Friday, December 26, 2008

Havah: The Story of Eve- Book Review

In writing Ruby Slippers, I often imagined what life would have been like for the first women, what her experiences would have been of God, of Man, of the earth. For to understand Eve is to understand much of who we are as women, East of Eden, today.

Would she have been stronger? Would she have been fuller, richer, more fitted to this earth than her daughters feel now? Was did the judgement do to her?

Every once in awhile you stumble upon a book that holds all the hope and imaginative power that you longed for. I have found Eve's story in Tosca Lee's new novel, Havah: The Story of Eve. As sumptuous as Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, but distinct in that Lee is theologically accurate (she does not depart from the Biblical text--something so rare and exquisite to find in a well-written novel today). It is so good that I urge you to go out and borrow, buy, but by all means read this new book.

The story is rich with dignity for the first woman, Havah, a name Lee uses for Eve, a name that sounds like the gasp and exhalation of breath. Lee gives us the story from her perspective, how she awakes for the first time and is known by God and by Man. It is replete with her sense of being needed on earth, with the mutual partnership between the first man and woman and the total effacing power of the first judgment on their lives.

This book begins with these words,
"I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.
I have walked with God."

This is an Eve that knows God, not just mediated through Adam's words, but through her own experience, her own walks and runs (as you'll see) with God. Lee draws on historical research, theological insight, apologetic depth to show us: how woman was meant to be, the romance between equals, the way the first Adam reflected her first love, God himself. How Havah could say after Adam "I knew then he was as much mine as I was his." How all creation constantly hummed with communication to one another. How man and woman could speak without words.

Lee walks us through Eden where we can understand how the serpent could have beguiled her so well, the attractiveness of his words, his wisdom. She shows how the Man was with her when she ate and how he could have eaten along with her. She explains the sinless hunger for each other's bodies and souls in the first time a man and woman made love, made a home together in Eden.

And it's all in a novel! So that means it was a delight to read. I scarfed it down in a week, making furious notes, noting how much really changed by the judgment. I particularly appreciated how subtly Lee shows us the beginning of sin in human society, relationships, how men began to use their wives and failed to see them as co-image bearers. How idolatry crops up, how Havah and Adam are afraid to speak of what they had lost. All of it, the first sacrifice, the first murder, the first marriage are understandable, relatable, horrible and yet we do not feel angry, only the pain and depth of the sin. We are living beyond the valley of Eden, we are thick in the sin, her judgment. In so many ways we are living Havah's story today.

And yet, a pin-prick of light remains in Havah's life, when Adam, even in his last days, buries his head in her neck and whispers, "I can still taste the earth of that valley in you." She is the last piece of paradies to her, and he to him. And yet for most of the novel, their silence, their broken communication will rend your heart. It clawed at all that I longed for for them, it tortures you as you read of their life outside the valley of Eden, this unbearable weight of separation. The two can rarely be one flesh. When Havah, in the last, pages, dies, still outside the garden where she was made to live in forever, you glimpse a hope. But I will leave that for you to discover.

Read this for a refreshment of how we were first made to walk, how we now limp and how we all hunger for the redemption of everything we know, our bodies, our souls, our relationships, our earth.

My favorite scene was near the beginning with Havah learns she can run with all the eagerness and bold self-knowledge of a woman who needs neither modesty or restraint,

"I raced across the southern hills, leaping rock and shrub and stream. I was a great runner. I lifted my knees high as I hurdled shrub and bush and stream. Laughter bubbled up from my belly as I took to the foothills, past the grazing onager. It brayed after me, and the sound was like laughter. I knew the adam watched me from below, and that the exuberance of my legs and quickness of my breath accelerated his heart. I knew, too, when he launched after me, but he was no match for my start or my speed. Only Levia, the lioness, was my equal.

I bounded down the hills toward the valley floor. It was midday, and the sun was hot upon me, and its rays loved me, warming the dark honey of my skin, beading sweat between my breasts and among the hairs at my nape. I was small-breasted then, lean as the new colts.

See me!
My soul shouted. Watch me run! I ran through the valley like the wind through the meadow in spring. I was tireless, euphoric at my great strength and with the One who had given it to me. I ran faster and faster--faster than I have seen any woman or man run since.

In my soul I heard laughter--first of the adam, from where I left him in the meadow--but more brightly and keenly--of God. Then--oh, great mystery, such a moment! There came a rush of wind and warmth that was not the sun. It was at my shoulder, in my ear and my face: the One that Is, running alongside me, his laughter honey in my ear" (Havah, p 38).

It made me hunger for my God and ache for the redemption of all things.

Stay tuned for next time, an interview with Tosca Lee.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Economy and Dancing with Dale

Men and women are facing the economic recession differently. Where men are hurting, women are finding their jobs holding, opportunities expanding. Last week, The Boston Globe's Robert Gavin wrote that the recession is predominately male (see "Losing Jobs in Inequal Numbers"). The job lost might be white or blue collar. Over 1 million men have lost their jobs, but 12,000 more women are working.

As a woman who loves her brothers, her fathers, her sons in the body of Christ I want to do something with this knowledge.

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. In honor of him and the many men we love beyond their ability to provide money for us, I want to focus on something unique about men. I want to show the way men provide themselves to us. I want to spotlight the way one man has given the best gift to me, a gift that is distinct from providing money, the gift of himself.

We've been married nearly 7 years, Dale and I. I've been regularly dazzled by the depth of this man, who he is, how he shapes me, how he is taught and changed by me, how love twines our lives together.

And love helps me both know and receive Dale for who he is, not what I long for him to be. I mean, the same guy I wake up next to, the man who travels and speaks alongside me, is the man who fails, listens, grumbles, creates, argues and loves me. Can I receive his gifts to me, the gifts that have much more to do with Dale's soul and body working in love than they have to do with money . . . .

Take our non-profit, Soulation. Dale runs almost everything. He is our accountant, travel-agent, resident researcher, sound technician (until recently he edited all our talks), video operator, web-technician, he updates our calendar, our new biographies, our pictures, he files for our non-profit status, he navigates the IRS law to ensure we're both writing off all true tax-deductible receipts, he writes all the code for our website (he'd say he's just a great copy-paster, but I know he has to hunt up that code somewhere and find the beginning and end--no small task for a novice and then integrate it into our Soulation site).

Dale intentionally invited me to do Soulation with him, wanting to share the spotlight with me on the stage, allowing his airtime to be cut in half because he believes in partnership on the road. This gift is beyond the diamond in my engagement ring.

In our home, I watch Dale keep spaces clear because he knows how clutter plagues my creativity. He shares in the task of walking our brood of corgis, the Ladies. He cleans alongside me, he researches and fixes items around the house, and keeps up on new projects. This gift is more than a cruise to the Mediterranean.

Take our friendships. Dale is an amazing conversationalist. I have a litmus test that if you cannot get along with my husband, you can't get along with anyone. He is full of grace and understanding, he knows how to listen, well. This gift means we can enter a room as a couple and find friends swiftly and pleasantly. This gift means more to me than a pair of deliciously sexy shoes.

In our marriage, I can trust that Dale really knows me, my interests and he knows how to add them to his own. He has watched and really liked the classics I keep adding to our Netflix list, he will switch plans last minute to go to a

restaurant I'd prefer. He consults me about absolutely everything, not that we always agree, but we always discuss it. Dale refuses to be less of himself in our argument, like when we talk about how I want to have children and he believes we must wait for the sake of helping care for souls in this world. I feel known by my husband, known and understood and this is why I can find deep satisfaction in what I do and who I am loved by, even here on the eve of the 1st anniversary of losing our baby.

I have a marriage where more has happened, more doors have been opened for me than I could have ever dreamed up.... and to think I almost married someone else.

Dale's only real fault is that he won't dance with me in public. And we go round and round about it. How I wonder if in my aging years, if God takes him from me, will I be one of those elderly women who sign-up for the community dance class, where I will be matched up with a young, pimply college student trying to earn some extra bucks teaching old ladies how to dance. Will my dancing debut find me with knees cracking and my figure sagging.

I've told Dale about my wonderings. And it troubles him every time we pass a senior citizen center that offers dance classes. He doesn't like the picture.

But, I tell him, you're the only thing keeping me from learning to dance now. And I roll him one of my insistent, pleading looks. He sits unhappily, unbudgingly.

And I sigh, dramatically. But soon lean over and kiss him on the cheek.

I really do think he is the world's best man.

This Christmas I want to learn to see our sparring matches about everything that matters to us, about philosophy and religion, about emotional health and investing, about designing our Retreat Center and Soulation and corgis as our dance.

Soul dancing with Dale...

As Christmas draws near, let me play the herald's role and sound the clarion call to women everywhere to honor the partners God has given them, to measure a man's success, not by his job, or by how well he meets our expectations, but to measure the man by his soul. May this recession help us accept the gift of the men who love us.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tidbits in My Tummy

Syndicated from Gifted for Leadership

Food, glorious food! It’s the time of year for eating. I imagine most of our Thanksgiving turkey gobbled up and the leftovers transformed into dishes like Real Simple’s recommendation: turkey barbeque sandwiches.

Food and Power

Food has power over our health. Earlier this week my husband, Dale, re-lived the poisonous side of food. His favorite meal, pizza, was ruined. It was, unfortunately, during the wee hours of the morning, at the start of our long drive from Los Angeles to home in Colorado. The food poisoning he experienced completely overhauled his body, leaving him weak, annoyed by the embarrassing inconvenience.

Food has power to unite us. Earlier this year Dale and I started a house church with another family. We have three rules, we eat together, we pray together and we share spiritual and financial resources together. The church has since doubled in size. Every week we rotate who will host, who will provide the main dish and who will cook up our “soul food.” So far, I’ve learned more about how to follow Jesus, more about love and unity than I’ve learned in years spent in my church pew. Even the kids participate.

Food and Gossip

One week after discussing gossip during house church, I was giving piano lessons to the youngest member, a ten year old boy named Peter. He told me a story about an annoying neighborhood dog, imitating the dog’s yeowl so convincingly that we both burst into giggles. Then, he paused and sheepishly looked up at me. “I guess I’ve just gossiped about him.” I explained that I wasn’t sure gossip applied to dogs, but I was glad he cared about speaking unkindly about others.

Our house church’s conversation of gossip took place in one of our first meetings. It was while we were polishing off these amazing crème brûlèe desserts. We ate and struggled together to come up with a definition for gossip. One teen daughter defined gossip as saying anything behind a person’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. Two of the fathers agreed that gossip was that speaking when you’re not part of the problem or the solution. I read a few verses to share a Biblical idea of gossip.

One from Proverbs has since stuck with me, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (18:8 and 26:22). We batted around that “choice morsels” phrase trying to live in the metaphor. One twenty-something, made the observation that “choice morsels” of food go down into our bellies and are then distributed throughout our bodies. Just like food actually becomes part of us, so gossip becomes part of us. Gossip is often delicious. But like poisoned pizza: tasty when it goes down yet runs havoc through our veins.

When I gossip it changes me. What may have started as a small misunderstanding grows larger the more I share it. I become more vested in my point of view. Since that house church meeting, I’ve been using the Tasty Moral Test to watch my motivations before I speak of another person.

Tasty Morsel Test

1- Am I hungry for a treat or for a meal? I’ll often share or listen to something because I’m excited about a tasty little nugget, not because I’m really hungry to help, hungry to forgive, hungry to lay down my life for this person.

2- Will this knowledge sit in my soul as poison or nourishment? Once I share or hear this, will it help me love and sustain the people involved? Or will it leave me with a sour taste about them, poisoning my ability to help them?

3- Will I roil, churn and want to belch this stuff out? Crude as it may sound, one tried and true test for gossip is how quickly I want to unload it.

We need hearty soul food. With Christmas pressure to ramp up family and ministry activities we will be sorely tempted to put tasty little tidbits in our souls. Let’s nourish our souls with meals that sustain us so that we are healthy enough to share