Thirty Books & A Sabbath Meditation: Jesus in the Tattoo Parlor

I’ve done something a little crazy. I have set myself some goals. Yes, goals. Thirty of them to be specific. Thirty things to accomplish before I turn…(wait for it)…thirty. One of those goals is to read thirty books.

Here’s the thing. I used to love books and love reading. As a little girl I was scolded for spending too much time inside reading, so I picked up my book, took it outside, and sat down to read in the open air. It wasn’t what my dad had in mind.

But ever since becoming a “professional reader”–I’m counting being both a graduate student and a freelance editor as falling into that category–I pretty much don’t like it. I get bored or distracted or, quite frankly, come up with other things I should be doing.

What a terrible confession, right?

Right. So thirty books. I’ve got some typical nerdy books on my agenda, but for no particular reason I grabbed a few Lisa Samson novels from the local library instead of jumping in with Michael Pollan, Ian McEwan, and Wendell Berry. A year or two ago, I read Lisa’s novel Embrace Me and it was one of the quirkiest books I’d come across in a long time. I like quirky, and I like grace, so when they are combined beautifully, how could I turn away?

In front of me right now is Lisa’s novel The Passion of Mary-Margaret (Thomas Nelson, 2009). I’d try to summarize the plot for you or even quote directly from the back-cover blurb, but it really wouldn’t do it justice. Those snippets always make things sound sensationalized and sexier than the lived truth of books, if you ask me. So I won’t tell you the whole plot, but I will tell you that at the center of the story is Sister Mary-Margaret, a seventy-something Catholic sister who is attempting to write out her life story.

What has captivated me the most in the novel–apart from the twists and turns of plot, the jumping around in time, and all of that nonlinearity that I tend to really love–is that Jesus appears to Mary-Margaret in the flesh. In normal everyday situations. Drinking tea. Opening up cans of creamed corn. And, what’s more, he’s been doing it ever since she was a little girl.

Now, these aren’t cheesy, sunshine-filled, synthesizer-music-in-the-background moments, nothing you would see on postcards at a Christian bookstore. These are normal moments. And most of the time, Jesus says surprising things.

And that, my friends, is where today’s Sabbath meditation comes from–the voice of Jesus. It’s a snippet from a conversation between Mary-Margaret and Jesus, beginning with the voice of Jesus.

You might want to read the first sentence a few times to make sure you really get that Jesus is saying it. Jesus.

“You know, I was in a tattoo parlor the other day disguised as a prostitute when I heard the artist say something I liked. ‘If Jesus takes me to it, he’ll take me through it.’ The things my children come up with. It’s delightful though, isn’t it?”

“It pleases you?”

“If it’s from the heart. And in that man’s case, yes, it was. He and I have been through a lot together.”

“Does he know that you’re the prostitute?”

“In a way, yes. He always gives me a cup of coffee and lets me warm myself before I head back out onto the street.”

My skin gets prickly when I read over that. Does he know that you’re the prostitute? … He always gives me a cup of coffee

Friends, we talk a lot about what it means to be community in our normal, everyday, lived experience here at Texas Schmexas. Perhaps one of the most important steps to learning what community is, what it means to be community, is learning that Jesus shows up in some pretty unexpected places. And in unexpected people.

And most of the time we don’t even know that it’s him.

Have you been offering him coffee?


4 comments on “Thirty Books & A Sabbath Meditation: Jesus in the Tattoo Parlor

  1. Oh, I do love Lisa Samson! She’s amazing. But even better, she challenges me!

    • elizabeth says:

      Yep, Lisa’s lovely… and a good writer, too! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Susie. I’m glad you said hello.

  2. Leslie says:

    I’m reading Lisa and Ty Samson’s Love Mercy. Lisa Samson always challenges me. I have a number of her books on my shelf. Sometimes I look at the ones I haven’t read yet and ask my self if I’m ready to change because I know I will if I read them.. Sometimes I’m up for it sometimes I’m not. Love the section you used.

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Leslie. I’ll read ‘Love Mercy’ one of these days… maybe it’ll be one of the thirty by thirty books. We’ll see.

      I’m glad you peeked in on this corner of Schmexas.


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