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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Laughter- Surgery for the Soul to Rise Above

 

Laughter – Surgery for the Soul to Rise Above

A Costume Drama in Three Acts

By Jane Tawel

May 27, 2017

 

Act I

 

It all began one morning on my way to work.  I had taken a new non-teaching job at the high school my son Gordon attended.  Driving to work with one’s son is, well….. different.  I am a person who goes to work thinking through the day and what I need to accomplish and how I am going to do that and then what I will have for dinner when I am done with my accomplishments.  I am a mental organizational task- maker and a worrier and a “To-Do List” sort of gal.  Sons are not.  Teenage sons, like Gordon at the time, like to start their day by catching up on the sleep they still need.  Teenage sons, like Gordon, like to start the day not thinking for even a nano-second about the overwhelming amount of “stuff” other people like teachers and parents want them to accomplish that day rather than the stuff they would like to accomplish that day, like, well, catching up on all the sleep they didn’t get the night before. So like any good mom, I spent our morning driving together verbally illuminating my son on all the things he had ahead of him that day that he shouldn’t forget about, and by keeping up a half hour streaming version of “Tips on How To Succeed in Your Teenage Day Ahead”.  And, yes, Gordon, “You’re Welcome.”

 

Finally after about two months of my rattling  on with the To -Do List that GORDON! should be making for his day ahead and worrying for him about all the things he needed to accomplish that day, Gordon quite succinctly and elegantly explained to me the typical teenage boy’s brain: “Mom, I can’t hear you in the morning.”

 

So for about a month, I honored my son’s astute analysis of our mutal condition, and we rode in silence – unless he wanted to listen to “Papa Roach” or “Eminem” songs to gear up, or unless he broke the sacred silence because he needed to ask me for money.

 

The job I had started at this time of silent rides with Gordon,  was one that demanded some fancier, snazzier clothes than I had worn teaching  home -schooled students out of my dining room.  I had hustled off to Ross and gotten what I thought was some pretty eloquent business attire, including some nice suits.  I am a dress up sort of gal any way, so no biggie.  But I had perhaps made a few choices in outfits that were, to put it nicely, not exactly “me”.  But I didn’t know that. Yet.

 

So one morning Son of Silence and I walked to Polly Prius for our early morning commute and I had on a new outfit.  This outfit was one that certain women I know could definitely pull off with aplomb. But then,  there is me.  The outfit has a leopard-print flowy skirt with a matching neck scarf and a brown blazer.  So Gordon and I are taking the usual long completely silent walk to the car, and as we get to the passenger door for me to click it open, Gordon looks at me out of the corner of his eye and mumbling in his best Australian Crocodile Hunter voice says, “CRICKEY! It’s the most dangerous animal in the world!”

 

And thus, the Era of My Costume Drama began.

IMG_1951-1

Gordon, Crocodile Hunter, and The Most Dangerous Animal in the World, a Mom who Talks too Much in the Mornings

 

Act II

 

Of course I had to tell every one I knew this hilarious comment by my son. And every one I told laughed almost as hard as Gordon and I had.  I made the mistake though, or perhaps the serendipitously fortunate game -changing play, of relating Gordon’s crikey comment to my work friend Charles, who happened to be Gordon’s History teacher, Mr. Hampton.  Mr. Hampton has a killer sense of humor and is also awfully smart.  So after the dangerous animal outfit story was related, whenever I saw Mr Hampton and Gordon together, my outfits began to take on new meanings. Suddenly some of what I wore as snazzy business attire, did in fact look a bit like  unintentional costumes.  For instance, when I wore my very chic red suit, I became Miss Scarlet in the Library with a Rope or an Airline Stewardess for Southwest Airlines.

 

One of my most obvious costumes however, was not a fancy one.  It was one I wore for casual days and really, it was pretty hard not to see this outfit as my “Where’s Waldo?” outfit.

photo 3

In fact, one time I went straight from school wearing this outfit to join Verity at an Indie Rock concert in Hollywood.  Not only did I stand out as the most “mature” person standing for eight long hours in the mosh pit, but I was I think the only person not dressed completely in black.  At the end of the concert, a pretty toasted couple in about their thirties, steered through the crowd, to come up to Verity and me.  With delight in his blurry voice and a twinkle in his blurry eyes, the guy looked at me and said, “We wanted you to know we think you have on the best outfit at the concert tonight.  You’re Waldo, right?”

“Why, yes, I am”, I replied, “and you found me.”

 

Fast forward several years to Gordon at a new school and I in a new job back in the classroom teaching 7th Grade. I missed those silent rides with my son but I still had my Crocodile Hunter outfit and on the day early in the Autumn that  I wore it to my 7th grade classroom, I told my students the story of how it became known as a costume.  I told them to anticipate my wearing other outfits from time to time that might be considered costumes and that if they correctly guessed when I was wearing a “costume” and what the “costume” was, then they would get a point to add to their academically achieved class points to cash in for  candy or stickers at the end of each week.

 

In hindsight, that might have been a mistake.

 

Because of course from then on, every single blasted thing I wore to school was in my beloved 7th Graders’ eyes, a costume.  Because costumes meant points. And points meant candy.

 

So one of them whose parents still had an old Clue game  guessed correctly the Miss Scarlet outfit.

And the Miss Frizzle outfit was guessed by Camille, although I have to say that is an easy one to get with my hair “style” (and yes, “style” in my case is meant to be in quotes).

 

photo 2-24

This is me on Miss-match Free Dress Day at school, dressed as Ms. Frizzle might dress.

 

But then the whole Mrs. Tawel in Costumes began to morph into a somewhat consuming attitude on the part of my students.

 

At first they would politely ask, “Are you wearing a costume today?”  And I would often say, “No, sorry, not today.”  But after a while when a costume had not been worn in many a long lonely Junior High Schooler’s school life, they sort of “ganged up” on me and would rush me when I walked into the building in the morning with, “You look like a flower.  Are you wearing a flower costume today?”  “No, you look like a real estate person. Is that your costume?” And so after a while, all I could do is say, “Yes, that is a good one.  I AM a rose bush today!”  or  “Okay, a point goes to Quincy. I do look a bit like a Peacock  today.”

When on some mornings I had actually managed to sneak into the building without them spotting me, and they hadn’t seen me in the morning before class, as soon as they were sitting at their desks and I took my place by the white board,  the students would rapidly raise their hands, trying to be the first with the correct costume answer.  Some of my favorites were the day I was a “Bowl of Dip-N-Dots”. or the day I was an “Elf Lord from Lord of the Rings”.  And, of course, the day I was “Plankton”.

This is me in my Plankton outfit with Quincy:

photo 3-17

 

But my all time favorite has got to be the day I wore a truthfully absolutely non-costume outfit which was another kind of eloquent business dress I had gotten for my previous fancy job at Gordon’s school.  It has a black and white herringbone top and a black skirt — all in one dress.  It really is a bit too dressy and businessy for a 7th Grade Teacher but, again, I like to dress up and I never throw any thing out if I can help it.

 

So I wear my herringbone patterned dress and I stand in front of the class and of course all the hands shoot up as I am getting ready to disappoint them with the dreaded words, “No, this is not a costume.”  And one student says, “Are you a real estate person?” (That of course had become their go-to which makes me wonder why I, who could never sell a house to anyone even if it were going for free, are their idea of a real estate saleswoman?)

“Nope. I’m not a real estate person.”

“Mrs. Tawel, are you a business woman?” “No.”

“You’re an airline person!”  “Nope.”

“You’re a tree!” “Um, I’m not sure how you got that, but nope.”

And finally above all the shooting hands still trying to put off the moment when we really do have to do our grammar, the darling, sweet, tiny, delightful Mia, loudly blurts out:

 

“Mrs. Tawel – You’re a COW!”

 

Silence.

A room full of big scared eyes looking at me for a response.

 

And I can’t help it.  I begin to laugh and say, “Why, yes Mia, I am a Cow!”

 

And an eruption of hilarious laughter overcomes the entire room and we all laugh until we are literally holding our stomaches and falling out of our desks. (The boys love any excuse to laugh and fall out of their desks, so…).

And so the legend was born and the story of My People– the 7th Grade Class of Mrs. Tawel was born and soon took on a life of it’s own, much as the now mythologically legendary story of my son, the Leopard Printed Mama Hunter, became a legendary story to tell and retell for years and years.  And years and years hence, these stories will be repeated and told again and again; because  the best mythologically proportioned stories of all are the ones that make us laugh. And the stories that help us understand who we really are in our collective heart of hearts are worth storing up and remembering and retelling to each other and telling to new people who become Your People. And in those days when you need a good story in the silences, they are worth remembering even when you are all by yourself. Even if you laugh all by yourself.

“Why yes, Mia,  I am a Cow!”

 

Act III

 

I have never seen my Anglophile husband laugh so hard as when I told him this story because of course, after years of watching PBS and British movies, we know that you simply do not call your teacher a “cow”.  But then, haven’t you found as I have recently that we have lost the ability to laugh and we have especially lost the ability to laugh at ourselves?

 

I learned in the car rides to school with my son that you can’t take some one else’s life captive with your seriousness about what they should do and who they should be.  And maybe we shouldn’t be so serious about our own day’s future accomplishments? Maybe we should just be present in the very moment we have, enjoying the ride we are on right now.

I should have realized that Gordon and I would share a love of laughing together when he as a child designed these matching noses for us to wear together:

 

photo 1-25

 

I learned with Mr. Hampton that the very best gift a friend can give is laughter and that if you are not willing for that laughter to be about you, then you are missing out on the delightful lightness of being.  I think about that scene in the movie “Mary Poppins” when crazy Uncle Albert played by the laughable and laughing Ed Wynn, invites everyone up to the ceiling for a tea party.  The only way they can rise is to laugh. Maybe the only way we as people are going to Rise is to go back to sitting around together with all the machines turned off and tell our stories to each other.  Maybe we could laugh together at the things that otherwise might pull us down.  I personally don’t want to spend my life with both feet planted firmly on a ground that could open up before me at any moment and suck me down into yet another horribly serious situation. I couldn’t agree more with Uncle Albert when he sings, “I Love to Laugh”. And if laugher is called the best medicine, then perhaps learning to laugh at one’s self is like a successful surgical operation that just might save one’s life.  Laughter is the “surgery” that removes the bad “heart” and replaces it with  a brand, new good heart. Or maybe it replaces whatever is wrong inside with a funny bone. (Ta dum duh!) When we laugh, we begin to rise above the typical responses to problems or situations. Laugh and Rise Above.

And finally, I learned from my students, that the honest pure  blurtings of a child  are incredibly Freeing and Hopeful. It is after all, a child who blurts out, “The Emperor has no clothes on!  Don’t you all see, the Dictator is naked!”  And the teacher is dressed like a Heifer today. And when every one in the room can see the truth in a child’s happy, hilarious awkward shout, then we are all freed into the wonderful simplicity of child-like truth and wonder. For that moment of shared laughter, we have those eternal things called Hope and Love.  And we Rise Above.

A child blurted out, “Mrs. Tawel, you are a cow.” And I laughed. And we all laughed.

Because honestly? — what does it matter if I look like a cow?  If I can laugh at myself, I just might avoid acting like one.

 

Dressing up in costumes is a lot more fun that dressing to impress.  I highly recommend it, intentional or not.  And I highly recommend allowing others to laugh at you – and then joining them.  Maybe if we all laugh at ourselves a bit more, we will have less time for being stressed, and worried, and combative.  And we can in sometimes silent companionship, but sometimes giggling together joyfulness, enjoy the ride we’re on right now.

Let’s make stories together — of mythical, legendary proportions! Let’s make some belly-laugh fall -out -of- our -chair moments together.  We so often choose the path of talking our To-Do lists to death and taking each other so very, very seriously in our Emperor clothing. The ride to work seems to be full of anticipated stressful and busy, busy serious moments just around the corner.  We have forgotten that the current path we are walking on is just this moment. The path of joy and wonder in The Now is a path we seem to have veered off from lately, but, if we choose the path of laughter shared, then just maybe, our children and our children’s children and their children’s children will have a future worth making To-Do Lists about and as Robert Frost might encourage us,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I walked among the people accidentally wearing many different costumes, which ended up opening  different paths for us to talk (sometimes) and walk together.  In the process of path finding with my own children and with my students I found people to share stories with. And we will walk and sometimes talk and often  laugh together. And even when we leave each other, we will pass on to others our stories to help them enjoy The Now and laugh maybe for just that very moment. And in that way,  We will Rise Above.
Even the Cow.

 

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The Cow with Her Beloved 7th Grade Herd

 

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

 

 

 

 

Good Grief! It’s Friday!

Good Grief! It’s Friday!

By Jane Tawel

 

 

We were so afraid.

We weren’t used to troubles like this

And it knocked the breath out of us before we could

Catch up to our spirits.

Breath of Life, don’t breathe too close on us today.

We might just faint away.

In fear.

 

We were so angry.

The spin on You went through the stratosphere.

We based our bottom lines on Your success and fame.

We blessed each other in Your name.

Jesus H. Christ, what in the world were You thinking in the end?

Name above all Names, don’t list us as Your close associates.

We might just kill you

In anger.

 

We were so sad.

Now what were we supposed to do

Without You?

We loved You so much, we can’t stop asking why?

Our worldviews can’t contain the fact we die.

Holy Lamb of God, what good is it for our sin to be gone

When You are gone too?

We claim to follow You,

but we walk un-straight in circles,

In Confusion.

 

We are silenced,

watching now from

So many moons past,

The souls that everlast-ingly,

love from beyond, upon the earth-as-it-is-in-heaven,

As our children’s children’s children

Are still and ever and always–

Afraid.

Angry.

Confused.

 

And we long to send our sisters and brothers a message

As Lazarus could not do,

And yet,

No one has ever had ears to hear

Unless heard in the backward / foreward shadow of Your Cross.

 

But if we could speak from our own tombs,

We would cry “Hallelujah” throughout the earth,

For–

The Son of Man,

He too

Who knew

Anger,

Sadness,

Confusion,

and His daily tomb

And yes also,

His final resting place—

 

Today, deemed “Good”,

Messiah God Jehu

Has died, ‘tis true.

 

And yet…..

And yet…..

And yet…..

Good Grief!  It’s Friday!

And yet…..

 

What is final to The Eternal One?

He slipped through hell without His blinders on.

And rode the glory train to earth and back to Heaven again.

We touched Him so we know.

Before He had to go,

He promised us

Our Fridays would not always be

so angry

so fearful

so confused

Our Fridays too could go from good grief

to just plain good.

 

If only we would spend the Weekend with Him.

 

Good Grief!  It’s Friday!

And yet….

 

The Son of Sunday comes!

 

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Fear Not!

Do homage to the Son that He not become Angry.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 

Ode to the California Poppy Reserve

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Ode to The California Poppy Reserve

by Jane Tawel

April 4, 2017

Giggling, gorgeous, golden girls

Orange as sacred fire,

Running from the wind, unfurl

Blooms that never tire.

Vision of a Heavenly land

Flame-glow! Purple! Yellow!

Rainbow-hued amidst the sand

Return so soon to fallow.

Oh! my darling girls and boys

Embrace the festive desert!

Orangey smiles of flowery joys

Live on in hearts forever.

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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)

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Five Rainy Day Haikus by Jane Tawel

Five Little Haikus

Written by Jane  C. Tawel

February Ten

 

 

                     1

Drip Drop Drip Drop Drip

A music that never grows

old for my dry ears.

 

2

My soul thirsts for YOU

In the pouring rain. Only

YOU can light the fire.

 

3

Parch-ed parchment skin

To the dust you will return

Unless HE waters.

 

4

The rain light changes

All the colors of my world

Including my heart.

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