Trust a Dance Move

Trust a Dance Move

by Jane Tawel

June 6, 2018

 

https://www.facebook.com/xochitl.dalton.9/videos/10206469354478362/?t=2

 

If we could see the World the way God sees it, we might see something like this dance concert.  In it, three little girls, all who look quite different from each other, but who obviously have the same teacher, the same desire to dance, and hopefully, the same loving families in the audience; all try to follow the directions of their off-stage director. I am sure when these children got home to their respective families, they all thought they had done a marvelous job creating something beautiful, and that is as it should be, because children do create beautiful things just by their complete joy in the creative process.  But when we grow up and lose our joy in the simple act of creating something for the mere pleasure of creating and sharing, we lose something basic and critical to our humanity, and more importantly to our God-image.

 

This video is a visual parable that I imagine Jesus would love.  One little girl is so terrified she doesn’t dance at all. One little girl has her eyes on the off-stage director but eventually gets distracted looking at the dress of her neighbor and eventually is on the floor crawling around on the dusty stage.  The other little girl, who is black, which in this world still means something, looks back and forth between the off -stage director and her loving father whom you can hear chuckling behind the video camera.  If Jesus were telling stories today, He might substitute this dance parable for His own parable about the seeds sown in different kinds of ground.

 

We have an Off-Stage Director, too.  And when we are children or young in our faith and our innocent hope  is intact in our belief in a Director Who cares; we keep our eyes trustingly focused on the Director of the Dance.  But eventually and tragically, most of us lose that childlike faith in the Off-Stage Director.  We decide the applause really is because we are just so “all that” and fantastic.  Or maybe the applause ends after a while and all we can hear  is the critical and skeptical World judging us. So  maybe we stop dancing all together and we figure that the  Great Heavenly Director doesn’t think too much of our dancing abilities either.

 

I am truly – and I say this with much self-love – the world’s worst dancer.  I am the world’s geekiest dancer and I have seen Bill Gates dance, so there you have it.  My children long ago forbade me to dance, so as not to embarrass them, even in the privacy of our own home. I secretly wonder if this why my husband calls me “Chicken” because when I dance I look like a poorly plucked chicken trying to escape the frying pan – and this is not when I am in fact doing that old stand-by, “The Funky Chicken”, that great practical joke of a dance that Rufus Thomas played on unsuspecting “white boys and girls”. (I do happen to do the Funky Chicken pretty well.)

 

When I dance, I look like a cross between a scarecrow in a tornado and a sock puppet of Ichabod Crane on steroids.  The only one who has ever enjoyed dancing with me is my dog, Jolie. And she scratches when she does the waltz so it is always a bit risky on my part to accept her as a partner.  I came of age in the eighties, when music was such that you could pretty much dance like a geek and get away with it. Or so I thought.  Add to that, the fact that I lived in a part of the world where dancing was still frowned on, with people believing that the Devil loved him some Disco for sure.  Take my history into account and I really ought to be able to claim disability payments for what my dance moves have done to my psyche.  Come to think of it, my children have probably already each claimed disability for the trauma that watching me dance has caused them.

 

But as I watch the video-taped children dance, I think about what dancing is really for. Whom is it really for? Last night my husband and I went to a local event that brought back some of the traditions and ideas of American Chautauqua. Many lovely moments were created but one was a time of group line and square dancing – no abilities required other than the desire to have fun dancing and the ability to follow the Caller’s directions. There was also a Chautauqua Campfire Sing-along. Being there made me realize how much we have lost in community  to our individual pursuits and how much we have given up doing things  just for the sheer enjoyment of doing them –no applause, no payment, no fame necessary.

 

What would it take to see each day as a chance to join in the great joy-filled         community-based Dance of Life? No one was ever created to prefer dancing by oneself. What would it take to get back to being able and willing to listen to The Great Caller’s Directions in this Dance of Life? None of us was created to dance without loving Directions.

 

I think about what it would take for some people to get back on the stage and not dance for the applause but to dance for the praise of the Great Off-Stage Director. I think about my years of dancing for the applause that ultimately was never loud enough, never long enough, never enough; and then even more years of my hearing the figurative, metaphoric boos and hisses that my insecure soul feels about all my life’s work – the seeming lack of confirmation of anything well done, the losses, the fears, the mistakes, the egregious sins both large and small.

I think about how many times I have been the little girl standing off to the side, too afraid to start dancing in front of everyone. How many times, like the little girl in the middle, have I lost my balance twirling in this spinning Globe’s pathetic imitation of God’s Great Created Dance Moves? How many times have I been obsessed and taken my eyes off the Director to covet my neighbor’s stuff; how often have I fallen to the ground and not been able to stop worrying about things and get back into The Dance?

 

What would it take for me to embrace the fact that the way I see my dancing – even the way those I love see my dancing—even my most loving audience members – does not truly matter as long as I am dancing because I love to dance and because I love them and because ultimately, I want to honor my Director?  Whether the gig  of life is a long run or a short run, what ultimately matters is if I am following with attentive joy, my Life-Dance cues by The Director of The Dance. What matters is if I trust and obey.  He, who Choreographed The Waltzing Stars, the Grooving Whales, the Gliding Worms, the Twirling Starlings, the Hip-Hopping Hippos, and all the dancing children of this world,– He can direct my moves.

 

I like to imagine that Heaven is a place where I will have endless time to learn things.  I plan on learning the cello and playing it with Mozart directing. I will finally learn to draw from Vincent and Raphael, just for starters.  And I plan on spending a few thousand years learning to dance – it will take at least that long. But truthfully, I imagine when, God willing, I am finally caught up in that Great Dance among the Heavens, that none of us will need to learn to dance and no one will be dancing for the applause.  We will all be too eternally elated to be moving with The Great Director and Creator of The Dance, Who will no longer be Off-Stage, but dancing brilliantly and gloriously amongst us.

 

In the video with the children, the song they are dancing to includes this paraphrase of the words of Jesus’s instructions from  when He came from Off-Stage to live among us  On-Stage. As  Bob Marley prophesies and admonishes:  “Don’t worry. Every little thing is going to be alright.”

The Creator of the Dance, with a love for us despite our disabilities, fears, and missteps, assures us humans, “If I am watching over the smallest sparrow dance, surely I will watch over your dance moves.” Young MC, might not advise a geeky dancer like me to “bust a move”; but The Great Director whispers to my heart from Off-Stage, “Trust a Move”.

And so once upon another time, this geeky funky chicken gets up, adjusts her tutu, prays for Off-Stage guidance,  and heads back out on that Dance Floor.

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Traveling Dreams: Mother’s Day 2018

The following is a re-post from my blog.  I first wrote it in 2015.  I would  add that in the three years since I wrote this, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon have continued to follow their dreams and follow The Way and I could not be happier or more proud to be their mom. I continue to study The Map for Life-guidance, and for better or worse, I still attempt to “tell stories slant”.

 

Traveling Dreams

May 10, 2015

By Jane Tawel

For my children on Mother’s Day: Keep in The Dream Way

 

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I had one of my traveling dreams last night. I have always had traveling dreams and they are always stressful, slightly scary, and silly, and pretty easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dreams I am always trying to get somewhere. It is always dark, even if it is happening in the daytime. I am always driving or being driven somewhere in a car of dubious merit. Since becoming a parent, I often have my children with me. I am almost always lost and can’t find my way. Told you this would be easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dream last night, my cousin Emily was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We had another woman with us in the back seat who was a friend or second cousin twice removed sort of person. She was a Ginger. We were trying to get somewhere so Emily could catch a plane. We were travelling all those little back roads and highways that used to be so common in the Midwest but every once in a while we would hit a terrifying freeway and have to get off. I took over driving and got lost and pulled into someone’s driveway to turn around. We ended up in a small town and the police started following us, then another police car came along side and pulled us over. They made us get out of the car. They thought that we were kidnapping the ginger-haired girl in the back seat. The female and male cops pulled the unnamed Ginger second cousin twice removed aside and then asked Emily to tell them the first name of the girls’ father’s father. Neither of us knew it though we racked our brains trying. Even though we didn’t know the name that would prove we knew the Ginger and were not kidnapping her, for some reason unexplained to us, the cops realized we were not kidnappers and let us go. We went to a cafeteria line where suddenly my cousin Amy and my sister Janet appeared and the second cousin twice removed disappeared. I put a plastic container of salad with edemame beans on my tray. Emily asked for the two taco plate. I decided I wanted tacos as well but did I still want the edemame salad? Emily insisted she was treating all of us. The dream ended before I knew what I decided to eat.

 

Sometimes all you can say about a dream, is “Life is like that.”

 

Life is full of choices. In life, you are always trying to get somewhere. Life is confusing and you often feel lost. You have companions on the way, some known and loved and some that are just along for the ride. Bad things do happen to good people and good people do often do bad things and sometimes the cops catch the wrong people and sometimes the bad people get their just desserts and sometimes the cops don’t show up at all. Sometimes the cops in real life actually shoot you dead for no reason. And some times the cops get shot dead for no reason. Just like in their nightmares. And Life is like a dream because we so often are just asking, “why did that happen?” and we are in it having to keep driving forward without ever knowing how it ends. Ever try to get back into a dream after you wake up and find out how it ends. Life is like that.

 

Sometimes, in real life just like in dreams, we seem to have no idea how we got to the place we find ourselves in. It is often because we weren’t paying attention to the choices we made when we started that particular journey. Just like in dreams, suddenly you are there. Sometimes we end up somewhere in life because we are dreaming when we should have been paying attention to what we were actually doing at the time. “Did I leave my keys in the car when I locked it?” — sort of attention deficit things.

 

The end of a day or a month or year is sometimes like waking from a bad dream because we got lost on the way. Sometimes we push the gas instead of the brakes or the brakes instead of the gas. Life is stressful because we just keep driving even if we don’t know how to get to where we think we want to arrive. We often refuse to stop and ask directions.

 

And Real Life is always slightly scary, at least once you take the wheel of your own life. Life was much less frightening when your mom was driving you home and whenat the end of a day you found yourself snuggled up against your parent in a warm bed after a large meal and a cup of cocoa.

 

Also, to be honest, our lives are frankly always a wee bit silly. Most of our life’s journeys should be relegated to the “I went to Target and the post office today” sort of journeys, not the crossing the Rubicon or the “It is a far, far better thing I do” sort of journey. But then since none of will know until the next life, the true meaning of each day’s journey, we should never image that our silly selves are not somehow also living out an epic journey full of unseen battles and quite a few seen ones.

 

If you read some of the great books that show in equal parts, humans as God-imagers and frail-ly ridiculous beings, you get a better idea of how spectacular and silly we all are. We are heroes unawares. Explore characters like those in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Anne Tyler’s or Jody Picoult’s women heroes and you will hopefully see humanity in a light that our dreams often try to reveal to us.   I am not talking here about the brokenness / heroic element in a Sydney Carton or a Billy Pilgrim. I am talking about tilting at windmills and a thumb to hold back a flood. I am talking about flying dreams and being famous dreams. I am talking about silly disciples walking with The Christ and arguing about who gets what chair near the future King’s throne. And Jesus responding by both laughing at their silly hubris while recognizing the heroic efforts to follow God that lay around the unseen bend for these human beings. Jesus must have some good chuckles at our silliness as we slap-stick through Life. And yet, just like the disciples who confused gaining a throne without carrying a cross, God has an inexplicably dream-like desire to help us humans drive towards the brink of heroism. Sometimes, we even leap over the chasm of “quiet lives of desperation” into something gloriously God-like.

 

I am talking about Life not as a linear attempt at accomplishment but as a traveling dream. I am talking about dreams in real life if not necessarily what we consider real time and place.

 

Dreams always have their own sense of time and place but aren’t usually what we consider factual time and place. Quite often they do not end up how and where we imagine they will or should. In this way our dreams illuminate something of God’s view of time and reality. A dream begs the question, what is Reality? Am I seeing this as it is? Is the meaning of what is really going on inside me more revealed when I am awake or when I am helplessly, innocently asleep?

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I like to mess with my husband about my Native American heritage. If you know anything about the Native Americans you know that dreams are an important part of their belief system, much like they used to be for Judeo-Christian folk in the Bible. The Native Americans believe that it is your soul that dreams dreams, not your mind or your body. In this philosophy, life is one big Dream and in that the impermanence of this life is recognized. Steven Bancarz writes of Native American philosophy, “It is by experiencing the realness of the dream world that we appreciate the dream-ness of the real world”.[1] The Bible talks about the reality of dreaming versus the reality of what we imagine is only in our waking this way: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)

 

 

Eugene Petersen in his book Tell It Slant, talks about Christ’s use of apocalyptic language. Petersen notes that Jesus uses stories to reveal to us Kingdom reality which is not a future apocalyptic dream or a past historical accomplishment, but a present reality behind an almost dreamlike curtain of the world we try to see with fallen eyes. The kingdom world can often only be approached not with eyes wide open but through eyes closed, as in sleep, to the oncoming traffic of the world and open to the dream world that exists just beyond our consciousness. Just beyond our small egos.

 

Much like the telling of dreams, Jesus’ stories are not easily understood nor analyzed. Parables have a dreamlike quality because they reveal the world behind the curtain. When Jesus is telling the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 17:20-37, Petersen writes,“he does it by introducing a radical reorientation on the nature of time and place, kingdom time and place.” Peterson goes on to say, “Jesus is training our imaginations so that we will be able to participate appropriately in the great salvation drama that is taking place right now – not world events of the future but the presence of the kingdom right now. Apocalyptic is a language strategy for breaking open awareness of the tremendous energies of good and evil contending with one another beneath the apparently benign skin of the ordinary.” [2]

 

Apocalyptic language gets our attention, like a dream might abruptly wake us from sleep. Apocalyptic awareness says, “Repent”, which is another way of saying “Turn around, you are driving the wrong way.” Apocalyptic awareness, like a dream, reveals what is under the surface of our world and often wakes us up to a different reality.

 

It is like the first time you reach out your arms to hold your newborn child. Though it seems like a dream after all the planning and striving and fears and work and hopes, your deepest being knows immediately that reality will never be the same again. You will no longer see reality as you did before you became a parent. The world has changed forever. You have turned a corner and the road will lead you in a whole new direction. And you are desperate every day thereafter for the rest of your life and his or her life, to find a perfect map that will take you and the most precious being in the world in the right direction. So she will be safe. So he will be fulfilled in a career. So she will find the right soul mate. So he will be brave in the face of disaster. You scour maps so you can help this new little entrusted life drive the straight path and find The Way.

 

There are many options today for getting directions. I am old enough to remember the giant tome called The Thomas Guide that was your traveling bible when you moved to Los Angeles. Today I prefer Mapquest, but my children swear by Googlemaps. All religions promise to provide a life map. The Judeo-Christian Life-map is revealed in the Scriptures, the lives of those who have tried to follow the Life-map, and in the Life of the Son of God who came to live the Life-map to the fullest. Early Christians first called our Life-map simply, “The Way”. Now we often get a bit lost in what we think is Christian Reality and we start calling The Way things like theology, Arianism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, hermeneutics, and Vacation Bible School. These often help but they often simply encourage us to define other humans as going the wrong way. Sometimes all the technologies and labels and secure findings trap us in a sort of Christian couch potato life, watching Rick Stevens live the journey while we only talk about it. Not travel it.

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I fear sometimes with all my knowledge about The Way, that I have lost the joy in the journey on The Way. I think I know where I’m going but it’s just in my head. It’s a dream, not a reality of living in The Way.

 

Remember when you were a kid and you just hopped in the back of the car and let your parent drive you someplace. Even if the place had a name you recognized like Grandma’s house, or The Mall, how you actually got there was always a mystery. You couldn’t see much as your little child self, looking out the back seat window. But you weren’t afraid, because Dad was driving. Mom was reading the map and telling Dad, “no you missed the street, turn around.” Your sister was pulling your hair and you desperately had to pee but didn’t want to tell the parents because then they’d pull over and make you crouch behind a bush. So you looked out the window, tried to avoid your mean sister, and trusted you could hold it long enough so that Your Parent could get you to Grandma’s bathroom.

 

The Way is best traveled if you sit in the back seat, hold on, enjoy what you can see out the window, avoid the mean sisters, and let Your Parent drive.

 

 

The Way. Sometimes when I read about The Way or hear about people who have lived The Way, I think I must be dreaming. Who could live like this and get any where? I mean it can’t be real. You must be dreaming to think you can live out The Way on this earth, at this time, in this place, with these people, with that going on, with all the this and that and those. You are living in a dream world, girl friend to think you can do what Jesus did, follow God’s instructions, trust the Holy Spirit. Get a reality check, dude. Smell the coffee, honey. Wake up! Jane, ole thing, you gotta get in the driver’s seat, sit up front, take control of the wheel, and never stop to ask for directions or turn around and start again. Don’t admit defeat, don’t admit you are lost. Just drive, girl, drive!

That great book of stories that teach, The Bible, teaches us much about paths and ways. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and He will direct your path.” Prov. 3:5,6 I am The Way, the Truth and the Life.” – Jesus –John 14:6  The Bible also teaches us about a magical kingdom that exists just beyond the touch of our own realities.

 

This is what the kingdom on earth as in the heavens, looks like. Kingdom Life is a dreamlike reality, open to our imaginations, beating on our hearts like an unseen guest at the door, alive in the souls who do not crush the dream for a blind, tasteless portion of “reality”. The journey towards the Kingdom is full of adventure, full of choices, full of bad guys and good guys, and filled with moments of heroism and moments of hubris. Just like the journey of childbirth or adoption, Life is full of pain and angst and fear and bad choices and good luck and you would do it all over again because at the end you get a prize.

 

At the end of childbirth, you get to see that little face and you know that every step of that hard dreamlike journey was worth it. You dreamt about this moment of having a child for so long and at last you know the real meaning of what it means to be a parent.

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At the end of Life’s Journey, Jesus promises a prize. We will see the face of our Savior. And the real meaning of the dream of this chimeric world, will be gloriously revealed to be something similarly dreamlike and really quite different after all. And that is why following the Life- map of The Way is worth every thing. For what does it profit me if I gain the whole enchilada, but lose my soul’s way? What profit is there in gaining what I dream I want if I lose the reality of what God wants for me?

 

Have you heard that theory that we never actually die in our dreams? That we always wake up before we hit the ground, or get run over by the bus or crash the car? That is the promise of Christ’s dream if we follow The Way. We will never die but simply wake from what we thought was reality, to find it was always only a dream.

 

Once upon a time a young woman named Caitlin, saw her boyfriend named Raoul, take off for California to work for JPL. She stayed behind in Boston, a city she loved and where she had acting gigs and friends and a free place to live. It was also where she began calling herself Caitlin instead of Jane because it would make her famous enough to achieve her dream of getting on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show as a famous actress (Did I mention she dreamed of being famous?).

 

But a funny thing happened after Raoul had been gone for three months. Caitlin began to miss Raoul. She began to dream of him. So Caitlin hopped in her un-airconditioned Mazda GLC Hatchback and with Triple AAA flip-maps on the passenger seat, began to drive all the way across the big ole’ country of the United States of America. No GPS, no cell phone, no laptop, no gmail, no companion. Just Caitlin and her AAA maps. She made it to her mom’s house in Indiana for some loving and free food. She made it to her Uncle Marlin and Aunt Sally’s house in Kansas City. The morning Caitlin left, Uncle Marlin snuck out and filled the tank with gas and the tires with air and the whatcha ma thingy with oil. Aunt Sally snuck a packed lunch with cookies for dessert into the back seat.

 

Our heroine Caitlin got seriously lost in Omaha but eventually turned around and found her way. A flat tire made her swear. Once when she stopped at Wendy’s for lunch, she left her watch that her grandma had given her, in the restroom and someone stole it before she went back and could retrieve it. That watch was gone forever and it still makes her sad.

 

When Caitlin finally hit Phoenix she was a bit bedraggled and shell shocked and did not at first compute that it was blizzarding in what she had assumed was a part of the world that was always hot. Caitlin thought she must be dreaming. She managed to pull of the road in time to buy the tire chains but when she got to the part of the road that said “no tire chains, no go”, she was defeated. So she sat in her little tin can of a car, a bit teary for a heroine, who was going many miles for her man. Then an angel of the Lord dressed up like a trucker stepped out of a chariot that looked like an eight-wheel semi, and said “Fear not, I bring tidings of great joy!” And he asked if he could help. Caitlin never saw that trucker again which proves he was an angel.

 

After two nights in a Motel 6, our heroine Caitlin, outlasted the Evil Blizzard and began the terrifying trip flying on the dragon’s back of The 10 and The 210 into Los Angeles County. She arrived, eyes still stuck open with fear after her first near death experience with LA traffic, and she stepped out onto the sidewalk of Brent Avenue, South Pasadena. Caitlin realized as she stood, her legs numb with days of straight driving, that she was getting wet, and thought that it must be raining, not realizing it never rains in California. She was instead, standing in her first ever sprinkler system.

 

Behind the warmly lighted windows of the ground floor apartment, the inhabitants must have sensed the heroine’s presence. Out of the door flew Sophia Fifi Caesar, and Scott Warner, and their newest housemate, Raoul Tawel. And when Caitlin saw her Raoul, the one for whom she had traveled long and suffered much, she thought she must dreaming.

 

But it was real.

 

 

And the journey’s end for Caitlin was accomplished. And she deemed it Good. And there was peace in the land and in her heart and there was much love and joy for many days.

 

The End.

 

But of course it wasn’t the end but only a new beginning. And soon a new traveling journey was begun.

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I pray for you my children, that you will dream the dreams God has for your life. They are more exciting, more joy and peace filling, and more real than any thing you could possible dream on your own. If you follow the Life Map and keep on The Way by letting God plan the journey and Jesus take the wheel, you will arrive at Life’s end and wake up to see the Face that makes you sing out, “Oh, so that is what it all meant!”

And then the journey begins anew.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/where-our-soul-goes-when-we-dream-according-to-native-americans/#sthash.PXCziz1e.dpu

[2] Peterson, Eugene H. Tell It Slant. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. Pp. 129 – 131.

Personal Potholes: “Defining Your Own”

 Personal Potholes

Defining Your Own

by Jane Tawel

March 17, 2018

 

This past week, I have been thinking about people who do great things and, who if only perhaps for a moment, or sometimes, if rarely, for a lifetime, do something hugely important. Most of these people we won’t know anything about until Heaven’s Roll Call.  When I look at those people we call great women and men; and when I read the stories we like to read about heroes; or when I meditate on the life of Jesus – there is a pattern in these lives that seems to me to be this:

Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do

 

So during this time in the kingdom to which I have been exiled, as I stumble along trying to find my path in the True Kingdom, I have been thinking more lately about historical heroes, as young people across my nation try to find their own path in speaking truth into lies, and light into darkness.  They are stumbling and falling. Some will fall away and some will find a different day and cause to fight.  But I feel a deep sense of sorrow that they must fight also the naysayers and skeptics and those who confuse them and thereby wear them down with other issues.

This is the same thing, of course, that keeps happening to black people in my country and possibly throughout most of the world.  It is easy to sit at home and watch someone fight for the issue they believe in and then, like all Screwtapes do, drip, drip, drip the skeptical slurry of other issues that cloud the truth, and dirty the righteousness of their just cause. Are they perfect in the way they fight? No, are any of us? But was David perfect? Was Winston Churchill? Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King, Jr? Ghandi? Mother Theresa?  The requirement for perfection was met by only one human – Jesus – and He did not tell His followers to become perfect before they took up the causes of righteousness, justice and truth.  He did however, promise that we would be made like Him if we served with Him, served Him, and served others.

So here are my thoughts on it “all” lately.

 

Choose an issue to believe in. Eventually stop talking about it and DO something about it –or support the people who can. Don’t chime in on someone else’s issue by combining it with your own. Apples will never be oranges and unlike real fruit, just because something is “an issue”, it doesn’t become any better mixed into one big “fruit salad”. Disagree or agree, but stick to the facts and Big Ideas about that singular, defined, one issue. Combining other issues is fallacious reasoning. Fallacious has the same root word as deceiving which is mostly what people are doing to themselves when they muddy the waters of a clear issue. Like swimming in a stream, muddying the waters, makes it hard to see and hard to move forward. Don’t dilute someone’s issue by morphing in different issues. When you dilute the issue, you dilute the solution — quite literally. Just like in a chemistry solution, diluting the solution with other issues, makes the solution less concentrated and therefore less powerful. There are plenty of “issues” to go around, so pick your own instead of picking apart someone else’s. Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do.

 

So, just for practice’s sake, let’s take a random problem that doesn’t have the big fightin’words and emotional baggage that surrounds other issues (although in this country I am probably being naive when I say that). Let’s take potholes.

Now you can say, well, but concerning potholes, there is also this other thing over here that is a problem connected to potholes and so is this and potholes really start with this problem so how can we blame potholes, and that is a problem too, so shouldn’t you be fighting against this too or instead, and don’t forget that this here other thing is a bigger problem.

But if potholes are my problem, my “issue”, then there is a pretty simple solution that I am fighting for. Get rid of potholes.

Of course, you have the pothole supporters who say, give me my potholes or give me death. The sort of folk that believe that: Potholes are my right. People who would rather spend money on new suspension for their cars than work with others for the good of their community and spend money on getting rid of potholes. But my point here is that –every time one switches up the conversation, and rather than either agreeing or disagreeing with the position of the other person, they blame someone or something else, then it really dilutes the truth with a sort of  Pandora’s box of fallacious argument. If one is adding a different element to the solution for the rampant potholes in this country, then one is in fact changing the issue, diluting the solution, and letting oneself off the hook for taking a solid stand and making a change.

We had a pothole once at the end of our drive, and it was technically in the road which meant it was our city’s problem, but we just went out there ourselves and fixed it, because we could. We had the means, but most of all we had the desire not to live with a pothole in our driveway.

About a couple months ago we had to give up a whole bunch of our God-given American rights, like parking on our side of the street, and keeping our shoes clean as we walked through the dirt and mud on our sidewalks — Because our city decided it was time to do something about our street’s potholes. The road was torn up for weeks and there were a couple of days I barely made it to work on time with the extra work I had to put into getting to my car.  Now those potholes were not a big issue for me personally, and I might have rather spent our city’s money on more cops; but the community decided they were a big enough issue for the whole of our community to do something about them. Will there be more problems on our roads?  Of course, I live in L.A. County, so…. Will there be new ways for potholes to be created and hence, new solutions to be found?  Yes, I imagine if the world lasts that long, there will be. But for now, the problem of potholes has been solved. And you know what?  They were right.  It is super- duper great living in the safety and peacefulness of a street without potholes.

 

Of course we can all be a bit too myopic and therefore hypocritical if we don’t realize we can’t only preach out of one side of our mouths; but that is a different dilemma. However, on this topic, the bottom line is —  I can’t be too happy that my potholes have been fixed, while my Biblical “neighbor” still has to drive around or lurch over the potholes in her road.  So if potholes is my issue for my street, then they also need to be my issue for my neighbor’s street as well.

 

The one question Jesus asks us is this:  What do you believe in that you are willing to act on?  He is allowed to ask us that, because He believed enough in something and Someone to act on it.

This is the problem for all people – young and old, rich and poor, saint and sinner — because Jesus is quite clear that if I believe it, I will act on it; and that,  if I do it for myself, I must do it for others. If I want a part of Him, I must give up the selfish parts of myself. “There is no one good, but God”, is a helpful reminder that none of us are the “good guys”.

If I want eternal life, I must die to this world’s death-loving dystopia. Jesus gives us a few hints:  “If you want to follow in the way I have mapped out that leads to God, then you must give up everything to the poor and follow me”.  “Greater love has no woman, than that she lay down her life for her friends.” “For I say to you, love your enemy and do good to those who persecute you.”  “For whatever you do for the least of these, then that is what you are doing for me.”

The Words of God are:  Sobering. Undiluted. Clear. Uncompromised. Truth.

Jesus constantly and consistently defined His issue: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it…. It is not the will of the Father than any should perish. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…..  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

 

Listen: “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it”. (Luke 11: 28)

Learn: Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Define: Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (Matthew 5:17)  In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Choose: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

Focus: We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2

Do: But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

The road is narrow and filled with many potholes. If I want to walk the Christ road, I dare not walk around the potholes.  I must try to fix them.

“Let those who have ears to hear, listen,” says The Great Hero.  The rest of us, need to find our own pothole.

 

Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do.

Pothole-damage

 

 

 

Come, But Don’t Stay Awhile by Jane Tawel

 

Come, but Don’t Stay Awhile

Billy Graham, World-view Check

By Jane Tawel

March 4, 2018

RNS-GRAHAM-LA b

 

 

 

 

Lots of talk about the Reverend Billy Graham, who moved on to a New Address this week, has caused me to reflect of course on his influence on my own particular life.  Literally millions have sung Graham’s praises, in a life time lived by a man who knew he was a child of A King. I humorously, like to imagine, he looked down on the corpse lying “in state”, and thought, “well, that’s about the least impressive thing I’ve ever been a part of”. I like to imagine him remembering the sawdust floors of his tent revivals and measuring his heavenly mansion for one.  Sawdust is such a wonderful metaphoric and physical joy.

 

I don’t remember every time I heard Billy Graham speak (and one always called him that: Billy not William, both names not just one). But I will say that any time Billy Graham held a revival meeting within driving distance (and that might mean four hours driving back in my Midwestern youth), my family was there. I remember vividly, as a small tyke, holding my Grandma Frances’ hand and watching Graham, from outside the packed  saw-dust floored, hard wooden bench- filled, barn- like “Billy Sunday Tabernacle”, in Winona Lake, Indiana. My many trips to his revivals, include the last time Billy Graham spoke in Los Angeles on November 21, 2004, when Raoul and I hauled our young four children to the Rose Bowl to join over 82,000 others.

 

No one can report on Billy Graham without talking about God, and as the Los Angeles Times writes,  Billy Graham had one message and one alone, “Individuals need to repent of their sins and accept God’s free gift of eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.”

 

And it is that repent part that gets us, isn’t it?  I remember the weak, shaky feeling in my legs every time I “walked forward” with thousands of others at a Billy Graham meeting.  Many were walking forward to “get saved” for the first time, but I had done that back at Bethel Baptist Church when I was just a wee tyke.  I walked forward with so many others, to “rededicate my life” to Christ.  Because just like Billy Graham, who traveled the world with his message, and packed up his tent and his staff, and his paraphernalia; all those who came to God, were required to  “come forward” but no one was expected to “stay awhile”.

 

This is how it has changed with us today.  We now want to “accept God’s free gift” but give nothing in return.  Let me be bold: This is so anti-Christ.  Christ asks us to come, in the words of Billy Graham’s favorite “come forward song”, “just as we are”, but Christ demands we not stay there. There is a reason it was called “coming forward”.

 

So I looked up the author of Billy Graham’s iconic song,  that not many churches seem to sing much anymore.  It was written in 1835 by a woman named Charlotte Elliot. Here is what I found out about her:

In later years, when she was not able to attend public worship, she wrote:— “My Bible is my church. It is always open, and there is my High Priest ever waiting to receive me. There I have my confessional, my thanksgiving, my psalm of praise, and a congregation of whom the world is not worthy, — prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors; in short, all I can want I find there.”[

Dr. Billy Graham wrote that the Graham team used this hymn in almost every one of their crusades. He said it presented “the strongest possible Biblical basis for the call of Christ.” Hymnody historian Kenneth Osbeck wrote that Just As I Am had “touched more hearts and influenced more people for Christ than any other song ever written.” Christian writer Lorella Rouster wrote, “The hymn is an amazing legacy for an invalid woman who suffered from depression and felt useless to God’s service.” Dr John D. Julian wrote:— “Though weak and feeble in body, she possessed a strong imagination and a well-cultured and intellectual mind….. Her verse is characterized by tenderness of feeling, plaintive simplicity, deep devotion and perfect rhythm. She sang for those in sickness and sorrow as very few others have ever done.”

 

But fun fact:  Charlotte Elliot although raised in a Christian home with a Bishop as a brother, did not become a believer in the Christian Worldview until much later in life, and when she realized she wanted to “come forward to accept Jesus as Savior”, she told her mentor that she needed to “clean up her life” and “get rid of her sins” before she did.  And this why she wrote this song, not because she believed that God’s salvation was cheaply bought, but because she realized that God wanted her to come “Just as She Was”. But just as she was, was a mess. Coming as we are today — That is the first step, and perhaps for many of us the hardest.  But as Billy Graham and Charlotte Elliot and all great prophets and teachers have taught, it can’t be the only step we take. We are not invited to come forward and then “stay awhile”, looking after our own needs and desires.  We are invited to “hit the road”, one shaky step at a time, falling down, getting up through repentance, and taking one more step of rededication, on our own Gethsemane walk down the aisle of Calvary, to the resurrection of our  revival in a Resurrected Savior.

 

The road to Calvary cost Jesus many steps.  But during this season, we celebrate – yes, celebrate!—His death on the Roman tool of torture and humiliation.  Do we really think we can wave to Jesus from the stands while we thank Him for the freedom we have because of His death?  Paul says, in Romans, among so many other places: Romans 6:1-6: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We are therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

 

We rather blithely say that Billy Graham has a new address now.  But that is only because He never made his first step, his last one. Graham, as Jesus did on the way to Calvary kept walking forward, even when it meant falling forward. We thank Jesus, that not only did The Christ walk every painful step forward to the Cross of Calvary, but that He did not make even The Cross, His last step. He walked forward even into the pits of hell; walked forward into the grave; walked forward out of the grave; and walked forward up those steps to heaven.  As another hymn says, God expects us to keep taking steps, but He doesn’t leave us to do it alone, for “He walks with me, and talks with me, along Life’s narrow way.” We are not meant to sit down and get comfortable.  Jesus’ message, as Mr. Dooley said, is that he came to”comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”.

 

There is another old hymn that comes to mind, that we will sing at the end of this holy season which is really always just the beginning of a new season of Rebirth: “Up From The Grave He Arose”.  Jesus shows me the way; that if I walk, frightened, lame and blind, towards my own death to this world, it may feel as if I am walking in darkness and foolishly, backwards. But each step I take daily to “rededicate my life to death in Christ”, is in reality is a step towards the Light, which I can only sense out of the corner of my blinded eyes. Each step away from the treasures of this World is a step towards the true World, Christ’s World of Eternal Life. In the Eternal Kingdom, we all need to Come, “just as we are”; but we dare not, cannot, will not stay there. We are not invited to stay awhile here on this broken planet; just like Charlotte Elliot and Billy Graham, we are meant to keep walking towards our new address. We are meant to take steps toward the change that as Paul also says, means “we will not all die, but we will all be changed”. Change, like that first step is as painful and frightening as birth. But we are not meant to stay in the womb of our broken, fallen lives.  We are not meant to stay awhile there. If we keep taking those oxymoronic steps toward death as Jesus lived it, then we will live as we were created to live, as God-imagers – not Just as I am, but Just As He Is.

“Just As I Am”

by Charlotte Elliot (1835)

 

  1. Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
    And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  2. Just as I am, and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  3. Just as I am, though tossed about
    With many a conflict, many a doubt,
    Fightings and fears within, without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  4. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
    Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
    Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  5. Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
    Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
    Because Thy promise I believe,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  6. Just as I am, Thy love unknown
    Hath broken every barrier down;
    Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 

 

 

Cheering for The Losing Side

Choose the Losing Side to Win the Game

By Jane Tawel

January 27, 2018

 

 

I am not a team person. I used to be – cheerleader, Celtics fan, Baptist, etc. My children and husband will tell you, that today, even when it seems I should pick a side, the obvious side of Team Tawel; It often seems to them that I start kicking the ball toward the other Team’s goal. If anyone playing for Team Tawel is playing the Discussion / Argument / Making Choices Game with other family teams or friend teams, life styles, or life choices; I will often go rogue and start playing offense and defense for the other side. It is my own belief, i.e. world view, that even though there seem to be many teams, there are really only two Coaches.  There is God, the Life Coach and Satan / Evil, the Death Coach. So, with fear and trepidation and daily red cards on my humility, I try to determine which Coach is training and leading the team, and try my best to be playing on that side. It may seem I switch sides, but in fact, to my mind, there is only one Real Team – The Jesus-Team.

 

I have found that sometimes, Teams will claim a God- Team name, like Christianity, or Islam,  but the self-proclaimed players don’t seem to know the rules or The Way God wants the Life-Game played. Dallas Willard uses the metaphor of an airplane pilot not realizing that she is flying upside down to describe this idea of mine — players thinking they are playing for the Christ-team, when in fact they are shooting into Satan’s hoops, scoring points for his  deathly kingdom team.

 

I have also found that some people wouldn’t dream of putting God’s Team name on their playing abilities and yet seem to live and play the Life Game  more closely to how Jesus played the Life-Game than many who claim to be “little-Christs”.  I have struggled mightily to find a balance in this current game between the rules of Truth and the rules of Love.  Neither  of Life’s Coaches is able to reveal the whole game plan and win, but there are enough clues in the Rule Book, in the “videos” of past player’s winning games, in the clues on the playing field, we call Earth, and in what the Bible calls the “fruits” of one’s life, or the moves of one’s game, — to help me figure out if I went out today on Life’s Playing Field, and scored points for God’s Team or Satan’s Team.  We need to stop listening to those who claim to be playing for Coach God but don’t want to repent of scoring points for Satan’s team. If we read the Book of Rules, it is really very clear how God and others should and will judge our Life Game.

 

At the end of each day I live, comes the reckoning.  I talk to God Coach, Who, even though I am the most benched player of all time, always has time to listen and coach me individually.  I ask God Coach, “Please forgive me for all the points I scored today for Satan’s team. I know I ended up running in the wrong direction because I just wanted so badly to win, I didn’t care that the points were scored for the Other Team. I thank you, that even though it cost me an MVP on Your Team, God, I will never cost You, The Game.  You have already won it.” I thank God Coach, “Thank You for all the points You scored today with my feet, my hands, my mind, my heart. Thank you that despite all my errors, misses, and boo-boos, You remain For me, on my side, against the powers of the Other Team. Protect me from wanting to be traded to Satan’s team so I can make more money, or get more attention, or play more.  Help me be willing to sit on Your Bench, God, for the glory of the Resurrection of Playing for Your Team Forever.”  And I beg God Coach, “Please let me have another chance tomorrow, to play a better Life Game in your honor and glory so I can play with You forever. Let the greatest Player of All Time, Your Son, who had Your Voice constantly in His ear, inform my Game.  Let me see Jesus daily and follow His moves, on the playing field of My Life.”  Amen.

 

We live in the strangest sort of reality now, where we have come to set ourselves up as fifteen minute Celebrities, and little mini-demagogues.  It is perhaps because we have so very much power as individuals that post Humanism-Enlightenment, there is only self to worship or the self of the celebrity of our current team.  We often don’t even realize we are doing it, because either we simply find people who agree with our opinions and shore up the sinking sands of self-centered built belief systems; Or we make God a personal pocket genie – a god who more than any thing wants our team to win. Win at any cost. Win as a good in itself. It is all a game for us, a competitive television show to watch, a test to score well on — and we seek that constant high of winning and watching the other “team” lose. So we must keep winning to feel happy, right, powerful, fulfilled, secure. And in this way, we have truly lost sight of what it means to be fully human and we have lost sight of what it means for god to be fully God. We tend currently to associate this team mentality with politics and sports, but it is rampant in our society and in others around the world.  I remember when Verity, my daughter, was on Team Jacob rather than Team Edward – all based on a puerile book and movie series. I sometimes think that if the world continues for a while longer, this will go down in history as the Age of Team Worship. Anyone who claims the name of Jehovah, needs to be very careful of this worldview as in Christ, there is no team, “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, Celtic nor Laker”.  There is only His Body, crucified and resurrected.

 

The reality is, that unless we are playing for the losing team, we will lose all. Coach Jesus, says what does it profit you if you win every competition, but in the process lose your soul to Satan’s Team? In The Real Kingdom of God, we must lose to win, and crucify self to be personally resurrected. We must follow the Coach who took one for the team, and we must bench ourselves to be chosen MVP. God’s chosen people are always the ones the rest of the world considers The Losers.

 

Matthew’s Gospel translated by Jane Tawel: When the MVP of All Eternity  comes in his glory, as The Final Coach of All Teams, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Jesus the Coach, will be gathered all the nations’ teams, and he will separate people one from another as a Good Coach separates the valuable players from the players for The Other Side. And he will place His Team on his right, the home team, but Satan’s Team on the left, the away with you team. Then the Kingly Coach will say to those on his right The Home Team, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom’s Playing Field prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For you played on My Team.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we play for Your Team? ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, you played for Team Jesus, whenever  you played the game for one of the least of these my brothers, you played the Life Game for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, the Get Away Team, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his team players. For you put My Team Name on your jersey while your actions on the field showed  you for a player for the Other Side.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we play for Satan’s Team; when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘You scored many points for Satan’s Team, thinking that by putting my Father’s name on it, you would win the Game. Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into the eternal life of Team God.”  Matthew 25

Choose the right Team. It doesn’t just cost you the game; it costs you your life.

*      *           *             *                  *                *         *           *            *

Once again, I defer to writing by “People who say things better than I ever could”: As promised, I will try to hold the newspaper in one hand, and the Word of God in the other.  I submit to you two editorials and some news from a current newspaper, the words of the prophets in the New Testament, and A.W. Tozer.

 

Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world’s deathly Game Plan, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Coach God is, that Life Game which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

I was taught as a little girl that being a Christian meant having Jesus in my heart.  I was taught that my daily choices added up to my eternal choice.  I would submit to you, that no matter how the world seems to change to our eyes, it has not changed since Adam and Eve in God’s. So in some writers’ words about America, that might have been written by Romans at the time Jesus lived:

 

First:  Some editorials from writers commenting on the strangest thing of all, to my old eyes – People who claim to be pastors and evangelists in the name of my Savior, Jesus the Christ, telling powerful people they can do whatever they want and still “go to heaven” as long as they are playing for the right team. This is most tragic of all for those very powerful people who are led to believe they are “winning”, when in fact they are playing for Satan’s Team.  It is most sad for those very rich and powerful rulers of the New Rome, America,  that “Pharisees” continue to live in sin, so that their religious and political agenda will be furthered – just like the mistaken Pharisees did at the time of Jesus played Our Life Game. It is horrible though for those of us to whom “much has been given, since much will be required” when The Coach calls us to that Final Locker Room post-game talk in His Heaven.

 

“The triumph of partisanship over morality starts at the top.

Politicians have always behaved badly. What’s new is the willingness of so many not just to look the other way but to call bad behavior good.” – “Republicans Redefine Morality as Whatever Trump Does” Dana Milbank, WP

 

The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.

 

The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.

 

Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”

The danger endures.

 

–“The Trump Evangelicals Have lost their gag reflex” – by Michael Gerson

 

And then there is the news about the young lady who “forgives” the abusive doctor of so many “team players” in the USA Gymnastics Olympic team.  Forgiveness is a very important Christ -like thing to do for this young lady and it will be a treasure to her own soul.  However, we do wrong as Christians to forgive sinners, perhaps especially sinners with a lot of worldly power because by doing so, we are becoming god.  Only God can forgive, as Jesus is clear to point out to the Pharisees of His own time.  And God only forgives, if I repent and sin no more, as Jesus also points out to the woman caught in adultery.  But time and place truly don’t change reality, since the Pharisees and Sadduccees, the men caught in adultery, didn’t stick around for God’s words either. They go off and forgive each other to sin another day in perhaps another way. Jesus went on to show all that have ears to ear and eyes to see, that forgiveness is not free, has never been free, will never be free. Sin comes with a price – death.  We will all pay it.  Forgiveness comes with a price and Jesus paid it on the cross even though He and He alone didn’t need it.  But we have done much wrong to the Good News by thinking that Jesus paid that price to leave sinners in their sins.  We must die as He did, not just wear the t-shirts of cheap grace that claims Jesus paid it all.  “IF any woman or man wants to follow me”, says Jesus, “she and he must take up the cross.”  “You must be completely changed,” says God, “You must be born all over again into spiritual life with Me.”

 

Once, again I must give you the brilliant words of A.W. Tozer on the reality that we should, as Christ followers bring daily “to earth as it is in Everywhere that Isn’t Earth = Heavens.

 

From The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer:

 

Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool.  Its destination has been determined by proper authorities.  Nothing can change it.  This is at least a faint picture of God’s sovereignty.

 

On board the liner are several scores of passengers.  These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will.  They eat, sleep, play lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

 

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other.  So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God.  The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history.  God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began  We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.

 

We know that God will fulfill every promise made to the prophets; we know that sinners will some day be cleansed out of the earth; we know that a ransomed company will enter into the joy of God and that the righteous will shine forth in the kingdom of their Father… and a new heaven and a new earth be established forever.

 

In the meanwhile things are not as smooth as this quick outline might suggest.  The mystery of iniquity doth already work.  Within the broad filed of God’s sovereign, permissive will the deadly conflict of good with evil continues with increasing fury. God will yet have His way in the whirlwind and the storm, but the storm and the whirlwind are here, and as responsible beings we must make our choice in the present moral situation.

 

Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of these is the law of choice and consequences God has decreed that all who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in the obedience of faith shall receive eternal life and become sons of God. He has also decreed that all who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last.

 

Reducing the whole matter to individual terms, we arrive at some vital and highly personal conclusions.  In the moral conflict now raging around us whoever is on God’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win.  Here there is no chance, no gamble.  There is freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it is made.  By the mercy of God we may repent a wrong choice and alter the consequences by making a new and right choice.  Beyond that we cannot go.”  (111,112 Tozer)

In closing, you can’t be a team player on the bench.  Prayer is your team huddle with the Coach but it is not playing the game.  We must put actions to God’s words in order to be in the Game.  Understanding the game, does not mean that I can rely on the Coach to play it for me.  No matter how many injuries I incur today out there, I have to pray for help from the Coach and then get out there and try to lose.  My Coach assures me: If you go out there in the fray of the Game and try to win for your own sake, Janie Karen, you will lose your life. But if you go out there and lose all for My sake, you will win.”

 

Rooting for the Losing Team of Jesus,

Jane

wanted-losing-soccer-team

 

 

 

 

 

Let Them Eat Cake by Jane Tawel

Let Them Eat Cake

by Jane Tawel

December 11, 2017

 

Do people who claim to follow The Christ, whom they believe to have been a man named Jesus, honestly think that their Messiah could pick and choose which Romans to make furniture for and which not to? Do they honestly not remember?  Before Jesus began his ministry, he worked at a job in a kingdom not God’s kingdom, called Rome — a long gone kingdom, that the United States is largely based on.  For thirty some years, Jesus “served cake” to good Jews, bad Jews, good Samaritans, bad Samaritans, Roman government officials, and Jewish Pharisees, Roman heterosexuals and Roman homosexuals.  It was a business. And an art, because — Like His Heavenly Father’s work when He joyfully created the world, and His earthly mentor Joseph’s work, when he taught Jesus how to work wood; Jesus created things.

For 30 years, Jesus ran a creative business –run by the only perfect Son of God who ever lived. If I read the words and biographies of this Jew named Jesus, I think Jesus was well aware that our practice of God’s laws, our service to God’s authority, our worship of the True God, involves what I do – not what others do.  What others do is up to God, not me.

When did we think that the work of our hands was meant to be used to proclaim our beliefs as a bludgeon rather than as a way for all the world to see a creative, loving God who is quite clear that He gives the rain to fall on the “evil” and the “good”?  When did we lose sight of the fact that all of fall into both of these categories — evil and good?

No matter what I believe about any particular choice of another human being, I am meant to use the same measure for myself.  If I claim to use the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as my guide, then I must immerse myself in their meaning for my place, time, and soul.

Shall I stop serving cake to divorced people?  How about people who lie? The Scriptures are very harsh on greedy people, shall I stop serving those I deem more sinfully greedy than myself? How about people who harass other people?  Why do I draw this line and not others if I am claiming a religious belief?  One should have to be consistent.  One should have to put a sign on one’s door that says: “I will only serve people whom I believe are not living in sin”.

If I stopped serving cake to people whom I thought were sinners, then to be Biblically consistent, I would have to never allow any one to serve cake to me again, that is for sure! Jesus was the King of this Kingdom of God’s while on earth and if you claim Christianity, He is the King of our Kingdom now –now, present and reigning. If I let Him.  If I follow His lead.  Jesus might laughingly say to us today, “Let them eat cake”, not as that capitalistic Queen of old might have said to keep the poor people in their places in her moronic inability to understand that some people were starving on her watch.  Jesus said, “let me serve you ALL cake”  this is my “cake” broken for you, take this in remembrance of me. Because all are welcome at my banquet.”  We should do likewise, if we want to put His name on anything—like our souls. Or our business.

I mean really, people, there are Christians today who want a job so badly they are willing to sell themselves as slaves. These are the people we need to be serving cake to.  There are people being beheaded for their faith in parts of the world today; there are people in places like Russia who have to worship behind closed doors. Are you honestly going to spend “God’s” money on suing people over whom you serve cake to and you do not serve cake to!?  Oh, and there are people in this very country who do not have enough money to buy cake.  Interestingly enough, there are Christians in this country experiencing reverse discrimination and not being allowed to get licenses because of speaking privately about their religious beliefs.  But this whole cake business, muddies the water when we as Christians try to point out when religious freedoms are truly threatened.

This cake business has nothing to do with any of your freedoms. It has to do with the freedoms we all get to experience in a place much like Rome.  Jesus came in the “fullness of time” to an Empire that would let Him worship His God in the way He believed was right to do. Until they didn’t.  Then they killed Him. We get to live in a country that from the beginning has allowed people to worship their God in the way they believe is the right way to do it.  It will be  a day of reckoning if when we who claim to be Christians stand before the Supreme Court of Jesus, and He has to say sadly, “Depart, I never knew you.  When you did it to the least of these, you were doing it to Me.”

In America, we have come to believe that money is the answer to everything, rather than God being quite able to stand up for Himself and us, if we let Him.  Instead of worshiping money as the answer or even America as the answer, we would do better to get back to work and glorify God in all we do, think and say.  God will win His own battles if they are truly His. If not, a little humility on our parts in what we understand and do not understand and a lot of humility in terms of how we treat others in the way we want to be treated might go a lot further than The Supreme Court.  If we believe in Jesus, we believe in a much higher court than that. Maybe we should try spending our money on people who truly have no freedom to worship God.  Or on people who are truly hungry.  Or better yet, on people who are hungry for truth, justice and love.  One served cake at a time.  We would do better to worship God in spirit and in truth, not on this mountain or that. And  better to get back to work. The time draws near – -Our King has Come, is Present, and Will Come Again.  Be ready.  Time to get my own cake shop in order.

Happy Birthday Jesus 3

 

 

Me, Myself, and I – Not

Me, Myself, and I – Not

by Jane Tawel

November 22, 2017

 

 

Gordon and I are re-watching the television series, “Psyche”.  We love it.  In the last episode, Shawn insisted that he was bringing back the use of “Not!” at the end of statements to indicate that he really meant the opposite. This grammatical conceit is used as in my saying this morning, “I am going to get the house completely cleaned in the next hour -NOT!” Gus assured Shawn, that bringing back “not”,  would not be happening. And this episode aired in 2008. Fast forward to 2017, and here I am not so much insisting that I am bringing phrases like “not”, and “cool” and “psyche-out” and “radical” and “whatever” back, as much as I have never let them go.

 

Sometimes in moments of depression and doubt, or insecurity springing up as a downer from the high ride of pride, I am reminded that according to what I say I believe, it is not supposed to be “about me” at all.  I am teaching grammar again to students, and I am a stickler for the correct use of “I” as subject and “me” as object.  But as a wannabe Jesus follower, the truth is, I am at the best of what I was created to be when I allow myself to be the object being acted upon. It is when I start getting lost in the idea that it is “I” who controls or “I” who is right as in “right-eous”, that I end up feeling most displaced and disgruntled and depressed.

Thankfully in English, we write “I” small — only one little letter. It should make it easier to replace it with something longer, like the eternal word, Yahweh or Jehovah or Messiah.  If I would only take “I” out of my life sentences, then there could be only “He”.  And then those “life sentences” would not be an imprisonment in the egotistical-hopelessness I so often wallow in, but a “Life-sentence” of being dead to self, but alive in Christ. When I was in high school, we were asked to choose a “life verse”. I should have picked something that promised me financial blessings and a guardian angel to tote around, but instead I chose Galatians 2:20:  “For I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live.  Yet, not I but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Notice that all the “I”s in this verse are preceded or followed by “nots”. Even the positive actions have to do with dying to my–self.

Now don’t even get me started on the abuse of people’s use of the word “myself”.  I think people mistake it for a fancier grammatical form of “I”, but folks, I am here as a grammar guru to tell you, It  ain’t that.  However, in my life verse, Paul, the author, could have correctly said, “Yet, not I, myself, but Christ lives in me”. There we have it.  The unholy trinity of me, myself and I,  must give way to the Holy Trinity, of I crucified in Christ, God working in me, and the Holy Spirit in my–Self.

Eugene Petersen has been a big help during these my days of Weltschmurz.  He writes in A Long Obedience in The Same Direction  of perseverance:

We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us.  Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms.  It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.(133)

Petersen goes on to interpret Hebrews 12: 1,2 this way: “Strip down, start running– and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

I love the chastisingly ironic, hilarious way that Petersen interprets this, when he calls me out for my ridiculous complaints and whines about myself.  Petersen mocks my taking myself so seriously when he says that The Christ “put up with anything” and then lists first the cross, then shame, and finally “whatever” –showing my comparison of my “sufferings” to The Christ’s sufferings as  my little ridiculous “whatevers”.  Petersen clues right in to the fact that not only am I not taking up the literal cross of Christ, but I have somehow magnified my petty problems, insecurities and complaints to the level of the things that Jesus “put up with”. Jesus might well respond, “Whatever!”.

Perhaps I am wrong to correct my students if they use the word “me” as the subject in a sentence where God is the compound subject matter.  God and “me” can do much, much more together, than God and “I”. The life that I now live, I must live by the faith of, in, and through the Son of God.  It is time we went back to memorizing prepositions. Oh, to understand the words of St. Francis, when He prays that Christ will live out every prepositional phrase in, through, above, below, around, before, behind and within Francis’ life.  You see, Students, prepositions can never be followed by a subject like “I” but only by a direct object, like me.  And God will never insist on removing me from the subject matter of my own life, but will always offer to act in and through me as the direct object of His loving grace-filled prepositional will.

 

Speaking of Language Arts, though –Oh, those Germans — they do have the best words for things. God’s Word tells us that when we are approaching a time of Thanksgiving, as we are this week, but we instead feel ” Weltschmurz” or weary of the world, then we should cry out: “Inner Schweinehund!”  Inner Schweinehund is that little voice that tells you to get up off the couch, you selfish pig-hound (so much more motivating than couch potato) and do something, go running. Inner Schweinehund is just super fun to say.

Speaking of my beloved son, Gordon is in a “boot”, complete with crutches,  for a couple months, after having fractured his foot. A boot is not as cool as a cast, and I suspect they do it for profit margin — just sayin’. I might sign the black boot  in neon sharpie anyway, something, like: “Your Dad and I tried to warn you, Love, Mom”. It is a long process of healing, and for a nineteen year old, it really cramps his style (and his foot, his shoulder, his leg, his arms) — no driving, no long showers, no bike riding. So he, like so many of us in tough situations brought on by our own choices, begin to wonder, well really, who am I and what am I good for? At my age, it seems like every single day and definitely every single night,  I wonder, who am I and what am I good for?  But perhaps more frighteningly, when I wake up in the dead watches of the night, or return from the funeral of a young person, or watch people  morally implode, but mostly when I find myself  looking back and sideways and forward at the choices I have made and still make,  I more often wonder, who is God and what is He good for? When I get focused on me, myself, and I, I am content and at peace-NOT! When I lose focus on God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit, then I am lost in the subjective subject of I and I alone. If I keep God as the Subject who acts even when I sleep then even, if not perfected, I  persevere. And I am assured in God’s promises, that perseverance is the long-game, the marathon, the way to faith, hope, love, and joy .

So, for Gordie and me, I recently pulled up the attached video of the Hoytes: Vater and Sohn —  and was reminded that I am not and have never, ever been the dad running a marathon  but I am always and  have always been the son who is in the wheel chair. And when I listen to this song and see the hands, and thighs, and back muscles of this father straining to push his son to the finish line, I weep, because I can see how helpless I am in life’s metaphoric wheelchair, unless I ask my Father to run the race for and in me. In this video, as in life, if I crucify myself, then the Great “I Am” can enable me to run any race this world has to offer. If I make myself the direct object of The Father’s love, then He can push me and pull me through – Whatever. It is when I see and follow the Savior whose nail-scared hands, and thighs, and back muscles pushed all of us to the Finish Line, that I have the perseverance to keep living goodness, and the experience promised peace that passes all understanding. I just need to remember that every day is a shot at winning a new Iron Woman competition, and every day, the starting line is redrawn. So I must moment by moment  ask Jesus to crucify “I”, and live in “me” and help me persevere with joy derived from His strength pushing me through in the Great Race of Life. In the video of the Hoyts’ race, look at the absolute joy on the son’s face as he crosses the finish line. That is what all those who crucify me, myself and I will some day experience when they come before the Throne, the joy of hearing from a God who did it All and pushed us through Life’s Race– saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come on across your life’s finish line and receive the crown of thorns turned to a crown of Olympic Gold”.

The only reason I have ever crossed any literal or metaphoric finish line, has nothing to do with “I”, but because “me” is the direct object of God’s movement through and love in and for the world.  So, German language, take a back seat to this English teacher because Me am totally psyched out by the radical and cool love of my Daddy, Yahweh. And I say to you my silly Weltschmurz – Whatever!

I…. Not.  God…Yep-erroo!   That is how me became thankful to see some of my own handicaps today. The opposite of  “I” in God, is not “I-Not”, but You-Yes acting in me – Yes!”  That is who I am when I am best, crucified with Christ yet living powerfully and free. Because that is who God is when He is working in and through me – a good, good Daddy. That is the Thanks – giving of perseverance, the Less of me and the Yes of Christ. In German, this wholeness, and peacefulness is “ganz und friedlich”. In Hebrew, it is shalom.  In English, well, let’s just say peace in and Peace Out!

Psalm 136: 1  “Give thanks to The Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever”.

Team Hoyt and the song: “I Know My Redeemer Lives”  :

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