Thinkin’ ‘Bout Jesus

   I Think Jesus

By Jane Tawel

October 23, 2015


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

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

I mean what if Jesus were a real person?!

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

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


I Think Jesus

By Jane Tawel


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

I think Jesus ate slowly.

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


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

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

I think sometimes Jesus liked honey on his pita bread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I think Jesus insisted he wanted the smaller half.

I think Jesus had a pretty good singing voice.

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


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

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


I think Jesus liked to listen to music.

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t think Jesus liked pranks.

I think Jesus would have preferred to grow old.

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

I think Jesus had really big biceps.

black carpenter

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

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

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

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

I think Jesus had good grammar.

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

I think Jesus took good care of his teeth.

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

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

I think Jesus always took a book with him.


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

I think Jesus liked to doodle.

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

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

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

I don’t think Jesus bit his finger nails.

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

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

I think Jesus liked green and blue.

I think Jesus liked surprises.

I think Jesus liked to just hang out.

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

I think Jesus looked good in hats.

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

I think Jesus liked to snuggle.

I think Jesus was thought-full.


POV #2 – A Poem

POV #2 – A Poem

For my friend, my husband, Raoul

By Jane Tawel


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

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

like frightened moths caught in a moldy flour sack.

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

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

We shoulder on.

We soldier on.

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

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

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

We have lost so many battles to these beloveds.

Our arms hang slack, shoulders shivering in fearful exhaustion.

From where will the next onslaught come?

I see the grey smoky stains inerasable under your eyes.

My flesh hangs loose with womb weariness,

I, the mother of all wars,

birthing these adored combatants over and over again.

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

I know. I know.

What a laugh they named it friendly fire.

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

than our taking a direct hit–

I’d welcome a slash across the throat sometimes.

You sometimes think of honor with a sword.

Your manhood shivers at their powerful nonchalance.

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

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

and turning traitor, like we used to do.

But our mutual still hemorrhaging  scars

have congealed us immovable,

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

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

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

against the pillaging hoard of four.

We shoulder on, we soldier on.

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

is pull up our tents and retreat.

But, oh my love, my Captain!

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

now taking a verbal bullet, now a lanced glance.

I wish my heart were purple–

I could offer it as a medal

in a card for you on Father’s Day.

Remember those four fateful mornings?

You unfurled the flag and charged straight ahead,

into the war at home.

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

And we shoulder, soldier on.

We shoulder, soldier on.

I remember, Mighty Warrior, my husband,

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

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

peering out for our  enemies that we treasure more than life

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

keeping the door unlocked and safe for them

when they come home to crash for the night.

POV #1- A Poem

POV #1

by Jane Tawel

October 11, 2015

Fidget and Desire.

Which one takes us higher?

The fidget makes you anxious to get moving, choosing

While desire makes your dreams amusing, approving.

But is Higher where we really want to go?

Or is life lived better fully in the Low?

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

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

Am I better  with my neck ache craned  to skies?

Or are you,  with earth below your soaring eyes?

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

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

Child flying

Beauty is Important

Last week I started teaching a College course in Freshman Writing.  Exhilarating, nerve-wracking, delightful, weighty.So thankful for the opportunity — so scared I’m going to mess up. In our first class we had an assignment to react / argue / write about a philosophical position after a class game and discussion on several rather bald statements.  I like to do the assignment myself in “real time” whenever possible because I think it helps me as a teacher. So for what it is worth, here was my submission as a response to: “Outer beauty is important to love”.  Very glad Professor Tawel isn’t grading me.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

by Mrs. Tawel

Outer beauty is important to love.  If you do not find the person you love beautiful or attractive, then you don’t really love them.  That doesn’t mean other people find them beautiful though, or that you thought they were beautiful the first time you saw them.  It may not be a standard outer beauty at all.

When my first daughter was born, she was jaundiced and for several weeks was entirely mustard yellow from head to foot.  We had to lay her naked in the sunshine to catch the Vitamin D.  Eventually, we were told, with enough sunshine she would turn baby pink. Like a plant — sunshine and liquid.

Justine Nicole Tawel was also almost completely bald, well, actually it was a bit worse than being completely bald. She had hair on the back of her head, but not in the front, so she looked like she had a tonsure like the ancient Celtic monks used to wear.

She had a little pot-belly but she was extremely thin, with spindly arms and legs — remember, they were mustard yellow spindly arms and legs.

I can still see little tiny Justine wrapped only in a swaddling cloth diaper, lying on the floor on a blanket, in front of  the apartment window to catch the California sunshine — all bald and yellow with her little round brown eyes, looking kindly up at me and I remember thinking to myself …………………

my baby girl is the spitting image of Ghandi!

And she was the most beautiful creature in the whole entire universe.

Because she was mine.

And I loved her.

And my all consuming love for her still sees her, twenty-five years later, as the most beautiful girl in the whole entire world. And I always will.


Just as I find my eldest the most gorgeous child in the world, whenever I look at Justine’s sisters, Clarissa and Verity, or her brother Gordon, my eyes are blinded by love at how completely beautiful they are. My heart aches at the perfection of their features — so perfectly created to be adored by me. Sometimes, I am so caught up in the beauty of what they are saying or doing that I forget for a moment, how lovely they are on the outside. The inner beauty of a Justine comment, a Gordon observation, a Clarissa delight, or a Verity intuition, shines so brightly into the world, that I have to step back and look in wonder at these Beings of Light. When I see a Clarissa hand helping, a Gordon hand working, a Verity hand instructing, a Justine hand creating — I am humbled and honored that God would allow me to love these Creatures of Eternal Beauty. My soul magnifies the Lord that He has blessed me with such perfection in these children of His, these four that He has allowed me to be the earthly guardian of.

My son and daughters, created in the image of God– Shine On.  “Let your lights so shine before humanity, that all may see your beauty and good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

For Behold!  You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

My darlings, your beauty amazes me.

Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

By Jane Tawel


Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline, advises to “hold things lightly in your hands”.

I’m trying to visualize what that might mean. What if my goal was: Instead of buying, borrow from the library or a friend; instead of owning, rent; instead of grasping at more, let go of more; and instead of being busier, become less needed.

I have a couple of friends, Deanne and Richard and Florence, who are trying to help me let go of the thousands of books I have.  I love books. I mean, I really love them. I love holding them, snuggling with them, touching them, writing cute notes and serious notes inside them, laughing with them, crying with them, thinking through important stuff with them, delighting in them, digesting them, getting excited by them, and fondly telling others about them. I have read books with my children, I have taught books, shared books with book clubs and small groups, discussed books, and written about books. Books  are the first thing I like to see (after coffee) in the morning and the last thing I like to see before I turn off the light at night ( I don’t need to technically see my cute husband, he just spoons right in when he comes to bed).

Some of my books are here to stay until I see if I have grandkids to read them to. Some of my books, I read and use over and over again, like Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or  The Phantom Tollbooth.  But some books I could and should let go of but I just don’t want to.  I like them.  They are like childhood friends, or mentors — we’ve grown up together and are still growing up together. Books are like children who are always well-behaved and  who always like me.

But speaking of children, what I am really having a hard time with  and always have and fear I always will,  is holding my children lightly in my hands.  There is that constant throbbing underneath the surface that if I do not hold them secured by the three tightened strands of worry, prayer, and good advice, that there will come that knock on the door followed by the worst words any parent ever hears from the officer on the other side.  Loosen just one of those strands tying my child to safety, good choices and eternal happiness and the whole balloon of her or his life will float wildly into the path of onrushing metaphoric air traffic, and burst into a million pieces scattered upon an uncaring, unfeeling earth.  A good parent is the constant securer of tethered lines.

When I first began the journey of motherhood, I made a pact with God.  I said, “anything, anything at all, God, but my children”. Well, wouldn’t it be nice if God-pacts worked?  Wouldn’t every parent who ever lived, say,” anything, anything at all but my children, God”.  Wouldn’t the parents of Rwanda and the past parents of the Holocaust and the future parents of  kids with leukemia  be happy?  Like Abraham, a parent could sacrifice a sheep, cut it in half, spread the blood down a line, and then walk in between the cut sacrifice, forming a covenant with God that our offspring would multiply and live long on the earth and forever in the heavens.

When I pray for my children, I beg God to keep them safe for another day and then I beg God to let them walk in relationship with Him so that we might spend eternity together in His presence.  One morning lately as I was praying and begging for my children, God sent one of those piercing arrow moments to my heart and as clear as day, I knew He was saying, “Jane, this agony and longing that you feel for  your own children’s safety and salvation, this is what I want you to feel for every child of Mine.”

So maybe God doesn’t really expect me to hold my children lightly in my hands.  Maybe He just wants for me to hold every child of His as tightly, as tethered, as cherished, as agonizingly beloved, as I do my own child. Maybe God wants me to keep grasping all of the ropes that bind His children to Him, and hold on to His God-tethers  until  my hands bleed. As His God-hands bled out His life when He tethered my life to His cross.The cross was and is The  Savior’s three strands, holding me tightly, and never, ever letting me go.

So I will pray and train to hold things lightly– things like houses and clothes and washing machines and car bumpers and even salaries —  okay, I’ll work on holding the books lightly as well.  I will hold all The Stuff  so very, very loosely, that my hands seem as if they have been injected with helium, floating freely and carelessly above the pleasures and wants of this world and present life.

But I will clutch to the heart of Christ in me, the children of this world.  The children from my womb, the children in the streets, the children scarred by war, the children wasting in nursing homes, the children in the churches and the children in the Pentagon, the children in Russia and North Korea and Central America and San Francisco, the homeless children and the multi-homed children,  the Republican children and the Democratic children, the children with cancer and the children with trust funds, the children who know Him and the children who seek Him — I will ask God to secure the tethers of their lives, and I will worry, pray and when possible, offer advice. Mostly, I will ask God to help me love each child as He has so dearly loved each of His children– firmly, tightly, with a hold as hard as nails.

I will make a pact with God.  I will make a covenant and it is this: God, I don’t know. I simply, don’t know much at all. But You do. I will trust You, to care for and deeply love my children, because they were never really mine. My beloved children have always been first and foremost, Your beloved children.  I will not wrest the ropes binding my children to You from your nail-scarred hands because I somehow foolishly think I love them more than You love them.  And I will beg You to help me treat my children, as You have treated me, with truth when I know it, with help whenever I can give it, with guidance when it is accepted, with my presence when it is asked for, with my silence when they need to be still, and with love that knows no limits and  which is never, ever, ever loosely offered. I will ask You, my Father, to make a way in me to love each of Your children as I so love my own flesh and blood. Create in me a Love like Yours — Love that binds a child so tightly to the Parent’s heart, that nothing can separate them from that Love, not even death. “For neither height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:39)


Musings on A Trip Well-Lived


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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. ( 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.”


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.


A Bucket Full of Laughter


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.


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!


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:


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


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.


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.  


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?”


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”

photo 1(1)

(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


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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