Hi Friends, I hope you will take a bit of time to read my latest on Medium.com. I have shared the friend link with you here, so you can access it without impacting how many other free stories you can read on Medium. Just click on my name in the picture below. This is a longer read about making small changes, including my change from wearing a cross to a Tree of Life necklace, and my changing-up my need to hang on to a hurtful past in order to have a more hopeful future. Here’s to Hope that makes us hum and smile more. Peace, Jane
Hope is Not for Now
By Jane Tawel
March 23, 2019
We mistake all kinds of things for things they are not, because the only gods we have left are ourselves. We mistake religion for humanism; we mistake God for personal best buddy; and we mistake faith for self-empowerment. And then there is our mistaken idea that somehow we should and can “choose” hope in order to be happy. We mistake hope for happiness.
I started out this morning, thinking about the world, thinking about myself, thinking about God, just like I do most mornings. And I thought about things I’ve been thinking and writing and reading lately and I said to myself, “Self, you need to write a happy, hopeful little story that will cheer people up.” And I drank my first cup of coffee with that determination until I read the headlines, read some Facebook posts, read a couple blogs I follow, re-read part of my own blog, and read the Bible. The headlines assured me that there was hope the bad guys would be caught and punished, but I’ve been alive long enough and know enough history to know that won’t really happen until Christ comes again. Dashed hopes for justice are a part of being human if you live long enough. A Facebook post by a friend of a friend asked for prayer about his suicidal thoughts. In the past year, I have personally known three young people who committed suicide because they just couldn’t believe there was hope for them. A blogger I follow talked about her childhood and sad memories of a father she never knew. I have my own sad memories of my childhood which no matter how old I am, can be rubbed raw by the hopelessness of ever changing the past. My own most recent blog is about the decay of morality, truth, and gospel in people who claim to know God. I love, love, love people who claim to know God and yet in my current place and time, I feel a sense of terror at what so many of them are basing their future hope on. And the Bible passage I read this morning, from what we erroneously call the “Old” Testament assured me that I am nothing more than dust, a passing breeze on the winds of Time. And I realize how often I have let ego and desire lead me into a false and unbiblical sense of hopefulness that I am someone whom God might want to hang out with forever. So I let our old dogs out into the yard and made my second cup of coffee. I take light milk and honey in my coffee, please.
I sat down feeling helpless and hopeless. Helpless to help fellow travelers across the world who suffer for belief, suffer for their faith, or who just plain suffer because they feel too much of the dark deep things that humans feel. I sat down hopeless that I can be part of any real change, see any real change, not just in others, but in myself. I look back over a life that has included so many, many whole days of pointlessness, and so many days I was filled with and following sin. Sin – hurting others, selfish talk and action, greed and coveting and lying – those sins God hates most; stealing, murder in my heart, lust – all of it. And I am at a loss to tell stories of hope, because in the light of the reality of who I am, who we are; in the light of Now is the darkness of the real state of being of Forever and Never.
So I just put down all my reading and I looked up. And out. The vestiges of last night’s dew clung to the morning cheery grass and the dew pounced in on my doggies’ paws and I laughed with them instead of scolding them. A floor is easily mopped. The sun trickled through the filmy clouds’ filter in the same rhythm as my coffee trickled into my carafe and both waited to warm me, body and soul. The pan was still soaking in the sink, with a few strings of cabbage and cheese clinging to the sides of the now still soapy sea of dish water. The strings of leftovers played like strings of violins on my heart, reminding me that last night my son was home to join us for dinner and I made one of his favorite dishes. Because I could. Because I have enough money, enough strength, my hands still function despite early arthritic throbs, and I have time. And there it is. Time. And if you have time to look around, then you have time for hope.
Time is what we have had, have now (if we’re lucky) but biblically it is what we will no longer have in The Kingdom of God. And Hope? Well, how does hope fit into a future with no future, so to speak? Hope is one of The Big Three, that the entire Word of God assures us will last outside of Time, will last forever, and is part of God’s True World. Hope is one of the things we were created to Be, not have. As it says, “So now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The Psalmist says “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” And in Hebrews, it says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Isn’t it interesting that every single one of these verses uses the world “now”. The reason hope is so tricky, so ephemeral, so fleeting, so ultimately unsatisfying is because of our imprisonment in Time, because hope can not exist, except fleetingly, in our constant “now-ness”. The proverb says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and it is so easy for others to impact our hopefulness and defer our quest for it.
Hope is not happiness, but rather hope is unhappiness with the ways things are now completely infused with the faith that the “Now” was never what God intended for us. Hope is the current tossed and turning belief that the “Then” will be something even more beautiful, lovely, true, and wholly wonderful than we can know or even imagine. Hope is, as Dickinson writes, “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the song without the words and never stops at all.” And though we can’t always hear Hope’s tune and we can’t always sing hope’s song to those in need of it; we can take our Time and as Isaiah said, “wait for the Lord; who shall renew our little birds of hope and give them wings like eagles”.
Sometimes in the noisy outskirts of Los Angeles, I have a difficult time hearing the birds. But it is usually, frankly, because I am too busy, too preoccupied, too stressed, or thinking behind me or ahead of me, to listen. It is also because I am primarily a visual learner, I find my strength and major happinesses in what I see, whether around me or on the page of a book. The thing about hope though is that, as Paul wrote to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
The three things that remain are faith, hope and love. Love needs me to see others as I see myself and use my hands to care for them. Faith needs me to speak to my Heavenly Father and honor Him with my words, speaking of faith to others who need it. And Hope? Hope needs me to listen. Hope is the thing that listens – to the birds of the air, the children in the next room, the music of the spheres, and the ticking of the clocks. Most of all, Hope needs me to listen for the still, small voice of the Creator Parent Who has hope for me yet; to listen to The One Who has hope for the world, and Who Is The Hope of the Universe.
And now I confess I will go make myself my third cup of dark coffee with milk and honey. There was once a man named Moses who felt hopeless to change his sinful past in light of a Holy God. Moses felt hopeless about his present life since he had few skills and no real community of friends and family. And Moses’ hope for the future, well, what is the future for a nomad with no place, no people, no plan? And then old Moses started listening to God. And listening to the cries of God’s people. And what Moses heard God say is, “I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey”. Milk and honey. Flowing. When Moses asked God, “Who shall I tell people you are.” God said, tell them that I AM. I AM outside Time and therefore, outside hopelessness. I Am Hope. Hope flowing backwards through your past, today in your present, and hope flowing like a river of milk and honey toward your future.
And so I get up. And hear the little chirps outside my back door. And hear my husband breathing in the next room. And listen to the tap, tap, tap of my fingers on the keys. And listen to the scratching of ears by my old dogs. And hear the sound of my next deep breath. And I stand up in the Now of Uncertainty with the hope of one more delicious cup of coffee with milk and honey. And I pray with faith and love of The Lord, that my hope will be not in anything – not in me, not in them, not any other gods – but only in He Who is Hope. And I listen for the still small sound of I AM. And I accept my calling, not to seek hope, not to require hope, not to expect nor see hope, but to Be Hope. Because Hope is one of the things I am which will never die. Hope is not Now. Hope is Forever.
Looking Toward Today’s Resurrection
By Jane Tawel
March 11, 2017
Today is my birthday. It is also, the 11th day of Lent 2017. This morning’s birthday reading was pretty spot on to rev my old engine after a week of the, I am ashamed to say, what is often a usual panoply of exhaustion and worry and work and never enough time or energy yada yada yada. Never enough embracing of joy. Never enough embracing of hope. Never enough rejection of the specters of death and a full out hug of the mysteries of resurrected life.
On this my birthday, I read Parker Palmer’s reflections in The Active Life on resurrection. So as I reflect on the march–or rather awkward Macarena– towards returning to dust today, I also awkwardly lunge and slide toward the hope of today’s Resurrection. The duality of Lent is much like having a birthday at my age – one contemplates simultaneously one’s death and one’s life as one contemplates simultaneously Christ’s death and Christ’s Resurrection. In this dual frame of mind, on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the homily was on Psalm 103.
Psalm 103 lets us know that just as Ash Wednesday “blesses us” with the remembrance that “we are but dust”, yet we are also blessed with the remembrance of all Jehovah has done in the earth’s creation and the world’ history. We also are blessed with the hope that God’s loving-kindness endures forever for those who keep His covenant.
At my age, you begin to keep telling others and yourself that old joke about another birthday beating the alternative, and so it was with irony and conviction that I read Palmer today about this human tendency towards often living actually preferring death to life. Jesus talked a lot about this but we keep messing up what He was really saying. I keep messing it up. So I want to share the words of greater thinkers than I. Palmer writes about a poem by Julia Esquivel.
“They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection”
by Julia Esquivel
It isn’t the noise in the streets
that keeps us from resting, my friend,
nor is it the shouts of the young people
coming out drunk from the “St. Pauli,”
nor is it the tumult of those who pass by excitedly
on their way to the mountains.
It is something within us that doesn’t let us sleep,
that doesn’t let us rest,
that won’t stop pounding
it is the silent, warm weeping
of Indian women without their husbands,
it is the sad gaze of the children
fixed somewhere beyond memory,
precious in our eyes
which during sleep,
though closed, keep watch,
with each contraction
of the heart
in every awakening.
Now six have left us,
and nine in Rabinal, 1
and two, plus two, plus two,
and ten, a hundred, a thousand,
a whole army
witness to our pain,
What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!
Because every evening
though weary of killings,
an endless inventory since 1954, 2
yet we go on loving life
and do not accept their death!
They have threatened us with Resurrection
Because we have felt their inert bodies,
and their souls penetrated ours
because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they will not be able to take away from us
nor even their death
and least of all their life.
Because they live
today, tomorrow, and always
in the streets baptized with their blood,
in the air that absorbed their cry,
in the jungle that hid their shadows,
in the river that gathered up their laughter,
in the ocean that holds their secrets,
in the craters of the volcanoes,
Pyramids of the New Day,
which swallowed up their ashes.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they are more alive than ever before,
because they transform our agonies
and fertilize our struggle,
because they pick us up when we fall,
because they loom like giants
before the crazed gorillas’ fear.
They have threatened us with Resurrection,
because they do not know life (poor things!).
That is the whirlwind
which does not let us sleep,
the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream.
No, it’s not the street noises,
nor the shouts from the drunks in the “St. Pauli,”
nor the noise from the fans at the ball park.
It is the internal cyclone of kaleidoscopic struggle
which will heal that wound of the quetzal
fallen in Ixcán,
it is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.
it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep.
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already
In my 7th grade English classes we have been studying poetry. You would think they would moan, but they really get into it – reading it, dissecting it, and writing it. Here is one thing I resonated with that Parker says about his finding his way into the meaning of Esquivel’s poem:
The longer that one dwells on the poem, the harder it is to say exactly who threatens us with resurrection. The poem itself is like the kaleidoscope whose image Esquivel uses; each time you turn it a new pattern appears. So the poem imitates life, in which the “threat of Resurrection” comes both from those who dispense death and from those who have died in the hope of new life… If it is true that both the killers and the killed threaten us with resurrection, then we, the living are caught between a rock and hard place. On the one hand, we fear the killers, but not simply because they want to kill us. We fear them because they test our convictions about resurrection, they test our willingness to be brought into a larger life than the one we now know. On the other hand, we fear the innocent victims of the killers, those who have died for love and justice and peace. Though they are our friends, we fear them because they call us to follow them in “this marathon of Hope.” If we were to take their calling seriously, we ourselves would have to undergo some form of dying. (Parker 147-8)
It does take time to figure out meaning – in poetry, in literature, in science, in nature, but ultimately in one’s life. I am very grateful on this my birthday to have had so much time to try to figure it all out. And I ask forgiveness for wasting so much time on anything that does not enflame hope, kindle truth, and stoke life– in myself and in others. Because that is what defeats death. Faith, Hope, Truth and Love are those eternal “dust-busters”. And they are available for each day’s embrace of Resurrected Life.
Our spiritual journey is one of testing and running. We are put to the test daily to “figure out what it all means”. And we must run and not grow weary in hope. The paradox as St. Paul found, is that in Christ’s powerful death is also Christ’s powerful Resurrection Life. Lent is a reminder that we take up Christ’s cross daily in order to experience daily the Hope of Resurrection – His and Ours.
May today be a day when we embrace the journey of finding the meaning of our own daily deaths on our journeys to today’s possibilities for our own daily resurrection. The Good News threatens the world not with death, but with Resurrection and the hope of Christ’s resurrected life. May today be a day when we too are threatened and threatening with resurrection.
The Christmas Letter 2016 Justine, our eldest at (unbelievably!) 26 years, arrived home late last night from Virginia where she works for Enviva, a company that makes environmentally friendly fuel. This morning she gave me a big hug and laughed, “Mom I think you are shrinking.” I smiled, “Why of course I am! As children grow bigger, we parents grow smaller. It is the way things are supposed to be.” When our children are born, we look at their cherubic faces and say, “you complete us”. As our children grow up, we say, “you deplete us”. But as nerve-wracking as all those food and college bills are, depletion is not bad. Shrinking for one’s children is only minorly painful. To deplete oneself for those not one’s own, however, is painful and technically unnecessary, but is in fact a calling to Christ’s upside-down kingdom life, especially when it has to do with the sowing of one’s resources. Isaiah, that great prophetic voice, tells us that “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” I pour out my prayers that the angels that once manifested in my children’s cherubic faces, will stay perched on their right shoulders, protecting and speaking truth and light into their souls. I pray that my kiddos will humbly keep being seekers who will sow truth and light into a world that seems increasingly dark, as before a great storm. And I pray to feel personally burdened and responsible for all “little ones”, all those hungry for justice and afflicted by transgressions, those that have no one with spiritual or material resources to draw on. I pray to shrink myself for all the little ones, no matter their age, who watch as the giants are busy gorging and growing fatter, and the “little faiths” starve. As Isaiah foretold: May it be that our “Young men and women prophesy” as have always the great prophets from Abel to Jeremiah to The Baptizer to Saint Joan d’Arc to Martin Luther King, depleting themselves on the altar of justice, truth, and love.
I like Advent. I relish anticipation, unlike my 82 -year -old mom who gleefully never met a surprise she desired to keep. Perhaps because of my having spent so many years, waiting – for the curtain to open, for the baby to arrive, for the lightbulbs in the minds to turn on – I have always loved the anticipation elements of this season. But among the many revelations of this year in the country in which I sojourn, I have had a paradigm shift in how I see Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth. We modern First Worlds have filled this season with hindsight’s happy, happy, happy– while in fact, for the actual person we say we celebrate, for the Messiah, “Christ – mass” was a dark, hopeless time filled with the utmost evil this world can offer. Wars, tax gouging, prejudice, “ignorance and want” as Charles Dickens might add, and a host of greedy power-mongers trying to rule the world—these are what brought Jesus’ family to Bethlehem. The anticipation of Mary and Joseph was perhaps mostly, “will we get out of this alive?” The Christ’s earthly parents were among the depleted people, with literally nothing to give their little one–symbolically wrapping Jesus in burial cloths, perhaps distressedly anticipating an early death for the poor baby.
So ironically as I have lately felt periodic senses of dread and depression and sadness and sorrow, I realize these feelings are truly perhaps the most “Christmasy” feelings I have ever had. See, I am rich. I am one of the rich wealthy ones. Where we err as we celebrate Santa and all the free stuff he brings those who don’t need anything, is that we have turned Jesus into the Savior Santa that gives us free stuff – including salvation—gifts to people who don’t need them. We are the rich who mistakenly gamble that at the last minute, we will still be able to order and buy the God of Lazarus, no strings attached, full -warranty provided. But Jesus never offered living water or the bread of life at a discount. At a time in history much like our own, Dietrich Bonhoeffer dubbed our Walmart attitude to salvation, “cheap grace” – the desire to believe God requires nothing of us in exchange for all of His Son’s riches, when in fact God requires every thing of us. To understand the Story of the Christ child, you must have a radically new way of seeing and being. You have to be starving to grasp it. You have to give up everything to own it.
News Flash – there were no rich people at the first Christmas. You can Snopes it. As the baby who became The Son of Man later told folks, “It is hard for you who find complete sufficiency surrounding you – you rich people – you who believe you are saved because you are the elect and thereby you justify yourselves – it is difficult for you to need anything– and you do not understand nor do you choose to enter into God’s kingdom. It is harder for the rich to carry God’s anguish, God’s punishment, a desperate daily God-sized need – almost impossible to carry the cross – harder for you to willingly enter in– harder than it is for a private jet to fly through an oil pipeline, harder than it would be to import big screen televisions to Aleppo.”
Of course we Clausians (“Little Santa Clauses” instead of “Little Christs”) have gotten around that pesky problem by putting the frankincense and myrrh bearing kings snuggled next to the shepherds lurking around Christ’s cradle. What actually happened, though, is that the wise kings entered the scene much later, anywhere from weeks to years after. They had a lot further to travel, those rich folk. It was a lot harder for the rich kings to enter the Christmas scene than it was for the poor shepherds who were waiting for jobs outside Home Depot – I mean tending their flocks by night. And here is why our changing the rich folks’ entrance is so disastrous to our understanding of Christ and Christmas– because we use the Magi to justify our hyped- up lifestyle and gift giving and extravagance, and attitude towards the poor –not just at Christmas but in all seasons. Because we want to still stay rich and still stay kneeling at the manger. By erroneously placing the Magi at the birth, right next to the destitute and deplorable shepherds, we get to keep our worldly vision of what a “real” king is like. We tragically prefer serving the bling-laced authority of the Terminator Herod and all his cronies –the powerful, the glutted, the strictly religious First World authorities—finding it preferable to kneeling before the small helpless naked babe in the dungy swine trough. The wise men were wise because they rejected the false flashy authority of Herod and staged a non-violent political and religious resistance to Herod’s and Rome’s and Israel’s religious/ political empire, thereby helping to usher in a changed world kingdom- a revolutionary world that even angels marvel at.
But first, possibly for several long years, the wise Magi had to seek and seek and seek and seek and journey and journey and journey to find the real King of the World. When they saw Herod, they knew at a glance that he was not the one they were seeking. Not the real deal at all. When the alien outsiders found the true King of kings they worshiped him. And because the wise ones depleted themselves in worship of a foreign King it ended up that– possibly unbeknownst to them– their kingly gifts saved Messiah from the death at the hands of Herod and his ilk, death that awaited many of the other Hebrew babies. The Magi used their riches not to gain but to honor. The gifts were not extravagance but necessity for a displaced fleeing poor refugee family in danger for their lives. The gifts for the God-king helped delay the eventuality by thirty years for Jesus to be wrapped in swaddling clothes for his burial. The wise men who came from foreign lands, possibly even from enemy territories of Israel and Rome, worshiped with all they had a king who, with their gifts, would be able to immigrate to Egypt, enemy territory of Jesus’ religious and national homes. And later this same Jesus would bring Hope to the hopeless by preaching and establishing a peculiar type of kingdom in which all His subjects and inhabitants must live out radical love to their enemies. And so as the great Magis shrunk into the distance of space and time, the Christ-child grew until He held the whole of space and time in His hands. The Christ grew big enough to flip upside down the whole world.
Today Justine and Verity, home for break from her third year at UCLA, worked out at our local YMCA. I tagged along and yakked with my workout buddies, Bill the ex-postman, Sammy the ex- Russian gymnast, and David, the ex-military black guy (well, he’s still black but he’s no longer military). David told me about a metaphoric event happening at the Y today. The YMCA was hosting a doggie pool party. I was wishing we could take our old doggies, Jolie and Daisy, but they hate to get wet. The Y invited almost 100 dog owners to bring their dogs for a swim before the pool was drained for cleaning. I love it because of course that is what the Babe of Bethlehem later did when He left His job (ex-carpenter) to go into ministry (Note to self: Ministry means you don’t make money off of it.) Jesus invited all the dogs (the Gentiles the irreligious, the foreigners, the poor, the persecuted) to a pool party, because Jesus was getting ready to shut down the Pool for a cleaning out and a whole new kind of baptism. At the doggie pool party, anyone could come – with a dog — but the regular YMCA pass was no good. From the time of Jesus’ very first birthday, the party invitations have been sent to all. Star-sealed. But the traditional passes of wealth, and honor, and diplomas, and celebrity have never worked. So the rich usually don’t show up to the pool parties of Jesus. At His first birthday party, it was the poor, the needy, and the sinful who actually showed up, sitting right next to the sheep. And it has often been the same kind of folk who, without a pass, are out there swimming for their lives, doing the doggie paddle with all their “hearts, souls, and minds”. The God-king baby who would become a carpenter, became a Life-Guard, and ultimately would became a Lamb. Someday the Lamb of God will be having a reunion party with all the shepherds. I think there will be a lot of dogs there too. I hope mine will invite me along.
We have had a lot of dream-building happening on our house – hard work for our two men. Gordon at (unbelievably!) 18 years has contributed a lot of muscle and man power in between finishing up his high school senior year and concurrent community college classes. As Gordon and our neighbor and contractor, Joe, scaffold and saw and nail, Raoul designs and oversees the classy new siding going up all around our home. Raoul is the artist – and his dreams are large and lovely. Raoul’s company Mosaix continues to help other companies realize their own particular dreams. We have dubbed Raoul, “The Dream Weaver.” Several in our family had dreams come true this past summer. Clarissa, Verity and Raoul traveled together to Paris, France. Clare and Verity experienced for the first time visiting another country and Raoul revisited a place from his childhood. Although France has lately had its share of nightmares, it was still able to provide for our three, some dreams come true.
The prophet Isaiah said that in these end times of the second advent before Christ’s coming– not as Savior but as King– that “your young ones will prophesy but your old ones will dream dreams”. As Raoul and I hit those milestones of aging, perhaps our prayers should more and more resemble large and lovely dreams rather than merely wish lists. To shimmy two Shakespeare quotes together, “to dream things true–for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” I have felt lately and intensely the pause in which anticipation lives, the pause awaiting hope. It is the feeling you have when you wake after a lovely dream and you just want to stay in the dream a bit longer, not waking up yet to the reality of the day ahead. We who own so very much must start dreaming for more than mere stuff for ourselves. We must dream of a world for everyone, where, as in all of God’s intended worlds, there is no more sorrow, no more fear, no more pain, no more want, no more ignorance, no more hatred, and no more want. Then we need to stop dreaming about it, get started on our day and start creating it. Just like our house siding, it will take hard work, clear intelligence, team spirit, patience, and hope. But then, we have a Master Carpenter who laid the foundation and oversees the crew, so we are secure in the competent nail-scarred hands of the Dreamer of Worlds.
We who have been blessed with long life, need to keep strong “the stuff” of dreams. God often had to use dreams — especially to get ahold of adults, including some in the Christmas story. Perhaps God uses dreams because often we big people lose our childlike ability to shrink small enough for faith and joy to bring back Wonder and Awe. And we to readily let the strong pull of the world’s temporal reality deplete our hopes. We forget that God has a different reality ballasted in Eternity, on earth as it is in the heavens beyond heavens beyond heavens. We must keep believing that though it is immensely hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, the Man-God Jesus also assures us that no matter who we are and what we have “with God, – all things – are possible”. The Magi entered God’s kingdom. So can we. IF.
We who seek truth and light must stoke the embers of dreams deferred (to quote another great poet/prophet). We must hold in one hand, sorrow and angst and in the other hold faith and hope. We want the world’s young ones to have hope and with hope, to prophecy against all darkness, living as strong bright cities shining on the mountaintops. We want the world’s old and tired ones to have hope, and with hope to still dream of a better world. We want the world’s rich ones to have hope and with hope to deplete themselves for the love of God and all of God’s children. We want the world’s poor ones to have hope and with hope to say, “Blessed are we for ours is the kingdom of heaven”. We want every one of us to have hope and with hope know that we are so truly beloved that we can love others, even our enemies.
How does one hope against hope? This phrase from Romans 4:18, refers to a man named Abraham, an old man who is said to have “In hope against hope, believed.” Well, if the aged centenarians, Sarah and Abraham, can keep believing, keep hoping, keep dreaming, then so can we. As the old hymn proclaims, it is when “my hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” – when all we have is weighed on the scales and is so depleted that the scales tip in favor of God’s righteous cross-bearing upside down kingdom.
How do you hope? Well, you accept it as a gift, as “the thing with feathers” as Emily Dickinson reminds us. And you study it as the prophets always have. Whenever you walk in darkness, you put on your armor and you fight the evil that seeks to destroy hope. You joyfully serve others who cannot get a purchase on hope. You laugh hard and long whenever possible to dispel the oh so serious fears. As Frodo and Sam do you keep living your own part of The Great Story– without hope– but with enduring faithfulness. And you trust the Man-God who in the end had absolutely no hope at all, but who had faith in the Father-God – in Yahweh who needs no hope because HE IS– beyond need of hope – BEING All things Always for All.
Dear God, let me keep shrinking, and letting others grow. Let me become like a child, asking only for what I need and can hold lightly in my hands.
The Wise still seek and the weary still hope. There are many people throughout the world hopelessly wondering figuratively and literally if “we will get out of this alive”. This Christmas I don’t want anything at all that Santa has to offer. What I would like is Hope. Not just the hope I need. But Hope overflowing. Hope to share. Hope that changes the world. May we stoke the small embers of Hope and the Wind of God makes us a flame, until the world catches on fire with the hope of the Return of the One True Holy King. May our small acts usher in a kingdom where the small people rule and the meek shrinking ones reign.
This Christmas, may your family’s merriness be rooted in Hope. May we learn to pour ourselves out and may Christ’s light in us, like the star at Bethlehem, rise in the darkness so that all those who journey seeking God, may find Him.
Hoping against hope, from the hopefully “Incredibly Shrinking Woman” who hopes that Raoul and I might one day say, “Honey, We Shrunk the Kids!”
May it be a Hopeful New Year.
From –Jane—- and Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon Tawel
On Honeybirds and Hope
by Jane Tawel
March 28, 2016
Yesterday was my religion’s High Holy Day and what for years we called Easter but now some of us call Resurrection Sunday. On our front porch up in the ceiling on a hook that used to hold a porch swing but now doesn’t, a humming bird has made a nest. When my tall, handsome “I’m a man, Mom” son first saw the grey sack hanging there with something swarming around it, his Dad said he got scared and freaked out. Maybe he was thinking it was a bee’s nest or something. I was at work, so they had to show me the nest when I got home that day. Two days ago the bird was sitting still as a statue on the grey sack. If you have ever seen a humming bird can you imagine how hard it must be for momma bird to sit still? I thought – I know that look, you are getting ready to birth those little waiting lifes, aren’t you little momma? I don’t know how many bambinos humming birds birth or how long the gestation period is or what they look like when born, but I knew the determined expectant, fearful, hopeful look of that mamma’s every fiber.
This morning at 6:20 I went out to check on the nest. Momma is not there. I looked up all around the nest and didn’t see any tear -aways or holes so I’m hoping mamma bird just went out for breakfast. I hope nothing is amiss. I hope every thing is all right.
My children used to think humming birds were called “honey birds”. My four children were so adorable. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think Heaven might include a lot of do-overs – I get to do all the good parts over and over again. And then again.
I have discovered that many of my Western World Peers do not do anticipation very well. All of those great Anticipatory Church Holidays, like Advent, Lent, Good Friday – a lot of people don’t even know what they really are or mean any more and if they do, they really want to skip to the punch. Sort of like people I guess now do designer on -demand cesarean section births – I’m ready, so let’s get this over with and get to the baby part. Christianity has gotten to be where every one just wants to sing one praise chorus of “Just As I Am” and skip to the designer good baby part. New birth fast. Hallelujahs on demand, Tivo-ed every day. My husband and I see our son fighting the need to wait on things as he rushes to grow up. It is natural and it is also natural for parents who love him, so say, “Son, some things you need to wait on.” Because we all make mistakes when we get tired of waiting.
I wonder if Mama Honeybird got tired of waiting? I hope not. I hope she just went out for breakfast.
Can you imagine if God got tired of waiting?
One way the bible can be read is of a long, long story about centuries of people who get tired of waiting and the God who never does.
I think The Church is getting tired of waiting. Like Adam and Eve did. Like the Hebrew children in the Exodus did. Like Judas did.
And I think we daily want to skip right to the joy of Easter via the caesarian section of cheap born again life. We don’t know how important it is for that life to be born of cross carrying gestation. We want to skip Good Friday and all that it means about our sinfulness, our weightiness, our infirmities, which only Christ could carry to term at the cross. We want to shout “He is risen” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and so we miss what the anticipation of “Sunday’s Comin’” could mean in our lives, in the world, in Eternity. Because if we aren’t carrying our cross to term, then we can’t really love others and we certainly can not know, worship and love a holy God who wants to carry us to term into a new, re-created, perfect eternal life forever. Jesus doesn’t offer to birth us free from pain and mess, but He births us in and by the bloody placenta of the Cross. God banished Adam and Eve from a perfect world with many offerings of His grace, and the extreme pain of giving birth was one of those graces. Because without understanding that because of fallenness and sin, we must with some amount of pain birth all human creation — children, art, clean dishes, fields of fruit, microchips, vaccines, novels–birth with sweat, and toil and pain– if we didn’t have that pain, then we wouldn’t need a Savior and we would forever give up the anticipatory hope of a new creation in us and in the whole world. The very, very best part of Resurrection Sunday, is that Jesus willingly had to die to get to it.
If I am not dying to something in myself, daily, making every day a Friday, then I will never know the glory of being resurrected into new life on Sunday. “I am crucified with Christ”…. Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…….
“NEVER THELESS I LIVE!”
Jesus did not skip the cross to get to the glory. And neither can I. But He carried the Lion’s share for me, for us. Christ had no idea what the end of the suffering would bring, there was no “spiritual heaven-sent sonogram” to predict the ending. But He knew the Father and He knew that He had to carry the kingdom to the end of it’s gestation period, no matter how agonizingly horrible and painful and lonely it was. He saw the pregnancy through to the bitter end, and birthed a whole new world, a whole new creation on Resurrection Sunday. And just like I long to do with my little birthed biological children, He longs to daily offer us do-overs – He is walking along, holding our hands, carrying the heaviest parts of our crosses, warning us to be careful crossing the street, laughing and holding and snuggling, and disciplining and admonishing and guiding and investing in our futures. If we rush to grow up, we will make mistakes. If we trust in our Father,and let His Son guide us, live in us, we will have eternal life.
And that is why we anticipate The Christ’s coming once more in the flesh, in person to reign in the world forever. Because that Resurrection Sunday, when Christ’s children are eternally resurrected to live with Him. That Sunday will mean the end of all anticipation – all pain, all sin, all sorrow, and all death. That Resurrection Sunday is what we are preparing for. That is the end of Good Fridays. That means Hallelujahs every day. He is risen. Indeed. Easter Morning my husband made this English nerd’s day by coming up with synonyms of the “indeed” part of that liturgical phrase. He played around with, “He is risen also.” Nope. “He is risen in fact.” Okay. And then he hit on it. “He is risen, Kapow!”. And so we joyfully throughout the day, would proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen KAPOW!” It was after all, a very Kapow thing for God to do.
I was hoping to see Honeybird give birth. But all I saw was her waiting vigil, her anticipatory expectation. That is my world, sitting vigil on a planet of people groaning in expectation of something better, something cleaner, something more loving, and more just, and more true. A world groaning to be born again. We, Christ’s church, Christ’s body, are called to wait vigil for Christ’s return and to midwife the new birth for the whole world that He died for. However you are called to do that today, know that as Paul discovered when he turned his whole world upside down for Jesus and helped midwife Christianity in the process, know as you go about your life today, as Paul says in Romans 8: 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Just like in the agony of childbirth I could never have imagined how wonderful it would be, to be the mom of such four wonder-full children, so too, do we see only vaguely how wonder-full the world will be when it is fully gestated and brought to new birth, new creation when Christ comes again to reign forever. The paradox remains that as we strive to give the world new birth, Jesus longs to be born in us. That is the glory in us He died to reveal. That is what our present sufferings mean if we live into His Story, waiting patiently for all Christ’s birth, death and resurrection mean in our lives and in the world. “But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)
Come, Lord Jesus. We wait and hope.
God is still waiting – with the anticipation and joy of a loving, doting father to celebrate for eternity –our birth. YHWH is the suffering God, who through His Suffering Servant Jesus, and His death and resurrection, offered each of us Life – real life, abundant life, not just 15 minutes but an eternity of all we now merely dream could be real life. This world of pain will seem like some weird Reality Show compared to our real life in Christ’s kingdom, and our souls will realize that life outside the womb of these present sufferings, is all life was always meant to be, a wonder-full reality of relationship with our Creator and Lord, an eternity of walking hand in hand in the Garden with the Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus the Messiah.
Like my son, once you know the reality, then faith keeps you from freaking out. Like the Honeybird, once you take up the task of painfully gestating God’s love in you and in the world, you can live daily with anticipatory hope in the Pregnant Pause of Christ’s Kingdom. He is Risen. Kapow!
Because it never gets old:
“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” By Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.