Tear Down Those Prison Walls

Tear Down Those Prison Walls and Run Free

By Jane Tawel

August 18, 2018

jesus-behind-bars-prison-wooden-figure-jesus-churc-church-easter-39923275

 

Meister Eckhart

As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God. Live as if you did not exist. Expect and ask nothing in return. Then the merchant inside you will be driven out of the temple God has made. Then God alone dwells there. See! This is how the temple is cleared: when a person thinks only of God and honors him alone. Only such a person is free and genuine.

 

This quote by Meister Eckhart expresses well what has been on my mind as I look at American Christianity in particular, and The Church in the world in 2018. In my own country, it seems that the curtain has been suddenly and violently pulled back revealing the underbelly of a monstrous misunderstanding of what many of us claim is the truth of God in Christ’s revelations and the words of Holy Scripture.

 

We have gone so far into making Christianity a capitalistic individualistic religion that most of us can’t really see at all how to live The Jesus Way anymore.  We have sold Christ’s Kingdom for paid ministry.  We have justified our gains by calling them blessings. We have shared what we can afford to share and assumed that Christ died for us without any need for us to die to ourselves and live for the love of our enemies. We have disagreed with each other without any purpose higher than our own self-satisfied viewpoint. We have condemned the sinner and refused to condemn the sin of our own pride, greed, and smallness. The speck in our own eye has blinded us to the needs of a dying planet’s planks of rainforest proportion. We have found idols without names and joined cults of personalities without souls. The broad path is Walmart-sized while the narrow path is being littered with the trash of the world’s super-economies.  We are lost and we do not know it, because the marketplace is thriving. And we think that what we do in churches can make up for what we have done to God’s Temple.

 

It may be time to stop calling ourselves “little Christs” until we relearn what that means in this time, in this place, in this trial, in this suffering, in this mammoth Babylon made of paper money, security cameras, and nightly numbing entertainments. Perhaps it is time we stopped training pastors and priests and paying them at all; instead listening to the sidewalk prophets lying homeless on our streets. Perhaps no one should accept money for publishing a devotional Bible. Perhaps evangelism should be as free as the Salvation Jesus offers us. Perhaps instead of moaning about cakes and billboards and carpets and even cancer, we should meditate long and hard on what is profiting our souls as we continue to gain the world.

 

Maybe we should worship in parks and living rooms and share what we bring  — of our goods and of our goodness –to be together in spirit and in truth. Perhaps my job should be just that – my job –and my ministry, my religion, my image bearing should be just that – something wild, something free, something communal, something out of my control, something healing, and lonesome, something humble and meek and bold and crazy – just like Jesus’s ministry was. And is. Or could be, anyway.

 

When is it “Time’s up” for me – for us – to understand that the path is narrow, and almost impossible to walk on. The Jesus Way means I must separate my need to live from my need to live in Him. I must be willing to work to feed myself and work to feed others; to provide fish for my table must be separated from being a fisher of men.  This is actually the opposite of the Gnosticism that we now embrace as Christians, thinking that my daily body life can be sanctified if somehow I have “Jesus in my heart”. I must find a way out of thinking that there is no struggle in the dichotomy of this world now and this world as it was meant to be and as we are meant in God to recreate it. I must let my left hand serve my human needs without knowing what my right hand is doing serving the needs of souls. We must see how far we have fallen into the Solomonic way of thinking that we can have it all and still have Eternity in Christ. I must give up any personal gain that I can fathom, if I want something on earth, as it is in heaven.

 

Perhaps it is time for a temple cleansing. If Christ came to tear the curtain between the Holy One and the sinful ones; then perhaps it is time for us sinful ones to rip apart the curtains of our earthly mansions and looking through the dusty windows of our humbled souls, see the world as God sees it.  Janis Joplin sang it well: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Or as Jesus said, “What is all your profit really worth, if in the end, all you get to keep is what remains of the God-likeness in you?”  Jesus came to set us free but we have to walk through the prison doors to enjoy that freedom.

 

Perhaps it is time for us to see the prison bars of capitalism and self-serving individualism that we have constructed and  falsely called “Christianity”. Perhaps it is time to tear down those bars and then start setting other prisoners free. Perhaps it is time to tear down the walls of the churches, to stop selling in the temples, and to with fear and trepidation seek the freedom that comes from true worship and true servant-hood.

 

As Jesus said, “It can all be summed up like this:  Love a God Who is not you.  And also –Love others in exactly the same measurements and judgments in which you love yourself.”

 

Maybe it is time to rip apart the walls of our hearts with no apparent protection from the onslaught of freedom. Perhaps it is time to repent from our foolish self-blinding way of seeing our world, and see through the eyes of Christ. And with the eyes of Christ, we can run free indeed.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.”  — Jesus, The Christ (as quoted in Luke 4:18)

Today in the newspaper, I read about a woman who was imprisoned for seventeen years because a false witness lied to the police and no one cared enough to find out the truth. We want to say that we are following the path set out by Jesus but instead we are reclining at our tables while a whole world is imprisoned by lies from the Father of Lies. The oppression of greed goes hand in hand with the oppression of need. Do we care enough to find out the Truth? Do we care enough to find out the truth about The Truth, The Way, and The Life — Messiah? Can I get a witness?

But on “That Day”, The Lord will separate the greedy from the needy. No matter where or when we live, how much we have or don’t have, we are not at all worthy. That is a lie of Satan from the time of Adam and Eve. Yet many in  The Church are fond of telling us that in this cheap grace era but expensive Christian era; that somehow we are worthy. We have stolen  the dross of wealth instead of giving up all for the solid gold crown of eternal worthiness. We are all sinners, guilty as charged. There is only One Witness who is True and who can set us free. Jesus. The Witness, who is The King, who is the Judge, will one day ask me if I lived as a witness for Him.  God will one day ask me as a hard trial lawyer or a judge would, if I own enough to pay to get out of jail. And none of us will be able to say, yes, — not even Mr. Amazon himself.  Will The Church continue to think it is about what we own and not what we are? Should those who want to be like Jesus, claim any freedom to “practice their religion in freedom”? No, we have no freedom except the freedom to give up everything, and take up the cross of Christ. If we who are guilty die with He Who was not guilty, then we will live in resurrected freedom forever.

Jesus has our get out of jail card and the right directions on the path to eternal freedom. Above this world’s prison bars is this message: “If you want true freedom, even the ultimate freedom from death, then give up everything, and follow God.” And this is absolutely impossible to do. And yet, Christ did it. And Christ offers to do it for, in and through us.

Perhaps it is time, we let Him set us free.

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Maybe You Have Left Us — A very long meditation poem. By Jane Tawel

Maybe You Have Left Us

by Jane Tawel

November 20, 2017 – July 22, 2018

This is a very long poem-like meditation, a modern-psalm-ish thing of lamentation. It is something I have worked on a long time and just need to be “finished with” for now. It came out of this ache and longing, I guess, to come to grips with a struggle within myself about with how far off course I feel we seem to have sailed in our ideas about God and His / Her relationship with us humans and our planet. It is based on Biblical records of God’s coming and going, Jesus’ coming and going, and the willful coming and going of the Holy Spirit. You will find pathetic sophomoric allusions to The Great Thinkers of the ages, like L’Engle, Dickinson, Greek philosophers, Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries, Shakespeare, Pink Floyd,  and  so on — listen to them instead of me, of course.   It is also a meandering collection of random droppings from nights of lying awake in the night and wondering, Are You there, God? If so, I’m rather lost down here.  And finally it comes from a deeply dissatisfied weariness of facile answers and cheap grace talk. It is not for the faint of heart nor the short of time. LOL! Perhaps like any personal thoughts, the sharing of mine  might open a door for someone else’s thoughts, valuable to them.

 

 

We’ve cornered You in books and boxes–

Dry pages turning over Your name,

like dirt turning over a gravesite, so

Maybe getting bored or irritated?

Maybe? You Have Left Us?

 

We gather publically to kneel easterly in modern streets

And fight neighbors over thievery- aged space

to beg You for things and more things.

And You are known to get angry at abuses of Your name, so maybe,

Maybe You have left us?

 

We rant like ants in a bowl of super-sized Super superstitious  Super-sized Super Stars.

I’m thinkin’ –Maybe You have left us?

 

We think of You as the putz who promises persistently to part the Red toilet-bowl-sized Seas of people’s petty problems.

You are the definition of a putz: “one who engages in inconsequential or unproductive activity”. See you Sunday if I can make the time for You. If not You’ll forgive me with Your Walmart-priced grace. Welcome to Discounted God-grace.

We still hope you will continue to pick up the bill and get us out of our fixes and hand over the goodies without much effort on our parts. That is how we see You — #Genieinabottlegod.

 

 

But didn’t I see somewhere on a dusty shelf that

we used to view You as

Someone who created us

out of dust

to be gods.

Isn’t there a repressed memory (oh, god, I long to repress it!)

That once in paradise

we lived like

gods

owning out- of- this- world power, wisdom, glory, truth,

beings who were with you, were

like You;

we lived

created to creatively create as mini-Me gods

in Your eternal Being-With-ness.

But that was a long time ago,

When You were With Us, #emmanuel.

 

Here– Now–

we wallow in our wimpy wan and selfish greed

mistaking greed for power

preferring to beg You but not to be like You.

Frankly, we would quite prefer not to expend the energy it must take to create and By Jove!-

it is much easier to destroy stuff, in the image of some random, soul-sucking goddess of the ancients

Yep – that is us -Toys Ares are Us. #bestBastBuys

Just another game somewhere with machine guns, killing the zombies which Ares just

A bunch of panty-waisted school kids from over the border of otherness.

 

We beg You for incidentals

in a world crying for LIFE!

writ large indeed.

We praise You for our gourmet buffets

in a world crying for clean and living Water.

We hammer up cameras to spy on thieves

and miss the daily stealers of our souls.

We blithely tip the cup

on Sundays before brunch

and rise on Mondays to brazenly pour out cups and cups and cups and cups…

into the landfills of our nations

while neighbors worship– roofless, shoeless, dirty,

in their hovels of holiness.

Are You there? Hello?

What language is Your Spirit speaking where?

Oh, God, maybe You really aren’t there when I feel like you aren’t there?

Oh, God, maybe you have left us?

 

 

We shut the city gates, and build the Western Walls, eyes in the skies help keep our carpets clean, we celebrate our blessings of being imprisoned against those who are licked by dogs, who gladly take the crumbs from a table we no longer sit at in reverence, no longer wasting our perfumed lives weeping repentance in the footsteps of You.

We daily eat the flowing bread and drink the wine bought with the price of an hour’s litigation, thinking that the one meal we ate, ingesting You into our tiny, closed up hearts was enough to feed us ’til the Judgment– trusting that Your once upon a time, in a land far, far away sacrifice of being spitted -on and spitted on a stake for our future consumption, believing against any reasonable belief that  Your One Man-band’s sacrifice on the deathly cross paid up all our bills. We daily leave Your offered Feast for offal feats and for the remembrance of how good that one meal tasted. Long, long ago we rose from Your table, barely able to move from stuffing ourselves so full, and we thought we put You safely into our little closed up hearts like a napkin to wash our faces with after eating at  other banquets; Son of Man as convenient Handi-wipe; and You remained behind longing for a homeless person’s dirty feet. And as we waste away our waists in the wasteland of  our corpulence, I lie awake at night needing a good massage to work out all the knots in my scar-tissued back and I remember how You had some serious scar tissue back there too and I have to wonder if  You finally just decided to once and for all show us Your back side on Your way out  #don’tlettheDoorhitYouonTheWayout.

maybe you have left us?

 

We put You at the end of swords, and guns, and bombs, and bombs and guns,

and turn our plowshares into Wikileaks and tweets.

We honor you with words spit out as fast and killing as bump stocks.

We think You only face one way, Northeast was it?  with all your other faces, you are so not

halal, not kosher, not evangelical, not shriven

and, oh god, do we even know your name?

maybe Y-u have left us?

We look at each other through cloudy mirrors called TVs and cell phone screens

And are so bloated with appetites for apps we can’t see our feet meant to teeter on

The Narrow Way;

And after so much Botox and Lasix our eyes can’t focus

And we no longer look for You in the dimmish glass.

Our mirrors have been turned to selfish selfies and perjuring posts making our lives look large

But about you? — how small can I make your name? and how do y-u spell that?

We have fallen into the habit of containing You in buildings and museums. As if the God of Noah, Abraham, and Moses could cramp Himself into a container built without holy specs.  You tried to tell ole David that.  I notice now when people touch their hands to light up the touch screens with stuff about you, or put your body in their mouths, they don’t fall over dead.

Is that ‘cuz You have left us?

Frankly, though (and I can call you Frank or Shirley or anything I want – what was Your name again?) Frank, old Boy —

If I’m to be perfectly honest with You, Frankly;

We would rather You did not show up in Persons.

Remember how awkward it has always been when You have?

 

So, maybe you can leave us –#hopingitwon’tmatter

Anyway,  I plan on catching you on The Other Side

Once I finish ruining this dark side of the moon.

 

We like to think, being more used to breaking international treaties, that this has always been a one-way street with You. Our favorite praise song is “I Did It My Way.”

Fun Fact: The word covenant doesn’t even come up on spell-check.

We like to think You always save us by day’s end — Dear God, please RSVP and BYOLWF —  Show up please, with Your lambs and wood and fire (I hope You know I mean metaphorically cuz I’ve recently gone vegan to lose some weight, but I’m telling everyone it’s cause I love little animals so darn much).

We like to think we ‘pecial persons are  the final Hurrah People. Forever lisping childishly, we didn’t mean to bwake it, pease fix it fohwa us, pease?

I heard an old, old story that

You came once to save us by being one of us

Just in time for The End,

Remember?  You threw that big cook-out

with Lamb on a big wood skewer

marinated in our sins and

deliciously surviving the Fire.

Now You are being saved up for dessert later

Wrapped in heavenly golden streets

Waiting for me right after I finish eating

my million-dollar 24 Karat Gold Chicken Wing. #oncesavedalwayssaved

 

but maybe You cancelled your reservation to dine in my neighborhood

and You plan on taking a rain-check

something like the rain-check You took before the rainbow?

or maybe You just left us?

 

We do not want to count the cost ticked off in Your centuries of multiplying corpses.

Costs ticked off tend to tick us off.

Some of us are counting on the Prime Number Corpse You raised.

Others of us count on the corpses we bomb in Your honor.

And there are those who think our corps are the only people

at the core of Your Great Plan of Salvation

Never realizing they too have eaten the core of the dirty apple.

Well, it’s so much nicer here in Texas, than in the Corpus Christi You had in mind.

Some of us want to be left alone with you-ness-less-ness, simply left alone by-non-you, to breathe through nihilistic nostrils through our first world- stressness, seeking a type of nascent meditated-medicated corpse-ish-ness we think sounds peaceful, aum, aum, aum, without a thought of how to die for those who breath in bomb-fumes, rat-fumes, death-fumes,  third-world fumes of  fumigated philosophy.

uncertain next- breathless-ness.

and maybe, just maybe, because we insist on living,

and You insisted we must die

then maybe You could no longer dwell in our corps? Our corpses?

maybe You have left us?

 

Isn’t there a verse in some holy book or other that promises if I just say You exist that You will stick around to make everything Almighty-alrighty– just for little ole me?

 

We have created an idea that there is a need in You!

We have created this idea because we need to believe You are for us.

But that is a need that cannot exist if You are who You are –I Am

No prepositional prepositions around Yourself

No conjunctions connecting Your outstretched limbs,

No ifs, ands, or buts,

just Being-ness. #freetobeYounotme

We say: “You need us to love! You need us to watch! You need us to do Your work, to kill the infidels, to spread Your words, to give foreign children boxes on Your birthday, to gather once a week to sing songs and be taught by highly paid motivational speakers, to post up Your commandments, to hide our faces, to make our nations great, to make others follow Your laws, to give You our service, to give You our hearts, to give You our only ten percent and no more, to give to, pray to, sing to, speak to You! You! You! Rah, Yea, You! You need US to love you, need US to love you, need US to love you!”

But maybe You didn’t need to stick around?

We believe in you because little ‘ole God (how small can I make your unknown name?) needs Us.

But need is not a word I think You comprehend. I could just as well ask You to tell me the color and shape of a Dream. I may as well ask You to give me the equation for Hope. If You have the time, could you tell me the meaning of Time?

But hope has lost her feathers and must be singing elsewhere,

plucked naked in the company of stars.

Ah, Jesus H. Christ! Did the H stand for Holy or How-ie, as in How do I get out of Here?

How do I find The Way to where You are, Jesus How-ie? Christ!

 

 

I am left with only the remembered space of

You

now empty.

And what am I to do?

if YHWH El Eloah Elohim Elohai El Shaddai Tzevaot Jah Mashiach Ruah Hakodesh

have left me?

 

I often wonder over here

if maybe You are in

Korea or India or Nauru?

But maybe You have left us all, all together, left us– for God so loved the world He eventually just had to walk away and count up His losses?

 

What if You have gone elsewhere

Like any good Mother would

To see her children?

What made us humans think

we were born as Your only children?

It is legal after all to divorce your Parents and if we divorced You

Then maybe You are taking care of the kids who didn’t.

 

What if You have born quintessences in

galaxies galore

to explore

that we know nothing about?

What if You have a whole family

Of lovely children that

Look and act just like You?

What if You have a special Son You’ve been meaning to hang out with more?

So maybe You have left us?

 

What if You are wedded

With beings that are far more like You than we could ever know?

(After all, after The Fall,

we gave up on that quixotic idea,

preferring to be zombies dressed up with no place to go).

 

What if You are dancing and singing with supernova-stars

While we watch Idols win prizes that decay?

What if while we seize the day,

Your Son has come out Tomorrow?

What if You are building worlds with feathered bird-like Phoenixes

While we burn out and then burn up, never to rise

In the only resurrection?

What if You have found others who have lived with

pierced hands and piercing eyes

and You have yoked together

in radiant death-sought death defying

otherness?

 

If all who once dangled dancing on this lopsided Orb

with broken feet and empty suitcases

have ended up Up- there out there somewhere else

with You,

while the rest of us are just vacationing here,

biding our time, instead of biting Yours,

if They godlike are now circling

in the cacophonous kaleidoscopic Caper,

cavorting through constellations as Your Corpse

Your Body as Macrocosmic!

but some how You Yahweh

individualized in little ole me time and place

right here right now

as it is in Your Heavens and yet

so beyond the measure of our Season, Space and Scope,

on this brief Stage

with no flag flying

but the Banner of Love

If?

Then?

I could choose to live in the mangled mode of your mysterious materiality, mothering the mother of all manias with my Maker. #meaculpamymaster

 

But, oy vey

This day

I wonder – Oh Woe — if

maybe You Yourself have packed up

and moved on in a Tesseract of Space and Time

Tessered  beyond

My teeny tethered ability to fathom it;

while I unbeknownst are

unknown? #Ineverknewyou

what if you have left us?

What if you have left Us?

what if You have left us?

what if when we left You…..

 

YOU let us?

 

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.– John 3:8

 

The Very Social and Political Good News

The Political and Social Thriller We Call God’s Word

by Jane Tawel

June 26, 2018

Recently a Facebook chum posted a message by a preacher who is well known, and who has a lovely accent. In this message, this preacher, whom I have enjoyed tuning in to occasionally on the radio, boldly proclaims that Christ did not preach a Gospel that calls people to address the political, social and economic issues of our times.  This of course could not be more wrong. In fact it is frighteningly wrong, if you read the Bible with the intent of understanding it as God’s ultimate plan and message for the world and all the people who live in it.  This sort of idea that Jesus doesn’t mean us to preach or live a “social” gospel could only be spoken by and clutched at by rich, privileged people – like us. There are many stories of people in the Bible who preach this “good news” and they are never on the right side of God. We must remember that Jesus was not one of those privileged, rich, majority rule people. Quite the opposite.  We also must remember that Jesus preached a very political and social message and it got Him killed by the state and the religious rulers of His time.  Some of us wear a cross to remind us of this agenda of Jesus’ – or rather it is one important reason as to why we should wear it, I think. We who believe, must accept that the cross is Christ’s and symbolizes not how we should die but how we should live, and in “taking it up” as we are admonished to do, we also take up His agenda. He is quite clear on our necessity to do this if we want to claim to know Him and be known by Him.

 

There are many people throughout the centuries who have written on how we should read the life of Christ and especially how we should read the Hebrew Bible which is what Christ based His message and life on.  I encourage those who believe the Bible to be God’s inspired Holy Word to us, and who want to dig deeper into who Jehovah is and what The Christ means to us, to read them.  However, I also encourage anyone who believes that the Bible is merely an interesting tome of collected essays, stories, poems and proverbs, and myths to read the Bible and perhaps some other books that illuminate what God’s and therefore Jesus’, messages from another Place and Time are to us in this place and time.  But far beyond that suggestion, I encourage all of us – self included – to step away from judging and reading the Bible as something I and others can “use”, or something I need, or something that will “prove” something, and especially to not read it as something that will make me feel better about what I am not doing. Perhaps it would be helpful at this juncture on history’s timeline to read the Holy Scriptures as we would any great book.

 

Perhaps we should step away from what we think we want to find there and read the Bible as we might read any great work of literature. Because in all great books, you will find a deeper meaning, a truth, a light for the journey. In great tales we find people like us, people like we want to be, people like we don’t want to be, and  perhaps a small inkling that when we put the book down, today could be different. When we read a  Great Story, we can be changed. I might walk away from a book and think, perhaps today my small life  could  be lived in Epic Proportions. In fact that is exactly what The Bible says; that an act as tiny as the offer of a cup of water to a person in need, has reverberations in the world that change history. Perhaps, my life is, in reality, being played out in an alternate world,  something greater with possibilities that only a hero could accomplish and for which the true meaning of will only be revealed at the end of my story.  In fact, this too is what the Bible says; we can all be queens and kings with many crowns, but the crowns aren’t earned the way we think they are. It is truly a very odd story, this story between the pages of  the Bible.

 

Suggestion: Read the Bible as you would read Tolkien’s Mythological Trilogy, Madeleine L’Engle’s Sci-Fi, or C.S. Lewis’ retelling of Greek Myth or his Space Trilogy.   Step away from reading the Bible as either personal devotion, or as merely a book with some decent rules to follow,  or for some, as a weapon that has been used against you; and read it as a super great collection — a hodgepodge really — and a tale, although without fairies,  about what is Really Real, if only we could catch more than a little glimpse of it. Read the Bible as it was written, in mythological form, which as even the unbelieving Joseph Campbell knew is more important and true than history. And as all great saints have known, myth, metaphor and poetry are  the only practical way into The Truth.  True Truth must always in the end and ultimately be written as metaphor, symbol, story, poetry,  and lived as model or example. We have only to look at who we love most in the world to know that.

This idea of the Bible as somehow “going beyond” what we think we know,  is especially true for anyone who believes we are a fallen race; an incomplete, unfinished creation; a longing for Utopia people; a planet diminished by an original great Evil event; or at minimum, individuals who are,–depending on your Point of View –sinful, weak, broken, limited, yin and yang, good and evil. The Bible holds truth that is true for anyone who believes that there is something unique but not perfect about being Human  and that there is also Something, Someone, Other Things, that are not humans – that are not Us.

 

The fact that I use the term, Point of View, or POV, should not be lost on us, as that is a literary term one must always grapple with when studying a book, an hypothesis, history, or human relationships.  Some of us believe that Scripture has been written by men and women but somehow mystically given or “inspired” by Jehovah, one true God above gods; therefore, the Bible is from God’s POV.  Others believe that the collection of writings in the Bible are all reflections of the POV’s of the authors who were all creating ways to think about, talk about, and write about their relationship and understanding of each other and an “Otherness”, they called God.

 

Now the other thing that changes the reading of the Bible, is my own individual Point of View.  I have a rather large collection of books that my husband kindly reminds me I have already read.  I sweetly remind him right back, that I may some day want to re-read them.  I wake up each day with a slightly altered POV, and therefore, rereading a book, especially the great ones – is always a delightfully new learning experience — a stepping in a new part of the flowing stream, so to speak. I highly recommend a little experiment in reading the Bible, or for many of us, in re-reading it; an experiment in what we would learn and discover if we re-read the Bible from a different Point of View.

 

So here is a suggestion. Read the Bible as if it has been written to show us what is really going on among the powers that we can see and those we cannot see; between the mystical, spiritual powers both within us and without, but also the very real powers both politically and socially that the Bible simply calls This World. Read the Bible stories about both the powers that fight for others (Good), and those that conversely, fight for selfish gain (Evil).  Read the Bible as if it is written to show us what was created as a perfect planet, and what we might have again in a perfect world if only we fight for it as Jesus did. Read it like I do all books that reveal the dystopian leanings of all of us and with the desire to not remain at peace with  the increasingly dystopian world that is indeed very political and social.  Read Scripture as if there really is an ultimately knowable and clear and constant line between what is Good and what is Evil, what is Truth and what is a Lie, what is on the side of Justice and what is Greed, what is Demon-like and what is God-like.  Read the Bible as if there are heroes who have hubris and who fail, but who in the final judgement, end up on the side of Good, and on the side of the very social and political King of the Humans, Jesus. Read the collection of writings in the Bible, as if there are seemingly beautiful, lovely, nice  and successful people who are actually when revealed by The Author, not as they appear and can even be completely corrupt and horrifying; or those characters who make the famous and powerful their idols and live lives sycophantic and servile to what will one day be revealed as Evil. Look at the Bible characters as you would those from the great myths we like to read – Gollum, Boromir, Elwin Ransom, Meg Murray, Sam Gamgee, Arwen, and on and on. And then cast yourself in your own story. Who do I want to be?  For those of us who say we want to be “little Christs”, i.e. “Christ-ians” or have the “character” of Jesus, well that means we will be very involved in the stories of our times. Because Jesus was.  That is what makes Him the most  unique and perfect King and His Story the greatest among all the stories ever told

 

I have respect for the  Christian speaker, who is trending now with this message on what we are to do about the current political and social problems of our time, but he could not be more misguided in his point of view, if he is talking about Jesus’ “Good News” or Yahweh’s “Good News” to His people. The messages of The Others in Great Stories and the messages of Jehovah and Jesus in The Story  of course always  have to do with “social issues”.

As an “uber-individual-as-that-which-matters” and information as cure-all culture, we have difficulty seeing what is in one great story, behind the curtain, and in The Bible Stories,  seen only as through a cloudy glass;  but we will of course — frighteningly– still be held accountable for living in our particular part of the story, even though we can not clearly see or completely understand.

At the end of all stories, comes the final reckoning, or as we say in literature, the Climax followed by the Dénouement. We can look at  Christ’s teachings and actions to understand that ours is a very social and political journey, as well as a personal, familial, and communal one; but we need look no further than  what the Bible says will be the Denouement for the Earth. There is a story that is written in the last book of those collected in the Bible – a dreamlike, symbolic, mythologically proportioned book simply called “Revelation”. In this vision given to a follower of Jesus, Christ’s criteria for judgment is indeed very “social”. We are called to read the words in the Bible and to figure out our relationship to The Christ and The Creator/ Father and to know that the “Gospel” is all about  what we do and who we really are in our deepest selves – our souls.  Revelation of course means To Reveal The Really Real and this book of John’s is about finding some keys, some clues so we can know a little bit more surely, that there is a real and true Kingdom  on Planet Earth that we must as human beings strive to live in  as other beings do in God’s Heavenly realms. We are to live with others as imperfect fallen created beings, who are still trusting that if we practice holding things lightly in our hands as Mother Teresa encourages; practice radical generosity and love as the Hebrew idea of Jubilee; practice faith that there are many things unseen being lived out among us; practice radical love of enemies and trust that Someone radically loves us; if we go into the day’s battle to die to self but live to Christ as that great Hero Paul did; if we live out His Story in our history; then and only then are we really real in a really real alternate Reality.

We are not created nor excused to live an individual “salvation”.  There are no truly great stories written about a hero who lives only for his own individual gain. Do you really want to be cast as Gollum in your story? We find self-obsessed nihilistic stories incredibly depressing for a good reason. We may live our lives  quixotically; we may end up bruised and battered and momentarily defeated, but we must not think that we are meant to stay in a corner reading good stories that help us as individuals.  We are meant to Be The Story.

We are called to live socially, politically, spiritually, emotionally, physically and relation-ally, moment by moment just as we were “once upon a Time”, in The Beginning intended to live. We are meant to journey with companions together in upside down commitment to the world – the whole world – the oceans, the Syrians, the Guatemalans, the honey bees, the soybeans, the birds of the air and the puppy dogs, the people who look like us and the people who don’t, the people who talk like us and the people who don’t, the people who believe like us and the people who don’t.

 

IF we choose the right way to read The Stories, and the right characters to emulate, then in God’s Point of View, we will have earned the right to enter into His Eternal Story, The Story that Will Never End. And this is the story that our characters were created to be a part of from The Beginning. Any of us who want to speak as emissaries of the Good News and who venture to speak  for the Son of God must do so by servitude and love and this must be the Plot lines of our lives; because a story without action is not any kind of great story at all. To be like the radical characters of God’s Story, we must also live out these great actions without a thought for our own gain, without our own glory just like The King and Lord who wants the best for the world– in every dimension, lived His life. Jesus came to speak and live and rule for the least of the least, for the most undeserving, most home-less, poorest, most powerless. He came to live among us as That Character in our story. Christ is the God of the Epic disguised as the beggar at the door. We decide daily if we open the door to the beggar or not; we will not be told whether this time the knock at the door is just another beggar or in the Real Story is The God. This not knowing how my story ends must influence how I respond to the powers of this world and to the powerless of this world. My answer to the knock at the door must always illuminate who I really am in today’s tale, because it did Jesus.

 

One of the Great Books is Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.  In the novel, Juster explores the many facets of influence that one’s Point of View has on oneself and on others and on the Truth. Juster says  as Christ did, that it is best if we stay as child-like as possible for as long as possible.  Jesus, says, “Come and snuggle in, and listen to My stories like a little child listens to stories. If you don’t become childlike, you can have no part in My Kingdom’s Story. If you do, you just might learn something and fight great battles; and then when you grow up, you just might do something of mythical proportions in My Kingdom which has no end.” In The Phantom Tollbooth, the protagonist, Milo is on a trip. Much like all heroes, the trip is a metaphor for Life’s Journey and Norton Juster uses an alternative world to show Milo, and the readers, what is truly True in our own world– if only we get childishly humbled enough to see it.  At one time, Milo meets a boy who grows from his head in the sky, down towards the earth and so this character,  Alex is waiting to grow up enough for his feet to touch the ground. As Alex floats along in the sky, and Milo walk, they talk about their disparate Point of Views.

 

Would it be possible for me to see something from up there?” asked Milo politely.

“You could,” said Alex, “but only if you try very hard to look at things as an adult does.”

Milo tried as hard as he could, and, as he did, his feet floated slowly off the ground until he was standing in the air next to Alex Bings. He looked around very quickly and, an instant later, crashed back down to the earth again.

“Interesting, wasn’t it?” asked Alex.

“Yes, it was,” agreed Milo, rubbing his head and dusting himself off, “but I think I’ll continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.

 

As we get older, we may or may not realize that we do indeed have a constantly long, long way to fall. But  little children realize that it is always much farther to fall if there is no one around to help. Jesus says, as the real – the true—the perfect – the future and present Ultimate Human Being and the King of Heaven and of Earth – that this world’s story must be read and then must be entered into like a child. And all children love to hear stories.

Just as Lucy finds her way into Reality and to Aslan, by walking through the Wardrobe Door, so can we. Pick up a Bible today and find a good corner to curl up in and read a great story of Good versus Evil, of heroes and gods, of battles and miracles, of queens and poets and serpents and giants and little boys who slay monsters and of the One True Present and Future King.  Read the stories of saints and prophets, the poetry of artists, and the inklings of a world that is more porous and entered into by God and Other Beings, than we could imagine. Read God’s Word like a child who wants to learn how to live, not just for herself, but for a world in need of heroines in both great and small ways.

If you are like I, you would prefer to never have to “socialize” again and think it would be a wonderful day to just stay curled up and introverted-ly imagine a different and better world told in stories in a good book, like maybe the ones in The Bible. Some times we want to believe that we can be close to Jesus all alone in an imagined individual story. But as with any good story, if it remains just an idea between pages, then it isn’t really real at all.

 

We are not called to live a personal tall tale, but a radical, revolutionary, World-changing, Truth revealing, Mythologically proportioned social, political, communal, other-oriented, God-fearing, Good versus Evil battling, and miracle believing Epic Story. We are not meant to live as the protagonist of a story but as the image bearers of The Protagonist of All Stories.

If we want to claim the God of the Bible as the Author of our Point of View, and The Son of God, The Christ as our Leader, Hero and Lord, then we, in our own chosen place and time, must live out His Story.

Otherwise, our stories will not be worth reading. They will definitely not be worth “saving”.  They will not make any one want to re-read our stories. They for sure will not be worth preaching about. And they definitely will not be The Good News of the Messiah King, Jesus. The Good News of Jesus is  a great political and social thriller — the ending is to die for; the sequel — well, He left that up to us.

 

Read any Good Books, lately?  If not, have I got a great story for you.

 

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It’s the Law, Kid

 

“It’s the Law, Kid”

World View Check #3

By Jane Tawel

June 20, 2018

Periodically I post what I consider a Worldview Check in words written by authors far more wise, capable, and mind-blowing than I could ever be.

The following from Garry Wills’ What Jesus Meant was written in 2006 but is a newly read ironic, funny and searing  look at where we are today. I would also highly recommend a re-reading of Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (2008) and Andy Crouch’s Playing God (2013).

We live in a nation that needs a serious reality check on what God has actually said to us. We use His name in vain to our peril and use His Word to justify our actions to the peril of other people throughout the world, most recently those seeking asylum at our borders.

As we make enormous paradigm shifts in our misuses of the idea of law versus justice; as we bestow mercy for self but not mercy for the least of these; as we defend one type of religious practice as Christians ( think t-shirts and cakes) but not others (think aliens and prisoners); as we look at certain sins differently in our own lives, while out of the other sides of our mouths claiming that God sees all sins as equal; as we worship with cheaply bought grace when we are not busy brunching; as we live in this way, we are left with a choice. We can either:  Re-educate ourselves, re-align ourselves, and restore ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit and the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and the Love of the Creator Parent of us all; Or we can continue as we are.  I just recently realized: I don’t want to continue as I am.

Don’t read the Bible or any of the books I have mentioned, if you do not want to: contemplate mystery, confront hypocrisy (both within yourself and others), and sense God’s humorous humbling of us through His word, His very flawed followers, and through a truthful reading of the world’s history.

Do  not read further if you do not want today to wrestle with hard truths. I am often pinned to the ground and counted out, but wrestling, nonetheless. Before reading Wills clever deconstruction of our cherished views on God’s word and the law, I found it helpful to meditate on the following ideas from Jesus and the Bible Jesus read.

Jesus: To whom much is given, much is expected. (Luke 12:48)

Jesus:  I came not to abolish the laws but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

And from the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. (Luke 23:34)

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein”. (Luke 19:14-15)

Deuteronomy 10: 12 –21

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

Acts 5:25-32

The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?” Just then someone showed up and said, “Did you know that the men you put in jail are back in the Temple teaching the people?” The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them.

 Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, “Didn’t we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are trying your best to blame us for the death of this man.”

 Peter and the apostles answered, “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven. And we are witnesses to these things.”

 

What Jesus Meant

By Garry Wills

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination—end of debate.  I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians.  Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor to the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11;10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?
  7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton-polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

 

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.  Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging (34-35 Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant. New York: Penguin, 2006.).

 

I am continuing in my journey by confronting my own egregious sins and hypocrisies and struggling with how I have lost orientation on The Way.  It is not easy, in fact it is extremely difficult, but inch by inch, I feel as if, with a humble nod to C.S. Lewis, that I am walking towards the wardrobe door and there ahead,  I am momentarily catching a glimpse of  something real and full of light just beyond that door; in a world just as real as the one I woke up to yesterday but even more real; and there Aslan waits –just beyond the lamp post.

Bear Witness in the World of Something better, by being Someone better.

Further up and Further in,

Jane

In conclusion, I  meditate on some visuals from history and artist’s imagined visuals from God’s His-Story.

Children swinging from a lamp-post in the ruins of their London Street (1940)

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“Killing children is fair, says US Military”. The War on Iraq:

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Image of a Central American child traveling with migrants sleeping at a shelter.

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United States White House: “It is very biblical to enforce the law”.

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Artist’s imagined image of Herod ordering by law the slaughter of what could have been Jesus’ pre-school classmates.

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Our favorite historical homeless asylum seeking family on their way to a new country with hopes of freedom.

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Love On a Cow’s Stomach

Love On A Cow’s Stomach

By Jane Tawel

June 12, 2018

1100

 

I was rereading a Facebook post that was regurgitated automatically for me.  This is done thanks to Facebook’s ability to cow-like keep my entire life in separate Facebook stomachs and then sometimes daily, vomit those posts back out onto my current Facebook page, where I can chew on them again, deciding if I would like to re-post and thereby re-swallow the relative truth of said regurgitated post from days gone by.  Here is the post hurled out for me today from 2012 – Six years ago:

Thinking of my kids and their changing lives: Quote by Buechner:”You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”

 

Last week I took Gordon to sign up for classes at a college where he will transfer next Fall.  This weekend I will watch Verity graduate from UCLA. Last week Raoul and I were talking and mostly listening, with Justine and Clarissa about their thriving careers. When any of my kids are speaking about their respective fields, knowledge, work-days, etc., I sit there nodding but inside I am thinking, “Well, dear Fruit of My Womb, I am delightedly and completely punch-drunk proud of you but I don’t understand your specialized field of expertise at all So I will let your words wash over my head and heart but Child of Mine, you may as well be speaking Croatian because I don’t understand a word of this”.

Wow — my kids! They truly do amaze me.  These are the beings who, as Buechner says, actually were carried in my stomach (okay, technically womb). But Buechner is too miserly in his analysis. I think I carry each of my Beloveds in  every single pore of mine.  Sometimes, I worry and I carry them in what I assume must be my metaphoric sweat pores –sweating my stinking worry like a work horse.  Sometimes I fear for my children, who are never really completely adults in a mom’s heart. Fearing for them is when I carry thoughts of my kids in the cow-like stomach that is ready to vomit the fears out, knowing I will just regurgitate the anxieties in order to cow-like chew on the cuds of those fears again tomorrow.

But when you really, really love someone, you are, like Buechner says, not only aware of what the world holds for them but you are holding the world of them within you.  I hold my children in my Buechner-esque stomach like a delicious warm meal that never gives me a love-stomach upset,  no matter how full I am. I am daily filled by the world I carry inside of me – a whole world of love and admiration and thankfulness for my children’s and my husband, their father’s, continued presence in memory and reality in my heart, mind, limbs, and stomach. And once you have this kind of love-feast, well, then you tend to find gleanings of it in whatever field you roam. I have found it in my classes of students in loving learning together, in my friends in shared meals together; and even occasionally in a random snack of mutual understanding with a stranger.

Yesterday I stood in line at Target, a place I used to haul those four kids of mine to; and a mom of two had her little baby in one of the wraps that I used to attach my own babies with, tight to my chest. The baby was making that lamb-like crying only a brand-new minted infant makes. You know, that tremulous bleating that hits a new parent in the solar plexus.  It is the cry an infant makes against an incomprehensible injustice. It is a sound that seems both so new and so old. It is the deep trembling wail dug deep from the depths of the world and raised up into the lungs of a brand new human being.  And like old human beings tend to do, I turned to the new mom behind me smiling and said, “Love every minute of that sound.  Someday, like I, believe it or not, you will miss it.”  And that mom smiled back and for a brief instant, she and I were united in the warm love that understanding can fill even total strangers with, like shared repast fills stomachs. The baby kept bleating and the mom continued her traditional mom side-to-side dance to quiet the little baby wrapped tight against her stomach.

And I turned back to wait in line and even though no one could feel it but me, I still held in memory my little babies, crying and gurgling and cooing,  wrapped against my memory-stomach.  As those babies of mine go forth into the world, they are out there bleating new cries against the injustices still being dug from  deep in the world.  And I listen when my children let me, to their cries of joy and sorrow, their gurglings of gain and loss, their cooings with  energy and weariness.  And I hold those grown-up children of mine so  very, very close to my heart.

Sometimes, now, when no one knows, and I am out there living in my world – maybe when I am lying awake at night, or standing in line somewhere; or when I am walking the old walks I used to take with my kiddos; remembering holding two of them by their hands, with one strapped on my back near my heart, and one wrapped tight against my stomach – Sometimes then,  I pull up a memory from when we were all young together, my four children and I, and I chew on that memory like a cow with her cud.

AH! and my stomach is full. And my heart is fuller. And I am grateful for the meals of memory and satisfied with the feast of this life. And once again, I remind myself, that thanks to those I have loved, a whole world lives inside me.

 

 

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.

“The Time Lord” a poem by Jane Tawel

The Time-Lord

By Jane Tawel

April 15, 2018

 

 

Time has no fear;

It induces it in us

And we tremble until we turn away;

Ignoring it as if our silly busy-ness

Will stop its insistent existence.

 

Time lurks around every eye’s corner

Demanding its due;

Breaking fingers if we refuse to pay up.

Time is the Mobster godfather of us all

And no one beats, defeats, outruns, hides from

Time.

 

None but He.

 

He died like everyone

In Time,

Due to The Times

Time’s up

Time-out

Time after Time.

 

And yet He claimed His death

Unlike mine–

Unlike yours–

Unlike any Adam or Eve or George or Elizabeth–

He claims His death

Ushered in The End Times.

 

We like to trust that some how He

Defeated Death.

But what would my time be like for me today

To choose to follow Him again?

What if each moment I would renew my vows to

Just be with Him? Just be like Him?

Would I, as He did, live with no more fear

That there is not enough Time?

Would I, as He did, commend not just my dues

But my whole spirit  to the God-Father?

Would I, like He did, offer up the willing cups

Of my future days?

Would I, like He did, serve others’ Time?

And realize that in sacrifice,

Time has no more power over me?

 

He lived, like I,

A slave to Time

And then –

He didn’t!

The God-Father raised Him up

And now He sits at the right hand

As Time-Lord.

 

He was the Hitman who took the hit for All.

He is the Time-Lord who served my Time for All Times to the End of Time.

He entered Time so that all who serve Him may enter Timelessness.

And now He whispers, “Fear Not!” Walk on! and take your time.

No, actually, take Mine.”

 

He is the right-hand man of the Eternal God-Father.

I owe Him my life.

Surely, I can spare Him a bit of my Time?

 

After all, thanks to Him,

I have all the Time in the World.

 

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