A Recipe for A True Taste of Christmas

A Recipe for  A True Taste of Christmas

By Jane Tawel

December 11, 2018

 

First, get poor. Literally. Wonder not only where your next meal will come, but be shunned by any group of so -called safety net groups. Be outcast by your religious institution for being sinful and “unclean”; and be considered an illegal alien by the country you have grown up in.

 

Next make sure if you are not yourself currently in labor with an expected child, that you are the spouse of a very pregnant woman. Decide to relocate with no job, no insurance and with no health care,  no doctor, and no Douala around. If you can’t manage being pregnant or the spouse of someone pregnant by Christmas time, then, make sure you are really, really, really sick with something that could easily kill you and that makes it hard to walk or talk or even focus on anything other than how you feel physically which is in pain, afraid, and, well, in pain and afraid.  Oh, and make sure you are of an ethnic religion that the entire world is prejudiced against.  Like Jewish, maybe? Then…

 

Take a 90 mile  (157 kilometer) trip by foot. In worn sandals or barefoot. On dusty dangerous dirt roads. Make sure as you travel (remember, very pregnant or very ill) that you are dependent on the kindness of strangers for the food and water you need on the 90 mile trip. Make sure that even if you arrive after about a week’s walk, that you have no where to stay and that you know no one when you arrive at your final destination.  If you do arrive that is, considering the violence in the country in which you are currently living, where not only criminals and terrorists abound but even those who are meant to uphold the law have become lawless.  I mean the police / soldiers, governors / senators, and priests / rabbis. Those lawless ones who can demand any thing of you or from you since you have no rights.

 

Since you are treated like an animal, decide to have your baby in a sheep shed. At least it is out of the elements and will be safe from the wild dogs. If you can not manage a pregnancy in a sheep shed, this Christmas, and have opted to merely be super, super sick to recreate the true experience, then simply leave your medications behind and after your 90 mile walk, find a little cage at the southern border of your country and snuggle in with all the other outcast, unwanted folks. This will help you feel like the parents of the Christ child felt on the day we celebrate his birth.

 

And as you contemplate this recipe for preparation of a true Christmas, remember that the angels, and kings , the God as Father and miracles  –they are all part of a story that people told long after the Jewish parents, Mary and Joseph had to tell Jesus about the night He was born.  That night, Mary and Joseph were just happy to be alive and that their kid was alive.

 

And as you prepare your recipes for a true Christmas, remember that Jesus loved being alive, just like we do. And that He didn’t want to die, just like we don’t.  But that He believed that only in His death, could He have eternal life with God, just like we can.

 

So celebrate Christmas and celebrate the fact that today, you are alive.  And being alive can  feel like nothing or it can be every thing. And being alive means you can make choices today.

The recipe for my Christmas celebration should be the same as every day.  Will I choose the ingredients for my life that the Jewish Messiah did? That the Jewish parents of Jesus did?  Will I choose to walk the long, lonely, painful road not just to Bethlehem but to Calvary? Will I find joy in a sheep manger as easily as I find joy around a hearth with my well-fed and well-cared for loved ones? Will I be willing to care little for my own comforts in comparison to my great thirst to know and love Jehovah, the Lord? Will I look at others as my brothers and sisters on a planet we have mutually wrecked while mutually mutilating each other, body and soul, and try to heal rather than grab more before it all runs out? Will I believe that there is a future day of celebration when Jesus is the ruler of all humans – a ruler who serves as we serve Him? An eternal dawn where the planet is no longer just one big sheep shed and that the recipe for eternal peace, love and joy will be finally re-made by The Chef who created it in the first place?

Will I who claim the road to Calvary, take The Christ’s first baby steps on the road to Bethlehem?

What meals and snack ideas do I have for eating and making for others while traveling Life’s road? Jesus’ idea for a good meal on the road, was His body and blood. Messiah knew in His heart the truth of this Hebrew recipe: “Oh, taste and see that The Lord is good! Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 

 

A Recipe/ Psalm for a Judeo-Christian Holiday

By Jane Tawel

Dear Creator,

First fill my cup with thirst.

May my hands kneed love in need of You.

Spice up my heart with passion for Your Word.

And let the Oil of my faith in Your Covenant

Never run out.

May a small teaspoon be the only portion

Of my earthly gain

So that my eternal fill will

Be only eaten in Your Forever

Feast of Body and Blood.

May I never turn away from my table

 strangers and sojourners; and

Just as You have always fed

Both the good and bad

With sunshine and rain;

May I not stand in judgement

Over the meals that others make;

But instead look to the small

Morsel of my own small self.

May no matter how many times

I eat of You;

Or how much I am served of

Your words and Your Word,

May I hunger only more;

May I thirst only more deeply

For Your Approval,

For Your Love.

May I receive at Your mighty hands–Hands

That created all the ingredients and recipes for all  living things—

A wee little Christmas star—

One star out of the billions of stars that rate the universal Creations—

May I get a little half star,

rating my life today

As worthy of You.

Please, Oh Lord of All,

Messiah, Christ-child,

God of the Ages,

I humbly offer today,

A morsel – an offering of my life,

Of my small snack of a soul.

May you multiply the ingredients of my life today,

As You always do increase

Our silly little

fish and loaves.

 

meal+and+snack+ideas+for+OTR+traveling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent

Note: I love Advent. I thought I’d start this Advent by republishing two posts from 2017; a poem and an essay below.

I Love You, Mary, Because You Were Human

By Jane Tawel

First Published on December 17, 2017

I love you, Mary, because you were human

Not a queen, not a god, not a saint

You lived as a woman for all of your life

With all that we know as Sin’s taint

You worked for your family

You watched your sons grow

You worried and grumbled and cried

You doubted the God whom you had once nursed

And you fell away from Christ’s side

You thought He was crazy

Your other sons did too

You hoped Jesus would come back home

You cried for His dangers

You begged God for mercy

Your mother’s heart weathered Christ’s storm

And yet, you were one

Of The Lord’s greatest servants

You put parent’s power aside

You stopped being mother

And your Son was your brother

As you watched your womb’s Son of God die

If Mary were perfect

At a time that held women

As little more than life’s scraps

Then how could I, a woman today

Ever hope to climb out of sin’s trap?

Because you were human

Oh, Mary, my sister

Then what you did was more rare

When you met the Angel

And agreed God could use you

Giving up all your dreams for a prayer

Oh, Mary, my sister, I love you because

You are like all the women I know

Who give God their own dreams

At risk of life’s thrown stones

And grant Christ our own frail womb-homes

I love you, Mary, because you were human

Not a queen, not a god, but a girl

Who longed for a Savior

As do all we, Women

Who bare children we pray change the world

I love you, Mary because you were human

I look forward to talking someday

You can tell me your story, I’ve read in the Bible

And I’ll share my own walk on The Way

We’ll introduce our own children

And be praised not for titles

But for being good mothers, and being disciples

And then we’ll both kneel

To the King that you birthed

And the God-man who came

To save all the earth

And yes, all the world will love you, dear Mary

You, who were like every girl who exists

Who says to God, “yes”

And therefore, is blessed

To grant God a womb-home for Christ

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My Own Gifts from God

Fear Not! We Need the Bad News First.

By Jane Tawel

First Published on December 9, 2017

There is much bandying about today of words like “Christian” and “evangelical”. I refuse to join the current dumbing down of the meaning of words – especially these two. The meanings of words are an integral part of the meaning of reality. This is a time of year when some of us believe God came to this planet as The Word. Sometime after the birth of The Messiah, a man who wholeheartedly and sacrificially followed the Babe become Man, ended up being known as John the Evangel. He might have been nicknamed John the Image of God. Because Evangelism should be a word associated only with those who want to be born again into what they were created to be before The Fall – creatures who act and speak and think like God. Not like gods. If you look to the Judeo-Christian worldview for what this life should look like you would see: A God who is completely good, completely love, completely truthful, completely just, completely consistent with righteous holy creativity. Just as random examples of what this does not look like: The God of the Man, whom we celebrate at this time of year, never, ever, ever, ever, ever – had to choose the lesser of two evils. He never, ever, ever, ever needed any one to support His causes by supporting people who abused women or children. He never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever died for a person who didn’t think they in turn had to die to their self-centered sins. And He never, ever, ever, ever, ever stopped loving the world.

It breaks my heart today to hear this important word – evangelism – being used for evil and gain. Evangel = Gospel = Good News = Revelation of True Triune God from the Genesis of the Planet Begotten in True Saving God-send in The Christ. I am privileged and humbled and frightened, to get to teach the Bible at this time of Advent. This week I began my teaching right at the beginning of the book of Luke. I have noticed this is most unusual. The book that tells our Christmas story begins with the author stating that his testimony to Jesus as God’s Way is written at the request of a man named Theophilus. Theophilus was, in all probability, a Roman Government employee, who quite possibly was one of the types that helped put Jesus on the cross. The Good News of Luke, however, was not just for a rich ruler, but for all who wanted an historical account of God’s latest attempt in a long, long His-story of His trying to help us live as we were created to live in relationship to Himself.

I fear that as with so many Biblical stories we like to pick and choose the parts we want to read. As Americans, we seem to somehow have re-cast the Nativity so that Mary and Joseph are white folks on holiday rather than enslaved minorities being used for political gain by Roman rulers. We have incorrectly added the fun fancy bit about the rich EU and Asian Kings being present at the birth, so that they could be giving Jesus financial incentives right there at the start.

But when we opt to use this word “evangelistic” today we seem to use it more like a good luck charm or a trump card (oh, the ironic words we live with today would not be lost on The Word, I think). We like to give the gods credit for our choices and lifestyle and our gambling with other people’s lives. We stick God’s name on ungodly decisions, like putting a sticker on a rotten apple. Much as Adam’s first rotten apple was easily pulled off the Tree, we quite easily justify our own rotten apples but still want the God-sticker on them. It is quite easy to pull off a sticker called God. It is not at all easy to live a life called God. And that is what Christian means – little God, little Christ, little life lived in the character of God Three in One. Oh, I love my stickers called God. It is much harder for me to daily “go back into the womb” and be re-created as we were meant to be before the one rotten apple spoiled the whole bunch.

The story of Christmas begins with Advent. In its entirety, the story that we should be reading at this time of year, should at a minimum start with God saying (as He usually does if you read the whole book): “I Am going to give you peoples and tribes the Bad News first; then the Good News.”

We seem to have sunk into a moral morass of thinking that Christianity starts with grace and forgiveness and someone out there saving my own personal self by something He did a long time ago. It does not. This cannot stand alone as Good News. It cannot support itself alone. It is an incomplete worldview.

The Worldview of True God from True God begins with the Bad News of John the Baptizer. It starts with humankind’s need for an admission of shame and repentance. The story of God helping us and allowing us to use His Holy Name, begins with our need to be able to, with eyes downcast, come before a God at all, let alone use His name for His glory or in vain for my personal ends. Before we got the “Good News” of Jesus, God had to re-send the diagnosis. It is a diagnosis The God of Noah and Abraham and Moses and Ruth and Isaiah and others, had been sending this bad news diagnosis for centuries. In various ways and through various people who were truly evangelicals, God has been telling us: Bad News –You’re dying.

Before He could send His only begotten Son, God had to show us the shadow on our moral

x-rays. So right before the time was right to come Himself as King (which is what Advent means by the way), Jehovah the Father, miraculously created in two old folks a man named John the Baptizer whose sole job in life was to proclaim that we needed to “Repent”. Definition:

Repent =Regret =Penitence of one’s sin. Because without our sin, the world’s sin, we have no need for a Savior. Without my personal daily need to recognize my sin, I have no need for Bethlehem’s story. Without repentance, there would be no Christmas.

God could send Himself as His Son bringing Good News to our planet because of the Bad News of Repentance. And that makes our need to feel shame, remorse and repentance, Good News! My coming to a reckoning of who I really am, is the way to knowing who God really is. And it is the only way to truly know who I can be and what lies ahead in an eternity that begins with my repentance and never ends in my worship of my God.

Repentance is what makes the Judeo-Christian worldview the most coherently sane and healthy one by which a person can live. Grace and morality will not result without it. But there are so many who teach this better than I ever could. So for a definition of evangelism at this time of year, when many of us believe that The Center of humankind’s history was born as a human, I would like to extract some of the words of an evangel named Francis Schaeffer.

Written in 1972, Francis Schaeffer could not have foreseen the extent of the need we would have for these words from his excellent book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.

To me, what Jesus did at the tomb of Lazarus sets the world on fire—it becomes a great shout into the morass of the twentieth century. Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus. The One who claims to be God stood before the tomb, and the Greek language makes it very plain that he had two emotions. The first was tears for Lazarus, but the second emotion was anger. He was furious; and he could be furious at the abnormality of death without being furious with Himself as God. This is tremendous in the context of the twentieth century. When I look at evil—the cruelty which is abnormal to that which God made—my reaction should be the same. I am able not only to cry over the evil, but I can be angry at the evil—as long as I am careful that egoism does not enter into my reaction. I have a basis to fight the thing which is abnormal to what God originally made.

The Christian should be in the front line, fighting the results of man’s cruelty, for we know that it is not what God has made. We are able to be angry at the results of man’s cruelty without being angry at God or being angry at what is normal.

We can have real morals and moral absolutes, for now God is absolutely good. There is the total exclusion of evil from God. God’s character is the moral absolute of the universe. Plato was entirely right when he held that unless you have absolutes, morals do not exist. Here is the complete answer to Plat’s dilemma; he spent his time trying to find a place to root his absolutes, but he was never able to do so because his gods were not enough. But here is the infinite-personal God who has a character from which all evil is excluded, and His character is the moral absolute of the universe.

It is not that there is a moral absolute behind God that binds man and God, because that which is farthest back is always finally God. Rather, it is God Himself and His character who is the moral absolute of the universe.

Evangelicals often make a mistake today. Without knowing it, they slip over into a weak position. They often thank God in their prayers for the revelation we have of God in Christ. This is good as far as it goes, and it is wonderful that we do have a factual revelation of God in Christ. But I hear very little thanks from the lips of evangelicals today for the propositional revelation in verbalized form which we have in the Scriptures. He must indeed not only be there, but He must have spoken. And He must have spoken in a way which is more than simply a quarry for emotional, upper-story experiences. We need propositional facts. We need to know who He is, and what His character is, because His character is the law of the universe. He has told us what His character is, and this becomes our moral standard. It is not arbitrary, for it is fixed in God Himself, in what has always been. It is the very opposite of what is relativistic. It is either this, or morals are not morals. They become simply sociological averages or arbitrary standards imposed by society, the state or an elite. It is one or the other… It is this or nothing. (Francis Schaeffer Trilogy, 222-301 excerpts)

* * * * *

Francis Schaeffer asks me: Is the God I believe to be revealed in His Son – enough?

Do I believe that my choices cannot be relativistic just as my Savior’s choices were never relativistic?

Do I believe that the character of God in Christ is “the law of the universe” to which I must live if I claim to live in Christ?

And as St. Paul believed, Do I believe that being an evangelical is to consider that “to live is Christ, and to die, is gain”?

God calls and calls, the Scriptures say, like a Lover, like a Father, like a Spouse, like a Shepherd. He also calls us to do likewise, and lead lives in His image, making choices as He would. He calls us to delight in others as we do when we first fall in love – loving a person whether in reality, we love or hate him. He calls us to love as a parent to those who are not our children using truth and love in equal measures. He calls us to give generously, selflessly as a spouse, to those who have no loving mate or friend to call their own. He calls us to provide and care for those who like sheep have gone off the path of a life worth living, and who cannot save themselves. He calls us to give and give and give to those least worthy, because His Son’s character is ultimately our judge and the judgement on our lives. Jesus is the judge who gave and gave and gave to all of us who are so unworthy.

The Greatest God of all gods, calls us to share His Good News:

God has Come to Us = Emmanuel.

But here is the truly mind boggling thing about the evangelism of our God –even God Himself, when He modeled life for us in Jesus, had to repent to John the Baptizer. Baptism symbolizes man’s need to be saved from something and changed into something else. It means I repent of my old life and enter a new life. The One who had nothing to repent of, did it anyway, because He knew how critical it was for us to see Him repent as we need to. The One who had no need to die, did it anyway because He knew how important it was for us to see Him die as we would. And the God who had no need to be born, did it anyway, because He knew how important it would be for us to see, that we can be born again, into a new life as Jesus is. And that is the Good News that evangelistic people should be living. And we shouldn’t be putting words on things they don’t belong to, including putting The Word on things He does not belong to.

The terrifying Angel of God, who actually was quite an important player in the story of “God Becomes a Human”, was personally acquainted with the True God. The Angels of God always say “Fear Not”, and the angels at the various scenes before and during the Bethlehem manger scene, are no exception. The Christmas Angel tells us that though the Bad News of The Operation of the Christ Child is that it will be incredibly and sometimes excruciatingly painful, the Good News is:

Repent!

For your Unearned Salvation from your deadly sin has Come!

God Advents to Live With All People!

Joy to the whole World!

This is evangelism. Joy. This is being a “little Christ” or Christ—ian. Repentance. This is what in an upside -down worldview, makes our lives– plunged in repentance and daily self-administrations of the dosage needed of radioactive Bad News of our sinfulness– truly a wonderful, live-saving, joyful good news to the world, message. This is how we can defeat the cancerous invasion of evil that seeks to kill the Christ child and instead, open our hearts, minds, wills and souls to the eternal love of God. This is Good News.

Navtivity vivas

Read Their Names. by Jane Tawel

Note:  It takes all the chutzpah I have to post the following, not because I don’t believe it but because I have lost jobs, friends and family from trying to speak out about important things and I have lost hope that any one really wants to change. I see people just going on with their lives as if we are not living in a frightening age right now and most frightening of all, I see people who claim to know God or Jesus act as if somehow God’s grace will cover their sins against others.  Just a head’s up:  If you actually read the Bible, it is pretty clear that it won’t.  America is like the rich nameless man in The Christ’s parable. The rich man  lives with homeless Lazarus at his door and spends his life eating, drinking and being merry behind his safe mansion doors, and then when he dies and realizes he is not actually going to heaven after all, has the gall to say to God, “oh if only You had told me!  At least go tell my brothers so they will be saved.”  God’s reply would be well for us to take to heart today: “He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 19:31).

 

Some of us believe that Someone did rise from the dead.  And we still are not convinced.

Read Their Names

by Jane Tawel

November 17, 2018

 

“It’s starting to rain again; it’s… the rain had (uh) slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it (uh) just enough to keep it from…It’s burst into flames! Get this, Charlie; get this, Charlie! It’s fire… and it’s crashing! It’s crashing terrible! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! It’s burning and bursting into flames and the… and it’s falling on the mooring mast. And all the folks agree that this is terrible; this is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. Oh it’s… [unintelligible] its flames… Crashing, oh! Four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it… it’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s in flames now; and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity! And all the passengers screaming around here. I told you; it – I can’t even talk to people, their friends are on there! Ah! It’s… it… it’s a… ah! I… I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest: it’s just laying there, mass of smoking wreckage. Ah! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk and the screaming. I… I… I’m sorry. Honest: I… I can hardly breathe. I… I’m going to step inside, where I cannot see it. Charlie, that’s terrible. Ah, ah… I can’t. Listen, folks; I… I’m gonna have to stop for a minute because I’ve lost my voice. This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.”
— Herbert Morrison, Transcription of WLS radio broadcast describing the Hindenburg disaster.

 

“Said his grieving and furious mother: “My son was in Las Vegas with a lot of his friends, and he came home. He didn’t come home last night, and I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns.” — Mother of Telemachus Orfanus, killed November 7, 2018 by The United States of America’s inability to deal with guns.

 

Read their names below. Read each one. Then realize the next time your child or grand child or your spouse steps out the door to get a coffee, or your grandpa goes to his place of worship, or your kinder gardener goes to class!! — it could be their names. OH THE HUMANITY! It is way past time to change course. Way past. Read each name and then tell me: Does this feel like freedom to you, America? No, what you are witnessing time after time is the “worst catastrophe in the world”. Moses did not use prayer to change the world, he acted. Jesus did not stop at prayer for the Caesars and Pharisees and Sadducees and unclean poor of the world; he wrested the weapon from Peter’s hand and said go change the world. Gandhi did not change the world through his “thoughts”. Mother Teresa did not change the world by “thinking” about the lepers of India. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior had to walk across bridges and go to prison not just preach and pray. Read the names. Then do something if as you claim, you really love your country, your freedoms, your children, and your God. Read their names. They do not appear on your favorite show, they were not your combatant enemies, they won’t be getting another life in a video game, and none of them will be home tonight. And we have decided we love our guns, sitting in our little home safes, protecting us from what? Unless you are hunting for your food, no one should need a gun in America. And maybe if no one else had guns, we wouldn’t have overstressed cops killing innocent security guards mistaking them for just “regular” black people; instead of the hero that Jemel Roberson was before he was killed by a gun. Read his name. Read their names. When did we become zombies who love our guns more than we love people? Oh, the humanity.

 

 

Enjoy the Inns but Keep Walking Toward Home by Jane Tawel

Bullet Point Thoughts from The Front-lines of America– The Babble-On of Our Times

 

Enjoy the Inns, but Keep Walking Toward Home

By Jane Tawel

October 28, 2018

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Notes to Self:

 

  • For at least one year, read only the Hebrew Bible which is the only Scripture Jesus or His followers recognized as Holy Scripture. Read the stories of the people who sought a different kind of god. Read the stories and psalms and prophecies of people who were peculiar because they walked with Jehovah-God.
  • Immerse myself in the basic tenets of the religion of Abraham and Moses, Isaiah and David.
  • Realize that only 7 of the letters attributed to Paul, that great interpreter of Judaism to the Gentiles, are truly and completely written by Paul. Realize that Paul would never have considered his letters Holy Scripture. Keep Paul in context.
  • Realize that the Gospels are guides to accepting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and to what earlier followers of Jesus’ “brand” of Judaism believed was the way to live in God’s Kingdom now and perhaps forever.
  • Read every thing in context, know your genres of anything written, realize every thing ever written, including Scripture has an agenda. Figure that out before you use it.
  • Read C.S. Lewis’ works rather than just his quips and quotes.
  • Remember that from dust I was created and to dust most of us will return. Realize I am a person who doesn’t want to return to dust, nor to be punished in an eternal hell, but rather I am a person who wants to live forever worshiping and creating with God and The Christ in a New Earth and New Heaven.
  • Remember that mostly I am, as Lewis warns below, a Judas and not the characters I would like Central Casting to pitch me as. Look fiercely at the 30 pieces of silver in my hands today. Remember I have to choose daily what I will seek. Remember that each day I can repent, ask forgiveness, and seek God’s Kingdom first. Remember I must become less, so that others may become more. Remember it is not a wide road, but a narrow balancing beam shaped like a cross.
  • Don’t exploit people. It is a lie of Satan to think that I can exploit the evil people who have power or the authorities who rule this world or my circumstances and that “God will be in control”. It is a lie of Satan to think that I can ignore the Lazarus on my own doorstep or to foist onto others the plight of the poor and powerless. If I do, then I am a Judas; not a Moses, not an Abraham, not a Paul –not a Jesus follower serving His kingdom to the end. A Judas.

 

  • Remember that suffering is a result of sin and the earth’s fallenness. Combat The Fall! Pick up the trash even if I didn’t drop it there. Hold things lightly in my hands. Mourn with those who mourn. Delight in the joys of others. Speak truth into lies and light into darkness even when afraid and worn out (and warned out). Treat people as if they matter to a God. Make myself smaller. Joy is a command.

 

  • Seek “The Simple Good”.

 

  • Enjoy “the pleasant inns” without guilt — just as Frodo and Sam and Gandolf did. BUT — do not mistake this life’s pleasant inns for Home.  Keep walking toward Home.

 

NOTE To READERS:

 

If possible –I highly recommend digging into the books of C.S. Lewis. The following is from my recent re-reading of The Problem of Pain.  With Lewis is it always difficult to choose just one brilliant idea but I think the following is perhaps most critical for people in the land and time in which I currently live. Although it is from the end of TPoP, and an understanding of Lewis’ ideas of sin and The Fall and human nature are necessary for a complete understanding of what he means here, this excerpt below should sound a warning to those of us who think we can choose evil or self-serving justification of our deeds and thoughts and that God will somehow make it good. He will indeed turn it to the good of His world, of His partially seen but yet unrealized -on -earth as it is in His Kingdom; but it makes a difference to our lives and the lives of those around us whether we choose the 30 pieces of silver; whether we deny him hoping the rooster won’t crow and we can get back to our jobs fishing for manna and not for men; or whether we  instead submit our will daily to the will of God, seeking Good for others even at cost to self. The small things I choose today do make a difference to my own soul  — for good or for bad –and in that lies the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

From C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain (ch. 7):

 

There is a paradox about tribulation in Christianity. Blessed are the poor, but by “judgement” (i.e. social justice) and alms we are to remove poverty wherever possible.  Blessed are we when persecuted, but we may avoid persecution by flying from city to city, and may pray to be spared it, as Our Lord prayed in Gethsemane.  But if suffering is good ought it not to be pursued rather than avoided?  I answer that suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.  In the fallen and partially redeemed universe we may distinguish (1) the simple good descending from God, (2) the simple evil produced by rebellious creatures, and (3) the exploitation of that evil by God for His redemptive purpose, which produces (4) the complex good to which accepted suffering and repented sin contribute.  Now the fact that God can make complex good out of simple evil does not excuse – though by mercy it may save—those who do the simple evil.  And this distinction is central. Offences must come, but woe to those by whom they come; sins do cause grace to abound, but we must not make that an excuse for continuing to sin.  The crucifixion itself is the best, as well as the worst, of all historical events, but the role of Judas remains simply evil. We may apply this first to the problem of other people’s suffering.  A merciful man aims at his neighbour’s good and so does “God’s will,” consciously co-operating with “the simple good.”  A cruel man oppresses his neighbor, and so does simple evil.  But in doing such evil, he is used by God, without his own knowledge or consent to produce the complex good—so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool.  For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however, you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (98,99)

 

It would be quite false, therefore, to suppose that the Christian view of suffering is incompatible with the strongest emphasis on our duty to leave the world, even in a temporal sense, “better” than we found it.  In the fullest parabolic picture which he gave of the Judgement, Our Lord seems to reduce all virtue to active beneficence: and though it would be misleading to take that one picture in isolation from the Gospel as a whole, it is sufficient to place beyond doubt the basic principles of the social ethics of Christianity. (101)

Since political issues have here crossed our path, I must make it clear that the Christian doctrine of self-surrender and obedience is purely theological, and not in the least a political, doctrine. Of forms of government, of civil authority and civil obedience, I have nothing to say.  The kind and degree of obedience which a creature owes to its Creator is unique because the relation between creature and Creator is unique: no inference can be drawn from it to any political proposition whatsoever. (102)

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in.  The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast.  We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.  The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe, or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. (103) (emphasis mine)

Shalom Aleichem, Jane

Reality and The Road Show

Reality and The Road Show

By Jane Tawel

October 5, 2018

 

Disclaimer: I do not nor have I ever enjoyed “Reality TV” of any kind. Therefore, it is my metaphor of choice in the following rambling and searching musings and meditations.

 

I have never liked vicariously observing nor living through other people’s lives and have never been able to sit through more than a quick YouTube version of any talk show. I mean any talk show –including the erudite and intelligent talking heads of news programs that my husband watches on PBS. This is a personal preference only, as I do enjoy certain forms of entertainment or learning found in television, although I will remain primarily a book lover and learner. However with shows, I need at least the proverbial six degrees of separation between me and the medium.  I also prefer using either my imagination or using my ability to mull over information received, which is why I read my news and my husband watches his, why I read my Bible and others listen to theirs, why I personally prefer my own reality or imagination to someone else’s.

 

At least in part, I blame our current cultural, political, and religious lack of ability to truth-tell, truth-listen, and truth-seek on our society’s ramped up, on speed-dial, on steroids, on-demand ability and addiction to watching “reality”. I blame it somewhat on our choice to believe that someone else’s life is worthy of paying money to watch or that people who have jobs as talking-heads are not just fun things to relax to but are our gurus or teachers.  I even switch the radio channel when the talking blah-blah-blahs come on because I don’t care how many times they assure me of our special relationship; if they wouldn’t recognize me at the grocery, they are not my friends. I’m sorry, but to be blunt — I do not care at all what they think, what their little daughter did that was so cute, and I definitely don’t want to hear what the talking head will say to help the person calling in to the station, to get emotional support and advice from a stranger who is claiming to be their online “friend” but is known only by their cutesy first name. I try not to demean others’ fondness or need for these types of things, but I can’t ignore the fact that I think it has created an alternative world to real community and real meaning.

 

The worst for me are the competitive shows which I am only aware of because they run them on the TV’s in front of my treadmill at the Y.  I honestly can not understand the joy of watching people compete to see who is the best singer, or house builder, or, God help us, chef!  I mean can’t we just enjoy watching Julia or Martha make a meal, no competition necessary? Can’t we watch people teach us how to play music not compete against each other. Competition is an anathema to creativity.  But then again, that is me –competition makes me uncomfortable even on a playing field.  In last Spring’s “World Cup”, I cheered for Croatia of course, even though our family always cheers for France. My husband mocked me but I had to, because Croatia was the underdog;  and when the underdog lost to France, I could agonizingly feel the pain of  all their little buff Croatian hearts. And I was sorry I got trapped once again in the need to compete or cheer competition because for me, it is always a losing game. I always feel sad for the loser.

And now it seems everything is a win or lose game in America — our politics, our religions, our educational institutions. We have reduced everything to a success mode based on defeating some one else. It is pure capitalism — Ayn Rand on steroids meets Absurdist Theatre — to be sure but is is completely anti-Christ and not at all democratic. If you told someone ten or twenty years ago that we would actually elect a guy who bought himself a part on a Reality Show to run our great nation,  and would continue to run our once shining city on a hill like some game show –would any one believe that America would descend to such an absurdity? But then again, that’s just my Judeo-Christian worldview speaking.

 

I see all of these things like reality TV and talk shows, in the same way I do the Theatre of the Absurd. They are interesting for analyzing cultures and people in light of history and the future but they are not meant for constant consumption and the whole point is they point out what is NOT real, not what should be real for anyone.  And for a person who longs to understand, I just don’t understand the appeal—it is a false reality that does not make sense to my own World View. The risks these people take in what seems to be a cheapening of their souls, for, what exactly? I have a hard enough time living my own reality with real people in my real world; what would happen to my soul, my spirit, my heart if I had to live a planned and paid oxymoronic reality-show with other human beings living their own fake reality to entertain people we didn’t know.  Every dystopian book I’ve ever read has this scenario in it and it never ends well for the people or the nation or the world.

 

Now if you enjoy these sorts of programs, I need you to understand that I have an additional problem—perhaps one might say, a curse. A big part of my own problem is one I have written about before – my natural tendencies as an Empath. We can call it the “Cheering for Croatia Syndrome” if you like. If any of my now adult children have read this far, when I define what an Empath is they will be laughing at me, not with me, so get ready, kids.  According to that greatest dictionary of our times, The Urban Dictionary, an Empath is: “A person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation”.  Or as my daughter, Clarissa once told me, “Mom, you are always way more upset about things than I am and it’s my problem!”

 

What this has to do with Reality TV and talking heads programs is that while most people assume I just don’t enjoy them; I don’t enjoy them because I FEEL them. I cannot choose to go through all the feelings that I intuit from the actual human beings I am watching. And maybe this is just my worldview speaking again, but isn’t that what a person should feel and do who claims they should “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”? As an Empath,  My emotions take enough of a beating when the people are just acting a part and I know it is pretend. But with so called reality shows, I can’t get past the fact that these people think this is their reality and want me and others to watch it – because, why? Whether the people in the box are exploring lifestyles of the rich or gonna’ be rich  people; lifestyles of the poor or gonna’ be poor people; or it’s about car companies surprising people with cars or about a dynasty shooting ducks every day; whether it is about people in a competition or people showing how they make stuff – I become seriously agitated after about thirty seconds. And I can’t help but think that as we have put our hearts for others at arm’s length, able to control our feelings because we can hit pause, filling our minds with false realities and not True Truths; has this not created it’s own horrific dystopian, Anti-Christ world that our children will be ill equipped to heal?

 

I mean, talk about The Handmaiden’s Tale. What kind of culture watches single “hot” chicks choose which guy to date and sleep with? Or guys and girls who didn’t know each other previously but who choose  for the cameras and their fifteen minutes of fame, to  live together and let other people watch them fight or make-out or something like that? I could never have watched some show where you watch people get fired from a job any more than I would want to watch someone I know in a pornographic film.  And I know otherwise “moral” people who claim a certain Worldview who see this as entertaining? I do not understand how people can say, oh these people that live this lifestyle are sinning but I’m not?  Jesus is quite clear, my friends, “It is what is on the inside of the cup that makes the cup dirty; not what is on the outside.” The hypocrisy of watching gay couples on a comedy show but opposing gay couples in your neighborhood.  The hypocrisy of watching black men duke it out on a football field for your entertainment but not of listening to them when they want to speak into your democracy. The hypocrisy of ranting about abortion in this country but not about separating children from their parents at the border or bombing Iraq or Syria. And we turn the channel. And we look at someone else’s reality that is scripted and short and for which I can not possibly have any responsibility because it is all just a show. Smoke and mirrors. A convenient truth that I can watch not live out, that I can mock or laugh at or cheer or boo that I can vote for without consequence that I can talk about at the water cooler and disagree with others and we can all still do the same things, live the same way, feel the same way we did day after day just waiting so we can get home to watch someone else’s reality that never effects me in any meaningful way.

Of course long ago before 5000 channels and Amazon Prime Video, there were those old shows that pretended to be reality shows about imaginary “Friends”. They all pretended to be real slice of life sort of things but the bad, rotten slices, the sinful, shameful or painful broken were conveniently spliced in but sliced small enough that we could keep eating our popcorn. And then to make sure commercials come in to assure us that no matter how awful your “Friends” lives seem right now, you can still buy a car. Yes, the show says, sometimes humans hurt or are mean, but it is all always okay in the end. The choices we make are all relative because our reality is relativistic. Your favorite player may have messed up, but everything is always either funny or cute or turns out okay in the end. And digesting these relativistic morals on a screen set us all up for wanting to be just like those “Friends”, didn’t it? And when life isn’t really like that at all because it was never meant to be like that – a life lived with no real consequences for choices other than a laugh track or losing a game; well, then we are left thinking that what we see as real or True must be fake – “fake news” because the reality show stars don’t like that truth – that True Truth must be edited out of our real lives, blamed on the competition, ignored or shoved into our subconscious where we can ignore it.  And at some point even people who say they believe in a God, well,  we just assume that God must be willing to ignore all that as well because He has become just a nice, benevolent rich Guy who serves as the Producer behind the curtain of my reality show. Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace as commercial break.

 

I also get sad watching interviews with people that a funny talk show host has pulled out of obscurity for their fifteen minutes of fame. For me these things are about as entertaining as watching fat people fall on their keisters while trying to land on an inner tube. I have to turn away when someone wants me to watch these things, what they see as fame I see as humiliation and rampant greed or need. When did we think that my being someone, my worth,  was about my being seen by a lot of people who don’t know me?

 

Competitive reality, of course, is not a new art form. People have always liked watching other people being displayed like victims in a lion’s den for an audience’s amusement. Do I take this whole thing to an extreme, well yes, I do.  My husband just does not get it, but I can not even sit down with him to watch “The Antique Road Show”.  I spend the whole time seeing the people as gamblers who have wagered their vacation days, reputations and love of an object on some stranger’s assessment of it’s worth.  For me it is physically painful to sit there and anticipate the faces of the people with the tchotchkes when they find out Grandma’s doily is only worth $50 bucks instead of the thousands they imagined–this is sheer torture for an Empath..  I FEEL with no amount of objectivity at all, but rather subjectively feel the stress, the tension, the horror of finding out the worth and then the let -down, crashing from flying high down to earth.  Even if the doily is worth a million dollars, the sheer anticipation of finding out has already prepared me for the let down the future holds for that person – the going back home with the doily and thinking, “Well, now I have to sell the doily because it’s worth a lot of money and I could use a million dollars a lot more than Grandma’s doily sitting collecting dust on my shelf of family memorabilia but this has been in the family for so many years and besides it’s so much work to find someone to buy the doily.  Aaaaaghhh! Now I hate this million dollar doily!” And then as an Empath I am already living that doily owner’s life, all depressed and sad because my Grandma’s doily was either worthless or because Grandma’s doily is worth a lot and now I have to make a choice between selling the doily and retiring or keeping the doily for my grand kids who might destroy a million dollars by accidentally setting a hot coffee cup down on it. Either way I just can’t stand to watch. I am the complete opposite of Chancy Gardener in that great film, Being There, when he says, “I like to watch”. I hate to watch unless I know that some one has created an imaginative story or a well crafted autobiography that if I learn something from it, will make my own reality better. Even if it is because by watching them, I learn to laugh at myself and here is the important bit — learn that life’s choices have consequences and I need to weigh each choice in the balance of my real life and the real lives of people who live alongside of me.

 

I think we need to stop thinking of God and Jesus as out there some where “liking to watch”. Could it be that even when he entered our reality,  Jesus saw universal reality quite differently?

 

St. Paul says Jesus came to planet Earth, “in the fullness of time”. (Galatians 4: 4,5). Can you imagine what Reality TV and the Americana of Cultural Consumerism would do today with  Jesus’ fantastical street theatre magic tricks? How would talk show hosts today interview those people who experienced the strange but true phenomenon of the Early Church folks’ heads on fire with the Holy Spirit? True Crime reenactment of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, anyone? Oprah and Chris Wallace would be duking it out for the first interviews with Mary and Martha after Lazarus saw the white light and came back from the dead to tell about it. Those ladies could have made enough cash from a reality show to retire on.

 

At the fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry, when He stands before the religious leaders and political leaders of His own time and place, He is asked by them, “Are you the “real” King of the Jews?”  And Jesus responds, “True ‘Dat!”.  But when the people get a reality check on truth from Jesus, they respond, “Alternative Facts, Jesus.” And go back to The Show. Jesus refuses to see life as a team sport; He will not choose sides in a competition and even back then, that drives people crazy.  Today The Christ’s refusal to join in the competition means we have made Him the mascot — Jesus as our cute cheerleader –as we play the game any old way we want. And mascots look real, but aren’t and we keep our false idea of Jesus intact as mascot not Lord because we would never dream of letting the mascot influence our game. A Lord is not so easy to sideline as a mascot.

 

I am  slugging through Dostoevsky and out of the plethora of relevant truths entombed in the great novel, The Brothers Karamazov is this observation by Ivan. Ivan has been speaking to Alyosha of the true and real horrors that men and women inflict on each other – horrors people do, even to the point of torturing or abusing little children.  If you read nothing else that might be considered “spiritual” in the next days ahead, read Chapter 4: “Rebellion” and Chapter 5: “The Grand Inquisitor” in the Brothers K.  Ivan is speaking to his younger brother who is a novice monk but who will be leaving the priesthood to live out in the world. Ivan is well aware that the reality Alyosha has been cloistered in is about to have a rude awakening in the Real World. But Ivan wants Alyosha to see that the “real” world is in fact absurd in terms of God’s view of humans and human morality, or rather immorality.

 

“Let me tell you, novice, that the absurd is only too necessary on earth.  The world stands on absurdities, and perhaps nothing would have come to pass in it without them.  We know what we know!”

 

“What do you know?” asks Alyosha.

 

“I don’t want to understand anything now,” responded Ivan. “I want to stick to the facts.  I made up my mind long ago not to understand. If I try to understand anything, I will be false to the facts and I have determined to stick to the facts.”

 

“Why are you testing me?” Alyosha cried.

 

Ivan was silent for minute.  His face became all at once very sad.

 

“Listen! I spoke of children only to make my case clearer.  Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its center, I will say nothing… Men are themselves to blame, I suppose: they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy.”(The Brothers Karamozov,236-237)

 

Ivan goes on to illuminate why he suffers. He suffers because of Truth and his inability to understand. (Next to the ancient Hebrews, history’s greatest Empaths just might be the Russians!) Ivan, knows that the Truths that he understands in his heart are not the Truths that God sees, hence, he suffers in his desperate need to understand.  Ivan’s life work is to help those who need justice and compassion, but he does not understand why the world is as it is, “such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension.”

 

What is Truth? Pilate’s words go down in our history as open to interpretation, depending on the listener. But much like the reality shows of our own time, Pilate plays to the great audience out there.  We often emulate Pilate, convincing ourselves and others that because we ask the question about Truth, we long to know it, but that is sadly merely often just for show. We who long to call ourselves, Little Christs, and desire to follow in The Way of Jehovah’s Kingdom, are called to be Empaths. Loving, without understanding; seeking Truth even if we lose the “game”, living a life of service not fame, coming along side the underdog, praying behind closed doors not on football fields, and giving without glory – this the reality that God’s Kingdom is. And if it is not our reality now, then it will never be what we really want our reality to be in Eternity.  We will not be able to give up the applause of a false world for the love of a God if we aren’t practicing doing it now. Because that is what Christ did and does. That is what Jehovah does. We are told that The Christ who was from the beginning of Understanding and He who truly did understand the difference between our view of truth and God’s view of Truth, rather than glory and power now, chose instead to suffer. The Christ suffered in his body, in his emotion and soul in uncertainty. He refuses to perform, to compete, to even explain. When He cries out in Gethsemane, as all oppressed, uncertain, fearful humans do, “Father IF You can, remove this cup I drink from me”; He is accepting that our human reality is nothing compared to Jehovah’s Reality. We do indeed see as through a dim and cloudy glass.

 

We who call ourselves set apart as Christ’s, are called daily to feel the stripes on our own backs of suffering. We are called also to feel the facts. We are called with Jesus not to claim we understand  the “Why’s” of this world but rather to empathize with our neighbors; not watching them, but serving them, even our competitive enemies. We are not to overlook the tragic condition of the rich and powerful and famous; we are also called to feel with the Pilates – the showmen and rulers of this world, who do not really want to know the Truth, but merely want to figure out how and if Truth can serve their selfish and prideful purposes.

 

Oh there are times we just want to sit down and relax to “reality” with a snack perhaps. This is the curse of our immense wealth and leisure today. When Jesus interrupts the reality Pilate has created for himself in the Kingdom of Rome, Pilate has the power and free time to merely watch some one else’s life and the man Jesus is simply the latest reality show on Pilates TiVo. Pilate also has the power, to vote on Jesus’ life, and as a ruler he can involve his  viewers. Behold the “Great Jewish Idol Show” – vote for Jesus or Barabbas, competing before your very eyes for their lives. And afterwards,  Pilate simply has to pause and go wash his hands to get all the Doritos chip dust off. Messy business, watching.

 

We too have been watching. Watching Jesus, using Jesus, judging Jesus. And just like judges on “The Antique Road Show”, we view and live out reality based on the objects we clutch in our hands, and ask passively , “Did you really mean what You said, Jesus? Is all of this stuff really worthless compared to God’s Real Kingdom?”  If we choose Door Number One – the Jesus Door, then we need to stop washing our hands of our responsibilities to Jesus’ Kingdom Truth. As Ivan says, we are not called to understand what Truth is – Pilate had it all wrong right from the start. We are called to live The Truth and thereby, change the reality. We are called to live in the strange facts of God’s World now, by living Christ’s Eternal Kingdom Truth. And that is the only Reality Show that will never be off the air.

 

We are called to be Christ’s body moving now, hands feeding others, ears listening and mourning with others, feet being washed and getting dirty again, and the facts of heaven not being watched and hoped for, but trusted and lived.

 

We are called to exorcise the lies that  the World’s “reality” has used to stoke our greed, our pride, our anger, our prejudices, our fears, our victimization, our desires, and our loneliness’s. And we must stop vicariously living through someone else and refuse to drug ourselves with whatever our escape of choice might be. Escape for respite and retreat are necessary as Jesus showed us, but escape from feeling as God wants us to feel for others – well, that is a Game Show we can never win.  We are called to exercise our powers in our created reality of image bearers of God. We are not called to know — after all, even the demons know and believe. We are called to live and be re- created to be a new reality, born again into the beings we were in Eden.

 

Jesus was a very poor competitor. He was playing in a radically different World Cup Tournament; as He said, ‘my kingdom is not one like any of these. I play on an altogether different playing field, where Heaven meets earth.” Jesus refused to be any thing other than straight up with folks. He went throughout His world confirming the facts of a reality in which there is a porous veil between Heaven’s Kingdom and our own. Jesus was factual about the way of the World in we have chosen to live since The Fall and the Not Ready for Prime Time Facts of the Kingdom that would only be fully realized with Christ’s Second Coming – a world that God designed for us and still wants us to live in. “The Kingdom of God is not a reality like your nations,” says Jesus, “but rather The Real Kingdom is something like a seed, like a mystery, like one lost coin, like a pearl that no one knows about planted in a field.” The Truth, says Jesus, is not something you can sit down to watch or read about. The Truth is something you must seek and when you find it, you must share it by living it out with others.  “And the woman went out and told every one about what she had found! He knew everything about me, and He told me the Truth about me.  Come, listen to Him.” Now that’s a reality show for the ages!

 

As a great Truth Teller, Jesus directed Pilate to look within himself, and there he would find the truth. We must balance our instincts to fight lies from without with our great need to fight the lies we live within to prop up our own sense of our selfish reality — for our own sense of self. We must look within first, and then yes, we must look at those who claim to also walk in The Way. We must judge and question what we do in order to “understand” or to feel “happy” or to “relax” or to defend our choices and point of view.  Because all of these things are only a figment of our imagined understanding of reality. Until we see our individual idea of Truth as a human concept as fallen as the rest of the world, we will never understand that Jesus came to remind us that “God’s kingdom is not of this world”.  God’s kingdom is on a whole other plain, a different playing field, a set of “Truths that we hold not self-evident” but facts nonetheless just beyond our reach.  As Jesus says, “I am not hungry only because I have food that you know nothing about.”

 

Jesus not only coined the phrase hypocrisy, he spoke a lot about it; sometimes straight to the person’s face and sometimes in his general round -about way of sowing seeds of mystery and genuineness. Jesus did not like hypocrites but he did LOVE them.  And so when The Christ points out hypocrisy it is as much if not more so for the person who is being hypocritical as those who are victims of the lies of belief systems when the falsehoods of the powerful meet feet on the road. In other words, the person who is being hypocritical is not only telling a lie, but much worse for him, he is living a lie.  People will fight hard if you tell them they are being hypocritical because they have, usually without realizing it of course,  lied so long to themselves about any one or all issues, that they truly can not understand. I know I am like this. But when we watch a show, and someone’s pretend-reality, then we can pretend that the beliefs and actions match – and this is how we have come to think our own actions will never have consequences in God’s Alternative Reality – why would the Producer do something so un-entertaining?

 

Which  brings us back to both Ivan and Jesus. Both Dostoevsky and The God of the Hebrews say, Let the facts stand and don’t try to understand.  Deal with the facts as you are called to.  First deal with the facts of this world, your world, yourself and all the people you know and don’t know in this world.  Facts don’t lie, goes the old adage, but of course they do, because this world is still built and run by the Father of Lies. So look at the facts of what God says about the world and what God says about Himself and the facts of how Jesus lived.  Take all the facts about Christ’s Kingdom that you can and then don’t try to understand them.  Try to accept them. Accepting them without understanding is impossible, but then “all things are possible with God”. Living righteously without understanding — that is the hardest and easiest way to live.  What would happen and who would I be if I accepted as fact that:

 

  • His eye is on the sparrow and I know He is watching me.
  • No man can discern the human heart, but only God.
  • I came to fulfill the law.
  • You will be judged by what you literally do for the poorest and least of the least.
  • I am coming again to judge the living and the dead.
  • Thou shalt not lie.
  • Thou shalt not covet.
  • Thou shalt not take My Name in Vain.
  • There is nothing but faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.
  • I should just do for and to others what I’d like to have done to and for me.
  • Give all you have to the poor and follow me.
  • etc.etc.

 

In A Grief Observed that supremely intuitive and humble writer of what is really Real, C.S. Lewis, writes that, “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief”.  I imagine Jesus responding, “True ‘dat, Clive, my man!”

 

How we actually live out our own deepest truths are our reality, both now and forever. How our truths match God’s revealed truths to us, whoever and wherever and whenever we are – that will be our eternal reality. And as Lewis also writes, that reality is just below the surface in who we are now. Jesus is clear: “Don’t just watch me, follow what I do.”   Heaven on earth now and forever is for the risk-takers, not the risk-watchers.

 

The very first book of the Bible contains what we say we want more than anything, God speaking directly to us. In the Book of Job, God says this to the man who iconic -ally suffers all that humans can suffer in this broken world: “Who has put wisdom in the inmost parts or given understanding to the mind?”  “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on earth?” (Job 38)

 

Now that is a reality check that is not for the faint of heart. Job didn’t understand it, but he was willing to take a risk on God’s reality and truth. Ivan didn’t understand why people are so messed up but he didn’t want to watch it any more, he just wanted to do something about it and leave the understanding to a God he struggled to believe in.  Even Jesus, He whom I call Lord, did not understand it while He lived among us. Jesus studied and prayed and struggled and suffered and still did not understand it.  But He didn’t watch it. Jesus lived Life and so became The Life. And in the very last moments, He risked His entire reality – He gave up everything to death not ending in glory but at the time in infamous undeserved shame. Jesus left this planet as an unclean criminal executed for crimes against nation and religion, with the words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And with those words, Christ put His belief in God’s Reality to the test.  The Christ took the ultimate risk; He decided that He would believe Jehovah that even death was not the ultimate reality. And since He died a very real death for God, He was resurrected into the only real life with God. Now Jesus has all the glory, all the power, all the world and heaven too, and one day, at His Name, every knee will one day, hit the ground, and every watcher will hit their final pause button, and every vote will proclaim Him Lord.

 

“What is Truth?”, we Pilates ask.  The answer has been given, but are we willing to take the real risks that test our belief in an alternative view of Reality?  “I am the Truth, the Life and The Way,” says Jesus. “Any one who loves me and obeys me and does what I do, will live in the Real Kingdom of God.”

 

Nothing vicariously lived in that, I’m afraid. But it’s okay to be afraid about it – Jesus was.  But as John Wayne,  a man who once made us believe that everything he pretended to do on the screen, once said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up any way.” John Wayne had it right. Mary, Jesus’ mother and Joseph, his foster dad saddled up and rode to Bethlehem. Years later, The Christ would saddle up a donkey and ride towards certain painful and humiliating unjustified death. The disciples didn’t have the courage to saddle up that day, and they watched the Reality Show of The Crucifixion with the rest of the timid and angry Anti-Christs. But they eventually found their courage after the Resurrection, and they saddled up so that we too, so many years later, could know the Reality of the Life of Jesus. And we are called to saddle up and ride; to fall and get back up, and adjust the saddle, and ride.

 

We are not meant  to continue to watch life. We are not meant to watch it even with our 3-D glasses on.  We are meant to live it in 3-D.

 

When I keep trying to understand how to live in God’s Reality, I both condemn and excuse myself. How could I possibly live like that? What does it all mean? It makes me frightened and stressed and tense. All I know is that I am called to live in that tension, which is not the tension of competition or a game. It is the tension of Truth and Love; it is the tension of being fully human and partly in the image of gods; it is the tension of being alive in Christ and dead to self. And just like those folks on “The Antique Road Show”, I wait to find out what it is all worth; what I am worth. Will the helpless useless doily I call myself be worthy?

 

God does tell us the meaning of It All, in the only ways He can.  Lewis comments somewhere that asking God to explain the meaning of something is like asking a human being, “is a square yellow”? God can only tell us the facts which, as He says to Job, “You will never understand. But You must still live for Me.”

 

“Only by choosing to love Me, more than you need to understand Me”, responds Jehovah, “will you someday be made right again.” As Pascal said, are we willing to wager our vacation days, reputation and love of objects on our eternal worth?

 

 

God watches us, not as a couch potato god who likes a good reality show, but as an active participant through those who chose to allow His Holy Spirit to live in them. And like His Son, we are expected not to watch Him work but to actively participate in creating a Kingdom on earth as it is in God’s Heavens. The Real God is not just a producer of our lives but an active participant in His Universes. Jesus  tells us that, “I will, one day, as The Great Antique Road Show Judge of all Time and Eternity, judge Your worth based on how you lived.”  And if we like the bad servant in Jesus’ parable, hide our talents without earning interest, we will be left to that most horrible Reality Show of all times – the dust heap from which we were created.

 

Paul, who wrote many a great script, wrote to his fellow ambassadors of truth and hope in Thessalonia, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

 

We are encouraged to live not as couch potatoes watching people vie for this world’s idea of glory, but as participants of God’s glory and man’s  own created glory realized in Christ Jesus.

 

The World’s Road Show is wide and many will enjoy it, but the Road from Eden through Calvary and the Tomb is narrow and not many will walk it.

 

Time to get off my couch –again– and put on my walking shoes. Time to saddle up. Can I ride tandem with you, Jesus?

 

O Lord, our Lord,
how excellent is Your name in all the earth!

You have set Your glory
above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength
because of Your enemies,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You have established,
what is man that You are mindful of him,
and the son of man that You attend to him?

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
and whatever travels the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

And all God’s people said, “True, ‘Dat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until The Daylight Comes A Poem by Jane Tawel

Until The Daylight Comes

By Jane Tawel

September 27, 2018

Until the Daylight comes,

I lie broken

Sleepless

Afraid.

Until the Daylight comes,

I lie

Breaking

Truth-less

Afraid.

And until the Morning Star breaks the dark

And breaks the dark in me

I fight the demons of the night

Real and unreal

Forgetting that Hope

Comes with the Light.

 

But Ah, My Soul Awake!

Hope Comes Renewed

with the Rising of the Morning Star.

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God Ain’t Your Sugar Daddy by Jane Tawel

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: God Ain’t Your Sugar Daddy

by Jane Tawel

September 16, 2018

 

Søren Kierkegaard in his aptly titled book, Provocations writes provocatively:

To love God is the only happy love, but on the other hand it is also something terrible. Face to face with God we are without standards and without comparisons; we cannot compare ourselves with God, for here we become nothing, and directly before God, in the presence of God, we dare not compare ourselves with others. Therefore in every person there is a prudent fear of having anything to do with God, because by becoming involved with God we become nothing.

 

Yes.  This.  This is where we have gone so very, very wrong as a species. This is how as beings we have lost sight of that which can only call itself, “I Am”.  This is how we can pray to a God – to The God!—for minutiae, for self, for games, and for stuff, and for feelings – pray not about God’s Kingdom but our own.

 

I write this as my daughter is one of the millions who has survived and dodged death in the region of Hurricane Florence. We are thankful that she had enough money to escape, a friend to escape with, and that the storm lessened dramatically from what was predicted. And yes, we prayed.  But I pray every single day for two things: 1. Keep my kids and Raoul and me safe. 2. Help my kids and Raoul and me come closer to knowledge and love of You, God.

 

But those two prayers are contradictory, because truly seeking knowledge and love of God is not a safe quest. And so  we live prudently and keep God not only faceless but nameless. I have found this is what we do with people and why should we not do it with God.  If I don’t know the name of the grocery store bagger, then I can talk on my cell phone while she, an automaton, bags my food. If I don’t know the name of the person calling me to sell me something, I can hang up on them.  And so it has become with our generic god – we think we honor Him as the only god by capitalizing his name, but we are really just trying to capitalize on our assumed relationship to Him.  We give His son an equally odd distinction of powerlessness, combining His title, “The Christ” as a sort of last name, like “Smith” to his first name, Jesus. In this way we cut the power out from under Him.  And we don’t need to be truly connected with nameless gods or humans and we can mask our fear as power or business or need or greed.

 

We have become so afraid of having anything to do with God because He may require something  different of us,  require something we don’t like; require us to give up something. We give god an innocuous name so that our relationship to Her remains neutral, neutered and nihilistic – all the while using Her as a male-daddy figure who loves us more than our brother, Cain. We refuse to be creatures to a Creator, lest She require us to dance with abandon amongst those who are homeless until a new earth is created by us as it was meant to be cared for in the first place – by us.  We pretend that it is all in God’s hands and that He will give us the “desires of our hearts”, forgetting that we are to live as nothing but the desires of God’s heart in the world.

 

We keep the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob safely in the back pages of an historical book, trotted out to prove that we are safe and secure because somehow we “believe” He exists.  We forget demons are real and they believe too, but they don’t fear God, they don’t serve God, they don’t give up everything to follow God.  We downplay the prophets and elevate the personal letters. We leave Jesus hanging on the cross taking care of the covenant so we can play golf and let the current kingdom make the rules.  We prefer a tin-god we can watch on television until we change the world’s channel to the next session of whatever pharaoh trumps today; preferring idols and golden towers to the God whom no man has seen and lived.

 

We have stopped being involved with Jehovah, preferring a more casual, politically correct, impersonal name – just “god”.  Imagine if instead of “Mom” my children called me “person”? Imagine if instead of Mrs. Tawel, my students called me “Teacher”? Imagine my husband’s response if I stopped calling him by any of the special names I have for him – Boo-boo; honey; Dr. T; Ropey; Mr. Moto; Raoul, etc.  – and any time I wanted something or wanted to tell him how much I love him, I simply addressed him by saying, “Dear Male, the only male in my world, please let me win this game and please, Male, help me mop the kitchen floor.”  This. is. Who. we. Have. Made. Yahweh.   Dear Male God whom I claim, like my husband, to have the most intimate relationship with because that is what it says in a book I get if I believe in some obscure, out there being who loves me so much just because I love me so much… can you please do this for me because I am Jane Karen Cook Tawel – and you know my name, right?”

 

We threaten God that where “two or three are gathered together in His name”, which we don’t use, that He has to give us what we want even if our shoes are still on and our cell phones merely muted. And we call our selves by His name without any irony, “little Christs” we name ourselves, assuming that we will never be held accountable for our side of the covenant.

 

Imagine if when our kids called home, they purposely only called when they knew we were out and they could just leave a message – knowing we couldn’t give them advice in person, or speak our minds, or talk back – we would just be there to listen to a message and then send money or whatever. Of course sometimes, since their parents are flawed human beings, adult  kids should do this but that doesn’t mean when they do so, that it changes the relationship. Our children are meant to be independent but as they become less dependent, the relationship is less close, right?  This is exactly what we who claim to be “His children” keep doing throughout our history since Eden  with  our Father God.  We call God up as a friend and ask for something while we go about our day as if He is just the person on the other end of an answering machine. God forbid! That God should actually pick up the phone and talk back!

 

As written down by the scribes of God’s interactions with people, right after God gives His newly chosen people the rules that will help them form a community that withstands time, other powers, and the selfishness inherent in each of them, the book of Exodus has the Hebrews deciding they would rather leave the God-relationship to the professionals – or at least to someone else.

 

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20: 18 -21)

 

And so it goes, century after recorded century, we mask our fear with blaming or taming God. We seem as Kierkegaard so vehemently points out to have completely tamed what that other great provocateur tried to warn us is “not a tame Lion”. And Jehovah always allows us our freedom – to either fear Him so much we want nothing to do with Him or to not fear Him at all so we can have nothing to do with Him.

 

Today, Jesus is our pal, not our King and God is our genie in a bottle not our Creator.  People have given God lots of names, but God gave Himself some names and then, when we rejected The Father, He sent His Son to speak out and  live out those names.  In Exodus 15, God has a little “Let’s Get Re-acquainted Party” with His created humans whom He has called out from the nations into community with Him.

 

In Exodus 15: 26, God is directly quoted as speaking to people – not just taking their messages: “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians.  For I am the LORD who heals you.”

I Am reveals Himself as Jehovah Rapha – or as humans might say: “HE who can Heals”. Human words fail God-Healer, but He keeps trying. When Moses asks God for His name, God is stumped but nonetheless, gives it the old college try – “Hey, Moses, my man, how about you just call me “I AM”.  As C.S. Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed”: “Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.” And yet we are never told by God to stop asking. Just like any good Parent, God always wants His children to talk with Him, ask Him things about Himself, rely on Him, and also, to respect or “fear” Him.  But God doesn’t want to always have to speak baby-talk to us either; He longs to communicate Himself to us, not just mimic our babble and leave us living in Babble with each other.

And yet even when The God comes as the human Jesus who speaks directly to people, He fails – because we fail. Again. And again. When Jesus healed the worst physical infirmities of all, people thanked Him and then walked away having gotten what they wanted out of God.  But Jesus and His Father have always wanted to heal more than our sniffles. We want the Trinity to be our handi-wipe, our Kleenex, our heavenly botox for our outer selves and not a raging fire for our soul’s viruses. I think Christ when speaking to those who  had just witnessed His powerful relationship with Yahweh, said with some amount of disbelief: “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

 

And so today, we are quite happy – relieved even –to leave Christ on the Cross where He, like Moses, spoke with God.  We enjoy the myth that evidently Jesus “paid it all” on Calvary so I can live without following  Him or His Father.  And so we rack up treasures on earth and thank a nameless God for them; and we worry about if our daughter is going to win the game and we ask God for a favor; and we sweat in the night about the lump we find and we beg God for healing; and we live as if Jesus died but didn’t rise and as if God is tame, and not fearsome. And somehow we think we will go to God’s Heaven anyway because of – what? Because we call Him “Sugar Daddy” and know He owns the whole train — the whole kit and caboodle? We bought a ticket but don’t want to take the journey. And why would we want to live somewhere not here under our control any way with a bland God who lives only to please us?

 

We have made God the fairy dust of our desires and so to dust we will return because that is where we are most comfortable.

 

There are many instructions about fearing the Lord God Jehovah. Psalm 25:12: Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.  Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it.

Deuteronomy 6:24: So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today.

 

And so forth and so on. But right in the very beginning, right after Yahweh introduces Himself as God- Creator, He introduces another name to call Him by and this is what the chosen people of God (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah etc.) called Him: El-Shaddai (God Almighty).  El-Shaddai – God of The Mountains.   Jesus later says, “If you have faith, you can move This Mountain” and his hearers would be aware that Christ meant you can move God with your faith.  But faith isn’t fairy dust, faith is following the covenant – the agreement with Jehovah and this is what the real name of the real god means:  “Jehovah – The God of The Covenant Between Us and Them”.

 

We love to quote Jesus’ use of the term, “Daddy” or “Abba” when He speaks to The Father, but Jesus most often uses other names for Jehovah when He speaks to other human beings.  He calls The God, “Theos” or “One and Only god”; Kyrios or “ Our god of The Covenant with Those Who call Him and Only Him ‘Lord’”. When Jesus begins the discourse that will lead to the prayer in which He address Kyrios as his own personal dad; Jesus tells the people that all the universe belongs to Megas Basileus or The Great King, as compared to other kings. In The Christ’s condemnation of our treatment of The Lord God, He tells us that Jehovah is “Kyrios Ouranos Ge” –The Ruler, Lord, Overseer of all the heavens and all of the Earth.   And on and on we could go – and yet, those names scare us, as they should. We prefer to focus on remaining children who see God as someone too scary to be talked with directly. We prefer to lisp in our little voices, “Pweeze, daddy gimmee, gimme, gimmee – at least that which I can  not get for myself through power, science, technology, coercion, greed or busyness.” By the time we are thirty, or forty, or sixty years old  our baby prayers  should just sound pathetic.

 

We have turned god into our Sugar Daddy. We have kept Him safely dead on a cross still paying for our sins, while we have no more desire to be resurrected than we have of seeing Him resurrected among us. We have made the Holy Spirit, the fun- praising Party Guy; and we pray for more dust to add to our already large dust piles. All we like sheep have remained foolish and all we like dust- bunnies have remained useless. We were created in the image of a God and we have decided that the image in the mirror is a safer bet.

 

Oh, if only we could long to become nothing in the presence of Jehovah Holy, Holy, Holy. Isaiah cried: “Woe to me!” “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”  It is recorded that:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6)

If even angels hide their eyes in the presence of God, how can mere mortals long to be in His presence without fear?

This next bit will scare me to write but…..There have been a few times recently, when I have been lying all alone, worried and small in my bed at night, praying the prayers of the small and worried, when suddenly a True and Terrifying Presence has come near.  To use a very flawed simile the feeling I experienced in that moment, reminds me of the time I decided to be very, very brave and try barefoot water skiing.  I could only stay on my feet for about 30 seconds.  That is how those late night times of a real sense of Jehovah were – I honestly could only stand to remain in my mind, heart and soul for about 30 seconds with what I knew to be “The Real Jehovah” – the One to Fear; the One in whose presence I am nothing, and yet…. Even in that fearsome moment….

I also recognized in Him, He Who is my daddy; He who came to live among humans; He who cares for me more than any earthly parent ever did, ever could.

After our Fall and our decision of trying to make the world into our own ideas of good and evil; of making ourselves God-wannabe’s, or “adults”; the Parents had to change the terms of our agreement, for the sake of  their children –ourselves, the planet, and other beings both human and non-human. Jehovah’s love  was never offered as license to be healed only physically, to go my own way not Yahweh’s Way, to let Christ die for me without my dying for Him, or to not be very, very fearful of A God Who Cannot be Contained in One Name.  Because like any Good, Good Mother, Jehovah knows that  once a relationship grows up that real love requires both people not just to say but to do; not just to take but to give; not just to ask but to receive; not just to follow but to lead; and not just to plant but to nurture.  With Jehovah, relationship means not just to believe, but to worship. Just like the day I married Raoul, didn’t mean we would stay in close, living relationship forever but did mean I was covenanting with my husband to love each other in spirit, truth, deed, and body, heart, mind and soul.  This is why The Christ compares us to The Bride — it is a marriage contract not a warranty we buy to protect our purchase of God-life.

When we lost our awe of The One God with Many Names, we lost what is defined as, “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder”. When we carelessly set down our reverential fear and wonder of Jehovah-Creator, we lost our love for Him and what we call love is a sad reflection of what we were created to enjoy with Him and which Jesus The Christ did enjoy with Him while among us.  Jesus invites us to have that same fearful love of El Shaddai today which is paradoxically a relationship with the intimacy of marriage. We are offered the same relationship that Jesus had with Jehovah, and to understand that even though Christ was the only begotten Son, He still feared His Lord. We are called to fear and love as well, and to follow that covenantal relationship that The Christ now has for eternity with The Father, but we have to want to get to know The God I Am, and be known by Him – not just keep leaving messages to a generic-named god.  And that should be terrifying. And yet, strangely freeing.

The prophet Amos (3:8) cautions us to live in fear of  the Lion of Judah-God: “The Lion has roared, who will not fear Him”; but that Lion was also the lamb and when He came to live among His sheep, as The Christ, He showed us the nature of Jehovah and also our awed but trusting responsive nature to Him who is our Shepherd. Only then can we too serve as lions feeding Yahweh’s sheep.

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If we lose ourselves to our own nothingness into the awe of He Who Is– then through Faith, Hope and Love, we will be all that we were created to be and reborn into that which can remain; and by losing the love of ourselves, we gain what is Love Eternal. In this way, by dying to self, we ironically, gain our truest selves. To love God is indeed, something terrible, something out of my control, something fearful, but in Yahweh’s created worlds, all beings which love Him with fear will be with Him forever in His Peacefulness Without End Kingdom — where the Lion and the Lamb snuggle together where there is finally nothing to fear– not even looking on the face of a Holy God. A Worshipful Holy Terror of Jehovah  is the only thing that will ever bring me true and eternal joy.  And so as our Messiah taught us, we pray:   “Our Father, Who Art ‘I Am’, Sacred Be Thy Name”.

 

A Psalm of Frightened Joyful Love to an Awesome God:

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.