A Sheep Dog Worldview By a Sheepdog Wanna-Be

A Sheep Dog Worldview By A Sheepdog Wanna–Be

By Jane Tawel

October 4, 2017

 

There have often been days when one singular phrase seems to reverberate through my mind in the small byways I travel.  It is a phrase I heard in long gone days that is the title of a book by Francis Schaeffer.  This phrase more than so many others, seems to encapsulate for me what my worldview should daily center around. This phrase which is really a question, seems to circle round, like a shepherd dog does a flock of unruly sheep. It encapsulates the guiding force that should shepherd the many unruly questions I am asking moment by moment in work, family, play, the world’s intersections, and even in solitude in relationship to God and in relationship to what I read in God’s Holy Word.  I have been a bit stunned to learn from college colleagues, that one of the phrases that has been thrown out and therefore not taught to students (perhaps in favor of “common core” –ironic pause here), is the phrase “worldview”.  I have been told by youth pastors that this phrase does not “resonate” with today’s generation.  I am sorry but the Midwestern in me, cries out, “Hogwash! You must be kidding!”. If there has ever been a generation of people who need to understand that every one has a worldview whether they know it or not and live by it whether they know it or not, it just might be this “worldview on twitter -steroids” generation. There is actually a neato little questionnaire they can fill out (although not on twitter).  The idea is very old and there are a standard and historically and culturally applicable, 7 (or 8 depending on your source)  worldview questions.  Here is a link – one of many you can find. This one is from a well -known source from James Sire.  I use it as often as possible in my classes.

 

http://www.christianity.com/theology/other-religions-beliefs/8-questions-every-worldview-must-answer.html

 

So what is my sheepdog? What is the question that has been imprinted by Francis Schaeffer on my feeble worldview search? The phrase is:

 

“How should we then live?”

 

There is a parallelism to the implied answer to that question that adds balance to one’s life.  It is the “If –Then” equation.  IF I believe such and such, THEN I should be reflecting that such and such in my actions and my choices; in my words and my deeds; in my relationships and my viewing material; and in my “heart, soul, mind, and strength”– as The Christ says in Matthew 22:37.

 

So I recently began rereading and newly reading some Schaeffer. And lo and behold, there in the preface were the words of another favorite theologian of mine, J.I. Packer.   People like Packer and Schaeffer, Willard and Lewis, L’Engle and Sayers, Manning and Johnson, Tozer, and Tolkien, and Terese, — these people have become my sheepdogs along with too many others to name. These writers are the THEN answers to my own  IF worldview questions.  They become the sheepdogs who run the other side of my flock of a life—a silly sheep-like flock of thoughts and actions which has a hard time not ambling out of God’s provided pasture.  My little sheep-like mind has a hard time understanding that ignorance is not an excuse for hypocrisy. And I often ignore the sheepdogs that God provides as they try to keep safe the foolish sheep of my mind, heart and soul and to prevent me from metaphorically running off a pride-invented cliff.

 

My sheepdog saints, both living and passed, are there to help my sheepdog questions and try to keep my unruly sheep-thoughts and sheep-actions in line with the worldview I claim to hold – The Christ in the Center Worldview – Christ in the center of everything, from history to the future of humankind, from the Epistles to the Torah, from society to politics, from laws to mercy and justice, and  from Christ in others to Christ in me. Christ the Great Shepherd has provided us with sheepdogs throughout our history.  But we must allow them into our foolish flocks. And there these mighty, brave, wondrously intelligent, loving and caring sheepdog saints work with the Great Shepherd, The Messiah, to guide my little silly sheep-life.  Great saints and prophets do this not out of love of blessing or manna, but out of their great love for the sheep and their even greater love for The Shepherd.

 

I write because it is how I think and learn best, but here by someone so much more of everything than I, are words from one of the great theological sheepdogs, J.I. Packer about one of the other great theological sheepdogs, Francis Schaeffer.  I hope after reading them, you might want to pick up some of my own sheepdog saints’ writings.  At least pause just a moment and ask yourself as I am today:

 

How Shall We Then Live?

If……. Then……..

 

From J.I. Packer in the Preface to Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy:

 

“Francis Schaeffer was a reading listening, thinking man who lived in the present, learned from the past, and looked to the future… He was an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts… Schaeffer saw himself as an evangelist, called to speak the truth with an uncompromising urgency to real people in real trouble, whose lives have been broken by the relativism, irrationalism, fragmentation and nihilism of our culture today.  And thus I think it truest to call him a prophet-pastor, a Bible-based visionary who by the light of his vision sought out a world in need and shepherded the Lord’s sheep… The essential perceptions which shaped his vision and work:

First Schaeffer vividly perceived the wholeness of created reality, of human life, of each person’s thinking, and of God’s revealed truth.  He had a mind for first principles, for systems, and for totalities, and he would never discuss issues in isolation or let a viewpoint go till he had explored and tested its implications as a total account of reality and life.  He saw fundamental analysis of this kind a s clarifying, for as he often pointed out, there are not many basic worldviews, and we all need to realize how much or haphazard, surface-level thoughts are actually taking for granted… Christianity must be presented in terms of its own presuppositions and in theologically styematic form, as the revealed good news of our rational and holy Creator who became our gracious and merciful Redeemer in space and time.

 

Second, Schaeffer perceived the primacy of reason in each individual’s makeup and the potency of ideas in the human mind.  He saw that “ideas have legs”, so that how we think determines what we are.  So the first task in evangelism, in the modern West or anywhere else, is to persuade the other person that he ought to embrace the Christian view of reality…. This is to treat a human, not as an “intellectual”, but as the human being that he undoubtedly is.  To address his mind in this way is to show respect for him as a human being, made for truth because he is made in God’s image.

 

Third, Schaeffer perceived the Western mind as adrift on a trackless sea of relativism and irrationalism.  He saw that the notion of truth as involving exclusion of untruth, and of value as involving exclusion of dysvalue, had perished in both sophisticated and popular thinking.  Into its place had crept the idea of ongoing synthesis—the idea that eventually there is not real distinction between right and wrong or truth and untruth, and that antithesis will eventually be swallowed up in a category-less “pan-everythingism.” To make people realize how this viewpoint has victimized them across the board, Schaeffer regularly introduced his topics with an historical analysis showing how Western thought about them had reached its current state of delirium.  The aim of these analyses was to reestablish the notion that there is an absolute antithesis between truth and error, good and evil, beauty and the obscenely ugly, and so to refurnish our ravaged and pillaged minds in a way that makes significant thinking about life, death, personhood, and God possible for us once more.

 

Fourth, Schaeffer perceived the importance of identifying—in all discussion on what being a Christian involves – that which he called the antithesis and the point of tension. The antithesis is between truth and untruth, right and wrong, good and evil, the meaningful and the meaningless, Christian and not-Christian value systems, secular relativism and Christian absolutism.  He made it his business on every topic he handled to cover the “either-or” choices that have to be made at the level of first principles and to show that the biblical-Christian options for personal and community life are the only ones that are consistently rational and satisfyingly human.

 

Fifth, Schaeffer perceived the need to live truth as well as think it—to demonstrate to the world through the transformed lifestyle of believing groups that the “the Personal-Infinite God is really there in our generation.”

 

Christian credibility, Schaeffer saw, requires that truth be not merely defended, but practiced; not just debated, but done….

 

What long-term significance has Schaeffer for the Christian cause?  We wait to see. The law of human fame will no doubt treat Schaeffer as it has treated others, eclipsing him temporarily now that he is dead and only allowing us to see his real stature ten or twenty years down the road.  My guess is that his verbal and visual sketches, simple but brilliant as they appear to me to be, will outlive everything else, but I may be wrong.  I am sure however, that I shall not be at all wrong when I hail Francis Schaeffer, the little Presbyterian pastor who saw so much more of what he was looking at and agonized over it so much more tenderly than the rest of us do, as one of the truly great Christians of my time.”

— J.I. Packer, February 1990

From The Preface to  The Three Essential Books in One Volume: Frances Schaeffer Trilogy

 

So how shall I then live, if I want to put away my sheep-ishness and take on the hard work of being The Great Shepherd’s Sheepdog?  I start by keeping my ears turned to the voice of the Good Shepherd and my heart turned to the needs of the lost sheep, even when the lost one is me, but especially when it is another who is lost.

Jesus gave some pretty strong indications about His own worldview.  He completely believed that He was The Center of The Eternal Worldview.  He believed His Worldview of Him as Son and The Father were the only gate by which we sheep could enter into God’s worldview. Here are the words of The Son of God who lived as I did in this world but came to show Himself as Creator-Savior in a Kingdom whose worldview has no end.  I plan on meditating on these words of Jesus while grazing in my own little worldview pasture today.

From John’s record of The Good Shepherd’s Words to us on Worldview:

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

19-21 This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?”

22-24 They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter. Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon’s Porch. The Jews, circling him, said, “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re the Messiah, tell us straight out.”

25-30 Jesus answered, “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.”

31-32 Again the Jews picked up rocks to throw at him. Jesus said, “I have made a present to you from the Father of a great many good actions. For which of these acts do you stone me?”

33 The Jews said, “We’re not stoning you for anything good you did, but for what you said—this blasphemy of calling yourself God.”

34-38 Jesus said, “I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, ‘I tell you—you are gods.’ If God called your ancestors ‘gods’—and Scripture doesn’t lie—why do you yell, ‘Blasphemer! Blasphemer!’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes. Then perhaps things will come together for you, and you’ll see that not only are we doing the same thing, we are the same—Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him.”

39-42 They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers.

From: The Gospel of Sheepdog John in Chapter 10

Dear Lord,

Let my bark belong to you. Let my ears prick up at the sound of Your Voice.  Let me joyfully work like a dog in Your Kingdom Pasture. Let me know that You have provided for my future when my legs can’t run any more and that you daily provide all that I need for my tasks.  Let me keep my eyes trained on my flock which so easily goes astray and let me always be willing to go in search of the one lost sheep, just as You do.  I am a foolish old hound dog but You have called me to Your side as a co-worker. You are so much greater than I and yet You allow me to sit at the foot of Your table and eat Your scraps. And somehow, You Oh, Shepherd, call me not Your pet, but Your child.  I praise you with meager “woofs woofs” that in Your loving heart You choose to interpret as my earnest and loving praise.

Help me today, to herd ’em up and move ’em on, further up and further in,

Your Ole’ Dog, Jane

7-herding

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I Have Got to Be That Leper

I Have Got to Be That Leper

More Thoughts: on reading Henri Nouwen

by Jane Tawel

September 10, 2017

We used to sing songs like “This little light of mine” or “Jesus loves me, this I know” or  “This is my Father’s world”, or  “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where?!  Down in my heart!  Where?! Down in my heart!”  Now we sing songs about how broken  and lost we are.  I was making myself giggle the other day trying to imagine my grandpa and grandma pulling up a hymn book and singing along with “Oceans” or “Broken Together”. And, honestly,  I get it, I really, really get it — I love those songs — but reading Henri Nouwen has convicted me that what is most difficult of all for me to do is to live as if I am loved by a real, true God, to live each day as a beloved child of Jehovah.

I have to grow up, out of my whining and whinging, and  accept the covenantal  family relationship of  “IF God = Then I”. I have to see God as a parent who loves me and who promises that no matter how far the world descends into madness or “pig swill”, Our Father will be preparing a party at home in His Kingdom for the return of His lost ones.  Then I have to look around at the suffering in the world and the lost folks on my own doorstep and karaoke with Jesus on,  “this little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

I have got to be that leper  — the one out of ten — that can’t stop shouting about how joyful he is to be healed and who dashes through the opened party doors that Jesus shines the light from. Does that leper have hard days? Yep.  Did Jesus have hard times? Yep.  But those hard times — and they can sometimes be daily — are the times I must follow The Son’s example of retreat — even if only for a moment — to enter  the accepting solace of The Father’s arms. In that love I find true joy as a dearly loved child of God.

The second hardest thing for me to do is to follow God’s ancient command to love other people as if they are also beloved children of a real live God. Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  God loves the prodigal sinner in the very same and eternal way that he loves the eldest believer — both are sinners saved only by the inexplicable, unchanging, running -forward- towards- us  joyful, joy-inducing LOVE of OUR Father.

So if I have opened my arms to accept the loving embrace of this God, then I must not focus on my brokenness but must fight the darkness with joy.   I am a child of God called to speak truth, fight injustice, love enemies, sorrow with the sorrowful, walk upright, and to REJOICE in the nearness and love of God. This is the joy that comes with being not a servant but a child of a King.  If I don’t accept what The Father offers me — complete forgiveness and restoration to what He created me to be — If I don’t allow myself to be reborn and returned not to slavery but to sonship like Jesus, The Son, — If I don’t allow the sorrows of this world to be shadows dispelled by God’s light in me — THEN I am turning my back on The Father as He dashes across the earth’s plains, longing to bring me back into His Garden Kingdom.  I must know Him as loving Father and myself as His beloved. I must daily put on the royal robe and enter the party.

And if I have opened my arms to accept the loving embrace of this God, then I must open my arms with a loving embrace for all those who do not know how loved they are by a God.  BY A GOD!!!!!! With that acceptance of my role as daughter, I must look up from my not so very important work to see the one lost prodigal or the one proud hateful eldest that God also runs toward. I must sorrow with she who is lost and rejoice with he who enters the same embrace I am held firmly in. I must  join in God’s party for each child of God. That is what evangelism is — oh how I mourn with those who have lost that word’s meaning — Evangelism is going out there and discovering that everyone’s name is on God’s party list and then flinging open my own arms to party with each invitee like there are endless tomorrows of celebration. Because there are– God’s Hoopla has no end.  The  “Good News” is an invitation open  for each individual, no matter who they are,  who seeks  joy in God’s love.  In Jesus, I experience the joy of my own celebration of salvation in being loved by God  when I see how dearly loved even my worst enemy is by the God who loves.

One day, as Jesus gathered His children, or those we call His disciples, to Him to give them the power of His kingdom, in  Luke 10:21 the Bible tells us that ” In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Dear Father, please help me to seek Your gift of Joy in the Jesus Journey. Help me see myself and others  as  much loved children. Create in me a heart and will to mourn with those who have so much to mourn about. Then let me trust that no matter what, You can create joy.  Forgive my petty complaints and help me not act like a slave but as your child Help me accept that everything You have is mine.  Forgive my grasping hands.  Help me to open my hands to all those I meet and to give what You have given me.  Help me to open my arms that You have filled with plenty of Your goodness and love — enough to last forever.  Please let my little light shine. Amen

 

From Henri Nouwen in The Return of the Prodigal (emphases are my own):

“From God’s perspective, one hidden act of repentance, one little gesture of selfless love, one moment of true forgiveness is all that is needed to bring God from his throne to run to his returning son and to fill the heavens with sounds of divine joy….

When Jesus speaks about the world, he is very realistic. He speaks about wars and revolutions, earthquakes, plagues and famines, persecution and imprisonment, betrayal, hatred and assassinations.  There is no suggestion at all that these signs of the world’s darkness will ever be absent.  But still, God’s joy can be ours in the midst of  it all.  It is the joy of belonging to the household of God whose love is stronger than death and who empowers us to be in the world while already belonging to the kingdom of joy.

All holy men and women, whether they lived long ago or belong to our own time, can recognize the many small returns that take place every day and rejoice with the Father.  They have somehow pierced the meaning of true joy.

For me it is amazing to experience daily the radical difference between cynicism and joy.  Cynics seek darkness wherever they go, they point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes.  They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental.  They sneer at enthusiasm, ridicule spiritual fervor, and despise charismatic behavior.  They consider themselves realists who see reality for what is truly is and who are not deceived by “escapist emotions.” But in belittling God’s joy their darkness only calls forth more darkness.

People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it.  They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little  bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden  but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other’s wounds, forgive each other’s offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God’s glory.

Every moment of each day I have the chance to choose between joy and…….

Jesus lived this joy of the Father’s house to the full.  In him we can see his Father’s joy.  That divine joy does not obliterate the divine sorrow.  In our world, joy and sorrow exclude each other.  Here below, joy means the absence of sorrow and sorrow the absence of joy.  But such distinctions do not exist in God.  Jesus, the Son of God, is the man of sorrows, but also the man of complete joy.  … The joy of God belongs to his sonship, and this joy of Jesus and his Father is offered to me.  Jesus wants me to have the same joy he enjoys: “I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me.  Remain in my love, If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this, so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” The Return of the Prodigal  by Henri Nouwen (116-118)

Joy in my heart

 

Musings on Belief and the Current State of Communications Between Me and Myself

Some Musings on a Facebook Conversation between “Believers”

by Jane Tawel

July 13, 2017

 

Hello:

I don’t know any of you in this Facebook exchange, except Scotty. Disclaimer: I have claimed a “form of” Christianity as my own Worldview and worked with Scotty at a Christian high school. Second Disclaimer:  I struggle with the idea of calling myself a “Christian” in the same way I might struggle with calling myself an “American”.  I am both, but the violence done to both of these titles and in the name of both of these identities  has led them to be misnomers in my own heart if not elsewhere. As a person who  values the integrity of words and truth, I am content to continue to struggle with both.

Pete –your arguments are sound and I find they point to something I have been struggling with for the last several years perhaps especially as I continue to work and “play” in “Christian” circles and assess what we have “done to” the Judeo-Christian worldview in the First – World Orders in which we  live.  I don’t want to intrude on this conversation but at the same time I don’t like to “snoop” on conversations that I find important and I think this one is.

My own experience throughout my life is that God as a Being will be as relational as I, as a being, want Him to be. At various points in my life, I made different choices in whether I wanted to be a “Christ-follower” and a “God-believer” or did not. There have been lots and lots of days when for my purposes God worked best as an afterthought. I have found that God is perfectly okay with leaving me alone but He also doesn’t just come when I whistle for Him. He is faithful but not on a leash.  He has no need at all for me to believe in Him or do anything for Him.  He has an Otherness and a  love for humanity that people from the very beginning have tried to communicate with varying degrees of success. Those who call themselves “Christians” believe Jesus communicated it best in the flesh.

A person having no need of what we know as god(s) is an historical, rational non-belief life choice, as you rightly say. There is nothing new about it nor can we blame science for it. We also therefore cannot look to science or any other religions as a basis for argument.  The very tenant of the Judeo-Christian Worldview is “Shut up for once and Just Know that Yahweh is The God.”  (Psalm 46:10) If anyone has forgotten the mystery of this it is probably us yakking, arguing, bullying, world-conforming “Christians”.

Perhaps, Pete, what your friends are trying to argue but choosing what I would say is merely an unhelpful word choice — faith — is more that everyone believes in something.  Perhaps what you are correctly pointing out is that it is also true that many think they believe in something like God who is Otherness, when in fact, they believe in god who is a reflection of their own desires and need and self image. It is kind of like people saying they believe in “free market” or don’t believe in everyone having healthcare and yet their actions show what they really believe in for themselves — just not for others. Believing in God has always meant actions over words. And this is what the non-believers rightly shake their heads at as our actions too often show what we really believe.  Hence, we try to argue Otherness empirically  and temporally and personally and get ourselves all tied up in nonsense. No wonder you keep trying to point that out.  I can only apologize for myself not for all of us, but I feel a great sense of guilt in all of this. I’m sorry.

God is a choice, not a fact for everyone’s life.   I think what many Christians fear is the admission that they have lived their lives exactly as you surmise is the truth — God as a convenient Santa Claus or God as a convenient excuse and more wrongly — God as personal power and justification– and so we give in to this constant need to convince the rest of the world that we are “right”. (Side note: I keep recommending this but I highly recommend Kathryn Schultz’s Ted Talk on “Being Wrong” or her book if any of you Facebook folk have the time.  It has nothing to do with “religion” and everything to do with thinking and believing unscathed in anything  at all including the infallibility of science.)  Also, with people I love, I feel very sad when they don’t want to believe in God but I have erred so many times on letting that sadness be anger and worry.  It is a Mobius  Strip paradigm, is it not?

Many of us who claim to be “Christians” — and I put it in quotes time and time again because our idea of Christianity is too often like people who think selfies are art — We too, too often have no more real  Need —  or real love or conception and pattern of worship of Another Being — than you do. This of course is why much of the world sadly has found no need of us or Our God. I believe we will be “judged” for this as individuals and also as religious institutions and nations.  I don’t know exactly what judgment means and I understand that to you, Pete, it has no sense in eternal terms, but perhaps if I might just say that I think that somehow what I have been given as soul-life is mine to develop and will someday either be connected to an Otherness Eternity and a “Lifeforce” that  I know and love and that knows and loves me or not.

We too, who call ourselves “believers” have quite often  created a god in our own image. And sadly, this is what people see in today’s religion called “Christianity”.  I say sadly because –mea culpa. It is why some of us are seeking a new name and new pattern of living spiritually and relationally even as we continue to turn to the Scriptures and other spiritual writings for direction and reality checks.

You are correct of course — there is something inherently irrational about both Otherness as a God and divine souls in humans — and when we keep trying to prove its rationality to atheists we do in fact “spin our wheels” as Scotty said. Spinning one’s wheels in my experience, just throws a lot of dirt on everyone nearby.  Those who believe in True Myth — and again you are correct — all religions have some coherent similarities in terms of true myths– know myth to be as divinely inspired as art or communication or sunsets or tornadoes or the inexplicable love at one’s first sight of one’s baby — or anything that we “feel” and thereby “know” to be a Truth truer than “reality”. I know this idea of “True” myth sticks in your craw.  If it helps you any, it also bugs a lot of Christians for the opposite reason! 🙂 Throw it around sometime with “Christians” and have some fun.

The two things that I have been dealing with the past few years are: One — God is not a one way street and faith, hope and love are my part of living intentionally in the world daily and living in a covenant with God daily — not once and then arguing with non-believers for the rest of my life that I am right and they are wrong. Just like my marriage, there are days and nights that I want out of this covenant with God because I just don’t love Him any more or He doesn’t love me enough any more. But just like my marriage, a covenant goes beyond “reality” to a different level of living together and that kind of loving relationship is quite different than anything else I know.

As those who claim “Christ” continue to use Him as a weapon or excuse or battering ram or fear tactic or successful hierarchical corporation or “community”, we create resistance, disbelief, anguish, unfaith, anger, disgust, and as you rightly say again, war and more war and more war.  This is a team mentality that has made us all so small, I fear, at best. At worst, it has made us “cursed are those who give the name of good to evil, and of evil to what is good: who make light dark, and dark light: who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Secondly, I think a lot about this idea that belief is not about what I do or what God does or what tenets I believe, or what I can prove.  If I read and think about what my Worldview clearly says time and time again, the purpose of my journey is about whether I know God and He knows me.  Whether I love God and whether He loves me — because the idea of “Know” in the Judeo-Christian parlance is that most intimate of knowledge that marriage partners have.

So — all of this to say — these are the kinds of discussions that we should be having with JOY– with excitement — because respecting and being connected to another human’s “innerness” — albeit unusual and uncomfortable in the age of reality TV — is so much more fulfilling knowledge  than knowing about a two fanged snake or whatever you were referencing as a proof.  Our need to communicate with each other, our desire to love or direct each other to “truth”, our own inner light — all of these inexplicable but true facts of self and other — are the greatest “proofs” I know of that there is a Something, and I believe, Someone, greater than just “me”. Wrestling with it as you all are doing is mentally and  emotionally exhausting work, but as my family says at the end of certain work days — It’s a good kind of tired.

…  Thanks for a good start to a thinking working day via Facebook!!! Thanks for letting me go on and on as I think through the important ideas you all raise.

Three Different Junes, All the Same Test

 

Three Different Junes, All the Same Test

by Jane Tawel

June 22, 2017

Symbol Scales is made of stones of various shapes

I posted the following on Facebook June 12, 2012 – five years ago when Verity was transferring as a sophomore to Monrovia High School and needed to take some summer courses:

Ok, so I was filling out a scantron for Verity to take summer classes at the Monrovia Adult School so she does not have to take them during the year. First, it is absolutely heartbreaking when some young kid comes in and needs to take classes to finish high school and because of budget cuts he has to go somewhere else or wait until fall. I gave him my best little teacher pep talk and just pray he keeps his chin up and finishes high school. Oh, these poor, poor kids. But on a lighter note, there are at least thirty little things you can bubble in about “what you are”, ie why you are taking the classes and of course, Verity was a “concurrent high school student”, but you could be “out of jail”, or “lost a job”, but it was so hard for me not to bubble in “displaced home maker”. I’m not kidding– that was a choice! and I forgot to ask, what exactly IS a displaced home maker. Did he/ she wander into the wrong house and start cleaning some other family’s house, or did the family vote on getting a new serf, I mean homemaker, thereby displacing this one? Is it someone who thought they were cleaning the bathroom, but they were “displaced” and really in the den? Does he/ she lives in a mobile home?? I guess I am a displaced home maker because as you can see I am not really probably from this planet.

–Posted on Facebook June 12, 2012

 

June 22, 2017:  On the morning of June 14, 2017, I took the CBEST.  This is the educator’s test that anyone who wants to teach or substitute teach in California needs to take.  It was instituted to make sure the people teaching the children knew some basic things about English, Math and Writing.  I took it years and years ago and although I didn’t have to retake it, I was in need of a new teaching job and so I wanted to take the test.  Weird, right?  I am still waiting for my results. If I don’t pass the Writing section though, I’m packing it in – just saying.

 

I took the test this time online – something new since the first time I took it when I traveled to the downtown LAUSD headquarters. That building is no longer there.  That was back in a time when you still had your fingers inked for fingerprint clearance and I suppose we were mostly still using typewriters then. We were definitely still using pay phones. Gone are the days when a parent or spouse, called out the front door, “Do you have enough quarters?”

 

After taking the CBEST test that first June in 1988 I spent a lot of time traveling for jobs to just about every LAUSD  high school and middle school in Southern California. My fiancée at the time,  now husband Raoul,  and I joked that he and I lived in completely different worlds, although technically living only a few miles apart. As I worked in culturally, racially diverse and economically struggling schools and neighborhoods,  he enjoyed the environs of the privileged, educated world of JPL and rich homogenous suburbia.

 

This June when retaking the CBEST, what remained the same for me in life I guess,  were two somewhat ironic truths. The first is that I had test anxiety for days before the test.  It actually didn’t matter whether I even passed the test since I didn’t need it. Having test anxiety was perhaps a very useful thing for me, a teacher. You can mentally understand that some students don’t test well and are overwhelmed by anxiety, but you have a lot more empathy if recently you experienced it yourself. Boy oh boy, were my math skills rusty after years of not really giving two hoots about ratios or perimeters! And why in the world would they form every math question as a word problem?!? That is just plain devilry!

 

Secondly, ironically, just like when I as a parental “displaced homemaker” was looking at Scantrons with Verity for her test in 2012, I was taking the CBEST at an Adult School.  At 7:30 am I was driving to an Adult School Facility, not through downtown Los Angeles but through a suburb which shall remain nameless because it was so utterly depressing.  As an empath I was taking in the “humanity, oh the humanity” and by the time I found the Adult School I was deeply, deeply sad. I was back in the “completely different world” I had first experienced years ago when I started teaching for LAUSD. Although these people lived technically just a few miles from where I live, it is in fact a very different view from the windows of their world. This city  is chockablock full of people without “enough quarters”.

I sat in the waiting area of the Adult School listening to various “languaged” adults, various future-seeking young folks, various hard working, undervalued adult school professors– and I felt the weightedness of my privileged life put in the scales against the weightiness of their various struggles.  And the balance felt all wrong.  The thumbs of the world are weighting down the scales unjustly on the side of People Like Me. One can understand this on an intellectual level, but sitting in an adult school feeling anxious about a test that will determine one’s future job market possibilities, gives one something more than intellectual assent. It can — if embraced willingly –give one a worldview paradigm shift that becomes truly empathetic. And that empathy can — if embraced willingly — lead to a change of heart, actions, words, and life. Heart understanding is always more life-changing than head understanding.

 

I have for the past several years felt that we need to read more of what Gentiles call The Old Testament. The Jews call it more rightly: “The Teachings, The Prophets, and The Writings”.  I have been reading Isaiah again, a book I feel is a prophetic voice for our time.  But the Proverbs contained in The Writings come to mind when thinking of the scales of justice and the scales on our eyes.  Proverbs 11 begins:

 

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
but a just weight is his delight.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealtha perishes too.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.

 

And the first part of Proverbs 16:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.
A just balance and scales are the LORD’s;
all the weights in the bag are his work.

 

So Three Separate Junes, Three Separate Tests:  30 years ago….. 5 years ago….. last week. All so very different times in my temporal life. Ironically, they were all the same in eternity timelessness. They were all  tests of my spiritual life.  While I was looking at percentile weights, The Lord was “weighing my spirit”.  As I journeyed through various SoCal cities feeling the tensions in which we live, God was speaking to the tensions of my heart nudging me to accept that, “by the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted”.  Or as the Messiah in a sometimes too unheard, well -worn simile said to those who would truly desire to follow The Lord, “You must embrace your inner spiritual city on a hill. Let your light shine in the world out there.”

 

In 2012 I was joking about being displaced. In 2017, as I am yet again feeling a bit displaced and looking for a new job, I feel more sincerely the weightiness of the truly displaced people in this world.  In 1988, I was taking the CBEST in my maiden name. My name has changed since then along with so much else. But the God of Ages never has changed. Throughout our history with His Story, He tests those whom He loves. Someday I will know my “real name” – the name written on a white stone by my Savior. That will be on the day when all the tests are all turned in and when all the scores we got in this life will be revealed for what they are truly worth.  Talk about test anxiety! And yet the Proverb assures that “a just balance and scales are the Lord’s” and that “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for.” It is The Christ’s steadfast faithfulness and the steadfast love of God that tip the scales and score the tests.

 

Driving to my CBEST last week, I felt the unbearable heaviness of a world that is trashed in trouble, awash in pain, struggling in sorrow, with a rampant poverty of material and spiritual belongingness.  And yet the Proverb assures that the God of the Israelites has “all the weights in His bag” and that throughout history, God has continued to make the offer that our brokenness can be put back together into wholeness and holiness. The Creator of All can and is and will make all things new.

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,  and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelations 21)

Giant-cross

In God’s city, everyone will have enough quarters and no one will ever be anxious about future tests. And we will all live together as God’s people.

Everyone needs the same things and what we all need is heart changing Good News — The Gospel of a Testament that is never “Old” – For God so loved this world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Jehovah sent the only righteous One to take on the weighted yokes of our lives – personal, social, political, financial, relational, emotional, psychological, physical, intellectual, spiritual lives. God came to deliver us from the unjustly weighted scales we have purposely chosen through whatever sins we prefer. We are all called to live boldly this good news with oxymoronic irony –with weighted freedom and serious joy.

Isaiah 58:6 has The Lord saying to those who would live justly and righteously: “Is not this the sacrifice that I want: to break the chains of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free, and to break apart every enslaving yoke.” As The Messiah spoken of by Isaiah said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.

I  need my heart to know that if Christ walked with a cross towards eternity for me – He is calling me to follow Him by walking with a cross for my own neighbor and yes, my own enemy.  And in that way, I am taking my thumb off the scales in my own favor, and piercing my hands with the weighted balances of God’s preferential love for the whole world. It may seem weird, but I’m submitting and with fear and trepidation willing to be tested again — and again –in order to be loved, to love, and be with in eternity, the God who has all the weights in His bag.

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A Little Dab’ll Do Ya’

photo 5-11.JPG

A Little Dab’ll Do Ya’

By Jane Tawel

May 14, 2017

A good while back there was this hair gel –before “Bedhead”, before girls started gelling their hair, before pomades and shaping creams cost as much as small television sets—  This hair product was called “Brylcreem” and only men used it and it made them smell like MEN – just like Aqua Velva or Old Spice did. The jingle for this gel, originating in England but oozing worldwide, was “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya’.  I love the following history as related in Wikepedia:

 

Brylcreem was first advertised on television with the jingle “Brylcreem—A Little Dab’ll Do Ya! Brylcreem—You’ll look so debonair. Brylcreem—The gals’ll all pursue ya; they’ll love to run their fingers through your hair!”[1]

The Brylcreem TV advertisement included a cartoon animation of a man with initially tousled hair who happily has a little dab applied, and, miraculously, the hair combs and smooths itself.

When the dry look became popular, partly inspired by the unoiled moptops of the Beatles, the last line was changed from “They’ll love to run their fingers through your hair”, to “They’ll love the natural look it gives your hair.”

Subsequent television advertisements used the mottoes “Grooms without gumming” and later, in the 1970s in the UK and Canada, “A little dab of Brylcreem on your hair gives you the Brylcreem bounce”. (Wikipedia May 8, 2017)

 

 

This has been a wonderful year as I have been privileged to teach Junior High. For many teachers and parents, the words “wonderful”, “privileged”  and “Junior High” are counter intuitive oxymorons,  but I really enjoy the innocence and open inquiry these young folks still have.  Also – unlike older students (or adults) they know they are squirrely and they own it.  They are  much fun.

 

The move you see us all doing in the picture is one that we always called “The Noah Move”. One of my students, Noah, always ended a report or a particularly good comment of his with this move. However, unbeknownst to us, this move is known outside my little cocooned class room in Pasadena, CA not as “The Noah Move” but as “The Dab”.  I did not know the real name until one night about a month ago when I was out to eat with my kids and husband.  I was talking about something or other that I guess I was kind of proud of and I did “The Noah Move”. My family looked at me oddly but they often do, whether I am moving or sitting perfectly still, so no biggie.  Our waiter walking by us, though, stopped dead in his tracks and turning to me smilingly said with a great degree of mock shock in his voice, “Did you just DAB?!”  We all laughed in that way you do with strangers whom you are dependent on for your next meal but who have just said something that you have no earthly idea of what they are talking about. “Hee, hee, hee, hee, if I did do whatever you just said I did – Dab was it?—will you still bring me my sushi?”

 

I had no idea what he was talking about nor did I think too much more about it.  Fast forward a few weeks to the night of Speech Night and a parent who teaches at a public school took this picture for my students and me.  Later he and I were talking and  he rather sweetly but seriously informed me that though “The Dab” is now considered a sanitized dance move, it originated as an indicator that someone had just taken a heightened drug version of marijuana and was coughing into one’s elbow to indicate the high was good to go. (Something like that.  I wasn’t totally clear on the parent’s explanation since I, as this man’s daughter’s teacher was sort of shutting down a bit as my face reddened and pulse quickened and I tried to keep laughing the “hee, hee” laugh to cover my embarrassment and the possibility that he would be upset at me for teaching his daughter to “DAB”.)

 

So time changes things. A Little Dab’ll Do Ya – once the innocent jingle of a company trying to convince you that using a glue would make your hair feel softer, is now the not so innocent jingle trying to convince you that using a drug (like glue) can make you feel better about yourself.  In hindsight, both products are trying to sell us the same thing – that we are not okay as we are without some product or other.

 

Maybe you remember when you were in Junior High? Do you know how  almost impossible it is for a 12 or 13 year old  in Junior High School to believe that they are okay? Not great, not amazing, just okay.  In fact, it is daily almost impossible for a young person to come anywhere near believing they are more than okay, –inside and outside. It is almost impossible for a 13- year- old to believe they are beloved by God. This is why our class motto for good and bad times has been, as  the Psalmist says, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of a God.

 

Getting back amongst Junior Highers this past year has helped me realize that at my age, I too am struggling with feeling that I am not okay – inside and  outside.  Maybe that is why I enjoy teaching Junior Highers.  They are a lot like 50- year- old women.  Both of us have to deal with bodies changing without our consent or control, emotions plunging, plummeting and peaking on a minute by minute basis, and the stares of strangers at whatever is happening on our facial skin despite the use of many expensive products. Let me tell you, a little dab may do ya when you are 13 but when you are my age, a dab don’t do nothing!

 

So the day after Speech Night, and after the kind parent and fellow teacher had pulled me aside and informed me about the origin of the Dab Dance Move, the kids and I had a  little class discussion. I wanted the young people to know at least how this “Noah Move” would be interpreted by some people outside the cocoon of our classroom. And then we needed to discuss the future of our using this move.  Should we keep dabbing now that we know what it signifies?  Mrs. Tawel talked seriously about not trusting people without any regard to safety – safety not just for one’s outside but for one’s inside as well.  I said that now that we know what “Dab” means to some people, if any one offers us a dab we will know to say, “no thank you”. We talked about trusting our parents and good adults and keeping them in the “truth talking loop”, and how important it is to keep learning and growing and gaining confidence in one’s self.

 

And then with the wisdom and innocence of youth and old age, we decided that we as group who had been through a year of Junior High together,  thought of the move as “The Noah Move” and we liked it and we were going to claim it as our own and keep doing it together.  For Mrs. Tawel’s 7th Grade Class, The Dab is a fun move that speaks to our sense of pride in accomplishment,  solidarity  with a group of very different individuals, and joy in being alive.  It is a move that to us means, “We just did something great and we are proud of it. Hurrah!” We decided that we liked “The Noah Dab”.  It was us. It was our way of saying to each other, “hey, we are a-okay”. And sometimes, we are Wonderful.

 

 

Unlike the original Dab Drug Dance Move or even the Brylcreem Dab, “The Noah Dab Move”, requires no product, no money spent, no fixing something that isn’t broken, no changing or altering of any kind. Its only requirement is that you are willing to say, I am not just okay, but I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

I highly recommend that you give it a try.  As you can tell by this picture, I am not perhaps the best person to teach any one a dance move, but if you can’t find any one else, I will be happy to Noah Dab with you.

 

The next time you are feeling like you are back in Junior High, and your locker won’t open and you are late for class and you have a pimple that is the size of Mt. Everest and you fell and scrapped your knee and got blood all over your new knee socks and every one was laughing at you and you got a C- in Earth Science, and the boy you like ignored you this morning and your best friend went to Disney Land with the new girl who didn’t invite you and your stomach hurt this morning and adults don’t understand you –  Oh, Sorry – I didn’t mean to go on and on about my life right now. Maybe all those things only happen to me?

 

But the next time you just can’t find the right product to fix your heart – remember Mrs. Tawel’s 7th Graders and try a dance move that is all your own – for you are uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of a dancing, dabbing God.

I can guarantee if you do try it, that “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya”.

 

 

Why Fearless Girl is Bull

Why Fearless Girl is Bull

By Jane Tawel

April 22, 2017

Thanks to my friend, Charles Hampton, for sharing a link to an opinion piece on Fearless Girl and Raging Bull, the two statues in New York which are recently making exactly the kind of controversy both artists and marketing firms like.  Okay, I know the piece is not called Raging Bull, but thinking about all of this stuff can give one a head ache, much like the headaches boxers might feel as portrayed in the movie “Raging Bull”. The first of several things that gets me about these dueling gender specific statues, is that while it is okay to have a raging headache thinking about things and thereby proclaiming our “masculine” side or “yang”, it is  not okay to have a heart-ache when feeling about things, feelings as expressed in the feminine side or “yin”. And both of these sides of the human psyche are or should be nurtured and celebrated in and  by all of us. To truly have our God-given rights and the dual sides of our human strengths, we all – male and female – must be able to balance the yin and yang of our feminine and masculine attributes and characters. Just to pull the Jesus card right from the get-go– Jesus treated all genders as equals and His apostle later reminded us that in Christ there is “neither male nor female”. In the image of God, we were created. God as God, and we IN God, means there is neither female nor male but God as a Being that we can only vaguely understand as the spiritual essence– quality and gifting– of both. Which means we were created with the essence and character of both.

 

So here’s the second but different thing about having a statue of a little girl instead of a woman. Making a statement about female empowerment with the image of a little girl, ensures that the statue represents someone whose power must be supernatural since she isn’t old enough to be powerful through experience and physical and intellectual strength.  We still just don’t really like women who are powerful through experience and intelligence but we especially don’t like those women who still have strong and apparent emotions. Yet, somehow we give many men a pass on emotions that  we wouldn’t in a woman. We might have very different standards for a woman who was, oh, let’s just say for a random example, an emotional woman who was the POTUS That career woman of intelligence and experience but who shows emotions  would be at best kicked out of the job and at worst, institutionalized.

 

But why have we allowed ourselves to buy into the belief that emotions are meant to be clamped down, sanitized and shelved? When did we forget that the emotional sides of us want to make a difference in the world too? How did we accept the lesser goods of brain as emotional-less and brawn that is fearless? Isn’t it often the things we feel emotional about that cause us to act? Isn’t our fear an indication that something must be fought against?  Can’t we historically (in the world and in our own family histories) point to the people who changed our lives exactly because they have felt deeply emotional and from the heart about things that matter? Aren’t these empaths often held up as the very people who get big things – things that change lives – done?  And when did we stop believing that emotions are valuable and good? Even fear? Even anger? Even pain? Has not the human heart made more difference in the world than all the powers and big brains combined? Well, yes, one argues rightly– emotions can be used for evil and bad things – for us and for others. Let’s mention just two bad uses of emotions – nationalistic emotionalism in 1930’s Germany or racist emotions anywhere anytime. But the point is emotions are not bad or evil in and of themselves.  The Judeo-Christian belief is that somehow strangely, humans were created with the same emotions as a God. Even to the extreme of feeling jealousy. Or suffering. A suffering God who is jealous for our love is one of the great paradoxical truths of my religion. One word alone should be able to help us all make the connection between emotions and meaningfulness and that word is LOVE.  I can give endless examples, of the life-changing qualities of love from my life, from countless poems, stories, and scripture references, from various religious beliefs.  And of course, any one reading this could do the same. Love makes the difference between a fearless, inactive statue and a fearful yet faithful godlike slayer of giants.

 

The problem with the little girl being “fearless” is that we demean the importance of feelings – of the heart-life. And this is perhaps why we have so often lived as soul-less consumers who remain desperate but unwilling to risk drinking deeply of meaning and trustingly becoming meaningful.  Feelings are not the soul’s second class citizens but critical components for survival. Our needs for holistic living include all that we might call feelings, whether of fear or anger or love.

 

Oh, Artistic Muse Fearless Girl – Couldn’t we have a statue of desperate aching –hearted rural white grandmother? Or a representation of a scared –to- death but determined Midwestern black man? How about one of “I’m –about- ready- to- pee- my- pants- menopausal –mama- but -I’m -going –to- do -this -any -way -because –we- must –keep- trying- to- love- in- spirit- and- in- truth?”

 

Or– could we have maybe a statue of a homeless Asian U.S. veteran with arms outstretched towards the Wall Street Bull? Or across from the Bull, a very large unemployed woman clutching with one hand her world’s belongings in a shopping cart and in her other hand, her dread-lock haired child who holds a used and tattered public school book in his little hand, both fearfully but determinedly facing off against the increasing rampaging tides of greed, injustice, prejudice, hate, hunger, and violence?

 

I’ve included the link at the end of this to the thought provoking piece that got me thinking about all this. Greg Fallis points up the moral and artistic conflict in the fact that a business named SHE appropriated the original meaning of a work of art (the bull) for a marketing tool. SHE, the business, evidently has some nifty ideas but it has manipulated emotions and commissioned art and disguised and sold both as an altruistic, empowering belief system. Sadly, many religious institutions do much the same. This analysis by Greg Fallis about the two NYC statues is fascinating as it comes after the brief but infamous Pepsi commercial and that particular shameless, Mad-Men appropriation of someone else’s Truth and Meaning; appropriated not for adding onto the meaning but for marketing it. But come on, we have been sitting impotently by for years as our medias sell us meaning and belief for the price of a well-timed commercial break. Our religion has become The Show, and The Show, our religion. And well, of course how does one even begin to get one’s head around the whole appropriation of our democracy for one particular family’s marketing of their businesses? Where is Fearless American Citizen in all that? You know even  many churches now pay big bucks for marketing? Yowza — we have really lost control. No, we have lost our way. No, we have lost The Way.

 

 

Before today, without knowing any of the controversy about these two statues, what I have been a bit surprised no one is talking about (or maybe they are) is why does it have to be a little girl? Why is it not a fearless woman? Oh, that’s right, no one wants to vote for a fearless woman. 😆    Accept it or not,there is an insidious gender and color inequality — and I mean inequality of Meaning. I refuse to keep reducing inequality to something about money.  Money inequality is an astute indicator but it is not The Problem. The Problem is that we do not give all people the same depth of meaning.  We do not give all giftings the same depth of meaning. We do not give all of our parts, the same depth of meaning. And this where Jesus should make a difference but doesn’t always. And it is so often because we are afraid to live like Jesus lived. We don’t feel so fearless when Jesus asks to think, speak, and act the way He did.

 

What would it say in the world today for someone to make a meaningful statue of Fearless Black Boy? What would it mean in our First World belly –button- looking world for someone to make a statue of Aged Mexican Gardener facing off The Botoxed Bulls of Wall Street? What would it mean for a statue representative of whomever I claim myself to be, with my hands openly outstretched, placed face to face across from whomever is most fearful and unacceptable to me, with his hands openly outstretched? What would it mean for more of us to be symbolized by the helpless, fear-clenched, blood drenched hands of a God stretched motionless on a death machine called The Cross?

 

Thirdly, speaking of empowering, how do we think we make a woman feel powerful by making a statue of a little girl fighting weaponless with an above -the -knees dress on? Really??!! Come on. We really need to stop confusing our uses of the word “provocative” when it comes to females.

 

I cannot watch recently made Disney movies. I am so glad my children grew up watching movies like the animated version of “101 Dalmations” or “My Friend Totoro”, and the movie about different types getting along with each other through love and understanding as in the wonderful movie, “Babe the Pig”. At some point and I don’t know when,  Disney and, well, to be fair, Hollywood in toto,  decided that rather than making girls damsels in distress being saved by Prince Charmings, they would make girls act like tough little boys (but the girls will still wear provocative clothing)  standing up but, flirtatiously,  to Prince Charmings  who themselves are masquerading as the bad boys mothers still warn their girls not to date – oh that’s right the  Disney mothers and fathers are either evil foster parents or  adults too flaccid, weak and uncaring to go themselves to find their missing little girl –so we still need the bad boy to accidently while robbing someone’s castle, find and  save the girl. And said little Disney girl (who still has beautiful white- chick hair no matter her animated skin color and who has the body of a Victoria Secret model) ends up cutely saving the hot and handsome but naughty bad boy Prince Charming – oh what a twist! And the Prince is saved by the delightfully coifed girl which she does by beating the phooey and snake snot  out of temporarily evil people (Because in Disney’s colorized gray worldview, no one is really good or evil). And the sweetly gowned princess fearlessly, with toned arms akimbo, magically without breaking a sweat defeats evil by bopping it on the head with a sauce pan or mowing it down with an Uzzi. Thankfully in the finale, the tough little girl reverts to stereotype and assumes her inherited third generation Princess role and goes goo-goo ga-ga in love with previously weak, both physically and morally,  but now miraculously ethical, strong, and wealthy bad-boy turned good guy (who really was a nice guy all along) AND – best of all – we  find out he is a stinking rich Prince himself so she can relax and stay at home while he goes out and conquers the world and become James Bond and conquers other women as well. Oh those locker room bad boys will be boys! And a whole generation of young girls and their moms LIKE these stories and they want to enter the world of television just like Mike TV in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and live out the Disney version of the American Dream. And every day a new Reality Show Life is born. And another soul dies.

 

But all of this is not meant as a feminist rant; It is just as disheartening and misleading a worldview for little boys and men. I am not an expert on the male psyche but surely we can all look around us and see that men want the same things as women – purpose, love, and meaning. We women and men are the same and yet not the same and so in thinking about any of this, we must as so many of us are trying to do today, including Greg Fallis, hold together two equal and opposite thoughts at the same moment or however long it takes for the achievement of a greater end – the end being one of understanding and feeling, of enlarging the soul, and of journeying further along the circle of life’s completion.

 

This is perhaps why people choose to make statues of little girls staring down bulls, rather than little boys staring down men. Little boys fearlessly facing off and thereby saving grown men doesn’t have the Disney vibe we crave today — that proverbial dike has sailed, to mix two ancient allusions.  But back to the importance of true minds and hearts created as genderless- God-given spiritual giftings to all souls. I want my girls to see their father as a hero for working hard, thinking deeply, and feeling so much love for them that he cries when they graduate, fall and skin their knees, or come home for his birthday.  I want my son to see his mother as someone who works hard, thinks deeply, and cries with joy when he succeeds or is kind to others, and cries with anger, fear, and loss when he –or anyone– falls down.  And I want my Princesses and Prince – Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon – to find people of both genders, of all ages, of varied colors and creeds and salary levels— people whom they can love and respect for all that those individually created and creative beings do, think, and feel – whether they fall “in love” with said people or just happen to meet them at a homeless shelter.

 

Finally,  I long to be the person who has a heart for saving. And I will just let that word sit there with all of its varied and important nuanced meanings.

 

Oh,fearless girls and boys! Do not let the world market designate for you what courage is.

Oh, cheerless boys and girls! Do not let the world takers rob you of feeling deeply.

Oh earless souls, let they who have ears to hear, hear. It is written, “where our treasure is, there our souls live.”

 

We must look inside at the art waiting to be created in our very own souls. We have to truthfully and lovingly call each other out.  We must keep asking Why? Why we like girls to be fearless on the soccer field but not in the halls of Congress? Why we promote the idea of fearless men as Navy Seals and veterans — thereby also marketing something– rather than truly grappling with the fearsome inequities of the unjust wars we proselytize them to? Why we do not embrace fearful boys who do not like to compete, but would rather nurture. Why we do not respect fearless girls who will not lead like men, but will lead nonetheless. We must keep asking why as a compass, not an ending.

 

The tragic irony is as we sell our spirits for the winning edge, for the increase in market shares and donations and in taking and in giving, we keep trying to figure out how we can combine them to make ourselves feel whole. We keep trying different combinations to create more meaningfulness, just as NYC is trying to figure out how to combine these statues so the meaning will be more appealing. Who said living meaningfully was supposed to be appealing? Every time I buy something now, from the grocery store items in my basket to the shoes and socks on my feet, I am asked if I would like to give a donation to someone less fortunate by donating more money or paying more  to the faceless corporation for the mediocre item I am convinced I want. And then that corporation will feel better about itself by making money off my need to feel good about myself with my  open generously giving pocketbook and I will feel better about buying more stuff and both of us can take and give at the same time  –AND – get a tax write-off for our need to give and take and consume and donate. And yet in the same breath I am told not to vote for entitlement programs or give a dollar to the homeless guy on the street because it doesn’t help them. And the more money I spend on faceless charities never answers the question of why I can never buy enough to fill the big hole in my heart or hunger in my soul. And I wonder why it all gives me a head ache from trying to get my mind around it and a heart-ache from trying to get my soul above it.

 

The meaning within meaning upon meaning of this statuesque non-Mexican artistic standoff, sans walls, is a fascinating sub-topic into where Orwell did warn us unchecked capitalism eventually leads — to the same place unchecked communism does, to the same place any unchecked self-centeredness always ends.  But don’t take Orwell’s dystopian word for it. Jesus did quite a bit of warning about this as well. We have willingly succumbed to living life as a marketing ploy and accepted the symbolism of equality and courage as childishness, something to admire in children who as adults will eventually get trampled by the world. And Jesus keeps asking adults to become more like children—to in fact be infants fresh from His Womb, daily reborn as children in need of a protective and loving Father who comes running to stand between His beloved ones and the world’s oppressive greed. The Mother/Father/God Spirit is as powerful as a Father and as tender as a Mother as He eternally invites us all, even the prodigals, into His embrace.

 

The NYC display is truly a perfect combo of statues at a timely American juncture in a well- chosen location.  Here we see: A statue meant to symbolize American citizens’ strengths which now merely symbolizes American greed masquerading as the dream of luck on Wall Street  facing-timing a plucky Disney heroine who it is blithely assumed will win against evil merely because we manipulate the storyline and alter the facts. And so we can watch from the sidelines and go to bed at night feeling good about ourselves and bad about the other side. After all, a little girl might be able to take on a raging bull but she certainly can’t hurt me or  convince me out of my own entrenched narcissism and self-serving belief system, right? And of course, in the Disney version the Bull Market and the little girl with super powers become friends and live together in contentment, never growing old, with large 401Ks, and sexily in love  happily forever after. And because The Great Oz  says it, well, it must be true, right?

 

And we look on. And we no longer seek “The Way, Truth, and Life”. So often, tragically, even when we say we seek The Way, we still want to get our money’s worth. Even our churches market their programs and speakers and coffee bars, and sell us on how “Awesome” we are, but how THIS church can make us even better. Christians selling spirituality as a way of trying to make Americans feel better about themselves?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  My kids think I’m crazy, but every time I drive by and see this one particular large sign marketing  a local church that reads, “You are Awesome”– I shout out, “NO! YOU AREN’T! BUT GOD IS!”

 

I am not awesome. And please don’t pander to me as if you think I write that merely to garner compliments. I don’t believe in my awesomeness in the same way I don’t go to church to make myself feel better about myself, but to worship a God infinitely more awesome than I could ever know.  I don’t want to feel awesome, I want to feel humbled enough to feel beloved and then paradoxically more capable. Through humility in the presence of an Awesome God, and forgiveness of daily failures, I become more capable of truly and deeply knowing the right way to live and feeling with all of me a love for my Creator and all those whom He likewise created.

 

I am a flawed sinful human being with absolutely nothing inherently awesome about me except for the fact that I can serve a fearful but faithful Risen Savior who is in the world today and that I can know and serve an awesome Creator who is not the author of fear but who created me – and you—and him—and her—and them—in His Image to be loved by the gender-bending, multi-colored Being. And we are all equally but uniquely and differently wired to go into the world as His beloved ones, “in fear yet in truth” and to lovingly do likewise, as the Son of Man did, being mutually, lovingly creative in His Image.

 

 

I always like people who struggle with opposing ideas while still marching forward. I know there are so many opposing ideas to any thing I could say or think and yet somehow the really true stuff always ends up on the same eternal path under the same Eternal Light.  Spiritual Paradoxes as all true metaphors lead to great and eternal Truth. That’s why Fearless Girl is Bull, and Bull is Fearless Girl. It is a combined metal Pinocchio for our own time.They are two opposing ideas and the metaphor they create together, like all good metaphors is a puzzle to be solved. The juxtaposition of two realities creates a third reality to be discovered. The  two statues make slightly different meanings in different individual’s understanding as much great art does. But the experience of the two statues is only a metaphor and must wait for meaning to infuse the hearts of living, breathing humans with purpose. As in all available truths, it longs to give life to real people’s actions.

 

What I liked about  Fallis’ article, “Seriously, the Guy Has a Point” is the balancing act of different truths that good writing tries to accomplish. Good people must try to balance truths as well. Maybe that’s what we need a statue of  — a person holding two opposing ideas and walking forward juggling those ideas through a hail of verbal bullets?  But then isn’t that sort of what the scales of justice are supposed to represent – holding opposing ideas in the balance one’s hands so that one can truly feel the balances minute shiftings? Feeling deeply and sensing truthfully as the scales change levels? Can we not start re-developing some feeling in our hearts and balance in our  minds so that when the scales of justice and morality tip, we know it? So we can feel when the scales tip on things like prejudice? Or freedom of speech? Or – on how capitalism is working? On fighting other peoples’ wars? On weapons? On health rights? On education? On freedoms to choose and safety? On the sanctity of all lives? Or on that most God-like attribute –merciful justice? And — When things tip and we feel in our hearts’ hands and our reconditioned souls’ scales, what has changed has really been what has been The Way, Truth, and Life all along –can we not then change our course  and catch ourselves from over balancing in The Fall? Can we give them up to save our souls? Isn’t that what Jesus did? He commended His Soul into the perfectly balanced hands of His Father.  He held the opposing ideas of Love and Enemy in His hands? And He held the opposing Truth of Death and Life in His body and soul? He was the perfectly calibrated scale of God and human being. And He is what every Fearless Girl should lead like  and every Fearless Boy follow after.

 

 

“Oh, what does it profit a fearless girl or bullish boy if they gain the whole world, but in the process, lose their souls?” —- The Christ, 2000 years ago.

 

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Please enjoy Greg Fallis’s Post:

 

seriously, the guy has a point

 

 

 

 

Leave Me Alone I Can’t Stop Talking

Leave Me Alone I Can’t Stop Talking

By Jane Tawel

March 19, 2017

Elephant Man

 

When I am with people I tend to talk. Some might say, I talk a lot. For this reason, it took me a long time to realize that I am actually what is called an Introvert.  It will take me a lot longer to convince some people I know that I am in fact an introvert, but that is neither here nor there.

 

An introvert, as psychologists now know or believe they know is not someone who is shy.  That is the definition of well, a shy person.  An Introvert is a person who “gains energy from being alone and loses energy from stimulating situations, such as social events”. When I read the list of what an introvert is, I was relieved on so many levels. It was like going on WebMD and diagnosing what is wrong with you. You read the symptoms and can say– “Wwhhheeewww! –well, at least I know what will kill me!” When I read about what Introverts are, I felt I had discovered what was wrong with me all these years. But I also felt I was not alone – that there were all these other people who everyone thought were “outgoing” but who were really just yakking their way out the door until they could get home to a good book.  When I was able to self-diagnose myself as an introvert, I felt the same way I did when I thought I had leprosy –until I looked up my symptoms on Wikipedia Symptom Checker and discovered the rash all over my face was due to a reaction I was having to my “Fountain of Youth Cream”  that the Israeli at the mall kiosk foisted on me. I was so relieved I didn’t have leprosy that I didn’t even feel angry anymore about the $50.00 I had spent on a fancy jar of what turned out to be plain old petroleum jelly.

 

Here is a primer easy-read link if you want to know more about “The Introverts”, or “My People” —

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/introverts-signs-am-i-introverted_n_3721431.html

 

We have a joke– at my expense, as is often true in my family– about “my people”.  Whenever we are watching a movie or reading something about what I believe to be my ancestral folk, I might yell out, “Hurrah!  Those are MY PEOPLE!”  or “How awful!  They did that to MY PEOPLE!”

 

One’s own people are always spelled in ALL CAPITALS! At my house, the historical or social connections to MY PEOPLE might be on any given occasion a connection to something about The Irish, The Scottish, The Native Americans, or The English. It is rarely about my people The Germans, although their DNA is in there on my maternal Grandmother’s side. One tends to selectively choose one’s People when one is a mutt as most of us are.  It’s like saying on the licensing form that our dog, Jolie, is mostly Golden Retriever, because if we told them she is actually mostly street Coyote, they would take her away.

 

My husband will josh me, “who are your people this time?”   He can kid me because his people (no caps) are not MY PEOPLE.  I joke back that my people were all the Conquered and his people were all the Conquerors. Another HAHA at my expense, though for The Conquered Peoples,  not such a hilarious joke, although one of MY PEOPLE’s great traits is learning to laugh at dark, bad things. Humor is definitely one of those traits you get from whatever DNA sticks to you.  Speaking of my husband, he, like his French ancestors likes to laugh at prat falls and slap stick – a type of humor the Conquering Peoples enjoy at the expense of other people. On the other hand, I love self-debrecating humor. I sit in coffee shops laughing out loud at Charles Dickens whose black humor at the expense of himself, slays me every time.  Self-directed humor is the primary love language of  my people as we laugh our way back to the servants’ quarters.

 

We can now discover what the science of DNA testing tells us about who our people are. Conversely, if we don’t want to commit to any people group, we can on most forms check the box that we “feel” we relate to as our people. Take your pick –race, gender, culture, or none-of-the-above-listed peoples.  I used to have a key chain that described me and MY PEOPLE perfectly.  It said: “I live in my own little world; But it’s okay, they know me there.”

 

In my family, I am known for choosing movies which are not just about underdogs but about severely disabled people – severely disabled people either physically, mentally, or socially – but often physically. And mentally. Favorite movies of mine include ones like “Being There” or “My Left Foot”.  If someone  tragically dies in the movie, even better. My children are still angry with me about the un-intentional emotional scars I gave them as small children when I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate New Year’s Eve by watching the movie “The Elephant Man.” If you don’t know it, “The Elephant Man” is about a severely disfigured man and the famous line is “I am not an animal, I am a man!”

 

Even though I am introverted, I tend to talk a lot. But I finally have realized thanks to “The Huffington Post” that this yabbering on and on in a group of people is actually a disability due to my introversion – a trait that psychologists seriously considered diagnosing as a disorder.  I talk because when I am with people, I think I have to “give” to them of myself and when you are in the same space as another human being, to me that means giving them words. I am known as a giving person. So I give a lot. Of words.

 

When reading about Introversion, it also relieved me to realize that introverts do not talk “small talk” and tend to be “too intense” with “a penchant for philosophical ideas and thought-provoking books and movies”.  They also prefer writing  as a means of communication.  All of you who know me – let me know when you stop laughing and I will go on………..

 

Hence, I guess, I thought it was a gift to my children to watch “Elephant Man” — a profound philosophical discourse on how the outside of a person can deceive you into missing what he or she is inside. As someone once said, you never know who has a disability that you can’t see. Whether a person’s outer disability, like John Merrick’s physical deformities, makes you think they are inhuman; or if the opposite is true and you are worshiping someone’s outer self because it seems beautiful or brilliant, someone like the serpent in Eve’s garden – we tend to be fooled either way by appearances. We should be looking for the created humanity that is “a little higher than the angels” that is inside of The Other. We should be daily searching in the faces and hearts and minds of total strangers and daily companions, that spiritual God-like part that resides in all of us. Conversely, we should also be aware of how easy it is to make idols of those whose outer glory confirms our own selfish  and self-serving desires.  As C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory: It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of those destinations. It is our gift – to ourselves and others—to help each other towards our  eternal destination – because it is a destination meant to be travelled together, introverts with extroverts, men with women, believers with non-believers, Us with Them. MY PEOPLE with THE OTHER PEOPLE are God’s People.

 

 If one of my 7th graders is having a “put myself down” moment, I make them say out loud these words from the Psalmist: “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. This wonderful verse reminds us we are all made in the image of God. But it is a very specific image – we are not god-like because we are human, we are human because God made us like Him. When we are more like Him, we are more what we as humans were created to be and when we are less like Him, we are less human. When we treat The Other as like God, we become more like God ourselves.  This is the Jesus way and why He could say, “when you see me, you see God the Father.”, the Father of All People.  Remember that funny old politically incorrect children’s Sunday School song? It went like this:  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of God’s world. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His Sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

 

My gift to my children at our New Year’s party of “The Elephant Man” (to name but one of the many movies I have forced them to watch in parental attempts at what I hoped were guiding lights) — And my passionate conversations –even when they are utterly misguided discourses– on life with friends, family members, people in waiting rooms, women and men standing on the corner waiting to be picked up for a job, homeless people I have gotten to know, like David, and John, and Clifton, and  random pick up conversations with total strangers I am stuck next to in grocery lines—all of these come from my need as a fearful, timid selfish introvert to GIVE.   Which is why I am often so very wrong while simultaneously being so very right – Because of course sometimes my Giving is really just a cover up for my desperate need – a need to be someone or do something–  A need to be “worshipped” instead of to “worship”. A need to force the outside of me to make up for what I perceive to be my inside flaws. Sometimes my “giving” is perhaps a bit like forcing a leg of lamb on a vegetarian.  I need to allow myself the idea that, If you don’t have the right gift for the right person at the right time, go back into your little metaphoric monk cell, Jane, and be quiet. But sometimes, even though I look and sound like a crazy lady pontificating, I am at least on the right track when I am treating someone I am sharing space with, as if they are godlike in importance and worthy of all my emotional passionate energy and connection. I am most who I am created to be, when I am depleting my energy by pouring myself out into The Other. This is what Jesus came to show us about who God is — a God who pours Himself out into all people who seek Him.

 

It is always hard on some level though to accept and honor the “Differentness” of The Other. No matter whether that Other is a person we dearly love as I do Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon — my favorites of those I call MY PEOPLE — or whether we are trying to get along with some one so radically different than we are, that we would prefer to pretend they are not even completely human, as we  sometimes do people who are different than we are religiously or politically or geographically.

My daughter Clarissa is probably an extrovert.  It’s taken me a while to realize that when she comes home and we are all just sitting around reading or watching reruns of “Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Monarch of The Glen”, Clare feels depleted.  Her energy sinks and she needs to get back out there and go, go, go and socialize with people – horrors! – even at a party with small talk among –gasp! – new people or —gag me with a spoon! –  passing the time of day with co-workers!  Clarissa is delightfully different than I in this area.  As an Extrovert, she is The Other – beloved but different. She is in many ways like me but she gets energy in different ways than I do. This can cause misunderstanding but because we love each other, we don’t stop trying to figure it all out together.

 

My husband, Raoul, tends to be somewhere in the middle of all of this introvert/ extrovert spectrum.  As one example, Raoul prefers to go to parties and people’s houses, not host them. I am the opposite, preferring to host people so I can be The Giver –and at my house I can also have a good excuse to go hide in the kitchen and not talk with the guests who I truly love but just can’t chat with right now because I am cooking or some such thing. I prefer to speak to a large group of strangers rather than to chit chat in the hallway with someone I really do like a lot.  I can teach a group of students and sell them ideas but I couldn’t sell a product to my best friend to save his or her life.  I will discourse with random strangers at length about theology, philosophy, psychology, art, the meaning of it all—but I feel completely de-energized  when asked what my  favorite color is. People debate my introversion by saying to me – but you went into acting, teaching – you speak in public so well – well, yes, being someone other than myself in a crowd of people and talking about IMPORTANT LIFE ISSUES–is so very much easier than being my silence- loving, imaginary -world reading self forced to discuss the weather with a group of close associates. I figure my friends are mostly those people who know my odd philosophy -spouting passionate-imploding self and for some reason stick around me any way – perhaps they stick with me really only because I make a killer cheesecake?

 

I should have had an inkling of my introvert-disorder back in high school when we were given the task of memorizing a poem. I chose this one by someone who was perhaps not an introvert but in fact shy, Emily Dickinson:

 

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!

 

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong Day –

To an admiring Bog!

 

So going back to the Israeli at the mall.  I often hear MY PEOPLE or American Christians, quote this verse from I Chronicles 7:14: “if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  I hear this verse taken out of context on so many levels it isn’t even funny. I wish it were humorous so I could keep this essay light and a joke about myself, but Scripture is pretty serious after all. All I want to point out here is that in the particular Judeo-Christian worldview to which I espouse,  even when I diagnose myself as a part of a certain people group – Native American, Irish, Female, White, Introvert – My rooting for MY PEOPLE does not let me off the hook of connecting with “THE OTHER”.  I find too many people who want God to “heal the land” of MY PEOPLE, while they themselves are busy destroying “the land” of THE OTHER PEOPLE. Because THE OTHER, in my mind, and possibly in yours, is always in CAPITALS as well.  THE OTHER is he or she who is not like me. In Religion, this becomes like one of those jokes: An Jew, A Muslim, and a Christian walk into a Holy Site…  The joke is ironic, because all of those three religious groups see each of the others as “THE” Other. Each claims to be God’s “MY PEOPLE” and the only God’s people in the world. And as much as my DNA has geared me to love irony, humbling myself enough to pray for the healing of The Other takes serious hard work. And that is rarely a joke to any of us.

 

Just because I am an introvert and I dread social environments does not mean that I don’t walk into those uncomfortable situations any way; because I believe that is what people are “called” to do – to give of themselves to THE OTHER. So too, we must invite THE OTHER into the protected space of our comfort zones – into the Holy Sites of OUR PEOPLE. And for some of us, The Other is the Conquered.  And for some of us The Other is the Conquerer. If we take Jesus seriously when He said, “someday you will worship neither on this mountain or on that one, but in spirit and in truth, then we must believe that the Holy Site  is one we all and we always carry with us. The Holy Site is our soul; it is our God-image, as we each are“fearfully and wonderfully made” human souls. This sometimes means, not giving by talking into, but giving by listening to – sometimes listening to what is not said aloud. It sometimes means acting without speaking, as Francis of Assisi is assumed to have first said: “Preach the Good News. Use words if necessary.” It is sometimes and often admitting we are wrong or selfish. It is sometimes speaking out against injustice when all we want to do is watch a movie about it.  It is sometimes being in the wilderness alone praying.  But it is always, according to God, loving THE OTHER as deeply as I love MY PEOPLE. It is treating the different Other as my Own.

 

I have not only spent a lot of time speaking into, but have spent a lot of time “listening into”.  I have even actually been hired in certain jobs of mine to be  a “listener”.  I have found sometimes though, that I am often so nervous in a social situation that I begin to babble in order to cover up my fear and my overwhelming desire to run away from the person or persons in front of me and go on a nice walk or sit in a corner of my house with a book –all alone.  When my children were small my husband often offered to get me a jogging stroller so I could be with the child even more!  My daughter, that same extroverted Clarissa, has recently asked me to go on a charity race with her.  I feel horrible saying no, but I have never been in a race since “Field Day” in Junior High.  I don’t say no because of the running or walking, which I have done for years. I decline to race with any one because of the sure knowledge it will involve a crowd of real people. People who will want to small talk with me. People everywhere all around me, people without the time to discuss before the race with me about Pascal’s Wager or the humor of Charles Dickens in Great Expectations  or Covenantal Theology vs. Arminian Theology. People who won’t leave me alone with my silent thoughts as I run.  It is all the “Humanity, oh the Humanity!” — all  THE OTHERS. And I know all of them will want to know what my favorite color is.

 

St. Paul, whose character traits I struggle with (perhaps because he was possibly an introvert like I), claimed that in Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Paul was trying to explain a new way of seeing each other to two very different sets of believers, sets we might today call 1. God’s first MY PEOPLE, The Israelites (as Paul was himself) and 2. God’s grafted on MY PEOPLE, the Greeks or The Church – who had actually been included from the beginning, but that’s another story. Paul suggests that if we want to follow Jesus, we can no longer see someone as THE OTHER. Jesus, the Only King,  the only One who was truly THE OTHER – and yet completely one of us, said it even more directly,”The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

 

Let me honest – I am not one bit sorry for making my kids watch The Elephant Man as a New Year’s party celebration all those years ago. They certainly have gotten a lot of funny jokes out of it. But  maybe they have also, in a small way, realized that if we really want to party hard like Jesus, we must invite into our parties, our homes, our lives, the least, the lost, and the disabled. If we want to be like gods, as Lewis says, we must first recognize the scars our parents give us  which we heroically live with and over come– and we all have scars from our ancestors – the distant and the immediate ones.  This is what it means in part when the scripture tells us, “the sins of the parents will be reborn in the children to the third and fourth generations”.  Sins are like DNA, they are passed on whether we want them or not just like our people pass on  red hair or brown eyes or a penchant for Kimchi  whether we want them or not. But we must also accept that we can not always see the scars of others, and yet, not seeing them, is no excuse for not seeking to heal them. We are called to be humble healers of The Other and therein lies the secret to the healing of our own “land”. When I don’t want to look at the scars of others or listen to the angry hurt and maybe hurtful confessions of THE OTHER, I am running away into my safe, private introverted comfortable space –and that is true even if I am speaking in a crowd of thousands.We are best served when we party hard with THE OTHER delighting in them as our audience. That is who Jesus came to party with. Based on all Christ’s trips to the  wilderness, mountaintops  and out on the sea retreats that Jesus took – He had to be an Introvert.  With a great sense of humor. And a laugh like a truck driver. And lots of important words. And a heart for listening. And healing in His hands.

 

When we are honest, we can admit that we are all disabled. “We see as if through a cloudy set of glasses, as Paul writes of our abilities to understand or know. Robert Hensel says rightly, “There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.”  He agrees with Lewis – being in the presence of any human being is a serious thing. When I look at THE OTHER, do I see God’s created image? Do I look for The Other’s “More”? Robert Hensel was born with the quite obvious and life-changing disability of spina bifida.  He was also the Guinness World Book record holder for the longest non-stop wheelie in a wheelchair covering a total distance of 6.178 miles. I wonder if there is a movie about him I could show the family for Raoul’s birthday?

As a disabled person myself recently diagnosed with Introversion, perhaps I should make an autobiographical movie called “The Chicken Woman”?

 

Hey Kids – Want to come over for Easter and watch a movie? It’s about this disabled  woman named Chicken but her real name is Jane Tawel…..