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…..

 

Looking Toward Today’s Resurrection

Looking Toward Today’s Resurrection

 By Jane Tawel

March 11, 2017

 

Today is my birthday. It is also, the 11th day of Lent 2017.   This morning’s birthday reading was pretty spot on to rev my old engine after a week of the, I am ashamed to say, what is often a usual panoply of exhaustion and worry and work and never enough time or energy yada yada yada. Never enough embracing of joy. Never enough embracing of hope. Never enough rejection of the specters of death and a full out hug of the mysteries of resurrected life.

 

On this my birthday, I read Parker Palmer’s reflections in The Active Life on resurrection. So as I reflect on the march–or rather awkward Macarena– towards returning to dust today, I also awkwardly lunge and slide toward the hope of today’s Resurrection. The duality of Lent is much like having a birthday at my age – one contemplates simultaneously one’s death and one’s life as one contemplates simultaneously Christ’s death and Christ’s Resurrection.  In this dual frame of mind, on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the homily was on Psalm 103.

 

Psalm 103 lets us know that just as Ash Wednesday “blesses us” with the remembrance that “we are but dust”, yet we are also blessed with the remembrance of all Jehovah has done in the earth’s creation and the world’ history. We also are blessed with the hope that God’s loving-kindness endures forever for those who keep His covenant.

 

At my age, you begin to keep telling others and yourself that old joke about another birthday beating the alternative, and so it was with irony and conviction that I read Palmer today about this human tendency towards often living actually preferring death to life.  Jesus talked a lot about this but we keep messing up what He was really saying.  I keep messing it up. So I want to share the words of greater thinkers than I. Palmer writes about a poem by Julia Esquivel.

 

“They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection”

by Julia Esquivel

 

It isn’t the noise in the streets

that keeps us from resting, my friend,

nor is it the shouts of the young people

coming out drunk from the “St. Pauli,”

nor is it the tumult of those who pass by excitedly

on their way to the mountains.

 

It is something within us that doesn’t let us sleep,

that doesn’t let us rest,

that won’t stop pounding

deep inside,

it is the silent, warm weeping

of Indian women without their husbands,

it is the sad gaze of the children

fixed somewhere beyond memory,

precious in our eyes

which during sleep,

though closed, keep watch,

with each contraction

of the heart

in every awakening.

 

 

Now six have left us,

and nine in Rabinal, 1

and two, plus two, plus two,

and ten, a hundred, a thousand,

a whole army

witness to our pain,

our fear,

our courage,

our hope!

 

What keeps us from sleeping

is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!

Because every evening

though weary of killings,

an endless inventory since 1954, 2

yet we go on loving life

and do not accept their death!

They have threatened us with Resurrection

Because we have felt their inert bodies,

and their souls penetrated ours

doubly fortified,

because in this marathon of Hope,

there are always others to relieve us

who carry the strength

to reach the finish line

which lies beyond death.

 

They have threatened us with Resurrection

because they will not be able to take away from us

their bodies,

their souls,

their strength,

their spirit,

nor even their death

and least of all their life.

Because they live

today, tomorrow, and always

in the streets baptized with their blood,

in the air that absorbed their cry,

in the jungle that hid their shadows,

in the river that gathered up their laughter,

in the ocean that holds their secrets,

in the craters of the volcanoes,

Pyramids of the New Day,

which swallowed up their ashes.

 

They have threatened us with Resurrection

because they are more alive than ever before,

because they transform our agonies

and fertilize our struggle,

because they pick us up when we fall,

because they loom like giants

before the crazed gorillas’ fear.

They have threatened us with Resurrection,

because they do not know life (poor things!).

 

That is the whirlwind

which does not let us sleep,

the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,

and awake, we dream.

 

No, it’s not the street noises,

nor the shouts from the drunks in the “St. Pauli,”

nor the noise from the fans at the ball park.

It is the internal cyclone of kaleidoscopic struggle

which will heal that wound of the quetzal

fallen in Ixcán,

it is the earthquake soon to come

that will shake the world

and put everything in its place.

 

No, brother,

it is not the noise in the streets

which does not let us sleep.

 

Join us in this vigil

and you will know what it is to dream!

Then you will know how marvelous it is

to live threatened with Resurrection!

 

To dream awake,

to keep watch asleep,

to live while dying,

and to know ourselves already

resurrected!

 

 

 

In my 7th grade English classes we have been studying poetry.  You would think they would moan, but they really get into it – reading it, dissecting it, and writing it. Here is one thing I resonated with that Parker says about his finding his way into the meaning of Esquivel’s poem:

 

The longer that one dwells on the poem, the harder it is to say exactly who threatens us with resurrection. The poem itself is like the kaleidoscope whose image Esquivel uses; each time you turn it a new pattern appears. So the poem imitates life, in which the “threat of Resurrection” comes both from those who dispense death and from those who have died in the hope of new life… If it is true that both the killers and the killed threaten us with resurrection, then we, the living are caught between a rock and hard place.  On the one hand, we fear the killers, but not simply because they want to kill us.  We fear them because they test our convictions about resurrection, they test our willingness to be brought into a larger life than the one we now know. On the other hand, we fear the innocent victims of the killers, those who have died for love and justice and peace. Though they are our friends, we fear them because they call us to follow them in “this marathon of Hope.”  If we were to take their calling seriously, we ourselves would have to undergo some form of dying.  (Parker 147-8)

 

It does take time to figure out meaning – in poetry, in literature, in science, in nature, but ultimately in one’s life. I am very grateful on this my birthday to have had so much time to try to figure it all out.  And I ask forgiveness for wasting so much time on anything that does not enflame hope, kindle truth, and stoke life– in myself and in others. Because that is what defeats death. Faith, Hope, Truth and Love are those eternal “dust-busters”. And they are available for each day’s embrace of Resurrected Life.

 

Our spiritual journey is one of testing and running.  We are put to the test daily to “figure out what it all means”. And we must run and not grow weary in hope. The paradox as St. Paul found, is that in Christ’s powerful death is also Christ’s powerful Resurrection Life. Lent is a reminder that we take up Christ’s cross daily in order to experience daily the Hope of Resurrection – His and Ours.

 

May today be a day when we embrace the journey of finding the meaning of our own daily deaths on our journeys to today’s possibilities for our own daily resurrection. The Good News threatens the world not with death, but with Resurrection and the hope of Christ’s resurrected life.  May today be a day when we too are threatened and threatening with resurrection.

 

 

 

 

How To Celebrate Sorrow

How to Celebrate Sorrow

By Jane Tawel

February 26, 2017

 

Wednesday, March 1 will be one of my favorite days in the year.  It is Ash Wednesday, a day  where some of us who believe in Jehovah, the God of Israel, the God of The Christ,  begin forty days of penitence. The Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah. (Note to self: The Muslims also celebrate these same days of repentance.) At the end of these various religious days of repentance, there is a big celebration:  we call it, Easter or Resurrection Sunday.  The Jews call it Yom Kippur.

So I am meditating on the fact that I seem to have been born into a time and place where the idea of penitence, remorse, regret, sinfulness, unholiness — all of it — is “not a thing”, as  the kids say. Perhaps born out of time and place, I am trying to make it “a thing” — a daily “thing” in my own life. I walk and pray and try to accept a daily sense of my need to be cleansed from “stuff” inside and outside, in my mind and in my heart.  The bible I read, calls it a sense of my own unrighteousness and need. And being redeemed has to do not only with eternal salvation but with relationship to a specific and real God and relationship to specific and real others — my neighbors which Jesus says include my enemies, as well as my family members, biologically family or Christ-0logically family.

The first time I experienced someone who celebrated Ash Wednesday was when I was a freshman at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.  My beloved theater professor, Jim Young, came to class with a large black smudge on his forehead and I, being ignorant of the meaning, kept trying to rub it off for him.  He recoiled in horror from my little anxious helping hand.  Jim is no longer wearing ashes; he is now on the other side of Resurrection Sunday forever.

I often think of that metaphoric moment and how it reveals continual issues in my own life.  I have grown up in a culture that does not want to look at negative things too closely and does not want to live in grief much at all. We want to move straight on to the celebration.  We want to helpfully and quickly remove the “smudges” from our own lives and the lives of others. We want to “bury the past” and “bury the body” and be happy again.  We move past the moments of sorrowful deaths, both the literal ones and figurative ones, as quickly as possible.  There is not enough time to grieve or mourn, there is too much to do and accomplish, and staying busy and active helps us “get past” the problems and sadnesses in our souls.  And what good does it do any one anyway?

The only problem is, all of that reasoning just isn’t true. We know it isn’t true somewhere deep inside. And when we keep living by denying the smudges and moving on to the resurrection of our own happiness, we end up with ever larger and larger holes in our souls and confusion about why we aren’t all that happy. We merely bury the live body of ourselves along with the dead bodies of the other person, other relationship, other job, other life.  We move our bodies along, but our souls begin to rot from within, merely masked in the myrrh of merriment. We refuse to go through the needed completeness of penitence and grief, a daily need, as Jesus told Nicodemus, to go through the painful channel of suffering and be reborn into new life. We want Jesus to have suffered for us on the cross so we can wash our hands and souls of a need to suffer with Him on behalf of our own broken lives and the lives of others.  We want to avoid going through the Red Sea and wilderness and arrive in the promised land with all our “stuff”, saved and cleansed by someone else’s journey, while we sit and watch, grumble and criticize, and devour the panacea of false hopes and happinesses. We want the fruit from that tree not the one we were provided — partying continually, eating, drinking and being merry, and never finding the joy that comes with the hard work of penitence and deprivation, fasting from self-love in order to find the love beyond measure in our Heavenly Father and the selflessness of a reborn soul.

In the bible, numbers matter and forty and ten, the days of Lent and of Rosh Hashanah respectively are days of completeness.  At the end, of both of these times, I don’t end up with a better me, like I might after a diet, but I end up with a better sense of who I am in the vastness of eternity and worlds without end.  I end up not less penitent, but more humble and thankful to be alive, more thankful to a God who loves enough to suffer and grieve. I end up closer to shalom, or true soul-wholeness, and with a better relationship with a real God, and a better relationship to the reality of this world and my neighbor. I end up with an inkling of what completeness might really mean. And that is how sorrow leads to celebration.

This Lent, I am sharing with folks that I will be “fasting” from Facebook.  The reason I am fasting from it, is because I keep anxiously and falsely thinking that I can be “helpful” — I am wired to be busy, busy, busy as a teacher, a parent, a friend.  I have been reading a book by Parker Palmer and this week’s reading was about the days of “Lent” for Jesus — The Forty Days in the Wilderness– days when Jesus met head- on complete fasting and complete temptation. The One Who Was Sinless came out from those days of deprivation and temptation with a better relationship with a real God and a better relationship to the reality of this world and His neighbors, including His enemies.  Jesus came out of those forty days with more grief and more joy and began the business of saving the world. And in The Christ’s ministry of sorrow and suffering, we all get a better chance at celebrating.

One great thing about writing a blog, is you get to connect with other writers.  I have realized that anything I have to write, has been written better by some one else, but I also realized that I simply am one of those people who must write to think and process.  I encourage any of you readers who want to take a journey into a less unfulfilling -self-centered life and a more fulfilling, other-centered life of “being”– a life where a true lenten season and a daily sense of grief and repentance and a conviction of one’s own need and want is a path to a true sense of completeness or shalom– where a time of repentance and taking up Christ’s cross leads to true joy– I highly recommend you read some of the great writers on these topics. There are many. If you haven’t read the bible for yourself, check it out along with those who can illuminate it for you. Recently,  Parker Palmer and Henri Nouwen have provided a huge paradigm shift for me. I encourage you to read them.  Here is the passage from Palmer that has given me an idea of how to fast and celebrate Lent this year.  I look forward to celebrating with you on Facebook on the other side of the next forty days. God willing.  Here’s to ashes!

From The Active Life  by Parker Palmer:    on fasting,  temptation, and the need to prove ourselves:

 

In the first temptation Jesus faces, the devil says, “If you are the Chosen One, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”  But Jesus refused him…. But these word of Jesus, his refusal to turn stone into bread, are his response to the devil, not to starving people. Once Jesus moves through these temptations and embarks on his public ministry, he works a number of miracles, including the provision of bread for people who are hungry. What Jesus says and does is related to context, and when the circumstances are right he has no inhibitions about using his powers to meet authentic needs.  We need only to understand why the circumstances in this story were wrong.

 

The devil prefaces his challenge to turn stone into bread with a taunt that takes a very familiar form:  “If you are the Chosen One…Though few of us get needled for thinking we are Chosen, the tone of that taunt should remind us of outward or inward voices in our lives: “If you are so able… “If you are a real woman or man…” If you truly care…” If you are such a good parent…” The root temptation here is almost irresistible.  It is not the temptation to do a magic trick, which most of us know we cannot.  It is the temptation to prove our identity, which many of us feel we must…

 

Had Jesus made stone into bread simply to show the devil that he was the Chosen One, he would have been acting mechanically, caught in the cogs of cultural expectations, compelled by circumstances to act a role.  By refusing to do so, he both demonstrates and extends his transcendence over the context of his action….Jesus does not regard himself as accountable for his calling to any voice except God’s so in his refusal to “prove” anything to the devil he is actually proving that he is the Chosen One…

 

When you refuse to meet the terms of an external demand, refuse to produce publicly verifiable results, you do not prove anything in the normal sense of that word.  Instead, you leave yourself open to charges of elevation or cowardice, and you forfeit the external confirmation on which so many of us depend; you may become inwardly shaky about who you really are. …

 

In light of the fact that Jesus had been fasting in the desert for an extended period of time, “and at the end he was hungry,” the devil seems to speak with a voice of reason, perhaps even compassion, when he says, “… Tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”  Henri Nouwen calls this the temptation to be relevant, and with that word he names something that many of us face from time to time—the temptation to “solve” some problem on a level that does not solve it at all, and may even make things worse.

 

Jesus’ real problem in the desert is not hunger—though it might look that way to an outside observer—so his real solution is not bread…   when the time comes to end a fast, you do so gradually, and not devour a chunk of bread! When we rush to the aid of a fasting person, attempting to be “relevant” by insisting that he or she eat, we are likely not only to be irrelevant but to do harm as well.

 

True relevance requires a certain subtlety, which the very idea of relevance seems to exclude. What Jesus really needs in his desert fast is not food.  In fact he does not need anything external.  Like the woodcarver in the poem, who fasted not merely from food but from praise and criticism, gain and success, Jesus’ real need is for inward confirmation of his mission, a confirmation he is more likely to find in the emptiness of fasting than in the gratification of bodily needs…..

 

Actions that seem relevant may turn out to be irrelevant in the extreme. Parents know that they do not necessarily solve a child’s problem by giving in to the demand for a special toy. They must address the problem behind the problem, which may be the child’s capacity for delayed gratification or for simple self-reliance.  Teachers know that they do not necessarily solve a student’s problem by answering the questions the student asks.  The real question may be the student’s ability to find answers for himself or herself, so the teacher who withholds answers may enlarge the student’s capacity to learn.  The temptation to be relevant is often the temptation to deal with only the external illusion of a problem and ignore its internal truth. (Palmer, The Active Life, excerpts from pp. 106-108)

photo-3

A Sort of Answer

I have a new Facebook friend, named Jeremy whom I have come to really like a lot.  He is a friend of a previous student of mine and he is willing to ask me – a stranger – questions about what I believe and think.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love that.  I love wrestling through ideas and beliefs, especially when they have anything to do with what I call Worldview or Christianity or Truth or Spiritual Things. So here goes Jeremy, my answer to your question:

 

A Sort of Answer to Jeremy from Jane

By Jane Tawel

February 2, 2017

 

Dear Jeremy:

 

Do not imagine, Jeremy, that I feel that what I am going to say is adequate or will answer your deep question, even though it is a very long and circular answer. I do circuitously and at length usually answer most everything, even when asked a simple, “How are you”– just ask anyone who is acquainted with me. If you don’t feel like reading all this I will understand and you can skip to the very last paragraph or two.

 

In his preface to “The Active Life”, Parker Palmer says something that speaks to how I am going to try to answer your question. About his own writing and knowledge, Parker says: (Jane’s side comments are bolded in parentheses): “It is a mistake to imagine that writers (dare I insert “Christians”?) are experts on the things they write about—at least, it is a mistake in my case! I write about things I am still wrestling with, things that are important to me but that I have not yet figured out. Once I master something (for me that is never — mastered that is– so far!), I put it behind me.  I lose the passionate curiosity that writing a book requires.  I write to explore vexing questions and real dilemmas, to take myself into territories I have never seen before in hopes of understanding myself and the world a bit better, (dare I say understanding Christ and His Kingdom better?).”

 

So, Jeremy, I write because I am an often afraid, worried, pretty inadequate, but passionately desiring –to- know human being. I say “dare”, because I am metaphorically the woman who pours perfume on Christ’s feet, having no or at least little idea of what I am doing and whether I am “right or not”– only knowing I want to find a way to know this Jesus better  and to be able to someday be welcomed into His Kingdom. I pour out words like perfume, in a pathetic attempt to wrestle with God’s truth and seek God’s blessing, as Jacob did, and to pour out my love for the Savior who saved me and guides me.

 

So one thing you should know, Jeremy, before you go on, is that I guess the first pouring out of a perfume/idea is that I do not believe “praying the sinner’s prayer” makes you a disciple of Jesus.  It is a very, very good start, but it is only a start.  Being a disciple means studying and following –being born again,  being twisted and molded into a whole new being. It means giving over everything to His Refiner’s fire – heart, soul and mind. It means less of me and more of Him.  It means becoming the least of the least. (Matthew 11:11 and Matt. 20:16) But most of all being a disciple of Jesus means taking up Christ’s Cross. That is not “your cross”, that is His. (Matt. 16:24)  The cross was a punishment for a criminal, it was literal death, and for a religious Hebrew, spiritual death. For Jesus, of course it was a misunderstood yet humiliating public spectacle; in Christ’s case for a man who was considered and condemned as a traitor to both his nation of Rome and the nation of Israel (the people of Jehovah). The cross was a humiliating event meant to shame in excruciating death while causing the most suffering, and for The Christ it was also a deep heart and Soul suffering—a suffering  by God! for the people who had actually sinned against God – which ironically of course did not include the one man who took it up willingly, revealing Himself to be The Promised Son of Man, the Messiah.

 

None of us can take up The Cross – The One Way, Truth and Life as Jesus did because He did it once and for all for the whole world. And yet we are called to take His cross as we take Christ’s yoke, walking as best we can in tandem with Him as Jesus takes the burden once and for all. (Matt 11:30) This is the great mystery of The Cross. The important thing is, “my cross” is my “deep  heart suffering” for a lost world, my willingness to give up all of “me” for the salvation of others.

 

All of that to say, when we call ourselves, “little Christs”, which is what Christian means, we do so with humility and trepidation and suffering and eyes trained completely on Jesus, the revelation to us of the Father’s heart and the modeled life lived as the one True God’s behavior. A behavior that comes from grief for His people, a willingness to listen and suffer with His people, and a desire for truth, justice, grace, mercy, and love combined in a way which we as sinners and temporal beings see only as if “through a foggy glass”. (I Corinthians 13:12) We suffer for and with others and the weird hard thing about the Jesus Way is that the others must be our enemies, the hardest people we could imagine to suffer for–if we are to go The Jesus Way.  My problem is, we as Christians seem to be choosing power over love and choosing to suffer for the people it is easiest to suffer for, not the people it is hardest to suffer for.  We have become the priests and rulers who see people in need, broken people and we cross to the other side of the road so we don’t have to spend time or money or thought or get our hands dirty by helping. We feel safer condemning the outsider while coddling our own, raising lukewarm baby Christians and hardening the hearts of those who don’t believe.  So the Samaritan, which would be what we think of as today’s non-believer, or, unsettling thought for most Christians, the wayfarer who today is perhaps a Muslim, has to model a God we say we have the corner on. It is not up to us to choose whom to help but we “cross the road” and thereby leave up to others the opportunity to model a God they may not believe in but –in the image of God– they unknowingly serve Him by helping the needy. Of course there are lots of Christians giving up their lives and livelihood to help others, but … that wasn’t your question to me exactly so I am being as hard on myself as possible.

 

So, Jeremy, you asked me a question about what I believe about abortion and I thought I would try to answer you here because there is no way Facebook could handle this long- winded response.  My caveat is that it is a response for only today with the sure knowledge that tomorrow – maybe even five minutes from now– I will need to find a new lens, a new glass, a new heart, a “renewed” mind (Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12: 1 & 2) in order to see even more clearly how the “narrow path” leads me (Matthew 7:14).  As Augustine said, “I err, therefore I am” and perhaps the way Jane best errs is by writing.

 

Jeremy, I think my point to you in a previous post on this was not to argue one way of seeing a national policy in Christian or biblical terms. Rather it was to create an inner dialogue for myself and maybe someone else.  My point is more to fellow seekers and believers and that is this: The Bible is a big, big, big book with many, many calls on a person’s life if that person wants to take it seriously as the only inspired Word of God. We take it “in parts” greatly to our peril. And we should only and ever use and wield God’s Word as the sword of God with humility and love. I love “conversing” with you because you are thinking, listening and digging in.

 

The Bible has many examples of people (see Paul and Peter) who vehemently disagreed on things, who had to talk and listen and be content that they would not reach a mutual agreement or conclusion.  And yet we call them saints because they did not fall by the wayside; they did not veer from the path that their King, their Lord called them to walk.  And because of Peter and Paul  (and yes, several Marys) the Christ Way, or Kingdom Life was spread throughout the world. And with Paul and Peter, it was perhaps actually somewhat surprisingly because of the very fact they disagree on theology but still did not veer—because of their wrestling together through Christ’s words and life and calling –because of that — many were saved and brought to faith and a whole new life. So since you asked, and I appreciate that! — let me try to say a few things rolling around in my head about the current pro-choice, pro-life discussion.

 

Your question to me about pro-life/ pro-choice is difficult for me to answer because of my own digging in and life experience and desire to understand what it truly means to be a Yahweh follower. As I mentioned to you earlier, I believe the same questions about choice and life must be consistently and humbly asked about all lives – soldiers and war, refugees and political asylum, guns and citizens, poor and needy.  You asked about war and as I said, I believe that usually any decision about taking a life, whether it is a war or self-defense or an abortion, comes from several previous bad mistakes or bad decisions—but not always the individual making the choice! And these decisions come from what you and I would call sin – personal sin yes,  but what it is critical to understand is that they also come from the avalanche of fallen humans’ sins — the world as a whole’s sin, the systems of power and of nations and powers and greedy monsters’ Sins.  And this is what leads a beloved human creation of God – a human soul that God loves more than anything — to make a lesser than God’s ideal choice.  I have made so many lesser choices in my lifetime. And I have sinned quite, quite a lot and daily.

 

Any one I have personally ever met or read about, unless they have given themselves over to evil, feels heartbroken for taking a life, whether they believe in a God or not. But here is my big point, I guess –We “little Christs” are called as Christ was to “bind up the broken hearted”. We are not called to shame them nor legislate them. We are called to heal them and in so doing, to in great part through our own faith, to heal ourselves. (Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 61:1)

 

Taking a life is never a good choice.   BUT – ever since Adam and Eve chose power over trust and rule over relationship, the one thing God wanted us to understand is that we would continue to have freedom to choose and that this would be a blessing as well as a curse.  As a seeker, I also each day have freedom to choose to follow the Greatest Model of Humanity– or not. I can as Lewis says, choose to follow The One who calls, “Come, further up. Come further in!”

 

Now back to where we live now. The one thing America has seemed to get right in this great experiment is this idea of freedom with checks and balances for justice’s sake. Of course, a nation or “State” must combine freedom with good ways to protect and care for all citizens. This is good stewardship. God has proved Himself to be a God on the side of nations and people who care for the least, the lost, the needy, and the unable. God tried very, very hard to help His chosen people to have this kind of community on earth (as it is in His Heavens).  But they really ended up just wanting what everyone else wanted – a king.  And with great sorrow, knowing that the Israelites would eventually worship their nation more than they worshipped Yahweh, He gave them the freedom to institute an earthly king as an authority – to be like other nations.  It was pretty much with a few exceptions, all downhill from there. I confess – I believe many American Christians are confused about what Kingdom we are supposed to be living in. And what authority we are supposed to honor and serve.

 

So, from Israel,  fast forward to America –To be simplistic — I believe one of the great things America did is separate church and state.  I see the problems Israel had when they did not want a separation from this world’s power and “stuff” and Yahweh’s Power and “Stuff”. Israel wanted a king not a God to rule them.

 

I also look at history — not only the history of America but the history of God’s people as storied in the Bible and the history of The Church, from its humble terrified persecuted but Holy Spirit-filled beginnings to when “the church” became powerful and greedy and condemning and self-justifying –instead of suffering with Christ’s cross leading. Instead of rejoicing! with Christ’s cross leading. Instead of loving! with Christ’s cross leading. I am not very smart when it comes to anything, including history but I look at the Church from Constantine to Pope Julius to Calvin etc. and I just don’t ever see good things happening when Christ’s Bride tries to rule as Government – not good things for the people under that government and not good things for Christ’s Church. **Side note – this is why so many people of all faiths, like and respect the current Pope Francis.  He actually seems to try to be a servant and to influence His flock and the rulers of this world to turn from wickedness and toward love. And Pope Francis is trying to show the Jesus Way even in the great halls of power he has been elevated to. Sort of like Jesus! Philippians 2:5-11. The Pope is one of this world’s current authorities that many can get behind and pray for. That is we can pray for Him as a true Christ follower. It is in “the fruit”. (Matthew 7:16) Of course we can pray for any particular authority in church or state, like all souls, to find true salvation. And which of course if it happened, would change everything.

 

We have only to look at the Kings of Israel to see that it was with sorrow that God gave his people what they wanted — a government on earth to rule them in His stead. And then “in the fullness of time”, God came Himself as He promised He would – but in a way no one could imagine – with no power, ever– suffering, the least of the least, and with no claim on national influence anywhere not even to the nation of Israel. God slipped under the radar to establish His Kingdom on earth as it has always been in His world –  Heaven).  All of that to say, I know it is not a popular view, but I think if we claim Christ’s name, we need to see America as Babylon or Rome. If we want to see it as a new Israel, then we should definitely know the perilous thinking we have let ourselves in for. No, Jeremy, Our role is to “rebuild the temple” ie. the body of Christ, His Bride, and to care for the people — all people, perhaps especially those outside the walls of “that temple” — in Jehovah’s desire to bring all to Himself. Of course a lot of Hebrews preferred to remain in Babylon. Metaphor intended.

 

Just as when God’s people were in Babylon, and many decided they preferred the life of the nation, to the life of God’s temple people– So I fear The Church of America does today. And that means me too. And Jesus keeps begging us –standing at the door and knocking– that we who have been given so much knowledge, so much of Himself, so much grace, so much forgiveness, so much LIFE – He asks us, silly old, flawed, broken us –to “feed the sheep”, to BE His Temple.(John 21:17).  He asks me, silly old me, to understand that to whom much is given much will be required. He asked me to leave behind daily that which makes me comfortable and to enter into His Kingdom.(Luke 12:48)

 

So I am struggling with this conviction that as a believer, I must start cleaning my own “inside of the cup” even as I try to address the dirt on the outside. (Matt. 23:26) Of course we must speak out against injustice—the dirt on the outside– as this is a primary requirement of following Yahweh. But we must be humble, humble, humble in doing so, with our eyes constantly searching the insides of our own cups– and we must know that it must come from a Christian worldview that is rooted in truth and love, not in an American worldview that is rooted in “Us First”. And this is a problem when so many Christians – myself included—have tied their bank accounts, bottom lines, and incomes along with their way of seeing Jesus and God — to their Christianity.  We cannot serve two masters. (Matt. 6:24)

 

I– with sadness– and by convicting myself as the number one culprit, submit to you that the American Christian needs to understand that we are the world’s current Sadducees and Pharisees. (Matthew 23:13). We are the rich young rulers who go away sad and break Christ’s heart. (Mark 10:17 – 27). And by placing myself in those people’s places, not in the place of those disciples I wish I were like, by casting myself as the Pharisee, I am humbled. This paradigm shift in seeking directs my thinking. I have to meekly, foolishly come to Jesus daily—No– I must submit moment by moment.

 

My greatest yet nagging guide and struggle in the past years has been to meditate on these fearsome words Jesus speaks to Christians:“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7: 21-23.

 

Do I long with passion to know Jesus? It means His cross but it also means His power of the resurrection. (Philippians 3:10)

 

The rich and powerful have a difficult time entering The Kingdom, because they don’t want to.We don’t need to. And so we persuade ourselves that we are “doing many wonders in His name” – but we don’t know Him and therefore, He doesn’t know us. Thank God — Jesus assures us that nothing is impossible with God, praise the Lord. Even though it is harder for a rich man to “enter” His kingdom, God is able when we are not. God through Christ made The Way (Isaiah 43:16, Hebrews 10:20). But we get to choose. And we have to walk through a very narrow way to enter His Kingdom – We can not have one foot in some one else’s kingdom, lest we topple over. (Matt. 7:13 & 14)

 

I think especially as one raised in the Church and as an American -raised “Christian”, I  have grown up with a giant tree trunk in my own eye and I need to be very, very careful about picking splinters out of others’ eyes, especially those from different lands, different “countries”, different belief systems. (Matt. 7:5). I fail at this knowing myself in the light of God on a daily basis.  Hence my extreme need to understand what Christ means by hypocrisy and my agonizing need to have the hypocrisy in myself removed. It is sort of like choosing to get a root canal, but there it is.

 

Finally, Jeremy, if you are not comatose by now with my searching through many words and ideas — Since we mentioned Bonhoeffer, I struggle with the fact that I believe the “First World” Church as we might deem the Western World and hence, America, has tragically cheapened grace for “their own” –while it has offered very, very little grace to those outside its “walls”.  If you read the Bible, you will see that Jesus did the exact opposite and that His stories radically turned upside down people’s understanding of who behaves justly in the image of God and who believes rightly– and who does not. Again, we must cast ourselves as the Pharisees, the eldest son, the ones who have been given much both in “stuff” and in knowledge – both in power and in forgiveness, in love and in truth. We have so, so much. And yet we still do not know the Father and how much He loves. We need only turn to The Rabbi Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) and His parable of the Good Samaritan  (Luke 10:25-37) to have a view of Christ’ “crazy” Upside Down Kingdom.

 

Jeremy,  I appreciate your hanging in there through all this (if you have managed )  I know I haven’t really answered your question.  But then again, I find that the Jesus I read about in the Scriptures, doesn’t really answer people’s questions, including my own. And this is also much like The Father, Creator if you read the Old Testament. Jehovah doesn’t answer. He doesn’t answer Job or the Hebrews’ questions or frankly any one else’s really.  God mostly says, “Be still and know that I Am.” And in that are all the answers. (Psalm 46:10).

 

When it comes to peoples’ questions, Jesus is mostly a Doer. Jesus isn’t really  much of an Explainer.  In fact, when asked to explain, The Messiah mostly tells stories about people who Do Stuff, not Talk Stuff.  This is an irony, I agree, for me, a woman who has now spent pages “talking about this stuff” to you.  Which is why I am really seeking God’s call on my life to “be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, thereby deceiving myself” into thinking that I am living for God or Jesus.  (James 1:22).  God does not need little ole’ Jane to speak for Him and I must be very careful about doing so. We take God’s name in vain when we try to wield Him for our own misunderstood needs. There is a commandment against using God for the own misguided or dimly lit desires of my heart. (Exodus 20:7).

 

Christ, God’s only begotten Son does require much of me since He sent the Holy Spirit to work through my body until I meet Him at the gates of eternity. The Church is now Christ’s Body, and as He gave His own Body, we now join together communally in remembrance of Him, becoming His Body: His eyes, His hands, His feet. I am struggling to become so much as a pinky finger. I am striving just to hand out metaphoric cups of water and some real ones as well.  As another Francis once said: “Preach the gospel, and if you must, use words.”

 

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Matt. 10:42 I Corinthians 12: 4-13 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

 

So, Jeremy, this has been a whole lot of “perfume” poured out, and not necessarily the designer expensive kind of scented words. I am glad that you as a young man are seeking to find the scented perfume of brilliant theologians and seekers of God.  Hopefully you figured out if you don’t want to read this whole thing that you could scroll down here to the bottom for my answer.

And my answer is, “Yes.”

You told me you couldn’t figure out from what I was saying whether I am pro-choice or pro-life.  I sort of think Jesus (not that I am comparing myself to Him at all) often had the same issue – people just could not figure Him out. He refused to give a direct answer, not because He didn’t know – unlike Jane who doesn’t usually know much of anything.  Jesus didn’t answer because He did know – HE KNEW THEM.  He knew their real hearts and He knew what it was like to be  them – because He was fully human and fully God.

Jesus refused to cast stones even though He was the one person who could. But He also refused to cast pearls before the people who didn’t know what do with them because they were so, so hungry. And what can a hungry-souled woman do with a pearl?  She can’t eat it, and she so desperately longs to be fed.  “Feed my sheep.” The Christ kept eating with sinners and then doing miracles, healing even the unfaithful and ungrateful ones – because that is what God does.  Confusing.  I apologize Jeremy, I do get rather confused about how I am supposed to be like Jesus. But I’m going to keep living in the mystery and confusion and keep trying to step back onto the narrow Way when I fall off and seek with all of me to know All of Him and be known by Him.

I can’t thank you enough for helping me to try to find my way – no Jehovah’s way – further in and further up. Thank you for helping me by asking me your questions and thanks to you and to others who have forgiven my missteps.

I guess in answer to your question– Am I pro-choice or pro-life, the simple answer would be:  YES!

With gratefulness for your journeying with me,

Jane