Alabaster Jar Harmony

Who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume? Some think it was Mary Magdalene, others will say it was a prostitute. Why can’t we remember the details of such a familiar story?

Find the answers in the PDF below in our harmony of the four accounts given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Take note of the highlighted sections that tie all four stories together.

Alabaster Jar Scriptures


When it doesn’t make sense

Sometimes I blog over on Misfits Theology Club.
Check out this post about trusting in the middle of not knowing.

The Misfits Theology Club

A familiar story has been on my mind today. It happened some time after the resurrection, John isn’t precise about dates. He tells us, though, that the disciples are sitting around and Peter stands up and says, “I’m going fishing.”

I like to imagine what was going on in their circle in those days. Jesus had risen. They’d seen him die and then they saw him alive. They knew he had been talking about the reign of God, but they didn’t understand it all. Jesus hadn’t really given them instructions. He wasn’t with them–like he had been every day for three years–to give them directions about where to go and what to do.

It must have been confusing, and I imagine the disciples were feeling particularly lost.

I know the feeling. It’s something I have been wrestling with lately. In speaking of the dark night of the soul, the mystics…

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Give it a rest!

Today as I was scrolling through social media, because I’m taking the morning off and so I’m engaging in my favorite pass-time: a game of maximum distraction. Not familiar with this game? Oh, sure you are! Here is how this looks for me. I was sitting on the couch, watching  binging a new season of a funny show, eating sunflower seeds, and scrolling through social media. See, every sense was being occupied. Maximum distraction.

I play this game when I am tired, or worried, or in pain (thanks chronic migraine). It serves as a coping mechanism to allow me to pretend all that unpleasantness doesn’t exist. It’s a pretend kind of peace, and it only lasts as long as I can manage the juggling.


I digress, I was scrolling through social media. Up came an ad for a device that triggers a pressure point between your thumb and first finger to manage headache pain. Because it is 2018, this wasn’t just an ad, but a video. I watched as people worked on their computers–well, I watched their hands as they worked on their computers–walked their dogs, went to coffee, worked in offices, all aided by the pressure point device to do the things the needed to do. Activities they may not have been able to do if they let their head pain stop them. The multi-colored, glorified clothespin’s main selling point was that people could avoid taking too much over the counter medication. Daily headaches, daily pain meds, it could damage one’s liver. It was then the thought hit me:

Why don’t we just give it a rest?


Why don’t we rest? Why don’t I rest when I am tired? Headaches, even migraine headaches, are often remedied by sleep. Why do we think that distraction, or medication, or a neon green clothespin is better than just taking care of ourselves?

I’m not sure I have an answer.

I do know that daily headaches are probably a sign of stress and overwork. I know that not eating good food and depending on caffeine to fuel our over-tired selves just leads to more fatigue and drain on our physical resources. We are all so far behind, maybe it just seems easier to drink that espresso and press on than it does to take a real break.


I think I’m ready to stop.

Just stop for a day and rest. Stop putting junk in my body. Stop asking my brain to process extra input so that I forget about the pain. Stop running on adrenaline.

I think I’m ready to give it a break.

That would be ReFreshing


Pictures from Pixabay, check them out!

A Woman Who Serves

If there is one scripture most overlooked in the debate on women serving in the church it is this one: “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11, NASB). It is found in a list of qualifications for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3. Verse eleven, right between the requirement that deacons be beyond reproach and just before the stipulation that they be “husband of one wife.”

Like other passages that suggest women were among those serving as leaders in the first century church, this one has conflicting translations in various versions of the Bible. King James Version (KJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and even the modern New English Translation (NET) translate the word “women” as “their (deacon’s) wives.” Translation of the Greek word γυναῖκας can be complex since it can refer either to women or to wives. The grammatical distinction is made based on information within the word itself. When referring to wives, the word is typically in the genitive case, indicating possession. At other times the word is translated as wives due to context, such as a passage covering marriage. This translation is made deliberately, based on a theological perspective that women cannot serve in these roles, rather than based on context or grammar.

On the other side from forbidding women serving in the church (and hiding their requirements for service) there are interpretations that go all the way to creating a whole new category for women serving: Deaconesses. This has been done in the name of recognizing that women could serve in the church, but also to separate them as a distinct class or order. Some traditions recognize that women served, but would not elevate them to full participation in leadership, so they create a different category of limited service. While many women are mentioned and identified as deacons in the New Testament, there seems to be no biblical evidence for women serving in ways that differ from the men also called deacons.

The very position of their requirements for service within the general requirements of deacons indicates that women were not a distinct class, but were being specifically mentioned with the intention of inclusion. Translations such as the Common English Bible present the verse this way, “In the same way, women who are servants in the church should be dignified and not gossip. They should be sober and faithful in everything they do.” The translation adds English words for clarification, but opens the door for women to serve, not within their own distinct category but broadly and alongside their male counterparts.

When examined closely, it appears that women serving do not have different requirements from men also serving. Here are the lists side by side:

Requirements for Women Who Serve

While the listed requirements for women who serve is shorter, the terms are more comprehensive and include the general requirements in their scope. Both sets name dignity as important. The general list forbids being double-tongued, the woman-specific list forbids gossip. Both call for sobriety or temperance. While the general list specifies not seeking dishonest gain, it could hardly be argued that faithfulness in all things does not include this prohibition as well.

Much has been made of the phrase in verse twelve “husband of one wife” but recent scholarship notes that this phrase is not gender exclusive, rather a character quality of fidelity in marriage. The same phrase is used in 1 Timothy 5:9 to refer to widows who never remarried. It is clear that this idiom is not meant to call only men to faithfulness in marriage, but both men and women who are serving in the church.

The rest of the requirements of deacons apply to both men and women who are serving in this role and cover fidelity in marriage, managing households and children well. The passage is capped off with a blessing that those who do well in this capacity will gain good standing and boldness in their faith. A promise for both men and women who serve.

Taking another look at women who serve,

Bread from the Earth

“…And looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.”
Mark 6:41b

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Holidays surround us, and not just in the winter months! Summer brings Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and vacations that might as well be official holidays. As a good American, I typically plan to eat an enormous meal with gathered family members for which I will be truly thankful. Thinking about all the upcoming gluttony, I was pondering a food related topic that fits well with a theme of gratitude.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jesus is always blessing bread and breaking it. In the gospels, it seems like every time I turn the page there is a similar phrase about the bread. Jesus says he is the bread of life. At the last supper the bread he is breaking is his body. Jesus is recognized by the Emmaus two when he blesses the bread and breaks it. Since Jesus is said to give thanks for all of this bread, I went in search of information about the prayers he might have prayed. I am vaguely familiar with Jewish prayers and blessings, so I did a little digging. The blessing for the bread is the one I was looking for, and with it I found a whole treasure of bonus information.

Before I share further, I need to insert a disclaimer of sorts. Reading back into history a discussion from modern scholars isn’t always the way to go. Rabbis rarely agree unanimously on anything whether modern or ancient, although some common themes arise. The following information comes mainly from and

Offering up a blessing for the bread is obviously a long-standing tradition, but who really knows how long the Hebrew prayer giving thanks to God for bringing bread from the earth has been said at the family table.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

You may notice that the bread is not what is being blessed in this prayer. Read it again. God is the one receiving the blessing. It is a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God for providing bread for us to eat. On special occasions, this prayer is very solemn and can be preceded by a moment of silence.

According to some rabbinic thought, when blessing the bread no one is actually referring to the bread in their hands. This intrigued me. Why bless the bread if you aren’t actually blessing the bread? For some, the bread referred to is the manna God provided in the wilderness. For others it is a reference to bread that God provided in the Edenic past and will provide again in the Messianic future. My head was spinning at these revelations and I had to sit with them for a while.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

If Jesus was blessing God for providing bread in the past, whether the manna or bread that sprang effortlessly from the ground in paradise, and if there was any thought of looking forward to the messianic future when bread would once again be provided without the toil of human beings, then it puts a whole new spin on the feeding of the 5,000. I had to ask, could Jesus have been proclaiming himself Messiah to those gathered on that hillside by first giving thanks for the bread and then multiplying it to meet their needs?

After this initial thought about this miracle I recalled all the different and various ways that Jesus literally and figuratively claimed to be ushering in the reign of God on earth. I’ve studied these declarations, written papers and sermons about them. I never imagined that Jesus could also have been proclaiming himself Messiah in this small way, at every meal, at each Passover, and on the night when he shared a final meal with his disciples.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

As we prepare in the coming weeks to eat our feasts, gathered around a table or by a grill, could we conceive of a way to usher in the Messiah’s kingdom in radical and mundane ways? By breaking bread, and blessing God? By daily committing to follow this Jewish Messiah while continuing to look forward to a day when we will break bread at a feast none of us toiled for? A banquet of grace, mercy and love? A table open and welcoming to all of God’s children?

Thank you, God, for grace we do not earn, for provision in the distant past, and for the confidence that you will yet provide justice in the age to come.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.


*This post originally appeared in the November 19th edition of The Banquet, a subscription service hosted through

My Purse Was Stolen! Here’s my response.

On a day where my world was spinning especially fast, with way too much to do and not enough time and energy to do it all, I was handed one more challenge. My daughter needed some things for camp, including a new swimsuit. I don’t know about you, but I am not a big fan of swimsuit shopping for myself, let alone my 11 year old daughter! So we trudged to the supercenter to check every box on the list.

Toiletries X
Bug Repellent X
Flip Flops X
Swimming Suit ___

We perused the selections, and they were terrible. No one-pieces that didn’t have cutouts in inappropriate places for church camp. Not many tankini options, either. We grabbed a few of the more conservative ones and headed for the dressing room. I sent my daughter in to try things on, staying out with the cart and exchanging texts with my husband about groceries that I could pick up while we were out and about.

My daughter called me into the dressing room and I helped her adjust a few things before saying, “I need to go back out to the cart, my purse is out there.” She tried on the last suit and it miraculously was everything it needed to be, Praise Jesus! When I came back from that check-in with her, I looked at my cart. It was one of those little half carts that I love so much to push around and pretend they will keep me from buying things I don’t need.

There was an empty spot where my purse had been.

I hate to admit that even though I knew exactly where it had been and there really aren’t many places in those tiny carts for a purse to hide, and even though there were a total of 6 items in the cart to begin with, I walked completely around the cart and looked it all over before accepting the reality that it was truly gone.

“My purse is gone.” I said it to the lady monitoring the dressing rooms. She just looked at me with a blank expression. I repeated myself at least three times before she called the security guard to come and assist me. I couldn’t believe that I had just said to my daughter that I needed to stay with my purse!

I had my phone in my hand. Everything else was in my purse. I could not pay for the things in my cart. I could not drive my car home–the keys were in my purse. I have a major trip coming up and now I had no car key, no wallet, no driver’s license, no credit cards, nothing! I began to feel the adrenaline rush through my body as I tried with a shaky voice to tell the security guard where I had been in the store and my suspicion that it had been grabbed when I was standing 3 feet away at the dressing room door.

He went to check the areas I had visited to see if my purse had been accidentally left behind.

Can I say that those little carts have no easy way for a small purse to fall out of them? There are no annoying baby leg holes. The sides of the top part of the cart are high. This was not an accident. My purse had been lifted.

My initial response to this situation was anything but charitable. I did not think good thoughts about the person who did this. I immediately jumped to the worst case scenario. I left my daughter at the dressing rooms to run out and make sure my car was still in the parking lot. When I came back in, they had called my name to the service desk.

The lady at the service desk smiled and said that a helpful young man had just turned in my purse that he had found in the lady’s department. I unzipped the main and inner pockets, all my cash was gone. I don’t usually have cash, but I just came back from one trip and was preparing for another. Still, only $75 give or take a few, it wasn’t a major loss.

I cried anyway. I filed a police report anyway. I left shaking anyway.

It wasn’t about the money. If someone had asked, presenting me with a need, I would have given them the cash. $75 is a loss, but it won’t break our budget. There have been times when it would have been devastating.

But this came on a day when I had to prepare to leave town, get my daughter packed for camp that she would leave to attend before I return, get all my ducks in a row for scholarships to seminary, turn down one offer of acceptance and accept another offer to attend an MDiv program, get a sermon started for Sunday, and set my kids in a routine for the summer that will balance their need for activity and my need to work. I am sure there are other things on my list, but for the life of me this adrenaline will not let me think straight!

I’m grateful they returned the purse. I’m grateful that I didn’t have my entire paycheck in cash in an envelope. I am grateful that my husband could come to my rescue to pay for the things I had gathered and his insistence on taking some of the things on my plate for his own. I am grateful to have my car. I am grateful that I will still be able to go on this trip for work. There are so many things that could be worse right now!

If I ever meet the person who took my purse, wrecked an hour of my life, and stole my travel money; I would want them to know that they are worth more than lifting cash out of other people’s wallets. I would want them to know that there are so many better ways to use their cleverness. I would want them to know that I forgive them.

Not because I am a super-human mercy machine, but because I believe that it is the path to healing for myself and a potential path to restoration for them.

Having such a clear opportunity to practice what I preach,
(Someday I’ll find it) ReFreshing