No Do Overs, No Take Backs

No Do Overs, No Take Backs
April 7, 2015
By Jane Tawel

I have to start with the visuals first this time:

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This is a picture of Raoul taken at a Trade Show he attended and at which he was roped into somehow being the pool ball holder for a magician’s act. Good thing neither I nor our dentist were there. We both would have been screaming. My kids will tell you, I am easily made to scream.

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These are pictures of my children:

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This is a picture of me…..

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Okay, now answer this: One of these things is not like the others. Which one?

Answer: It is the picture of me.

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In all of the other pictures the beloved ones seem to be doing vastly different things, but they are all doing one thing that is the same. They are all  risk –taking. I am not. Notice, I may be on an extremely dangerous vehicle, but I have one foot firmly planted on the ground and I am looking straight at the protective parent taking the picture. I am grimacing a little to make sure I am taking the moment of risk seriously enough. My knuckles are white from gripping the handlebars (okay, granted it’s a black and white photo but my hands are clutching hard.)  No risk taking from this girl (okay, maybe I was taking a fashion risk in this picture.)

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I am not at heart a risk taker. RISK in my lexicon is an acronym for Really Insane Stupid Kidstuff.

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When I was a little girl I used to have wonderful dreams that I could fly. I wasn’t scared at all and I would fly silently, calmly over fields and back yards completely at peace. Now that I am grown up I have an absolute terror of flying in that tin can thing you call a plane. And I no longer dream of flying. Dreams when we are asleep are funny, aren’t they? They are not always what they seem. Kinda like when we are awake real life dreams. Nightmares are something else.

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I have two recurring nightmares. I remember reading long ago that people tend to have the same nightmares and that these nightmares tell you something important about what you fear. I’m going to trust you all now with the very intimate details of my subconscious. My first recurring nightmare is: I am on stage in a play but I do not know my lines. I either did not take the time needed to memorize my lines or I did not know I was going to have to do this part in the play. Those of you who, as I do, love to analyze dreams are going- to- town on this already. Second dream: I am either in one of the old fashioned slips we used to wear under our dresses before modesty became the dodo of virtues. Or I am stark naked. It gets worse. I am on the toilet. It gets worse. People keep walking by me, either talking to each other or (it gets worse), talking to me. And the people talking to me seem oblivious that I am naked on a toilet. This obviously is not an irrational fear. It is very, very rational to fear sitting on a toilet naked with people using your stall as a thoroughfare. This is not something you should try at home.

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I do have what may be considered by you risk takers as slightly irrational fears. I fear heights of any kind. I dislike balconies and ladders for this reason. I fear germs. I am obsessive compulsive about which item I take from a grocery shelf (never the first one) and even though I am slightly afraid of walking up or down stairs (heights) I do not hold on to the banister (germs). I am afraid of unexpected earthquakes (not irrational) and of the ache in my left shoulder (could it be???). I fear my children walking out the front door where I cannot see them any more (not irrational).

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Where and when I grew up, risks were associated with sins. Risk takers were pretty much sinners across the board. Smoking in a deserted lot’s bushes = risk = sin. Trying a beer at a Junior High party = risk = sin. Petting with your boyfriend = risk = sin. See what I mean? As a parent, I get it now. Smoking kills you and smoking in a bush could start a city-wide fire and they could catch you and imprison you for arson. (From my father, I get the “worst-case -scenario syndrome”. We never think “What’s the worst that could happen?” We KNOW what is the worst that could happen and we will be happy to tell you what that is. (Child of mine, If you eat that piece of popcorn and don’t chew thoroughly, you could break a tooth on the kernel and then choke on it and die. Here, let me chew it for you first.)

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When I was growing up, risk takers / sinners were not a big concern because they were going to hell. And you weren’t. And if you weren’t a Christian, then we would give you a tract and tell you how to avoid hell by not sinning anymore and then you were on our team. Either that, or risk takers were missionaries.  They were on our team.

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We are all on one team or another. You are born into a team, and then in America sometimes you choose to join a different team when you grow up. Americans are madly, passionately in love with their teams. Sports teams especially. In America, we start this faux team thing pretty darn early in a kid’s life. I mean Raoul and I have been there, splitting up our Saturdays so one of us could be at one of the four soccer games, two tennis matches, or one racquetball game that one of our kids was playing in. And just like every other American parent, we took these games and teams very seriously. The stakes of a five year old winning are very high, let me tell you. Because when you (actually your kid, but it feels like you) are out there in front of everyone, taking The Big Risk, you have to be a winner, even if you are a loser. And since none of the parents sees their kid as a loser, and depending on the age of the players, you either blame the other team, blame the refs, or decide that everyone always gets to win. Hence, the Trophies for Trying. We encourage our children to take a risk, but we don’t really want them to suffer the consequences if the risk doesn’t pay off in their favor. Speaking of Mike Pence and Indiana—

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Politicians are NOT real risk takers. The politicians throughout history who took big risks are mostly assassinated by now. Politicians don’t even run for office any more unless they have polled the entire population of the USA and part of Southern France to see if they are electable and if they aren’t yet electable, someone the citizens pay a bunch of moola to will figure out what the politician needs to change in his / her strong and unwavering belief system to win. Then they simply and heart-feelingly change their platform / belief system. Easy peasy.  If he /she loses, the politician blames the other team, sometimes their own team, blames the ref`, or proudly accepts the Trophy for Trying.

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No matter what you think about the issue, Mike Pence the governor of Indiana and the state itself took a risk. (Disclaimer: I claim Indiana as one of my home states. This blog is in no way paid for or endorsed by said home states. I would be happy to let just about any one pay for this blog though, so if you are any of the fifty states that wants to run an ad here, I have space available. I also have space available for an ad from Guam or Russia, which I cannot see from here.) But after the fall- out from Indiana’s taking the risk, and fall- out almost always means FEAR OF LOSING MONEY, Mike Pence and Indiana wanted to back pedal. I love that phrase – the visual is so good! Have you ever tried back pedaling a bike? How far did you get? That’s right, back pedaling takes you exactly nowhere. I mean, can we look at the great back pedal-er of all time — ole’ what’s his name seven time winner Tour De France guy. My friend Lisa and I used to love this hippy saying: “It just goes to show that where ever you go, there you are.” Lance, Mike, — you pedaled there. There you are. It does just go to show.

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Another sport expression I have come to love is the baseball term: balk. I was fascinated the first time I watched a baseball game when my son, Gordon was playing at the sport, and an umpire called “balked”. I was like turning to everyone around me going, “what? What is that” Balked?” And they are like, yea, the pitcher balked. (Just sayin’ – no one really understands this term. I don’t think even the umpires have to understand it. It is one of those ephemeral terms that completely catches every one off guard. It’s like an umpire makes this random hand movement at the pitcher and everyone is like, “oh, yea, the pitcher balked.” I mean, the pitcher has one little shoulder twitch on the throw and Bam! – disqualified.)

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Definition of balk: an incomplete or misleading motion, especially an illegal move made by a baseball player.

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I mean, I love that. In what other sport or event, are you not allowed to change your mind? I mean even in baseball, a runner can go so far off a base and then change his mind, right? In basketball, feint and shoot. Even in weddings, we have a rule that if any one objects, we can all change our mind and go home. But a baseball pitcher, nope. Once you say you are gonna throw that ball, you gotta throw it. Other wise “BALK!” and you do not get the Trophy for Trying.


I guess in bungee jumping, parachute jumping, and the sport of war, you can’t balk either. I do not participate in these sports for this reason, because when I am being convinced to take up the dangerous sport of walking out on a balcony, I want to be allowed to balk without being disqualified.


Politicians are constantly trying to balk. (So are stockbrokers, movie stars, defense secretaries, parents of toddlers,  and lobbyists). But in most arenas of life, if you don’t have that kind of power, you do not get to balk. If I bake a cake and use salt instead of sugar, I don’t get to balk.(Eat it anyway, family, so what if I used salt, I meant to use sugar.) If I run a red light and kill someone, I don’t get to back pedal out of it. (Although a Prius may look like the unicycle of cars, it is still a deadly machine.) It seems that the powerful and mighty and sometimes, the powerless and foolish people have forgotten one simple playground team rule – No do-overs. No take backs.

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Every once in a while I will be convinced to “go out on a high thing” – like a balcony or a hill top. So I inch out there and then guess what? There I am. I am peering with fearing in my heart, hands and bowels (oh, there’s that other nightmare of mine!) and then I’m stuck. I’ve taken a risk and I can’t back pedal off the high place. I try to inch back but usually there is someone with me, saying “Don’t be afraid. Just look! Isn’t it beautiful?” I’m like yeah, yeah (back pedaling away). And then they lose interest in me and risk their lives on the balcony to see the beautiful sunset or the stars while I’m very wisely keeping my eyes down on my feet on the ground inching backwards to safety.

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To be the best at something you have to take risks. You can’t want the Trophy for Trying. You have to want to do the thing so much, that you are willing to risk your reputation, or your peace of mind, or your pride, or your sense of security, or your “need to know that everything will turn out okay for you”. The problem with teenage or twenty year old brains, is that they, according to the experts, have over- developed risk taking parts, and underdeveloped reality -of -body -vulnerability parts. So they take risks without weighing very real consequences. The problem with old people’s brains, like mine, is we have over- developed “need to feel safe” parts of the brain and underdeveloped, “you aren’t going to die from eating that bite that just fell on the floor” parts of the brain. These are actually in part, positive ways to be wired. Old people are more physically vulnerable and should be careful. Young people need to take risks so they can wrest the world from the old people’s hands and start ruling it themselves.

But in other ways these are negative ways to be wired. Young people don’t weigh the worth of the risk or it’s effect on others or themselves seriously enough.  The thrill is the goal, rather than the goal the thrill.  Old people are so busy protecting themselves, that they won’t take a risk on something worth it — like on justice or speaking out, or walking into the fray, to protect or help someone else. Or maybe just taking a risk to see the stars from the balcony. Old people want to protect what they have rather than experience something they don’t yet imagine.

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There are things worth risking your life for and things that are not worth risking your life for. So as a believer in Christ, I have gotten content in this country at not having to take any risks that are not of my own design and have a legal angle to them if I do get sick or maimed. I mean, when we declared this a Christian country, we were saying basically, whatever you do in America, stays in America; and no more risks needed for you Christians here. That’s when we lost our way. That’s when we lost The Way. Because the greatest risk-taker of all time was Jesus, The Christ. If we are following Him from a safe distant perch, we are not following Him. We are following the Jesus who is on a static, family friendly, television screen in the safe living room of my mind.

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I was made very aware of this when I was listening to the sermon on the last seven sentences (they are really called Last Seven Words, but this always confuses me.)From his last Passover Seder to his last breath, Jesus has gone out on the ledge. He is not only looking over the parapet, but He is hanging on it, hanging by not a thread, but a nail. On his last night in the garden, Jesus did ask His Dad, “Do I have to do it this way? Can you just tell me now, Is there an invisible safety net below that I just don’t see right now? Is it possible to aim for the stars without having to go out on the cross?” And God the Father, said, “Son, you have to go out there and free fall and I can’t tell you whether there is a safety net or not. Do you trust me enough to bungee jump for the world today?”

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And when Jesus was hanging on the cross, I honestly think as a human, he did not know how it would end. He believed in the future resurrection of his body and soul, but right then, in the moments of state execution, in agonizing pain, Jesus did not know how His story would end that day. Jesus had to trust somehow as difficult as it was then,  that The Biggest Risk of All Time was going to pay off. And when Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”, I think the Son was saying, “DAD! I thought you were going to do a miracle. I thought you would show all these people that I was your son, that I am the way, the truth and the Winner. I thought you were going to rescue me and them. When? When? When? I don’t see any safety net down there.” Jesus risked it all. He did not back pedal. He did not balk. He did not ask for do-overs. He did not say “Take backs”. He actually believed that God was able “to do immeasurable more than even Jesus could imagine.” Jesus simply said, “Ok, I’m jumping, free falling and into your hands, I commend my spirit, Dad.”

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And if you still don’t believe Jesus was the Uber-risk taker of all eternity,  he trusted his life and in fact, the salvation of the whole world,  to his “safe on a perch” followers. Jesus wasn’t throwing the ministry die on a bunch of super heroes but on a bunch of wooses. He risked his whole mission impossible on a small band of motley folk most of whom had already run away and hidden from the risk of following him. I mean the disciples most of them, at that point, were like pushing Jesus out of the plane door without a parachute, saying, “Just go ahead, Jesus, we’ll follow you after you jump, IF YOU LIVE.


Jesus risked it all on scaredy- cat, non-risk taker, safe in my living room with my popcorn and “Modern Family”, balking, back-pedaling me.

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Do you know what risks our church family is taking throughout the world right now to claim Jesus as their crazy, free falling King? 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs. Kenyan students. Palestinian priests. Mexican mothers.

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There are a lot of people who serve the powers of this world and who risk their lives because they love an experience, they love a thrill, they love speed, or power, or money — and they gamble their lives on a love that is short-lived and self-concerned. But there are some who believe that the biggest risk we take daily is to continue to follow Jesus  and that the biggest danger of all is to not take a risk on an invisible kingdom with Jesus as President. What is it like to truly live for and with a King unafraid of the pain of a whip, the nakedness in a crowd, the height of a cross, the forgetting of the rest of the psalter  lines after “Why?”, the depth of a hell, the claustrophobia of a tomb, or the uncertain continuance of a legacy. There are those who believe with their whole beings, that Jesus is still A King worth following into the battle of the ages, with nothing with which to hide our nakedness but righteous love, nothing with which to calm our fears but God’s grace.


Jesus risked it all for  the only things that are worth loving— His holy, righteous, all powerful, all loving Father. And His dysfunctional, needy, sinful, longing for thrills non-super-heroes, family.

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When I was listening to those final seven sentences of his this weekend and imagining Christ on the cross, what I thought when the pastor kept saying that Jesus did this all for you, is “Jesus, you were an idiot. How could you be so stupid as to do that for me?” Would I risk going out on a balcony to save my own child? Yes, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon would be worth any risk I would need to take to save them, because they are mine, right? I love them with the love of a parent. Parenthood whether you are birthing or adopting, begins with risk and involves risk every single day there after. Would I risk going out on a balcony for a seventy year old gay prostitute who is dying of AIDS? Would I take a risk by laying down my weapon and turning the other cheek for a radical terrorist who just blew up my brother?  Would I “go out on a limb” like Jesus let himself be nailed to a limb, for me? I mean I know me and all the evil I have done in my life and if I was asked by God to die for me, I would back pedal like crazy.  I would ask for do overs.  I would say,   Not a chance. She is not a risk worth taking.

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Am I willing to take risks for Love today? Am I willing to deny myself whatever “drug” of choice I am using to numb the small pains – and I don’t mean Advil, you know what I mean by “drug”. Am I willing to turn the other cheek and risk having both cheeks bruised by not responding with anger or gossip or the giddy pleasure of mean-ness? Am I willing to speak the truth in love, seek the truth in love, and live the truth in love, without back pedaling to be politically correct or God forbid, liked and nice? Am I willing to lose some money on Pascal’s wager? Am I willing not to know my lines or even what part I am playing in the play because I know that God wrote the script and Jesus is the protagonist? Am I willing to take a risk not knowing the end of my story today, because I know the end of The Story? Am I willing to lose the world, and gain the soul of Christ?

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This picture is of course not me, but is of my daughter,  dare devil  (dare angel?) Clarissa. When I first saw it, I thought her hands were like that because she was pretending to fly.  She told me actually they are like that because she was afraid her fingers were going to get blown off by the force of the wind.

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Jesus has given us everything we need to live in His kingdom.  In Matthew 25, the parable of the talents, He calls us to use everything we have to give God interest on His investment.  Even if it means risking reputation, money, friends, family or our lives.

Am I willing to take my foot off the floor of this world, and free fall into the Kingdom of Christ?  I might get hurt. I might have my pride assassinated. I might lose the election or the job.  I might not get that new thing because I don’t  have enough money. I might be embarrassed and feel naked. I might lose a friend. I might even die.

Or, I might fly.

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I might see The Star and be brave enough not just to look at it from my balcony, but to follow it to the manger.

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I think I already have too many Trophies for Trying on my shelf. Right next to all the Bibles. And tracts.

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I think it’s time to risk losing.  For what does it profit a woman if she gains the world safely, but loses her soul by keeping both feet on the ground?

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. I took the risks. I let go of the guard rail. I took  my eyes off the ground and put them on the cross. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, the trophy of Christ’s winning team, the treasure of the cosmos, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy slightly paraphrased)

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This is a picture of me in Godspell taking a risk at the top of the pyramid.  Notice my brothers and sisters holding my hands and supporting me.  That’s the beauty of risk taking with Jesus.  He gives you other risk takers to hold your hands.  And just like the picture of Clarissa parachuting, Jesus always has your back.

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2 thoughts on “No Do Overs, No Take Backs”

  1. YOU ARE SO FUNNY!!!!! And I LOVE the part about Jesus’ crucifixtion and resurrection. Liked both endings but the second one had me singing “prepare ye the way of the Lord….” Scary parts ~ Clarissa and Gordon jumping off the roof into the pool and I didn’t know Clarissa went sky-diving…,although I must admit I’ve considered it. ~ Jules

    Liked by 1 person

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