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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 —

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but because pretty soon I will look like this —

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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!”

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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…”

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`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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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:

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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

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

No Do Overs, No Take Backs

No Do Overs, No Take Backs
April 7, 2015
By Jane Tawel

I have to start with the visuals first this time:

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This is a picture of Raoul taken at a Trade Show he attended and at which he was roped into somehow being the pool ball holder for a magician’s act. Good thing neither I nor our dentist were there. We both would have been screaming. My kids will tell you, I am easily made to scream.

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These are pictures of my children:

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This is a picture of me…..

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Okay, now answer this: One of these things is not like the others. Which one?

Answer: It is the picture of me.

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In all of the other pictures the beloved ones seem to be doing vastly different things, but they are all doing one thing that is the same. They are all  risk –taking. I am not. Notice, I may be on an extremely dangerous vehicle, but I have one foot firmly planted on the ground and I am looking straight at the protective parent taking the picture. I am grimacing a little to make sure I am taking the moment of risk seriously enough. My knuckles are white from gripping the handlebars (okay, granted it’s a black and white photo but my hands are clutching hard.)  No risk taking from this girl (okay, maybe I was taking a fashion risk in this picture.)

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I am not at heart a risk taker. RISK in my lexicon is an acronym for Really Insane Stupid Kidstuff.

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When I was a little girl I used to have wonderful dreams that I could fly. I wasn’t scared at all and I would fly silently, calmly over fields and back yards completely at peace. Now that I am grown up I have an absolute terror of flying in that tin can thing you call a plane. And I no longer dream of flying. Dreams when we are asleep are funny, aren’t they? They are not always what they seem. Kinda like when we are awake real life dreams. Nightmares are something else.

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I have two recurring nightmares. I remember reading long ago that people tend to have the same nightmares and that these nightmares tell you something important about what you fear. I’m going to trust you all now with the very intimate details of my subconscious. My first recurring nightmare is: I am on stage in a play but I do not know my lines. I either did not take the time needed to memorize my lines or I did not know I was going to have to do this part in the play. Those of you who, as I do, love to analyze dreams are going- to- town on this already. Second dream: I am either in one of the old fashioned slips we used to wear under our dresses before modesty became the dodo of virtues. Or I am stark naked. It gets worse. I am on the toilet. It gets worse. People keep walking by me, either talking to each other or (it gets worse), talking to me. And the people talking to me seem oblivious that I am naked on a toilet. This obviously is not an irrational fear. It is very, very rational to fear sitting on a toilet naked with people using your stall as a thoroughfare. This is not something you should try at home.

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I do have what may be considered by you risk takers as slightly irrational fears. I fear heights of any kind. I dislike balconies and ladders for this reason. I fear germs. I am obsessive compulsive about which item I take from a grocery shelf (never the first one) and even though I am slightly afraid of walking up or down stairs (heights) I do not hold on to the banister (germs). I am afraid of unexpected earthquakes (not irrational) and of the ache in my left shoulder (could it be???). I fear my children walking out the front door where I cannot see them any more (not irrational).

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Where and when I grew up, risks were associated with sins. Risk takers were pretty much sinners across the board. Smoking in a deserted lot’s bushes = risk = sin. Trying a beer at a Junior High party = risk = sin. Petting with your boyfriend = risk = sin. See what I mean? As a parent, I get it now. Smoking kills you and smoking in a bush could start a city-wide fire and they could catch you and imprison you for arson. (From my father, I get the “worst-case -scenario syndrome”. We never think “What’s the worst that could happen?” We KNOW what is the worst that could happen and we will be happy to tell you what that is. (Child of mine, If you eat that piece of popcorn and don’t chew thoroughly, you could break a tooth on the kernel and then choke on it and die. Here, let me chew it for you first.)

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When I was growing up, risk takers / sinners were not a big concern because they were going to hell. And you weren’t. And if you weren’t a Christian, then we would give you a tract and tell you how to avoid hell by not sinning anymore and then you were on our team. Either that, or risk takers were missionaries.  They were on our team.

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We are all on one team or another. You are born into a team, and then in America sometimes you choose to join a different team when you grow up. Americans are madly, passionately in love with their teams. Sports teams especially. In America, we start this faux team thing pretty darn early in a kid’s life. I mean Raoul and I have been there, splitting up our Saturdays so one of us could be at one of the four soccer games, two tennis matches, or one racquetball game that one of our kids was playing in. And just like every other American parent, we took these games and teams very seriously. The stakes of a five year old winning are very high, let me tell you. Because when you (actually your kid, but it feels like you) are out there in front of everyone, taking The Big Risk, you have to be a winner, even if you are a loser. And since none of the parents sees their kid as a loser, and depending on the age of the players, you either blame the other team, blame the refs, or decide that everyone always gets to win. Hence, the Trophies for Trying. We encourage our children to take a risk, but we don’t really want them to suffer the consequences if the risk doesn’t pay off in their favor. Speaking of Mike Pence and Indiana—

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Politicians are NOT real risk takers. The politicians throughout history who took big risks are mostly assassinated by now. Politicians don’t even run for office any more unless they have polled the entire population of the USA and part of Southern France to see if they are electable and if they aren’t yet electable, someone the citizens pay a bunch of moola to will figure out what the politician needs to change in his / her strong and unwavering belief system to win. Then they simply and heart-feelingly change their platform / belief system. Easy peasy.  If he /she loses, the politician blames the other team, sometimes their own team, blames the ref`, or proudly accepts the Trophy for Trying.

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No matter what you think about the issue, Mike Pence the governor of Indiana and the state itself took a risk. (Disclaimer: I claim Indiana as one of my home states. This blog is in no way paid for or endorsed by said home states. I would be happy to let just about any one pay for this blog though, so if you are any of the fifty states that wants to run an ad here, I have space available. I also have space available for an ad from Guam or Russia, which I cannot see from here.) But after the fall- out from Indiana’s taking the risk, and fall- out almost always means FEAR OF LOSING MONEY, Mike Pence and Indiana wanted to back pedal. I love that phrase – the visual is so good! Have you ever tried back pedaling a bike? How far did you get? That’s right, back pedaling takes you exactly nowhere. I mean, can we look at the great back pedal-er of all time — ole’ what’s his name seven time winner Tour De France guy. My friend Lisa and I used to love this hippy saying: “It just goes to show that where ever you go, there you are.” Lance, Mike, — you pedaled there. There you are. It does just go to show.

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Another sport expression I have come to love is the baseball term: balk. I was fascinated the first time I watched a baseball game when my son, Gordon was playing at the sport, and an umpire called “balked”. I was like turning to everyone around me going, “what? What is that” Balked?” And they are like, yea, the pitcher balked. (Just sayin’ – no one really understands this term. I don’t think even the umpires have to understand it. It is one of those ephemeral terms that completely catches every one off guard. It’s like an umpire makes this random hand movement at the pitcher and everyone is like, “oh, yea, the pitcher balked.” I mean, the pitcher has one little shoulder twitch on the throw and Bam! – disqualified.)

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Definition of balk: an incomplete or misleading motion, especially an illegal move made by a baseball player.

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I mean, I love that. In what other sport or event, are you not allowed to change your mind? I mean even in baseball, a runner can go so far off a base and then change his mind, right? In basketball, feint and shoot. Even in weddings, we have a rule that if any one objects, we can all change our mind and go home. But a baseball pitcher, nope. Once you say you are gonna throw that ball, you gotta throw it. Other wise “BALK!” and you do not get the Trophy for Trying.


I guess in bungee jumping, parachute jumping, and the sport of war, you can’t balk either. I do not participate in these sports for this reason, because when I am being convinced to take up the dangerous sport of walking out on a balcony, I want to be allowed to balk without being disqualified.


Politicians are constantly trying to balk. (So are stockbrokers, movie stars, defense secretaries, parents of toddlers,  and lobbyists). But in most arenas of life, if you don’t have that kind of power, you do not get to balk. If I bake a cake and use salt instead of sugar, I don’t get to balk.(Eat it anyway, family, so what if I used salt, I meant to use sugar.) If I run a red light and kill someone, I don’t get to back pedal out of it. (Although a Prius may look like the unicycle of cars, it is still a deadly machine.) It seems that the powerful and mighty and sometimes, the powerless and foolish people have forgotten one simple playground team rule – No do-overs. No take backs.

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Every once in a while I will be convinced to “go out on a high thing” – like a balcony or a hill top. So I inch out there and then guess what? There I am. I am peering with fearing in my heart, hands and bowels (oh, there’s that other nightmare of mine!) and then I’m stuck. I’ve taken a risk and I can’t back pedal off the high place. I try to inch back but usually there is someone with me, saying “Don’t be afraid. Just look! Isn’t it beautiful?” I’m like yeah, yeah (back pedaling away). And then they lose interest in me and risk their lives on the balcony to see the beautiful sunset or the stars while I’m very wisely keeping my eyes down on my feet on the ground inching backwards to safety.

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To be the best at something you have to take risks. You can’t want the Trophy for Trying. You have to want to do the thing so much, that you are willing to risk your reputation, or your peace of mind, or your pride, or your sense of security, or your “need to know that everything will turn out okay for you”. The problem with teenage or twenty year old brains, is that they, according to the experts, have over- developed risk taking parts, and underdeveloped reality -of -body -vulnerability parts. So they take risks without weighing very real consequences. The problem with old people’s brains, like mine, is we have over- developed “need to feel safe” parts of the brain and underdeveloped, “you aren’t going to die from eating that bite that just fell on the floor” parts of the brain. These are actually in part, positive ways to be wired. Old people are more physically vulnerable and should be careful. Young people need to take risks so they can wrest the world from the old people’s hands and start ruling it themselves.

But in other ways these are negative ways to be wired. Young people don’t weigh the worth of the risk or it’s effect on others or themselves seriously enough.  The thrill is the goal, rather than the goal the thrill.  Old people are so busy protecting themselves, that they won’t take a risk on something worth it — like on justice or speaking out, or walking into the fray, to protect or help someone else. Or maybe just taking a risk to see the stars from the balcony. Old people want to protect what they have rather than experience something they don’t yet imagine.

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There are things worth risking your life for and things that are not worth risking your life for. So as a believer in Christ, I have gotten content in this country at not having to take any risks that are not of my own design and have a legal angle to them if I do get sick or maimed. I mean, when we declared this a Christian country, we were saying basically, whatever you do in America, stays in America; and no more risks needed for you Christians here. That’s when we lost our way. That’s when we lost The Way. Because the greatest risk-taker of all time was Jesus, The Christ. If we are following Him from a safe distant perch, we are not following Him. We are following the Jesus who is on a static, family friendly, television screen in the safe living room of my mind.

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I was made very aware of this when I was listening to the sermon on the last seven sentences (they are really called Last Seven Words, but this always confuses me.)From his last Passover Seder to his last breath, Jesus has gone out on the ledge. He is not only looking over the parapet, but He is hanging on it, hanging by not a thread, but a nail. On his last night in the garden, Jesus did ask His Dad, “Do I have to do it this way? Can you just tell me now, Is there an invisible safety net below that I just don’t see right now? Is it possible to aim for the stars without having to go out on the cross?” And God the Father, said, “Son, you have to go out there and free fall and I can’t tell you whether there is a safety net or not. Do you trust me enough to bungee jump for the world today?”

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And when Jesus was hanging on the cross, I honestly think as a human, he did not know how it would end. He believed in the future resurrection of his body and soul, but right then, in the moments of state execution, in agonizing pain, Jesus did not know how His story would end that day. Jesus had to trust somehow as difficult as it was then,  that The Biggest Risk of All Time was going to pay off. And when Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”, I think the Son was saying, “DAD! I thought you were going to do a miracle. I thought you would show all these people that I was your son, that I am the way, the truth and the Winner. I thought you were going to rescue me and them. When? When? When? I don’t see any safety net down there.” Jesus risked it all. He did not back pedal. He did not balk. He did not ask for do-overs. He did not say “Take backs”. He actually believed that God was able “to do immeasurable more than even Jesus could imagine.” Jesus simply said, “Ok, I’m jumping, free falling and into your hands, I commend my spirit, Dad.”

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And if you still don’t believe Jesus was the Uber-risk taker of all eternity,  he trusted his life and in fact, the salvation of the whole world,  to his “safe on a perch” followers. Jesus wasn’t throwing the ministry die on a bunch of super heroes but on a bunch of wooses. He risked his whole mission impossible on a small band of motley folk most of whom had already run away and hidden from the risk of following him. I mean the disciples most of them, at that point, were like pushing Jesus out of the plane door without a parachute, saying, “Just go ahead, Jesus, we’ll follow you after you jump, IF YOU LIVE.


Jesus risked it all on scaredy- cat, non-risk taker, safe in my living room with my popcorn and “Modern Family”, balking, back-pedaling me.

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Do you know what risks our church family is taking throughout the world right now to claim Jesus as their crazy, free falling King? 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs. Kenyan students. Palestinian priests. Mexican mothers.

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There are a lot of people who serve the powers of this world and who risk their lives because they love an experience, they love a thrill, they love speed, or power, or money — and they gamble their lives on a love that is short-lived and self-concerned. But there are some who believe that the biggest risk we take daily is to continue to follow Jesus  and that the biggest danger of all is to not take a risk on an invisible kingdom with Jesus as President. What is it like to truly live for and with a King unafraid of the pain of a whip, the nakedness in a crowd, the height of a cross, the forgetting of the rest of the psalter  lines after “Why?”, the depth of a hell, the claustrophobia of a tomb, or the uncertain continuance of a legacy. There are those who believe with their whole beings, that Jesus is still A King worth following into the battle of the ages, with nothing with which to hide our nakedness but righteous love, nothing with which to calm our fears but God’s grace.


Jesus risked it all for  the only things that are worth loving— His holy, righteous, all powerful, all loving Father. And His dysfunctional, needy, sinful, longing for thrills non-super-heroes, family.

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When I was listening to those final seven sentences of his this weekend and imagining Christ on the cross, what I thought when the pastor kept saying that Jesus did this all for you, is “Jesus, you were an idiot. How could you be so stupid as to do that for me?” Would I risk going out on a balcony to save my own child? Yes, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon would be worth any risk I would need to take to save them, because they are mine, right? I love them with the love of a parent. Parenthood whether you are birthing or adopting, begins with risk and involves risk every single day there after. Would I risk going out on a balcony for a seventy year old gay prostitute who is dying of AIDS? Would I take a risk by laying down my weapon and turning the other cheek for a radical terrorist who just blew up my brother?  Would I “go out on a limb” like Jesus let himself be nailed to a limb, for me? I mean I know me and all the evil I have done in my life and if I was asked by God to die for me, I would back pedal like crazy.  I would ask for do overs.  I would say,   Not a chance. She is not a risk worth taking.

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Am I willing to take risks for Love today? Am I willing to deny myself whatever “drug” of choice I am using to numb the small pains – and I don’t mean Advil, you know what I mean by “drug”. Am I willing to turn the other cheek and risk having both cheeks bruised by not responding with anger or gossip or the giddy pleasure of mean-ness? Am I willing to speak the truth in love, seek the truth in love, and live the truth in love, without back pedaling to be politically correct or God forbid, liked and nice? Am I willing to lose some money on Pascal’s wager? Am I willing not to know my lines or even what part I am playing in the play because I know that God wrote the script and Jesus is the protagonist? Am I willing to take a risk not knowing the end of my story today, because I know the end of The Story? Am I willing to lose the world, and gain the soul of Christ?

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This picture is of course not me, but is of my daughter,  dare devil  (dare angel?) Clarissa. When I first saw it, I thought her hands were like that because she was pretending to fly.  She told me actually they are like that because she was afraid her fingers were going to get blown off by the force of the wind.

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Jesus has given us everything we need to live in His kingdom.  In Matthew 25, the parable of the talents, He calls us to use everything we have to give God interest on His investment.  Even if it means risking reputation, money, friends, family or our lives.

Am I willing to take my foot off the floor of this world, and free fall into the Kingdom of Christ?  I might get hurt. I might have my pride assassinated. I might lose the election or the job.  I might not get that new thing because I don’t  have enough money. I might be embarrassed and feel naked. I might lose a friend. I might even die.

Or, I might fly.

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I might see The Star and be brave enough not just to look at it from my balcony, but to follow it to the manger.

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I think I already have too many Trophies for Trying on my shelf. Right next to all the Bibles. And tracts.

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I think it’s time to risk losing.  For what does it profit a woman if she gains the world safely, but loses her soul by keeping both feet on the ground?

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. I took the risks. I let go of the guard rail. I took  my eyes off the ground and put them on the cross. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, the trophy of Christ’s winning team, the treasure of the cosmos, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy slightly paraphrased)

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This is a picture of me in Godspell taking a risk at the top of the pyramid.  Notice my brothers and sisters holding my hands and supporting me.  That’s the beauty of risk taking with Jesus.  He gives you other risk takers to hold your hands.  And just like the picture of Clarissa parachuting, Jesus always has your back.

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