Fishing For Food for Thought

Fishing for Food for Thought

“Catch and Release”

by Jane Tawel

October 1, 2016

1kpekwf4ts-18

So, the problem is I have long had this idea that you are supposed to analyze things and figure stuff out and think critically about things.  I believe as many others do that this makes one smarter and wiser. The PROBLEM is, that some times when you apply this thoughtful principle to thinking about other people, you end up becoming not a critical thinker but a critical human. The definition of “critical” when used for valuable thinking is thinking that uses careful reflection for analysis.  The definition of “critical” when applied to another person is to judge severely and often too readily.  Jesus advises us not to judge people but to wisely use our judgement to think critically and grow in wisdom.   But when thinking about “stuff” becomes an inability to let go of negative thoughts about others, then we are not critically thinking, we are thinking critical thoughts. We are criticizing, not analyzing. Our “thoughtfulness” becomes “thoughtlessness”.   The mind ever so sneakily shifts from analyzing in order to understand to condemning to bolster pride.  Suddenly one might realize that she has actually stopped thinking and without realizing it she is instead feeling. Feeling is always “suspect” in terms of navigational reliability, whether you are madly in love or so angry you can’t see straight. We use metaphors to imply that the Heart always needs the Mind and the Will to moor its reckless meanderings. The Bible and all great poets from Shakespeare to Eminem write about the tricky Heart and how it masquerades as a thinking organ.  Our current rich First World View seems to honor the heart i.e. feelings i.e. myself over the mind, the will, the seat of reason.  And when the mind is stimulated to thought by a negative emotion—large or small — then the analytical, rational, “need-to-understand” part of a human begins to deteriorate. Much like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the obsession begins to take over the person, and “my Precious”, unseats the image of God in me. This is the judgement  that is sin not wisdom. Whenever we sin, our God-image created ability to do and will, and willfully be creative is replaced with an image that is sickly, obsessive, and less than human (or hobbit)-like. Our stature shrinks and we become fixated and obsessed with one thought – holding on to the precious “fishy”.

 

So lately, I’ve tried to apply a fishing metaphor to my problem because I’m weary of:

  1. Feeling negative, grumpy or irritable so much
  2. Feeling helpless to change another person or the situation
  3. Feeling guilty for doing the wrong thing (God calls it sin and we should feel guilty until forgiven — but it’s tiring)
  4. Feeling like I just don’t have time to waste obsessing about negative things or negative people. (Although I believe in eternity, my current lap around the track is more rapidly nearing the Finish Line  each day.)

 

But!!! (she says in her defense) –I still feel like I have to figure out what is going on – even if only so I can stop doing all of the above.  I still feel that if I can just understand, comprehend, assess, analyze, think it through — then I can either avoid the feeling, avoid thinking about the situation, or avoid the person. Maybe.

 

SO………

 

I have come up with a new fishing hole so to speak.  I have determined I will allow the thought, I’ll look at it, do some figuring over it and then as soon as I have analyzed it, I will not think about it anymore. My new brilliant, copyrighted program is called…..

 

The Catch and Release Program

Or

“Throw the Small Fish Back In”

 

I’m going to “Catch and Release” all my little criticizing negative thoughts.  I will still reel in the fishy – that’s unavoidable — but I won’t make it my “precious”.  I won’t bash the fishey’s head, scale it, (do you know how much wasted effort goes into scaling small fish?!)  and take it home with me; there’s just not enough flesh there.  AND –anything too small, too insignificant, too unnourishing to keep, to digest, to “ingest” to make me a more wholesome, nourished human being – any thing too petty, scrappy, silly, tiny, or obsessively consuming — I will THROW OUT.  I will release these small fry ideas back into the shallow waters where they belong. I will quickly reject the negative “guppies” and “minnows”.  I’ll make sure that what I keep –and keep thinking about –are important things—things meant for some growth, either on my part or for someone’s else benefit. And ultimately I will try my best to keep thoughts only fit for the Kingdom. The King of that Kingdom, Jesus, was a great one for guiding His disciples into where to cast our nets for fruitful fishing.

 

Catch… but Release.

 

BUT …here’s the “Catch”. I am one of those disciples that it seems more often than not  keeps fishing out of the wrong side of the boat.  Here are the catches that keep me from being a “fisher of lives”.

 

 

Catch #1:  I’m a keeper. A hoarder, perhaps. Small thoughts store themselves in the corner of my head and I fear letting even one go or I might miss something. I still keep blurry photographs because it hurts me to throw them away. This is like hanging on to memories of bad stuff.

I need to release these remembered unourishing fishies to The Past.

 

Catch #2:  I’m not completely sure I am truly seeing the right “size” of the fish. My mind’s eye is not 20/20. Maybe I could skin it, bone it and cook it.  Maybe it’s not as small as I’m making out. I’m a worrier that I’ll miss something.

I need to release worry fishies to The Future and “let tomorrow take care of its own problems”.

 

Catch #3:  I keep catching the same darn fish.  The little boogers keep grabbing my mind’s line every time I throw it back in the big lake of thoughts.  Same darn little fish.

I need to release obsessive “take up too much of the net” fishies to The Present and to anticipate with hope great things happening – Big Kingdom Fish in my net. I must practice sitting still and praying patiently– in the very moment in which I live– waiting in peaceful stillness for the Big Ones to bite the Hook of Hope.

 

One question I’m left with – how small can I make BIG things? Or rather what seemingly, apparently BIG things could actually be “small fry”? If I put on Kingdom glasses, how would the World’s BIG things look? I mean really, don’t I pretty much blow many things out of all proportion in terms of fretting, getting angry or irritable, or just obsessively thinking about them?  That is– if I believe that the bible’s worldview is true?  If I believe that as Christ tells us, the fish are really all on the other side of the boat?

 

There are indeed big things that we are commanded to either mourn for or fight against or both. There is evil still and monsters in the sea. But in Christ’s Upside Down Kingdom, even those big things in this world are a bit like the monster fish in the fairy tales or “tall tale” stories, where the fish  gets bigger and bigger in the fisherman’s imagination and finally all the fish, even the minnows, are shark size.  Even large problems – newspaper problems, political problems,  pain problems – in the Kingdom Life of Christ the King– truthfully — aren’t they really smaller than they appear?  Just like the ads warn us: “Items in this picture may seem larger than they are in real life.”  Items in this World’s picture definitely appear larger to us  than they appear to God and to us if we live within God’s Real Kingdom Life. Life fishing with Jesus, Life with The Fisher of Men, Life walking on the water out of the boat towards Jesus, make even the sharks not quite so very large. And without doubt, make it imperative to get the guppies out of our nets so there is room for the souls of our fellow humans.

 

So I hope that maybe today I will not worry that I am not smart enough, analytical enough, worldly enough, right enough to figure out all the fish in the sea.  I will also not obsess about the “ones that got away”.  I will focus on the fish God puts in my net. There are plenty there for me and if they are wholesome, good, nourishing thoughts, then there is plenty there to share. All the rest that I catch, I will quickly release.

God provides an abundance of good fish for His children. And God “loves to give His children good things”. We just have to keep our eyes on Jesus and follow his commands to know where to cast our nets.

And Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of souls”. Matt. 4:19

3d25b370b600c7b4d561557c01fc5ca7

What’s In Your Center?

A Devotional Thought on Christ-Centeredness

By Jane Tawel

June 7, 2016

As a lot of Christian businesses and churches do, at my work place we talk a lot about being “Christ-centered”.  Do we know what that means?

 

What does “centered” mean? The definition in the Oxford Dictionary is “having a central axis” and we Christians must believe that our “axis” goes through the whole earth. Our axis is the cross of Christ.  That central axis of Christ’s cross is true and it always points due North. So “centered” means our life compass points due North through the cross of Christ.

 

What does “Christ” or Cristos mean?  The Greek word “Cristos” means “the anointed one of God, The Lord”. The overriding biblical meaning of Christ is the anointed KING. So we are saying that we in this place, in this world, in this nation, city, office, house, in this community– serve Jesus the Cross bearer – the God-image bearer — as The King of the World. We serve.  Jesus spoke a lot about himself as the King and what His Kingdom and His followers were like – or where, and how and what His Center would be.

 

In John 18:37 We find Jesus confirming his kingly identity to a mere politician of this world, one who will soon put the Ruler of the Ages, The King of All Kings to death on a Roman cross.  Jesus tells Pilate. “For this was I born.” To be the King.

 

To His first disciples, Jesus offers no cheap grace. No excuses. No alternatives. If you want Jesus to be the center, if you want Him in charge, if you want to put His name on your propaganda, if you want to be Christ-centered, then you must do as He says.  Which of course would include the whole testimony of YHWH, all the laws and prophets, and God-spoken words which we find in the Old Testament.  Jehovah’s law was Christ’s law. “I came to fulfill the law, by my Kingly rule in my upside down Kingdom.” God’s word was in Christ– The Word –from the beginning. God’s word IS Christ. The Word of God in Christ is the Center of the universe, of time, of our history and of eternity.

 

Luke 6:46: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do as I say?”

 

Jan Victors in “The Anointing of Jesus” writes:

 

To use the word “Lord” displays an attitude of obedient submission to a greater power.  Jesus seems even to expect that those who call him Lord obey him.  To his listeners he asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) To call him “Lord” or to call him Jesus “Christ” is to say that he is the King that God has sent who has a right to reign over us. 

This has implications about how we define ourselves as Christians.  Usually, we talk in terms of doctrines and beliefs, but the very word “Christ” calls us to more than assenting to a creed.  If Christ means King, a Christian is one who considers Jesus his Lord and King, and submits to his reign. (Victors, OurRabbiJesus.com)

 

So what does that mean? Well it means that our number one thing on our renewable daily “To Do List” is that, day by day, moment by moment, we live as if only Jesus were around and as if we were the only Jesus around – as if the image of God that was in Christ Jesus is in me.  You are created to be the image of the unseen God just as the True Image Bearer, Jesus The Christ, was and is.

 

At my  Christian school the faculty was asked to discuss the new and revised “Statement of Faith” that we all must sign. There were several folk who were discussing our Faith Statement and remarking that to them, the word “evangelical” which was used in several places, means different things to different people.  Not to put them down in the slightest, but let me just tell you what “evangelical” means to me.

Being “evangelical” means that I live as if the very most important thing in all the earth is the human soul. My soul.  And Your Soul. And that because my soul was created before time to be eternal. Ephesians 1:4 assures us that “even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

 

The Human Soul, which is every thing that sets us apart from all else, our mind, our heart, our will – that “very good” thing that God created is a valuable and valued thing to the holy, living Creative God, three in One, YHWH, Jesus Messiah, and the Holy Spirit alive in me.

 

Because of that, because I was bought with the greatest price a God can pay to redeem a human soul  from the weight of sin, the agony of death, and the curse of eternal separation from the Creator – God paid that price through His only Son with His death from the weight of my sin and as a propitiation on a cruel cross – because of that, then I must take to heart that what the bible says is true about the King and His eternal kingdom – a Kingdom established before Time, real in the present, and fulfilled with a new heaven and new earth in the future.

 

So what does The King say about how His redeemed should be centered in Him?

 

John 3:3 –  “You must be born again. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a human is born of the water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

 

Matt 16:26 – For what shall it profit a woman if she gains the whole world but forfeits her soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

Matthew 19:23: And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Matt. 23:25 – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

 

 

 

When is the last time I asked the King to point out the dirt inside my cup?  When is the last time I confessed my greed and self-indulgence?

 

We live in beautiful vessels – healthy, well dressed, nice colors of skin.  At my school, we claim to have Christ “in the center” of what we proclaim to be the most beautiful high school campus “of its kind” in the San Gabriel Valley.  But what “of its kind” is this place?

 

No matter if we call ourselves a Christ-centered school, or Christ-honoring church, or Christian nation, or a Jesus-Freak– If we are putting things on from the outside, with statements and policies, creeds and lifestyle statements,  fields and uniforms, trophies and landscaping, higher grades and deeper benefits, winning streaks and more free food — but our insides—the soul of us so to speak — are not washed clean by the blood, are not purged from sin, are not daily under the ministrations of His nail-scarred hands, then we are hypocrites. If we choose to hide or ignore the dirt – if we are more self-centered than Christ-centered – then what is at the center of us?

 

You know when you get those candy boxes and you aren’t sure what filling is inside – so you take a bite and quickly spit it back out because it is some ooey gooey fake berry filling and not the lovely caramel and nuts you had hoped for?  Our King says if His Bracingly Cold Fresh, Clean Living Water is not at our center – or if His Hot Purifying, Bathing, Cleansing Water is not at our center, then like a stale, icky Sees “lukewarm” candy, God will spit us out.

 

In Revelations 3 Jesus says as much to The Church at Laodicea – but He could be saying as much to me.

 

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

So here is my last “evangelical” word for now: He knows our centers. He formed my center. He adores your center. And He knows if Christ is there. I can’t put Christ’s name on the outside – it needs to be from my inside. We are commanded not to ever use The Lord’s name in vain – and in vain means I give Him credit He doesn’t want. It means I am really pushing my agenda ahead under my own steam, but just to make sure I want to use – in vain–without really turning anything over to Him – I want to use the power of His Holy Name – in case. Usually it means I put His name on something that rightfully belongs to this World’s kingdoms, and policies, and politics and powers. When my compass is off, then rather than journeying the central axis that leads due North, I am not only not centered, I am spinning around in circles, with an ever changing, ever confusing center.  I’m off center, not Christ- centered. No matter what I wish were true.

The King wants to know us for who we were best created to be – not okay, not so-so, the best. And He longs for us to know Him –Jesus Messiah– The Center of the Kingdom, The Center of it All.  “My sheep know my voice.”

 

In  Matthew 7: 21-23, Jesus looks at the human souls before Him in the final judgement and speaks these chilling words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Evangelical? Definitely.

 

When I hear that from the Center of the World, I am very afraid. It’s sobering news. But it’s also good news! Because nothing else matters if you have Christ in the center. It’s doesn’t matter who will run this nation – that is peripheral – It doesn’t matter who wins the game – it’s a game. What matters is – the King is in the Center.  “Ring around the King –We all fall down – and worship.”  Evangelism means I ask every one: Is He in the center of your soul? Right now?

 

 

Jesus is very clear about how we are to live for Him.  We are to crucify ourselves  (Gal. 2:20) We are to put others before our own desires  — even our enemies – we are to not to merely tolerate, not be simply nice, not even to chivalrously turn the other cheek – we are to love others, even our enemies, as Christ loved us.  (Matt 5:44) We are to love God, YHWH, the Holy God with every part of our being – heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27).  And we are to worship the Lord, the King – as a King above all kings and Lord above all lords. Rev. 19:16 on his robe and on his thigh it is written King above all kings and Lord above all lords.

 

I believe evangelical means that I can not shut up until every one knows intimately as a bride knows her bridegroom — the ruler of this universe – my King Jesus – until—

10  at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)

 

I believe Christ- centered means I submit to the king as a servant of all and that I allow my soul to be refined for eternity, for if Christ is not in the Center of this very moment for me, then He is certainly not in the center of a place – school, family, nation, business office, house, or church building – all of which will pass away as all temporal things will.

If Jesus, The King is not sanctifying my innermost parts into His image daily, then He is certainly not at the center of my job, my family, or my friendships. With everything the world has to offer but without Christ in the Center— I am nothing. But Christ in me, means I have nothing in this world but everything in God.

We should be sobered – and elated both – that the description of The Christ that we are proclaiming to be in our very inner most centers comes from: Philippians 2:6-11

6     Jesus, The Christ —who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,[a] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

If today my soul were a piece of candy, what would be in my center?

 

forrest-gump-original

 

 

Independence Day: Get Out There and Have Some Fun!

f2b4724d1d5d1c207cccf41554f335e1

A Fun Day of Freedom

By Jane Tawel

July 3, 2015

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

So the equation seems to be something like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

10313949_10152234346823366_1235843862337061002_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t we have FUN?!

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

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

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

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

  1. Fill in the blank:

Wouldn’t it be fun if the world ____________________________.

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

them at the beach?

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

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

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

That’s an order, Soldier.

A Very Long Discourse on Cliches, Tea, Names, Getting Older, Hair Color, and of course, my main Man, Jesus

A Very Long Discourse on Cliches, Tea, Names, Getting Older, Hair Color, and of course, My main Man, Jesus

April 18, 2015

By Jane Tawel

I have come up with a fun game. Okay, it is a fun game if like I, you are a nerdy word person. What you do is, you think of a cliché that describes you or your family, and then you write about why it describes you. Ready? Here goes –

  1. “A Rose by Any Other Name”. When I was in my self-obsessed twenties, I decided to finally act on my hatred of my plain Jane name and change my name to Caitlin, which at the time was completely unique. The joke was on me as the name Caitlin or Katelyn became the most popular girl’s name for about the next decade in America. Meanwhile the name Jane was seldom heard anymore. Changing my name did not change me, or make me more or less special. Some of my friends though still call me Cait, and that makes them special to me.

My husband has lived in opposite world in terms of his names. Jane Cook met Raoul Tawel and a new unique world began and soon exponentially multiplied to include a passel of unique little Tawels. I wanted to give each of my children unique and special names. Someone once suggested with a last name like ours we should have just named them all “Terry”.

  1. “Old enough to know better”. I am trying to find ways to adjust to how old I am and who that makes me. I think I have a difficult time growing old because I am basically an immature person. I have decided in a radical act of feminism and some obscurely personal sense of Jesus-ism to let my hair color grow out and go grey, but this is difficult not only because as my orange hair grows out, I look like this —

article-0-125DECDF000005DC-903_634x556

but because pretty soon I will look like this —

ugly dog 1

People in America (and definitely folk living in Los Angeles, America), are very prejudiced against old women. I have spent several years deluding myself that blonde hair essentially tricks people into thinking I am still twenty-five. I assume I will look more unique when I grow grey in the LaLa Land of “She’s the blonde one, no not that one, no not that one, nope, not that one either.

Old men do not need to worry about POO (Prejudice Of Oldsters) because old men still rule the world. When we lived in Glendale, I once commented to Raoul’s Armenian hair cutter, “Esther, My husband has great hair”. Esther, not quite understanding my strong Midwestern accent and ever protective of the male species, thought I said “My husband has GRAY hair”. She vehemently lit into me, “No, yoor hoosband has beeeoootiful Seelver hair. Eet ees not grrrrray! Eet ees seelver!”

384475_290204854416823_76193602_n

I can bet you 50,000 Armenian drams that when and if Esther ever sees me again, she will not call my grey hair, beeeeeoooootiful and seeeelver! For Esther like so many others, I will be that old grey haired lady. It doesn’t matter that Esther is quite a bit older than I, she still dyes her hair. So it doesn’t count.

Now maybe if I were Jamie Lee Curtis or Emmie Lou Harris I would be “seelver” haired and still hot. But I don’t know who I am as a woman if I am not sexy, cute, pretty, and thin/blonde/wrinkles-less. How do I relate to other people?

My daughter Verity tells me that it is trendy now for young people to dye their hair grey. Well, when you are young, you can dye your hair blue, grey, purple, construct a dress out of a paper bag paired with black tights, and wear banana peels for shoes and you still look cute, pretty and sexy. When you are not young, you are no longer admired for how you look so much as how you manage. The five life stages of looking good: 1. Look good buck-naked. 2. Look good in a bikini. 3. Look good in jeans. 4. Look good in loose fitting clothing or Muumuu’s. 5. Look good in a casket.

As for me, I am trying to figure out who that person in the mirror this morning is going to be when she grows up. Hopefully pretty soon I will not just be old and grey and slack, but I will truly be old enough to know better.

  1. “Too big for her britches” This is what my skinny jeans said to me this morning.
  1. “Doing it by the book” This is always true for me as I refuse to watch the movie.
  1. “Not everyone’s cup of tea”. If you came to the Tawel household and observed our family’s afternoon tea making ritual, you would see six different kinds of cups, with six different types of teas, and six different amounts of milk / sugar / or honey in them. The “Tawels Six” are just kinda hard to group or standardize. I remember a friend remarking after a Tawel party once, “you have very eclectic friends.” I think this was meant to make me feel better after the argument that escalated almost to physical blows at the party between some of our said “eclectic” friends. Actually, the next time we hosted a party, both of the arguing friends wanted to make sure the person of the other political persuasion was not going to be there.

The Tawel family has been called “different”. Synonyms for the word “different” include: contrasting, offbeat, particular, peculiar, colorful, a far cry from, odd, otherwise, unalike, mismatched, like day and night…”

10456816_754167674605777_2212084217096762199_n

`Having grown up in the somewhat homogenous Middle West, where we were if not in fact all a lot alike, we were expected and groomed to be alike, I was overjoyed to realize that each of my four children came into the world incredibly different from each other and absolutely unique. They are each “their own cup of tea”. I am also more and more thankful for the family and friends who have learned to enjoy and sometimes love the “Tawel Teas”. Thank you. I know we are not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially Caitlin.

I hope you have fun playing “The Cliché Game” with your significant others. (Currently in Trademark negotiations with Some Very Important Persons.) (That is a lie.) Be careful though; I have found that very few in my close circle of Tawels are happy with the clichés I assign us. Your family may feel the same. No one wants to be a cliché, which is why the game is more about redefining your clichés than living into them. Cliches, as a rule, should not be a guide for writing your life story.

The number one rule of a good writer, is “Don’t write in clichés”. The second rule is write vivid characters. Where we sometimes go wrong with our lives and maybe where we have gone wrong with God is in wanting to keep His words and The Word, Jesus, and our stories as humans, in safe little clichéd compartments.

We tend to cliché God when we are justifying something we have done or when we are arguing against something we don’t like. For instance, when we don’t want to see sin as sin, or when we are too afraid to speak the truth in love, or too lazy to fight for something worth fighting for, we cliché God by saying, “God is Love”. But if you read life stories about real people like Ananias and Sapphira, or Lot, or Moses, or the early Hebrews, or how The Father’s love looked with God’s only begotten Son, you have to come to the conclusion that we cannot compare God’s love to anything remotely clichéd about Love.

If you are so angry you could smite someone and therefore, you box God into the “God is a Just God” box, then you better take a hard look at God’s weird and radical kind of justice. Take Adam and Eve, or King David, or Cain, or Peter or Paul for instance.

If I am trying to make God into a cliché, then I am making Him into the god of my desires and that is worshiping a false idol. The God of the Bible, of the created universes, of the sun and the stars and the flowers and the elephants and the ants, and the God of you and me, is a God so unique we will need eternity to begin to understand one little quark of who He is. It is why immersing ourselves in His story is so important.

Living, like writing, has rules. If we follow the instructions, we make the story of our lives Good. Just like God when He is creating, we want to look at the unique but well ordered creation of a life well lived and say, “It is Good.”

The Bible is full of characters who have followed the instructions and allowed God to help them write the story of their lives. The first rule of living in The Good Book, is “Love God for who He is and not as the cliché you wish He were”. The second rule is like unto it, “Love your neighbors (spouse, child, boss, friend, enemy, self) as the vivid characters they are and not as the clichés you would like to make them, and do this in the same way you want to be loved for the person you uniquely are”. Because (even though I’m breaking a grammar rule here)– Nobody is not God’s cup of tea.

tumblr_lj5c4a5taf1qhfc59o1_500

We are all made in God’s image, hence, there are no human clichés. But that makes for some hard choices in life as we deal with other humans. It means everyone is worthy of grace. That terrorist is worthy of redemption because he is not a clichéd “terrorist”. He is a singular human being that God created and that our non-clichéd God, loves. Hard to stomach? Yes, it is. I am personally terrorist intolerant and have a hard time digesting God’s word on how to love my enemy. But reread the Tanahk – nothing older or newer about God’s Truth.

We have gotten so good at isolating ourselves with gadgets and gates and isolating “the other” with prejudice, anger and fear. We have become the ones who walk away from and pay for the good Samaritan services of someone else. But in guarding our societies and denominations, we have stopped seeing each other as the eternally confounding special souls that each human is. That homeless person is not a clichéd bum, but a child of the Unique God, Yahweh. That Wall Street stockbroker is not a money changer but a little girl who needs a Daddy. That nation of individuals will someday get the justice it deserves because it is not a clichéd super power but because it is a group of individual souls who will be judged by the cliche-bending King who rode a donkey and died on a cross for His worthless subjects. God took worthless dust and made it into worthy sons and daughters of God. The Triune Godhead has worked throughout history to make men and women write the stories we are worthy of living because we are created to be like He is — special. If we choose violence, and hatred, and evil, and indifference, we are the ones who choose to be common, not special. “For men love darkness”, but God has called us to come into the light and stand out as super stars.

Mary-superstar-movie-8628326-214-320

God was and is so absolutely unique that Moses (talk about an idiosyncratic person!), had to ask God about Himself, “Okay, god of my peeps the Israelites, who You be, dude? I mean, like, nameless god, like, okay, I’m going to Egypt where the gods have cool names that describe them, like Ra = Sun god, and Aah = Moon god, and Ishtar = god of war and sexuality (that should have told the Egyptians something right there, same god for both of those?!?!?!) But you, oh god of my homies the Hebrews, what choo be da’ god of, man?” “So”, Moses says to his god, “what’s your name?”

I honestly think Jehovah, God must have been laughing His head off (a really bad cliché for God, okay, but you get the picture). I mean, God was stumped, He’s thinking, like, “How do I tell this guy. I don’t really have even anything like what this human considers a “name”. I mean, I’ve never been put in this position before. Adam and Eve, nope, they didn’t need a name. Abraham, he was good living outside the clichéd names. But Moses, wow, for someone who doesn’t even plan on doing the talking, this guy wants a name?!”

But God is Love, the weird kinda love that answers Need if not necessarily Want, and so God lovingly answers His creation’s need and gives Moses a name. God reaches down to Moses’ level and levels with the human as best in His infinitude that God can. “Yo, Mo-mo, Catch this, my man. Y’all can tag Me, “I Am”.

Try to cliché that answer, folks.

I love it. Moses goes up against a list of named gods like nobody’s business. I mean those Egyptians had gods not just for big clichés like justice, war, destiny, and joy, but they had gods for cats, frogs, and cows. They actually had two different gods’ names for hippos, go figure! Okay, I can’t help it, they had a centipede god called Sepa. Worship that god and see how far that gets ya’, okay? (I call on the great god Centipede to save me from my sins and to cure cancer!) So off go Moses and Aaron to the Egyptians, and they are like, “Okay we aren’t doing the tit for tat thing here. Youse guys got a thousand named gods, and we’re like totally bringing to the table, one god…. Who…. okay, uh, uh, um (Moses starts his nervous stutter thing here so he looks at big bro Aaron, who kinda shrugs not feeling his game yet.) um, uh, okay, bear with me here, (Aside: thanks a lot Aaron). I DID ask Him for His name, and here it is, ‘kay? Ready. You can call our Hebrew god, “I Am”.”

Those Egyptians were laughing their heads off…..all the way til the frog gods started falling from the sky and the war gods killed all the firstborns. They were laughing til the centipede gods started crawling in their cat gods’ kitty litter. The Egyptians were living the clichéd good life all the way until the Hebrew slaves got outta Dodge and the “river ran through it (them)”.

Then “ I Am” didn’t seem so quaint.

I Am. When you share your name with someone, you are no longer a stranger. Knowing someone’s name gives you a piece of the puzzle of that person. When Jehovah, gave us a name, He gave us an endless paradox. On the one hand, I Am elevated Himself beyond any words that could describe who He is. But He also humbled Himself, by stooping to our need and using our language so we could have a miniscule understanding of His essential self. In the same way God would later humble Himself and give Himself the name, Jesus.

Friedrich Peter the Suffering Servant

The name Jesus wasn’t unique back then but was sorta like naming your kid, Bob. Or Jane. But Jesus never needed to reinvent Himself because He knew His unique place in God’s story. The name Jesus means “God Saves”. As the present body of Christ, we also bear the name “God Saves” when we call ourselves “little Christs”. We are the little “anointed ones” to live in the unique image of Jesus. No matter what we are called; no matter what our talents are; no matter what our inborn personality; no matter what our ingrown problems; we are created especially in God’s one- of- a- kind- in -each -of -us image. That’s how big Yahweh is.

The Great I Am decided against all odds, not hedging His bets, taking one for the team, going the long way around, going the distance, (get it? Clichés?) – He chose to not only trust His creation with Himself but to trust his created people with telling His Story through our own broken, special lives (Yeah, special as in Special Needs every one of us!). God entrusted us with His image and His story, even though we had time and time and time and time and time and time and time again, proved ourselves untrustworthy. And because The Great I Am has trusted us with His essential self, one of the commands that is given to teach us how to write our life stories well, is the instruction that we should not abuse the power, the grace, the mystery, or the love of the name of I Am. That is what the Egyptians do, not Yahweh’s chosen Bride. I use God’s name in clichéd vain to my peril and also to my loss.

There are very good rules given in the most un-cliched book ever written —Rules for good writing in the individual soul and on the world’s collective soul. Jesus came as The Word. We humans had already tried over and over again to make God and His Story, a list of mealy-mouthed clichés. So Jesus came to live our story as it is meant to be lived. Jesus lived a God-as-protagonist life and preached the Good News of new metaphors; metaphors turned upside down to illuminate the objects around us and reveal The Image in each of us. And God took a new name to give us what we Need and ultimately what we Want. When God took the name Jesus, He knew that though it might seem to be a pretty common name, some day at that unique name, every knee will bow.

Each day I have to ask myself, am I playing The Cliché Game? Am I taking the easy clichéd way out? And I don’t just mean my writing. I mean my life. If I am made in I Am’s image, Am I living a life in which being and beings are more important that doing and doings? Or am I living a cliché?

a885aa304aed03847961e9902c381b9b

If you really want to be unique, be a person of Hope. You know the difference between Joe Schmoe and the great world changers? World changers have hope – usually against all odds.   People who have hope in Someone bigger than their common-ness re-make the world in His holy image. When the rest of the world has chosen defeat or violence or hiding in fear or racism or hatred or disinterest, the hopeful ones like Abraham, Joshua, Joseph of Egypt, Ruth, Esther, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Schindler, ten Boom, Mother Teresa, John Wesley, — those kind of people choose hope. Then they just keep putting one hopeful foot in front of the other until the miraculous occurs. These heroes of hope, believe that the world despite all appearances to the contrary, might change; hope heroes keep the hope alive that the world can be re-newed. That is the uniqueness that hope brings. Otherwise these extraordinary people who become the peaceful, healing hopers of history, are no different than you and I; they put on their pants one leg at a time just like you and I do. Well, all of them except maybe Ghandi. This is Ghandi wearing pants:

Gandhi1

Side note: My first born Justine sort of looked like Ghandi when she was born. She had jaundice so she had Ghandi’s skin hue for a while and her limbs were kinda spindley and she was pretty bald: Seriously,Can you tell which of these pictures is of Ghandi and which is of Justine? I can’t.

photo-10     PHOTOLISTE_20090618161736_inde_gandhi_600_

How unique would I be in this world if I were a person of hope? Imagine how Hope could change your life? Apply hopefulness rather than hatred to your attitude about your job. Apply hope to your relationships. Apply hopefulness instead of criticism to your church. Apply Hope to your children. And if you can’t apply hope, then walk the opposite way. At least for a little while.  I mean it, if you aren’t able to hope in that situation, then get out of it. Let someone else who is uniquely gifted to apply hope there, barge in, while you go find what you are uniquely called to apply hope to. You may have to isolate yourself on a figurative mountaintop for a while to restore hope, but do it. Unlike Love or Faith, there is nothing you can do or must do. Hope is like a bird – don’t try to catch it and don’t ask it to teach you to fly. Find your sense of hope in the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and use it for Good. Only then can the prophet Isaiah’s word be true in your life; only then can you run again without fainting and maybe even fly. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Is. 40:31)

bald-eagle-wallpapers-flight

Emily Dickinson, never one for clichés wrote a great poem about hope. As I get older, hope has had to take on a different hue, just like my hair. I no longer “hope” for A’s or that “the guy” will call, or that I will get the “thing”, or that I look hot, or that “they” will choose me. Hope is no longer a possibility based on the chimera of the stuff of youth. I am old enough to know better. Of course, if I were a revered wise elder, what I would tell the young people is: Even when you are as young as you are, my darlings, Hope doesn’t depend on anything you are or can do. Hope is the thing with feathers.

There is an old hymn with a metaphor that never grows cliched: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

What foundation am I building my life upon? Am I building it on the same clichéd foundation that this world of more -of -the- same super corporation brand names is building it on in order to have a prefabbed life behind a security gate? Or am I building a life on the Kingdom Rock, in order to be constructed by the Master Builder strong enough to last for eternity.? Am I longing to be that uncommon, peculiar person whose life is a metaphor in the making?

Jesus took common things and blessed them. He offers to take common old Jane, common old Amy, common old Verity, common old Susy, common old Raoul, common old Bill, common old Caitlin, common old us, and make us something special. God laid down His extraordinary life so that the theme of my story could be built around the common Son of man with a common name who shed his common blood to save common cliched old me. When I make my story, His story, then life is Pulitzer Prize Beautiful. Hope in the Christ, means a life in which ashes are exchanged for beauty,  and in which normal is exchanged for extraordinary. And grey becomes great.

thumb.php

I hope that with age, will come the wisdom and hope that I need to trust that if God can love and delight in the wonderment of a common, useless bird, then He loves me enough to take the clichés of my life and write His unique story in the margins. It may not look like much to any one else; it may not seem like much to me, but I pray I am old enough not to know any better and to hope in the “things unseen”, unimagined! that God is doing in the world and has in store for the rest of my eternal years.

Living well at any age is not about looking forward to shedding this corporal body and going to heaven to be with Jesus; it is about enjoying today spent living in Christ’s kingdom on earth as it will be and is in heaven. We are called to be the peculiar, unique people of I Am. (I Peter 2:9) Not because we are anything special, but because God is. God must be peculiar – He loves you and me, doesn’t He? We are both created as God’s special cups of tea.

As a Christ follower, getting old isn’t a cliché about its “beating the alternative”. Getting older is getting better at living the alternative. The privilege of growing old together with I Am is that I can still skin the cat on the monkey bars of life, full of hope and the knowledge that even if I fall, even if I break a hip, Hope is still singing and keeping my cold old arthritic limbs warm. And that is what “doing it by The Book” is all about.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

— Emily Dickinson

img_6526

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

All Tied Up

All Tied Up

March 14, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, one distant morning I was standing in the hallway of my high school by my locker. This was before any one – meaning I- knew anything about bullying or hazing, punking or pranking. To this day I do not think for one minute that my friends were being mean to me, though maybe on a different planet in a different time with different people what happened would be considered that way.

I was holding several large text books in my arms, the thick kind that weigh about twenty pounds each. I still had my fake fur surround hooded, midi brown plaid winter coat on. If you don’t know what a midi is, google it. If you do, you were alive in the seventies and had a midi or two yourself. Although I understand denim midi skirts are having a rivival; what goes around seems to come around in this generation. In the 70’s we had minis, maxis, and midis. We also had hot pants, baby doll peasant smocks, bell bottoms, and midriffs.

This is a midi from the seventies:

1970simplicity0002

And this is a picture of women in minis protesting the midi.

lead

Aren’t people hilarious!? We will protest the idea that someone is maybe thinking something repressive about us by inventing the midi, but we will not protest a country that represses it’s people because they are black.

Back at my high school locker — suddenly without quite knowing how it happened, several boys were taking a large silvery roll of duct tape and going around and around and around me – books still clutched in arms and warm plaid winter midi coat still on. I ended up with the whole middle section of my body duct taped with my books taped to my middle. Every one laughed, including all my girl friends on the sidelines (Denise and Lauren and Peggy you know who you are). I was laughing too. It was hilarious – It had never been done before to our knowledge – no youtube, no punked you shows, no facebook back then to check. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

And then the bell rang. And my classmates went to class. And I didn’t. Because I couldn’t move.

I began to hop. But I was strangely weighted in front with four huge textbooks taped to my chest under my tightly taped crossed arms. And remember I am in a midi – so I am pretty much in a duct tape iron maiden. This is a picture of an iron maiden:

maiden_torture

I was not going anywhere. I was way off balance. I was really, really hot and sweating. I was on a slick linoleum floor. And I was alone.

Left in the lurch, I began to lurch.

Definition of lurch: “ to make an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or series of movements; stagger.

If you don’t have children who are or have been teenagers or you don’t teach high school, you may have amnesia about what it is like to be a teenager. Note: There is no bad attention if you are a teenager. Attention is always good.   Getting attention for being beautiful or for crying about something is good. Getting attention for being funny or having drama in your life — good.   Getting attention for having a booger in your nose or for winning the Noble Peace Prize – good. Getting attention for being smart or being a serial killer –good. No bad attention for teenagers. It’s all good. (I have never liked that expression but in this case it is true– attention for teenagers = all good.) Getting wrapped up in duct tape and getting attention – good.

Being a teenager alone in a hallway duct taped so you can’t move, when every one else is in class – and did I mention alone? And you can’t move. And you are alone. Not good. No attention = No good.

Of course since my classmates were basically good and kind souls at a small Midwestern school where teachers knew all the students, not just in their AP classes (oh, that’s right AP classes hadn’t been invented yet)– teachers knew every one in our whole school, which meant I was not hopping alone for long. (You caught that spoonerism right? Hopping alone not hopping along for long. Cute right?)

Which all meant that I was soon de-ducted and back in my desk in my row with my books in the storage unit underneath my desk.

This is what desks and classrooms looked like in the seventies:

4332130338_f28320e307

Here is a picture of women in fashions from the seventies. I put this in because my husband will find them cute and I want him to keep reading:

70s_fashion-mini-dresses-70sfashion-org_6

Have you ever been in a place in your life where you felt as if circumstances have wrapped you round and round in duct tape? And you can’t move? And you feel trapped? And you are alone? And you are lurching in the lurch?

As spiritual beings we like to quickly caution (did I say caution? was I supposed to say assure?) some one that they are never alone. We look our friend or stranger right in the sobbing eyes or the dry-eyed feeling-less eyes and say: “God is only a prayer away or God is always with you even through the darkest times or If God seems far, guess who moved? or God will never leave you nor forsake you.” And I’m sorry for saying this as I never say bad words if I can help it, but right now I can’t help it. When people say those things to you if you have read your bible at all or have had a relationship with God for more than fifteen minutes then you know when someone tells you that God will never leave you alone that that is:

B

U

L

L

P

O

O

P

. (period intentional, not typo)

Ok, I choked. I rated my blog PG after all.

God has left lots of people all alone. God left alone, just to name a few off the top of my head: Able, Jonah, Job (though at one point Job wishes God would leave him alone. By the way, Ask God enough times and He will leave you alone.) Noah, Moses, Naomi, Sarah, David, Paul, Dostoyevsky, Annie Dillard, Flannery O’Connor, Mother Teresa, – and oh, yea, HIS SON JESUS!!! Did you think Jesus was hallucinating when he cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me!”?

Definition of forsaken: “abandoned, deserted”

Definition of Forsake: “to leave someone who counts on you, to leave in the lurch”.

God left Jesus in the lurch. As Jesus lurched around, all alone, on a Roman instrument of torture, getting all the unimaginable kinds of violent, angry, scornful, hateful, sorrowful, mocking, agonizing attention that there is; God jumped ship. God abandoned, deserted, left the planet. For the first time in His life with his Father, Jesus was in a crowd, all alone.

On the cross, Jesus quotes from Psalm 22, a Psalm of King David:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

 

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest.

In the rest of the Psalm, David lists some pretty awful things that people do to each other,some awful things that happen just because we are fallen humans, and some deep feelings of despair and anguish, but the writer of the psalm eventually finds his hope in his knowledge of who God is and the future he believes God has planned for him. David does not find pleasure in the circumstances but he does find reassurance that God is good and is listening. David, the writer of the psalm, finds shalom.

Psalm 22:22- 31

I will declare your name to my people;

in the assembly I will praise you.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

For he has not despised or scorned

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;

before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.

The poor will eat and be satisfied;

those who seek the Lord will praise him—

may your hearts live forever! 

All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

will bow down before him, 

for dominion belongs to the Lord

and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord. 

They will proclaim his righteousness,

declaring to a people yet unborn:

He has done it!

We have truncated the meaning of shalom to “peace”, fair enough, but it means peace as in: “completeness, soundness, welfare”; it also means: “was intact, was complete, was in good health, was safe; and it means: “surrendered, submitted”.

In other words having utter peace is a two way street. It is God giving and my receiving, but it is also God willing and my submitting. I think those are the times we feel alone, when we can neither wait on God in order to receive from Him, or when we can not submit to God and allow Him to work.

Sarah laughed when God asked her at 99 years to stop scheming, stop acting, stop planning, stop grieving, and just submit. She laughed because she felt alone. Then her dark humor turned to submission. And then she got pregnant.

Mary must have felt very alone when she agreed to submit to getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Noah must have felt very alone building a huge dry-docked folly to save the world.

Able must have felt very alone when Cain attacked him.

Paul must have felt very alone when he submitted to being imprisoned for years.

Helen Keller must have felt very alone, blind, deaf and dumb — until Annie Sullivan unlocked the hidden world.

The disciples must have felt very alone, even though they had been with the Messiah, when their whole community kicked them out for following the radical troublemaker named Jesus.

Martin Luther King Jr. spent much time praying both privately and publicly that God would never leave him and his people alone. But he sure must have felt alone to be praying that way. Here is a picture of Martin Luther King:

4130G3-xXoL

Notice: he does not think the midi skirt is repressive.

Here is Marcia Brady from the Seventies:

f381beb7de31cbeb42349e22f1ceb0ff

She has nothing to do with this blog, but if you were alive in the seventies you will enjoy her picture here and the memories it induces in you.You will feel less alone right now. In The Brady Bunch, no one ever felt alone. Here is another group of people who never felt alone because everybody knew their name:

cheers30partytime

I think the “Cheers” gang gives you a good feel for how outsiders saw the Early Church — they thought the apostles and converts were drunk but really they were just so happy to be together.

What is duct taping your heart today? What is making you feel forsaken by God? Are you choosing to stay alone or are you crying out to God to listen to your pleas?

Things for me to try to learn from the Bible in general and Psalm 22 specifically:

  1. The World wants me to believe that life is a straight line and I am either ascending or descending. God’s Kingdom is always going to feel more like a lurch. It’s a narrow path and to walk it while duct taped means quite a bit of stumbling, zig-zagging, avoiding what might be poison ivy, and tripping over rocks. Am I willing to stagger along alone in what feels like uncontrolled movement, knowing that when life duct tapes the heck out of me, I can let go of my own controlling motions and let God control my steps?
  2. When I’m not getting attention for myself, is it time to be “still and know that He is God”? I don’t need to be all fake humble and give God glory by saying, “oh I didn’t do that– it was all God”. No, it was I who did it but I give God glory by using what gifts, talents, heart, strength, intelligence or work ethic I have to the best of my abilities for Good and not for Evil. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind.”

Working together with God, will also help me recognize those very real times when I can not do something in my own strength and desperately need God to save me and rescue me and do it for me. Then true need is open to true miracle. God desires us all to grow up into a healthy, loving, mutual relationship with Him. Then we can truly give Him the honor and glory for all He does in the world. “I will declare your name to my people, In the assembly I will praise you.”

There comes a point when I have to stop asking God to tie my shoelace and then falsely give Him the praise because He helped me do it. I’m afraid this pseudo- humility while still going our own way, leads eventually to the ease many of us have in taking God’s name in vain. In other words we go through life doing what we want and how we want to do it because we are “Christians” or “good people” and then without really humbling ourselves and waiting on the Lord, we give Him credit for something He may not want His name on. We Christians use Christ’s name as our logo, and many times we are a poor Taiwanese knock -off of the real thing. God wants to create Gucci in us and we want to keep shopping at Costco and give Him credit for it.

There are times when I have to accept that I am all tied up in duct tape and unless I wait patiently, I will simply hop down Life’s Hallway in frustration and eventually despair. Even after the start bell has rung, I need to wait on the Great Teacher to untie me and set me free.

  1. It is already done. Whatever Time means to us in this crazy world, when we as God’s children ask Him to draw near and save us, Psalm 22 assures us, that God has already done it, even if we don’t know it yet. Jesus’ last words on the cross are the last words in Psalm 22. When Jesus says “It is finished”, he is no longer the man left alone to die but He is God claiming as God the Father does that He has accomplished it. Jesus as one of the Triune God is saying, “I am never alone. I have done it.”    AHA! God didn’t leave Jesus alone after all. And He doesn’t leave me alone even if it feels like it. Jesus gave us his Holy Spirit so we would never be alone. God has given us His presence – it’s just that sometimes He expects His presence to be manifested in His people. Me to You. You to Me. That Guy. That Girl. Those people.
  2. God has always expected His chosen people to be different, to do His work on earth, to live in a different way and a different kingdom and lurch along, side by side, set apart by how they love.   Here is the theme – read the Bible and you will see it over and over from God’s delight in us at Creation right up to the last earthly acts of Jesus and the revelation of a future heaven and earth. Here’s the theme  – Love God. Love others.

Ps. 22: “From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly, before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.”

We who claim the Judeo-Christian God as our Father are to act like Him and we are to be The World’s duct-tape removers. Ps. 22 goes on to say this is how poor people will be fed, and armies will be defeated, and baby seals will be saved from starvation and planets will be restored to health – by us. By our love and service to a Holy God and by our love and service to a broken motley crew of duct-taped humans, we will live in communion with God and each other forever. Even the angels marvel at how we love.

We are freed only by our allowing our own hands to be all tied up, so we can wait and pray and serve and allow the Lord to remove the duct tape, remove the blinders, remove the stones for hearts, remove the clunky shoes, remove the fashion icons, remove the fear, remove the alone-ness – and inhabit His people as a temple.Then we are the working, creating, loving Body of Christ. Ps. 22: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord ,and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship.

  1. It is time to look around at the broken, tied up world and do something about it. When you smile at the homeless man as you hand him your dollar, he feels just a little less alone. When you take a deep breath and tell your friend the truth, she is less alone. When you hug your child even if he squirms, he is less alone. When you refuse to buy something because a slave made it, they are less alone. When you give money so that an African woman can drink clean water, she is less alone. And when you give even if you don’t have it, when you feel even though you are tired of feeling, when you pray even for people you don’t know and won’t ever hear the results of your prayers about, and when you stay silent when you would like to rail, and you rail even when you want to stay silent, when you march with those who are discriminated against, when you do the chore even though it someone else’s turn, when you give blood, or visit the sick, when you give up this World’s sorry rights for your rights as a child of the King, when you go to church to be with The People, when you live with passion and not indifference,when you make a meal for the homebound, when you tell someone about the Good News of Jesus, when you live creatively and not resignedly, or when you simply sit, and wait, and trust and pray, and anticipate with completeness,–shalom– that God is The Here I Am — THEN, we are not alone.

The family that tapes together, stays together:

photo 1-11   photo 2-12photo 3-5

At the very beginning of our current Time, God lets us know up front He has other things, appointments, planets, universes to be at but not to worry, He “gets us”. Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” That’s you and me by the way. Helpers for each other.

But the weird thing about the God we believe in as opposed to other gods, is that even when He feels far away, or on another planet, He isn’t. He is “here, there and every where”. Our shalom comes from the fact that God has given us each other, God has given us His Son, God has given us the Holy Spirit, and God is continually moving in and with us. No matter how immovably tied up we feel.

Ps. 73: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you. You hold my right hand.” Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1: 3-4)

The name Holy Spirit, means Comforter, Helper. Jesus tells his disciples:

If you love me, you will obey my commandments.  I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever.  That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.(John 14)

Quite a while ago, though not as long ago as the seventies, my daughter Clarissa learned a song at Vacation Bible School. At three she had some interesting first person pronoun confusions and she used to sing this song: “Me just saw Jesus in me eyes.” We finally figured out it was supposed to be, “I just saw Jesus in your eyes.”– like when Jesus tells us, whenever you give a cup of water to the least of these, you are doing it to me.

But when I am feeling alone, and as if the world has duct taped me, I like to quietly sing, “Me just saw Jesus in my eyes”. He is as close as my own heart. He has forever duct-taped Himself to my soul. If I have eyes to see and ears to hear, He is closer than my closest sibling. Jesus is in my eyes, my hands, my feet, my knees, my elbows. His spirit lives within me. And within you. He will truly never leave us alone.

On the cross, Jesus sang out, “It is finished! We have done it!” Jesus cried: “Daddy, Abba, Me just saw You, Daddy, in Me eyes!” And into His hands Christ commended his spirit.

May today I let Jesus live in my eyes. Jesus –bind me to you, duct tape your spirit to mine. May I put down my agenda and take up the cross of Christ. And my brother and sister, may I then be able to look into your duct-taped eyes, my friend, and take your hand and spell into it,

“Y-O-U A-R-E N-E-V-E-R A-L-O-N-E”

image.ashx

Animal Soup

Animal Soup: More on Dragons but Also on Monkeys, Dogs and Hens.

January 30, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Okay, I am going to tell you something that may make you feel a bit insecure, but my husband has an animal with your face on it. My husband, Raoul, has this funny idea that every one looks like some kind of animal or other.

Now don’t tell him I said this but, I personally think this is because he himself for some years has looked like the most adorable fluffy -eye-browed koala bear. (See below) Isn’t he the cutest? And aren’t you just dying to feed him eucalyptus leaves? (He is also mostly nocturnal, come to think of it.)

Jane and Raoul

I on the other hand, as you can see in this picture, look like a sad-eyed, pop-eyed, long-eared basset hound who is constantly eating or looking for food.

My husband will look at someone and say: “Doesn’t that person look like a pigeon?” Doesn’t that person look like a rat? And he has always had a thing for women who look (to him) like cats. (Remember, his wife looks like a basset hound.)

 

Speaking of my husband, unlike he, I find the theory of evolution pretty downright silly, if you want to know the truth. I do happen to believe in Devolution. While I do not believe it is possible for a monkey to become a man, I absolutely know of people the world over who once were humans and now seem more like monkeys. And I don’t mean how they look.

Although sometimes….

monkey

 

A society becoming smarter technologically is not necessarily becoming wiser humanly. If there were ever a time of world history that is as “eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow you die” as this current era of our First World Countries, then we would probably have to go back to the Greco-Roman Epicureans, Solomon’s Kingdom of Israel, or the Qing Dynasty of China. In fact,  Ecclesiastes, a book of Solomon, contains the first record of this philosophy.

 

The book of Ecclesiastes is an essay on excess by a King of Excess who wrote it probably towards the end of his life when he wondered “what’s it all about” and “what was the purpose of it all?” Ironically, Solomon’s other writings reflect his youthful prayer to God when he first became King and asked not for wealth, health or long life, or even for a perfect life-mate (he ended up with 700 wives and 300 concubines) but he asked for wisdom. (So frankly, side note – I have always felt that men having multiple wives / concubines was not an indication of wisdom or even street smarts for that matter. Women historically having only one spouse is proof of women’s superior wisdom – I mean, come on girlfriends, would any of you actually WANT to take care of more than one man at a time? I would be happy to share the workload, frankly.)

First World Country people think they are living like gods, but if you look at the animal profile, we are living more like packrats.

Hoarders

 

imelda marcos

packrat

You know, when we feed our dogs, Daisy and Jolie,they do whatever is necessary to distract the humans and the other canine so they can steal the food of the other. They are not starving; they just want more. They are not really being mean. It is just their nature. They are animals. If we give them more food, they will keep eating more food until they cannot hold any more food in their stomachs and they will then vomit the whole kit and caboodle out. Then they want more food. They are not evil, they are just animals.

But when humans eat too much food, that  they then have to vomit out in order to eat more food, then we are not humans, we are animals. And when we devolve to animals, it is not our nature. It is our choosing evil over good.

 

define necessity

 

If you want to read good stuff on humans and animals read either C.S. Lewis or Jesus. Or both.

C.S. Lewis is famous for not only his theology concerning animals but also his vivid animal characters. There are many famous Lewis animals to choose from but some of my favorites include: Reepicheep, the heroic and noble mouse in The Chronicles of Narnia, who is more nobly human than many of that name. There is of course Aslan, the Christ figure (“He’s wild you know. Not like a tame lion.”)

 

And there is Eustace Clarence Scrubb (“There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it”.) Eustace is the boy who turns into the dragon (“Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”) –and back into a boy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace only becomes human again when he allows Aslan to painfully rip off his dragon scales. (“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”)

Lewis understands that when we act like certain animals, we are sick, ill, insane and we need to be cured, reprogramed, healed. Lewis knows that it isn’t looking like an animal we need to worry about but acting like an animal.

Animals have no desire to be humans, did you ever notice that? I’m sorry but rather than teaching Koko sign language, we should be teaching people the language of love. Pets actually go a long way towards teaching us their love language if we let them. As A.A. Milne said in Winnie the Pooh, “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” Koko must have had a good laugh thinking we thought he wanted to be like us. He humored us.

 

Humans were created to instinctively know God’s language of love, but every time we listen to The Serpent and choose greed and selfishness over trust and love, we become like the animals in all the wrong ways. We can’t love our brothers as ourselves if we believe it is a “dog eat dog” world. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, like Raoul also compared people to animals: “People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” Why do we choose death as a worldview and like true epicureans, eat our ways towards it when we could choose life and eat The Bread of Life and drink Living Water? If we can’t trust God’s love and care for us, and choose to live as fully and gloriously Human as we were created to be, with His Image in us – well, then I guess that ever since the Fall that has been a sort of Devolution if you will.

Jesus was pretty forthright in how he saw people and he saw many of them as the snakes that they were. He called the powerful religious and political leaders “vipers” and warned his disciples that when dealing with the vipers of this world, it is best to be as wily as one yourself.

trust

 

Jesus loved comparing his followers to birds. While his disciples are encouraged to be a snake with snakes, they are also exhorted to remain as innocent as a dove. This is double entendre because not only are doves considered pacifists even in our time, but doves were the sacrifice of choice of the poor since they were plentiful and cheap or easy to catch. Jesus also assures us that as much as God loves a little helpless dodo of a birdbrain, he loves we silly, sometimes mindless creatures even more. God promises to care for us, just like we care for animals who can not protect or feed or care for themselves.

You may be thinking: Animal Soup, what is that? A Marx Brother’s film? Mexican Menudo? Chinese Shark Fin? (You do NOT want to know what kinds of animal soups there are – well, okay, google it but sit down first.)

 

The best known reference I know of to this idea of animal soup comes from the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg laments “ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time (line 72). This is an analogy to the “primordial soup” used to describe the origins of life on earth. I like to think Ginsberg was critically thinking along my lines of thought in terms of the devolution of human beings.

 

“Howl” came out of Ginsberg’s life among the rejects and outcasts of the 20th Century, much as Jesus lived among the pariahs and lepers of the 1st Century. It includes Ginsberg’s poetic assessment of a friendship between two men who have gone mad because they have lost their connection to normal time and hence, normal humanity. They are in the “animal soup”.

 

Ginsberg also talks about animals when he calls part of “Howl”, “a lament for the Lamb in America with instances of remarkable lamb-like youths”. This is not a poem for the weak of heart or the sensitive to obscenity, but there is much to recommend you to this poem, which explores many biblical themes such as sacrifice, guilt, the downtrodden of society, holiness, and redemption.

Now here’s a fun game. What animal do you see Jesus as? C.S. Lewis saw The Christ as the Lion of Judah. Jesus is of course the “Lamb of God”. He was born in an animal stable. He compared himself to foxes who had holes while he did not even have an animal burrow to sleep in.

But do you know what other animal  Jesus compared himself to? A chicken.

“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.” Matthew 23:37

chicken

 

Perhaps you have seen the film “Fly Away Home”. It is a film about a young pre-teen whose mother dies and who has to go live with a father she has never known in a country she has never been. The girl finds some wild geese eggs with no mother. So she decides to become the mother of the geese. The baby goslings accept the girl as their mother and the girl eventually learns “to fly” to save the lives of the geese.

All babies must do what is known as “imprint” on a mother figure. We are fascinated by stories of different animals  who imprint on animals very different from themselves. It is a marvelous fact of how animals were created. Humans too. If you were adopted or have adopted children you know first hand that imprinting is real and if you were not loved as a child by your mother, then you know the lack of imprinting will effect your ability to be a whole, unbroken human for the rest of your life. There may always be a lost, abused animal living in your soul if you did not have a loving parent to model.

Jesus wants to be our mother hen. He wants us to accept Him, God on Earth, as our mother, our model for how to live. He learned to live like we do, so that we could learn to live as we were created to live. First Jesus imprinted with us. Jesus was born like us, learned to walk like us, and to talk like us with a hick accent and all. He studied like us and laughed like us. He was careful so he didn’t scare us away but he was firm when we were in danger. Jesus cried like us, was a friend like us and he suffered like us. And then Jesus died like us, with our sins imprinted in His hands.

Then Jesus said: “Now I’m asking you to let me imprint on you. Now would you like to learn to live forever like me? Would you like me to teach you how to fly?”

If Jesus is the image of the invisible God and He is also the image of humanity at it’s finest, then He is a mother hen I wouldn’t mind looking like. My prayer is “Jesus, help me let you imprint on me today.”

Fly away home