Don’t Be Flaky

“Don’t Be Flaky”

by Jane Tawel

August 10, 2015

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One of my favorite “new to me” trending expressions is one Verity Tawel, my eighteen year old,  taught me last night when we were sitting in Mijares and she just happened to have her cell phone on her. (That is your cue to laugh. ) By the time you read this it won’t be trending and I will be back in my fuddyduddy role of embarrassing nerd-mom.  This au courant expression is supposed to make you laugh but you have to be a little bit knowledgeable or “in the know” sometimes to get it, which I like too. I like being in the know, although I refuse to ever become knowledgeable about the Kardashians – even Caitlin.

So how it works is like this:  Some one says something.  I think it started with some one saying something truly false (not an oxymoron), like:  “Did you know that if you eat a pound of chocolate with every meal, you will never get fat”.  And the response is: “Okay…… that sounds fake to me …….. but, okay.”

But, it gets funny when someone posts or I guess mostly Tumblr’s (and by the way, I really hate that there is no vowel in between the l and r in Tumblr — anyway…._) The first person, “You” says something that is true, but the other person, “Me”,  maybe doesn’t  quite get it or frankly, is rather ignorant, or is quite often a bit naive and is afraid of being taken for a ride.  So. It goes something like this:

You: “Did you know that Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are getting re-married?”   Response from Me:  “Okay…..that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”   Or someone says, You: Did you know Donald Trump is running for president?” Me: Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.” See. Somewhat cute. But then it gets giggly funny.  Then people say things like:  You:  “Did you know that Albert Einstein is responsible for the formula e=mc² ?”  Me:  “Okay…. That sounds fake to me but…. Okay.”  Or “ “Did you know that bacon is full of sodium?”  “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  You: “I just got back from a trip to see my grandma.” Me: “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”

(By the way, did you notice my super cool little equation in that last paragraph?  There is this totally rad tab on your computer under document elements called Math:  Equations.  It took me quite a while but you feel pretty zippety doo dah smart when you figure it out.  If you like that equation, look at this:

a +  b + c ≤  ½x + a² -√54

Or this:  Ð∝∇∅†Ψ℘ξ

Okay, that one actually is fake —I just made that one up. Doesn’t it look real though, kinda like hieroglyphics?  But it is actually math symbols.  Who knew?

Me:  Okay…..that sounds fake to me ….. but okay.

Every time I say or hear that line I LOL!  This just totally cracks me up for some reason.  It is so like something Charles Dickens or John Irving would write into their characters’ dialogues.  It is also something I can imagine C.S. Lewis doing in Mere Christianity which I am currently rereading and recommending to every one I know.   Lewis illuminates so many Truths brilliantly. But also,  I can imagine if rewritten, several quotes going more like this:

Lewis: “Christianity insists that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”  Me:  Okay…… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  Lewis:  “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed.  That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed or made up.”  Me:  “Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.”  Lewis: “Moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine (human beings).”  Me:  Okay … that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

This imagined dialogue so perfectly sums up the Judeo Christian world view and  what happens when we decide to believe the lie that God should not be allowed to run our lives or the world He created. It sounds kinda’ fake to us that God deserves to be worshiped and in control when we think that we should be worshipped and in control.  Our minds turn Truth to Fake Lies,  when we put ourselves on the throne of our lives rather than allowing Jesus to be king of our lives and God to be sovereign in the universe.  Sin means that, Truth starts to sound Fake to us and Lies start to sound True. Read the tragedy of “Eve, Adam, and the Snake” and you will understand. God tries to tell us something that is Truth, no matter your religion, no matter your history, God sends the idea of Real Truth into our minds, our souls, our spirits, our communities, our world and we  collectively and  individually say,  “okay…… that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”  Because sometimes, many times, we do not want to believe the truth. Unless we pray, “Create in me a new heart, oh God.”

I mean seriously, the entire story and message and words of Jesus, really? Can’t you hear Peter saying,   Okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.

The opposite of wanting to believe truth is a lie also often happens. We hear something fake. And we know somewhere inside our very souls that what we just heard is not true. Our world says things like :  “We have to wage war against those people because they are evil.” or “Put yourself first. It feels good and doesn’t hurt anyone”.

And we are silent.

We want to believe and eat, drink, and be merry,  and go back to watching our show.  We aren’t bold enough or confident enough in God’s truth or we just already worship what “They” are offering so much,  that we don’t  want to make waves, or look them in the eye and say, “okay…..that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

Or maybe it is a more intimate lie, like a spouse says:  I have to do this; or a child says, Mom everyone does it, or a boss says, it isn’t a lie it’s just how business is done, or a pastor says, well they will only spend it on drugs or alcohol any way or… And we do not say, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. But ……. HEY, WAIT A DAMNED MINUTE…..that is NOT OKAY with me!”  [As Lewis also  says in MC, it is  not frivolous to use damned when you mean that it is in fact “damned” because “nonsense that is damned is under God’s curse, and will (apart from God’s grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death” (Lewis 45).}

Oh how we long to say to death,  to damnation, and even to  Grace, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.”

We drive by this house sometimes on our way home.  I don’t want to ever see who lives there because whenever I find out more information about something I like, it always ruins it for me.  But she / he always has some sort of philosophical hand written paper sign in the window you can see just as you pass the corner.  I assume the signs are posted by  a middle aged “she”, but that might be my prejudice.  On the  signs are often famous short quotes, like “To do good is to be wise” or cheerleading sort of things like, “Dare to Dream”, “Live in the Moment” – very New -Agey stuff which is not necessarily non-Christian. Lewis also says in “Mere Christianity: “You (Christians) do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through…. You are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth”.

Truth, real truth, if you want to hear it, never actually sounds fake to you.

But back to the sign-lady – you have to be able to read the signs in about 5 seconds as you accelerate past.  Then as you keep driving you let yourself think profoundly about these profound statements.  You ask yourself, do I believe as that sign just said, that:  “Life is too short to waste on hating.”? Maybe I think hating is a jolly good way to spend an afternoon? Maybe I wish I had more time to spend on hating.  Or do I honestly  think that:  “The Truth is more Important than the Facts”?.  Am I sure there is a difference?  Or: “Always desire to learn something useful” On this one she cites Sophocles as the author so you start gaining some speed in the 35 mph zone as you frantically start thinking, Useful? but what about jokes? Are they technically “useful” but on the other hand, jokes do come in useful at awkward parties. But are parties even that useful? Is laughing at jokes considered useful?  But isn’t laughter called the best medicine and isn’t medicine good for you? But what does she mean by “desire”, is it just the wanting to learn that is important, not the doing of it?  So if I  desire to learn, but I really need to chill with some “Bachelorette” or “The Biography Channel mini-series on Donald Trump”, well then, wouldn’t Sophocles approve since I desire to learn? But what does it mean to learn?……

The current sign in the window simply  reads: “Don’t be flaky.”

I love that.

I would often love to just  look someone in the eyes and say: You are being flaky. Just stop. Right now.

Definition of flaky:

  1. Separating or breaking easily into thin small pieces; 2. Crazy or eccentric.

I would most often love to look in a mirror at my own intensely personally emotive self- consumed babbling self and say, “Jane, old girl, the more you talk, the more you are breaking into thin small pieces like the crazy eccentric flake that you are.” And I would respond with that other great saying of my daughters: “I know you are but what am I?”  And then crazy eccentric breaking Jane and Jane the miraculously beloved child of God would laugh at each other because it is all and always going to be Good, if we keep our equations straight.

God + Faith, Hope and Love + = Goodness and Mercy all of My Days.

In other words, any time you are saying something,  especially when you are saying something serious, or argumentative, or analytical, or mean, or divisive, or pompous, or hateful — ( or you are letting  any words at all come out of your mouth when you are tired and grumpy) —always imagine that there is a Me out there responding to your most serious self-consumed comments with, “Okay…. That sounds fake to me…..but okay.”

And then, look yourself in the eyes, and say, “Don’t be flaky”.

Then keep on driving past.

Musings on A Trip Well-Lived

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Musings on a Trip Well-Lived

by Jane Tawel

August 2, 2015

 A partial but long musing on the Tawel Family  Bryce /Zion Trip

June 2015

There is an extremely straight road in the desert going South / West into Vegas, cutting through Arizona.  I am glad all roads are not straight and that not all days in life are without unexpected turns either. Turns on roads can be scary, disorienting, polarizing, and wrong. Turns in life can be like that too.   But straight roads in a desert can be so boring. Regard the winding, switchback, straight up, steeply down, achingly  up roads and trails of Bryce and Zion Parks.

Driving twisty roads can make you ill.  Best to keep your focus straight ahead, but aaahhh! the scenery. How not to gaze at creation’s wonders?!  Looking  out the windows is freedom worth grasping.  Hiking the heights and narrow paths can scare the living daylights out of you. Vertigo can entrap us all. But Oh! the vistas! Stopping on the trail and looking over the edge is an adventure of heroic proportions.

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Bryce and Zion fill one with the anticipatory feeling that life is only going to get better from here on out.  The absolutely baroque richness of the land is metaphor for  a full life, well lived. In contrast, the Arizona desert is like some lives — barren of fruit, of water, no discernable life. No unexpected turns or unmarked crossroads. No shade in need, no hide and seek sunlight,  no sound of sniggering chipmunks, guffawing water, or birds warming up for the concert. The endless nothingness is hypnotizing.  The land is one big couch potato.

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I have never been to Las Vegas. Not my cup of tokens so to speak. When you drive past Las Vegas, there are signs throughout, surrounding, leading up to and leading out of it. Remember that crazy old song: Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Blocking up the scenery breaking my mind?  That must have been written by someone driving through Vegas.

There are blinking signs, gigantic signs, neon signs, road side signs, billboard signs, building signs,  little signs that tell you that someone will be cleaning this mile of road. If you are looking for a sign, go to Vegas.

A large percentage of the signs in and around Vegas  are selling “Love”.  The other signs seem to be selling lawyers to help you get out of things you aren’t in love with any more — like  people, cars, businesses, homes.  The Love Signs  are quite preachy. “The Love Store — where the fun begins.” “Love at first bite!” “Let the Love affair begin!””You will love our girls!” “Find Love at the Tropicana”. “Drive-through Chapel of Love”.  Buying and selling love —  Such a misleading oxymoron and how very sad. And yet not new. How many types of relationships on every level, in every generation, throughout history,  are really just exchanges. In businesses, marriages, trusts, barters, affairs, commerce, friendships — we hold our hearts out in one hand and hold the other hand out to get something in return.

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We actually talk about exchanging love when we exchange wedding vows. Definition of exchange: “giving something and receiving something of the same kind in return.” But somewhere deep inside, we all suspect that if we are defining love in the same sentence as we are defining exchange, there is something horribly, tragically wrong with our  understanding of love.  Humans were created to know real love, God-love,  true love, lasting love and to  eventually  learn that mature love cannot expect to receive the same thing in return. Love is not a commodity. Love somehow involves sacrifice — it is sacrificial. It is gift. But when we decide we will not wait, will not give up, will not trust, will not believe, will not give, – — when our selfishness of the moment or our fear of the twisty, steep blind curve  overpowers our faith, then we usually just sadly decide we can redefine the idea of love.

There is much  talk about this false and needy and lying love, and not only around Vegas.  Turn on your television for five minutes. Pick up a summer best seller. Listen to the radio.  Maybe even visit your local Sunday morning service.  We like to use the word “love” to mean satisfaction, feel -good sensuality, enjoyment, let the good times roll, need supplier, until such and such, take care of me, I’ll give you any thing you want so you think I’m nice, lust, interest, fun, or enabling.  We have confused love with “charisma”.  Charisma is defined as: “compelling attractiveness or charm  that can inspire devotion in others”.  This is why we can say with the same gusto, I love that guy and I love Starbucks.

I Corinthians 13 has an interesting take on love. This scripture combines love with “charism” not “charisma”. Charism is defined as that which: ” denotes any good gift that flows from God’s love to humans. The word can also mean any of the spiritual graces and qualifications granted to every Christian to perform his or her task in the Church. In the narrowest sense, it is a theological term for the extraordinary graces given to individual Christians for the good of others” . Charism is defined as  simply, theology, or “man’s attempt to understand God”. One definition states: Charism: “an extraordinary power (as of healing)given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.” In the Greek charism means: any good gift that flows from God’s love to humans.”

Imagine if we, The Church, we the Creation, we the Imago Dei, we the stewards of the world, we the beloved Bride of Christ,  we the brothers and sisters of each other, we the heroes and heroines of lives well lived, imagine if we began to love each other with charism.

The demeaning of words and redefining them to suit our ends has to be one of the great undetected evils of our time. Well, it has been for all times but we are a people of the ubiquitous use of words in this internet, media, cell phone age.  The redefinition of words  is especially degrading to our humanity because we blithely but purposely  use words as propaganda for financial gain, as manipulation of reality, and as power plays over other humans. If you are a scholar of dystopian literature it will come as no surprise that all tyrannical forces always use the slow and creeping  redefinition of words in a surreptitious power takeover.   This is surely one of Satan’s greatest ploys — changing the meaning of words, ever so slightly,  allows people to sin against God and each other by simply putting a different name on it. Well, we don’t even use the word Satan any more, do we? Or sin. Those have become archaic words for many. We have redefined a deep wrong or sin so that we do not have to feel judged or guilty or vulnerable to a Higher Power or each other.   We call it “brokenness” or “wiring” or “biological” or “different” or even sometimes, “evolved”. We claim everyone does it, or it’s not hurting anyone, or it was an honest mistake, or who cares, or whatever, or truth is all relative, or I just fell out of love, or god is whatever you need him to be. Not that things and people aren’t broken or wired or biological; mistaken, or hurting or no different than any one else,  but different words must have and retain different meanings and meanings should not be changed to suit our world view. Words are at the center of  our God-likeness, our imprint  of the divine, and what make being fully and articulately human, something, well, special.

Right next to Vegas is an area called “Primm Valley”  — someone’s lovely ironic joke to name it that. The meaning of the word “prim” has come to have some undeserved negative connotations.  Why are “formal and respectable”  now considered “disapproving and pursed”; well, there is some interesting theology for you! In cultural changes it is often difficult to discern which is the cart and which is the horse? Does the Weltanschuuang  change and therefore the words change meaning, or do people subtly change the definitions of words and the worldview swings into line to follow the linguistic seismic shifts?

Theology is billboarded in Vegas  in the strange and unique ways you might imagine. “Jesus is the only way to Heaven” — a  billboard followed by “Read your Bible” and this followed immediately by a billboard with “UFO Hotel in Bakers Nevada.  Get a Quicky and Jerky at Baker UFO Hotel” Somehow in Vegas Unidentified Flying Objects seem to be identified as having something to do with Jesus. And somehow “quickies” seem to have become synonymous with love.  As Waylon Jennings used to sing, we are looking for love in all the wrong places, in too many faces, another heart  broken looking for love.”

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There is an easily missed  billboard near Vegas about  Father Louis Querbes:  “a Viatorium who loved Jesus”. You might miss it as it humbly rests  in the midst of all the gaudy, glaring billboards for strip shops and impound, divorce, and bankruptcy lawyers.   I had to look up Fr. Querbes and what in the world a viatorium was (thank you search engines everywhere, we would be stuck in libraries if it weren’t for you.)

Louis Querbes was a parish priest in the aftermath of the French Revolution. He literally risked his life, taking up his cross, to teach and minister to a country torn apart by fear and hatred, greed and poverty, prejudice and injustice, and a justified distrust of The Church. Sound like any where you know? History does in fact repeat itself, and let the buyer beware. I encourage you to read about Louis Querbes and the Viatoriums. ( http://viatorians.com/about-us/our-founder) They have communities in America,  mostly centered in Chicago and the Vegas areas. Bottom line: They believe in Jesus and that they should live like he did.  They believe both priests and lay persons, men and women, should be trained and equipped  to educate and serve the needy. Their vision statement includes the following: “we embrace those who are accounted ‘of little importance by some'”.  In other words, the Viatoriums think they should love those whom the majority of the world, might not see as lovable. It doesn’t seem to most as if the “little importance people” are a fair exchange.

And this is what they say about love and charism:

“Spirituality is a dynamic process, the result of a relationship with God, with people, and with the cosmos, a dynamic process that deeply unifies the corporal, affective, and intelligent aspects of the person. It brings about an integration of eros, friendship, and agape. That is why everything in spiritual men and women is filled with God, who is Love.”(italics are mine)

The motto of the Viatorium Community: “Adored and loved be Jesus”.  I had to read that several times because I kept thinking it was a typo.  Don’t they mean “adored and loved BY Jesus”? Nope.  In one terse profound sentence, the Viatoriums sum up the whole gospel, the whole of the good news of Jesus Christ. “Adored. Loved. Be Jesus.”

When we returned from our all too short but perfect trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks, people asked us, “Well, what did you think? Did you have a good trip?”

We said, “We LOVED it!  It was amazing!  It was a great trip! You have to go there as soon as possible.”

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And I think, “What if I loved the Creator as much as I loved His Creation?”  We loved the creation, and believe me if you want to see creation worthy of an “Intelligent Force”, commune with the crimson canyons, and slate grey walls, and turquoise greenery, sapphire skies, billion nighttime stars, pristine waterfalls, giggly creeks — my silly trite descriptors could go on and on and still fail! But:  If I had that much fervor for God, that much need to put words to experience and encounter with the Living Savior, then what a trip this life would be!  I would be telling everyone about my relationship with God. I would say things like: “I LOVE Him! He is amazing!  God makes life a great trip! You have to go to Him as soon as possible!” What if I adored God as much as the Viatoriums claim God adores me? What if I looked for love in all the right places, all the right faces? What if I defined love as “be Jesus”?

Over and over again, we are called to know God.  The Biblical sense of know is the same as the biblical sense of intercourse.  It is to know someone in the most intimate way possible. The Psalms reveal a heart that yearns for the Living God as a lover, as a newlywed, as a virgin longs for her or his soul mate.  The Psalms are the billboards along a life trip that Jehovah has planned for His beloved Bride.  A trip of intimate knowledge, of beauty, of adoration, of being one together, until death does not part but only opens the world’s door to a greater trip of greater scenery and accomplishments and joy and worship and love.

Psalm 63:1 – 8: O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings. I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely.

Psalm 42: 1, 2: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 84:2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 

Psalm 27:8 2 My heart has heard You say, ‘Come and talk with Me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’

The Bible verse that scares me even more than a very high, narrow, twisty, trail is Matthew 7:23 when on Judgment Day  Jesus turns to those of us who have a litany and laundry list of all the things we have spent our  lives doing  for God which will actually  end up being things we really did just for ourselves.  And The Christ, sorrowfully, must condemn us,  with words whose meaning will then be all too clear:  “I never knew you.” You were busy seeing the sights of Vegas, looking for love in all the wrong places, exchanging love for thrills, believing the flashing lights of the billboards, filling yourself with the world’s fast food, falling in love with the dust,  preaching by banging on a clanging gong, and all the while you were walking by Me, while I waited for you. Jesus will redefine our lives by saying,  I loved you with a love that was defined by My life and death given for you. I gave my body and blood for you because I am Love. I  ask you to let Me adore you as a bride, to love you as a brother and for you to love Me enough to be one with Me. But you were looking for love in every face but mine.  You bankrupted the home I prepared for you,  while I stood at the door of your heart, simply knocking. You traded real love for gain.  And on that final day, The Word will be all too clear: I longed to be intimate with you. But we did not know each other as love knows the lover.

Loved. Adored. Be Jesus.  Words too important for us to change their meanings. The Word, Jesus, the Christ.  He is too important for us to change His meaning.  And though we were created from but dust, our individual lives are mysteriously  too important to change the meaning of what we were created, designed, defined to be.

Take a marvelous journey  today.  Be loved by the One who created love. Be adored by The One who lived a life well-lived, who  died for you, and who reigns as the eternal Lover of your soul. Then look out the window, look over the precipice, take one small step towards redefining your life. And  Be Jesus in a world looking for Love.

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A Bucket Full of Laughter

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A Bucket Full of Laughter

Chapter 1: LOLing should not be abbreviated.

by Jane Tawel

July 20, 2015

When did I stop laughing so much? When did I lose the ability to laugh at myself? When did I stop trying to make other people laugh?  I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Gordon and my uncles and aunts and cousins, gathered, and there being seemingly endless days in which all we did from morning to night was laugh and laugh and laugh together. We laughed at each other, at ourselves, together at things, during board games, and slide shows, and walks, and boat rides, and snowball fights, and Christmas gift openings. Don’t you remember those few friends you’ve had, who whenever you were  together, you laughed  until tears came out your eyes or snot out of your nose? I remember giggle-fests with my kids as we lay in the big bed singing silly songs. My kids and I had lots of good laughs in the car, in the swimming pool, at the dinner table. When did we all  get so serious?

laughing  funny

There were times of course that I did used to be kinda’ mean when I was so keen on making the crowd giggle and guffaw, and though I don’t mean to be flippant, well, actually, maybe I should be,  but seriously, oops there I go again. But ridiculously,  I need to laugh more and help others find their way back to laughing as often as possible.  I love to laugh. You know the scene in “Mary Poppins”, you can sing along right now I bet.  I want to spend more time on the ceiling.

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I have said it before and will say it again, if only we would stop robbing the story of God of its outrageous sense of humor. All great myths, all great literature,  have humor — irony, slapstick, word play, satire, etc.  And someone said recently that if only the Germans had had a sense of humor, they would have laughed that ridiculous little man off the stage.  John Lennon imagined a world where as Saint Rodney King said, “we all just got along”, but imagine a world where we laughed all  the naked emperors off the stage and put the comedians in charge instead.

gordie   lisa

I have found lately  that I not only have lost a large portion of my sense of humor, but I have lost a large portion of all five of the other senses.  I think this hit home on our recent trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks. When you vacation in a place where you are ripped away from all your normal busy work, and in a place where the sights  are beyond your wildest imaginings, then you become more aware of how turned off your senses are on a day by day basis.  It probably also helps that I am currently re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth — one of those children’s books best read by adults — like most truly classic  children’s books.  The Phantom Tollbooth at minimum is about a boy who has given up on learning because it is so boring and who is magically transported to a world in which the five senses as well as the use of words and numbers are anything but normal and boring.  The Phantom Tollbooth  is laugh out loud hilarious and also very philosophical and  illuminating in many “a-ha” ways.

I have set myself a bucket list goal and as you could guess if you know me, it is not like most of those lists that include things like sky diving (God forbid!) or safaris (I really need to remember to play the lottery before I can win it.)  My bucket list for today includes one item:

  1. Really see. Really listen. Really taste. Really touch. Really smell.

kids   bryce

I have two friends who recently helped me start to really listen.  I never ever get to see these two pals because one lives right up the street and one lives far away.  I found myself in the last week, being able to spend separate,  short, delightful times with both Janene Khanchalian, my neighbor, and Josh Long, my long-distance fellow English-geek friend. Both of these gifted me with intellectual stimulation, wisdom, interesting conversation, and spiritual insights but here is what I am treasuring in remembering our little moments in time together.  Both Janene and Josh have wonderful, explosive, unique, totally uninhibited, childlike, laughter attacks.  I found myself secretly sucking in and surreptitiously enjoying the sound of their laughter.  I had nothing to do with making them laugh, you understand, they were laughing at something inner, something they were saying about themselves or about life that “tickled” them.  In each case, it was like watching a small child open a gift and be surprised into explosive enchanted giggles.  “Ah, for me? How fantastic! Oh Goodie!”

Janene’s laugh starts like a little bark and then it’s as if the little laughter dog escapes from her mouth and goes yipping out into the atmosphere. She has a rather feminine rumble that follows the little bark, and I imagine Tom Bombadil sounds a bit like that, though deeper, when he laughs. When Janene chuckles, she sort of dips her head and then looks around hoping she might discover where the little laughter dog escaped to. There is an absolutely naive quality to Janene’s laugh that is like the purest, clearest water, and I found myself greedily drinking it in.

Josh has the most adorable elf-like demeanor and his laugh is like an attack of elven squiggles  all over his face. With Josh, it is as if something has invaded from the inside out and his eyes pop wide open in pure delight  as if he has no idea what is about to happen but he is pretty excited to experience this thing called laughter.   And then after the eyes register that something exciting is coming, his whole face has a sort of  “uh-oh, roller coaster  ahead!”  look. His mouth bursts open in cascading guffaws  held back only loosely by the most beatific but mischievous wide-hearted smile.  It is like a cavalry of clowns is riding all over his features. Victor Hugo may have been speaking of Josh, when he said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” When Josh laughs, you feel like you have just watched a perfect summer day unfold in a human face. His infectious delight in whatever he is experiencing in the moment is a disease you desperately want to catch.

Both Josh and Janene seem absolutely caught off guard to find laughter exploding out of their mouths as if they didn’t plan it at all, but it’s a really pleasant surprise and they want to bring you in on it. They hope you will soon experience such a lovely moment. That’s the nice thing about both Janene and Josh.  They really have no idea what a gift their very present laughter is to the person with them. They are just being  who they are and neither has a single ounce of judgment towards the rather sensually disheveled,  over-thinking human who feels insecure and feeble in the space she’s been given. But their ha-ha-ha’s are  like the miniature shouts of Whoville, piercing through the iron veil of serious, thoughtful big people like me, and, who might one day like the Who’s, change the world, one gasping giggle at a time.

When I was separately with these two friends, I caught myself getting quiet and hoping to hear the sound of Josh and Janene’s laugher, and then I found I was really listening to something — not music, not a concert, not a show, not someone talking, not noise, — but just something in my world. And I was really listening and looking  for the first time in a long time. I was just using my senses without any thought or program or intentions but  just pure enjoyment. And  in just those wee moments of listening,  there was no guilt, no stress to get something done, no need to come to some agreement, to teach or learn, no time checks; there was  just being in the moment with a gorgeous sound. And my brain was pleasantly empty because my heart was beautifully  full.

Later,  I found myself wanting to hoard Josh and Janene  laughter and store it for later. Remember when you lived in cold climates and someone went to Florida for the Christmas break and they brought you back a can of sunshine?  I wished I could put Janene’s and Josh’s laughter in little cans, and open them as needed.  A little pick me up. A tonic. A reminder that life is good if we can laugh.

And sure enough, I have found myself over the past week, in solitude,(although I think once I was in line at Vons and started giggling before I put my non-crazy person face back on) — I find I am pulling out the memories of those particular and unique gifts of laughter and listening in my mind’s eye or rather mind’s ear, enjoying the feeling of being overcome by the memories of senses and the sound of laughter and of beatific faces alive in joy.

Kahlil Gibran  says rightly, “In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”  Thank you Josh and Janene, and all my friends, and family, and children, and pets for refreshment in laughter. I owe you one. I owe you a lot. May your buckets fill with laughter and your days be full of really seeing, really hearing, really touching, tasting, and smelling– and really, really, really living.

clare and me laughing

Independence Day: Get Out There and Have Some Fun!

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A Fun Day of Freedom

By Jane Tawel

July 3, 2015

So I’m thinking about the 4th of July and similar holidays back round the bend like Memorial Day and up round the bend, like Veterans Day. They are serious holidays about serious things, and that is absolutely rightly so. But when I think of my many past Independence Days and hopefully my future ones, like tomorrow, I think of fun. I think of happiness, family, friends, food, fireworks, and sunburns. And fun.

So the equation seems to be something like:

People die for my freedom = I get to live a life of fun.

And in case you think I’m being sarcastic, I’m really not. Soldiers went to various wars for our country, many gave their lives on the battlefield, many are giving their lives daily here on the streets as unemployed vets, and I get to celebrate the days they earned by having fun.

Of course as Christians, this is an easy peasy addition problem, right?

Jesus died for my freedom = I get to live a life of fun.

See, this only really makes sense I think when you think about all the countries where people will not be having fun tomorrow because their citizens are not free. And then, of course, our religion, only makes sense when you think of all the other religions whose practitioners are not free who don’t ever really understand how fun it is to worship the God of Jesus. The God whose Son said, “my yoke is light”. And the God of the apostle who said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) Don’t get me wrong, sin is never really as fun as non-sin, so know your options and live a life of goodness and light, but that’s another blog for another day. Today is the day before the day we celebrate our nation’s independence.

So why as my particular nation and why as my particular religious group, do we keep enslaving ourselves? My friend Denise shared this picture on face book today:

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Why as fellow Americans and fellow Judeo-Christians are we sitting so often in the third row? Do we as that Jewish prophetess sang, see freedom as “nothing left to lose” or do we as Christ said, see freedom as “everything to gain” if we do not lose our soul in the process?

I like to play around with this vision of my gathering together all the leaders in the world. I bring them together on a beautiful sun-soaked day, about seventy-five degrees perfect. No one is allowed to send regrets or back out, not even McConnell. All the world’s Top Dogs, have to show up, in their bathing suits (no speedos, no bikinis please especially if you are from Italy or France). I take all of the world leaders in their trunks and tank suits to the beach. And they all have to sit with each other and build sand castles. I provide kosher hotdogs and vegan potato salad; they bring the desserts (except Kim Jong-un, we just want him to show up). And they can’t say anything to each other except fun stuff, like “Ooooh, Angela, I love that beach wrap, where did you buy it?” Or, “hey, Ernest B.K., wanna go jump in the waves?” “Francis, care for another wine cooler?”

And at the end of this glorious day, we all celebrate a new Independence Day by watching Jinping’s amazing firework display. (He spent a lot of money on them but he did get a good deal because they were made in China. —- bah, dum-dum.)

And in my vision I never once have to point out that they have lived too long in a world that builds houses on the sand. But that today, God calls them to build houses on The Rock with foundations of mercy, and justice, and love and freedom – foundations of a Nation that will last forever.

When they go home tonight, they will be changed forever because they celebrated a day of fun with new friends.

What if Christians threw an Independence Day like the Bible used to suggest? (without much luck I’m afraid in being actually executed, but…..) Let’s not even aim big for a whole year of Jubilee, a time of “emancipation and restoration” –how about just one day – come as you are, take it or leave it true “Freedom Day”.

What about a day of Jubilee where all debts are cancelled, every one in bankruptcy gets their house back, and student loans are paid by our defense budget. What about a day when any thing extra is shared with any one who doesn’t have enough? What if we had a day of Jubilee when we celebrated everyone’s marriage, no divorces were allowed, and all the nursing home folk were let out and got to come home? What if every one is given the day off, even the store clerks because no one wants to go shopping any way? What if all the prisoners got freed, either to their families or some solid therapeutic living conditions? What if all the homeless folk got a little trailer to park in Walmart parking lots, and were given a part time job? What if all the doctors got a bonus for every new patient they took who couldn’t pay? What if all the pastors and priests and rabbis had to get a day job? What if all the illegal immigrants didn’t have to get a second job to make ends meet? What if all the farmers were given back their own land with the understanding no more nasty chemicals allowed? What if all the sweat shop workers and housecleaners got free pedi-manis? What if all the teachers got a golden parachute and congress didn’t? What if every one just laid down their weapons and took up their surfboards?

Wouldn’t we have FUN?!

Wouldn’t that be a world worthy of a rainbow flag? A rainbow that celebrates no more floods, no more earth destroying wickedness, no more hate? A world God can celebrate because He is the Leader?

Freedom is not free. It costs somebody something. It is costing me something today as well but it should cost something different maybe. Freedom should cost us our respect for others and our empathy for others. It should cost us something especially for those in this world who do not have enough to eat, or do not have safety, respect, love or freedom. And that does include people in These United States, by the way.

Freedom should cost me my extra dollars, no really it should cost me some of my “needed” dollars. It should cost me my empathy, no it should cost me tears and sleepless nights in prayer. It should cost me my free time to learn more, work more and serve more for others. Freedom should cost me my stress and worry and anger because I was freed to have fun. And it should cost me my pride because I have had to do very, very little for my freedom. People willing to die for my freedom in this country did it all. Jesus, willing to die for all the world, did it all.

So here are your questions to answer for the day before Independence Day.

  1. Fill in the blank:

Wouldn’t it be fun if the world ____________________________.

  1. Who could I stop being prejudiced against if I spent a fun day with

them at the beach?

  1. Who do I owe my freedom to and how can I bless him / her today? How do I bless my elders? How do I bless my God?
  1. Multiple Choice: What could I give up in order to have more fun?
    1.  Greed
    2. Stress
    3. Worry
    4. Hate
    5. All of the Above
  1. Please write a short essay on:

What does it profit me, if I gain the world, but lose my soul in the process?

Now, you can take off tomorrow to celebrate Independence Day and get out there and enjoy good food, good family and good friends! But Remember: Jesus flew no one’s flag, but he waved a banner every day – “His banner over us is Love”. So have some fun for God’s sake!

That’s an order, Soldier.

The Caged Singing of a White Chick

The Caged Singing of a White Chick

By Jane Tawel

June 13, 2015

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I am usually out on dark and uncharacteristically quiet streets each morning. This makes me sound suspect or mysterious but frankly I find if I’m not out jogging before work, I’m not out jogging period. Sometimes I go to the YMCA and work out there but usually I prefer the non-peopled life of 5:00 am on the bad back streets of Monrovia. It’s a freeing feeling to be out alone and flying along in my Nikes. Though I must admit, once it was the young running flight of perhaps a swallow, now my running is a bit more like an Emu flying.

The streets of course are never completely unpeopled or un-animaled. Cars never sleep in L.A. and cars need people to drive them unless you are that guy in San Diego who has the car that drives itself.

I changed my running route a couple years ago after meeting up three times with three separate mamma bears. Real bears. I am a metaphoric mama bear myself sometimes and I know, you do not mess with mama bears. You change your route. You do not eat their porridge. Goldilocks was an idiot and probably was in reality eaten as an appetizer, and when well-meaning people say to me, “Don’t be afraid, the bears are more afraid of you than you are of them”, then I really know that Americans are getting dumber every day. I personally refuse to believe that an animal that is seven feet tall when standing and weighs 1000 pounds is afraid of me. And by the way, if you even look like you are going to hurt one of my bear cubs, I will show you what a mama bear can do.

On my morning jogs, I see cats, coyotes, skunks, road kill, dogs fenced in, squirrels, rabbits, and birds.

On one of the routes I take there is a house with a fenced in front yard and in the front Western corner of the yard is a large, rounded, sort of old fashioned bird cage. In the cage are all sorts of toys and climbing things so you can see the cage is not merely decorative but is used to keep a bird in it. I imagine the owners of the cage, put the bird outside during the day so it can get some fresh air.

birdcage-full

Can you even start to imagine how ironically sad this is?

See, the people are correct in thinking that the bird will be happier if it is outside. They mean well. But this is like saying that I am happier if I am not in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Can I be happy if I am in a wheelchair? But of course! Would I be happier if I were free to walk around, jump, run, not take the handicapped spot? Would the bird be happier if it were free to fly? I have struggled with keeping any sort of pet caged or fenced in, but a bird? The definition of bird is: it can fly.

I think the Bible often tries to gently let us know that since The Fall, we see through a barred cage. We are that caged bird and sadly and ironically we often put ourselves in the cages we woke up to this morning. And even more tragically, if we know that there is kingdom life just outside the caged world of sin, death, and sorrow, a different life in which we could “soar as on wings of eagles”, but we willfully choose to live handicapped with wings clipped, well, how ironically sad is that? We were created to fly but we prefer to play with our toys and hope that someday, we will live a different life in heaven. But just like a bird that has been caged its whole life, if we don’t practice flying now, what makes us thing we will know what do the other side of eternity? Jesus often asked people first, “Do you want to be healed?” Some days, I admit, I don’t. I foolishly think I am safer and happier in my little locked cage.

Maya Angelou poetically wrote these words in her autobiography: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. And those of us who know the freedom, joy, straight path -ness, and flight of kingdom life in Christ, know why we sing as well. “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He’s watching me.” If you have ever truly opened the cage door and let yourself free fall into Christ’s salvation life, Jesus’ Gospel, the Kingdom of the heavens where all fly free, then you know that caged reality is not how we are wired and created to live. We are created to fly.

There is another old Gospel song I love that goes: “I’ll fly away, fly away on glory. I’ll fly away. When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye. I’ll fly away.”

But we are not meant to wait until we die. Paul, in a literal cage in Rome, said over and over, “I have all freedom in Christ”. Among other examples, he writes in Galations 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Therefore stand firm and do not submit to a yoke of slavery.”

What does it mean, to strain your eyes until you can see the world as Christ wants us to see it? We would see the world without bars. We would no longer be enslaved to whatever is enslaving us. We would be unafraid to take flight.

Am I so afraid of the metaphoric bears around every corner, that I lock down my heart in a safe box? Or do I believe that God loves the little birds so much that He will always provide just enough for the day for me? Am I so greedy for a crumb of food that I hunt and peck in the little food box the Master of this World stores for me, choosing the seeds of destruction by ennui or greed? Or could I believe that God has called me to a world full of delights created just for me but understanding that I only have that freedom when I realize I was created to live solely for Him? Do I get excited about going outside for party time and “Polly wanna cracker” time, and settle for a world in a cage of “eat drink and be merry” epicureanism? Or do I believe that God created me to fly on the wings of utter “shalom”, living a wholeness of being that Jesus lived fully, joyfully, relationally, and eternally? Practice flights for eternity, anyone?

Jesus does not promise us that if we live kingdom life we will live free of sorrow, suffering, pain, need, want, temptation, or dying. Christ wasn’t free of any of those things. So what does it mean to be free in kingdom life?

It means that I know why I sing.

The Psalms, those records of human life with Yahweh, abound in singing exhortations and examples. Psalm 96: Sing to the Lord a new song. Ps. 104: I will sing to the Lord all my life. Psalm 100: Make a joyful noise to the Lord. Ps. 13, 95, 33, 71, 8, 30, 40, 47 and on and on. These Psalms and so many others come out of the hearts of a people who were mostly imprisoned or captive. The Israelites were so often caged birds. Read the great stories and time and time again, the response of God’s people is to sing. Moses sings, David sings, Isaiah sings, Paul sings. By the waters of Babylon, the people sing. We don’t sing because we are always happy, we sing because the “joy of the Lord is our strength”. And when we sing despite whatever life lets rattle our cage, then we are free and beyond happiness, we find true joy. We find our center and why we were created.

What we are promised is that we will know with complete peace of mind and heart that we were not created to live alone in the caged world of immediate gratification and safety. My Sunday School teacher Jim Wilder gave a wonderful lesson and apropos to this idea when he said, “You are never so safe as when you are living in the purposes of God for your life.” We may not fully know or understand what those purposes are. But we can know that God’s purposes are not to stay caged in places where we think we are “safe”, either bodily or financially. I can trust, I think, that God’s purpose for my life is not to live in a cage.

Do you ever notice that you never see a bird alone? Birds of a feather flock together, don’t they, and we were created to flock together, hunting and pecking and flying. This world is not our home, but we can see what home should look like. We can tear down the bars of our pride and our fear and we can love. We can tear down the bars of our greed and need and we can do a better job at sharing. We can practice flying even if we won’t really fly until resurrection day. We can understand that the World puts up bars of injustice and greed and lust and hate and that we are called as a people to tear those bars down. We can tear down those false idols that imprison us whenever we can. We can be afraid of the bears of evil and Satan, they really can hurt us, but we can follow God’s route and walk a different Way, so we don’t run into the bears. We can refuse to cage others even if we have the power to do so. And we can sing, sing, sing in a “dry and weary land where there is no water”. Because our thirsty hoarse singing voices are quenched with the Living Water of the Choirmaster Jesus, the Christ.

There are many stories to tell of “caged birds singing”, not least among them those of African slaves, Holocaust Jews, and Christian martyrs. But I want to share one that may be outside our “comfort zone” or at least outside of our shared understanding. This is about a Pakistani Christian as told in an article from Calvin Resource Magazine:

Eric Sarwar grew up singing psalm portions at home and church. When strangers attacked him in 2009, and his parents and wife in 2010, he took comfort in Psalm 18 “the most popular psalm in Pakistan. It represents God’s providence, safety, power, deliverance, and kindness. In our context of living below poverty line and facing discrimination and hard challenges every day, it gives hope and encouragement. Its musical tune and rhythm is simple, catchy, and on high notes with shouts of joy,” he says.

“Majority of people in village congregations speak only Punjabi. They love to sing psalms of praise, laments, penitence, petitions, and prayers. They memorize them by heart. Only two or three persons in my congregation can read, so Punjabi Zaboors is their Bible. It helps them in their daily life, especially when they face questions from Muslims in their work places,” he explains.

As a fourth-generation Christian, Sarwar lives the difficulties that Pakistani Christians endure. “Christian people are largely illiterate and poor, disadvantaged and marginalized. We have no political power and thus no ability to bring about change. Planted in this hard place, our only hope is God himself,” he says.  

(http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/why-persecuted-christians-sing-psalms-in-pakistan/)

Eric Sarwar and his Pakistani fellow Christians, choose to fly outside the cage of oppression, fear and poverty. They know why they sing.

I have quoted before Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” But today I am saying along with people like Eric Sarwar, we are the peculiar people with feathers who sing despite the storms of life. Our hope is in God alone to free us to the life we are created to live: A life of singing and occasionally, of practice flights. We cannot do that in a cage of fear and sinfulness. We must see through bars encrusted with worldly entrapments and lift our eyes to another Kingdom. We were created to sing a new song. And if we live as we were created to live in harmonic tune with the God of the Universes, then as Isaiah 60 promises:

“Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult,

And all the world will ask: Who are these that fly like a cloud?”

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Here is a picture of Jane flying despite her fears and next to her is her fearless son, Gordon. See her singing? Okay, I’m screaming but when your son asks you to ride with him, your heart sings even if your mouth is screaming.

Jesus is asking us to fly with Him.  And he is fearless and can hold a tune in a storm better than any one.

Time to open the door, give the wings an old practice run, and sing. Fa, la, la, la, la.

A Poem: “On Being Young By Water”

“On Being Young By Water”

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(Begun 4/28/11 – Maybe Sort of Finished 5.23.15)

 

By Jane Tawel

Do you remember those nights

Of being young by water?

Do you recall the haunting of the watery smell

As you lay longing in your bed until

You threw your covers off?

***********************************************

And when the sounds of waves lapped against your dreams

You woke to yearning more complete than any pain,

More in tune with your need than any Sirens’ Songs,

Swooshing against the solitary staccato of your heart.

****************************************************************

When you were young,

Encased within the sounds and smells and sights of H2O

The Water World held your DNA

More tightly than a womb.

Your small raised fists floated carelessly

Arguing for sense in puberty’s mad, mad world.

The moonlight stabbed through leaky window screens

And the water washed away day’s bloody light.

‘Til morning expelled you to breathe away the night.

******************************************************

The sunwaves licked you like a hungry cat each morning

And the daywaves called you out to splash and play,

Luring you to your death against the shoals of growing up.

And the lullaby of water

Nixed you to sleep on dreamwaves each night.

**************************************************************

When I was young with 78’s

I knew the watery poets better than my best friend,

Who never really was, though not imaginary.

We traded diaries and sleepovers,

Creating the tie-dye fantasies of our futures.

We swam upstream toward an unseen shore.

I didn’t know that friends loved with oars while

I swam rudderless, hoping for a lifeguard.

**************************************************

One day I found a Lifesaver floating by on a river of blood.

I jumped in the water and got dunked three times,

Father, Son and Holy Water.

I’m still clinging, trying not to drown in the baptism of Life.

************************************************

And now the waves keep rolling me along past landing after landing,

Safety always geysering just out of reach

Only enough strokes left to make it a little further today

While my arms grow weary and my legs numb.

And I know that scary things lurk underneath

And I know I cannot surface or I will drown.

*******************************************************

Now I thirst to come ashore and wake to

My aqueous dreams by The Lake,

And languish in young hurt,

And cry waves of tears at lost love–

Imagined oceanic love, not real –

Real love is like a desert.

**********************************************

I tried to take a CPR crash course so I could teach my daughter how to swim.

She swims so hard, she sweats while shivering wet with cold, cold tears

But acts as if she’s always dry—

Modeling like Ran

For the Sea’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

She blasts into me for being wrong about how drenched her heart is,

She thinks that I won’t notice she is taking a hot shower in icy unshed tears.

No, nothing’s wrong, Mom……” Except on Facebook.

We paddled too far from the water world and the desert daily drowns us.

I only want to sail her home.

****************************************************************

Do you remember those nights of

Being young by water?

Oh! the smell of waving, living water still breaks my heart, ten thousand miles away.

*******************************************************

Now I float helplessly, treading foolishly in Time’s Current

“You can’t outswim Me”, Dylan the Second Wave god reminds.

********************************************************

And the days’ tides run out to nights.

And I do not sleep through them

Anymore.

I lie awake knowing that soon

The tide will not return.

At least for me.

*****************************************************

I hope someday, I shall not burn out,

But float away

Buoyed up to walk on waves,

Young again, forever

Spending endless days and nights

Of being young by water.

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A Poem from A Trip to Los Osos 2012

Poem from Los Osos   10/ 7/12

This is a poem written after walking through the bird and nature preserve in Los Osos, California. I love walking there whenever I am happy enough to find myself in that treasured neck of the woods. I remembered the poem by repeating it in my mind over and over until I got to the Mexican restaurant and asked the waitress who was setting up for the breakfast crowd for a napkin and pen to borrow so I could write it down. We were staying with our wonderful California family, The Tooles. On this same walk I received a free dvd of about an hour and a half of bird sightings from a gentle man with binoculars who thought I might like it.  I gave it to Heather Toole as a house gift.

“Los Osos Preservation”

by Jane Tawel

I like the dross of water.

It has a stellar stink

Of rotting stars caught under.

It makes a person think.

And, Oh, the dead eyes gleaming!

And, Oh, the fishy smell!

If heaven is so teaming,

Then who could ‘ere fear hell?

Traveling Dreams

Traveling Dreams

May 10, 2015

By Jane Tawel

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

 

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I had one of my traveling dreams last night. I have always had traveling dreams and they are always stressful, slightly scary, and silly, and pretty easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dreams I am always trying to get somewhere. It is always dark, even if it is happening in the daytime. I am always driving or being driven somewhere in a car of dubious merit. Since becoming a parent, I often have my children with me. I am almost always lost and can’t find my way. Told you this would be easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dream last night, my cousin Emily was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We had another woman with us in the back seat who was a friend or second cousin twice removed sort of person. She was a Ginger. We were trying to get somewhere so Emily could catch a plane. We were travelling all those little back roads and highways that used to be so common in the Midwest but every once in a while we would hit a terrifying freeway and have to get off. I took over driving and got lost and pulled into someone’s driveway to turn around. We ended up in a small town and the police started following us, then another police car came along side and pulled us over. They made us get out of the car. They thought that we were kidnapping the ginger-haired girl in the back seat. The female and male cops pulled the unnamed Ginger second cousin twice removed aside and then asked Emily to tell them the first name of the girls’ father’s father. Neither of us knew it though we racked our brains trying. Even though we didn’t know the name that would prove we knew the Ginger and were not kidnapping her, for some reason unexplained to us, the cops realized we were not kidnappers and let us go. We went to a cafeteria line where suddenly my cousin Amy and my sister Janet appeared and the second cousin twice removed disappeared. I put a plastic container of salad with edemame beans on my tray. Emily asked for the two taco plate. I decided I wanted tacos as well but did I still want the edemame salad? Emily insisted she was treating all of us. The dream ended before I knew what I decided to eat.

 

Sometimes all you can say about a dream, is “Life is like that.”

 

Life is full of choices. In life, you are always trying to get somewhere. Life is confusing and you often feel lost. You have companions on the way, some known and loved and some that are just along for the ride. Bad things do happen to good people and good people do often do bad things and sometimes the cops catch the wrong people and sometimes the bad people get their just desserts and sometimes the cops don’t show up at all. Sometimes the cops in real life actually shoot you dead for no reason. And some times the cops get shot dead for no reason. Just like in their nightmares. And Life is like a dream because we so often are just asking, “why did that happen?” and we are in it having to keep driving forward without ever knowing how it ends. Ever try to get back into a dream after you wake up and find out how it ends. Life is like that.

 

Sometimes, in real life just like in dreams, we seem to have no idea how we got to the place we find ourselves in. It is often because we weren’t paying attention to the choices we made when we started that particular journey. Just like in dreams, suddenly you are there. Sometimes we end up somewhere in life because we are dreaming when we should have been paying attention to what we were actually doing at the time. “Did I leave my keys in the car when I locked it?” — sort of attention deficit things.

 

The end of a day or a month or year is sometimes like waking from a bad dream because we got lost on the way. Sometimes we push the gas instead of the brakes or the brakes instead of the gas. Life is stressful because we just keep driving even if we don’t know how to get to where we think we want to arrive. We often refuse to stop and ask directions.

 

And Real Life is always slightly scary, at least once you take the wheel of your own life. Life was much less frightening when your mom was driving you home and whenat the end of a day you found yourself snuggled up against your parent in a warm bed after a large meal and a cup of cocoa.

 

Also, to be honest, our lives are frankly always a wee bit silly. Most of our life’s journeys should be relegated to the “I went to Target and the post office today” sort of journeys, not the crossing the Rubicon or the “It is a far, far better thing I do” sort of journey. But then since none of will know until the next life, the true meaning of each day’s journey, we should never image that our silly selves are not somehow also living out an epic journey full of unseen battles and quite a few seen ones.

 

If you read some of the great books that show in equal parts, humans as God-imagers and 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?

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I like to mess with my husband about my Native American heritage. If you know anything about the Native Americans you know that dreams are an important part of their belief system, much like they used to be for Judeo-Christian folk in the Bible. The Native Americans believe that it is your soul that dreams dreams, not your mind or your body. In this philosophy, life is one big Dream and in that the impermanence of this life is recognized. Steven Bancarz writes of Native American philosophy, “It is by experiencing the realness of the dream world that we appreciate the dream-ness of the real world”.[1] The Bible talks about the reality of dreaming versus the reality of what we imagine is only in our waking this way: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)

 

 

Eugene Petersen in his book Tell It Slant, talks about Christ’s use of apocalyptic language. Petersen notes that Jesus uses stories to reveal to us Kingdom reality which is not a future apocalyptic dream or a past historical accomplishment, but a present reality behind an almost dreamlike curtain of the world we try to see with fallen eyes. The kingdom world can often only be approached not with eyes wide open but through eyes closed, as in sleep, to the oncoming traffic of the world and open to the dream world that exists just beyond our consciousness. Just beyond our small egos.

 

Much like the telling of dreams, Jesus’ stories are not easily understood nor analyzed. Parables have a dreamlike quality because they reveal the world behind the curtain. When Jesus is telling the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 17:20-37, Petersen writes,“he does it by introducing a radical reorientation on the nature of time and place, kingdom time and place.” Peterson goes on to say, “Jesus is training our imaginations so that we will be able to participate appropriately in the great salvation drama that is taking place right now – not world events of the future but the presence of the kingdom right now. Apocalyptic is a language strategy for breaking open awareness of the tremendous energies of good and evil contending with one another beneath the apparently benign skin of the ordinary.” [2]

 

Apocalyptic language gets our attention, like a dream might abruptly wake us from sleep. Apocalyptic awareness says, “Repent”, which is another way of saying “Turn around, you are driving the wrong way.” Apocalyptic awareness, like a dream, reveals what is under the surface of our world and often wakes us up to a different reality.

 

It is like the first time you reach out your arms to hold your newborn child. Though it seems like a dream after all the planning and striving and fears and work and hopes, your deepest being knows immediately that reality will never be the same again. You will no longer see reality as you did before you became a parent. The world has changed forever. You have turned a corner and the road will lead you in a whole new direction. And you are desperate every day thereafter for the rest of your life and his or her life, to find a perfect map that will take you and the most precious being in the world in the right direction. So she will be safe. So he will be fulfilled in a career. So she will find the right soul mate. So he will be brave in the face of disaster. You scour maps so you can help this new little entrusted life drive the straight path and find The Way.

 

There are many options today for getting directions. I am old enough to remember the giant tome called The Thomas Guide that was your traveling bible when you moved to Los Angeles. Today I prefer Mapquest, but my children swear by Googlemaps. All religions promise to provide a life map. The Judeo-Christian Life-map is revealed in the Scriptures, the lives of those who have tried to follow the Life-map, and in the Life of the Son of God who came to live the Life-map to the fullest. Early Christians first called our Life-map simply, “The Way”. Now we often get a bit lost in what we think is Christian Reality and we start calling The Way things like theology, Arianism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, hermeneutics, and Vacation Bible School. These often help but they often simply encourage us to define other humans as going the wrong way. Sometimes all the technologies and labels and secure findings trap us in a sort of Christian couch potato life, watching Rick Stevens live the journey while we only talk about it. Not travel it.

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I fear sometimes with all my knowledge about The Way, that I have lost the joy in the journey on The Way. I think I know where I’m going but it’s just in my head. It’s a dream, not a reality of living in The Way.

 

Remember when you were a kid and you just hopped in the back of the car and let your parent drive you someplace. Even if the place had a name you recognized like Grandma’s house, or The Mall, how you actually got there was always a mystery. You couldn’t see much as your little child self, looking out the back seat window. But you weren’t afraid, because Dad was driving. Mom was reading the map and telling Dad, “no you missed the street, turn around.” Your sister was pulling your hair and you desperately had to pee but didn’t want to tell the parents because then they’d pull over and make you crouch behind a bush. So you looked out the window, tried to avoid your mean sister, and trusted you could hold it long enough so that Your Parent could get you to Grandma’s bathroom.

 

The Way is best traveled if you sit in the back seat, hold on, enjoy what you can see out the window, avoid the mean sisters, and let Your Parent drive.

 

 

The Way. Sometimes when I read about The Way or hear about people who have lived The Way, I think I must be dreaming. Who could live like this and get any where? I mean it can’t be real. You must be dreaming to think you can live out The Way on this earth, at this time, in this place, with these people, with that going on, with all the this and that and those. You are living in a dream world, girl friend to think you can do what Jesus did, follow God’s instructions, trust the Holy Spirit. Get a reality check, dude. Smell the coffee, honey. Wake up! Jane, ole thing, you gotta get in the driver’s seat, sit up front, take control of the wheel, and never stop to ask for directions or turn around and start again. Don’t admit defeat, don’t admit you are lost. Just drive, girl, drive!

 

“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.

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At the end of Life’s Journey, Jesus promises a prize. We will see the face of our Savior. And the real meaning of the dream of this chimeric world, will be gloriously revealed to be something similarly dreamlike and really quite different after all. And that is why following the Life- map of The Way is worth every thing. For what does it profit me if I gain the whole enchilada, but lose my soul’s way? What profit is there in gaining what I dream I want if I lose the reality of what God wants for me?

 

Have you heard that theory that we never actually die in our dreams? That we always wake up before we hit the ground, or get run over by the bus or crash the car? That is the promise of Christ’s dream if we follow The Way. We will never die but simply wake from what we thought was reality, to find it was always only a dream.

 

Once upon a time a young woman named Caitlin, saw her boyfriend named Raoul, take off for California to work for JPL. She stayed behind in Boston, a city she loved and where she had acting gigs and friends and a free place to live. It was also where she began calling herself Caitlin instead of Jane because it would make her famous enough to achieve her dream of getting on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show as a famous actress (Did I mention she dreamed of being famous?).

 

But a funny thing happened after Raoul had been gone for three months. Caitlin began to miss Raoul. She began to dream of him. So Caitlin hopped in her un-airconditioned Mazda GLC Hatchback and with Triple AAA flip-maps on the passenger seat, began to drive all the way across the big ole’ country of the United States of America. No GPS, no cell phone, no laptop, no gmail, no companion. Just Caitlin and her AAA maps. She made it to her mom’s house in Indiana for some loving and free food. She made it to her Uncle Marlin and Aunt Sally’s house in Kansas City. The morning Caitlin left, Uncle Marlin snuck out and filled the tank with gas and the tires with air and the whatcha ma thingy with oil. Aunt Sally snuck a packed lunch with cookies for dessert into the back seat.

 

Our heroine Caitlin got seriously lost in Omaha but eventually turned around and found her way. A flat tire made her swear. Once when she stopped at Wendy’s for lunch, she left her watch that her grandma had given her, in the restroom and someone stole it before she went back and could retrieve it. That watch was gone forever and it still makes her sad.

 

When Caitlin finally hit Phoenix she was a bit bedraggled and shell shocked and did not at first compute that it was blizzarding in what she had assumed was a part of the world that was always hot. Caitlin thought she must be dreaming. She managed to pull of the road in time to buy the tire chains but when she got to the part of the road that said “no tire chains, no go”, she was defeated. So she sat in her little tin can of a car, a bit teary for a heroine, who was going many miles for her man. Then an angel of the Lord dressed up like a trucker stepped out of a chariot that looked like an eight-wheel semi, and said “Fear not, I bring tidings of great joy!” And he asked if he could help. Caitlin never saw that trucker again which proves he was an angel.

 

After two nights in a Motel 6, our heroine Caitlin, outlasted the Evil Blizzard and began the terrifying trip flying on the dragon’s back of The 10 and The 210 into Los Angeles County. She arrived, eyes still stuck open with fear after her first near death experience with LA traffic, and she stepped out onto the sidewalk of Brent Avenue, South Pasadena. Caitlin realized as she stood, her legs numb with days of straight driving, that she was getting wet, and thought that it must be raining, not realizing it never rains in California. She was instead, standing in her first ever sprinkler system.

 

Behind the warmly lighted windows of the ground floor apartment, the inhabitants must have sensed the heroine’s presence. Out of the door flew Sophia Fifi Caesar, and Scott Warner, and their newest housemate, Raoul Tawel. And when Caitlin saw her Raoul, the one for whom she had traveled long and suffered much, she thought she must dreaming.

 

But it was real.

 

 

And the journey’s end for Caitlin was accomplished. And she deemed it Good. And there was peace in the land and in her heart and there was much love and joy for many days.

 

The End.

 

But of course it wasn’t the end but only a new beginning. And soon a new traveling journey was begun.

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I pray for you my children, that you will dream the dreams God has for your life. They are more exciting, more joy and peace filling, and more real than any thing you could possible dream on your own. If you follow the Life Map and keep on The Way by letting God plan the journey and Jesus take the wheel, you will arrive at Life’s end and wake up to see the Face that makes you sing out, “Oh, so that is what it all meant!”

And then the journey begins anew.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/where-our-soul-goes-when-we-dream-according-to-native-americans/#sthash.PXCziz1e.dpu

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

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.

Health.
Then Cancer.

Spouse.
Then Betrayal.

Job.
Then Dismissal.

Children.
Then Distance.

Thoughts.
Then Confusion.

Life.
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.