Animal Soup

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

January 30, 2015

By Jane Tawel

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

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

Jane and Raoul

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

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

 

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

Although sometimes….

monkey

 

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

 

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

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

Hoarders

 

imelda marcos

packrat

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

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

 

define necessity

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

trust

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

chicken

 

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

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

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

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

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

Fly away home

 

 

Things I Used To Know

Things I Used to Know

January 27, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Things I Used To Know:

I used to know:

  • My natural hair color
  • What most abbreviations meant
  • What I wanted to do when I grew up
  • That you could always bring a peanut butter sandwich to school.

I used to know:

  • The rules. And that if you tell people the rules, they will follow them. This included rules for driving, rules for classrooms, rules for pro-sports and rules for relationships.
  • There is only one way to be baptized for it to stick.
  • That nudity is only in X-rated movies
  • What time the news was on

I used to know:

  • That yoga is only for actors and Hindus
  • That there are no Hindus in America
  • That tattoos are for sailors
  • That if there is an old person, a pregnant person or a disabled person and you are a polite person, a kind person or just a normal person, you will give that old person, pregnant person or disabled person your seat.

I used to know:

  • That you could only run for president if you were a white man.
  • That sunburns looked cute.
  • That boys only married girls.

I used to know:

  • A lot of telephone numbers by heart.
  • That every thing was closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.
  • That a net was for tennis.
  • That app was a typo for a type of monkey.
  • That God was there to keep you from going to hell.
  • That hell was somewhere else.

I used to know:

  • How to roller skate backwards
  • Who lived in every house on my block
  • The words to Don McLean’s “American Pie”
  • When to stop eating because I wasn’t hungry any more.

I used to know:

  • To always carry quarters in my car
  • How to drive a stick shift
  • The difference between a trout and a bass
  • Every TV show on all four stations at 8:00 pm Thursday night
  • The call letters for all three radio stations

I used to know:

  • No one who had ever been on television
  • How to count back change from a twenty
  • French
  • Where to buy a half slip
  • Where my children were at midnight

I used to know:

  • That the best starting line up in the world was: Danny Ainge, Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
  • What season you can get what fruits and vegetables
  • Why I was crying
  • Why I was laughing
  • That salt and spice don’t taste good when mixed with chocolate
  • That the pain would eventually go away
  • That there was nothing scary out there in the dark
  • That you never have to go it alone
  • That you have to share things like phones, hugs, TV’s, pizzas, feelings, warning signs, back car seats, front car seats, ideas, responsibility, guilt, wisdom, our planet, food, love.

But I know:

  • That I never want to say “Now You’re Just Somebody That I Used to Know”
  • That God knows my name
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • That you never know what tomorrow will bring
  • That Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
  • I should’ve known better
  • To know you is to love you
  • Know your friends, know your enemies better
  • I Wanna Know What Love Is
  • I know I know so little.
  • I know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of his pasture. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Men Only! No Religion! Chick -Lit Invades the Cave!

VarnaDragons

Men Only! No Religion! Chick -Lit Invades the Cave!

January 25, 2015

 By Jane Tawel

 This posting is for my men followers. I have two: my husband, Raoul, and my friend Steve. Raoul has to follow my blog because he made me do it in the first place and he is still married to me. I have no idea why my friend, Steve, follows me but he does like extreme sports and has a very high pain tolerance.

About a month ago I wrote a short story and had dreams of publishing it in The New Yorker or something small like that. My husband read it and claimed, like God, that it was good and then told me I should submit it to, and I quote, “a women’s magazine or something”. Okay, at first I was offended, sure, but then I thought, why should I be offended that men think I write primarily for women. I mean women are the ones who use both sides of their brains right?

But since Chick-Lit has a limited audience, I decided to write this post for all my boys. Okay right there, you can tell I already messed up writing Dude-Lit. Because Dudes, Guys, Males do not like it at all if you call them “boys”. Using the word “boy” for a male is considered discriminatory. In fact using the Male form of the “B-word” is like using the Female form of the “B-word” which is a word tossed around like a badge of honor among women now but which frankly I loathe.

Using the “B-word” (Boys) for a man when you are not one, is exactly like using the “N-word”, when you are not one. If you are an “N” you can use it to your heart’s content and if you are not an “N” and you use the “N” word you are a racist. If you are a Guy, you can use the “B” word all you like, but if you are not, you are being demeaning. Frankly, I don’t like any one using the “N-word”, but I really do like calling my husband and son, “boys”. So sue me; I don’t have any money of my own anyway.

By the way if you ever, ever call me the “B-word” for women, I will punch you. Even if you are a woman –but especially if you are a boy.

If you are a woman and you are still reading this, you must leave now. But if you take a flashlight and go hide in a closet you can keep reading, okay?

 

Men think women want to have man-caves like they do. Men, I am going to share some special female secrets with you, okay? The only way women want a man-cave is if it has a Starbucks and a Sees Candy Shop inside. Also, if you ever invite us into your man-cave, we will know it is only because you do not want to pick up all the underwear lying on the floor yourself. We will not be fooled. Finally, if you ever do seduce us into the man cave, we will talk. And talk. And keep talking. We stopped grunting when we left the caves and moved into sweet little straw thatched huts. You have been fairly warned.

The only way in tarnation that I will be mentioning anything religious from here on in this post is if I reference the Crusades. Okay, I’m going to reference the Crusades.

Men need to fight stuff. They need to conquer. Hence, the Crusades. When they can’t conquer other countries, they are going to conquer other avatars. And if you are a woman in a closet with a flashlight right now, men need to keep feeling they are conquering you. See, men need to seek dragons, find dragons, fight dragons, and conquer dragons or die trying. Hence the term “Knights in Shining Armor”.

Now the Crusades ended, well, I’m not clear on the timeline but a while ago anyway. But boys still need to charge out into battle and fight dragons. Their dragons are rarely terrorists but sometimes they are I guess if you are a policeman or Navy Seal or Kindergarten teacher, but men have to fight something. Often when the man comes home tired from a day of looking for dragons he didn’t find, well, then the man sees you and well, you could be the dragon. Gals, You do not want to be the dragon in this situation.

Now we all know that young men want to conquer young women and that is often confusing when it comes to sex. See, when it comes to sex, men and women get kinda confused because frankly, raging hormones are as confusing as short selling. (I still think if Martha Stewart had been a man she would have beat that prison rap). So when it comes to the battle of sex and The Battle of the Sexes, both the man and the woman are wondering: Is she the dragon to conquer or is she the damsel that the young boy has the hots for and hence will lay the conquered dragon at her feet?

This damsel/ dragon equation never changes. So women in closets with flashlights, if you want to make a man happy you sort have to live a bi-polar existence as the Dragon Damsel or something like that. For instance, I realize that when my husband offers to rub my feet before having sex, it is not because he knows that pleases me but because my feet are the dragons. I play along as the damsel. My husband-boy rubs my stinky, calloused feet because he must conquer the dragons before he gets his conquest. He has gotten pretty darn fast at conquering my dragons, let me tell you.

But you have to be very, very careful with this dragon/ damsel thing because except for sex, women in closets with flashlights, you should never cast yourself as the dragon.

Men also need to conquer the dragons of conversations. I was confirming with a woman friend the other day that basically women like to build ideas and thereby build relationship when they talk. Men just like to win. Again,–dragons. So a woman may start various conversations that go something like:

#1: Woman: I’m so sorry but I disagree with your premise. Reagan, even when dead, would not make a better president than our current president.

Man: (Seems as if he did not hear but IN HIS MIND, says): I am right.

#2: Woman: What do you think of the existential worldview that the LA Times seems to be taking in its editorials these days?

Man:(Seems as if he did not hear but IN HIS MIND, says): I am right.

#3: Woman: Did you see that poor homeless man with the broken leg at Pavilion’s today? He was begging for money and I was reminded of a Charles Dickens story. I was wondering if we should go back and offer to take him to dinner or adopt him to come live with us.

Man: (Seems as if he did not hear but IN HIS MIND, says): I am right.

#4: Woman: Where are you going?

Man: Y

Woman: OH, good you need to work out to get rid of all that stress. How long are you going to be gone because I was thinking about having dinner ready in an hour? Do stir fry vegetables sound good again tonight? Are you doing the sauna after? Don’t forget your towel. Be careful with your back.

Man: (Seems as if he did not hear but IN HIS MIND, Says): I am right.

Man walks toward door.

Woman: Aren’t you forgetting something? You forgot to kiss me. Don’t you love me any more? Okay, fine. Just go ahead and go.

Man: (Seems as if he did not hear but IN HIS MIND, Says): Frankly, in his mind he is now thinking and saying absolutely nothing. The battle is starting without him.

Woman: Okay, have fun! Be safe! Have fun! Be safe!

Man is already gone. He is off to conquer the treadmill. The treadmill is his dragon. He will refuse to have fun. He will refuse to be safe. He will conquer.

See, in those conversations, the man is right every single time. He must be absolutely sure, steady, brave in battle, fearless, never doubting of his extremely fine skills – because otherwise, the dragon wins. If he doubts that he is in the right, then the man gets hurt or worse, dies and the dragon wins. Being right all the time means the dragon always loses.

See here is the problem. Men need to conquer dragons. If you argue him into a corner, or don’t leave his pride in tact, or you make his fights about you, well, then guess who is his dragon? You, “Little Miss I Am Woman Hear Me Roar”. You may never see him in battle with his dragon, but don’t mistake, his dragon is real. So when he slinks off at the end of the day to his man-cave, he may be licking his wounds. Just hand him some Neosporin through the cave opening and go back to your stir fry. And when he comes home and offers to rub your feet, then he has conquered his dragon. And he has come home to celebrate with you. That’s a full stop.

So now some of my women friends in the closet with flashlights are angry with me because I am making it seem as if Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars. (Holy Moley, don’t you wish you’d written that book?)

You know, I grew up in the Seventies and I am as much an “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” kinda gal as the next chick. But, honestly when my son came out of the womb he was already completely different than the girls I had previously birthed. Oh, sure he popped out crying just like his three older sisters, but when he saw I was giving him sympathy for his cries, he clammed up immediately and wouldn’t talk to me for 10 months.

Women I’m not saying we shouldn’t argue with our boys, or that we aren’t basically usually always right. But men and women argue for different reasons. If you don’t go into battle understanding that, then both of you lose.

Okay, fair enough, not all men are the same and not all women are the same and hip, hip hurray we live in a country and time that it has gotten pretty darn mixed up at times in terms of gender appropriate behavior.

I really appreciate women with extra testosterone and as a matter of fact I appreciate the men who have an extra dollop of estrogen as well. We need these people in the Gender Wars. In The Beginning, Men were given extra testosterone and Women were given extra estrogen so they could use their hormonal imbalances to fight each other. We desperately need women and men with too much of the other’s hormone. In the great Gender Battles of our day, it is the testosterone -enhanced women and estrogen- enhanced men who run out on the battlefield waving little hormonal white flags, yelling, “Truce! Truce!” “Can’t we all just get along?”

This is why it is recommended in all Good Books, that a man and a woman stay married to each other for as long as they can possibly duke it out. Because after thirty years of marriage, his testosterone wanes and her estrogen waxes and they are basically just a contented, battle-scarred neutered couple of ex-prize fighters.

I have some Facebook friends who brag about all the sweet things their husbands do for them. Gag me with a javelin! My husband, I am proud to say, rarely does sweet things for me. He is busy fighting dragons! See men weren’t created to do sweet things. They were meant to go kill stuff or figure out other people’s taxes or teach Geometry and then come home with the kill and throw it at the woman’s feet. THEN, and only then, bloodied with red ink, blinded by computer back lighting, fingers aching from pencil pushing, and roaring throats sore with lecturing – THEN, after the woman has gushed and oohed and aahed – THEN, The Man is ready to show his softer side. Because he is a manly man and men who have conquered dragons all day, can come home and be a little bit sweet. It is not cute, it is an aberration in an otherwise battle-scarred hero.

So this is for my two battle-scarred heroes, facing yet another dragon today:

Raoul and Gordon, you are not my boys. You are my men. I owe you an apology. It has been a long time since I have thanked you for going out and conquering dragons. I am proud to claim you as the men in my life. You are brave in battle and fearless in your search for the monsters in our lives. You are wise even if you don’t talk much and you are sweet when no one is looking. I’m sorry I am rather limited in my Chick-Lit view of life, but I am glad you have both been patient in teaching me about Men. I won’t let on to you that I understand, or that I sometimes feel sorry for all the things you have to go through as men, or that I sometimes feel sad for how lonely it must be sometimes to be a man out there fighting dragons. I’ll try to be quiet sometimes when you need me to and I’ll keep trying to help you talk, because you need me to do that whether you will admit it or not.

Raoul and Gordon, thanks for riding out to win, yet again today. May your dragons be slain honorably and your battle scars heal well. I’ll be here, in the closet with my flashlight, reading some car manuals or battle plans or something and trying to get to know you boys, just a little bit better and love you a whole lot more.

Now get back out there in the fray, but come home safe to me, you hear?

Hoop-jumping and Free-falling

Hoop-jumping and Free-falling

May, 2010

We went to the La Brea Tar Pits today. After years of home schooling my kids, it is strange that they have projects due for someone else. Clarissa has a project due for her biology teacher. I don’t get it, but I’m willing to risk our lives and drive her downtown L.A. on a Saturday for the points she needs to earn.

 

I am not a very good “hoop jumper” after all these years of (assuming at least), that I am jumping through no one’s hoops but my own. Of course the first time you have a boss, you get to choose whether you like a paycheck enough to jump through someone’s hoops or not. My students don’t know what I mean when I say, “ok for those of you who just want to know what hoops you have to jump through…” They have never seen a circus, I guess, where trained animals jump through hoops and the audience applauds as if the dog jumping through a round plastic thing has just written “Hamlet” or the lion just painted “The Last Supper”.

 

Do I think of God as Someone who wants me to jump through hoops? Do I think my God is the type of god who gives me creative license to be a work in progress? Does God want me to earn points for a grade or, like an Unschooling Parent, just want me to learn at my own pace? But a project due for a biology teacher is an important thing indeed.

 

My daughters and I looked around the Tar Pit; Clarissa there for her project, Verity there for her sister’s moral support. We tried to figure out good angles from which to take pictures, as this was part of the requirement. For biology. It was one of those lovely, May Saturdays that keep us tethered to Los Angeles; One of those postcard days when we forget about the hideous heat, the hideous smog, and the even more hideous traffic. Families of every culture on the planet, and come to think of it, probably from off our planet too, were enjoying the sun, and seventy- something perfect degree weather, and each other. I didn’t hear a single parent screech at their child. There was a man sporadically playing the banjo and a man surreptitiously offering to do your portrait for sometimes three dollars and sometimes ten. I guess he based the price on the clothes you were wearing. He offered to do ours for three. A police sort –of- man on a bike with a bright yellow vest and heavy- duty helmet, wove authoritatively, yet with an air of counter-serious enjoyment, through the clots of families. We were grateful the assignment did not include having to tour the museum; we had plans for the evening to take Dad out for Sushi for a belated birthday present. We planned on a quick in and out, but we dallied. Sunshine in May after a long, wild drive down freeways and Wilshire Boulevard, make for a dallying frame of mind.

 

At the La Brea Tar Pits, there is, at least for Los Angeles, an even more rare natural phenomenon than the pit itself. There is a hill. Though a common phenomenon in the Midwest of my childhood, hills are as sporadic as parking spaces here in SoCal. There are mountains, (which we don’t actually do well in the Midwest) but there are very few grassy hills, gentle knolls, inviting hummocks. The hill at the La Brea Tar Pits is a good, old fashioned, grassy, spotted with clover, rolling hill. Not rolling hills, mind you, but a single Rolling Hill i.e. a hill to roll upon.

 

There is obviously imbedded in human nature the world over, and perhaps, for all I know, by beings on other planets as well, the deep need and desire to roll down a hill. Now some people that I know desire to climb mountains, to conquer very high scary, things. But every single person in the universe, and you can quote me on this, desires to roll down a good hill.

 

There in the City of Angels, surrounded by high rises, billboards, drug deals, crime, trash, and tar pits, were children of every age, color, shape, and size, rolling down a hill. I was envious of the families who still had children unashamed to roll down a hill. I knew if my girls had been there with their friends, and especially if those friends included boys that they wanted to impress, my teenage girls would have been laughing and rolling and flirting and rolling and fake complaining and rolling down the only hill in Los Angeles County. But my teenagers were there with their mom and even though they know she is a hill-rolling kinda’ lady, she is never ever to be a hill-rolling kinda’ lady when around her children. Never. Ever.

 

I miss my little kids. I love my teens, but I miss my children. Especially when there’s a good hill to roll down.

 

There was one Filipino family, (why oh, why Filipino are you not spelled with a Ph?) with two adorable little boys, probably about five and three years old. The parents stood expectantly waiting, two arm lengths away from me at the bottom of the hill. My girls were taking their last pictures of the tar pit from the top of the hill they wouldn’t dream of rolling down. The parents said sweet encouraging “rah yea!” things while the boys in their little jeans and little striped shirts swayed like miniature drunken sailors at the top of what to them must have looked like a mountain in the Andes. Then the one whose height and form of face betrayed him as the elder, lay down and began to roll hesitantly down the hill. When he began to pick up speed, he would naturally, as all humans and aliens know to do, stop himself, look at his parents for confirmation that it was safe to continue, and then start rolling again. Meanwhile, the little one sat down.

 

Now I myself, am quite afraid of heights, so I immediately, understood the dilemma of Boy the Younger. If he let himself go willy- nilly down, what to him was a gihugic mountain, he might be crushed on the shoals of the other children and dogs and clover far below. If on the other hand, he remained frozen at the top, he would not only be humiliated in front of his big brother, especially if one of his parents had to make the long slog up to carry him down like a baby!!, but he would also have to be carried by said parent. Said parent might carry Boy the Younger hurriedly and therefore carelessly, down the hill, and that would be scary. Said parent is taller than the boy and carrying him would make him even higher up and further off safe ground, since he would be in the arms of an adult, albeit a parent, but a tall person with other things on his or her mind nonetheless. He might be dropped!!! Humiliation and fear were making a job of it in the little boy’s every expression.

 

So the little fellow made an executive decision and I had to hand it to him. He had his cake and ate it too, so to speak, which might mark him as either a future politician, Mafioso, or the next Ghandi. He began a sort of a three-quarter roll down what was now The Hill with capitals. He opted for a sort of magician’s helper act with half his body going one direction and the other still stationary in the magic box so to speak. It was an illusion trick – how to make the audience think you are rolling down a hill, when you are actually safely scooting down a hill. He was moving with his little chunky legs and jean-clad bottom turning over and over down the hill, while his little round head and upper torso sort of sat upright so he could keep his eyes firmly fixed on Mom and Dad and flat ground at the bottom of The Hill.

 

After a couple little leg/bottom rolls, he would stop, to make sure everyone was buying his magic act as a full- out roll down the hill act. As his parents seemed just as happy with his pseudo-roll as his brother’s reckless abandonment in motion, he continued to flip his lower three-quarters as if he had a little pancake flipper in his chest, while his eyes warily watched for traffic and dinosaurs and his head stayed firmly upright.

 

And I realized as I watched this little guy on a sunny, perfect spring day in California, that spiritually I am just like him. No matter how good my life is, no matter how much God has blessed me and mine with protection and food and money and I-pods, I worry that if I let go and really, truly let God control things, I will fall willy- nilly down life’s hill and not stop falling until I crash at the bottom. And I will be embarrassed and humiliated in front of friends and strangers who roll perfectly down Life’s Hills, hills with capitals. At my age, I know crashes hurt and falls humiliate. A lot. I could break a hip. I could be on Crime Stoppers, not as a detective. Knowing me, I could end up rolling down The Hill, rolling over the fence and rolling into the primordial tar pit!

 

Furthermore, I know that unless I keep upright with my eyes fixed on the bottom of Life’s Big Hill, and guard against bad things that lurk under every clover blossom, I will not end happily like the older brother, with applause and “well done good and faithful hill roller”, but I will end up with bee stings, and bruises, and people laughing and getting angry at me for getting grass stains on my jeans and God will not be a sunny pat –on- the- back- applauding Father, but God will be a mean, silent rainy day all alone at the bottom of a pointless hill. I know this in my little child’s heart as sure as that little boy knew he could not possibly roll down The Hill alone. So I go through life rolling my little jean clad legs in a three quarter roll down The Hill while I keep my eyes and head upright, afraid to give up control in case I might be hurt or embarrassed. Because I don’t think my god is big enough to steer me at Life’s Top, let alone big enough to catch me at Life’s Bottom.

 

This morning at church we sang that lovely old hymn by Fanny Crosby, “He Hideth My Soul”, and I cried, as I often do during hymns or the reading of scripture. Today I felt weepy for the little child-me who feels she has to keep her head upright and her eyes nervously scanning the valley for dinosaurs. I felt sad for “Little Me” who never can quite believe that God loves me enough to take care of me and the people I love. I wish I didn’t feel like I always had to be in control. Can you imagine the loss of control in being blind? Fanny Crosby was blind because of a doctor’s mistake, but she didn’t complain. She said once that if she could have chosen to be blind, she would have, because she knew that by being blind, the first face she would ever see would be the face of Jesus. Imagine what a crazy, wild hill-roller Fanny Crosby must have been!

 

I think about the little guy on the hill. I see his stern little worried face looking into the huge distance of his hill and his life. I wish I would have not worried about his parents having me arrested or my girls being embarrassed at me, or my own fear of heights and embarrassment at unwarrented attention, and I wish I had gone on up that hill and grabbed that little boy in my arms and hugged him tight while together we rolled recklessly down the hill. Jesus would have been there rolling with us as He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, rolling down hills, there I will be also.”

 

I imagine Jesus loved to roll down the hills of Nazareth. Talk about a Dude who was one crazy, reckless, unashamed, out of control Hill Roller! I feel sad we have made Jesus so serious and robbed him of the hilarity of His phenomenal hill rolling, of His abandoned joy in the journey, of His acceptance of the irony of not knowing what the future holds even though He was God, of the rock and rolling communion of laughter with His buddies, and of Jesus’ great love – so great He could hold a friend in his arms; He could hold the World in His hands and together roll, and roll, and roll down Life’s Big Hills. When we have a Friend like that, we no longer need to be afraid to let go and roll with God.

 

I see some pretty big Life Hills ahead. We all get to go down big hills in this life – a parent’s death, a friend’s divorce, a child’s illness, a scary test result, a betrayal, a big mistake. I hope I will be brave enough to in the words of another great hymn, “Turn my eyes upon Jesus”. He has his eyes laser-locked on mine, waiting at the finish line. He already rolled down all the Big Hills, and He rolled down in my place The Biggest Hill of All. Jesus climbed The Big Hill of Calvary, and He carried me down Golgotha’s Hill on His bloodied back and in His pierced hands. Jesus rolled down Calvary’s Hill unafraid because He knew The Father was waiting at the end and that The Father was big enough to control any Fall. The Fall. The Hills I face today or tomorrow will seem quite small to Jesus, Hill-roller Extraordinaire.

 

Perhaps I will get another chance to grab one of God’s children standing alone and afraid at the top of The Hill and together we will roll and roll and roll, and not look down once. We will keep our eyes turned up to the heavens and we will be laughing and rejoicing as we free fall forward on Life’s Hill. We won’t be afraid because Jesus will be rolling with us, willy-nilly, out of all control except the Father’s.

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Tag, You’re It!


Tag, You’re It!

January 23, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Tagline: In entertainment, a tagline (or tag line) is a small amount of text which serves to clarify a thought for, or designed with a form of, dramatic effect. Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with an individual, social group, or product. (Wikipedia)

Tagging: (Urban Dictionary) Somewhat graphiti. A way of signing your name anonomously. Sometimes people use random words, like Spalt, or also symbols. Hey man, me and Elliot went tagging last night, why didn’t you show?”

Tag: 1. a label attached to someone or something for the purpose of identification or to give other information. 2. A small piece or part that is attached to a main body. 3. A recurrent or characteristic verbal expression.(various dictionaries)

Since starting this blog yesterday I am on a steep learning curve. When you post on your blog, you should tag words so that any one who is searching for information will accidently stumble on your post by searching for the words you have tagged. For instance, in this second post I am tagging the words, “sex”, “party”, “earn money”, and “Obama”. None of these tags will have anything to do with this posting but I figure it will get me lots and lots of accidental views.

Tagging is not a new human endeavor, it is as old as cave-women. I realized as I was looking up the definition of various forms of the word “tag” that I believe quite deeply in tagging. Tagging has to do with art, words, labels, design, drama, clarification, names – in other words, important things.

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Tagging is “random” and “designed”. This paradox is perfect when you consider how many things that completely and profoundly effect your life are random – where you are born, whom you are born to, and when you are born. And yet, many of us believe there is a Designer to the pattern of our lives. It’s a random purposeful paradox. I believe we are “designed with a form” and yes, this is often to “dramatic effect”, but I also believe that we are all dealt a rather random hand and we play it to the best of our ability.

Psalms 139 poetically proclaims: “For You formed (tagged) my inward parts; You wove (tagged) me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (tagged); Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame (tagline) was not hidden from You, When I was made (tagged) in secret, And skillfully wrought (tagged) in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained (tagged) for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”

We have been tagged by God. The Creator has “signed His name” on the very fabric of our being. “For the purpose of identification” we have been “labeled”.

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But how many times in my life have I ignored God’s tag line on my soul and painted over His masterpiece with my own graffiti?

I am constantly trying to write a tagline: “a small amount of text that serves to clarify a thought”. Here is today’s:

How many times have you heard that you are God’s masterpiece? We tend to think of the definition of “masterpiece” as it has evolved to mean –the highest achievement of the master artist. But it first meant something a bit different. A masterpiece, or meisterstuck, or masterstik, was a term that referred to the work produced by an apprentice or journeyman in a guild, who “aspired to become like his master craftsman”.  The apprentice was judged on whether he successfully produced a piece of art that would be judged by knowledgeable artists to be like that of the master. In other words, those who judged the quality of the work would not be able to discern the difference between the masterpiece of the apprentice and the Masterpiece of the Master.

For instance, the hand of God of the apprentice of Michelangelo would be indistinguishable from the hand of God of Michelangelo himself. Jane Tawel’s sonnet on comparing you to a summer day would be indistinguishable from Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer day?” And the “little Christ’s” masterpieces of life, would be indistinguishable from The Christ’s Masterlife. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph. 5:1) “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2)

That is just plain impossible. If I set out today to imitate Michelangelo, I could spend five hundred million years working at it, and at the end of five hundred million years, it would still look something like this:

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Actually those of you who know that I have absolutely no visual artistic talent at all know my drawing of a hand would never look this good.

But then I don’t know how to draw. I don’t have the gift of drawing. Honestly, I don’t even like to draw. But:

  1. I know how to live.
  2. I have the gift of living.
  3. I like to live.

I have been created and formed and wired and taught and inspired and encouraged to live. And I have a Master Craftsman who came to live among us, who still lives among us, and who desires us to choose to live with Him forever. I was tagged at great price in order that I might live, and “yet not I but Christ live in me”. (Gal. 2:20)

So why would I not choose to imitate my Master? He lived a perfect life – a masterpiece in the sense of the highest accomplishment a Master Artist can create.

This summer my family went to the Art Institute of Chicago. When you see a master work by a true artist: 1. You know you are seeing something that should be humanly impossible and yet is right there in reality before you– for your eyes to see. 2. You could see it a hundred times and always feel and see and understand something new and have new questions that would draw you back to see it again and again. 3. It connects to a deep part of you that you cannot explain. 4. It gives you not just happiness but joy; it is transforming, and it makes you want to be a better person, just by having had a short relationship with the masterpiece– you want more.

This is the effect that the life of Christ should have on us. We view His master work and we can hardly believe it, we have questions, but we want more; He connects to a deep part of us we can’t completely understand but which brings us joy; we are transformed.

Now hold on to your seats – consequently, this is the effect that my life should have on others.

Raoul and I were privileged last week to attend a Guitar Concert with master musicians. The music they created  hit me in the solar plexis – it spoke to that deep, eternal part of me called the soul. The Imago Dei of the artist is just that – Humanity as it was created to be – like a god. And when artists play alone it is incredible but when they create together? Well, then we understand the idea that we are tagged to create together. We create human lives together just as God the Three created life together. We create a home full of love together, as God creates a home for us, this world and the next, so we can live and be eternally creating together. This is a glimpse of what it should mean to be part of the body of Christ. As a single tag, I am created to be:”a small piece or part that is attached to a main body”.  “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5) We are closest to God’s idea of masterpiece when we are part of a great Whole — a unique part, necessary for the beauty of the masterpiece, but a tag in something even bigger — the Sistine Chapel, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Symphony, the non-abridged version, the Life of Christ.

Each day, I get the choice of a tagline. When I get up, I can set out to end my day with a tagline that matters – not just to me, but to someone else I encounter in my day. It might look like a simple drawing of a cup of water, but if done well, it will be a masterpiece. I have the Master’s promise that if “I draw a cup of water and give it to someone with Christ’s tagline on it”,  great will be my reward and the performance halls of heaven will ring with applause. I will be judged on how closely my tag is to that of the Master Artist. But each evening I can ask for help, so that tomorrow my life  is just a little bit closer to The Perfect One’s Master-life.

And when someone writes, my final tagline, what will they remember as the “reiterated phrase associated with me”?  These three things remain: Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest is Love.

As Francis Schaeffer once famously said, “How shall we then live?” if we have been tagged in the image of God?

Okay, I’ve tagged myself. Now, tag – you’re it.

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On Fingernails

On Fingernails

February 2009

By Jane Tawel

I have never, ever had pretty fingernails.  You may remember my sister Julie.  Julie of the long, long, long  to- her- knees  true -yellow blond hair. Julie of the pretty smile. Julie of the pale, moon-kissed skin. Julie of the many pretty friends.  Julie of the perfect fingernails.  Yes, that Julie. Julie used to have beautiful “as long as she wanted” fingernails –long before acrylics.  Real, home-grown long fingernails– before nail spas. When really long, pointy sharp fingernails were in, we used to call her nails, the “Ginsu Knives” — after these sharp knives advertised on television. This was before cable t.v. and infomercials, so you pretty much believed what you saw. This was before every show was a reality show – who wanted to watch reality?  We wanted Mayberry and Bonanza and the Brady Bunch. Who would think reality shows and infomercials would ever be “in”? I don’t watch television much now so maybe info-mercials are still not “in”, but pretty fingernails have always been “in”.  I imagine First Woman, Eve, had gorgeous long, hard –as- nails fingernails without Sally Hansen’s help.

I have a sort of false pride in my crummy nails.  Obviously false, since no one envies them. My nails are truly ugly – Hulk- nail ugly, Gollum-ugly, Shrek-ugly. I refuse to get “fake” nails, and I emphasis the “fake” as a sort of Caesar Chavez revolutionary fingernail stance. Actually I am, as in many things, not revolutionary but deeply afraid. I fear acrylic nails since, and I heard this from a reputable source, probably online where I hear most reputable things, that acrylic nails eat your own nails underneath.  Your own nails get eaten by the fake nails, kinda’ like that gigantic plant that ate New York.  Getting fake nails seems to me like getting plastic surgery.  I would always know that they weren’t really mine.  Not mine from birth. Of course my hair is not really colored mine, since birth, but that involves a minor chemical reaction and not a scalpel or super glue. I am also deathly afraid of any sort of non-necessary medical intervention and having seen my daughter, Clarissa, once get fake nails and then have to have them removed so she could play soccer – well, let’s say her recovery time rivaled the recovery time of a C-section. It was a C-section for nails to get those fake suckers off!

I have never bitten my nails, but they look bitten. I have always imbibed a lot of milk, but my nails look like I never drank milk. I have never tanned leather with my bare hands, but it looks like I have tanned leather with my bare hands. I clip my nails short, but they seem to grow in sort of Picasso-esque shapes.  Two of them, one middle finger and one thumb (though technically not a finger, still considered a fingernail in a set) got mangled somehow somewhere along the way long ago, probably when I was still in the womb or when I was first dating.  I was told once by a hand model who of course back then had to have naturally perfect nails–  (Yes, it is my lot in life to be surrounded by perfectly nailed people. I of course, had to move to California, rather than somewhere like Leeds or Afghanistan. I do not think there is anyone left in the entire state of California other than I, who does not have perfect nails.  Men included.) I was told by this hand model, who always wore white gloves with cream slathered inside, that these misshapen nails of mine would never grow out of their problems.  It was like having nails that were always going to be going through puberty, with eternal nail acne. My middle finger and thumb nails are just always going to be two hunking, ugly pimples, never poppable.  The hand model assured me that I had evidently somehow so damaged the beds of these nails, that the one with the crack would always have that crack no matter how many times I cut it or babied it or how much gelatin I ate; and the one with the deep groove, would always have that deep groove because the bed would just keep growing and growing with the groove coming from the very depths of my own, private, under the skin, fingernail purgatory.  You know, not many people realize how smart hand models are, but let me tell you, this hand -modeling girl was absolutely right, because twenty years after she prophesied the future of my abused nails, they still look as if their owner works barehanded in a rock quarry.

Yesterday I took two of my daughters, Clarissa and Verity, for a pedicure and manicure. Now, we are not the “Take Your Daughters for Pedi-Manis” type of family that all of the entire rest of people in California are, (including the men).  I think some women in California are actually having little mini-pedicures and manicures done in-vitro now.  But it was so fun to splurge on my daughters after a hard week.  They half-heartedly encouraged me to get acrylic nails; half-heartedly because by now they know how acute is my false pride in low maintenance.  This is their mom after all, who calls the Salvation Army Thrift Store her Special Consignment Shop.  So I sat in the waiting chair, happily hearing my girls chatter with the lovely sounding and lovely looking Vietnamese women. I was so relieved that these lovely soft sounding and beautifully groomed Vietnamese women, did not have to take a chisel to the calluses on my feet, nor that they might pass out at one look at my Hulk-nails. We went home three happy women, two with pretty nails and one with her pretty pride in tact.

But the next day at home, when I was cutting off the little torn thumb nail, because if you don’t cut it early it will catch on something and rip and really, really, really hurt for a long time — as I was cutting it (okay, biting it with my teeth) –I felt a little wave of pity for it.  I felt it was my little Special Needs fingernail.  I wanted to give it some meaning in life beyond just protecting my worthless thumbnail bed.  So of course, being me, I found a little analogy in my nail, and it was a good, positive, “you are capable of so much more” thumbnail analogy.

This journey of Life has had a lot of wrong turns and there have been times when I wasn’t sure of where God was, where I was with God, or worse, whether my children would ever know Him at all. But I know that I am where I am and who I am today, because long ago when I was a child, God and God’s people, my family, my churches, my youth groups and Christian schools and colleges and collective strange angels along the way, kept wearing grooves in my soul.  No matter how many times I shoved God aside and tried to exchange my soul for a fake, meaningless, “not- mine -since -birth” acrylic coating, God kept finding people to imperceptibly keep wearing a groove in my soul. The groove of God’s grace and goodness remain, deeply imbedded under my skin, and each time whenever I finally grow out of excuses, get tired of running away, or hiding, or trying to paint over my sins and sorrows, the groove is still there.

Isn’t it just like the great Hand-model of all time to give Himself a pair of battered, carpenter -bashed, and literally nail-scarred hands as the epitome of the Imago Dei? Jesus with no false sense of pride, modeled nail scars in His hands and promised, “My grooves will never leave you, nor forsake you.” “Groove a child in the way she should go and when her life grows out, that groove will still be there.” (A paraphrase of Prov. 22:6)

So just like Jesus renamed Peter and Paul, today I gave my little special grooved thumbnail and forked fingernail, new names: God’s Groove of Grace and The Nail Scarred Finger.  They are reminders that once God makes His mark on the bed of your soul, He will never let it grow out, even if you try your hardest to cover it over with something not real.

And the advantage to having crummy nails is that you never mind helping people with things that might break or chip perfect nails.  Today it is good to see my ugly scary looking nails, like stigmata, and realize that even in my imperfectness, maybe especially in my imperfectness, God chooses to imprint His Son’s scarred hands on mine.

A Meditation on the Oxymoron of California Rain

A Meditation on the Oxymoron of California Rain

January 11, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Millions of other worlds’ elsewhere- rains later,

Dry heaves of rain drops fall.

Alone in the dripping desert of skyscrapers,

Goldberry’s bastard heir keeps the dance.

She worships the sight of

The spittle of the gods in the gutters.

Genuflecting in baptismal puddles,

She parts the seas of cautious cars.

The pittance of little sparks of firewater,

crackling wet,

Makes a solitary drumbeat

for her dance of The Tribe.

My real world is best lit

through drizzled gorgeous grey.

In a world gone mad looking for the sun,

God shelters me best in rain.