Getting My Monster On

Getting My Monster On

By Jane Tawel

August 5, 2018

 

 

 

I am growing older and I would think that having had so many people in my life that I have loved, liked or been irritated by (sometimes all of those for the same person, of course, in the same moment), I would think –that I would think less about me and more about them.  But I find I wake up each morning with myself immediately on my mind.  And it is depressing.  I feel depressed. I feel patched together, sort of like a “human-wanna-be”.  When I look in the mirror or try to hold a conversation,  or actually, try to move any part of my body including my eyebrows, I think to myself, this is what zombie movies are trying to tell us.

 

First of all, I am not keen on an old body. It doesn’t wake up well. Even after stretching while still lying in bed, even though I daily rejoice in good health and the ability to still do things I’ve always done, even if not as fast, my body, well – the song, “the old grey goose she ain’t what she used to be” comes to mind.  My sister, Janet and I decided I shall now call what used to be my daily run, my daily “wog” – a sort of “interval training” of walking and jogging. Thankfully, I have always preferred to exercise alone because a wog is not a pretty sight. Unless you are a toddler wogging, and toddlers are cute no matter what.  Although old people do have many traits in common with toddlers, like balance issues, speech issues, and potty issues, toddlers have change to look forward to, whereas old people have changes to dread.

 

Second of all, I am not that amazed by my mind. My mind is now a bit like the LPs I used to buy, scratched and skipping. Just like old records, old minds tend to repeat a lot too.

 

I am not especially happy with what people now call my “Legacy”.  My personal Achievements? – well, mommy pigs raise their piglets with love and duck teachers inspire their little student ducklings. If animals can achieve it, then what sets my human achievements apart? I realized the other day it seems the only thing humans do in this day and age, even while hanging out with other humans, is to practice using their opposable thumbs. I mean, seriously, you look at a whole airport full of human beings holding these tiny little shiny rectangles and working their opposable thumbs like crazy and you think, well, shoot, Koko could do that! I think it is such a great joke that texting on cell phones is not done with our five fingers but with our two thumbs, making us all look a bit less human and a bit more apelike. This to me is one of the great proofs of my own theory of Devolution.

 

But ultimately what obsesses my ever increasing down -time thinking, is my disappointment and sadness with what I have done and not done with my soul.  This would mean in catechism language, my sins of omission and commission. And be forewarned — I love, like, but am also irritated by those who would give me “pep talks” on this, or write up a nice little disclaimer to attach to these words of self-assessment.  Thanks, but no thanks. Because frankly, any of us who try to learn more about what a good and worthy human is supposed to be must understand that the mirror is cloudy because we keep blowing hot air on it; and the glass is dim because we insist on using our own ego-framed spectacles and not God’s eyes, Christ’s view. Our souls have become more like Dr. Frankenstein’s machine created monsters than the God-imaged creative supervisors of a beautiful planet.

 

It would be humorous if it weren’t eternally damning to look at the Biblical injunctions we choose to take literally and compare them to the ones we choose to take metaphorically. We look at what we like and find personally useful about our own journey in our culture, society, situation, nation, or group and then pick and choose the things we like or don’t like in what God and The Christ have tried to teach us about living this thing we call “being human”.  We argue about context and out of context issues as if we know what the hell – and I do mean hell as in the place – we are talking about and what the heaven – and I do mean heaven as in the place – the other person is talking about.  And honestly, the more I look at what God has created on this planet and how we have abused our rights to it; and the more I look at what Jesus said about being human and how we have abused our rights to do humanness with other humans, I think, I am still completely upside down and trying to walk forward on just my head. And I can pretty much guarantee that we were not created to walk that way. We were, quite simply, to created to walk in love with God and others. But even our idea of what Love is has become a parody.

 

My son Gordon and I like the movie “Young Frankenstein”. One of the most famous scenes in the movie is when Gene Wilder, that great physician Frankenstein, is told by Igor, Marty Feldman, to “walk this way”.  Feldman is a sort of monster with a hunchback and a limp. He of course means that Wilder is to follow him by coming “this way” but Wilder takes it in literal context and follows humorously behind Feldman by walking trying to imitate Igor’s  limp and hunchback. We have as humans taken out of context what God means when He says to “walk this way”, and while we look in our own mirrors and see a human evolved to walking upright, God sees us as the devolved monsters our selfish souls reflect.

 

When God came to live among us, He had to take on the form of us and He asked us to imitate Him and walk this way. God, in Jesus, took upon Himself, a limp and a hunchback and by doing so He recreated what it means to be fully human.  Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Jesus did not create a monster but revealed to us what monsters we have become. We look on the physical in others and ourselves and see the monstrous there, while never seeing that the real limping monsters  are internal. Unless we daily follow the path set out for our souls, we will keep imitating the wrong way to walk.

 

It seems silly and demeaning to choose to walk with a limp and hunched over, but that is the only way to walk as The Christ did.  His last walk on this earth was hunched under a cross and He limped toward Calvary, condemned as a monster. “Father, forgive them; for they don’t really know what they are doing.”

 

If you wake up some mornings, or all mornings as I do, and aren’t quite sure what you are doing, what you have been doing this whole time on earth, and what tomorrow might mean that you can not do – then the Great Physician, Dr. Christ, has an impossible dream for you made possible only by following His quixotic example. The dream is made possible only by being recreated as a human being, born again.  This means that if The Son of God, the perfect Human, spent His time on earth thinking about others, caring for others, loving others, healing others,  dying for others,  then  if I want to live each day as a real human being, I need to believe that what He proved was possible is possible for all of us. To live is to die to self in order to live forever.

 

It is possible to think less about me and more about Him and more about them. I just need to retrain my way of walking and follow Him.  I need to accept the beauty of a wog well lived, no matter what others think. I need to walk not this way; I need to walk The Way.

 

As I try today to get a view of this world from God’s upright position and not continue to see it while trying to walk on my head, it will, daily feel like I’ve been spun around dizzily like an old record on a turntable. I know I will look as awkward as my wog. But to be reborn, means that if I keep growing, I will eventually be a toddler. And toddlers are cute no matter how they walk.

 

It will hurt to walk with God’s limp instead of my own strident stride forward.  It will seem that I am being silly and unrealistic to hunch my soul over in humility. I may even have to stop using my opposable thumbs so much and turn to the fellow human next to me and love them. But one advantage of being allowed to live as long as I have is the realization that in the final analysis, Jesus really had it right.
“Come, follow me,” says the God-man. “I am The Way. Walk The Way.”

 

Time to get my monster on.

young frank

Trust a Dance Move

Trust a Dance Move

by Jane Tawel

June 6, 2018

 

https://www.facebook.com/xochitl.dalton.9/videos/10206469354478362/?t=2

 

If we could see the World the way God sees it, we might see something like this dance concert.  In it, three little girls, all who look quite different from each other, but who obviously have the same teacher, the same desire to dance, and hopefully, the same loving families in the audience; all try to follow the directions of their off-stage director. I am sure when these children got home to their respective families, they all thought they had done a marvelous job creating something beautiful, and that is as it should be, because children do create beautiful things just by their complete joy in the creative process.  But when we grow up and lose our joy in the simple act of creating something for the mere pleasure of creating and sharing, we lose something basic and critical to our humanity, and more importantly to our God-image.

 

This video is a visual parable that I imagine Jesus would love.  One little girl is so terrified she doesn’t dance at all. One little girl has her eyes on the off-stage director but eventually gets distracted looking at the dress of her neighbor and eventually is on the floor crawling around on the dusty stage.  The other little girl, who is black, which in this world still means something, looks back and forth between the off -stage director and her loving father whom you can hear chuckling behind the video camera.  If Jesus were telling stories today, He might substitute this dance parable for His own parable about the seeds sown in different kinds of ground.

 

We have an Off-Stage Director, too.  And when we are children or young in our faith and our innocent hope  is intact in our belief in a Director Who cares; we keep our eyes trustingly focused on the Director of the Dance.  But eventually and tragically, most of us lose that childlike faith in the Off-Stage Director.  We decide the applause really is because we are just so “all that” and fantastic.  Or maybe the applause ends after a while and all we can hear  is the critical and skeptical World judging us. So  maybe we stop dancing all together and we figure that the  Great Heavenly Director doesn’t think too much of our dancing abilities either.

 

I am truly – and I say this with much self-love – the world’s worst dancer.  I am the world’s geekiest dancer and I have seen Bill Gates dance, so there you have it.  My children long ago forbade me to dance, so as not to embarrass them, even in the privacy of our own home. I secretly wonder if this why my husband calls me “Chicken” because when I dance I look like a poorly plucked chicken trying to escape the frying pan – and this is not when I am in fact doing that old stand-by, “The Funky Chicken”, that great practical joke of a dance that Rufus Thomas played on unsuspecting “white boys and girls”. (I do happen to do the Funky Chicken pretty well.)

 

When I dance, I look like a cross between a scarecrow in a tornado and a sock puppet of Ichabod Crane on steroids.  The only one who has ever enjoyed dancing with me is my dog, Jolie. And she scratches when she does the waltz so it is always a bit risky on my part to accept her as a partner.  I came of age in the eighties, when music was such that you could pretty much dance like a geek and get away with it. Or so I thought.  Add to that, the fact that I lived in a part of the world where dancing was still frowned on, with people believing that the Devil loved him some Disco for sure.  Take my history into account and I really ought to be able to claim disability payments for what my dance moves have done to my psyche.  Come to think of it, my children have probably already each claimed disability for the trauma that watching me dance has caused them.

 

But as I watch the video-taped children dance, I think about what dancing is really for. Whom is it really for? Last night my husband and I went to a local event that brought back some of the traditions and ideas of American Chautauqua. Many lovely moments were created but one was a time of group line and square dancing – no abilities required other than the desire to have fun dancing and the ability to follow the Caller’s directions. There was also a Chautauqua Campfire Sing-along. Being there made me realize how much we have lost in community  to our individual pursuits and how much we have given up doing things  just for the sheer enjoyment of doing them –no applause, no payment, no fame necessary.

 

What would it take to see each day as a chance to join in the great joy-filled         community-based Dance of Life? No one was ever created to prefer dancing by oneself. What would it take to get back to being able and willing to listen to The Great Caller’s Directions in this Dance of Life? None of us was created to dance without loving Directions.

 

I think about what it would take for some people to get back on the stage and not dance for the applause but to dance for the praise of the Great Off-Stage Director. I think about my years of dancing for the applause that ultimately was never loud enough, never long enough, never enough; and then even more years of my hearing the figurative, metaphoric boos and hisses that my insecure soul feels about all my life’s work – the seeming lack of confirmation of anything well done, the losses, the fears, the mistakes, the egregious sins both large and small.

I think about how many times I have been the little girl standing off to the side, too afraid to start dancing in front of everyone. How many times, like the little girl in the middle, have I lost my balance twirling in this spinning Globe’s pathetic imitation of God’s Great Created Dance Moves? How many times have I been obsessed and taken my eyes off the Director to covet my neighbor’s stuff; how often have I fallen to the ground and not been able to stop worrying about things and get back into The Dance?

 

What would it take for me to embrace the fact that the way I see my dancing – even the way those I love see my dancing—even my most loving audience members – does not truly matter as long as I am dancing because I love to dance and because I love them and because ultimately, I want to honor my Director?  Whether the gig  of life is a long run or a short run, what ultimately matters is if I am following with attentive joy, my Life-Dance cues by The Director of The Dance. What matters is if I trust and obey.  He, who Choreographed The Waltzing Stars, the Grooving Whales, the Gliding Worms, the Twirling Starlings, the Hip-Hopping Hippos, and all the dancing children of this world,– He can direct my moves.

 

I like to imagine that Heaven is a place where I will have endless time to learn things.  I plan on learning the cello and playing it with Mozart directing. I will finally learn to draw from Vincent and Raphael, just for starters.  And I plan on spending a few thousand years learning to dance – it will take at least that long. But truthfully, I imagine when, God willing, I am finally caught up in that Great Dance among the Heavens, that none of us will need to learn to dance and no one will be dancing for the applause.  We will all be too eternally elated to be moving with The Great Director and Creator of The Dance, Who will no longer be Off-Stage, but dancing brilliantly and gloriously amongst us.

 

In the video with the children, the song they are dancing to includes this paraphrase of the words of Jesus’s instructions from  when He came from Off-Stage to live among us  On-Stage. As  Bob Marley prophesies and admonishes:  “Don’t worry. Every little thing is going to be alright.”

The Creator of the Dance, with a love for us despite our disabilities, fears, and missteps, assures us humans, “If I am watching over the smallest sparrow dance, surely I will watch over your dance moves.” Young MC, might not advise a geeky dancer like me to “bust a move”; but The Great Director whispers to my heart from Off-Stage, “Trust a Move”.

And so once upon another time, this geeky funky chicken gets up, adjusts her tutu, prays for Off-Stage guidance,  and heads back out on that Dance Floor.

23331336_1272279236209375_3538788181687926271_o

 

“The Time Lord” a poem by Jane Tawel

The Time-Lord

By Jane Tawel

April 15, 2018

 

 

Time has no fear;

It induces it in us

And we tremble until we turn away;

Ignoring it as if our silly busy-ness

Will stop its insistent existence.

 

Time lurks around every eye’s corner

Demanding its due;

Breaking fingers if we refuse to pay up.

Time is the Mobster godfather of us all

And no one beats, defeats, outruns, hides from

Time.

 

None but He.

 

He died like everyone

In Time,

Due to The Times

Time’s up

Time-out

Time after Time.

 

And yet He claimed His death

Unlike mine–

Unlike yours–

Unlike any Adam or Eve or George or Elizabeth–

He claims His death

Ushered in The End Times.

 

We like to trust that some how He

Defeated Death.

But what would my time be like for me today

To choose to follow Him again?

What if each moment I would renew my vows to

Just be with Him? Just be like Him?

Would I, as He did, live with no more fear

That there is not enough Time?

Would I, as He did, commend not just my dues

But my whole spirit  to the God-Father?

Would I, like He did, offer up the willing cups

Of my future days?

Would I, like He did, serve others’ Time?

And realize that in sacrifice,

Time has no more power over me?

 

He lived, like I,

A slave to Time

And then –

He didn’t!

The God-Father raised Him up

And now He sits at the right hand

As Time-Lord.

 

He was the Hitman who took the hit for All.

He is the Time-Lord who served my Time for All Times to the End of Time.

He entered Time so that all who serve Him may enter Timelessness.

And now He whispers, “Fear Not!” Walk on! and take your time.

No, actually, take Mine.”

 

He is the right-hand man of the Eternal God-Father.

I owe Him my life.

Surely, I can spare Him a bit of my Time?

 

After all, thanks to Him,

I have all the Time in the World.

 

697e720790f241a1356c3338f5a9473b

Me, Myself, and I – Not

Me, Myself, and I – Not

by Jane Tawel

November 22, 2017

 

 

Gordon and I are re-watching the television series, “Psyche”.  We love it.  In the last episode, Shawn insisted that he was bringing back the use of “Not!” at the end of statements to indicate that he really meant the opposite. This grammatical conceit is used as in my saying this morning, “I am going to get the house completely cleaned in the next hour -NOT!” Gus assured Shawn, that bringing back “not”,  would not be happening. And this episode aired in 2008. Fast forward to 2017, and here I am not so much insisting that I am bringing phrases like “not”, and “cool” and “psyche-out” and “radical” and “whatever” back, as much as I have never let them go.

 

Sometimes in moments of depression and doubt, or insecurity springing up as a downer from the high ride of pride, I am reminded that according to what I say I believe, it is not supposed to be “about me” at all.  I am teaching grammar again to students, and I am a stickler for the correct use of “I” as subject and “me” as object.  But as a wannabe Jesus follower, the truth is, I am at the best of what I was created to be when I allow myself to be the object being acted upon. It is when I start getting lost in the idea that it is “I” who controls or “I” who is right as in “right-eous”, that I end up feeling most displaced and disgruntled and depressed.

Thankfully in English, we write “I” small — only one little letter. It should make it easier to replace it with something longer, like the eternal word, Yahweh or Jehovah or Messiah.  If I would only take “I” out of my life sentences, then there could be only “He”.  And then those “life sentences” would not be an imprisonment in the egotistical-hopelessness I so often wallow in, but a “Life-sentence” of being dead to self, but alive in Christ. When I was in high school, we were asked to choose a “life verse”. I should have picked something that promised me financial blessings and a guardian angel to tote around, but instead I chose Galatians 2:20:  “For I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live.  Yet, not I but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Notice that all the “I”s in this verse are preceded or followed by “nots”. Even the positive actions have to do with dying to my–self.

Now don’t even get me started on the abuse of people’s use of the word “myself”.  I think people mistake it for a fancier grammatical form of “I”, but folks, I am here as a grammar guru to tell you, It  ain’t that.  However, in my life verse, Paul, the author, could have correctly said, “Yet, not I, myself, but Christ lives in me”. There we have it.  The unholy trinity of me, myself and I,  must give way to the Holy Trinity, of I crucified in Christ, God working in me, and the Holy Spirit in my–Self.

Eugene Petersen has been a big help during these my days of Weltschmurz.  He writes in A Long Obedience in The Same Direction  of perseverance:

We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us.  Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms.  It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.(133)

Petersen goes on to interpret Hebrews 12: 1,2 this way: “Strip down, start running– and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

I love the chastisingly ironic, hilarious way that Petersen interprets this, when he calls me out for my ridiculous complaints and whines about myself.  Petersen mocks my taking myself so seriously when he says that The Christ “put up with anything” and then lists first the cross, then shame, and finally “whatever” –showing my comparison of my “sufferings” to The Christ’s sufferings as  my little ridiculous “whatevers”.  Petersen clues right in to the fact that not only am I not taking up the literal cross of Christ, but I have somehow magnified my petty problems, insecurities and complaints to the level of the things that Jesus “put up with”. Jesus might well respond, “Whatever!”.

Perhaps I am wrong to correct my students if they use the word “me” as the subject in a sentence where God is the compound subject matter.  God and “me” can do much, much more together, than God and “I”. The life that I now live, I must live by the faith of, in, and through the Son of God.  It is time we went back to memorizing prepositions. Oh, to understand the words of St. Francis, when He prays that Christ will live out every prepositional phrase in, through, above, below, around, before, behind and within Francis’ life.  You see, Students, prepositions can never be followed by a subject like “I” but only by a direct object, like me.  And God will never insist on removing me from the subject matter of my own life, but will always offer to act in and through me as the direct object of His loving grace-filled prepositional will.

 

Speaking of Language Arts, though –Oh, those Germans — they do have the best words for things. God’s Word tells us that when we are approaching a time of Thanksgiving, as we are this week, but we instead feel ” Weltschmurz” or weary of the world, then we should cry out: “Inner Schweinehund!”  Inner Schweinehund is that little voice that tells you to get up off the couch, you selfish pig-hound (so much more motivating than couch potato) and do something, go running. Inner Schweinehund is just super fun to say.

Speaking of my beloved son, Gordon is in a “boot”, complete with crutches,  for a couple months, after having fractured his foot. A boot is not as cool as a cast, and I suspect they do it for profit margin — just sayin’. I might sign the black boot  in neon sharpie anyway, something, like: “Your Dad and I tried to warn you, Love, Mom”. It is a long process of healing, and for a nineteen year old, it really cramps his style (and his foot, his shoulder, his leg, his arms) — no driving, no long showers, no bike riding. So he, like so many of us in tough situations brought on by our own choices, begin to wonder, well really, who am I and what am I good for? At my age, it seems like every single day and definitely every single night,  I wonder, who am I and what am I good for?  But perhaps more frighteningly, when I wake up in the dead watches of the night, or return from the funeral of a young person, or watch people  morally implode, but mostly when I find myself  looking back and sideways and forward at the choices I have made and still make,  I more often wonder, who is God and what is He good for? When I get focused on me, myself, and I, I am content and at peace-NOT! When I lose focus on God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit, then I am lost in the subjective subject of I and I alone. If I keep God as the Subject who acts even when I sleep then even, if not perfected, I  persevere. And I am assured in God’s promises, that perseverance is the long-game, the marathon, the way to faith, hope, love, and joy .

So, for Gordie and me, I recently pulled up the attached video of the Hoytes: Vater and Sohn —  and was reminded that I am not and have never, ever been the dad running a marathon  but I am always and  have always been the son who is in the wheel chair. And when I listen to this song and see the hands, and thighs, and back muscles of this father straining to push his son to the finish line, I weep, because I can see how helpless I am in life’s metaphoric wheelchair, unless I ask my Father to run the race for and in me. In this video, as in life, if I crucify myself, then the Great “I Am” can enable me to run any race this world has to offer. If I make myself the direct object of The Father’s love, then He can push me and pull me through – Whatever. It is when I see and follow the Savior whose nail-scared hands, and thighs, and back muscles pushed all of us to the Finish Line, that I have the perseverance to keep living goodness, and the experience promised peace that passes all understanding. I just need to remember that every day is a shot at winning a new Iron Woman competition, and every day, the starting line is redrawn. So I must moment by moment  ask Jesus to crucify “I”, and live in “me” and help me persevere with joy derived from His strength pushing me through in the Great Race of Life. In the video of the Hoyts’ race, look at the absolute joy on the son’s face as he crosses the finish line. That is what all those who crucify me, myself and I will some day experience when they come before the Throne, the joy of hearing from a God who did it All and pushed us through Life’s Race– saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come on across your life’s finish line and receive the crown of thorns turned to a crown of Olympic Gold”.

The only reason I have ever crossed any literal or metaphoric finish line, has nothing to do with “I”, but because “me” is the direct object of God’s movement through and love in and for the world.  So, German language, take a back seat to this English teacher because Me am totally psyched out by the radical and cool love of my Daddy, Yahweh. And I say to you my silly Weltschmurz – Whatever!

I…. Not.  God…Yep-erroo!   That is how me became thankful to see some of my own handicaps today. The opposite of  “I” in God, is not “I-Not”, but You-Yes acting in me – Yes!”  That is who I am when I am best, crucified with Christ yet living powerfully and free. Because that is who God is when He is working in and through me – a good, good Daddy. That is the Thanks – giving of perseverance, the Less of me and the Yes of Christ. In German, this wholeness, and peacefulness is “ganz und friedlich”. In Hebrew, it is shalom.  In English, well, let’s just say peace in and Peace Out!

Psalm 136: 1  “Give thanks to The Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever”.

Team Hoyt and the song: “I Know My Redeemer Lives”  :

gty_team_hoyt_2008_kb_140408_4x3_992

“mother to Mother” by Jane Tawel

mother to Mother

A Poem

by Jane Tawel

September 1, 2017

 

I have spent many years with you, My Father

Seeing you only as a Father.

And so when my heart has turned away,

I have seen you as absent;

When my nights were dark,

I turned only to your power which seemed to  pale

 against

the Monsters under my bed.

When I was naughty and sinned against You

I hid from the might of Your Right hand;

As if You would never be able to find me

naked in my temper tantrum.

Your firm judgment weakened my resolve.

For

by treating You only as a Father

I could stay childish.

And alone.

Today Your still small voice

reached out like the grasping hand of

a Woman who never

forgets Her labor pains.

At first I was afraid to come out from my hiding.

I didn’t recognize Your voice when You spoke.

Your Words sounded different

 when crooned through the Heart of Your suffering

 as You gave birth to Your own birth

 in

becoming My Mother.

You, Mommy,

spoke to me endearing my heart with nicknames,

 and You called me to Your breast

As my Mother.

I ran awkwardly  like a toddler

sensing  that I need never be childish or alone with You;

And I knew that I could neither impress nor help You

nor ever make you less of a Mom to me than you were on the day I was reborn.

Because no matter what

 I would always be Your beloved child.

You gathered my sad split spirits

 to Your Womb,

My tiny- limbed tributary returning gleefully

 to its open- armed Source.

And I wept with relief and joy

 because You, my Mother

were powerful enough

to die to save me.

And You took my wee small hand

And helped me cross the vast estate

into the motherly loving eternal arms of

My Father.

 

 

This poem is a poor response to a phenomenal writer and theologian: Henri Nouwen. Here is a small part of some of Nouwen’s thinking on the painting by Rembrandt and Jesus’ parable:

From Henri Nouwen’s Book The Return of the Prodigal Son: (emphases are my own)

I am convinced that many of my emotional problems would melt as snow in the sun if I could let the truth of God’s motherly non-comparing love permeate my heart.

How hard that is becomes clear when I reflect on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard… Why didn’t the landowner pay those who worked many long hours first and then surprise the latecomers with his generosity? Why instead, does he pay the workers of the eleventh hour first, raising false expectations in the others and creating unnecessary bitterness and jealousy? These questions, I now realize, come from a perspective that is all too willing to impose the economy of the temporal on the unique order of the divine.

It hadn’t previously occurred to me that the landowner might have wanted the workers of the early hours to rejoice in his generosity to the latecomers.  It never crossed my mind that he might have acted on the supposition that those who had worked in the vineyard the whole day would be deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to do work for their boss, and even more grateful to see what a generous man he is.  It requires an interior about-face to accept such a non-comparing way of thinking.  But that is God’s way of thinking.  God looks at his people as children of a family who are happy that those who have done only a little bit are as much loved as those who accomplish much.

God is so naive as to think that there would be great rejoicing when all those who spent time in his vineyard, whether a short time or a long time, were given the same attention.  Indeed, he was so naive as to expect that they would all be so happy to be in his presence that comparing themselves with each other wouldn’t even occur to them.  That is why he says with the bewilderment of a misunderstood lover: “Why should you be envious because I am generous?” He could have said: “You have been with me the whole day, and I gave you all you asked for! Why are you so bitter?  It is the same bewilderment that comes from the heart of the father when he says to his jealous son: “My son, you are with me always, and all I have is yours.”

Here lies hidden the great call to conversion: to look not with the eyes of my own low self-esteem, but with the eyes of God’s love.  As long as I keep looking at God as a landowner, as a father who wants to get the most out of me for the least cost, I cannot but become jealous, bitter, and resentful toward my fellow workers or my brothers and sisters.  But if I am able to look at the world with the eyes of God’s love and discover that God’s vision is not that of a stereotypical landowner or patriarch but rather that of an all-giving and forgiving father who does not measure out his love to his children according to how well they behave, then I quickly see that my only true response can be deep gratitude.

1200px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

 

 

The Sky Is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods by Jane Tawel

The Sky is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods

by Jane Tawel

My husband and son call me “Chicken”.  I have somehow lost all my other nicknames, including “wifey” or “mom”.  And now that I am the sole female left to live amongst my two men, their daughters and sisters having moved to different Dreamlands, I am beckoned or lovingly teased by being called “Chicken”.

Raoul and Gordon tell me I have achieved this moniker because I am always, and they mean ALWAYS, screaming. Shrieking, they claim.  Hence, I am a “chicken”.  Evidently I not only scream during scary and violent movies, which I am now forbidden to watch in their presence, but I am told I also scream, when in the passenger seat; when someone quietly comes up behind me unexpectedly; when some thing bangs in the wind; and I scream, when, or so I am told, a fly lands on the counter, a kitten walks by, a child sneezes, an ant passes in front of me, or someone silently nods their head unexpectedly. I am a Chicken.

I have lately been called, I think “Chicken” perhaps by many of my friends and family.  Perhaps not to my face, but, there is definitely the feeling that many consider me “Chicken” in the sense of the old fairy tale, “Chicken Little”, or “Henny Penny” as the Brexits call it.  It is true.  I have been unable to clear my head ever since the large piece of firmament fell on it in the last weeks, toppled from the sky, Made in the USA,  in the land in which I live.  I have been running around, screaming, “The Sky is Falling!  The Sky is Falling!” My head literally still feels numb and aching — as if my head will blow apart — from the very large chunk of celestial  matter that fell right on top of my mind.  It is like a window in my mind opened up, was blown to bits in fact, and I could suddenly see out on a world that I might have suspected was the reality in which I lived, but which I could still turn away from.  Now I feel as if my mind’s eye is forced to look out that blown out window at what my world — physical, human, and spiritual — is really like after all. It is mind-blowing — like being hit on the head with a sky boulder.

The phrase, “The sky is falling” is meant to imply that the person, or “Chicken” saying it, is foolish and hysterical — humorous –if it weren’t for the fact that the chicken convinces so many of her friends — the Duck, the Goose, the Rabbit — to panic and run with her because the sky is falling.  All these peaceful, non-aggressive truth-seeking animals eventually let the Fox lead them to the Lion — the King of the Forest. The Fox assures all the wrongly hysterical animals that  the Lion will confirm whether the sky is in fact falling or not.  Of course — the Lion assures them they are hysterical and that the sky is in fact not falling.  Then he eats them.  The clever, wily Fox enjoys the leftovers.

So you see, even though everyone tells the story as if the Chicken is foolish and wrong, in the end she is right.   The world might not have been ending right then for everyone, not necessarily because the sky was literally falling, but Chicken Little’s world of peace and unity and justice and love and joy, did end. Just not the way she expected.  The sky is falling is a metaphor —  and of course some of us believe metaphors are always truer than fact — deeper Truth needing to be told in pictures or poetry. The World doesn’t get better. It does actually end. It ends because a predator capitalist fox and a greedy power-mongering lion, ate Chicken and the other animals — not because they were hungry, but because they could,(and because Chicken was irritating).   Just like in the past, a predator fascist Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And a predator communist Fox and a greedy power-mongering Lion ate other animals.  And  a predator Khmer Rouge Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And before that a predator European Fox and a greedy power mongering  Colonist Lion ate other animals. And before that, and before that, and before that, and before that, and before that. . . .

And once a Fox named Herod and a Lion called God’s Chosen People Judah, killed a Chicken named Jesus.

And throughout time,  Chicken Littles are mocked or calmed or silenced. Or crucified.  Chickens are told that it is time to move on– “The sky hasn’t fallen, Join us!”, — and we all need to just go back to the pretense of getting along. But Chicken Little was right. Because unless we are caring for the sky, and the earth, and the children, and the other animals, and each other, and Yahweh, and unless we are caring for justice and truth and free will and sharing and serving and mercy and love and shalom — well then,  the sky  is always going to be falling.  The climate is indeed, always changing. And we want to look at a dark night sky and call it daylight. But the sky is falling. And it always has been, since The Fall. Falling. Falling. Falling.

Until Jesus comes riding in on the clouds. Then the Falling will stop.

Trust me, this doom of mine really bugs people.  You are so bugged right now. And I do not blame you. I am not a very good prophet — not really one at all — I am after all,  not Chicken Little but, as  my boys will tell you, I am “Little Chicken”. I don’t mean by this story I’ve retold here, to compare myself to any true prophetic voices — but there are plenty of true prophets out there.  They are even more irritating that I am because they are much smarter and more spiritual than I.

And I don’t blame you for being upset.  No one likes to hear their Sky is falling. Not even Chicken Little– after all she keeps trying to prove to her own self that she is wrong! She is looking for signs and people to convince her she is wrong.  But her head is still hurting from the blow and she is still looking out of the window. And she can’t not see or feel. And she can’t not hear the voices of the prophets, written on subway walls and in Bible verses.

After the prophets are shut up or killed, the people  left don’t care. They can finally move on.   They get to live on with the knowledge that they were right.  The sky didn’t fall after all.  And so everyone gets to say, “I was right, see. You were wrong.” Only a wee part of the sky fell and that part doesn’t affect me. Everyone is safe in the knowledge that they were right.

Except Chicken Little.  She’s dead.

 

You know, the Lion of Judah — the real Aslan — compared Himself to a chicken.  In his own words, Jesus said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13: 34, 35)

Jesus’ hearers would have remembered their scripture and the words that God Himself spoke to His Chosen People, Israel in Psalm 91, when God compares Himself to a Chicken.

Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

.  Perhaps what has really made my mind go numb lately as if a piece of the heavens had fallen on top of it, is the forgetfulness of God’s people about Who God is, Who Jesus is.  About my forgetfulness about Who God Is. You see God and Jesus are Chickens.  God and Jesus try to warn us over and over and over again, through their prophets, through their Words, through metaphor and myth and story and laws and examples– through Jesus’ non- powerful death as a criminal on a cross — through The Father’s non-greedy serving heart — God warns us that the Sky is Indeed Falling– but that you, dearly beloved, do  not need to panic like chickens with your heads cut off. You do not need to look to any one — not the Fox nor the Lion — to tell you the truth and save you. You do not need to fear or grasp, or grab, or deny, or fall by the wayside and curl up in a little ball of denial. BUT — (God loves this conditional conjunction and uses it often)  BUT!! — My beloved little chicks, says God: You do need to waddle along  on your little feet and imprint on Me, Your Mother Chicken.You do need to obey me. You do need to repent.You do need to follow in the ways of my servant Son. You do need to see and speak the truth.  You do need to love.  You do need to be different.  You do need to trust Me.  You do need to converse with Me and listen.  You do need to walk the narrow path. You need to seek The Kingdom and The King. You need to lay up treasures that don’t have a president’s picture on them. You need to worship in humility and joy not power and comfort. You need to cover yourself not with the strength of the Lion, but with the blood of The Lamb.

But you know, there are always people who want to see God as being on the side of the Fox and the Lion. There will always be those of us who can not submit to a God who uses feathers not claws. There are always people who will do semantic and spiritual gymnastics to get the leftovers. We always prefer the powerful because we prefer not to trust. And so the sky keeps falling and people call it evolution. And the world never changes til the end, but we call it progress. And the prophets are killed and we call it reality. And the Son of Man weeps and calls… until He judges. And one day He gathers His chicks to a new earth and a new sky.

You know to be honest, of course, the Chicken Littles really just want, like everyone else, to turn off the violence, and not look at the signs, and not scream any more, and go back to pretending that they were never hit on the head with a piece of the sky.  But until this Little Chicken gets tired and folds her cards and admits she is trumped. . . . well, as any one will tell, you, I hate gambling so until I get that tired…..  I’d rather read a good story and keep inviting you all to hear Good Stories as well.

Tomorrow I will tell you the story of “Peter and the Wolf” — another prophetic myth seldom told any more.  After all, the “Wolf of Wall Street” is a lot more fun to hear. And The Ending is to die for.

“Chicken and Her Men”

 

15069153_962804097156892_2077733355811966555_o-1

Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

By Jane Tawel

IMG_0629

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)

kidsPakistanBooks