Let Them Eat Cake by Jane Tawel

Let Them Eat Cake

by Jane Tawel

December 11, 2017

 

Do people who claim to follow The Christ, whom they believe to have been a man named Jesus, honestly think that their Messiah could pick and choose which Romans to make furniture for and which not to? Do they honestly not remember?  Before Jesus began his ministry, he worked at a job in a kingdom not God’s kingdom, called Rome — a long gone kingdom, that the United States is largely based on.  For thirty some years, Jesus “served cake” to good Jews, bad Jews, good Samaritans, bad Samaritans, Roman government officials, and Jewish Pharisees, Roman heterosexuals and Roman homosexuals.  It was a business. And an art, because — Like His Heavenly Father’s work when He joyfully created the world, and His earthly mentor Joseph’s work, when he taught Jesus how to work wood; Jesus created things.

For 30 years, Jesus ran a creative business –run by the only perfect Son of God who ever lived. If I read the words and biographies of this Jew named Jesus, I think Jesus was well aware that our practice of God’s laws, our service to God’s authority, our worship of the True God, involves what I do – not what others do.  What others do is up to God, not me.

When did we think that the work of our hands was meant to be used to proclaim our beliefs as a bludgeon rather than as a way for all the world to see a creative, loving God who is quite clear that He gives the rain to fall on the “evil” and the “good”?  When did we lose sight of the fact that all of fall into both of these categories — evil and good?

No matter what I believe about any particular choice of another human being, I am meant to use the same measure for myself.  If I claim to use the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as my guide, then I must immerse myself in their meaning for my place, time, and soul.

Shall I stop serving cake to divorced people?  How about people who lie? The Scriptures are very harsh on greedy people, shall I stop serving those I deem more sinfully greedy than myself? How about people who harass other people?  Why do I draw this line and not others if I am claiming a religious belief?  One should have to be consistent.  One should have to put a sign on one’s door that says: “I will only serve people whom I believe are not living in sin”.

If I stopped serving cake to people whom I thought were sinners, then to be Biblically consistent, I would have to never allow any one to serve cake to me again, that is for sure! Jesus was the King of this Kingdom of God’s while on earth and if you claim Christianity, He is the King of our Kingdom now –now, present and reigning. If I let Him.  If I follow His lead.  Jesus might laughingly say to us today, “Let them eat cake”, not as that capitalistic Queen of old might have said to keep the poor people in their places in her moronic inability to understand that some people were starving on her watch.  Jesus said, “let me serve you ALL cake”  this is my “cake” broken for you, take this in remembrance of me. Because all are welcome at my banquet.”  We should do likewise, if we want to put His name on anything—like our souls. Or our business.

I mean really, people, there are Christians today who want a job so badly they are willing to sell themselves as slaves. These are the people we need to be serving cake to.  There are people being beheaded for their faith in parts of the world today; there are people in places like Russia who have to worship behind closed doors. Are you honestly going to spend “God’s” money on suing people over whom you serve cake to and you do not serve cake to!?  Oh, and there are people in this very country who do not have enough money to buy cake.  Interestingly enough, there are Christians in this country experiencing reverse discrimination and not being allowed to get licenses because of speaking privately about their religious beliefs.  But this whole cake business, muddies the water when we as Christians try to point out when religious freedoms are truly threatened.

This cake business has nothing to do with any of your freedoms. It has to do with the freedoms we all get to experience in a place much like Rome.  Jesus came in the “fullness of time” to an Empire that would let Him worship His God in the way He believed was right to do. Until they didn’t.  Then they killed Him. We get to live in a country that from the beginning has allowed people to worship their God in the way they believe is the right way to do it.  It will be  a day of reckoning if when we who claim to be Christians stand before the Supreme Court of Jesus, and He has to say sadly, “Depart, I never knew you.  When you did it to the least of these, you were doing it to Me.”

In America, we have come to believe that money is the answer to everything, rather than God being quite able to stand up for Himself and us, if we let Him.  Instead of worshiping money as the answer or even America as the answer, we would do better to get back to work and glorify God in all we do, think and say.  God will win His own battles if they are truly His. If not, a little humility on our parts in what we understand and do not understand and a lot of humility in terms of how we treat others in the way we want to be treated might go a lot further than The Supreme Court.  If we believe in Jesus, we believe in a much higher court than that. Maybe we should try spending our money on people who truly have no freedom to worship God.  Or on people who are truly hungry.  Or better yet, on people who are hungry for truth, justice and love.  One served cake at a time.  We would do better to worship God in spirit and in truth, not on this mountain or that. And  better to get back to work. The time draws near – -Our King has Come, is Present, and Will Come Again.  Be ready.  Time to get my own cake shop in order.

Happy Birthday Jesus 3

 

 

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Me, Myself, and I – Not

Me, Myself, and I – Not

by Jane Tawel

November 22, 2017

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gty_team_hoyt_2008_kb_140408_4x3_992

#notmetoo

“Hashtag: Not Me Too”

By Jane Tawel

October 21, 2017

 

 

I wanted to share a link here to an excellent article by Alexandra Petri, on the current discussion about Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, and other powerful men like them that have a history of abusing women. It is also an article that provides a tough look at what we as women (and men who are not abusers), have allowed ourselves to think and do in work and personal relationships to men and ourselves.

 

The metaphor this writer uses of women as victims of second-hand smoke is startlingly true. During the recent “me too” women solidarity campaign — and I applaud it, I do — but I felt like posting, “well, duh, me too”. Of course! I can give you countless stories — both, as this author writes “lucky escapes” and a few not at all lucky escapes but life-changing situations of abuse of power or “friendship”.

 

My worldview (and my family laughs at my insistence on this term), is, in ever deepening humility I pray, an incrementally and hopefully growing Judeo-Christian worldview. I feel a deep sadness that many “churches” and few “Christians” do very little to address real moral and culture-fabric destroying issues like this one. I have pathetically tried with my own children, and with students, but I often feel all I can do is pray with “groanings and moanings” for them because the mind boggles and the spirit grows faint after a while. And as Petri writes, we just get used to not speaking the Truth and instead wearing our womanly hazmat gear around all the second-hand smoke.  Frankly, when the hullaballoo happened surrounding Mike Pence’s habit of taking his wife to meals with women he worked with, my ironic comment based on my own experience was, honestly, there are many times in my life and career I would have greatly preferred meeting with a boss or mentor and his wife, rather than trying to carry on professionally without another woman present.  I would often have felt more respected had his wife been in the room than when I was alone in the room with him. At least a wife there would have been a second layer of protective gear.

 

But this whole discussion is not new, and I don’t even mean in our time and place. It is as old as Adam and Eve. It is a worldview that believes in the dual sins of omission and commission comingling in our fallen-ness. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Adam and both of them destroy the human bonds of love, truth, and justice. Then they work together to blame anything else – the snake, the god, the trees – just so long as they don’t have to look within.

 

Jesus called us out when He drew in the sand and recommended that the powerful men surrounding the abused woman “taken in adultery”, look at the evil within their own hearts and the society they had created in their own images, not God’s. I think the writer of the gospels said with great Judeo-Christian dark humorous irony, this phrase “taken in adultery”, much like they might say, today, “she should be stoned because the men only did that because she dressed the way she did”.  (At least Adam couldn’t blame his sin on the way Eve was dressed.) Into that dual-ly sinning world and into our dual-ly sinning world, there comes the most powerful, famous Son of Man of the day, and this Superstar who never abused any of His power or abused any of His people, says, “Woman. Where are your accusers? RISE UP! And go about your life and don’t partake in this sin any more.” Jesus, who never committed a sin of commission or omission, says, in effect, “Where there is smoke, there is fire. Hell-fire”. Then He offers to be our eternal hazmat gear. But we still have to stop the world’s smoking habit. We have to Rise Up on the fresh breaths of God’s Truth and Love.

 

And this is, I think, what Jesus would say to women today. And tomorrow. And forever. Rise up and sin no more.

 

And yes, some of the men in my stories, who have been raised to think they are “weather” also have been raised to think they are “christians”. Some worked in “ministries”.  And very few of them were ever asked to look inside and put down their power stones. That is truly and eternally tragic, as this writer calls out. Evil without can destroy the body but not the soul. But–Evil within poisons the soul; and being allowed to continue to do the wrong thing is deforming and horrible for the person we pharisaical bystanders allow to continue to do it. This is why Jesus calls out His own followers and still calls them to come out – away from —  our pharisaical smug, self-defensive, self-protective, “getting some help”, cheap grace bought unjustness.

 

This calling to account is also Godly love and truth married to each other. We need to stop professing the current culture of narcissistic power -hungry “Christianity”. The calling to account of the sins of commission pale in comparison to what God does and will do to address the sins of omission. But judgement is what He does to love us. The Gospel is truly not that cheap brand of Disney-Hollywood-idolized love currently sold in the halls of governments and churches. Alas and Woe! – as it was in the days The Christ stood up against the powerful governmental and religious leaders. Because it is our own complicity in the world’s brokenness and sinfulness that we will be burdened with and by. It is that burden we choose to keep carrying, like heavy stones we want to throw at others. The stones of our complicity which are preventing us from the true freedom of being beloved in God.

 

When I read this article again, I will look long and hard at my own complicity in allowing the second-hand smoke of sinfulness.  I will also look long and hard at whether I am insisting on “taking the money”, so to speak or the “downtime” to relax in recreation bought by someone’s complicity, someone’s slavery, and someone’s evil towards others.

 

And I will ask myself: Am I the woman who is never brought before The Lord and thereby saved from  her sinfulness and so continues in her complicit sinning? Or am I brave enough, to throw my own body down myself – not as a means to get ahead but as a means to find Christ’s cross in my own life?  Am I willing to throw myself down in front of the people with stones in their hands and draw a line in the sand between the perpetrators of this world  and their sycophants? Will I say, not “me too”, but Christ alone? Will I Rise Up against my own sins of omission?

 

Will I #me too?  Or will I say, I have been freed to sin no more? Let’s join hands together and let the rest of the world know, they – men and women – need no longer be slaves to sin.

 

Hashtag – Woman,  Rise Up and Sin No More. #Jesus

adam-and-eve-banished-from-garden-of-eden

 

Article by Alexadra Petri can be found at the following link:

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2017/10/18/men-of-the-world-you-are-not-the-weather/?utm_term=.1e13ca5a5782#comments

 

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

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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