Lady Liberty and The Hemorrhaging Woman

Years ago we were returning from a trip, sailing along the turnpike to music on the radio. As we approached a mountain tunnel, we took off our shades and flicked on the headlights. The moment our car slipped into the darkness, the music abruptly stopped and the “seek” feature went berserk.

Station numbers flashed wildly at lightning speed, one after another, as the radio attempted to salvage its lost connection.

There are times, like now, when this is an apt metaphor for my life. Am I the only one less certain these days of my footing in this rapidly morphing culture, a bit seasick from everything happening in our country and around the world?

I rifle daily through TV news and social media, like our car radio in the tunnel, trying to latch onto something that clarifies, enlightens, inspires, anchors. Often I am left exasperated and empty, unable to dial down the noise, lift my despair, turn from the powerfully addictive screen light, or recognize the numb, depressive haze that comes over me when I feed on it for too long.

Every now and then, something special bursts through.

I was getting ready to take a grieving friend to lunch a few weeks ago, and I happened to check her Facebook page when her cover photo stopped me so hard in my tracks, I inexplicably burst into tears.

The Touch
“The Touch” by Aaron and Alan Hicks

Some will recognize this painting as the biblical story of The Hemorrhaging Woman, and I will admit that part of what arrested me was that she is black, unlike all the white depictions of her I’ve seen in movies and print. It pierced me deeply to think how I take for granted all the heroes and heroines I’ve grown up with that have skin color like mine, and how non-whites need to see the same. (Thank you, Black Art Depot, for being the first place I landed where I could identify the painting and buy a print.)

If Lady Liberty is a symbol of our country’s freedom and democracy, then The Hemorrhaging Woman – whose name is not recorded and who could be of any skin color – should be in the running for the symbol of our pain and suffering.

We have an incredibly beautiful, great and strong nation. But we are also hemorrhaging from grief, fear, and racism both blatant and so subtle that even caring white folk can barely see it in themselves. We are bleeding from divisiveness and a host of disorienting sins and inequities only God can truly name and judge. How do we stop the bleeding? What signal do we lock onto to keep our bearings?

This woman gives us a clue.

She had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. In her day, menstruating women were considered “unclean” and were socially isolated. With such chronic bleeding, there are no words to describe what she must have been going through. Her body and spirit were most certainly emaciated and anemic. To grind her further into the ground, repeated doctor visits drained her of all the money she had. Nothing helped. She got worse.

Enter Jesus, wildly trending at the time as a healer of the sick. Who, in her condition, wouldn’t summon up every bit of spare energy to find him? She doesn’t dare think herself worthy enough to ask him to heal her. Just touching the hem of his garment will do it, she tells herself.

Jesus has just come from delivering a tortured man of a herd of pigs’ worth of demons. Now he’s on his way, at the request of a synagogue official named Jairus, to heal the man’s dying daughter when all of this happens. Large crowds have attached to him and are pressing him on all sides.

This woman sees the swarming mob with him at the center coming toward her, and her heart beats wildly as she strategizes. She can do this quickly, just touch his garment from behind, without making a big scene. But there are so many people, so many garments! How will she be sure she’s touched his? But here he comes, and she can’t overthink it. She crouches low to the ground, and with a mighty surge of her body, she stretches and makes contact with the hem of his cloak.

She knows immediately that her flow of blood has stopped. But she can’t just steal quietly away with this wondrous, personal miracle. Instead, she causes a startling transfer of divine power.

“Who touched my garments?” Jesus stops and asks, which is a seemingly ludicrous thing to say since everyone is pressing against him. But he knows the power has gone out of him in a particular way, and he wants to know who caused it.

His celebrity eyes lock on hers and she knows she’s screwed. She has caused the scene she didn’t want to, made community headlines: Unclean Woman Has Gall to Touch Popular Healer! Her face flushes and she trembles wildly with fear as she pours out her story, breathlessly and apologetically.

Jesus turns her world upside down – which really lifts her right side up – and calls her “Daughter.”

He tells her her faith has made her well, and to go in peace and enjoy life again as a healthy person.

While he is telling her this, folks back at the house of the dying girl rush to tell Jairus it’s no use for Jesus to come after all; the little girl has passed. But Jesus isn’t out of sauce, and he continues toward their house, telling them not to worry, to have faith. And when he finally gets there, he stuns the family by telling them the young girl is only sleeping. He raises her up from her bed and tells the astonished onlookers to give her something to eat.

Jesus gets such a terrible rap. Some have an aversion to him because of his association with “evangelicals” and “the religious right,” while others say his name so thoughtlessly it slides off their tongues like spit.

We can barely see him anymore for who he is.

This is the man who didn’t have much to do with politics, who said his kingdom was not of this world, and whose humble, servant-hearted life split the human calendar into B.C. and A.D. He said we need to “rend to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” but also to give to God the things that are God’s.

He might just be worth seeking.

When our car rolled out of the tunnel and burst into the sunlight that summer day on the turnpike, the radio quickly recovered its signal and restored the music it had lost.

So have I.












Coming Down Out of the Clouds

It’s all over – as ephemeral as a rainbow or the enchanted village of Brigadoon rising out of the Scottish mist for one day every hundred years. In one instant, my husband Rob and I were lifted up into rarefied air to soar for a short time at heady altitudes. And then we were gently dropped back to earth. And it’s a good thing. No one can keep living that high up without a lot of protection.

I’m referring to the political campaign contest I won where the prize was for me and one guest to attend a dinner in L.A. at a very prestigious address with very prestigious guests. [Apologies to folks who want even more pictures and juicy details than what reputable media outlets have already provided. But I’ve seen what shady media hounds can do to their prey. So for this post, I’m leaving out names, keywords, and certain photos.]

Without a doubt, it was the experience of a lifetime.

To be honored guests at an event with people most of us would never have access to, except from a distance in a mad throng of gawkers and paparazzi, is pretty thrilling, to say the least.

And to realize you got there simply by using your fingers to click on a contest link, enter an email address and a phone number, and then answer a few phone calls, is incredulous.

So what stands out to me from all this? Things you may not expect:

  • Winning a contest like this is stressful. I’ve learned that there were 50,000 entries randomly whittled down to 100. I later pieced together that the two *polling* calls I received in the weeks prior to learning that I won were, in actuality, vetting calls. It’s understandable that the campaign would need to ensure they weren’t awarding the prize to someone who might embarrass or threaten the event in some way. But the call telling me I’d won came with just six days’ notice.

Along with the all the excitement comes conflicting energy: Is this a hoax or not? Are we being groomed for something illegal and financially catastrophic?

All communications were friendly and seemingly legit until the night before our trip, when we were asked for our Social Security numbers – allegedly requested by the Secret Service. It made sense, in a way, that they were needed. But it wasn’t until we were actually admitted into the venue that we could finally release that niggling doubt. We had to show our photo ID’s twice, got hands-in-the-air scans by the Secret Service at the door, and our car was bomb-sniffed by this dog:

security dog

  • CLOTHING. I am a woman. Ladies. Need I say more? I was told “business attire.” Rob spent $12 on new socks and $5 on dry-cleaning. I spent…a little more.
  • My daughters – Leslie, who lives in Baltimore, and Lauren, who lives in L.A. (my remote fashion consultants) – didn’t approve of the purse I had brought. So the morning of the event, Lauren took us shopping at the Beverly Hills mall. After about 10 stores of justnotquiteright clutches (ranging from $39-$950), and jet-lagged with emotions that had been stretched tight as a high wire for six days, I finally said, “I can’t look anymore. I need to go back to the hotel and rest. Let’s just take the one at T.J. Maxx.” The reason why we didn’t buy it in the first place was because of its color. I had thought it was perfectly black. But keen observer Rob wasn’t so sure. “I think it’s blue,” he said. “It won’t match.” We’d had other disagreements over color before. (Men are more color-blind, especially about blues and greens, right?) So I got impatient. “It’s light black – charcoal, maybe,” I insisted. “But it’ll be fine. NO ONE WILL NOTICE!” Rob dug in his heels, perfectionist that he is. I dug in mine, stubborn as I am.

Lauren mediated the dispute by checking the tag on the clutch: midnight navy. “So we’re both kinda right,” I said, choking a little on my forkful of humble pie. Here’s what the purse looked like (to me) in store lighting:

black purse

And wouldn’t you know, a large part of the big event took place in the low evening sunlight, and you can see for yourself, there was no midnight about it:


I began to wonder whether this was a lesson in political persuasions. Maybe we all need to take a deeper look at our entrenched positions.

  • We had some deeply engaging conversations with some VERY rich and famous people. One tech investor couple moved out of Silicon Valley because they didn’t like the vibe there. Their favorite thing to do is to stay home with their young children. “We’ve earned our money,” this young father said. “Now we just want to help people.” We felt the same thing from the host couple, whose lives reflect their deep concern for human rights around the world.
  • With my compare-and-despair tendencies, and a body that mimics every phase of the moon, you would think it would be intimidating to be photographed next to possibly the world’s most exotic, sleekest, smartest and classiest woman who happens to be married to the Sexiest Man Alive (1986 and 2013). But it wasn’t. We had things in common – like being enrolled in different graduate programs at the same university in the same year. (Okay, one thing.)
  • The campaign delivered everything they promised – and more. They were nice enough to extend our stay beyond the one night (on our own dime) so we could visit with our daughter. The other winner and I, along with our guests, were guided through everything by top-notch, smart, affable campaign staffers. We were given a private 15-min. meet-and-greet photo session with the Three Big Names, seated at their head table, introduced by name from the platform by the Presidential Candidate, and given goodbye handshakes as she left early to get to the next destination on her schedule. We were also treated with fascination by so many VIPs who were intrigued about the contest, some of whom were also thrilled, like us, to be guests in the home of this particular celebrity couple. Imagine.

It was a heady, convivial time with the glitterati. When we landed in Chicago on the way home, and I took my phone off airplane mode, it lit up with about 10 media requests. Rob said, “Gosh, we need an agent!” But it’s all died down now. (We ignored most of them, but that didn’t stop some from swiping our photos and twisting our information anyway.)

We’ll probably never again see the people we talked with at the dinner. No business cards were exchanged, and we’re not going to be on each others’ holiday card lists. And while we got all this for free, we will have to pay taxes next year on the prize (winnings estimated at $2,200).

It was a lovely time in the clouds for sure.  But it’s also very nice to touch the ground again.



Soup for Everyone

Returning from a long walk this frigid April morning, I unwound my scarf, unzipped my down vest and heard myself say out loud, “What’s for breakfast this morning?” I was conversing with God, as I had been doing all morning along city streets spanked with sunshine and raucous with birds twittering in blossom-laden trees stunned by frost.

On such a cold morning, reaching into the fridge for a container of homemade chicken-rice soup may not have been the oddest choice. But it felt like I had bypassed what, if I were God, I would have fed me. (Perhaps a fruit and spinach smoothie with chia seeds, for my health.)

But as I took a spoonful and let the warm, deepening flavor of the broth (this is Day 3 for the soup) spill over my tongue, I started to cry. And suddenly I was a child of seven or eight, back at the long, white paper-laden tables in the Fellowship Hall of the Lancaster Church of the Brethren, hovering impatiently over a bowl of chicken-rice soup for the scriptures to be read and the prayers to be said. It was the annual  Continue reading “Soup for Everyone”