Jesus Rules
Oct 27th, 2009 by Sonja

Or why I’ve changed my comment policy after 4 years.

Since the last election cycle I’ve picked up a couple of readers from the right side of the spectrum.  At first, I was glad because I enjoy a little political sparring every now and again.  And having been a member of my highschool debate team, I enjoy logical riposte with the best of them.  It can be fun … and funny.  But these folks weren’t in it for fun … or profit.   Nor do the rules of ordinary logic appear to apply to them.  I’m not certain what rules they do follow, but I can’t find logic in any of what they write.

I’ve tried over and over and over again to be polite.  I’ve tried ignoring the snark.  I’ve tried engaging with these commenters using the logic, grace and dignity that I am accustomed to.  None of which has helped anything.  It has only served to further inflame their sensibilities and incur greater ridicule heaped upon me.  So I’ve discovered that in an attempt to not censor them,  I’ve been censoring myself in a pathetic attempt to avoid confrontation.  I’m not going to do that anymore.

From now on, all comments will be moderated.

I will delete out of hand any comments which are intended to engender fear and/or use fear to manipulate the reader.

I will delete out of hand any comments which do not respect the dignity and grace of other readers (to include but is not limited to … me).

I will delete out of hand any comments which violate the rules of logic – see this.

So, I’m done.  I’m going to write and post as I see fit.  If you want to comment, you’re going to have to abide by some rules.  The first one  … Jesus rules here – Love God, Love yourself, love your neighbor … no fear.  Those are Jesus rules.

Justified By Faith
May 1st, 2009 by Sonja

I read something last night that I’m finding difficult to reconcile.  It was an article in CNN.  And I really do not understand how people who claim to follow a person/God who said these things (among many other similar things):

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (all from Matthew ch. 5)

That’s just one chapter, one sermon that Jesus preached.  Just one.  No parables.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Simple words declaring to all that those who follow Him must always keep love for the other uppermost in their minds.  If that’s the case, how is this then possible?

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.  (report in CNN)

Before you go all empire on me, just remember that we who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are not called to support the kingdoms of this world.  We are render unto Caesar the things due him, other than that, we are called to support the endless Kingdom of God.  So would anyone care to explain this to me in a way that does not include references to defending one’s country, because as Christians we do not have a country, we have a Kingdom.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?

How Would We Know?
Apr 10th, 2009 by Sonja

So it all started innocently enough.  It was just a conversation in a car on the way from one place to another, in a hurry because while most things had been accounted for, one critical piece had been overlooked.  As we drove through downtown Washington DC, my perspective shifted and I saw Rome … metaphorically speaking, of course.

Later in the same evening we attended a hockey game at the Verizon Center.   A metaphorical Coliseum complete with gladiators … but no lions and no death.  Sometimes there is blood.

It made my gears start to turn.  If we could suspend reality for a moment; play pretend like we used to do as kids, how would we know and what would today, Black Friday, look like?  So … play pretend with me for a little bit and I’ll set the stage, you help me fill in the blanks in the comments.

As we were driving back to the hockey game, I talked to LightHusband and we thought through some things.  Of course the metaphor is lacking and has huge holes.  All games of pretend do, and we’re going to ignore them, unless we can think of creative ways to work with them in order to learn and grow in our faith journey.

If Washington DC is latter day Rome, I asked him, “then where would latter day Israel be?”  We talked through what some of the qualifications would need to be.  It needs to be a place that is under military occupation, where the local religion is suspect and maybe quelled for rebellion/terrorism, where the local culture is also viewed with suspicion.  The obvious answer was either Iraq or Afghanistan.  A runner up might be Mexico or Columbia … however, they are not under military occupation.

What would we do and how would we respond to someone with the teachings of Jesus in a Muslim context?

I wonder about that as I read about American responses to Muslims.  Some have moderated with time since 2001, others have grown more and more vituperative.  I look at our perspective on the Romans and we know that their downfall was attempting to assimilate too many disparate people groups into the Roman way of life.  We know that.  Yet we don’t seem to understand it as we go abroad attempting spread the “flower of democracy.”  So what do we do with the Muslims response to democracy and Western ways?  How do we respond to the Taliban?  For example, we find their subjugation of women repugnant.  Yet there are certain segments of the Christian church which are just as restrictive to women.  We think their tribalism is quaint and outdated; almost primitive.  Surely they can see that there are more contemporary, progressive manners in which to organize and operate a government?  Right?  It’s the primitive nature of their system that’s the problem.  If we could just get those poor, ignorant towel-heads into the twenty-first century like us and fix them, everything would be fine.

That last sentence is fairly offensive isn’t it?  Most people would strenuously disagree that they think that way.  Oh … but we all do.  We, here in America, all think that our way is the better, nay, the best way.  If everyone were just like us, the world  would be just fine.  And when you get down to the bottom of it, that’s the way the Romans thought too.

Judea, and by extension, Jerusalem, were under the charge of Herod Agrippa, a Jew under the thumb of Pontius Pilate, a Roman procurator.  So, you see, if we put ourselves in the poor dusty shoes of our Muslim cousins abroad from the oldest civilizations on earth in our game of pretend here, it’s not so difficult to see the similarities.

So my question today as we reflect on Dark Friday and the Cross, is if it were happening now, how would we know?  How would we hear the news?  How would we members of the empire hear of and respond to the news of a Jesus in a rebellious colony?

Symptoms vs. Disease
Mar 26th, 2009 by Sonja

One of our very favorite television shows here in the LightHouse is House.  Well, it’s really LightGirl’s favorite show, and the rest of us are also interested.  So we watch it in re-runs on USA network with some regularity.  Some of the episodes we’ve seen far too often, others not so much.  We watched an interesting episode last night in which the patient turned out to have the Black Plague at the end.  For those of you who do not watch House, the formula is that a patient presents with crazy symptoms and the show is spent with the team spinning through all kinds of wild, and opposing ideas about what s/he has before discovering the true diagnosis at the end.  Usually this is just in time to save their life, but ocassionally the patient dies.   Last night the patient lived.

It was interesting though, because her symptoms were masked in part by some steroids she’d been prescribed for an intense interaction with some poison ivy and by some meds she’d been given there in the hospital.  So the doctors were fooled until they took her off everything, then the charactertistic plague boils began to appear (in the last 3 to 5 minutes of the show and after she’d had a liver transplant).

I was thinking about that patient this morning as I read, yet again, Rich Kirkpatrick’s fine post from Monday about the weaving together of justice and mercy.   Rich does a great job of discussing and questioning what we’re doing when we Christians set out to “do” social justice.  Not that that is a bad thing.  No, not at all!  There really is no one else who has been commissioned to look after those who have nothing in this world, so we must.

It is the **how** we go about doing that, that Rich is talking about and he paints a wonderful picture in his first two sentences:

The cross was the greatest social injustice in history, but no greater act of mercy has been recorded for mankind and the world.

Most of us, when confronted with the injustice of the world want to act.”

In those two sentences I see Jesus on the cross, with all the power of the universe at his fingertips.  He could have wiped out injustice … the same injustice that we face in our communities and around the world … with a zap, but He did something else.  And I have to wonder why?  In fact, all of His actions and parables throughout the gospels show Him doing something other than what we anticipate or expect from people.  Why?

Then that patient with the plague bubbled up in my head.  And I got to thinking more about her and what happened with her.  You see, the meds she was given suppressed some of her symptoms, but not the disease and the disease (plague) was killing her.  Until they found the source of the disease she was still going to die.

I think that’s they way Jesus thinks about justice and mercy all woven together on the cross.  We can engage in acts of justice quite efficiently for very good purposes and we do all the time.  But if we do not have mercy as the weft to justice’s warp, we will never cure the disease; we will only provide a stop gap to some of the symptoms.  The horrible disease will continue to eat away at our communal body until we figure out how to do both together.

Let me give you a couple of examples.  During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many Christians lead drives to abolish the consumption of alcohol.  This eventually lead to the passing of the Volstead Act (as it was commonly known) or Prohibition.  Congress and the country amended the Constitution for the eighteenth time in order to prohibit the public possession and/or drinking of alcoholic beverages.  If you wanted to drink in private that was your own concern.  This was done out of wonderful motives.  We all know what ravages the “demon rum” can wreak on people who drink too much and too often … for both those who consume and those who get in their way.  It’s bad for your health, bad for your brain, dangerous to drive, etc.  But those ten years when we banned public consumption and possession also showed us something important; that simply banning it doesn’t dry up the need.  If we want people to stop drinking (because we know it’s not a great idea), then we have to look at it in a different light.  We have to weave justice together with mercy.

Another example came to my in-box this morning.  LightMom sent me information about Dambisa Moyo, a Harvard-educated economist who has worked at the World Bank and Goldman-Sachs.  She was born and raised in Zambia, but spent part of her childhood in Wisconsin while her father worked on a doctorate in linguistics.  She returned for her own education and then employment.  She’s written a book called “Dead Aid” and I watched her interview on Charlie Rose on the subject.  You can view it below or listen to the shorter, less nuanced version on NPR by using this link.

According to her bio (linked above), “Dambisa argues for more innovative ways for Africa to finance development including trade with China, accessing the capital markets, and microfinance.” If you listen to the interview you will hear her argue strenuously that government-to-government (bilateral) aid has hastened poverty in Africa.  We have known this for more than 30 years.  I remember hearing about it from my African friends when I was in college.  I was most taken by this quote in response to a question by Charlie Rose about whether or not aid should be seen as a failed experiment, “I don’t believe that Africa and Africans are a practical experiment in economics.”  It was one of the few moments when emotion was clearly observed on her face and in her voice.  Think about that for a moment, we have excellent motives … the end of poverty amongst a people we have treated poorly for centuries.  Yet with our very attempts at helping them we are continuing to treat them as less than capable human beings.  LightMom, who sent me the interviews, swears she heard Dambisa point out that when a star humanitarian in US sent thousands upon thousands of mosquito nets to Africa, it helped malaria but it put the local mosquito net manufacturers out of business.

So what do we do?  How do we weave justice and mercy together?  Is it really alright to starve a local mosquito net manufacturer in the name of eradicating malaria?  We go in with excellent motives and great ideas, but our horizons are too narrow and we fail to see what the ripple effects are going to be of our actions, though our actions might be excellent.

What is justice in the face of 70% of the population of a continent living abject poverty?  What is mercy?  These are questions we must begin to ask and answer honestly amongst ourselves as we face a new economic future; one in which it will no longer be possible to continue simply halting the symptoms, we must properly diagnose the disease and treat it.  Or our communal body will die.

Inequality Contrary to Justice
Mar 5th, 2009 by Sonja

I get a daily e-mail for Jim Wallis’ Sojourners group called “Verse and Voice.”  It’s a daily scripture reading and short meditation.  A lot of the time I don’t understand what the two have to do with one another, but I always get something out of both of them, and it’s a short pause in my day to focus on something bigger than myself.  Today’s meditation has been percolating with me all afternoon:

To take usury for money lent is unjust in itself,
because this is to sell what does not exist,
and this evidently leads to inequality,
which is contrary to justice.

Thomas Aquinas,
Dominican friar and theologian (1225-1274).

It seems that even in the 1200s people knew that making money off  of lending money is a terrible idea.

Perhaps basing much of our economy on it is an even worse idea.

Transformative Leaders – Where Are You?
Jan 12th, 2009 by Sonja

I probably have better things to think about, but it bugs me when the newspapers glorify religious leaders like Mark Driscoll.  The recent NYTimes article about him, his church and his ministry, entitled, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen was well-written and fairly balanced. But it bugs me because it’s not an accurate depiction of people of faith. There are so very many of us in churches across denominational lines who care deeply for their neighbors, love justice, seek mercy and walk humbly after God; and do those things in very quantifiable ways. They’re not all sitting in plush theatres listening to a self-aggrandizing hack talk about having sex and calling it love.

I wish the papers would pick up more articles about people stepping up to the plate for the little guy. For the underdog. People like Roy Bourgeois … a now excommunicated Catholic priest.

You may wonder what Father Roy did to get himself excommunicated. It was likely pretty bad. Given the news lately about Catholic priests lately, it would not be unlikely for you to think that he had abused boys in his care. But you would be wrong. Father Roy Bourgeois did the unthinkable. He participated in the ordination of women on August 8 and refused to recant. You can read parts of his letter here (ht Christy Lambertson, Dry Bones Dance). It’s quite beautiful.

So I’m thinking today about leadership and transformation into something more Christ-like. What those leaders might look like and where they might be found.

If you’d like to participate in a discussion about this and other thought-provoking articles that people read this week, come join Missional Tribe and our discussion group, Wisdom Lingers.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jan 4th, 2009 by Sonja

We’ve had a special guest visiting here at the LightHouse the past few weeks.  She has been a very good guest and has made no intrusions in our routines.  She hasn’t asked anything particularly difficult of us.  She’s very bright and inquisitive and, importantly, gets along well with Sam and Monty.  Her name is Sally and we are really loving her.

Sally and me - Christmas day

We’re taking care of her for a friend while he visits his parents until early next week.  She’s going to leave a hole in our hearts when she’s gone back home.

Sally being cuteIt has been amusing watching all the pets get used to one another.  Sam has had the worst time of it.  You see he has no concept of his actual size and does not understand why she gets to *be* a lap dog and he does not.  After all, to his pea-sized brain, he’s earned it.  She’s done nothing but waltz in here, jump onto the sofa and look cute.  What’s up with that?

We had a really funny moment on Christmas morning.  Both Sally and Sam had been given rawhide bones to chew on as a special treat.  Sam took to his right away and went through about half of it before losing interest in it because he wanted to go outside for a while.  Sally then took over.  Well, not exactly.  She came to the bone.  Sniffed it.  Realized it was too big for her and promptly decided to stand guard over it.  None of which the humans were aware of.  We did know, however, that Sam had left the bone in the midst of the walkway from the door at the back deck to the eating area in the kitchen.  Pretty soon, Monty (the cat) came in through the door and nonchalantly made his way toward the eating area.  He was on a mission to his food dish in the laundry room.  He was also unaware of the bone.  As most of us know, rawhide bones are beneath the notice of any self-respecting cat.  Sally had not received that memo.  Everyone in the room was startled by the sudden eruption of snarling, barking and growling that Monty received as he attempted to walk past the (non-existent to him) bone.  No one was more surprised than the cat.  Sally was very pleased with herself and promptly came to me, wagging her tail and smiling, proud of a guard job well done.

Monty spent an hour in the livingroom wondering just what had happened to him.

It was hilarious to watch.  And there was absolutely nothing we could have done to change it.  There was no explaining to any of the animals how they didn’t need to worry about each other.  It’s just been something they have to learn.

I’ve been thinking about that incident quite a bit lately.  It was funny to be sure.  Remembering the look on Monty’s face has elicited a laugh on more than one occasion.  But I’ve also been wondering about it a lot too.  I’ve been thinking about all the times that we humans do the same thing that Sally did.  How many times do we do that?  Do we lash out, snarl, bark and growl to protect something that was never being threatened in the first place?  We think someone walking by our *stuff* is out to get it so we lash out at them, but the reality is they’re on their way to the food bowl in the other room.  Then we’re pretty happy with how well we’ve protected our *stuff* (whatever that stuff might be) so we turn to our communities with our metaphorical tails wagging and we go to them seeking approval.  But for no earthly reason we just sent someone into the livingroom wondering what the h*ll happened and why.

I guess doing that makes us human.

Then I look at Sam and his insatiable desire to be noticed, loved on and sit on my lap.  This would not be a bad thing except for the fact that Sam weighs almost 90 pounds and has a lot of fur.  A lot.  He’s a golden retriever.  They are known for many wonderful qualities … being a lap dog is not one of them.  Poor Sam.  He just cannot reconcile how Sally gets to waltz through the door and onto our laps.  She gets to sit there, cuddle up and sleep.  He has to take his daily 10 hour nap on the floor.  And wonders why he’s been a bad dog.  Or what Sally has done to merit such undeserved favor.

You’d think from Sam’s attitude and behavior this week that no one has noticed him since Sally came to town.  That he never gets fed, loved, petted or anything.  However, just the reverse has been true.  We’ve spent more time with him in an effort to overcome his feelings of inadequacy.  And we’ve played with both dogs together.  Now that is an interesting sight … playing with a 90 pound dog and a 25 pound dog together.  But they get along famously and do well side by side.

How often do we do that?  We humans do this all the time.  We carve out little kingdoms for ourselves … tiny areas of carpet and declare them ours.  Then someone else waltzes in and does it better.  Hops up and gets all the applause.  I remember the first time I recognized it in myself.  I’d learned how to cook and bake when I was quite young and by the time I was a teen made all the desserts in my family.  Then my younger brother came along and learned how to bake bread from scratch.  At first, I was so jealous and annoyed with his ability that I could not even enjoy his bread.  It only took two or three batches and I overcame that tendency.  I mean … who can withstand freshly baked bread!!  And he has the knack for it.  I’ve never been able to quite get it with the yeast.  So … I do a lot of other things well (like cake :-) ), but bread has escaped me.  Big deal.

What about in church?  How many times are there people who have a place they’ve made for themselves and believe it to be “God ordained” … then a Sally waltzes in, hops up on the sofa and they’re left sleeping on the floor.    How can that be?  Their place, their kingdom … it was God ordained, no one else can have it.  Certainly not that Sally-come-lately.  She must have some nefarious purpose.  He must be up to something evil.  Whoever they are, that Sally-come-lately, they are out to get Sam.  They want to knock Sam off his standing in his community.  That’s what they’re up to … make him/her lose their status, standing or favor.

Here’s the thing … Sam was never wired to hop up on the sofa and he doesn’t see that she does sleep on the floor sometimes.  He also doesn’t see that Sally adores him.  Or that the whole family doesn’t care that he can’t get on the sofa (in fact, we prefer that he doesn’t).  We love Sam for being Sam and there are things he can do that Sally cannot (like run and catch a ball).  We love Sally for her traits.  And despite the fact that Monty wakes us up in the middle of the night more consistently than our children ever did, we love him too. I think it has something to do with his really loud purr.  But we never expect Monty to act like Sam, or Sam to act like Monty or Sally to act like any of them.  We respond to each of them individually and love them each individually.

Admittedly, Sam and Sally and Monty are pets and rather simple to parse out.  A church is made up of people; a much more complex behavioral system and far more difficult to work our way through. I think, though, the principles are the same.  Sam and Sally and Monty can be symbolic of both individuals and groups within a larger group.  Some are lap dogs, others are retrievers, and still others are cats.  Some people are oblivious to that bone  and/or area of carpet you’re so zealously guarding.  When you growl, snarl and bark at them, they are going to retreat in horror and wonder what the h*ll happened.  Sometimes it will take them years to nurse their wounds … especially if you add a parfait of deceit, gossip, emotional bullying, and condemnation to their head as they leave.  Some people are wondering why it looks so easy for the Sally-come-lately and others don’t know she was once an abandoned dog with problems of her own.

The thing is the church, however you want to define that sacred space or community of faith, is supposed to be different.  Jesus gave us a beautiful description of what we’re supposed to look like in the book of John.  He said, “… you’ll be known by your love.”  Further on in his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul gave us a description of love that has withstood the test of time:

 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (italics are mine for emphasis)

I think this is a description of God’s economy.  The economy we were created to enjoy.  The one in which there is enough for everyone.  Enough love, enough money, enough time … enough.  That economy where greed, and pride and envy do not rip and tear at us every day.  Unfortunately, the economy we live in is limited and finite, rather than infinite.  We forget that we have access to the infinite, especially to the infinite love that God has made available to us.  And church, that sacred space, that community of faith becomes just like any other group of humans.  Mean.  Nasty.  Brutish.  And short.  To (mis)quote Thomas Hobbes.  We lose our grip on the Divine and hang on to the corporeal plane with our fingernails.

We bark and snarl and snap at people who are oblivious to our rawhide bones or other preciously guarded objects.  We are jealous of others’ talents or abilities as they waltz through the door and seemingly into the spotlight.  We cause wounds on the souls of others that may take a lifetime to heal in response to them just being.  This is not the church that Jesus called us to.  This is not love.  This is humans being human rather than humans in constant contact with the Divine.

As I face 2009 and am now nearly two years away from my CLB, I’ve come to realize a number of things.

I am unforgiven.  When I left my CLB, the most hurtful thing that was said and done was to tell me that I could not be forgiven for obliviously walking past the rawhide bone.  I tried apologizing, but since I didn’t know what I’d done (and, um, walking through the room isn’t wrong in the first place), my apology was not very well done.  And, you guessed it, I walked through the room again, so I was deemed unrepentant as well.

It has taken me nearly two years, the help of some wonderful friends and a really good counselor, but I’m finally at the place where I’m strong enough to say that being unforgiven is not my problem.  My state of condemnation is not my doing and it’s not my undoing.  It is not my responsibility.   Eventually, I will also be free from the guilt and harm that came with it.

Doing these things, participating in these things, having these feelings … those things do not make one evil.  Those are all human qualities.  However, when one wallows in them and fails to allow Jesus to pull them out of that muck; preaching one thing on Sunday morning (for instance, a passage from James about only thinking the best of each other) then using your position as leader in the church during the following week to spread lies, slander and gossip … in the church this is known as evil behavior, in the secular world it is known as bullying behavior.  Using your position as leader to triangulate and create divisions … that is evil.  Using your position to attempt to create division within my 19+ year marriage by telling my husband in meetings, “I know this is going to be hard for you to hear, but you don’t really know her …” bullying, evil behavior.

For nearly two years now I believed there was some grain of truth to the lies and the slander.  They did untold damage to me, to my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my children, they wounded my husband and my children as well.  They wounded my best friends and my relationships with them.  It is doubtful that our family will ever darken the door of a church again.  The wounds have caused my children to turn their backs on their budding faith; they no longer want anything to do with the things of God, nor want Him spoken of in their presence.  The poison is bitter.  But I’ve come to the place where I know that initially I did nothing wrong.  I did not respond well to attack and I am gravely sorry for my part in defending myself.  But walking through the room on my way to the food dish is nothing to be sorry for, nor is being able to jump up on the sofa when others are not.

I have to say that I am glad 2008 is over.  It was not nearly as bad or hopeless as 2007, but it came close.  I’m looking forward to 2009.  I’m looking forward because I’m ready now to turn around and look ahead.  I’m ready now to let this all go; it is finished.  Will I continue to grieve?  You bet.  But I think the worst is over now.  I’m slowly (re)learning what it’s like to be in communitas again.  Really be in community with people who listen.  It’s an amazing experience and a true gift from my Papa who continues to love me.

Comments are closed on this post.  People who have earned the right to speak into my life know how to contact me.

The Cat Is Climbing Out of the Bag
Jan 2nd, 2009 by Sonja

Cat Almost Out Of Bag - MTIf you’ve been reading me during the last couple of weeks, I’ve alluded to something being up.  That I’ve been busy with a big project.  It’s really big.  It’s a tribe.  Missional Tribe.

And the cat is climbing out of the bag.  Bill (Kinnon) has been writing about it.  Rick (Blind Beggar) Meigs has been writing about it.  Peggy (Virtual Abbess) Brown has been writing about it.  The rest of my fellow Instigators (Brother Maynard, Kingdom Grace, and Brad -FuturistGuy- Saargent) have been more demure.

Our beta test period is almost done.  Our virtual space is going live on Epiphany.  January 6.  Be looking for Missional Tribe then.

Missional Tribe is a social networking space with a purpose.  As Rick wrote:

It is a space for “… those involved in any aspect of the missional movement can gather for virtual communitas, will launch. It is a space where story and praxis is given emphasis over the theoretical and conceptual. It is a kinship of diverse people who practice “the way of Jesus,” a way that informs and radically transforms their very being. It is a place where the great conversations around the missional paradigm can be brought together so they are evergreen and accessible.”

So … be looking for more information here early next week.  I’ll be posting more about it then.

They Say It’s Christmas
Dec 24th, 2008 by Sonja

LightGirl HappyIt’s been an odd year, or I should say an odd Advent season.  We haven’t done anything really Advent-y.  I feel cheated somehow.  It’s no one’s fault, but I missed somehow.

We were late with everything.  We didn’t get our tree til the tree people were nearly gone.  We just decorated last night.  I haven’t waited that late in the season to decorate since I was a kid.

We’ve had a lot of fun.  I made a lot of gifts.  Not all of them are finished.  Some still have to get into the mail (LightMom and BostonAunt).

I’ve gotten a couple of early gifts that are wonderful.  One I have to wait til Epiphany to tell you about.  The other came in the mail about a week ago.  It arrived in an inconspicuous box from BostonAunt.  She e-mailed me with a note saying to open it … it was NOT for Christmas.  So I did.  Inside was a treasure.  On top was a packet of my letters to my grandmother spanning about 2 decades that she’d saved.  It was funny to read the old me.

Underneath the packet was an old Bible.  It had belonged to my great uncle.  He died at the age of 98, in 1996, in Woodstock, NB, Canada.  He’d lived most of his life in Maine and served as an itinerant Sunday School teacher.  That was his ministry.  Apparently, he’d also been a Gideon as this is a Gideon Bible from the 1940’s.  In the frontispiece is a note which says “Dad’s last verse Deut. 33:25.”  There are a couple of other notes in his cramped old-style hand.  There are notes here and there throughout.  But the best thing about this Bible are the bookmarks.  They span decades; from the 1930’s through the 1980’s.  There is a ribbon which he wore identifying him as a worker at a Billy Graham crusade in 1953.  There is a ribbon which he got as a singer in a choral society in 1930s.  There are multiple tiny newspaper cutouts; obituary’s, articles, church announcements, etc.  The bookmarks are absolutely fascinating.  Finding and deciphering what he was reading when he marked his spot is engrossing.  The Bible is, of course, King James and is a self-pronouncing version.  That is, there are diacritical marks over all the names.  Even simple names such as Moses and for some reason I find that vastly amusing.  Yet of all the things that could be done to make the Bible approachable, why not?  Why not make it so that those funny names are easy to say and not intimidating?

I think the Gideons were on to something with this version of the Bible.  I’m not a huge fan of the King James, although I’ve been known to read it for fun sometimes.  When I’m reading for context, I’ll go for NIV or the Message or NASB.  But even in those versions, the names can still be sticky, foreign and difficult for those who are not familiar with them.  What a great way to bring the whole thing to people who might not be ready …

Now that has a familiar ring to it.  Bringing a new thing to people who weren’t quite ready for it.  That’s what Christmas is all about after all.

May the incarnational hope, grace and peace that are the tidings of Christmas be yours in the New Year and beyond.  From the LightFamily to yours …

The Choices We Make
Nov 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

This subject has become extremely volatile lately.  It’s been bandied about in classrooms, blogs, pubs, buses … everywhere (in fact) that two or more are gathered.  Just the other day, a good friend of mine and I were catching up on the phone and she exasperatedly said, “Well, I’m voting pro-life, and that’s that.” She quickly moved to another topic, and left me to wonder, “what does that even mean any more?”  I’m not sure I know what “pro-choice” means either, for that matter.  So I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and thinking.

Scot McKnight put up a question about the issue of abortion and pro-life vs. pro-choice at Jesus Creed one day a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t often comment in a thread there and I have not started a conversation based upon one of his since the early days of my blog.  But this one is personal.  I’ve spent a long time thinking this one through, for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is that LightGirl now reads my blog and I wanted to have the chance to talk to her before I posted this.

I’ve seen Obama referred to more than one place as a “pro-abortion zealot” and in other places as simply “pro-abortion.”  I’ve seen other folks say that they cannot possibly vote for a president who is not pro-life, or who will “kill the innocent.”  And I’m genuinely confused by the rhetoric.  You see, I have something in common with candidate that gives me a unique perspective on this subject.  Both of us are the products of a marriage brought about by our mothers’ pregnancies with us.  His parents’ marriage ended in divorce, my parents are still married.

When you know that your mother got married because she was pregnant with you, it challenges any settled conclusion you think you might come to on the issue of abortion.  Every time you get to one place or another, you remember your mom and her particular set of circumstances.  What if …

Among many things, it decidedly does not make one a “pro-abortion zealot.”  I cannot speak for the candidate personally because I do not know him.  I can, however, speak for myself.  I know that I see the issue as incredibly nuanced and far more filled with shades of gray than with the black or white that most true zealots would like us to believe.  In my heart of hearts I have occasionally wondered what might have happened to me, had abortion been legally available to my mother when she discovered her pregnancy in the fall of 1960.  But as she is fond of saying to me, “Stop playing the what if game.” 😉  It was not available, and now I’m here … for better or worse (my words, never my mother’s).

This argument, this issue has become incredibly divisive and words have become bombs that are thrown at one another.  Witness the exchange between the candidates during the last presidential debate.  As Senator Obama reminded us, “no one is pro-abortion.”  Even those who are the most ardent supporters of “pro-choice” secretly hope they never have to take advantage of that choice.  I would hope that we can all at least agree on that.

I’ve lived on both sides in this war.  I marched in one of the largest pro-choice rallies in Washington back in 1989 and carried an ancient “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.  My mother, husband and several cousins walked too.  I’ve been pro-life as a member of an evangelical church for fourteen years … and written letters to politicians, etc.  I’ve supported our local Crisis Pregnancy Center with donations and prayers.  But after all of it … I think they’re all wrong.

I want to begin with a reveal of sorts.  I have had an abortion.

I could tell you it was the lowest point in my life and I’d been raped or something horrible like that.  But it would be a lie.  I was engaged to LightHusband and the baby was due about a month after our scheduled wedding.  The truth is, I had terrible anger issues at the time.  We had no money.  There was no money for child care and no money for me to stop working.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had a baby then I was certain to abuse the child.  I was terrified.  Horrified.  Guilty if I did and guilty if I didn’t.

That all sounds weak and thready now.  But at the time, we (LightHusband and I) were in a deep hole with no way out, no one to talk to and nowhere to go.  As ridiculous as it sounds, out of wedlock pregnancy is still a stigma in our culture.  It is a gross and abject failure of huge proportions for women on so many levels that one cannot bear to acknowledge it.

Many of my friends (regardless of their faith) have had abortions.  Others have given up babies for adoption.  Some have had the horrible fate to have done both (some as the result of unmarried sex, others as the result of rape or incest).  All have gone on to raise families.

My oldest cousin is a woman now in her sixties.  When she was in her thirties, she was a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in her town.  She had two daughters about my age (early teens at the time) and found herself pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy.   It was the source of many uproarious jokes in my family and still is.  However, she went on to have that baby, who is now a wonderful woman in her own right.

My point in all of this is that when we engage in the abortion debate, we forget that it’s not about theology, or exegesis or theory … it’s about individual women and men, as well as the babies that everyone wants to hang their hat on.  Individual women (and men) who, in a very dark hour, are making a Hobbes choice.  There is rarely a good outcome; only frightening and intolerable.  Abortion and adoption have long running ramifications that leave scars.  Getting married and raising the baby at a young age is a risky choice that only rarely works out well (my parents are a rare exception to that rule).  And we all know how well unwed motherhood works.  We can wave the Bible around all we want, but until we’re ready to show individual women that they indeed have another way out, it’s all just so much hot air.  Or as Paul might have said, a clanging gong.

I’ve changed as the years have gone by.  There is too much at stake to use a hatchet, when a scalpel is called for.  Or perhaps analogies of cutting implements are insensitive in this instance.  Perhaps when all is said and done, we should not be putting our hope in the law.  I’ve often thought (as have others much smarter than I) that the law cannot change hearts.  Sure, say those of a more conservative bent, but it draws boundaries around behavior.  Yep, I agree.  However, I began think about about a deeper law and a deeper magic.  I began to think about it in terms like this:  Jesus said things like “I have come to fulfill the Law.”  and “Perfect love drives out fear.”

Before He came, the Jewish law was convoluted and nearly impossible to fill perfectly.  Our way to the Father was blocked at almost every turn by jots and tittles.  So He sent His Son to fill them all.  To make the way straight and give us a way in.  His perfect love would straighten things out and we would not have to be afraid anymore of not knowing.  And this morning ASBO Jesus posted this which perfectly demonstrates, for me, this issue:

Sand/Rock - ASBO Jesus

The whole issue is complex, complicated and far too delicate to be left to lawyers and politicians. Nor is it something that can be abolished with laws. Unplanned pregnancies within and without marriage are part of the imperfectness of this world that we live in. We cannot make them stop happening by virtue of changing laws, but our response to them can change through one avenue … love. We can only respond to each of them within the context of an individual relationship. Going after them with the hatchet of the law can only breed contempt, fear and anger. For the life of me, I can’t find those in the Gospel of Jesus. So … mark me, pro-human and pro-relationship. I’ll leave the debate to the zealots.

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