Persephone

Filed under:Smaug, blessing, faith, holy days, lent, life, redemption — posted by Sonja on March 26, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

When I was in 4th grade, I made a discovery.  I found a book of Greek myths that had been my mother’s textbook in highschool.  It was filled with the most wonderful stories about gods and goddesses and heroes galore.  I loved that book and read it cover-to-cover more times than I can count.

One of the myths that I remember the most vividly is the one about Persephone.  Persephone was the young, beautiful daughter of Ceres (the goddess of crops and the harvest).  Hades (god of the underworld) saw her one day and fell in love.  So he stole Persephone and took her to his home; the dark glittering underworld, where he married her.  Two things happened as a result.  Persephone did not like her new home and started a hunger strike.  Her mother mourned the fact that her daughter was missing and wandered the earth leaving it fallow as she walked.  Zeus (king of the gods) got wind of what was happening and he convinced Hades to give Persephone back to her mother.  Hades acquiesced, with the provision that Persephone must have remained on her hunger strike during her entire stay with him.  It turned out that she had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds.  So it was agreed that Persephone would live 6 months of each year with Hades and 6 months above ground with her mother.  Now it is said that each year Ceres mourns the absence of her daughter and we have winter, but each spring Persephone comes back to life from death and Ceres blesses the earth with new life.

Persephone is the immortal visage of spring; young, beautiful, nubile and bursting with life.  I think of her each year when the calendar winds around to April-ish.  She will return to her mother soon and we will have new life in abundance after the cold empty winter months.

I’ve always thought that it’s interesting that Easter falls in April(ish) each year.  The ancient Greeks had Persephone and we have Jesus.  The timeline is different with Jesus.  He only spent 3 days in the underworld.  And because he was fully human, he actually died on the cross bearing the weight of all of our sin.  And His renewal, his resurrection, signifies new life for all of us.

This year in particular I find myself hopeful as the dark days of Lent spin themselves out and we approach Easter.  It’s been a long, dark winter for me as I found myself battling a recurrence of major depressive disorder (complete with increased anxiety and panic).  I’m hoping that as the weather turns and I get my brain focused back in that the new life of spring and Jesus will bring me back to myself.  Here’s to spring.  Here’s to new life.

This post is part of the March 2014 Synchroblog – New Life.  Check out the links below for some great reading on the subject:
Michael Donahoe – New Life
K.W. Leslie – Sin Kills; God Brings New Life
Carol Kuniholm – New Life. Mystery Fruit.
Jeremy Myers – I Get Depressed On Facebook
Glenn Hager – A Personal Resurrection Story
Loveday Anyim – Spring Forth – Ideas That Speak New Life
Loveday Anyim – Inspired By Spring To Create A New Life
Sarah Quezada – Post Winter Delight
Edwin Aldrich – Finding New Life In Our New Home
Doreen A. Mannion – Each Day A New Decision: Choose Life
kathy escobar – new life through nonviolent communication
Anita Coleman New Life, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Eternal Living
Mallory Pickering New Life Masterpiece Theater Style
Liz Dyer New Life, Empowerment and Dropping Keys

Dusting

Filed under:life — posted by Sonja on December 5, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

Wow … it’s been a long long long time since I last graced these parts.

I’m going to try something new here.  I call it mini-blogging … not Twitter short because that’s micro-blogging.  I’m going to try to put up posts that are about 2 or 3 paragraphs once a week.  Someday soon I will also get to where I can remember my programming skills and straighten the place up a bit.

I’ve been exercising lately.  Riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes or walking for 45 minutes.  I had to work up to that.  But now I do it every day.  I wonder if blogging will be the same way?  Can I increase my blogging stamina by exercising those “muscles”?  I guess we’ll see.

In the meantime, thanks for being patient with me and I hope to be back around here again next week.

Giving It Up For Lent

Filed under:anger, blessing, church, comestibles, expectantly, faith, holy days, ice cream, lent — posted by Sonja on February 13, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

So … I’m giving up sugar for Lent.

To be absolutely clear … I’m giving up any food which has sugar (or one of it’s counterparts: honey, syrup in all it’s variety, molasses, etc.) as one of the first 5 ingredients listed. There is one exception, dark chocolate. I can have dark (70% coca or greater) chocolate in sparing amounts … 1 oz. per day. But I can’t save that up. If I don’t eat an ounce today, that doesn’t mean I can eat 2 oz. tomorrow. If I have it I can eat it.

Other than that exception, no more sugar for 40 days. I feel as though I am casually wandering into a food desert. No more sugar. Gack!

No Jif peanut butter, no jelly … thus no pb&j sandwiches, which I love. No ice cream. No cake (including LightBoy’s birthday). No pies. No cookies. No brownies. No store bought bread. No Frosted Mini-wheats. No store bought granola.

I am quickly discovering how much of our processed food contains sugar (or one of it’s variants). It’s really quite remarkable … and not in a good way.

On the other hand, I am also looking forward to the adventure of it all. What will I discover as I wander down this road? How will I manage cravings? And (most importantly) will I see any health benefits from this? Will those benefits encourage to me or discourage me?

I have no idea what I will find down this road, but I’m hoping to find my way back to certain places in my heart. That cutting out sugar will force me to face some things and let them go, rather than eating my pain, anger and frustration. That I will learn new and more healthy habits … not just with eating, but with life.

Who knows … I might even find myself darkening the door of a church again.

Don’t hold your breath.

Unwanted …

Filed under:community, economics — posted by Sonja on February 5, 2013 @ 10:24 am

LightHusband is really into genealogy. I mean REALLY into it. He loves the mystery and puzzle of finding unknown dead people … where they lived and the keys to how they lived. His family genealogy is mostly done. Mine, on the other hand, has provided no end of mysteries to solve and people to find. He makes connections that span decades with living people who are on the trail of the same branch of the family tree. Today, he heard from just such a person after not hearing from them in a dozen or so years. Whatever trail he’d been on went cold and the communication died away. But today, a clue!

It came in the form of a warning notice. A warning from 1832. This warning was not the kind of warning that you’re thinking of. It was a notice to one of my ancestors that he was a “person of ill-reputation” and he was no longer welcome to live in this particular town. You can read it for yourself if you want … just click on the picture to enlarge it.

This strange notice from 180 years ago gives me pause. We do know a little bit about this ancestor and his family. We know that the father died precipitously (drowned in a fishing accident) and left the mother and children with no means of supporting themselves. Instead of drawing around the widow and orphans, they were “warned out of town” … run out on a rail, as it were. This was common in the early days of our country. It happened mostly to women who were widowed without property. It could also happen to men who were single past the age of propriety. If they didn’t go or there was anything weird about the family or individual, the woman might be branded as a witch. A fascinating study of the practices surrounding witchcraft is, “Entertaining Satan” by John Putnam Demos (for real … that’s his last name).

I started to think about this as we were driving to and from hockey events today. What is it that causes humans to separate from the less-able-bodied members of their “clan?” Can it all be ascribed to evolution? I don’t think so. But we seem to have this drive to put our sickly, our widows, our orphans, the unfit and the unseemly out on an ice flow to perish in the cold and the dark. We can still see this drive manifesting itself today.

Take away the safety net. Dismantle or “privatize” (a euphemism for starving both the program and the people) Social Security. That program exists precisely for the elderly in our society who likely did NOT get a chance at a higher education. They have worked the coal mines and bus lines, bussed tables and cleaned restrooms. If they had two sous to rub together it was a miracle. They’ve had no practice managing a “portfolio” and do not have the education or outlook to do so in a way that will assist them with retirement. So why is it after all this time and movement forward, that we have decided to “warn them out of town.” That we do not want to care for them anymore … that those who are not actively contributing to the production of a nation have no business reaping any meager reward for past service rendered to the god of economy. Are we that cold? That unfeeling? Is it really true that the value of a human life can only be measured in economic productive units?

We are still separating ourselves from the other and demonizing them in the process. We don’t call the word, “Witch” any more … but we might as well.

Prince of Peace

Filed under:Christmas, being jesus, dreams, gifts, holidays, love, peace — posted by Sonja on December 24, 2012 @ 6:25 am

There’s an overused quote by Chesterton that goes something like, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Let that sink in a moment.

We are in the midst of the Christmas season right now; our annual frenzy of indulgent consumption. According to both popular Christmas carols and the testimony of the Gospels, Jesus’ birth was heralded as the coming Messiah. He was to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy …

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.I)”>
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

This messiah was going to bring peace on earth and good will toward men.

What does that mean? What would peace on earth look like? Our imaginations are dull and we assume that the presence of peace is simply the absence of war or violence. So we think that “his government” is going to be a political enforcement of an absence of war. The rule of this Messiah would take away all weapons.

But that’s not what Jesus did. He came and nothing changed outwardly. The Roman Empire went on about it’s business and at what would be the end of Jesus’ 3 year ministry, crucified him. Giving rise to a secondary frenzy of indulgent consumption (but that’s another story). Jesus did manage to speak a few words that have been handed down to us in the millennia since his birth. He said things like this, “21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Read it carefully. Jesus was talking about more than the absence of murder, but the presence of love. We have laws which punish murderers and keep the crime rate low, but law cannot overcome the presence of hate. When we hate someone, we dismiss their humanity, we find reasons to ignore their thoughts and needs by calling them a “fool.” I am chief among sinners in this regard. But there it is. I cannot turn my face away from the idea that when I dismiss someone as a fool, I have morally killed them in my mind.

This brings me back to the Chesterton quote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

There are many other bits that Jesus threw out in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I find in my life that I fail those far more often than I succeed. But if I put them all together in a holistic picture of how to live, I find that these bits create a vision of what peace could look like. It would be so much more than the absence of war or violence, but the presence of love. The kind of love which can cast out fear, making violence unnecessary.

Perhaps that prophecy in Isaiah meant not that God would enforce an everlasting peace through government, but that all the humans here would learn to love their enemies without fear, that we would not dismiss another’s humanity, that we would be able to live in peace and harmony with each other, not because of laws, but because our hearts have grown three sizes too large (to quote a more secular source) and we have begun to operate out of abundance, love and harmony. Maybe that is the hope we express every year … that someday soon we will all know peace.

Further Thoughts on Guns, Abortions and other Forbidden Topics

Filed under:being jesus, grief, hope, justice — posted by Sonja on December 21, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

As many people have been doing, I’ve found my thoughts wandering to the tragedy in Connecticut over the past week.

My mind wandered down many paths. I pondered that raw indignity we visit upon other nations by using drones to kill their children in the midst of mourning our own. I wished I could find photos of those children. I want to know all the victims of violence. It’s hard to fathom the numbers and I find it upsetting that we are eager to grieve losses on our soil, but dismiss losses in other countries with fancy euphemisms like, “collateral damage” or, “ravages of war” or … ? … you name it.

Then I wondered why these choices are so polarizing? What is it that makes it impossible to talk about these issues with any kind of sanity or grace. Then I realized that part of the problem is that of competing rights.

When it comes to guns we must balance the right of gun ownership against the right of life for gun victims. When it comes to abortion we must balance the right of life for the baby against the right to self-determination for the mother. What I think is most interesting is that those who are more conservative tend to the former in each equation and those who are more liberal tend to the latter, despite either former or latter being diametrically opposed to one another. That is those who support unfettered gun ownership are often more likely to support a pro-life position on abortion. Those who support restricting gun ownership tend to be those who are more likely to support maternal choice in pregnancy. Neither set of people make any sense. This tells me we (as a nation) need to be more creative in how we discuss and problem solve our way through these issues.

Which brings me to my last thought. I play a game called “Book Worm” fairly obsessively … when I have a few moments to kill you can find me playing Book Worm on my phone. It’s a nerdy little game with lettered tiles and you try to make words with them. Kind of like a solitaire form of Scrabble. Once you reach a certain level, the game introduces burning tiles. If you cannot use those tiles before they get to the bottom of the board, you lose. Up until recently those tiles sort of freaked me out. They made me a little bit panicky. What if I couldn’t use it? Why was it so hard? I did not like those burning tiles, they made me feel poor and inadequate. Until one day when I changed my perspective on those tiles. I realized that if I was willing to look at the surrounding tiles more creatively, I could always … always … use them. Sometimes I’d have to wait a round or two. But I can always use them.

That’s when it hit me. In trying to stop mass murder, we are actually trying to prevent symptoms. It’s admirable, but will ultimately not be successful. We need to look for the illness and then for a cure. When we engage in that search it might be good to approach the whole issue from the perspective of peace, restoration and plenty. That’s going to be difficult because we are entrenched in a perspective of redemptive violence, brokenness and scarcity.

So the question becomes, can we change our perspective? Can we view these issues creatively and find redemptive, restorative solutions? Or will we continue with our zero-sum thinking that continues to impoverish all of us?

Three Things I Wish People Would Stop Harping On

Filed under:anger, children, community, grief, theodicy — posted by Sonja on December 18, 2012 @ 10:37 am

This is my list …

1.   It is definitely about guns.  But it’s about a specific kind of gun.

Specifically, it’s about semi-automatic weapons.  Fully automatic weapons have been banned for personal use/protection for a long time now.  This is about the ease of getting semi-automatic weapons into the hands of just about anyone.  Regulating and/or limiting sales of both semi-automatic weapons and their ammunition clips should be as automatic as regulating Tylenol, or the food we eat or any of the other things our government does.  There are more regulations concerning the production of play ground slides than there are concerning the production and sales of semi-automatic weapons.  Why?  Because we (as a culture) have decided that safety for children is more important than the rights of slide manufacturers to make a substandard product.

“And don’t say that it won’t make a difference because crazies will always be able to get a gun. We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths, any more than we have eliminated auto accidents. But if we could reduce gun deaths by one-third, that would be 10,000 lives saved annually.”  (Kristoff, Do We Have the Courage To Stop This)We have reduced automobile deaths by (hold up) regulating the amount of liquor one may consume and then drive a car.  Why?  Because we have decided that the rights of other drivers and their safety are more important than the right of a drunk to consume large quantities of alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car.

2.  Let’s leave certain aspects of God out of the discussion.  A proper focus on theodicy is fine; whether or not children are allowed to say the Lord’s prayer in schools is a red herring.  This is not about prayer or the lack thereof.

Theodicy is the study of evil as it relates to God.  How can there be a God if S/He allows this sort of evil in the world?  What if God intervened in all the evil that goes on in the world?  Why do we ask why God didn’t stop this and refuse to ask that same question of ourselves?  Why don’t we ask the hard questions about what we have done (as communities and as individuals) to sustain the culture of violence?  I don’t have any answers to those questions.  But I do know that we’ll get no where until we begin seriously asking them.

Those people (and their voices are shrill) who believe that this kind of thing is a judgement of God on _________ (fill in the blank with the moral objection of the moment).  James Dobson made ill-advised comments in this regard just yesterday:

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on

That’s a nice tidy answer, but it’s meaningless.  It would be nice to think that going back to some earlier, (and misconstrued as) simpler age would or could ensure that frail human beings would not behave this way.

3.  It is definitely NOT about mental illness.

We have a habit of responding to outlandish things that people do by attributing it to mental illness.  It’s become a flip reaction to human behavior we don’t understand.  The problem is that with the exception of a very small group of people (untreated paranoid schizophrenia) most people who struggle with mental illness are not violent and do not go on the attack like this.

As a group, people with mental health issues are not more violent than any other group in our society. The majority of crimes are not committed by people with psychiatric illness, and multiple studies have proven that there is very little relationship between most of these diseases and violence. The real issue is the fact that people with mental illness are two and a half to four times more likely to be the victims of violence than any other group in our society.

An interesting paradox to consider is this … we do not consider our military leaders to be mentally ill.  Indeed, we hail their heroism in battle.  Yet how many of them have ordered and/or undertaken mass killing of innocents.  We call that collateral damage and absolve ourselves of the deaths.  Those women and children, grandpas and grandmas are all loved by a family.  Families just like those in Newtown, CT.  We wreak havoc on them without pause and call it heroism.

Do we need to have a national conversation about mental health care and how mental illness is perceived in this country?  Absolutely.  It is a must, linking mental health and gun violence is a bad idea.

We need to consider what our national idols have become and like the abortion debate, we have to decide between competing sets of “rights.”  The right of our school children to anticipate safety and the right of gun owners to have what they want.  And perhaps that is why this argument, like the abortion argument becomes so volatile and emotional.  There are no clear RIGHT answers.  There are only shades of grey which cloud the nuances of the situation.

New Comment Policy

Filed under:ain't nuthin can be done, blog stuff — posted by Sonja on December 16, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

This blog is my virtual living room. I actually do pay for the right own my little piece of the internet.

I do not allow bullies or demeaning conversation in my living room.

From now forward if you cannot comment with due respect to the others who read this blog (who may have differing views than you), your comment will be summarily deleted. To continue the living room analogy, that is my way of telling you that your behavior is out of bounds. However, I will not warn anyone. I will not discuss the offensive comment(s). They will simply be deleted.

If I find myself having to delete a second comment, you will be permanently blocked.

To be clear … I welcome all perspectives and you are free to share yours even when it differs from mine. You are not free to be mean, demeaning, rude, disrespectful or any other behavior that is unwelcome in the average living room.

Updated:  If you wouldn’t make the comment on your grandmother’s blog, it will likely get deleted here.

Lord, Have Mercy

Filed under:life — posted by Sonja on December 14, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

Upon a poor sinner like me.

I wrote a simple prayer … but the prayer was obnoxious.  It absolved me of my communal guilt while heaping coals upon the heads of those tortured souls who shoot up school yards.

We live in a culture saturated with violence.  We have a long history of settling differences with violence, from the establishment of our nation in blood to our latest efforts at controlling far-flung populations with drones.  We are an angry, violent people who have no reason to be surprised by this evil among us.

What is my guilt?  I do not yet know the full extent of my collusion with the powers and authorities which make these actions possible.

For you cannot serve two masters …

Filed under:anger, lost in translation, politics, synchroblog — posted by Sonja on October 9, 2012 @ 10:42 am

This post is part of the October Synchroblog – Faith and Politics: No matter what you believe or don’t believe, “faith in the public square” is something you probably have an opinion about.

Yeah, I have an opinion (because we all know I have an opinion on just about everything). My opinion is that only the very adept can mix faith and politics without some measure of toxicity entering the atmosphere.

I believe that it is a matter of course that a person of faith should take their beliefs into the voting booth.  We all measure candidates using different gauges and people of faith will and should use their beliefs as some part of that.  As a liberal, I believe that helping people should take precedence over enforcing rules and I likely differ with many of my conservative brethren and sistren about how one helps another in need.

However.

I also believe that faith should stay out of politics.  There is something funny that happens when you get a good idea and are able to convince others to join your cause.  It feels really good to have a bunch of people telling you what a great idea you have.  It’s even better when they all work together to implement your idea … wow!!  Check it out … a bunch of people believe the same way you do and they want to help your idea out.  It’s awesome.

But then (in many cases) something weird happens.  That good idea begins to take on a life of it’s own.  It gains traction and grows bigger, until it owns the person.  And what was once a good idea begins to morph into something that is the opposite.  Until something like this happens:

If one could contrive a nation that whole-heartedly followed Jesus, I think that might be a good thing in the world.  Not gonna lie, in a colloquialism of today.  However, I’m not certain that is something that can be legislated.  Rulers of past nations/empires have tried this and ended up killing many of their countrymen in a quest for absolute …. ahhh … power.

I was deeply troubled by the caption my friend gave this link.  It would seem that in the desire for a good thing, many of my brothers and sisters have opted to go the way of power.  And according to my understanding of the faith, Jesus eschewed power and declared that we who follow him ought to as well.

Here is the list of some other writers who shared their thoughts on this subject:

We The People by Wendy McCaig

Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm

Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager

Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus

Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers

A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer

5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar

Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton

God’s Politics? by Andrew Carmichael

Faith and the Public Square by Leah Sophia


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