Permissive Advent

Permissive Advent

by Jane Tawel

December 2, 2019

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This I read today from Jorg Zink—”Take the path that leads inward through the days of Advent. Set aside for yourself, if it is possible, time to breathe in; time to stop feeling that you’re on the run or under stress. Allow something to happen inside you. Turn your thoughts and hopes to the things that count.. . . “We humans contribute to the world’s gloom, like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. What is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith. This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love. You may not believe it, but you can love this world. It is a place of God. It has a purpose. Its beauty is not a delusion. You can lead a meaningful life in it.”

From Doors to the Feast, by Jorg Zink

 

I am beginning this Season of Advent, by seeking better practices of listening.  And to switch up St. Paul’s words, but I hope, not his intent, one way I hope to celebrate the onslaught of God’s Son living with us in this world, is to “set my mind on” the present Presence amongst us on earth, and not a wishful wannabe in a heavenly future. As Jorg Zink writes, I hope to “turn my hopes and thoughts toward the things that count”.

 

I have spent a lifetime communicating as a writer, teacher, parent, spouse, daughter, co-worker, and friend. But Advent is a good time to remember a man who was born as a baby and who excelled not only in communicating truth and love but in listening.  To listen not only to other human beings, but to listen to the very Earth herself seems to me a life-practice I have too often missed-out on, and I have been sadly suspectful that “merely” listening is not something valuable, active, and meaningful.

 

Listening seems so passive, and of course, for some people it is. It took me years to realize that the reason I talk so much and have so much outer-moving energy is because I think (and fear) that if I am not verbally responding, physically engaging, facially and bodily moving, and passionately involved with others, then I am not giving. In other words, I am so afraid of taking  and so anxious to connect in meaningful ways with any humans within reach, that I overdo the communicating bit. It took me years to understand why I am so depleted after work or social events or even just a car ride or dinner with a family member. It is because I was never really allowed to just be by myself or be quiet around others. I am the “cheerleader”, “stage-manager” who always just wanted to be what she was at heart, a nerdy introvert. So when I am with other people, I am caught-up in my own need to “give” of myself.  This is not altruistic, I realize; it is rather more like a hidden, undiagnosed phobia or syndrome. And to make matters worse, as an empath, listening to others, for me, means feeling everything the other person is feeling, taking it in, and not having anywhere to put it but back out there to “solve” or “help”,  or stored away smoldering and moldering inside my own mind and heart.

 

People who are like I am, end up with running tracks in their brains that often spill out their mouths. We pour out so much, that eventually there is a backwash. Eventually, our communications often morph and change from giving, caring, wannabehelpful and useful bodies of relational communication to unlivable, unsustainable towers of babble. Inside, we end up running along the lines that add tracks of worry to our faces, and fill us with secret fears and criticisms; and these can easily derail, leading off to side-tracks and runaway ramps of angst, anger, and hopelessness.

 

Advent is a time of permissions.  It is a time when lowly, stinky, homeless people were given permission to hobnob with kingly Magi.  It is a time when it was permitted to not just believe in angels, but to sing with them.  Advent gives us permission to come into the light, and stand, kneel, or dance before God. Advent gives us permission to love the world as The Creator loves it. It gives us license to believe there was once a God-man who loved the world enough to be born into it, even though He already had a different and better home; a God-man who had so much hope for and faith in the world and other human beings, that He thought he had enough love to make a difference; and so God gave Jesus permission to live in the world with all of its darkness, and to care for all of its brokenness, and even to die for its future. Now, The Christ waits for our permission to open the door, to let him turn on the lights, and to listen to him teach us how to be like him.

 

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, or not do, this Advent Season?  As you await, anticipate, engage with, and hope for what will born in and with you, what can you do now to prepare for what will give you more purpose and more joy in the journey?  You may find the answer surprising, as I have.  You may find that in not doing something you think you must do, there will be more meaning to not just this super-imposed upon us season, but more meaning to your life. For some it may mean, not buying, not going, not giving (just because it’s a Tuesday), not resisting standing out, or not staying silent but speaking up.  For me, this Advent will begin with instructing my heart to not being afraid to wholly and holy be a listener.  For me, I am giving myself permission to seek a heart of silent anticipation and to practice truly listening. I am giddy with anticipation of what I might hear. I am also a little afraid of what people might think or how I might feel (or not feel).  Maybe you feel the same about finally speaking up or speaking out? Maybe you are afraid to put yourself out there? But we don’t need to fear each other or our own trials and errors in changing for the better, because as Jorg Zink says, this world is our home.  We are safe here. We are together in this. We make the world have its meaning, and it in turn, the world we make gives meaning to our lives.

 

Did you know that because sound and light are both waves, they can conceivably be converted into the other?  May my words become loving light and may your light be converted into the sounds of your truth. May the Light which we celebrate at Advent, give us all the sounds, both spoken and silent, sounding out and holding close,  truth, hope, faith, joy, and love. And may those of us who need permission to shout, shout “Hosanna!”. And those of us who need permission to listen, may we be “still, and know that He is God”.

 

Jesus came to give us permission to be specifically who we were meant to be, just as he was and is. God is among us, granting us permission to live in a Truth that is available and unassailable because it is purely and divinely Love. Christ in us, is our permission to live, and to live fully and meaningfully.

 

Today, how will you share who you are giving yourself permission to be?

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Illustrations by Julie Vivas, “The Nativity”

 

When God Goes High, I Must Go Low

When God Goes High, I Must Go Low

by Jane Tawel

November 20, 2019

 

 

Now. This. From J. Heinrich Arnold:

“God’s love is like water: it seeks the lowest place. Yet we cannot make ourselves humble and lowly in our own strength. We can see ourselves for what we are only in the light of God’s omnipotence, love, purity, and truth.”

And so I ask myself, “Jane, how low can you go”? How low must I go, to see myself as God sees me, lowly but somehow still, loved? Not loved for who I am, which is but a being made of dust and blown in the wind, but loved because of Who God Is. And the answer comes as a still, small voice: “Jane, you must get lower.”

 When God goes so High, I can go lower. I must go lower.

Remember playing  limbo with your friends?  It’s that game where you only win if you can bend over backwards and get down the lowest to the ground as you possibly can. That is how God says His Kingdom on earth is — the one who gets down to the lowest of the lows, the one who bends over backwards in order to move forwards, wins. In God’s upside-down Kingdom, the lowest of us will win.  The humblest becomes the most praised; the weakest becomes the strongest; the first becomes the last.

 

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How low does a human need to go, to truly understand how high above all things is The Lord God? We do not go low by suffering; all people suffer.  We do not go low by thinking that we are “servant-leaders”; we are called not to let the “right hand know what the left hand is doing”. We do not go low through “thoughts and prayers”; for “without love, we are but sounding gongs”, and as the Son of God asks, “Why do you call on me, ‘Lord, Lord’, but do not do as I do?”.

We are called to fear God; to fear the trials and temptations; to fear our failures as human beings. And to somehow, despite our great fear, and low nothingness, to “love the Lord God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength”. It is only when we fall upon the mercy of God, that He can lift us from the muck and mire.

And here is what I am incrementally discovering after all these years. The less I think of myself, the more pure gratitude I am suddenly surprised by. The more I die to my self-centered-ness, the more love I feel for being alive as myself. The lower I go, the closer God Is.

We awake to another day, another opportunity, and we play God’s Great Game of Limbo, while waiting in this current Time’s limbo. We can play lots of games in this life, you see them being played out daily by those sad fools who think they are winning. But God is clear that The Game of Life is won only by losing; that God is found, not by our hiding but by our seeking; and that hate is conquered only by loving others in the way God loves us.  We do not even “pass Go” if we are not caring for the Earth as if it were our own, when in fact it is Our Father’s.

We can only understand “how high, how wide, how deep Christ’s love is” by going as low as He did. We do it by loving those who drew the short straw, the lowest of the low in the world’s point of view, and by loving all those we come into contact with in the same way we want to be loved – with “God’s strength, love, purity, and truth”. We get down low and we get down and dirty.  We seek the level of God’s water.

And so we are called to pray not “dear god, bless me”; but “Dear God, we bless Your Name! Save us from our selves. Save us from Evil. Glorify Yourself. Show us Your compassion, on earth as it is All-Places Out There.”  And if you are at all like me, you will understand, when I simply pray, “Help!  Help!  Help us!  Help me! I can’t go lower without You. Help me.”

Note to self:  Today:  Must go lower. Must go lower. Must go lower.

Psalm 103:11-19

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

 

Must. Go. Lower.

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Photo “ijsje, de poolvos en de stormvogel houden een ijsbergrally” by De Vleermuis is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Part II: The Only Questions

Here is the promised Part II in my series, “The Only Questions You will Ever Need and Should Always Ask”.  Please click on my name in the picture below to be taken to my friend’s  page on Medium.com  Thanks as always for reading,  Jane

View at Medium.com