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, that that is 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 become The Life. And in the very last moments, He risked His entire reality – He gave up everything 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.

 

“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.

XF4Ukcu

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.

63e465bce6d7a22ee385e2193bf3d062--lion-and-lamb-the-lion

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay Anonymous by Jane Tawel

Stay Anonymous

By Jane Tawel

September 11, 2018

I’m Nobody

Who Are You?

Are You Nobody too?

Then there’s a pair of us – Don’t tell

They’ll banish you know.

How dreary to be Somebody

How public, like a frog

To Tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog.

**Written in 1891 by Emily Dickinson

 

I have recently observed people in power from my outsider’s view as a Dickinson -ian “Nobody”.  I have of course, worked for people in power. Many of the people I have worked for or with are professing Christians, and many of them have achieved a power that has sadly become so masked by “feel good” philosophically excused uses of power that they have no remaining understanding of the dangers of human or national power.  There have in my experience, been several of these powerful leaders who adhere to a particularly odd rule that they will not even read anonymous notes addressed to them, let alone take them seriously  unless the anonymous person “reveals” herself or himself. They claim that there is something subversive, something unethical, about not being willing to put your name on a message.  These powerful men, (and they are most often men but not exclusively so), can take that line in the sand stand because they have enough power in their particular sphere of influence to say and do what they want to and let the chips fall where they may –because of course they assume that like always the chips will never fall –because they have power. And so it goes round and round. But frankly  from the peanut stands here, the anonymous collective opinion is that the very notes leaders should be reading are the anonymous ones.  The notes we should be reading as Americans today are the anonymous ones – not just the current famous one, but all the anonymous “notes” of anonymous people without power trying to speak truth to power throughout our long and checkered history.

 

It is true that one reason people speak anonymously is because they are afraid; but they also speak anonymously because what they have to say is so true that it should brook no argument and yet, because we have gotten to a point in our history as humans where we  seem unable to even admit we are wrong or mistaken,  or uninformed, let alone,  that we are sinful or evil; people will  not admit they are ever wrong and will even argue outrageous lies and not be held accountable. If we cannot accept we are wrong then we definitely can not change course and stop being wrong. And because of this widespread disease of self-justification and self-righteousness and just plain pig-headedness –anonymous speakers know that the argument for and revelation of Truth will be used by the people in power to silence or muddy the truth.  These necessary truths can include correctable truths like  pointing out that what a leader said showed prejudicial views and should be corrected to revealing larger and larger truths  like  money is being spent in wrong ways by our leaders or our leaders are using their power to abuse children.  If I received an anonymous note, would I be obsessed by wanting to know who it is from – yes, that is natural –but would I discount that there may be some truth in the message that I need to listen to – I pray not. I pray I would want to know the truth if it is meant to change something, to better something, to create something good, and not a truth meant just to punish or shame. I hope I want to learn and grow from truth,  no matter how much it might hurt me.

 

Especially anyone who wants to claim a Judeo-Christian worldview should take these unsigned notes coming anonymously as spiritually serious.  You see, if there is fear created in people who work for or with us, then that is quite plainly not “of God” as much of Holy Scripture advises us. (2 Timothy 1:7;  Matthew 10:26-28; etc.).  The second reason is that if someone writes to me anonymously then I must understand that my natural inclination is to protect self-interest, to defend myself, to not admit wrong or sin, so  that I am actually, by the very anonymity of the writer, being lovingly – yes – lovingly! – honored by this person writing without name to me because they care enough – yes care! – about my changing for the better for my own soul’s sake. Do I put the anonymous writer on too high a pedestal? I hope so because of course the writer is in this situation, the “least of these” that the Bible tells me I will need to treat justly lest I be judged lacking someday by the God-man Messiah who came to be the least of these among us.  Jesus didn’t even write to us anonymously – He didn’t write to us at all.  He was so certain of His mission and His understanding of God’s True truth, as revealed in The Hebrew Scriptures and as revealed in His close relationship with His Father, that He didn’t write to us at all.  He didn’t need to because it was already written in God’s Word, in God’s World, and in God’s Nature. Jesus simply lived powerlessly amongst us and  because of His radical choice, He now lives in absolute power at the right hand of God –because of that choice of laying down all the power in the world to the glory of God and the salvation of His people. My dying to my own sense of power is the only way to ever live eternally in the power of the resurrection. I can’t be made whole, new, perfect, if I am clinging to the imperfect powers of self and  of this place and time  in which I  temporarily live.

 

The reason people write anonymous notes is because they don’t have power and think that speaking their truth to a person in power is critical and important enough that they must do so . They of course also may not want to risk losing their jobs. They may not have a golden parachute or a non-disclosure clause or a helpfully rich relative.  There are times of course when people must risk their jobs to do and say the right truth. There are times people risk  not just their livelihoods, but even their lives to speak truth to Power.  But as a little person who has many times felt compelled to speak truth and who has also supported anonymous note writers in their choice of anonymity, I will tell you that I think the real subversive actions are from  those people who have power and will not use that power to look within themselves and figure out why someone is so afraid  or so sure –that they must remain anonymous. The times I have felt compelled to speak truth to power, whether boss, relative or sojourner in Christ, still in remembrance, hurt my heart. The times however, that I did not listen to True Truth spoken to me, hurt my soul and that is more painful and harder to course correct by far.

 

Especially people who claim to follow Jesus as The Christ, should be humble enough to understand how their own power has perhaps blinded them to truth or to the different needs and inferior power structures of “The Other – the Biblical “lesser than’s”. Anonymity reveals needs just as much as signing one’s name to needs, and what anyone with the power to address someone else’s needs  should do with that power  is to follow Biblical injunctions to “die to self” and give to the least of these. We modern day Pharisees and Sadducees are the truly blind guides, the truly subversive abusers of the Good News, the truly unethical, and when we judge the anonymous writer we are leaving the planks in our eyes and judging the speck in theirs.

 

Jesus often told those He healed to stay anonymous and allow Him to remain anonymous from the powers of Rome and the powers of Religion – at least a little longer so that He might heal more, bring Good News to more of those with ears to hear and eyes to see.  Several of the writers of the remembered actions and stories about The Christ were anonymous amalgamations of people who chose a name to put on the Gospel. – decades after The Christ died and rose again.  These Gospel writers weren’t of course anonymous during all the years when the Gospel was orally spoken throughout the world, and so the religious and national powers of the time could kill them for speaking non-anonymously. Paul, who probably often wishes today from His heavenly view, that he had written his letters anonymously so people couldn’t abuse now what he said then, often used his eloquent words to speak to the idea of power. But those aren’t the popular bits that Christians in power today are fond of. We are too contently busy protecting our power and not busy enough taking a knee.

 

I started to write in my first paragraph that I have never wanted to be one of the powerful ones, but that would be a lie. As a parent, I can cringingly, with deep remorse, remember abuses of my power over my children. As a woman, I can remember abuses of my power. As a wife. As a teacher. As a friend.  As a white person. As an American. As a brother or sister in Christ.  Because you see, we are all sinners and all choose, sometimes daily, to eat from the apple of power to use good and evil for gain.

 

As a parent, it took me forever to realize that parents have necessary power  for so long over our children that we have a hard time seeing when we are abusing it or when we are wrong. And we can see this played out on our national scene and in our churches today – this inability to give up one’s power and admit that you – or the horse you backed – or your pastor, pope, priest, or president is wrong; and  then to realize that even powerful people should be informed, chastised, held accountable, and helped to do something differently than he / she has been. Frankly,  sometimes for our good and their own eternal good, these people need to be removed from that position of power before the consequences multiply – for all  involved souls, large and small. You see, we are all sinners, all wrong, all mistaken, and  all eventually powerless and no matter our name, we end the game the same. Hence, we are in this together. We must all recognize that our nature is to abuse our power, no matter how rich, how poor, how weaponized or nuclearized; how democratic or “Christian” we are – Nations included; churches included; businesses included – I included.

 

Our human nature is to desire power in one realm or another and that is a gift,  as long as that power recognizes first, that it can never remain if it keeps trying  to usurp God’s inherent power and that secondly,  it can never ultimately succeed if it keeps trying to usurp another human being’s inherent  and spiritually equal power. We are created to use our personal or national or religious powers for Good.  But of course the mythological telling of The Fall of Human kind is based on the True Truth that all human beings, men and women alike, long for the power that belongs to God and  long for the power that belongs to some one next to them, and long to use that power for the knowing use of good AND evil. And in this we sin daily by abusing our natural powers to become un-natural, ie what we were not created to be.  We also have tragically misused this power given to us as humans in our sins against the power of nature; this power that was given to us in order  to serve the needs of our planet as overseers. We have destroyed not just other humans but the natural goodness of the earth. And we become more and more powerless in that realm because power abused is always power unloosed. Here in lies one revelation of the Christian worldview that “we fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers”.

 

It has been good for my soul to become a little gray -haired nobody. What has been hard for my ego and sometimes hurtful for my pocketbook has been glorious for helping me to walk “further in and further up” as C.S. Lewis might say. Walking in the shoes of people who experience prejudice their whole lives, not just when they are old women has brought me closer to the Messiah who turned our idea of power right side up from the upside down view we prefer as power-hungry sinners. Observing the hypocrisy rampant today has forced me to make different choices myself and to strive harder to act out, not just preach out Good News.  I am reading Holy Words and  those who illuminate True Truth, whether they write for Christianity Today, The Los Angeles Times, or WordPress with new intent on how to live rightly and fervor in how to look inwardly and outwardly at myself and others with those things that remain: faith, hope and the greatest of all, Love.

 

I am more cognizant and accepting of the reality,  that the days of my life in which I have been the most  of a “nobody” have been not only the best days of all, but also the days most like what we are told  we will live in a new Heaven and new Earth. Being a nobody is truly the path to freedom, joy, and Jehovah’s Kingdom, where my name doesn’t matter; only the Way, Truth and Light matter – only He matters.

 

I am reminded of the verse I chose to be a life verse, (while the Angels watched and howled with laughter at the ironic  Bible verse choice of this power-hungry but pathetically weak human). I chose this verse oh -so -naively when I was a high schooler and full of pride, ego, self-righteousness, and misguided power.  It is from a letter signed by Saul, who changed his name in order to give up His power and lay down his life as His Savior did to the least of these. For Paul he gave up his power to serve not only those in his camp, the Jews, but also the Gentiles who desired to be part of God’s people, Jesus’ Jews.  My verse, Galatians 2:20 reminds me that “I am crucified with Christ, yet nevertheless, I live.  Yet not, I, but Christ lives in me.  And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith, of the Son of God –Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

 

See, one of the things about being dead -dead is that you eventually, no matter who you were – President, Pharaoh or Pope – become unknown, anonymous, a nobody, dust.  But we who believe in the Hebrew God  of Revealed Power, and  The Holy Scriptures that reveal True Truth, believe there is a way out of eternal death and into eternal life; a way out of the anonymity of human beings who are from dust and to dust will return; a way into being known forever with a new name that will be our identity known forever, seen forever, living in the light of truth forever in Yahweh.  But unless I become that which is dead to self before I physically die, then no matter how big the lights of my name today, no matter how much power I yield, I am a nobody. The Way of The People who want to claim to be little Christs is only walked by dying to being a somebody in the service of King Jesus, who became a nobody to live with us –yesterday, today, and forever. We become a part of the Some-Body of Christ only by becoming a Nobody to ourselves. It is through giving up the power of our own flesh and desires to honor and serve in the life of faith in the Lord the giver of Life, Jehovah God.

 

Sometimes dying to self for the greater good, means leaving a job that is sucking the soul out of you. Sometimes it means going to a third-world country to bring some good news; and sometimes it means letting a third-world country experience living freely in the good news of your own country. Sometimes it means speaking out for black men in America by taking a knee with them. Sometimes it means giving a twenty to a homeless person and foregoing the McDonald’s drive through. Sometimes it means protesting our current Babylon / America’s injustices, one border atrocity at a time.  Sometimes it means losing your job or getting suspended because you walk out against gun violence.  Sometimes it means speaking truth to people in power,  standing shoulder to shoulder with others or all alone, with your own name proclaimed loudly enough that you might even get killed.

 

But every once in awhile, dying to self, means that you remain anonymous because you know deep inside, that you don’t matter at all and that ultimately, True Truth has a way of fighting its own battles. And that Truth will set you free.

 

And for some of us in power dying to self means  not discarding but in fact, reading the anonymous note written to and perhaps even about us,  and then humbly, contritely, giving up the ultimate power of being right and joining the eternal cast of nobodies.

 

We may choose  to be like the multitude of somebodies that this world assures us we all can be. We may choose to use our gifts not for making the world a better place but for making us more powerful, for getting us ever more stuff than we need. We may walk in that wide way of the world and think we are somehow being unique and special. Aren’t we  encouraged that we can all be Greatness and Power just by our own desire to “Just Do It”, right?

But some of us in order that someday “we will be like Him”, may choose to be nobodies. Because He became a Nobody. We may choose to walk humbly before God, no matter our title or resources, and to give unto others as we would desire to have given unto us. We may choose to believe that it is true Truth that some day we will only have left what we gave to the least of these and that all our skills and talents and powers will be dross and dust. We may choose to believe that only our Love will remain. We may choose to lay down our lives as if we were nobody just like a Nobody from Nazareth did for us. And only with that choice, which might include  choosing to be changed by and live by the words not just of famous but also of anonymous writers,  are we assured that one day, we will be Somebody worth being. We will in fact be with Somebody, worth being.

 

11402818_925903090765567_2377456431059436781_n

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (As recorded as the words of the Nobody from Nazareth in the Book of Matthew)

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Were Still Alive, What Would You Do for Free?

 

 

If You Were Still Alive, What Would You Do for Free?

By Jane Tawel

September 4, 2018

Laborious Thoughts on Labor a Day after “Labor Day”

 

 

It’s trendy to think through those imaginary conundrum questions. “Would you kill a thousand people for a million dollars”?  “If you could steal money without being caught would you? These constructs are intended to reveal something about our ethics.  Most of us  get to play around with the idea of what we would do for money without consequences, because it will never be an actual real -life  choice for us (unless  of course you are currently an American Congressman).

 

The other imaginary conundrum that strikes me as an odd way of thinking – and stay with me here — is when people say, “My grandma would have been 104 today if she had lived.”  And I of course, as the overthinker that I am, immediately note (hopefully not out loud) — But…. She…. Didn’t… Live ….. Right?  I mean, if  Ghandi had lived he would be 149 years old this year.

Yowza! – If Methuselah were still  alive he would be like 3069 years old today, right?  But if he were still alive and what he would be doing today IF, doesn’t really get me very far, does it?  And what someone dead would do if they were alive is just like the question, “What would I do for a million dollars?“

 

Would you kill one person for a million dollars, isn’t really a fair ethical conundrum because unless you are a hit man, you don’t get paid for killing someone; You hopefully, get  caught and get life. And then you get sort of the reverse of the question, “If my grandma were alive, today”; you get the question, “IF I didn’t get life in prison for killing someone for a million dollars what would I be doing today”?

 

But all of this leads me to an actual ethical, moral, world view question we seem to have stopped asking ourselves long ago.  This is the question, “What would I do if I didn’t get paid for it?”  And this I believe, if you read the Hebrew Bible, is at the root of the Judeo-Christian worldview. It is how we were created and always intended to live. It is how Jesus radically lived as a human. And it is a conundrum question that we need to, I believe, very quickly start asking ourselves no matter what our belief community.  There is a “it’s going to be too late” quality to our lack of desire to ask ourselves this question. This question seems to me to be desperately needed as a searing light, or an emergency surgery for people claiming any sort of relationship with God.  If we do not start looking at the Biblical paradox of leaning into a God who supplies all the world’s needs and who requires us to give up all of our wants for the desires of His heart, we will not be known by the Messiah who lived this radical “It’s all free”  life while among us.     We will not be ready for heaven unless we are living on earth as it will be in heaven.

 

So I ask myself a lot of questions about this and my questions now are quite unformed and my vision of what I am trying to see very distant, unattainable and hazy.  Because of course I am, like everyone, cursed – for now, until my own resurrection and a new heaven and new earth. Genesis 3:17 has God bluntly describing what our future careers will feel like: “cursed is the ground because of you; through toil you will eat of it all the days of your life”.

 

Here is the crux of what I am struggling with. We who claim the name of Christ as Messiah, and we who would claim to be the people of the one true God Jehovah have given ourselves over to the false idols of manna and self-accomplishments. And this is no where more evident than in the current day  constructs of capitalistic, self-serving, personality worshiping, American churches.

 

I am reading some paradigm changing books by a man named Garry Wills. In two different books of his, he has opened my mind to reflect on the lives of both Jesus and Paul in radical, belief shifting ways.  In regards to this topic though of work, money, Judeo-Christian belief, evangelism, freedom, service etc. Wills has given me pause.  First, Garry Wills opened my eyes to the idea that some theologians and scholars believe that Jesus’ did not work as a carpenter for Joseph.  They posit that Jesus’  “hidden years” before his three year public ministry to the Israelites, were spent with John the Baptist and other disciples, living hand to mouth in the mountains and living a life of “evangelism” in places far from Jerusalem. This means Jesus worked for food and trusted God, as He says to The Twelve, “for I have food you know nothing about.”  Then we get to Paul who people always claim worked as a tent maker but Wills points out that Pricilla and Aquinas who were Saul’s mentors in the faith, were tent makers, and that it is more likely, Paul worked whatever hard grueling task was available in the communities he served with in his travels.  Paul even claims to be a slave and to do slaves’ work, and Wills writes that this is because Paul actually fed himself by working along side the slaves so that he could witness to them of The Messiah, Jesus.

 

So the following mash-up is where I am going to go off-road and hope that this garbled mess of questions and ponderings will perhaps be a small pebble dropped in the pond of some one else’s desire who like I, longs to “know God with all my heart, soul, mind and Facebook postings.”

 

 

Question A: What would you do for money?

Answer:  That is your job, your toil. That is what you must do to supply what you need to live – until you either die eternally or live in Christ eternally.

 

Question B: What would you continue to do even if you didn’t get any money  or  perhaps even accolades for doing it?

Answer:  That is your ministry.  That is your freedom in God. That is what you do for God and others and  therefore, you cannot do that thing for any personal gain.

 

And unlike the questions raised about killing people or dead people still alive, these are questions we should be answering, because our answers, whether we know it or not, have effected the entire world.

 

What we of course need to look at is not what Grandma would be doing if she were still alive, but what did she do with her time while she was alive?  What did Grandma do with that Time?  What am I doing with the resources, talents, money, abilities, and time that I have WHILE I’m alive?  What did Grandma do with them? Or Gandhi? Or Methuselah?

 

And of course, this is what we do look at with people we love or people who become famous, like Gandhi, for doing certain things with their lives. But we don’t like so much asking ourselves those questions while we are living, because we might have to make some changes, take some risks, give up our ideas of how things should be, and treat others differently.  We would definitely be forced to see God and Jesus differently. We like to create a giant chasm between the conditions of living now and the conditions of living “in heaven someday”. Hence the idea of living on earth as it is in Heaven is scary and more than that, irritating.

 

Let’s face it, once we are dead, well, we are all sort of hoping that the construct changes, right? Once I claim a certain religious set of precepts, then I am supposed to anticipate getting something – eternal life, blessings, the love of God, salvation for no work on my part, etc. I get something – eternal salvation – for nothing, no work. But is there any indication in the Bible or in reality that that could possibly be true?   Here’s a little ditty I wrote:

 

Thinkin’ about our life on earth;

Comparin’ to future rebirth.

No more sorrow?

No more pain?

No more money?

No more gain?

And no more Time—

Eternity?

So what does that mean NOW for me?

 

 

 

The conceptual construct we should be thinking about is a bit unsettling for most of us who might  desire to claim to live by a Christian worldview without counting the cost – the cost that The Christ warns us about.  You see the Biblical way is not one of pay for me but cost for me – cost of money, cost of talents, cost of my life. The real question must therefore be:  What would I do for no money?  In other words,  ask yourself this — what would you do even if you did not get paid for it?  Jesus goes further and asks his disciples, “Will you follow me, giving up everything even a place to sleep, even the praise of others?” This is why the story of Mary and Martha hits home.

 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38 – 42)

 

 

I last wrote about my struggles in thinking on what it would mean for those who claim a community in Christ to be free  in my essay entitled, “Tear Down Those Prison Walls”. In it I quoted Meister Eckhart who wrote, As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants.  My rock and hard place is that I have loved growing up in churches but what I sense today is that we as Christians in an uber-capitalistic, uber-individualistic/humanistic nation have erroneously and grievously confused jobs with ministry. We have made Christ’s corporal body of individuals into a self-serving, self-satisfied corporate-structured business. We treat the pastors differently than the janitors. We need money to keep our programs going. We sit with people who think like us and look like us. We pay salaries commensurate with the CEO’s of other American businesses. We go there and leave there and live no differently with other humans on Monday than we did on Saturday night. And most telling, we do not go to hear God but to hear a paid motivational speaker give a good lecture – a little motivational talk, some prayers that make us feel good and safe, and some paid performers who make us smile and cry and feel something much like the movie we watched on television did last night. And none of this has anything to do with a desire or need to worship and sacrifice to a Holy Un-safe God.

 

It is obvious that we confuse the role of representative with that of paid ruler, and I believe this is true not only in the halls of our nation’s governments but most tragically true in our churches and Christian institutions as well. It is the Aaron / the golden calf problem.  We want to be God’s people but like the Israelites did, we find Moses’ truth telling and stuttered mumbling inconvenient.  Moses’ God makes us extremely uncomfortable – better to put a bit of distance between us and let the professionals take over while we worship American Idols. We’ll meet you after Sunday Service pep talks and feel-good pats on the back, for some Golden Arches Cattle Happy Meals. God will be safely kept stored at the alter til next week. No need to look on Him or let Him look inside us.  Just give Aaron our gold and keep surfing toward that promised Promised land which we much prefer to be waiting ahead for us, not worked for now in this wilderness.

 

I have loved going to church my whole life, hearing sermons, hearing choirs and praise groups, hearing prayers; I still love to, frankly. But I believe that just as God had to smite the person who felt the Ark of the Covenant needed his protection and just as The Christ had to whip through the courts of the Temple; it is time for the American church to realize, God does not need our protection and we have become the money changers at the doors of God’s temple, the Body of Christ, His People. What we have created as opposed to what God intended needs to get a major Reset.  I know there are people saying this smarter than I and people doing this braver than I.  But I think one place for most of us to start is by first really  looking outside at Jesus and the apostles who followed Him and be honest about what they say and what they did and how they lived.  Perhaps this is the time to ask that other question, “If Paul were still alive he would be 2000 years old; what would he write in his letters to our churches?”  And of course we should ask daily, “If Jesus were still alive,….. oh, wait a minute….. Oh…..

 

After looking outside we should then move to  searching inside and my suggestion would be to fling the idol of making money to the curb and ask yourself, “What would I do for free?”

 

So what follows is a little personal journaling and this where my off-roading hits the stratosphere of unmooring thinking.

 

  1. Would I raise my children for no money? Well, some people would say I did but that isn’t true.  If my husband had not worked to put food on our table and school books in their hands, I would not have been able to not get paid during those years of child-raising.  So I worked for our family while he worked for money.  Hence, this was not a ministry. Plus, parents get praise for raising good kids.  That is payment. Believe me I know because now that my kids are adults, parenting really does become ministry.
  2. Would I teach for free? Well, I have done, but no, in general that is a job. It is a job that certainly deserves more payment than it gets.
  3. Would I write for free? Well, I do but only because no one has offered me money for what I write. LOL.  I pay a lot to purchase what good writers write. I love to read good writing; good thinking; good theology; good art. Real writers, like all artists, are another group of people who do what they love and thankfully, sometimes, because they get paid for writing, can put food on their tables because of it.
  4. Would I stay married if I didn’t get paid for it? Would I clean my house if I didn’t get paid for it? Would I keep pets if I didn’t get their doggie praise for it?
  5. I am fascinated with the structure of the Jehovah Witnesses – none of whom get paid for “ministry”. They take vacation days from work to witness; they have no paid “Sabbath” speakers; and those who work on the magazines get paid a minimal stipend, not a salary which they must find elsewhere.  They believe we should be living Kingdom life on earth as it is in Heaven. Is this why we call them a cult? So we don’t have to ask ourselves if we “Christians” should be living and worshiping Jehovah in the same manner – because we definitely don’t want to practice Christ’s Way, that way,for sure! How many pastors, cardinals, youth leaders would continue to work for The Church if we didn’t pay them a salary and they had to get a job “out there” to feed their families?

 

Now here are the other considerations I’m mulling over.

 

  1. If you work or teach at a Christian school that is not ministry? No, you are paid for your knowledge and hands on work.
  2. If you pray at a Christian school is that ministry? No, you are being paid to be with those people.  I learned this the hard way.  Prayer is a thing we do because we want God to bless our work and money- making enterprise.  Perhaps this is why Jesus cautions us to pray alone in a closet. Praying for our business to gain is not what prayer is for.
  3. If you are a pastor getting paid to speak on Sundays is that ministry? No, it is a job. You are lucky I guess, that people want to pay to hear you speak but don’t think this is how things were meant to be in Christ’s Kingdom.  If you are a pastor that visits the sick or helps the homeless, and you get a salary for doing it, because that is your job title, it is not ministry.  If you are friend who visits the sick after work, or a volunteer at a soup kitchen, that is ministry.
  4. If you are paid to pick up garbage that is a job. If, as you rack up points on your fit-bit, you pick up trash on the streets that some no good litterer has dropped, because you care about the earth, that is ministry.
  5. If you give to your church, and it has become someone’s salary, you are part of the corporate structure. You are buying a product just like I am willing to buy the products of theologians and authors in order to read and learn. There is nothing wrong in this, and I have done this of course because I want to support the institution in its work. But the key is, this is supporting someone’s work, not God’s ministry to us through His chosen people. This is not a sacrifice to God, this is a purchase from a merchant in the outer courts of God’s temple. You are buying the product of a teacher, or theologian, or music director in order to learn and perhaps provide their services to others who want to learn.  This is, however,  not what our worship or ministry was meant to be; and how far we have come in believing so is the story of the wayward selfish journey of humankind from The Genesis. What was meant to be The Way to gain The Soul  has become a profitable religion of us versus them to gain The World. Our current lack of that which was set up as worship of God and care for our planet and all beings within it, is the result of the incremental course misguidedness of steering away from God’s true north.
  6. If you give a dollar to a homeless person, that is ministry. If you give them a granola bar and a tract, that is control.
  7. If you teach Sunday School for no pay, that is ministry. If you run the Sunday School for a salary, that is not ministry.  That is you using your skills like any worker would. Nothing wrong with that– but please don’t ask for understanding, support, special praise,  or prayer in any other way than the guy would – and Should! – ask for those things, when he slaps a patty on a burger at McDonalds; or when she picks strawberries in a field; or when they clean your toilets, or weed your gardens; or babysit your children so you can make money. That is, if you want to see the world as God sees it or you want to live as the Body of Christ.  Read Holy Scripture – you will be surprised that it does indeed say this.

 

There is of course nothing wrong or sinful with using one’s skills to feed oneself.  In fact, there is something wrong or sadly unable, in some way with people who do not  or can not use their skills in order to eat and shelter and buy clothes. And you are lucky if you get to use the skills you enjoy and even love using  in order to feed yourself and perhaps a spouse or kids or pet.  Working is what we must do – now – since The Fall, since sin and living by the toil of our hands came into being. And the Bible is clear we are to be known  as God’s people by our being good workmen, not ashamed of our use of our skills.  The thing is, they are not a part of our eternal being. Work as we know it, will be changed just as our bodies will be changed when we are resurrected into That Life.

 

Will we use our skills in “Heaven”.  Yes.  But will we need to use our skills to eat? No. And that will make all the difference in the world.  In that day and place, we will be resurrected to what we were always meant to be as humans; beings who work with no pain, only joy. People who work  and create completely in harmony with each other, and to glorify The Creator of All. Only then, when we are restored to right relationship with God and in eternal service to Christ the King in a new heaven and a new earth, will our work no longer be for money or personal gain, but will in fact be the ministry to God and each other that we in our inner most parts, long for.

 

And this paradigm shift in living, is what should be making all the difference for those of us still “in the world but not OF the world”.  Just as we look at young children, and think, “ah to be young again and not have to work”; so we should look at those who claim to be reborn into life in Christ. Paul, the worker bee and missionary wrote to his brothers and sisters in the community at Galatia, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”.  We are to be slaves, to Christ alone and when we take up that great eternal work, we will understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 -30)

Maybe the only thing I personally do daily without getting any pay or any praise in return, is study God’s Word and God’s World;  and maybe  lie awake at night feeling God’s presence and trying to listen to Him (in between the times I beg Him for stuff, of course). Both of these things that I think I do for free are pretty frightening and make me feel not accomplished but weak.  These uses of my time and resources, seem to strip something from me before possibly adding something to me. I’m trying to do more things for free, especially now that I have been “let go” from a Christian job that I wasn’t a “good fit for” – hahahaha. Who would guess that?

It’s been a searing way for me to understand our confusion and mistaken theological worldview between “Christian” jobs  (in quotes) and “Christian” people  (in quotes) and Christ – not in quotes. And since my adult children don’t need me any more, so I have lots of free time to do free stuff. I’m refusing to write about the things I am trying to do as a freedom evangelist, since that would mean I might get something for it, like praise. See, being with out work that I loved – motherhood, teaching – gives me a whole new perspective on the world as created in our image versus the world as God desires it in His Son’s image.

 

Figuring out the difference in my life between doing something for self and doing something for God and others is super, super-duper, almost impossibly difficult. But in the final analysis, the question of why and for Whom I am working is the same as the question: “If my grandma were alive, she’d be 104 years old and I wonder what she would be doing?  So I guess it all boils down to, “If I were really alive in Christ, what would I be doing for free?”

Our lives are meant to be lived in the paradox, the tension of when we are most slavish, we are most free; when we are most weak, He is most strong; when we are dead to self; we are alive in Christ; and when we are most poor in things of this world, we are most rich in things of real eternal value. And if we trust in the provision of He who is Eternal,  He will make us worker bees whose nets are cast and overflowing in a sea of human beings; gaining those treasures that will never rust, never rot, and will because they are worked out  in slavish Love, remain forever and ever. Amen.

So here is the Question of the Hour:  “If you were still alive, what would you do with your time today? If you were living in eternity today, what would you do for free? What would you really  keep doing as a servant of God if you didn’t make a dime from it?

rebellion-01

 

 

The following are Biblical Meditations on God’s view of Work, Service, and How We Should Live. According to Jesus:

.

Jesus, our Brother and King reminds us to keep our hands to His work and to serve as He serves, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.” (Luke 12:37-38)

 

The Christ’s Words as found in the Book of Matthew, on how the God of His People the Hebrews and the Creator of the Universe, expects us to work and live:

 

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

 

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tear Down Those Prison Walls

Tear Down Those Prison Walls and Run Free

By Jane Tawel

August 18, 2018

jesus-behind-bars-prison-wooden-figure-jesus-churc-church-easter-39923275

 

Meister Eckhart

As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God. Live as if you did not exist. Expect and ask nothing in return. Then the merchant inside you will be driven out of the temple God has made. Then God alone dwells there. See! This is how the temple is cleared: when a person thinks only of God and honors him alone. Only such a person is free and genuine.

 

This quote by Meister Eckhart expresses well what has been on my mind as I look at American Christianity in particular, and The Church in the world in 2018. In my own country, it seems that the curtain has been suddenly and violently pulled back revealing the underbelly of a monstrous misunderstanding of what many of us claim is the truth of God in Christ’s revelations and the words of Holy Scripture.

 

We have gone so far into making Christianity a capitalistic individualistic religion that most of us can’t really see at all how to live The Jesus Way anymore.  We have sold Christ’s Kingdom for paid ministry.  We have justified our gains by calling them blessings. We have shared what we can afford to share and assumed that Christ died for us without any need for us to die to ourselves and live for the love of our enemies. We have disagreed with each other without any purpose higher than our own self-satisfied viewpoint. We have condemned the sinner and refused to condemn the sin of our own pride, greed, and smallness. The speck in our own eye has blinded us to the needs of a dying planet’s planks of rainforest proportion. We have found idols without names and joined cults of personalities without souls. The broad path is Walmart-sized while the narrow path is being littered with the trash of the world’s super-economies.  We are lost and we do not know it, because the marketplace is thriving. And we think that what we do in churches can make up for what we have done to God’s Temple.

 

It may be time to stop calling ourselves “little Christs” until we relearn what that means in this time, in this place, in this trial, in this suffering, in this mammoth Babylon made of paper money, security cameras, and nightly numbing entertainments. Perhaps it is time we stopped training pastors and priests and paying them at all; instead listening to the sidewalk prophets lying homeless on our streets. Perhaps no one should accept money for publishing a devotional Bible. Perhaps evangelism should be as free as the Salvation Jesus offers us. Perhaps instead of moaning about cakes and billboards and carpets and even cancer, we should meditate long and hard on what is profiting our souls as we continue to gain the world.

 

Maybe we should worship in parks and living rooms and share what we bring  — of our goods and of our goodness –to be together in spirit and in truth. Perhaps my job should be just that – my job –and my ministry, my religion, my image bearing should be just that – something wild, something free, something communal, something out of my control, something healing, and lonesome, something humble and meek and bold and crazy – just like Jesus’s ministry was. And is. Or could be, anyway.

 

When is it “Time’s up” for me – for us – to understand that the path is narrow, and almost impossible to walk on. The Jesus Way means I must separate my need to live from my need to live in Him. I must be willing to work to feed myself and work to feed others; to provide fish for my table must be separated from being a fisher of men.  This is actually the opposite of the Gnosticism that we now embrace as Christians, thinking that my daily body life can be sanctified if somehow I have “Jesus in my heart”. I must find a way out of thinking that there is no struggle in the dichotomy of this world now and this world as it was meant to be and as we are meant in God to recreate it. I must let my left hand serve my human needs without knowing what my right hand is doing serving the needs of souls. We must see how far we have fallen into the Solomonic way of thinking that we can have it all and still have Eternity in Christ. I must give up any personal gain that I can fathom, if I want something on earth, as it is in heaven.

 

Perhaps it is time for a temple cleansing. If Christ came to tear the curtain between the Holy One and the sinful ones; then perhaps it is time for us sinful ones to rip apart the curtains of our earthly mansions and looking through the dusty windows of our humbled souls, see the world as God sees it.  Janis Joplin sang it well: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Or as Jesus said, “What is all your profit really worth, if in the end, all you get to keep is what remains of the God-likeness in you?”  Jesus came to set us free but we have to walk through the prison doors to enjoy that freedom.

 

Perhaps it is time for us to see the prison bars of capitalism and self-serving individualism that we have constructed and  falsely called “Christianity”. Perhaps it is time to tear down those bars and then start setting other prisoners free. Perhaps it is time to tear down the walls of the churches, to stop selling in the temples, and to with fear and trepidation seek the freedom that comes from true worship and true servant-hood.

 

As Jesus said, “It can all be summed up like this:  Love a God Who is not you.  And also –Love others in exactly the same measurements and judgments in which you love yourself.”

 

Maybe it is time to rip apart the walls of our hearts with no apparent protection from the onslaught of freedom. Perhaps it is time to repent from our foolish self-blinding way of seeing our world, and see through the eyes of Christ. And with the eyes of Christ, we can run free indeed.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.”  — Jesus, The Christ (as quoted in Luke 4:18)

Today in the newspaper, I read about a woman who was imprisoned for seventeen years because a false witness lied to the police and no one cared enough to find out the truth. We want to say that we are following the path set out by Jesus but instead we are reclining at our tables while a whole world is imprisoned by lies from the Father of Lies. The oppression of greed goes hand in hand with the oppression of need. Do we care enough to find out the Truth? Do we care enough to find out the truth about The Truth, The Way, and The Life — Messiah? Can I get a witness?

But on “That Day”, The Lord will separate the greedy from the needy. No matter where or when we live, how much we have or don’t have, we are not at all worthy. That is a lie of Satan from the time of Adam and Eve. Yet many in  The Church are fond of telling us that in this cheap grace era but expensive Christian era; that somehow we are worthy. We have stolen  the dross of wealth instead of giving up all for the solid gold crown of eternal worthiness. We are all sinners, guilty as charged. There is only One Witness who is True and who can set us free. Jesus. The Witness, who is The King, who is the Judge, will one day ask me if I lived as a witness for Him.  God will one day ask me as a hard trial lawyer or a judge would, if I own enough to pay to get out of jail. And none of us will be able to say, yes, — not even Mr. Amazon himself.  Will The Church continue to think it is about what we own and not what we are? Should those who want to be like Jesus, claim any freedom to “practice their religion in freedom”? No, we have no freedom except the freedom to give up everything, and take up the cross of Christ. If we who are guilty die with He Who was not guilty, then we will live in resurrected freedom forever.

Jesus has our get out of jail card and the right directions on the path to eternal freedom. Above this world’s prison bars is this message: “If you want true freedom, even the ultimate freedom from death, then give up everything, and follow God.” And this is absolutely impossible to do. And yet, Christ did it. And Christ offers to do it for, in and through us.

Perhaps it is time, we let Him set us free.

155784-425x312-Prison-Tattoo

 

 

 

Getting My Monster On

Getting My Monster On

By Jane Tawel

August 5, 2018

 

 

 

I am growing older and I would think that having had so many people in my life that I have loved, liked or been irritated by (sometimes all of those for the same person, of course, in the same moment), I would think –that I would think less about me and more about them.  But I find I wake up each morning with myself immediately on my mind.  And it is depressing.  I feel depressed. I feel patched together, sort of like a “human-wanna-be”.  When I look in the mirror or try to hold a conversation,  or actually, try to move any part of my body including my eyebrows, I think to myself, this is what zombie movies are trying to tell us.

 

First of all, I am not keen on an old body. It doesn’t wake up well. Even after stretching while still lying in bed, even though I daily rejoice in good health and the ability to still do things I’ve always done, even if not as fast, my body, well – the song, “the old grey goose she ain’t what she used to be” comes to mind.  My sister, Janet and I decided I shall now call what used to be my daily run, my daily “wog” – a sort of “interval training” of walking and jogging. Thankfully, I have always preferred to exercise alone because a wog is not a pretty sight. Unless you are a toddler wogging, and toddlers are cute no matter what.  Although old people do have many traits in common with toddlers, like balance issues, speech issues, and potty issues, toddlers have change to look forward to, whereas old people have changes to dread.

 

Second of all, I am not that amazed by my mind. My mind is now a bit like the LPs I used to buy, scratched and skipping. Just like old records, old minds tend to repeat a lot too.

 

I am not especially happy with what people now call my “Legacy”.  My personal Achievements? – well, mommy pigs raise their piglets with love and duck teachers inspire their little student ducklings. If animals can achieve it, then what sets my human achievements apart? I realized the other day it seems the only thing humans do in this day and age, even while hanging out with other humans, is to practice using their opposable thumbs. I mean, seriously, you look at a whole airport full of human beings holding these tiny little shiny rectangles and working their opposable thumbs like crazy and you think, well, shoot, Koko could do that! I think it is such a great joke that texting on cell phones is not done with our five fingers but with our two thumbs, making us all look a bit less human and a bit more apelike. This to me is one of the great proofs of my own theory of Devolution.

 

But ultimately what obsesses my ever increasing down -time thinking, is my disappointment and sadness with what I have done and not done with my soul.  This would mean in catechism language, my sins of omission and commission. And be forewarned — I love, like, but am also irritated by those who would give me “pep talks” on this, or write up a nice little disclaimer to attach to these words of self-assessment.  Thanks, but no thanks. Because frankly, any of us who try to learn more about what a good and worthy human is supposed to be must understand that the mirror is cloudy because we keep blowing hot air on it; and the glass is dim because we insist on using our own ego-framed spectacles and not God’s eyes, Christ’s view. Our souls have become more like Dr. Frankenstein’s machine created monsters than the God-imaged creative supervisors of a beautiful planet.

 

It would be humorous if it weren’t eternally damning to look at the Biblical injunctions we choose to take literally and compare them to the ones we choose to take metaphorically. We look at what we like and find personally useful about our own journey in our culture, society, situation, nation, or group and then pick and choose the things we like or don’t like in what God and The Christ have tried to teach us about living this thing we call “being human”.  We argue about context and out of context issues as if we know what the hell – and I do mean hell as in the place – we are talking about and what the heaven – and I do mean heaven as in the place – the other person is talking about.  And honestly, the more I look at what God has created on this planet and how we have abused our rights to it; and the more I look at what Jesus said about being human and how we have abused our rights to do humanness with other humans, I think, I am still completely upside down and trying to walk forward on just my head. And I can pretty much guarantee that we were not created to walk that way. We were, quite simply, to created to walk in love with God and others. But even our idea of what Love is has become a parody.

 

My son Gordon and I like the movie “Young Frankenstein”. One of the most famous scenes in the movie is when Gene Wilder, that great physician Frankenstein, is told by Igor, Marty Feldman, to “walk this way”.  Feldman is a sort of monster with a hunchback and a limp. He of course means that Wilder is to follow him by coming “this way” but Wilder takes it in literal context and follows humorously behind Feldman by walking trying to imitate Igor’s  limp and hunchback. We have as humans taken out of context what God means when He says to “walk this way”, and while we look in our own mirrors and see a human evolved to walking upright, God sees us as the devolved monsters our selfish souls reflect.

 

When God came to live among us, He had to take on the form of us and He asked us to imitate Him and walk this way. God, in Jesus, took upon Himself, a limp and a hunchback and by doing so He recreated what it means to be fully human.  Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Jesus did not create a monster but revealed to us what monsters we have become. We look on the physical in others and ourselves and see the monstrous there, while never seeing that the real limping monsters  are internal. Unless we daily follow the path set out for our souls, we will keep imitating the wrong way to walk.

 

It seems silly and demeaning to choose to walk with a limp and hunched over, but that is the only way to walk as The Christ did.  His last walk on this earth was hunched under a cross and He limped toward Calvary, condemned as a monster. “Father, forgive them; for they don’t really know what they are doing.”

 

If you wake up some mornings, or all mornings as I do, and aren’t quite sure what you are doing, what you have been doing this whole time on earth, and what tomorrow might mean that you can not do – then the Great Physician, Dr. Christ, has an impossible dream for you made possible only by following His quixotic example. The dream is made possible only by being recreated as a human being, born again.  This means that if The Son of God, the perfect Human, spent His time on earth thinking about others, caring for others, loving others, healing others,  dying for others,  then  if I want to live each day as a real human being, I need to believe that what He proved was possible is possible for all of us. To live is to die to self in order to live forever.

 

It is possible to think less about me and more about Him and more about them. I just need to retrain my way of walking and follow Him.  I need to accept the beauty of a wog well lived, no matter what others think. I need to walk not this way; I need to walk The Way.

 

As I try today to get a view of this world from God’s upright position and not continue to see it while trying to walk on my head, it will, daily feel like I’ve been spun around dizzily like an old record on a turntable. I know I will look as awkward as my wog. But to be reborn, means that if I keep growing, I will eventually be a toddler. And toddlers are cute no matter how they walk.

 

It will hurt to walk with God’s limp instead of my own strident stride forward.  It will seem that I am being silly and unrealistic to hunch my soul over in humility. I may even have to stop using my opposable thumbs so much and turn to the fellow human next to me and love them. But one advantage of being allowed to live as long as I have is the realization that in the final analysis, Jesus really had it right.
“Come, follow me,” says the God-man. “I am The Way. Walk The Way.”

 

Time to get my monster on.

young frank