Tear Down Those Prison Walls

Tear Down Those Prison Walls and Run Free

By Jane Tawel

August 18, 2018

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Meister Eckhart

As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God. Live as if you did not exist. Expect and ask nothing in return. Then the merchant inside you will be driven out of the temple God has made. Then God alone dwells there. See! This is how the temple is cleared: when a person thinks only of God and honors him alone. Only such a person is free and genuine.

 

This quote by Meister Eckhart expresses well what has been on my mind as I look at American Christianity in particular, and The Church in the world in 2018. In my own country, it seems that the curtain has been suddenly and violently pulled back revealing the underbelly of a monstrous misunderstanding of what many of us claim is the truth of God in Christ’s revelations and the words of Holy Scripture.

 

We have gone so far into making Christianity a capitalistic individualistic religion that most of us can’t really see at all how to live The Jesus Way anymore.  We have sold Christ’s Kingdom for paid ministry.  We have justified our gains by calling them blessings. We have shared what we can afford to share and assumed that Christ died for us without any need for us to die to ourselves and live for the love of our enemies. We have disagreed with each other without any purpose higher than our own self-satisfied viewpoint. We have condemned the sinner and refused to condemn the sin of our own pride, greed, and smallness. The speck in our own eye has blinded us to the needs of a dying planet’s planks of rainforest proportion. We have found idols without names and joined cults of personalities without souls. The broad path is Walmart-sized while the narrow path is being littered with the trash of the world’s super-economies.  We are lost and we do not know it, because the marketplace is thriving. And we think that what we do in churches can make up for what we have done to God’s Temple.

 

It may be time to stop calling ourselves “little Christs” until we relearn what that means in this time, in this place, in this trial, in this suffering, in this mammoth Babylon made of paper money, security cameras, and nightly numbing entertainments. Perhaps it is time we stopped training pastors and priests and paying them at all; instead listening to the sidewalk prophets lying homeless on our streets. Perhaps no one should accept money for publishing a devotional Bible. Perhaps evangelism should be as free as the Salvation Jesus offers us. Perhaps instead of moaning about cakes and billboards and carpets and even cancer, we should meditate long and hard on what is profiting our souls as we continue to gain the world.

 

Maybe we should worship in parks and living rooms and share what we bring  — of our goods and of our goodness –to be together in spirit and in truth. Perhaps my job should be just that – my job –and my ministry, my religion, my image bearing should be just that – something wild, something free, something communal, something out of my control, something healing, and lonesome, something humble and meek and bold and crazy – just like Jesus’s ministry was. And is. Or could be, anyway.

 

When is it “Time’s up” for me – for us – to understand that the path is narrow, and almost impossible to walk on. The Jesus Way means I must separate my need to live from my need to live in Him. I must be willing to work to feed myself and work to feed others; to provide fish for my table must be separated from being a fisher of men.  This is actually the opposite of the Gnosticism that we now embrace as Christians, thinking that my daily body life can be sanctified if somehow I have “Jesus in my heart”. I must find a way out of thinking that there is no struggle in the dichotomy of this world now and this world as it was meant to be and as we are meant in God to recreate it. I must let my left hand serve my human needs without knowing what my right hand is doing serving the needs of souls. We must see how far we have fallen into the Solomonic way of thinking that we can have it all and still have Eternity in Christ. I must give up any personal gain that I can fathom, if I want something on earth, as it is in heaven.

 

Perhaps it is time for a temple cleansing. If Christ came to tear the curtain between the Holy One and the sinful ones; then perhaps it is time for us sinful ones to rip apart the curtains of our earthly mansions and looking through the dusty windows of our humbled souls, see the world as God sees it.  Janis Joplin sang it well: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Or as Jesus said, “What is all your profit really worth, if in the end, all you get to keep is what remains of the God-likeness in you?”  Jesus came to set us free but we have to walk through the prison doors to enjoy that freedom.

 

Perhaps it is time for us to see the prison bars of capitalism and self-serving individualism that we have constructed and  falsely called “Christianity”. Perhaps it is time to tear down those bars and then start setting other prisoners free. Perhaps it is time to tear down the walls of the churches, to stop selling in the temples, and to with fear and trepidation seek the freedom that comes from true worship and true servant-hood.

 

As Jesus said, “It can all be summed up like this:  Love a God Who is not you.  And also –Love others in exactly the same measurements and judgments in which you love yourself.”

 

Maybe it is time to rip apart the walls of our hearts with no apparent protection from the onslaught of freedom. Perhaps it is time to repent from our foolish self-blinding way of seeing our world, and see through the eyes of Christ. And with the eyes of Christ, we can run free indeed.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.”  — Jesus, The Christ (as quoted in Luke 4:18)

Today in the newspaper, I read about a woman who was imprisoned for seventeen years because a false witness lied to the police and no one cared enough to find out the truth. We want to say that we are following the path set out by Jesus but instead we are reclining at our tables while a whole world is imprisoned by lies from the Father of Lies. The oppression of greed goes hand in hand with the oppression of need. Do we care enough to find out the Truth? Do we care enough to find out the truth about The Truth, The Way, and The Life — Messiah? Can I get a witness?

But on “That Day”, The Lord will separate the greedy from the needy. No matter where or when we live, how much we have or don’t have, we are not at all worthy. That is a lie of Satan from the time of Adam and Eve. Yet many in  The Church are fond of telling us that in this cheap grace era but expensive Christian era; that somehow we are worthy. We have stolen  the dross of wealth instead of giving up all for the solid gold crown of eternal worthiness. We are all sinners, guilty as charged. There is only One Witness who is True and who can set us free. Jesus. The Witness, who is The King, who is the Judge, will one day ask me if I lived as a witness for Him.  God will one day ask me as a hard trial lawyer or a judge would, if I own enough to pay to get out of jail. And none of us will be able to say, yes, — not even Mr. Amazon himself.  Will The Church continue to think it is about what we own and not what we are? Should those who want to be like Jesus, claim any freedom to “practice their religion in freedom”? No, we have no freedom except the freedom to give up everything, and take up the cross of Christ. If we who are guilty die with He Who was not guilty, then we will live in resurrected freedom forever.

Jesus has our get out of jail card and the right directions on the path to eternal freedom. Above this world’s prison bars is this message: “If you want true freedom, even the ultimate freedom from death, then give up everything, and follow God.” And this is absolutely impossible to do. And yet, Christ did it. And Christ offers to do it for, in and through us.

Perhaps it is time, we let Him set us free.

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Desperately Needed: Translators

Desperately Needed: Translators

“Do Not Pray for This People: I Will Not Hear You”

By Jane Tawel

February 17, 2018

 

 

We the People, who claim some sort of kinship with God, seem to be lost in “non-translation”. “God hear our prayers” becomes impossible if not acted out with our own blood, sweat and tears for others. A quote by the poet, Christian Wiman, was for me today, yet another nail in the coffin of our “go to” – “thoughts and prayers”, “I’ll pray for you”, and so forth.  Not that I don’t in fact, ask for prayer often, and pray for people and give much thought to others daily. However, I remain cognizant of the fact that much of my sort of prayer is only possible because I am a first-world rich, “fat-cat”. Being a first-world citizen is also why I can sinfully often remain inactive in actually “working out my salvation”. Wiman writes in his My Bright Abyss:

 

Silence is the language of faith. Action – be it church or charity, politics or poetry – is the translation. As with any translation, action is a mere echo of its original, inevitably faded and distorted, especially as it moves farther from its source. There the comparison ends, though, for while it is true that action degrades that original silence, and your moments of meditative communion with God can seem a world away from the chaotic human encounters to which those moments compel you, it is also true that without these constant translations into action, that original, sustaining silence begins to be less powerful, and then less accessible, and then finally impossible.

 

 

Today is the fourth day of Lent. This year, Ash Wednesday fell ironically on the same day as the Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day, and tragically on another violence by gun day at a school in Florida.  Of course, every day in America has become a violence by gun day.  When it happens to me or my kids, please don’t give me your thoughts and prayers.  Our prayers in this country have become impossible for God to answer, because we think of them like we do all currency – ours—belonging by rights to us because what?  We call ourselves “Christians”?  We have become a people who admire those who make money without work that benefits others and those who admire prayers that remain silent and not active. Unless we begin to spend the currency of our prayers in action, the Bible says, it will be impossible for God to hear us.

 

“Give us this day our daily bread” is meaningless for those who have more bread than is good for them.  God has no role in our need, and therefore, no need to give us “rolls”.  As we continue to pray for protection, we must accept that we have created a nation that doesn’t need God for that any more either.  Neither do God’s original people, by the way, the Israelites. Plenty of ammo to go around there, too. God is willing to let us continue to protect ourselves with our weapons of mass destruction.  Free will, and all that.

 

If I want to know how to act in the Babylon I live in, I should read the newspapers, and this doesn’t always make me feel good. If I want to know whose prayers God listens to, I have to read the Bible parts that don’t make me feel all that good either.  I must carefully and humbly read my Bible – especially the bits that convict me.

 

Psalm 69:33 For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

 

Psalm 34:17: The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles.

 

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

 

We must stop believing that we can go into our closets and pray and be a “good” church goer and be saved.  If this world we have created hasn’t become scary and awful enough for you, look at the next one we claim we want to go to – a new earth and a new heaven lived as God originally planned.  If we don’t start living in that world now, God is quite clear that we are having no part of Him and that He will have no part of us.  The words of the prophet Jeremiah should propel us out of our “thoughts and prayers” —

 

Jeremiah:  Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah (The Church, America, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, China……) who come through these gates (church doors, democracies) to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

“‘Will you steal and murder, (shoot up your own children as living sacrifices to your freedom to own something?)  commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal (Capitalism, America, Freedom…)and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh (oh, Irony – Shiloh is now The West Bank!!!)  where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’

16 So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah (Columbine, Newtown, Parkland, Karbala, Najaf, Kandahar, Kabul, Kedrovoye, Bethlehem….)  and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched. (Cheap grace will be seen as the counterfeit salvation it is!)

21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings (tithes, prayers, sermons, “thoughts for Me”)  to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt  (Europe, Africa, Asia) and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff -necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’ (Jeremiah as recorded by the Holy Spirit in chapter 7, Book of Jeremiah)

 

I am taking time away from reading my newspapers this Lent.  But I hardly need to do that to understand that American Christians have been swept along in the tides of history like all others who grow out of their need or desire to be with and like a righteous God; who break their covenant with God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We have taken such incremental steps away from Jehovah, Yahweh, that we are unable to see how many degrees off True North we have journeyed.  This is what has happened throughout recorded history with God’s people:  with the Egyptians who gave God’s people bread, with the Babylonians who let them pray behind closed doors, and of course, with the Romans as they took the money into the coffers of God’s temple. We too, have offered our prayers out of one side of our mouths, while chanting, “Crucify Him” out of the other side.

 

Jesus did not come to merely die for us. He came to live for us and to live as us.  He came to show us The Way – because we keep losing our way.  Most importantly, He came to make history.  He did not make history when He died – we will all do that since that first Adam chose death over serving Yahweh.  Jesus made history as the first human ever to be RESURRECTED from the dead – for eternity.  This is what He came to show us that God intended all along — from the beginning to today. God through The Christ,  has now offered a way for us too, to be resurrected.  IF!! IF!!!  IF!!!

 

THEN!!!  THEN!!! THEN!!!!  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  (As recorded by the Prophet Paul in his 6th chapter to the Romans –and to us?)

 

I don’t really need to read the newspapers since History repeats itself again and again –in The Garden of Eden, in Israel, in America – on a Roman cross. The only different news-paper is The Good News of Jesus The Christ. Jesus broke the bonds of history – He broke the bonds of Time – He broke the bonds of Death. The news has always told us the same thing – we will die because we sin.  But all of that changed in the life, death and resurrection of the man we call Jesus and who believers call, Messiah, Christos, The Christ.  My prayers for Jesus to be my Savior are always a good start, but The Good News is that they cannot be the only thing I do.

I thank my God, My Savior, that He didn’t come to earth to offer me His “thoughts and prayers”.

 

 

 

My Country Tis Not of Thee

My Country ‘Tis Not of Thee

by Jane Tawel

September 26, 2017

There has been a lot of hoopla lately over public figures protesting during the national anthem at sporting events.  As someone who does not watch sports, I am a little taken aback by the fierce emotions surrounding the protests and the singing of the national anthem.  We lose our way so easily.  The national anthem, is just that — a song. It isn’t even the pledge to our country that we say to a flag. It is a song.  There are many other anthems that celebrate our country.  The funny thing is whenever I am around people singing this anthem, most of them don’t know the words and can’t hit the high notes if they do.  Is that a form of protest, I wonder?  Could we start maybe requiring people to learn the words and take voice lessons?  Or is that just too much like Nazi Germany or Communist Russia?  I am sort of just shaking my head, I must admit.  I mean, do we play the national anthem before chess meets, or spelling bees, or tiddly- wink contests.  Shall we start playing it before the kids go out in the yard to play kick ball?

I have an anthem for my country.  Actually in my country, just like for America, there are many  great anthems.  One of my favorites is called “Amazing Grace” and the other is called “Jesus Loves Me”.  One of my country’s best anthems is called “How Great Thou Art”.  I have found many people do not now know the words or tunes to those great anthems either.  I daily try to understand their meaning. And you know, the King of my country doesn’t care if I stand or sit or lie down when I am singing His Anthems.  In fact, my King says, it is better if you go in a closet and privately and sincerely sing anthems to our Kingdom ideals.

The  United States of America’s anthem was never written to be played before what is officially called a “pastime” or “game”.  War is not actually any thing like a game and definitely not something people do to pass the time.  The national anthem of our particular country was meant to be played for special occasions that celebrate what our country has done for the people who live here and as an example to the countries of people who don’t live here.  It was meant to celebrate things like freedom and sacrifice.  Protests, at their best,  are meant to do the same thing.

For centuries, there have been many anonymous people who have quietly and respectfully decided not to pledge allegiance to a flag of a country.  These are people who feel their only allegiance belongs to God and that the words that they say matter in a different way on a daily basis than perhaps those words might mean if they were actually in a war defending the country they reside in.  If I were in the military fighting for my country, I would pledge to that country’s ideals daily.  But game players are not fighting for their country and if we have given them the right to play for our team, our state, our school on a field, then we should give them the rights all citizens have in the country — the freedom to speak about what they believe.

We tend to want our public figures, whether on a court and field or on a movie screen, to tow the line.  We pay them, they entertain us.  We are a nation that would rather pay a lot of money to be entertained than to clean up someone else’s hurricane damage or take care of someone’s health issues. We would rather fifth quarterback the missteps of a game than analyze police missteps.  So when these public figures decide they must protest publicly, we get miffed.  “I watch you to feel good about myself in a sort of narcissistic, self-caring, numbing way”, we might say.  And ranting at public figures lets us off the hook in terms of looking at what we really believe and what the real person sitting next to us really believes and what we should DO about what we believe.  Because sitting and watching seems to be a sort of non- protest, doesn’t it?  In God’s kingdom, though, it is the players with the self-serving protestations of the non-involved that will be kicked out.  In  Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about God’s playing field:

For it will be like a coach (man) getting ready for a game (journey), who called his players (servants) and entrusted to them his wealth and property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

For what does it profit me if my team wins, but I lose my soul on the sidelines?  I want to be careful that my love of the game or my love of my own words, does not blind me to God’s love for all people.  The Lord asks us to be respectful of whatever country we find ourselves in but to never confuse our respect for a foreign land with worship.  Worship belongs only to God and our allegiance to Christ alone.  Walking in the light of God’s world is no halftime, pastime, couch potato event.  It involves much more than a hand over my heart and once a week pledge.  It is not a game.  And yet, the victories in Jesus are so much sweeter than any other win could be.  Which reminds me of another great anthem people in my country sing:

“I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

Chorus
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

 

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

Chorus
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

 

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Chorus
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Now that anthem, about that Game-changer, and that kingdom — that– makes me want to take a knee.

 

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A Sort of Answer

I have a new Facebook friend, named Jeremy whom I have come to really like a lot.  He is a friend of a previous student of mine and he is willing to ask me – a stranger – questions about what I believe and think.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love that.  I love wrestling through ideas and beliefs, especially when they have anything to do with what I call Worldview or Christianity or Truth or Spiritual Things. So here goes Jeremy, my answer to your question:

 

A Sort of Answer to Jeremy from Jane

By Jane Tawel

February 2, 2017

 

Dear Jeremy:

 

Do not imagine, Jeremy, that I feel that what I am going to say is adequate or will answer your deep question, even though it is a very long and circular answer. I do circuitously and at length usually answer most everything, even when asked a simple, “How are you”– just ask anyone who is acquainted with me. If you don’t feel like reading all this I will understand and you can skip to the very last paragraph or two.

 

In his preface to “The Active Life”, Parker Palmer says something that speaks to how I am going to try to answer your question. About his own writing and knowledge, Parker says: (Jane’s side comments are bolded in parentheses): “It is a mistake to imagine that writers (dare I insert “Christians”?) are experts on the things they write about—at least, it is a mistake in my case! I write about things I am still wrestling with, things that are important to me but that I have not yet figured out. Once I master something (for me that is never — mastered that is– so far!), I put it behind me.  I lose the passionate curiosity that writing a book requires.  I write to explore vexing questions and real dilemmas, to take myself into territories I have never seen before in hopes of understanding myself and the world a bit better, (dare I say understanding Christ and His Kingdom better?).”

 

So, Jeremy, I write because I am an often afraid, worried, pretty inadequate, but passionately desiring –to- know human being. I say “dare”, because I am metaphorically the woman who pours perfume on Christ’s feet, having no or at least little idea of what I am doing and whether I am “right or not”– only knowing I want to find a way to know this Jesus better  and to be able to someday be welcomed into His Kingdom. I pour out words like perfume, in a pathetic attempt to wrestle with God’s truth and seek God’s blessing, as Jacob did, and to pour out my love for the Savior who saved me and guides me.

 

So one thing you should know, Jeremy, before you go on, is that I guess the first pouring out of a perfume/idea is that I do not believe “praying the sinner’s prayer” makes you a disciple of Jesus.  It is a very, very good start, but it is only a start.  Being a disciple means studying and following –being born again,  being twisted and molded into a whole new being. It means giving over everything to His Refiner’s fire – heart, soul and mind. It means less of me and more of Him.  It means becoming the least of the least. (Matthew 11:11 and Matt. 20:16) But most of all being a disciple of Jesus means taking up Christ’s Cross. That is not “your cross”, that is His. (Matt. 16:24)  The cross was a punishment for a criminal, it was literal death, and for a religious Hebrew, spiritual death. For Jesus, of course it was a misunderstood yet humiliating public spectacle; in Christ’s case for a man who was considered and condemned as a traitor to both his nation of Rome and the nation of Israel (the people of Jehovah). The cross was a humiliating event meant to shame in excruciating death while causing the most suffering, and for The Christ it was also a deep heart and Soul suffering—a suffering  by God! for the people who had actually sinned against God – which ironically of course did not include the one man who took it up willingly, revealing Himself to be The Promised Son of Man, the Messiah.

 

None of us can take up The Cross – The One Way, Truth and Life as Jesus did because He did it once and for all for the whole world. And yet we are called to take His cross as we take Christ’s yoke, walking as best we can in tandem with Him as Jesus takes the burden once and for all. (Matt 11:30) This is the great mystery of The Cross. The important thing is, “my cross” is my “deep  heart suffering” for a lost world, my willingness to give up all of “me” for the salvation of others.

 

All of that to say, when we call ourselves, “little Christs”, which is what Christian means, we do so with humility and trepidation and suffering and eyes trained completely on Jesus, the revelation to us of the Father’s heart and the modeled life lived as the one True God’s behavior. A behavior that comes from grief for His people, a willingness to listen and suffer with His people, and a desire for truth, justice, grace, mercy, and love combined in a way which we as sinners and temporal beings see only as if “through a foggy glass”. (I Corinthians 13:12) We suffer for and with others and the weird hard thing about the Jesus Way is that the others must be our enemies, the hardest people we could imagine to suffer for–if we are to go The Jesus Way.  My problem is, we as Christians seem to be choosing power over love and choosing to suffer for the people it is easiest to suffer for, not the people it is hardest to suffer for.  We have become the priests and rulers who see people in need, broken people and we cross to the other side of the road so we don’t have to spend time or money or thought or get our hands dirty by helping. We feel safer condemning the outsider while coddling our own, raising lukewarm baby Christians and hardening the hearts of those who don’t believe.  So the Samaritan, which would be what we think of as today’s non-believer, or, unsettling thought for most Christians, the wayfarer who today is perhaps a Muslim, has to model a God we say we have the corner on. It is not up to us to choose whom to help but we “cross the road” and thereby leave up to others the opportunity to model a God they may not believe in but –in the image of God– they unknowingly serve Him by helping the needy. Of course there are lots of Christians giving up their lives and livelihood to help others, but … that wasn’t your question to me exactly so I am being as hard on myself as possible.

 

So, Jeremy, you asked me a question about what I believe about abortion and I thought I would try to answer you here because there is no way Facebook could handle this long- winded response.  My caveat is that it is a response for only today with the sure knowledge that tomorrow – maybe even five minutes from now– I will need to find a new lens, a new glass, a new heart, a “renewed” mind (Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12: 1 & 2) in order to see even more clearly how the “narrow path” leads me (Matthew 7:14).  As Augustine said, “I err, therefore I am” and perhaps the way Jane best errs is by writing.

 

Jeremy, I think my point to you in a previous post on this was not to argue one way of seeing a national policy in Christian or biblical terms. Rather it was to create an inner dialogue for myself and maybe someone else.  My point is more to fellow seekers and believers and that is this: The Bible is a big, big, big book with many, many calls on a person’s life if that person wants to take it seriously as the only inspired Word of God. We take it “in parts” greatly to our peril. And we should only and ever use and wield God’s Word as the sword of God with humility and love. I love “conversing” with you because you are thinking, listening and digging in.

 

The Bible has many examples of people (see Paul and Peter) who vehemently disagreed on things, who had to talk and listen and be content that they would not reach a mutual agreement or conclusion.  And yet we call them saints because they did not fall by the wayside; they did not veer from the path that their King, their Lord called them to walk.  And because of Peter and Paul  (and yes, several Marys) the Christ Way, or Kingdom Life was spread throughout the world. And with Paul and Peter, it was perhaps actually somewhat surprisingly because of the very fact they disagree on theology but still did not veer—because of their wrestling together through Christ’s words and life and calling –because of that — many were saved and brought to faith and a whole new life. So since you asked, and I appreciate that! — let me try to say a few things rolling around in my head about the current pro-choice, pro-life discussion.

 

Your question to me about pro-life/ pro-choice is difficult for me to answer because of my own digging in and life experience and desire to understand what it truly means to be a Yahweh follower. As I mentioned to you earlier, I believe the same questions about choice and life must be consistently and humbly asked about all lives – soldiers and war, refugees and political asylum, guns and citizens, poor and needy.  You asked about war and as I said, I believe that usually any decision about taking a life, whether it is a war or self-defense or an abortion, comes from several previous bad mistakes or bad decisions—but not always the individual making the choice! And these decisions come from what you and I would call sin – personal sin yes,  but what it is critical to understand is that they also come from the avalanche of fallen humans’ sins — the world as a whole’s sin, the systems of power and of nations and powers and greedy monsters’ Sins.  And this is what leads a beloved human creation of God – a human soul that God loves more than anything — to make a lesser than God’s ideal choice.  I have made so many lesser choices in my lifetime. And I have sinned quite, quite a lot and daily.

 

Any one I have personally ever met or read about, unless they have given themselves over to evil, feels heartbroken for taking a life, whether they believe in a God or not. But here is my big point, I guess –We “little Christs” are called as Christ was to “bind up the broken hearted”. We are not called to shame them nor legislate them. We are called to heal them and in so doing, to in great part through our own faith, to heal ourselves. (Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 61:1)

 

Taking a life is never a good choice.   BUT – ever since Adam and Eve chose power over trust and rule over relationship, the one thing God wanted us to understand is that we would continue to have freedom to choose and that this would be a blessing as well as a curse.  As a seeker, I also each day have freedom to choose to follow the Greatest Model of Humanity– or not. I can as Lewis says, choose to follow The One who calls, “Come, further up. Come further in!”

 

Now back to where we live now. The one thing America has seemed to get right in this great experiment is this idea of freedom with checks and balances for justice’s sake. Of course, a nation or “State” must combine freedom with good ways to protect and care for all citizens. This is good stewardship. God has proved Himself to be a God on the side of nations and people who care for the least, the lost, the needy, and the unable. God tried very, very hard to help His chosen people to have this kind of community on earth (as it is in His Heavens).  But they really ended up just wanting what everyone else wanted – a king.  And with great sorrow, knowing that the Israelites would eventually worship their nation more than they worshipped Yahweh, He gave them the freedom to institute an earthly king as an authority – to be like other nations.  It was pretty much with a few exceptions, all downhill from there. I confess – I believe many American Christians are confused about what Kingdom we are supposed to be living in. And what authority we are supposed to honor and serve.

 

So, from Israel,  fast forward to America –To be simplistic — I believe one of the great things America did is separate church and state.  I see the problems Israel had when they did not want a separation from this world’s power and “stuff” and Yahweh’s Power and “Stuff”. Israel wanted a king not a God to rule them.

 

I also look at history — not only the history of America but the history of God’s people as storied in the Bible and the history of The Church, from its humble terrified persecuted but Holy Spirit-filled beginnings to when “the church” became powerful and greedy and condemning and self-justifying –instead of suffering with Christ’s cross leading. Instead of rejoicing! with Christ’s cross leading. Instead of loving! with Christ’s cross leading. I am not very smart when it comes to anything, including history but I look at the Church from Constantine to Pope Julius to Calvin etc. and I just don’t ever see good things happening when Christ’s Bride tries to rule as Government – not good things for the people under that government and not good things for Christ’s Church. **Side note – this is why so many people of all faiths, like and respect the current Pope Francis.  He actually seems to try to be a servant and to influence His flock and the rulers of this world to turn from wickedness and toward love. And Pope Francis is trying to show the Jesus Way even in the great halls of power he has been elevated to. Sort of like Jesus! Philippians 2:5-11. The Pope is one of this world’s current authorities that many can get behind and pray for. That is we can pray for Him as a true Christ follower. It is in “the fruit”. (Matthew 7:16) Of course we can pray for any particular authority in church or state, like all souls, to find true salvation. And which of course if it happened, would change everything.

 

We have only to look at the Kings of Israel to see that it was with sorrow that God gave his people what they wanted — a government on earth to rule them in His stead. And then “in the fullness of time”, God came Himself as He promised He would – but in a way no one could imagine – with no power, ever– suffering, the least of the least, and with no claim on national influence anywhere not even to the nation of Israel. God slipped under the radar to establish His Kingdom on earth as it has always been in His world –  Heaven).  All of that to say, I know it is not a popular view, but I think if we claim Christ’s name, we need to see America as Babylon or Rome. If we want to see it as a new Israel, then we should definitely know the perilous thinking we have let ourselves in for. No, Jeremy, Our role is to “rebuild the temple” ie. the body of Christ, His Bride, and to care for the people — all people, perhaps especially those outside the walls of “that temple” — in Jehovah’s desire to bring all to Himself. Of course a lot of Hebrews preferred to remain in Babylon. Metaphor intended.

 

Just as when God’s people were in Babylon, and many decided they preferred the life of the nation, to the life of God’s temple people– So I fear The Church of America does today. And that means me too. And Jesus keeps begging us –standing at the door and knocking– that we who have been given so much knowledge, so much of Himself, so much grace, so much forgiveness, so much LIFE – He asks us, silly old, flawed, broken us –to “feed the sheep”, to BE His Temple.(John 21:17).  He asks me, silly old me, to understand that to whom much is given much will be required. He asked me to leave behind daily that which makes me comfortable and to enter into His Kingdom.(Luke 12:48)

 

So I am struggling with this conviction that as a believer, I must start cleaning my own “inside of the cup” even as I try to address the dirt on the outside. (Matt. 23:26) Of course we must speak out against injustice—the dirt on the outside– as this is a primary requirement of following Yahweh. But we must be humble, humble, humble in doing so, with our eyes constantly searching the insides of our own cups– and we must know that it must come from a Christian worldview that is rooted in truth and love, not in an American worldview that is rooted in “Us First”. And this is a problem when so many Christians – myself included—have tied their bank accounts, bottom lines, and incomes along with their way of seeing Jesus and God — to their Christianity.  We cannot serve two masters. (Matt. 6:24)

 

I– with sadness– and by convicting myself as the number one culprit, submit to you that the American Christian needs to understand that we are the world’s current Sadducees and Pharisees. (Matthew 23:13). We are the rich young rulers who go away sad and break Christ’s heart. (Mark 10:17 – 27). And by placing myself in those people’s places, not in the place of those disciples I wish I were like, by casting myself as the Pharisee, I am humbled. This paradigm shift in seeking directs my thinking. I have to meekly, foolishly come to Jesus daily—No– I must submit moment by moment.

 

My greatest yet nagging guide and struggle in the past years has been to meditate on these fearsome words Jesus speaks to Christians:“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7: 21-23.

 

Do I long with passion to know Jesus? It means His cross but it also means His power of the resurrection. (Philippians 3:10)

 

The rich and powerful have a difficult time entering The Kingdom, because they don’t want to.We don’t need to. And so we persuade ourselves that we are “doing many wonders in His name” – but we don’t know Him and therefore, He doesn’t know us. Thank God — Jesus assures us that nothing is impossible with God, praise the Lord. Even though it is harder for a rich man to “enter” His kingdom, God is able when we are not. God through Christ made The Way (Isaiah 43:16, Hebrews 10:20). But we get to choose. And we have to walk through a very narrow way to enter His Kingdom – We can not have one foot in some one else’s kingdom, lest we topple over. (Matt. 7:13 & 14)

 

I think especially as one raised in the Church and as an American -raised “Christian”, I  have grown up with a giant tree trunk in my own eye and I need to be very, very careful about picking splinters out of others’ eyes, especially those from different lands, different “countries”, different belief systems. (Matt. 7:5). I fail at this knowing myself in the light of God on a daily basis.  Hence my extreme need to understand what Christ means by hypocrisy and my agonizing need to have the hypocrisy in myself removed. It is sort of like choosing to get a root canal, but there it is.

 

Finally, Jeremy, if you are not comatose by now with my searching through many words and ideas — Since we mentioned Bonhoeffer, I struggle with the fact that I believe the “First World” Church as we might deem the Western World and hence, America, has tragically cheapened grace for “their own” –while it has offered very, very little grace to those outside its “walls”.  If you read the Bible, you will see that Jesus did the exact opposite and that His stories radically turned upside down people’s understanding of who behaves justly in the image of God and who believes rightly– and who does not. Again, we must cast ourselves as the Pharisees, the eldest son, the ones who have been given much both in “stuff” and in knowledge – both in power and in forgiveness, in love and in truth. We have so, so much. And yet we still do not know the Father and how much He loves. We need only turn to The Rabbi Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) and His parable of the Good Samaritan  (Luke 10:25-37) to have a view of Christ’ “crazy” Upside Down Kingdom.

 

Jeremy,  I appreciate your hanging in there through all this (if you have managed )  I know I haven’t really answered your question.  But then again, I find that the Jesus I read about in the Scriptures, doesn’t really answer people’s questions, including my own. And this is also much like The Father, Creator if you read the Old Testament. Jehovah doesn’t answer. He doesn’t answer Job or the Hebrews’ questions or frankly any one else’s really.  God mostly says, “Be still and know that I Am.” And in that are all the answers. (Psalm 46:10).

 

When it comes to peoples’ questions, Jesus is mostly a Doer. Jesus isn’t really  much of an Explainer.  In fact, when asked to explain, The Messiah mostly tells stories about people who Do Stuff, not Talk Stuff.  This is an irony, I agree, for me, a woman who has now spent pages “talking about this stuff” to you.  Which is why I am really seeking God’s call on my life to “be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, thereby deceiving myself” into thinking that I am living for God or Jesus.  (James 1:22).  God does not need little ole’ Jane to speak for Him and I must be very careful about doing so. We take God’s name in vain when we try to wield Him for our own misunderstood needs. There is a commandment against using God for the own misguided or dimly lit desires of my heart. (Exodus 20:7).

 

Christ, God’s only begotten Son does require much of me since He sent the Holy Spirit to work through my body until I meet Him at the gates of eternity. The Church is now Christ’s Body, and as He gave His own Body, we now join together communally in remembrance of Him, becoming His Body: His eyes, His hands, His feet. I am struggling to become so much as a pinky finger. I am striving just to hand out metaphoric cups of water and some real ones as well.  As another Francis once said: “Preach the gospel, and if you must, use words.”

 

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Matt. 10:42 I Corinthians 12: 4-13 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

 

So, Jeremy, this has been a whole lot of “perfume” poured out, and not necessarily the designer expensive kind of scented words. I am glad that you as a young man are seeking to find the scented perfume of brilliant theologians and seekers of God.  Hopefully you figured out if you don’t want to read this whole thing that you could scroll down here to the bottom for my answer.

And my answer is, “Yes.”

You told me you couldn’t figure out from what I was saying whether I am pro-choice or pro-life.  I sort of think Jesus (not that I am comparing myself to Him at all) often had the same issue – people just could not figure Him out. He refused to give a direct answer, not because He didn’t know – unlike Jane who doesn’t usually know much of anything.  Jesus didn’t answer because He did know – HE KNEW THEM.  He knew their real hearts and He knew what it was like to be  them – because He was fully human and fully God.

Jesus refused to cast stones even though He was the one person who could. But He also refused to cast pearls before the people who didn’t know what do with them because they were so, so hungry. And what can a hungry-souled woman do with a pearl?  She can’t eat it, and she so desperately longs to be fed.  “Feed my sheep.” The Christ kept eating with sinners and then doing miracles, healing even the unfaithful and ungrateful ones – because that is what God does.  Confusing.  I apologize Jeremy, I do get rather confused about how I am supposed to be like Jesus. But I’m going to keep living in the mystery and confusion and keep trying to step back onto the narrow Way when I fall off and seek with all of me to know All of Him and be known by Him.

I can’t thank you enough for helping me to try to find my way – no Jehovah’s way – further in and further up. Thank you for helping me by asking me your questions and thanks to you and to others who have forgiven my missteps.

I guess in answer to your question– Am I pro-choice or pro-life, the simple answer would be:  YES!

With gratefulness for your journeying with me,

Jane

 

 

 

 

Being Part of The Conversation

Being Part of The Conversation

by Jane Tawel

January 27, 2017

My view has been and remains that President Donald Trump is exactly who America has been pretty much since Reagan– I take that back. Pretty much since the American Revolution. Pretty much since the Native American Holocaust (Today is International Holocausts Remembrance Day. The plural is my addition. Yowza. It is going to be a depressing sobering day — it was a lot more sobering and depressing for holocaust victims though, so…..).

America has always been leaning towards and is now truly an oligarchy of the rich –especially rich and big businesses.Obama tried to make a difference and while I don’t agree with every thing he did, he did change the conversation. That is critical to remember as we continue The Conversation — if nothing else we should mirror his restraint and integrity and respectful speech. I have failed but I must try. This is the Jesus Way– truth with a heart of love. I happen to believe it is not the American way– but I happen to believe it is not the political way any where. Politics always has and always will be about money and power. Only the hands and mouths change.  There are rare people in history who change the conversation –Jefferson, Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham, Joseph of Egypt, Daniel, Mary, Jesus of course, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, St. Francis and Benedict, Martin Luther King. But mostly Jesus. Jesus completely changed The Conversation and it was pretty much not by what He said, but what He DID.

Now all of you young people need to stay focused on what throughout the history of mankind has been accomplished in The Conversation and you must own the problems you inherit, I am sorry to say. You must study history and the bible and all ethical and moral humans and scribes that have lived and decide that you can make a difference in the corner of the world in which you live.Then you must start doing it.

And do not be sucked into speaking and thinking and acting as whomever you perceive the enemy to be. This is why Jesus advises us to love our enemy — vengeful actions merely deplete and destroy self; while positive or loving resistance to evil has a way of bringing God into the equation in ways you can not anticipate. It brings your God-image into the equation in ways you can not imagine. You treat your perceived enemy with the respect you do any fallen, sinful human being.This is why we “love others as we love ourselves” because we are fallen sinful, confused, broken human beings with the capability to do amazing great creative miraculous things.  Just like the great heroes of history and just like the only begotten Son.

And you figure out what you can do daily, weekly, to make a difference in the actual space you live in.  If protest propels you to act intentionally, then it is the right thing for you to do. If it is only releasing energy– either positive or negative energy — and then you feel either satisfied or  depressed, then you need to find a positive way of speaking into the universe we share — speaking not just with your mouth but also with hands and feet and minds. And primarily you need to find an action to help someone more needy than yourself. This too is the Jesus Way and how humans are best created to exist.  For white people this should be people of color. For men it should be women. For adults it should be children. And for Americans it should be 3rd world countries and the homeless and the mentally ill and physically ill in our own country. And of course for Christians it should be all of the above as we are commanded to do.  So my part of The Conversation now to speak to myself and all of you is simply:

I hear you. Now what are you going to do about it?

Here is the part of The Conversation I am meditating on today:

The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1

Find your broken-hearted ones, and serve them with truth and love.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
 James 1:22

Time to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. Find your part of The Conversation in the world, and just Do It.

 

America the Ugly

America the Ugly

A Mythical Ode

By Jane Tawel

 

 

 

Well, hey!  How are ya’?

Hey-ya!

Just me here.

 

‘Member how this road used to run straight on through the fields and fields and fields?

And at night the houses looked so lonely you could cry with the windshields keeping time.

And by day there was absolutely no sound at all for miles and miles and miles.

‘Member?

 

You could take this ‘ole turnpike to the next little Edenic town ‘cross the state line, maybe stop for a Dairy Queen cone and sit on the patio out of the summer rain.

 

But ‘til ya’ got there to that one-road town,

the same ‘ole gray road lined with Apple Trees –

That same long road you’ve been riding on all afternoon, Well, hey…

Until you reached Home,

The horizon–like muscles holding up that ole bone of a road– it bled gold and green

Out in all directions no matter which way you turned your head.

 

But straight and straight and straight ahead stretched the long gray plumb line of road.

 

No need to look in your rear view mirror to see it still stretching straight behind

You knew it’d always be there

Left behind with your kids’ singing voices spent on the breeze through the back seat open windows–

A thin stretched out old gray string of a road ready to darn Time.

 

We spent time travelin’

With nothin’ to outrun

Nothin’ to hurry away from or to–

No hurry at all.

 

 

‘Cept if Grandma had the potatoes ready to mash.

You sure as heck best not keep Grandma’s potatoes waitin’.

 

What were they thinking when they thought the gold of short returns held out more than the golden fields we could touch and see and harvest?

 

What were we thinking’ when we sold our birthright for a fast-food stew?

 

‘Member when you went to church to see your friends?  You listened to the Bible and sang some hymns around the organ, every one fitting around the altar nice and snug and the kids fiddling with quiet toys from mommies’ purses and the dads itching in their suits to get back out there, and the sun or the rain beating down – hurry and open the windows or shut them fast. ‘Member?

 

What were they thinking when they built a mall to worship in?

What were we thinkin’ when we thought we’d like to be entertained instead?

 

And now we’re in a God-forsaken, God-damned stew all right.

 

A stew of tract houses behind flimsy gates where there once was a house in need of paint with fences to keep animals in not neighbors out, and walls of corn and cows and alfalfa.  I asked a kid about alfalfa the other day.  He had no idea. He sure as heck knew what a Wall was though. He can’t go to the Mall though any more, his mommy makes him shop online so he won’t get caught in cross fire. At least we can thank the almighty american god, the kid’s freedom is protected– online and in the line of fire.

 

And the houses are so big that a person can rattle around in ‘em nicely all alone. And the fields are all so small that the Company’s big combine gets home in time to watch Ti-Vo.  Dear Oh Dear, John Deere is no more

 

We fill our ever empty spirit-bellies on stews of Walmarts and Nordstroms and Mickey D’s and save up for bigger screens and more thrill rides. We are obese with want.

 

‘Member Flo’s Coffee Shop and Jerry’s Diner?  Where there was just enough space for everyone on Saturday night? ‘Member on the menu how “Specials” used ta’ be Special?  Give me the Manhattan Plate Special with extra gravy.  We thought getting a turkey sandwich and mashed potatoes covered with gravy had to be just a bit better than taking an actual trip to Manhattan, New York!

 

‘Member dinners on Sundays after church, with cousins ‘round the table at home and all the little kids sitting in the kitchen with Aunt Barbara?

 

 

Now I sit at home and click to buy. The clicking never seems to fill my empty gut.

 

The only click I used to hear was my daddy clucking and clicking his teeth to get that swishin’-tailed pony to pull that little cart faster down the road between my house and Grandma’s.

 

Or the quiet clicks of mothers’ tongues to quiet us down so they could hear the preacher.

Or the close clicks of crickets in the summer dusks, singing us forward on the gray road as my family headed home.

 

 

That little road is a major interstate now. And my Grandma and my Daddy are riding a road upstairs with the back road angels.  All the time in Eternity they have now to explore the roads — clicking and clicking and clickety –clacking, riding along with the swooshing angels’ wings soundin’ like that ‘ole pony’s tail.

 

There are no gray roads where I live now. There are only and always lines and lines of tangled threads of cars and cars and cars covering up pavement meant to take you to work and back home to shop some more. Plumb crazy not plumb lined.

 

This Land – This LAND – was our birthright.

 

But we thought rich people from fancy schools and other countries had better ideas. We let them snake-like point us in new directions and we traded our compasses for Orwell’s certain Siri-d voice. We trusted in One Nation Under Siri. And all the voices talked so much, we forgot we could be the Quiet Americans. We thought because They said it, they could do…

 

Do what?

 

We somehow began to believe we weren’t already like gods ‘cuz’ we started to feel so god-damned red-necked naked. Do you think I don’t mean literally God-damned? Damned Yankees and Confederates alike?

 

We decided we’d rather be One Nation over God than one under.

Under sounds so ––un-American.

 

What were we thinkin’?

 

Well, the kids all moved away didn’t they?–to buy blu-rays from outer space and to buy people to pick up their dog’s poop.  And when the kids didn’t want them anymore, what could we do with our long roads and wide fields?

 

What do you do when no one wants your hidden treasure in the field? What is a pearl of great price worth in a world economy?

 

My ancestors fought wars that meant something because it was our Land.

But how do you go to war for something you can’t touch? For someone you can’t touch?  How do you go to war for people you don’t know?  How do you go to war because you need the money and it’s your job or, hey, come to think of it — maybe they’ll let you become a citizen of this country that you are bombin’ other nations for. Why isn’t that illegal for an immigrant?

 

It’s war we’re talking about here.

 

Lots of folks want to point out how prejudiced we all were back then and how exclusive and you know, some people were, but do you really honestly think that today behind our walled rich cities with motorized gates that you don’t have to get outta’ the car to open, just give a button a click—behind thick walls with gates that even a Tesla can’t fit through—Land-a-mercy! Do you honestly think that we love each other more? Do you think today with the freedom to say anything about any one we want and with everybody not just keeping black folk out but killing black and brown folk with freedom owned machine guns – do you really think we’ve come further in not hating each other and keeping our heads down? There aren’t enough gated prisons for all the free and incarcerated people in the world  to keep America beautiful.

Land-a-mercy!…..  Well, I guess not even the oath makes sense any more.

 

We used to believe in heaven and hell.  No color code for either.  Now we believe in freedom and grace and we are all secretly filled with politically correct hate and despair.

 

 

And now all my friends have families I don’t know.  Some traded up and some just moved away. And I go to church because I always have but if I don’t show up, well, I guess no one will notice.  I don’t have that much money to give.

 

I work all the time and can’t remember what I spend my money on to make up for all the time I’ve sold.

 

It feels so good to get angry at the tricksters and hustlers who have made America great and only want to make it greater and speak their Barnum and Bailey hype into the arena of our nightly news. We just keep clicking Re-post/ Share while the circus ponies go ‘round and ‘round and the riders throw out cake for us to catch and repost and we don’t read history any more – Marie Who? Was she a Khardashian or an Idol? An American Idol? Sounds like a socialist to me.

And the sky-risers in the deserts babble back and forth while the babbling brooks run dry.

 

When did we put the cart before the horse?

 

Are we the cart and they’re the horse?

Or is it the other way ‘round?

 

When did we stop tending our Eden?

When did we hand over our Souls and our Roads to get paved?

When did we first begin to mask with cement and botox all the naked ruts we want to hide from God’s Eyes and each other’s?

 

‘Member tar stickin’ to your hot bare feet as you skipped home unafraid?

‘Member Grandma’s wrinkly mouthed kisses?

 

Now I can’t find a long straight gray road to save my life.

 

We listen to the talking heads night after night and ask ourselves –Why?

‘Member when sometimes the talkin’ heads were quieted cuz there wasn’t any reception to feed their angry mouths and you had to just sit and listen to the raindrops or the crickets?

Or Each Other?

 

How did we get so ugly, America?

When did we put on these threadbare, gaudy clothes like fig leaves from an ancient world?

 

‘Member when you couldn’t pass someone on the street, even a stranger, without recognizing they were human? Without sayin’ “hey.”? “Hey there.”

 

How did we get so lonely, America?

 

When did The Three of Us become –not enough?

 

We paved our fields.

We computerized our friends.

We went to war.

We put on masks.

We incorporated our churches.

We left each other.

We asked too much.

We asked too little.

We ate The Stew.

We didn’t stop -by.

We didn’t have time.

We became I.

 

We thought the Pearl of America was not as beautiful as the plastic walls around our Apple I-phones.

 

We were hungry and we didn’t want to wait for the harvest this time – the harvest of our fields, the harvest of our studies, the harvest of our children, the harvest of our hard work, the harvest of our learning, the harvest of our own hands, the harvest of our hearts, the harvest of our souls . . . . .

 

And we saw the Stew of Immediate Gratification and just like the First People everywhere from the time God started Time on this earth, the time from Adam and Eve, from the beginning of  Peoples Everywhere, from the Time of kingdoms upon kingdoms stretching back to Eden. . . . We wrapped a snake around our dollar sign and called our country, “god”.

 

And we stopped and veered from the straight gray road we were created to travel by. And that pathetic meek ‘ole naked gray road become Ugly in our eyes. And we forgot that no matter our culture or creed– that narrow path we were created to travel by, One Under God – that route ordained with room and time for all, was Our Inheritance. And we sold it for a time-share in Maui.

 

 

 

We thought we knew the difference between Good and Evil and we couldn’t – we wouldn’t –stop after the first intoxicating bite.

 

We took out second-mortgages on the Garden.

 

We sold our Birthright.

 

We left the Long Straight Road.

 

 

And in our own eyes, our nakedness became Ugly, America.

We looked at each other and were ashamed.

So we hid.

 

We left the Land

And the road filled up behind us

And we lost our way Home.

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