Good Grief! It’s Friday!

Good Grief! It’s Friday!

By Jane Tawel

 

 

We were so afraid.

We weren’t used to troubles like this

And it knocked the breath out of us before we could

Catch up to our spirits.

Breath of Life, don’t breathe too close on us today.

We might just faint away.

In fear.

 

We were so angry.

The spin on You went through the stratosphere.

We based our bottom lines on Your success and fame.

We blessed each other in Your name.

Jesus H. Christ, what in the world were You thinking in the end?

Name above all Names, don’t list us as Your close associates.

We might just kill you

In anger.

 

We were so sad.

Now what were we supposed to do

Without You?

We loved You so much, we can’t stop asking why?

Our worldviews can’t contain the fact we die.

Holy Lamb of God, what good is it for our sin to be gone

When You are gone too?

We claim to follow You,

but we walk un-straight in circles,

In Confusion.

 

We are silenced,

watching now from

So many moons past,

The souls that everlast-ingly,

love from beyond, upon the earth-as-it-is-in-heaven,

As our children’s children’s children

Are still and ever and always–

Afraid.

Angry.

Confused.

 

And we long to send our sisters and brothers a message

As Lazarus could not do,

And yet,

No one has ever had ears to hear

Unless heard in the backward / foreward shadow of Your Cross.

 

But if we could speak from our own tombs,

We would cry “Hallelujah” throughout the earth,

For–

The Son of Man,

He too

Who knew

Anger,

Sadness,

Confusion,

and His daily tomb

And yes also,

His final resting place—

 

Today, deemed “Good”,

Messiah God Jehu

Has died, ‘tis true.

 

And yet…..

And yet…..

And yet…..

Good Grief!  It’s Friday!

And yet…..

 

What is final to The Eternal One?

He slipped through hell without His blinders on.

And rode the glory train to earth and back to Heaven again.

We touched Him so we know.

Before He had to go,

He promised us

Our Fridays would not always be

so angry

so fearful

so confused

Our Fridays too could go from good grief

to just plain good.

 

If only we would spend the Weekend with Him.

 

Good Grief!  It’s Friday!

And yet….

 

The Son of Sunday comes!

 

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Fear Not!

Do homage to the Son that He not become Angry.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 

Looking Toward Today’s Resurrection

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

deep inside,

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,

our fear,

our courage,

our hope!

 

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

doubly fortified,

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

their bodies,

their souls,

their strength,

their spirit,

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.

 

No, brother,

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

resurrected!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

How To Celebrate Sorrow

How to Celebrate Sorrow

By Jane Tawel

February 26, 2017

 

Wednesday, March 1 will be one of my favorite days in the year.  It is Ash Wednesday, a day  where some of us who believe in Jehovah, the God of Israel, the God of The Christ,  begin forty days of penitence. The Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah. (Note to self: The Muslims also celebrate these same days of repentance.) At the end of these various religious days of repentance, there is a big celebration:  we call it, Easter or Resurrection Sunday.  The Jews call it Yom Kippur.

So I am meditating on the fact that I seem to have been born into a time and place where the idea of penitence, remorse, regret, sinfulness, unholiness — all of it — is “not a thing”, as  the kids say. Perhaps born out of time and place, I am trying to make it “a thing” — a daily “thing” in my own life. I walk and pray and try to accept a daily sense of my need to be cleansed from “stuff” inside and outside, in my mind and in my heart.  The bible I read, calls it a sense of my own unrighteousness and need. And being redeemed has to do not only with eternal salvation but with relationship to a specific and real God and relationship to specific and real others — my neighbors which Jesus says include my enemies, as well as my family members, biologically family or Christ-0logically family.

The first time I experienced someone who celebrated Ash Wednesday was when I was a freshman at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.  My beloved theater professor, Jim Young, came to class with a large black smudge on his forehead and I, being ignorant of the meaning, kept trying to rub it off for him.  He recoiled in horror from my little anxious helping hand.  Jim is no longer wearing ashes; he is now on the other side of Resurrection Sunday forever.

I often think of that metaphoric moment and how it reveals continual issues in my own life.  I have grown up in a culture that does not want to look at negative things too closely and does not want to live in grief much at all. We want to move straight on to the celebration.  We want to helpfully and quickly remove the “smudges” from our own lives and the lives of others. We want to “bury the past” and “bury the body” and be happy again.  We move past the moments of sorrowful deaths, both the literal ones and figurative ones, as quickly as possible.  There is not enough time to grieve or mourn, there is too much to do and accomplish, and staying busy and active helps us “get past” the problems and sadnesses in our souls.  And what good does it do any one anyway?

The only problem is, all of that reasoning just isn’t true. We know it isn’t true somewhere deep inside. And when we keep living by denying the smudges and moving on to the resurrection of our own happiness, we end up with ever larger and larger holes in our souls and confusion about why we aren’t all that happy. We merely bury the live body of ourselves along with the dead bodies of the other person, other relationship, other job, other life.  We move our bodies along, but our souls begin to rot from within, merely masked in the myrrh of merriment. We refuse to go through the needed completeness of penitence and grief, a daily need, as Jesus told Nicodemus, to go through the painful channel of suffering and be reborn into new life. We want Jesus to have suffered for us on the cross so we can wash our hands and souls of a need to suffer with Him on behalf of our own broken lives and the lives of others.  We want to avoid going through the Red Sea and wilderness and arrive in the promised land with all our “stuff”, saved and cleansed by someone else’s journey, while we sit and watch, grumble and criticize, and devour the panacea of false hopes and happinesses. We want the fruit from that tree not the one we were provided — partying continually, eating, drinking and being merry, and never finding the joy that comes with the hard work of penitence and deprivation, fasting from self-love in order to find the love beyond measure in our Heavenly Father and the selflessness of a reborn soul.

In the bible, numbers matter and forty and ten, the days of Lent and of Rosh Hashanah respectively are days of completeness.  At the end, of both of these times, I don’t end up with a better me, like I might after a diet, but I end up with a better sense of who I am in the vastness of eternity and worlds without end.  I end up not less penitent, but more humble and thankful to be alive, more thankful to a God who loves enough to suffer and grieve. I end up closer to shalom, or true soul-wholeness, and with a better relationship with a real God, and a better relationship to the reality of this world and my neighbor. I end up with an inkling of what completeness might really mean. And that is how sorrow leads to celebration.

This Lent, I am sharing with folks that I will be “fasting” from Facebook.  The reason I am fasting from it, is because I keep anxiously and falsely thinking that I can be “helpful” — I am wired to be busy, busy, busy as a teacher, a parent, a friend.  I have been reading a book by Parker Palmer and this week’s reading was about the days of “Lent” for Jesus — The Forty Days in the Wilderness– days when Jesus met head- on complete fasting and complete temptation. The One Who Was Sinless came out from those days of deprivation and temptation with a better relationship with a real God and a better relationship to the reality of this world and His neighbors, including His enemies.  Jesus came out of those forty days with more grief and more joy and began the business of saving the world. And in The Christ’s ministry of sorrow and suffering, we all get a better chance at celebrating.

One great thing about writing a blog, is you get to connect with other writers.  I have realized that anything I have to write, has been written better by some one else, but I also realized that I simply am one of those people who must write to think and process.  I encourage any of you readers who want to take a journey into a less unfulfilling -self-centered life and a more fulfilling, other-centered life of “being”– a life where a true lenten season and a daily sense of grief and repentance and a conviction of one’s own need and want is a path to a true sense of completeness or shalom– where a time of repentance and taking up Christ’s cross leads to true joy– I highly recommend you read some of the great writers on these topics. There are many. If you haven’t read the bible for yourself, check it out along with those who can illuminate it for you. Recently,  Parker Palmer and Henri Nouwen have provided a huge paradigm shift for me. I encourage you to read them.  Here is the passage from Palmer that has given me an idea of how to fast and celebrate Lent this year.  I look forward to celebrating with you on Facebook on the other side of the next forty days. God willing.  Here’s to ashes!

From The Active Life  by Parker Palmer:    on fasting,  temptation, and the need to prove ourselves:

 

In the first temptation Jesus faces, the devil says, “If you are the Chosen One, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”  But Jesus refused him…. But these word of Jesus, his refusal to turn stone into bread, are his response to the devil, not to starving people. Once Jesus moves through these temptations and embarks on his public ministry, he works a number of miracles, including the provision of bread for people who are hungry. What Jesus says and does is related to context, and when the circumstances are right he has no inhibitions about using his powers to meet authentic needs.  We need only to understand why the circumstances in this story were wrong.

 

The devil prefaces his challenge to turn stone into bread with a taunt that takes a very familiar form:  “If you are the Chosen One…Though few of us get needled for thinking we are Chosen, the tone of that taunt should remind us of outward or inward voices in our lives: “If you are so able… “If you are a real woman or man…” If you truly care…” If you are such a good parent…” The root temptation here is almost irresistible.  It is not the temptation to do a magic trick, which most of us know we cannot.  It is the temptation to prove our identity, which many of us feel we must…

 

Had Jesus made stone into bread simply to show the devil that he was the Chosen One, he would have been acting mechanically, caught in the cogs of cultural expectations, compelled by circumstances to act a role.  By refusing to do so, he both demonstrates and extends his transcendence over the context of his action….Jesus does not regard himself as accountable for his calling to any voice except God’s so in his refusal to “prove” anything to the devil he is actually proving that he is the Chosen One…

 

When you refuse to meet the terms of an external demand, refuse to produce publicly verifiable results, you do not prove anything in the normal sense of that word.  Instead, you leave yourself open to charges of elevation or cowardice, and you forfeit the external confirmation on which so many of us depend; you may become inwardly shaky about who you really are. …

 

In light of the fact that Jesus had been fasting in the desert for an extended period of time, “and at the end he was hungry,” the devil seems to speak with a voice of reason, perhaps even compassion, when he says, “… Tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”  Henri Nouwen calls this the temptation to be relevant, and with that word he names something that many of us face from time to time—the temptation to “solve” some problem on a level that does not solve it at all, and may even make things worse.

 

Jesus’ real problem in the desert is not hunger—though it might look that way to an outside observer—so his real solution is not bread…   when the time comes to end a fast, you do so gradually, and not devour a chunk of bread! When we rush to the aid of a fasting person, attempting to be “relevant” by insisting that he or she eat, we are likely not only to be irrelevant but to do harm as well.

 

True relevance requires a certain subtlety, which the very idea of relevance seems to exclude. What Jesus really needs in his desert fast is not food.  In fact he does not need anything external.  Like the woodcarver in the poem, who fasted not merely from food but from praise and criticism, gain and success, Jesus’ real need is for inward confirmation of his mission, a confirmation he is more likely to find in the emptiness of fasting than in the gratification of bodily needs…..

 

Actions that seem relevant may turn out to be irrelevant in the extreme. Parents know that they do not necessarily solve a child’s problem by giving in to the demand for a special toy. They must address the problem behind the problem, which may be the child’s capacity for delayed gratification or for simple self-reliance.  Teachers know that they do not necessarily solve a student’s problem by answering the questions the student asks.  The real question may be the student’s ability to find answers for himself or herself, so the teacher who withholds answers may enlarge the student’s capacity to learn.  The temptation to be relevant is often the temptation to deal with only the external illusion of a problem and ignore its internal truth. (Palmer, The Active Life, excerpts from pp. 106-108)

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