The Broken Circle — Thoughts after Fiddler on The Roof and Another Killing in America

The Broken Circle

By Jane Tawel

April 28, 2019

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Yesterday afternoon, while Raoul and I were being metaphorically “blown away” by the eternally classic and in this production, at the Pantages Theatre, phenomenally performed “Fiddler on the Roof”, more people, in my country this “land of the free”, were being literally blown away because they are Jewish. The horrible “inhuman” who did this latest evil, said in his obvious and utterly hateful stupidity, that one of his inspirations was the greatest Jewish human who ever lived, Jesus, who some believe was the Jewish Messiah. I wish I could say, oh, how ironic, but this surpasses irony which I usually get at least some enjoyment out of noting.  This claiming Jesus the Jew as inspiration for violence against Jews, is instead a meta-example of what I have come to believe is the worst plague ever visited upon humans – the plague of ignorant hatred. It is the sickness that happens when people let their hatred make them stupid. It is the stupidity that we allow when we do not teach people the difference between right and wrong. It is the false sense of identity we get when we allow ourselves to choose traditions that are easy to keep and a religion unmoored from its historical basis. It is what people who call themselves “little Christs” do when they focus on something other than the traditions God has entrusted them with as followers of Yahweh.

 

If we as humans do not start trying to figure out and teach truthfully, intelligently, humbly about The God of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Deborah, and David – and frankly, also the God of Ishmael, Jesus, and Paul– we will continue to live with the violence born from our godless fear of “the other”, whomever that “other” happens to be. If we do not see “the other” as we do the  men and women we like so much at a distance, those we choose to accept as Jews if they  entertain us on our televisions or that we like to claim as our own now, those Jewish heroes we like to quote from like Joshua or Jonah—if we do not change our hearts and do something about the continuing prejudices that lead to yet another tragedy– then we are not following a God that we claim to find in The Bible.  Oh, we all love Tevye, that iconic Jew in the musical – the one that makes us laugh and cry, that Jew that we “all just love!” as long as he stays on the stage and doesn’t talk back to us. But if we don’t teach our children more than a few musical song and dance routines about a God and the people He has chosen to carry-on the traditions of the type of faith and worship that God has given and required of all human beings, of all nations and tribes –then we will keep waking up to a world where our own personal Sabbaths are in vain and our traditions of faith are nothing more than the lies of entitlement we cling to.

 

We have to do something more than shake our heads and talk; especially those of us who want to be “grafted on” to Jesse’s tree,  but who seem to have tragically and perilously thrown out the tree and kept just our “Christian” lopped off branches. We have thrown out the traditions that all God’s Chosen People are encouraged – nay! required to follow. We have stopped telling the Passover Story. We have stopped meditating on the stories of redemption that God commands His people to humble themselves with in the telling. “Remember, I am the God who brought you out of Egypt”, God says with every single command He gives. We have used the current and modern nation of Israel as an un-criticised and misunderstood shield against truthfully figuring out who exactly does God choose as His. We have thrown out Shabbat and Sabbath rest and replaced it with some psychological feel-good pep talks by well-paid speakers, followed by brunch, shopping and football.  We have thrown out the study of Torah and the meditation on the Tanakh and refused to accept that the One we claim to be The Son of God had only those books of Torah to teach him and bring Him close to God’s Kingdom on Earth. We have stopped creating circles of peace and instead have formed lines of entitlement.

 

As I watched the character of Golde, the Jewish mama in the play, prepare the Shabbat Seder meal, unbeknownst to me at a Passover Shabbat meal preparation in San Diego, Jewish families were once again mourning the tragic persecution of loved ones due to the prejudice against Jews the world has long stoked and looked away from. I sat in my cushy, front and center chair—the tickets were a wonderful, special gift from my daughter for my husband’s birthday. My daughter, Verity, has a tradition of gifting us with extravagant tickets to plays, concerts, shows that we otherwise would not see. It is a tradition born out of her love and generous heart.

 

In the play, Tevye too, has a deep love and a generous heart, for his family, just like my daughter. Tevye also has a tradition of taking his problems off to one side and talking in asides to God. This has been a tradition for centuries of course, of the men and women who talk to God. Talking to God can be done as a group- event, but it really works best when done in humbled solitude and in private – just the human being talking with and listening to The God-Being. There are famous recorded asides to God even before God chose the Hebrews to talk with and listen to. What is considered possibly the earliest book of the Bible has a long and famous aside by a character called Job.  Abraham went in private off to one side  and gambled with God over Lot and the ten good men he hoped God could find in Sodom.  Moses spent forty days in that historically famous aside with God on the mountaintop, receiving the Torah and God’s commands for the people that God alone could lead to the Promised Land. Samuel, who became a great prophet of the Jews wouldn’t have existed without the private prayers that Hannah his mother, would pray alone to her God, begging Him to hear her cries. Later, Mary, the mother of Jesus would, as an aside, recite a Hebrew psalm of praise for her chosen status as a poor and persecuted Jewish woman, who was nevertheless to be highly exalted because she as a Jew, was  called to do God’s will. And then there is that Jewish man, that my own religious tradition holds to be our Savior.  That Jew named Jesus spent more time in asides  and in prayer to Yahweh, God of the Hebrews, than he did in talking with the characters in his own story.

 

But as I watched Tevye and Golde, Lazar Wolf, and Yente, and all those amazing characters brought to life by the actors on stage; and as Tevye walked to one side of the stage to say in an aside to his God: “God I know we are Your chosen people but every once in a while couldn’t You choose someone else?” –as I laughed with the ironic humor of Tevye’s words — a Jewish woman named Lori Kaye had been shot dead, and three people were injured —  Noya Dahan, an eight year old Jewish girl who is just a little younger than that  famous and in the hindsight of history beloved Jewish girl named Anne Frank; and the Jewish Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, and a Jew named Almog Peretz – those Jewish people were not walking off stage after gathering for the traditional prayers to their God.  Those Jewish people from the Chabad Synagogue in Poway – those Jewish people were joining the age-old tradition of people being targeted, persecuted, and killed because, and only because – they are Jewish.

 

This phenomenal production I saw, of “Fiddler” stays true to the historical time and place of the original: “The Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia around 1905”.  Of course, it must stay true to the setting in a play that is as historically specific as this one.  But there is one slight change the director made that for me made a world of difference.

 

At the top of the show at the gorgeous and glorious Pantages Theatre, the patriarch, the “Papa”, Tevye, walks onto a completely bare stage. He is not yet dressed in the garb of a poor 1905 Russian Jew. The actor comes out, minus the head covering that Jewish men wear to humble themselves and to show that God is over and above them in power and respect.  He is minus the tallit, whose four tasseled corners will hang down from Tevye’s waist throughout the performance.  The tallit is worn by Jewish men because they are commanded in the Torah, “to recall all the commandments of the Lord, Your God, and to observe them”.  Tevye, that iconic and beloved Jew of fiction, comes out instead as modern man in a maroon anorak, hatless, his brown, slightly greying hair curling up like a halo around his ears, wearing modern eyeglasses pushed up on his trim nose, looking like any one you might currently meet on any street in America. In the actor’s hands, he carries a small leather book that he is silently reading. He just stands there for a bit in silence, reading something in the pages of the book.  And then without speaking yet, he hands the book off to another villager  just then coming onto the stage, whisks off his red winter coat, to reveal underneath, his costume as Tevye, and the play begins with the introduction to the song, “Tradition”.

 

At the end of “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye’s entire village is forced to leave their homes and livelihoods and although they have no money and little means, they are forced to find somewhere else to live. Tevye, Golde and their two remaining young daughters are off to throw themselves on the kindness of a relative who lives in America.  One of Tevye’s daughters and son-in-law are going to Warsaw, Poland. It hit me for the first time yesterday, that the author of the musical’s book probably chose Warsaw as a foreshadowing of what would happen to the Jews there, just as it was happening to them in the musical’s setting of pogrom-ready Russia.  It hit me, as I sat in my plush theatre seat yesterday, when I heard the hopeful young couple tell their parents, Tevye and Golde that they would join them soon in America – I thought, they will never make it to America.  They will die in Poland. The little Jewish baby that Tevye’s daughter holds in her arms will be about thirty-four years old when Germany invades Poland.

 

Meanwhile, another Jewish woman – a descendant of a Jewish couple who surely had to flee somewhere in the world at some time in the world’s history– was dead in America and three others wounded, including a Rabbi. Six months earlier in Philadelphia, eleven other Jewish descendants of other Jews were targeted and slain. Tevye’s village leaves still holding on to a  strong hope for their futures, but of course we know in the audience, that soon the Jews will be slaughtered by the millions and the world will be witness to a holocaust that will only end when  metaphorically once more the Red Seas are parted and the hands and chariots of destruction of those who would eradicate God’s Chosen People are stayed again by the God who has promised to never break His covenant with His People.

 

As the play ends, and all the villagers carry their belongings away from the only home they have known, the character of the Rabbi carries only a large scroll. The Rabbi may have to leave his home with the others, but he will carry Torah with him wherever he goes. The characters, rather than leaving the stage one by one as in past productions, push carts of their belongings and walk single file, until they eventually are walking around and around the stage in a tight and closed circle. The circle of actors keeps going around and around, and in this show, the symbolic character of the fiddler on the roof, does not stay behind but rather joins Tevye and the others, to go fiddle precariously in a new and foreign land. The circling Jews are being expelled, being robbed of their goods and homes, having been beaten, separated from loved ones, imprisoned –but they are holding fast to their faith and wherever they go they will cling to their identities as God’s Chosen People and they will trust in The Lord Who Took Them Out of Egypt.

 

The Jews of “The Fiddler on The Roof” form a circle on the stage that keeps going round and round, and round – a circle of silent resignation; a circle of community that will stay strong no matter where they disperse to; a circle of hope for the future of God’s people born out of their suffering and yet intent on grasping at joy; a circle of identity they share, not in any nation—any nation—but only in God’s community of humble followers; a circle of tradition.

 

At the very last moment of “The Fiddler on the Roof”, when the audience expects to rise as one and applaud, suddenly, out of the circle of Russian 1905 Jewish characters, and without warning, steps the modern looking– maybe American? maybe European? maybe even Israeli or Palestinian– man?  He is dressed again, not in the peasant clothes of the character Tevye, but in the eyeglasses and the maroon anorak, minus the skull cap, minus the prayer shawl, with his greying hair uncovered before His God. And this modern-day Tevye comes silently out of the circle. It is Tevye, but it is not Tevye.  In his hands, the man holds that same leather-bound book and he is silently reading it. Then he looks up from the book, looks at the circling, circling, ever circling cast of Jewish men, women and children going around and around the stage, as if he is gazing at Jews on this spinning globe, going around and around the world. Then the man in the modern coat looks back at the book.  The circle of villagers begins to break apart and leave the stage until the man is left alone with the leather bound book. Finally, he looks up and out at us the audience, and then – did I see it or just imagine it? – he takes a quick look up at His God, the God of The Book, as if to ask in a private aside:

“God, when will this cycle of pain and persecution end? When will Your People live in safety and freedom and joy? When will the circle be unbroken, Lord?”

 

I Am Woman Hear Me Implore

 

 

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore

By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2019

 

Sometimes I really have to respond, and I found this was true recently when a young friend I know was struggling with some ideas about what he termed, “feminism”.  I have learned to my chagrin that it is often pointless to engage with people and other times I hold out hope. This time I decided to hope and my responding briefly to this man, in turn, led to this poem and enlarged meditation.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore

A Poem By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2019

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore!

Love stands ready at the door.

I am different, it is true.

But are we so disparate, I and you?

If I hurt you, will you not bleed?

Do we not suffer from the same needs?

Do men always have to throw in a spanner,

If I come at things in a unique manner?

And if I choose to use my heart,

Well, doesn’t that mean I’m just different-smart?

 

God doesn’t see me as mother or whore,

Oh, I am Woman! and I implore,

Please look at me, my friends and brothers,

Just as you would your beloved daughters.

And I promise you back, all you masculine ones,

I will love you as I would love my own son.

 

I Am Woman, and will not be labeled,

For I am strong and I am able.

But wouldn’t it be even more grand,

If we men and women would live life hand in hand?

 

I am Woman, a name Jesus could tell

To those like his own mother and the one at the well.

It’s a label befitting a daughter and queen

Who can rule with God in His World, yet unseen.

 

Oh, I am Woman, and I kindly implore,

Do not wait for heaven on some future shore.

We, brothers and sisters, can bring heaven to earth,

If we give no more labels but each other, true worth.

 

I Am Woman and I merely implore,

Love is ready and at the door.

 

We live in a world that makes me tired. And sad; one in which people seem to make up their minds based on either a herd mentality or a mistaken self-centered rationale. With these two attitudes, people justify pointing the finger at non-PLU’s. And rather than making a concerted effort to increase their intelligence or, God forbid, a desire to grow wiser, they argue their points to calm and address, not the world’s injustices, but their own “quiet lives of desperate fears”.  But I found I had to dredge it up within myself to get into the ring with this friend of mine, and by extension others, both male and female, and by using as much kindness but truth as I can muster.

 

The post was about “feminism”, a label that I guess is trending again and used by both women and men as if they all mean the same thing by it, which I am darn sure from reading and listening to what people say, that they do not. This recent post was about ideas the writer had on two kinds of people I have been at times identified with – Christians, and women. It intrigues me when someone purports to discuss something that I identify with, in this case, women. Especially when as in this case it is something this other person is not, since he is a man. The worst part of it for me was that he chose not to talk about women, but about “feminism”.  And I do get my dander up a bit and climb onto my high horse, whenever anyone has to choose a label for other human beings to express ideas or philosophies. I think using labels should be reserved for food that has an expiration date, not for human beings, and I dislike labels for people, whether that label is feminist, liberal, conservative, or vegetarian. I especially go into over -drive when the person using the label is not putting said label on him or herself as well as on others. But labeling is just as bad when used to identify myself with perhaps not enough actual proof that I am acting in ways, doing things that are implied by my label.  For instance, if I label myself a vegetarian because I am upset about the way animals are treated before becoming meat, but I am not doing anything else to protest the way animals are treated, well, then do I honestly think my labeling myself is going to do any good for any one? I just metaphorically want to take all the little label makers and devices in the world and run them until they are all out of paper or plastic or metal or whatever they use to make labels, and force people to try to talk without the use of sticky notes. Labels do imply sticky issues, though, don’t they? This sticky-wicket issue I have with labels is one reason I just can’t use the shorthand labels I used to use for myself, like “Christian”, or “Independent” or even sometimes the label, “American”. But I am still rather proud and content to be labeled “woman”.

 

When men decide to discuss “feminism”, I need to point out that the attitudes of men are usually very obvious to us women, no matter what men say or how they may spin it. The underlying male belief that somehow feminism is about them, would be hilarious if it were not part of the problem. Men are almost always in positions of power so that even if they talk about change, it is excruciatingly apparent, from the metaphors they choose and the language of their “pep talks” to women that they see little risk they themselves will need to change. For people who claim a worldview of “Christianity”, I can only suggest that they might want to meditate on the greatest person who was ever labeled a feminist– Jesus Christ.

 

It’s not such a bad idea for all people around the globe, whatever religion they might label themselves with, to frankly and humbly start looking at the radicalization of stereotypes that the religion of the Hebrews originally espoused and that Jesus Christ took to the next level. This is in fact what all those who have managed to change the world have done. It is what Gandhi did. It is what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. It is what Mother Teresa did. It is what Nelson Mandela did. It is what Jesus did. And it is what the women who became disciples of Jesus did, long before the word “feminism” arrived as fodder. Sadly, even those early Jewish female world changers have had to take a back seat, a Rosa Parks type seat, in the pantheon of world-changers.

 

And I’m sorry but much of this prejudiced injustice is actually done by the spreading of misinformation,  sleight of hand, and the rewriting of history – even to the point that books that are meant to be holy, like Christianity’s New Testament,  are rewritten to deny women the first places they deserve, not just the honorable mentions they sometimes get. When we put labels on strong women who want to change the world for the good of others, we are using the power of words to deny the righteousness of their cause. If these ideas about feminism that I am raising, make a man uncomfortable as even just the word “feminism” tends to do, then if he wants to grow and be wise, or especially if he wants to claim to think like God thinks, he should figure out why it makes him uncomfortable. Because the bottom line is that men have been making women “uncomfortable” for centuries.

 

Where I personally start on this is where I try to start on many things, especially in this day and age. I forbid myself the luxury of labels. When we label people, we are on a very, very slippery slope and eventually, labeling people lets those who have the power gain even more power over those people they stereotype as “lesser -thans”. Labeling has been the justification for a world of horrific things; from the American justification of slavery to the Nazis’ justification of The Holocaust. Does it not frighten you as much as it does me, that no matter where you are living today in the globe, the people in power –power in the halls of governments, in the temples and churches and mosques of religions; power in educational institutions, and the powers of color and monetary status– are once again justifying their shorthand labeling of those not like themselves, in order to gain more power to act unjustly, to deny people basic human needs, to destroy?

 

I have come to absolutely hate labels like “liberal”, “conservative”, “feminist”, “evangelical” etc., because frankly most people use those labels  — either for others or themselves—to merely choose a shorthand for their prejudices and / or their ignorance. They may be trying to hide their prejudices from others so as not to be judged, but often I think they are hiding their prejudiced minds and angry, frightened hearts from themselves. When we hide things about ourselves from ourselves it enables us not to have to work at being a better person and not to have to change. Changing ourselves could lead to changing the world, and that, especially for those already with any amount of power over others, is frightening.

 

For those of us who want somehow to follow a God who chooses women, people of color, and poor people to change the world, we must learn to identify ourselves  first, foremost, and only with The God  who labels us images of Him. We must study and choose to live in The Way of a man-god who spoke to women as equals. We should tremble to label ourselves “little-Christs”. For if we label ourselves as those who are like Jesus, then we will be judged on the way we are causing others to label The Christ. If men must be careful, we women need to be equally careful that we do not fall into the trap of setting ourselves apart, neither reveling in our  strength or in our weakness, neither choosing a feminist role lived in antagonism to men nor in an anachronistic feminine attempt to live in the past.

 

We all, men and women, must always be referred back to our lives in Christ and our need to understand what God tried to tell us in various ways through His Word and revelations. In terms of human gender and sexuality, we are called to such a different idea about what is important and what is not, what is meant to be different between us and what is not, and what most importantly of all, we will all be changed into when we are made like Jesus in His Kingdom. It is no amount of irony that some of the people who have lived on this earth have been most like Christ while not being at all “Christian”.  And I fear labeling anyone a  “Christian” today comes with more dangers and flat out lies than is worth any amount of identification short-hand. It is ironic that the term “Christian” was used originally as a demeaning label by those in power, and was not used by those who followed the Jewish religion of The Christ. This of course was at the same time that being labeled a “woman” was as destructive as any profiling has been in the history of the world.

 

There once was a man named Saul who was a really prejudiced guy; a racial profiler, a misogynist, an intelligent but completely wrong-headed, wrong-hearted evangelical –a guy who labeled others so he could use his power as a religious leader against them. Then this guy named Saul had a real encounter with a God who refused to pick people to serve Him based on their labels. That God chose Saul, despite all the labels I have just given him.  And that man spent the rest of his life trying to tear down the walls of prejudice that had been built around the city of God’s love. Saul, who became Paul, spent the rest of his life teaching and believing that a community of God-followers is meant to be a kingdom on earth where all peoples, tribes and genders are welcomed, and respected, and honored, and equal, and yes, even loved. Tragically, much of what is now attributed to Paul, maybe most especially those that some people quote about women and men, were added later as falsehoods or “tweaks” by the religious and government leaders who rose in the ranks of power. But Paul did write down some important words we should take to heart when we are labeling others. As Saint Paul learned after equal parts of suffering and joy, in the Kingdom of God, there is “neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, liberal nor conservative, misogynist nor feminist”.

 

If as Charis Kramarae has said “feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”, then the radical notion of the Judeo-Christian worldview, is that human beings are gods and God’s. As a woman, I must strive to see others in the way that “The IAM Who Refuses All Labels” sees them. I must pray as we were taught to pray by “He Who Refused to See Others as Stereotypes”. And I must treat others in the here and now, so that it may be so in us, uniquely created, equally worthy, “on earth, as it is anywhere God is truly present.”

 

 

 

 

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore

A Poem By Jane Tawel

April 24, 2019

I Am Woman, Hear Me Implore!

Love stands ready at the door.

I am different, it is true.

But are we so disparate, I and you?

If I hurt you, will you not bleed?

Do we not suffer from the same needs?

Do men always have to throw in a spanner,

If I come at things in a unique manner?

And if I choose to use my heart,

Well, doesn’t that mean I’m just different-smart?

God doesn’t see me as mother or whore,

Oh, I am Woman! and I implore,

Please look at me, my friends and brothers,

Just as you would your beloved daughters.

And I promise you back, all you masculine ones,

I will love you as I would love my own son.

I Am Woman, and will not be labeled,

For I am strong and I am able.

But wouldn’t it be even more grand,

If we men and women would live life hand in hand?

 

I am Woman, a name Jesus could tell

To those like his own mother and the one at the well.

It’s a label befitting a daughter and queen

Who can rule with God in His World, yet unseen.

 

Oh, I am Woman, and I kindly implore,

Do not wait for heaven on some future shore.

We, brothers and sisters, can bring heaven to earth,

If we give no more labels but each other, true worth.

I Am Woman and I merely implore,

Love is ready and at the door.

jesus and men and women

The Saturday Between A Poem by Jane Tawel

 The Saturday Between

By Jane Tawel

April 20, 2019

Today is the day that should set us apart.

Not yesterday– everyone dies.

And tomorrow remember –the ones whom He knew

Were still afraid or just surprised.

 

 

Today is the day we should soberly start

To ask ourselves Who He might be.

And what it might mean if we take up his name,

And die with Him on our own Tree.

 

This Saturday when we are rushing around

Just doing whatever we do in our town,

Well, that is the day Jesus lay in a tomb

So that I could be born again in Yahweh’s womb.

 

So this — this is the day that I should be changed

In anticipation of molecules rearranged.

For the Savior who on this day in the grave rested

Tomorrow He will rise and be resurrected.

 

If I want to be different

And call myself a small Christ,

I must stay dead on Saturday

And that is a small price,

Compared to the sacrifice God made today,

When He stood by in heaven while His Son in death lay.

 

In Saturday’s tomb we can find God ‘s own Son

And there we will know the true depth of God’s love.

We too will one day meet our own mortal decay

Just like Jesus Christ did on this Saturday.

 

And so that Tomorrow I may be resurrected,

I dare not  make Saturday  — this day – neglected.

Oh, yes Saturday’s holy, a day to be respected

For Sunday’s a-comin’! And Our Lord’s Resurrected!

Hope is Not Now – an essay by Jane Tawel

Hot-Milk-and-Honey-Drink-3-e1534191191487

 

Hope is Not for Now

By Jane Tawel

March 23, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Zombies in Your Head

Zombies In Your Head

By Jane Tawel

March 2, 2019

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

“Zombie”
(originally by The Cranberries)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Cranberries: Zombie

https://youtu.be/6Ejga4kJUts

Bad Wolves:  Zombie

 

 

Selah:  O, Sacred Head Now Wounded

One Small Pebble – A poem

One Small Pebble

By Jane Tawel

February 17, 2019

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From Dorothy Day: “What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do.… We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”

 

One Small Pebble

By Jane Tawel

Today I threw a pebble in the pond

The pond I’ve been assigned to;

I’d rather walk as Jesus walked,

Than grow moss upon a cold pew.

 

The first pebble that I threw

Was singing songs beside some Jews.

I sat in synagogue with them

And praised the God of Bethlehem.

I looked at faces, like my Lord’s

And ghostly hordes from holocausts,

And felt quite humbled by my tossed,

Small pebble of such little cost.

 

The second pebble that I threw

Was picking up the trash from you.

I didn’t use my gloves or sack

But just my hands to show the lack

Of love we feel for this mocked world.

The planet is My Father’s Pearl,

He treasures it as would a girl.

God loves the earth, the sky and sea

And that is why He planted me.

And by my awkward kneeling down

And worship, as I clean the ground,

And suffer for those able rebels,

I hope that others might throw pebbles;

By picking trash I missed today,

And following Jesus in His Way.

 

 

Another thing I had to do

Was cast some cash to the small crew,

That sleeps outside in my town’s park,

And oft reminds me of the stark,

Injustice that our world has spawned,

Increasing darkly since the Dawn

When Eden was first given us–

As something Good that God could trust

To us, His loved Imago Dei.

God fashioned us from common clay,

And gave us powers to rule the earth,

But ever since our sin was birthed,

We look upon this life as right

And choose not nourishment but fight.

 

And that reminded me that I

Should pray for enemies that lie

And tell the world they are in power

And do not fear the coming hour

When all the nations’ high built towers,

Will before Justice kneel and cower.

 

Ah, do we not regard the One,

Who claimed to be God’s only Son

And told us if we did not cry,

“Hosanna to the God on high”;

that all our faith would be just talk,

and God could get the praise from rocks!

 

It is not wealth nor earthly might

That can restore the world, once bright;

No, only we can make things right,

By seeking Justice, Goodness, Light.

Just one small act, but not one random,

But one that’s tethered to the Ransom

Of God, that Fisher of our shoals,

Who loves each lost and broken soul.

 

Oh God, who hurled out our small Mass,

May Thou, now seen through smoggy glass,

One day restore each stream and tree–

And let Your work begin in me.

 

So I pitch puny pebbles few

And hope that maybe when I do,

Against the tide of moral drought,

Those pebbles small will circle out

And like the pebble David hurled,

Will slay the Evils of this World.

I do not wear protective gloves,

Because there is no fear in Love.

And just because I claim each time

That some such problem is not mine;

I must confess that Good not done

Is just as bad as sins that are.

Because I’m guilty of this mess

And find the only way to bless,

The name of Yahweh is to walk

The walk and not to merely talk

About the change I wish to see.

The changes must begin with me.

 

If only all we foolish rebels,

Will keep on throwing our small pebbles,

Then ripples will in time expand,

To heal our hearts, and heal our land.

“A tiny human pebble”, you say,

“Will never Evil’s Giants slay”.

And yet, it was a pebble trivial,

That made small David, king of Israel.

And there was just a tomb’s small stone,

Preventing Jesus from His throne.

And when Christ rolled that stone away,

He rose from Death’s final decay.

 

We too can see the World’s perfection

By joining Christ in resurrection.

But first we must get dirty hands;

Tear down our towers built on sand.

We need to wash each other’s feet

And watch converging circles meet;

In streams of Love, my Rock, I fling

to truly imitate my King.

My circle that conjoins with yours

Can truly change the whole wide world.

Because by now it’s widely known

That Jesus is the Cornerstone.

He chose to heal and not throw stones,

And sent us out to be atoned.

And by His love He does persuade us,

to heal the world that He has made us.

And that’s best done avoiding trouble,

By merely picking up the rubble

And humbly, small-ly getting rid of,

Any thing that is not True Love.

For Truth and Love survive all clocks.

 

And so I fill my life with rocks,

To throw in God’s provided pools,

And join the cast of many fools,

Who think small actions can change Spheres;

As Christ’s return draws ever near.

For only if our nets we cast,

In Pools of Love, will this Life last.

 

The God-man who upon the cross,

Began new life with one small toss,

Will one day call us to His docket;

And count what’s hoarded in our pockets.

The Christ hurled all His power aside

And gave His life for His soiled Bride.

If I want to by God be known,

Then I must rid my heart of stones,

And empty out my life and heart

By throwing pebbles for my part;

And whether that seems worldly smart,

By foolish love of Earth I’ll chart

My course –as just one tiny stone–

Tossing it all before God’s throne.

 

God’s Kingdom Come

His Will be Done,

On this Blue Stone

As in His  Home.

 

And while the preachers would coerce;

I thrust my hands inside my purse,

And hope by serving from my case,

The pebbles, with a joyful face;

I’ll show the Love, that for someone,

Will show the Love of God’s own Son.

Because this planet given to us,

Has now become so treasonous;

That by our fallen-ness and sin,

We will have brought World’s bitter end;

But only then God will be able,

To bring His Kingdom Ever Stable.

And then the King will on His throne,

Reward the ripples of small stones.

For one day all the world will tremble

Before The Christ, God’s One Small Pebble.

As Dorothy Day much more eloquently does in her writing, my hope and prayer, if you have chosen to read this far, is that you will discover that you have been given much and that your pockets are filled with the Good pebbles that God has given you. I hope you will begin to see as I am beginning to see that as The Christ said, “it is only by throwing out one’s life, that one truly gains Life.” I hope that what will be revealed are the small pebbles that the Beatitudes call the blessings of the poor in spirit; and that we will have courage to throw the pebbles out; tossing them one by one in the pools of our own particular lives, and in that way, change the world, one ripple of love at a time. The Ecclesiast in wisdom, advises to “throw your bread upon the waters; for you will find it after many days.” I hope if you are reading this and lack any good thing, that you will find the ripples of Goodness, Truth, and the Love of God cast upon the waters that are rippling toward you where you live today. If you have been given much, as I have, and realize that because of that, one day much will be required of us; I hope you might find joy in picking up someone else’s trash today, or give some of your money to make life a little simpler for someone else. Ultimately, as Ms. Day said,  and as God says in His Word, even better –there is absolutely nothing worth doing but loving.

“Now these three things only will remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is Love” (Paul of Tarsus, a lover and servant of Adonai, The One True God)