Don’t Be Flaky

“Don’t Be Flaky”

by Jane Tawel

August 10, 2015

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One of my favorite “new to me” trending expressions is one Verity Tawel, my eighteen year old,  taught me last night when we were sitting in Mijares and she just happened to have her cell phone on her. (That is your cue to laugh. ) By the time you read this it won’t be trending and I will be back in my fuddyduddy role of embarrassing nerd-mom.  This au courant expression is supposed to make you laugh but you have to be a little bit knowledgeable or “in the know” sometimes to get it, which I like too. I like being in the know, although I refuse to ever become knowledgeable about the Kardashians – even Caitlin.

So how it works is like this:  Some one says something.  I think it started with some one saying something truly false (not an oxymoron), like:  “Did you know that if you eat a pound of chocolate with every meal, you will never get fat”.  And the response is: “Okay…… that sounds fake to me …….. but, okay.”

But, it gets funny when someone posts or I guess mostly Tumblr’s (and by the way, I really hate that there is no vowel in between the l and r in Tumblr — anyway…._) The first person, “You” says something that is true, but the other person, “Me”,  maybe doesn’t  quite get it or frankly, is rather ignorant, or is quite often a bit naive and is afraid of being taken for a ride.  So. It goes something like this:

You: “Did you know that Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are getting re-married?”   Response from Me:  “Okay…..that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”   Or someone says, You: Did you know Donald Trump is running for president?” Me: Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.” See. Somewhat cute. But then it gets giggly funny.  Then people say things like:  You:  “Did you know that Albert Einstein is responsible for the formula e=mc² ?”  Me:  “Okay…. That sounds fake to me but…. Okay.”  Or “ “Did you know that bacon is full of sodium?”  “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  You: “I just got back from a trip to see my grandma.” Me: “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”

(By the way, did you notice my super cool little equation in that last paragraph?  There is this totally rad tab on your computer under document elements called Math:  Equations.  It took me quite a while but you feel pretty zippety doo dah smart when you figure it out.  If you like that equation, look at this:

a +  b + c ≤  ½x + a² -√54

Or this:  Ð∝∇∅†Ψ℘ξ

Okay, that one actually is fake —I just made that one up. Doesn’t it look real though, kinda like hieroglyphics?  But it is actually math symbols.  Who knew?

Me:  Okay…..that sounds fake to me ….. but okay.

Every time I say or hear that line I LOL!  This just totally cracks me up for some reason.  It is so like something Charles Dickens or John Irving would write into their characters’ dialogues.  It is also something I can imagine C.S. Lewis doing in Mere Christianity which I am currently rereading and recommending to every one I know.   Lewis illuminates so many Truths brilliantly. But also,  I can imagine if rewritten, several quotes going more like this:

Lewis: “Christianity insists that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”  Me:  Okay…… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  Lewis:  “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed.  That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed or made up.”  Me:  “Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.”  Lewis: “Moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine (human beings).”  Me:  Okay … that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

This imagined dialogue so perfectly sums up the Judeo Christian world view and  what happens when we decide to believe the lie that God should not be allowed to run our lives or the world He created. It sounds kinda’ fake to us that God deserves to be worshiped and in control when we think that we should be worshipped and in control.  Our minds turn Truth to Fake Lies,  when we put ourselves on the throne of our lives rather than allowing Jesus to be king of our lives and God to be sovereign in the universe.  Sin means that, Truth starts to sound Fake to us and Lies start to sound True. Read the tragedy of “Eve, Adam, and the Snake” and you will understand. God tries to tell us something that is Truth, no matter your religion, no matter your history, God sends the idea of Real Truth into our minds, our souls, our spirits, our communities, our world and we  collectively and  individually say,  “okay…… that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”  Because sometimes, many times, we do not want to believe the truth. Unless we pray, “Create in me a new heart, oh God.”

I mean seriously, the entire story and message and words of Jesus, really? Can’t you hear Peter saying,   Okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.

The opposite of wanting to believe truth is a lie also often happens. We hear something fake. And we know somewhere inside our very souls that what we just heard is not true. Our world says things like :  “We have to wage war against those people because they are evil.” or “Put yourself first. It feels good and doesn’t hurt anyone”.

And we are silent.

We want to believe and eat, drink, and be merry,  and go back to watching our show.  We aren’t bold enough or confident enough in God’s truth or we just already worship what “They” are offering so much,  that we don’t  want to make waves, or look them in the eye and say, “okay…..that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

Or maybe it is a more intimate lie, like a spouse says:  I have to do this; or a child says, Mom everyone does it, or a boss says, it isn’t a lie it’s just how business is done, or a pastor says, well they will only spend it on drugs or alcohol any way or… And we do not say, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. But ……. HEY, WAIT A DAMNED MINUTE…..that is NOT OKAY with me!”  [As Lewis also  says in MC, it is  not frivolous to use damned when you mean that it is in fact “damned” because “nonsense that is damned is under God’s curse, and will (apart from God’s grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death” (Lewis 45).}

Oh how we long to say to death,  to damnation, and even to  Grace, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.”

We drive by this house sometimes on our way home.  I don’t want to ever see who lives there because whenever I find out more information about something I like, it always ruins it for me.  But she / he always has some sort of philosophical hand written paper sign in the window you can see just as you pass the corner.  I assume the signs are posted by  a middle aged “she”, but that might be my prejudice.  On the  signs are often famous short quotes, like “To do good is to be wise” or cheerleading sort of things like, “Dare to Dream”, “Live in the Moment” – very New -Agey stuff which is not necessarily non-Christian. Lewis also says in “Mere Christianity: “You (Christians) do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through…. You are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth”.

Truth, real truth, if you want to hear it, never actually sounds fake to you.

But back to the sign-lady – you have to be able to read the signs in about 5 seconds as you accelerate past.  Then as you keep driving you let yourself think profoundly about these profound statements.  You ask yourself, do I believe as that sign just said, that:  “Life is too short to waste on hating.”? Maybe I think hating is a jolly good way to spend an afternoon? Maybe I wish I had more time to spend on hating.  Or do I honestly  think that:  “The Truth is more Important than the Facts”?.  Am I sure there is a difference?  Or: “Always desire to learn something useful” On this one she cites Sophocles as the author so you start gaining some speed in the 35 mph zone as you frantically start thinking, Useful? but what about jokes? Are they technically “useful” but on the other hand, jokes do come in useful at awkward parties. But are parties even that useful? Is laughing at jokes considered useful?  But isn’t laughter called the best medicine and isn’t medicine good for you? But what does she mean by “desire”, is it just the wanting to learn that is important, not the doing of it?  So if I  desire to learn, but I really need to chill with some “Bachelorette” or “The Biography Channel mini-series on Donald Trump”, well then, wouldn’t Sophocles approve since I desire to learn? But what does it mean to learn?……

The current sign in the window simply  reads: “Don’t be flaky.”

I love that.

I would often love to just  look someone in the eyes and say: You are being flaky. Just stop. Right now.

Definition of flaky:

  1. Separating or breaking easily into thin small pieces; 2. Crazy or eccentric.

I would most often love to look in a mirror at my own intensely personally emotive self- consumed babbling self and say, “Jane, old girl, the more you talk, the more you are breaking into thin small pieces like the crazy eccentric flake that you are.” And I would respond with that other great saying of my daughters: “I know you are but what am I?”  And then crazy eccentric breaking Jane and Jane the miraculously beloved child of God would laugh at each other because it is all and always going to be Good, if we keep our equations straight.

God + Faith, Hope and Love + = Goodness and Mercy all of My Days.

In other words, any time you are saying something,  especially when you are saying something serious, or argumentative, or analytical, or mean, or divisive, or pompous, or hateful — ( or you are letting  any words at all come out of your mouth when you are tired and grumpy) —always imagine that there is a Me out there responding to your most serious self-consumed comments with, “Okay…. That sounds fake to me…..but okay.”

And then, look yourself in the eyes, and say, “Don’t be flaky”.

Then keep on driving past.

Musings on A Trip Well-Lived

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Musings on a Trip Well-Lived

by Jane Tawel

August 2, 2015

 A partial but long musing on the Tawel Family  Bryce /Zion Trip

June 2015

There is an extremely straight road in the desert going South / West into Vegas, cutting through Arizona.  I am glad all roads are not straight and that not all days in life are without unexpected turns either. Turns on roads can be scary, disorienting, polarizing, and wrong. Turns in life can be like that too.   But straight roads in a desert can be so boring. Regard the winding, switchback, straight up, steeply down, achingly  up roads and trails of Bryce and Zion Parks.

Driving twisty roads can make you ill.  Best to keep your focus straight ahead, but aaahhh! the scenery. How not to gaze at creation’s wonders?!  Looking  out the windows is freedom worth grasping.  Hiking the heights and narrow paths can scare the living daylights out of you. Vertigo can entrap us all. But Oh! the vistas! Stopping on the trail and looking over the edge is an adventure of heroic proportions.

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Bryce and Zion fill one with the anticipatory feeling that life is only going to get better from here on out.  The absolutely baroque richness of the land is metaphor for  a full life, well lived. In contrast, the Arizona desert is like some lives — barren of fruit, of water, no discernable life. No unexpected turns or unmarked crossroads. No shade in need, no hide and seek sunlight,  no sound of sniggering chipmunks, guffawing water, or birds warming up for the concert. The endless nothingness is hypnotizing.  The land is one big couch potato.

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I have never been to Las Vegas. Not my cup of tokens so to speak. When you drive past Las Vegas, there are signs throughout, surrounding, leading up to and leading out of it. Remember that crazy old song: Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Blocking up the scenery breaking my mind?  That must have been written by someone driving through Vegas.

There are blinking signs, gigantic signs, neon signs, road side signs, billboard signs, building signs,  little signs that tell you that someone will be cleaning this mile of road. If you are looking for a sign, go to Vegas.

A large percentage of the signs in and around Vegas  are selling “Love”.  The other signs seem to be selling lawyers to help you get out of things you aren’t in love with any more — like  people, cars, businesses, homes.  The Love Signs  are quite preachy. “The Love Store — where the fun begins.” “Love at first bite!” “Let the Love affair begin!””You will love our girls!” “Find Love at the Tropicana”. “Drive-through Chapel of Love”.  Buying and selling love —  Such a misleading oxymoron and how very sad. And yet not new. How many types of relationships on every level, in every generation, throughout history,  are really just exchanges. In businesses, marriages, trusts, barters, affairs, commerce, friendships — we hold our hearts out in one hand and hold the other hand out to get something in return.

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We actually talk about exchanging love when we exchange wedding vows. Definition of exchange: “giving something and receiving something of the same kind in return.” But somewhere deep inside, we all suspect that if we are defining love in the same sentence as we are defining exchange, there is something horribly, tragically wrong with our  understanding of love.  Humans were created to know real love, God-love,  true love, lasting love and to  eventually  learn that mature love cannot expect to receive the same thing in return. Love is not a commodity. Love somehow involves sacrifice — it is sacrificial. It is gift. But when we decide we will not wait, will not give up, will not trust, will not believe, will not give, – — when our selfishness of the moment or our fear of the twisty, steep blind curve  overpowers our faith, then we usually just sadly decide we can redefine the idea of love.

There is much  talk about this false and needy and lying love, and not only around Vegas.  Turn on your television for five minutes. Pick up a summer best seller. Listen to the radio.  Maybe even visit your local Sunday morning service.  We like to use the word “love” to mean satisfaction, feel -good sensuality, enjoyment, let the good times roll, need supplier, until such and such, take care of me, I’ll give you any thing you want so you think I’m nice, lust, interest, fun, or enabling.  We have confused love with “charisma”.  Charisma is defined as: “compelling attractiveness or charm  that can inspire devotion in others”.  This is why we can say with the same gusto, I love that guy and I love Starbucks.

I Corinthians 13 has an interesting take on love. This scripture combines love with “charism” not “charisma”. Charism is defined as that which: ” denotes any good gift that flows from God’s love to humans. The word can also mean any of the spiritual graces and qualifications granted to every Christian to perform his or her task in the Church. In the narrowest sense, it is a theological term for the extraordinary graces given to individual Christians for the good of others” . Charism is defined as  simply, theology, or “man’s attempt to understand God”. One definition states: Charism: “an extraordinary power (as of healing)given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.” In the Greek charism means: any good gift that flows from God’s love to humans.”

Imagine if we, The Church, we the Creation, we the Imago Dei, we the stewards of the world, we the beloved Bride of Christ,  we the brothers and sisters of each other, we the heroes and heroines of lives well lived, imagine if we began to love each other with charism.

The demeaning of words and redefining them to suit our ends has to be one of the great undetected evils of our time. Well, it has been for all times but we are a people of the ubiquitous use of words in this internet, media, cell phone age.  The redefinition of words  is especially degrading to our humanity because we blithely but purposely  use words as propaganda for financial gain, as manipulation of reality, and as power plays over other humans. If you are a scholar of dystopian literature it will come as no surprise that all tyrannical forces always use the slow and creeping  redefinition of words in a surreptitious power takeover.   This is surely one of Satan’s greatest ploys — changing the meaning of words, ever so slightly,  allows people to sin against God and each other by simply putting a different name on it. Well, we don’t even use the word Satan any more, do we? Or sin. Those have become archaic words for many. We have redefined a deep wrong or sin so that we do not have to feel judged or guilty or vulnerable to a Higher Power or each other.   We call it “brokenness” or “wiring” or “biological” or “different” or even sometimes, “evolved”. We claim everyone does it, or it’s not hurting anyone, or it was an honest mistake, or who cares, or whatever, or truth is all relative, or I just fell out of love, or god is whatever you need him to be. Not that things and people aren’t broken or wired or biological; mistaken, or hurting or no different than any one else,  but different words must have and retain different meanings and meanings should not be changed to suit our world view. Words are at the center of  our God-likeness, our imprint  of the divine, and what make being fully and articulately human, something, well, special.

Right next to Vegas is an area called “Primm Valley”  — someone’s lovely ironic joke to name it that. The meaning of the word “prim” has come to have some undeserved negative connotations.  Why are “formal and respectable”  now considered “disapproving and pursed”; well, there is some interesting theology for you! In cultural changes it is often difficult to discern which is the cart and which is the horse? Does the Weltanschuuang  change and therefore the words change meaning, or do people subtly change the definitions of words and the worldview swings into line to follow the linguistic seismic shifts?

Theology is billboarded in Vegas  in the strange and unique ways you might imagine. “Jesus is the only way to Heaven” — a  billboard followed by “Read your Bible” and this followed immediately by a billboard with “UFO Hotel in Bakers Nevada.  Get a Quicky and Jerky at Baker UFO Hotel” Somehow in Vegas Unidentified Flying Objects seem to be identified as having something to do with Jesus. And somehow “quickies” seem to have become synonymous with love.  As Waylon Jennings used to sing, we are looking for love in all the wrong places, in too many faces, another heart  broken looking for love.”

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There is an easily missed  billboard near Vegas about  Father Louis Querbes:  “a Viatorium who loved Jesus”. You might miss it as it humbly rests  in the midst of all the gaudy, glaring billboards for strip shops and impound, divorce, and bankruptcy lawyers.   I had to look up Fr. Querbes and what in the world a viatorium was (thank you search engines everywhere, we would be stuck in libraries if it weren’t for you.)

Louis Querbes was a parish priest in the aftermath of the French Revolution. He literally risked his life, taking up his cross, to teach and minister to a country torn apart by fear and hatred, greed and poverty, prejudice and injustice, and a justified distrust of The Church. Sound like any where you know? History does in fact repeat itself, and let the buyer beware. I encourage you to read about Louis Querbes and the Viatoriums. ( http://viatorians.com/about-us/our-founder) They have communities in America,  mostly centered in Chicago and the Vegas areas. Bottom line: They believe in Jesus and that they should live like he did.  They believe both priests and lay persons, men and women, should be trained and equipped  to educate and serve the needy. Their vision statement includes the following: “we embrace those who are accounted ‘of little importance by some'”.  In other words, the Viatoriums think they should love those whom the majority of the world, might not see as lovable. It doesn’t seem to most as if the “little importance people” are a fair exchange.

And this is what they say about love and charism:

“Spirituality is a dynamic process, the result of a relationship with God, with people, and with the cosmos, a dynamic process that deeply unifies the corporal, affective, and intelligent aspects of the person. It brings about an integration of eros, friendship, and agape. That is why everything in spiritual men and women is filled with God, who is Love.”(italics are mine)

The motto of the Viatorium Community: “Adored and loved be Jesus”.  I had to read that several times because I kept thinking it was a typo.  Don’t they mean “adored and loved BY Jesus”? Nope.  In one terse profound sentence, the Viatoriums sum up the whole gospel, the whole of the good news of Jesus Christ. “Adored. Loved. Be Jesus.”

When we returned from our all too short but perfect trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks, people asked us, “Well, what did you think? Did you have a good trip?”

We said, “We LOVED it!  It was amazing!  It was a great trip! You have to go there as soon as possible.”

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And I think, “What if I loved the Creator as much as I loved His Creation?”  We loved the creation, and believe me if you want to see creation worthy of an “Intelligent Force”, commune with the crimson canyons, and slate grey walls, and turquoise greenery, sapphire skies, billion nighttime stars, pristine waterfalls, giggly creeks — my silly trite descriptors could go on and on and still fail! But:  If I had that much fervor for God, that much need to put words to experience and encounter with the Living Savior, then what a trip this life would be!  I would be telling everyone about my relationship with God. I would say things like: “I LOVE Him! He is amazing!  God makes life a great trip! You have to go to Him as soon as possible!” What if I adored God as much as the Viatoriums claim God adores me? What if I looked for love in all the right places, all the right faces? What if I defined love as “be Jesus”?

Over and over again, we are called to know God.  The Biblical sense of know is the same as the biblical sense of intercourse.  It is to know someone in the most intimate way possible. The Psalms reveal a heart that yearns for the Living God as a lover, as a newlywed, as a virgin longs for her or his soul mate.  The Psalms are the billboards along a life trip that Jehovah has planned for His beloved Bride.  A trip of intimate knowledge, of beauty, of adoration, of being one together, until death does not part but only opens the world’s door to a greater trip of greater scenery and accomplishments and joy and worship and love.

Psalm 63:1 – 8: O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings. I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely.

Psalm 42: 1, 2: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 84:2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 

Psalm 27:8 2 My heart has heard You say, ‘Come and talk with Me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’

The Bible verse that scares me even more than a very high, narrow, twisty, trail is Matthew 7:23 when on Judgment Day  Jesus turns to those of us who have a litany and laundry list of all the things we have spent our  lives doing  for God which will actually  end up being things we really did just for ourselves.  And The Christ, sorrowfully, must condemn us,  with words whose meaning will then be all too clear:  “I never knew you.” You were busy seeing the sights of Vegas, looking for love in all the wrong places, exchanging love for thrills, believing the flashing lights of the billboards, filling yourself with the world’s fast food, falling in love with the dust,  preaching by banging on a clanging gong, and all the while you were walking by Me, while I waited for you. Jesus will redefine our lives by saying,  I loved you with a love that was defined by My life and death given for you. I gave my body and blood for you because I am Love. I  ask you to let Me adore you as a bride, to love you as a brother and for you to love Me enough to be one with Me. But you were looking for love in every face but mine.  You bankrupted the home I prepared for you,  while I stood at the door of your heart, simply knocking. You traded real love for gain.  And on that final day, The Word will be all too clear: I longed to be intimate with you. But we did not know each other as love knows the lover.

Loved. Adored. Be Jesus.  Words too important for us to change their meanings. The Word, Jesus, the Christ.  He is too important for us to change His meaning.  And though we were created from but dust, our individual lives are mysteriously  too important to change the meaning of what we were created, designed, defined to be.

Take a marvelous journey  today.  Be loved by the One who created love. Be adored by The One who lived a life well-lived, who  died for you, and who reigns as the eternal Lover of your soul. Then look out the window, look over the precipice, take one small step towards redefining your life. And  Be Jesus in a world looking for Love.

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