It occurred to me to check in a public forum the ratio between old-age jokes and old-age perks. The jokes were numerous, the number of “benefits” a measly nine. However, I hadn’t wondered about financial assistance programs. but about perks – bonuses and pluses of being an octogenarian. Queen Elizabeth II could have listed some, but when an “old folks” magazine asked her to write something helpful for them, the 90-plus-year-old declined by stating rather archly, “One is only as old as one feels.” This “perks” me up enough to say briskly that I feel like giving myself two belated Mother’s Day presents. One is a final tribute to Rizpah, the other my decision to publish in this space the prayer for good weather ordered by General George S. Patton.
My shamelessly opinionated self, having read in Scripture the fuller story of Rizpah, went on record to say that I considered it an insult to dismiss her officially as “just a good mother,” whose “good grief” we should embrace. Please remember that she kept vigil over seven rotting royal corpses. In a subsequent devotion in my book Songs in the Night, I referred to one more aspect of her abuse. “In essence a slave, the concubine was the legal chattel of the king. After Saul died his general, Abner, betrayed his lust for the throne by forcing himself on Rizpah. The king’s sole surviving son accused him of treasonable conduct. The enraged Abner reminded him of all he had sacrificed to keep David’s royal ambitions in check, then added scornfully, ‘…and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.” After he and the heir were murdered, the Davidic dynasty moved center-stage and “the woman” became invisible. The tragic death of her two ill-fated sons revealed that Rizpah was “worth her salt,” as the saying goes. In a culture where grieving women wailed and shrieked and beat the air with fists, she beat off wild beasts in a gripping display of courage and dignity. The site where she had spread out the sackcloth of repentance was named Gibeah, meaning “the hill.” It exists as Tell-el-Ful in modern Israel and means “hill of beans.”
The Chaplain of the Third Army had searched through his books, but couldn’t find a formal prayer pertaining to weather, so he composed an original one which he typed on a 3x5-inch card. Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. After Patton had added his Christmas greeting, he had the chaplain sit down, saying, “I want to talk to you about this business of prayer.” Calling himself a “strong believer in Prayer,” he cited Gideon in the Bible and urged that men should pray no matter where they were, “or sooner or later they would ‘crack up.” This from the man who knelt in the mud to administer morphine and care for a wounded soldier until the ambulance came. The General made the welfare of the men under him his personal responsibility. The ultimate glory, of course, belongs to God, but I dare say He was pleased He could answer the gutsy Patton’s prayer!