Resurrection is a Threat, Not a Promise

Resurrection is a Threat, Not a Promise

Shared Thoughts of Julia Esquivel and  Parker Palmer

from Jane Tawel

April 13, 2019

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It seems a “good” time to share once more excerpts from this poem by Guatemalan Poet, Julia Esquivel.  This poem, written as witness to the horrors inflicted on the people of Guatemala in the 1970’s and 1980’s, is now perhaps even more tragically relevant to us in this place at this time. Who are we in light of this current onslaught of naked need?  I include as well, a short meditation on this poem by Parker Palmer from The Active Life.

If we are not being threatened with resurrection today, and especially if we are the sort of people who are still planning on celebrating the upcoming Good Friday and Easter / “Resurrection Sunday”, perhaps we still don’t really “get” this whole Christ thing? Perhaps we don’t even get this whole Human thing? To paraphrase Palmer, “If we are to take seriously those who complete their own “marathon of hope”, The Christ’s calling, perhaps we too must undergo some form of dying.” I fear and feel deeply and spiritually that if we do not, join the “least of these”, the lost, the poor, the sojourners and needy, in, as Esquivel writes, this “marathon of hope”, we will never reach “the finish line which lies beyond death”.

I hope you will read Ms. Esquivel’s searing poem and I hope, as I am, you will be threatened by it.   Resurrection is not a promise for believing in Christ’s life, my friends, it is a threat for those willing to die with Him. The King of The World lived not in the safety and cushy-capitalistic “Christianity” of my lifetime, but in the threatening and threatened world of self-imposed poverty and outcast status of the Judeo-Roman last century B.C. Jesus has threatened us with these words:  “For as you have done it unto the least of the world’s humans, you have done it as unto God.” Those words are either terrifying or hopeful, depending on whether we hear them as promise or threat. Perhaps we need to hear them today as both threat and promise.  As Esquivel says, “then we will know how marvelous it is to live threatened with Resurrection”.

Hear the threat. Seek the threat. Embrace the threat. Be the threat.

 

“They Have Threatened Us with Resurrection”

by Julia Esquivel

It isn’t the noise in the streets

that keeps us from resting, my friend,

nor is it the shouts of the young people

coming out drunk from the “St. Pauli,”

nor is it the tumult of those who pass by excitedly

on their way to the mountains.

 

It is something within us that doesn’t let us sleep,

that doesn’t let us rest,

that won’t stop pounding

deep inside,

it is the silent, warm weeping

of Indian women without their husbands,

it is the sad gaze of the children

fixed somewhere beyond memory,

precious in our eyes

which during sleep,

though closed, keep watch,

with each contraction

of the heart

in every awakening.

 

Now six have left us,

and nine in Rabinal,

and two, plus two, plus two,

and ten, a hundred, a thousand,

a whole army

witness to our pain,

our fear,

our courage,

our hope!

 

What keeps us from sleeping

is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!

Because every evening

though weary of killings,

an endless inventory since 1954,

yet we go on loving life

and do not accept their death!

They have threatened us with Resurrection

Because we have felt their inert bodies,

and their souls penetrated ours

doubly fortified,

because in this marathon of Hope,

there are always others to relieve us

who carry the strength

to reach the finish line

which lies beyond death.

 

They have threatened us with Resurrection

because they will not be able to take away from us

their bodies,

their souls,

their strength,

their spirit,

nor even their death

and least of all their life.

Because they live

today, tomorrow, and always

in the streets baptized with their blood,

in the air that absorbed their cry,

in the jungle that hid their shadows,

in the river that gathered up their laughter,

in the ocean that holds their secrets,

in the craters of the volcanoes,

Pyramids of the New Day,

which swallowed up their ashes.

 

They have threatened us with Resurrection

because they are more alive than ever before,

because they transform our agonies

and fertilize our struggle,

because they pick us up when we fall,

because they loom like giants

before the crazed gorillas’ fear.

They have threatened us with Resurrection,

because they do not know life (poor things!).

 

That is the whirlwind

which does not let us sleep,

the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,

and awake, we dream.

 

No, it’s not the street noises,

nor the shouts from the drunks in the “St. Pauli,”

nor the noise from the fans at the ball park.

It is the internal cyclone of kaleidoscopic struggle

which will heal that wound of the quetzal

fallen in Ixcán,

it is the earthquake soon to come

that will shake the world

and put everything in its place.

 

No, brother,

it is not the noise in the streets

which does not let us sleep.

 

Join us in this vigil

and you will know what it is to dream!

Then you will know how marvelous it is

to live threatened with Resurrection!

 

To dream awake,

to keep watch asleep,

to live while dying,

and to know ourselves already

resurrected!

 

 

The longer that one dwells on the poem, the harder it is to say exactly who threatens us with resurrection. The poem itself is like the kaleidoscope whose image Esquivel uses; each time you turn it a new pattern appears. So the poem imitates life, in which the “threat of Resurrection” comes both from those who dispense death and from those who have died in the hope of new life… If it is true that both the killers and the killed threaten us with resurrection, then we, the living are caught between a rock and hard place.  On the one hand, we fear the killers, but not simply because they want to kill us.  We fear them because they test our convictions about resurrection, they test our willingness to be brought into a larger life than the one we now know. On the other hand, we fear the innocent victims of the killers, those who have died for love and justice and peace. Though they are our friends, we fear them because they call us to follow them in “this marathon of Hope.”  If we were to take their calling seriously, we ourselves would have to undergo some form of dying.  (Parker 147-8)

 

 

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The Liebster Award for Jane Tawel and Thoughts on Blogging

On and To Bloggers (but maybe we need a prettier name?)

from  Jane Tawel

April 8, 2019

 

One of the very great things I have discovered about blogging, besides my own creating and thinking with words, is being made aware of how many other creative people there are in the whole wide world posting their creative words, art, and ideas in the medium of online personal “blogs”. This idea of blogging has changed greatly and I think for the best, as it is now a huge, flexible, and fluid medium for expression of all kinds. It is so huge that it is hard to know how to find those folks out there that might appeal to one’s aesthetic or personal needs and desires. Just by luck and through my own blog,  I have come to find out about people I would never know about otherwise — people in Germany, India, Canada, Atlanta — people who make pottery and write about it as if the pots were darling children much like I write about my own darling children; people who create pen and ink drawings and then write heart-searing essays, full of “the warp and woof” of human experience; and people like Tebatjo, someone I may never meet in this lifetime but hope to someday in Eternity — people who dig into their need for writing that most modern-age maligned of arts, poetry, digging much like Scarlet dug potatoes from her decaying plantation, promising “I will never go hungry again”. We who write poetry, feel the metaphoric hungers of the world, and share our own provisions to stave off the starvation of soul-less-ness.

This blogger award to bloggers was a very wonderful thing that the originators came up with, because it is named Liebster, which in German means, “kind”. And it is truly about kindness, isn’t it? It’s all about kindness, not niceness, but about being kind; kind to the planet, kind to others, kind to self, kind to God. I have found the world of fellow bloggers that I personally have heard from or have read to be a community of kind people, people from all walks of life, genders, colors, places, ages but people who share  the quality of kindness.They share kindness through comments, through encouragement, and through this award. I think any one who attempts to create art or who tries to teach other people something about how to live, no matter how bad, unjust, angry or frightening the world is — those people must have a core of kindness in order to create.  No matter how much one rants or provokes in one’s art, art itself will bring one back to a sense of a world of nature and other beings, who are just waiting — just longing — to be kind; if we open ourselves to it, it is there.  I have found the kindness of creativity in a “nation” of fellow bloggers. 

It helps my own wee soul tremendously to know there is an unsung “nation” of souls in the world who create because that is what humans should be doing. Whether you get fame or money is beside the point, the point is as beings created in the image of a Creator-Being, we must. That’s it, we must. Creating may not be our job, but we embrace it as necessary for our lives.  So it is with humility and joy that I accept this nomination (prizes awarded in January 2020), which may seem silly to some, but to me represents a whole world of people that I respect greatly and people that the word “blogger” does not do justice to.  The word “blog” rhymes with things like bog or fog or smog — not things that one wants to immerse oneself in or at least stay in for long.  The bloggers I am privileged to be a citizen with in The Nation of Bloggers,  are thinking, creative people who give a lot of time and energy, heart and soul, to making the world a better place, whether they have one follower, one reader, or thousands. They are the liebsters of the world, whose prizes wait for them, awarded in Eternity by that Great Creator and Lover of all those who with suffering and kindness, create in Her Image. Thank you all for rest, inspiration, provocation, and joy in the journey. You are “liebstered” — you are valued.

******You will find below the award details,  the intriguing questions I was asked to answer; the blogs I am nominating but also recommending for readers to check out; and my questions for the nominees.  As a reader, you might have some fun answering all or one of these questions and posting them in the comments.

 

 

THANK YOU, TEBATJO MALAKA!

A hearty and heart-felt thanks, to fellow blogger and poet, Tebatjo Malaka for nominating me and my blog for the Liebster Award. You can find Tebatjo’s profound blog at https://onhillsofglory.wordpress.com/.

 

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What is the Liebster Prize?

The Liebster Prize is an award that exists only on the Internet and is awarded to bloggers by other bloggers. The first case of the award goes back to 2011. Liebester in German means sweet, kind, dear, charming, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. It really is an excellent way to meet other bloggers and gain more visibility in the community.

There are some simple rules to follow:
Add a link to the Official Liebester Award page in your blog post the Global aussie

https://theglobalaussie.com

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you.
  • Display your award.
  • Answer the questions you were asked.
  • Nominate at least 5 other followers to do the same post.
  • Ask 6 new questions to your chosen nominees.
  • Let each nominee know you’ve nominated them and give a link to your post.

 

Nominations: 

  1. Literaa Poetry
  2. DaleGreenArts
  3. The Alchemist’s Studio
  4. The Mad Servant
  5. kumarshanu1212
  6. beautybeyondbones
  7. Deanne Davis at Tablespoonoflove

 

Questions I was asked to answer by Tebatjo:

  1. How do you define life?

Wow. Right out of the gate, a question that leaves me a bit stunned and silent and the point is to write about it, but I’m assuming I can’t write a 5,000 page tome, which is what it would take. So, for now —I define life, I guess, as something we are given on our birth date, a great and wondrous and often, ponderous,  gift, and then as we live, each human has the choice to accept life as gift or to see life as work. We can use our lives to construct something meaningful, or we can choose to deconstruct or destroy those essential and unique elements we are given as human beings. Now, some people are given more viable and good options in this lifetime than others, who get the short end of the stick or are exposed the evils of the world in ways that are completely unjust.  And whether you are born into a life of ease or a life of hardship is not at all fair, but if you believe, as I do, that we also have the choice to not let this short passage of time that we live out on Earth, be the only and finite life, the only definition of what a life means;  then the option of choosing a spiritually-led life is yours no matter your circumstances.  In fact ironically, Jesus makes an interesting comment that scares some of us fat cat first worlders — he said, it is harder to live a meaningful life if you are rich and powerful than if you are poor and unjustly persecuted.  But as all things are possible with God, even entering the life of God’s Kingdom, then seeing life as gift, no matter our options, will ensure that someday, somehow there will be a life of justice and truth, love and peace, and a wholistic life that for now we can only see and experience dimly or in pieces. However, the crux of the matter is, how I define my purpose in living, for just this morning, this day, this moment even – that is a reflection of how I truly define “life”; which should be paradoxically sobering and freeing.

  1. Based on answer in 1. above, how often do you think about death?

I think about death pretty much every night before bed and first thing in the morning, when I am pleasantly surprised not to be dead.  I wouldn’t say I think much about death in between those times, except to rather daily frantically pray for the people I love to not die that day. If you do read my blog, you will no doubt fairly soon discover that I have more questions and more thoughts about what comes after death than about death itself. I do find this question interesting because I think Americans and perhaps all First World-ers are in dangerous denial about the one certain fact of this life – we will all die.  You can use all the Botox, build all the safety nets (or walls) you like; but you cannot protect yourself from the certainty of death.  However, see the John Donne poem below in my answer to Question #6 for some hopeful philosophy on our deaths.  Or I might recommend a meditation on  The Christ’s view of life after death as found in the book of John, particularly John 5:24 and 11:25

  1. If you had a clone, would you be pleased in telling him/her your life secrets? And how would you accomplish the task of reassuring him/her that everything is going to pan out alright when he/she is about to give up on life?

So, I have to assume that my clone doesn’t know everything I know. (For a wonderful meditation on whether we would really like to have a clone or not, watch that old chestnut “Multiplicity” with Michael Keaton). And I have to assume that I know or have “life secrets”. And are these life secrets about my own life’s journey, or about the “secrets of life” or are both always connected? And then I have to assume I am dealing with someone who is suicidal – Yowza!  In terms of telling someone my life secrets, I would tell them to someone I trust and someone who could learn by them.  I have told my children some of my “life secrets”.  But the tough part of this question of course, is how to talk with someone who is “giving up on life”.  I come from a dynasty of “cheerleaders” who believe in the old “buck up” method of encouragement and that the best thing to say is always: “I’m proud of you and you are great and all is going to be fine for you”. But then your kids grow up or your spouse gets sick and you realize, “so what if I’M proud of them? And also, things do not by any stretch of the imagination always turn out fine.”  And isn’t pride actually, in the end, the problem, not the solution; either the lack of the right kind of pride or too much of the wrong kind of pride. 

So what to say to someone who has gotten  so far along the road in life undetected, or unswayed by the cheerleaders and encouragers, that he / she feels life is not worth living? The problem starts with thinking life is all about me; which in the end, even for those who are famous, wealthy, powerful etc. is never enough, as we find to our sorrow with the famous, powerful, wealthy, people who commit suicide.  The deeper issue is with making me, myself and I the trinity idols of my life. And this is such an insidious religion of humanism masquerading as Christianity, or Judaism or Islam now, at least in my country, it is.  What blindsides us in the end, is that people don’t realize that self-worship is what they actually believe.  They think they believe in God or have faith in Jesus or practice living like Buddha, or will die for king and country; but we have so long been afloat in the sea of materialism, humanistic idolization, greed and power masquerading as success and fulfillment; and self-pride, that with the first moderately strong waves of despair, depression, fear, or failure that eventually assault our sense of meaning, we are capsized into despair or we drug ourselves with religious feeling or pharmaceuticals or more stuff to make the bad feelings go away. But the waves keep rolling. So I guess if my poor clone wakes up one day, as truthfully, I do some days, and says, “Original Model Jane, I don’t feel like living.”  I hope I would simply give Clone my time, that most precious of treasures for now. I hope I would simply sit and hold her hand and make her some tea and maybe a scone or two.  I hope I would stop talking and advising and cheerleading, and just listen – even if it means just listening to the small, faint sound of her heartbeat and the miracle of her breath.

  1. If beauty was defined in terms of a moment, what/how will it be?

Looking at my baby’s face, breathing in the scent of the back of her neck, caressing the little limbs, chubby and soft and helpless, hearing his little bleating cries or his soft coos of contentment as he nurses nourishment from me, looking up from her soft downy head at the great big world, and feeling that sense of awe that this beauty has been given to me.

  1. Between cooking and eating, what’s best, on the assumption that none of the two is obligatory?

Cooking, because cooking means that I will have family and / or friends around my dinner table, enjoying something I have made just for them. The joke in my family is that I cook as if all the field hands on the ranch were coming in hungry to chow down.  I cook as if all four kids were still coming in to dinner each night, along with all their friends – hungry as only kids can be and wanting leftovers of their favorites for later.  I am not a gourmet chef but I cook as generously as I hope my heart is generous.

  1. Do you believe life is a function of fate or destiny (note: destiny is the direct antithesis of fate.)

Ah, the old Shakespearean conundrum:  “Is the fault in the stars or in ourselves?” As asked by Brutus, that most wretched philosopher /friend in the play “Julius Caesar”  or take Edward in Henry IV: “What fates impose, that men must needs abide; it boots not to resist both wind and tide.”  Or The Player King in “Hamlet” “Our wills and fates do so contrary run, That our devices still are overthrown; Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” 

Alas, these are all quotes from plays in which people die and die and die some more. So what does Shakespeare or any one for that matter, do with the great Worldview Questions, especially the one about death and dying, when they answer it with, “well, that’s fate”.  I posit that the great poets and artists and philosophers of our times, know quite well, that “fate” or “destiny” is never actually an answer – it will always remain a question. It is one of the ultimately unanswerable questions because only God can look at us, our world, and the element of Time from outside those elements and determine the true meaning of anything. We are not even 20/20 in hindsight, as there is always our very personal interpretation of what we see in the rear view mirrors of our lives, compared to what any one else might see or assess.

I’m also not entirely sure I agree with Tebatjo that destiny is the “direct antithesis” of fate.  See my answer to question #1 on life, but if we have any kind of Judeo-Christian philosophy, then we believe that all human beings are created for the same destiny: to love and glorify The Lord God, Creator of All; to live a life of justice-seeking peace, kindness, truth, and fulfillment; and to work at loving others as we love ourselves.  This is everyone’s “destiny” but not of course the end result of every human being’s choices.  In fact, woe is me, it is the end result of very, very few of us.

Of course, Shakespeare is also wrestling with this conundrum of fate and choice; God and humans as little gods; and none of his characters have it completely right, only pieces of it, which is why Shakespeare keeps on asking his characters and his audiences this question.  Shakespeare’s questions on fate and human beings versus Providence or A God are much like you can find in the Biblical book of Job – a play with characters worthy of Shakespeare for sure.  As you can see, I find it necessary to turn to those great Questioners of the ages in terms of questions like this one.  If you check out Job, you will find that God Himself questions Job.  The gift of art is the gift of living in the questions. And this for me includes the question of  “fate or fault”, “fate or destiny”.

 In terms of fate, I refer readers to find some munching on material in, perhaps, the views of two  great poets –John Donne and Emily Dickinson. 

Superiority to Fate (1081)
Emily Dickinson

Superiority to Fate
Is difficult to gain
‘Tis not conferred of Any
But possible to earn

A pittance at a time
Until to Her surprise
The Soul with strict economy
Subsist till Paradise.

 

Death Be Not Proud

The Holy Sonnets by John Donne

 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

  1. If you were to write a five-line poetry for that one person in your life, how would it look like?

 

I do write a lot of poetry for the people in my life, my husband and children.  Yesterday my husband and I had one of “those” fights.  So here is my poem for Raoul, my one person, for today.

For Raoul

Five Lines, by Jane Tawel

You and I, muddling through.

There are days you hate me and I abhor you.

But we keep living the gift of a long-term love,

which all but God fall badly short of.

We both mess up badly, but our love remains true — you know, I love you.

 

 

Jane’s Questions for the Nominees:

  1. If you could get out one all important message to the world, what would it be?
  2. You can build your house on either a mountainside, in a forest, or by a body of water. Which would you choose and why?
  3. What one book of fiction would you recommend everyone read at least once if not many times in his / her lifetime? Why?
  4. You must choose between lots of money and fame right now or being recognized after your death as a profound and meaningful artist. Which do you choose and why?
  5. Pick at least three different artistic mediums and name someone who has effected your life through their creations.
  6. Why do you keep doing what you do?

 

Hope is Not Now – an essay by Jane Tawel

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Hope is Not for Now

By Jane Tawel

March 23, 2019

We mistake all kinds of things for things they are not, because the only gods we have left are ourselves. We mistake religion for humanism; we mistake God for personal best buddy; and we mistake faith for self-empowerment.  And then there is our mistaken idea that somehow we should and can “choose” hope in order to be happy. We mistake hope for happiness.

 

I started out this morning, thinking about the world, thinking about myself, thinking about God, just like I do most mornings.  And I thought about things I’ve been thinking and writing and reading lately and I said to myself, “Self, you need to write a happy, hopeful little story that will cheer people up.”  And I drank my first cup of coffee with that determination until I read the headlines, read some Facebook posts, read a couple blogs I follow, re-read part of my own blog, and read the Bible.  The headlines assured me that there was hope the bad guys would be caught and punished, but I’ve been alive long enough and know enough history to know that won’t really happen until Christ comes again. Dashed hopes for justice are a part of being human if you live long enough.  A Facebook post by a friend of a friend asked for prayer about his suicidal thoughts. In the past year, I have personally known three young people who committed suicide because they just couldn’t believe there was hope for them. A blogger I follow talked about her childhood and sad memories of a father she never knew. I have my own sad memories of my childhood which no matter how old I am, can be rubbed raw by the hopelessness of ever changing the past.  My own most recent blog is about the decay of morality, truth, and gospel in people who claim to know God. I love, love, love people who claim to know God and yet in my current place and time, I feel a sense of terror at what so many of them are basing their future hope on. And the Bible passage I read this morning, from what we erroneously call the “Old” Testament assured me that I am nothing more than dust, a passing breeze on the winds of Time. And I realize how often I have let ego and desire lead me into a false and unbiblical sense of hopefulness that I am someone whom God might want to hang out with forever.  So I let our old dogs out into the yard and made my second cup of coffee. I take light milk and honey in my coffee, please.

 

I sat down feeling helpless and hopeless. Helpless to help fellow travelers across the world who suffer for belief, suffer for their faith, or who just plain suffer because they feel too much of the dark deep things that humans feel.  I sat down hopeless that I can be part of any real change, see any real change, not just in others, but in myself.  I look back over a life that has included so many, many whole days of pointlessness, and so many days I was filled with and following sin. Sin – hurting others, selfish talk and action, greed and coveting and lying – those sins God hates most; stealing, murder in my heart, lust – all of it.  And I am at a loss to tell stories of hope, because in the light of the reality of who I am, who we are; in the light of Now is the darkness of the real state of being of Forever and Never.

 

So I just put down all my reading and I looked up. And out. The vestiges of last night’s dew clung to the morning cheery grass and the dew pounced in on my doggies’ paws and I laughed with them instead of scolding them.  A floor is easily mopped.  The sun trickled through the filmy clouds’ filter in the same rhythm as my coffee trickled into my carafe and both waited to warm me, body and soul. The pan was still soaking in the sink, with a few strings of cabbage and cheese clinging to the sides of the now still soapy sea of dish water. The strings of leftovers played like strings of violins on my heart, reminding me that last night my son was home to join us for dinner and I made one of his favorite dishes. Because I could. Because I have enough money, enough strength, my hands still function despite early arthritic throbs, and I have time.  And there it is. Time. And if you have time to look around, then you have time for hope.

 

Time is what we have had, have now (if we’re lucky) but biblically it is what we will no longer have in The Kingdom of God.  And Hope? Well, how does hope fit into a future with no future, so to speak? Hope is one of The Big Three, that the entire Word of God assures us will last outside of Time, will last forever, and is part of God’s True World. Hope is one of the things we were created to Be, not have.  As it says, “So now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  The Psalmist says “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.”  And in Hebrews, it says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Isn’t it interesting that every single one of these verses uses the world “now”.  The reason hope is so tricky, so ephemeral, so fleeting, so ultimately unsatisfying is because of our imprisonment in Time, because hope can not exist, except fleetingly, in our constant “now-ness”. The proverb says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and it is so easy for others to impact our hopefulness and defer our quest for it.

 

Hope is not happiness, but rather hope is unhappiness with the ways things are now completely infused with the faith that the “Now” was never what God intended for us. Hope is the current tossed and turning belief that the “Then” will be something even more beautiful, lovely, true, and wholly wonderful than we can know or even imagine.  Hope is, as Dickinson writes, “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the song without the words and never stops at all.”  And though we can’t always hear Hope’s tune and we can’t always sing hope’s song to those in need of it; we can take our Time and as Isaiah said, “wait for the Lord; who shall renew our little birds of hope and give them wings like eagles”.

 

Sometimes in the noisy outskirts of Los Angeles, I have a difficult time hearing the birds.  But it is usually, frankly, because I am too busy, too preoccupied, too stressed, or thinking behind me or ahead of me, to listen. It is also because I am primarily a visual learner, I find my strength and major happinesses in what I see, whether around me or on the page of a book.   The thing about hope though is that, as Paul wrote to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

 

The three things that remain are faith, hope and love. Love needs me to see others as I see myself and use my hands to care for them.  Faith needs me to speak to my Heavenly Father and honor Him with my words, speaking of faith to others who need it.  And Hope? Hope needs me to listen.  Hope is the thing that listens – to the birds of the air, the children in the next room, the music of the spheres, and the ticking of the clocks.  Most of all, Hope needs me to listen for the still, small voice of the Creator Parent Who has hope for me yet; to listen to The One Who has hope for the world, and Who Is The Hope of the Universe.

 

And now I confess I will go make myself my third cup of dark coffee with milk and honey.  There was once a man named Moses who felt hopeless to change his sinful past in light of a Holy God.  Moses felt hopeless about his present life since he had few skills and no real community of friends and family.  And Moses’ hope for the future, well, what is the future for a nomad with no place, no people, no plan? And then old Moses started listening to God. And listening to the cries of God’s people.  And what Moses heard God say is, “I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey”.  Milk and honey. Flowing. When Moses asked God, “Who shall I tell people you are.” God said, tell them that I AM. I AM outside Time and therefore, outside hopelessness. I Am Hope. Hope flowing backwards through your past, today in your present, and hope flowing like a river of milk and honey toward your future.

 

And so I get up. And hear the little chirps outside my back door. And hear my husband breathing in the next room. And listen to the tap, tap, tap of my fingers on the keys. And listen to the scratching of ears by my old dogs. And hear the sound of my next deep breath. And I stand up in the Now of Uncertainty with the hope of one more delicious cup of coffee with milk and honey. And I pray with faith and love of The Lord, that my hope will be not in anything – not in me, not in them, not any other gods – but only in He Who is Hope. And I listen for the still small sound of I AM. And I accept my calling, not to seek hope, not to require hope, not to expect nor see hope, but to Be Hope. Because Hope is one of the things I am which will never die. Hope is not Now. Hope is Forever.

 

Zombies in Your Head

Zombies In Your Head

By Jane Tawel

March 2, 2019

 

Thanks to my son, Gordon, I was introduced to a profoundly spiritually wrenching song called “Zombie”.  I try to listen to this song weekly at least. This song was written and originally performed  about twenty-five years ago by Dolores O’Riordan of “The Cranberries”. Dolores was raised a Catholic in Ireland and was a great admirer of Pope John Paul II.  O’Riordan bases her song’s haunting lyrics  largely on the religious violent catastrophes that have on and off engulfed Ireland since 1917.  The second version of this same song that  I listen to as often as possible is by “Bad Wolves”. It was supposed to have included Dolores’ vocals, but she left the world before it could be recorded. The version by Bad Wolves, opens up the specific context; the singer, Tommy Vext remarks, “(Dolores’) lyrics in that song still reflect social unrest, political turmoil and humanity’s persistence in modern struggles,” Vext told Rolling Stone. “The reasons might change, but there’s still collateral damage with people’s struggle for power and freedom.” Tommy Vext  is an American heavy metal singer who had to testify against his twin brother who, while high on drugs,  tried to murder Tommy.  Tommy speaks at 12-step groups and for relapse programs across the country.

 

The refrain of “Zombies” repeats, “in your head, in your head” followed by phrases like “they are fighting” or “they are dying”.  I try to listen to this song at least once a week as an important prophetic message.  It reminds me of what humans can become if they allow violence and the worship of money or power into their heads, hearts, religions, and politics. Humans all too easily become zombies.  Today when I listened to “Zombies”, I was suddenly struck by the irony that earlier today I had been listening to Selah’s version of “O, Sacred Head Now Wounded”.  The historical attribute of the words of this song, go to Bernard of Clairvoux, a medieval lyricist and poet. Bernard grew up in Burgundy and as a young nobleman, he was stinking rich and powerful.  He gave up all his wealth and power to follow The Christ and remains one of the most revered historical followers of God; revered by people across the spectrum from John Calvin to Martin Luther and is considered to be Dante’s last guide in The Divine Comedy.  The actual lyrics and music of this hymn were composed by a man named Paul Gerhardt, a Lutheran in Germany who lived in the mid-1600’s.  He spent a lifetime composing hymns and trying to convince his church going brethren to stop attacking and fighting with other over doctrinal issues within the church. He died  primarily of a broken heart and his last words are reputed to have been “us –no death has power to kill”.

 

I guess what I am thinking with a heavy heart and spirit today, is that perhaps, as that profoundly heady writer, C.S. Lewis (an agnostic when young who later became a leading voice in Christianity) wrote, we might make it “further in and further up” into Christ’s Kingdom on earth, if at the start of every church service, we listened first and prayerfully to the lyrics and music of the world’s prophets like the Doloreses and Tommys of this world. The prophets of the ages who sing the songs of change were and are all very flawed humans, but the words of their prophetic messages survive the ages because they are true Truth, whether we call them hymns or alternative music.

All of God’s Truth in fact presents to us an alternative music of sorts.  But singing the hard words of songs that demand change; singing boldly and feelingly on the shores of Israel or Babylon or Ireland or America as the ancient souls and prophets of all times must, can be dangerous; sometimes dangerous to others and sometimes dangerous to themselves. Bernard believed in the persecution of Muslims and Dolores most probably died of a drug induced suicide. Alternative music doesn’t make us perfect; truth doesn’t keep us from sin and brokenness; and prophets are human like every one else; but at least they are trying not to be zombies.

There’s a movie I have never seen, called “The Zombie Apocalypse”.  The title is enough for me because I think this is what the end of the world will look like to the angels: a bunch of zombies who still honestly think they are human, killing each other. The human race has, since the first murder by Cain of Abel, been stupidly and fearfully at war with ourselves. We are all at war with God. We long for peace but defeat ourselves with our mutually exclusive longing for power. Maybe if we began each day by personally accepting our vulnerability as humans, we could reverse the zombie process. Maybe if  before church or synagogue or mosque members try to  perform super-human Godlike, spiritual acts, they would face their own inner zombies, then just maybe we could truly begin to create a kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven — a kingdom of peace and love and joy and hope and real boys and girls created in the image of God. Perhaps if we realized that most days we are behaving like Zombies rather than the human beings created in a God’s image that we are called to be, maybe then we would really begin to understand how to worship the Savior who is the Protagonist of Paul’s lyrics in “O, Sacred Head” but who is also the Protagonist who dies in Dolores’ wars.   Maybe to be fully in Christ’s image,  we need to hold within our own heads and hearts the contrast and paradox between these two sets of lyrics.

 

“Zombie”
(originally by The Cranberries)

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence causes silence
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it’s not me
It’s not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are crying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

Another mother’s breaking
Heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken

It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their guns, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are dying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they are dying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh yeah

 

 

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

  1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
    With grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded
    With thorns, Thine only crown.
    O sacred Head, what glory,
    What bliss, till now was Thine!
    Yet, though despised and gory,
    I joy to call Thee mine.
  2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
    Thou noble countenance,
    Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
    And flee before Thy glance.
    How art thou pale with anguish,
    With sore abuse and scorn!
    How doth Thy visage languish
    That once was bright as morn!
  3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
    Their color, once so fair;
    From Thy red lips is banished
    The splendor that was there.
    Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
    Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
    Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
    Thy strength, in this sad strife.
  4. My burden in Thy Passion,
    Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
    For it was my transgression
    Which brought this woe on thee.
    I cast me down before Thee,
    Wrath were my rightful lot;
    Have mercy, I implore Thee;
    Redeemer, spurn me not!
  5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
    My Guardian, own me Thine.
    Great blessings Thou didst give me,
    O Source of gifts divine!
    Thy lips have often fed me
    With words of truth and love,
    Thy Spirit oft hath led me
    To heavenly joys above.
  6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
    From Thee I will not part;
    O Savior, do not chide me!
    When breaks Thy loving heart,
    When soul and body languish
    In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
    Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
    Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
  7. The joy can ne’er be spoken,
    Above all joys beside,
    When in Thy body broken
    I thus with safety hide.
    O Lord of life, desiring
    Thy glory now to see,
    Beside Thy cross expiring,
    I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
  8. What language shall I borrow
    To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
    For this, Thy dying sorrow,
    Thy pity without end?
    Oh, make me thine forever!
    And should I fainting be,
    Lord, let me never, never,
    Outlive my love for Thee.
  9. My Savior, be Thou near me
    When death is at my door;
    Then let Thy presence cheer me,
    Forsake me nevermore!
    When soul and body languish,
    Oh, leave me not alone,
    But take away mine anguish
    By virtue of Thine own!
  10. Be Thou my Consolation,
    My Shield when I must die;
    Remind me of Thy Passion
    When my last hour draws nigh.
    Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
    Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
    My heart by faith enfold Thee.
    Who dieth thus dies well!

 

In Lewis’ end to the Narnia books, it is the unicorn, that almost angelic and mystical creature of lore and myth, who says on reaching the Promised Land, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” I like to imagine that today while I listened to their music, Dolores and Paul and Clive were all singing together, “I Belong Here”. Someday we will all wake up to a new world the prophets of the ages have passed through to, and we will suddenly realize that either we spent our lives on earth as zombies and didn’t know it; or we thought we spent our lives as  mere humans, but were really fantastic and myth-like creatures of angelic stature.

All of us humans, just like Dolores, Tommy, Bernard, Paul, and yes, even Clive, spend our whole lifetimes looking for the answers to “that same old theme”, even in 2019. We long to see what this world is really like, could really be like and there are moments when the planet, the soldiers, the immigrants, the mothers, the fields all look a little bit like what we imagine they all could be — should be –but never fully are.  Some of us spend lifetimes singing against and fighting against the zombies of hatred, racism, prejudice, greed, lies,  violence, and self-idolization that surround us. Some of us spend lifetimes fighting those zombies who sidetrack us into theological quagmires and even try to convince us they are not zombies but Godly.  Some, like Dolores and Paul, just keep crying out truth in the streets until they die of broken hearts.  Some of us like Tommy and Bernard and Clive spend  lifetimes trying to fight the zombies of false idolatry masquerading as religion, and fighting the demons of greed and self-pride masquerading as guardian angels. Some of us may only have enough alternative music within us to give someone a jug of water at the border or our extra coat in the winter or a hug across the aisle, just trying to help other humans not become zombies. Some of us only have enough strength to try for just one more hour, to fight the zombies within our own heads.

Some of us look to The Christ; who layed down His sovereign God-head, and took us his creatures, “in to his head, in his head”. And took us into His heart. In His heart.  And then He layed down that Sacred Head,  despised, wounded and killed, so that we might never again be alone; so that we might have the ability to fight the zombie within; so that we might have the ability to destroy the zombies without. So that we might know how to survive the temptations and powers of the zombies, both without us and within us.  So that we might live as the humans Christ’s God created us to be.

Unless daily, His Sacred Head wounded and bleeding, bleeds from my own thoughts; unless daily His Sacred Heart beats within my own chest; until and unless His God-like humanity is revived and reborn in me, a zombie in need of a human Savior; unless all this and daily this, then I will be just another zombie pretending that I know what it means to be human and pretending that I know and am known by a God who loves all humanity. Pretending, not being; zombie, not human.  “For that Being who is neither human nor anything humans can truly understand, loves His creaturely humans so much, that He begot a human son and gave Him a life on our planet; and whosoever turns from his or her sinful and broken zombie-ways and follows the human life and death Way of God’s Son, shall not die a zombie, but live forever, more human, and more God-ly than we could ever imagine.” (John 3:16 paraphrased)

For safety and hope today, and for worship of a God who made me in Imago Dei, I pray these words  and sing with the saints of alternative music:

“My Savior be Thou near me. My Guardian,  own me thine. Another head hangs lowly. Heart is taking over. We must be mistaken. Zombie, zombie, zombie. Oh, Sacred Head, now wound me.  Remind me of Thine Passion. My Savior be Thou near me. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah…. Further up and Further in. Amen.”

 

 

The Cranberries: Zombie

https://youtu.be/6Ejga4kJUts

Bad Wolves:  Zombie

 

 

Selah:  O, Sacred Head Now Wounded

Sheep Gotta’ Seep An essay by Jane Tawel

Sheep Gotta’ Seep

By Jane Tawel

February 24, 2019

IMG_5331

 

In the past few years, more than ever before perhaps, I have been seeping. And conversely, more than ever,  I have been being seeped into. The short definition of to seep is (of a liquid) “to flow or leak slowly through porous material or small holes.” I have always been a seeper; or would I be a seepie?  My spirit and character are such that whatever is in the human environment near me or being made known to me, seeps into me as if I am porous. This is often and in some ways good; and often and in some ways bad.  If you are a seepie, you will know what I mean. If you are not a seepie or seeper, then you will meet people like me and find us emotional, passionate, questioning, empathetic, insecure, philosophical, needy, bossy, uncertain/certain, and someone to be taken in small doses. Think about the small amount of tea leaves that you need to seep in hot water to get the right brew and that’s about the amount of a seeper a non-seeping person wants. We seepers are not the thick- skinned ones of whom the world relies on. We are those with the angst of prophets. Seepers are those who mirror the clogged pores in a thousand unwashed faces. We are the ones with a thousand Quixotic holes; those who don’t just point out the windmills of the times, but actually feel the winds of the times as if we are the windmills.

 

And yet, frankly, lately, don’t we all feel a bit as if we have a lot more small punctures in our being for the outside fluidity of the world’s mud and tears; holes pierced in our survival armor that allow the world’s raging and rising emotions to seep in? Isn’t there at least for most of us, some days a sense that the tide of Time is rising to dangerous, climate-changed proportions; filling our solid mass with what feels like a daily shifting ebb and flow, shifting the very sand beneath our metaphoric feet and flooding our hearts and minds with the wreckage we can’t imagine being able to clean up after the hurricane-proportioned current events? This is not just true for some of us on national and community levels, but on the very  small planes of existence within our own small families.  More and more people that we know, in the news, but also in our homes and churches and synagogues feel this ebb and flow in tsunami wave proportions and can not continue riding those waves to the end of their appointed time.  The tragedy is that the very people who should have answers for despair or hopelessness, find themselves standing in the large waves of sorrow and mourning over lost lives and lost purposeful lives.

 

I have long claimed to believe in a God who seeps. Yes, what makes the God of my Judeo-Christian worldview so fascinating is that He is a completely other being Who yet allows the feelings of His /Her (for God is not gendered in our way of being gendered)—allows Her creatures to make Him feel. God allows us to put into His Holy and All-powerful Being, the small holes of our need; to puncture His omnipotence and pierce His omniscience; in order that His love may flow freely to us; providing all we need. The pierced hands, feet and side of The Christ create the perfect metaphor for what God allows us to do to Him.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Leah, David, Mary and Jesus, begins the tale of our history in Genesis, with His Being “hovering over the earth” and from that moment of creation, God continues to flow into and amongst His Creation. But Adonai, The Lord, is nothing if not clear that the flow of God’s spirit can be as forceful as a hurricane or can dry up like a desert. We forget to our current and future peril that throughout recorded history, we human beings must also create in ourselves and allow the world’s needs to pierce the small porous holes of  love in our souls. We must remain porous in order to be a part of the God-flow.  When people harden their hearts, stiffen their necks, break the covenant formed by the bloody  flow of sacrifice; when we like sheep go astray, relying on our wooly thinking and herd mentalities to keep us safe and “on top of the heap”; then God can no longer seep into our lives. Our lives are now become as hard and impenetrable as the stone or golden idols we have chosen to worship. And our drying up has been so incrementally orchestrated by Evil and brokenness; that we  will often call our empty, hard shells of belief things like “hard work”; “getting ahead”; “supporting our programs”; “evangelism”;  “increasing our donor base”; “being non-judgmental”; or “taking care of number one”; “being patriotic”; “supporting authority”; “seeking peace”; and even sometimes calling it “grace”. The list is endless of the purloined armor of worldview choices that we surround ourselves with to protect us from the Seeping Flow of God’s good commands and loving desires for our very beings.  Our spirits are more armadillos than sheep.

 

Listening to Bob Dylan and attending different churches and a synagogue or two and a Kingdom Hall or two and a volunteer event or two and a school or two, and reading a newspaper or two and talking to young and old friends, and so forth and so on – well, I lately revisited some quotes that have had me thinking about the particulars of the time and place in which I find myself. 1. “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” (G. K. Chesterton) and 2. “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” (John Wesley) 3. “America was not founded on Christian principles.” (John Adams, founding father) 4. “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” (Dave Platt, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream) and of course I could quote the prophetic C.S. Lewis until the end of time but this one is apt: “ If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (Lewis)

 

And what has all this to do with listening to Bob Dylan. Well, we like to listen to the prophets like Dylan that proclaim, “The Times They Are A’Changin’”, do we not?? We listen to them with a sense of self-satisfaction (“I was right”) or with false hope and dismissal (“So I just need to wait until God makes things better for me.”). And then we like to turn off those prophets and go about our lives as if truth did not matter to little old us.  We choose different truths to get through our days and nights, rather than trusting that God’s Truth is not only more relevant but more timely. I would be remiss if I did not share the lyrics of Dylan with you because although written in 1963 (imagine!) they are as prophetically prescient and currently critical as ever.

 

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

Songwriters: Bob Dylan

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Witmark Demo – 1963) lyrics © Audiam,

 

 

 

As Dylan says, if we are non-porous stones, we will sink. We must be as hole-y and wholly open, like sponges, to God’s truth and love; and we must seep ourselves in both truth and love in equal parts.  As we in our own times a’changin’ feel the waters of the world rising, we must learn to swim.  In that great archetypal story, sung today not just by Dylan but by Jews the world over; (and sadly almost unknown and unsung by many of those of us grafted onto the Tree of Jesse), God is always willing to save His people from the floods of their time. In the great history of God’s people, they approached  the Red Sea of the Enemy and although they were horribly out of practice and had grown hard skins and stiff necks in their relationship to God and others; God’s people had to be ready to “swim” or drown; knowing that the God who creates the seas, also controls the seas. And yet the God who created humans, chooses not to control them. In this way, He invites us to model His behavior with our own out- flowing love and care for our planet and for our fellow humans.

 

The point is, some of us look at the past, history, to find our meaning. We choose the past in order to count on our accomplishments or on ideas like being chosen or like believing our salvation comes from someone long ago in the past doing something that makes me safe and saved.  Some of us look to the future and decide none of this past stuff – even my own past bad or good stuff – matters. We decide that what matters is the future; having a ticket to some future world or “heaven”; trusting if we vote for or worship with the right folks that the future will be different; trusting that the earth doesn’t matter but only a place where we never have to deal with any of this bad, painful, uncertain, feeling stuff again.  And some of us look to the present only, trying to be “mindful”; taking care of what I need; caring for only those I love; trying to change the world in which I live; eating, drinking and being merry for tomorrow I die.  And all of this is so very, very partly right and so very, very astoundingly wrong.  Because we humans are blessed with free will and consciousness and we are cursed with the free will of God allowing us to be in control and yet we do not – can not– understand so many things, even lacking true understanding of our own human hearts. We are given the God-like qualities of being emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, conscientiously porous creatures while being cursed with the pain of sure and definite death, the burden of the solidity of sin, and the broken useless shards of the knowledge of good and evil. And perhaps worst of all, we are moment by moment aware of the linear, unchangeable, and  non-porous factor of the hard march of Time.

The thing about Time being linear is that none of us can disagree on that reality (at least not for long); and the non-porous nature of Time makes it very hard for us to understand or even believe in a god.  Because True God is not linear. Though we often want Him to be linear (God knows my future or God knew me before I began sort of stuff); these are merely poetic attitudes of praise to God, not a reality that God shares with us. While God does enter place and time on our planet, squeezing His vastness into our smallness; God does this for reasons and in ways we can not truly comprehend. Like the burning bush of Moses or the wrestler of Jacob, God becoming small does not make Him different than what He Is. It should however, make us different. The Judeo-Christian God is the exact opposite of Her creatures in terms of Time and Character.  And that is why we stumble in our understanding and commitment to God. Because God is completely un-porous in His Character and in His very Being while being completely Porous as Adonai, the Cradle and Arbitrator of All Place and All Time.  God allows Goodness and Love to seep from Him but never allows Evil, Hatred, Despair, or Death to seep into Himself.  God being outside any linear idea of Time, and outside any solid sense of place, has Her own view of the Universe to which someday, we may be privy as beings finally taken out of time and place.  Jesus came to show us how this could be done – exiting Time– and He was resurrected from His actual linear time and place to God’s timeless and place-less; death-less and evil-less; brokeness-less and sin-less, existence in Eternity.

About 2000 years before the Prophet Bob Dylan, there was another prophet who sang the songs of change to His people and proclaimed that in His life, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.  His name was Jesus and many believe him to be the Promised Messiah. Jesus said several things about the porousness of time in our lives with His Father.  He said, that “God loves the planet earth so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes and lives as He did, will have eternal life.”  Jesus also cautioned those who would believe, that we should remain alert and keep working through the days since the night of the end would come at a time no man can predict. The prophecy is not for future prediction but for present affirmation and commitment. Christ told us to focus in this very moment, on that which is eternal even in the linear confines of our own selves; since we do not know when that day will come in which the world as we know it will end forever and be remade as it was meant to be – perfect, timeless, and holy whole, being finally, completely porous for God’s light to shine through and yet more solid than we have ever been.

 

Jesus showed us a whole bunch of stuff and it is worth reading and re-reading his life story as committed to paper by some people who are now considered the authors of The New Testament.  But one thing Jesus did very well.  Jesus seeped. The most memorized verse in the Bible and also (and because it is) the shortest is about the Seeping Jesus.  In John 11:35 we find, “Jesus weep-ed”. Jesus did a whole lot of seeping. You will find him seeping in other people’s problems and sorrows, both those foisted on humans by the world and those resulting from their own choices. Jesus saw the seeping sores of lepers and seeping sores of hardened hearts and healed both. Jesus seeped in our prayers and needs with his ears by listening; he served us with his hands by the powerful flowing of his healing. He seeped in our journey with his feet by walking our dusty byways and by washing our own dirty feet, showing us the way we should serve others. The Lord who could see God in Heaven, saw mankind with human eyes; seeping by being One with The God of Hagar; the God who sees.

 

The Christ mirrored His God by providing miraculous flowing water to seep into the lives of the thirsty and undeserving. And Jesus could do this because He daily, obediently, joyfully, carefully, and wholly and hole-y whole- heartedly,  seeped in the life of His Father. He did this through conversation with God; obedience to God; and worship of God. Jesus was sent by God to seep in humanity in all its beauty and ugliness. He was also sent to remind us that we were created to seep in the knowledge, love, and covenantal relationship to the One True God.  Jesus spent his time on earth seeping in His Father– His Father’s commands, His Father’s sorrows, His Father’s joys and love, His Father’s grace, mercy and stern judgment; His Father’s commitment and His Father’s holy Otherness. And this why Jesus was able to proclaim that in Him, the times truly were a-changin’; because in Jesus was God’s Kingdom, alive and well on planet earth and available to all who choose to “seep” as The Christ did.  In Christ was Jubilee; a way of living that was completely free from greed, lies, hopelessness, loneliness, despair, one-upmanship, or uncertainty. In Christ was God-life seeped in and seeping out to all who would listen, trust and obey. In Christ was not only Times a-changin’, but hearts a-changin’, and even death a-changin’.

Jesus left us to follow The Father into Abundant Life, into life in a radically different kingdom, the Kingdom of God as created first for us in Eden. Jesus did not leave us behind to gamble on what He did yesterday, nor to bank on what we hope to gain from Him tomorrow, not even  to worry or count on what we have and are this very day.   He left us to see and live out a different Kingdom; to seep in a different Kingdom; to open ourselves to the Kingdom of God that is porous between our world and God’s world. That Kingdom is right beyond our reach, seeping from Heaven into Earth by God’s great love. To know God is to know that although it looks as if the waves will drown us sometimes, God can be the Ark of our salvation, the Walker on Water, the Savior from the floods. And though the ebb and flow of Time, while everything to us now, is nothing to God.  Eternity means that when my porous body returns to dust, my soul will rise impermeable.

 

The Christ teaches us to pray the Kingdom’s seepage into the whole world, “on earth as it is in heaven”. And this is the belief that the world is in fact a very porous place.  Jesus left us many metaphors – profound and deep keys to understanding. Christ often used the metaphor of the leaking through liquid of God’s not-yet Kingdom:  in the flowing of the water he use to wash dirty feet and to stave the thirsts of the multitudes; in the gushing of wine he gave to combat the raging thirst of longing for God; and in the sinless outpouring of his blood that seeped from His hands and feet and side as He died to show us how we might live.  But one of the most profound metaphors He left for us is in that of the hard stones of the Jerusalem Temple and the heavy, blinding curtain symbolizing our separation from God. What makes this metaphor profound is that Christ makes porous, something that was in fact impermeable. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ punched holes in the heavy curtain of separation between God’s dwelling place on earth and Her chosen people.

 

The heavy, unassailable veil between God’s World and our world was torn apart at the successful completion of mission of The Second Adam, The Christ. Jesus was the very imago Dei that we each were created to be. Messiah’s life, death and resurrection revealed the truth of our histories, the hope of our futures, and the true meaning of our present lives.  The impermeableness of relationship between God and human was overwhelmed by God’s begotten Messiah, Jesus. Jesus was the porous incarnation of and between God and humans and He has made the impenetrable veil separating God and us, porous again.

 

The Judeo-Christian worldview, especially as revealed in the Bible, is full of irony, paradox, incomprehensibility, poetry, metaphor, and failed attempts.  We would do well not to fight them or explain them away or cut and paste them to suit our current world’s needs.  But rather, we should allow the flood of truth, love, and light provided by a God who cares for us, to ooze and percolate through and within us. We should perhaps see ourselves, not like a human mega-coffee-shop chain, but rather more  like little varied, multi-colored, multi-flavored, fragile tea bags who must seep ourselves in the often Hot Water of a God who wants to take our bitter, useless little tea bag lives and turn them into something wonderful – perfectly seeped and nourishing, healthful, living overflowing cups of living watered lives. By this will the steam of our praise rise to fill the nostrils of A God who has seeped into our very souls.

 

This is our worship — remaining porous and malleable to the movement of Adonai in the world within and through us. For while the times may change and the waves at moments overwhelm us, we can know a Savior who commands the stormy waves to be still. By allowing the character of The Christ to seep into our souls, we can trust in that same Savior who allows our prayers even now to seep into His heart.  Jehovah promises that “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”(Isaiah 43:2)  The Messiah promises that “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”(John 4:14).

Today I ask myself: Am I willing to be thirsty? Am I willing to be porous? Am I willing to accept my need for God’s Hot Water to turn me into something new? Am I willing to humble myself to my need for The Christ’s living water? Am I willing to pass through the waters? Am I willing to be seeped into the character of Christ? Am I willing to seep out love and living water for others?  Am I porous enough for God?

Will I, today, be an acclimatized aging and armor-hardened armadillo or a ceaselessly serving and served-up saved seeping sheep?  Will the wooliness of my thinking and my thick fleece prevent me from trusting that God is really real and really Good?  Will I like Gideon, allow the Lord’s dewy hand, so porously overflowing with His salvation, to permeate my fleece and guide me in His ways of righteousness?  Will I become pierced with the hole-y-ness of a God and the holiness of The Christ?

 

I would love to have the mature writing ability of a Bob Dylan or the Psalmist David, or a Dickinson or Donne.  But even childish writers like I are committed to casting our small little pebbles into the flow of Ideas.  I love stories ostensibly written for children but which have eternal teaching moments for all ages.  There are also just some wonderfully silly  and plain fun children’s books, not just by the famed Dr. Seuss, but others. I am often so filled with the seriousness of my own time that I forget to be open and porous to the lightness and joy and humor of being alive. One children’s book that came to mind while writing this was one my own kids liked. It had a wonderful bunch of illustrations by Margot Apple and was written by Nancy Shaw. The book is titled Sheep in a Jeep. It’s a silly one because sheep are silly.  We, God’s sheep are rather silly when all is said and done.  But somehow, still, He chooses to love us. Here is my re-write (I wouldn’t dream of trying to draw any thing until I reach heaven) of “Sheep in a Jeep”

 

 

Sheep in a Heap (of Trouble)

By Jane Tawel

February 24, 2019

Beep! Beep!

Sheep in a heap,

On The Way that’s very steep.

If the sheep don’t fall asleep,

God’s True Way will in them seep.

 

Uh! Oh!  The sheep won’t go.

But the Shepherd loves His own sheep so.

God wants us humbled,

But we sheep still grumble.

Uh! Oh! Sheep in a heap of trouble!

Headed again for hell’s shiny rubble.

God sends a Savior in a flash.

Christ’s sinless blood on the cross is splashed,

To Raise the sheep from eternal ash.

 

 

Caught in Time’s briars,

We sheep, helplessly mired,

Ignore all  the signs

That point to the Divine.

 

Sheep always yelp,

God always helps.

Oh, dear, sheep still fear

But still refuse to let God steer.

Sheep in a heap.

 Sheep weep.

Oh, the Shepherd’s love—deep, deep,

That He would choose the sheep to keep.

 

Postscript: If you have kindly read this far, I highly recommend you read the prophets – those found in the Tanakh of the Hebrews, those found in the Gospels of the Gentiles, and even those written on the subway walls. As Mr. Dooley said about the “news”, and Mr. Niebuhr said about the “olds”, we who would look to truth in love should seek to be “comforted in our afflictions but to afflict those who would be merely comfortable”.  The prophets of all ages and times have tried to do this through word and action, song and poetry; and with anger, sorrow, angst, humility and love.  Prophets and poets allow themselves to be porous, so that perhaps others won’t be so afraid to do likewise.  Allow yourself to be seeped in the words that, as the dictionary defines a true prophet, “is an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God”.  You may emerge full of holes but some of us think it is the only way to be holy and whole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Really?

Do We Really?

By Jane Tawel

February 3, 2019

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All the assumptions we make.  And we just take it all for granted that because we call ourselves something, label ourselves something, that these things are true.  And we like them to be true because that is what gives us personal meaning and usually a paycheck or two.  One of my favorite sayings of the current younger generation is when someone says something, and they sing-song with a bit of Socratic sass: “But is it? Is it really?”  “Was he?  Was he really?”  “But did you?  Did you really?”  With the emphasis on really, this seemingly silly question has all the power of Pilate’s “What is truth?”  I imagine if Pilate and Jesus were talking today, as they did in John 18, their conversation would go something more like this.

 

Jesus :“I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice.”

Pilate: “But do they?  Do they really?”

 

Here are some assumptions I hear people making, and being the stickler for the needed role of an antagonist in any good story, I will present how one might wonder about the “truth”  of things people base their lives, livelihood, and even salvation on.  This of course is a partial list of just my own particular meditations today.   We can add on to these and ponder them for eternity; or rather until God’s Kingdom comes. Then the fat angel sings and it’s game over.

People say a lot of stuff about what “Christians” believe.  Here is some of my personal “Socratic” dialect about some ideas that I have been struggling with lately. As is my bent, I will open my stream-of-conscious rather bent and banged up thinking here.  I will use the second person “you” as a more colloquial version of the more proper third person “one”, meaning of course this is at heart, a first person reflection in the final analysis.

  1. We should lead like Jesus. Jesus was a good leader. But Jesus proclaims himself not a leader at all but a servant and follower. In fact, Jesus flees the leadership role that could make Him a king of nations.  Jesus flatly states that he can do nothing in His own power but only what His Father, Jehovah, does through him.  To put the final “nail in this coffin”, It is very clear that when we are judged, if we have been a leader, we will have gotten our reward while on earth.  Only those who serve as and with the least of the least will be chosen to lead with The Christ. We may all be created as equal, but we do not go through life as equals which brings us to false idea #2.
  2. All human life is sacred. There is, I am afraid, nothing at all in the Bible that implies this. The metaphor found in Psalm 139 is merely that, a personal poetic reflection on the part of the servant of God and chosen Jewish king, David. This current Western idea that each human life is special and sacred is purely a religion born out of Humanism and wealth and the warping of “Christian” thought. This humanistic, individualistic religion that we erroneously call worship of God is nothing more than worship of self, and is not a Judeo-Christian worldview at all. I could go on and on with proofs from God’s Word about this but read it for yourself from beginning to end and you will wonder how we got to believe that each human is sacred.   To give you only one indication, read the story of God and Sodom and Gomorrah and of Abraham’s plea for God to save just ten people worth saving. This idea that a human life is sacred is blasphemy in fact. There is none sacred but God, the Bible says.  We can choose covenant with God and be chosen in that way and only in that way to have a life that is more than dust.  But it is by our keeping covenant with God and living as The Son of God lived, that we become holy, sacred, eternal soul. I am afraid it is an incredibly important thing to think through in this day and age of the rather (sometimes literally) “Micky Mouse” -Americanized- Christianity-ese. It is  critically important because people use this idea of all life as sacred to be “pro-life” about the abortion of unborn fetuses, but not “pro-life” about the born lives of illegal immigrants or not pro-life about people who do not vote or worship as they do.  People support this idea of each human as sacred, in the ridiculous worldview that you can “ask Jesus to be your  Savior” and then he is because “God loves you no matter what”.  There are so many “Christian” songs that flat out say this over and over and it makes me tremble because if you read the actual tome that we call God’s Inspired Word”.  You will realize that:
  3. God does not love you no matter what you do. There is absolutely no indication in God’s Word that this is true.  Let me just give you one example: Moses. Yeah, that star among God-followers.  God was going to kill Moses and then – well, read the story for yourself of  Moses’ wife, that wonderful pagan woman called Zipporah.  Which brings me to this.
  4. God is not my friend. God is not that friend Who comes whenever I call Him to help my team win the game.  God is God.  Again, read God’s Word.  Actually read it; don’t show up to have the experts tell you on Sunday how much they love you because Jesus  loves you and died for you.  He didn’t. Jesus, a Jew, died for a Holy God, his Father, Adonai.  Jesus completed the whole cycle of being human in perfect covenant with a Holy God. Jesus died to show us that we could be reborn through our own deaths (both literal and figurative, as He did)  if we lived in covenant with Yahweh, as Jesus did.  Jesus is very, very clear that He did not come to throw out the Bible, what we blithely call to our peril, the “Old” Testament, but to fulfill and live it as it was meant. Not as the religious leaders had interpreted it but as The Christ lived it. We are meant to live it too. But it is not this wide road that is easy to stroll down because your own particular life is so sacred. Nope.  It is a narrow road that you choose, but as Robert Frost said, that choice will “make all the difference”.  I should be different because God loves me enough to make me different enough to be with Him. Which bring us to #5.
  5. God loves me. Well, yes and no.  God loves me but not because I’m me.  The Bible tells us that God loves “the World”. God made the world perfect and He made humans perfect. And then we messed  ourselves up and messed up the world and continue to do both of those things.  Read the bits in the Bible about how God “chastises and disciplines those He loves” and then decide if you want A Holy God to love you.  Because frankly most of us live like animals.  This is where those who don’t believe in God have it partially right.  We are like animals and we can choose to live like animals if we want; “eating, drinking, and being merry” for tomorrow we die. And that’s it.  Scripture implies that if we live long enough, we get three choices in this world: 1. To live for self and get as much as I can for me and my family, just like the doggie families, and ape families do. When my days are over enjoying this wonderful life, I will either lay down with gratitude or regrets or a mix of both, and then return to dust and cease to exist. The place of buried animal bodies, or the ground from which no man returns, is what the Bible calls Gehenna.  2. If on the other hand, you lead your life and choose to be cruel, wicked, to abuse God’s name, to abuse power, to abuse others, to enjoy evil in word and deed,  and perhaps even if you just commit those things we call the sins of omission, ie not doing the things you were meant to do for Good; then God is pretty clear you will be punished even after you think you escape judgement through death.  Those people will go to hell, complete with the demonic gods they have enjoyed while alive on earth.  3. You can spend your life living on the planet as best you can in relationship to a God we can no longer see. We can no longer see God as Adam and Eve could, because we have chosen sin instead. But God provides a way “back to The Garden” so to speak; and that is by following the rules, worshiping only Jehovah, and loving others as we love our own selves. This is the option we have to live in a covenant with  The One True God, Yahweh.  These people live to glorify the name of Jehovah, live for the least of the least in this world, study Truth, learn how to love and trust and hope again after The Fall, and resist the temptations that The Christ did: those temptations of power, greed, and self-worship.  These people will rise from death to a new earth and to even something  new and unknown – a “Heaven”, the place where at last we can be in the same space as God is and not die. These people will see God and live.
  6. Everyone wants to go to heaven. No, they don’t. You  may have been taught that you will go to hell if you don’t listen to Christians. Well, ironically the only people Jesus, the founder of the little Christs sect, says will go to hell, are the leaders of the religion he practiced.  Matthew 23:15:  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” This is sobering to say the least for any of us who have taught any thing about Jesus.  And while, I have always loved the practices and people of today’s churches,  the incremental off -course steering that The Church has done for the past centuries, has us so far off course as to frighten me. Which brings us to something we might call semantics in #7, but semantics are crucial to explore when you are thinking about Jesus who is called The Word.
  7. Jesus loves his church. He doesn’t.  He couldn’t because he never used the word and there was no such idea as we now know “the church” in any of Christ’s teachings. In fact, in what we call the “New” Testament, another scary thing we’ve come to believe, there is not a single time the word “church” is used.  Church is a misinterpretation of several Greek words.  Again, you can read and google this for yourself.  There is, of course, much proof that to follow God, we must live in communities, caring for each other and worshiping together.  There is much proof that we are to live as followers of Christ with others who want to follow Him, like his disciples did. But the point is, we have turned the religion of Christ (and by extension of His early followers, including the people who wrote the Gospels and Paul) into something they would neither recognize nor I would venture to boldly say, would they approve of.  So let’s just say this for now.  Jesus was a Jew. Jesus believed that He was the Messiah of The Chosen People who were the Jews, the Hebrews.  Jesus believed that it was through the Jewish Scriptures  and lives of the Hebrew covenant keepers that God, The Father is best revealed.  He also believed though that the Jews had abused their status and that “there would come a day when God will be worshiped neither on the Jewish Mount nor in the chosen confined temples of any other peoples, but by all peoples in “spirit and in truth”.  Then He claimed that the day had  in fact arrived with His way – The Way – of worship of God. Jesus did not come at all to form a new “organized religion” and we have programmed and capitalized on Jesus’ beliefs out of all recognition and wisdom. The main word that Jesus used that should make all the difference in our understanding of who He was / is was not “church”, congregation or synagogue.  The word Jesus used was “Kingdom”.  And He did not preach His own earthly kingdom, but The Kingdom of Yahweh.  Which brings us back to the “really”, “is it really” of #1, in #8.
  8. The Gospel / Good News is that Jesus is the only way to heaven. No, He isn’t.  Jesus is the only way to The Father.  And Jesus came to bring The Kingdom of The Father back to our understanding and to make available the germination in us  of how The Father’s Kingdom can be restored to our world / planet/ Eden. What Jesus taught is that: “I am The Way (to God), The Truth (about God), and the Life (with God). No one comes to Jehovah except by means of my way.”  In fact, this is why early followers of Jesus who were Jews or converted Jews would never have called their religion “Christianity” because it wasn’t.  It was Judaism.  They called what they believed what Jesus called what He believed: The Way.  If you don’t want to truly know a Holy God and become holy, you won’t go to “hell” (necessarily).  You will merely have enjoyed a good or an awful life depending on your status, personality, and circumstances and you will return to the dust of this planet like all animals and plants will.  Nothing wrong with that choice.  If however, you think that you want to live forever in the presence of God as we were intended to do in Eden when humans were created in the image of Divinity, then it is best to try to figure out how we are really meant to live now.

Because claiming to be something, doesn’t make it so.  I would love to claim that I am a gorgeous twenty-three -year -old with a million dollars in the bank and five houses in various parts of the world and a private plane and that every one who meets me loves me and that  I could rule the country, maybe even the world in the way it should be run, and  that I get do-overs on every minute I’ve messed up and that God loves me no matter what.  And you would have to ask me with all the Socratic sass you could muster, “ But–Are you? Are you really?”

If you think Jesus did all the work for you, or that because you were born into some cultural religion or other, or that just because you are alive, that those facts– which the Bible says, fall randomly like rain, on the good and the evil — that those facts make you something you want to be; and that God loves you no matter what; well then, you may want to look around at what we are doing to God’s world, to God’s other children, to  our own bodies and souls, to God’s planet, and what we do in blasphemy of God’s Holy Name, and you may want to humble yourself; and ask yourself when you think you have it all figured out:

Do you? Do you really?

 

The Miracle of Eating Toast

The Miracle of Eating Toast

By Jane Tawel

January 15, 2019

So when you pray, pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name always be kept holy.
May your kingdom come
and what you want be done,
here on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us the food we need for each day.
 Forgive us for our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.
 And do not cause us to be tempted,
but save us from the Evil One.’ [The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.] (Jesus Messiah– as written down by His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13, NCV)

The older I get the more I realize that I don’t need prayer to get through any normal given day. But I do need miracles. I also realize that the only reason I am still here, walking and talking my way through this place and time is because of a lifetime of miracles, wrought each day by the miraculous creation Jehovah set in motion at the planet’s beginning; at humans’ beginning in Eden; and by His grace and sovereignty for each of our lives, and every day ever since The Beginning, all the way up to my own small life and the small lives of my beloved children.

Believing in miracles is simply the radical point of view, that my needs are being met. If death is the curse, then each small factor of existence is being met by the miracle of continued life. We easily talk about the miracle of a baby’s birth and then quickly forget all about a human’s miraculous-ness every day thereafter. But if I take a moment to meditate on the very air I breathe, the working legs that support me, the brain that still analyzes what it sees (even if sometimes  hazily or often incorrectly); if I take time to contemplate the miracle of those people who stop to say “hello” or who call to say “I love you, Mom”; or if I actually taste the food I eat or enjoy the water I lap greedily, or become astounded at the multitude of colors and shapes of cacti or lizards – if I for one little minute choose to regard all of these things as the miraculous provision they are—well then, “normal” daily life becomes something profoundly amazing and my mere human existence, an heroic adventure. If I see God’s daily set -in -motion planet as a place of miracles, then I become a miracle-worker.

Jesus, who healed paraplegics, raised dead people, and created matter, tells those who see the world as He does and who choose to follow, faulted and fearful, in His Way, that they will “do greater things than I have done” (John 14:12). Imagine if even one or two humans began to believe that and then live that.

We like to tell the stories about Jesus manipulating common matter by turning the water into abundant flowing -over wine; by his feeding thousands with small supplies of fish and bread; or his instructions on fishing that netted his disciples so many fish their nets burst; and so forth and so on. These miracles of Mind over Matter remain part of a story about the Man-God, trapped between pages of a good book of stories about Him. But if we see Jesus as the new Prototype of Humanity, the Second “Adam”, then we see that The Christ, after years of seeking first The Creator’s Kingdom on earth, Jesus found that these miracles were in fact simple tasks. He laughingly says to the amazed eyes of those who watch Him do His magic tricks, “which is easier to say:  to the lame, get up and walk, or to say your sins are forgiven?”. (Lk. 5:23) And though He hadn’t a penny to his name nor a “place to lay his head at night”, Jesus had no worries, no stress, no selfishness, and no greed. He walked and talked through His life as if God were available, relatable and in charge of it all. In terms of daily sustenance, He said with a wink and chuckle, “Don’t you know, I have food the Father feeds me that you know nothing about?”(Jn. 4:32)  The Jewish Messiah told His disciples – and us – that “If The Father cares for the little birds enough to feed them, don’t you think He cares enough to feed you?”(Mt. 6:26,27) In effect He was asking, “Don’t you remember? Have you stopped believing? Have you so little faith? Do you remember God’s provision of the trees in The Garden? Do you worship Him for saving your ancestors by the simple creation of manna in the wilderness? Did your priests and kings not have in their need the miracle of the Showbread in the Temple? Was not Abraham given the lamb for the sacrifice? And did Yahweh not see that the table was set for you at your own home yesterday? Don’t you know that though you find the water, scarce and precious, that God provides it? And that God can make it spring from a rock if He so chooses?  Jesus’ mantra, so to speak was, “Why do you worry about tomorrow, what you will eat or drink? Doesn’t today have enough worries for you that you want to borrow more against tomorrow?”(Matt. 6:34)  Of course what He was needling and ribbing us about is that if we say we believe in a Benevolent God who gave us the whole good earth to tend and care for and “rule over” and “supervise”, then our worries are of a world not of God and are self-manufactured. They are Sin-manufactured.

And this is because we don’t see our needs being met as miracles but rather as things that we are owed. We have come, tragically, to see our wonderful lives as a bottom line, to be added to by more work, more money, more people, more stuff, more, more, more. We don’t see all of life as not a bottom line, but a complete circle. And in breaking that complete circle with God, we have also stopped thinking about what death means, or could mean. We stop following the commandments of how to live on the earth as we were intended. And we allow our neighbors, those we are meant to treat as God treats us,  to in fact have to wait and beg for true miracles as they starve or become diseased for lack clean water or live on the streets like modern day Lazaruses in view of rich folks’ homes. Because we are unwilling to work The Christ’s common miracles for our neighbors.

The perfect circle as a concept is a miracle in itself. So too, the circle that is this planet; the circles contained in our solar system; the circles that are our cells; the circles that are our families and communities.  Each day of my life can be seen as one more chance to start a new perfect circle in God’s Kingdom on Earth. The Christ encourages me each morning, “Be perfect just as Your Heavenly Father is perfect”. (Mat. 5:48). The circle of life represents wholeness or the Hebrew idea of Shalom. But most days I choose to live life as another long string of dots marching forward toward the next day’s line – disjoint, disconnected, un-whole and unwholesome. We can see each day as a line, moving us toward death as on a treadmill, an assembly line of disconnected lives muddling throughout the planet together, ever pressing forward toward just another day of “getting ahead”, passing the other guy in the race, looking forward toward the end of the unseen line’s end and never stopping to look inward. For at the middle of the circle of all of our days’ small dots, therein lies the truly miraculous — our souls.

I wake up – hallelujah! And I begin again! Hurrah! with just one little dot of existence – my Life! That dot becomes two dots as I open my eyes, and three dots as I rise or perhaps, someone must help me rise into my wheelchair or out of my crib.  And then the truly, truly miraculous happens! Oh Miracle! The most amazing dot of all is added to my breathing, sensate self – I drink and eat and the earth provides sustenance for my next moment. Perhaps I eat a piece of toast or a bit of cereal. Perhaps I can only be fed from a tube a nourishment provided by a nurse or loyal mate or a mother. But I eat my “daily bread”, that which A Creator has provided for my life.  And the circle of my day, my whole life really, re-begins — because this moment will be all I can know for certain. This moment begins to take shape, as the next dot needed for my life is provided. That next moment’s dot may be the great gift of running water from a tap or it may be a bottle of water a person gave me while I beg on the street because I am homeless. That dot may be a well in my village that I recognize as miraculous while I wait in line in order to fill my container. That dot may be a drive to work or a walk to the bus stop or the great gift of dishes left over in the sink to clean this morning or it may be another application to fill out with hands that know how to write and a pen filled with ink.  The next dot might be a co-worker’s complaining needs that I can meet, a spouse’s depression that I can hold in my heart, a child’s tummy ache that I can soothe, or a stranger’s rude outburst at the grocery that I can hear.  And I can see each opportunity as yet another indication that all I have – my eyes, ears, hands, mouth, breaths, family – all are miracles. Because life itself is miracle. When Jesus tells Nicodemus, “you must be born again”; is He not saying, look at the miracle of your life which The Creator has provided? Jesus says in truth, let your inner most being,  your soul be re-born today into a new relationship with the Creator of All.

The dots of another day are my existence in the world, guaranteed only for that moment, and they provide two different choices for me. I can let God recreate in me and use each of my life’s dots to create a circle – a renewed wholeness in the image of Him; or I can see those dots as my right , my due, as a little god, and as we all do since The Fall, I can let life’s dots go all pear-shaped. Again. Because frankly, most days are lived without my intentional point of view that each moment is a miracle awaiting my embrace of it. And so I do not take control and then trust that control to The Control of a loving Providence, but rather I speed through my life feeling out of control.

To see life as miracle takes time and love. Miracles must be nurtured. Miracles take an attitude of constant prayer, and as Jesus taught us, prayer must start not with finding my “brand”, but  with hallowing the name of God. And then prayer must move to a view of the world as Us, not me.  Give Us today…. But my repentance must accept that I rarely stop and breathe out and in and look around me and look in someone’s eyes and listen to the miracle of their speech or listen for the movement of God’s spirit in the world around me.  I worry and analyze and talk and talk and work harder and get more and think about tomorrow’s agenda and take notes on things and make lists for stuff and shop for stuff and get irritated at that person and worry about that person and feel anger for those people and my hip hurts when it’s hot and my knee hurts when it’s cold and nights are long and days so very much shorter than when I was young and it’s all so much that I wonder how I will ever get it all done and then it’s time to crash into my lumpy bed and fall asleep if I can until tomorrow starts but I worry about what I have forgotten I have to do tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow….  And life becomes a drudgery. And Heaven is merely a perhaps someday reality if I prayed the right magical prayer which I am saving up for the future. Heaven is rarely among us now, and not, as The Christ proclaimed, among us every day if we choose to live as He did. And I live as if I have absolutely no idea about the “powers and principalities” of Good  — the miraculous –that are all around me and can take residence inside me. Of course, the powers of Evil are quite happy to sneak in to the gaps I leave open in the circle of my life. And I shall simply accept those evil powers as another normal day and pray that God does His usual normal, non-miraculous stuff until I need a “real” miracle

In the recorded words of the prophet Isaiah, God tells us that “if you are willing and obedient, you will eat of the good things of the land” (Is. 1:19) The very beginning of humanity began with God giving humans good food to eat (Genesis 1:29). God provides all the good we need to live, but it is our choice of whether we see this as miracle or our right. And if we see it as our right, then God will allow us to shove Him aside and let us eat of the food which does not nourish the soul. Which brings us full circle back to the miracles Jesus, the Son of God, performed. Ultimately Jesus had to come right out and tell us that the miracles of God-given food were nothing compared to the miracle of our souls, nourished by living water, and Christ’s  own body and blood as food. And if we want to live as The Christ did and live forever as The Christ is living forever with The Father, we must see each morsel of our lives as we do that first miracle of birth. We must daily be reborn, forming a life meant for eternity. A life that as it was with The Christ, will be resurrected from Death. A Miracle.

Wendell Berry writes in an essay in Sex, Economy, Community, Freedom, and Community: “The miraculous is not extraordinary, but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air, and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances, will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine – which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”

In the past year, I have come to often meditate on this re-trending idea that is contained in the word, “mindfulness”. Many people claim to have coined this idea and it is often connected to Buddhist scholars of the 20th Century in connection to meditation techniques.  But it is in fact, the original mindset of The Chosen People of God dating back as far as we can read about them, to Abraham, David, Ezekiel, – even to Adam and Eve.  In fact, one could argue that it was Adam and Eve’s mindfulness that made them so happy and perfect at The Beginning and their chosen and sudden lack of “mindfulness” that led to their downfall. Eating from the Tree of Good and Evil, could be seen as Adam and Eve not trusting God for just that moment, being mindful of what they were enjoying eating, being thankful for the air, the puppies, the unicorns, and the cold fresh spring water. It can be seen as the pride of thinking ahead for themselves and only themselves, and not trusting  God for providing the best food – the best of everything — for them tomorrow.  It is because Adam and Eve stopped believing that Life was miracle, not personal accomplishment, that they and we ended up in this rat race. Because people were created to be at their very best by trusting in the moment and enjoying what that moment provides; giving thanks to their Creator for that moment’s joyful provision. But when we stopped doing that and wanted more, more, more, more and ate from the Tree of Not Just Goodness but Possible Evil in Case Evil would Get Me More than Good Would – when we stopped trusting that our needs would be met; then we were cursed with a need to achieve-no-matter-what; we were cursed to work through the sweat and stress of our hard labor; the pain of our labor in birthing our kind; the weeds in our wheat; the bugs in our soup; the fear of the other people who might have or get more than me; and the hatred of those we love most because we need more from them than that moment’s companionship in the journey. And so those moments of inspiration and creativity rather than being common place miracles, become rare and mere glimpses of what our lives can be like, and we hope and pray, will be like when The Kingdom is come forever. Meanwhile, because we don’t worship God for the miracle of our existence, we ironically lose the very powers we were meant to use wisely for good on this earth. We  continue to abuse and destroy the miracles of our planet and the miracle of the human soul. And in gaining the world by our own efforts, and being mindful only of self and our desires, not the miracle of this moment, we lose the miracle of the world God freely gave us.

And so we no longer know how to pray. Because prayer is being mindful of my need for A Provider. Prayer is believing that earth is meant to be like Heaven. Because for Jesus, it was. That is why He could teach us to pray, “Thy will be done on planet earth, as it is every where in all the other universes and wherever You are truly present – The Heavens.”

We no longer truly thank God for the miracles of the mundane.  Bless this food to our bodies, we beg, but we do not truly find flight in the gratitude of a body that can miraculously work or profoundly surprisingly walk. We do not thank God on bended knee that in His righteousness and holiness, He has seen fit to protect us from evil yet again, even the evil of disease or disaster.  We do not thank Him for the minutiae of the miraculous– the salt in our shakers or oil in our pan or light at the end of a wick or switch. We paste on the words of “For Thine is the power and glory forever” as we would paste on a return label on a bill we are paying.

This morning I heard on my little I-pod the song “I Can Only Imagine” by the amazing creators known as “Mercy Me” and it just struck me, “we have this song all wrong”.  Well, at least I have this song all wrong. With apologies to the song writers, who probably have the song all right in their own hearts and minds –when we sing about being only able to imagine what it will be like when we see Jesus and are ushered into the presence of The Father and “walk by His side”, then we are missing the whole point of Jesus and of our very existence as believers and eikons.  We are not to imagine what Kingdom Life will be like, but are meant to imagine – and the word “imagine” here could also be translated as “have faith” – that Life Here and Now is like that. God’s Chosen People are meant to choose to experience our lives and our neighbors’ lives and the whole planet as the miraculous creation of a Kingdom on earth as it is in The Heavens. We are meant to live as if God’s perfect Creation of our world is available and that it truly has always been, is now and will be again. We are meant to see that Jesus did not have to imagine what it would be like when He was with The Father in Heaven, because He lived as a human in complete relationship, complete wholeness with The Father while on earth. Jesus said, “I come to bring you abundant life, filled and flowing over.” Jesus proclaims, “In me, you see the Kingdom of God among you.”.  We do not as the song says, have to imagine if we will stand in the presence of God, or  if we will instead sing, or dance, or fall to our knees – we should be doing all that now, here, in worship of the miracles all around us; in worship of the miracle of God loving us enough to provide another moment; the miracle of our ability to be mindful, in constant prayer with a Parent/ Creator/ Mother who longs to re-birth us into new shalom, wholeness, and abundant life.

The miracle is not in what Jesus was able to do but in what we are able to do in Him, if we only “imagine”.  I think maybe if we interpreted Jesus’ words “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed” as His saying, “Do you not see what a Miracle even this small tiny little seed is? Imagine what you could do if your itty bitty faith meant that you believed that miracles surround the very air you breathe, the very water you drink, the very hand you hold, the very bread you eat, the very blood that courses through your veins.  Look and see what the Lord has made.  It is good, so very Good, that it is sheer miracle. Don’t wait to imagine what Heaven is like.  Have faith that Heaven on Earth is within your very being, your very soul. That is how you will have me, The Messiah, abiding in you and with you, forever.”

Miracles are so easy to miss because we keep waiting on something big and grand and something to happen tomorrow or beyond our ability or reason. But this whole life, is truly beyond our reason, isn’t it? The miracle is that we have been given the ability of gods. The tragedy is that we squander those abilities for the mundane.

And so we keep missing the miraculous moment when we wake up, and the miracle of eating toast.

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