Ash Wednesday from 2015

ash wed


I thought I might post this again, to remind myself to pray for those truly suffering throughout the world for the cause of Christ.  My silly first world self is embarrassed even to post this.  But I wanted to remind myself as I celebrate Ash Wednesday and what has become a very meaningful church day for me, that there are many who cannot worship in freedom or truth but who still do. There are those who still suffer for the sake of telling others about a King of kings and Lord of lords, about a Messiah for the world, a Savior, He who suffered, was crucified, buried and risen on the third day, who will come again and make all things new. Long ago in a midwestern galaxy far, far away, I memorized this as a sort of “life verse”  Galations 2:20:  For I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live.  Yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”  “Happy” Ash Wednesday!

Ash Wednesday 2015

Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I can’t put words together well today. Every time I try to think about any thing about the endless irritating meeting today or the fight I had with my child or how old I look these days. I think of the families of these 21 men:

  1. Milad Makeen Zaky
  2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
  3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
  4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
  5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
  6. Bishoy Astafanus Karnel
  7.  Somaily Astafanus Karnel
  8.  Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
  9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
  10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
  11. Mina Fayez Aziz
  12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
  13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
  14. Samuel Alham Wilson
  15. Worker from Awr village
  16.  Ezat Bishri Naseef
  17. Loqa Nagaty
  18. Gaber Munir Adly
  19. Esam Badir Samir
  20.  Malak Farag Abram
  21.  Sarneh Salah Faruq

Since seeing their names on Monday after their martyrdom Sunday February 15, 2015, I have been going down the list holding each name and each name’s family in prayer. These are my brothers in Christ who took up His cross in the realest way possible. These are my fellow humans who went to a dangerous country because they wanted work – a job – a way to bring food to their families. For bread, they embodied Christ’s body, the Bread of Life.

The one I can’t stop thinking about is “Worker from Awr village”. Did he refuse to give his name because he feared for his family if a name was given? Or did they simply not bother to find out his name? What is his secret name now, the name that Christ hands him written on a white stone?

The ones I cannot pray for, and God forgive me, but I can’t are the executioners who are as much in need of Light and Life as any of us. I managed a small little thought for them this morning on my 5:00 am jog – God help my violently angry unbelief. I felt some grief for those who kill others. But I just cannot focus on my “real life” today. I couldn’t jog today because tears kept blurring the pavement so I walked carefully, like there were hidden bombs.

I went to All Saint’s for early Lenten service. I’m sure they thought I was crying for something in my personal life—I couldn’t seem to stop. I thankfully saved myself from saying, “I am crying for the 21 Egyptian martyrs.” Thankful because I do not even deserve to mourn them, in my dress and boots and jacket, and my stomach turning from going one stupid day without gorging on food, and the beautiful well cared for church, and driving away in my Prius, off to a job in an office – Oh, God, how can I even claim your Son as my Lord when my offering is nothing compared to the world’s martyrs?

My cheap tears offered up on Ash Wednesday for the mothers of martyrs. My easy pride laid down next to the poorness of spirit –the heart – ache –of the fathers of the 21 martyrs. My worries about safety blasted to smithereens by the dangerous world my brothers and sisters live in daily so that they can eat. My old face staring back accusingly with my head wobbling still on my scrawny old neck while 21 families see in their hearts’ eyes the heads of their loved ones lying in the dirt. My paltry prayers for my four children as weak as kittens next to the Lion of Judah alive in these great saints.

My cheap grace – surely God would forgive me if I denied Him? Isn’t my life more important than the Truth? My Walmart Grace.

What is it like to be like Kara and Casey and Malak and Bishoy and Worker from Anw Village and untold others throughout history who love Jesus enough to lay down their lives?

I tried to explain my grief today to someone who told me, “Stop, I can’t think about that. I won’t be able to go on working if I let myself think about that.”

We should not be able to go on.

We should not be able to go on as if nothing has changed.

We should let every thing change in us.

Twenty-one. 21. Plus. Plus. Plus. Plus. Each day, across a “civilized”, “evolved” world, a human soul murders another human soul. Souls kill themselves with darkness and souls die because they will not deny the Light. Someone chooses death rather than The Life. Someone chooses Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Someone dies because he or she will not deny the Lord. They are all souls. All souls. All saints. All created by The Word. All making choices that mean life or death. But we are still not understanding which ones died when the 21 were martyred and which ones lived — eternally. Twenty-one truly lived. Twenty-one died to live again. Twenty-one now truly and really live. Resurrected. Living with The Christ they love. And their families weep and weep and weep. And the families of the murderers weep, and weep and weep. Do I know what it is to die to Christ, so that “yet I may live”?  My life was bought at great price but I live it so cheaply.

I have no words for my shame and my ignorance.

I have no words for a grief that should fill the whole world.

I am only thankful for this day, Ash Wednesday, to “mourn with those who mourn”.

Oh, God, forgive me for thinking I am worthy to someday stand near them and rejoice with them. I am too afraid to even pray to be made worthy.

Forgive me. Help me. Accept my cheap tears. Hear our prayers.


On David Bowie and Neil Young: Starman vs. Southern Man

by Jane Tawel

Musings on David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken

January 16, 2016

First let me say that I believe I am correct that none of these people have died yet, except I’m pretty sure David Bowie died. Oh, and Alan Rickman died too.  If I am wrong please feel free to comment to that effect but you should know first that my definition of getting old is that “you don’t remember if someone is dead or not”. By next week I’ll probably not be sure if Bowie died or not. I’m pretty sure Paul Newman died. And that makes me sad.

Everyone has been “honoring” David Bowie and Alan Rickman with tears and Facebook RIP’s and sorrow to the extent of “I was privileged to live at the same time as Bowie” posts  and tee shirts.  I imagine women in labor this past week couldn’t wait to be the first to name their little ones Bowie or Starman or Snape.

I liked Alan Rickman as an actor and I grew up with a few David Bowie classics but I didn’t post anything about them because I haven’t posted anything about them in my entire life up until now, so I’m not sure why I would suddenly proclaim and declaim about them when they died.   Just not my style maybe — not my flavor of the week to do this, though next week if someone famous dies, I might. This morning I was watching the down- right adorable and cute James Corden and Adele “Karaoke Car Ride” Youtube — so if one of them dies this week, I might online mourn them.  That would make me sad. If I remembered that they died.

What I mourn is the sad passing of important careers and historic moments. That is– careers I consider amazingly important and historic moments of my life, of course. Mourning people means I miss them. I lost them. I’m sad because they aren’t here anymore. That’s a bit tricky with famous people since I didn’t know them and I can still listen to them or watch them any time I desire.  What we mourn with the passing of famous people is the passing of the time or event of our own lives they represent.  For instance, when my daughter Justine was still at home, she  and I liked Alan Rickman movies. My husband Raoul likes David Bowie songs and had Verity and Gordon put some of Bowie’s tunes on Raoul’s “Favorites”.  I messaged privately Justine this week about Alan Rickman’s passing.  He was a connector and I was sad he was gone because mostly I was sad Justine was gone and those years with her and Rickman as Snape were gone. I’m sad Bowie is gone because he represents a time to Raoul when my husband was young and could dance to weird 80’s music. This means of course I am also sad that Fred Rogers is gone, and The Teletubbies are gone and Little Joe is gone and Audrey Hepburn is gone and Gilbert is gone. Because all those good years with good people I love are — gone.  But back to Bowie and Rickman who are gone. (Right?)

I liked that fact that David Bowie was married to Iman. For 24 years! I have no doubt Iman is truly mourning the death of David Bowie.  I liked Alan Rickman in the weird indies — “Snow cake” and  “Bottle Shock”. I liked him as Snape until  J.K. Rowling cheated and wouldn’t decide in the end if he was evil or good.  Rickman played it so it could have gone either way — just like all our real lives– they could go either way.  It wasn’t Rickman’s  fault Rowling cheated us.

I was in fact shaped by the artistry and often profoundly meaningful lyrics of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.  Young is an amazing musician and if you haven’t heard his guitar riffs then you are indeed missing something. Don’t listen to him though if you prefer voices auto tuned.  His is not.

I feel like posting some Neil Young music for you on Facebook — right now– so you can see how great his music is. Unless he just died.  Then I’d feel hypocritical. After this blog and all that.

Joni Mitchell was concerned about the environment before anyone had heard the term “global warming” and she taught me in her songs that relationships are worth crying over if they don’t work out, not songs about giving the guy the finger and moving on to the next one.

When I saw Christopher Walken in Deerhunter  I thought I would  never get his performance out of my head. Checking…. Yep, it’s still there.  And in my youth, Meryl Streep did more for  strengthening the cause of strong, vibrant, talented women  than Mother Teresa and Hillary combined. Acting as an art form took on a whole new meaning with actors like Streep.

Young, Bowie, Mitchell, Streep, Rickman, Walken — all of them had in common two things that I guess spoke to me — at least in the beginning, they went for Art, not for Fame.  And they were all odd. Odd looking and odd acting. Like me. So I guess even though they were known artists, they felt like someone who could speak my language. The difference was –They just turned my language into art — and got paid for it.  Of course fame happens– just like sh–.  And once fame happens, well something usually — not always, mind, but usually — happens to art and oddity. Didn’t someone once say, “Fame corrupts and absolute fame corrupts absolutely”?  Yep — synonym implied.

Perhaps art will never be the same now that it moves through the world faster than Florence Griffith-Joyner as byte files and lives like “Rocketman” mostly in i-clouds.(Yes, I know that’s an Elton John song not a Bowie song — speaking of odd artists I used to love who became famous….)  (Is Elton John still alive?)

Perhaps art will never be the same now that we have twenty plus “producers” and we have marketing experts and we have focus groups and we have reality tv stars and we have more channels and musicians and actors than we could possibly ever know about. There is a lot to be liked about our brave new world and a lot to applaud. But that doesn’t mean I can’t facebook-mourn what “It” was and is no more.  No matter what we gain in the world of music and cinema and media, we have lost something I can only describe as something tactile and patient.

There was something different about sitting in a room holding the source of music in your hands.  There was something different about having a room filled with music that other people could (or had to!) hear. There was something different about fighting over who in the room had to get up to turn the channel. There was something different about having to wait until you got home to find out about it, having to wait until it came out  to watch it, having to wait until it came on the radio to hear it. It all used to be something you felt you could hold and somehow it would hold you back. It used to require a waiting period and then — It was– like a surprise — like a sudden rainbow — like a gift.

There is something different about artists not caring about fame — not caring about anything more important than changing the world.  There is something different about people being odd not because it got them noticed but because they couldn’t help it. I don’t know how to facebook the difference to make any difference in how people see things. I guess it doesn’t make any difference anyway. I have my memories and will mourn the passing of those moments spent in the company of family and friends and great people . And I’ll try to keep carving out new memories — with family and friends and new odd artists who maybe want to change the world as well.  Or maybe artists who just want to change the moment.  And that is a very nice gift to we commoners as well.

So here’s to all the odd artists still living (as far as I know).  I guess I can’t include Adele any more. As odd that is.  I think she’s still alive. Isn’t she?




Things I and Maybe Some Other People Don’t Do Any more



By Jane Tawel

January 11, 2016

Lots of these things listed are things I still do but other people don’t do any more. Some I never did. Some I miss doing and some I don’t.

Things I and Maybe Some People I Know Don’t Do Anymore:

  1. Choose between an electric and a manual typewriter.
  2. Yell: “I’ll get it!” when the home phone rings.
  3. Lose gracefully.
  4. Win gracefully.
  5. Use fingernail clippers.
  6. Hitchhike.
  7. Look for a pay phone.
  8. Putter.
  9. Save toilet paper rolls.
  10. Make collages out of dried beans.
  11. Collect impractical collectibles like: cows, state spoons, china flowers, turtles.
  12. Have a birthstone ring.
  13. Dog ear a book page to keep the place.
  14. Decide what animal a cloud looks like.
  15. Teeter totter.
  16. Eat snow.
  17. Make bracelets out of lightening bugs.
  18. Fry boloney.
  19. Tell someone he’s full of boloney.
  20. Play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.
  21. Play tether ball.
  22. Play four square.
  23. Make a cootie catcher or paper fortune teller.
  24. Pass notes in school.
  25. Pass notes in church.
  26. Put tinsel on the Christmas tree.
  27. Use an Etch-a- sketch.
  28. Braid a long braid or two braids on the side.
  29. Whistle.
  30. Whittle.
  31. Change your own oil in the car.
  32. Have progressive dinners.
  33. Have Wednesday night prayer meetings.
  34. Iron sheets.
  35. Wish on a star.
  36. Avoid sidewalk cracks.
  37. Make homemade potpourri out of old flowers.
  38. Put lemon juice on to lighten your hair.
  39. Plan a place and time for everyone to meet at the mall.
  40. Carry a big purse.
  41. Pay by check.
  42. Fly kites.
  43. Day dream.
  44. Accidentally scratch your LP.
  45. Fight over the radio station.
  46. Go Christmas caroling.
  47. Cry “Uncle”!
  48. Diagram sentences.
  49. Memorize phone numbers.
  50. Ask directions.
  51. Wear a wig to have a different hair look that day.
  52. Break a wish bone with someone.
  53. Drink slowly because there aren’t any refills.
  54. Keep animals outside where they belong.
  55. Play kickball in someone’s yard.
  56. Sing songs together in the back seat of the car.
  57. Ride in the back bed of the pickup truck.
  58. Drive a station wagon.
  59. On long car trips, lie down to sleep: one on the floor of the back of the car, one on the back seat, and one in the back window car sill.
  60. Take the train to Grandma’s.
  61. Take the Greyhound bus anywhere.
  62. Win a goldfish or a little duckling at the fair.
  63. Stir ice cream before eating it.
  64. Keep a savings pass book.
  65. Collect stamps.
  66. Collect coins.
  67. Play cat’s cradle.
  68. Buy yarn.
  69. Look in the phone book.
  70. Look in the yellow pages.
  71. Doodle.
  72. Use an Easy Bake Oven.
  73. Keep a dictionary nearby.
  74. Keep quarters in the car for meters.
  75. Keep quarters for the Laundromat.
  76. Do Scavenger Hunts.
  77. Keep a recipe box.
  78. Play in puddles.
  79. Use “Mr. Bubble”.
  80. Keep a diary with a little key to lock it.
  81. Play “Cows, Horses and Graveyards” on car trips.
  82. Wind a watch.
  83. Tell scary stories around a campfire.
  84. Wear MIA / POW bracelets.
  85. Short sheet bed sheets at slumber parties.
  86. Memorize tongue twisters.
  87. Tie knots in string licorice and eat them.
  88. Fidget.
  89. Make snowmen.
  90. Know how to find some constellations.
  91. Know how to find the North Star.
  92. Know how to navigate without a compass.
  93. Keep a paper calendar on the wall.
  94. Keep a paper date book.
  95. Use an adding machine.
  96. Count back change starting with the change.
  97. Use carbon paper.
  98. Use chalk on a chalk board.
  99. Monkey around adjusting the rabbit ears on a television set.
  100. Sing: Janie, Janie, bo-banie, Banana-fana fo-fanie, Fee-fi-mo-manie, Janie!
  101. Correct someone’s grammar when they are speaking.
  102. Play with a skip ball or “footsie” toy.
  103. Play the hokey pokey.
  104. Use typewriter correction tape.
  105. Wear a maxi-dress.
  106. Use ice cube trays.
  107. Buy non-pierced earrings.
  108. Look in a kaleidoscope.
  109. Play Jump Rope games.
  110. Hum.

lhop jumping rope group





The Christmas Letter

A Christmas Letter on Being-ness

by Jane Tawel

December 24, 2015

A Christmas Letter is about all the stuff one and one’s family has done in the past year. It’s an accounting of achievements and that is as it should be since that is what satisfies the recipients’ curiosity. There is a saying people toss around when they are telling one not to stress– “We’re not called human doings, we’re called human beings“. As I age, I am distilling into more and more myself, which is (I’m often told) — impassioned and weird.  So once again this season, I write my traditional odd and intense Christmas letter, not because that is what I do, but because  that is what I am — odd and intense. Sometimes you shouldn’t stake claim and insist on being what you naturally are — being is like writing– it is important to understand context and connotation. In writing as in life, know your context and if necessary dial down your weird and impassioned. I’m a bit spotty on successfully doing that, I admit.  But I am learning that it is often okay to accept one’s particular self. Each of us is created in a unique way to reflect the image of our Creator God.  I serve an odd and intense God — an impassioned God, a strange one-of-a-kind God, who unlike other gods did not tell us to worship Him for what He had done or would do, but  told us to worship Him for what He is: “I Am”. We “Beings” are the only created “imago dei” of that God — imago means “idealized concept” — which fittingly has nothing to do with “doing” but means “a better than in reality idea”. That’s what we will be again someday — our realized ideal self. Meantime, we work at it. This time of year we celebrate the fact that while we were formed from dust into God’s image, because we rejected that image, God chose to be  created in our image–ad imaginem hominis. We were given the perfect Being to model — Jesus, the Christ. As the hymn goes: “Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God, should (be born) and die for me!”.  So here are some things the Tawel Imago Dei’s have been being this year.

I get all my strange random thoughts out of my head in a blog where you can also find this letter (  I am reading a lot of C.S. Lewis. One cannot spend time with C.S. Lewis and not become at least a wee bit changed.  Lewis has such a high view of human beings –that is if humans choose to sacrifice completely the sense of self to the sense of imago dei– through relationship with the living God and in the manner of the Son of God. It is a fearful thing to ponder that  one day we will become what we have always truly been judged to be, with no regard to what we have done. The bible calls it God’s view of the true heart of one’s soul. We are easily confused and disoriented by the distorted mirrors reflecting what is truly “us”. There is none good but God and no goodness in us but our Godlikeness in Christ. One can live in a state of stunned awe reading a lot of the bible and Lewis. I learned more about reading and writing with 15 Azusa Pacific University freshmen. One of the things you try to help students with is that when writing, stick to the same verb tense.  The other thing is that it is easier to write consistently in present tense than in past tense.  I think it is easier to LIVE consistently  in present tense as well — easier than living in past achievements and problems or living in future dreams and worries. Occupare Momento! With my “at least on paper grown up”  kiddos, I am failing but trying to transition from “doing mom” to “being mom”.  This is the necessity if you want to be friends with your adult children — you will always “be” their mom, but you don’t “do” mom any more — at least I imagine you can’t until they become parents and then you can do “grand” mom. Being mom means you let them all be who they are becoming and you just be there for them.  Whatever you do, don’t  let on that you are still doing stuff for them. Except doing the occasional bill paying for them. That’s ok. This morning the best part of still being mom, is being with all my chicks and my hubby under one roof — even if only for a short amount of time. They all keep asking me what I want for Christmas — isn’t it obvious? — just to BE– together. There is a great old Peter Seller’s movie called, “Being There”. Chauncey Gardiner keeps saying, “I like to watch.”  I “like to watch” my children and husband bloom and grow.  So I am watching my family being: Hard workers. Risk takers. Creators. Friends. Students. Travelers. Dreamers.

Raoul works creatively and mostly happily to make embedded systems (he told me to call them that — we call them “chippies”).  Mosaix Technologies celebrates its 15th year working with clients big and small:  from JPL, Berkeley, Terra, and more. Raoul has a delightful love of learning, enjoying lectures at Caltech, shows from Frontline to Nova to Cooking shows on PBS– for Christmas Clare is giving him a class in music appreciation. Raoul is a creative chef, baking bread, making tandoori chicken on the big Red Egg, and his traditional Christmas Eve fondue and crepes. Raoul and I  take as many of the kids as we can and travel to Bryce / Zion National Parks, San Francisco, Chicago, Winona Lake,  and Colorado.  But the big deal is that this spring Raoul took Gordon to visit India — a place from Raoul’s past, that is now part of the present again in the relationship and memories he and Gordon enjoy together.

Justine works hard and quite successfully in Norfolk, Virginia at a company called Enviva.  She is a risk taker who left Hyundai in Alabama for yet another great unknown and now is a quality manager for a company that makes environmentally friendly fuel. Justine is admirable because wherever she lands, she seeks and makes friends.  This is our daughter who as a little girl, cried every time we tried to separate more than a few inches from her, and now she is a young woman and– well, she is much TOO independent and far from home! Clarissa works about fifty jobs it seems like. She will soon leave Pasadena Conservatory of Music and plunge bravely into a new job at  KBKG in Pasadena. We are so impressed with her gumption and talents. Clare creates some truly beautiful art with her camera and is starting a little business in photography. In Clarissa’s down time she studies for the GRE. Verity works hard at her studies at UCLA majoring in English and Political Science. In two short years, she has become a die-hard Bruin. She is a friend magnet to  many– both at university and at home. She not only is getting super- duper grades but kudos at her job in the residence hall — earning money for all the chai lattes she drinks.  Gordon at 17 is a concurrent high school student at Excellence in Education and a college student at Citrus College.  He works hard at his Justice Administration class, dreaming of perhaps someday being a police officer but he is equally creative in his Computer Systems class, perhaps someday working in IT.  Maybe he’ll do both for the FBI or continue his work with his father at Mosaix.  Gordon creates graphic designs –he helped Clarissa create her water mark for her photography business. He is a big time gamer. He enjoys reading, especially Stephen King and graphic novels,  and is always seeking part time work to save for a car (which is how I will continue to spell motorcycle until Gordon spells it that way too).

Christmas is a time of traditions.  Traditions are not things one has merely done in the past but they become traditions because you keep doing them–in the present. We as you, are in the midst of our many Christmas traditions, like fudge and cookie making, driving around to see the lights, singing carols, hiding gifts,  and snuggling  together watching Christmas movies. Our traditions are mostly about being present in the season. Advent implores us to live fully in the present reality while anticipating the future reality. As Christians we lean our frail earthly weight into our calling to be “on earth as it is in heaven” – timeless present in God’s presence. Advent is about Christ with us, in us, and Christ to be. The church liturgy helps ground us in the present of Christ’s presence, not by having us think on what He did — “He was born”– but by celebrating what His Being continues to mean daily, in this very moment, in the present eternity of our souls –“He IS born.”  “He IS Risen”. “He IS coming again”. He Is I Am.

This Christmas perhaps we  First World human beings, are more aware of our frailty and transitory state as the Evil One rears in his death throes of ugliness, unnaturalness, violence, and hatred. Today increasingly seems to gain better odds at being my last day. While Eternity becomes a more present longing,  it is yet good to be thankful for another hour to be present here.  We spend a lot of time doing good things that care for the body and mind. But what of that which is our innermost being? How shall we live to be Souls rather than Bucket Lists? We are called to improve and to love this created world and God’s created people– as our skills and callings and dreams allow. But the soul can only be bettered by the One who created it, so that the true self can be made into that thing which is all that will eternally remain –Faith, Hope and Love.  The soul is our being-ness. It is only in being known by our Creator, by knowing our Creator, and by allowing that humbling, undeserved but delightful relationship to God  to inform all our human BEING relationships, that we truly become who we are meant to BE–  Little Christs– poor imitations but striving imitators nonetheless, of Him of whom the angels sang, “Glory to Him in the Highest”. And by giving Christ glory, may  peace on earth and good will be to all souls. Hoping that in the New Year that you and yours, may BE all that you are meant to be.

Jane and  The Tawels: Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon — December 2015


Questioning Christmas Signs

Playing with the ideas of shock and awe about what we say we believe about Christmas.  I don’t know about some people, but I get off track this season easily. I stop being a fool for Christ and really just end up being a fool for self.  This is a ditty really, not a poem, but perhaps  a way to start making myself focus on Christ-Mass and maybe jump start an old brain too used to watching “the Hallmark-approved show” and forgetting the nitty gritty of a God who loved “a worm like I” by becoming one.

Questioning Christmas Signs

By Jane Tawel

December 11, 2015

And this will be a sign to you

A Savior born among goat poo?

And this will be what angels sing

A Jew who will become a King?

And shepherds who are dirty, dumb

Will be the Savior’s first welcome?

What right had she to wear a ring?

This unwed mother bears a King?

A family traveling penniless

Without a forwarding address

Will flee from kings and diatribes—

To Him a crown you will ascribe?

This sort of thing seems lunacy

When asked to worship this baby;

Despite the rumor of Wisemen three

How could I think this child Christly?

And once I heard the end of it,

None of his story even fit,

A man who claimed to be a god

Lashed with whips and beat with rods?

His stupid followers even thought

That he was raised and rolled a rock

To escape hell and reign with God,

Don’t you think too– he was a fraud?

I look around at Christmas time

And wait in endless shopping lines;

I buy and buy and buy and buy

And never once do I ask why?

Why I believe in Santa Claus

And all the season’s fake hooplas,

But cannot find a good reason

To worship Jesus as God’s son?

I worship Yuletide’s dollars and cents

But a swaddled King is pure nonsense.

Or am I living upside down?

And should really kneel before the Crown

Of the babe who came and lived and died

To take us as His holy bride?

In the manger scene, am I really the ass?

To question Holy true Christ Mass?


Psalm #1

Next week I will be looking at some Sonnets and Psalms with my Freshman Writing Seminar students. We will be writing our own Sonnets and Psalms. So I’m “playing” with some myself.  I love the Psalms, not just because I like poetry and music, but because they are so very, very human and reveal the wrestlings of real people — the struggle to understand the outer world and the human interior landscape, with God in mind, heart and soul.  In the Psalms, our relationship with Yahweh is not linear, and I find that to be true.  Mine has been quite circuitous, that is certain.The Psalms are the Bible’s “Reality Shows”, which actually I hate. But I love real literature about real human experience that seeks to know more than what we can see, smell,taste, touch and hear — writers that strive for metaphor that expands understanding. The Psalmists do that as well as any. So for what it is worth, which is never very much…..


Psalm #1

November 28, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Praise to the God who reigns;

Though I forget You on a daily basis, You keep the stars in their places, and the sun gazes on.

Praise to the God who weeps;

Though we kill and kill and kill until our trigger fingers are numb, You mourn for each life wasted.

Praise to the God Who takes away,

No army can defeat You, no nation survive.

How I long, Oh Jehovah, to be at peace, to know what wholeness is like.

My soul shrinks daily with the expenditures of my life,

And my nights are as an endangered species, wakeful and watchful, for a morning of more loss.

But You alone, are my God, if only my ears were still young,

I would come to You, Yahweh, with open hands, now cragged and dappled.

I yearn to reach beyond my plasticized world,

To the Heavens of Your dreams,

To be a better Human, like Your Son.

How long, Oh, God, will You dally, while we work and slave?

My heart sighs and yawns and breaks into a million pieces,

My pain is my heartbeat and my mind rushes on.

My soul only truly knows myself.

How many angry tears are left for me to shed?

But I will praise You, for You alone are a God.

Though many have more money than You,

Though many have more might than You,

Though many have more worshippers than You,

Though many are much sexier than You,

You alone are God.

You Are.

You Were.

You Ever More Will Be.

Praise to the God Who loves,

Even Death could not out-embrace You.

Praise to Jehovah, Who lives,

You create life and sustain us.

Praise to the God who laughs;

In Your Triune comedy act, You make Each Other roar, like thunder on a sun-soaked day.

Praise to the God Who gives, and gives

You own every molecule, every cell, and all is Yours to distribute as You will.

Praise to the God Who Is

And ever more will be!

When to dust I return, to snuggle up next to my grandparents,

You alone, still reign.

Though I have no right to ask,

May You crook a small finger

To call me from my dusty bed,

 To live with You in Your peaceful Kingdom,

Where You and Yours will reign


A Foreign Land

A Foreign Land

by Jane Tawel

November 15, 2015

In the parts of the Middle West of the United States of America, where my family grew up, there was little to none of what today is known as cultural diversity. I grew up in small towns and on small farms where people still made a living and bought houses and had medical insurance and every one sat around the same television set watching the same show on the only night that show was on, commercials included.  The kids all went to the same elementary school, junior high, and high school, except for the Catholic kids who sometimes went to a Catholic school.  But Catholic or Protestant you still played on the same streets and in the same back yards after school.  There were white and  black families and the black kids played with us too. We didn’t know anything about diversity and we treated each other the only way we knew how — if I liked you, I wrote you a note letting you know; if you were mad at me, you yelled at me on the playground, and if you were really mad you might pull my hair, and I might scratch your arm and a teacher might have to come talk to us. After the teacher talked to us, we all just went back to playing kickball or tether ball together. If we looked different or worshiped somewhere different,  I guess we noticed the difference, but the difference made no difference, you know? We were all really the same — we all lived in the same town; we all called “ollie ollie in free”  with Midwestern accents; we all played kick ball or tag in each other’s back yards; we all tried out kissing in the bushes with each other; and we all had to race home in time for dinner, “Little House on the Prairie”, and bed. I don’t remember much homework in those days, some of us were good at some subjects and some of us stunk at them, sports were for having fun, and teachers knew stuff and we learned stuff,  and somehow most of us went on to college and got jobs we mostly liked.  Go figure.

I don’t mean to go all Norman Rockwell, idealistic on you.  There was a lot of what we now call brokenness in my family and the families around us.  Maybe it would have been better to realize this at the time. Maybe not.  No doubt, even as Midwestern kids,  we should have been more aware of what went on in this country and the oddly misguided American right to express prejudice towards other cultures, but we just weren’t. The first prejudice I ever experienced was when my mom remarried and we moved to a bigger city and a junior high girl who happened to be black and who must have misinterpreted my “nervous -where- the- heck- am- I- first- day- of- new- school” smile that I aimed at her, did the Junior High girl  move: hands on hips, elbows projecting like weapons. She looked straight at me standing across from her in my parallel waiting in line stance, and snarled at me, “Wipe that cheesy smile off your face!” That will add to your first day of new school  nervousness let me tell you!  I can of course remember every word exactly as she snarled it. Why do we remember slights so much more clearly than kindnesses?

The first time I recognized prejudice in myself was when I started substituting in Los Angeles Unified School District. When a young naive Midwestern  “going to be a famous actress” type lands a day job at LAUSD, the first thing the army of substitute teacher schedulers whisper gleefully to themselves is, “She’s not in Kansas anymore!”  The schedulers are perfectly justified in sending you to every continuation school (code for one step up from juvenile detention hall). I mean they have to send someone there to cover for the poor slob who idealistically took a full time teaching job at Mini-Hell High,  and now has a nervous break-down once a week which requires an unarmed substitute teacher to offer up her life instead for $113.00 a day.  Are you kidding me!? At first that seems like a lot of money, until you realize it does not include a bullet proof vest or crash helmet. As an aspiring actor and full time temporary substitute, you take every teaching gig they send you. Besides when they call you at 5:00 am you are still mostly incoherent and get caught off guard every stinking time.  That is until you learn to say at 5:00 am when the call to sub comes, “Please dear God, don’t send me back to El Sereno Junior High! Don’t you have anything else?!? I’ll pay you  half my daily rate to send me to Roosevelt High School today!”

After I had been in about every high school in the gigantic county district, I began to realize that if I walked in, picked up my class roster,  and saw a long list of students with a certain type of last name, I would spend the day bouncing on my toes, and making sure my pencils were sharpened to a shiv – worthy point. At certain schools I would arrive dutifully but then walk into the  windowless, school phone-less classroom  where my stomach lurched and I would shiveringly think, “Oh, Lord this is going to be another day from hell and  Dear God, why doesn’t someone please invent a phone that you can keep hidden  in your pocket for emergency calls to 911?!”

On the flip side of cultural diversity, if I saw a group of student names from a certain other country of origin, I breathed a big sigh of relief and said, “Thank you Jesus!  these kids will study and be quiet and they don’t even need a teacher here,  let alone an armed guard, and I may just go home alive today.”  This is how prejudice begins. One day about a year into this gig, and after seeing some LA cops haul off  two of my junior high students  — girls!– I realized that I understood how policemen and women develop prejudices. Because I had developed prejudices.  That was the first step to confronting prejudice in myself. Not the last.

When I graduated from my small Midwestern college and began moving around the country in search of my destiny, I thought  that I was pretty “cultured”, whatever the heck that might mean.  My mother’s family had traveled the world on business and pleasure; I went on to grad school in Boston — to Brandeis for Judah’s Sake! — and I was seriously dating what my grandpa delightfully  called a “ferener”. My three sisters and I in fact, sort of acted out the modern Midwestern version of “Fiddler on the Roof”, and if we’d had a father around, he probably would have acted much like Tevye.  Julie, the first sister to marry, chose a “poor” tailor, well, actually a musician and school teacher.  Janet married a black man, who still prefers not to be called “Afro- American”, I might add, (“I am all American, and I am not from Africa.”). And I, Janie Karen, married a man with several European countries to his DNA credit, and an accent (one of the big attractions for little Middle West Janie Karen).  Tevye might have sung, “I can bend no further”,  but bend the Gordon clan of Springfield, Ohio, did, with the grace of old oaks, not unduly effected by foreign or “feren” elements.  We were all loved, as were our  “culturally divergent” spouses.

Then my fiancé got at job in Los Angeles and I followed fast on his heels.  Southern California is one of the most culturally diverse small nations on the planet.  I googled this for you to read:

The diverse, multiethnic population of Los Angeles today distinguishes the city as the cultural hub of the Pacific Rim. In fact, Los Angeles is one of only two U.S. cities without a majority population.  People from 140 countries, speaking approximately 86 different languages, currently call Los Angeles home. (

My mother used to come visit me, well, really her grandkids, but I liked to think she came for me.  We had moved from an apartment in South Pasadena, to a 1940’s post- World War 2 house in Glendale.  You know those houses sold for about $15,000 in the 1950’s and today they  sell for $700,000. Same 500 square foot fenced in yards, same 1200 square foot, 2 bedrooms and a third office, galley kitchen, and one car garage home. Inflation experts tell us that really it’s about the same price in today’s world. Who put those guys in charge? Are you kiddin’ me?!

About the time of my mother’s third or fourth visit, Grandma, the kids and I were walking back home from my kids’ and my favorite local Armenian grocery,  and my mom said, “I think it is “interesting” that you live around the people who still speak the language of Jesus.”   I’m like: what, Mom?  My mom  is like, “yes,  I realized after I was out here last time, that Jesus spoke Armenian.” Now, when we from the Bible Belt, use the word, “interesting”, you need to know that in reality, we are using a code for, “I’m trying to be nice but that person really makes me uncomfortable”.  My mom, though, thought she could get around the idea of her daughter living around people who were “fereners” by finding connections.  That’s another totally Midwestern thing.  Connect enough dots, and we’re good.  I had to put my mom straight though on this one for her own sake, lest she go back to Indiana and tell everyone her daughter’s  grocer speaks like Jesus. I’m like: Mom, Jesus didn’t speak Armenian; Jesus spoke Aramaic, mom.  Minus one point for the Armenians.

We used to try to get my mom to move out here to live with us.” Mom, listen, We have nice winters compared to Indiana and you can watch your grandkids learn karate.”  Well, there was no way I could convince my mom that Jesus practiced karate, so that didn’t work.  Finally, in a pique of honesty, my mom told me she could never live in Los Angeles.  “Whenever I come to visit you,” my seventy something Midwestern mommy said, “I feel like I am coming to a foreign country.”

The world has changed. It’s more foreign.  The United States of America has changed. It’s both more and less United. The world changing is unsettling — to all of us if we’re honest.  It used to unsettle me a lot like it did my mom.  One day I heard a sermon from one of the greatest prophets of God’s Holy Bible I have been privileged to hear, Darryl Johnson of Glendale Presbyterian Church, but now somewhere prophesying in the wilds of Canada, for Saint Peter’s Sake!  One Sunday,  Dr. Johnson talked about our culturally diverse city and assured us that we of all people would be well prepared for heaven. Because heaven would look a whole lot like Los Angeles — every nation, every tongue, every tribe — all worshiping and rejoicing together.  No more sorrow. No more tears. No more guns. No more cancer. No more color. No more confusion.  No more distrust. No more fear. No more anger. No more injustice. No more hate. No more need. No more greed. No more abuse. No more violence. No more prejudice.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)

Someday, I hope to be playing out in a heavenly Midwestern backyard beyond the great beyond. And all there will be as we were first created to be– like God’s Son, blameless, and pure and without prejudice. There will be no more need for justice for He who sits on the throne of that kingdom, will have come to judge the living and the dead and establish a perfect world. We will be seen for who we really are and we will be given new names on a new roster with no cultural diversity at all, because we will all be like Him.

Today God calls me to train my mind and heart to see others as He sees them, as His children, ready to kick a ball around in the back yard and rush home to dinner. “Ollie Ollie in Free!” — Race you Home! “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12)

We are indeed all foreigners in a strange land, until we arrive Home. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Race you home!


Thinkin’ ‘Bout Jesus

   I Think Jesus

By Jane Tawel

October 23, 2015


Random thoughts – no order — neither linear nor of importance — definitely no theological significance.  But I like to think that maybe all these years of reading the bible and thinking about Jesus have given me enough to go on to at least say, “well, none of these may be true, but they aren’t really lies either, and they aren’t anti-biblical, or anti-Christ, so why not?” And it was kind of fun to do this.

It also was sort of a theological exercise in letting Jesus into my thoughts as a friend, a co-worker, a brother, a fellow human being –  a guy that your mother would like you to marry, a pal that was always welcome at the dinner table. I could think of him not only as a Savior, a King, a God, but someone you could water cooler talk with. It sort of made me find a way to ask myself, well, what if in everything I did, from drinking my morning coffee, to how I spend my time on Sundays, to whether I should eat dessert first or not, — what if every moment and every choice was made with the idea of having Jesus share the experience with me, no matter how small a thing it may seem? And if  I couldn’t actually accomplish anything close to that minute by minute thought process of Jesus doing stuff with me, which of course no one can, except, well, Jesus, then at least, at the end of the day,  I might imagine looking back over my small little day and imagining Jesus saying, “yes, I liked that too! That was pleasant. Let’s do it again tomorrow!” What if Jesus smiled at us and said, “Isn’t life good?”

I mean what if Jesus were a real person?!

I don’t think Jesus will be too upset to read these. I hope you aren’t too upset by them either.  In fact, I think you also could have some fun imagining Jesus as a real human being.  After all, that’s what God sent him to be. Real.  Human. Being.

So for what it is worth, which is always very little, here is what……


I Think Jesus

By Jane Tawel


I think Jesus probably liked to drink coffee in the mornings before he went to work at the shop.  Coffee just helps mornings go better and I think he liked to smell it and then sip it slowly while he watched the dawn.

I think Jesus ate slowly.

I think when Jesus was a toddler, his mom liked to sing silly songs to him before he fell asleep at night just to make him giggle.  I think when he got older, Jesus had a big deep guffawing har–dee- har- har laugh, but when he was about three he had a silly little high- pitched giggle that made all his relatives want to make him laugh so they could laugh too.


I think when Jesus was about seven or eight, he cried when he saw a little dead sparrow in the backyard.  I think he quickly buried it so a stray dog  wouldn’t bite it apart.

I think when Jesus was a tween he had a little crush on the girl next door. He thought she was so pretty.

I think sometimes Jesus liked honey on his pita bread.

I think Jesus had really good eye sight and super hearing — almost like Superman hearing.

I think by the time he was about twenty, Jesus had such thick calluses on his hands that he could stick a needle deep into them and not even feel it.  I think sometimes he stuck a bunch of needles in his calluses to make the girls screech, “oooh, gross, Jesus stop it!”

I think when he was little and it was bedtime, Jesus would beg his parents to tell him just one more story about David, and they had to say, no it’s time for sleep now.

I think all his life, Jesus played soccer in the streets.  Even with the disciples –just to let off some steam. I think he was really athletic and good at it, but what bugged the other players, is he really didn’t care if they won or not. It was just fun no matter what.

I think Jesus helped his mom with the dishes, even if he was tired.

I think when his father Joseph died, Jesus cried and cried and cried.

I think when Jesus was growing up, he  used to give his brothers pretend noogies. They probably tried to give them back but he could run away if he wanted, because he was older and faster. I think sometimes he let them catch him and give him back noogies.

I think after the Jerusalem temple thing when he was twelve, Jesus convinced his folks not to worry about him anymore.

I think he often gave his little sister piggy back rides.

I think Jesus liked to eat dessert first but he held back sometimes.


I think Jesus insisted he wanted the smaller half.

I think Jesus had a pretty good singing voice.

I think Jesus was kind of ugly like Jonathan Rhys Meyers  or Linus Techtips  but he had a killer smile that when he was younger, completely made women get goofy and throughout his life made men say, “What a great guy”.


I think Jesus sometimes had a hard time balancing his family’s budget at the end of a day because there was never anything left over. I don’t think it bothered him much.

I think Jesus sometimes had to have Stone Soup with the neighbors and they all laughed a lot and had fun and were full.


I think Jesus liked to listen to music.

I don’t think Jesus went out to eat on the Sabbath.

I don’t think Jesus did homework on the Sabbath.

I don’t’ think Jesus mowed the lawn on the Sabbath.

I think Jesus would have really liked chocolate but I’m not sure he ever tried it.

I think Jesus was known as someone who laughed a lot and had a good sense of humor.

I don’t think Jesus liked pranks.

I think Jesus would have preferred to grow old.

I think Jesus was known as someone who was a good listener.

I think Jesus had really big biceps.

black carpenter

I think Jesus really loved to play in the water and body surf the waves.

I think Jesus liked the feel of sand between his toes.

I think Jesus took lots of breaks at work to talk and pray with people, but he always put in a good day’s work.

I think Jesus was known as someone who worked hard and played hard.

I think Jesus had good grammar.

I think especially in his teen years, Jesus wrote poetry.

I think Jesus took good care of his teeth.

I don’t Jesus was that quiet but he wasn’t a jabberer either.

I can’t decide if Jesus would have liked ice in his drinks or not.

I think Jesus always took a book with him.


I think if he hadn’t gone into the family business of carpentry, Jesus would have liked to be a horticulturist.

I think Jesus liked to doodle.

I think when Jesus was a baby he played with his toes.

I don’t think Jesus ever got brain freeze.  Sadly, I don’t think he ever had ice cream either. I think there will be lots of ice cream in heaven but no brain freeze.

I don’t think Jesus wished he had a middle name.

I don’t think Jesus bit his finger nails.

I think Jesus took dares if they didn’t hurt anyone.

I think Jesus picked up other people’s trash and threw it away for them.

I think Jesus liked green and blue.

I think Jesus liked surprises.

I think Jesus liked to just hang out.

I think Jesus always had enough time and never had to hurry anywhere.

I think Jesus looked good in hats.

I think Jesus would really like s’mores around a campfire.

I think Jesus liked to snuggle.

I think Jesus was thought-full.


POV #2 – A Poem

POV #2 – A Poem

For my friend, my husband, Raoul

By Jane Tawel


We stand shoulder to shoulder, necks stiffened by staring eyes.

They robbed us of our weaponry, so sometimes our fingers brush against the other’s,

like frightened moths caught in a moldy flour sack.

I know your love is mostly loyalty now, like any good person of your rank.

Mine has passed from need of care to need of life, and I troop on.

We shoulder on.

We soldier on.

I’ve served under you for twenty some years now, but the war position keeps changing on us.

Who are yon enemies, we love more than our own lives, those four

who seem  four thousand fighters in the heat of the fray?

We have lost so many battles to these beloveds.

Our arms hang slack, shoulders shivering in fearful exhaustion.

From where will the next onslaught come?

I see the grey smoky stains inerasable under your eyes.

My flesh hangs loose with womb weariness,

I, the mother of all wars,

birthing these adored combatants over and over again.

You want to abort the mission, sometimes, my darling,

I know. I know.

What a laugh they named it friendly fire.

The enemy’s reckless skirmish on the world, hurts more

than our taking a direct hit–

I’d welcome a slash across the throat sometimes.

You sometimes think of honor with a sword.

Your manhood shivers at their powerful nonchalance.

My war cry crones into the silence of their casual strategies.

There are days we comrades feel like pushing the other,  in the path of destruction

and turning traitor, like we used to do.

But our mutual still hemorrhaging  scars

have congealed us immovable,

a standing army of two, whether we want to keep waging or not;

we’ve both grown too old in the service to look for civilian careers now.

We have to die on the battlefield upright, giving it all we’ve got

against the pillaging hoard of four.

We shoulder on, we soldier on.

Our limbs tremble with the effort and all we want to do in these decaying dusks

is pull up our tents and retreat.

But, oh my love, my Captain!

In the throes, you have stood beside me,  shoulder to shoulder,

now taking a verbal bullet, now a lanced glance.

I wish my heart were purple–

I could offer it as a medal

in a card for you on Father’s Day.

Remember those four fateful mornings?

You unfurled the flag and charged straight ahead,

into the war at home.

Why didn’t they warn us? There are no surviving veterans in this war?

And we shoulder, soldier on.

We shoulder, soldier on.

I remember, Mighty Warrior, my husband,

oh, how I recall, when your touch was full frontal in the dawn.

Now we have to keep our eyes love-locked straight, two sentinels, side by side,

peering out for our  enemies that we treasure more than life

fearfully, anxiously you and I, volunteering for the night watch

keeping the door unlocked and safe for them

when they come home to crash for the night.

POV #1- A Poem

POV #1

by Jane Tawel

October 11, 2015

Fidget and Desire.

Which one takes us higher?

The fidget makes you anxious to get moving, choosing

While desire makes your dreams amusing, approving.

But is Higher where we really want to go?

Or is life lived better fully in the Low?

Man was meant to live in plains, or so I’m told,

And that mountains can get old, and air streams cold.

Am I better  with my neck ache craned  to skies?

Or are you,  with earth below your soaring eyes?

And in truth, if you see me and I see you,

Can either really see the other’s point of view?

Child flying