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

Some Musings on a Facebook Conversation between “Believers”

by Jane Tawel

July 13, 2017

 

Hello:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be Flaky

“Don’t Be Flaky”

by Jane Tawel

August 10, 2015

10994932_667913889979249_2853285810904093972_n

One of my favorite “new to me” trending expressions is one Verity Tawel, my eighteen year old,  taught me last night when we were sitting in Mijares and she just happened to have her cell phone on her. (That is your cue to laugh. ) By the time you read this it won’t be trending and I will be back in my fuddyduddy role of embarrassing nerd-mom.  This au courant expression is supposed to make you laugh but you have to be a little bit knowledgeable or “in the know” sometimes to get it, which I like too. I like being in the know, although I refuse to ever become knowledgeable about the Kardashians – even Caitlin.

So how it works is like this:  Some one says something.  I think it started with some one saying something truly false (not an oxymoron), like:  “Did you know that if you eat a pound of chocolate with every meal, you will never get fat”.  And the response is: “Okay…… that sounds fake to me …….. but, okay.”

But, it gets funny when someone posts or I guess mostly Tumblr’s (and by the way, I really hate that there is no vowel in between the l and r in Tumblr — anyway…._) The first person, “You” says something that is true, but the other person, “Me”,  maybe doesn’t  quite get it or frankly, is rather ignorant, or is quite often a bit naive and is afraid of being taken for a ride.  So. It goes something like this:

You: “Did you know that Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are getting re-married?”   Response from Me:  “Okay…..that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”   Or someone says, You: Did you know Donald Trump is running for president?” Me: Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.” See. Somewhat cute. But then it gets giggly funny.  Then people say things like:  You:  “Did you know that Albert Einstein is responsible for the formula e=mc² ?”  Me:  “Okay…. That sounds fake to me but…. Okay.”  Or “ “Did you know that bacon is full of sodium?”  “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  You: “I just got back from a trip to see my grandma.” Me: “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”

(By the way, did you notice my super cool little equation in that last paragraph?  There is this totally rad tab on your computer under document elements called Math:  Equations.  It took me quite a while but you feel pretty zippety doo dah smart when you figure it out.  If you like that equation, look at this:

a +  b + c ≤  ½x + a² -√54

Or this:  Ð∝∇∅†Ψ℘ξ

Okay, that one actually is fake —I just made that one up. Doesn’t it look real though, kinda like hieroglyphics?  But it is actually math symbols.  Who knew?

Me:  Okay…..that sounds fake to me ….. but okay.

Every time I say or hear that line I LOL!  This just totally cracks me up for some reason.  It is so like something Charles Dickens or John Irving would write into their characters’ dialogues.  It is also something I can imagine C.S. Lewis doing in Mere Christianity which I am currently rereading and recommending to every one I know.   Lewis illuminates so many Truths brilliantly. But also,  I can imagine if rewritten, several quotes going more like this:

Lewis: “Christianity insists that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”  Me:  Okay…… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  Lewis:  “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed.  That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed or made up.”  Me:  “Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.”  Lewis: “Moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine (human beings).”  Me:  Okay … that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

This imagined dialogue so perfectly sums up the Judeo Christian world view and  what happens when we decide to believe the lie that God should not be allowed to run our lives or the world He created. It sounds kinda’ fake to us that God deserves to be worshiped and in control when we think that we should be worshipped and in control.  Our minds turn Truth to Fake Lies,  when we put ourselves on the throne of our lives rather than allowing Jesus to be king of our lives and God to be sovereign in the universe.  Sin means that, Truth starts to sound Fake to us and Lies start to sound True. Read the tragedy of “Eve, Adam, and the Snake” and you will understand. God tries to tell us something that is Truth, no matter your religion, no matter your history, God sends the idea of Real Truth into our minds, our souls, our spirits, our communities, our world and we  collectively and  individually say,  “okay…… that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”  Because sometimes, many times, we do not want to believe the truth. Unless we pray, “Create in me a new heart, oh God.”

I mean seriously, the entire story and message and words of Jesus, really? Can’t you hear Peter saying,   Okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.

The opposite of wanting to believe truth is a lie also often happens. We hear something fake. And we know somewhere inside our very souls that what we just heard is not true. Our world says things like :  “We have to wage war against those people because they are evil.” or “Put yourself first. It feels good and doesn’t hurt anyone”.

And we are silent.

We want to believe and eat, drink, and be merry,  and go back to watching our show.  We aren’t bold enough or confident enough in God’s truth or we just already worship what “They” are offering so much,  that we don’t  want to make waves, or look them in the eye and say, “okay…..that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

Or maybe it is a more intimate lie, like a spouse says:  I have to do this; or a child says, Mom everyone does it, or a boss says, it isn’t a lie it’s just how business is done, or a pastor says, well they will only spend it on drugs or alcohol any way or… And we do not say, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. But ……. HEY, WAIT A DAMNED MINUTE…..that is NOT OKAY with me!”  [As Lewis also  says in MC, it is  not frivolous to use damned when you mean that it is in fact “damned” because “nonsense that is damned is under God’s curse, and will (apart from God’s grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death” (Lewis 45).}

Oh how we long to say to death,  to damnation, and even to  Grace, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.”

We drive by this house sometimes on our way home.  I don’t want to ever see who lives there because whenever I find out more information about something I like, it always ruins it for me.  But she / he always has some sort of philosophical hand written paper sign in the window you can see just as you pass the corner.  I assume the signs are posted by  a middle aged “she”, but that might be my prejudice.  On the  signs are often famous short quotes, like “To do good is to be wise” or cheerleading sort of things like, “Dare to Dream”, “Live in the Moment” – very New -Agey stuff which is not necessarily non-Christian. Lewis also says in “Mere Christianity: “You (Christians) do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through…. You are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth”.

Truth, real truth, if you want to hear it, never actually sounds fake to you.

But back to the sign-lady – you have to be able to read the signs in about 5 seconds as you accelerate past.  Then as you keep driving you let yourself think profoundly about these profound statements.  You ask yourself, do I believe as that sign just said, that:  “Life is too short to waste on hating.”? Maybe I think hating is a jolly good way to spend an afternoon? Maybe I wish I had more time to spend on hating.  Or do I honestly  think that:  “The Truth is more Important than the Facts”?.  Am I sure there is a difference?  Or: “Always desire to learn something useful” On this one she cites Sophocles as the author so you start gaining some speed in the 35 mph zone as you frantically start thinking, Useful? but what about jokes? Are they technically “useful” but on the other hand, jokes do come in useful at awkward parties. But are parties even that useful? Is laughing at jokes considered useful?  But isn’t laughter called the best medicine and isn’t medicine good for you? But what does she mean by “desire”, is it just the wanting to learn that is important, not the doing of it?  So if I  desire to learn, but I really need to chill with some “Bachelorette” or “The Biography Channel mini-series on Donald Trump”, well then, wouldn’t Sophocles approve since I desire to learn? But what does it mean to learn?……

The current sign in the window simply  reads: “Don’t be flaky.”

I love that.

I would often love to just  look someone in the eyes and say: You are being flaky. Just stop. Right now.

Definition of flaky:

  1. Separating or breaking easily into thin small pieces; 2. Crazy or eccentric.

I would most often love to look in a mirror at my own intensely personally emotive self- consumed babbling self and say, “Jane, old girl, the more you talk, the more you are breaking into thin small pieces like the crazy eccentric flake that you are.” And I would respond with that other great saying of my daughters: “I know you are but what am I?”  And then crazy eccentric breaking Jane and Jane the miraculously beloved child of God would laugh at each other because it is all and always going to be Good, if we keep our equations straight.

God + Faith, Hope and Love + = Goodness and Mercy all of My Days.

In other words, any time you are saying something,  especially when you are saying something serious, or argumentative, or analytical, or mean, or divisive, or pompous, or hateful — ( or you are letting  any words at all come out of your mouth when you are tired and grumpy) —always imagine that there is a Me out there responding to your most serious self-consumed comments with, “Okay…. That sounds fake to me…..but okay.”

And then, look yourself in the eyes, and say, “Don’t be flaky”.

Then keep on driving past.