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!

 

 

 

 

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Desperately Needed: Translators

Desperately Needed: Translators

“Do Not Pray for This People: I Will Not Hear You”

By Jane Tawel

February 17, 2018

 

 

We the People, who claim some sort of kinship with God, seem to be lost in “non-translation”. “God hear our prayers” becomes impossible if not acted out with our own blood, sweat and tears for others. A quote by the poet, Christian Wiman, was for me today, yet another nail in the coffin of our “go to” – “thoughts and prayers”, “I’ll pray for you”, and so forth.  Not that I don’t in fact, ask for prayer often, and pray for people and give much thought to others daily. However, I remain cognizant of the fact that much of my sort of prayer is only possible because I am a first-world rich, “fat-cat”. Being a first-world citizen is also why I can sinfully often remain inactive in actually “working out my salvation”. Wiman writes in his My Bright Abyss:

 

Silence is the language of faith. Action – be it church or charity, politics or poetry – is the translation. As with any translation, action is a mere echo of its original, inevitably faded and distorted, especially as it moves farther from its source. There the comparison ends, though, for while it is true that action degrades that original silence, and your moments of meditative communion with God can seem a world away from the chaotic human encounters to which those moments compel you, it is also true that without these constant translations into action, that original, sustaining silence begins to be less powerful, and then less accessible, and then finally impossible.

 

 

Today is the fourth day of Lent. This year, Ash Wednesday fell ironically on the same day as the Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day, and tragically on another violence by gun day at a school in Florida.  Of course, every day in America has become a violence by gun day.  When it happens to me or my kids, please don’t give me your thoughts and prayers.  Our prayers in this country have become impossible for God to answer, because we think of them like we do all currency – ours—belonging by rights to us because what?  We call ourselves “Christians”?  We have become a people who admire those who make money without work that benefits others and those who admire prayers that remain silent and not active. Unless we begin to spend the currency of our prayers in action, the Bible says, it will be impossible for God to hear us.

 

“Give us this day our daily bread” is meaningless for those who have more bread than is good for them.  God has no role in our need, and therefore, no need to give us “rolls”.  As we continue to pray for protection, we must accept that we have created a nation that doesn’t need God for that any more either.  Neither do God’s original people, by the way, the Israelites. Plenty of ammo to go around there, too. God is willing to let us continue to protect ourselves with our weapons of mass destruction.  Free will, and all that.

 

If I want to know how to act in the Babylon I live in, I should read the newspapers, and this doesn’t always make me feel good. If I want to know whose prayers God listens to, I have to read the Bible parts that don’t make me feel all that good either.  I must carefully and humbly read my Bible – especially the bits that convict me.

 

Psalm 69:33 For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

 

Psalm 34:17: The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles.

 

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

 

We must stop believing that we can go into our closets and pray and be a “good” church goer and be saved.  If this world we have created hasn’t become scary and awful enough for you, look at the next one we claim we want to go to – a new earth and a new heaven lived as God originally planned.  If we don’t start living in that world now, God is quite clear that we are having no part of Him and that He will have no part of us.  The words of the prophet Jeremiah should propel us out of our “thoughts and prayers” —

 

Jeremiah:  Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah (The Church, America, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, China……) who come through these gates (church doors, democracies) to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

“‘Will you steal and murder, (shoot up your own children as living sacrifices to your freedom to own something?)  commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal (Capitalism, America, Freedom…)and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh (oh, Irony – Shiloh is now The West Bank!!!)  where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’

16 So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah (Columbine, Newtown, Parkland, Karbala, Najaf, Kandahar, Kabul, Kedrovoye, Bethlehem….)  and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched. (Cheap grace will be seen as the counterfeit salvation it is!)

21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings (tithes, prayers, sermons, “thoughts for Me”)  to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt  (Europe, Africa, Asia) and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff -necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’ (Jeremiah as recorded by the Holy Spirit in chapter 7, Book of Jeremiah)

 

I am taking time away from reading my newspapers this Lent.  But I hardly need to do that to understand that American Christians have been swept along in the tides of history like all others who grow out of their need or desire to be with and like a righteous God; who break their covenant with God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We have taken such incremental steps away from Jehovah, Yahweh, that we are unable to see how many degrees off True North we have journeyed.  This is what has happened throughout recorded history with God’s people:  with the Egyptians who gave God’s people bread, with the Babylonians who let them pray behind closed doors, and of course, with the Romans as they took the money into the coffers of God’s temple. We too, have offered our prayers out of one side of our mouths, while chanting, “Crucify Him” out of the other side.

 

Jesus did not come to merely die for us. He came to live for us and to live as us.  He came to show us The Way – because we keep losing our way.  Most importantly, He came to make history.  He did not make history when He died – we will all do that since that first Adam chose death over serving Yahweh.  Jesus made history as the first human ever to be RESURRECTED from the dead – for eternity.  This is what He came to show us that God intended all along — from the beginning to today. God through The Christ,  has now offered a way for us too, to be resurrected.  IF!! IF!!!  IF!!!

 

THEN!!!  THEN!!! THEN!!!!  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  (As recorded by the Prophet Paul in his 6th chapter to the Romans –and to us?)

 

I don’t really need to read the newspapers since History repeats itself again and again –in The Garden of Eden, in Israel, in America – on a Roman cross. The only different news-paper is The Good News of Jesus The Christ. Jesus broke the bonds of history – He broke the bonds of Time – He broke the bonds of Death. The news has always told us the same thing – we will die because we sin.  But all of that changed in the life, death and resurrection of the man we call Jesus and who believers call, Messiah, Christos, The Christ.  My prayers for Jesus to be my Savior are always a good start, but The Good News is that they cannot be the only thing I do.

I thank my God, My Savior, that He didn’t come to earth to offer me His “thoughts and prayers”.

 

 

 

My Country Tis Not of Thee

My Country ‘Tis Not of Thee

by Jane Tawel

September 26, 2017

There has been a lot of hoopla lately over public figures protesting during the national anthem at sporting events.  As someone who does not watch sports, I am a little taken aback by the fierce emotions surrounding the protests and the singing of the national anthem.  We lose our way so easily.  The national anthem, is just that — a song. It isn’t even the pledge to our country that we say to a flag. It is a song.  There are many other anthems that celebrate our country.  The funny thing is whenever I am around people singing this anthem, most of them don’t know the words and can’t hit the high notes if they do.  Is that a form of protest, I wonder?  Could we start maybe requiring people to learn the words and take voice lessons?  Or is that just too much like Nazi Germany or Communist Russia?  I am sort of just shaking my head, I must admit.  I mean, do we play the national anthem before chess meets, or spelling bees, or tiddly- wink contests.  Shall we start playing it before the kids go out in the yard to play kick ball?

I have an anthem for my country.  Actually in my country, just like for America, there are many  great anthems.  One of my favorites is called “Amazing Grace” and the other is called “Jesus Loves Me”.  One of my country’s best anthems is called “How Great Thou Art”.  I have found many people do not now know the words or tunes to those great anthems either.  I daily try to understand their meaning. And you know, the King of my country doesn’t care if I stand or sit or lie down when I am singing His Anthems.  In fact, my King says, it is better if you go in a closet and privately and sincerely sing anthems to our Kingdom ideals.

The  United States of America’s anthem was never written to be played before what is officially called a “pastime” or “game”.  War is not actually any thing like a game and definitely not something people do to pass the time.  The national anthem of our particular country was meant to be played for special occasions that celebrate what our country has done for the people who live here and as an example to the countries of people who don’t live here.  It was meant to celebrate things like freedom and sacrifice.  Protests, at their best,  are meant to do the same thing.

For centuries, there have been many anonymous people who have quietly and respectfully decided not to pledge allegiance to a flag of a country.  These are people who feel their only allegiance belongs to God and that the words that they say matter in a different way on a daily basis than perhaps those words might mean if they were actually in a war defending the country they reside in.  If I were in the military fighting for my country, I would pledge to that country’s ideals daily.  But game players are not fighting for their country and if we have given them the right to play for our team, our state, our school on a field, then we should give them the rights all citizens have in the country — the freedom to speak about what they believe.

We tend to want our public figures, whether on a court and field or on a movie screen, to tow the line.  We pay them, they entertain us.  We are a nation that would rather pay a lot of money to be entertained than to clean up someone else’s hurricane damage or take care of someone’s health issues. We would rather fifth quarterback the missteps of a game than analyze police missteps.  So when these public figures decide they must protest publicly, we get miffed.  “I watch you to feel good about myself in a sort of narcissistic, self-caring, numbing way”, we might say.  And ranting at public figures lets us off the hook in terms of looking at what we really believe and what the real person sitting next to us really believes and what we should DO about what we believe.  Because sitting and watching seems to be a sort of non- protest, doesn’t it?  In God’s kingdom, though, it is the players with the self-serving protestations of the non-involved that will be kicked out.  In  Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about God’s playing field:

For it will be like a coach (man) getting ready for a game (journey), who called his players (servants) and entrusted to them his wealth and property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

For what does it profit me if my team wins, but I lose my soul on the sidelines?  I want to be careful that my love of the game or my love of my own words, does not blind me to God’s love for all people.  The Lord asks us to be respectful of whatever country we find ourselves in but to never confuse our respect for a foreign land with worship.  Worship belongs only to God and our allegiance to Christ alone.  Walking in the light of God’s world is no halftime, pastime, couch potato event.  It involves much more than a hand over my heart and once a week pledge.  It is not a game.  And yet, the victories in Jesus are so much sweeter than any other win could be.  Which reminds me of another great anthem people in my country sing:

“I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

Chorus
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

 

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

Chorus
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

 

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Chorus
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Now that anthem, about that Game-changer, and that kingdom — that– makes me want to take a knee.

 

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