Traveling Dreams

Traveling Dreams

May 10, 2015

By Jane Tawel

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



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 frailly 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?


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.

 2010-06-03 14.11.06

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!


“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




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.


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.


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.




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

Randomness and Such

Randomness and Such

May 3, 2015

By Jane Tawel

I find myself on any given day with a mind attacked by randomness and such. For instance:

  1. Have you ever noticed how cats are Eastern in mentality and dogs are Western in attitude? If you meet a dog they either aggressively yell at you to get out of their dang lane or they greet you like their long lost cousin who just won the lottery. If you meet a cat, they silently stare at you, assess you, then seriously nod approval or else turn their mystic backs on you and walk away. It was no mistake cats were once considered gods and dogs were once considered food .
  1. Have you ever thought about how many things you would have to learn to do differently if you only had one hand?
  1. Have you noticed that if someone else makes the salad, it tastes better?
  1. But it tastes better if you make your own cup of coffee. I mean I am surprised that Starbucks has not just let people come behind the counter and do it themselves. If you want an Americano, no foam, two extra shots, vanilla essence on the side and over easy, come on back and make it your dang self. It will taste better.
  1. Have you noticed how the Starbucks mermaid’s breasts are bigger than her hips? I mean how could she possibly swim?
  1. Have you noticed there are too many shopping carts in America and not enough farmers’ markets.
  1. Have you noticed that Americans cannot stop shopping? It is a National Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I seriously believe some one started putting something in the American water back in the Fifties. It is not our fault; we cannot help it because even the psychologists and priests drank the water.
  1. Have you ever noticed how every once in a while it really unnerves you to step on a crack?
  1. Have you ever noticed how other people’s chewing drives you crazy? Either it is the way they put the food in their mouths, or the sounds they make, or the way they look at their food suspiciously or lustfully before putting it in their mouths, or the way they keep their mouths slightly open so you can see all the food rolling around in there, or it’s the way they close their mouths tightly in case some food might try to run away and join the circus or the way they scrape their teeth on the fork, or it’s just the mere thought of their masticating food in the first place that makes you want to kill them.
  1. Have you noticed how you don’t notice how the way you eat drives other people crazy? I can see why people start eating alone in their little caves where no one sees their disgusting habits and poor manners, and they don’t have to hear the hideous sounds other people make when they eat.
  1. Have you ever thought about faithfully and purposefully exercising your laugh muscles as much as you exercise your other muscles? At 6:00 pm every day for twenty minutes I’m going to start laughing at something. Hard. I think I’ll feel better and live longer. If my kids don’t put me away.
  1. Have you ever thought about what it would really be like to be Bill Gates?
  1. Have you noticed how water always tastes better with something in it? Like ice. Or lemon. Or scotch.
  1. Have you noticed how the customer is no longer always right?
  1. Have you noticed how you can anticipate bad things but joy is always a surprise?
  1. Have you ever thought that there really are enough hours in a day there just isn’t enough you in a day?
  1. Have you noticed that pandas are always just so cute?
  1. Have you ever thought about the fact that bruises are so random? You can almost never remember how you got that bruise.
  1. But you can almost always remember when your ego got that bruise.
  1. Have you noticed that men love you if you take them out for breakfast?

Random thoughts include things like:

  • Pomegranates
  • Where do people get all their money? They cannot all work for Microsoft or be congressmen. They must sell drugs.
  • People can choke to death on just about anything.
  • Noses get bigger and mouths get smaller.
  • Canada
  • Smells bring back memories more than sounds do.
  • Why do we need hair in our nostrils?
  • Why do women paint their toenails and men don’t?
  • Watermelon has never really tasted the same since they took the seeds out.
  • Is Bill Gates really human? Or is he a robot that only looks human?
  • Is it really necessary to have so many fonts?
  • Who really did invent spaghetti?
  • Urban Myths aren’t always.
  • Belinda is a cool name for girls
  • Joe is a cool name for guys.
  • Sign language is beautiful to watch even if you don’t understand it.
  • Art is beautiful to look at even if you don’t understand it.
  • If you don’t understand poetry, it isn’t much fun.
  • Lima beans should never have been considered eatable.
  • You always like people who still wear a watch.
  • Earphones should have an expiration date stamped on them.
  • Do I always have something stuck in my teeth?
  • Tibet
  • Where has all the clover gone?
  • If she sells seashells by the seashore is she an eco-terrorist?
  • Were the Grimm brothers breast -fed or bottle-fed?
  • Hairless dogs are just wrong.
  • I would really like to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet but I’m kind of ok with messing with my insurance company or credit card company and being helpful by saying M as in Mom and I as in Is and B as in Broke. I am silently exercising my laugh muscles.
  • I miss paper.
  • Worms can’t get out of the way.
  • earthworm-3

He Gives and Takes Away – a Poem

He Gives and Takes Away
Thoughts on the Book of Job, the parable of the barn, and Writings of Richard Foster

By Jane Tawel

April 26, 2015

God Gave. . . . . . .

I clutched on tight.

Then Cancer.

Then Betrayal.

Then Dismissal.

Then Distance.

Then Confusion.

Then Death.

And I Cried Out:
I Can’t Hold On Anymore.

God Reminded me,
Jesus Taught you to Pray.
“Give me”.

I looked at my hands holding on so hard,
Tight red palms, callused fingers clutching on
To Everything I love.
To Everything I want.
To Everything I need.

I don’t want to let go, I whispered.
I Love.
I Need.
I Must.
I Will.

God Reminded me,
Jesus Taught you to Pray,
“Not my will — Yours”.
My hands hurt.
My heart beats not in my throat
But in my grasping hands,
My heart pounding
With the fear of letting go.
My heart is in my hands.

God Reminded Me,
Jesus Taught you to Pray.
“Deliver me”.
Where your heart is, there is your treasure.
(Oh, Ugh! I didn’t mean to jog down this street. Oops. I am gonna walk in the other direction because I need to get to my home and figure out how to keep my job, how to debate my spouse, how to keep my insurance, what to make for dinner tomorrow, how to talk to my child, how to plan my day, how to tell her no, how to get better, what to take, how to get that, and get that, and keep this, and keep that, and not let them know, and tell them, and tell them, and own, own, own, and own, and do it just do it, and keep thinking it through, and never have another moment’s worry. I gotta get there.)

I heard a Voice,
“Hold things lightly.”

Oh my God.
I can’t.
Everything will slip away.

God reminded me:
Jesus taught you to pray.
“On earth, as in heaven.”
“In your little scared hands, hold on only
To what was in My Son’s hands on earth.
Our Big Scarred hands will hold all the Rest for you.”

The centrifugal force of my Rest-less spinning self is throwing me outward propelling me toward the Black Hole of Holding while my hands clutch at the un-tethered, floating flotsam of Stuff. Just stuff I’ve been holding onto for some time now.

Jesus taught me to Pray:
“Forgive me. “

“And oh, my God, if I let go,
Please don’t let me float away.”

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
God Gives.
God Takes Away.

I open my hands and All I am holding -on to,
begins to drift lightly upward
like many little feathers.

I will walk Home
With hands wide open.
“Naked I came, and naked I will go.
He gives and takes away.”
Bless not me, Bless Him.

And if I ever lose my hands
Bless the Lord oh my soul.

A Very Long Discourse on Cliches, Tea, Names, Getting Older, Hair Color, and of course, my main Man, Jesus

A Very Long Discourse on Cliches, Tea, Names, Getting Older, Hair Color, and of course, My main Man, Jesus

April 18, 2015

By Jane Tawel

I have come up with a fun game. Okay, it is a fun game if like I, you are a nerdy word person. What you do is, you think of a cliché that describes you or your family, and then you write about why it describes you. Ready? Here goes –

  1. “A Rose by Any Other Name”. When I was in my self-obsessed twenties, I decided to finally act on my hatred of my plain Jane name and change my name to Caitlin, which at the time was completely unique. The joke was on me as the name Caitlin or Katelyn became the most popular girl’s name for about the next decade in America. Meanwhile the name Jane was seldom heard anymore. Changing my name did not change me, or make me more or less special. Some of my friends though still call me Cait, and that makes them special to me.

My husband has lived in opposite world in terms of his names. Jane Cook met Raoul Tawel and a new unique world began and soon exponentially multiplied to include a passel of unique little Tawels. I wanted to give each of my children unique and special names. Someone once suggested with a last name like ours we should have just named them all “Terry”.

  1. “Old enough to know better”. I am trying to find ways to adjust to how old I am and who that makes me. I think I have a difficult time growing old because I am basically an immature person. I have decided in a radical act of feminism and some obscurely personal sense of Jesus-ism to let my hair color grow out and go grey, but this is difficult not only because as my orange hair grows out, I look like this —


but because pretty soon I will look like this —

ugly dog 1

People in America (and definitely folk living in Los Angeles, America), are very prejudiced against old women. I have spent several years deluding myself that blonde hair essentially tricks people into thinking I am still twenty-five. I assume I will look more unique when I grow grey in the LaLa Land of “She’s the blonde one, no not that one, no not that one, nope, not that one either.

Old men do not need to worry about POO (Prejudice Of Oldsters) because old men still rule the world. When we lived in Glendale, I once commented to Raoul’s Armenian hair cutter, “Esther, My husband has great hair”. Esther, not quite understanding my strong Midwestern accent and ever protective of the male species, thought I said “My husband has GRAY hair”. She vehemently lit into me, “No, yoor hoosband has beeeoootiful Seelver hair. Eet ees not grrrrray! Eet ees seelver!”


I can bet you 50,000 Armenian drams that when and if Esther ever sees me again, she will not call my grey hair, beeeeeoooootiful and seeeelver! For Esther like so many others, I will be that old grey haired lady. It doesn’t matter that Esther is quite a bit older than I, she still dyes her hair. So it doesn’t count.

Now maybe if I were Jamie Lee Curtis or Emmie Lou Harris I would be “seelver” haired and still hot. But I don’t know who I am as a woman if I am not sexy, cute, pretty, and thin/blonde/wrinkles-less. How do I relate to other people?

My daughter Verity tells me that it is trendy now for young people to dye their hair grey. Well, when you are young, you can dye your hair blue, grey, purple, construct a dress out of a paper bag paired with black tights, and wear banana peels for shoes and you still look cute, pretty and sexy. When you are not young, you are no longer admired for how you look so much as how you manage. The five life stages of looking good: 1. Look good buck-naked. 2. Look good in a bikini. 3. Look good in jeans. 4. Look good in loose fitting clothing or Muumuu’s. 5. Look good in a casket.

As for me, I am trying to figure out who that person in the mirror this morning is going to be when she grows up. Hopefully pretty soon I will not just be old and grey and slack, but I will truly be old enough to know better.

  1. “Too big for her britches” This is what my skinny jeans said to me this morning.
  1. “Doing it by the book” This is always true for me as I refuse to watch the movie.
  1. “Not everyone’s cup of tea”. If you came to the Tawel household and observed our family’s afternoon tea making ritual, you would see six different kinds of cups, with six different types of teas, and six different amounts of milk / sugar / or honey in them. The “Tawels Six” are just kinda hard to group or standardize. I remember a friend remarking after a Tawel party once, “you have very eclectic friends.” I think this was meant to make me feel better after the argument that escalated almost to physical blows at the party between some of our said “eclectic” friends. Actually, the next time we hosted a party, both of the arguing friends wanted to make sure the person of the other political persuasion was not going to be there.

The Tawel family has been called “different”. Synonyms for the word “different” include: contrasting, offbeat, particular, peculiar, colorful, a far cry from, odd, otherwise, unalike, mismatched, like day and night…”


`Having grown up in the somewhat homogenous Middle West, where we were if not in fact all a lot alike, we were expected and groomed to be alike, I was overjoyed to realize that each of my four children came into the world incredibly different from each other and absolutely unique. They are each “their own cup of tea”. I am also more and more thankful for the family and friends who have learned to enjoy and sometimes love the “Tawel Teas”. Thank you. I know we are not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially Caitlin.

I hope you have fun playing “The Cliché Game” with your significant others. (Currently in Trademark negotiations with Some Very Important Persons.) (That is a lie.) Be careful though; I have found that very few in my close circle of Tawels are happy with the clichés I assign us. Your family may feel the same. No one wants to be a cliché, which is why the game is more about redefining your clichés than living into them. Cliches, as a rule, should not be a guide for writing your life story.

The number one rule of a good writer, is “Don’t write in clichés”. The second rule is write vivid characters. Where we sometimes go wrong with our lives and maybe where we have gone wrong with God is in wanting to keep His words and The Word, Jesus, and our stories as humans, in safe little clichéd compartments.

We tend to cliché God when we are justifying something we have done or when we are arguing against something we don’t like. For instance, when we don’t want to see sin as sin, or when we are too afraid to speak the truth in love, or too lazy to fight for something worth fighting for, we cliché God by saying, “God is Love”. But if you read life stories about real people like Ananias and Sapphira, or Lot, or Moses, or the early Hebrews, or how The Father’s love looked with God’s only begotten Son, you have to come to the conclusion that we cannot compare God’s love to anything remotely clichéd about Love.

If you are so angry you could smite someone and therefore, you box God into the “God is a Just God” box, then you better take a hard look at God’s weird and radical kind of justice. Take Adam and Eve, or King David, or Cain, or Peter or Paul for instance.

If I am trying to make God into a cliché, then I am making Him into the god of my desires and that is worshiping a false idol. The God of the Bible, of the created universes, of the sun and the stars and the flowers and the elephants and the ants, and the God of you and me, is a God so unique we will need eternity to begin to understand one little quark of who He is. It is why immersing ourselves in His story is so important.

Living, like writing, has rules. If we follow the instructions, we make the story of our lives Good. Just like God when He is creating, we want to look at the unique but well ordered creation of a life well lived and say, “It is Good.”

The Bible is full of characters who have followed the instructions and allowed God to help them write the story of their lives. The first rule of living in The Good Book, is “Love God for who He is and not as the cliché you wish He were”. The second rule is like unto it, “Love your neighbors (spouse, child, boss, friend, enemy, self) as the vivid characters they are and not as the clichés you would like to make them, and do this in the same way you want to be loved for the person you uniquely are”. Because (even though I’m breaking a grammar rule here)– Nobody is not God’s cup of tea.


We are all made in God’s image, hence, there are no human clichés. But that makes for some hard choices in life as we deal with other humans. It means everyone is worthy of grace. That terrorist is worthy of redemption because he is not a clichéd “terrorist”. He is a singular human being that God created and that our non-clichéd God, loves. Hard to stomach? Yes, it is. I am personally terrorist intolerant and have a hard time digesting God’s word on how to love my enemy. But reread the Tanahk – nothing older or newer about God’s Truth.

We have gotten so good at isolating ourselves with gadgets and gates and isolating “the other” with prejudice, anger and fear. We have become the ones who walk away from and pay for the good Samaritan services of someone else. But in guarding our societies and denominations, we have stopped seeing each other as the eternally confounding special souls that each human is. That homeless person is not a clichéd bum, but a child of the Unique God, Yahweh. That Wall Street stockbroker is not a money changer but a little girl who needs a Daddy. That nation of individuals will someday get the justice it deserves because it is not a clichéd super power but because it is a group of individual souls who will be judged by the cliche-bending King who rode a donkey and died on a cross for His worthless subjects. God took worthless dust and made it into worthy sons and daughters of God. The Triune Godhead has worked throughout history to make men and women write the stories we are worthy of living because we are created to be like He is — special. If we choose violence, and hatred, and evil, and indifference, we are the ones who choose to be common, not special. “For men love darkness”, but God has called us to come into the light and stand out as super stars.


God was and is so absolutely unique that Moses (talk about an idiosyncratic person!), had to ask God about Himself, “Okay, god of my peeps the Israelites, who You be, dude? I mean, like, nameless god, like, okay, I’m going to Egypt where the gods have cool names that describe them, like Ra = Sun god, and Aah = Moon god, and Ishtar = god of war and sexuality (that should have told the Egyptians something right there, same god for both of those?!?!?!) But you, oh god of my homies the Hebrews, what choo be da’ god of, man?” “So”, Moses says to his god, “what’s your name?”

I honestly think Jehovah, God must have been laughing His head off (a really bad cliché for God, okay, but you get the picture). I mean, God was stumped, He’s thinking, like, “How do I tell this guy. I don’t really have even anything like what this human considers a “name”. I mean, I’ve never been put in this position before. Adam and Eve, nope, they didn’t need a name. Abraham, he was good living outside the clichéd names. But Moses, wow, for someone who doesn’t even plan on doing the talking, this guy wants a name?!”

But God is Love, the weird kinda love that answers Need if not necessarily Want, and so God lovingly answers His creation’s need and gives Moses a name. God reaches down to Moses’ level and levels with the human as best in His infinitude that God can. “Yo, Mo-mo, Catch this, my man. Y’all can tag Me, “I Am”.

Try to cliché that answer, folks.

I love it. Moses goes up against a list of named gods like nobody’s business. I mean those Egyptians had gods not just for big clichés like justice, war, destiny, and joy, but they had gods for cats, frogs, and cows. They actually had two different gods’ names for hippos, go figure! Okay, I can’t help it, they had a centipede god called Sepa. Worship that god and see how far that gets ya’, okay? (I call on the great god Centipede to save me from my sins and to cure cancer!) So off go Moses and Aaron to the Egyptians, and they are like, “Okay we aren’t doing the tit for tat thing here. Youse guys got a thousand named gods, and we’re like totally bringing to the table, one god…. Who…. okay, uh, uh, um (Moses starts his nervous stutter thing here so he looks at big bro Aaron, who kinda shrugs not feeling his game yet.) um, uh, okay, bear with me here, (Aside: thanks a lot Aaron). I DID ask Him for His name, and here it is, ‘kay? Ready. You can call our Hebrew god, “I Am”.”

Those Egyptians were laughing their heads off…..all the way til the frog gods started falling from the sky and the war gods killed all the firstborns. They were laughing til the centipede gods started crawling in their cat gods’ kitty litter. The Egyptians were living the clichéd good life all the way until the Hebrew slaves got outta Dodge and the “river ran through it (them)”.

Then “ I Am” didn’t seem so quaint.

I Am. When you share your name with someone, you are no longer a stranger. Knowing someone’s name gives you a piece of the puzzle of that person. When Jehovah, gave us a name, He gave us an endless paradox. On the one hand, I Am elevated Himself beyond any words that could describe who He is. But He also humbled Himself, by stooping to our need and using our language so we could have a miniscule understanding of His essential self. In the same way God would later humble Himself and give Himself the name, Jesus.

Friedrich Peter the Suffering Servant

The name Jesus wasn’t unique back then but was sorta like naming your kid, Bob. Or Jane. But Jesus never needed to reinvent Himself because He knew His unique place in God’s story. The name Jesus means “God Saves”. As the present body of Christ, we also bear the name “God Saves” when we call ourselves “little Christs”. We are the little “anointed ones” to live in the unique image of Jesus. No matter what we are called; no matter what our talents are; no matter what our inborn personality; no matter what our ingrown problems; we are created especially in God’s one- of- a- kind- in -each -of -us image. That’s how big Yahweh is.

The Great I Am decided against all odds, not hedging His bets, taking one for the team, going the long way around, going the distance, (get it? Clichés?) – He chose to not only trust His creation with Himself but to trust his created people with telling His Story through our own broken, special lives (Yeah, special as in Special Needs every one of us!). God entrusted us with His image and His story, even though we had time and time and time and time and time and time and time again, proved ourselves untrustworthy. And because The Great I Am has trusted us with His essential self, one of the commands that is given to teach us how to write our life stories well, is the instruction that we should not abuse the power, the grace, the mystery, or the love of the name of I Am. That is what the Egyptians do, not Yahweh’s chosen Bride. I use God’s name in clichéd vain to my peril and also to my loss.

There are very good rules given in the most un-cliched book ever written —Rules for good writing in the individual soul and on the world’s collective soul. Jesus came as The Word. We humans had already tried over and over again to make God and His Story, a list of mealy-mouthed clichés. So Jesus came to live our story as it is meant to be lived. Jesus lived a God-as-protagonist life and preached the Good News of new metaphors; metaphors turned upside down to illuminate the objects around us and reveal The Image in each of us. And God took a new name to give us what we Need and ultimately what we Want. When God took the name Jesus, He knew that though it might seem to be a pretty common name, some day at that unique name, every knee will bow.

Each day I have to ask myself, am I playing The Cliché Game? Am I taking the easy clichéd way out? And I don’t just mean my writing. I mean my life. If I am made in I Am’s image, Am I living a life in which being and beings are more important that doing and doings? Or am I living a cliché?


If you really want to be unique, be a person of Hope. You know the difference between Joe Schmoe and the great world changers? World changers have hope – usually against all odds.   People who have hope in Someone bigger than their common-ness re-make the world in His holy image. When the rest of the world has chosen defeat or violence or hiding in fear or racism or hatred or disinterest, the hopeful ones like Abraham, Joshua, Joseph of Egypt, Ruth, Esther, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Schindler, ten Boom, Mother Teresa, John Wesley, — those kind of people choose hope. Then they just keep putting one hopeful foot in front of the other until the miraculous occurs. These heroes of hope, believe that the world despite all appearances to the contrary, might change; hope heroes keep the hope alive that the world can be re-newed. That is the uniqueness that hope brings. Otherwise these extraordinary people who become the peaceful, healing hopers of history, are no different than you and I; they put on their pants one leg at a time just like you and I do. Well, all of them except maybe Ghandi. This is Ghandi wearing pants:


Side note: My first born Justine sort of looked like Ghandi when she was born. She had jaundice so she had Ghandi’s skin hue for a while and her limbs were kinda spindley and she was pretty bald: Seriously,Can you tell which of these pictures is of Ghandi and which is of Justine? I can’t.

photo-10     PHOTOLISTE_20090618161736_inde_gandhi_600_

How unique would I be in this world if I were a person of hope? Imagine how Hope could change your life? Apply hopefulness rather than hatred to your attitude about your job. Apply hope to your relationships. Apply hopefulness instead of criticism to your church. Apply Hope to your children. And if you can’t apply hope, then walk the opposite way. At least for a little while.  I mean it, if you aren’t able to hope in that situation, then get out of it. Let someone else who is uniquely gifted to apply hope there, barge in, while you go find what you are uniquely called to apply hope to. You may have to isolate yourself on a figurative mountaintop for a while to restore hope, but do it. Unlike Love or Faith, there is nothing you can do or must do. Hope is like a bird – don’t try to catch it and don’t ask it to teach you to fly. Find your sense of hope in the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and use it for Good. Only then can the prophet Isaiah’s word be true in your life; only then can you run again without fainting and maybe even fly. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Is. 40:31)


Emily Dickinson, never one for clichés wrote a great poem about hope. As I get older, hope has had to take on a different hue, just like my hair. I no longer “hope” for A’s or that “the guy” will call, or that I will get the “thing”, or that I look hot, or that “they” will choose me. Hope is no longer a possibility based on the chimera of the stuff of youth. I am old enough to know better. Of course, if I were a revered wise elder, what I would tell the young people is: Even when you are as young as you are, my darlings, Hope doesn’t depend on anything you are or can do. Hope is the thing with feathers.

There is an old hymn with a metaphor that never grows cliched: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

What foundation am I building my life upon? Am I building it on the same clichéd foundation that this world of more -of -the- same super corporation brand names is building it on in order to have a prefabbed life behind a security gate? Or am I building a life on the Kingdom Rock, in order to be constructed by the Master Builder strong enough to last for eternity.? Am I longing to be that uncommon, peculiar person whose life is a metaphor in the making?

Jesus took common things and blessed them. He offers to take common old Jane, common old Amy, common old Verity, common old Susy, common old Raoul, common old Bill, common old Caitlin, common old us, and make us something special. God laid down His extraordinary life so that the theme of my story could be built around the common Son of man with a common name who shed his common blood to save common cliched old me. When I make my story, His story, then life is Pulitzer Prize Beautiful. Hope in the Christ, means a life in which ashes are exchanged for beauty,  and in which normal is exchanged for extraordinary. And grey becomes great.


I hope that with age, will come the wisdom and hope that I need to trust that if God can love and delight in the wonderment of a common, useless bird, then He loves me enough to take the clichés of my life and write His unique story in the margins. It may not look like much to any one else; it may not seem like much to me, but I pray I am old enough not to know any better and to hope in the “things unseen”, unimagined! that God is doing in the world and has in store for the rest of my eternal years.

Living well at any age is not about looking forward to shedding this corporal body and going to heaven to be with Jesus; it is about enjoying today spent living in Christ’s kingdom on earth as it will be and is in heaven. We are called to be the peculiar, unique people of I Am. (I Peter 2:9) Not because we are anything special, but because God is. God must be peculiar – He loves you and me, doesn’t He? We are both created as God’s special cups of tea.

As a Christ follower, getting old isn’t a cliché about its “beating the alternative”. Getting older is getting better at living the alternative. The privilege of growing old together with I Am is that I can still skin the cat on the monkey bars of life, full of hope and the knowledge that even if I fall, even if I break a hip, Hope is still singing and keeping my cold old arthritic limbs warm. And that is what “doing it by The Book” is all about.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

— Emily Dickinson


“For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He’s watching me.”

The Little Red Hen, “Round up”, and Weeds – A Good Friday Meditation

The Little Red Hen, “Round Up”, and Weeds

A Good Friday Meditation on April 3, 2015

By Jane Tawel

I think I could write a whole blog series about things I hate. I’m not so sure I could write more than a couple posts about things I love. Wow. What does that say about me? I think it says that I am cultivating violence more than I am peace; anger more than I am joy; despair more than I am faith; and oh, yeah, duh, hate more than I am love. I think it means my hope cup is half empty – maybe three-quarters empty? Speaking of cultivating–

One thing I hate is gardening. I do have friends whose solace and creativity are best experienced in their gardens. I admire their handiwork and their ability to turn off their brains in the natural world. One reason I still run most mornings and run alone is because I have to work really hard at making my body turn off my brain. Running has always helped me do that. Walking – nope. Too slow to outrun that tricky brain of mine. Working out at the gym –nope, too many people sweatily surrounding me that I can envy or criticize there.

I run in the mornings and the earlier the better. If you are older, like I, you will know what I mean when I say that my brain tends to wake up before I do. About 1:00 am, sometimes 2:00 am, my brain says: “Good morning, sweetie, you can try to keep our body sleeping but I have some distressing things to worry about so don’t mind me if I churn along in here, negotiating world peace and fixing all your kids.” You know that movie about the famous smart guy whose body doesn’t work but his brain does? Well, I am like, excuse me?! but what is the big deal with that? Isn’t that true for all moms? I mean, does anyone want to do a movie about my useless body at 2:00 am with a mind running along like the fictitious bullet train of California?!?!? (By the way, if anyone out there does want to do a movie about that? – Have I got a deal for you. I am very cheap.)

Most of my friends who love gardening, hate running. Hmmmmmmm…….

I hate gardening because I hate weeding. Weeding does nothing to relieve my stress but is simply a working metaphor for what my brain has been doing since 2:00 am. “A-HA! Here’s a new weed for you, Jane Karen!”(Both Satan and God tend to use my childhood name a lot.) And I’m like, “Brain of mine, didn’t we pull that very same weed just yesterday?” I’m sure of it. It’s the same dang weed!
Definition of a weed:( noun) A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one that grows where it is not wanted and often grows or spreads fast or takes the place of desired plants.

That definition of weeds is exactly why I hate gardening — and thinking. Weeds take the place of desired plants. Weeds are unwanted, undesired, unattractive, troublesome and show up where and when they are not wanted. That is the exact same definition of worry. And irritation. And hateful thoughts. And cellulite, come to think of it.

When I garden, I have a task in mind. Raoul and I used to joke about how our gardening attitudes reflected our inner attitudes. When Raoul was a little boy, he decided to grow orchids from seeds. I, on the other hand, spent my early years on a farm, surrounded by farmers, who grew stuff to eat, and then to can and eat in the winters. So Raoul is affectionately known as the “Orchid Grower”, and I am known as the “Potato Farmer”.

I plant practical. Tomatoes, since now it is the only way to get tomatoes that do not taste like a cut- up sales circular. Basil, Cilantro, peppers. You would think it would be easy to plant in Southern California, but not so much. The ground is pretty rocky here, not a lot of top soil in the desert. Also, nothing kills the dang weeds. I mean snow and hard freezes are good for something, right? I don’t mind planting. But before you plant, you have to weed. Actually, before you plant, while you plant, after you plant – weed, weed, weed. Some days, I go out to water my little tomato plants, and you guessed it – the little sneaky sniper squatters are all over the garden, setting up their crummy little squatter tents and trashing up my lovely little farm. If you do not believe me, here is a picture of my tomato farm with obvious weed squatters:

photo 2

The exact same thing happens to the garden in my brain. I go to bed with prayer in mind and the minute I turn off the light, the sniper thought shoots a bullet of worry straight to my heart. At 2:00 am I turn over onto my left side and find, “WHOA! Isn’t that the same dang worry that grew on this side last night?!”I wake up in the morning, head to my coffee plantation in the kitchen and yowza – aren’t those the same dirty dishes in the sink from last month? Worry and irritation like weeds is at every turn I make. So I start doing that thing where you think on good things like Paul suggests in Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

You thought I’d somehow end with this great idea, right? And as a reader, you would be brought ‘round to this lovely sense of peace, faith, hope and joy. But NOPE! Guess again, because the minute I stop meditating on good things, and thinking up all three of the Bible passages I have memorized, I wake up to find the SAME DANG WEEDS!! Because here it is — the truth that we all know –   If I don’t worry about it; If I don’t get upset about that: If I don’t take care of that problem; THEN WHO WILL??? I can guarantee you that I will not wake up today to find all my kids and husband out on my tomato farm weeding it for me! And neither will I find them out there worrying and getting upset about the things they should be worrying about like getting killed in a crosswalk or that person they are dating, or being irritated about what they should be irritated about like that teacher, or being angry about things they should be angry about like global warming and ants – nope, I have to do all that for them.


But just like the little red hen, I will weed and plow, and worry and get upset, but I will still share my tomatoes and wheat and overwhelming angst with my little chicks. (If however, you are a goat or a cow reading this, the little red hen does not share the fruits of her labor with you! This is where the little red hen veers a bit from biblical teaching but this blog is already running too long so I’ll save that metaphor.

Okay, now is the point where I talk about all the farming metaphors in the Bible right? You are already thinking of bunches of them with which to counsel me and help me with aren’t you? Please never stop doing that. But here is the thing – no matter what I believe about my garden, no matter how I want to see it, no matter how I care for it or pray for it or love it – there will always, always, always in this world, be weeds. Here is what Jesus says about weeds:

Matthew 13:29: “No,” he replied, “because while you are pulling the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them.”

So we don’t take this literally, as if Jesus is saying, don’t get rid of weeds in your garden or bad thoughts in your mind because that would make senseless the rest of everything He said. BUT could it be, that in trying to get rid of weeds and bad thoughts, my focus or intent is wrong, and therefore, I am yanking up good thoughts and good plants as well?

My husband got concerned when in order to put in my tomatoes this year, I had to rip out a giant swath of mint. If you have never planted it, mint is good like a plant, bad like a weed. Great if you plant it in a pot, but unless you want it to take over your yard, or perhaps your whole city, you plant it with caution. So could the same be said about the “bad” thoughts in my brain?

I worry about my kids because I love them. I worry about my husband’s health, because I love him. I worry about how much water I am using because there is a drought. I get irritated at other drivers because they are dangerous. I feel hatred toward violence because it kills souls. I get angry at myself and others for being greedy because it is a false idol that gains the world but loses the souls.
When I see weeds in my garden, I begrudgingly get to work on the garden because I want lovely, healthy tomatoes this summer. So when, I get worried, or irritated, or angry, or hateful – I should get to work. If I blindly, forcefully rip out the weeds completely like I did the mint, then there is only arid soil. No good plants either. But if I look at the weed, look at the worry, look at the irritation, and decide, I can remove you without harming good thoughts. If I am careful, discerning, truthful, loving, at peace – then I will not in rash anger Roundup Herbicide my bad thoughts (like I did the weeds in that pesky patch by the driveway with the promise from the Home Depot Gal that nothing will grow there for a WHOLE YEAR! “are you sure that’s what you want?” oh yeah.) But Jesus says, don’t annihilate your whole thought garden and risk losing the important fruit I want you to get, so you can do good garden work in the world. “Jane Karen (my childhood name)”, God says, “I want you to live in shalom, completeness, with the weeds and the wheat. I’ll take care of the garden.”

And this is what prayer does. Finally, a smidgeon of a reassurance. When my brain wakes up at 2:00 am, I am not supposed to ignore her little weed worries, or say the ABC’s until the angry thought is neutralized, or try to remember if “my cup runneth over” comes before or after “surely goodness and mercy”. I am to let my brain talk with God. And more importantly, I am to try to get my brain to stop talking long enough to listen to God.

Because, here it comes – Jehovah is first and foremost a superior Gardener. Ever since, Eve and her sidekick Adam tried their hands at Roundup Deluxe Weed Killer, any time we think we can do it better, we end up planting weeds and harvesting evil, while ripping up apple plants. We thought we could know good from evil, but only God knows His creation so thoroughly that He can harvest where no one has planted, and discern where weeds are growing without harming the fruit. If God has promised, that someday He will truly recreate the paradisiac garden He intended in the first place, on earth, then surely He knows how to tenderly pull up the weeds of sins in my own life, without harming the fruit of the Spirit.

So each day, I go out to transform my garden and transform my mind by minute minutes of weeding. It is not ever going to be an overhaul. It won’t ever be over, or complete, or finished. Only Jesus was able to say “it is finished” in this lifetime. And He said it today, Good Friday, when He died for the weedy souls called you and me. He didn’t come in with a giant tiller or a poisonous herbicide, but with a palm-sized nail. Jesus took two nails, and He began digging out the thorns, and brambles, and weeds of our lives, tenderly, lovingly, so as not to annihilate the seeds planted just below the surface of our soul soil. When we accept His living and dying for us and His glorious resurrection and restoration to His throne as we celebrate this weekend, we accept that we are all a growing garden, full of both weeds and fruit, but because of Christ, God looks at our hearts and sees Eden Restored in His Son’s image in us.

Take time this weekend, to contemplate the weeds of your life, and the fruit. Think on good things and pull a few weeds if you are able – some of them might be really hard to uproot if you have let them grow too long and too big in your life. But prayer helps. Humility helps. And most of all, know that Jesus spent His last night on earth, in a garden with our forefathers and foremothers, his disciples. He spent it in prayer. For us. He prayed for our weeds and our fruit and He knew that with Peter, and John and Mary, He couldn’t risk using his power to rip up their weeds, without endangering the embryonic blossoms of their faith and hope and love. So at 2:00 am I will come to the garden and know that the weeds and the flowers are in His care and ever more tended by His nail scarred hands.

Today Jesus died for the garden of this earth. He died for the garden of my soul. Silly, little insignificant, worthless, irritable, evil potato farmer me. There is an old song that Andre Crouch used to sing that begins, “How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me.” Usually I don’t want to make things all about me, especially the salvation of the world. But today, I simply look at the little garden patch of my life, and say to the Lord, “how can I say thanks?”

God, You sent your only Son back down into the Garden, to go out there and help us get rid of the weeds once and for all. Jesus, just like the little red hen, longs to “gather his chicks” and feed them from His crucified body and water them with his drought- resistant blood. All He asks of me, is to let Him into my garden patch. How can I say thanks?

A Poem —– Without End

“Without End”

Palm Sunday,    March 29, 2015

By Jane Tawel

For My Mother, Jane Cook whose birthday it is today March 31 and who hates blank verse but reads mine anyway.

I am an acolyte of Time.

Mastered by a ticking clock.

Doesn’t even touch me with her hands any more.

Incessant Screens like Greek Sirens

Beacons of corpse-like digits. Beeping bait–

Three goddesses I serve by sacrificial waste.

The Past–She plants a field of nettles, I crawl through;

I scab, unhealed,

Itchy and swollen with remembered hurt.

I clutch her, unable to let go

Of toxic weeds,

Fearing to lose the blossoms

Now rotted and decayed

That Time won’t let me keep.

The Future – She whose unformed quixotic days –

Fill imaginary pus-filled blisters between my fearful toes,

Anticipated pain, keeping me

From moving forward without wincing.

My dance card is filled

Before I learn to stand.

Time’s future soundless, sightless ghosts tango stoically

Stepping on the feet of my dreams.

The Now—Wieldy Wanton Witch waves a wand

That makes a many lane-ed highway,

Not a path diverging into two, but endless choices whizzing by

Too fast to choose, Which? Which? Which Witch?

The other worshipers seemingly knowing where they are going,

And I immobilize myself, worried and irritated,

Unable to walk.

So I gluttonize the Present by choosing everything

And gaining nothing.

Too obese to rise.

An anorexic—starved for a taste of




God, The Real One ……

Outside Time.

Outside the small numb blip of Me-ness,

I have lost Your Timeline

In the hanging garden.

I meander in a paradise of

Nettles, thorns, and burrs

To give glory to an idol from a dog’s age.


Free me from the holy moly of the Past,

Free me from the jaded janus of What Might Be,

Free me from the ever enticing loveless vishnu of the Now.

Set my body running, climbing, twirling

Free me to be an abject slave to the Centered Point.

A to O I Am, embolden my bondage

To be the image of Your Was and Is and Evermore Shall Be

Into Your Eternal ……

Starting here and now without any here and now assured.

Never dying, living wholly holy into your Timelessness,

On Earth as it is in The Havens.

If freedom once meant nothing left to lose,

Poor Prophetess, how right you could have been

If you had known The Way.

If only you had traded rock

For rocks that cry Hosanna.

Freedom in Yahweh in The Now,

The Endless Circle of His Moment…..

Being Your slave, what should I do but tend

Upon the hours and times of Your desire?”

You steal Time and replace it with Eternity,

Like a Thief.

Joshua! cries the clock.

Nothing left to lose

Means nothing left to choose.

Freed to renounce all my Time

And place a wager

On this moment

Choosing nothingness

But You.

And only You.

Forever You.

From Quark to Quark

My Dust implodes, resettles and reforms

Into Uncertain Certainty

Electrically charged

To worship: Hosanna! Timeless One.

You save a lot of Time.


About Cars: She’s Not That Into You

She’s Not That Into You

March 22, 2015

By Jane Tawel


I’m not that into cars.

People, men especially, my men especially, have these strange conversations around me sometimes. Dad: Hey, I saw an Aston Martin today. Son: What color was it? I saw a GT 5000, 1974. Black. Dad: Silver. Well, I saw the new Mercedes Benz S Series. Son: Cool. Do you think Rolls Royces are cool even if they aren’t chauffer driven? Dad: Hey, look it’s the new Tesla. Mom (trying to contribute): I see a car. Men: ignore the mom as they should. Son: (Hits Dad hard on shoulder) Smartie! Dad: (hits Son back) I saw a Smartie five minutes ago. Son: Hey, at Resnick I saw the…… Dad: That car costs $143,000!!! Son: I KNOW!!

Vehicle discussions between men go on, and on, and on, and on like this, day after day, after day, after day. Some women like cars too. My friend of the Sillies, Heather and my daughters Justine and Clarissa, like certain cars. All these people spend time thinking about cars and dreaming about cars and discussing what they want and like in cars and talking about cars. And sometimes trucks.

Here is what I think about cars. There are too many of them. Here is what I want in a car. Does it work? Can I sit down while driving it? Where do I put my purse? Here is what I dream about cars. Never having to drive one again. Here is what I think about the cool car you drive. 0000.00000 This is because I have absolutely no clue what car you drive.

Friends have gotten miffed at me for my ignoring them when they drive by me, waving wildly. It’s not that I don’t care about them, I just don’t pay any attention to what people drive. I do not care about their cars, hence I do not recognize said friend if said friend is in a vehicle. This is not personal. I often don’t recognize the car I am driving. Many a time I have left my older kids waiting in the car for me in a parking lot, (I said older kids because I don’t want you to think I leave small children unattended in hot cars. I only leave teenagers unattended in hot cars.) and while I push my little grocery cart out to my car, my kids watch in a mixture of horror, embarrassment and amusement as I try to unlock a similar looking car elsewhere in the lot. Sometimes its not even the right make – only a similar color and size. It’s a miracle I’ve never been arrested for trying to break into someone else’s car. That day may come if I am still alive. My children may kill me before I can be arrested because…

I have several strange habits that only occur when I’m driving. These habits have made my children who they are today. Evidently I do this odd irritating thing with my thumbs on the steering wheel every time I drive which makes my children go absolutely insane. I was completely unaware of this habit that makes people want to kill me until my children pointed it out. My daughter, Clarissa, says it’s not the rubbing motion so much as the sound it makes on the steering wheel that makes her want to kill me. According to Gordon he only stops himself from killing me when I do “THE THUMB THING”, because if he killed me then the car would crash and he might die before he could grab the wheel and take over driving. He believes of course that he is a much better driver than I am. Gordon has not yet driven a car. But he is still better at it than mom, especially because he does not do The Thumb Thing. But then, everyone knows that teenagers make the best drivers even while texting, watching a youtube video, chewing gum, rubbing their tummies and patting their heads, all at the same time. I think I do The Thumb Thing out of constant nervousness and it is a way for me to release nervous energy. This is an important skill in stress reduction while driving in Los Angeles. I am positive I would not do The Thumb Thing if I were raising my family in South Dakota or Ohio.

I wish I could say this little tic of mine, and it seems to be a tic since I have tried to stop myself but find myself completely unable to  – I wish I could say this little tic affectionately known as The Thumb Thing Mom Does, is the most irritating thing I do while driving, but it is not. I also talk to other drivers. I have been known to say things like: “There you go Love, you can do it.” Child: He’s not your Love, mom. Mom: You moron, watch out! Child: Mom, He can’t hear you. Stop talking to him. Mom (pretty glad the big hairy driver CAN’T hear her).: You’re right, Child. Whoa!That guy almost hit us! Child: Mom, it was a woman and she was like three inches away from you.

I also, according to the non-paid expert witnesses that I haul around everywhere as a non-paid driver, slurp my coffee from my to-go canister and when I close it, I spray the entire car and everyone else in it. My children believe the mini-van is literally covered in mom’s coffee graffiti. I can’t see it, but I guess that is because I am driving with one good eye. (See previous blog posting).

When I drive, I do not stop often enough for fast food before, after, and during school nor does any one in the universe like “MY” Music. I turn on my turn signal too early, and I dance to the music the kids play, embarrassing them in front of all their friends who constantly are lurking just outside our car in order to catch The Tawel Kids’ Mom doing embarrassing things to her cool children. I think several of my kids’ friends have been told I was adopted.

I will admit that I’m not always that focused when I’m driving. I did scar for life my children the time I was thinking of something else (Maybe because I was concentrating on trying not to do THE THUMB THING) and I almost killed someone in the cross walk. I can still see in my mind’s eye, this short, middle-aged, Latino handicapped man (yep, he was actually handicapped!) crossing where I was trying to turn left. The memory has been imbedded onto my family’s collective memory retinas. There was I evidently carelessly and wildly turning, and that poor little Mexican man with dark-framed thick glasses and one leg shorter than the other, hobbling madly, frantically, hop, hop, panic, hop, hop, panic across the intersection cross walk. Making a sort of background music were my children in bug-eyed, hand waving, slow- motion, screaming, “Mowowowowom, Mowowowowom, Mowowowowom!!!!”, And their oblivious mother, snapping, “Be qui-i-i-i-i-et, I can’t…” then, Mom FINALLY seeing her hobbling victim, and swerving just in the nick of time, missing him by inches, as he gull-upped, hop, hop, panic, hop, hop, panic, gallupping through the rest of the crosswalk. I thank God every day I did not kill that man. My four children often bring up this close call about the time when Mom almost killed a guy. It often used to be a praise during prayer time since if mom was in jail, who would drive them places. Any prayer praises? Yes, that mom didn’t kill that poor handicapped man. Any prayer requests? Yes, that God will help mom stop doing That Thumb Thing.

My friend, Stephanie, said something that stuck with me. She said about her new relationship with her teenage daughter, Katelyn, “Now I’m just the taxi driver who loves her.” And once you have teens of your own, you realize it is better to be the taxi driver who loves them than to be the “worrying- at- midnight -because -they’re –driving- themselves mom.

Now that my kiddos are all grown up, I really miss my kids all piled into the crumb –decorated mini-van, nagging me about my driving. I miss them imprisoned in their little car-seats, hitting each other and throwing up on the child next to them. I miss putting Raffi in the tape player AGAIN! I miss making U-turns to see cherry picker trucks or to go back for frozen yogurt. I miss not having enough room for all their friends and having to meet them there. I miss having to pull over because they dropped a crayon or turn around because we forgot something (or someone). I miss the laughter about silly things, the songs they made up, being the Unseen Listener, who only had to drive. (By the way, for my friends whose kids are still toddlers and babies: It becomes increasingly difficult to strap your kids into their car seats, especially once they pass the age of twelve and if you’ve already put their bubble wrap on. My advice is to start feeding them less around age ten and put the bubble wrap on after you have already strapped them into the car seats.)

Lately, it has been mostly just Gordie and I driving along. He picks good eclectic music to listen to. Sometimes when I am nervous about other drivers or stressed about something, I will jokingly start twanging, “Jesus Take the Wheel”.

Mom: (singing) Jesus take the wheel. Take it from my hands. Gordon: Mom! You don’t want Jesus to take the wheel. Jesus couldn’t drive. They didn’t have cars back then. Mom: Well, Jesus could drive if he wanted to. He was Jesus. Gordon: Mom! (Teens always say Mom with an exclamation point at the end!)  Mom! No, he couldn’t drive. You don’t want Jesus taking the wheel, cuz I don’t want to crash and die. Oh, cool, Mom look a Buggati!

But, secretly, between you and me — Now that I don’t have all my children trapped in my minivan, howling, screaming, crying, laughing, singing, coloring, arguing, nagging,– Now that they don’t need me to drive them places, I pray — for each of them –every day as they drive all alone in this great, big, rushing, World – Jesus, dear Jesus, please take the wheel.

And then I do The Thumb Thing.


My Children in My Dream Cars for Them

All Tied Up

All Tied Up

March 14, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, one distant morning I was standing in the hallway of my high school by my locker. This was before any one – meaning I- knew anything about bullying or hazing, punking or pranking. To this day I do not think for one minute that my friends were being mean to me, though maybe on a different planet in a different time with different people what happened would be considered that way.

I was holding several large text books in my arms, the thick kind that weigh about twenty pounds each. I still had my fake fur surround hooded, midi brown plaid winter coat on. If you don’t know what a midi is, google it. If you do, you were alive in the seventies and had a midi or two yourself. Although I understand denim midi skirts are having a rivival; what goes around seems to come around in this generation. In the 70’s we had minis, maxis, and midis. We also had hot pants, baby doll peasant smocks, bell bottoms, and midriffs.

This is a midi from the seventies:


And this is a picture of women in minis protesting the midi.


Aren’t people hilarious!? We will protest the idea that someone is maybe thinking something repressive about us by inventing the midi, but we will not protest a country that represses it’s people because they are black.

Back at my high school locker — suddenly without quite knowing how it happened, several boys were taking a large silvery roll of duct tape and going around and around and around me – books still clutched in arms and warm plaid winter midi coat still on. I ended up with the whole middle section of my body duct taped with my books taped to my middle. Every one laughed, including all my girl friends on the sidelines (Denise and Lauren and Peggy you know who you are). I was laughing too. It was hilarious – It had never been done before to our knowledge – no youtube, no punked you shows, no facebook back then to check. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

And then the bell rang. And my classmates went to class. And I didn’t. Because I couldn’t move.

I began to hop. But I was strangely weighted in front with four huge textbooks taped to my chest under my tightly taped crossed arms. And remember I am in a midi – so I am pretty much in a duct tape iron maiden. This is a picture of an iron maiden:


I was not going anywhere. I was way off balance. I was really, really hot and sweating. I was on a slick linoleum floor. And I was alone.

Left in the lurch, I began to lurch.

Definition of lurch: “ to make an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or series of movements; stagger.

If you don’t have children who are or have been teenagers or you don’t teach high school, you may have amnesia about what it is like to be a teenager. Note: There is no bad attention if you are a teenager. Attention is always good.   Getting attention for being beautiful or for crying about something is good. Getting attention for being funny or having drama in your life — good.   Getting attention for having a booger in your nose or for winning the Noble Peace Prize – good. Getting attention for being smart or being a serial killer –good. No bad attention for teenagers. It’s all good. (I have never liked that expression but in this case it is true– attention for teenagers = all good.) Getting wrapped up in duct tape and getting attention – good.

Being a teenager alone in a hallway duct taped so you can’t move, when every one else is in class – and did I mention alone? And you can’t move. And you are alone. Not good. No attention = No good.

Of course since my classmates were basically good and kind souls at a small Midwestern school where teachers knew all the students, not just in their AP classes (oh, that’s right AP classes hadn’t been invented yet)– teachers knew every one in our whole school, which meant I was not hopping alone for long. (You caught that spoonerism right? Hopping alone not hopping along for long. Cute right?)

Which all meant that I was soon de-ducted and back in my desk in my row with my books in the storage unit underneath my desk.

This is what desks and classrooms looked like in the seventies:


Here is a picture of women in fashions from the seventies. I put this in because my husband will find them cute and I want him to keep reading:


Have you ever been in a place in your life where you felt as if circumstances have wrapped you round and round in duct tape? And you can’t move? And you feel trapped? And you are alone? And you are lurching in the lurch?

As spiritual beings we like to quickly caution (did I say caution? was I supposed to say assure?) some one that they are never alone. We look our friend or stranger right in the sobbing eyes or the dry-eyed feeling-less eyes and say: “God is only a prayer away or God is always with you even through the darkest times or If God seems far, guess who moved? or God will never leave you nor forsake you.” And I’m sorry for saying this as I never say bad words if I can help it, but right now I can’t help it. When people say those things to you if you have read your bible at all or have had a relationship with God for more than fifteen minutes then you know when someone tells you that God will never leave you alone that that is:









. (period intentional, not typo)

Ok, I choked. I rated my blog PG after all.

God has left lots of people all alone. God left alone, just to name a few off the top of my head: Able, Jonah, Job (though at one point Job wishes God would leave him alone. By the way, Ask God enough times and He will leave you alone.) Noah, Moses, Naomi, Sarah, David, Paul, Dostoyevsky, Annie Dillard, Flannery O’Connor, Mother Teresa, – and oh, yea, HIS SON JESUS!!! Did you think Jesus was hallucinating when he cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me!”?

Definition of forsaken: “abandoned, deserted”

Definition of Forsake: “to leave someone who counts on you, to leave in the lurch”.

God left Jesus in the lurch. As Jesus lurched around, all alone, on a Roman instrument of torture, getting all the unimaginable kinds of violent, angry, scornful, hateful, sorrowful, mocking, agonizing attention that there is; God jumped ship. God abandoned, deserted, left the planet. For the first time in His life with his Father, Jesus was in a crowd, all alone.

On the cross, Jesus quotes from Psalm 22, a Psalm of King David:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?


My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest.

In the rest of the Psalm, David lists some pretty awful things that people do to each other,some awful things that happen just because we are fallen humans, and some deep feelings of despair and anguish, but the writer of the psalm eventually finds his hope in his knowledge of who God is and the future he believes God has planned for him. David does not find pleasure in the circumstances but he does find reassurance that God is good and is listening. David, the writer of the psalm, finds shalom.

Psalm 22:22- 31

I will declare your name to my people;

in the assembly I will praise you.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

For he has not despised or scorned

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;

before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.

The poor will eat and be satisfied;

those who seek the Lord will praise him—

may your hearts live forever! 

All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

will bow down before him, 

for dominion belongs to the Lord

and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord. 

They will proclaim his righteousness,

declaring to a people yet unborn:

He has done it!

We have truncated the meaning of shalom to “peace”, fair enough, but it means peace as in: “completeness, soundness, welfare”; it also means: “was intact, was complete, was in good health, was safe; and it means: “surrendered, submitted”.

In other words having utter peace is a two way street. It is God giving and my receiving, but it is also God willing and my submitting. I think those are the times we feel alone, when we can neither wait on God in order to receive from Him, or when we can not submit to God and allow Him to work.

Sarah laughed when God asked her at 99 years to stop scheming, stop acting, stop planning, stop grieving, and just submit. She laughed because she felt alone. Then her dark humor turned to submission. And then she got pregnant.

Mary must have felt very alone when she agreed to submit to getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Noah must have felt very alone building a huge dry-docked folly to save the world.

Able must have felt very alone when Cain attacked him.

Paul must have felt very alone when he submitted to being imprisoned for years.

Helen Keller must have felt very alone, blind, deaf and dumb — until Annie Sullivan unlocked the hidden world.

The disciples must have felt very alone, even though they had been with the Messiah, when their whole community kicked them out for following the radical troublemaker named Jesus.

Martin Luther King Jr. spent much time praying both privately and publicly that God would never leave him and his people alone. But he sure must have felt alone to be praying that way. Here is a picture of Martin Luther King:


Notice: he does not think the midi skirt is repressive.

Here is Marcia Brady from the Seventies:


She has nothing to do with this blog, but if you were alive in the seventies you will enjoy her picture here and the memories it induces in you.You will feel less alone right now. In The Brady Bunch, no one ever felt alone. Here is another group of people who never felt alone because everybody knew their name:


I think the “Cheers” gang gives you a good feel for how outsiders saw the Early Church — they thought the apostles and converts were drunk but really they were just so happy to be together.

What is duct taping your heart today? What is making you feel forsaken by God? Are you choosing to stay alone or are you crying out to God to listen to your pleas?

Things for me to try to learn from the Bible in general and Psalm 22 specifically:

  1. The World wants me to believe that life is a straight line and I am either ascending or descending. God’s Kingdom is always going to feel more like a lurch. It’s a narrow path and to walk it while duct taped means quite a bit of stumbling, zig-zagging, avoiding what might be poison ivy, and tripping over rocks. Am I willing to stagger along alone in what feels like uncontrolled movement, knowing that when life duct tapes the heck out of me, I can let go of my own controlling motions and let God control my steps?
  2. When I’m not getting attention for myself, is it time to be “still and know that He is God”? I don’t need to be all fake humble and give God glory by saying, “oh I didn’t do that– it was all God”. No, it was I who did it but I give God glory by using what gifts, talents, heart, strength, intelligence or work ethic I have to the best of my abilities for Good and not for Evil. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind.”

Working together with God, will also help me recognize those very real times when I can not do something in my own strength and desperately need God to save me and rescue me and do it for me. Then true need is open to true miracle. God desires us all to grow up into a healthy, loving, mutual relationship with Him. Then we can truly give Him the honor and glory for all He does in the world. “I will declare your name to my people, In the assembly I will praise you.”

There comes a point when I have to stop asking God to tie my shoelace and then falsely give Him the praise because He helped me do it. I’m afraid this pseudo- humility while still going our own way, leads eventually to the ease many of us have in taking God’s name in vain. In other words we go through life doing what we want and how we want to do it because we are “Christians” or “good people” and then without really humbling ourselves and waiting on the Lord, we give Him credit for something He may not want His name on. We Christians use Christ’s name as our logo, and many times we are a poor Taiwanese knock -off of the real thing. God wants to create Gucci in us and we want to keep shopping at Costco and give Him credit for it.

There are times when I have to accept that I am all tied up in duct tape and unless I wait patiently, I will simply hop down Life’s Hallway in frustration and eventually despair. Even after the start bell has rung, I need to wait on the Great Teacher to untie me and set me free.

  1. It is already done. Whatever Time means to us in this crazy world, when we as God’s children ask Him to draw near and save us, Psalm 22 assures us, that God has already done it, even if we don’t know it yet. Jesus’ last words on the cross are the last words in Psalm 22. When Jesus says “It is finished”, he is no longer the man left alone to die but He is God claiming as God the Father does that He has accomplished it. Jesus as one of the Triune God is saying, “I am never alone. I have done it.”    AHA! God didn’t leave Jesus alone after all. And He doesn’t leave me alone even if it feels like it. Jesus gave us his Holy Spirit so we would never be alone. God has given us His presence – it’s just that sometimes He expects His presence to be manifested in His people. Me to You. You to Me. That Guy. That Girl. Those people.
  2. God has always expected His chosen people to be different, to do His work on earth, to live in a different way and a different kingdom and lurch along, side by side, set apart by how they love.   Here is the theme – read the Bible and you will see it over and over from God’s delight in us at Creation right up to the last earthly acts of Jesus and the revelation of a future heaven and earth. Here’s the theme  – Love God. Love others.

Ps. 22: “From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly, before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.”

We who claim the Judeo-Christian God as our Father are to act like Him and we are to be The World’s duct-tape removers. Ps. 22 goes on to say this is how poor people will be fed, and armies will be defeated, and baby seals will be saved from starvation and planets will be restored to health – by us. By our love and service to a Holy God and by our love and service to a broken motley crew of duct-taped humans, we will live in communion with God and each other forever. Even the angels marvel at how we love.

We are freed only by our allowing our own hands to be all tied up, so we can wait and pray and serve and allow the Lord to remove the duct tape, remove the blinders, remove the stones for hearts, remove the clunky shoes, remove the fashion icons, remove the fear, remove the alone-ness – and inhabit His people as a temple.Then we are the working, creating, loving Body of Christ. Ps. 22: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord ,and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship.

  1. It is time to look around at the broken, tied up world and do something about it. When you smile at the homeless man as you hand him your dollar, he feels just a little less alone. When you take a deep breath and tell your friend the truth, she is less alone. When you hug your child even if he squirms, he is less alone. When you refuse to buy something because a slave made it, they are less alone. When you give money so that an African woman can drink clean water, she is less alone. And when you give even if you don’t have it, when you feel even though you are tired of feeling, when you pray even for people you don’t know and won’t ever hear the results of your prayers about, and when you stay silent when you would like to rail, and you rail even when you want to stay silent, when you march with those who are discriminated against, when you do the chore even though it someone else’s turn, when you give blood, or visit the sick, when you give up this World’s sorry rights for your rights as a child of the King, when you go to church to be with The People, when you live with passion and not indifference,when you make a meal for the homebound, when you tell someone about the Good News of Jesus, when you live creatively and not resignedly, or when you simply sit, and wait, and trust and pray, and anticipate with completeness,–shalom– that God is The Here I Am — THEN, we are not alone.

The family that tapes together, stays together:

photo 1-11   photo 2-12photo 3-5

At the very beginning of our current Time, God lets us know up front He has other things, appointments, planets, universes to be at but not to worry, He “gets us”. Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” That’s you and me by the way. Helpers for each other.

But the weird thing about the God we believe in as opposed to other gods, is that even when He feels far away, or on another planet, He isn’t. He is “here, there and every where”. Our shalom comes from the fact that God has given us each other, God has given us His Son, God has given us the Holy Spirit, and God is continually moving in and with us. No matter how immovably tied up we feel.

Ps. 73: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you. You hold my right hand.” Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1: 3-4)

The name Holy Spirit, means Comforter, Helper. Jesus tells his disciples:

If you love me, you will obey my commandments.  I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever.  That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.(John 14)

Quite a while ago, though not as long ago as the seventies, my daughter Clarissa learned a song at Vacation Bible School. At three she had some interesting first person pronoun confusions and she used to sing this song: “Me just saw Jesus in me eyes.” We finally figured out it was supposed to be, “I just saw Jesus in your eyes.”– like when Jesus tells us, whenever you give a cup of water to the least of these, you are doing it to me.

But when I am feeling alone, and as if the world has duct taped me, I like to quietly sing, “Me just saw Jesus in my eyes”. He is as close as my own heart. He has forever duct-taped Himself to my soul. If I have eyes to see and ears to hear, He is closer than my closest sibling. Jesus is in my eyes, my hands, my feet, my knees, my elbows. His spirit lives within me. And within you. He will truly never leave us alone.

On the cross, Jesus sang out, “It is finished! We have done it!” Jesus cried: “Daddy, Abba, Me just saw You, Daddy, in Me eyes!” And into His hands Christ commended his spirit.

May today I let Jesus live in my eyes. Jesus –bind me to you, duct tape your spirit to mine. May I put down my agenda and take up the cross of Christ. And my brother and sister, may I then be able to look into your duct-taped eyes, my friend, and take your hand and spell into it,

“Y-O-U A-R-E N-E-V-E-R A-L-O-N-E”


“Whoa” — a poem for my darlings


March 11, 2015

By Jane Tawel

To Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon


Whoa, slow down, where you galloping off to?

A second ago, you were a useless collage of limbs.

I had to raise your hands to clean.

I had to raise your head to drink.

I had to ask you questions then answer them for you,

You, without a word, or sound that anybody knew.

But I.

Whoa! Take care! You’re running much too fast.

You’re going to slip and fall — I know.

I’ve seen it happen in my mind

A thousand times a day.

Did you hear me? Can you hear?

Have fun! Be safe! Too fast!

Rely on me and all my knowledge present, future, past.

Love you.

Whoa…slow down… I missed what you just said.

I see the buttons, levers, gears.

My fingers fail where yours speed on.

I hear the words that used to mean

A different thing. A different thing.

Did I already say that?

You tumble forward, catch yourself.

I used to catch you when you fell.

I’m still here watching, waiting– holding out my helpless hands.

Too much.


You’re gone and I can’t hold you here.

My whoa’s are just my own.

Remember—no, you don’t, I guess.

I clutch the memories, now — no more.

I once held you, my baby, child–

And now you’ve flown,

A Pegasus with wings of dreams

Not flaming myths,

Not lullabies from me.

I’ll sing your story old and new

Not mine, not ours. All you.

I’ll never seek to slow you down again.

My joy in you and your bright flight

Is how I can explain these blinding tears.

Blurring my sight

Of your fast ascent.


A Non-Rising Confession

A Non-Rising Confession

March 4, 2015

By Jane Tawel



I must confess. My tell-tale heart is beating like a mixer on steroids. I feel really, really terrible. You may never talk to me again and I don’t blame you. Because …….

I killed the friendship bread.

If it helps you sleep at night I can honestly tell you that the friendship bread died peacefully in its sleep.

This really is weighing on me because a very nice man in my choir, Wes, trusted me with his wife’s friendship bread and I don’t even know her. They have since moved back to the Midwest and I think it is because people there don’t accept your friendship bread dough and then murder it. Grown- ups in the Midwest know how to do friendships and what’s more, they know how to do friendship bread.

Wes brought the sacred dough in a nice little plastic baggie with directions stapled on the outside and everything. It was snuggled like a newborn baby waiting to be adopted or at least fostered by me, the new mama of a whole new generation of friendship bread loaves.

The really awful thing is, I took it.

I took it, knowing very well, that I had absolutely no time or dough raising ability for the friendship bread. The friendship bread has very specific instructions that require daily intervention—just like a non-dough baby. The friendship bread dough requires things like daily kneeding, and daily adding new ingredients, and burping (well, maybe that’s the real baby), and the friendship bread dough probably needs fomenting if I’d gotten that far. I had no right to take a bread baby that I knew I didn’t want and couldn’t care for. I was trying to be nice. Pride often disguises itself as “trying to be nice”.

It reminds me of high school psychology classes that send home a fake doll baby for kids to take care of so they learn what hard work it is to take care of a real child and they will delay this pleasure for as long as biologically possible. The schools should really start sending home friendship dough babies – they are a lot more work and would probably not only have the teenagers delaying having babies but delaying bread making. Many less teenagers would decide to be either parents or pastry chefs if we sent them home with dough babies.

Love is like dough. It needs kneeding and adding good ingredients to and caring for. You shouldn’t take someone’s friendship, dough, or love if you can’t care for it. You should just give it back and just say no, thank you. You should stick to “Quick Breads Loving” in the Cookbook of Love. You should not try any fancy loving, that takes anything more than mix, pour, bake and eat. Maybe skip the baking and just eat the raw dough. Actually, maybe all your Love Bread should come pre-made at Safeway if you cannot commit to daily caring for your friendships, and love-ships. You should make sure you have time for friendship and love and if you don’t, you should not let your pride make you take any one’s fomenting baggie of ingredients. They have cared for their little personal baggie of self-ingredients. And what’s more, there are good, capable people out there, maybe not even in the Midwest, who can take care of their friendship better than you can if you can’t commit. Just like there are the right people to take care of your love and friendship and your fomenting baggie of bread dough. We should all be very, very careful who we hand our friendship and love-ship and breadsmanship to. Because if you give it to the wrong person, it could die.

It took me a couple weeks after I grievously buried the friendship bread, but I finally confessed to Wes that I wouldn’t be bringing him a lovely golden loaf of friendship bread. The funny thing is the very next week an alto asked me sweetly if I’d like to do the friendship bread with her. What am I? — in some crazy Midwestern transplanted choir?

I am never being nice to anyone in choir ever again. It just makes me feel bad when I kill their bread.