Judith and Jael

Science fiction author Esther Friesner suggested a legion of Handmaidens (from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale) march in the parade at DragonCon in Atlanta.  I think it’s time to remember Judith and Jael.

When discussing women in the Bible, Esther, Ruth, and Mary get all the attention.  Judith and Jael are overlooked.  If you’re Protestant, you may not have heard of either.  The Book of Judith is in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but is considered noncanonical by Protestants.  Many biblical scholars regard it as the first historical novel. In the Book of Judges, the story of Jael may be found, but as it’s not a “nice” story it’s seldom taught in Sunday school nor preached from pulpits.

 “Judith beheading Holofernes,” by Artemisia Gentileschi.

Giuditta di donatello 04.JPG Donatello’s sculpture of Judith and Holofernes.

Judith slew Holofernes and cut off his head.  He was an invading general.  She distracted him and killled him.

Jael gave Sisera food and drink, and once his belly was full and his eyes were closed in slumber, she nailed a giant nail (or tent peg, depending on translation) into his head.  According to the Jewish Women’s Archives, some rabbis think Jael engaged in sexual intercourse with Sisera, and others don’t.  If she did, she may have done so deliberately, to wear him out, so he couldn’t escape and she could safely kill him. Or she may have submitted because she was afraid he would hurt her.  As women have done for centuries.

“Extolled above women be Jael,
Extolled above women in the tent.
He asked for water, she gave him milk;
She brought him cream in a lordly dish.
She stretched forth her hand to the nail,
Her right hand to the workman’s hammer,
And she smote Sisera; she crushed his head,
She crashed through and transfixed his temples.” (Judges 5:24-26)


All illustrations shamelessly “borrowed” from Wikipedia.

It seems human life of the feminine persuasion is less valued than it used to be.  Too many judges and legislators seem to regard women only as living incubators.  Rapists are getting lighter and lighter punishments in court.



Writing with Spirituality

A guest blog by Phyllis Irene Radford

Writing with Spirituality

Alternative Theologies, parables for a modern world

Phyllis Irene Radford

Reading a book imbued with spirituality and later trying to write those qualities
into my own work has fascinated me for a long time. Spirituality is more than religion. To me it is a spiritual character, someone who lives their faith and has a personal
relationship with their beliefs. Their faith guides every decision they make even when
they question the advisability of the decision.  For them there is no division between the divine and reality.I played with these ideas in Guardian of the Vision, Merlin’s Descendants #3.


Griffin Kirkwood is a Roman Catholic priest who must wrestle with the strict
teaching of his religion, weighing those truths against the truth of Magical talents in
himself and his family. “A spell is nothing more than a prayer.”

I started to see that faith is more than emotion, but it needs to invoke and
emotional response from the reader. That is hard to do but begins on a character level.
The writer, and the reader needs to bond closely to the character and understand what
they believe and why.

Then came the Confederated of Star System series by C.F. Bentley.  Sissy dove head first into my life and would not go away until I told her story. An undereducated factory worker, our heroine found herself dragged into the Temple Caste and made High Priestess because the powers that be thought she’d be malleable and do as she was told. They learned otherwise. But finally given the right and the means to read the history of Harmony, both goddess and planet, she has questions that she cannot reconcile with her very direct and magical connection to her home and her faith.  No one messes with the avatar of a goddess, even when she is forced into exile on a space station.

That series exhausted me, and I went back to more mundane topics. Until…
My best friend and co-writer, Bob Brown, came up with a new anthology idea.
We’d already co-edited and written for Alternative Truths, which hit several Amazon
bestseller lists, and More Alternative Truths. He published a couple of other books
without me while I wrote a couple books on my own. But then I got a phone call. “Want
to edit Alternative Theologies?”  How could I say no?

We racked up almost 150 submissions. In every open call anthologies there a
few inappropriate pieces. Some in the “What were you thinking?” category that make
me head for the hand sanitizers. There are a few that are beautifully written pieces that
don’t quite fit theme. We bought two of those for the next anthology Alternative
Apocalypses.  And then there is the good stuff. The really good stuff that made us cry when we had to choose one from among four with similar themes.


In reading the stories I had to sit up and take notice, then I had to think. Think
about my own beliefs, think about how the authors presented themes, think about the
readers who would also think, even if they ended up throwing the entire collection
against the wall. I thought about the stories when they made me laugh, or made me cry,
or made my heart swell with new faith and affirmation.

This collection does not bash or denounce religion. It does rail against those who
pervert the teaching of their faith. It examines why we believe, crave believing in
something bigger and grander than ourselves. And it gives me new foundations for my
own beliefs.

Believe what you will, in the deity who speaks to you. And I hope you can read
these stories and think.


I am not in this volume myself.  I came up with two or three ideas, but none that I was able to transmogrify from story ideas to actual stories.  SMM

Advent Word Challenge

Sunday, December 3, 2017, was the first Sunday of Advent.  My church is doing an Advent word challenge: one word a day until Christmas.

If you want to join along, here are the instructions and word list.  You don’t have to be a member of my church, or any church, to participate.

Instructions:  You are invited to read and reflect on Biblical themes during Advent with our faith family at Temple UMC.  After your reading and reflection, you are encouraged to take a photo, draw, paint, or journal how the passage and the word for the day spoke to you.  Then share on social media (FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and include the hashtag: #tumcadvent2017.  Others can search using that tag and see what you’ve posted.  Come on; join the journey.

The red dates are Sundays.  The purple date is Christmas.



Dec. 3:  Hope.  Luke 21: 25-28

Dec. 4:  Promise.  Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Dec. 5:  Beginning.  John 1: 1-2

Dec. 6:  Guide.  Psalm 25:5

Dec. 7:  Wonder.  Luke 1:26-33

Dec. 8:  Shout.  Isaiah 52: 7-9

Dec. 9:  Strengthen.  1 Thess. 3:13

white pointsettia

Dec. 10:  Peace.  Luke 1:77-79.

Dec. 11:  Refine.  Malachi 3: 2-3

Dec. 12.  Prepare.  Luke 3: 3-6

Dec. 13.  Abound.  Phil. 1: 9-11.

Dec. 14:  Declare.  Psalm 96: 1-3.

Dec. 15:  Glory.  Hebrews 1: 1-3.

Dec. 16:  Light.  John 1: 4-5.



Dec. 17:  Love.  Zeph. 3: 14-17.

Dec. 18:  Sing.  Isaiah 12: 4-6.

Dec. 19: Wait.  Titus 2: 11-14.

Dec. 20:  Give.  Luke 6: 38-39.

Dec. 21.  Joy.  Luke 1: 39-45.

Dec. 22.  Come.  Hebrews 10: 5-10

Dec. 23:  Humble.  Luke 1: 46-49.


Dec. 24:  Child.  Isaiah 9: 6-7

Dec. 25:  Proclaim.  Luke 2: 8-20.


Feel free to join in, if Advent is part of your holiday traditions.  Feel free to ignore if it isn’t.  Happy Holidays,  whichever holiday is dear to your heart.

{All pictures courtesy of Pixabay}