Facing It Just As I Am

Facing It, Just As I Am

February 26, 2015

By Jane Tawel

When I was growing up in the seventies in the Middle of America, you ordered things from the Sears Catalogue, or went to the one mall in the one nearby town maybe once a month. You bought your make up from the drugstore where you also could still sit at a counter for an ice cream soda. We eventually moved to the burbs but there still weren’t a lot of over the counter make up products for young girls.

When I got to college, I met one of the first rich girls I’d ever (knowingly) met. She was from The South and she had a make up called “Mary Kay”. I thought I had never seen anything so unique and lovely and fancy and other -worldly in my whole entire sheltered life.

My friends and I used “Cover Girl” make up and in the Seventies, we used a lot of it. Here is me in the 1970’s. (And yes, that is my prettier sister Julie of The Fingernails in the background).

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I have always been a bit off the north running track.In this picture I am doing the “Monkey” and I think I am a good dancer. I am not. Ask my kids.

I also have often thought I was intelligent.  I am not. Ask my kids.  Proof:  You know I didn’t actually realize until I was writing this post that Cover Girl must have meant “cover” as in cover of a magazine — a model girl. Duh!  In other words, Cover Girl was a pretty classy make-up for girls who wanted to look like magazine cover models. I thought “Cover Girl” meant Cover – up. Like make-up was to cover your face and hide blemishes and spots and cover your eyelids bright blue. Not a classy name, simply descriptive of why I bought the product. To cover up.

 

Our faces are such an important part of us, male and female alike. Our senses are all contained there, our eyes, “the window of the soul”, our smell and taste and hearing. We either love or hate certain people to touch our face– there is no middle ground. Our faces are what people see us as first. Our faces are what we share with our lovers and babies as we first snuggle and kiss. Our faces are what we take the most time with as we cleanse and primp and make our presentation to the world. Our faces are what we hide in shame if we have wronged someone. We protect first our faces when afraid. Little children often think if you can’t see their face and they can’t see yours then you can’t see them. Faces have been known “to launch a thousand ships” and to induce guilt. When the Dutchess of Malfi is murdered at the instigation of her brother, he famously remarks, “Cover her face, mine eyes dazzle. She died young.” (John Webster, The Dutchess of Malfi)

We “save face”; we “empty our face of expression”; we mask our face. We face up to things; face off, face it; we face the music; we face facts. We are forward or backward facing; we make an about face; are faceless, take things at face value, fall flat on our faces. We don’t want to be just another pretty face but don’t want people to ask about us as “what’s his face?” We have straight faces, long faces, poker faces, set faces and two-faced faces. Let’s face it, we often cut off our noses to spit our faces and then do an about face and say “in your face” cuz I’d rather face a firing squad than do an about face and face you with egg on my face.

 

Here is my problem. I have the exact same face I had when I was young in the 1970’s. When I look in the mirror now, forty years later, I see the same face that I don’t like. I see my face, the one with problems, the one I want to change, the one with the blemishes, the one I want to cover up. It doesn’t matter that instead of pimples I want to cover up wrinkles, or that instead of blue eye shadow I need under eye cream. I look at my face and I judge it unworthy. And I have wasted a lifetime caring so much about how my face looks.

 

Colbie Caillet wrote a beautiful song called “Try”. I’m not usually big on videos but you should watch her video. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXoZLPSw8U8

In her video, Caillet shows women, including herself with make up on and without. Here are the words:

Put your make up on

Get your nails done

Curl your hair

Run the extra mile

Keep it slim

So they like you. Do they like you?

Get your sexy on

Don’t be shy, girl

Take it off

This is what you want, to belong

So they like you. Do you like you?

 

You don’t have to try so hard

You don’t have to give it all away

You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up

You don’t have to change a single thing

 

Get your shopping on,

At the mall,

Max your credit cards

You don’t have to choose,

Buy it all

So they like you. Do they like you?

 

Wait a second,

Why should you care, what they think of you

When you’re all alone, by yourself

Do you like you? Do you like you?

 

You don’t have to try so hard

You don’t have to give it all away

You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up

You don’t have to change a single thing

 

You don’t have to try so hard

You don’t have to bend until you break

You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up

You don’t have to change a single thing

Take your make up off

Let your hair down

Take a breath

Look into the mirror, at yourself

Don’t you like you?

Cause I like you

When my daughter showed me this video, I couldn’t stop crying as I thought about me, sad, insecure little girl me who still doesn’t know that who I am inside is more important to make beautiful than who I am outside. And I cried for my children, including my son, who really don’t know how beautiful they are inside and out because they live in a society that dehumanizes them and uglifies their souls while selling them a world of cover -ups.

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One of the women in Colby Caillet’s video, actually gets brave enough to take her hair off, because it’s all gone due to chemo. The point of the video is, it’s okay to wear makeup and it’s okay to wear a wig, but are you doing it for you because it helps you like you? Or are you doing it because you will never ever be pretty or handsome or buff or sexy enough for someone else? When you choose your outer self, are you revealing who you are or are you hiding who you are?

 

Lucy Grealy wrote a book called Autobiography of a Face. When Grealy was nine she was treated for cancer and they had to remove a third of her jaw. Let’s just say her classmates and even many adults were less than kind. They mocked and taunted her. This is Lucy Grealy’s comment in the book, “This singularity of meaning–I was my face, I was ugliness–though sometimes unbearable, also offered a possible point of escape. It became the launching pad from which to lift off, the one immediately recognizable place to point to when asked what was wrong with my life. Everything led to it, everything receded from it–my face as personal vanishing point.”

 

The book continues with her medical journey to change her face, and she writes: “I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I’ve spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison.”

 

How sad that many of us who are not scarred by cancer are still scarred by who we let judge us. We are duped into thinking that the world wants us to be beautiful when all it is doing is tricking us into washing the outside of our vessels, these bodies, while the inside grows uglier day after day.

Here is a picture of Lucy Grealy today:

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The reason I started thinking about faces this week was because I was finishing up a study by Michael Card on the book of John and I’m at the place where Jesus has been arrested and one of the things the Roman soldiers and Jewish Sanhedrin do to Jesus is spit in his face. I’m sorry, I know that the pain of beating and whipping must be horrible, but I have a hard time imagining any thing more horrific than someone spitting in my face. The fact that Jesus spoke not a word when they were doing this astounds me. Jesus faced my accusers for me and not only allowed them to deglorify Him as God, but to dehumanize him as one of us. Because spitting, not just at someone or near someone which is demeaning enough, but spitting in someone’s face, is the most degrading act of dehumanization I can imagine.

 

Do we not in one sense, spit in the face of our Creator, when we value our looks, our sexiness, our acceptableness, our better than that grade or face or body- ness more than we value our souls, our talents, our minds, our hearts, our characters? I think this is why Jesus was not “a looker” according to the Bible. There can be no mistake that any one was attracted to the Savior because he was rock star gorgeous. Jesus was homely outside so that nothing would get in the way of His God-sized inside beauty.

 

What is getting in the way of your inside God-beauty today?

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I think one of the most astounding blessings from God is a promise that He gave the Israelites first and later to all those who seek and follow and love Him. See even atheists know that no one has ever seen the face of God. But in Numbers 6: 24 – 26, the Lord asks the Hebrew priests to bless the Hebrews with this prayer and promise:

 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

 

I used to sing this to my children in bed at night.   They thought the Lord was going to give them “peas” and so we got silly and sang “The Lord give you peas and carrots”. But God will give us so much more than vegetables and so much more than we can imagine; God will give us His real self; He will show us His face. In

I Corinthians 13:12 we are promised that someday we will see Him face to face.” No veils, no curtains, no hiddenness. The face of God will be shown.

 

But we must be warned, no veil between us and God means no cover up, no courtesy of pretense. I won’t be able like a little child to hide my face so Daddy can’t read the truth there; to look at the floor because it really was me that broke Daddy’s vase. My face will be seen – no Cover Girl allowed. And The Father’s Face will at last be seen and it will completely reveal all He is because He is the same inside as He is outside. His face will be revealed to be the power of the storm, the glory of a sunset, the guiding light of a star, the miracle of a birth, the gentleness of a lamb, the frightfulness of a lion, the awesomeness of a universe. And these are only things He has revealed to us in this lifetime. His face will contain all things beyond our imaginings. It will take an eternity to study God’s face.

 

Will I recognize Him? Am I spending this beginning of eternity, as the Psalms instruct, seeking I Am’s face?

 

And will my Abba, Daddy, recognize me? Will He have seen past all my cover up’s, all my mess -ups, all my hidden sins, all my pretend selves, to His little girl? Or like that horrible, terrifying word in Matt. 7, will He have to sadly say, “Be gone, I never knew you.”?

 

There is only one make- up in the world that can make me beautiful.There is truly only one “Clean Cover Up”. That is the cover-up that Christ’s blood shed for me has achieved. I am not made clean or beautiful by special soaps and lotions, or injected botulism or a shaved nose, or a six pack, or inflated balloons where my boobs used to be. My life is not worth living because I have a certain GPA, or award, or group I belong to. I am not judged by my skin tone or my stained hair. I am judged by the stain of the blood of Jesus Christ, that by grace and faith covers all my failings and makes me perfect.

Remember Billy Graham crusades? That was a gorgeous man who knew what made people beautiful.

Every day as I slather on my lotions and suck in my gut, I should be singing,

Just As I Am

And waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot

To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

Oh, Lamb of God, I come.

I come.

 Psalm 32: 1 & 2: Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

I Peter 1: 19 & 20: but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a Lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 

And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 

Good News, my friends: Jesus was the perfect model. No Cover Up  Makeup required.

Now let’s get out there and beautify ourselves and the world with Love. Let’s put on our party faces like we have  an eternity to celebrate.

Time to put my best Jesus face on and look at myself in the mirror and then head on out there and look at you, my sister and brother. If you don’t recognize me, I’ll be the one showing up “Just As I Am”.

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Time for the Sillies

Time for the Sillies

By Jane Tawel

Silliness – is defined as engaging in “a ludicrous folly”, showing a “lack of good sense or judgment”, or “the condition of being frivolous, trivial, or superficial”.

Silliness: 1.weak-minded or lacking good sense; stupid or foolish:a silly writer. 2.absurd; ridiculous; irrational:a silly idea. 3.stunned; dazed:He knocked me silly 4.Archaic. rustic; plain; homely. 5.Archaic. weak; helpless. 6.Obsolete. lowly in rank or state; humble.

Synonyms: witless, senseless, dull-witted, dim-witted. 2. inane, asinine, nonsensical, preposterous.

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I am blessed to have friends of all ages and at all stages. About a week ago a friend was telling me something she and her young son did that was silly. And it made me ache remembering my young children and our silly times. Sometimes the silly times included me and sometimes I just over -heard the silly times. My family and I are all quite serious now it seems about each other and life. I miss grabbing a hold of my little goofballs’ grubby chubby arms and giggling, “Come here you sillies!”

 When Did They Get So Serious?

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The current definitions of “silly” or “silliness” do not seem to consider it a preferable or admirable state of being. I don’t think the people who wrote these definitions were mothers. Or maybe they were never children. There are many types of humor, all necessary and needed and holy in their place. Even making fun of others can be helpful as we strive to burst the serious balloons of politicians, dictators or just good old fashioned meanies. I read recently that if only the German nation had had a collective sense of humor, they might have laughed Hitler out of the country before he could turn most of them into serious serial killers. (For laughing at Hitler, watch “Rat Race”). I like satire, and improv and wit and almost any humor; But I do not think silliness should be only a hallmark of childhood humor.

I have a friend at work. His name is Charles and he teaches History. Not a silly subject you might think. AND he is ex- marine, pretty serious right? But what I absolutely thank God for and so admire and love about Charles is that he is silly with me.   It started with his wanting to find a way to get his unruly students out of the classroom and so he would send them to my office with “The Box of Knowledge”. The Box of Knowledge was often empty. Sometimes it would have Charles’ Marine Manuals in it. Sometimes a blank piece of paper. The students always thought they were in trouble and / or doing something very important and would come quite seriously into my office. It helps that there is an important title on the door. (Another silly thing we humans do if you think about it.) The students had no idea what was in The Box of Knowledge and were a little scared to come, until they realized that bringing the Box of Knowledge got them a big smile from me at Charles’ silliness and also a chocolate from me. (It also of course got them out of class for a breather.) Charles knows that it is good for adult friends to share silliness so their minds don’t implode from their serious jobs. Charles also realizes that even very serious high schoolers (and if you are not around high schoolers much, let me tell you, they take themselves super duper seriously)—even they need silliness and often they are unruly because their teachers and their parents and their girlfriends and their homies have all gotten so doggone deadly serious.

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When I taught 9th and 10th graders sometimes I would get frustrated when they behaved like little kids. But then I realized, hey, there’s a little kid in all of us just whining to get out sometimes. So I would in my most sickly sweet pre-school teacher voice and with my finger pointing at my eyes, shout, “One – Two- Three, Eyes on Me”. And they would quite happily shout back, “One –Two, eyes on you.” Once I went further and said, “Criss-cross applesauce.” And several of them asked if they could please sit criss-cross applesauce. You would have thought when I said okay that I had given them a new puppy; they were so pleased. And they were better behaved, big sixteen year old young men and made- up, coifed young ladies–sitting there like three -year -olds on the floor while studying “The Odyssey”.

My son Gordon loves silly humor and some of the best silly friends in the whole world. I am so happy for the times he shares his silliness with his mom and it is our joy during these turbulent teen years to set aside Geometry or English and watch “Key and Peele” or “Psyche” or Nigahiga.

Gordon and his Mom were always a bit silly:

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You know if you look at the definition of “silly” and you look at who Jesus was, He was downright silly. He was: “lowly in rank, humble”, “plain, homely”, and of course “foolish” in the world’s estimation. He was never “dim-witted” of course, nor “asinine or inane”, but boy, oh, boy was He “preposterous”!

Have you noticed how much people have to let go of when they let themselves be silly? It’s why our best comedians, the ones whose humor is super intelligent but super funny are our silliest. Think of your favorite comedian and you will see I am right. It is why children are so good at being silly. It is partly because children’s pride is not developed to the level of adults. Their ego is small, like them, and silliness comes naturally. It is also because they are relational without working at it and silliness must come out of a wild freedom with the person you are with. Aren’t you often able to be silliest with those you have known since childhood? You have been together in ways that aren’t even part of your consciousness, and so you have a freedom to not over think, to not over control (either the friend or yourself) and a freedom to know that no matter how “dim-witted” you may act, tomorrow that person will still be your friend.

You will notice in the above definitions of silly, the example used in the number one definition is: “a silly writer”. I guess this post will prove once and for all how “ridiculous” I am, because I am actually right now in my own insecure, misguided, silly way, bragging about being a silly writer. Francis Bacon, someone I don’t really think of as a silly writer wrote: “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” Our God-given sense of humor helps us accept our limitations while allowing us to keep dreaming of our passions being fulfilled. If we take ourselves too seriously, we are missing how silly we are to think we can do anything on our own. Our humor helps us give up a bit of our own control and allow God to laughingly guide us. Silliness is about freedom. And in Christ we have complete freedom. We do not have freedom to maliciously hurt someone else, even if we wish they would take the stick out of you- know- where and be silly for a moment. But we have freedom to be childlike – needy, a little uncertain, bold, creative, hugely loving, and fantastically silly. We should always remember, that our silliness was bought at a great price, and so we should use our silliness, just as we should use all our gifts from God, for Good and not for Evil. But we should, just like with all good gifts, cultivate, nurture and care for our sense of the absurd, our laughing at well, why pin it down? laughing at maybe nothing at all, and our sense of silliness. I have found if you don’t take care of your child-like sillies, they will shrivel up and die and all you will be left with are the willies and the bill-ies.

My silly husband and me:

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I love silly writers. I love the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes. I love Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss – both of whom are super intelligent, brilliant silly poets. I love Charles Dickens, he is so silly sometimes you laugh out loud. I love Anne Tyler, Douglas Adams, Oscar Wilde. I love Napoleon Dynamite, George Carlin, Robin Williams, Amy Poehler, Jeff Gaffigan, Jimmy Fallon, and Mr. Bean. I love “The Simpsons”, “The IT Crowd”, and “Parks and Rec”. I love my daughter Clarissa who inherited my side of the family’s silly genes. Clarissa and I do this pointing thing to a Dixie Chicks’ song, well…. You had to have been there. I love the silly sayings my husband and I share that no one else would understand (and that he would be mortified if I outed him about). I love my friend Heather Toole who has officially been my friend long enough and through enough that we can be quite silly with each other.

It is time I started thanking God daily for all the silly, silly people he has allowed to be in my life and my family’s lives. I am so thankful for my children’s silly friends who were always the best friends. Thank you Twyla, Grace, and David, Nathan, Caleb; Thank you Amy, Heather, Christian,Tommy, Dan, Mike, and Samanatha. Thank you to the Gordon Clan for my genes and to the Brallier cousins for sharing them with me. Thank you Deb and Zulay, Anne and Kim, Charles, and Julie, Geoff, Jen and Sandy. I would like to thank so many people for this award, tonight, but there are just too many silly friends and family members I have accumulated over the years.

Gordon and some of his silly friends

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Thank you Justine, Clarissa, Gordon, Verity, and Raoul for all our shared silliness in this life. I look forward to an eternity of silliness together with the Great Silly Savior.

Here is a picture of my silly friend Heather Toole and her equally silly friend me.

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The thing about silliness is – it is like a beautiful scent or sunset – you can’t keep it. Go on try it. Try to remember what was so silly it made you laugh so hard and then recreate it or tell it to someone who wasn’t there. Neither of you will be laughing. You will probably have a hard time even remembering the silly things you did or said or the silly times with your family. Silliness is not storable. Except in your heart.

My recommendation to the world on this day, February 22, 2015 when most people are sitting around watching serious actors accept serious Oscars, is “Go ye into all the world and do silly things”. We have done a pretty good job working the “Random Acts of Kindness” gig. Don’t stop that.   But could we please start doing “Random Acts of Silliness”? Be a fool for Christ today. As a very silly man, Charlie Chaplin, once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Don’t waste today. Go accomplish something silly.

An Ode of Thanks for My Silly Friends

(and if you are reading this you know who you are)

by Me, Jane (Go on, say the next line)

There once was an Amish named Duckie

Who lived her whole life rather pluckie.

She planted potatoes

And pineapples.

She lived in a house of beat-boxers

Who often ate bagels and lox-ers.

And they sang without fuss

About loving their Gus

And also saying bad “S-words”.

The parties had only just started,

While the kids danced with glee.

And then farted.

Then they cornered their besties

And had eating contesties

With really, icky, spicy, horrible combinations of things all mixed together.

Raoul and some others knew Cato

Whose Prius Hydrolics were Ghetto

Her auto-correct

Was stellar by heck

And zoxozoxozozozxhmfpsld.

They tried her once for Russian spying

And fashions she shouldn’t be buying

And one day she’ll die

But please laugh ‘til you cry

And take her corpse

Banana tube riding.

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Ash Wednesday 2015

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Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I can’t put words together well today. Every time I try to think about any thing about the endless irritating meeting today or the fight I had with my child or how old I look these days. I think of the families of these 21 men:

  1. Milad Makeen Zaky
  2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
  3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
  4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
  5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
  6. Bishoy Astafanus Karnel
  7.  Somaily Astafanus Karnel
  8.  Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
  9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
  10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
  11. Mina Fayez Aziz
  12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
  13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
  14. Samuel Alham Wilson
  15. Worker from Awr village
  16.  Ezat Bishri Naseef
  17. Loqa Nagaty
  18. Gaber Munir Adly
  19. Esam Badir Samir
  20.  Malak Farag Abram
  21.  Sarneh Salah Faruq

Since seeing their names on Monday after their martyrdom Sunday February 15, 2015, I have been going down the list holding each name and each names’ family in prayer. These are my brothers in Christ who took up His cross in the realest way possible. These are my fellow humans who went to a dangerous country because they wanted work – a job – a way to bring food to their families. For bread, they embodied Christ’s body, the Bread of Life.

The one I can’t stop thinking about is “Worker from Awr village”. Did he refuse to give his name because he feared for his family if a name was given? Or did they simply not bother to find out his name? What is his secret name now, the name that Christ hands him written on a white stone?

The ones I cannot pray for, and God forgive me, but I can’t are the executioners who are as much in need of Light and Life as any of us. I managed a small little thought for them this morning on my 5:00 am jog – God help my violently angry unbelief. I felt some grief for those who kill others. But I just can not focus on my “real life” today. I couldn’t jog today because tears kept blurring the pavement so I walked carefully, like there were hidden bombs.

I went to All Saint’s for early Lenten service. I’m sure they thought I was crying for something in my personal life—I couldn’t seem to stop. I thankfully saved myself from saying, “I am crying for the 21 Egyptian martyrs.” Thankful because I do not even deserve to mourn them, in my dress and boots and jacket, and my stomach turning from going one stupid day without gorging on food, and the beautiful well cared for church, and driving away in my Prius, off to a job in an office – Oh, God, how can I even claim your Son as my Lord when my offering is nothing compared to the world’s martyrs?

My cheap tears offered up on Ash Wednesday for the mothers of martyrs. My easy pride laid down next to the poorness of spirit –the heart – ache –of the fathers of the 21 martyrs. My worries about safety blasted to smithereens by the dangerous world my brothers and sisters live in daily so that they can eat. My old face staring back accusingly with my head wobbling still on my scrawny old neck while 21 families see in their hearts’ eyes the heads of their loved ones lying in the dirt. My paltry prayers for my four children as weak as kittens next to the Lion of Judah alive in these great saints.

My cheap grace – surely God would forgive me if I denied Him? Isn’t my life more important than the Truth? My Walmart Grace.

What is it like to be like Kara and Casey and Malak and Bishoy and Worker from Anw Village and untold others throughout history who love Jesus enough to lay down their lives?

I tried to explain my grief today to someone who told me, “Stop, I can’t think about that. I won’t be able to go on working if I let myself think about that.”

We should not be able to go on.

We should not be able to go on as if nothing has changed.

We should let every thing change in us.

  1. Plus. Plus. Plus. Plus. Each day, across a “civilized”, “evolved” world, a human soul murders a human soul. Souls kill themselves with darkness and souls die because they will not deny the Light. Someone chooses death rather than The Life. Someone chooses Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Someone dies because he or she will not deny the Lord.All souls. All saints. All created by The Word. All making choices that mean life or death. But we are still not understanding which ones died when the 21 were martyred and which ones lived — eternally.  My life was bought at great price but I live it so cheaply.

I have no words for my shame and my ignorance.

I have no words for a grief that should fill the whole world.

I am only thankful for this day, Ash Wednesday, to “mourn with those who mourn”.

Oh, God, forgive me for thinking I am worthy to someday stand near them and rejoice with them. I am too afraid to even pray to be made worthy.

Forgive me. Help me. Accept my cheap tears. Hear our prayers.

How To Be Less Objective With Your Postman

How To Be Less Objective With Your Postman

February 15, 2015

By Jane Tawel

So, ever since I ‘ve started my blog and a few hearty folks have started reading it, I’ve noticed people looking at me a bit funny.

Sandy at work grabbed my hands and asked if she could see my fingernails and then started laughing really hard. And no, she wasn’t a hand model, but she did work previously as a manicurist. (Told you – I’m surrounded.)

Is it my imagination or since my last post have people been looking at me cross-eyed?

And my daughter, Clarissa, who so sweetly reads and likes what I write, the other day walked past me when I was sitting at the dining room table and scratched me behind my ears.

This is my funny friend Steve’s recent comment:

Jane, you are scaring me a little with some of these posts.  I find out you only have one good eye and you want to shoot just about everyone.  You do realize the police monitor social media now and may be making you a visit.  Fortunately I know that when you say “shoot” you really mean “shoot a mean glance at”, and even then you are only shooting with one eye.  Actually, knowing you, you really mean that you think about shooting a mean glance at these people, since if you actually shot a mean glance at them (with your one good eye) they might feel bad and that goes against the kind of person you are.  Since I am OCD, I do need to point out that your numbering scheme repeats itself between 49 and 50.

It seems this blog is just pulling the words out of you.  

Thanks for the read, Steve.

I grew up with Steve in Winona Lake, Indiana. We call him the “Energizer Bunny”. He is “that” guy – the one who rode a motorcycle cross-country at twenty, climbed Kilimanjaro at forty, hikes through the desert without breaking a sweat, and I believe Steve will still be doing back flips while sailing around the world well into his nineties. Yeah, now he tells me quite carelessly that he’s OCD?!?!?! How do I connect those dots?

Perceptions of people are chimerical. How we perceive people changes the more we know about them. Or the more we know what they want us to know about them. Or the more we find out how little we actually know about them.

For example, there’s the couple you’ve known for ten years, and one day she carelessly says, “oh, that was when I was married to my first husband.” “What first husband?!”,you gasp, gagging on your bruschetta. She frowns and says, “I told you that”. NO WAY DID SHE EVER TELL YOU THAT!

Or like that game you play – “Two Truths and a Lie”, and one of the statements is, “I am your biological mother”, and your mom says: That’s the lie! Surprise!

My son Gordon and I watch this show called “Supernatural” and the lovely human beings are going along like normal loving, fun humans with green or blue eyes and then BAM! In a second you realize the cute kid with the cowlick has been inhabited by a demon. You know this because when demons enter their bodies, their eyes turn solid black. If you ever, ever see your husband’s eyes turn black, throw salt in his face. Just sayin’.

Then there’s the stuff you think you know about yourself, but other people assure you that you are dead wrong.

For instance, you tell people you are an introvert and they burst out laughing – “You?” but you are always……. (fill in blank with extrovert actions) Or you tell your spouse, I have always hated lima beans, and he says, ‘you love lima beans.”

And you start double thinking, maybe I DO like lima beans….

The real question is, why does it matter what other people think? I mean, if I think of myself as an introvert who believes that I am being mean and selfish unless I am talking to the people in the room with me, then why do I care if you think I am an extrovert who loves being around and talking to people? It’s just a different perception after all, right? I see myself as someone who feels guilty if I am not talking with people and you see me as someone who can’t shut up.

The act itself is not changing, just the perception of the person analyzing it.

But we do care what others think of us. What do they say? –Perceptions are everything. But whose perceptions should influence what we think, feel and do? That is where subjectivity and objectivity matter.

You know it made my day when I found studies proving that Science (Capital S, Science) is just as subjective as any thing else. Scientists think they are all, like, “Oh, we are the only ones who are completely objective and therefore only Science (Capital S, Science) can analyze what is True (Capital T)”. (When you read that can you please read it in your mind with a gruff, stuffy, nasally geeky, superior sounding Scientist Voice?) But actually it has been irrefutably proven that scientists go into every experiment knowing what results they want to get. Totally subjective! They may know they know or they may not know they know, but they know.

We are the same in relationships with each other – we may know we know, or we may not know we know, but we know. The more subjective I am about you, the less objective I can be. For instance – objective with kids and husband? Fuh-git abut it! The postman, well, I can be pretty darn objective. Perceptions matter less with less love and need. More love, more need = more subjectivity.

And why not?

Well, for one thing, you will find as your kids grow older they do not want a parent to show any subjectivity about them whatsoever. A kid who is cruelly and selfishly growing up away from his / her selfless, adoring mom, wants you to be completely uncaring, unsubjective, unperceptive, and unintelligent about him/ her. You are to be completely objective about your kids by the time they are fifteen and when they are twenty- one, they immediately become your postman. (IN THEIR MINDS).

If your child does not show up for your birthday you are to feel as if the mail just didn’t come today. If your child angrily bites your head off (and his eyes turn black) you are basically to think of yourself as the dog that the postman just tased even though the dog was just lying in a coma in your living room. And it’s the dog’s birthday. It’s just that crazy postman again –LOL. Stay objective. You don’t love or need the postman. Who cares what he does?

That is how objective you are to be in your perceptions of your children after they turn twenty-one. After twenty –one, a child can tase you and you don’t care.

Your spouse on the other hand wants you to become more completely subjective about him/ her. You are to become uncruel, unobjective, unobtuse, and unstupid. You are to be completely subjective about your spouse after ten years of marriage and after twenty years, you are basically to think of yourself as the same organism. No surprises. After twenty years of marriage you have spent enough years surprising each other and now it is time to rub along nicely while you stand back from the splatter and together watch your grown children scare the heck out of you.

When you have been married awhile you love your spouse in the same exact way that you love yourself – completely and utterly subjectively.

For instance, your wife farts at the dinner table. You pretend it didn’t happen just like you would do if you farted. You are one farting organism.

Or your husband buys a new Mercedes without telling you. You smile and think, “Of Course, if I had wanted, I would have Certainly bought a new 500-million dollar friggin’ Car without telling HIM!” You stay subjective, no matter what. (Unless his eyes turn black and then you can throw salt.)

It’s a fine balancing act we are supposed to do, we humans, navigating relationships: both large and small, temporary and eternal, and casual and serious relationships. Am I ever really uninvolved – objective? My emotions can turn on a dime about myself and “the other” – even if the other really is only the postman (especially if his eyes turn black). People who know me will tell you I am not very good at objectivity. Of course, do they really know me? Do I really know me? Does any one care if they know me or I know me or I know them ?

We are truly only ever known by the One who made us. God promises He knows us better than we know even ourselves. There is much proof of this but as the Psalmist in #139 says, “God has searched me and He knows me.”

God knows, we are not created to be objective – even if we are scientists. Jesus was not objective. If you want evidence look at the relationship between Peter – a completely subjective guy if ever you want to meet one – and Jesus.

I really, really hate when movies or books portray Jesus as this completely objective, Zenned-out practically flat-lining guru. Objectivity = less love, less need. Subjectivity = more love, more need. Jesus was as subjective as they come. If He came to show us the Father then Jesus came to show us that God is subjective. When people say, God loves you but He doesn’t need you, then I think, well what the heck is the point then? Why bother?

See I wanna tell my kids: I know you want me to stop playing God and be all objective about your lives and your choices. But I can’t, because God isn’t objective about you either. Kiddos, I don’t just love you in this “objective, I’m so far above you and I could not care less kinda love” way. I need you. Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon: I am completely subjective when it comes to how I love you. Kids, I can pretend and I can shut up, but I will never, ever, ever ever be objective about you. I love you too much. And I need you.

Jesus didn’t go through life as an objective human with no needs. He was the opposite of apathetic. He was the opposite of unfeeling. Jesus was, as in every other way, the most human – the most subjective. He just was able to not let His needs or His subjectivity cause Him to sin. That ‘s where we differ. But we do not differ because Jesus had no needs, no feelings, no subjectivity.

Jesus was subjective with his mother and family when they told him he was crazy and later when he asked his disciple to care for his mother after his death. He was subjective and both confrontational and caring with a strange Samaritan woman at the well when he called her out on her lies about her husbands. Jesus was subjective when he was grocery shopping and he zapped the fig tree for not bearing fruit. Jesus was a completely subjective extrovert when he whipped through the temple so the Gentiles could worship –not His people, not his homies, why should he care?

The Christ’s greatest need for relationship is perhaps shown in the Garden, when he is scared, and feels far from His Father, who The Son has enjoyed a close relationship with until now. Jesus needs his best friends when he wonders not only if He can see it through –the task of dying alone for something He didn’t do — but is agonizing over how in the world his “kids” will survive when he is gone. He is not at all objective in the Garden, but cries, “Could you not have stayed awake with me just now? Could you not love me enough just now to pray with me? Where is your love when I need you?

If Jesus came to show us the Father, then we do not worship an objective God. Oh, Jehovah is not like any other god – He isn’t subjective when it comes to choosing favorites, or whims, or human foibles and sins. That’s only what false gods do. But “I AM” is subjective when it comes to loving us – choosing us, caring for us, and yes, needing us.

In Scripture, God constantly needs His children to say, “Abba, I know You need me to do this, so I will because I love You.” God  needs Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Ruth. And, after all, He chose and needed one of us, Mary, fully human, to be the mother of His Son on earth. And He needed that Son to present himself blameless on our behalf, to restore and save us for relationship with Him for eternity. Jesus daily turned to His Father in love and need. Even when He was older than twenty-one. Jesus and The Father – a subjective relationship based on real need and real love for each other. That is great need. That is great love. That is as subjective as life gets.

Heavenly Daddy, Abba,

I am sorry for all the times I wanted You to be objective about me. I’m sorry I have doubted Your love for me and didn’t want You to need me. I’m sorry I shunned Your need for me to love You as You deserve to be loved. I trust that You are the only One Who truly knows me.

 

I’m sorry that the older I got, the less I trusted Your good advice and wanted to go my own way. Forgive me for the times I bit off Your head in anger because I was confused about myself and You. I don’t know me and I don’t know You nearly well enough. I’ll try to work at knowing You better and let You know me better.

 

Forgive me for the times I chose a lesser god to worship.

 

I’m sorry for all the times I missed Your birthday. And thank you, for treating me the same way You treat the postman – with sacrificial and subjective Love. Thank You for loving me too much to be objective about me and thank You for needing me. Help me love you more and need you more every day, even though I’m older than twenty-one.

Your daughter,

Jane Karen Cook Tawel

Driving With One Good Eye

Driving With One Good Eye

First Written 2010; Revised Feb. 2015

By Jane Tawel

I was born with strabismus in my right eye. That took me an extra second to write because I still have to close one eye to figure out which one doesn’t see well any more. A human’s ability to either adjust or live in denial is amazing, is it not?

Strabismus is when your eye is supposed to go left and it sometimes detours right and vice versa. My right eye used to go all wiggledy-woggeldy. When I was four years old, my parents bought me an operation that corrected the errant eye, and the operation made me look normal but unbeknownst to me it didn’t correct the actual sight in my eye.

I didn’t know I was sight-impaired and defective until I was twenty-four years old. My future father-in-law, Gaston Tawil, took me to a hot -shot young eye specialist at John Hopkins who with flint in his egotistical 20/20 eyes asked me if I knew I was legally blind in my right eye. Legally blind!?!?! Wow, I felt like I’d just been asked, “Did you know you are legally stupid?” I had been legally tested and been found to be legally faulty. Dr. Hotshot furthermore told me there was nothing I could EVER DO to change my blind eye because some (and he implied) Podunk doctor had corrected the alignment and had thus ensured that the higgledy-piggledy corrected eye would never ‘learn to see’. It was a life sentence of lazy eye, which is ironic, because they used to call my higgledy-piggledy eye, “lazy”.

The irony was that although I no longer looked as if I had lazy eye, I actually had such a lazy eye that it didn’t do a decent day’s work ever. I had bum-on- the- street eye, homeless guy eye, lazy good-for- nothing eye. Good thing I like irony. Except when it has to do with me, of course. The young hot shot doctor who took great pride in freaking out the little blond bimbo, also told me I better take very, very, very good care of my one, solitary good eye, because if I lost vision in my one good left eye, I wouldn’t only be blind in my right eye but permanently blind in both. Two lazy good for nothing homeless guy eyes.

I thought maybe I had suddenly lost my hearing as well after this news as all I heard after that was, “Thank you very much, Blind Girl, and that prognosis will cost you five hundred billion dollars”. I was blissfully happier and wealthier before I ever went to John Hopkins. I took my little homeless guy eye back to my future in-laws, and told them, thanks yes, every thing went well. It is important to realize that future and current in-laws must always be kindly told lies if you want them to like you. After you get married, you realize that lying to in-laws is often part of your job description if you want everyone to be blissfully happy.

When I told my mom about this event, she felt so bad. You can imagine. Of course it didn’t help that at the time, remember, I was in my mid-twenties, which is the universal age of “Blame Your Mother for Everything that Ever went Wrong in your Life” Age. Being my mom, she tried to rationalize and explain our way out of this and when she did that, (which was often) she always knew that at the end of hours of discussion, when we understood what was going on, then she always felt that The Thing (whatever it was) would have been reasoned out of existence. Mom’s great inside joke with God on me is that I got four children just as my Mom did, all of whom have enjoyed hours of my reasoning discussions.

My pretty and wonderful Mom, Jane Cook, who did not do everything wrong:

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But of course by the time I told my mom about my legal blindness, I was getting used to feeling sorry for my poor newly handicapped little old self and looking for someone to blame. Remember, all kids no matter the age have a hard time not hanging up their parents on giant Guilt Tenter Hooks.(I always thought this was tender hook, as in meat tenderizing hooks. Thank you, Amy Brallier.) I strung up my parents, the Podunk doctors and perhaps a few random strangers passing by and I refused to let them off The Guilt Hook.

I think the guilt hooks we make for other people are those big, galvanized iron kind you can buy at Home Depot that have the clicky bars that go across and you have to do something fancy to release the hook. If we can string someone up with guilt about our iniquities, infirmities, or just plain old bad choices, then we are going to string them up on a giant butcher’s meat Tender Hooks (see)—think Rocky meat room hooks. Then we can  take boxing swings at them for the rest of our Blame- Someone -Else Lives.

Those guilt hooks we make for others are strong – kryptonite-infused big crane hooks.

The guilt hooks we make for ourselves, should we ever feel the slightest twinge of needing to feel guilty, are the little, fake gold ones that you can screw into wood planks with your bare fingers, and that are good to hang mugs on upside down in your kitchen cabinets and which often do not keep the mugs on, but let them fall off and break. Our personal guilt hooks are wee itty bitty made of play-doh hooks.Our personal guilt hooks are like little bitty crochet hooks.The guilt hooks we hang ourselves on are totally un- sturdy and they allow our own guilt to slide off quite easily.

I hung my parents on Super Colossal Guilt Hooks and took my poor little homeless guy lazy eye on a guilt free trip to The Holier-than-Thou Land.

My Parents’ Hook:

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My Hook:

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When I was four, and after the operation, I had to go have my eyes checked all the time. I remember the doctor’s office as this very large, clinical, white, circular room divided into sections with doctors’ chairs all over the place and all around the perimeter of the waiting area were the many doctors peering into various people’s eyes. I’m not sure if this was a real place or a pre- literate dystopian nightmare of mine. But I do definitely remember the clinic had the only kids’ magazine in existence, “Highlights”. Today there is a children’s magazine for everything thing under the sun. There are children’s sports magazines, children’s beauty magazines, Play Station magazines, left-handed kids’ magazines, and magazines to read to children in the womb before they even become children.

“Highlights Magazine” had stories but also had connect-the dots, and mazes, and “find the hidden picture” pages. You weren’t supposed to write on those pages in the doctor’s office because the magazine wasn’t yours and other children wanted to look at them without having the hidden items all circled. So being good little Midwestern boys and girls, we just found the hidden pictures and traced them with our little clean fingers and sometimes, showed our mothers, who were sitting distracted by worry next to us.

But “Highlights” also had a cartoon called “Goofus and Gallant”. It was about two little boys, and one named Gallant was Good ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME and one named Goofus was Bad, REALLY, REALLY BAD. Capital letter, “Good”, and Capital letter, “Bad”. I thought it was the creepiest comic strip I had ever seen. Now, I was a pretty good child in those days, so you would think I would have related to Gallant and felt good about this Christian tale of how one child, no matter what, always chose Good and the other one always chose Bad. But I didn’t. It seemed like maybe, just like I was born with my crossed eye and so I couldn’t see right, maybe some poor little kid named Goofus could just be born with a crossed set of morals, and not be able to be Good. Maybe you could get something crossed at birth, and then, you would always be Bad, even though you looked normal to everyone who looked at you. You could be born blind inside, like I was blind outside.

Goofus was lazy, just like my right eye was lazy. Goofus was naughty and weird looking, like my eye, and unlike cute perfect Gallant. Goofus did all the wrong things, just like Dr. Hot Shot made me feel my parents and doctors had done all the wrong things, and I had probably been born doing the wrong things – like Goofus. The prognosis: Destined to be Bad. My little homeless guy eye was just a born Goofus. A person could forever be labeled blind, never to be Perfect Vision Gallant, the Good One. Poor guilty, bad legally blind Goofus. And that name. Why did they name the poor boy, Goofus? Goofus makes it sound as if he just wasn’t intelligent enough to learn to do the right thing, like Dr. Hot Shot pronouncing my eye legally stupid..

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After the operation, the eye doctors’ always did the same check up procedure. They would put a black disc on a stem over one eye, hold their hand in front of me and ask: “How many fingers do I have up?” “Now how many?” “How many now?” I can remember my family sitting around in my Grandma and Grandpa Cook’s apartment in New Carlisle, Ohio, saying, “How many fingers?” “Now how many?” “How many, Jane Karen?” Then the doctors in the circular clinical white room with many doctors’ chairs, would put up charts to test my eyes. They would put different lenses in front of my eyes that would be different colored, or would make the symbols on the chart go blurry, or get clearer, or bigger, or smaller and they’d ask “Is this good?” “How about this?” “Is this better or worse?”   And it was like they were testing me. They were testing me of course, but no matter how very, very hard I tried to score well on their tests, I could never see any better with my right eye. My right eye was too stupid to pass the tests. My right eye was my Goofus eye and no matter how hard she tried, Goofus-eye always did The Bad Thing. My right eye was blind and made “stupid choices”. My Goofus eye couldn’t help it, she was born blind, but I always, always, felt so guilty that I couldn’t see even for the doctors – especially guilty that I couldn’t see, even for my family.

Now when I go to get my eyes checked, I anticipate the doctors’ tests and I immediately tell them, “I don’t see at all out of my right eye. I am legally blind in that eye.” Almost always they still test me and try anyway to get me to see with my right eye, as if somehow I might have been wrong all along, or maybe just stupid. Just maybe they might be the doctor who has the right lens or the right trick or the right test so that my Goofus eye can finally choose good over evil and SEE. But of course they never can. I leave each office, still legally blind in my right eye. I always go back home with my little homeless guy eye, my Goofus eye.

And you should see the song and dance routine I do when I go to the DMV and have my eyes checked for driving. I admit to them straight up, “Hey, I am legally blind in this eye. I am driving with one good eye.” Like they wouldn’t figure it out, when they gave me the eye test and I kept saying, “No, nothing. Nope, still nothing”. I assure them and so far they’ve bought it: Don’t worry,I drive with my one good eye.

I think maybe there is no such thing as a boy or girl who is always a Gallant and a boy or girl who is always a Goofus, but that all of us are always both Gallant and Goofus all wrapped up together in one person. Just like two eyes in one face, we have one part of us that has 20/20 vision and we have one part of us that no matter what we do, it is always blind to what we should do. Or what we could do. We just have to accept that all of us have a part of us that is legally blind when it comes to God’s Kingdom. We are all the blind ones before healing comes from Jesus. We just can’t see very well, no matter how hard we try; the lens is dark and blurry on this side of eternity.

See, it isn’t any one’s fault that I never got vision in my gimpy homeless guy eye. I had one doctor tell me that we would never really know but maybe I had actually been born blind in that eye. Maybe the correcting operation didn’t make me blind after all. Maybe it wasn’t my parents’ fault, or the doctor’s fault or my fault. My eye wasn’t lazy, just between jobs.

Jesus teaches us many things about blindness but the lesson I love is when he heals the blind man by putting mud on his eyes – on the Sabbath. Jesus really is Dr. Hot Shot – the Great Physician who heals with a little “mineral water” and a little faith. Christ’s healing on a Sabbath is a big, big culturally religious No-No. But what He does that is even more radical than breaking the cultural law of no work on the Sabbath is He lets the blind man and his parents off the big galvanized guilt hooks that society has strung them up on.

We are all driving through life with one good eye. Oh, it may not be your actual eye, but there is something that keeps you from seeing clearly. One hundred percent, 20/20 perfect eye sight doesn’t exist in this world. As I Corinthians 13:12 assures us, in this life we see as if through an eye with glaucoma, a clouded mirror, a window that has only a tiny speck washed enough to be clear; we are all partially, legally blind. We are all driving with only one good eye. That’s why we need the faith of a blind man.

Do you know there’s a rumor that maybe the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a weakness in his eyes? The apostle who saw so many things so much more clearly than anyone, maybe couldn’t literally see all that well. None of us can see all that clearly, until one day when we see Jesus, face to face. But we cry out, “Lord, I can’t see. Help my blinding unbelief!” We are called to use our one good eye, to try each day to “See Him more clearly, Love Him more dearly, and “Follow Him more nearly, Day by Day”(Godspell).

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In John 9, we find the only instance of Jesus healing a man stricken from birth with a debilitating physical problem – blindness. Can you imagine a person who has never seen anything having enough faith to break the law by obeying an unknown Stranger, and then for the still blind man to walk the streets, his face dripping dirt from his muddy eyes, and to wash them in a pool – believing he will see a world he has no visual knowledge of? Then this same man when asked by the people in charge who was responsible for causing him to sin on the Sabbath, tells them truthfully, “I have no idea, but I do know that I can see!”

Sadly, the parents of the blind man want to make sure they are not strung up on the guilt hook. They disown their son and reject the Messiah who healed their blind child, so they can ‘appear” to be without sin and stay in the “In – crowd” of temple and society. How sad. Jesus warned us that those who are blind will see and those who think they see, will be blinded.

Jesus’ disciples saw a blind “sinner” and asked the Son of God, “Who sinned, this man or his parents – because no one is born blind unless it is someone’s fault”. There was no way this blind man had ever been able to hide his wiggeldy-woggledy eyes. No way to pretend he had perfect 20/20 vision. The man not only had two homeless guy lazy eyes, he was a homeless guy, begging on the streets because his family kicked him and his lazy eyes to curb when they realized they might be blamed for his infirmity as if it was his iniquity. So the disciples are just asking to clarify theology, “Hey, Jesus, why DO good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people? Who is the Goofus here – this blind guy or his mistake-ridden parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither has this man sinned nor his parents. This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9: 1-3)

 

God formed us and knows our innermost parts. He knows we are both Gallant and Goofus and He knows we will sometimes choose wrong and sometimes with His grace, we will choose good. And He loves us. He works through forgiveness, and grace and love to correct even the blindest of spiritual eyes. And one day, we will all who choose to trust God, have 20/20 vision. One day with faith, all our little homeless guy parts, our Goofus- parts, will be healed and restored to perfection because we are walking with enough faith to believe it is not about our sin or someone else’s sin but about “the works of God and the glorification of His name”.

“For now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see Him face to face.” After the blind man leaves the temple priests and rejects society’s judgement of him, Jesus, despite a threat on his own life, went to seek out the blind man. When Jesus asked him if the man knew who had healed him, the blind man had no idea – remember he was literally seeing Jesus for the first time. But when the blind man, saw the face of his Savior, he was no longer spiritually blind and he bowed down and worshipped Him.

And so shall we, blind men all, someday worship the only one who can make the blind men see, for then “we shall see Him face to face. We shall know fully, even as we are fully known”. And all the gimpy, homeless guy, lazy-eyed Goofuses will be perfected, even as Christ is perfected in us. Someday we will be driving with two good eyes.

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Words I Love to Use

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Words I Love to Use

February 9, 2015

By Jane Tawel

  1. Flibbertigibbet
  2. Oxymoron
  3. Judeo-Christian –My husband gives me grief for how often I invoke this as world view propaganda
  4. Curiouser – Please read the book or you will just get curiouser and curiouser.
  5. Ubiquitous —I mean that word should be everywhere!
  6. Weltschmerz — Yes, I do realize you will need to google it.
  7. Uber – -Anything —Even when used alone for the Uber-ubiquitous company of said name, but also when used for Uber-happy, Uber-expensive, Uber-cat (cats always are)
  8. Schlock, schlep, schmooze, and schmuck —I did go to Brandeis after all.
  9. Catsup – pronounced as written, not like kech-up. Drives people crazy when I do that.
  10. Puberty – pronounced Pooh-ber-tee – that makes teenagers extremely uncomfortable just like their being in pooh-ber-tee makes their parents uncomfortable.. It makes the word sound as embarrassingly horrific as the state of being is.
  11. Oblique
  12. Obscure
  13. Obtuse – as in please don’t be.
  14. Verboten
  15. Smurf – as in “It is a smurfy day”.
  16. Humongous
  17. Gihugic (The Urban Dictionary absolutely counts as a dictionary)
  18. Epiphany (sounds so pretty, often isn’t)
  19. Radical – as in “That outfit is so radical on you.”
  20. Random – as in “Wow, that comment was so random.”
  21. Gustatory – love the word, love the action it describes
  22. Catastrophic
  23. Soulful
  24. Musicality — as in I love the musicality of the band Papa Roach (Gordon, am I right?)
  25. Bellissima! As you can see I am multi-lingual (oooh, that’s a cool word too)
  26. Fini!

The Philosophy of Otherness

The Philosophy of Otherness

February 5, 2015

by Jane Tawel

My husband sort of missed the point of my last blog on shooting people. He was right to tell me that in this day and age you have to be careful since people take threats online seriously, but he failed to realize it was satire. Changing it to nuking people was a compromise and wise, but it also ironically weakened the point.

My blog called: “People I Would (sometimes) Like to Nuke (Shoot)” was satire in the sense that it was ironic, exaggerated, parody of self. My husband is part French, Italian, Phoenician – they don’t get humor unless it is about laughing at someone else. I am Irish, Scottish, Native American – we get self-parody. My People have had to learn to laugh at ourselves because we have never ruled the world. (Some day……..)

I am vehemently, politically and spiritually opposed to physical violence – I am after all a non-gun owning pacifist – That doesn’t mean however that there aren’t lots of times I want to kill someone.

And that was the point of my last article. I often want to kill someone for doing the very thing that they might want to kill me for doing. I feel an irritation that more often than I would like to admit, borders on a maniacal desire to seriously wound or obliterate someone. This is sometimes a random irritating stranger and sometimes an irritating beloved one. Either one I could kill on the turn of a dime sometimes.

I will bet you 59 thousand million dollars that these very same strangers and loved ones quite often feel like shooting or nuking me for the very same or similar reasons I feel like annihilating them. Maybe you are one of them.

This is the problem Jesus talked about when he talked about missing the giant Sequoia in your own eye but finding the speck of sawdust in some one else’s eye. Same product. Different perspective.

I have spent years studying the theology of the Deity. I have not spent as much time on the theology of “Otherness”. The weird thing about my religion though is that you cannot actually have a belief system about God without having the same belief system about others. The Great Command equates, parallels, combines the command to love and know God with the command to love and know my brother/ sister/ neighbor. (Mark 12:30 -31) (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus of course takes it to the extreme and, even more weirdly, says we must also love our enemies.

I completely HATE that Jesus says that.

I have come to have a later life appreciation of what I call “the cursing psalms”. Just this morning there was a driver that almost killed me and I prayed the psalm that his children’s heads would be crushed on the rocks. I love the way the International Standard Version translates Psalm 137: 9 “How blessed will be the one who seizes your young children and pulverizes them against the cliff!” I mean it is right there in God’s Holy Word: “How blessed will be the one who pays you back for what you have done to us.” (Ps. 137:8) We are more wired to pay back, than we are wired to pay forward. Which is why we need Jesus to re-wire us.

The point of my last blog was that while I try to love God and try to believe that my life’s equation is:

Me + God = do good + love others= Me good person;

My real equation looks something like this equation:

I do something I want to do = good so God bless me; Other person does same thing= bad so God curse them.

Jesus ‘equation goes something like this:

I do bad = death; you do bad = death; Jesus + cross = life for both you and me.

Other people + Me= all bad persons = Grace from God through Christ for all= new life and the good life forever.

This is the philosophy of “Otherness”. We are created to:

  1. Honor Others. You don’t need to walk in my shoes to understand me. You are already walking in my shoes. All humans are broken. All are worth saving from brokenness. No one can do it by him / herself.
  2. Respect the Divine in Others.We are created with a Divine image – Imago Dei. There is not only a Story but a Glory in each of us.
  3. Clean Your Eyes before Permitted to Clean Someone Else’s. Some day we will be judged on how we treated the least of men on earth and the first shall be last and the last, first. The Other will always get to cut in line.
  4. Be one Body. Different parts, different functions, all vital to the health of the Body.

Jesus gave a definitive word on The Philosophy of Otherness in the story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” (John 8:1- 11) Did you know this story was actually removed for a while from John’s text. In the earlier years, the Church was evidently afraid that the story would make people think Jesus was condoning adultery, a widespread problem even then. He was not condoning sin and makes that clear to the woman and to us when he tells her, “Go and sin no more”, but he was helping her accusers understand God’s Philosophy of Otherness. “You who are without sin, throw the first stone to kill her.” Here was the One who could throw stones; the One without sin and He, Son of God, chose to see the woman’s “Otherness”.

“Neither do I condemn you”. God’s Otherness means our Sameness. No one without sin. No one unforgiveable.

But what about when someone who claims Christ as Lord commits a transgression? When a fellow Christian sins and does not respond to constructive criticism – we are told to treat him / her like the pagans. First we are to treat fellow believers as family – come straight out and tell them what their sin is or how they have wronged us or another. Then we are to commit to helping them work toward restoration, both with God, with us, or with another. But if they reject your message given with love and humility on your end of course, then we are to treat them like they do not know Christ. That is to say, as if they still need a Savior. We are to love them enough to treat them as if they still need to know God’s grace and love – as if they are as ignorant as a non-believer or pagan– not one of the family, God’s family. We are to be even more humble and loving with our “enemies” or pagans than with our family members; Treating them with respect, perhaps even more understanding than we would if they believed as we do. This is God’s Philosophy of Otherness.

Gordon, my fourth child went to Trader Joe’s with me the other day and saw a bag of fancy pretzels he wanted. He put them in my hand and asked, “Mom, can these be only for me?” And being the good parent, I said, of course, we will hide them from everyone else and you can not share them with anyone.

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With God, our Daddy, there is a fourth child in all of us. We want to ask Him, God can this blessing, this pass card, this free ride, this forgiveness be only for me? God, can I have it all and no one else gets any? (Especially not my mean and horrid older sister?)

We really hate the fact that the Bible assures us that the “Rain falls on the good and the evil.” (Matt. 5:54, Matt 5:43- 48) And that God loves to give His children good things—all His children.” (Matt. 7:11, Luke 11:13) We don’t want to be The Fourth Child, we want to be the only child. Perhaps the only way to really love and know God is to remember that Jesus was the Only Child, but He chose to live like the Fourth Child.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Phil 2:3 -11)

As we think about the complete Otherness of God, we should be humbled and thankful and awed that God become Otherness by becoming one of us. If He in Jesus can accept, forgive, love and not shoot me for my otherness, then surely I can do the same for your otherness. When we accept God’s Philosophy of Otherness, rather than seeing a log that blinds us to our sameness with our brother; we see Jesus in our enemies’ eyes and that illuminates Christ’s image in them. Then we can put down the guns and bombs and stones and, albeit precariously, balance our lives on The Solid Rock. Then we can love the New World into being. After all, as Rodney King, the prophet of the LA Riots said, “Why can’t we all just get along?” As the Greatest Prophet says,  “So now I am giving you a new commandment.  Love one another as I have loved you.”

If we put down our guns and bombs and stones and stand precariously balanced on The Solid Rock, taking up the banner of love, then we can love a New World into being.