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Month: December 2019
“Everywhere” – the third and final Poem in The Birthday Card Poems
Poem #3 in the Birthday Card Poems
By Jane Tawel
Everywhere, the Spirit rages
Through the world, and through the ages.
Blowing like the wind
Breath, like in and out,
Spirit of Imago-Dei,
Spirit of the heavenly way,
A whisper and a shout.
Spirit dressed in rags and riches,
In English halls, and Gaza ditches.
The Spirit loves the childless lady,
The wandering soul, the tiny baby,
the man of color, homeless girl,
and everyone throughout the world.
And everywhere, all humankind,
The Spirit of Love, can seek and find.
With just a spark of love and care,
the warmth of Love spreads everywhere.
Everywhere a soul is needy,
Everywhere a soul is greedy,
For the Spirit, not the prize,
Opening ears and using eyes,
To hear and see
To touch and be–
Why, that is where the Spirit of Love,
Can make a person worthy of,
Alive and well in you, and me.
The Spirit of true rhyme and reason,
Is not just for one single season.
For Truth and Love,
And Peace and Prayer,
Are ours for making,
Ours for taking,
Wishing you and yours, and me and mine, a truer understanding of what the Spirit of the Christmas-type of love and joy can be for us each day in some small way, if only we “make it” and “take it”. Shalom, Jane
“There” — Poem #2 of the Birthday Card Poems
A Birthday Card Poem #2
By Jane Tawel
“Cold hands equal a warm heart,” Mama used to say.
I wonder if her hands feel as cold as mine do,
Nailed above my hanging head,
I keep thinking about the beginning.
Oh! The stars!
And I –almost human,
Barely just alive,
And all the people smiling, cooing, touching, weeping with joy.
Caught up in a contagion of hope and love, they were, back there
On that night.
Now, this day,
Now, only she weeps,
And not with joy.
And the rest of them laugh, or run away,
staying back as far as possible
From my almost corpse.
Afraid to be caught up in the contagion of death
As I hang here, barely still human.
The beginning was glorious.
They say babies can’t remember their birth,
But some of us can.
The wood of the stall where I began this life,
Felt nothing like this wood.
This wood, so unnaturally shaped (no tree could grow like this),
This wood, my arms and legs are splayed upon,
is splintered, rotting, rough;
Worth nothing but the fire after I hang here on it today.
Contaminated by death, it will be
No longer of any use to anyone, after this day.
Just as I will be, no longer useful,
After this day.
People think a baby isn’t born to be useful,
But I was.
I was born to be of Good use;
Like a tree planted by streams of water,
Yielding fruit in season.
There, in Bethlehem,
Exhausted as they were from days of rough travel
Anxiety and fear making Joseph sweat and Mary weep
In pain, from journeying by kings’ decrees.
In pain, as Jews have always been.
Will always be.
In pain as I am, here, on this cross.
By the time they arrived there
Was no room.
Oh, I remember.
Though now, I am blinded with agony
and delirious, perhaps from loss of blood,
I can see perfectly, in my mind’s eye,
My birth had spent my mother—body and soul,
She was weak from loss of blood there,
As I am here,
Our loss of blood like two parentheses enfolding my life.
She was so tired…
So very, very tired we were sometimes….
Until she could barely hold me to her breast.
Joseph, with strong hands, made feeble by my birth,
gently snuggled me down into the hay.
Some babies do remember;
We really do.
Like a baby bird made safe in my new nest,
I looked for the first time upon this world,
A world of trees, and stars, and faces;
And all seemed, back there,
Exactly as it seems to me today at the end:
The world is all so very new and as very, very old
as all Newborns know
The world to be.
The wooden trough where my parents nestled my infant form,
was as soft as silk
From years of animal tongues, licking, honing, softening
Until not a splinter remained.
There, the wood was as lush and sweet-smelling and soft
As a king’s cradle.
My fledgling family baptized that wood
With my birth pangs.
That trough was anointed by shepherds and sheep
By kings and sages.
Who will anoint the cradle my body dies on today?
We had to flee that place,
Jews always do eventually.
But I like to imagine that wooden manger
Is still there today,
A cradle where I was first loved,
Where I first loved.
Wood, if properly cared for
Can be useful forever.
Trees, even in death, have long lives,
Eternal, one might say.
I know that as well
As any Master Carpenter should.
My earthly father, Joseph,
Taught me all about wood.
I think about that manger
feeding the sheep again.
And suddenly, dying here now
I feel I might join in
The laughter of the crowd below.
They would think me as more insane than they already do,
The crazy “King of the Jews”,
but I Am
Secretly thinking about the irony,
Of the parentheses of my life;
The parenthesis of two wooden instruments,
One of life,
One of death,
Bracketing my life
Like wooden signposts
Yes, perhaps I have just enough faith to think that—
Just enough words to tell them all, that–
both the wood of my cradle
And the wood of this cross
Are useful tools,
Are instruments of life,
Are places where human babies are safe,
The strange parentheses of my cradle and cross,
Will have no end.
The wooden brackets that surround my name,
Will lead people forward.
( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( (
When I was There,
I was already Here,
Going like a lamb from
Trough to slaughter.
The final bracket remains unknown
On the other side, Over There.
But I am not laughing, No,
Yes, I am crying instead;
Not so much from the pain,
Though it is almost more than I can bear;
Not so much from looking at my mother’s face,
Ravaged with sorrow,
Or from gazing weakly
At the few unlikely friends weeping there,
Those few who risk their lives to
Watch me die.
for the wood
this earthly rood.
This tree I die on here,
Will never be useful again,
This tree too, dies with me today;
And it seems the whole world of creation,
Weeps with sorrow for the tree, once a sapling,
that dies here today; and for the
Son of Man
“My soul is consumed with sorrow, to the point of death!
Like a sheep before its shearers I am silent,
I cannot open my mouth.
My soul is offered up as guilt offering,
And I will never see my offspring,
I can no longer prolong my life,
It is finished.”
But almost as I end my life here,
the still small voice,
Of My Father,
who awaits me There,
“Oh, My Son, this tree, too
Will feed the sheep.
And You, My Child,
Will be with Me, Here,
Feeding Your offspring
At your own breast
As your mother once fed you.
You My Son,
Will live to have many babies,
Reborn because You
Cradled them here today.”
(So, because of my mother’s willingness to serve My Father
I, her child, was born.
And because of my willingness to serve My Father,
My own children will be re-born.)
I embrace this wooden cross,
As once that wooden cradle embraced me,
My first breath, began the struggle.
My final breath is a fight to give it all up.
I can just make out the words—
Like whispers hovering over the void
Of the world–
Is it memory, dream or present reality?
The words I hear now,
as my mother and My Father coo me to sleep,
As my mother and My Father gently sing,
“There, there. There, there, my Child. There, there.”
“Here” a poem
A Birthday Card Poem -1
By Jane Tawel
December 22, 2019
This early morn,
The world re-starts,
Yet all is torn
Just as my heart,
Ignites with Love
The whole world
because of You.
Check out my latest on Staying Alive, Please on Medium.com
A Christmas Letter Replay from 2015
It seemed like a good time for me, and maybe you, if you are reading this, to re-post the very first Christmas season post I wrote for this blog. Whatever you believe, this post is about being and being-ness and not doing and doing-ness. I am personally practicing more, different, and various forms of centering and breathing, of embracing the Now, and accepting who I am and the paths I have taken, as well as trying to understand who other people “are”, not so much what they “do”. I hope you might wrestle with me on some of the thoughts I posted in 2015 in light of all that has changed out there, and in me and maybe in you, in 2019.
A Christmas Letter on Being-ness
by Jane Tawel
December 24, 2015
A Christmas Letter is about all the stuff one and one’s family has done in the past year. It’s an accounting of achievements and that is as it should be since that is what satisfies the recipients’ curiosity. There is a saying people toss around when they are telling one not to stress– “We’re not called human doings, we’re called human beings“. As I age, I am distilling into more and more myself, which is (I’m often told) — impassioned and weird. So once again this season, I write my traditional odd and intense Christmas letter, not because that is what I do, but because that is what I am — odd and intense.
Sometimes you shouldn’t stake claim and insist on being what you naturally are — being is like writing– it is important to understand context and connotation. In writing as in life, know your context and if necessary dial down your weird and impassioned. I’m a bit spotty on successfully doing that, I admit. But I am learning that it is often okay to accept one’s particular self. Each of us is created in a unique way to reflect the image of our Creator God. I serve an odd and intense God — an impassioned God, a strange one-of-a-kind God, who unlike other gods did not tell us to worship Him for what He had done or would do, but told us to worship Him for what He is: “I Am”.
We “Beings” are the only created “Imago Dei” of that God — imago means “idealized concept” — which fittingly has nothing to do with “doing” but means “a better than in reality idea”. That’s what we will be again someday — our realized ideal self. Meantime, we work at it. This time of year we celebrate the fact that while we were formed from dust into God’s image, because we rejected that image, God chose to be created in our image–ad imaginem hominis. We were given the perfect Being to model — Jesus, the Christ. As the hymn goes: “Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God, should (be born) and die for me!”.
I get all my strange random thoughts out of my head in a blog where you can also find this letter (janetawel.wordpress.com). I am reading a lot of C.S. Lewis. One cannot spend time with C.S. Lewis and not become at least a wee bit changed. Lewis has such a high view of human beings –that is if humans choose to sacrifice completely the sense of self to the sense of imago dei– through relationship with the living God and in the manner of the Son of God. It is a fearful thing to ponder that one day we will become what we have always truly been judged to be, with no regard to what we have done. The bible calls it God’s view of the true heart of one’s soul.
We are easily confused and disoriented by the distorted mirrors reflecting what is truly “us”. There is none good but God and no goodness in us but our Godlikeness in Christ. One can live in a state of stunned awe reading a lot of the Bible and Lewis.
I learned more about reading and writing with my 15 Azusa Pacific University freshmen. One of the things you try to help students with is that when writing, stick to the same verb tense. The other thing is that it is easier to write consistently in present tense than in past tense. I think it is easier to LIVE consistently in present tense as well — easier than living in past achievements and problems or living in future dreams and worries. Occupare Momento!
With my “at least on paper grown-up” kiddos, I am failing but trying to transition from “doing mom” to “being mom”. This is the necessity if you want to be friends with your adult children — you will always “be” their mom, but you don’t “do” mom any more — at least I imagine you can’t until they become parents and then you can do “grand” mom. Being mom means you let them all be who they are becoming and you just be there for them. Whatever you do, don’t let on that you are still doing stuff for them. Except doing the occasional bill paying for them. That’s ok. This morning the best part of still being mom, is being with all my chicks and my hubby under one roof — even if only for a short amount of time. They all keep asking me what I want for Christmas — isn’t it obvious? — just to BE– together. There is a great old Peter Seller’s movie called, “Being There”. Chauncey Gardiner keeps saying, “I like to watch.” I “like to watch” my children and husband bloom and grow. So, I am watching my family being: Hard workers. Risk takers. Creators. Friends. Students. Travelers. Dreamers.
Christmas is a time of traditions. Traditions are not things one has merely done in the past but they become traditions because you keep doing them–in the present. We, as perhaps you, are in the midst of our many Christmas traditions, like fudge and cookie making, driving around to see the lights, singing carols, hiding gifts, and snuggling together watching Christmas movies. Our traditions are mostly about being present in the season.
Advent implores us to live fully in the present reality while anticipating the future reality. As Christians we lean our frail earthly weight into our calling to be “on earth as it is in heaven” – which will merely BE timeless present in God’s presence. Advent is about Christ with us, in us, and Christ to be. The church liturgy helps ground us in the present of Christ’s presence, not by having us think on what He did — “He was born”– but by celebrating what His Being continues to mean daily, in this very moment, in the present eternity of our souls –“He IS born.” “He IS Risen”. “He IS coming again”. He Is I Am.
This Christmas perhaps we First World human beings, are more aware of our frailty and transitory state as the Evil One rears in his death throes of ugliness, unnaturalness, violence, and hatred. Today increasingly seems to gain better odds at being my last day. While Eternity becomes a more present longing, it is yet good to be thankful for another hour to be present here.
We spend a lot of time doing good things that care for the body and mind. But what of that which is our innermost being? How shall we live to be Souls rather than Bucket Lists? We are called to improve and to love this created world and God’s created people– as our skills and callings and dreams allow. But the soul can only be bettered by the One who created it, so that the true self can be made into that thing which is all that will eternally remain –Faith, Hope and Love.
The soul is our being-ness. It is only in being known by our Creator, by knowing our Creator, and by allowing that humbling, undeserved but delightful relationship to God to inform all our human BEING relationships, that we truly become who we are meant to BE– Little Christs– poor imitations but striving imitators nonetheless, of Him of whom the angels sang, “Glory to Him in the Highest”. And by giving Christ glory, may peace on earth and good will be to all souls. Hoping that in the New Year that you and yours, may BE all that you are meant to be.
Jane — December 2015…. and……. Jane, December 2019. Shalom.
A Psalm for The Day
A Psalm for The Day
By Jane Tawel
December 9, 2019
God of mercy,
God of grace,
Help me God to seek Your Face.
God of judgement,
God of power,
Grant me hope in this dark hour.
God of Moses,
God of Christ,
Give us all
We need for Life.
Fill me, as I empty out,
All my pride, and all my doubt.
Empty me to do Thy Will,
Listening for Your Voice, so still.
God of Light,
And God of Love,
Thy Kingdom here as it is above.
God of Love,
And God of Light,
To be My God, I, You, invite.
Forgive me now,
And teach me how,
To walk, and do,
In worship of You.
by Jane Tawel
December 2, 2019
This I read today from Jorg Zink—”Take the path that leads inward through the days of Advent. Set aside for yourself, if it is possible, time to breathe in; time to stop feeling that you’re on the run or under stress. Allow something to happen inside you. Turn your thoughts and hopes to the things that count.. . . “We humans contribute to the world’s gloom, like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. What is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith. This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love. You may not believe it, but you can love this world. It is a place of God. It has a purpose. Its beauty is not a delusion. You can lead a meaningful life in it.”
From Doors to the Feast, by Jorg Zink
I am beginning this Season of Advent, by seeking better practices of listening. And to switch up St. Paul’s words, but I hope, not his intent, one way I hope to celebrate the onslaught of God’s Son living with us in this world, is to “set my mind on” the present Presence amongst us on earth, and not a wishful wannabe in a heavenly future. As Jorg Zink writes, I hope to “turn my hopes and thoughts toward the things that count”.
I have spent a lifetime communicating as a writer, teacher, parent, spouse, daughter, co-worker, and friend. But Advent is a good time to remember a man who was born as a baby and who excelled not only in communicating truth and love but in listening. To listen not only to other human beings, but to listen to the very Earth herself seems to me a life-practice I have too often missed-out on, and I have been sadly suspectful that “merely” listening is not something valuable, active, and meaningful.
Listening seems so passive, and of course, for some people it is. It took me years to realize that the reason I talk so much and have so much outer-moving energy is because I think (and fear) that if I am not verbally responding, physically engaging, facially and bodily moving, and passionately involved with others, then I am not giving. In other words, I am so afraid of taking and so anxious to connect in meaningful ways with any humans within reach, that I overdo the communicating bit. It took me years to understand why I am so depleted after work or social events or even just a car ride or dinner with a family member. It is because I was never really allowed to just be by myself or be quiet around others. I am the “cheerleader”, “stage-manager” who always just wanted to be what she was at heart, a nerdy introvert. So when I am with other people, I am caught-up in my own need to “give” of myself. This is not altruistic, I realize; it is rather more like a hidden, undiagnosed phobia or syndrome. And to make matters worse, as an empath, listening to others, for me, means feeling everything the other person is feeling, taking it in, and not having anywhere to put it but back out there to “solve” or “help”, or stored away smoldering and moldering inside my own mind and heart.
People who are like I am, end up with running tracks in their brains that often spill out their mouths. We pour out so much, that eventually there is a backwash. Eventually, our communications often morph and change from giving, caring, wannabehelpful and useful bodies of relational communication to unlivable, unsustainable towers of babble. Inside, we end up running along the lines that add tracks of worry to our faces, and fill us with secret fears and criticisms; and these can easily derail, leading off to side-tracks and runaway ramps of angst, anger, and hopelessness.
Advent is a time of permissions. It is a time when lowly, stinky, homeless people were given permission to hobnob with kingly Magi. It is a time when it was permitted to not just believe in angels, but to sing with them. Advent gives us permission to come into the light, and stand, kneel, or dance before God. Advent gives us permission to love the world as The Creator loves it. It gives us license to believe there was once a God-man who loved the world enough to be born into it, even though He already had a different and better home; a God-man who had so much hope for and faith in the world and other human beings, that He thought he had enough love to make a difference; and so God gave Jesus permission to live in the world with all of its darkness, and to care for all of its brokenness, and even to die for its future. Now, The Christ waits for our permission to open the door, to let him turn on the lights, and to listen to him teach us how to be like him.
What do you need to give yourself permission to do, or not do, this Advent Season? As you await, anticipate, engage with, and hope for what will born in and with you, what can you do now to prepare for what will give you more purpose and more joy in the journey? You may find the answer surprising, as I have. You may find that in not doing something you think you must do, there will be more meaning to not just this super-imposed upon us season, but more meaning to your life. For some it may mean, not buying, not going, not giving (just because it’s a Tuesday), not resisting standing out, or not staying silent but speaking up. For me, this Advent will begin with instructing my heart to not being afraid to wholly and holy be a listener. For me, I am giving myself permission to seek a heart of silent anticipation and to practice truly listening. I am giddy with anticipation of what I might hear. I am also a little afraid of what people might think or how I might feel (or not feel). Maybe you feel the same about finally speaking up or speaking out? Maybe you are afraid to put yourself out there? But we don’t need to fear each other or our own trials and errors in changing for the better, because as Jorg Zink says, this world is our home. We are safe here. We are together in this. We make the world have its meaning, and it in turn, the world we make gives meaning to our lives.
Did you know that because sound and light are both waves, they can conceivably be converted into the other? May my words become loving light and may your light be converted into the sounds of your truth. May the Light which we celebrate at Advent, give us all the sounds, both spoken and silent, sounding out and holding close, truth, hope, faith, joy, and love. And may those of us who need permission to shout, shout “Hosanna!”. And those of us who need permission to listen, may we be “still, and know that He is God”.
Jesus came to give us permission to be specifically who we were meant to be, just as he was and is. God is among us, granting us permission to live in a Truth that is available and unassailable because it is purely and divinely Love. Christ in us, is our permission to live, and to live fully and meaningfully.
Today, how will you share who you are giving yourself permission to be?
Illustrations by Julie Vivas, “The Nativity”