Permissive Advent

Permissive Advent

by Jane Tawel

December 2, 2019

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This I read today from Jorg Zink—”Take the path that leads inward through the days of Advent. Set aside for yourself, if it is possible, time to breathe in; time to stop feeling that you’re on the run or under stress. Allow something to happen inside you. Turn your thoughts and hopes to the things that count.. . . “We humans contribute to the world’s gloom, like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. What is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith. This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love. You may not believe it, but you can love this world. It is a place of God. It has a purpose. Its beauty is not a delusion. You can lead a meaningful life in it.”

From Doors to the Feast, by Jorg Zink

 

I am beginning this Season of Advent, by seeking better practices of listening.  And to switch up St. Paul’s words, but I hope, not his intent, one way I hope to celebrate the onslaught of God’s Son living with us in this world, is to “set my mind on” the present Presence amongst us on earth, and not a wishful wannabe in a heavenly future. As Jorg Zink writes, I hope to “turn my hopes and thoughts toward the things that count”.

 

I have spent a lifetime communicating as a writer, teacher, parent, spouse, daughter, co-worker, and friend. But Advent is a good time to remember a man who was born as a baby and who excelled not only in communicating truth and love but in listening.  To listen not only to other human beings, but to listen to the very Earth herself seems to me a life-practice I have too often missed-out on, and I have been sadly suspectful that “merely” listening is not something valuable, active, and meaningful.

 

Listening seems so passive, and of course, for some people it is. It took me years to realize that the reason I talk so much and have so much outer-moving energy is because I think (and fear) that if I am not verbally responding, physically engaging, facially and bodily moving, and passionately involved with others, then I am not giving. In other words, I am so afraid of taking  and so anxious to connect in meaningful ways with any humans within reach, that I overdo the communicating bit. It took me years to understand why I am so depleted after work or social events or even just a car ride or dinner with a family member. It is because I was never really allowed to just be by myself or be quiet around others. I am the “cheerleader”, “stage-manager” who always just wanted to be what she was at heart, a nerdy introvert. So when I am with other people, I am caught-up in my own need to “give” of myself.  This is not altruistic, I realize; it is rather more like a hidden, undiagnosed phobia or syndrome. And to make matters worse, as an empath, listening to others, for me, means feeling everything the other person is feeling, taking it in, and not having anywhere to put it but back out there to “solve” or “help”,  or stored away smoldering and moldering inside my own mind and heart.

 

People who are like I am, end up with running tracks in their brains that often spill out their mouths. We pour out so much, that eventually there is a backwash. Eventually, our communications often morph and change from giving, caring, wannabehelpful and useful bodies of relational communication to unlivable, unsustainable towers of babble. Inside, we end up running along the lines that add tracks of worry to our faces, and fill us with secret fears and criticisms; and these can easily derail, leading off to side-tracks and runaway ramps of angst, anger, and hopelessness.

 

Advent is a time of permissions.  It is a time when lowly, stinky, homeless people were given permission to hobnob with kingly Magi.  It is a time when it was permitted to not just believe in angels, but to sing with them.  Advent gives us permission to come into the light, and stand, kneel, or dance before God. Advent gives us permission to love the world as The Creator loves it. It gives us license to believe there was once a God-man who loved the world enough to be born into it, even though He already had a different and better home; a God-man who had so much hope for and faith in the world and other human beings, that He thought he had enough love to make a difference; and so God gave Jesus permission to live in the world with all of its darkness, and to care for all of its brokenness, and even to die for its future. Now, The Christ waits for our permission to open the door, to let him turn on the lights, and to listen to him teach us how to be like him.

 

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, or not do, this Advent Season?  As you await, anticipate, engage with, and hope for what will born in and with you, what can you do now to prepare for what will give you more purpose and more joy in the journey?  You may find the answer surprising, as I have.  You may find that in not doing something you think you must do, there will be more meaning to not just this super-imposed upon us season, but more meaning to your life. For some it may mean, not buying, not going, not giving (just because it’s a Tuesday), not resisting standing out, or not staying silent but speaking up.  For me, this Advent will begin with instructing my heart to not being afraid to wholly and holy be a listener.  For me, I am giving myself permission to seek a heart of silent anticipation and to practice truly listening. I am giddy with anticipation of what I might hear. I am also a little afraid of what people might think or how I might feel (or not feel).  Maybe you feel the same about finally speaking up or speaking out? Maybe you are afraid to put yourself out there? But we don’t need to fear each other or our own trials and errors in changing for the better, because as Jorg Zink says, this world is our home.  We are safe here. We are together in this. We make the world have its meaning, and it in turn, the world we make gives meaning to our lives.

 

Did you know that because sound and light are both waves, they can conceivably be converted into the other?  May my words become loving light and may your light be converted into the sounds of your truth. May the Light which we celebrate at Advent, give us all the sounds, both spoken and silent, sounding out and holding close,  truth, hope, faith, joy, and love. And may those of us who need permission to shout, shout “Hosanna!”. And those of us who need permission to listen, may we be “still, and know that He is God”.

 

Jesus came to give us permission to be specifically who we were meant to be, just as he was and is. God is among us, granting us permission to live in a Truth that is available and unassailable because it is purely and divinely Love. Christ in us, is our permission to live, and to live fully and meaningfully.

 

Today, how will you share who you are giving yourself permission to be?

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Illustrations by Julie Vivas, “The Nativity”

 

I’d Rather Be a Stone

I’d Rather Be a Stone than a Leaf

By Jane Tawel

November 16, 2019

 

Simon and Garfunkel have this great old song in which they preach to their listeners that they would “rather be a hammer than a nail” and they would “rather be a sparrow than a snail”.  Good sentiments, sort of along the lines of Ghandi’s ubiquitous “Be the Change” exhortation.  But you know, the problem is that most of us can only manage to fly like a bird for a very short time, and then we tire out. And being a hammer eventually just makes you an overbearing, hard-nosed, abuser of your power against all the little powerless nails. Being a hammer might be a Samson-like calling in the moment, but eventually all hammers hit too hard, just as much as the powers do who currently hold the hammers.  We dare not forget the ends of stories like those of Icarus and Samson.

 

 

I have learned all of this, mostly from literature and other forms of great writers’ artistic endeavors. Stories and poems and authors like Homer, Tolkien, Rowling, and the writers of what we call The Bible, contain what C.S. Lewis calls, True Myth. These stories about hammers, or powerful heroes, or sparrows, high fliers, often end tragically or at least badly for all the little nobodies – that is for the nails who get wacked by the heroes or the people below the high fliers, who get pooped on from those soaring above the fray.

 

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This is the truth that Orwell and Dickens meant to teach us when they wrote about power and revolutions against that power.  Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities to help people understand that even a great cause, such as the French Revolutionaries had, will eventually fall by the way side when the weak become strongmen, and the powerless become power-hungry rulers. And I always loved to teach my students that Orwell was quite clear that Animal Farm  was not simply about Soviet Russia, but also about Fascist Spain and Capitalistic America, and well, about all of us, everywhere, always.   We have been warned—all humanistic, prideful power eventually is corrupted from within.  One only has to look to the powers that those who claim God’s favor, ie all religions, but perhaps today, especially what we call “Christianity”. We have only to see what those in the name of religion or God have stolen, dictated, grasped, and abused, and continue to grasp and abuse, to understand that humanity is always falling prey to either an immoral sense of entitled faith in someone else doing the moral, salvation bit, or  prey to a self-righteous sense of doing for God something that He refuses to do  miraculously for our own entitled sense of greed or benefit.

 

 

I  very often feel guilty and helpless and humiliated, that I am not out there hammering and soaring and fighting and shouting and pledging and contributing and warring and protesting and well, flying.  It has helped me to read great story-tellers, who believe that getting rid of one power to be replaced only with another power will forever condemn history to more greedy and power hungry rulers. If you  say you believe in Jesus, you should have no doubt that he believed this, even for himself, and he had the edge in being the Son of God, so….But we are not allowed to believe that we are to do nothing; that we were put on earth merely to save our own measly excuse for an individual soul and  hightail it to a “Heaven” somewhere out there without all the mess we’ve created here. We are supposed to believe that we were put in charge on this planet, of these beings, and plants, and animals, and volcanoes, and lakes, and rivers, and children. We are meant to believe that there is a way humans were meant to “do good” and “act rightly and righteously” and to make this planet and world and other communities of humans better, more the way we would all like it to be, and that is what Jesus meant by telling us our job was to make “God’s Kingdom real here on earth, like it is in other galaxies, and places we can’t even imagine, ie, the “Heavens- Out-there- Where God is”.

 

So we seek metaphors, and stories, and poetic allusions to figure out how we are supposed to do this thing called “living”. I struggle at my time of life with seeing myself as a soaring eagle or a powerful tool of politics or religion.  My nickname in my family is “Chicken” for good reason and I am definitely mechanically challenged at the best of times. Not sure any one wants me wielding a hammer, though I am prone to the occasional use of the metaphoric kind in conversation. The best metaphor I have recalled lately, for how I might make changes in the world as only one of the little people, a minor character in the plot, is the metaphor of the stone.

 

I think about that great line in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” spoken by a man who suffers death for the sake of his wife and other women, who back then were considered property, and who are accused and condemned unjustly by the over-powerful, over-zealous self-proclaiming evangelical politicians of the time. These abusers of power in Miller’s story, much like the regimes of Orwell’s Animal Farm, or the monarchy of Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities  are up against, hammers and sparrows, and doves who carry secret messages, etc, but in the end the righteous refusal to budge on an ethical, moral response to wrong, badness, and evil, usually comes through those who simply lay down their lives, like a stone in the road, refusing to be carried away by the justifications of those who will not see the Truth behind the lies of the corrupted. Much like many of America’s past and present abusers of power, such as the current configuration of those like President Trump and Senator McConnell and Franklin Graham’s oligarchical Administration, and the Red Scared three-headed beast once seen in the U. S. Judiciary and  FBI and Senator Joseph McCarthy  during that Make America Great Administration, and the “Evangelical” Protestant Witch hunting White Settlers in the Administration who populate Miller’s play. And so, knowing that he would be condoning evil and doing  wrong, by choosing the “lesser of two evils” and thereby, abusing his own power as a conservative, religious man who only wanted to save himself,  Giles Corey, submits to being unjustly charged as a traitor and not Christian-like and is put to death via capital punishment by the state and modern inquisition by the Church. The Puritans did this by the placing of large, heavy stones laid on a man until they had crushed his chest into his heart. As the weight of the stones placed on Giles Corey, one after another, seem too impossible for his body to survive, and the political and religious leaders think surely this man will give in to their way of thinking and behaving now; Corey tells the “Christian” executioners that no, not only will he not join them for any reason but that they must add, “More weight. Add more weight.”

 

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Add more stones.  Arthur Miller, the playwright, would later, be a Giles Corey character in real life, when he refused to tattle to the corrupt “Un-American Activities Committee”, who after all were only trying to “make America great”. Again.

 

Dickens writes about a Christ-like figure who is innocent but allows the state to kill him in order for someone else to live.  Orwell, however, has no such hero.  In Orwell’s dystopian worldview, the Christian leaders, in the character of a black raven, symbolizing death, flies off with his share of the goodies; and the politicians, one after the other, are revealed to be not just literally pigs, but archetypes whose greed devolves them from being animals to, you guessed it, game-playing, powerful, greedy, over-fed humans.

 

And again, and again, and again and on it goes. No wonder we can feel so helpless and hopeless, and that we keep trying to tell ourselves that either someone like Jesus, already did all the work for us, and that the world can go to hell because we personally will be “saved”,  if we only have a mindful acquiescence to some historical god’s reality; or that someone else, like a president or prime minister, or a Gates or Gandhi, will come along and be our world’s savior, and all we need to do is “pray” for them.

 

As for little old me, I do believe in the kind of Judeo-Christian worldview in which humans matter and that there is a God that cares about our world. I try to hang on to a belief that I find not just in stories from the Bible, but in the history books, and in Nature and even in other humans I meet now and then. I believe that Love matters most of all and that the small actions of small people matter. And that little actions done with love by little  people can not only change the world, but that somehow, they have a larger meaning in light of God’s Kingdom and in some as yet, unrealized idea of Eternity.

 

I do believe that there is judgement and reward, for what we say, think, feel, and especially what we do or do not do. It seems clear that the consequences of one’s own life, and well as the tides of time and history are ultimately determined by those dueling sins of omission and commission that tug us as individuals, sometimes confuse us as they pull us in different and seemingly contradictory directions.   I believe we all sense the truth, that in some way, we have messed up what is fair and good, and this is true whether we believe in a reckoning in a God-futured heaven, or the more easily apparent judgement that Jesus did rightly warn us of. Jesus did warn his fellow humans that there is an inherent judgement in life that is an ever present danger. This danger comes when any one, any people pass the point of no return on earth by “losing our souls, losing what this life was meant to reward us with as individual human beings,  and when we seek only to gain more and more for ourselves at any cost”.

Surely even the most foolish of us sometimes awakes in a terrified sweat to the recognition that we are becoming less human, less of what we want to be, more soul-less, and zombie-like. Surely even the most religious of us must stand aghast at what we have allowed to happen on our planetary home, as children kill other children, and farmers starve on what used to be their land, and the food we eat  to nourish us causes us deathly illnesses, and whole species of animals die out, and people wear gas masks to breath, and fires rage, and sea levels rise, and those who are supposed to unite us, divide us for their own gain.  Surely, even the most atheistic or immoral of us understand that there is something horribly, horribly wrong on our planet, in our species, in the inner most parts of who we are?

 

And like me, you may feel angry, depressed, frightened, sad, and helpless and hopeless. After all, what can you do? What can I do? What can we do?

 

 

It came as a consolation and a warning and a judgement and a prophetic goading to me, this past week to re-read the part of a story I was reading.  I will share great swathes of it with you here, but I encourage you to read the whole thing for yourself.  This is from C.S. Lewis’s Science Fiction Trilogy, and specifically from Perelandra.  In it, the character of Elwin Ransom, a human being, has gone to another planet which has just been created by God, who Lewis calls Maleldil. On this planet, there is a sort of new Garden of Eden set-up, and there this traveling spaceman, meets this planet’s archetypal “Eve” character.  Ransom also meets up with the only other fellow human, a man named, Weston, but who according to Lewis, has become an “Un-man”. Weston has allowed evil, “Satan” to take over his mind, body, and soul, but it happened incrementally over the course of time and Weston did it for all the right reasons, much like people today claim to do. The story’s conflict lies between these two humans, who have a different worldview of what God wants from us, although both claim the Bible and God as their source. They also have different ideas about what is the best way to make the planet of Perelandra and her inhabitants, “Great”.  Oh, it is truly relevant, is it not?  I encourage you to read the story.  But what may encourage you today, as it did me, is C.S. Lewis’ own wrestling with his conscious and the pleading voice coming through in the character of Elwin Ransom.  I have taken the liberty here and substituted Lewis’ name for God, “Maleldil” for the more earth-friendly one, “God”. Ransom is at a loss for how to stop the evil and “bad stuff” happening around him. He has tried and failed so far to save The Lady and the planet, and time seems to be running out. Now he is feeling helpless, and thinking dark thoughts in the darkness, thoughts and feelings much like mine at times. Perhaps much like yours.

 

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Why did no miracle come? Or rather, why no miracle on the right side? For the presence of the Enemy was in itself a kind of Miracle. Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did Heaven work none? Not for the first time he found himself questioning Divine Justice. He could not understand why God should remain absent when the Enemy was there in person… Suddenly and sharply, as if the solid darkness about him had spoken with articulate voice, he knew that God was not absent… had never been absent, that only some unconscious activity of his own had succeeded in ignoring it for the past few days…. But where is God’s representative?

The answer which came back to him, quick as a fencer’s or a tennis player’s riposte, out of the silence and the darkness, almost took his breath away.  “Anyway, what can I do? I’ve done all I can. I’ve talked till I’m sick of it. It’s not good, I tell you.”  He tried to persuade himself that he, Ransom could not possibly be God’s representative… And then—he wondered how it had escaped him till now—he was at least as much of a marvel as the Enemy’s.   He himself was the miracle.

 

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Yes, we too often forget it. My life itself is a miracle. But we must be careful, for like Ransom, many of us who believe this today, stop there.  Ransom tries to convince himself that this belief, this “faith” in God and in goodness and in his being in “God’s hand”, is enough.  He pats himself on the back that he really has done “his best” and that “God would see to the final issue”.  But Lewis, knows that really, honestly, this is not true-Truth, not even on a mythical planet.

 

 

Not one rag of all this evasion was left. Relentlessly, unmistakably, the Darkness pressed down upon him the knowledge that this picture of the situation was utterly false.  His journey was not a moral exercise, nor a sham fight. If the issue lay in God’s hands, Ransom and the Lady were those hands. The fate of a world really depended on how they behaved in the next few hours. They could, if they chose decline to save the innocence of this new race, and if they declined its innocence would not be saved.  It rested with no other creature in all time or all space.  This he saw clearly, though as yet he had no inkling of what he could do.

 

 

As Ransom realizes, we must realize that God cares through Us, not just for us. We are each, each day, standing alone on the precipice between the salvation of the world within and without and the death of all that is in both me and the planet, all that is Good and Right and Healthy. I am the only person right now who is utterly responsible for what happens in my own soul, in the souls of others, and on the planet. This is not the vanity of the powerful nor the hubris of the hero, this is the reality of what it means to be a created human being, created in the likeness of a God.  Ransom, however, can not accept this blithely, just  as I can not do, maybe as you  cannot do, and Lewis through his character, rebels and protests these thoughts.

 

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The voluble self protested, wildly, swiftly, like the propeller of a ship racing when it is out of the water.  The imprudence, the unfairness, the absurdity of it!  Did God want to lose worlds? What was the sense of so arranging things that anything really important should finally and absolutely depend on such a man of straw as himself? And at that moment he now could not help remembering that men were at war and awaking, like him, to the preposterous truth that all really depended on their actions; and far away in time Horatius stood on the bridge, and Eve herself stood looking upon the forbidden fruit and the Heaven of Heavens waited for her decision. He writhed and ground his teeth, but could not help seeing. Thus, and not otherwise, the world was made.  Either something or nothing must depend on individual choices.  And if something, who could set bounds to it?

A stone may determine the course of a river.  He was that stone at this horrible moment which had become the centre of the whole universe. The angels of all worlds, the sinless organisms of everlasting light, were silent in Deep Heaven to see what Elwin Ransom of Cambridge would do.

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And so each and every day – perhaps moment by moment– one must ask oneself:  Will I be a leaf, blown this way and that by life’s ebb and flow, to eventually be nothing more than the dust from which I grew?

 

Or will I be a stone?  A pebble in the shoe of the king, can irritate him into stopping and perhaps, in that way, the pebble will upend the powerful forces marching towards destruction.  A rock in the road, can cause the jeeps and tanks, to perhaps change direction, and in that way, change the direction of a war. All the little bits of gravel, can build each other up, and change the course of the mighty seas of history, damming the floods of greed, pride, and injustice, restoring the waters to their intended nourishment and life-giving abilities.   And one little pebble found in a righteous slingshot, can slay a Goliath.

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The Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom, proclaimed, that should we fail to be the stones of God, that God Himself could easily raise up actual clods made of dirt and minerals. Should I fail, God does not lack for hands and feet and wings and claws and trunks and even pebbles; for on Ransom’s Earth, on Lewis’ and my planet, a man once came to show us how to live. And this Son of Man, proclaimed that even “the rocks themselves can do our job of crying in praise, ‘Hosanna’!  Blessed is the one who does God’s work on earth, as it is done in all the Heavens and in all the Cosmos!”

 

If I have delayed in my life, ‘til now, skipping a rock on a lake, or dropping a pebble into a pool of deep water, I must delay no longer.  I can not know whether my little stone of an action will create far-reaching ripples, the consequences of which I shall not know until Judgement day; or if my little stone will sink to the bottom of our raging waters, and there, perhaps, small and still as a god’s voice, will change the course of the tide, at least perhaps for someone else.

 

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All I can know without doubt, with fear and even sometimes loathing, is that I must be the stone that God has created me to be. I must use the hands God gave me, the feet God entrusted to me, and the voice God expects me to use. And so, like a good stone, I cry, “Hosanna!  Good news!  God is with us.  And the Gospel is –We are the saviors. We are the ones that God created us to be as the makers and caretakers and workers for Love on our planet. We are the Christ.”

 

We are not called to be innocent bystanders, like dumb rocks by the wayside. Because bystanders, are not innocent, they are just dumb. We neither are called to be dumb as in stupid nor dumb as in silent.  I may be just a stone, but I am a stone that is resting on the Cornerstone, and that Cornerstone, called The Christ, Messiah, Risen Lord and King, has changed the whole course of Time and History. On Christ the solid rock, I stand. Or am crushed. My choice.

 

The next time you are out in the world, stoop down and pick up a little grey pebble. Is it not truly a miracle of creation? Each of us, too, can be that small little stone that is in Truth,  a miracle.

 

Will I be a leaf or a stone?  Daily, moment by moment, I choose. And though, I am not all that important in the great scheme of things, I am the only miracle I have today. But then again, I am the only miracle, I need today.

 

And in the end, after all, as Elwin Ransom realized, as C.S. Lewis, and George Orwell, and Charles Dickens realized, and perhaps as you have realized, accepting that I am the miracle God has sent is not only enough, it is everything. My being a small stone is everything. In fact,

The fate of the planet depends on it.

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All Photos from https://creativecommons.org/

Ten Small Radical Things To Do Each Day

Ten Small Radical Things To Do Each Day

by Jane Tawel

October, 2019

Here are Ten Small Radical Things that I think we should make daily habits, but that we can at least try to do today. These come from my own succeeding and failing at each of these. Try one, or a few of them today. Each day make time to live with hope and joy — these Ten Things could help.

  1. Laugh until your sides hurt. It’s best to do with someone, but if that’s not possible, do it with the person who “gets you” the most — yourself. Laugh with a comic book, a funny video, a comedian, or watch a squirrel or a puppy (often great sources of humor).

2. Hum a tune. This is a great way to relax your mind and your body. It activates the all-important Vagus nerve. It is incredibly fun to do on your own and can also be a great way to drive someone else crazy (should you need to).

3. Take care of something small that you don’t usually make time for. Sometimes, it is as simple for me as taking time to brush my hair for fifty strokes — so relaxing! I find taking care of my finger and toe nails to be a helpful reminder that I really do have time for small things if I stop letting my time be gobbled up by the big, bad things, like the “Busy-Ness Monster” or the “Blob of Ennui”. Try spending just a wee amount of time caring for some small part of your garden, either figuratively or literally. Or do something for just one part of your body that needs attention. Try a face mask or hair treatment or just elevating your feet against the nearest wall. The important thing is to do it yourself, not spend any real money on it, and do it in solitude, caring for your inner self as you care for something outside of yourself. Most of all, enjoy doing it, not as a task, but as self-care.

4. Chew more slowly or drink more deeply. Actually and intentionally tasting what you are imbibing or masticating will give you two important, transformative things; it will give you more pleasure and more gratitude.

5. Go outside. If it is too hot or too cold, stand on your porch or your stoop and let your body really feel what is going on. If, like Goldilocks, the weather is just right, take a walk. Of course, Goldilocks may vary. The best of all weather for me, here in the desert, is rain. I love to walk in the rain. But even if you just have a three-minute break today, go stand outside. But don’t do it for steps, or exercise, just go outside to BE. Be in a real environment called “The Outdoors”, with no fake lights, no fake air, no fake animation. Enjoy the Realness. Look. Listen. Feel. Breathe. Unwind.

6. Wave and smile. If it’s to a stranger, that is the best kind of gift since all you will hope to get in return is a wave and smile back. If they don’t smile or wave back, you will still feel better. If you make this gesture to someone you are working with or someone in your home that you see day after day, a little wave and smile will be a happy reminder to both of you that you are both human, and you are both trying your best. That connection will remind you that two people can find a little happy moment together, no matter how much stress you may be experiencing. A smile and wave cost nothing but bring joy to the giver and the receiver. Better than words sometimes, is the unspoken gesture which requires neither deflection nor acceptance. A wave and smile will interrupt any flow of negativity, at least in the giver, and hopefully, in the receiver.

7. Play with some thing. I keep a little canister of Play-doh near my computer. I also have a life-long habit of playing with a strand of my hair. Play with something that does not require any thought at all — no Sudoku or Crosswords (though I love both for other reasons). If your teacher will let you, (and I always tried to), play by tapping your pen on your desk. If your husband will let you, just play with his hair or his earlobe. Stones and leaves and rolly-pollies are good to play with, as is mindless doodling in the margins, or by amusing oneself with a piece of string or sticky tape. Playfulness leads us away from childish behavior into child-like behavior, and in that makes all the difference towards enjoying a life well-lived.

8. Be a hero and save something. Save water by using less. Save something from the trash that should have been recycled. Save someone from having to stand, by offering your seat. Save some time to volunteer to help needy bodies rather than always working on your own body at the gym. Save a bit of time to call someone for a chat. Save a bit of money by making your own coffee then giving that money to the homeless guy on the street. Be a small hero in some way every day and give yourself commendations for heroism and bravery and moral achievement. And with enough small acts of heroism, you will develop the super-powers of love, hope, and joy.

9. Relax. Turn everything off. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Meditate or Pray. Stretch out or curl up. Nap or take a bath. If you absolutely have not a single moment for any relaxation, go into the bathroom cubicle, sit or lean against the wall for a minute, and give your mind a one-minute vacation. Think about ocean waves and sun. Think about swooshing down a snowy slope. Think about floating on a raft down a lazy river. Think about splashing in puddles in the rain, holding hands with your best friend. Think about a place and go there. Immerse yourself in the imagination of that place. Find a moment of tranquility there. The mind is an amazing tool for accomplishments; let it do the same amazing magic and restore you.

10. Tell yourself something good about You. This is not like an affirmation or mantra, but rather, you talking to yourself like a positive, encouraging Coach. Find a name for the part of you that you are talking to. For instance, instead of chastising myself and trying to motivate myself through negative “pep talks” (which I do often) such as when I sneer at my two Nemeses of “Gut” and “Butt”; I could say, “Hey, soft, swishy Tum-de-tum-tum, thank you for being strong inside with all your good bacteria you grow there. I appreciate your inner health. And thank you, dear Womb-an, for carrying four babies that are the joy and love of my life. You did a great job and I am proud of you for surviving.” Maybe you would like to say something like, “You know, Silly Sally Mind of mine, you made your boss smile today with your silliness and that is a great accomplishment.” Or you could just tell yourself, “Hey, The Rock, you worked like a beast today. Bravo you!” Or try saying this to You today:

I thank you, Self, for being alive.

I thank you, Me, for sticking with Myself.

I thank you, My Dear, for giving it another try.

I love you, Me for being my best “I”.

Ten Small Things. But as Mother Teresa might add: “Not all of us can do great things. But all of us can do small things, with great love”. Love Yourself. Love the World.

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 “Squirrel” by Matt Peoples CC BY-NC 2.0

The Liebster Award for Jane Tawel and Thoughts on Blogging

On and To Bloggers (but maybe we need a prettier name?)

from  Jane Tawel

April 8, 2019

 

One of the very great things I have discovered about blogging, besides my own creating and thinking with words, is being made aware of how many other creative people there are in the whole wide world posting their creative words, art, and ideas in the medium of online personal “blogs”. This idea of blogging has changed greatly and I think for the best, as it is now a huge, flexible, and fluid medium for expression of all kinds. It is so huge that it is hard to know how to find those folks out there that might appeal to one’s aesthetic or personal needs and desires. Just by luck and through my own blog,  I have come to find out about people I would never know about otherwise — people in Germany, India, Canada, Atlanta — people who make pottery and write about it as if the pots were darling children much like I write about my own darling children; people who create pen and ink drawings and then write heart-searing essays, full of “the warp and woof” of human experience; and people like Tebatjo, someone I may never meet in this lifetime but hope to someday in Eternity — people who dig into their need for writing that most modern-age maligned of arts, poetry, digging much like Scarlet dug potatoes from her decaying plantation, promising “I will never go hungry again”. We who write poetry, feel the metaphoric hungers of the world, and share our own provisions to stave off the starvation of soul-less-ness.

This blogger award to bloggers was a very wonderful thing that the originators came up with, because it is named Liebster, which in German means, “kind”. And it is truly about kindness, isn’t it? It’s all about kindness, not niceness, but about being kind; kind to the planet, kind to others, kind to self, kind to God. I have found the world of fellow bloggers that I personally have heard from or have read to be a community of kind people, people from all walks of life, genders, colors, places, ages but people who share  the quality of kindness.They share kindness through comments, through encouragement, and through this award. I think any one who attempts to create art or who tries to teach other people something about how to live, no matter how bad, unjust, angry or frightening the world is — those people must have a core of kindness in order to create.  No matter how much one rants or provokes in one’s art, art itself will bring one back to a sense of a world of nature and other beings, who are just waiting — just longing — to be kind; if we open ourselves to it, it is there.  I have found the kindness of creativity in a “nation” of fellow bloggers. 

It helps my own wee soul tremendously to know there is an unsung “nation” of souls in the world who create because that is what humans should be doing. Whether you get fame or money is beside the point, the point is as beings created in the image of a Creator-Being, we must. That’s it, we must. Creating may not be our job, but we embrace it as necessary for our lives.  So it is with humility and joy that I accept this nomination (prizes awarded in January 2020), which may seem silly to some, but to me represents a whole world of people that I respect greatly and people that the word “blogger” does not do justice to.  The word “blog” rhymes with things like bog or fog or smog — not things that one wants to immerse oneself in or at least stay in for long.  The bloggers I am privileged to be a citizen with in The Nation of Bloggers,  are thinking, creative people who give a lot of time and energy, heart and soul, to making the world a better place, whether they have one follower, one reader, or thousands. They are the liebsters of the world, whose prizes wait for them, awarded in Eternity by that Great Creator and Lover of all those who with suffering and kindness, create in Her Image. Thank you all for rest, inspiration, provocation, and joy in the journey. You are “liebstered” — you are valued.

******You will find below the award details,  the intriguing questions I was asked to answer; the blogs I am nominating but also recommending for readers to check out; and my questions for the nominees.  As a reader, you might have some fun answering all or one of these questions and posting them in the comments.

 

 

THANK YOU, TEBATJO MALAKA!

A hearty and heart-felt thanks, to fellow blogger and poet, Tebatjo Malaka for nominating me and my blog for the Liebster Award. You can find Tebatjo’s profound blog at https://onhillsofglory.wordpress.com/.

 

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What is the Liebster Prize?

The Liebster Prize is an award that exists only on the Internet and is awarded to bloggers by other bloggers. The first case of the award goes back to 2011. Liebester in German means sweet, kind, dear, charming, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. It really is an excellent way to meet other bloggers and gain more visibility in the community.

There are some simple rules to follow:
Add a link to the Official Liebester Award page in your blog post the Global aussie

https://theglobalaussie.com

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you.
  • Display your award.
  • Answer the questions you were asked.
  • Nominate at least 5 other followers to do the same post.
  • Ask 6 new questions to your chosen nominees.
  • Let each nominee know you’ve nominated them and give a link to your post.

 

Nominations: 

  1. Literaa Poetry
  2. DaleGreenArts
  3. The Alchemist’s Studio
  4. The Mad Servant
  5. kumarshanu1212
  6. beautybeyondbones
  7. Deanne Davis at Tablespoonoflove

 

Questions I was asked to answer by Tebatjo:

  1. How do you define life?

Wow. Right out of the gate, a question that leaves me a bit stunned and silent and the point is to write about it, but I’m assuming I can’t write a 5,000 page tome, which is what it would take. So, for now —I define life, I guess, as something we are given on our birth date, a great and wondrous and often, ponderous,  gift, and then as we live, each human has the choice to accept life as gift or to see life as work. We can use our lives to construct something meaningful, or we can choose to deconstruct or destroy those essential and unique elements we are given as human beings. Now, some people are given more viable and good options in this lifetime than others, who get the short end of the stick or are exposed the evils of the world in ways that are completely unjust.  And whether you are born into a life of ease or a life of hardship is not at all fair, but if you believe, as I do, that we also have the choice to not let this short passage of time that we live out on Earth, be the only and finite life, the only definition of what a life means;  then the option of choosing a spiritually-led life is yours no matter your circumstances.  In fact ironically, Jesus makes an interesting comment that scares some of us fat cat first worlders — he said, it is harder to live a meaningful life if you are rich and powerful than if you are poor and unjustly persecuted.  But as all things are possible with God, even entering the life of God’s Kingdom, then seeing life as gift, no matter our options, will ensure that someday, somehow there will be a life of justice and truth, love and peace, and a wholistic life that for now we can only see and experience dimly or in pieces. However, the crux of the matter is, how I define my purpose in living, for just this morning, this day, this moment even – that is a reflection of how I truly define “life”; which should be paradoxically sobering and freeing.

  1. Based on answer in 1. above, how often do you think about death?

I think about death pretty much every night before bed and first thing in the morning, when I am pleasantly surprised not to be dead.  I wouldn’t say I think much about death in between those times, except to rather daily frantically pray for the people I love to not die that day. If you do read my blog, you will no doubt fairly soon discover that I have more questions and more thoughts about what comes after death than about death itself. I do find this question interesting because I think Americans and perhaps all First World-ers are in dangerous denial about the one certain fact of this life – we will all die.  You can use all the Botox, build all the safety nets (or walls) you like; but you cannot protect yourself from the certainty of death.  However, see the John Donne poem below in my answer to Question #6 for some hopeful philosophy on our deaths.  Or I might recommend a meditation on  The Christ’s view of life after death as found in the book of John, particularly John 5:24 and 11:25

  1. If you had a clone, would you be pleased in telling him/her your life secrets? And how would you accomplish the task of reassuring him/her that everything is going to pan out alright when he/she is about to give up on life?

So, I have to assume that my clone doesn’t know everything I know. (For a wonderful meditation on whether we would really like to have a clone or not, watch that old chestnut “Multiplicity” with Michael Keaton). And I have to assume that I know or have “life secrets”. And are these life secrets about my own life’s journey, or about the “secrets of life” or are both always connected? And then I have to assume I am dealing with someone who is suicidal – Yowza!  In terms of telling someone my life secrets, I would tell them to someone I trust and someone who could learn by them.  I have told my children some of my “life secrets”.  But the tough part of this question of course, is how to talk with someone who is “giving up on life”.  I come from a dynasty of “cheerleaders” who believe in the old “buck up” method of encouragement and that the best thing to say is always: “I’m proud of you and you are great and all is going to be fine for you”. But then your kids grow up or your spouse gets sick and you realize, “so what if I’M proud of them? And also, things do not by any stretch of the imagination always turn out fine.”  And isn’t pride actually, in the end, the problem, not the solution; either the lack of the right kind of pride or too much of the wrong kind of pride. 

So what to say to someone who has gotten  so far along the road in life undetected, or unswayed by the cheerleaders and encouragers, that he / she feels life is not worth living? The problem starts with thinking life is all about me; which in the end, even for those who are famous, wealthy, powerful etc. is never enough, as we find to our sorrow with the famous, powerful, wealthy, people who commit suicide.  The deeper issue is with making me, myself and I the trinity idols of my life. And this is such an insidious religion of humanism masquerading as Christianity, or Judaism or Islam now, at least in my country, it is.  What blindsides us in the end, is that people don’t realize that self-worship is what they actually believe.  They think they believe in God or have faith in Jesus or practice living like Buddha, or will die for king and country; but we have so long been afloat in the sea of materialism, humanistic idolization, greed and power masquerading as success and fulfillment; and self-pride, that with the first moderately strong waves of despair, depression, fear, or failure that eventually assault our sense of meaning, we are capsized into despair or we drug ourselves with religious feeling or pharmaceuticals or more stuff to make the bad feelings go away. But the waves keep rolling. So I guess if my poor clone wakes up one day, as truthfully, I do some days, and says, “Original Model Jane, I don’t feel like living.”  I hope I would simply give Clone my time, that most precious of treasures for now. I hope I would simply sit and hold her hand and make her some tea and maybe a scone or two.  I hope I would stop talking and advising and cheerleading, and just listen – even if it means just listening to the small, faint sound of her heartbeat and the miracle of her breath.

  1. If beauty was defined in terms of a moment, what/how will it be?

Looking at my baby’s face, breathing in the scent of the back of her neck, caressing the little limbs, chubby and soft and helpless, hearing his little bleating cries or his soft coos of contentment as he nurses nourishment from me, looking up from her soft downy head at the great big world, and feeling that sense of awe that this beauty has been given to me.

  1. Between cooking and eating, what’s best, on the assumption that none of the two is obligatory?

Cooking, because cooking means that I will have family and / or friends around my dinner table, enjoying something I have made just for them. The joke in my family is that I cook as if all the field hands on the ranch were coming in hungry to chow down.  I cook as if all four kids were still coming in to dinner each night, along with all their friends – hungry as only kids can be and wanting leftovers of their favorites for later.  I am not a gourmet chef but I cook as generously as I hope my heart is generous.

  1. Do you believe life is a function of fate or destiny (note: destiny is the direct antithesis of fate.)

Ah, the old Shakespearean conundrum:  “Is the fault in the stars or in ourselves?” As asked by Brutus, that most wretched philosopher /friend in the play “Julius Caesar”  or take Edward in Henry IV: “What fates impose, that men must needs abide; it boots not to resist both wind and tide.”  Or The Player King in “Hamlet” “Our wills and fates do so contrary run, That our devices still are overthrown; Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” 

Alas, these are all quotes from plays in which people die and die and die some more. So what does Shakespeare or any one for that matter, do with the great Worldview Questions, especially the one about death and dying, when they answer it with, “well, that’s fate”.  I posit that the great poets and artists and philosophers of our times, know quite well, that “fate” or “destiny” is never actually an answer – it will always remain a question. It is one of the ultimately unanswerable questions because only God can look at us, our world, and the element of Time from outside those elements and determine the true meaning of anything. We are not even 20/20 in hindsight, as there is always our very personal interpretation of what we see in the rear view mirrors of our lives, compared to what any one else might see or assess.

I’m also not entirely sure I agree with Tebatjo that destiny is the “direct antithesis” of fate.  See my answer to question #1 on life, but if we have any kind of Judeo-Christian philosophy, then we believe that all human beings are created for the same destiny: to love and glorify The Lord God, Creator of All; to live a life of justice-seeking peace, kindness, truth, and fulfillment; and to work at loving others as we love ourselves.  This is everyone’s “destiny” but not of course the end result of every human being’s choices.  In fact, woe is me, it is the end result of very, very few of us.

Of course, Shakespeare is also wrestling with this conundrum of fate and choice; God and humans as little gods; and none of his characters have it completely right, only pieces of it, which is why Shakespeare keeps on asking his characters and his audiences this question.  Shakespeare’s questions on fate and human beings versus Providence or A God are much like you can find in the Biblical book of Job – a play with characters worthy of Shakespeare for sure.  As you can see, I find it necessary to turn to those great Questioners of the ages in terms of questions like this one.  If you check out Job, you will find that God Himself questions Job.  The gift of art is the gift of living in the questions. And this for me includes the question of  “fate or fault”, “fate or destiny”.

 In terms of fate, I refer readers to find some munching on material in, perhaps, the views of two  great poets –John Donne and Emily Dickinson. 

Superiority to Fate (1081)
Emily Dickinson

Superiority to Fate
Is difficult to gain
‘Tis not conferred of Any
But possible to earn

A pittance at a time
Until to Her surprise
The Soul with strict economy
Subsist till Paradise.

 

Death Be Not Proud

The Holy Sonnets by John Donne

 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

  1. If you were to write a five-line poetry for that one person in your life, how would it look like?

 

I do write a lot of poetry for the people in my life, my husband and children.  Yesterday my husband and I had one of “those” fights.  So here is my poem for Raoul, my one person, for today.

For Raoul

Five Lines, by Jane Tawel

You and I, muddling through.

There are days you hate me and I abhor you.

But we keep living the gift of a long-term love,

which all but God fall badly short of.

We both mess up badly, but our love remains true — you know, I love you.

 

 

Jane’s Questions for the Nominees:

  1. If you could get out one all important message to the world, what would it be?
  2. You can build your house on either a mountainside, in a forest, or by a body of water. Which would you choose and why?
  3. What one book of fiction would you recommend everyone read at least once if not many times in his / her lifetime? Why?
  4. You must choose between lots of money and fame right now or being recognized after your death as a profound and meaningful artist. Which do you choose and why?
  5. Pick at least three different artistic mediums and name someone who has effected your life through their creations.
  6. Why do you keep doing what you do?

 

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.

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Traveling Dreams: Mother’s Day 2018

The following is a re-post from my blog.  I first wrote it in 2015.  I would  add that in the three years since I wrote this, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon have continued to follow their dreams and follow The Way and I could not be happier or more proud to be their mom. I continue to study The Map for Life-guidance, and for better or worse, I still attempt to “tell stories slant”.

 

Traveling Dreams

May 10, 2015

By Jane Tawel

For my children on Mother’s Day: Keep in The Dream Way

 

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I had one of my traveling dreams last night. I have always had traveling dreams and they are always stressful, slightly scary, and silly, and pretty easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dreams I am always trying to get somewhere. It is always dark, even if it is happening in the daytime. I am always driving or being driven somewhere in a car of dubious merit. Since becoming a parent, I often have my children with me. I am almost always lost and can’t find my way. Told you this would be easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dream last night, my cousin Emily was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We had another woman with us in the back seat who was a friend or second cousin twice removed sort of person. She was a Ginger. We were trying to get somewhere so Emily could catch a plane. We were travelling all those little back roads and highways that used to be so common in the Midwest but every once in a while we would hit a terrifying freeway and have to get off. I took over driving and got lost and pulled into someone’s driveway to turn around. We ended up in a small town and the police started following us, then another police car came along side and pulled us over. They made us get out of the car. They thought that we were kidnapping the ginger-haired girl in the back seat. The female and male cops pulled the unnamed Ginger second cousin twice removed aside and then asked Emily to tell them the first name of the girls’ father’s father. Neither of us knew it though we racked our brains trying. Even though we didn’t know the name that would prove we knew the Ginger and were not kidnapping her, for some reason unexplained to us, the cops realized we were not kidnappers and let us go. We went to a cafeteria line where suddenly my cousin Amy and my sister Janet appeared and the second cousin twice removed disappeared. I put a plastic container of salad with edemame beans on my tray. Emily asked for the two taco plate. I decided I wanted tacos as well but did I still want the edemame salad? Emily insisted she was treating all of us. The dream ended before I knew what I decided to eat.

 

Sometimes all you can say about a dream, is “Life is like that.”

 

Life is full of choices. In life, you are always trying to get somewhere. Life is confusing and you often feel lost. You have companions on the way, some known and loved and some that are just along for the ride. Bad things do happen to good people and good people do often do bad things and sometimes the cops catch the wrong people and sometimes the bad people get their just desserts and sometimes the cops don’t show up at all. Sometimes the cops in real life actually shoot you dead for no reason. And some times the cops get shot dead for no reason. Just like in their nightmares. And Life is like a dream because we so often are just asking, “why did that happen?” and we are in it having to keep driving forward without ever knowing how it ends. Ever try to get back into a dream after you wake up and find out how it ends. Life is like that.

 

Sometimes, in real life just like in dreams, we seem to have no idea how we got to the place we find ourselves in. It is often because we weren’t paying attention to the choices we made when we started that particular journey. Just like in dreams, suddenly you are there. Sometimes we end up somewhere in life because we are dreaming when we should have been paying attention to what we were actually doing at the time. “Did I leave my keys in the car when I locked it?” — sort of attention deficit things.

 

The end of a day or a month or year is sometimes like waking from a bad dream because we got lost on the way. Sometimes we push the gas instead of the brakes or the brakes instead of the gas. Life is stressful because we just keep driving even if we don’t know how to get to where we think we want to arrive. We often refuse to stop and ask directions.

 

And Real Life is always slightly scary, at least once you take the wheel of your own life. Life was much less frightening when your mom was driving you home and whenat the end of a day you found yourself snuggled up against your parent in a warm bed after a large meal and a cup of cocoa.

 

Also, to be honest, our lives are frankly always a wee bit silly. Most of our life’s journeys should be relegated to the “I went to Target and the post office today” sort of journeys, not the crossing the Rubicon or the “It is a far, far better thing I do” sort of journey. But then since none of will know until the next life, the true meaning of each day’s journey, we should never image that our silly selves are not somehow also living out an epic journey full of unseen battles and quite a few seen ones.

 

If you read some of the great books that show in equal parts, humans as God-imagers and frail-ly ridiculous beings, you get a better idea of how spectacular and silly we all are. We are heroes unawares. Explore characters like those in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Anne Tyler’s or Jody Picoult’s women heroes and you will hopefully see humanity in a light that our dreams often try to reveal to us.   I am not talking here about the brokenness / heroic element in a Sydney Carton or a Billy Pilgrim. I am talking about tilting at windmills and a thumb to hold back a flood. I am talking about flying dreams and being famous dreams. I am talking about silly disciples walking with The Christ and arguing about who gets what chair near the future King’s throne. And Jesus responding by both laughing at their silly hubris while recognizing the heroic efforts to follow God that lay around the unseen bend for these human beings. Jesus must have some good chuckles at our silliness as we slap-stick through Life. And yet, just like the disciples who confused gaining a throne without carrying a cross, God has an inexplicably dream-like desire to help us humans drive towards the brink of heroism. Sometimes, we even leap over the chasm of “quiet lives of desperation” into something gloriously God-like.

 

I am talking about Life not as a linear attempt at accomplishment but as a traveling dream. I am talking about dreams in real life if not necessarily what we consider real time and place.

 

Dreams always have their own sense of time and place but aren’t usually what we consider factual time and place. Quite often they do not end up how and where we imagine they will or should. In this way our dreams illuminate something of God’s view of time and reality. A dream begs the question, what is Reality? Am I seeing this as it is? Is the meaning of what is really going on inside me more revealed when I am awake or when I am helplessly, innocently asleep?

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I like to mess with my husband about my Native American heritage. If you know anything about the Native Americans you know that dreams are an important part of their belief system, much like they used to be for Judeo-Christian folk in the Bible. The Native Americans believe that it is your soul that dreams dreams, not your mind or your body. In this philosophy, life is one big Dream and in that the impermanence of this life is recognized. Steven Bancarz writes of Native American philosophy, “It is by experiencing the realness of the dream world that we appreciate the dream-ness of the real world”.[1] The Bible talks about the reality of dreaming versus the reality of what we imagine is only in our waking this way: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)

 

 

Eugene Petersen in his book Tell It Slant, talks about Christ’s use of apocalyptic language. Petersen notes that Jesus uses stories to reveal to us Kingdom reality which is not a future apocalyptic dream or a past historical accomplishment, but a present reality behind an almost dreamlike curtain of the world we try to see with fallen eyes. The kingdom world can often only be approached not with eyes wide open but through eyes closed, as in sleep, to the oncoming traffic of the world and open to the dream world that exists just beyond our consciousness. Just beyond our small egos.

 

Much like the telling of dreams, Jesus’ stories are not easily understood nor analyzed. Parables have a dreamlike quality because they reveal the world behind the curtain. When Jesus is telling the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 17:20-37, Petersen writes,“he does it by introducing a radical reorientation on the nature of time and place, kingdom time and place.” Peterson goes on to say, “Jesus is training our imaginations so that we will be able to participate appropriately in the great salvation drama that is taking place right now – not world events of the future but the presence of the kingdom right now. Apocalyptic is a language strategy for breaking open awareness of the tremendous energies of good and evil contending with one another beneath the apparently benign skin of the ordinary.” [2]

 

Apocalyptic language gets our attention, like a dream might abruptly wake us from sleep. Apocalyptic awareness says, “Repent”, which is another way of saying “Turn around, you are driving the wrong way.” Apocalyptic awareness, like a dream, reveals what is under the surface of our world and often wakes us up to a different reality.

 

It is like the first time you reach out your arms to hold your newborn child. Though it seems like a dream after all the planning and striving and fears and work and hopes, your deepest being knows immediately that reality will never be the same again. You will no longer see reality as you did before you became a parent. The world has changed forever. You have turned a corner and the road will lead you in a whole new direction. And you are desperate every day thereafter for the rest of your life and his or her life, to find a perfect map that will take you and the most precious being in the world in the right direction. So she will be safe. So he will be fulfilled in a career. So she will find the right soul mate. So he will be brave in the face of disaster. You scour maps so you can help this new little entrusted life drive the straight path and find The Way.

 

There are many options today for getting directions. I am old enough to remember the giant tome called The Thomas Guide that was your traveling bible when you moved to Los Angeles. Today I prefer Mapquest, but my children swear by Googlemaps. All religions promise to provide a life map. The Judeo-Christian Life-map is revealed in the Scriptures, the lives of those who have tried to follow the Life-map, and in the Life of the Son of God who came to live the Life-map to the fullest. Early Christians first called our Life-map simply, “The Way”. Now we often get a bit lost in what we think is Christian Reality and we start calling The Way things like theology, Arianism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, hermeneutics, and Vacation Bible School. These often help but they often simply encourage us to define other humans as going the wrong way. Sometimes all the technologies and labels and secure findings trap us in a sort of Christian couch potato life, watching Rick Stevens live the journey while we only talk about it. Not travel it.

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I fear sometimes with all my knowledge about The Way, that I have lost the joy in the journey on The Way. I think I know where I’m going but it’s just in my head. It’s a dream, not a reality of living in The Way.

 

Remember when you were a kid and you just hopped in the back of the car and let your parent drive you someplace. Even if the place had a name you recognized like Grandma’s house, or The Mall, how you actually got there was always a mystery. You couldn’t see much as your little child self, looking out the back seat window. But you weren’t afraid, because Dad was driving. Mom was reading the map and telling Dad, “no you missed the street, turn around.” Your sister was pulling your hair and you desperately had to pee but didn’t want to tell the parents because then they’d pull over and make you crouch behind a bush. So you looked out the window, tried to avoid your mean sister, and trusted you could hold it long enough so that Your Parent could get you to Grandma’s bathroom.

 

The Way is best traveled if you sit in the back seat, hold on, enjoy what you can see out the window, avoid the mean sisters, and let Your Parent drive.

 

 

The Way. Sometimes when I read about The Way or hear about people who have lived The Way, I think I must be dreaming. Who could live like this and get any where? I mean it can’t be real. You must be dreaming to think you can live out The Way on this earth, at this time, in this place, with these people, with that going on, with all the this and that and those. You are living in a dream world, girl friend to think you can do what Jesus did, follow God’s instructions, trust the Holy Spirit. Get a reality check, dude. Smell the coffee, honey. Wake up! Jane, ole thing, you gotta get in the driver’s seat, sit up front, take control of the wheel, and never stop to ask for directions or turn around and start again. Don’t admit defeat, don’t admit you are lost. Just drive, girl, drive!

That great book of stories that teach, The Bible, teaches us much about paths and ways. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and He will direct your path.” Prov. 3:5,6 I am The Way, the Truth and the Life.” – Jesus –John 14:6  The Bible also teaches us about a magical kingdom that exists just beyond the touch of our own realities.

 

This is what the kingdom on earth as in the heavens, looks like. Kingdom Life is a dreamlike reality, open to our imaginations, beating on our hearts like an unseen guest at the door, alive in the souls who do not crush the dream for a blind, tasteless portion of “reality”. The journey towards the Kingdom is full of adventure, full of choices, full of bad guys and good guys, and filled with moments of heroism and moments of hubris. Just like the journey of childbirth or adoption, Life is full of pain and angst and fear and bad choices and good luck and you would do it all over again because at the end you get a prize.

 

At the end of childbirth, you get to see that little face and you know that every step of that hard dreamlike journey was worth it. You dreamt about this moment of having a child for so long and at last you know the real meaning of what it means to be a parent.

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At the end of Life’s Journey, Jesus promises a prize. We will see the face of our Savior. And the real meaning of the dream of this chimeric world, will be gloriously revealed to be something similarly dreamlike and really quite different after all. And that is why following the Life- map of The Way is worth every thing. For what does it profit me if I gain the whole enchilada, but lose my soul’s way? What profit is there in gaining what I dream I want if I lose the reality of what God wants for me?

 

Have you heard that theory that we never actually die in our dreams? That we always wake up before we hit the ground, or get run over by the bus or crash the car? That is the promise of Christ’s dream if we follow The Way. We will never die but simply wake from what we thought was reality, to find it was always only a dream.

 

Once upon a time a young woman named Caitlin, saw her boyfriend named Raoul, take off for California to work for JPL. She stayed behind in Boston, a city she loved and where she had acting gigs and friends and a free place to live. It was also where she began calling herself Caitlin instead of Jane because it would make her famous enough to achieve her dream of getting on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show as a famous actress (Did I mention she dreamed of being famous?).

 

But a funny thing happened after Raoul had been gone for three months. Caitlin began to miss Raoul. She began to dream of him. So Caitlin hopped in her un-airconditioned Mazda GLC Hatchback and with Triple AAA flip-maps on the passenger seat, began to drive all the way across the big ole’ country of the United States of America. No GPS, no cell phone, no laptop, no gmail, no companion. Just Caitlin and her AAA maps. She made it to her mom’s house in Indiana for some loving and free food. She made it to her Uncle Marlin and Aunt Sally’s house in Kansas City. The morning Caitlin left, Uncle Marlin snuck out and filled the tank with gas and the tires with air and the whatcha ma thingy with oil. Aunt Sally snuck a packed lunch with cookies for dessert into the back seat.

 

Our heroine Caitlin got seriously lost in Omaha but eventually turned around and found her way. A flat tire made her swear. Once when she stopped at Wendy’s for lunch, she left her watch that her grandma had given her, in the restroom and someone stole it before she went back and could retrieve it. That watch was gone forever and it still makes her sad.

 

When Caitlin finally hit Phoenix she was a bit bedraggled and shell shocked and did not at first compute that it was blizzarding in what she had assumed was a part of the world that was always hot. Caitlin thought she must be dreaming. She managed to pull of the road in time to buy the tire chains but when she got to the part of the road that said “no tire chains, no go”, she was defeated. So she sat in her little tin can of a car, a bit teary for a heroine, who was going many miles for her man. Then an angel of the Lord dressed up like a trucker stepped out of a chariot that looked like an eight-wheel semi, and said “Fear not, I bring tidings of great joy!” And he asked if he could help. Caitlin never saw that trucker again which proves he was an angel.

 

After two nights in a Motel 6, our heroine Caitlin, outlasted the Evil Blizzard and began the terrifying trip flying on the dragon’s back of The 10 and The 210 into Los Angeles County. She arrived, eyes still stuck open with fear after her first near death experience with LA traffic, and she stepped out onto the sidewalk of Brent Avenue, South Pasadena. Caitlin realized as she stood, her legs numb with days of straight driving, that she was getting wet, and thought that it must be raining, not realizing it never rains in California. She was instead, standing in her first ever sprinkler system.

 

Behind the warmly lighted windows of the ground floor apartment, the inhabitants must have sensed the heroine’s presence. Out of the door flew Sophia Fifi Caesar, and Scott Warner, and their newest housemate, Raoul Tawel. And when Caitlin saw her Raoul, the one for whom she had traveled long and suffered much, she thought she must dreaming.

 

But it was real.

 

 

And the journey’s end for Caitlin was accomplished. And she deemed it Good. And there was peace in the land and in her heart and there was much love and joy for many days.

 

The End.

 

But of course it wasn’t the end but only a new beginning. And soon a new traveling journey was begun.

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I pray for you my children, that you will dream the dreams God has for your life. They are more exciting, more joy and peace filling, and more real than any thing you could possible dream on your own. If you follow the Life Map and keep on The Way by letting God plan the journey and Jesus take the wheel, you will arrive at Life’s end and wake up to see the Face that makes you sing out, “Oh, so that is what it all meant!”

And then the journey begins anew.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/where-our-soul-goes-when-we-dream-according-to-native-americans/#sthash.PXCziz1e.dpu

[2] Peterson, Eugene H. Tell It Slant. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. Pp. 129 – 131.