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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A Recipe for A True Taste of Christmas

A Recipe for  A True Taste of Christmas

By Jane Tawel

December 11, 2018

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

A Recipe/ Psalm for a Judeo-Christian Holiday

By Jane Tawel

Dear Creator,

First fill my cup with thirst.

May my hands kneed love in need of You.

Spice up my heart with passion for Your Word.

And let the Oil of my faith in Your Covenant

Never run out.

May a small teaspoon be the only portion

Of my earthly gain

So that my eternal fill will

Be only eaten in Your Forever

Feast of Body and Blood.

May I never turn away from my table

 strangers and sojourners; and

Just as You have always fed

Both the good and bad

With sunshine and rain;

May I not stand in judgement

Over the meals that others make;

But instead look to the small

Morsel of my own small self.

May no matter how many times

I eat of You;

Or how much I am served of

Your words and Your Word,

May I hunger only more;

May I thirst only more deeply

For Your Approval,

For Your Love.

May I receive at Your mighty hands–Hands

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

A wee little Christmas star—

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

May I get a little half star,

rating my life today

As worthy of You.

Please, Oh Lord of All,

Messiah, Christ-child,

God of the Ages,

I humbly offer today,

A morsel – an offering of my life,

Of my small snack of a soul.

May you multiply the ingredients of my life today,

As You always do increase

Our silly little

fish and loaves.

 

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Read Their Names. by Jane Tawel

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

 

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

Read Their Names

by Jane Tawel

November 17, 2018

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Enjoy the Inns but Keep Walking Toward Home by Jane Tawel

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

 

Enjoy the Inns, but Keep Walking Toward Home

By Jane Tawel

October 28, 2018

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Notes to Self:

 

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

 

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

 

  • Seek “The Simple Good”.

 

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

 

NOTE To READERS:

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Shalom Aleichem, Jane

Reality and The Road Show

Reality and The Road Show

By Jane Tawel

October 5, 2018

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What do you know?” asks Alyosha.

 

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

 

“Why are you testing me?” Alyosha cried.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay Anonymous by Jane Tawel

Stay Anonymous

By Jane Tawel

September 11, 2018

I’m Nobody

Who Are You?

Are You Nobody too?

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

They’ll banish you know.

How dreary to be Somebody

How public, like a frog

To Tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog.

**Written in 1891 by Emily Dickinson

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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