Let’s be clear, I am a Jesus lover, a professor of biblical studies and a serious academic but I like a mindless reality television series as much as the next girl—maybe more. After a long day of text criticism I enjoy coming home to watch fashion and friendship on parade. However, fond as I am of the shoes and bags and hair extensions, I am always troubled to the core by the catfights and the conflicts and the blatant disconnect between the lives of these Bravo housewives and women everywhere.
Regularly, I find myself wanting to write my own series about the women with whom I share my life. I want the world, or at least the Bravo viewing audience, to know that we are women who are of one Spirit, one baptism and one Lord. I want the world to know that we share love and grace and tragedy and laughter—that we shop, mourn, celebrate new life and hold hands through the good and bad and raw of this life. We are real women in Indiana coping with loss and battling our weight, women who are desperate to become mothers and women who are trying to keep home and family and career a float. Right here where I live we lunch and meet for coffee, we hit the occasional White House Black Market sale, we Zumba and we take meals to a local strip club after Bible Study on Wednesday nights.
Shrine of Mary Magdalene, Vezelay, France
_ You can see it in the face of a survivor, the twinkle in her eye that tells you: I have seen the worst, I have fought the devil, I have walked through the fire and I’m still here. Something about the pink feather boa wrapped ‘round her graceful neck, the colorful ribbons born proudly on her chest, the song of hope in a cemetery that makes you want to tip your hat, bow your head or courtesy in her presence. There is something magical and inspirational in her smile that entices us all to believe, we shall overcome. And there is nothing that can rival the power of the heart that bleeds this refrain in all the world.
I see her there, smiling eyes, rosy cheeks, heart full of joy cradling him on her lap. This is the face of the Virgin, the icon of Jerusalem in her moment of great bliss, watching her child grow in grace before she knows the pain of Jerusalem’s mount. I am taken with this image of her, the welcoming mother and so I decide this is an image I am to carry home with me.
We are tired, it is the last day of our journey and because it is her place we decide to stop in to Dormition Abbey, the Church of the Assumption of Mary. Though it is cold outside, the church is grand and warm. The domed ceilings are covered with golden tiles and her image there smiling with her baby son. The amber light of candles floods the room and bounces from the gold dome to the limestone floor in a rhythmic dance; the twinkling lights on the tree invite us, “Come in.”
(Left) Celebrating the hike up the Tel at Bet-She'an, (Top) Maureen Lyon, Kimberly, Andrew Lyon, Jenn Helvering, Jim Lyon at The ruins of Bet-She'an - the city where King Saul fell on his sword and was then hung from the walls of the city. (Bottom) Jim Lyon and Kimberly recording a broadcast while riding a camel.
The Sea of Galilee
_We have come to that point on this trip where we are now sharing those most intimate gifts. We are sipping each others' espresso, sharing fig newtons on long bus rides and the passing ‘round of Dramine and Pepto Bismol are no longer deeply guarded secrets. There is a point on every journey such as this when your little band of weary travelers become familiar, familial, community.
We are Christian pilgrims who have set out to walk the labyrinth of Israel and Jordan in search of our Lord. We traverse this land from the coast of the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee through the River Jordan and are as I write, on our way to the Dead Sea.
Instead of setting goals, I have set out on another adventure and this first day of the New Year finds me in that holiest of lands, Israel. I have come as a pilgrim in search of healing, prayer, laughter, good food and the authentic company of people whom I love.
_As always on these excursions, we are moving from one place to the next at quite a clip. On our first day making stops at Cesarea by the Sea, Megiddo and Nazareth. I am always working towards entering into these moments as a worshipper rather than as a tourist in search of the perfect camera shot. I am taking shots with my soul, I am breathing deep and filling my lungs with the sea salt air of the Mediterranean and filling my spirit with sights that rival heaven itself with the waves crashing into the cliffs that cradle the limestone palace of Herod the Great.
I walk the hippodrome and I listen for the cries of the bloodthirsty crowds and I smell the sweat of the horses bound to chariots racing for sport and the delight of Roman audiences. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a Corinthian capitol, a piece of rock, a ruin now but once the proud capitol of sturdy limestone column that stood in this harbor looking over the sea.