for love.
None of us can slow the passage of time; and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the Gospel of Christ and his teachings.
When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.
If I wore beige, nobody would know who I am.
It has been women who have breathed gentleness and care into the harsh progress of mankind.
Children teach us all a lesson – just as the Christmas story does – that in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential.
We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.
Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us have a monopoly on wisdom.
Memories are our second chance at happiness.
The world is not the most pleasant place. Eventually your parents leave you and nobody is going to go out of their way to protect you unconditionally. You need to learn to stand up for yourself and what you believe and sometimes, pardon my language, kick some ass.
On a trip to Alabama we were able to stop at the home where Helen Adams Keller was born and raised. Built in 1820 by Helen’s grandparents who came to Alabama from Virginia, the house is a white clapboard home designed in Virginia cottage construction. Called Ivy Green because of the English ivy that grew on one side of the house, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1954.
Helen was born on June 27, 1880 and was a healthy child. At 19 months she became very ill (it is believed it was probably scarlet fever) and was left blind and deaf. Unable to communicate with the world, Helen became what was described as a “wild child.”
Her parents, desperate for help took her to see Alexander Graham Bell when she was six. Bell connected the family with a 20-year-old teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Ann Sullivan came to live with Helen in Alabama and stayed with her from March 1887 until Ann died in 1936.
As Anne began working with Helen she recognized that her family had given no discipline to her and she need to teach Helen both obedience and love. She convinced the family to allow her to take Helen from the main house and they lived together alone in a nearby cottage. After a few weeks as Helen began to respond to Anne, they returned to the main house ad the family.
Ann began having Helen feel objects and then would spell out the word on Helen’s palm. At first it was a difficult effort but a breakthrough came when Ann kept running water over Helen’s hand and then writing the word “water” in her palm. Suddenly it was as if a light went on. Helen understood what Ann was trying to teach her.
Having read the story of how her teacher, Ann Sullivan, was able to reach her through sign language, it was so amazing to see the well where this amazing event took place.
As Helen received a way of communicating with others, she quickly showed how brilliant a mind she had. By age ten she had mastered the Braille alphabet and learned to type. She then began the difficult process of learning how to speak. By 16 she had learned how to speak so well that she went to preparatory school and then won admission to Radcliffe College in 1900 and graduated cum laude in 1904.
She became an author and published several books including The Story of My Life (1903), Optimism (1903), The World I Live In (1908), Light in My Darkness and My Religion (1927), Helen Keller’s Journal (1938), and The Open Door (1957).
She became active in promoting laws and policies to help the handicapped. When she attended the Lions Clubs International Convention in 1925 she challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Accepting the challenge the Lions have programs aimed at preventable blindness every since.
At her home there is a statute of a Lion and plaques commemorating that partnership between Keller and the Lions.
There is a garden on the grounds with a bust of Helen as well as a statute inside the house of the young girl standing at the well where Ann Sullivan was able to reach her with the word “water.”
When you consider she was blind and deaf, her achievements are even more amazing.
She fought for workers’ rights, for women’s suffrage and was an early member of the American Civil Liberties Union. She worked for over 40 years with the American Foundation for the Blind. Her speeches and efforts for the blind led to state commissions for the blind, rehabilitation centers and made education more accessible to those with vision loss.
She made multiple trips to other counties and met world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Golda Meir. General Douglas MacArthur sent her to Japan as American’s first Goodwill Ambassador. Her appearance brought attention to the needs of Japan’s blind and disabled citizens.
A lot of credit should also go to her teacher, Ann Sullivan, who devoted her life to Helen. Her work with Helen as a child was depicted in the play The Miracle Worker. This play won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and was made into a motion picture in 1962.
Before WWII most of society frowned on women working outside the home. Most of the working women were from lower working classes doing menial jobs. With WWII there became a shortage of workers as so many men were in the armed forces plus there was an increased demand for wartime production.
In 1943 Secretary of War Henry Stimson said, “The War Department must fully utilize, immediately and effectively, the largest and potentially the finest single source of labor available today – the vast reserve of woman power.” To encourage employment of women, on April 1, 1943 the U.S. War Department published a pamphlet entitled “You’re Going to Employ Women.”
I found a copy of the pamphlet and I had to laugh at some of the advice given to potential employers of women. Here is just some of the statements in the pamphlet:
Women are pliant – adaptable
Women are dexterous – finger-nimble
Women are accurate – precision workers
Women are good at repetitive tasks
Women are fine color and material observants
Women can be trained to do almost any job you’ve got
Further instructions were:
In some respects women workers are superior to men. Properly hired, properly trained properly handled, new women employees are splendidly efficient workers.
In spite of the government’s propaganda campaigns to employ women, there was still some resistance. Some worried women would become too masculine, would take jobs from men, would upset home life, would have negative effects on children.
Minority women faced even more challenges to working. Black women found it hard to obtain a job. Women from Japanese and Italian backgrounds found widespread prejudices.
One of the main stars of the propaganda campaign was Rosie the Riveter. Rosie was a fictional icon representing women who worked in the WWII munitions and war supplies industries. She was designed to look strong enough to handle the manual labor, yet also feminine enough to reassure men that women working would not lose their feminine appearance. Rosie’s picture was seen in newspapers, magazines, posters, and even music.
Hitler used America women working in his own propaganda campaign noting that the German women’s job was to have babies and be good wives and mothers to the Third Reich.
Women found it difficult to balance work and child care. Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged her husband, President Franklin D Roosevelt, to create childcare facilities. She also encouraged employers to provide childcare facilities for their workers.
Women entering the work force changed much of the fashion for women. High-heels were out. Clothing had fewer adornments. Khaki jackets and blue jeans became popular. Following Rosie’s picture, slacks and headscarves was the fashion thing to wear. Wool and silk were rationed due to the need for military uniforms and parachutes. Manufactured fibers such as rayon and viscose became popular. When nylon was also restricted, women were forced to not wear stockings.
Along with women entering the work force at home, approximately 350,000 women joined the military. They served as nurses, truck drivers, mechanics and clerical workers. Military groups for women organized in WWII were:
Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps – later named the Women’s Army Corps (WAC)
Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES)
Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs)
Over 1600 female nurses received military honors and decorations for courage under fire. Women could only serve in the military in times of war until 1948 when Congress allowed women to serve as full-fledged members of all branches of the military.
Many feared after WWII that women in the work force would take jobs needed by the men returning from war. Many women gladly returned back to the home and many were laid off. However, WWII opened the door to women in the work force and this source of labor has only increased since then.
Checking the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I found that in 2019 57.4 percent of all women participated in the labor force. And, as expected, women still made less than men. According to the Bureau in 2019, women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $821, which represented 82 percent of men’s median weekly earnings ($1,007).
The final page of the pamphlet I found gave me a last laugh:
A woman worker is not a man; in many jobs she is a substitute – like plastics instead of metal – she has special characteristics that lend themselves to new and sometimes superior uses.
After reading that, I had to wonder what superior uses they thought women would bring to the labor force. And I love their statement that a woman worker is not a man – just a substitute. They opened the door for women to be in the work force – and here we are – hardly a substitute.
Hard to believe that it has been less than 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, granting women the full rights of citizenship.
What is ironic is that four years before women were granted the right to vote, a woman had already been elected to the United States Congress. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress. While most of the USA did not allow women to vote until this amendment was ratified, some states had permitted voting by women.
Montana granted women the right to vote in 1914 and they soon elected Rankin to represent them in Congress. Rankin declared “I may be the first woman in Congress, but I won’t be the last.
She was right. Today there are 24 women in the Senate (24%) and 121 (27.8) in the House of Representatives.
While in Congress, Rankin proposed the formation of a Committee on Woman Suffrage, of which she was appointed leader. After WWI ended and her committee had issued a report for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote, she asked the congressmen:
“How shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”
While serving her first term in Congress, she voted, along with 49 men, to not enter World War I. After serving two years in Congress, she did not run to be elected for another term. Some historians believe her vote against the war led her to realize she could not get reelected. Her brother, Wellington Rankin, who was a prominent Republican in Montana, advised her not to run. He said “I knew she couldn’t be elected again if she did vote against the war. I didn’t want to see her destroy herself.” Many of the suffragists leaders felt she betrayed their cause by her vote.
Although she opposed the war, once we entered the battle, she voted for war-time appropriations to fund the troops and supported the government taking over the mines to gain resources for the war effort.
After leaving Congress, she continued to be active working for pacifism and social welfare issues. She worked for better health care for women and children. She became a speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War and attended the Women’s International Conference for Peace held in Switzerland. She purchased a small farm in Georgia that had no electricity or plumbing and worked with others in the state to organize a study group on antiwar foreign policy. This group eventually became the Georgia Peace Society.
In 1940, at age 60, she returned to her home state of Montana and ran again for Congress. This time she was not alone – there were six other women in Congress.
After America was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. When the House opened debate on the resolution, Rankin tried to speak. Speaker Sam Rayburn declared her out of order and members of the House began calling for her to be silent. Members pressured her to vote for the war or abstain. She refused to do either. She said “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” She was the only vote against the war.
After the vote she huddled in a phone booth in the Republican cloak room until security could escort her to her office. She did not run for reelection but she said “I have nothing left but my integrity.”
Leaving Congress, Rankin spent time on her ranch in Montana and her cabin in Georgia. She continued her stand against war leading a 5,000 person protest march on Washingtn in 1968 where she offered a peace petition to House Speaker John McCormack.
The House honored her on her 90th birthday with a reception and dinner. In 1972 she was named the “World’s Outstanding Living Feminist” by the National Organization for Women.
When she died in 1974 she was thinking of running again for the House so she could protest the Vietnam War. Today there is a statute of Rankin in the Montana State House.
Raised on a plantation in the South, these two sisters became strong advocates to abolish slavery. The oldest, Sarah Grimke, accompanied her wealthy father to Philadelphia to seek medical treatment. While there, she met members of the Society of Friends. Returning to Charleston, she eventually became a Quaker and moved to Philadelphia where she became actively involved in the drive to end slavery.
Her young sister, Angelina Grimke, soon joined her sister in the north and also become active in the cause of freedom for the slaves.
This move, or course, made them outcasts with their family and former friends. Angelina only added to the South’s outrage when she wrote an Appeal to the Christian Women of the South. In that writing she wrote
I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken.”
While this brought the anger of the Southern population, it also made northern men unhappy. Many of them felt that a woman did not have the right to speak out about issues that were so controversial and political.
The opposition to her expressing her views not only did not stop her from speaking out about slavery, it also caused her and her sister to become outspoken agents for women’s rights.
Joining the American Anti-Slavery Society, the sisters began to speak to small groups of women in private homes and as their popularity grew, they soon moved to making appearances before much larger audiences, often ones that included men. Both sisters wrote on women’s right to equality in society. Angelina published Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States and Sarah followed up with Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women.
Angelina married an abolitionist, Theodore Weld. Since he was not a Quaker the sisters were kicked out of the Society of Friends. The three of them moved to New Jersey and started a boarding school teaching students. When the Civil War broke out, they wrote to President Lincoln giving their support for the freedom of the slaves.
They discovered that their brother Henry had two sons by an enslaved women. They reached out and began a close relationship with the young men and supported their education. One of the men, Archie, studied law at Harvard and the other, Francis, went to Princeton Theological Seminary. Both men became leaders in the black community.
Frances was pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This church was founed in 1841 as the First Colored Presbyterian Church. Rev. Grimke served as the third pastor for more than 50 years beginning in 1877. From his pulpit he called for civil rights, fought against racism in American churches, helped found the American Negro Academy in 1897 and was part of the group working to create the NAACP.
Archibald (Archie) Grimké had a distinguished career as a lawyer. He also created the first African-American newspaper, the Hub. He attended the first conference of the NAACP and worked with that organization the rest of his life.
Both women fought for women’s rights and for equal and fair treatment of the blacks after the Civil War. .They were active in the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association leading a protest of women on March 7, 1870 when they illegally voted in an election.
As I read about these women, I was challenged by their willingness to leave a life where they were pampered and waited on to speak out and fight for the rights of blacks. To not be afraid of those who tried to silence them as being less than equal of men. It is sad to me that many who have benefited from their fight do not even know their names.
In 1998 they were both posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Dr. Randy Lovelace did the physical testing for NASA to help with the selection of the Mercury astronauts. His vision went much beyond just getting a man into orbit around the earth. He thought someday we would have space stations orbiting the earth where science research could be done. If that should happen, women would need to be included as secretaries, laboratory assistants, nurses. That led him to wonder if women were physically fit to handle the pressures that spaceflight demanded.
Accordingly, he set up a privately funded project in Albuquerque, New Mexico and invited 25 different women pilots to participate. They would take the same tests that the Mercury astronauts had taken.
Privately funded in large part by the first woman to break the sound barrier, Jacqueline Cochran, records of more than 700 female pilots were reviewed before the 25 were invited to come to New Mexico and participate in these tests.
Given the same physical and psychological exams that the Mercury 7 men had taken, 12 women passed Phase 1 tests. These tests were strenuous and included having ice water shot into their ears which froze their inner ear. This allowed doctors to determine how quickly they recovered from vertigo. They were subjected to electric shock to their forearms to test their reflexes.
Phase II tests included seeing if they could withstand hours of isolation in a sensory deprivation tank and other experiments to determine women’s physiology and mental strength.
Army pulmonologist, Kathy Ryan, has taken a look at the test results of these women and compared them with the Mercury astronaut candidates. She determined that women on average did better than the men especially in the isolation tests and sensory-deprivation tests. Studies in Britain, Canada and the USA have all confirmed that these women did as well as the men.
So why did nothing come of these women’s attempts to be part of the space program? The American culture was just not ready for women to take an equal role with men. One of the women, Jerrie Cobb, spoke before Congress and also visited with then Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
Another strong advocate was Janie Hart who testimony before Congress included the statement:
‘I strongly believe women should have a role in space research – in fact, it’s inconceivable to me that the world of outer space should be restricted to men only, like some sort of stag club.
‘One hundred years ago, it was quite inconceivable that women should serve as hospital attendants; their essentially frail and emotional structure would never stand the horrors of a military dressing station. Finally, it was agreed to allow some women to try it – provided they were middle-aged and ugly (ugly women presumably having more strength of character.) I submit, Mr Chairman, that a woman in space today is no more preposterous than a woman in a field hospital 100 years ago.’
The hero of the first space program, John Glenn, said “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order. It may be undesirable.”
The 13 women who passed the initial physical tests were:
Jerrie Cobb (now deceased) Wally Funk Irene Leverton (now deceased) Myrtle “K” Cagle (now deceased) Jane B. Hart (now deceased) Gene Nora Stumbough [Jessen] Jerri Sloan [Truhill] (now deceased) Rhea Hurrle [Woltman] (now deceased) Sarah Gorelick [Ratley] (now deceased) Bernice “B” Trimble Steadman (now deceased) Jan Dietrich (now deceased) Marion Dietrich (now deceased) Jean Hixson (now deceased)
Regardless of these women’s fight for inclusion in the space program NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Although both Cobb and Cochran made separate appeals for years afterward to restart a women’s astronaut testing project, the U.S. civil space agency did not select any female astronaut candidates until the 1978 class of Space Shuttle astronauts. In 1983 Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983 and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. She also was the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission in 1999.
Eileen Collins invited the women who once aspired to fly into space to join her as she piloted the Space Shuttle.
In Boston there is a Women’s Memorial that honors three women from our country’s early beginnings.
One of the statutes anyone familiar with American history would recognize. She is Abigail Adams, wife of our second president, John Adams, and mother of our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. One thing she is remembered for is advocating for women to be included in our country’s fight for freedom. Unfortunately, although our Constitution stated that “all men are created equal” it seems that did not include women. It would be years before women were given the same rights as men to take part in our country’s political life.
In her letter to her husband Abigail written on March 31, 1776 she asked him:
and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
A second woman honored there is Lucy Stone.
An fervent abolitionist Lucy was one of the first women in Massachusetts to graduate college. Following in her parents’ footsteps she worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society. As she became an outspoken advocate both for freedom of the slaves and for women’s rights she was excommunicated from the Congregational Church.
After the Civil War when the Fifteenth Amendment was proposed giving black men the right to vote, many of the women’s rights proponents argued against it since it did not include women. Lucy supported it because it agreed with her abolitionist viewpoint and she believed it would eventually lead to women also gaining that right.
Lucy rightfully asked the question:
If, while I hear the shriek of the slave mother robbed of her little ones, I do not open my mouth for the dumb, am I not guilty?
The third woman is one that we rarely hear about. Phyllis Wheatley.
She was the first African-American poet to be published. What is so amazing is this took place while she was still a slave, even before our nation had declared its independence from England. Abigail Adams was a fan of her writings as was George Washington.
As her writings became popular and people were told they were the work of a black woman, many could not believe it. A group of prominent Boston men examined her and concluded that she had indeed written the poems. They wrote a preface to her book to attest that it was indeed written by a black woman. Even so, publishers in Boston refused to publish the book so she went with her master’s son to London where it was published.
As I read about this talented woman, it made me wonder just how prejudiced and can I say “stupid” our founding fathers were that they could not believe a black woman (and by inference black people) could be capable of such intelligence. I am so amazed at the courage it took for her to go to London and have the book published.
Here is one of her poems:
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, “Their colour is a diabolic die.” Remember, Christians, Negro’s, black as Cain, May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
I find it ironic that she refers to Cain as black. Clearly although her owners had recognized her abilities and had taught her to read and write, even learning Greek and Latin, they had also taught the false teaching in the Christian church at that time was that the curse God put on Cain was to make him black.
Sad how white slave owners tried to use the Bible to justify their slave society. Sad that even as educated as Phyllis was, she seemed to accept that terrible lie.
Even today, I wonder how many lies our society hangs on to as justification for not reaching out to those not like ourselves.
Last year I shared stories of women who played a big part in history – yet are often ignored in our history books and their stories remain largely untold.
I wonder if anyone who read those blogs even remember those women now.
Dot Graden, Ann Caracristi, Virginia Adaholt, Jeannette Rankin and Katherine Johnson were all women who played an important role in the history of our country.
Deborah, Jael, Shiphrah and Puah were given small mention in the Bible, yet played important roles in the history of Israel as told in the Bible.
As we approach the Christmas season and hear the Christmas story, I wonder if anyone will stop and ask “Who are these women” that Matthew mentions in his opening chapters telling of the birth of baby Jesus?
Matthew’s first chapter is written to show that Jesus descended from the father of the nation, Abraham, and also from the kingly line of David. He mentioned many men but surprisingly he includes the names of five women.
Who were these women? Why were their included in this list?
(NOTE: Of course we have no idea what these women looked like. These pictures are only an artist’s idea. I found it interesting in searching for pictures of Biblical characters that the majority of them are white even though we know the people of the Old Testament were from the Middle East and I am sure Jesus was not blue-eyed and blonde.)
The first one mentioned is Tamar. Her story is told in Genesis 38.
As you read her story you might wonder what this woman, who was probably a Canaanite and who solicited sex from her father-in-law, is doing here. A daughter-in-law of Judah, after her first husband died she married his brother. This was the custom when a man died leaving no children. On the death of her second husband, Judah promised to give her his third son as a husband when he was old enough to be married. However, he had no intention to do so. When it became apparent to Tamar that she would not have another husband, she posed as a prostitute and solicited a sexual encounter with Judah. This very questionable action on her part was her pursuit of justice for herself. Remember, there was no social security in those days and women without a husband or children often had little or no resources to sustain them. When Judah realized what Tamar had done to make sure she was taken care of he said “she is more righteous than I am.”
Then there was Rahab. We learn of her in the book of Joshua.
The Old Testament says she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho.
Not only a prostitute but a Gentile, we find Rahab had heard the stories of how God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and had led them in the defeat of King Sihon and King Og just across the the Jordan River from Jericho. Clearly she believed that Israel’s God was the true God as she hid the spies sent to check out Jericaho. She told them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you….for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
Rahab clearly believed that the God of the Israelites was the true God and she was willing to risk her life to help them. She also apparently believed this was the way to save her own life. Looking out not just for herself, she asked for protection for her family. Her faith in the God of the Israelites saved her and her family when Jericho was defeated by Joshua’s army. She later married Salmon and gave birth to a son, Boaz, who we meet later in another woman’s story. Jewish tradition says Salmon was one of the spies she hid.
Our third woman’s story is given in the book of Ruth.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful love story. Not only the story of love between Ruth and her husband, Boaz, but also Ruth’s love and commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth was also a Gentile. She had married into Naomi’s family when the family had settled in Moab trying to escape a famine in their own land of Israel. While there Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law widows. Naomi decided she needed to return to her own land and her own family. One of the daughter-in-law stayed in Moab with her own people, but Ruth refused to allow Naomi to go back home alone. Her Words to Naomi are often used in wedding ceremonies. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Once back in the land of Israel, Ruth continued to do all she could to take care of her mother-in-law. Read the beautiful love story of how Ruth came to find a new husband in Boaz, son of Rahab.
Our fourth woman is Bathsheba. We really know little about this woman except in the context of King David’s adultery and later murder. Caught in a difficult situation and in that culture, forced into betraying her husband, she suffered not only the death of her husband but also the death of her child by David. But it appears she remained resilient and later she gave David another son who became his father’s heir. She is a good example of how life may put us in situations over which we have little control, but God is still faithful.
Of course, we all know the story of the last woman mentioned, Mary. What a story it is! A simple young girl living in a town far from the hustle and bustle of the day is told by an angel that she is going to have a child. Imagine the fear that would fill her heart. To be pregnant before marriage was an offence punishable by stoning. Who would believe her story? Yet we all know her response was “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
These women and their stories tell us much about God and his love. He chose those we would have never have picked to be the earthly ancestors of God. Yet, in selecting these women, I think it reveals hope to us all.
God can and will use anyone who is willing.
God and and will use the weak and the foolish.
Those people may reject – God can and will use.
I think it all shows just how much the story of Christmas is about Jesus coming to be “one of us.” To take on our weaknesses, to know hunger, cold, pain. His birth, his earthly life show us that he truly can relate to us who are weak, with faults and in need of a Savior.
My devotion today told the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume as he sat at dinner with his disciples. Her action was criticized by those who thought it was money that could have been better spent on the poor.
Jesus responded that she had done a beautiful thing and this act was in preparation for His death. He also added that this wherever the Gospel was told this woman’s story would be included.
According to the Gospels, this was not a cheap jar of perfume purchased at the local storefront.
Matthew referred to it as “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment.” Mark called it “an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly.” John says it was “an expensive ointment made from pure nard.”
Researching the fragrance “nard” it appears it would probably have been imported from India and according to the complaint of Judas, it would have cost at least a year’s wages.
Not only did this woman share this expensive perfume, which may have required all her savings to purchase, she took quite a brave step in coming in and kneeling at Jesus feet. He was having a meal with his disciples. Not a place for a women to enter except to serve the men.
This was extravagant worship! She gave all she had both in her finances and in her courage to act.
Makes me wonder how much my worship is extravagant. When in a worship service at church, do I just sing the words or do I really think about their meaning and sing to God from my heart? Sadly I think how many times people wonder into worship minutes after it has started and greet others as they amble to their seats? Is our worship authentic or do we just go through the motions?
Worship is more than just a service at church also. The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, and simply put means to give worth to something.
I give worth to God by much more than the half hour or so of singing on Sundays. I give (or don’t give) worth to God by the way I live, how I treat others, how I spend my time, my energy, my resources.
Thinking of this woman’s extravagant worship, I ask myself “Does my life reflect that kind of love and commitment to God?”
In line with that thought the story of David in 2 Samuel tells of worship that is extravagant. David wanted to buy a field from Araunah the Jebusite to make an offering to God. Araunah offered to give David the field, the wood for the fire and the animal for the sacrifice. David insisted on paying for it all and said, “I will not make an offering to God that does not cost me something.”
Dear Lord, may all I say, all I do, all I think be an offering of extravagant worship and may I be willing to give all of me – talent, time, energy, finances – to honor you.
When we first moved to Michigan I was intrigued to find there were many areas in the state where there had been Underground Railroad activity before the Civil War.. Located close to Canada, Battle Creek was one of the main stops for slaves traveling by foot through Indiana, Detroit and then Canada.
One of the most famous former slaves who became a strong abolitionist and champion of human rights was Sojourner Truth. She lived in Battle Creek for the last 26 years of her life. Born in New York State in 1797 and named Isabella, she escaped slavery while in her mid-thirties.
Promised by her owner, Dumont, he would grant her freedom “if she would do well and be faithful,” she worked for him fulfilling the time he had specified. When the date came for her freedom, he refused to let her go. Feeling she had kept her end of the bargain, she took her infant daughter and escaped. Later talking about that decision to leave she said, “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.” It must have been a tough decision because she left her older children behind as they were still legally considered property of Dumont.
The New York Anti-Slavery Law passed in 1799 stipulated that children born to slave mothers were free. They were required to work for the mother’s master as indentured servnts into their late twenties but then be free. Dumont ignored that law and sold Isabella’s five-year-old son. She filed a lawsuit to get him back and was the first black woman to sue a white man in a United States court and win.
After excaping slavery she became a Christian. In 1843 she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She felt she had an obligation to travel and speak out against slavery and oppression while sharing the news of the Gospel.
Asked to speak at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convetnion in 1851 she spoke out about black women’s rights. Reporters took down her speech and it has been widely publicized as ‘Ain’t I a Woman?”
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say
During the Civil War she helped recruit black soldiers. Working for the National Freedman’s Relief in DC she encouraged people to donate food, clothes and other supplies to the black slaves escaping from the South. This bought her to the attention of President Abraham Lincoln who welcomed her to the White House and showed her a Bible he had been given by African Americans in Baltimore. She was bold enough to ride on whites-only streetcars while in DC.
She spoke to fellow Christians when she asked: “Children, who made your skin white? Was it not God? Who made mine black? Was it not the same God? Am I to blame, therefore, because my skin is black? …. Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?”
She visited more than 20 states speaking against the evil of slavery. While speaking to a Quaker group in Battle Creek in 1856, she felt so welcome in this community that she moved here the following year. At first she lived in a small settlement west of town called Harmonia, moving into Battle Creek in 1867 where she lived until her death in 1883.
Today there is a statute celebrating her in downtown Battle Creek.
Because it was illegal to teach slaves, she never learned to read or write. This is the only known example of her signature which she wrote in an autograph book of a high school student in April 28, 1880.
She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek as well as some of her children.
You can learn more about this courageous woman in “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth which she dictated to Olive Gilbert.