I've been called many things: apostle, whore, lover, preacher, mad-woman, sister, follower, wife. Fact or fiction, myth or reality--judge for yourself. All that really matters is that that I once loved a healer and a teacher, God and man, a crucified and resurrected peace-maker and rabble rouser. This is my story.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


The return from Jerusalem to Magdala took days and, as an adult, looking back, I can see my adolescent response to leaving Joshua was manifested in temper tantrums, hostile responses and general unpleasantness. In short, I was horrid to be around: angry and sullen and spending most of the time looking at the ground, uttering one word answers to my father when he would ask questions.Father eventually tired of trying to amuse and cheer me up. He wandered here and there, talking with other families we had met along the way. His joyful laugh would ring out across the desert landscape and at the time I couldn't appreciate at it for the beautiful sound it was. I miss it today. But that's another story.

Joshua's brother James found me on the second day of the journey home and we walked for some of the journey. We didn't say much and it was comfortable. But he did tell me pieces about Joshua and their life together. James looked up to Joshua, always wanted to be with him, following him around like the kid brother that he was.
"It's not that Mom treats him differently," he said, "but there's something there, some distance that is in her. I believe she's happy when she laughs, and I believe that she's content when she looks up at us, all gathered around the dinner table, but there's also something more. It has to do with Joshua, although I don't know what. Something in her eyes. Something that lies beneath the surface. Sometimes I think it's sorrow. Sometimes I believe it's the eyes of God, looking out on the world. I know that it is blaspheme to say so, but there's something distant and knowing in my mother's eyes."

Don't ever let anyone tell you James wasn't paying attention. As much as the stories tell of the angel descending on Mary and impregnating her with the Holy Spirit, I believe that an old soul returned to earth with the birth of her second child. James always knew things. Things that were beyond knowing. Mary once told me that he was the oldest soul she'd ever met. She and James were kindred souls, if you ask me.

James and I became friends that day and we've been friends ever since. I've often thought that my life could've been so much easier, maybe even happier, if I'd fallen in love with James, if he'd taken me for a wife. But it was never to be. We were always meant to be other. The ones who journeyed with Joshua, the ones who watched, both from a far and up close. We were destined to be witnesses, to be the storytellers. And while I have, on more than one occasion, sought solace in James, solace that no one else can give, save Joshua himself, James was, is, destined to be a friend and a companion, but never a husband.

I write and I digress. This story wasn't supposed to be about James. It was supposed to be about Martha and Lazarus. So let me try to get there. To get there, I have to tell you a bit more about my father.

My father, Benjamin, loved my mother. For years, through her illness, of course, but more than that. I was born late to them. They had assumed they would never have children and Father always said I was "an unexpected gift from God." My mother, having been sick for so much of my life, was somewhat of a mystery to me--always weak, tired, resting. My father told me stories of her before she was sick--of her dancing with abandon and debating with skill, asking questions and learning. My mother loved to learn. She was a terrible cook because she would rather be sitting the feet of a teacher than slaving over a meal. Of food, she learned enough to get by, but part of what my father loved was her spirit and zeal for life. "She could no more be contained in a kitchen than you could, my little fisher girl," he once said.

When my mother died, my father mourned, as did I. But his grief, he would tell me in later years, was mixed with relief. "The woman I loved became a shadow of herself when the illness took root in her. I wish you had known your mother when she was well. She loved you more than anything. She would carry you out, swaddled on her back, and sing songs to you as she walked to the well for water. Fierce and full of fire, she would move through the village with you. Everything she loved became amplified. Her passions increased. She was so beautiful and full of life. And then the illness came. And it took her, slowly. Piece by piece. She was still beautiful, until the day she died, but it took the fire away from her, the passion, although she fought it as long as she could. She was, Mary," my father said, "like you. A seeker. A listener. And seen as danger by those who would have women stay home and quiet." He chuckled. "You have her zeal. And her fire. And for that, I will always be grateful. And for that, I will always worry. But then, my Mary, I am your father and it's my job to worry." His eyes twinkled.

It was on the trip back from Jerusalem that my father met the widow Rachel, who lived in Nazareth. Rachel had two children, Martha and Lazarus. Petite with dark brown hair, she was the antithesis of my mother, who had been tall and curvy and easy to spot by her bright red hair. Rachel was everything my mother was not. And that was, I suppose, exactly what my father needed.

Enough writing for now. But you can see where this is going. Martha and Lazarus would enter my world in no small way, in a short matter of time.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I try to not be jealous. Jealousy is, after all, an ugly trait. I've seen it in my sister and I've even seen it in the disciples. I am diligent in my efforts to see God's handiwork in those around me. Joshua taught, time and time again, about the Kingdom of Heaven being within us, that he is part of us, even more so now that he is risen, and so I try to remember that too. It seems to me that jealousy has no place in a heart that is filled with that irrefutable love of God, of Joshua. And yet....

Last week Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John all went to Sea of Tiberias to do some fishing. I'd gone home for a bit as well, all of us needing a break from this city, from the prying eyes of the Romans. And most of all, our fish supply and our money supply needed to be refurbished. I got back to Jerusalem first, to this house we're all sharing for the time being. The next day, they all came back, with fish, with money, and with stories of a visit from Joshua.

Peter didn't recognize him. I can not judge him for that. It's no secret that in the garden that morning, it was only when he called my name that I knew who he was. Still, Peter, his human eyes, was blinded by the vision that is Joshua. And Joshua is different now. There is no denying that. The story of their encounter is Peter's to tell, not mine, so I'll leave it to him. What I struggle with is my own envy. It has been over a week since I've seen him. And I understand that he has work to do, that others must see. Understanding is not the same as patience or peace. My head is clear. My heart--not so much. Even my dreams are foggy these days. I see him, but it's not obvious what he's saying, what he wants. My sister reminds me I was never very good a sharing. And I truly, with all of my being, believe that his words, his teachings, his miracles, his resurrection--these things must be shared. But him--the man, if he even is a man anymore, if he hasn't already become fully God--the man who I knew when he was a boy, who giggled with me over silly jokes, whose touch could calm and stir my heart all at once--that man, that Joshua, my Joshua--that I'm not so good at losing and at sharing.

And I feel guilty for my struggle.

Friday Five

Those wild women over at RevGalBlogPals are at it again with the Friday Five. I thought I'd play again.

1. When were you smiling lately?
I've been smiling a lot lately. In this strange time, after the Resurrection, Jesus keeps appearing all over the place. Most recently it was to Peter and some of our other friends while they were out doing the fishing for the week. But he comes by here every so often. While I miss walking with him, eating together every day, traveling and listening to his teachings, this new time is full of hope and joy. All that he said would happen has come to pass. And I have renewed hope not only for myself, but for my people. The Romans are still the Romans and there is still pain and suffering, and yet, I know, first hand, the joy and power of God. What's not to smile about with that?

2. What happened unexpectedly to you this past week?
Some eggs I had turned red. I'll post a separate blog entry about that later. But let me just tell you--it was weird and wild.

3. How was a catastrophe averted (or not)?
The eggs were hard boiled.

4. What was the most delicious thing you ate?
Fig cake and honey, using my mother's old recipe, along with some wine that we'd been saving since a wedding we attended a while back in Cana.

5. Did you see any good movies or read any books or articles?
No, but Peter's been doing some teachings around town, when he's not out fishing. And he's pretty interesting to listen to.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jerusalem, the first time

The journey to Jerusalem ended as quickly as it began. We made it all the way there, but as we drew closer to the city, families began to split off, meeting up with relatives, going their own ways. Joshua and I passed each other in the city, spoke briefly here and there, but the nights of sitting by the fire, watching the stars, journeying together in the day--those were over once we reached Jerusalem. Time with him became something to steal. I've always loathed this city. Not because of the people, or the land, but because of what I associate with entering Jerusalem. I always seem to loose him here. We're camped here now, but I think it won't be long until I set out on my own. There are too many ghosts in this city, but it's not time for me to leave, not yet.

Back then, when we were very young, I didn't associate Jerusalem with losing him, only with the knowledge that it got lonely again after we went our own ways. The stories that are told now, the ones I hear going around, tell of him staying behind at the temple that year, his mother losing track of him and going back to find him teaching there. It didn't quite happen like that.

The men and the women were, of course, separated for worship. At night, I would come home to the small room my father had rented. It was there that Mary first showed up at our door.
"Mary!" my father greeted her. "So good to see you."
"And you as well, Benjamen. I've come to invite you both for dinner. We're staying down the way a bit."
I could hardly contain my excitement. To be with his family again, to be with him again, had my heart racing. We joined Mary and Joseph, James and the younger children at dinner. Joshua was nowhere to be seen.
"He's at the temple," Joseph said when he saw me looking around.
"He's always at the temple," said James, his younger brother, in a decisively annoyed-little-brother tone. "He always prays."
Mary didn't say anything, but looked at her younger son. I was disappointed and hoped he would come home soon. But he was gone the entire time we were there.

When we were gathered for prayer the next day, I asked Mary about Joshua.
"He is different, isn't he?"
"How do you mean?" she replied.
"I mean that he prays more than the other boys his age. And he knows more of who he is. And he isn't like the rest of us."
"No, he isn't. But sometimes he forgets that. Sometimes when he's around a certain girl," she said, laughing gently. "He can not be what you hope for him to be. Or what he hopes to be. It is not what waits for him."
"What does wait for him?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said and for the first time I sensed she wasn't being entirely truthful. And her eyes showed the same distress that I had seen the night Joshua and I returned from watching the stars.

Three days later, as we were packing to go, I looked for Mary, Joseph and the family. Mary had said they would leave early, but I hoped to walk the first part of way with them. I was almost to their house when I met James.
"He said you should meet him behind the temple."
"You heard me."
"Thanks, James."

I found him and he smiled when he saw me.
"I have to stay for a few more days" he said.
"But your family is packing to go."
"I know. My mother says it will help me learn who I am. And she says it will help the priests learn who I am. She says it's part of my destiny."
"You don't look happy about it."
"I'm not. I mean, I like to talk and debate with the rabbis, to learn from them and to teach them, but I'd rather walk the way home with you." Sometimes Joshua's face would change. From the man who I would come to know as not only my friend, but also my Saviour, into the face of a sheepish little boy. It didn't happen often. This was one of those times.

"Mom's going to wait for me and then come to the temple few days to pick me up."
"I'll see if I can wait and walk back with you and your mom," I said, excited for this next adventure.
"Great. I'll see you in a few days."

I returned to my father, who was looking for me at Joseph and Mary's house. I asked Mary and my father if I could stay, but both of them were insistent that I return to Magdala with my father. So we did. Crushed, I began that long journey home with my father. And wondering when I would ever see Joshua again. It would be awhile.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Five

Playing the Friday Five again, thanks to the women at Revgalblogpals.
Today's topic: Five questions about packing to go on a trip.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?
Since donkey or camel is usually my mode of transport, and food is often hard to come by on the road, I usually pack food, not clothes and then I just wear whatever I need and do a bit of discreet washing at the river each night.

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?
I've never flown on a plane, but boy, yes, I've lost liquids. There is a total art form to packing wine skins and water skins. I once loaded the wine skin wrong as I was packing the camel. Lost entire supply of wine. Fortunately, I was traveling with someone who's good at taking water and making it into wine. So we were fine when it was all said and done. I was more careful when we packed the next day.

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?
I used to be very attached to my possessions. Every thing with a memory attached to it, a history. But lately, I've found myself much more interested in traveling light and collecting, instead of things, stories as I travel. That said, I have a small bag from my mother, before she got too sick to do needle work. She taught me how to do needlework by making the bag with me. I treasure it. And someday, I'll let it go too. Because it's not her. But not yet.

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?
I am wary of traveling with papyrus that is of value--it's so easy to destroy. So I do less reading on trips. To pass the time, I take dice with me. I'm really good at dice.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Joshua and I spent as much time together as we could on that trip to Jerusalem. My father was blissfully oblivious. His mother was another story. She always had her eye out for him. Not in an annoying way, just in an overprotective mother way. And it drove him crazy. He may be the Messiah, but back then, he was also a teenage boy with a pretty girl and would get annoyed with his mother like any other young, hormone packed adolescent.
"Who's your friend, Joshua?" Joshua's mother asked as she joined us along the way.
"This is Mary, she's from Magdala," he said.
"Mary, what a good name" she said and smiled. I noticed they had the same deep brown, twinkling eyes.
"Mom!" Joshua replied, "shouldn't you be keeping an eye on the little ones?"
"They're in good hands," she said easily. "James is watching out for them. I thought I'd walk with you for a bit."
Joshua sighed and then smiled. And we so we spent a good part of the day talking and walking with Mary.

I should tell you that I always liked Mary--Joshua's mom. She was gentle and kind, with she had a devilish sense of humor. She was incredibly smart and intuitive. And full of faith, a trait I've both envied and admired. Mary was, for me, easy to talk to and good at listening. And I loved walking with her. The sting of my mother's death was still sharp and there was not only compassion from her, but that innate mom-ness that I craved. My own mother's illness had been both long (almost all of my life) and all encompassing. I was drawn to her and I craved being with her almost as much as I longed to be near Joshua.

At the end of that day, we stopped to camp for the night. Mary took me with her and I helped her make dinner, my father joining us and it felt like family. My first real sense of that. My life had so revolved around illness that the art of the family meal, sitting and talking about the day, laughing, telling stories--all that was somewhat new. The fire went from roaring to dwindling, and still there were tales being told. It was one of the happiest nights of my young life.

Our parents engrossed in conversation, Joshua grabbed my hand and we moved away from the crowds. The black night was framed by the brightness of the stars and we wasted no time looking at their patterns in the sky. He smelled like sweat and boy. It was the first time I had been so close to him, to a boy and he pointed out the constellations, discussing how they had been a guide for so many travelers. My eyes flickering back and forth between his arm and his face and those distant points of light. As quietly as we had left, we rejoined the group, our absence unnoticed by all but Mary. She smiled at us, but there was distress in her face.

I tried to sleep, but found myself awake, under the stars, wondering where they would lead.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I grew up in the fishing village of Magdala. Being out on the water is one of my first memories. In fact, I can't remember a time when I wasn't on a boat. When I was very young, my father took me on his small fishing boat for the first time. It was early in the morning. My mother was sick. He was afraid I would get sick with her disease and did not want to leave me, yet he needed to fish. He began to go door to door, looking for someone to keep an eye on me, but, as he tells it, looked down at me and "saw the soul of a fisherman." Although it wasn't usual to bring someone as small or as female as me onto the boat, he did.

What I remember from that day was the sun as it danced on the water, causing my eyes to squint, the smell of salt and air, birds that flew in formation and playing with the nets, fingers interlocking with the rope, until it was time to cast them overboard. We came home with a bigger catch than my father had expected and he began to take me with him on a regular basis. I loved it: the water, the boat, the sun and my father. From that time forward,we were fishing at least twice a week.

The summer when I turned 11, I made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, along with many others from Magdala. It was the first time I had ever been away from the water for any length of time. It was my first trip there. Although many went yearly, because of my mother's illness, my father would go and leave me to care for my mother. She died just before the Passover that year, and so, with no more reason to stay home, my father and I together, with the rest of our community, made that trip together. I remember singing the Psalms of Assent as we made our way to the city, feeling like I should be singing Psalms of Lament. We walked and sang in the day and stopped each night until we reached our destination.

At night, on the road to Jerusalem, we would gather, pilgrims from all over the area, and together the mothers would cook and the men would talk and the children would play. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, without a mother, I found myself wondering where to be, where to go. My father would stay with me, but after the second night, I sent him away to be with the other men. He had more to do than watch over me and he was lonely for friendship, needed to be away from the grief that surrounded us both.

I sat near the fire, alone and quiet, longing to be anywhere but on this road, wishing, more than anything to be back on the water,fishing, sitting in the sun. Lost in thought and prayer, I didn't hear his feet. Joshua, at 12, awkward and gangly, yet with that unmistakable semblance of otherness, of wisdom.

Whether he found me as a boy who liked a girl, or as God who saw a broken heart--it's hard to know. He was, after all, a boy and he was entitled to irrational love every bit as much as I was entitled to love him back. But he was that other too--that lonely and beautiful other. Something beyond human love, something I would later realize was more than holy love, it was love of God. But at that moment, at that time, it was just us--two kids with our parents, walking towards Jerusalem. And we found, me in my sorrow, him in his uniqueness, a strange place of abiding. And with him, my sorrow became, and not for the last time, a place of hope.