Jury Duty in L.A.- Reflection #1: You and Me

Homeless Person Vaporized on the Subway” by ramsay stirling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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Jury Duty in L.A.

Reflection #1 “You and Me?”

By Jane Tawel

May 17, 2022

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There is no place for me to go.

No place.

No place.

No place.

And I look out at a world not mine,

and no one sees my face.

My face.

My face.

My face.

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What did I look like, years ago,

when I had some of that?

How did I lose it all so fast,

and end up here,

and end up lost,

and end up so miscast?

‘Cuz’ you don’t really see me, do you?

You think I am not like you.

Admit it, it’s true.

You don’t see the slippery slope

that’s been keepin’ you on your side of life’s river,

and I floating downstream on my frail mat,

and alla that, alla that, alla that,

you got, you think that you deserve it?

But one wrong glance, one bad romance, one missed chance,

one person screwing your finance, one look askance,

one little perchance,

one wrong step in The Big Dance,

and there you go, lucky you, not so lucky any more, are you?

No, you are just like me.

You ARE me,

but you don’t see.

There ain’t no you and me –

The Dance is always for Three.

Let them that have eyes, see.

Let them that have ears, hear.

And let them like me that have nothing any more,

Weep and mourn.

There ain’t no joy in the morning,

‘cuz alla you-all are blocking The Light.

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© Jane Tawel, May 2022

Space and Time and the Essence of Spirit and Truth

by Jane Tawel

Space and Time and the Essence of Spirit and Truth

By Jane Tawel

February 26, 2022

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At no other time in our lives, have our ideas about space and time been so challenged, so shifted, or so illuminated. Two years past the beginning of this time that will, as long as we humans are allowed to keep creating history on this planet, be called “The 2020 Corona Virus Pandemic”, on what we hope will be the tail end, we are all taking stock of our actions, the actions of the world’s leaders, and the past versus present versus future worldviews we held/hold/ will possibly keep on holding.

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Many of us who hold what we might call a spiritual worldview, have long meditated on and mostly wrestled with our ideas about the big two: Time and Space. Even if a person does not have a spiritual or religious point of view about life, there is simply no way to go through one’s life without some philosophy or other about time and space. From pithy proverbs to gigantic tomes to every religious work from the Bible to the Quran to the various Buddhist Canons, if one is mature enough, wise enough, open enough, and hungry enough, one will find that apart from the human questions of  “what is the meaning of life” and “how do I find and feel love”, the two great motivating quests and relational aspects to every person’s life is  the relationship he has to Time and Space. On a simple level, space for most of us peons, means “where do I call my Home”. Our idea of time, for the common folk, is “what am I going to do today that is really what am I doing with my life?”

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Over the past two years I have had a lot more time to read and so I can end this essay here and refer you to three teachers and writers who have opened my mind and stretched my world view in so many ways, but significantly in terms of the ideas of Time and Space. The first great teacher I happened upon, thank God, is the profound Jewish rabbi and theologian, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and specifically his books Man is Not Alone and The Sabbath. Secondly, the many works of the brilliant and open-minded Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, whose views on both Buddhism and Christianity, can be not only worldview changing, but World-changing, if we let them. Finally, if you have not yet found a way to Richard Rohr’s many profound writings on Christianity as a “new and improved” religious lifestyle, please do.  However! But! Wait for it!  All of these teachers have brought me back around to the astounding, life-changing, True Truth Spiritual Worldview – words fail! – the words and ideas about Time and Space of Jeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, who some call The Christ. When read with not just an open-mind, but a childlike wonder, what Jesus believed, taught, and lived, is mind-morphing, world-shaking, mythically eternal, true Truth no matter what religion you call it, unsettling, and incredible. The problem as G.K Chesterton, among others, so sadly put it, is that the “ideals of Christ have not been tried and found wanting, but found to be difficult and so have not been tried”.

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So, in my small, still immature, seeking way, may I tell you a few of the practical ideas I am having about my desire to keep an ever growing, changing, worldview about living in The Way, seeking The Tao, and being a disciple?  I am going to stick to the practical ideas because first of all, the above teachers I mention, among others, have much better illuminated what I would call the spiritual or philosophical or Big Ideas than I ever could, especially in terms of those illusive and ethereal ideas of Time and Space. Secondly, I will stick to a few practical ideas because, I don’t know about you, but the past two years have made me reevaluate, what Francis Schaeffer so pithily coined as “How Shall We Then Live”.   A pandemic has made many of the world’s citizens look not only at their individual lives, but our collective lives on this planet as well, and the bottom line has been, for many of us, a hard look at how we have been rather blithely living on this planet with our fellow humans, and how we sure better start living in a practical, immediate, real way, if we want our species and this lovely globe to continue. And frankly, some of us feel this desire to somehow “continue” ourselves.  So, let me start with a couple of ideas that are based on my particular upbringing in the religion we call Christianity, but that I think can be applied to whatever your own religion was or is or to no “religion” at all.

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A Mediation on 2022 Steps Along The Way

By a Seeker

The Bible is a book about four relationships, with examples in biographies, poetry, essays, and history of humans trying to find the best way to live in those relationships. This collection of writings should be read with a desire to grow in one’s own relationships to: God, Self/others, Time, and Space. The man named Jesus was a believer in the Bible, the Jewish collection of writings of the Hebrew people and of a God that had many names and no name. Jesus taught what can be called The Way or The Truth, to people who believed in Torah/ The Bible and people who didn’t; to people who believed in God and people who believed in gods; to people who were Jewish and people who were enemies of the Jews; to people who followed him and to people who ended up killing him. But Jesus reminds me that the truth can be hard to hear, perhaps today, it is most especially hard to truly hear by the very people who have called the members of their religion “little-Christs”.  Jesus wept. What I have been finally able to listen to in the past couple of years, is that any religion or spiritual or philosophical pursuit, but perhaps especially the religion of Judeo-Christianity, is ultimately worthless if it is only about doctrines or ideas. The only true worth of a worldview, is in its practice. The ideas and teachings of Jesus were ultimately meant to be a practical way to live for every one. And any thing we read, whether it is found in the Bible, the Quran, a novel, a scientific text, a quote, or a bumper sticker, must be held up to the Light – and the Light is whether this is a true – a real—a practical way for all beings in all spaces and in all times—to live.

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This is where the words of Christ let us know that our relationship to God is not really something that can be taught, but which must be experienced as personal, mysterious, and the kind of relationship a small child has to her Parent, full of love, but very limited in terms of the limited mind’s ability for understanding who the Parent really is. “Our Daddy Who is “out there and everywhere”, doing stuff that I, a little human being/child don’t understand, I revere You, God-Daddy, and love you so much I worship you!” (a paraphrase of the beginning of Christ’s Lord’s Prayer)

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 Jesus also tried to teach us that Self/ and Other Humans are interbeings, we are One, and boy is this where the ego/ mind revolts. But to accept that who I am today is not who I was yesterday but is also who I was yesterday and is also part of who my parents, and grandparents and ancestors were, is to understand that our comprehension of self, is well, let’s just say – it’s complicated. Jesus had a hard time expressing this reality of “interbeing” but he tried to by teaching us that “I and the Parent of All are one” and that as Jesus and the Psalmist taught, “you are all gods” (Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34-36). When we look at ourselves and at others, we should see the image of God, and since God is One, so are we. Okay, that is Big Idea. Jesus dumbed it down for me so I could figure out how not to comprehend this great mystery but to live it in a practical way. The two big practical ways were: Live every moment and every relationship with complete empathetic caring love and complete forgiveness. Period. Fini.

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So, to forgive another is to forgive myself, to love my True Self, not my ego, but my soul, and that is how it is to love others, and therefore love myself, and even to empathize with and “become” my enemy in order to love him. Words fail when trying to grasp Ultimate Truth and Reality. But — Relationship to God, The Ultimate Alpha and Omega = Love and Awe and Trust. Relationship to Other Beings = forgive, let go, love self leads to love them = care as if your life depends on how you treat the least of life. Because it does. This loving and forgiving idea of Christ’s is not a suggestion, it is a revelation about what is actual Ultimate Reality. We just too often prefer our false reality which is limited by ego, greed, and our false views of time and space. 

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Jesus also does a great job of messing with our ideas about Space. Personally, the past two years of not being allowed to attend a building full of possibly virus-laden people on Sunday mornings, or Saturday Sabbaths, has been one of the greatest things to happen to my understanding of worship and space. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for a lifetime of pastors and churches where I have learned and grown in understanding and I have only a few (and I do have them, mea culpa) regrets about raising my four adult-now children by taking them to church every week. But I now see that what we call The Church has been reduced horrifically to a building of (sorry) a capitalistic business enterprise where a handful of people get paid to speak and the rest of us sit and listen and give money to keep the machine running and then we call it worship of a God Who says quite strongly over and over again through the Prophets, “I detest your ‘sacrifices’. Your assemblies and feasts are a stench to My nostrils”.  I require you to treat others with mercy and a daily, humble acknowledgment of a need for Me to create in my people a Holy Character, which is peace, love, mercy, and grace. I, God want you to accept that all that is given is nothing you have earned, but is My Gift.”   Jeshua ben Joseph says that simply all we have, symbolized in Hebrew by the word “bread” or “manna”, is a gift of God, and we can’t hold on to what we were given in the past or the future, or take it with us to any space but the space of our own beating heart, breathing space of our bodies. “Give us today our daily needs”.

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Jesus makes very clear over and over, that what we consider Space, even the Space of this earth is not an ultimate reality, all will “pass away” and as scientists have tried to tell us, matter, or “space” never dies, it merely changes its “reality” or form. This is true of the matter we call, our own body, or space, or matter. But whatever form our matter takes, Jesus says that we exist in relationship to God. Christ teaches, in his very succinct and clear way: “If you mature, if you allow the change to happen, which will happen whether you accept it or not, then there will come a day, when you do not worship God on this mountain or that one, or in this temple or that building, or in your current form or another form, but in Spirit and in Truth.”

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As Paul said, when we are little children, we think as little children and we need the kind of teaching that little children need. But if we truly seek to be what some of us believe A God has called us to be as human beings, then someday we stop “drinking milk” and we take up the strong brew of maturity.  This is not for the faint of heart. And here is where a gathering, whether it is in what you believe to be a “sanctified” space on Sundays or not, is important. A gathering should ultimately lead you from a need to listen, to a need to partake; from a desire to learn to a desire to experience worship; from a self-need to a communal-need. If you are able to gather with a small community of those who seek Truth and Spirit, as you do, those who challenge you, walk alongside you in life, question you and themselves, and support you and need you to support them– then you are right to gather and “worship” or learn or just fellowship with those people. I have my community, my “church”, my “sangha”, spread out across the world. My “people” include some of my relatives and best friends, and teachers and even some people I have never met in person. They include people who would probably say they believe the same basic religious tenets that I do, and those who would definitely not. And might I go back to a desire to assemble on a weekend day to worship? Yes, I actually hope so, but it won’t be for the same reasons and it won’t be until I can find a space where people gather not because they think they have to in order to find God or go to heaven, but because they share a life of mutual need and mutual support and a desire to raise our voices to A Being, a Mommy-Daddy-Parent, Who we do not understand the Mystery of, but Whom we know somewhere deep within our very souls, loves us, Her children, and desires us to love each other and this beautiful Garden that our Progenitor has graced us with and Who longs to, as Jesus did, “gather us little seekers to Him as a Mother Hen gathers her fledgling chicks.”

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As I write this, The Kingdom of Russia has invaded The Kingdom of Ukraine. I happen to live in The Kingdom of America (which no longer should hold the title to “United” States, in my opinion); and my Kingdom has invaded lots of other Kingdoms in its short history. A lot of Jesus’ contemporaries tried to make him an invader of other Kingdoms. The Israelites changed a lot about their God over the course of their history, and one of those things was that God was created in the image of man, rather than the other way around, with a human-projected desire for the people who loved him to force other people to love Him too by taking over their “space”.  This idea that space should belong to the most powerful among us, is one of the greatest misunderstandings of God’s intention for our “Garden”, this beautiful Earth. We change God’s original idea of caring as wise caretakers for all of Creation, into the idea that we can “rule” the earth. If you have ever planted seeds or tended a garden, you may realize that we humans can not ever “rule” what God has created as nature, “natural”. For anything to grow, it must be accepted not as the work of our human hands but as something dependent on the grace of sun and rain and good soil and all the grace that is needed for life.   So, when his closest friends asked Jesus to conquer the Space of his time, he kept trying to point them to the truth about Space: “God’s Kingdom is not “out there” or “here”. God’s Space is among YOU, within YOU, within Me, it is everywhere, and no-where, it is “on earth, as it is in the sky, the heavens, the cosmos. The space known as God’s Kingdom is a cosmos out there and also within your very little human self. I could no more conquer it than I could hold it in my hand. “My kingdom is not of this world, but of a completely different idea about Space.”  Oh, dear children, what does it profit you if you gain all of the kingdoms, all space, all time, all stuff, all money, all fame, all admiration, all knowledge, and you die, ceasing to have any of that, ceasing to exist outside the Ultimate Reality, and have lost the only thing you have ever really wanted and have ever really been – a cosmic soul?

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The radical views of Christ’s about Space have begun to change my idea about who or what I am. Because the older you get, the more you are aware of the space you actually live in – your body/mind, or what Jesus called “your temple”. Talk about a place to worship in – the body/mind changes every day and when you are young, it is easy to overlook the changes. When you are older, not so much! And as I am older, I am not only more aware of the space of my body, but more aware of the great question of what will happen to “me” when the space I call my “body” is dead.  And what does “death” mean to me?  The recorded life and words of Jesus at least implies that one’s “self” can be eternal. Can be.  There is a way, that early disciples of Jesus, called The Way, and it is an eternal life that begins now, which takes us from the rather secondary reality we have been meditating on and which we call “Space”, to what Heschel reminds us is the Ultimate Reality of relationship and humanity, which is what we call “Time”. After all, as it is said, Time is the only thing we can never earn more of and which we continually undervalue, to our eternal regret.

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And so, saving the “best” for last, we come to that thing that defines us as a species, our comprehension of the passing of Time, but which is also that very thing we cannot comprehend even as we chase after its meaning until the very last breath – the idea of Time.  And really what the teachers and writers I referred you to at the top of this essay have tried to, well, “drill into my thick skull” can be summed up in one word; and that word is:

NOW.

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That’s it. That is all that needs to be said about Time but also, truth be told, all that can be said about Time. It is one of the words, The Christ, uses over and over and over again, and which we relegate to an intro, rather than the very main idea Jesus wanted us to grasp – “The Time is NOW”.

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We humans waste so much life thinking we can change our past time, or create future time, and we live in the past and future in our heads, our relationships, our decisions, our dreams and regrets – and it is all a false reality – all The Big Lie, because somewhere deep inside when we face True Reality, we realize, whether we want to or not, that all that ever exists is This Moment, This Present, This Now.

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How shall we then live? As if this moment was exactly all I would ever live. This moment is Eternity, and how I live this moment, is what I will eternally be. “To have eternal Time, you must be born again.” In other words – Wow! Bam! Whooo hoooo! I was just born to this moment!  Yikes! I just became alive! Look and true-ly see. Smell and true-ly breathe in and out, in and out, in and out. Listen and true-ly hear.  As the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that The Lord is good, take shelter in The Ultimate Love of Presence”.

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Jesus to me NOW: “I go to a different dimension, and you can’t go there, yet because you are still in this body, this space, and in this time, not yet dead. But in the Ultimate Reality to which I, Jeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, who has become Christ, am going, you too can come, if you want. It will take a new attitude on your part, my dear little friend. It will be as if you have become a little child again, full of wonder and delight in wherever you are in this very moment. It will be painful, like being forced out of a womb, and you will suffer and cry and find your own cross of suffering and dying to your ego to bear. But you will be reborn to something and into someone that you can only envision yourself to be, as if through a fog, but it will happen in eternity and it will also happen right now. But you will be awakened, and in each moment, you will become more and more alive than you can now imagine. I have shown you The Way. Follow my lead. You have been created by and for Love and all the Love that you are, that you give, that you accept and that you create, will never, ever pass away, but will exist outside Space and Time, within what you call yourself and within who you call others, and within Us. Your Love will become Our Love, and All will Be, within Our Relationship, forever and ever. Amen.”

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© Jane Tawel, 2022

My Worry-Bed, My Garden-Bed, My Bed of Nails, My Ocean

by Jane Tawel

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My Worry-Bed, My Garden-Bed, My Bed of Nails, My Ocean

By Jane Tawel

February 23, 2022

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Here am I,

in my Worry-Bed,

my Bed of Nails,

my wanderings,

down trails and trails,

of past and future ruts well-worn.

I’ve come to make my nest of thorns.

I lay me down,

my soul to rend,

my fears to tend,

like blood-sucking friends,

I let them in, again and again.

Dreams aborted, bashed and torn,

I fill the spaces in my head,

with raging demons, dead — 

and not yet born.

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Here I am,

in my Garden-bed.

I come to plant and tend and seed.

I lay me down,

my soul to keep,

and furrows clean and straight,

my seeds of fear are shorn,

right at the roots.

From weeds of worry,

stones of grief,

I plough the field of dreams towards truth.

I water drop by precious drop

the flowers of joy and plants of peace.

Without a need to grasp or climb,

but letting go of all but faith

in God’s protecting, mindful vines,

that reach and curl and hold and keep

Gardens of peace and love entwined.

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I rise up from my bed of nails,

exhausted from the fight and flight.

Oh, to wake and die no more,

to know all blindness, is now sight.

Oh, to find my tossing, turning nights,

have reached at last that tranquil shore.

I rise up from The Ocean-Bed

A wave, unique and wholly me.

I, a wave, in God’s great Sea,

and I am I, and I am Thee.

And in Love’s cradle,

even night is Light.

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© Jane Tawel, February 24, 2022

My Island and the Waves

Island 2018
“Island 2018” by jule.lumma is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My Island and the Waves

By Jane Tawel

December 29, 2021

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On my peaceful, happy island,

where my mindfulness is calm,

when for just a moment, I am free

of you, and me, and what has been or what might be,

I embrace all life and living,

in accord with God and all.

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But freedom and peace even on an island, are briefly held,

while waves lap and rise and advance and swell.

But must even waves that threaten be feared,

when light is dark, and dark is light, and peace is meant for loosing?

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What happiness I’m meant to find in watching waves,

and knowing if I see that they are only and always water,

I, too, can walk on waves.

And once my faith is practice,

then I return myself to my island,

and bring my friends along.

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The waves are never too high when one is not alone.

And an island expands to create more time and space

 for all who trust and love.

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©  Jane Tawel, December 29, 2021

Shall I Give You This Moment, Too?

clear hour glass with brown frame
https://unsplash.com/photos/KYxXMTpTzek

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Shall I Give You This Moment, Too?

By Jane Tawel

December 8, 2021

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Shall I give you this moment, too?

I gave you most of yesterday.

My fallow brain,

was trained upon,

the shallow depths and weedy ways.

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Shall I give up the narrow Way,

of seeing teacups and seeing light;

to wallow more in thoughts most fey

and things that haunt both day and night?

Yes, haunt!– for these are spirits dim,

and not the moment I’m within.

To let the future or the past

steal yet more moments that won’t last,

is like a little death, each day,

and not True Life in The True Way.

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It matters not if good or bad,

the things I think upon.

It’s not about you, unless you’re here.

And if you are, I’ll hold most dear,

my task to focus, until you’re gone.

But then – goodbye. We’ll both be free

until the next time you see me.

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I seek a different Point of View.

Enough! Enough, I say!

I have anew, this gift, this day;

I’ll not waste it on you.

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© Jane Tawel, December 2021

I Choose the Chocolate-Covered Broccoli

By Jane Tawel

November 4, 2021

bunch of red cherries in brown bowl
https://unsplash.com/photos/3ANwn-zUfNQ

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I had a super fun reality check today. After all my years and careers in what might be considered “professional professions”, I got a job posting notification supposedly “matching my profile” that I am qualified for the job opening at a hospital of “Cook / Grill – Evening Shift”. I love it! I have no idea how any of my known rubrics could have led them to think this, but it completely tickled my strange little self. Perhaps they sensed I am my Grandma Gladys Cook’s current incarnation? (She spent years cooking for a nursing care home after years of cooking for her four boys and many grandchildren.) Or maybe the hospital algorithm robot finally grew a heart and knew that my heart was always happiest when preparing food for people I care about and love? Either way — maybe it’s a sign I should apply? Reinventing myself is one of my favorite parlor tricks.

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So, even though I have not only been around the block a few times but have been around long before quite a few of the new blocks were even a gleam in a city-planner’s eye, something can still pop-up out of the blue and tickle me pink. Sometimes the randomness of the universe can get me down, but the randomness of a comment can make my day.

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We go through life not always listening to the signals and signs that appear to guide us to a better vision of what our “True Self” has been, is today, and perhaps with nurturing and a little luck, can be tomorrow. But now and then, like a sudden sound that wakes you from a deep sleep, something tickles, or jars, or lands like a bolt from the sky on your understanding of Self, and Life, and All. Sometimes the “bolting upright” is a result of a comment about oneself from a friend or family member. My daughters have been more often than I like to admit very good at making a comment that, like it or not, shakes my view of who I am. Daughters can be good at that if you let them. Good friends can, too. Or maybe you get a serious invitation to apply for a job that really thrills you with the possibility of who you might become, but you are afraid of leaving who you are comfortable being. Maybe instead it is an offer of some kind that slightly unbalances you with an insight of what you have already become. I have found I can be caught unawares by a side note from a coworker I barely know or even a complete stranger who assumes something about me that makes me take another look at my grocery cart or my bad attitude.

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But for us privileged folks who live above the poverty line and not under the threat of bodily harm or mental abuse, we can develop an attitude of listening for signals from beyond one’s self-centeredness. This is not to imply all of us struggle with selfishness but we do all tend to keep our focus on the self that is only a “partial” self. Listening, really, honestly developing an aptitude for quick and deep listening, enables us to hear, even in the seemingly random or silly or anger-making conversations. Hearing  past the surface, can allow me to hear the signals from beyond, calling me to a fuller, truer, more open and whole Self.  Some of us call this attitude of listening intuition, or consciousness, or mindfulness, and some of us just call it God.

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But then it comes to the hard part. The words we read or the comment we hear, just like the sudden sound in the night, may break through our un-listening barriers we have built against the mundane or may scale the walls of the self-defensive attack-mode we adopt as a protection for our vulnerabilities, or it may lift us from the  stuck-in-a-rut-ness most of have fallen into, but just hearing something doesn’t mean we choose to listen to it. The noise may wake me from my spiritual slumber, but I can choose to go back to sleep.

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Sometimes it may seem that we are only offered negative perspective choices – like a choice between eating over-cooked limpid broccoli or slime-encrusted crunchy lima beans. No thank you, to both! Rarely, but sometimes a choice may be hard because you have to choose between the chocolate soufflé or the slice of cherry pie with whipped cream. But hearing something and truly listening to something are such very different things, that we can confuse the positive nutrients with a negative presentation. I remember reading once that sour cherries are just as good for you as the sweet ones. Doesn’t mean I prefer them, but I can still get the health-impacting goodness from them. When I hear something, truly hear it, I far too seldom take the time to calm my mind, steady my will, and open my heart to really listen to it.  And that is true whether it appears yummy or yucky at first. When my daughter says something that opens my eyes, I can choose to open my heart to that (and her) or not. When I read an email from or have a discussion with someone who is asking for something by adopting an attitude of superiority, I can choose to figuratively step away, take some time for silent meditation, and then see through the persons’ posing to the person’s real need for attention or their desperation to feel in control, and then I can choose to sympathize or even empathize. Because we all misspeak sometimes, even if we think we don’t. We all project onto others our needs and fears and hopes and confuse them and ourselves into thinking that we want to be more powerful or smarter or better, when what we always really only want is to feel loved.

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 If I really listen to what is murmuring beyond someone’s posture of grandiosity or anxiety or anger; listen for the tick-tock of the human heart that we who are all lucky enough to still be alive have beating within us, even in those who have covered it over with lots of ego-armor; if I walk in the shoes of someone before I try to rip the carpet out from under them, or dismiss what they have said, then that kind of listening opens up a cosmos of possibility of who they are, and who I am, and who we both might be becoming. In a world that pays little attention to the best of us, too much attention to the worst of us, and no attention at all to the Whole of Us, as that iconic little salesman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, once said, we are all just trying to make the others understand, “Attention must be paid.”  And on a planet which we have tragically lost control of, to let go of needing to control things, is the first step toward healing ourselves – and possibly the planet as well. 

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 Being made aware of something and choosing to use it for Good are different things. And I have found that I can often choose whether I am going to allow something meant for evil to grow roots in me, or, instead, I will let even the manure of life be used to grow something beautiful. As that amazing Hebrew, Joseph of Egypt told his conniving, lying, cheating, murdering own brothers! – “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for the good of me and many others.” (Genesis 50:20). Think of any hero you greatly admire, and you will probably find that the words and actions that others used against them for evil, were often the very ones the Greats turn into a great good.

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And now, as Monty Python, might approve (and I think Jesus would as well), onto the secret weapon of using something for the good of me and others – the underrated weapon of Humor. I  have found if I put my overly serious self aside, that I can have some fun with something, hopefully not at anyone’s expense but the “anyone” of my False Self, the self that I usually let take things far too seriously. I can, if I listen to the True heartbeat of the world, hear the magic that undergirds Creation, and that is the magical gift of holding things lightly. Learn to listen for the lightness. Listen for the giggles of elves or fairies, the chuckles of God, and the deep rumbling laughter of a universe that knows how small and puny we humans are but delights in us anyway. A comment can make me wiser and a better human but it can also make me simply happier or sillier. Too often I allow things to wriggle, slug-like and anxiously on my life’s plate like a slimy lima bean or I take it in, but I keep rolling it around in my mind like a chokingly bitter hunk of kale on my tongue. It reminds me of seeing people turning-up their noses at food served them, as if it isn’t good enough. But what it feels like to the server is that he is not good enough. Let’s not miss the point of what keeps us truly living. It’s just food, folks, don’t mistake it for meaning. The meaning is in the person who is giving it to you. Psalm 34:8 has a fascinating precursor to the later words of Jesus who asks us to “eat” him. The Psalmist writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed are those who shelter in God.” Think about it: eating God and sheltering in God. That’s an incredible, glorious strange mixed metaphor, even for me. God in us, nourishing our True Self, and God outside of us, sheltering us, serving us, with His Love.

*

How often do we gag down a day’s unique moments without ever tasting them? How often do we “take our medicine” like a grown-up but never wash away the bitter aftertaste of a comment or a memory or a mistake? Why do I not take the antacid of peace and joy when Nature or a friend or God offers it to me? Why do I hang on to the stomach-churning anxiety of something I am trying to digest before I have even finished what is on today’s plate of responsibilities or concerns? Sometimes I just have to say to my mind and heart and fledgling soul, “Jane, ole girl, choose to listen for the Good that is inside everything and the Good that is nurturing the world outside. Get out the chocolate syrup hidden in the pantry of your soul and pour that stuff all over life’s liver and onions!”

*

So, I was offered to apply to be a “Cook/Grill – Evening Shift”.

*

My first job when I was twelve was working at a sort of Christian camp dining hall cafeteria line. I was paid $1.25 per hour – (yeah, we won’t go there right now, ok?) I later was upgraded to work in the snack bar, making $1.75 an hour, where I served ice cream, soft pretzels, and what back then we called “Californians”. A Californian was a drink that had all the different soda pops– Coke, Root beer, Orange, Sprite, Mountain Dew–everything in the soda fountain machine, and they were all mixed together. It was never an exact science in terms of quantities of each and if I had to drink one now, I would probably gag, but back in the day and back in the small town of Indiana where I served sodas and floats and ice cream cones, a Californian was a fun drink, and a “secret” menu item not listed on the overhead menu board with the straight lines of slotted black lettering. I didn’t know then that someday I would live in the Magical Land of California, the number one place in the world for diversity, a land where the greatest mix of peoples, nations, tribes, and beliefs (and probably soda pop types too) are all gathered together in one giant oblong of pieced-together hopes and dreams.

California dreaming
“California dreaming” by Astro_Alex is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

*

Most people wouldn’t know this part, but the job offer I received is especially ironic because my maiden name was Cook. Think about it. I was born a Cook and then became a lot of different things with different names; names like nursing home assistant and personal assistant and assistant to the director and executive assistant (My goodness, I am the “always a bridesmaid, never bride” sort of person – always an assistant?! Oh, the metaphors I could murder in that one.) For a time, I even had a stage name and now my name is Tawel. Sadly, my husband doesn’t find it funny when people pronounce it Towel, but then that is his choice. I find it hilarious.  And so once upon a time this Jane was a Cook, and she was now being offered a look back? a way back? symbolically at least, to being a…. Cook. Or was it a way to circle back around but arrive at a different Cook-Me? It has brought to mind one of my all-time favorite Joni Mitchell songs, one I sang a lot to my kiddos in The Big Bed, and years earlier, sang with my dearest bestest childhood and survivor-in-arms of the yearning pre-teen years, my pal, Lisa. Mitchell calls it “The Circle Game”, and in this Westernized into straight, marching lines world, I long for a world that returns us to the truth of circles.  The well-known refrain, in case you have forgotten goes like this:

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round, in the circle game

*

Oh, it is lovely to still be going round and round on this wonderful carousel of time. It is a privilege to have one more day – one more moment–on this circular conveyor belt of choices. As Mitchel sings, looking at where we have come from can be a fruitful endeavor, as long as we look back ourselves with the Eyes of Love. We don’t have to think all apples have a worm inside (or a snake offering them.) If you get an apple with a worm, eat around it and gently return the worm to the earth. If there really is a Satan behind something someone did to you or does or says today, destroy its power over you by refusing to take it into yourself. There really is evil in the world, just as there is Goodness, but when you sense it, do your best to spit it out. Whenever necessary, use the emetic agent of humor or self-centering self-care or deep breathing, or prayer, or the greatest emetic of all to help vomit out bad things you have swallowed – the cleansing, restorative, health-sharing agent of sharing Love.

*

 Remember that old song – “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”? The first part goes like this:

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
Keep repeating, it’s the berries

*

You never know when you might be offered a job for a “Cook/Grill – Evening Shift”. Of course, on the flip side (get it? Flip it – like a Grill Cook would do? I think I’ve got this job nailed.) – on the flip side, you never know when today might be the day you get offered a job as an angel. And the only thing you can take with you to that job is all the Love you gave away in your last job.

*

Bottom line? Choose to live. Live as if there is a surprise, like the perfect center in a piece of chocolate, a joyful response inside you, just waiting for what you are given in your Inbox, in your desk drawer, in your yard, on the sidewalk, or in the words of the person you have just met or the one you have known all your life. Live as if today could be the last day – or it could be the first. Live large. Live free. Live well. Live in all the love you gather up and then share it.

*

My first job was serving food and I had many waitressing jobs through the years (I grew up in very gender specific times, so… ) and I did a lot of waiting on tables and taking people’s orders and some jobs in which I was preparing food. (At a deli I used the giant meat slicer thingy which still makes me tremble to think about whenever I look at my intact fingers. Especially because I still call it a “thingy”.). And I had no idea through all the years of food service, as I dreamt of what I really thought I wanted to be which was either a famous movie star or a famous writer, or a famous professor at some big-deal college, that all along I really had this “thing” waiting to be born within me. I had that seed we all have, that longs to grow to a ripe maturity. And mine would never make me famous or rich but would give me the love I had craved since before the beginning of time. And it would not just be a job but a calling; a purpose that was waiting and one that would allow me to give the love that I had had ready to share — ready to burst out of my heart-seams. That job waiting for me to be ready for it, was being a parent. But whether your calling is to be a parent or not, your purpose is to find that place in the world where there is Real Love and your True Self.

*

As I mixed the Californians, or took the orders for pastrami on rye, I was being “ripened” for the very most wonderful bestest job I would ever have. And this job would also involve food prep and service,  because the best job I ever, ever had was being a mother, in my very own home, with my children, and my children’s father, and our dogs and rabbits and guinea pigs and lizards and hamsters and serving them all the breakfasts and lunches and dinners and snacks and left-overs and first tastings of books to read, and sights and sounds of new and old places to be in, and imbibings of music to hear, and encompassing, centering, heart-warming snuggles to snuggle, and all the partakings in together of all the love. All the love. All the love.

*

When you dream of all the Love—when you hold in your heart and mind’s eye, your own True Self –who are you? Who and what are standing by, ready and willing to serve you your Meaning?

*

I am an assistant to The Chef, The One Who has made the whole Banquet. I am merely a “Cook/ Grill – Evening Shift”.  And God said, “it is good. It is very good”.

*

I am not a gourmet chef like my husband and some of my friends. I am a cook. Thankfully I am not yet past my sell-by date. Sometimes I still get to do the job I have loved most in the world, and sometimes that job involves my making and serving food for my adult children and my hubby. Sometimes it involves making or serving food to friends, the people who become that family you are allowed to choose, or making baked goods for coworkers or neighbors. And all these folks, family and friends, people I work with or for, give my cooking and my life a greater purpose than merely feeding myself. And because some of these people are the people who are the people I love most of all while riding this whole crazy merry-go-round we call life, I am made better for having opportunities to sometimes be their maker and server of food. Because loving someone with an action to it, is the most wonderful thing in the world. It is, in fact, the only thing that makes everything in the world, better. Even broccoli.

*

Every moment I get to be the new and evolving me with the new and evolving people I love and who sometimes bring the people they love and who make me feel both loved and yes, often unsettled, challenged, smarter and wiser, stupider and more needy, comforted, uncertain, yearning and complete, curious and sated — and oh, oh, oh so hopeful—then no matter what job I have at that moment or task finished or left unfinished, or role in other people’s lives, then I am both full and hungry, serving and served, centered, whole, and loved.  This is God, isn’t it? God is hungry and sated, serving and served, and the Maker and Preparer of all the world and all the life and all the Love.

God is the Meaning behind all portions.

If you are searching for a higher purpose or higher calling or Higher Being, you need look no further than the table in front of you. Taste, eat, for it is good.

Chocolate surprise cupcake
“Chocolate surprise cupcake” by Angelina Cupcake is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

*

When life’s smorgasbord brings bitterness or rottenness, I don’t have to choose it. And sometimes I need to swallow my pride or hurt and say, hey, this can be digested and then used for the good of me. I will also allow myself to enjoy the chocolate crepes and warm apple crisps of being loved by someone. Love bestows on us the nourishment we need. Yes, we really do live in a world of a giant mix of often mixed-up people. But aren’t we all looking down the length of our own life’s table hoping that the Good stuff will be passed around and shared? Isn’t every one of us hoping that someone else will want to share in what we made and declare it, “good”? We can look at our full plates and find better ways of serving others. We can find pleasure in what is on offer in the Now. And we can taste and eat all God has prepared and provided, take it in for our growth, nourishment, and enjoyment.

*

Whatever the Banquet of Life offers me today, whether I am serving it up myself, or being offered some insight or slaving over the grilling, hard work of a relationship or just getting a taste of my own medicine from someone else, whenever possible, I will “taste, eat and see” that the Spirit Who not only made and provides the Banquet, but Is the Banquet is Good. And God said, “it is all Very Good. Eat it. Eat Me.”

cooked food on table
https://unsplash.com/photos/1R7iHPt63Lc

*

Today I shall attempt to cover my broccoli with sprinkles of Goodness and the sweet honey of Love. I may far too often, need the reality checks of things that are hard to swallow, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sweeten them up with some healing self-reflection, some joy in the journey, some giggles and smiles, and sometimes, let’s be honest, just some literal chocolate. I may not always get to choose my life’s ingredients, but I can choose how to use them and how to dish them up. As Psalm 81:16 assures us, that just as I love to give my loved ones, good things to eat, The Universe, The One Who Is, God, if you will, also longs to give us good things: “But God would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock, She would satisfy you.”

I haven’t the faintest inkling as to why I got a request to apply for a job of Cook/Grill- Evening Shift. “Life’s too mysterious”, as the song goes. But I’m so glad I did. Finding meaning in every ingredient of my life’s own strange casserole is what makes it fun. . Well, that, and the occasional chocolate cupcake.

*

© Jane Tawel, November 4, 2021

*

“Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”

By Brown Lew and Henderson Ray

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
Keep repeating, it’s the berries
The strongest oak must fall
The best things in life to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all
Keep repeating, it’s the berries
You know the strongest oak has got to fall
The sweet things in life to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live it, love it, wriggle your ears
And think nothing of it, you can’t do without it
There’s no two ways about it
You live and you laugh at it all

Live your life today – it’s the best offer you are ever  going to get. – Shalom, Jane

©November 2021, Jane (Cook) Tawel

The Bucket List I Never Made, Come True

Shackelford Island Ponies

The Bucket List I Never Made, Come True

By Jane Tawel

September 13, 2021

I have never made nor contemplated making a bucket list. I have absolutely nothing against making one, and I love to hear about other folks’ items on their bucket lists. I find them incredibly revelatory and hopeful. And of course, like everyone, I play the game of “someday, I would like to….”  or “before I die, I want to….”.  When a person’s dreams die, they aren’t just old, they are dead, no matter if a physical body indicates otherwise. As The Bard says, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” – all too soon that sleep comes, so have at it with those Bucket Lists while ye may!

So, when I kick it, you won’t find a hidden Bucket List among my many pieces of revelatory, self-incriminating written logs. Then yesterday, something happened; and though I never went in search of greatness from a list of To Do’s Before Doom’s Day, a Bucket List item was thrust upon me. Shakespeare once more, said it first: “Some are born with Bucket Lists, some achieve their Bucket Lists, and some have Bucket Lists thrust upon them.”

I am visiting the beautiful (there is just no other word for the topography here) State of North Carolina where one of my darling daughters works and lives with my grand-furbies, Artemis and Apollo.  Apollo is up and awake with me right now, being the young whippersnapper that he is, and he is bouncing all over the house waiting for his mistress to get up and feed him. I am forbidden to feed him, and if he bites my finger in hunger or starts chewing on the cord of my laptop, I am supposed to somehow catch him and shove him in his little time-out cage until said darling daughter arises to give him his breakfast. It’s hard being a Grand-meow who can’t spoil her dear grand-furby, but, the wrath of an adult child is nothing to mess around with I have found, being four adult-children down at the count. I love them more than my own life, but I miss them when they were little tykes and all I had to do was hold them tight when they were upset or kiss them when they were sad or laugh along with them at some silly thing that never made sense in hindsight but was just a way to joy in the moment. Now I am a helpless old thing against the tides and times that they have inherited from me personally and from my generation in general and from all the good and bad we try to control in the world and in ourselves with various degrees of success and failure. May the sins of my children’s mother not be carried on to the third and fourth generation*, but may I be forgiven the consequences of my mea culpas in their lovely, much-loved lives and futures.

My children all have Bucket Lists. They don’t share a lot of the items with me and that is as it should be. Bucket Lists should not be made into common currency or YouTubes, Tik-Toks or even movies with famous actors filling in for real people. Bucket lists should have a few sharable items: I would like to visit New Zealand. I would like to finish a Marathon. Stuff like that. But mostly Bucket Lists should be those hidden, cherished, held-close desires of the heart that let us dream of what might be in a perfect world, personal and public. They should be full of items that let us imagine being something other than what we are today, with a hope and prayer of doing at least some of those things.  Most importantly, Bucket List dreams should be about being all that we imagine the Human Being is capable of doing and being, whatever that might mean to me, or you, or my child, or your friend. And the lovely thing about a Bucket List is mine doesn’t have to be at all like yours to be valid and important.  Bucket Lists just might be the most uncompromised by cultural, national, or religious symbol of the most personal / communal Dream-Worlds of Endless Life Possibilities ideas in existence. I mean, isn’t Heaven really, just another word for Bucket List? Isn’t Heaven is also just another symbol for that endless eternal ability to be and do everything that the human divine soul was created to be and do? Isn’t the ultimate Bucket List really just another form of desiring a glorious, godly, divine, and endlessly available and possibility-enhanced Eternal Life?

A Bucket List is not just about creating an amazing future though, as I found yesterday. It is also about our deepest selves’ broken pieces being a little bit patched up; our short-circuits reconnected. The items on a list about things we want to do before we kick the bucket, reveal what got broken, or subverted, or short-circuited or stopped just that little bit short of realization. A Bucket List is not just about what may happen but what should have happened. We like to imagine a better future when we can’t deal with the bad stuff in the past or the present, (another reason so many religions got the underprivileged, non-wielding Bucket List folks, like slaves or minorities, living for Heaven, instead of focusing on what could be done about the present problems in their lives).  Thinking about the fact that we are still alive enough to have hopes, dreams and desires – big ones, like the ones on a Bucket List – return us to the possibilities we imagined when we were children; when we still had dreams, when as children we envisioned an eternal future without any limitations. Our Bucket Lists are about finally going skydiving, because we dreamt of flying like Peter Pan, when we were children; or  we want to check off a safari, and riding an elephant, because we imagined as children that we were wild animals roaming the jungles. When we were young, we romped together in our imagined worlds of play and  in our freedom from soul-sucking jobs, or relationships that were hard, or physical ailments that meant we were unable to walk or move without pain, let alone check off our list the desire to surf Maui. Bucket Lists return us to not just hope for the future, or a belief we can fix something in the past, but also to at least for one minute, a joy in the fact, that “where there is life now, there is hope”. Bucket Lists are really about suddenly being present to ourselves as valuable, worth-while, dreaming, hoping, believing beings.

Yesterday my daughter and husband and I took a ferry to an island in North Carolina with a lighthouse. Seeing lighthouses is literally on my husband’s Bucket List, and we were able to check that off his personal list, with the help of his beloved daughter, by seeing two of the beautiful lighthouses that still operate today. Lighthouses were created to keep sailors and ships safe from the world’s dangerous waters and unforeseen shoals.  Maybe Bucket Lists do the same for people. 

On our way to the island yesterday, we passed Shackelford Banks. And as our captain, slowly passed by the banks, there they were — my eyes are tearing up as I write this, and remember it now– just as yesterday without anticipation, I found myself silently crying as I saw something that I immediately knew had been on my Bucket List without my ever understanding it was there. There in front of me were three wild Shackelford ponies, one a foal still gangly and unsure in the shallows.

When I was about eight years old, and my parents were a mess and going through a divorce that they never told their four kids about, and at a time I didn’t realize how what another relative was doing to me wasn’t appropriate, and my childhood seemed to be getting snatched away from me but I didn’t know it, my father, gave me a book called “Misty of Chincoteague”. It’s a famous children’s book by Marguerite Henry. You should read it if you still have a bit of child in your heart, or at least get it for a child you know and love. Later, when my dad let me choose a pinto pony for my own, he let me call it “Misty”. After a few years of my broken family being in a strange existence that isn’t about Bucket Lists at all, my mom remarried and moved us away and I rarely saw my dad and never saw Misty again. I guess she must have died, along with my own childhood.

Yesterday I saw those wild ponies, not on the Chincoteague of my youthful book-inspired dreams, but on Shackelford Island, while I sat next to the dreams I never knew I had – a husband of thirty-three years and one of my own dear, beloved children, grown to adulthood with her own shared and private dreams and Bucket List items. And the little girl I was, Janie Karen, came rushing up to meet me in the sight of those horses, and I realized: “I made it. I made it here to see this – to see them – to see Misty—after all these years. I did it. I made the dreams I never knew I had come true.”

And I checked off an item from the Bucket List I have never made:

#1: I will keep my childlike faith. I will continue to imagine and dream and look for the wild ponies in life, where ever they may appear.

“And it shall come to pass, that your young ones shall be divinely inspired; and your old ones shall dream dreams; and all will have the ability to plan the future with imagination and wisdom.” **

© Jane Tawel, September 2021

*Deuteronomy 5:9

** Joel 2:28 (paraphrased by me)

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51zE3RSaUFL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Hidden God Hiding Love

Hide and Seek Game - Ultimate Guide to the Best Game EVER!
bighappybackyard

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Hidden God Hiding Love

By Jane Tawel

August 29, 2021

*

God hides.

All truth speakers know this.

All truth seekers show this,

in The Way they treat others.

We don’t know why God hides,

but it must have something to do,

with us, not God.

After all, a God who hides must love us very much.

For who can see God and live?

*

Love is not particularly our human forté.

And the kind of loves we mistake for Love,

perhaps the one that hovers and smothers,

in a needy insecure desire;

or love in a parent’s or lover’s missional bait and switch;

or love that demands returns on love’s investments

until a better investment comes around;

or love that claims to sacrifice,

while in reality,

it only takes and takes love unto one’s self,

 in the name of charity for others;

these things we all accept as if we know their meaning.

But the still small voice within us, always cries: “Lack! Lack!”

These false loves we accept and make stories about,

and award and honor those we think did it selflessly,

and so, we spin and protect the tall tales of selfless Eros;

and miss the truth myths of Agape love.

And we die false sacrifices in the name of love,

never having lived in the sacrifice of God’s Love.

Or we love others, with only their false names on our lips

because for most of us we think that kind of love is the best we can do,

and because the names we have given them are the only names we know.

We have not yet repented of our love,

and confessed that our hearts are still mostly made of stone.

We have not stopped to listen to the hidden song within,

the others or ourselves,

and stopped-up the noise of love-songs,

and stripped away the names of our families or feudal tribes.

We fear without our names,

the only names we know,

we will not know who we are.

But that is only because we have not yet received our white stones.

But we put far too much faith in knowing who we are;

“Be still. Stop your stories. And Know God, I Am. you are.”

*

Oh, put aside your childish things, and fairy tales.

There is no white knight riding forth to save you.

You have salvation within yourself.

Arise from your deathbed and live.

*

Selfless love is a cancerous myth,

full of false gods and false loves,

spreading through our lives like locusts in fields of grain.

Make your story about loving yourself.

God loves Himself;

and love is of God and everyone who truly loves,

is born out of God.

Make your story about loving everyone.

God loves everyone;

and this hard love, like a hidden diamond,

 is hidden even from God Himself,

so that all may be loved.

*

God’s Love is hidden,

Like all treasure chests are.

God’s love lies hidden within my very chest walls.

And if I can not sense its Presence

in myself, I will never sense it

in my brother, mother, sister, friend, child and

Yes, even hidden, like a lost coin, in my enemy.

If my Truth is not seeking

The Hidden God in me, and

God’s Love hidden in you,

then all truth is a lie

and all loves are hates.

*

Just because the God in me

lies buried

under the eons of fallen, rotten fruit

from Eden’s deserted crop,

the pearl of great price is also buried there;

gifted, not earned; found, not banked on;

apart from all I have nurtured or harvested;

a part and piece of all that is

my solitary humanness, my island, myself,

 alive and a-love within the Divine Whole.

*

And just because the God in

you, or me, or them, or us

may be hidden under layers,

and layers of the dusts-bowls of fruitlessness,

of the arid wastelands of anger and fear,

of the decimating wars without and within

or the shackles placed on us by the concepts of slavery or sin;

just because we feel alone

or alone,

or sometimes we are so very all alone;

just because we can’t see clearly,

and all is muddled in minds gone rancid from the infections of information,

and our hearts hurt so bad from longing for love,

and our eyes sting from trying to see through,

the crusted over with dirty things

cracked mirrors of our souls;

and the world has been unformed and fomented

by our own lusts and dirtied hands;

none of that means anything

 if The God Who formed the Universe,

who formed us each in the World’s Womb,

is still playing peek-a-boo,

with us Her children,

and when we are afraid in this world of hide-and-seek,

that we will never find God,

She is reaching out Her Hands,

and God suddenly appears

to hold us in Her Love.

*

In the world of false loves,

We grope blindly and fall, and fall, and fall.

But that doesn’t mean that now and then,

if we keep our eyes open,

and keep stepping out with faith,

and keep our lamps filled with oil,

every now and then, and eventually with practice,

and giving up, and with, (I am afraid to say it) a lot of dying to that which is dead;

every now and then,

the Living Hidden will peek-out and peer

 through the most unremarkable people,

unremarkable people like myself;

and beauty will appear in the most undesirable things and places;

and Love will be like nothing we could ever imagine happening in ourselves.

And by finding the hidden and divine Love within ourselves,

we will find God.

*

This Way is the only Way.

And This Story is the only Story.

And This Love is the only True Love.

When I love only and completely

the God in you,

and when I love the God in me,

then we who still seek,

will see God.

And we will live.

© Jane Tawel,  August 2021

Our Little Life-Boats

by Jane Tawel

https://unsplash.com/photos/3ZFbnY2jXlg

Our Little Life Boats

By Jane Tawel

August 22, 2021

A long, long time ago and only yesterday, the materials for making my little life’s boat, were gathered in secret by the DNA of my Scottish, Irish, American Indian ancestors. But the real craft, the trued and tried boat itself, was crafted by the Great Crafter in the secrets that stretch back to the Beginning and stretch forward to the End of Time which never is. Like all carrying agents, large and small, puny and mighty, all that sail on this Ocean we call Life, or The World, my boat is unique and also it is exactly like every other little boat as well. My little boat, so small compared to others, yet just as specially made, will sail, in spurts and starts, or travel full-steam ahead, and go and go until the boat is moored someday as it was meant to be in the Eternal or until it crashes on the rocky shores of Ego or Despair. This is the truth about all sailing crafts, though many never know it because we either tie our boats up on shore, or we create a false shore in the water. But all true Truths try to teach us that our boats were made for motion in the ocean.

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I am a little sailboat, who has long had the need for The Wind in my sails. I am lucky that quite early, I was taught what sails are for and what they are not for. I was as unlucky as many when my sails were brutally torn or holes were punched in the hull, the very soul of my ship. But I was not as unlucky as many, and I have managed. So, I have rebuilt my little boat many times with the help of others and that thing that true sailors call luck and that saints call grace.  I have kept my faith in The Wind, which no one can control, and yet it exists. I have often sailed in the right direction with the North Star and Morning Star as guides. I have often sailed in the wrong direction and lost my way. Mostly though, I regret to confess, I have mistaken a mirage of my safety while moored to the dock for what I was meant to live as life on a boat.

*

 There are many great ships that have sailed The Ocean, and sail it still, mighty and amazing in their superiority to most of our little folks’ small crafts. There are great ships with names like Caesar, or Pharaoh, or Titan of Industry, and many of these boats become enormous, powerfully engine-ed ships, making their way through The Ocean without need of The Wind, barely feeling the waves, never fearing the storms, and barely knowing they are moving at all, more like stagnant cities in the water than moving vessels. They put aside their sails and have no more need of The Wind. They take what they need from the Lands they conquer and leave behind. They take oil and slaves and buy more life vests than they could ever use; they sail their gigantic boats, boats that could house whole nations but only have enough room for one’s self. These have stopped being boats at all, and we look at those ships and we all want to have one of those ships, too. We want to be safe and saved and unafraid with everything we will ever need forever and ever, amen. And we look at our little tiny battered, torn-sailed little boats and we hate them and we hate us and we want to be them, the big safe ships. We look at the great steady cruisers and we long to have no need of The Wind; and we yearn to be in the Ocean but to control the way the Ocean takes us, like the great shipbuilders seem to do. And we forget that we are all created to be working sailors, not passengers. And we ignore what our heart tries to tell us, that even those with the biggest ships, will one day too find that The Ocean is bigger than they are. Perhaps when The Wind has wrecked the big ships upon the shoals of shallowness, or the sandbars of Eternal Truths, they too will long to once more sail a little boat.

*

Perhaps we will all, large and small, no matter how safe or how broken we think our boats are, someday find that The Ocean sends us an unlooked for buoy or a suddenly appearing piece of the Mast’s Wood; and we will each have one more chance to leave shore, and grab on to what The Ocean provides, and we will once more, like children, relearn a love of sending our little crafts out into The Ocean.

*

My boat’s sails have been tattered and torn so many times.  I was not born a good sailor, and perhaps that has saved me. I have had to rely on The Wind’s benevolent appearing and disappearing, on the Ocean’s grace in storms and dead calm. I have had to depend on the help of fellow travelers who sailed alongside me, sometimes just keeping me company in the loneliness of Ocean life, sometimes teaching me something vital about how to sail, sometimes showing me what not to do by their own foolish choices at sea, sometimes sharing a compass that helped me navigate. And sometimes there have been those fellow sailors who, with great love, have helped me pick up the pieces of my little boat that I had allowed to break apart when I hit some shoals, or had left to rot in dock. And every once in a while, there was no one to help me, but only Someone to whisper across the waves:

 “Fear not. Be still. Have faith. And know what you think you do not know. Don’t look at the waves. Keep your eyes on Me.”

*

I would like to say that I have been sailing The Ocean for six decades now, but I have mostly left my little boat docked uselessly in port. I kept thinking I was safer on shore, tied up to the Pier, with those I thought were peers and I felt already the salvation of knowledge of the things I had read about on “How to Sail” without ever needing to do the things it takes to set sail. I could tell you how to sail, but I rarely have experienced the thrill and dangers of sailing. So, I have spent a lifetime mostly feeling I should be happy that I had a little boat but never really knowing the purpose of my boat or why life seemed mostly rudderless and my sails sagged depressedly, longing for A Wind I would never risk meeting head-on.  I have mostly lived by peering out, rather than journeying out.  I have stayed on shore with all the best charts and maps but rarely finding the courage to launch my craft again and again, failure after failure, frightening success after frightening success, prophetically, mysteriously, in weakness and in strength, in death first and then life, baptized again and again by misadventure and death at Sea, and by setting my course, going into the Deeps, into the Pontus, into the waves left by The Wake of He who first Crafted and Who crafted the Sailor in me.

*

Last night there was a Red Sky and so I awoke today hoping for a sailor’s delight. But this morning the sky is still red- Warning! Warning! This morning the Ocean is covered over by Heavens which are a shade of red, red the color of shed blood; blood like the blood from two huge hands mangled by the nails of working His Boat and sailing The Ocean like no One has ever sailed it before or since, though we who know are supposed to have tried. And I am afraid. And I am uncertain I even know which direction to go. And The Great Sailor and all those before me who have managed to sail in His Wake are calling me to set out, while the sirens of safety in the numbers docked on shore make more and more knots in the ropes that tie me down.

*

What will my story’s end be? People call that a legacy, but most of us just leave with an unfinished story. I will not be leaving a beautiful houseboat, or massive warship, or richly outfitted yacht behind for those who carry on in The Ocean, those few who sailed close enough to my little craft to say, “I knew her” “My boat sailed for a time with hers” “I saw her boat on the shore”. I will have no lasting control over what becomes of those who carry on my boat’s DNA or those who may have learned something about their own boats by the teachings I have done or failed to do on “How to Sail”. But one thing I am learning. If I leave my little boat safely moored to this shore; if I am tethered to the sandbars of cares and needs and self and greeds; if I keep setting sail only to turn back again to dock my fears and doubts and insecurities and failings, instead of facing them head on, sailing into The Wind; if I do not daily, moment by moment, cure and polish and then test the seaworthiness of my little boat, I will never actually be in the boat. I will spend my Time, looking at my boat from outside of it. I will spend my Life, looking at my Life, from outside of it. If do not let the Winds fill its sails, my boat will never be what it was crafted to be. If I don’t let The Wind fill me, I will never be what I was Crafted to Truly Be.

*

A boat that is moored to the cares of the shore, can’t leave a wake. A boat leaves a wake when it is moving through The Ocean. We are each uniquely created by The Great Ship-Crafter to live life in the Ocean. We are given the ability to calm the waves and quell the storms, if we only have enough faith to start sailing, and once we start, to not look back at the sirens, and not look ahead at things that are mere mirages, but to point our little boats Due North, and let The Wind sail us towards what we were meant to call “Home”. Because if you are sailing The Ocean, one day you will wake up and realize that all along, you have been carrying your true home with you. Your little life’s boat has always been your Home.

*

 Despite what any of us try to tell ourselves, none of us has ever seen the Far Shore from this shore. It is only when we are in The Ocean, that we understand that we were neither created to stay safely on this shore, nor were we created to try to reach the other Shore. We were created to row as hard as we need, to crew alongside those who sail within our latitudes and longitudes, to drift when we can’t feel The Wind and wait for Her to fill us again, to float and enjoy the beauty that is above us, below us, and all around us as we travel; to navigate with both honest fear and wise courage, and above all to be at Home when we Move and keep Moving within in and upon The Great Ocean.

*

What will I leave in the wake of my life?  I pray that the flotsam and jetsam of my poorer decisions and weaknesses in sailing, will be carried away by The Great Ocean’s grace. I pray that my wake will leave a clearer sense of direction for those who sail behind me. I pray that there will be a small wake from my life’s little boat; a wake that leads others Due North, a wake that I leave when my boat is no longer seen by any but those on the Far Shore. I pray that above all, my wake will send waves to both near and far shores that swoosh with something that sounds faintly like something The Ocean would breathe, something like a person who had dipped her hands into the water and made small little circles of waves, something that sounds like what water would sound like if it were breathing in and out, ebbing and flowing. I hope that I will set sail enough times that my life-boat will leave a small little wake that sends waves gently lapping towards the world’s shores, and the children’s little life boats; a sound of waves in my wake that whispers something like this:

Shhhheeeeeee loooooved. Sheeeeeee whoosshhhh, llllllloved whiiiisssssh.  She loved. She loved. She loves. She loves. Love….. Love……Love……..

*

© Jane Tawel, August 2021

Rising from the Ruts

by Jane Tawel

brown sand near body of water during sunset
https://unsplash.com/photos/3RD-pU0ICgQ

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Rising from the Ruts

By Jane Tawel

July 28, 2021

*

As we grow older,

We slow down, glitch, molder.

And everything sticks

or contracts–

like our bones, and our memories,

we contract and dig grooves.

And all our muscles,

figuratively and literally,

we tighten into cords;

cords that bind us to negativity,

or the quiet despair of meaninglessness.

We can’t escape.

Or rather, if we thought truthfully,

we choose not to escape.

*

We fall down and down

into our self-created ruts;

those our lives—minds, hearts, souls—

have created.

We wear ruts,

not just in our neural folds,

but in the very soil of our being.

*

Some of our neural paths

begin as paths forward,

but become hard rocky ditches,

Some, make us feel so alive,

until we let them become fallow and festering.

And some ruts we wear

become deep pits of despair,

sorrow, hatred, anger, or boredom.

We wear and wear and wear it all down,

with our thoughts and words and actions,

and the soul gets stuck.

*

We have used our brains so much,

thinking that our minds are strong enough,

that they can over-come our souls;

thinking that our minds, will always tell us what to do.

But now that we have worn the ruts into depths,

we cannot think how to get out of them.

We can not seem to climb out.

*

Maybe all we may need is to stop thinking.

Maybe all we may need is to listen, for what, we don’t know.

Maybe all we may need is someone

to encourage us to start the climb.

*

If you cannot find the will to climb,

Look for a rope thrown down into your rut.

Look for a rope to reach for.

Don’t ask where the rope began,

Look at where it ends,

You are at the end of your rope,

and all you need is just enough strength to

Grasp it.

Grasp the meaning of the ropes thrown down to you

and do not question the source.

*

And if someone tries to throw you a rope,

if someone hollers down into your pit and says:

“Here I am. Can I help you?”–

Don’t be afraid they may let you fall,

or that tomorrow you will have to look for another rope

or another way to start your climb.

The rope itself is strong enough to hold you.

*

Grab on to the ropes provided for you,

Grab on to that which binds all together,

with that which none of us understands,

that none of keeps or owns or even does all that well–

Grasp the Love that keeps the World in motion,

Hang on with all your might,

and climb.

*

Your soul has stayed hidden in the ruts and grooves and pits,

and by now, it may fear the light at the top

or distrust the hand that reaches out and down.

But only in finding your great need to trust and hope

can you hold on to your salvation.

Grasp the help offered to you,

Grasp it without needing to understand it,

Or where it comes from.

Hold tight and don’t let go,

and let your soul rise.

*

While it is true that only you can free yourself,

From the prisons and ruts you create in your life,

It is also true that none of us has ever used our wings,

Without needing the wind.

None of us knows where the wind begins,

or where it ends.

And who can control the wind?

*

Find that which is outside yourself,

In the world, in nature, in another, in The Other,

and let it be that which helps you rise.

Let your mind rest, and let your soul seek joyfully,

that which helps you rise from the ruts,

 that which gives you hope,

that you may indeed, not only rise up from the ditch,

you may walk forward,

you may run,

you may even fly.

© Jane Tawel, July 28, 2021