Me, Myself, and I – Not

Me, Myself, and I – Not

by Jane Tawel

November 22, 2017

 

 

Gordon and I are re-watching the television series, “Psyche”.  We love it.  In the last episode, Shawn insisted that he was bringing back the use of “Not!” at the end of statements to indicate that he really meant the opposite. This grammatical conceit is used as in my saying this morning, “I am going to get the house completely cleaned in the next hour -NOT!” Gus assured Shawn, that bringing back “not”,  would not be happening. And this episode aired in 2008. Fast forward to 2017, and here I am not so much insisting that I am bringing phrases like “not”, and “cool” and “psyche-out” and “radical” and “whatever” back, as much as I have never let them go.

 

Sometimes in moments of depression and doubt, or insecurity springing up as a downer from the high ride of pride, I am reminded that according to what I say I believe, it is not supposed to be “about me” at all.  I am teaching grammar again to students, and I am a stickler for the correct use of “I” as subject and “me” as object.  But as a wannabe Jesus follower, the truth is, I am at the best of what I was created to be when I allow myself to be the object being acted upon. It is when I start getting lost in the idea that it is “I” who controls or “I” who is right as in “right-eous”, that I end up feeling most displaced and disgruntled and depressed.

Thankfully in English, we write “I” small — only one little letter. It should make it easier to replace it with something longer, like the eternal word, Yahweh or Jehovah or Messiah.  If I would only take “I” out of my life sentences, then there could be only “He”.  And then those “life sentences” would not be an imprisonment in the egotistical-hopelessness I so often wallow in, but a “Life-sentence” of being dead to self, but alive in Christ. When I was in high school, we were asked to choose a “life verse”. I should have picked something that promised me financial blessings and a guardian angel to tote around, but instead I chose Galatians 2:20:  “For I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live.  Yet, not I but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Notice that all the “I”s in this verse are preceded or followed by “nots”. Even the positive actions have to do with dying to my–self.

Now don’t even get me started on the abuse of people’s use of the word “myself”.  I think people mistake it for a fancier grammatical form of “I”, but folks, I am here as a grammar guru to tell you, It  ain’t that.  However, in my life verse, Paul, the author, could have correctly said, “Yet, not I, myself, but Christ lives in me”. There we have it.  The unholy trinity of me, myself and I,  must give way to the Holy Trinity, of I crucified in Christ, God working in me, and the Holy Spirit in my–Self.

Eugene Petersen has been a big help during these my days of Weltschmurz.  He writes in A Long Obedience in The Same Direction  of perseverance:

We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us.  Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms.  It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.(133)

Petersen goes on to interpret Hebrews 12: 1,2 this way: “Strip down, start running– and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

I love the chastisingly ironic, hilarious way that Petersen interprets this, when he calls me out for my ridiculous complaints and whines about myself.  Petersen mocks my taking myself so seriously when he says that The Christ “put up with anything” and then lists first the cross, then shame, and finally “whatever” –showing my comparison of my “sufferings” to The Christ’s sufferings as  my little ridiculous “whatevers”.  Petersen clues right in to the fact that not only am I not taking up the literal cross of Christ, but I have somehow magnified my petty problems, insecurities and complaints to the level of the things that Jesus “put up with”. Jesus might well respond, “Whatever!”.

Perhaps I am wrong to correct my students if they use the word “me” as the subject in a sentence where God is the compound subject matter.  God and “me” can do much, much more together, than God and “I”. The life that I now live, I must live by the faith of, in, and through the Son of God.  It is time we went back to memorizing prepositions. Oh, to understand the words of St. Francis, when He prays that Christ will live out every prepositional phrase in, through, above, below, around, before, behind and within Francis’ life.  You see, Students, prepositions can never be followed by a subject like “I” but only by a direct object, like me.  And God will never insist on removing me from the subject matter of my own life, but will always offer to act in and through me as the direct object of His loving grace-filled prepositional will.

 

Speaking of Language Arts, though –Oh, those Germans — they do have the best words for things. God’s Word tells us that when we are approaching a time of Thanksgiving, as we are this week, but we instead feel ” Weltschmurz” or weary of the world, then we should cry out: “Inner Schweinehund!”  Inner Schweinehund is that little voice that tells you to get up off the couch, you selfish pig-hound (so much more motivating than couch potato) and do something, go running. Inner Schweinehund is just super fun to say.

Speaking of my beloved son, Gordon is in a “boot”, complete with crutches,  for a couple months, after having fractured his foot. A boot is not as cool as a cast, and I suspect they do it for profit margin — just sayin’. I might sign the black boot  in neon sharpie anyway, something, like: “Your Dad and I tried to warn you, Love, Mom”. It is a long process of healing, and for a nineteen year old, it really cramps his style (and his foot, his shoulder, his leg, his arms) — no driving, no long showers, no bike riding. So he, like so many of us in tough situations brought on by our own choices, begin to wonder, well really, who am I and what am I good for? At my age, it seems like every single day and definitely every single night,  I wonder, who am I and what am I good for?  But perhaps more frighteningly, when I wake up in the dead watches of the night, or return from the funeral of a young person, or watch people  morally implode, but mostly when I find myself  looking back and sideways and forward at the choices I have made and still make,  I more often wonder, who is God and what is He good for? When I get focused on me, myself, and I, I am content and at peace-NOT! When I lose focus on God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit, then I am lost in the subjective subject of I and I alone. If I keep God as the Subject who acts even when I sleep then even, if not perfected, I  persevere. And I am assured in God’s promises, that perseverance is the long-game, the marathon, the way to faith, hope, love, and joy .

So, for Gordie and me, I recently pulled up the attached video of the Hoytes: Vater and Sohn —  and was reminded that I am not and have never, ever been the dad running a marathon  but I am always and  have always been the son who is in the wheel chair. And when I listen to this song and see the hands, and thighs, and back muscles of this father straining to push his son to the finish line, I weep, because I can see how helpless I am in life’s metaphoric wheelchair, unless I ask my Father to run the race for and in me. In this video, as in life, if I crucify myself, then the Great “I Am” can enable me to run any race this world has to offer. If I make myself the direct object of The Father’s love, then He can push me and pull me through – Whatever. It is when I see and follow the Savior whose nail-scared hands, and thighs, and back muscles pushed all of us to the Finish Line, that I have the perseverance to keep living goodness, and the experience promised peace that passes all understanding. I just need to remember that every day is a shot at winning a new Iron Woman competition, and every day, the starting line is redrawn. So I must moment by moment  ask Jesus to crucify “I”, and live in “me” and help me persevere with joy derived from His strength pushing me through in the Great Race of Life. In the video of the Hoyts’ race, look at the absolute joy on the son’s face as he crosses the finish line. That is what all those who crucify me, myself and I will some day experience when they come before the Throne, the joy of hearing from a God who did it All and pushed us through Life’s Race– saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come on across your life’s finish line and receive the crown of thorns turned to a crown of Olympic Gold”.

The only reason I have ever crossed any literal or metaphoric finish line, has nothing to do with “I”, but because “me” is the direct object of God’s movement through and love in and for the world.  So, German language, take a back seat to this English teacher because Me am totally psyched out by the radical and cool love of my Daddy, Yahweh. And I say to you my silly Weltschmurz – Whatever!

I…. Not.  God…Yep-erroo!   That is how me became thankful to see some of my own handicaps today. The opposite of  “I” in God, is not “I-Not”, but You-Yes acting in me – Yes!”  That is who I am when I am best, crucified with Christ yet living powerfully and free. Because that is who God is when He is working in and through me – a good, good Daddy. That is the Thanks – giving of perseverance, the Less of me and the Yes of Christ. In German, this wholeness, and peacefulness is “ganz und friedlich”. In Hebrew, it is shalom.  In English, well, let’s just say peace in and Peace Out!

Psalm 136: 1  “Give thanks to The Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever”.

Team Hoyt and the song: “I Know My Redeemer Lives”  :

gty_team_hoyt_2008_kb_140408_4x3_992

Advertisements

The Oxymoronic If-Then Kingdom of an If-Then God

The Oxymoronic Kingdom of an If-Then God

by Jane Tawel

November 4, 2017

 

 

I read recently the following quote, by a German theologian, written before the full onslaught of Fascism and World War 2, but during that frightening dawn in the 1930’s, when it “dawned on” people of conscience that they must  speak out love and speak up truth in equal parts to the whole world, not just the small religious circle they might spin in. More importantly, Eberhard Arnold, as many have done, tried to live at least moments of his life, based on the words of The Christ found particularly and peculiarly in the Beatitudes. This quote by Arnold seemed apt for a different place and time — mine.

 

In today’s world situation it is essential that here and there among people there continue to exist rays of light and hope, spiritual realities by which the unity of God’s peace and the brotherliness of true justice are recognized. This is our only task.”

 

Eberhart formed a community of believers who thought it should be possible, or at least attempted,  to live “on earth as in heaven”, by following the instructions in the Beatitudes of Jesus.

 

Jesus carefully spoke words that would be apt for any place and time. He did so because that is the way God’s Kingdom is set up — for all people in all places and all times. The Good News of that Kingdom is that it is a message from a Cosmic Messenger for “every tongue, tribe, and nation”. The reality of what it is like to truly live in God’s Kingdom has been true for all times– not what we should hope for sometime in the future, but in an eternal Now — from the Creation to the end of what we call Time.

 

When I read the beatitudes of Jesus or study their meaning, I am always struck by something new. There is a mysterious depth to their seeming simplicity.  One phrase that struck me today, in the following words of A King named Jesus,  is “because of me”. That is His right as a King — to ask the citizens of His kingdom to do things because of Him.  The other thing that strikes me is the passivity to which we are to do the things The King wants us to do.  I am working on “If -Then” sentences with my students. I have found that most of what is called God’s Kingdom life is based on this grammatical and philosophical construct.  If – Then. In the Beatitudes, as also happens  in some English sentences at times, the Then comes first, and the If follows.

 

The first thing Jesus says is: “Then you will be blessed, If you are part of the kingdom”. If I interpret the idea of being “blessed” as being “full”, then in The Christ’s words,  we could stop right there actually, because any thing we desire to fill us up, is ours in God’s Kingdom. This is because The King of God’s Kingdom, has all the power, all the riches, all the glory, all the fame, all the world at His fingertips to give and take at His command. Of course then, as so often happens  in His teaching and preaching — that wild-man Jesus goes off-road!  Because being filled in God’s Kingdom, according to the Beatitudes or “Blessings” of Jesus,  involves being filled with mourning, and poverty, and meekness, and emptying old me so I can have more of being filled with God. Ouch! Not what the Wall Street News or most local churches can afford to preach today. Definitely not what I hear any other kings telling their citizens.

 

I tend to throw around this word, “blessed”, like many people do today. I want my family and friends to:  “Be blessed”. I often sign my emails, “Blessings.”  But every time I read the Beatitudes, I am stopped in my tracks — Do I really want people I care about to be “blessed” in the way Jesus says they should?  Mourning, meek and persecuted? Do I pray for that kind of “blessing” in my own life?  I know what I mean by using that word, but do I know what Jesus means by using that word?  Kingdom blessing doesn’t look much like your typical 401k or the sitcom life we all seem to idolize lately. There was an old hymn that had this line: “Take this world, but give me Jesus”. But we have mostly stopped seeing that as  an “If-Then” choice for our times, because why not have both?  The beatitudes seem to suggest that we cannot have both because two kingdoms cannot coexist together. They will always war against one another. We must choose which kingdom we want to win in our own lives and then live out the kingdom as a winning choice in this world.

 

Another interesting thing about this word “blessed” is that the Bible doesn’t really use it too much for individuals in the way we do today. When the Israelites blessed others, it as often went wrong as it did right.  (Note to self: reread the story of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau). Perhaps our misuse of this idea of being blessed is due to our worldview of the self in an age that is at best the Post- Enlightenment on steroids and at worst lived out  in kingdoms in which any individual’s reality is worthy of Prime Time Idolization.  The Bible mostly uses “blessed” to refer to the individual’s response and a community’s “Then” response to our Creator’s “If”.  “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul and all that is within me”, the psalmist sings. Psalm 103:2: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul; and forget not all His benefits”.

 

Perhaps some of the biggest If  words of Jesus, relate to those He speaks about the fact that “If” we look at the life of Jesus, “Then” we are looking at the life of God.  “If you have seen me, Jesus says, you have seen The Father of All.” Which means in The “Blessings” of  The Christ, IF we want  to be blessed, THEN we are to be like Jesus and in turn, IF we are like Jesus, THEN, we are like God. Radical conceit indeed! – Pun on the word “conceit” intended!

 

If  The Christ is asking us to understand how we are to be blessed in the way that we are called to bless God, then the Beatitudes tell us something about the character and actions of Jehovah God. This idea should at least momentarily change my breathing pattern. Gasp!

 

If we look at  Jesus as The King of an earthly God- formed Kingdom, then we see in the beatitudes, the biographical details of a ruling monarch.  So The King, being a king like no other,  who mourns with us and is persecuted for our sake, reminds us that that If we want to believe in this sort of God, Then that is the sort of radical, “like no other god”, God we believe in:  A God who feels and mourns with His people.  A God who is persecuted for our sake, not who persecutes us for His sake.  A God who is meek and will never force us to honor or believe in Him.  What a radically different king, president, congressman, governor, ruler is this God of ours!  And what a radically different life of blessings Jehovah calls us to live.

 

If I read the beatitudes correctly, God’s image in us, as sons and daughters of God, is the image that The Son of God lived and preached. Another grammatical conceit is also used by Jesus in many of His teachings and is in the Blessings as well.  It is the mind-bending conceit of the Oxymoron. God’s Kingdom is so radical that sometimes, only an oxymoron serves to seep into the small little human brain that tries to think on things bigger than my planet. The oxymoron of the Beatitudes is, that  IF I want to be blessed, THEN I must be filled with less and emptied of more.

 

In the words of the Perfect Image of an unseen God, this is what we humans, created from and returned to dust, are to live like when we live like kings and gods. Indeed, as Arnold said, “this is our only task”, and as Jesus says, If I want blessings, it means allowing God — “The THEN” — to do the impossible in me. To be a persecuted prophet, to be a meek speaker of bold truth, to be a mourning beloved lover, to be hungry for holiness in order to be filled with blessings — these are some of the keys at my fingertips, IF– I truly want to unlock the Kingdom of God.

 

IF not, THEN, there are plenty of other kinds of kingdoms from which I may choose.

 

What God’s Kingdom looks like in Jesus’ poetic and prophetic words:

 

(Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying):

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,

 

for they will be filled.

 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

— The Words of The King of The World as recorded in Matthew 5:1-12

 

An Ode to Oxymoronic Living

by Jane Tawel

 

Tottering on the If,

I bend my knee to The Holy Then.

I emptily fill

my mind-heart

With unloved-Loving You.

There can never be More-GOD,

as YOU are All.

There can only be less-me

and more Time-Space hollowed-hallowed,

for  me, a holy-hole,

of dust-soul

 created in

Godly-dust imagery of

fallen saviors.

I resist-yearn to

backwardly-follow

with blinded-sight,

The Savior who when He fell, Arose!

 

 

 

The Oxymoronic If-Then Kingdom of an If-Then God

The Oxymoronic Kingdom of an If-Then God

by Jane Tawel

November 4, 2017

 

 

I read recently the following quote, by a German theologian, written before the full onslaught of Fascism and World War 2, but during that frightening dawn in the 1930’s, when it “dawned on” people of conscience that they must  speak out love and speak up truth in equal parts to the whole world, not just the small religious circle they might spin in. More importantly, Eberhard Arnold, as many have done, tried to live at least moments of his life, based on the words of The Christ found particularly and peculiarly in the Beatitudes. This quote by Arnold seemed apt for a different place and time — mine.

 

In today’s world situation it is essential that here and there among people there continue to exist rays of light and hope, spiritual realities by which the unity of God’s peace and the brotherliness of true justice are recognized. This is our only task.”

 

Eberhart formed a community of believers who thought it should be possible, or at least attempted,  to live “on earth as in heaven”, by following the instructions in the Beatitudes of Jesus.

 

Jesus carefully spoke words that would be apt for any place and time. He did so because that is the way God’s Kingdom is set up — for all people in all places and all times. The Good News of that Kingdom is that it is a message from a Cosmic Messenger for “every tongue, tribe, and nation”. The reality of what it is like to truly live in God’s Kingdom has been true for all times– not what we should hope for sometime in the future, but in an eternal Now — from the Creation to the end of what we call Time.

 

When I read the beatitudes of Jesus or study their meaning, I am always struck by something new. There is a mysterious depth to their seeming simplicity.  One phrase that struck me today, in the following words of A King named Jesus,  is “because of me”. That is His right as a King — to ask the citizens of His kingdom to do things because of Him.  The other thing that strikes me is the passivity to which we are to do the things The King wants us to do.  I am working on “If -Then” sentences with my students. I have found that most of what is called God’s Kingdom life is based on this grammatical and philosophical construct.  If – Then. In the Beatitudes, as also happens  in some English sentences at times, the Then comes first, and the If follows.

 

The first thing Jesus says is: “Then you will be blessed, If you are part of the kingdom”. If I interpret the idea of being “blessed” as being “full”, then in The Christ’s words,  we could stop right there actually, because any thing we desire to fill us up, is ours in God’s Kingdom. This is because The King of God’s Kingdom, has all the power, all the riches, all the glory, all the fame, all the world at His fingertips to give and take at His command. Of course then, as so often happens  in His teaching and preaching — that wild-man Jesus goes off-road!  Because being filled in God’s Kingdom, according to the Beatitudes or “Blessings” of Jesus,  involves being filled with mourning, and poverty, and meekness, and emptying old me so I can have more of being filled with God. Ouch! Not what the Wall Street News or most local churches can afford to preach today. Definitely not what I hear any other kings telling their citizens.

 

I tend to throw around this word, “blessed”, like many people do today. I want my family and friends to:  “Be blessed”. I often sign my emails, “Blessings.”  But every time I read the Beatitudes, I am stopped in my tracks — Do I really want people I care about to be “blessed” in the way Jesus says they should?  Mourning, meek and persecuted? Do I pray for that kind of “blessing” in my own life?  I know what I mean by using that word, but do I know what Jesus means by using that word?  Kingdom blessing doesn’t look much like your typical 401k or the sitcom life we all seem to idolize lately. There was an old hymn that had this line: “Take this world, but give me Jesus”. But we have mostly stopped seeing that as  an “If-Then” choice for our times, because why not have both?  The beatitudes seem to suggest that we cannot have both because two kingdoms cannot coexist together. They will always war against one another. We must choose which kingdom we want to win in our own lives and then live out the kingdom as a winning choice in this world.

 

Another interesting thing about this word “blessed” is that the Bible doesn’t really use it too much for individuals in the way we do today. When the Israelites blessed others, it as often went wrong as it did right.  (Note to self: reread the story of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau). Perhaps our misuse of this idea of being blessed is due to our worldview of the self in an age that is at best the Post- Enlightenment on steroids and at worst lived out  in kingdoms in which any individual’s reality is worthy of Prime Time Idolization.  The Bible mostly uses “blessed” to refer to the individual’s response and a community’s “Then” response to our Creator’s “If”.  “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul and all that is within me”, the psalmist sings. Psalm 103:2: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul; and forget not all His benefits”.

 

Perhaps some of the biggest If  words of Jesus, relate to those He speaks about the fact that “If” we look at the life of Jesus, “Then” we are looking at the life of God.  “If you have seen me, Jesus says, you have seen The Father of All.” Which means in The “Blessings” of  The Christ, IF we want  to be blessed, THEN we are to be like Jesus and in turn, IF we are like Jesus, THEN, we are like God. Radical conceit indeed! – Pun on the word “conceit” intended!

 

If  The Christ is asking us to understand how we are to be blessed in the way that we are called to bless God, then the Beatitudes tell us something about the character and actions of Jehovah God. This idea should at least momentarily change my breathing pattern. Gasp!

 

If we look at  Jesus as The King of an earthly God- formed Kingdom, then we see in the beatitudes, the biographical details of a ruling monarch.  So The King, being a king like no other,  who mourns with us and is persecuted for our sake, reminds us that that If we want to believe in this sort of God, Then that is the sort of radical, “like no other god”, God we believe in:  A God who feels and mourns with His people.  A God who is persecuted for our sake, not who persecutes us for His sake.  A God who is meek and will never force us to honor or believe in Him.  What a radically different king, president, congressman, governor, ruler is this God of ours!  And what a radically different life of blessings Jehovah calls us to live.

 

If I read the beatitudes correctly, God’s image in us, as sons and daughters of God, is the image that The Son of God lived and preached. Another grammatical conceit is also used by Jesus in many of His teachings and is in the Blessings as well.  It is the mind-bending conceit of the Oxymoron. God’s Kingdom is so radical that sometimes, only an oxymoron serves to seep into the small little human brain that tries to think on things bigger than my planet. The oxymoron of the Beatitudes is, that  IF I want to be blessed, THEN I must be filled with less and emptied of more.

 

In the words of the Perfect Image of an unseen God, this is what we humans, created from and returned to dust, are to live like when we live like kings and gods. Indeed, as Arnold said, “this is our only task”, and as Jesus says, If I want blessings, it means allowing God — “The THEN” — to do the impossible in me. To be a persecuted prophet, to be a meek speaker of bold truth, to be a mourning beloved lover, to be hungry for holiness in order to be filled with blessings — these are some of the keys at my fingertips, IF– I truly want to unlock the Kingdom of God.

 

IF not, THEN, there are plenty of other kinds of kingdoms from which I may choose.

 

What God’s Kingdom looks like in Jesus’ poetic and prophetic words:

 

(Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying):

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,

 

for they will be filled.

 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

— The Words of The King of The World as recorded in Matthew 5:1-12

 

An Ode to Oxymoronic Living

by Jane Tawel

 

Tottering on the If,

I bend my knee to The Holy Then.

I emptily fill

my mind-heart

With unloved-Loving You.

There can never be More-GOD,

as YOU are All.

There can only be less-me

and more Time-Space hollowed-hallowed,

for  me, a holy-hole,

of dust-soul

 created in

Godly-dust imagery of

fallen saviors.

I resist-yearn to

backwardly-follow

with blinded-sight,

The Savior who when He fell, Arose!