Desperately Needed: Translators

Desperately Needed: Translators

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

By Jane Tawel

February 17, 2018

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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Cheering for The Losing Side

Choose the Losing Side to Win the Game

By Jane Tawel

January 27, 2018

 

 

I am not a team person. I used to be – cheerleader, Celtics fan, Baptist, etc. My children and husband will tell you, that today, even when it seems I should pick a side, the obvious side of Team Tawel; It often seems to them that I start kicking the ball toward the other Team’s goal. If anyone playing for Team Tawel is playing the Discussion / Argument / Making Choices Game with other family teams or friend teams, life styles, or life choices; I will often go rogue and start playing offense and defense for the other side. It is my own belief, i.e. world view, that even though there seem to be many teams, there are really only two Coaches.  There is God, the Life Coach and Satan / Evil, the Death Coach. So, with fear and trepidation and daily red cards on my humility, I try to determine which Coach is training and leading the team, and try my best to be playing on that side. It may seem I switch sides, but in fact, to my mind, there is only one Real Team – The Jesus-Team.

 

I have found that sometimes, Teams will claim a God- Team name, like Christianity, or Islam,  but the self-proclaimed players don’t seem to know the rules or The Way God wants the Life-Game played. Dallas Willard uses the metaphor of an airplane pilot not realizing that she is flying upside down to describe this idea of mine — players thinking they are playing for the Christ-team, when in fact they are shooting into Satan’s hoops, scoring points for his  deathly kingdom team.

 

I have also found that some people wouldn’t dream of putting God’s Team name on their playing abilities and yet seem to live and play the Life Game  more closely to how Jesus played the Life-Game than many who claim to be “little-Christs”.  I have struggled mightily to find a balance in this current game between the rules of Truth and the rules of Love.  Neither  of Life’s Coaches is able to reveal the whole game plan and win, but there are enough clues in the Rule Book, in the “videos” of past player’s winning games, in the clues on the playing field, we call Earth, and in what the Bible calls the “fruits” of one’s life, or the moves of one’s game, — to help me figure out if I went out today on Life’s Playing Field, and scored points for God’s Team or Satan’s Team.  We need to stop listening to those who claim to be playing for Coach God but don’t want to repent of scoring points for Satan’s team. If we read the Book of Rules, it is really very clear how God and others should and will judge our Life Game.

 

At the end of each day I live, comes the reckoning.  I talk to God Coach, Who, even though I am the most benched player of all time, always has time to listen and coach me individually.  I ask God Coach, “Please forgive me for all the points I scored today for Satan’s team. I know I ended up running in the wrong direction because I just wanted so badly to win, I didn’t care that the points were scored for the Other Team. I thank you, that even though it cost me an MVP on Your Team, God, I will never cost You, The Game.  You have already won it.” I thank God Coach, “Thank You for all the points You scored today with my feet, my hands, my mind, my heart. Thank you that despite all my errors, misses, and boo-boos, You remain For me, on my side, against the powers of the Other Team. Protect me from wanting to be traded to Satan’s team so I can make more money, or get more attention, or play more.  Help me be willing to sit on Your Bench, God, for the glory of the Resurrection of Playing for Your Team Forever.”  And I beg God Coach, “Please let me have another chance tomorrow, to play a better Life Game in your honor and glory so I can play with You forever. Let the greatest Player of All Time, Your Son, who had Your Voice constantly in His ear, inform my Game.  Let me see Jesus daily and follow His moves, on the playing field of My Life.”  Amen.

 

We live in the strangest sort of reality now, where we have come to set ourselves up as fifteen minute Celebrities, and little mini-demagogues.  It is perhaps because we have so very much power as individuals that post Humanism-Enlightenment, there is only self to worship or the self of the celebrity of our current team.  We often don’t even realize we are doing it, because either we simply find people who agree with our opinions and shore up the sinking sands of self-centered built belief systems; Or we make God a personal pocket genie – a god who more than any thing wants our team to win. Win at any cost. Win as a good in itself. It is all a game for us, a competitive television show to watch, a test to score well on — and we seek that constant high of winning and watching the other “team” lose. So we must keep winning to feel happy, right, powerful, fulfilled, secure. And in this way, we have truly lost sight of what it means to be fully human and we have lost sight of what it means for god to be fully God. We tend currently to associate this team mentality with politics and sports, but it is rampant in our society and in others around the world.  I remember when Verity, my daughter, was on Team Jacob rather than Team Edward – all based on a puerile book and movie series. I sometimes think that if the world continues for a while longer, this will go down in history as the Age of Team Worship. Anyone who claims the name of Jehovah, needs to be very careful of this worldview as in Christ, there is no team, “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, Celtic nor Laker”.  There is only His Body, crucified and resurrected.

 

The reality is, that unless we are playing for the losing team, we will lose all. Coach Jesus, says what does it profit you if you win every competition, but in the process lose your soul to Satan’s Team? In The Real Kingdom of God, we must lose to win, and crucify self to be personally resurrected. We must follow the Coach who took one for the team, and we must bench ourselves to be chosen MVP. God’s chosen people are always the ones the rest of the world considers The Losers.

 

Matthew’s Gospel translated by Jane Tawel: When the MVP of All Eternity  comes in his glory, as The Final Coach of All Teams, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Jesus the Coach, will be gathered all the nations’ teams, and he will separate people one from another as a Good Coach separates the valuable players from the players for The Other Side. And he will place His Team on his right, the home team, but Satan’s Team on the left, the away with you team. Then the Kingly Coach will say to those on his right The Home Team, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom’s Playing Field prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For you played on My Team.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we play for Your Team? ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, you played for Team Jesus, whenever  you played the game for one of the least of these my brothers, you played the Life Game for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, the Get Away Team, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his team players. For you put My Team Name on your jersey while your actions on the field showed  you for a player for the Other Side.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we play for Satan’s Team; when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘You scored many points for Satan’s Team, thinking that by putting my Father’s name on it, you would win the Game. Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into the eternal life of Team God.”  Matthew 25

Choose the right Team. It doesn’t just cost you the game; it costs you your life.

*      *           *             *                  *                *         *           *            *

Once again, I defer to writing by “People who say things better than I ever could”: As promised, I will try to hold the newspaper in one hand, and the Word of God in the other.  I submit to you two editorials and some news from a current newspaper, the words of the prophets in the New Testament, and A.W. Tozer.

 

Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world’s deathly Game Plan, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Coach God is, that Life Game which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

I was taught as a little girl that being a Christian meant having Jesus in my heart.  I was taught that my daily choices added up to my eternal choice.  I would submit to you, that no matter how the world seems to change to our eyes, it has not changed since Adam and Eve in God’s. So in some writers’ words about America, that might have been written by Romans at the time Jesus lived:

 

First:  Some editorials from writers commenting on the strangest thing of all, to my old eyes – People who claim to be pastors and evangelists in the name of my Savior, Jesus the Christ, telling powerful people they can do whatever they want and still “go to heaven” as long as they are playing for the right team. This is most tragic of all for those very powerful people who are led to believe they are “winning”, when in fact they are playing for Satan’s Team.  It is most sad for those very rich and powerful rulers of the New Rome, America,  that “Pharisees” continue to live in sin, so that their religious and political agenda will be furthered – just like the mistaken Pharisees did at the time of Jesus played Our Life Game. It is horrible though for those of us to whom “much has been given, since much will be required” when The Coach calls us to that Final Locker Room post-game talk in His Heaven.

 

“The triumph of partisanship over morality starts at the top.

Politicians have always behaved badly. What’s new is the willingness of so many not just to look the other way but to call bad behavior good.” – “Republicans Redefine Morality as Whatever Trump Does” Dana Milbank, WP

 

The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.

 

The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.

 

Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”

The danger endures.

 

–“The Trump Evangelicals Have lost their gag reflex” – by Michael Gerson

 

And then there is the news about the young lady who “forgives” the abusive doctor of so many “team players” in the USA Gymnastics Olympic team.  Forgiveness is a very important Christ -like thing to do for this young lady and it will be a treasure to her own soul.  However, we do wrong as Christians to forgive sinners, perhaps especially sinners with a lot of worldly power because by doing so, we are becoming god.  Only God can forgive, as Jesus is clear to point out to the Pharisees of His own time.  And God only forgives, if I repent and sin no more, as Jesus also points out to the woman caught in adultery.  But time and place truly don’t change reality, since the Pharisees and Sadduccees, the men caught in adultery, didn’t stick around for God’s words either. They go off and forgive each other to sin another day in perhaps another way. Jesus went on to show all that have ears to ear and eyes to see, that forgiveness is not free, has never been free, will never be free. Sin comes with a price – death.  We will all pay it.  Forgiveness comes with a price and Jesus paid it on the cross even though He and He alone didn’t need it.  But we have done much wrong to the Good News by thinking that Jesus paid that price to leave sinners in their sins.  We must die as He did, not just wear the t-shirts of cheap grace that claims Jesus paid it all.  “IF any woman or man wants to follow me”, says Jesus, “she and he must take up the cross.”  “You must be completely changed,” says God, “You must be born all over again into spiritual life with Me.”

 

Once, again I must give you the brilliant words of A.W. Tozer on the reality that we should, as Christ followers bring daily “to earth as it is in Everywhere that Isn’t Earth = Heavens.

 

From The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer:

 

Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool.  Its destination has been determined by proper authorities.  Nothing can change it.  This is at least a faint picture of God’s sovereignty.

 

On board the liner are several scores of passengers.  These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will.  They eat, sleep, play lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

 

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other.  So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God.  The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history.  God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began  We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.

 

We know that God will fulfill every promise made to the prophets; we know that sinners will some day be cleansed out of the earth; we know that a ransomed company will enter into the joy of God and that the righteous will shine forth in the kingdom of their Father… and a new heaven and a new earth be established forever.

 

In the meanwhile things are not as smooth as this quick outline might suggest.  The mystery of iniquity doth already work.  Within the broad filed of God’s sovereign, permissive will the deadly conflict of good with evil continues with increasing fury. God will yet have His way in the whirlwind and the storm, but the storm and the whirlwind are here, and as responsible beings we must make our choice in the present moral situation.

 

Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of these is the law of choice and consequences God has decreed that all who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in the obedience of faith shall receive eternal life and become sons of God. He has also decreed that all who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last.

 

Reducing the whole matter to individual terms, we arrive at some vital and highly personal conclusions.  In the moral conflict now raging around us whoever is on God’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win.  Here there is no chance, no gamble.  There is freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it is made.  By the mercy of God we may repent a wrong choice and alter the consequences by making a new and right choice.  Beyond that we cannot go.”  (111,112 Tozer)

In closing, you can’t be a team player on the bench.  Prayer is your team huddle with the Coach but it is not playing the game.  We must put actions to God’s words in order to be in the Game.  Understanding the game, does not mean that I can rely on the Coach to play it for me.  No matter how many injuries I incur today out there, I have to pray for help from the Coach and then get out there and try to lose.  My Coach assures me: If you go out there in the fray of the Game and try to win for your own sake, Janie Karen, you will lose your life. But if you go out there and lose all for My sake, you will win.”

 

Rooting for the Losing Team of Jesus,

Jane

wanted-losing-soccer-team

 

 

 

 

 

What is Really Going on in The Universe?

Worldview Reality Check #1

by Jane Tawel

January 20, 2018

I decided that periodically, I might do well to post in my blog, words and ideas by authors who are –by about a million light years — well — just more everything than I. I often want to  share about something I have read that I believe is critical to understanding how, I humbly submit, life is best lived. To be honest, I  think that someday we will all discover either to our horror or amazement, that life is in fact, only truly lived in One Way — all the rest of it will be revealed as lies and death.  Yes — I am always a barrel of laughs…

I have written before about this seeming lack of understanding or desire to create within one’s self a coherent worldview. I have been told the word “worldview” itself is hopelessly out of fashion.  If that is true for you, read no further.

This week I self-diagnosed myself as an “OWYS”.  (Don’t worry, if you haven’t heard of OWYS — I have invented this.)  I realized that I am an “Old-World Young Soul” — hopelessly terminal with an old-world worldview but a young soul maturity level. Imagine a little child still playing dress up with Big Ideas, and you get the drift. Explains a lot if you know me.

I am thankful for people still living and those passed on, who can teach me and also help God treat my symptoms.  This past week, I have meditated on many of the profound worldview teachings of that great passed on saint, Dr. Martin Luther King. I have played dress up with my words before around the words of Francis Schaeffer and N.T. Wright, the prophet Isaiah, Dallas Willard, and Emily Dickinson, etc. etc. And of course I have gotten out my crayons and pretend dump truck and played with the words of Jesus.  God have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Of course for me, whether a person is writing for the Washington Post, the latest Sitcom, or the Pickwick Papers, truth is Truth.  All truth must be looked at through the revealed truth of God “sitting on the throne” of everything. Romans 2:14-16: “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.”

What is really going on in our Universe, if you believe in God, is what is really going on in The Everythingness of Everything, and it is also, what is really going on in the tiny, itty -bitty little ant-like life of little old, OWYS Me.

Here is the first in what, God willing, will be some  “What’s Really Going on in The Universe Reality Checks” for any one who, like I, needs inspiration from great minds, large hearts, inspired spirits, profound thinkers, warning prophets, and loving, wise human companions on our journey through the Universe.

Reality Worldview Check #1

by A.W. Tozer

If we want to say we believe in “a” God…. this from Tozer’s The Knowledge of The Holy:

 

Holy is the way God is.  To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard.  He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is.  Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.

 

God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe.  Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this.  Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death.  The formation of the language itself suggests this, the English word holy deriving from the Anglo-Saxon halig, hal, meaning, “well, whole.”

 

Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure.  To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it.  God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys.  He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that take the life of her child.

 

God is holy with an absolute holiness that knows no degrees, and this He cannot impart to His creatures.  But there is a relative and contingent holiness which He shares with angels and seraphim in heaven and with redeemed men on earth as their preparation for heaven.  This holiness God can and does impart to His children.  He shares it with them by imputation and by impartation, and because He has made it available to them through the blood of the Lamb, He requires it of them.  To Israel first and later to His Church God spoke, saying, “Be ye holy’ for I am holy.”… No honest man can say ‘I am holy,” but neither is any honest man willing to ignore the solemn words of the inspired writer, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

 

Caught in this dilemma, what are we Christians to do?  We must like Moses cover ourselves with faith and humility while we steal a quick look at the God whom no man can see and live. The broken and the contrite heart He will not despise.  We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by.  We must take refuge from God in God.  Above all we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us that we may be partakers of His holiness.

 

By faith and obedience, by constant meditation on the holiness of God, by loving righteousness and hating iniquity, by a growing acquaintance with the Spirit of holiness, we can acclimate ourselves to the fellowship of the saints on earth and prepare ourselves for the eternal companionship of God and the saints above. Thus as they say when humble believers meet, we will have a heaven to go to heaven in.  (Tozer,105-107)         (Emphases are mine)

With fearful awe of God, seeking a heaven on earth as it is in God’s heavens,

Jane

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Resurrected Butterflies by Jane Tawel

Resurrected Butterflies

by Jane Tawel

January 14, 2018

 

I teach against the decay of decency and uninspiring language of the times. I do not want a generation of children to aspire to be those people, whatever their important job titles. Yesterday–teaching using the eloquent, inspirational, brilliant, literate and very Christian speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. The Speech on the Mall, “I Have a Dream” –and my students go wild with the amazing truth of it — not just then but, oh sorrow — now too, here too. And they gather hope in little parcels, and I try to gather the little wrappings around their gifts of hope to keep in my own heart. I wish I could tell them that our current nation’s problems are all “just a dream”, but instead I tell them, “On behalf of us adults, I am so sorry. I am so sorry. Please find a way, to forgive us and to change the world. Please.” And so they write about their dreams of no more violence, and a world with clean water and air, and a time when no one sleeps on the streets but everyone sleeps in a bed, and a world where everyone knows God and loves Him. And I tell them — Yes, this is Christ’s Kingdom. He is here ready to serve and be served. Enter today. Enter forever. Change the world–on earth as in Christ’s Heaven. And just as in the words of the first Church’s evangelists, — who did not believe you could change definitions of what it means to be some one so that you could defend your sins –because my children and students have vision of what it means to follow Goodness and Truth, a vision that the world could be changed, this “old one can still dream dreams”(Acts 2:17). “I Have a Dream” because, like great men such as both the Martin Luthers of old, the children don’t know better yet, than to risk dreaming big dreams. There is hope.

If I have taught my students that Emily Dickinson wrote that “Hope is the thing with feathers”, then my students have taught me that hope is found in the people with the least amount of armor, in those with a lack of defense, with their little stones held ready against the Goliaths of ignorance, fear, hate, and injustice. Hope is found in laughter at self and tears for others.  Hope is found in the innocence that must moor up big dreams.  Hope can be found in all of us who believe we were wrong, are wrong, will be wrong again, but that there is a Great Teacher who created us to know that He is all Right, alright, and all righteous.  Hope is indeed the “little bird that sings the song and never stops at all” and can be heard even in “the chillest land and on the strangest sea”.  But I am not so sure as a teacher that  I agree with the artist.  Hope does ask something of me.  My students have taught me in fact that it asks much of me.  Hope requires that I believe.

I teach against the decay of belief in the world. There is a God who holds the whole world’s hopes in His Righteous Right Hand. I teach against the uninspiring lies of our time. There is a God who is true and Who sent us His only begotten Truth, Light and Way.  I teach against the hopelessness that threatens to swamp us. Indeed, I teach against my own heart’s tendency to be swamped by fear and despair. Hope is indeed the thing with feathers. Like the butterfly effect of small beating wings in the hearts of the children, Hope will rise above the swamp of despair.  Hope is the gift the children still have to give me. I just need to keep my hands and heart open to receive. I just need to believe that all of us who believe are stronger than those who would pluck off the wings of our hope.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. realized that darkness cannot defeat darkness, only light can do that; and hate cannot defeat hate; only love can do that. Despair can and will defeat us if we believe that hope is only strong enough for one’s own selfish dreams.  The children believe that hope is only strong when it flies out of our own hands to be caught by the hands of others.  Oh, yes, sometimes those hopes are crushed by the hard calloused grip of fear or greed, or beneath the tragic heels of prejudice or lust. But the children still don’t know any better than to trust that there is a God who knows even the very moment that a sparrow-ed dream falls; a God who cares about every winged hope; a God Who resurrected all the dead and dying hopes of the world when He resurrected The Hope of the World, Jesus. The children let their hope fly freely, born on the wings of their dreams for a world that can be better — should be better — oh, Must be better!  May hope grow wings in our hearts; and may we open our hearts and hands to release those hopes into a world sorely in need of resurrected butterflies.

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Staking a Claim Slaving in the Mines of God’s Kingdom

Staking a Claim Slaving in the Mines of God’s Kingdom

By Jane Tawel

January 2, 2018

So today I am reading in the newspaper about “this land is your land, this land is my land”-America and thinking, well, that has always been a sales-job if ever I’ve heard one.  From the beginning humans have wanted to stake claims for self and self alone, from the Tree to Egypt to Israel to the Colonies and nationalism in all its forms. The lens through which we see the land and the peoples who populate it depend greatly on whether we work as slaves inside the mines or as mine-owners of the slaves. The other thing that has always been true is that we want to see ourselves as the protagonist of the story and the protagonist as always a good guy or gal.  I might be a slave-owner but I’m one of the good ones.  I’m not as rich as that woman so I must be on the good side.

 

So speaking of being aware of what is going on in the world –I don’t watch television really unless you count Netflix; so I found it train-wreck fascinating the other day to watch the Rose Parade and see where our world-view has ended up. I didn’t realize that:  It is not okay for a marching band to play good music, the band also has to have contributed to a worthy charity.  It is not okay for people to sell cars, they also have to give random strangers dressed poorly free tickets and blankets branded with the company name. I believe they must first get a free haircut from said car company. It is not okay for people to advertise by creating a unique parade of floats with flowers, we also have to have cared for the ocean while flying our airline. And for Pete’s sake, really?  It is not okay for us to add two bombers to fly by the stealth bomber to show how cool and powerful and war-ready we are – we have to also claim the war machines symbolize organ donation?  You seriously believe that and want me to believe that as well?  C’mon Son! If the television is any indication, we have come full circle from not wanting to be recognized for getting ahead in this world, to wanting to be absolved from any thing we might have done to get there. We shout down protestors by shouting from the streets our charitable acts.  Such a different idea of charity than God’s: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Quote by Jesus, the most non-fame seeking of God’s servants as recorded in Matthew 6:3)

If we want to stake any claim to or be any part of Jesus in the land in which we are exiled then as Karl Barth said, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

 It is perhaps especially time that we must read the newspaper without our own choice of cultural commentary.  Read it for what our leaders are doing, not saying, doing in all arenas of the powerful — the whole anti-trinity of the greedily powerful–government, religious, and societal. The Anti-Christ of 666 is exactly that – the three 6’s of man’s fallen, incomplete rule that is opposed in any way to The Christ – the God rule. (The numerology in a nut shell that is perhaps most relevant to us today is the perfect 7 of God versus the close but no cigar image of God in man as numerically symbolized in Scripture as 6.) In other words, the place I will find the anti-Christ is in my own life and the lives of others.  This is not my being judgmental. This is simply reality if you step through the door of the wardrobe, or put on the ring, or tesseract out of the mire, or walk through the narrow gate, or as Joshua said long ago, “as for me and my miners (or minors hahaha), we will serve the Lord God”. The homonym here is so apt.  What are we who have led the world for a while now, leaving for future miners or minors?  I feel sick at heart that I have fracked my soul in exchange for more literal and figurative gold than I need, leaving behind for future generations the strip-mined dross of my greed. This of course is not just monetary greed, but the idolization of all things self, as opposed to being a slave to the image of God in me.  God as server Creator. God as slavish lover. God as One who has everything He needs and loves us anyway.

The open pit-mine of my need can never be filled by taking a pickaxe to the needs of others or by strip-mining the earth. To live God’s Kingdom life, The Word advises, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelations 3:18)

 

 

This is not to say all leaders or powerful or rich people behave in this way – of course there are great examples we can all name of those who do not.  However, there are far too many we are unwilling to name who are anti-Christs, because… why? What minefields do I think I avoid by digging for treasure in the mines of authorities and famous leaders – the world’s powers and principalities — while leaving the deep and endless treasure troves of God’s Kingdom life undiscovered and unproclaimed? We have become not only unwilling to suffer, but have become deplorably ignorant in our quest for things – for idols. In Romans, Paul assures us that we will be slavish miners in someone’s gold mines, but we can’t work both mines at the same time. “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

 

 

To combat our ignorance, we should not only read the newspaper but it is also perhaps especially time that we read the Bible without commentary.  Read it in giant swaths, in long passages, with no preconceived idea of what one wants to find there other than revelation and truth and a way – the Bible as not the only way – but a very good way indeed – to get into a real relationship with another Being that we call “God”. It also should be our way of getting into better relationships with other people and with our planet.

 

Those who want to stake a claim to living for and with and through Jesus, need to look at how He lived with the news of His time and place and world and how Jesus lived in relationship to God and God’s Holy Word. Jesus lived in the world, speaking up against unjustness and evil, coming to change sinners, not follow them;  and  Christ advised those who would claim to  follow Him to “go out there” and make “mini-Me’s” or disciples. Jesus said in John 12:46, “I have come to be a light in the world so that whosoever believes in me shall not live in darkness.” John 9:39: And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” Matthew 10:34, 35, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” And one of the very last recorded conversations of The Christ was with the Governmental Ruler of Rome, Pilate. Jesus’ idea of respecting the authority of that government was to confirm His own authority through the life He had lived as a servant to The Father: John 18:37, “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”

 

If Christ is our king, then we must bear witness to His Truth. Period. Synopsis of Worldview in a nutshell. Truth. It is still “a thing” for some of us.

 

This is perhaps what is most tragic and mind-blowing about our calling things “Christly” or “Christian” which of course are not godly or good or like Christ at all.  This newish religion of ours that believes that “because I say I’m a Christian” I am, has become a permit to, as Paul warned us against, “become slaves to sin”. As someone once said, “I love to sin. God loves to forgive. What a wonderful arrangement.” As it turns out, it is only a good arrangement if you are in denial about reality. If you believe that you are rich enough or powerful enough to dig yourself out of consequences for your behavior, you are merely worshipping a newish incarnation of The Golden Calf of God’s chosen people. And of course, as rich and powerful people that is exactly what we have been doing. But in the process, we have lost sight of the gate of God’s narrow way. As those who want to claim God’s treasure with no work on their part have always found, if you are in the throngs of those who can easily go through the wide gate, then it is rather hard to make yourself go back to squeeze through the narrow door. Because of course there is nothing “newish” about wanting to be part of something with no cost to myself.  The Hebrews did it as well and didn’t find out their mistake until the Promised Land was shut to them. And as prophets and priests have always discovered too late, it is also what is tragic about thinking that because we do not speak the truth we are being kind or nice. Just like Aaron found out the hard way, while Moses was off talking with Yahweh on the mountain, we appease the crowd to our own soul’s loss. We who know the truth, have left a world adrift in a worldview that believes there is no knowable truth outside one’s own opinion. Romans warns us that this leads not to heavenly reward but our own misguided “depravity” of ignorance and lust and greed.

If I read carefully, I realize both from the newspaper and from the Bible that no one remains immune to judgment forever. There is a moral sensibleness to the universe, the Bible calls it righteousness. There is a need that cries out from the bowels of the earth that there is such a thing as good versus evil.  Jesus says that if we who have been given so much – so much education, so much access to God’s truth, so much possibility of wisdom – if we do not speak the truth, the very rocks from the mines we disembowel will cry out.  Our hearts should ache for those who do not heed the words of Isaiah and who therefore, “call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  If we don’t rightly judge them, no matter what religious name they claim, we are joining them in perpetuating their lies, not “forgiving and loving” them. Our problem is in discerning what headlamp we will wear as we look for treasure in whom and what will we praise and our gold must be sought in the “why” of what we deem worthy. But this is the problem of the Golden Calf all over again. It is why the Bible uses “streets of gold” as a metaphor for how meaningless gold is in God’s kingdom. The crucible of this world is success, power, riches, and fame, but the crucible of God’s world is how we treat people and how we treat God. As God says in Isaiah, “I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir”.  And as the Proverbs says God’s refining fire for us is how we live for Him: “The crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, but people are tested by their praise. Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.”

 

I must look at what I do and whom I seek to mirror. Who is on the throne of my life? Whom do I idolize? Do I praise the fool and his house of sandy beaches, or the wise man and his life built on The Rock of Christ? We must decide daily if we will resist the undertow of self-justifying evil and wrongs in ourselves and also in our leaders or if we will humbly but forthrightly walk in The Way revealed in what we claim as our Holy Revelations. If we should read our news objectively then we should read our Bibles subjectively.  Because God is never objective.  God is always subjective. He is after all, simply put, I AM. God is a tyrant when it comes to us. We are not given choices.  We are given the choice. We should realize that no matter what we call our nation, it too wants to be our tyrant.  Monarchies, Oligarchies, Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, Fascists – different names do not make for different realities. Our need to speak truth as God-followers has nothing to do with living in a “democracy” – it has to do with being truly human whatever our named regime. And being truly human means there are only two choices, only two masters, only two worlds – this kingdom, or God’s kingdom.

 

As I look out over my own treasure, my gold mine, my “land is my land”, how will I serve it? Will I be a slave to my riches, my things, my people, my life? Or will I be a slave to the created and true and light wielding God-image in them and me? How will I serve my family? How will I serve my drought-weary and polluted back yard?  How will I serve my irritating neighbors?  How will I be a slave to my bosses and students?  How will I be poor to the Homeless; powerless to those I have power over; meek to those I distain? How will I lay down my life in the mines of righteousness?  As to my nation and culture, Bob Dylan paraphrased St. Paul’s missive to the ancient Romans, “I’m gonna’ have to serve somebody?  Will it be the devil or will it be The Lord?”

 

We cannot serve two masters. If we do not speak for Christ now, we cannot anticipate His speaking one day for us. Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death. We are not on individual quests to save ourselves — For God created the whole world and God so loved the whole world. In God’s upside kingdom, I only find my personal salvation when I give up living for it. Jesus said to take up a cross, not a pickaxe and follow Him.  “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also. For what does it profit if I gain the world, but in the process, lose my soul?”

 

By this we know the love that is the gold we are all digging to find – if Christ laid down His life for us, then we too must lay down our lives for our fellow humans. I John 3:16

 

As I begin another year, I am going to meditate on all that the newspaper reveals as counter-claims on my soul and meditate on the Biblically inspired claims that God puts on my soul. In the spirit of a New Year Resolution: I am Resolved.

I am Resolved

by Palmer Hartsough (1896)

  1. I am resolved no longer to linger,
    Charmed by the world’s delight,
    Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
    These have allured my sight.

    • Refrain:
      I will hasten to Him,
      Hasten so glad and free;
      Jesus, greatest, highest,
      I will come to Thee.
  2. I am resolved to go to the Savior,
    Leaving my sin and strife;
    He is the true One, He is the just One,
    He hath the words of life.
  3. I am resolved to follow the Savior,
    Faithful and true each day;
    Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
    He is the living Way.
  4. I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
    Leaving the paths of sin;
    Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
    Still will I enter in.
  5. I am resolved, and who will go with me?
    Come, friends, without delay;
    Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
    We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

How can I cultivate the “heav’nly way” on earth as it is in God’s heavenly realm?  How can I live out with heart and mind, a life of servitude, slavery, and servanthood in my daily steps on this earth?  Who ya’ gonna serve? Lie-Buster? Jesus: “For I am the Lie-Buster; For I am the Truth, the Light, and The Way.”

By a true prophet and artist in the words of JRR Tolkien:

“You cannot pass. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.”

–Gandalf to Balrog on Bridge of Khazad-dum

 

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”

In closing, by true artists and prophets,  here is a video translation of our daily dilemma– with Etta James singing the prophetic words of Bob Dylan:

 

 

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If you want some verses to start out the day — based on the news out of America on January 2, 2018: Following are some of the verses that relate to my newspaper’s stories this morning. Dig in.

 

On the decimation of protections for the earth:
Deuteronomy 22:6-7  “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.”

 

Jeremiah 2:7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.

Ezekiel 34:18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?

Jeremiah 12:4 How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

Numbers 35:33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.

Leviticus 25:23 The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.

 

On the decimation of protection for the elderly:

 

Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Psalm 71:9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

 

Isaiah 1:17Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

 

On the decimation of care for the least of these:

 

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

 

1 John 3:17-18 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11

You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

 

We must not claim to know The Christ, if we do not take seriously what He said:

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, …  (Matthew 25: 31-46)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Christmas Letter – Remembering

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Christmas 2017

 

Last night, I revealed to the family the Christmas card for this year.  I was pretty proud since I airdropped, loaded, and sent it to Costco all by myself, with no help from any of my technically advanced offspring.  Raoul looked at it, and with a Santa –esque twinkle in his eye, said to me, “Well, Caito, I see you have eliminated the “Christian” out of your favorite phrase, and now are going for just a “Judeo” worldview.  He was referring to my ubiquitous use of the term, “Judeo-Christian” and to the fact that the card stock I chose has the Star of David on it. I had to admit to him, that I hesitated to choose it, but the blue looked so much better with our Hawaii trip photos.  To be honest, I have in fact struggled with calling myself “Christian”. I joked with a friend of mine, that we need a new name, so I suggested “Messianic Gentile”.  It has a ring to it.  I have deeply struggled with what has happened to Christianity and perhaps at Christmas time especially.  I put myself at the top of the naughty list for folks who have lost the meaning of what it means to follow Christ. It has been a delight, a joy, and a terrifying responsibility to teach Bible to my Sixth Graders at Pasadena Christian School. They love God, are fascinated by the story of Jesus, and their hearts are so open to truth and love.  My students were surprised to learn that much of our Christmas tradition is borrowed and stolen from Pagan traditions that had nothing to do with Christianity. Much of it has always been about branding and marketing. The Star of David has an interesting history too.  It had little to do with the ancient Hebrews and wasn’t an official sign of Judaism until the 19th century.  Yet, as I meditated on Christmas and Stars and Judeo-Christianity this year, I realized that for me, the one thing they all have gloriously and wondrously in common is that they all tell stories and treasure memories—Memories of “my people” and my God. Another constant joke about me is my claim of “my people” but this too is what my belief system is all about. Christ came to earth for all God’s people groups but He chose The Star of David from a people group with a long checkered history, a long memory for grievances, and a short memory for God’s grace and miraculous, creative salvation stories – just like my people today. Just like me.

 

Gram Cook’s annual Christmas money went this year to the Tawels seeing “A Christmas Carol”.  The lines that struck me this year were the ones Bob Cratchit speaks in a dialogue with his family after Tiny Tim “dies” in Scrooge’s dream.

“It’s just as likely as not,” said Bob, “one of these days; though there’s plenty of time for that, my dear. But however and whenever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we—or this first parting that there was among us?”

“Never, father!” cried they all.

“And I know,” said Bob, “I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.”

“No, never, father!” they all cried again.

Charles Dickens encourages us to remember the good things about others, but we too often wear a groove keeping the memories of sad or bad things as well. Adult children enjoy helping a parent remember all the mistakes a parent made while raising them, especially the things that embarrassed them or you. As a parent, I realize that this is children’s way of processing their own adulthood and their new roles as “parents” or keepers of the world. They are now trying to lead, and, I hope that somehow, knowing that their own parents could make mistakes and they could years later castigate them and still experience a parent’s love, well then maybe those children will remember their own mistakes and those of others with more kindness and grace.

And of course, this is what is so important about this beloved worldview of mine – Judeo-Christianity is about remembering—the good, the bad and the ugly of mankind, and the eternal and never changing love, grace, forgiveness and perfect holiness of a God who chooses not to remember our mistakes but to always see them in the light of His Salvation Story. Christmas is the climax of that story and The Star of David is the protagonist. When we put all those ornaments on the tree, the ones with the kid’s little faces surrounded by green and red macaroni, we are saying that for us, Christmas is not so much about the beauty of the tree but the memories that it holds.  Just like The Star of David, our Christmas stories help us celebrate the Stars of our stories — our great ancestors and us – our people. We retell the stories, year after year.  Remember that VBS when we made those ornaments? Grandma Cook gave us that mini-van ornament and the Disney cruise ship after she treated us all to that cruise so many years ago. Grandpa Tawel took me to Fedco when Raoul and I were first married and bought me those little purple ornaments and the tiny bird who has long ago lost his matching birdy mate, as Grandpa lost his beloved mate, Esther. Raoul and I trim the tree, and remember the sadness of years ago, having to literally throw our little Glendale Christmas tree out the door, as we rushed off with our toddlers Justine and Clarissa to DC to be at Esty’s sick bedside.  We fondly remember our many friends, who became our California family – the Davis’ Christmas cookie parties, the year Raoul was traveling and Mike Bollenbacher helped me lug in the too tall Ikea “Christmas Tree that Ate Glendale”.  We remember the time Verity got surprised with her very own guinea pig, that she named “Kitty” because that is what she really wanted.  We remember the time that the kids performed the play “Wombat Divine” –oh, wait, that was just last year. I remember each year of preparing for Christmas, getting the house in some kind of order, wrapping gifts late into the night and sneaking down to hide them under the tree for Christmas morning. The times Gordon, excited for Christmas morning’s reveal, woke up at 4:00 am – He who now must be rousted from bed before lunch is served.

I tell the same stories over and over and over again. Every year, we read the nativity story with illustrations by Julie Vivas.  We read “Wombat Divine”.  I tell the story about the time….and then that time…. Oh, and remember when… And every year, the family’s eyes grow dim not with tears and memories, but with minds numbed by Mom’s retelling AGAIN. Because of course they need to focus on the present.  But they can blame my determined  retelling of stories on the Judeo part of me, because the Jewish Scriptures are full of God’s insistence that we remember. God wants us to tell our stories of His provision and love and grace and forgiveness and care over and over and over again. As a matter of fact, God commands that we do so if we want to stay in right relationship to Him and our fellow human travelers. In this way of remembering, we live deeply into the day.

You know I once wanted to be a famous acting star, but I thank God that He wrested that dream from me.  I never became a Superstar but I got to give birth to four Superstars: Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon, and I live with a Super Nova, Raoul. This year for the first time in my teaching career here in LaLa Land, I actually have a student whose father is a movie star. But you know what I love about this family – they are superstars for Jesus.  They love the Lord and are raising a lovely young child to love the Lord. My own Super-Duper Stars are about a million times more amazing than I could have ever been and they have given me not just good memories, but hope for the futures both of them and of the world. I am grateful that I know a God who knows the best story line for our lives, if we keep following The Star of David, The Bright Morning Star of the Christ.

So in this present Christmas story of ours, as Justine takes work calls from North Carolina where she lives and works her way up the corporate ladder; and Clarissa takes critical work calls from Holly Street investors and financial consultants; and Gordon decides what classes to take next semester to continue his stellar ascent up the collegiate academic ladder; and Verity chats with friends she is already missing as she prepares to graduate from UCLA this spring; and Raoul steps outside the party to talk with Mosaix customers –I sit back and soak in new stories to turn into next year’s memories, God willing.  I am overwhelmed with God’s love and provision for me.  I thought I wanted to be a famous star, but instead, God gave me these five stars, and all the family and friends who contributed to their lives and stories and to making them the amazing humans that I get to walk this planet with – for a time.

This is a season where we celebrate a God who finally decided He needed to contribute His own “DNA” to ours. This is a season when we remember when Jesus was a little tyke, just as I remember when my own thriving adult-children were small. But if it is a time when we remember Christ’s coming, it is also a time when we remember that He has promised to be with us always and to come again.  As I get older, I remember more rather than less about the births of my children, about their childhoods; but –Oh fraptious joy! Oh frimbous delight!  Each year these wonderful biological carriers of my memories, bring their present lives to live with Raoul and me for a time again.  And even more amazingly, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon bring to their parents their hopes and dreams for their futures.  They talk of their dreams, their plans, their ideas and we listen and sometimes long to be young again, but mostly we long for them to be happy, and fulfilled and to know the God who has remembered them and us through all these many years of His loving provision.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote this poem about stars

Do you still remember: falling stars,
how they leapt slantwise through the sky
like horses over suddenly held-out hurdles
of our wishes—did we have so many?—
for stars, innumerable, leapt everywhere;
almost every gaze upward became
wedded to the swift hazard of their play,
and our heart felt like a single thing
beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance—
and was whole, as if it would survive them!

Sometimes, as Rilke says in this poem, I don’t think I will survive the brilliant shooting stars of my children’s trajectories. Even the memories I have “innumerable, leapt everywhere” create a brilliance that pales only to the great delight I find in seeing my super stars now in their adulthood, “leap slantwise through the skies” of their achievements. They are creative, Gordon with his computer skills, Clarissa with her photography, Verity with her writing, Justine with her baking. They are caring and try to find important things to make the world a better place.  They are helpful and so giving to their parents, fulfilling that ancient command in so many sweet and generous ways.  They also keep us in line and prod us to do better. The tables have turned and they often teach or help us to grow and thrive.  But of course, Raoul and I will always have one thing they need – we are holders of their childhood memories.  We remember, just as our Savior’s parent did: “And Mary treasured up all these things; and she pondered them in her heart.”

The Christian tree and gifts, the Jewish star and dreidel, the stories and carols and decorations and games—these are all ways to celebrate our heritage, our history, our present, and our futures. The King whose birthday we choose to celebrate this time of year would not have known either St. Nicholas nor this symbol: ✡ We who tell the saving story of God, believe Jesus was The Star of David. Yeshua [Jesus] said, “I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star.” (Rev. 22:16)  We need to tell the story of God often, not just at Christmas, even if people’s eyes glaze over. We need to remember in order to live well our present lives and to keep hope alive for our children’s future ones.

 

I celebrate the season with a full heart of wonderful gifts from God – my family, friends, a home, good food, delightful students, health, and a history.  I remember in order to praise God, in order to redirect my faltering steps, in order to have hope and faith in dark times, in order to help others, and in order to know that Jesus did come to earth as living testament to God’s very own starring role in humanity’s story. It is, after all, His-story.  And just as my children come back to be with us as Christmas each year, the Babe, who became a man who taught us our God-history lessons, who discipled us in the right way of living and loving, who showed us The Father, who died to save us from our sins, and who was resurrected to show us the way to an eternal life – that Son of God has promised, that He too will not just be someone we remember as a good man but that He will come again to be The Morning Star and King of the World forever.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)

 

Following The Star,

 

Jane, Raoul, Justine, Verity, Clarissa, and Gordon

 

 

 

 

I Love You, Mary, Because You Were Human A Christmas Poem by Jane Tawel

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I Love You, Mary, Because You Were Human

By Jane Tawel

December 17, 2017

 

 

I love you, Mary, because you were human

Not a queen, not a god, not a saint

You lived as a woman for all of your life

With all that we know as Sin’s taint

 

You worked for your family

You watched your sons grow

You worried and grumbled and cried

You doubted the God whom you had once nursed

And you fell away from Christ’s side

 

You thought He was crazy

Your other sons did too

You hoped Jesus would come back home

You cried for His dangers

You begged God for mercy

Your mother’s heart weathered Christ’s storm

 

And yet, you were one

Of The Lord’s greatest servants

You put parent’s power aside

You stopped being mother

And your Son was your brother

As you watched your womb’s Son of God die

 

If Mary were perfect

At a time that held women

As little more than life’s scraps

Then how could I, a woman today

Ever hope to climb out of sin’s trap?

 

Because you were human

Oh, Mary, my sister

Then what you did was more rare

When you met the Angel

And agreed God could use you

Giving up all your dreams for a prayer

 

 

Oh, Mary, my sister, I love you because

You are like all the women I know

Who give God their own dreams

At risk of life’s thrown stones

And grant Christ our own frail womb-homes

 

I love you, Mary, because you were human

Not a queen, not a god, but a girl

Who longed for a Savior

As do all we, Women

Who bare children we pray change the world

 

I love you, Mary because you were human

I look forward to talking someday

You can tell me your story, I’ve read in the Bible

And I’ll share my own walk on The Way

We’ll introduce our own children

And be praised not for titles

But for being good mothers, and being disciples

 

And then we’ll both kneel

To the King that you birthed

And the God-man who came

To save all the earth

And yes, all the world will love you, dear Mary

You, who were like every girl who exists

Who says to God, “yes”

And therefore, is blessed

To grant God a womb-home for Christ