A Resurrection Acrostic

A Resurrection Acrostic

By Jane Tawel

March 31, 2018

Restored to original design

Eternally changed,

Savior and King– my Lord and my God.

Under the blood and over the grave

Righteousness of His, crucified my guilt, then

Rinsed and rolled it away.

Eternally with Our Father–

Can’t comprehend it; But…

Triumphed over death, He did!

In Him, By Him, Through His

Omnipotent Weakness

Now and Forever more, I AM remade.

the-empty-tomb

Advertisements

Personal Potholes: “Defining Your Own”

 Personal Potholes

Defining Your Own

by Jane Tawel

March 17, 2018

 

This past week, I have been thinking about people who do great things and, who if only perhaps for a moment, or sometimes, if rarely, for a lifetime, do something hugely important. Most of these people we won’t know anything about until Heaven’s Roll Call.  When I look at those people we call great women and men; and when I read the stories we like to read about heroes; or when I meditate on the life of Jesus – there is a pattern in these lives that seems to me to be this:

Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do

 

So during this time in the kingdom to which I have been exiled, as I stumble along trying to find my path in the True Kingdom, I have been thinking more lately about historical heroes, as young people across my nation try to find their own path in speaking truth into lies, and light into darkness.  They are stumbling and falling. Some will fall away and some will find a different day and cause to fight.  But I feel a deep sense of sorrow that they must fight also the naysayers and skeptics and those who confuse them and thereby wear them down with other issues.

This is the same thing, of course, that keeps happening to black people in my country and possibly throughout most of the world.  It is easy to sit at home and watch someone fight for the issue they believe in and then, like all Screwtapes do, drip, drip, drip the skeptical slurry of other issues that cloud the truth, and dirty the righteousness of their just cause. Are they perfect in the way they fight? No, are any of us? But was David perfect? Was Winston Churchill? Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King, Jr? Ghandi? Mother Theresa?  The requirement for perfection was met by only one human – Jesus – and He did not tell His followers to become perfect before they took up the causes of righteousness, justice and truth.  He did however, promise that we would be made like Him if we served with Him, served Him, and served others.

So here are my thoughts on it “all” lately.

 

Choose an issue to believe in. Eventually stop talking about it and DO something about it –or support the people who can. Don’t chime in on someone else’s issue by combining it with your own. Apples will never be oranges and unlike real fruit, just because something is “an issue”, it doesn’t become any better mixed into one big “fruit salad”. Disagree or agree, but stick to the facts and Big Ideas about that singular, defined, one issue. Combining other issues is fallacious reasoning. Fallacious has the same root word as deceiving which is mostly what people are doing to themselves when they muddy the waters of a clear issue. Like swimming in a stream, muddying the waters, makes it hard to see and hard to move forward. Don’t dilute someone’s issue by morphing in different issues. When you dilute the issue, you dilute the solution — quite literally. Just like in a chemistry solution, diluting the solution with other issues, makes the solution less concentrated and therefore less powerful. There are plenty of “issues” to go around, so pick your own instead of picking apart someone else’s. Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do.

 

So, just for practice’s sake, let’s take a random problem that doesn’t have the big fightin’words and emotional baggage that surrounds other issues (although in this country I am probably being naive when I say that). Let’s take potholes.

Now you can say, well, but concerning potholes, there is also this other thing over here that is a problem connected to potholes and so is this and potholes really start with this problem so how can we blame potholes, and that is a problem too, so shouldn’t you be fighting against this too or instead, and don’t forget that this here other thing is a bigger problem.

But if potholes are my problem, my “issue”, then there is a pretty simple solution that I am fighting for. Get rid of potholes.

Of course, you have the pothole supporters who say, give me my potholes or give me death. The sort of folk that believe that: Potholes are my right. People who would rather spend money on new suspension for their cars than work with others for the good of their community and spend money on getting rid of potholes. But my point here is that –every time one switches up the conversation, and rather than either agreeing or disagreeing with the position of the other person, they blame someone or something else, then it really dilutes the truth with a sort of  Pandora’s box of fallacious argument. If one is adding a different element to the solution for the rampant potholes in this country, then one is in fact changing the issue, diluting the solution, and letting oneself off the hook for taking a solid stand and making a change.

We had a pothole once at the end of our drive, and it was technically in the road which meant it was our city’s problem, but we just went out there ourselves and fixed it, because we could. We had the means, but most of all we had the desire not to live with a pothole in our driveway.

About a couple months ago we had to give up a whole bunch of our God-given American rights, like parking on our side of the street, and keeping our shoes clean as we walked through the dirt and mud on our sidewalks — Because our city decided it was time to do something about our street’s potholes. The road was torn up for weeks and there were a couple of days I barely made it to work on time with the extra work I had to put into getting to my car.  Now those potholes were not a big issue for me personally, and I might have rather spent our city’s money on more cops; but the community decided they were a big enough issue for the whole of our community to do something about them. Will there be more problems on our roads?  Of course, I live in L.A. County, so…. Will there be new ways for potholes to be created and hence, new solutions to be found?  Yes, I imagine if the world lasts that long, there will be. But for now, the problem of potholes has been solved. And you know what?  They were right.  It is super- duper great living in the safety and peacefulness of a street without potholes.

 

Of course we can all be a bit too myopic and therefore hypocritical if we don’t realize we can’t only preach out of one side of our mouths; but that is a different dilemma. However, on this topic, the bottom line is —  I can’t be too happy that my potholes have been fixed, while my Biblical “neighbor” still has to drive around or lurch over the potholes in her road.  So if potholes is my issue for my street, then they also need to be my issue for my neighbor’s street as well.

 

The one question Jesus asks us is this:  What do you believe in that you are willing to act on?  He is allowed to ask us that, because He believed enough in something and Someone to act on it.

This is the problem for all people – young and old, rich and poor, saint and sinner — because Jesus is quite clear that if I believe it, I will act on it; and that,  if I do it for myself, I must do it for others. If I want a part of Him, I must give up the selfish parts of myself. “There is no one good, but God”, is a helpful reminder that none of us are the “good guys”.

If I want eternal life, I must die to this world’s death-loving dystopia. Jesus gives us a few hints:  “If you want to follow in the way I have mapped out that leads to God, then you must give up everything to the poor and follow me”.  “Greater love has no woman, than that she lay down her life for her friends.” “For I say to you, love your enemy and do good to those who persecute you.”  “For whatever you do for the least of these, then that is what you are doing for me.”

The Words of God are:  Sobering. Undiluted. Clear. Uncompromised. Truth.

Jesus constantly and consistently defined His issue: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it…. It is not the will of the Father than any should perish. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…..  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

 

Listen: “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it”. (Luke 11: 28)

Learn: Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Define: Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (Matthew 5:17)  In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Choose: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

Focus: We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2

Do: But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

The road is narrow and filled with many potholes. If I want to walk the Christ road, I dare not walk around the potholes.  I must try to fix them.

“Let those who have ears to hear, listen,” says The Great Hero.  The rest of us, need to find our own pothole.

 

Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do.

Pothole-damage

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, You Old Crone!

 

Jane: Do Not Go Gracefully Into That Good Night (Not that you even could if you tried you old dingbat!)

by Jane Tawel

March 10, 2018

photo-4

 

Who gave someone the creative license to come up with the idiom, “aging gracefully”?  There ain’t much graceful about not being able to bend down without cringing and creaking to pick something up. I don’t connect gracefulness with the gait I now use to jog in the mornings.  Grace is not one of those things people associate with my age when I drop things because my hands no longer grip as tightly as they should.

 

Tomorrow I greet  another marker of the day of my birth. And I hurt all over. We, of my age, joke that being old means you never have a day without pain – somewhere – sometimes it seems every where. I remember a friend telling me about the medication he was on for some illness that had the side effect of removing all of his pains. He immediately understood why people get addicted to these drugs.  It wasn’t until he started taking it that he realized that the difference between youth and age is that when you are young, you enjoy most days without any  aches any where; while when you get  older you always have an ache somewhere, sometimes you have an ache everywhere. This past week I was joking with other “of an age” teachers, that every day I wake up and am for some reason, shocked and surprised to find that things hurt. It is like being a little child again, except the opposite. Little children wake up every day to find new things they can do and are pleasantly surprised.  Old folks wake up every day shocked anew to find old things they can’t do any more, and are unpleasantly resigned. My mom always says with a bit of sass, “but I don’t feel that old inside”.

 

Of the many wonderful things my ancestors passed down to me, arthritis is not one of the wonderful ones. Hands gnarling like claws and joints frozen in stiff excruciation; a back that believes it was only created to go forward and not turn without causing its owner to wince like a baby-I-see-a-baby. These devils of discomfort not only give me physical pain, but emotional as well.  I am too young at heart to have my body do this. It just doesn’t suit my personality – which is immature.

 

And I sure can’t wear high heels any more. Not that any woman should subject herself to those tootsie torture chambers! My feet and knees were once the day’s darlings. My intrepid  trotters trod tirelessly the heights and depths.  My articulatio genu (so I love a good Google, so sue me!) — ran seven seven-minute miles seven days a week, in a godly perfection of physical fitness. Now, “at an age”, after a day in orthopedic looking Aerosols, my non-pedi-ed horn crowned hoofers cry out: “Help us!  Save us!  Do you not know that, We are but flesh and bone!”

 

Do I count my blessings daily?  You betcha’!  I do not (yet) have to go through the horrific things friends do when they get cancer.  I have had a relatively healthy body since youth. The fruit of my womb are healthy and the Fruit of the Loom I wear is while no longer a size 4,  a somewhat acceptable size 8.  I have had a long life already and hope to trot-in-place this globe a few years more, God willing.

 

But it is interesting to teach Bible this year and stand in front of my students’ darling, perfect little selves, still sporting a bit of baby fat, or with limbs so childishly thin and muscle-less that you just want to hand them a raw steak and some cheesecake to wash it down.

 

My students come with prayer requests for colds and sniffles but also for ailing grandparents, and serious family illnesses. And I love to pray with them, but I also have to tell these budding believers in as gentle and childlike way as I can muster, the hard, sad facts of life; that although my own sin does not cause my infirmities, I have infirmities in this lifetime because of sin. In a nutshell, Paul says in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“

I happened upon this quote by Karl Barth, “No cultural education, no art, no evolutionary development helps us beyond our sins. We must receive assistance from the ground up. Then the steep walls of our security are broken to bits, and we are forced to become humble, poor, and pleading. Thus we are driven more and more to surrender and give up all that we have, surrender and give up those things which we formerly used to protect and defend and hold to ourselves against the voice of the resurrection’s truth.”

I see a lot of people – and I am tempted – who try to protect something impossible to protect – their youthful selves The Baal of Botox beckons and I, too, sacrifice much moola on the altar of the Pandora of skin potions.  But what does it profit an old girl if she gains a good mask for her wrinkles, but in the process loses about a trillion, gazillion dollars? The flip side is –Old age can be a great forceful stimulant to eradicate one’s pride and provide a needed tonic for a new sense of directed and peaceful humbleness.

My birthday always falls in the season of Lent.  When I give up something like sweets, that either makes me sad or I break my Lenten promises to God. (Thank God, I only gave up newspapers this year – good for my soul and good for my poor old eyes.)  Today I was thinking about aging and Lent.  I can either sink into a depression about all the things that go wrong with my body (and don’t even get me started about what goes wrong with one’s mind! With one’s mind.  With one’s mind. Wait, did I already say that?)  Or during Lent I can reflect and rejoice.

If one’s season as a child is like Christmas, and as a young adult, like the Fourth of July, then this season of my life must be a season of Lent; and like Lent itself, it seems to be in some perverse way, one of the hardest times and yet one of my favorite times.  It is a season of life when I have a long road behind me of so many wonderful years and people, and although I wish I had been better at living them, I was privileged to live them at all.  It is a time when I don’t try so hard to be someone, and therefore, I can see others with more grace, and sit in the passenger seat more often, as they take the reins and drive this crazy cart called Life. It is time when I know more, but need to prove it less.  It is a time when God seems closer and friendlier and Surer. It is a time when I can mourn with those who mourn and in that way, understand the silence and helplessness of our fallen-ness. And this season of life for me is a time when I recognize more the true simplicity of my daily needs and my joy in their provision by a good, good God.

Lent is a time to recognize our great need of a Savior. Jesus tells His disciples, not to fast while the Bridegroom is “in the house”. Jesus later tells His disciples that His resurrected body must, like Elvis leave the building. But unlike Elvis or any other human being, because Jesus accomplished with His “old body” what the Old Adam never could, we all have the opportunity to have a new body just as He did, through the Resurrection. Jesus also says that though he takes His housing with Him when He ascends, His Spirit will  come to live in our “houses”.

My aging body is  a great reminder that, we do not evolve, nor ever have.  When we  are young, we are all like that first Eve. And like the first created human, we will choose self again and again, and again.  Getting older means I can not actually “fix” most of myself any more. And for me, that means I can either, as Barth says, “protect and defend myself against the voice of the resurrection’s truth” or I can submit to the God who sees beyond our infirmities to Christ’s potential.  If I surrender all of me to the radical power of Christ’s cross, then I shall also experience the wholeness of Christ’s Resurrection self.

Oh, knobbly knees and crone-ish hands, thou hast no power over me. In arthritic joints, I claim my victory over viscous varicose vice!  In boorish backs that swoon in fright over the endless stairs of this World, I laugh and use the handrail. Oh, twingy terrors of troubled sleep, I pray through your dark hours!  You, oh flesh, may serve no king but Big Pharma, but I serve the King of New Life and that resurrection will include this poor old dishrag of dust, this shell of selfishness, this body of broken parts.  The Great Physician lives for and in me! And in this body, with walls that decay, is the temple for His Eternal Spirit.

While I may not be aging gracefully, I am only aging because of Grace. And that same grace that has covered my sins in the blood and death of Jesus, The Christ, is also my insurance policy on this old body.

Because  if I know anything about the Holy Spirit of Christ, it is that it doesn’t plan on living in this dump forever.  Resurrection means a makeover, like this girl ain’t ever dreamed of!

 

 

 

 

Come, But Don’t Stay Awhile by Jane Tawel

 

Come, but Don’t Stay Awhile

Billy Graham, World-view Check

By Jane Tawel

March 4, 2018

RNS-GRAHAM-LA b

 

 

 

 

Lots of talk about the Reverend Billy Graham, who moved on to a New Address this week, has caused me to reflect of course on his influence on my own particular life.  Literally millions have sung Graham’s praises, in a life time lived by a man who knew he was a child of A King. I humorously, like to imagine, he looked down on the corpse lying “in state”, and thought, “well, that’s about the least impressive thing I’ve ever been a part of”. I like to imagine him remembering the sawdust floors of his tent revivals and measuring his heavenly mansion for one.  Sawdust is such a wonderful metaphoric and physical joy.

 

I don’t remember every time I heard Billy Graham speak (and one always called him that: Billy not William, both names not just one). But I will say that any time Billy Graham held a revival meeting within driving distance (and that might mean four hours driving back in my Midwestern youth), my family was there. I remember vividly, as a small tyke, holding my Grandma Frances’ hand and watching Graham, from outside the packed  saw-dust floored, hard wooden bench- filled, barn- like “Billy Sunday Tabernacle”, in Winona Lake, Indiana. My many trips to his revivals, include the last time Billy Graham spoke in Los Angeles on November 21, 2004, when Raoul and I hauled our young four children to the Rose Bowl to join over 82,000 others.

 

No one can report on Billy Graham without talking about God, and as the Los Angeles Times writes,  Billy Graham had one message and one alone, “Individuals need to repent of their sins and accept God’s free gift of eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.”

 

And it is that repent part that gets us, isn’t it?  I remember the weak, shaky feeling in my legs every time I “walked forward” with thousands of others at a Billy Graham meeting.  Many were walking forward to “get saved” for the first time, but I had done that back at Bethel Baptist Church when I was just a wee tyke.  I walked forward with so many others, to “rededicate my life” to Christ.  Because just like Billy Graham, who traveled the world with his message, and packed up his tent and his staff, and his paraphernalia; all those who came to God, were required to  “come forward” but no one was expected to “stay awhile”.

 

This is how it has changed with us today.  We now want to “accept God’s free gift” but give nothing in return.  Let me be bold: This is so anti-Christ.  Christ asks us to come, in the words of Billy Graham’s favorite “come forward song”, “just as we are”, but Christ demands we not stay there. There is a reason it was called “coming forward”.

 

So I looked up the author of Billy Graham’s iconic song,  that not many churches seem to sing much anymore.  It was written in 1835 by a woman named Charlotte Elliot. Here is what I found out about her:

In later years, when she was not able to attend public worship, she wrote:— “My Bible is my church. It is always open, and there is my High Priest ever waiting to receive me. There I have my confessional, my thanksgiving, my psalm of praise, and a congregation of whom the world is not worthy, — prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors; in short, all I can want I find there.”[

Dr. Billy Graham wrote that the Graham team used this hymn in almost every one of their crusades. He said it presented “the strongest possible Biblical basis for the call of Christ.” Hymnody historian Kenneth Osbeck wrote that Just As I Am had “touched more hearts and influenced more people for Christ than any other song ever written.” Christian writer Lorella Rouster wrote, “The hymn is an amazing legacy for an invalid woman who suffered from depression and felt useless to God’s service.” Dr John D. Julian wrote:— “Though weak and feeble in body, she possessed a strong imagination and a well-cultured and intellectual mind….. Her verse is characterized by tenderness of feeling, plaintive simplicity, deep devotion and perfect rhythm. She sang for those in sickness and sorrow as very few others have ever done.”

 

But fun fact:  Charlotte Elliot although raised in a Christian home with a Bishop as a brother, did not become a believer in the Christian Worldview until much later in life, and when she realized she wanted to “come forward to accept Jesus as Savior”, she told her mentor that she needed to “clean up her life” and “get rid of her sins” before she did.  And this why she wrote this song, not because she believed that God’s salvation was cheaply bought, but because she realized that God wanted her to come “Just as She Was”. But just as she was, was a mess. Coming as we are today — That is the first step, and perhaps for many of us the hardest.  But as Billy Graham and Charlotte Elliot and all great prophets and teachers have taught, it can’t be the only step we take. We are not invited to come forward and then “stay awhile”, looking after our own needs and desires.  We are invited to “hit the road”, one shaky step at a time, falling down, getting up through repentance, and taking one more step of rededication, on our own Gethsemane walk down the aisle of Calvary, to the resurrection of our  revival in a Resurrected Savior.

 

The road to Calvary cost Jesus many steps.  But during this season, we celebrate – yes, celebrate!—His death on the Roman tool of torture and humiliation.  Do we really think we can wave to Jesus from the stands while we thank Him for the freedom we have because of His death?  Paul says, in Romans, among so many other places: Romans 6:1-6: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We are therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

 

We rather blithely say that Billy Graham has a new address now.  But that is only because He never made his first step, his last one. Graham, as Jesus did on the way to Calvary kept walking forward, even when it meant falling forward. We thank Jesus, that not only did The Christ walk every painful step forward to the Cross of Calvary, but that He did not make even The Cross, His last step. He walked forward even into the pits of hell; walked forward into the grave; walked forward out of the grave; and walked forward up those steps to heaven.  As another hymn says, God expects us to keep taking steps, but He doesn’t leave us to do it alone, for “He walks with me, and talks with me, along Life’s narrow way.” We are not meant to sit down and get comfortable.  Jesus’ message, as Mr. Dooley said, is that he came to”comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”.

 

There is another old hymn that comes to mind, that we will sing at the end of this holy season which is really always just the beginning of a new season of Rebirth: “Up From The Grave He Arose”.  Jesus shows me the way; that if I walk, frightened, lame and blind, towards my own death to this world, it may feel as if I am walking in darkness and foolishly, backwards. But each step I take daily to “rededicate my life to death in Christ”, is in reality is a step towards the Light, which I can only sense out of the corner of my blinded eyes. Each step away from the treasures of this World is a step towards the true World, Christ’s World of Eternal Life. In the Eternal Kingdom, we all need to Come, “just as we are”; but we dare not, cannot, will not stay there. We are not invited to stay awhile here on this broken planet; just like Charlotte Elliot and Billy Graham, we are meant to keep walking towards our new address. We are meant to take steps toward the change that as Paul also says, means “we will not all die, but we will all be changed”. Change, like that first step is as painful and frightening as birth. But we are not meant to stay in the womb of our broken, fallen lives.  We are not meant to stay awhile there. If we keep taking those oxymoronic steps toward death as Jesus lived it, then we will live as we were created to live, as God-imagers – not Just as I am, but Just As He Is.

“Just As I Am”

by Charlotte Elliot (1835)

 

  1. Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
    And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  2. Just as I am, and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  3. Just as I am, though tossed about
    With many a conflict, many a doubt,
    Fightings and fears within, without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  4. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
    Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
    Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  5. Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
    Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
    Because Thy promise I believe,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  6. Just as I am, Thy love unknown
    Hath broken every barrier down;
    Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.