Jesus Wasn’t a Very Nice Christian

by Jane Tawel

A friend posted the above meme today, and of course, since it was 4:30 a.m. in the morning, my usual time to study my spiritually inclined tomes and meditate on my spiritually inclined thoughts, and pray my pathetically needy inclined prayers, I, of course instead, chose to respond at length to this post. Here are my hastily but life-time-so -far thoughts on the above post. 

What I didn’t say in the post, but do now, is that this is the sort of post, I think Jesus would have responded to with the same harsh words he said to his disciple, Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”. I used to want to make t-shirts that read on one side, “Jesus was NOT nice.” and on the back said, “but he was God”. 

Imagine me shaking my head and sort of smile-muttering here: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus… (smile, shake head)… what in the world are we going to do about You?” 

Yep — that is the question. What in the world are we MEANT to do about that raggedy figure on the edge of the crowd, the man named Jesus, the figure named Messiah, the archetype for humanity, named The Christ?

Following are my expanded thoughts from my response today on my friend’s well-intentioned post (you have guessed by now I don’t have many friends):

(WARNING: Thoughts of mine may appear larger in the mirror than they do on a written page.)

Well, my friend, thank you for the thought-provoking post/ meme above. Of course, it gets me going…. hmmmm, where to begin? 

Jesus was, as was Buddha, as was Moses, as was Gandhi, an actual historical figure and people actually wrote about him and what he taught, so we don’t need to guess at it, but it sure wasn’t at all as simplistic as this post implies, and wasn’t at all simple to understand, and as Jesus said himself, it was an almost impossible thing to practice and live, without the almighty help of the very Hebrew God which is the One that Jesus believed in. 

Jesus was Jewish, teaching Judaism to Jews and hoping they and his ragtag bunch of misfit disciples, and eventually the world would catch on to what it was meant to be in and from The Beginning with humans’ relationship to YHWH and humans’ relationships with each other, first to the Hebrews but meant for all peoples and nations. And while this post is full of good ideas which are nice and good sentiments, and certainly have some truth about what Jesus taught, they aren’t very inclusive and are simplistically, if not dangerously, misleading. For instance, if we are to take the words as true that are recorded in the testaments, Jesus said in fact that he came “not to bring peace but a sword”. Metaphor?- definitely. Peaceful life?- definitely not. 

If Jesus is to be taken seriously as The Christ, and as our meta-type in how to live, he was not at all an easy “pill to swallow” or a particularly Rodney King sort of “why can’t we all just get along” kinda Messiah. He was a radical worldview shaker-upper. The worldview of the Jews had gone far off its intended course in Jesus’ day, much as Christianity has often veered off course, and continues to do so in ways that must indeed, make Jesus weep, and God turn away Her Face. 

The fact that Jesus taught and more importantly lived and died, what were meant to be God’s universal truths, inherent in any of the good parts of any religion (Christianity) or belief system (Buddhism) simply points to the other ancient Hebrew belief that “all humans have a conscience that is written in our hearts” — we also have a proclivity to be selfish, greedy, less than truthful, and hateful and to quiet our conscience if we would rather have it our own way. It’s a choice of will and a choice of faith in something more important than oneself to choose The Way, The Tao of Christ, no matter whether one believes in something religious, spiritual or not. 

This is the other fun thing that Jesus came to point out; he hung out with the least, the lost and the least likely to be named Pope, Dalia Lama, or Rabbi of The Year. Radical guy, that Jesus and a super hard act to follow. And yet so many of us claim we are trying to do just that. 

The important thing that this post reminds us is that for those who claim to “know Jesus” or “have him in our hearts”, we should be ever more loving, serving, giving, humble, and peace-making, even with our enemies. We should also seek to speak absolute truth with kindness, not niceness nor fear, but with the knowledge we are all meant to be “something more”. Because even when Jesus was judging others, (and he did, he sure did, don’t fall into the trap that we are not meant to judge wrong doing with the same measurement that Jesus would and did, but we are to make sure we live our own responsibility first and foremost and with humble judgement of our own personal and systemic wrongdoings); but even in judgement, Jesus was incredibly kind in his judgements comparatively. (Calling someone a viper is better than killing them with stones. Pointing out someone’s greed was more important to their eternal well-being than pointing out someone’s sexual brokenness. Jesus spoke to the evils of the tribe and the powers, much more than the broken sinfulness of the individual.)

 Jesus spoke, acted and healed in the most loving, but “searing into the very soul” truthful way. I daily have to throw myself on that Christ-like, truthful, kind, loving judgment, both in the judgement of Christ, and My God, and of those I love and live or work with, and especially on the mercy of those many unknown, unsung, uncared-for people who continue to suffer in a world gone astray.  

To allow myself to judge is to hope that the world, the planet, and the systems of this world have a hope and prayer of one day being better than they are today. To judge myself and to let myself be judged, is to let myself have hope of being better today than I was yesterday. 

And to hark back to what Jesus, who wasn’t a Christian, and wasn’t a Buddhist, and was a Jew, actually said about himself and us, I believe I will one day, in some way, and some kind of New Kingdom, New World, take a knee with the rest of the world, and I will throw myself on the Mystery of Universal Mercy and Love, throw myself at the feet of The Christ. 

I am incredibly grateful to have been raised to get to know about Jesus, in a place and time that has so much knowledge about him, and personally, in America where I have had so much freedom to study about that character and those who knew the man called Yeshua. But as it is also written, “to whom much is given, much will be required”. True for me as an individual, and if Jesus is to believed, true for nations and religions as well. God have mercy.

God have mercy.

©Jane Tawel

What in the Name of Christ Would We Know About That!?

by Jane Tawel

“Homeless Jesus” by Hyatt Moore

What in the Name of Christ Would We Know About That?!?!

By Jane Tawel

May 29, 2021

*

I see a lot of posts and hear,

a lot of folks who rage or fear,

about the suffering that they do,

and how they pray for me and you.

They don’t seem usually to reflect,

on how they’re getting what they get,

but think instead that God should bless,

them more than He should bless the rest.

*

And as we privileged ones complain,

I ask myself, (and them) again:

As we grow rich and we grow fat,

While others live their lives with scat;

We say our prayers like God’s spoiled brats,

Yet, claim to God, we’re working at,

Salvation like we’re in combat,

Republican or Democrat,

We choose a team and go to bat.

And when we pin them to the mat,

We prove again and again that,

We don’t know Christ worth diddly-squat.

*

What can we all be thinking of,

when we plead with some God above,

for healing, when we have a Doc,

while others don’t — oh, what a crock!

What makes us think that God is listening

to all our nationalist dissenting,

political — religious too — 

muck up our prayer life’s point of view.

*

We don’t look at the systems which,

keep most folks poor, while few get rich.

Nor do we end the world’s sad squalor;

Our gods are Euros, Yen, and Dollars.

When Bibles are turned red, white blue,

we’ve really lost God’s Point of View.

I don’t know when to cry or laugh,

as we dance round the Golden Calf.

*

It wouldn’t otherwise be funny,

to see our gods have become money,

except we think we are more smart,

than Man and Woman at The Start.

The Tree of Knowledge has been gotten,

but at its roots, it still is rotten.

If only we could try to fathom,

the calling of The Second Adam.

*

For hoarding and for wanting more,

We bang on Heaven’s Silent Door.

And while the ones who have no voice,

take crumbs we give — (they have no choice);

we still think God can hear our prayers,

though we neglect to serve and care.

And as we grow more proud and fat,

and treat His grace like our doormat,

God turns His face and asks and asks:

“What in God’s Name would you know about that?”

*

I know lots of religious folks,

(who’ve sort of made God’s Love a joke).

And yet when I look at our life,

I don’t see too much lack or strife.

We pretty much have every thing

and so I keep on wondering,

“What kind of God do we believe in,

when we don’t see our own deep sin,

of only taking and not sharing,

of only praying and not caring?”

We use God as if He’s our Tool,

and use His Word like prideful fools.

*

Oh, please forgive me, God above,

for thinking that You only love,

the ones that look or speak like I,

or that my goal is in the Sky.

Forgive my treatment of the Earth.

Create in me a true Re-birth

that sees all others as Your Own,

and nurtures this world as Our Home.

I pray, Yahweh, O God on High:

Restore my faith, but crucify,

my selfish, foolish, sinful pride.

I’ll never know the Depths or Why’s,

of how You seek the weak and lost.

Help those who love, take up our cross,

and follow in the footsteps of,

the Son of Man, the Man of Love;

Who showed us how to live like Him,

if we will only just begin,

to give up what we think need,

and Love’s True Word, to trust and heed.

*

There once upon a space and time,

lived a Great One, who was divine.

Part prophet, rabbi, brother, friend,

He came to us to love and mend

the ways that we have lost our way.

He offers now to walk today,

beside us, and to live within,

and help us, over sin, to win.

He paid Love’s ultimate true price,

and we who follow in sacrifice,

will know what it means to Be Christ.

For in The Way, and only then,

will we be wholly born again,

into The Life, The Truth, The Way.

Now, let us pray,

“Give us today,

just what we need, and nothing more.”

Christ stands and knocks upon the door,

of every heart, and every soul,

and offers Love to make us whole.

*

The Truth, The Word, The Way, The Tao,

is not in history, but in The Now.

The Path of Christ is deep and slim,

and we who claim to honor Him,

must listen to His words by fearing,

just how far we have been veering,

from what The Teacher actually said;

not only claiming, now He’s dead,

that we can have eternity,

without our soul’s fraternity,

with what The Christ came here to do,

which was to change both me and you;

and get the whole World realigned,

with God’s Plan to make All, Divine.

*

The Way is open to all, but narrow.

Christ imparts worth, “more than a sparrow”.

The Earth is ours to daily cherish.

The Lie of Death will one day, perish.

*

Oh, Our Great Spirit and Creator,

Help me to change my wrong behavior.

Forgive us as we seek to forgive.

Help me to die, so I might live.

And live as One, and live apart,

and ask Christ into mind, will, heart.

*

Oh, Parent, Mother, Father, One,

when Christ said, “God, Your will be done”;

he didn’t mean by only him.

So, in this moment, help me begin,

to not treat life as some grand game;

but from The God Who Has No Name;

as gift and grace, help my small aim,

to follow You in all I do.

*

Create in me, God, through and through,

the Love that Christ has called me to.

Amen.

©Jane Tawel 2021

Knowing-Jesus.com

A Prayer for Hole-ness

brown rock formation during daytime
https://unsplash.com/photos/AWoVDcSYgak

A Prayer for Hole-ness

By Jane Tawel

May 25, 2021

*

I often pray for whole-ness,

but just today I thought,

that I should pray for hole-ness,

to become what I ought.

Wholeness can often mean control,

but emptying should be my goal,

not only just to make me whole,

but to embrace the empty spaces,

and broken lives, and lonely faces,

of brothers, sisters, enemies–

through empathy come remedies.

For when I leave a legacy,

There won’t be much left of my soul,

Unless I leave a hole.

© Jane Tawel 2021

HerStory Steps Into the Ring

by Jane Tawel

Earth Worm
“Earth Worm” by DJ SINGH is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

HerStory Steps Into the Ring

By Jane Tawel

May 13, 2021

And someone said that “History isn’t the story that actually happened, you know.”

“History is the story of what they want to believe.”

And all I could manage to mumble was,

“there will be wars and the rumors of wars”.

*

The newspapers had started to look almost cheery in my country;

But then I remembered that though

the civil warmongers on my shores,

had made their peace by making new confederate flags,

flags that appeared to me,

seen from the distance of my dismay,

all blackened and borrowed.

Yes, even though we had returned to the

 more boring news cycles

of mass murders, suicides and food lines,

there was always tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

creeping like creepy-crawlers into this petty place,

 helping my own country keep pace

with the rest

of the world’s civil unrest.

*

“We reign!  We reign!” the “they” in They cry,

with open mouths like empty wells,

and the deserted dry bones of accumulated wealth

feed by the waters of Babylon;

while the Desert Fathers and Mothers

weep with great heaves, weep without tears

and pray for rain.

*

Besides, I am a world-citizen, now,

pledging my allegiance

to the one cause that unifies;

the more, more, more that divides our teams into

those who have and those who have not.

“One Amazon under God,

destroying The Amazon, forsaken by Him”.

*

Yes, I too have my flag to fly,

and it is the flag of der Weltschmerz.

Oh, how I dare to be world-weary!–

with so many shoes sitting footless in my closet,

and so many feet walking shoeless

across the planet’s scorn.

Yes, my empathy and suffering in my knowledge,

is a trick worthy of a Houdini –

Watch me! Get your cell phones out!

Observe the amazing magic tricks,

 as The Magician of Lassitude

magically frees herself

of the chains of my cognizance surrounding me!

My assisting soul has sawn

me in halves

and placed me in the locked

Box of Empathy. But Watch!

Watch as I extricate all thoughts and feelings

from the Prison of  My Pathos;

and Voila! I appear in this other

box across the stage of my existence,

in The Casket of Ennui.

(The trick is in the hidden trapdoor of absolute apathy.)

Abracadabra! Ta-Da!”

Today’s show is over, and I can sleep

in the safety of knowledge well-squandered.

*

I have joined the fantasy world-league

of those who “know” and vacillate between

hand-holding and hand-wringing.

I take a knee before

the world-weariness

of too much information,

too much knowledge,

not enough wisdom.

Thanks, in part, to the ridiculous efficiency and speed

 of the WorldWideWeb,

I have the attention span of

 a cursor that merely hovers.

And yet, daily the planet spinning

breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart, “Oh bless their little hearts!”

*

Yes, the WORLD is writ large in capital letters

and it strains and hurts my eyes,

but mostly strains and hurts what seems to be left of my heart.

I have spent the better part of my wholeness

 reading and reading

 and watching and watching;

and as The World becomes My World;

as history becomes her-story—

I am, now and then, and here and there,

putting the words down, and laying them aside,

and I am becoming.

*

I am becoming a part of his-story.

I am becoming an act-er in her-story.

I become a little Palestinian child,

a teenager from Honduras,

a Black man from Minneapolis,

a veiled woman in Afghanistan.

I am

afraid, imprisoned, beaten, and hungry.

I am the victim.

I am also the perpetrator,

afraid, imprisoned, broken, insatiable.

In this acceptance of my part in The Story,

I am becoming.

*

But growing up to be

a human being

is not easy.

And the bombs and the guns

and the guns and the bombs

keep creating zombies in us,

and we mistake our need for weapons

of words and wars

for our fears of inattention and unaffection.

*

In her-story,

I become a refugee from my own life,

and all of me, All of Us cry-out:

 “Who will write our history?

 Who will remember us?”

*

But enough about them,

Let’s get back to talking about Me.

*

Suffering alongside is a spectator sport

and I fail spectacularly at it.

I am a cheerleader for a team of

Me, Myself and I.

And therefore, the boos and hurrahs,

are equally earned by the winning and losing sides.

*

The great Operas of Life,

the dramas of the world, have been condensed

into Instagrams–

here today, gone tomorrow–

a script of just the headlines,

played by a cast of emojis.

*

And as the notes of the last aria are heard

by the player of one, myself,

and the audience of one, myself,

 the sound and fury of My World

falls on zombie ears,

 in the raped forests

and no one hears,

and there are soon no more sticks

to add to the fire.

*

I have become a sort of big brained monster,

All brain and mouth,

with no feet and hands;

not so much terrifying

for what can be sensed inside me,

but terrified of myself,

and made senseless

by what is not,

not within me.

*

I am like a desiccated tree,

cut down after history’s prime.

Nothing useful really,

no lean, strong limbs growing outward

just a trunk-ated, corpulent, pulp fiction.

I could have been hewed-down

and made into someone’s cross,

but I would have had to give up

so much of my own life-story,

that I thought it best to let others

 bear the cross to bare the myth.

*

I am become a wealthy mirage

built blithely in an arid place.

I steal my living water from

those who can’t afford to say no.

Nothing really Real can grow here.

Nothing is within me that can reach higher,

reach lower,

move along the ground,

or go forth and touch.

*

I am evolved into

 a large, rather flaccid, but very intelligent worm,

writhing in the mud

of so much awareness.

*

But I, worm-like,

somehow….

even with the brain of an invertebrate,

and the heartlessness of a jelly fish,

and the soullessness of a First World Zombie….

slight miracle though it may be–

I, a worm,

still have enough offered grace

from Mother Earth;

and enough offered love

from Father-Creator;

and within me there is still

a small faint pulse coursing through me,

and written upon the faint stirrings of my soul,

lives The Message from and Messiah of the Divine.

*

And the worms

long for the sweet rains to come.

No one gets to own or package the rain,

Not even American Amazonians.

*

*

In this precious last moment,

the last of its kind,

the whole world breathes

 in universal prayer

for rain.

“Come rains, that flow, freely on all.

Come Living Water, that frees every soul.

Come Holy Spirit, the Answer to Why.

Come rain, Come shine, for even a worm like I.”

*

“I Pledge Allegiance to the Planet,

One Planet Under God”.

And I pray.

I pray to the God of the World,

Whose love falls on the good and the evil,

and Whose grace

rains down from a Loving Hand.

“Dear God, please make me care.”

*

I pray for what I cannot see,

for waters to fall and rise,

cleansing and reviving;

flooding history again,

creating a need for an ark.

“And I know you said You wouldn’t do it again,

but please, Great Spirit, we need more rainbows”.

*

Without first death,

there is no life.

May my thirst for myself

dry up and die,

So that I may partake

in my soul’s parching,

and in the great need

and the greater need for sharing

and giving of Living Water.

May I learn to wash the dirty feet

and walk alongside in others’ footsteps

In the steps of her-story,

arm in arm with his-story,

on the tide of the rising action

and falling action

of your-story, and mine.

Let us stop marching and begin The Great Dance.

*

Lover of Our Souls,

Create in us new hearts

to live each others’ stories

in truth and love.

Let us bow our heads,

and lift our faces

to the Heavens and hope for rain,

and then stop talking and get to work;

sowing and planting,

gathering water and wheat,

rice and beans

and leaves and flowers;

 gleaning

with plenty to share,

provisions for all,

Living Water by the bucketfuls,

given from hearts, not brains,

given with love, not the fears of not enough;

shared with the Wisdom,

hoped for in The Past, and

 passed down from Our Future.

*

Let us change Earth’s Story’s end,

not hoarding the histrionics of a history

we have re-written for our own benefit

but for A Story we never fully understand,

but believe in and try to live out  anyway.

*

Let us change the ending of our World’s Story,

re-created and re-crafted

by open hands reached out;

hands of mercy and grace,

shedding tears and giving blood,

dancing in circles, and holding each other,

raising voices in psalms of ascension.

*

Let us make history

not in wars but in service,

not in greed but in meeting need,

not in hatred, but in love,

not in destruction, but in creation,

not in the lies worthy of our news,

but in the truth worthy of our legacy.

*

God, let me lift my face from my world’s news

from my worm’s viewpoint

from the ground to the Heavens.

Lift my face to get a glimpse

of what You see,

to the World’s Newness,

the World’s Treasure,

sought, not found,

 like the best kind of secret

hidden in Divine Presence.

*

Creator, thank you for another day,

to feel the sun on my face,

and wait in hope

for the rain to fall upon the Earth,

rain for even a worm like I.

*

© Jane Tawel 2021

NOTE: The metaphor of being a worm is not for everyone. There are as indicated in the above musing, far too many people who are made to feel like they are nothing but “worker-worms”, so to speak. But the metaphor of being a worm was helpful for me. It comes perhaps originally from an old hymn that I used to sing in the churches of the Midwest where I grew up and began to grow into what I hope is an ever evolving faith and worldview.  I want to become more. Well, that is it, I guess, just “more”.

The following words to the hymn by Isaac Watts called out to me today from the hallows of history. Today –What and Who calls out to you, like a Parent to Her child, asking:

“Will you represent?”

Alas and Did My Savior Bleed, by Isaac Watts (c. 1707)

Alas, and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for sins that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown
And love beyond degree.

My God, why would You shed Your blood
So pure and undefiled
To make a sinful one like me
Your chosen, precious child?

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut His glories in
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s, sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt my eyes to tears.

My God, why would You shed Your blood
So pure and undefiled
To make a sinful one like me
Your chosen, precious child?

(c) Hymn by Isaac Watts

(c) Jane Tawel 2021

I Will Not Be Proud of You

https://unsplash.com/photos/TJxotQTUr8o

I Will (Try to) Not Be Proud of People I Love

First in a Series of Incremental Sight-Changes : How to Be Proud, Without Being Prideful

By Jane Tawel

May 8, 2021

About a year ago, I began to recognize this phrase I said to people I was close to, and that I said to them fairly often I think, as something that I assumed was true, but in actuality was an off-brand. The phrase is: “I am proud of you”, and I said it as something that seemed good but was, in fact a trued line that had gone slightly askew. So, I began to try to see how my use of this particular phrase, and my feelings of this particular sentiment, and my expression of this particular kind of love, could be examined more closely. And I have found, often to the chagrin of my pain-center and not as a boon to my pleasure-center, that one should never examine something closely if one is not willing to change and be changed. The cocoon can be such a safe, closed space to stay in, and emerging has always meant one of my wings gets dinged; sometimes rather badly.

My greatest learning curve in everything has been my relationship with my children, and so it has been with the idea of my “being proud” of them. But anyone can learn some of the things I call “incremental sight-changes” through other relationships. I have learned much, and examined with no small degree of pain from change, in many of my relationships — with my husband, my friends, my co-workers, my parents, teachers, and Carl and John, two unhoused men I have known, just to name a few. To examine means to learn. Sight must have an object to see. And love must have an object to love. And when you love someone, really, really love them, you try to see things through their eyes, hear things through their ears, feel things with their feelings, and walk, at least a little ways, alongside them in their journey. So, for the past, oh, about a year, I have been walking a ways with the idea of “being proud” and trying to shift my point of view closer to the Golden Mean of True Love.

I now have four adult children and it occurred to me, oh, maybe about half a year ago, that they don’t really want me to be proud of them. So I stopped. Or I tried to stop anyway. At least, I stopped saying or writing things in public forums like “I am so proud of _________(fill in blank with specific child’s name)_______. Because what I began to realize is that by saying I was proud of something they had done or had become, I was taking at least partial credit. By being proud I was saying “this thing about you, is because of something I have done, so I’m going to make it also about me by being ‘proud’”. And that just became a flawed way of thinking for me personally. It became, for me, wrong on so many levels. I suppose it would be just as flawed for me to say that I was “proud” of Carl or John, my unhoused, un-jobbed friends for spending their money a certain way or for the new sign they made to attract drivers to their cause.

One of the Great Revelations of all spiritual pursuits and worldview masters, is that we are all unique individuals, and also all part of each other. We are parts, and we are parts of The Whole. We may willingly and gleefully share in the pride of another individual, whether that is by clapping for someone we love, or posting a quote by someone we admire, but in reality, we also share as part of the Whole. We also take part, although often unwittingly, in the foibles and errors and sins and grievous bodily or mental harm done by “that other person” to other persons. Without that recognition of our part in the bad stuff that happens to others and the bad stuff people do to each other, and unless we empathize with all and take into ourselves the “otherness” of the other in all its spectrum of good and bad, we can’t honestly grapple with what it means to “take pride” and “take part” in someone else’s life. My examination of the idea of being proud without being prideful has taken me a tiny step closer to the sort of humble love that I think is true love — the True Love of humble and great people, saints and sinners alike; and the True Love of the Eternal, and the humble changing and Universal Cosmos; and the True Love of a humble Natural World and the Natural Order; and the True Love of the humble servant love of The God Who Sees.

I am learning not to be proud of my children. First of all, a sort of side note here that may seem like a sidetrack, but won’t be, I hope. When they were growing up, I got to home school my four kids for a long, long time in an environment where they could learn without being graded or judged for how well they learned. It was one of the greatest revelatory journeys of my own life, in personal, intellectual, emotional and spiritual ways, ways truly too deep to measure. And while very few parents and families are as privileged as I was to be able to afford home schooling their kids, and then trust that if a kid is learning, they don’t have to necessarily be compared to others in order to learn more, this attitude was something I tried to let effect my teaching later on in traditional school environments and also to encourage my children when they entered what we called “regular school”. And furthermore, even if I hadn’t home schooled I hope I could have eventually learned this important mindset change: What someone, especially one’s child, accomplishes should be first and foremost about what a person or that child FEELS from the accomplishment, not what a person, and especially a child GETS from the accomplishment. Which brings me to the first “Sin of Pride” — The first sin that pride leads us to commit is loving the praise from others and the products or promotions we get, rather than being present in the moment of learning and loving, and being completely immersed in how awe-some it feels to experience the journey of discovery. Feeling proud suddenly whisks us from the immediacy of joyful celebration in discovery to analysis and storage. We take pride and let it rush us to the exit door, where we can hoard the experience, trying to keep the awe-some feelings for a future rainy day. Feeling pride is like taking constant selfies in life, rather than seeing what is happening in your life, right in front of your eyes.

The second great sin of pride, maybe especially for me as a parent, is like a pyramid scheme. It is often, unbeknownst to victim and parental perpetrator, an act of sabotage to take upon oneself the glory for what one’s child has done. If you are not a parent, think about a time that you shared in a co-worker’s accomplishment, even though they did most of the hard work. Or if you can’t hark back to when you were a child, think about a time a boss took credit for something you did and then damned you with faint praise by saying something like, “I couldn’t have done it without Jane” (Darn right, you couldn’t!) As to the parental pride, we usually quite subconsciously and innocently do this. And sometimes, frankly, I think that “said-parent” does the “I am so proud of you, kid” thing in order to make “said parent” feel better about the job she or he has done as a parent. (I think spouses or partners do this with each other too, and that is a whole other ball of wax that can lead to a wonky relationship, but I will assume a reader can discern this by comparison and experience. I know I am.).

This kind of pride in a loved one’s accomplishments feels as if it should be good, but here’s the thing — I know all too well, that the yin of pride has a yang of regret. Everything I have felt proud of that I observe in my children, has an equally strong reversed feeling of regret at all the mistakes I have made. Mistakes that have saddled those same beloved ones with emotional baggage, or physical insecurities, or intellectual burdens, or spiritual quandaries. And when you get to be as old as I am, with as many wonderful and amazing adult children as I have, who still are as absolutely and completely human as I have ever been, you realize that even the mistakes you make with people you love (adore and love more than you do your own life) — your mistakes and sins are part of their lives, too. And those mistakes, ultimately, need forgiving. Your children need to be allowed to forgive you, just as much as you need to be allowed to forgive yourself. True love can’t exist only on the fumes of pride; it takes regret and forgiveness as well.

The flip side of the pride coin is the regret side, and any honest person in any kind of relationship will have to at various times admit to both. The fact that any one still loves me, and has retained enough “good” to be proud of from who we are together, is as miraculous as the fact that anyone has forgiven my errors and survived my sins against them. Now if I could love myself enough to replace my pride with forgiveness for my sins against others, self, God, and the world, that would be a way to see true Grace. The thing is, it is only Grace that has allowed my children, of all people, to retain the good things and the certain parts of them, that I am apt to be proud of.

It is helpful for my own growth as a seeking human being, to accept that just as it is the grace of God, or the incredible luck of a Universal Luck of the thrown dice, that my children have survived the world of woes and very, very scary, no good, bad stuff things that parents can’t protect them from or control in the world or in their children’s lives; my very lucky and grace-kissed children, have also survived me, and they have weathered and soldiered through their parent’s own brokenness, and sinfulness, and just plain “oopsy-so-sorry-about-that” mistakes. And if their surviving and even thriving despite my sins and my mistakes is a gift of God’s grace, then all the amazing wonderful things they are and have and do accomplish, are all also from that same source — God’s grace. And so it is with my boss. And your co-worker. And your friend. And my husband. Grace has gotten through the barriers of our pride and egos with a humble presence that defies our own pride in accomplishments. Grace is the glue that makes us all One. Grace is that which by appearing weak, becomes strong, and can be the mitigating force against false pride. Grace is the gift that keeps on giving without a hint of recognition. Grace is the open, welcoming arms of a God that asks us all to enter into their Circle.

So, the second sin of pride is this, not recognizing God’s Grace in everything. We Midwesterners used to say, “there but for the grace of God”; and I have tried to keep this as prayer whenever I am empathizing with someone else in pain or sorrow or need. It is God’s grace alone that I am me, and not that poor person, whether he is victim or perpetrator. Being grateful as opposed to proud, for something I have or am, means that the glory goes to others and to The Great Other. Being humbled and humble, means I am becoming more a part of the whole of humanity, more whole myself, and more “holy”; for holiness is above all, humble and humbled.

As Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 5:45, “the rain and the sun fall on the good and the evil”. I can thank God for all the many small mercies of grace in my children’s life, and also thank God that by grace, my children and my God will forgive me for all the errors, “sins known and unknown”, that have hurt others, and especially hurt the very people I love most in the world. And when someone hurts me, or hurts the planet, or hurts another human being, I can humbly say, “there but for the grace of God”. And when someone needs something, and I have much more than I could ever need, I can stop my pride from getting in the way of opening my own arms and hands, and without a hint of pride, give freely with a heart full of “there but for the grace of God”.

This humble acceptance of the grace of what we have been gifted and what we share in common, not in what sets us above and apart, this is what tempers pride. In that very same verse, Jesus says, that even if we don’t understand it, if we accept that God’s grace and Goodness are for all humans, all the Earth, all of us and each and every one of us, the “good, the bad, the ugly” (and the mean, the broken, the plain icky, and even the most trying, irritating people of all — the parents); if we can with humility accept that God’s grace is for all, then we can “show that we are children of Our Father, Who is in The Heavens” — and the God that also lives in each of us. God is beyond our pride, since He is beyond even our greatest ideas and understanding. In accepting Who God is, then I can also accept that everyone is, in a sense, also beyond my own petty pride and beyond my own greedy understanding. To put away, to “shoo off”, my need to understand God and yet, still love Him; and at the same time to try, not to understand, but simply, with humbled love, to “walk alongside” another human being from his or her point of view, in that place in my soul, is the beginning of freedom, and the beginning of wisdom; and in true freedom and wisdom, resides True Love. Letting go of the pride of understanding means I am humbled enough to be awed, rather than proud. And being awed, by God, the World, others, my partner, and for me, being awed by my children, is how I come closer to be a “child of The God Who Sees, and a part of the radically loving and Whole Kingdom of The Heavens”.

Whether parent or child, the Third Sin of Pride is the double-edged sword of “the sins of the ancestors” passed down versus the “the future belongs to our children” passed forward. We seldom want to see the bad “stuff” we have as being passed down, as Exodus 34:7 says, “to the third and fourth generations”. But we also often balk at giving credit to our ancestors for our healthy but random DNA or for the third or fourth generation hand-me-down virtues and character strengths. Four children later, and I have learned that those we influence, want to get their own credit for what they accomplish and that if I am claiming too much pride in them, then I am taking a percentage of their credit away. This is true for spouses, friends, bosses, students, partners, and true especially of our children. As a child it has been true of me, as I have explored those sins and virtues I know to have been passed down through blood, genes, personality traits, and the whole “nature versus nurture” gamut. Being proud for the good bits and foisting onto someone else the bad bits, is a great temptation, perhaps especially for those of us who have survived parenthood and are still clinging to the life-support of being a parent of adult children. This also makes one of the manifestations of the Sin of Pride #3 this: Being proud of someone else, takes away from having the right kind of pride in yourself.

Instead of saying to a student or a child or a friend, “I am so proud of you” (which secretly my whole being is when something wonderful happens for or in them); I am trying to remind myself to say instead, “I am proud to be ____ (Fill in blank with title, such as teacher, mom, friend, etc.)__________. For example, “I am proud to be the mom who got to be your mom”. Or “I am proud that I was privileged to be a teacher who taught you to like poetry”. Or “Hubby, my dear, I am proud that I was able to find the perfect gift for your birthday”. Speaking aloud this kind of pride, is like using a two-way mirror to see something just that little bit out of your range of sight. By being proud of something I was “privileged” or “gifted” to do or be part of, the other person gets to keep all their glow for themselves, and I find the true meaning of feeling good about myself — which is always most known in the act of giving myself away for another with no thought to what I get out of it.

We all deserve to feel that kind of pride that comes from giving a part of oneself to the Whole or the wholeness-making of another. Feeling the pride of doing and being what we do in love, shores up the glitchy defenses we have against the consistent onslaughts of anxiety and ego. That kind of being proud, will also, however, help ease the pain a bit, when a person has to take credit for something they should not be proud of and needs forgiveness for, by self or another. Knowing that we share responsibility for our lives together, and yet still are our own unique amalgam of good and bad, mistakes and sins, pleasures and pains, faults and miraculous wonders, are things we can together be proud of and glory in. These things are what make us as human beings, both communally and individually special, special in the Universe of Specially Created Beings. It is what makes us as humble human beings worthy of a God Who Sees us.

https://unsplash.com/photos/jaWqPEPemvU

Pride was once considered one of the deadly sins, but in modern Western cultures at least, we have come to feel that not only is pride “okay”, but that it is desired. When the current generation of students was asked what they would most like to be, the number one choice wasn’t doctor, teacher, tailor, or book maker, but “famous”. We have somehow come to believe that being known by many for little, is more desirable than being known by few for much. We have replaced the long arc of holiness with the TikTok of fame. We idolize ourselves and others we take a pride in connecting to, whether that is child or political hack. And while we think of pride today as a deserved kudo and may cling to our right to feel pride in self and others, we are daily reminded by newspapers and personal acquaintances alike, that pride is still the cause of many, if not most downfalls. As the Proverb says, “Pride still goes before a fall” — and then it lays there in the rubble with us pretending to clear the way for us to use our excuses about our skinned and bloodied souls.

Pride leads to other less pretty sins, in the short or sometimes long run; sins like greediness, lies, even murder — whether real or the murder kept hidden in one’s thoughts. A list of the sins that pride opens the doors to, would take us into a tome of explanation and extraction, and hence, is a topic for both another day, and for spiritual masters, and seekers much more advanced than I will ever be. Instead, let me reiterate my personal explanation and explore. My recognition of how what felt good and seemed good — being proud of my children — was actually not such a good thing, has helped me understand what “deadly” sin means when it comes specifically to my pride. To be dead is to be “unconscious”, to be “unaware”. This idea of “deadness” versus “aliveness” is one of the great expanded and expansive metaphors in the Hebrew and Christian Bible. In the letters of the Apostle Paul in the Bible, there is much food for thought about what sin really is, not just the personal effects of “wrong choices” but the systemic, religious, state, and corporate sins of the world. As far as being “unconscious” of what our actions do to us and to others, and what they mean in a greater spiritual meaning, the following thoughts from Paul are paradigm shifting:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1–10)

What a profound understanding of grace, Paul had; and also of the real consequences of our taking a false pride in our accomplishments and of deadening our souls with trespasses against humble love. Again, that is something everyone should explore in their own journey towards healing, loving truth and important relationships. It is the endless circle of exploration for rabbis, priests, gurus, and spiritual guides and theologians, who are much more able than I will ever be, to keep trying to illuminate. And while, I am aware that many may not agree with me on this idea of feeling pride in others, especially our children, let me suggest that my exploration of pride may at the very least hold a key for you to explore what sins, what “lesser things”, what outside influences, or what personal struggles, or “deadening remains from the past” make you feel “dead inside” or less than conscious of the moment, the person you are with, or your own most valuable feelings and actions and very own treasured “being”.

Pride may not be the word everyone thinks of when they think of what I am trying to describe. But for me, I have simply found the pride I sometimes (often!) have in my children to be my own little personal slippery slope. Once I feel pride in what they do well or right or who they are that is good or wonderful, it is a quick jaunt down the slope and I can find myself at the bottom of where I am judging them for what I consider is not right or not good and judging myself for what is unwell or unformed within me. And at that point, I can either blame them for what is not right or good, or I can blame myself for what I have done or been that has not been right or good, or I can let go of it all. See what I mean? I can’t have it both ways.

Pride goes before a fall, a tumble down the slippery slope of judgement, in this case. I know that this is often due to my great worries and anxieties for my beloved ones’ safety, health of mind, body, soul and spirit, worry about their happiness or relationships or — well, just the world of worry some of us folks carry with us like a constant pulse in the heart of our personhood. I worry without end that my beloveds will end up more like me than I would like — God forbid. And this type of worry is so obviously a deadening sin as well, is it not? And yet I keep picking at my worry like the age-old parental scab that it is.

My worry, like my false pride, is what takes me down the slippery slope of losing my faith in the existence of a God Who Sees or even really a god who cares all that much. My worry is a panicky feeling that the world and my world are on a fast-track to disaster, or that old insecurity that I am unworthy of love — God’s or anyone else’s. But what I have come to realize is that sometimes my pride is simply my worry taking a field trip. My pride is too often the spy in the camp of my fears.

The Sin of Pride works two ways for many of us, doesn’t it? My pride can lead me to a false sense of ego-security and a god-like judgement of others. Alas, it is also true that my pride can quickly lead me to fall down the rabbit hole of never seeing anything I do or “my people” do as wrong, or unhealthy, or at least not the best choice. By feeling pride in the “sinner”, I forget that they too are sinful and not just in need of my and God’s pride in them but my and God’s grace for them. (Side note: This kind of rampant often unrecognized pride is a great sin of individuals, but also of systems, nations, and organizations, perhaps none more glaring than the pride of religions gone wrong. To feel proud of one’s religion may be the ultimate “sin against the Holy Spirit”. See Thoughts of Jesus for more on this.) The flip side of not “judging” others, is not being discerning and truthful with others, or ourselves. This means my pride can be worn as a mask to hide my mistakes or transgressions against others, or ignore and justify my and my group’s self-justified sins against love and truth. Because pride can not only horribly mar and disfigure true love, but can tragically mar and disfigure love’s truth.

All of this does not take away from the fact that I hope my children know that I am bursting at the seams with joy in knowing and observing and listening to them, at what they have accomplished, who they are becoming, and how they are growing in character — I just don’t want to call it my pride anymore.

I was lucky to have a mother who always let me know she was proud of me (and still lovingly does). Not everyone is as lucky as I have been as a child with a proud mother, and that is a horrible burden that far too many children of all ages still have to carry throughout their lives, the burden of never feeling good enough, never feeling that the someone who should love you most, has never seen their worth. Perhaps those parents are too proud to give away their sense of entitled ego, even to their own children. What a tragedy that kind of pride is and I can only hope and pray that those children who have suffered that kind of ignorance and ignoring, will meet people, at least one person, who will say to them with love, “you are someone who can be proud of who you are and I am proud to be a part of your life”.

I can remember quite clearly, a time when my mostly absent father said he was proud of something I was doing. It was when I went to visit him and had taken up running. When I came back sweaty from my run in the Midwestern heat, a humid heat already on the rise in the early morning, my father, a man of few words, told me how impressed and proud he was that I had taken up running. It took me by surprise, and since he was not a runner, it was something I treasured as sincere gift of acknowledgement from him, about who I was. We remember and hold close those things that parents and teachers, mentors, and lovers say to us when they express a sense of pride in and for us, don’t we? Those times when a person, especially an influential adult, be it auntie or coach, special friend, or temporal co-worker, expresses a feeling of being proud of us can be life-changing. Words of praise given freely, given without any co-opting nor qualifiers, can shape our futures and heal our pasts. But we also remember the things we were made to feel we lacked, the times there was an “absence” of whatever we needed from the adults who were life-shapers, even if that “lack” was expressed in the same breath as pride; and so those of us who are in any position of influence, friend, parent, teacher, or partner, must carefully tread the path of pride we express in someone else.

And that brings me to the fourth and for now, final illumination I have had about the Sin of Pride. Pride is often felt about something done in the past not something in the present, and by claiming it, we rename it, and change its meaning and importance. Whether the thing that brings us a sense of pride is something done by one’s self or those we want to make appendages to our own pride, our “other people”, whether, partner, spouse, student, worker-underling, or child, the fact that it is something that occurred in the past or is something in our character that is a result of something from the past, gives the patina of pride the glow of Fool’s Gold, and not real, solid gold. And this is how several sins may sneak in among our good intentions, like weeds in the fields. Sins often sneak by without detection, by taking us out of the present moment, full of God’s Grace in the Now, and escort us back into the past or misguide us into the future life we can’t live in yet. Accomplishments depend on the past to keep breathing life into us, but so do mistakes depend on clinging to the dead corpses of our pasts. Both must be recognized as no longer belonging to the best that the present has to offer, whether my own present or my “other people’s” present “Nows”. The future can be full of hope, but also of fears. Pride can ruin both, past and future, by making us miss the moment at hand or be fearful we won’t accomplish tomorrow what we did yesterday.

The Torah and Bible, especially those books called the “books of wisdom”, have much, much, much to say about pride. To read the book of Proverbs, one cannot ignore that pride is contrasted over and over, and over again to both humility and the wisdom that comes from being humble. This, of course, is not to say that parents, children, non-parents, and all should seek the kind of false humility that is just a flipped over, flattened out, and disguised sort of pride. In fact, every spiritual guide and religion has a lot to say about pride. The word, “sin” may not work for all religions, so let’s call pride at least, an “inability to see true value”. Succinctly put, the Bible says that “the pride of your heart, deceives you” (Obadiah 1:3). Buddhism sees pride as a “distortion” and un-enlightenment, something based on transitory thoughts. It sees humility as empowering and lasting. This is in keeping with the truths of Judaism and Christianity as well. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” and “Love is patient and kind; it does not boast or envy; it is not arrogant”. (James 4:10 and I Corinthians 13:4). According to Islam, pride is a disease and the realm of evil. There is a Native American saying that goes something like this: “Greet each day humbly, and with all thanks for the Great Spirit above”. And in all of this, is something Universally true about pride, I think: Pride gets in the way of Spirit. Pride can masquerade as love, but true humility can never be disguised as hatred. And the ultimate shocking truth of all true religious or spiritual thought, is that even God never reveals Himself as proud. God has no need of pride; He just Is. God allows His Creation to speak for itself, and in His observation of who and what all are in their innermost being, God finds joy. This divine observance of life and of others’ lives, can also be ours as human beings created and creating in the image of the Divine. James 4: 5b and 6 reminds us to be humble because by God’s grace we are created to have a divine spirit dwell in us, not by anything we have done, but by God’s love for each of us. “God yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us. But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’.”

My goal in this long exploration of the idea of pride is to explore my own false sense and faulty love of pride, not to take away that warm, fuzzy glow we feel in being a part of others’ accomplishments. And like any exploration that is imprisoned by words, it is faulty and flawed, lacking and incomplete, wrong and yet, maybe a little tiny bit illuminating. Our words merely try to crack open the doors of truth and enlightenment, and so I keep knocking on doors, and putting my foot in the door-crack to hold it open, and I keep peering through the small opening to see if I can see a little more of The Light.

Feeling that we have made a good difference in someone’s life, that we have done or been somehow “good enough” to counter all our foibles and sins, and let someone else — student, partner, friend, or child — have a better life, a stronger “shot at”, a deeper meaning, or a truer understanding of their own wonderful value — that feeling, those reflections, that comprehension of our own worth and value, makes us not separate from, but a part of others, and therefore a part of The Whole.

It is in recognizing that I am not apart from, standing on top looking down at, or riding on the coat-tails of others’ accomplishments and lives, but rather that I am a part of, standing alongside looking outwards and inwards, and riding humbly along God’s Waves of Grace, that lead me, and each of us who love, on towards a glory that we can only imagine. The Light of Truth and Love, embraced by humble presence, shows pride for what it is — a mere dim and cloudy reflected glow. Looking at others and myself with the humility of flawed human understanding but graciously divinely appointed love changes a temporal feeling of pride into a little of the eternal reality of joy.

Now, when I feel the warm glow of pride, in those I have been privileged to either walk alongside, or literally teach how to walk, I will try to grab on to its ultimate meaning before I speak aloud my sense of pride. I will try to grasp hold of that pride I may feel in someone else, to make me aware that we are all more than we appear to be on the outside, and that there is something in the human spirit that rises and rejoices with the Universal Urge to Be Utterly Amazing! When I feel pride, I will speak into that feeling, with a humility that God has granted me the grace to see yet another day on Planet Earth, a day to be better, do better, and to help any one I can help do and be better too. And my pride in others, especially my dearly loved children, will, I hope, train me to be present in the moment, when so much is being, not accomplished but Lived! And with the help of a humble heart, a desire for truth, and a hope in the power of love, I will work to be a part of and a presence in that which defies description, that which makes us whole.

Pride doesn’t have to go before a fall or be the gateway to other sins. Pride can be the mirror that reflects this truth: We are more than we appear to be and we are much more together, than we ever are alone. To be proud is also to be present in someone else’s journey, and I hope to let my pride be the silent prayer of my children’s lives; a prayer not of worry, not for their success, but a prayer for the hope of their future glory and their present glimpses of true joy, by the grace of God. This is how to be “proud”, without being prideful, by understanding that in God’s gracious love and care, we are all sinful, sinned against, but all also, oh, so very worthy of the love of God and of each other. Love given in the humility of knowing that all we have is a gift, and all whom we have been privileged to know and live with, are a part of everything good, past, present, and future; that Love, is always, both goal and Source. Being a part of the whole of everything and everyone, the good and the bad, the successes and the mistakes, the “otherness” and the “sameness”, this is how we find the balance between being proud of ourselves, but humble towards others. Giving up pride helps us to sincerely mourn and rejoice with others, to feel with them, to feel for them, to exalt that which is in all humans that is worthy of glory, and look truthfully at the pride that leads to those sins we all struggle with.

Jesus spoke many profound things to those who would desire to be better humans and more worthy of being called “divine”. Perhaps no words of The Christ’s are more applicable to so many things than these, found in Matthew 18:3: “Truly I tell you, that unless you change and become like a little child, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. The wisdom in these words are too numerous to ever be fully understood by anyone, but applicable to almost everything we as adults encounter. Have you ever seen a little child come towards an adult, crayoned drawing in hand, full of the scribbles of his imagination and with a look of utter pride on his face as he gives it to someone he loves: “I made dis for you, Mama”? Have you seen a little child make a mess out of mud and call it a castle: “Come see my castle!”? Or have you gazed at the face of a little girl who has just tied her first shoelace, or a little boy who carefully transplants a ladybug from his shoulder to a safe leafy resting place, proudly saving his first life? Can you recall the first stumbling but proud words from the mouth of the child who has read her first words, or have you tasted the “delicious” concoction that your darling little one has made with all the right ingredients for love, but not necessarily for the delicious treat she imagines you are tasting? Try to remember the first time that a little toddler garbled the sounds, but not the sense of who he is — “me is Goo-won!” Imagine the delight in self accomplishment, when one first realizes with joy, “Me is me-Me!” Imagine how a baby feels about himself when he first realizes, “I have these things called toes. Aren’t they fun to wiggle and tickle? I am so proud of being able to wiggle my toes!” Think about children and how proud they are in the moment, their joy in the present accomplishment, a type of pride felt, without a single thought of comparing it to someone or anything or any time else. Oh, that look of pride in that little child’s face is the purest and simplest form of pride there is because it is pure joy in the journey of living.

That childish pride, is the “good kind of pride” that our First Father and First Mother felt when they walked naked and unafraid in The Garden. The pride of a child is the pride we should relish. It is that sense of just being in the moment with what we can do, not because we are a better person than someone else, but because we are a created human being with skills to learn and a life to enjoy. We all should be aiming to get back to and move forwards toward that ineffable sense of being, something beyond pridefulness, but also something beyond feeling unworthy of that which we were created to be — beings, gloriously free and joyfully proud to be alive.

And while I am still an insecure, prideful mess of an adult, with a little grace, I am also still an evolving, changeable, glory-up-ahead, like-a-wobbly-arrow-aiming-at-the-divine, human being. As a partner, friend, spouse, and above all a mess of a mother, I am proud of myself, that bit by bit, I am giving up my false pride-fulness in what has been done, and I seem to making progress towards feeling proud of what I am holding right now in my small hands. What I have now and who I am now doesn’t have to be amazing, for me to be utterly amazed.

I am, bit by bit, replacing my pride in my beloveds and in my own self, with a child-like awe in who my children and my dearest loves are and then trying to expand that love to an amazement with every person I will encounter today. As a child of God, I am trying to look, and truly see with the eyes of The God Who Sees, The God who remains as joyfully, lovingly, curiously, and awesomely childlike today as He has always been. Today it is well with my soul to be as a proudly childlike as I possibly can and to trust, that I am okay, and I am enough, and my mud-castles and scribbled words are things to feel proud of, just as my children are people that I hold out to God with a mother’s childish pride –“Look, See, Enjoy — these are for You”. This is my day’s journey toward becoming someone I can be proud of, a creature who is loved as dearly as a little old humbled but divine child is — Me-me.

© Jane Tawel 2021

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Transformations:  What We Had and Have

by Jane Tawel

https://unsplash.com/photos/VMKBFR6r_jg

Transformations: What We Had and Have

By Jane Tawel

May 1, 2021

*

There are things that transform,

Sometimes, good, sometimes bad.

And one thing that can change us

are things we have had;

like a memory,

a story,

or that one special look

from a person that loved us,

or a scene in its glory,

or a place we once lived,

or the self we forgive.

*

In past things that have happened

and are seared into our minds,

are the things in the present the soul longs to find — 

a meaning and truth to help light The Way — 

we make our past valid by its purpose today.

*

Yes, the things that transform us

are alive and will move us

and it often behooves us

to remember and honor,

whether lasting, or gone or

pleasant or sad

who we are is in part

all the things we have had

that transform our hearts

and that keep love alive.

For we truly do thrive

When past joys, and past storms,

are held close to our souls,

there to change and transform.

*

The changes

from actual things we can touch,

or see, hear, or taste — 

all have given us much

to continue in nurturing

thoughts, words, and deeds,

and are ever more helpful,

than dogmas or creeds.

For what I thought yesterday

often has proved,

to be just a rut or an entrenching groove,

that causes my heart and my soul to decay,

and prevent me from living new truths found today.

*

It is living life wholly

that makes holiness real.

And what makes humans, human,

is what we can feel.

And by letting our feelings

create room in our thoughts,

our souls can become

the vast things that they ought.

We must hold on right tightly,

To the plantings, so needed.

For much has been seeded,

in our lives for our growth.

There is past, and there’s present,

and each moment, holds both.

*

There’s an ocean inside me

Of things I have had;

and acceptance is not that I’ve been always glad;

But instead I take each little memory and part,

and I let each shift things in my mind and my heart.

And each little shift can move me away

from the things that ensnare me or convince me to stay,

stuck in a place or time no longer needed.

A Life’s rolling waves

should be honored and heeded.

Oh, the freedom I’ve found in embracing the “me”

that has had and can have, and once was and can be!

*

Our lives’ better angels

can upturn the tables,

but we must be able,

to look life in the face,

and give all of it grace.

All of life’s just a spectrum,

Of reaches and ranges.

Whether rising or falling,

Waves of change are our calling,

and they call and they call us

towards change.

© Jane Tawel 2021

https://unsplash.com/photos/p4PFq1pgMDs

When I Killed God

by Jane Tawel

https://unsplash.com/photos/iSDr-pNsINk

When I Killed God

By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2021

While it’s true that as a child,

there were incidents, bad things that happened against my will,

(because of course, a child is born with a soul, but not a will);

and while my exposure to events I accidently lived,

were pale in comparison to those children over there,

that child that lives in a different yard than I did;

it was still a thing that happened to me early on,

that some adults who thought they loved me,

killed God.

In fact, like you maybe,

I still have nightmares about that one person,

who abused the God in me.

And even the ones who thought they loved me best

by force-feeding me the formula of God-in-a-baby-bottle,

even those dear ones gave me some allergies,

and I have yet to heal from them.

*

But I can’t complain if I compare.

I lucked out that the pendulum swung,

mostly towards grown-ups who loved a God Who Was.

And that was enough,

For many years,

Until I found that a God-Who-Was,

didn’t make up for a God-Who-Isn’t.

*

At first it was simply a matter of making God too small.

I found Him and kept finding Him

for long years, hidden well among the wood pulp.

He had been manufactured and

stuck between the pages.

God looked good in black and white,

and we feasted on some words,

until our stomachs ached, and our minds grew dark

with the drink of self-righteousness.

Oh, yes, the words we chose were quite select;

while other Words were thrown out like

unrecyclable trash.

Our elders picked and chose

the parts of God to eat and then — 

to use as fodder.

*

Oh, I was one of the lucky ones,

to have such a glut of God-food

to grow older, fatter and more secure.

But have you found, as I have,

that the more secure you are in what is on your outside,

the less secure you become about what might Be — 

 — inside of you?

Haven’t you found, that the more God you hoard,

the less God you have?

Maybe as I did, you stopped imbibing God,

and started instructing Him instead?

*

When I became smart, I became so afraid.

That’s when prayer became my tyranny of a God

that I could use for my benefit and mine own,

mine own, my own true loves,

(which by the way, God didn’t number among;

Well, maybe He did in word, but not in deed).

*

Yes, words in a book are easily idolized.

Words are so still and compliant.

Words can be raped and their unholy union made to be born.

*

Words can be quieted.

Like the children of famous men,

words are meant to be seen and not heard;

meant to be worshipped,

but not brought to life again in someone else.

*

The idea of actually living the words

is akin to plagiarism.

See, but don’t touch.

Read, but don’t do.

Admire and profit by, but don’t suffer and live.

*

Oh, please don’t get me wrong,

I love words and The Word.

Words can be made to look so pretty,

like lipstick on a pig,

like make-up on a corpse.

Unlike A LIVING GOD SPEAKS!, — 

and we quickly shush Him;

a book can be so comforting,

so easily managed;

its little broken-up word-limbs lying there on pages,

scattered but contained in their little covered box;

or cremated and remembered as dust,

not “This is my Body, given for you. Take. Become.”

*

And God’s Word, what a life it once had!

Our eulogies are endless

as we look at God-Words that Were.

We stand around bereaved, but anxious to get back to work.

Our attention for mourning a Dead Word can only last so long,

maybe a few hours a week, tops.

Oh, thank goodness the Word of God

Passed away peacefully in Its sleep.

We sit in our pews and then file by its handsome carcass,

a relic so safely buried, at peace, not bringing a sword now, thank God!

In its final resting place. Amen.

God-Word doesn’t look much like a human,

lying there, with its heart no longer beating,

a God-heart that once belonged to someone else,

who left it there for all to find,

words once living in a person, now entombed.

God-soul up there, far away in what I like to think of as Heaven.

Doesn’t need a heart, or hands or body, right?

Let’s just remember Her in Spirit, not in Truth, okay?

It’s so much less painful, that way.

*

Stories about God are enough,

and God-heart, hearts-like-God, are allegories,

as useful as a history-lesson.

Unless, of course, we relearn, re-hope, re-shape our own stories,

and take the heart of words as mere clouded mirrors,

Dim reflections of a Cosmos-Heart-of God,

Alive and well in all,

Alive in every molecule of Planet Earth.

The Word of God,

once alive in the God-people, still lives.

God-people then and now,

have died to donate their words

to give the World a heart transplant.

Words still beating with Life, yearn to Be,

implanted and given new life in me,

Sutured by the Great Physician.

*

The Words we give our religions copyrights to

Desire anonymously, to Be;

Edited by The Writer of the World,

Given the Kiss of Life by The Living Word,

God-Alive.

*

But it’s safer and calmer and I am much more popular here

in my own little boxes that I store my thoughts and achievements in.

Such a lot of stuff I give a dead god credit for.

The few times I caught a glimpse of God still alive in the wild,

It scared me so much, I turned tail and ran back to what I called home.

Funny, how we humans change definitions to suit our fears.

I wonder what the word “home” really means, don’t you?

Well, I wonder what the word “God” really means, too.

I do have a rather useful library of books written to define God.

Sometimes, I get a feeling God looks at all those books on Her,

And laughs and cries, and laughs and cries,

For lack of Her True Self in the world, in us,

in me.

*

But Oh! how energizing it has been to use dead men’s words at will!

And prayer is such a convenient tool

to wedge a piece of God out.

Stagnant things are things, after all, and we can control things.

Ta da! Oh, to never be wrong, in a world of otherness!

What a kick to have a handle on how best to use a God!

But how does a human control a God?

Why, by making Her something to own and use, of course.

God makes a lovely product.

The God-salesmen cry out:

“Step right up, no matter your age or socio-economic status!

You can own your very own God, suitable for all your needs,

practical for every purpose!

And when your God of childhood wears out,

Come on back and get a grown-up God to use instead.”

*

Indeed, as I grew

I knew God was a worthy weapon for war.

And so, I locked and loaded,

and let my God-out-there

hurt the God-in-here,

the God-in-me, the God-in-you.

But really, the God-weapon can be a very nice way to feel in control;

Even though the dark insecurity of the embers of knowing-ness,

and the shrapnel that The Physician was never allowed to remove,

always hurt, and also always beckon.

To come to terms with just how out of control the world in me was,

which threatened to overtake the God-in-me,

I shriveled and grew colder;

Wait, I meant to say, grew older.

*

I keep reading up on Eagles,

but I am like a fledgling, fallen from its nest,

never knowing it wasn’t born to read up on “How To”,

but simply born to leap out of the nest

and to fly.

*

You see, when I let the God-in-me die,

I killed God.

Hanging Him on a cross,

burning Her at the stake,

electrocuting Them in a chair,

were all far too easy after that.

*

And then, today, I went to the empty tomb as usual,

looked in the mirror, and brushed my teeth;

embalmed my face as I thought

was the right rite to do.

But …….suddenly…….

the sun came-up again.

And I heard a rumor that tomorrow, we might all get rain to end the drought.

And I couldn’t help myself — 

Someone in me arose.

*

In the time it takes to say a single word — Bam!

I realized, the tomb I had put God in, was empty!

And in that moment, I wanted my tomb to be empty, too.

I wanted God to rise from the grave of self-important ego,

I had buried Him in.

I wanted God to Be not just be “in” me, but all-around me.

Everywhere-God. Everyone-God.

I wanted to be the God who wanted to Be me;

Not just with words, but with hands, and feet,

and beating, hurting, healing heart.

*

And as I stepped in terror to the precipice,

uncertain if I would fly or fall,

live or die,

I found I still had one unbroken, unbent wing,

and I could hear the eternal beating of God-Word

Pounding in my pulse.

And I leapt out into Living-Arms,

*

Even as the God-in-All,

Oh, YES! — the Living God in All of Us,

Just as He rose from the grave we stuck Him in,

I, too, may rise and fly today.

For yesterday, I learned,

as long as God’s alive in you,

as long as God’s alive in me,

He will never be as small as a book,

As small as my thoughts,

As small as a word,

Or as small as I am.

GOD-ALIVE are as big as we can imagine,

As wide and deep and true as the whole world.

SHE is as able and embracing as a loving Mother,

Cradling the entire fledgling universe in her sheltering Arms.

HE is as mighty as the Wheel of Fire,

that rolls toward Justice, making in its wake,

in His mercy,

a path in The Way for ALL who seek and suffer to rise.

THEY are as playful and vulnerable

and loving as Children, who never grow old

and never grow weary in their delight,

in Each Other, and in us, Their Creations.

*

Resurrection means that

I can not really kill God

I can only kill the God Who wants to live in me.

And so, today,

I will throw-out another of my self-made weapons

into the hell of no longer useful or needed.

And I will find some more words

to childishly shape into The Living Word,

Spoken in the here and now through me.

And I will chip away at the tomb of fear that leads me to control.

And I shall ascend.

Ascend!

in the Glorious Now of God-Alive.

*

© Jane Tawel 2021

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Focused Thoughts on the Trial in Minneapolis, America Today

I will not take my privilege today to co-op someone else’s pain or another community’s long struggle. I will, however, “be with” those focused on another attempt in our struggle for justice and righteousness in this nation. I am “holding my breath” today awaiting with heavy heart, justice for the ones who “cannot breathe”. I am saddened and afraid and trying to truly feel, truly empathize with those who know what it is like to wait on yet another verdict for those whose breath, dignity, and very lives have been taken from them. I will feel the guilt of my own grievous errors and purposeful sins and grieve for those who have made horrible choices because they have allowed their “hearts to become too small”. I will pray, yes, but pray without rational words for the families of people throughout this nation who continue to lead lives of fear, anger, sorrow, and mourning simply because of the way we have okayed the treatment of them because of the color of their skin or the fickleness of luck. I will cling onto a hope until the very last minute, until my own very last breath, that “the arc of the moral universe, long as it may be, will bend, must bend, God, please bend it soon, toward justice”.

I Don’t Know Who I Could Be

by Jane Tawel

https://unsplash.com/photos/Jqhwp4mcuUM

I Don’t Know Who I Could Be

A Poem

By Jane Tawel

April 19, 2021

I don’t know who I’d be, if I stopped unforgiving.

I don’t know who I’d be, if I spent less time worrying.

And who would I be if I didn’t care to keep up my grades,

but instead, judged not, either self or you?

If winning was an illusion I left behind like a broken toy,

might I know the terrible, fearsome freedom of joy?

*

I rarely know who I am, except as a passing glance,

a whirl of motion, unsteadied by a center aflame.

And I have always hated my name.

Longing for meaning in the temporal labeling

of a self-made shelter from identity thieves

I become “that person”, not myself.

My pronouns are “it” and “that”.

*

I hold myself at arm’s length,

and keep my arms too full;

so, by thinking I carry the weight of the world,

I carry a chimera, not a Hope.

Too afraid to empty my hands of grasping-ness,

too impatient or easily irritated to extend out,

either to help or hug.

I corner my soul like a trapped animal.

*

I don’t know who I could be,

so rather than running towards,

I take a step backwards.

Never throwing caution to the wind,

I am winded by a stagnancy of fearful insecurities,

an anger of ant-sized proportions.

My senseless, defenseless fists,

of my deformed ego, beat against

the beating of my expensive, essence-ed heart.

I sell my soul for the fast-food of believing that I was right.

I hide true treasure where I won’t find it.

*

Not knowing who I was once,

I still sense who I could become.

There is a self a-waiting just ahead,

No not a head, — a heart and will and

sensuality of Spirit-world.

The senses know

what the soul can only dream of.

*

My soul whispers,

soft as an Infant’s caressing forefinger,

strong as a memory of another World:

You can become. You are becoming.

Let yourself meet yourself,

and be Created.

Come.”

Original Goodness from Richard Rohr

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe  -     By: Richard Rohr

I am finally “growing up” maybe? I didn’t know it but I began learning this at Wheaton College under both the spiritual and theater /acting guidance of Dr. James Young — Jimma, as he was called. I shared this today with the folks who were part of that world-changing time of mine today in a group called “Workout”, and thought someone in my other “worlds” might need to hear this today.

In that theatre group, after warming up with yoga exercises ( back before any one in America knew anything about yoga but weird theatre people!), we would often do an exercise called “Yes/ No”. One would go off into a “private” place in the currently empty, cavernous room, the space in waiting for the future set and theatre creation, and we would each stand in a moment of contemplation. Then one would take both hands and “gather” from the bottom of the torso, the “self”, and raise hands all the way to the mouth where one would let either a “No” or a “Yes” be flung out, vocally and with the hands. Gather. Rise hands to face. Fling forward one’s hands into Space. And let go a loud “Yes!” or “No!”. This “throwing out” or “giving to” from one’s very inner core, was a way of accepting both the negativity or positivity that was in one’s being at that moment. It was also a way to let go of holding on to negativity or of sharing with the Universe, the “mindless”/ Mindful positivity. I realized today after reading Richard Rohr, I need to start practicing this exercise again in my own search for freedom to let go of negative thoughts as quickly as possible and to dig deep and create a more lasting “rut” in my soul of positive love and energy.

I am realizing how both ahead of his time, our dear Jim Young was and also how very connected to the historically Ecumenical, true spiritual essence and truth of the God-given world since the beginning. Jim is now practicing “No/Yes” theater exercises in eternity with his Savior. I wish I had not wasted so much time in doubt and negativity, but today I can do better. And that is a glorious “Good News”. This today, in my mediation, from Richard Rohr in “The Universal Christ”:

“We are ruled by automatic responses most of the time toward the “negative”. The only way, then to increase authentic spirituality is to deliberately practice actually enjoying a positive response and a grateful heart. And the benefits are very real. By following through on conscious choices, we can rewire our responses toward love, trust, and patience. Neuroscience calls this “neuroplasticity”. This is how we increase our bandwidth of freedom, and it is surely the heartbeat of any authentic spirituality.”

“Most of us know that we can’t afford to walk around fearing, hating, dismissing, and denying all possible threats and all otherness. But few of us were given practical teaching in how to avoid this. It is interesting that Jesus emphasized the absolute centrality of inner motivation and intention more than outer behavior, spending almost half of the Sermon on the Mount on this subject. We must — yes, MUST– make a daily and even hourly choice to focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful. A wonderful description of this act of the will is found in Philippians 4:4-9, where Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS”. If you are tempted to write this off as idyllic “positive thinking”, remember that Paul wrote this while literally in chains. How did he “pull it off”? You might call it “mind control”, but many of us call it “contemplation”.

So how do we first see and then practice this “Original Goodness”?” We find Original Goodness when we can discover and own the three “attitudes, the “things that remain”– faith, hope and love, or love, trust and patience. (paraphrased from Rohr) “For the planet and for all living beings to move forward, we can rely on nothing less than an inherent original goodness and a universally shared dignity. Only then can we build, because the foundation is strong, and is itself good. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to “dig and dig deep, and build your house on rock”. When you start with “Yes” (or positive vision), you more likely proceed with generosity and hope, and you have a much greater chance of ending with an even bigger “YES!”. To try to build on “no” is, in the imagery of Jesus, to “build on sand”.

If our postmodern world seems highly subject to cynicism, skepticism, and what it does NOT believe in, if we now live in a post-truth America, then we “believers” must take at least partial responsibility for aiming our culture in this sad direction. The best criticism of the bad is still the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same. All problem solving must first be guided by a positive and overarching vision. We must reclaim the Christian project, building from the true starting point of Original Goodness. We must reclaim Jesus as an inclusive Savior instead of an exclusionary Judge, as a Christ who holds history together as the cosmic Alpha and Omega. Then, both history and the individual can live inside of a collective safety and an assured success. Some would call this the very shape of salvation”. (from “The Universal Christ”, by Richard Rohr)

I don’t know who might need this today, but I sure do. Yes! I claim, “Yes!”. Thank you Jim Young, Richard Rohr, all of you my brothers and sisters in Workout and in “faith, hope and love”. They do remain. Yes. No to fear, impatience, dis-trustfulness, prejudice, and exclusivity. YES! to trust, hope, and inclusive, Original Goodness Love!