Me, Myself, and I – Not

Me, Myself, and I – Not

by Jane Tawel

November 22, 2017

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gty_team_hoyt_2008_kb_140408_4x3_992

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#notmetoo

“Hashtag: Not Me Too”

By Jane Tawel

October 21, 2017

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

A Sheep Dog Worldview By a Sheepdog Wanna-Be

A Sheep Dog Worldview By A Sheepdog Wanna–Be

By Jane Tawel

October 4, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“How should we then live?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How Shall We Then Live?

If……. Then……..

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

— J.I. Packer, February 1990

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From: The Gospel of Sheepdog John in Chapter 10

Dear Lord,

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

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

Your Ole’ Dog, Jane

7-herding

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.

 

Being Part of The Conversation

Being Part of The Conversation

by Jane Tawel

January 27, 2017

My view has been and remains that President Donald Trump is exactly who America has been pretty much since Reagan– I take that back. Pretty much since the American Revolution. Pretty much since the Native American Holocaust (Today is International Holocausts Remembrance Day. The plural is my addition. Yowza. It is going to be a depressing sobering day — it was a lot more sobering and depressing for holocaust victims though, so…..).

America has always been leaning towards and is now truly an oligarchy of the rich –especially rich and big businesses.Obama tried to make a difference and while I don’t agree with every thing he did, he did change the conversation. That is critical to remember as we continue The Conversation — if nothing else we should mirror his restraint and integrity and respectful speech. I have failed but I must try. This is the Jesus Way– truth with a heart of love. I happen to believe it is not the American way– but I happen to believe it is not the political way any where. Politics always has and always will be about money and power. Only the hands and mouths change.  There are rare people in history who change the conversation –Jefferson, Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham, Joseph of Egypt, Daniel, Mary, Jesus of course, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, St. Francis and Benedict, Martin Luther King. But mostly Jesus. Jesus completely changed The Conversation and it was pretty much not by what He said, but what He DID.

Now all of you young people need to stay focused on what throughout the history of mankind has been accomplished in The Conversation and you must own the problems you inherit, I am sorry to say. You must study history and the bible and all ethical and moral humans and scribes that have lived and decide that you can make a difference in the corner of the world in which you live.Then you must start doing it.

And do not be sucked into speaking and thinking and acting as whomever you perceive the enemy to be. This is why Jesus advises us to love our enemy — vengeful actions merely deplete and destroy self; while positive or loving resistance to evil has a way of bringing God into the equation in ways you can not anticipate. It brings your God-image into the equation in ways you can not imagine. You treat your perceived enemy with the respect you do any fallen, sinful human being.This is why we “love others as we love ourselves” because we are fallen sinful, confused, broken human beings with the capability to do amazing great creative miraculous things.  Just like the great heroes of history and just like the only begotten Son.

And you figure out what you can do daily, weekly, to make a difference in the actual space you live in.  If protest propels you to act intentionally, then it is the right thing for you to do. If it is only releasing energy– either positive or negative energy — and then you feel either satisfied or  depressed, then you need to find a positive way of speaking into the universe we share — speaking not just with your mouth but also with hands and feet and minds. And primarily you need to find an action to help someone more needy than yourself. This too is the Jesus Way and how humans are best created to exist.  For white people this should be people of color. For men it should be women. For adults it should be children. And for Americans it should be 3rd world countries and the homeless and the mentally ill and physically ill in our own country. And of course for Christians it should be all of the above as we are commanded to do.  So my part of The Conversation now to speak to myself and all of you is simply:

I hear you. Now what are you going to do about it?

Here is the part of The Conversation I am meditating on today:

The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1

Find your broken-hearted ones, and serve them with truth and love.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
 James 1:22

Time to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. Find your part of The Conversation in the world, and just Do It.

 

The Christmas Letter 2016

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The Christmas Letter 2016    Justine, our eldest at (unbelievably!) 26 years, arrived home late last night from Virginia where she works for Enviva, a company that makes environmentally friendly fuel.  This morning she gave me a big hug and laughed, “Mom I think you are shrinking.”  I smiled, “Why of course I am! As children grow bigger, we parents grow smaller.  It is the way things are supposed to be.”  When our children are born, we look at their cherubic faces and say, “you complete us”.  As our children grow up, we say, “you deplete us”. But as nerve-wracking as all those food and college bills are, depletion is not bad. Shrinking for one’s children is only minorly painful. To deplete oneself for those not one’s own, however, is painful and technically unnecessary, but is in fact a calling to Christ’s upside-down kingdom life, especially when it has to do with the sowing of one’s resources. Isaiah, that great prophetic voice, tells us that “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” I pour out my prayers that the angels that once manifested in my children’s cherubic faces, will stay perched on their right shoulders, protecting and speaking truth and light into their souls. I pray that my kiddos will humbly keep being seekers who will sow truth and light into a world that seems increasingly dark, as before a great storm. And I pray to feel personally burdened and responsible for all “little ones”, all those hungry for justice and afflicted by transgressions, those that have no one with spiritual or material resources to draw on. I pray to shrink myself for all the little ones, no matter their age, who watch as the giants are busy gorging and growing fatter, and the “little faiths” starve. As Isaiah foretold: May it be that our “Young men and women prophesy” as have always the great prophets from Abel to Jeremiah to The Baptizer to Saint Joan d’Arc to Martin Luther King, depleting themselves on the altar of justice, truth, and love.

 

I like Advent. I relish anticipation, unlike my 82 -year -old mom who gleefully never met a surprise she desired to keep. Perhaps because of my having spent so many years, waiting – for the curtain to open, for the baby to arrive, for the lightbulbs in the minds to turn on – I have always loved the anticipation elements of this season.  But among the many revelations of this year in the country in which I sojourn, I have had a paradigm shift in how I see Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth.  We modern First Worlds have filled this season with hindsight’s happy, happy, happy– while in fact, for the actual person we say we celebrate, for the Messiah, “Christ – mass” was a dark, hopeless time filled with the utmost evil this world can offer. Wars, tax gouging, prejudice, “ignorance and want” as Charles Dickens might add, and a host of greedy power-mongers trying to rule the world—these are what brought Jesus’ family to Bethlehem. The anticipation of Mary and Joseph was perhaps mostly, “will we get out of this alive?” The Christ’s earthly parents were among the depleted people, with literally nothing to give their little one–symbolically wrapping Jesus in burial cloths, perhaps distressedly anticipating an early death for the poor baby.

 

So ironically as I have lately felt periodic senses of dread and depression and sadness and sorrow, I realize these feelings are truly perhaps the most “Christmasy” feelings I have ever had.  See, I am rich.  I am one of the rich wealthy ones.  Where we err as we celebrate Santa and all the free stuff he brings those who don’t need anything, is that we have turned Jesus into the Savior Santa that gives us free stuff – including salvation—gifts to people who don’t need them. We are the rich who mistakenly gamble that at the last minute, we will still be able to order and buy the God of Lazarus, no strings attached, full -warranty provided.  But Jesus never offered living water or the bread of life at a discount. At a time in history much like our own, Dietrich Bonhoeffer dubbed our Walmart attitude to salvation, “cheap grace” – the desire to believe God requires nothing of us in exchange for all of His Son’s riches, when in fact God requires every thing of us. To understand the Story of the Christ child, you must have a radically new way of seeing and being. You have to be starving to grasp it.  You have to give up everything to own it.

 

News Flash – there were no rich people at the first Christmas.   You can Snopes it. As the baby who became The Son of Man later told folks, “It is hard for you who find complete sufficiency surrounding you – you rich people –  you who believe you are saved because you are the elect and thereby you justify yourselves – it is difficult for you to need anything– and you do not understand nor do you choose to enter into God’s kingdom. It is harder for the rich to carry God’s anguish, God’s punishment, a desperate daily God-sized need – almost impossible to carry the cross – harder for you to willingly enter in– harder than it is for a private jet to fly through an oil pipeline, harder than it would be to import big screen televisions to Aleppo.”

 

Of course we Clausians (“Little Santa Clauses” instead of “Little Christs”) have gotten around that pesky problem by putting the frankincense and myrrh bearing kings snuggled next to the shepherds lurking around Christ’s cradle. What actually happened, though, is that the wise kings entered the scene much later, anywhere from weeks to years after. They had a lot further to travel, those rich folk.  It was a lot harder for the rich kings to enter the Christmas scene than it was for the poor shepherds who were waiting for jobs outside Home Depot – I mean tending their flocks by night.  And here is why our changing the rich folks’ entrance is so disastrous to our understanding of Christ and Christmas– because we use the Magi to justify our hyped- up lifestyle and gift giving and extravagance, and attitude towards the poor –not just at Christmas but in all seasons. Because we want to still stay rich and still stay kneeling at the manger. By erroneously placing the Magi at the birth, right next to the destitute and deplorable shepherds, we get to keep our worldly vision of what a “real” king is like. We tragically prefer serving the bling-laced authority of the Terminator Herod and all his cronies –the powerful, the glutted, the strictly religious First World authorities—finding it preferable to kneeling before the small helpless naked babe in the dungy swine trough. The wise men were wise because they rejected the false flashy authority of Herod and staged a non-violent political and religious resistance to Herod’s and Rome’s and Israel’s religious/ political empire, thereby helping to usher in a changed world kingdom- a revolutionary world that even angels marvel at.

 

But first, possibly for several long years, the wise Magi had to seek and seek and seek and seek and journey and journey and journey to find the real King of the World. When they saw Herod, they knew at a glance that he was not the one they were seeking. Not the real deal at all.  When the alien outsiders found the true King of kings they worshiped him. And because the wise ones depleted themselves in worship of a foreign King it ended up that– possibly unbeknownst to them– their kingly gifts  saved Messiah from the death at the hands of Herod and his ilk, death that awaited many of the other Hebrew babies. The Magi used their riches not to gain but to honor. The gifts were not extravagance but necessity for a displaced fleeing poor refugee family in danger for their lives. The gifts for the God-king helped delay the eventuality by thirty years for Jesus to be wrapped in swaddling clothes for his burial. The wise men who came from foreign lands, possibly even from enemy territories of Israel and Rome, worshiped with all they had a king who, with their gifts, would be able to immigrate to Egypt, enemy territory of Jesus’ religious and national homes.  And later this same Jesus would bring Hope to the hopeless by preaching and establishing a peculiar type of kingdom in which all His subjects and inhabitants must live out radical love to their enemies. And so as the great Magis shrunk into the distance of space and time, the Christ-child grew until He held the whole of space and time in His hands. The Christ grew big enough to flip upside down the whole world.

 

Today Justine and Verity, home for break from her third year at UCLA, worked out at our local YMCA.  I tagged along and yakked with my workout buddies, Bill the ex-postman, Sammy the ex- Russian gymnast, and David, the ex-military black guy (well, he’s still black but he’s no longer military). David told me about a metaphoric event happening at the Y today. The YMCA was hosting a doggie pool party. I was wishing we could take our old doggies, Jolie and Daisy, but they hate to get wet. The Y invited almost 100 dog owners to bring their dogs for a swim before the pool was drained for cleaning.  I love it because of course that is what the Babe of Bethlehem later did when He left His job (ex-carpenter) to go into ministry (Note to self: Ministry means you don’t make money off of it.)  Jesus invited all the dogs (the Gentiles the irreligious, the foreigners, the poor, the persecuted) to a pool party, because Jesus was getting ready to shut down the Pool for a cleaning out and a whole new kind of baptism. At the doggie pool party, anyone could come – with a dog — but the regular YMCA pass was no good. From the time of Jesus’ very first birthday, the party invitations have been sent to all. Star-sealed. But the traditional passes of wealth, and honor, and diplomas, and celebrity have never worked. So the rich usually don’t show up to the pool parties of Jesus. At His first birthday party, it was the poor, the needy, and the sinful who actually showed up, sitting right next to the sheep. And it has often been the same kind of folk who, without a pass, are out there swimming for their lives, doing the doggie paddle with all their “hearts, souls, and minds”.  The God-king baby who would become a carpenter, became a Life-Guard, and ultimately would became a Lamb. Someday the Lamb of God will be having a reunion party with all the shepherds. I think there will be a lot of dogs there too. I hope mine will invite me along.

 

We have had a lot of dream-building happening on our house – hard work for our two men.  Gordon at (unbelievably!) 18 years has contributed a lot of muscle and man power in between finishing up his high school senior year and concurrent community college classes.  As Gordon and our neighbor and contractor, Joe, scaffold and saw and nail, Raoul designs and oversees the classy new siding going up all around our home.  Raoul is the artist – and his dreams are large and lovely.  Raoul’s company Mosaix continues to help other companies realize their own particular dreams.  We have dubbed Raoul, “The Dream Weaver.” Several in our family had dreams come true this past summer. Clarissa, Verity and Raoul traveled together to Paris, France. Clare and Verity experienced for the first time visiting another country and Raoul revisited a place from his childhood. Although France has lately had its share of nightmares, it was still able to provide for our three, some dreams come true.

 

The prophet Isaiah said that in these end times of the second advent before Christ’s coming– not as Savior but as King– that “your young ones will prophesy but your old ones will dream dreams”. As Raoul and I hit those milestones of aging, perhaps our prayers should more and more resemble large and lovely dreams rather than merely wish lists. To shimmy two Shakespeare quotes together, “to dream things true–for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” I have felt lately and intensely the pause in which anticipation lives, the pause awaiting hope. It is the feeling you have when you wake after a lovely dream and you just want to stay in the dream a bit longer, not waking up yet to the reality of the day ahead. We who own so very much must start dreaming for more than mere stuff for ourselves.  We must dream of a world for everyone, where, as in all of God’s intended worlds, there is no more sorrow, no more fear, no more pain, no more want, no more ignorance, no more hatred, and no more want. Then we need to stop dreaming about it, get started on our day and start creating it. Just like our house siding, it will take hard work, clear intelligence, team spirit, patience, and hope. But then, we have a Master Carpenter who laid the foundation and oversees the crew, so we are secure in the competent nail-scarred hands of the Dreamer of Worlds.

 

We who have been blessed with long life, need to keep strong “the stuff” of dreams. God often had to use dreams — especially to get ahold of adults, including some in the Christmas story. Perhaps God uses dreams because often we big people lose our childlike ability to shrink small enough for faith and joy to bring back Wonder and Awe. And we to readily let the strong pull of the world’s temporal reality deplete our hopes. We forget that God has a different reality ballasted in Eternity, on earth as it is in the heavens beyond heavens beyond heavens.  We must keep believing that though it is immensely hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, the Man-God Jesus also assures us that no matter who we are and what we have “with God, – all things – are possible”. The Magi entered God’s kingdom. So can we. IF.

 

We who seek truth and light must stoke the embers of dreams deferred (to quote another great poet/prophet).  We must hold in one hand, sorrow and angst and in the other hold faith and hope. We want the world’s young ones to have hope and with hope, to prophecy against all darkness, living as strong bright cities shining on the mountaintops.  We want the world’s old and tired ones to have hope, and with hope to still dream of a better world.  We want the world’s rich ones to have hope and with hope to deplete themselves for the love of God and all of God’s children. We want the world’s poor ones to have hope and with hope to say, “Blessed are we for ours is the kingdom of heaven”. We want every one of us to have hope and with hope know that we are so truly beloved that we can love others, even our enemies.

 

How does one hope against hope? This phrase from Romans 4:18, refers to a man named Abraham, an old man who is said to have “In hope against hope, believed.” Well, if the aged centenarians, Sarah and Abraham, can keep believing, keep hoping, keep dreaming, then so can we. As the old hymn proclaims, it is when “my hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” – when all we have is weighed on the scales and is so depleted that the scales tip in favor of God’s righteous cross-bearing upside down kingdom.

 

How do you hope? Well, you accept it as a gift, as “the thing with feathers” as Emily Dickinson reminds us.  And you study it as the prophets always have. Whenever you walk in darkness, you put on your armor and you fight the evil that seeks to destroy hope. You joyfully serve others who cannot get a purchase on hope. You laugh hard and long whenever possible to dispel the oh so serious fears. As Frodo and Sam do you keep living your own part of The Great Story– without hope– but with enduring faithfulness.  And you trust the Man-God who in the end had absolutely no hope at all, but who had faith in the Father-God – in Yahweh who needs no hope because HE IS– beyond need of hope – BEING All things Always for All.

 

Dear God, let me keep shrinking, and letting others grow. Let me become like a child, asking only for what I need and can hold lightly in my hands.

 

The Wise still seek and the weary still hope. There are many people throughout the world hopelessly wondering figuratively and literally if “we will get out of this alive”.  This Christmas I don’t want anything at all that Santa has to offer.  What I would like is Hope. Not just the hope I need.  But Hope overflowing.  Hope to share. Hope that changes the world. May we stoke the small embers of Hope and the Wind of God makes us a flame, until the world catches on fire with the hope of the Return of the One True Holy King. May our small acts usher in a kingdom where the small people rule and the meek shrinking ones reign.

 

This Christmas, may your family’s merriness be rooted in Hope. May we learn to pour ourselves out and may Christ’s light in us, like the star at Bethlehem, rise in the darkness so that all those who journey seeking God, may find Him.

 

Hoping against hope, from the hopefully “Incredibly Shrinking Woman” who hopes that Raoul and I might one day say, “Honey, We Shrunk the Kids!”

May it be a Hopeful New Year.

 

From –Jane—- and Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon Tawel

The Sky Is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods by Jane Tawel

The Sky is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods

by Jane Tawel

My husband and son call me “Chicken”.  I have somehow lost all my other nicknames, including “wifey” or “mom”.  And now that I am the sole female left to live amongst my two men, their daughters and sisters having moved to different Dreamlands, I am beckoned or lovingly teased by being called “Chicken”.

Raoul and Gordon tell me I have achieved this moniker because I am always, and they mean ALWAYS, screaming. Shrieking, they claim.  Hence, I am a “chicken”.  Evidently I not only scream during scary and violent movies, which I am now forbidden to watch in their presence, but I am told I also scream, when in the passenger seat; when someone quietly comes up behind me unexpectedly; when some thing bangs in the wind; and I scream, when, or so I am told, a fly lands on the counter, a kitten walks by, a child sneezes, an ant passes in front of me, or someone silently nods their head unexpectedly. I am a Chicken.

I have lately been called, I think “Chicken” perhaps by many of my friends and family.  Perhaps not to my face, but, there is definitely the feeling that many consider me “Chicken” in the sense of the old fairy tale, “Chicken Little”, or “Henny Penny” as the Brexits call it.  It is true.  I have been unable to clear my head ever since the large piece of firmament fell on it in the last weeks, toppled from the sky, Made in the USA,  in the land in which I live.  I have been running around, screaming, “The Sky is Falling!  The Sky is Falling!” My head literally still feels numb and aching — as if my head will blow apart — from the very large chunk of celestial  matter that fell right on top of my mind.  It is like a window in my mind opened up, was blown to bits in fact, and I could suddenly see out on a world that I might have suspected was the reality in which I lived, but which I could still turn away from.  Now I feel as if my mind’s eye is forced to look out that blown out window at what my world — physical, human, and spiritual — is really like after all. It is mind-blowing — like being hit on the head with a sky boulder.

The phrase, “The sky is falling” is meant to imply that the person, or “Chicken” saying it, is foolish and hysterical — humorous –if it weren’t for the fact that the chicken convinces so many of her friends — the Duck, the Goose, the Rabbit — to panic and run with her because the sky is falling.  All these peaceful, non-aggressive truth-seeking animals eventually let the Fox lead them to the Lion — the King of the Forest. The Fox assures all the wrongly hysterical animals that  the Lion will confirm whether the sky is in fact falling or not.  Of course — the Lion assures them they are hysterical and that the sky is in fact not falling.  Then he eats them.  The clever, wily Fox enjoys the leftovers.

So you see, even though everyone tells the story as if the Chicken is foolish and wrong, in the end she is right.   The world might not have been ending right then for everyone, not necessarily because the sky was literally falling, but Chicken Little’s world of peace and unity and justice and love and joy, did end. Just not the way she expected.  The sky is falling is a metaphor —  and of course some of us believe metaphors are always truer than fact — deeper Truth needing to be told in pictures or poetry. The World doesn’t get better. It does actually end. It ends because a predator capitalist fox and a greedy power-mongering lion, ate Chicken and the other animals — not because they were hungry, but because they could,(and because Chicken was irritating).   Just like in the past, a predator fascist Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And a predator communist Fox and a greedy power-mongering Lion ate other animals.  And  a predator Khmer Rouge Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And before that a predator European Fox and a greedy power mongering  Colonist Lion ate other animals. And before that, and before that, and before that, and before that, and before that. . . .

And once a Fox named Herod and a Lion called God’s Chosen People Judah, killed a Chicken named Jesus.

And throughout time,  Chicken Littles are mocked or calmed or silenced. Or crucified.  Chickens are told that it is time to move on– “The sky hasn’t fallen, Join us!”, — and we all need to just go back to the pretense of getting along. But Chicken Little was right. Because unless we are caring for the sky, and the earth, and the children, and the other animals, and each other, and Yahweh, and unless we are caring for justice and truth and free will and sharing and serving and mercy and love and shalom — well then,  the sky  is always going to be falling.  The climate is indeed, always changing. And we want to look at a dark night sky and call it daylight. But the sky is falling. And it always has been, since The Fall. Falling. Falling. Falling.

Until Jesus comes riding in on the clouds. Then the Falling will stop.

Trust me, this doom of mine really bugs people.  You are so bugged right now. And I do not blame you. I am not a very good prophet — not really one at all — I am after all,  not Chicken Little but, as  my boys will tell you, I am “Little Chicken”. I don’t mean by this story I’ve retold here, to compare myself to any true prophetic voices — but there are plenty of true prophets out there.  They are even more irritating that I am because they are much smarter and more spiritual than I.

And I don’t blame you for being upset.  No one likes to hear their Sky is falling. Not even Chicken Little– after all she keeps trying to prove to her own self that she is wrong! She is looking for signs and people to convince her she is wrong.  But her head is still hurting from the blow and she is still looking out of the window. And she can’t not see or feel. And she can’t not hear the voices of the prophets, written on subway walls and in Bible verses.

After the prophets are shut up or killed, the people  left don’t care. They can finally move on.   They get to live on with the knowledge that they were right.  The sky didn’t fall after all.  And so everyone gets to say, “I was right, see. You were wrong.” Only a wee part of the sky fell and that part doesn’t affect me. Everyone is safe in the knowledge that they were right.

Except Chicken Little.  She’s dead.

 

You know, the Lion of Judah — the real Aslan — compared Himself to a chicken.  In his own words, Jesus said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13: 34, 35)

Jesus’ hearers would have remembered their scripture and the words that God Himself spoke to His Chosen People, Israel in Psalm 91, when God compares Himself to a Chicken.

Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

.  Perhaps what has really made my mind go numb lately as if a piece of the heavens had fallen on top of it, is the forgetfulness of God’s people about Who God is, Who Jesus is.  About my forgetfulness about Who God Is. You see God and Jesus are Chickens.  God and Jesus try to warn us over and over and over again, through their prophets, through their Words, through metaphor and myth and story and laws and examples– through Jesus’ non- powerful death as a criminal on a cross — through The Father’s non-greedy serving heart — God warns us that the Sky is Indeed Falling– but that you, dearly beloved, do  not need to panic like chickens with your heads cut off. You do not need to look to any one — not the Fox nor the Lion — to tell you the truth and save you. You do not need to fear or grasp, or grab, or deny, or fall by the wayside and curl up in a little ball of denial. BUT — (God loves this conditional conjunction and uses it often)  BUT!! — My beloved little chicks, says God: You do need to waddle along  on your little feet and imprint on Me, Your Mother Chicken.You do need to obey me. You do need to repent.You do need to follow in the ways of my servant Son. You do need to see and speak the truth.  You do need to love.  You do need to be different.  You do need to trust Me.  You do need to converse with Me and listen.  You do need to walk the narrow path. You need to seek The Kingdom and The King. You need to lay up treasures that don’t have a president’s picture on them. You need to worship in humility and joy not power and comfort. You need to cover yourself not with the strength of the Lion, but with the blood of The Lamb.

But you know, there are always people who want to see God as being on the side of the Fox and the Lion. There will always be those of us who can not submit to a God who uses feathers not claws. There are always people who will do semantic and spiritual gymnastics to get the leftovers. We always prefer the powerful because we prefer not to trust. And so the sky keeps falling and people call it evolution. And the world never changes til the end, but we call it progress. And the prophets are killed and we call it reality. And the Son of Man weeps and calls… until He judges. And one day He gathers His chicks to a new earth and a new sky.

You know to be honest, of course, the Chicken Littles really just want, like everyone else, to turn off the violence, and not look at the signs, and not scream any more, and go back to pretending that they were never hit on the head with a piece of the sky.  But until this Little Chicken gets tired and folds her cards and admits she is trumped. . . . well, as any one will tell, you, I hate gambling so until I get that tired…..  I’d rather read a good story and keep inviting you all to hear Good Stories as well.

Tomorrow I will tell you the story of “Peter and the Wolf” — another prophetic myth seldom told any more.  After all, the “Wolf of Wall Street” is a lot more fun to hear. And The Ending is to die for.

“Chicken and Her Men”

 

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