Giving It Up For Lent
Feb 13th, 2013 by Sonja

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.

Three Things I Wish People Would Stop Harping On
Dec 18th, 2012 by Sonja

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.

For you cannot serve two masters …
Oct 9th, 2012 by Sonja

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

International Women’s Day
Mar 20th, 2012 by Sonja

OxFam International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is every March 8.  It falls within the month of March, a month designated as Women’s History Month.  It’s a day celebrating women and their contributions to our world … and yet.  And yet, I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  I am not comfortable with this feeling and I am angry about its sources.

I am angry because I have a daughter who sits at the edge of adulthood and everything that I know about how to keep her healthy and living up to her potential as a human being is under assault here in my own country.

It is well known world wide, that the primary stumbling block to women’s voices coming to the table is lack of adequate family planning.  The inability to have even modest control over the number of children/pregnancies is an insurmountable hurdle to education, to all but the most menial jobs, and access to government.

How on earth should I celebrate when here in my own country access to family planning and women’s health care are under assault from nearly every corner.  Poor women with 3, 4 and 5 children in Texas are finding their options driven further and further afield (as of this writing, funding has been cut for 90% of Texas’ women’s health care programming)  These women often do not have the ability to drive from one city to another in search of preventative medicine that is affordable.  Because of federal cut backs their oral contraceptives are being priced out of their reach.  These are married women, struggling to feed, clothe and house the children they already have.  The jobs they and their spouses have are inadequate to pay for them to have a car, or reliable transportation between cities.  This is under the guise of refusing to subsidize abortions.

Federal money does not now and it never has subsidized abortion.  There is no insurance policy which covers it.

This fact while true, does not in fact, make providing an abortion illegal.  Nor does it give any governmental agency the right to put women’s health or their health care decisions at risk.  While the number of abortions that Planned Parenthood “provides” in any given year is high, it still only accounts for a little more than a quarter of all abortions performed nation wide (~27% of the approximately 1.2 million abortions were performed by PP in 2007).  It’s not an insignificant statistic, but it does show that (if you’re opposed to allowing women to make their own decisions) PP is not “the root of all evil.”  What it does show is that even in the absence of PP, women are going to avail themselves of a legal, medical procedure.

Every reliable study ever done shows a strong correlation between access to health care & education and women being able to care for themselves (and their families) in an economically viable fashion.  Removing access to health care for poor women is one more brick in the wall enclosing them in their poverty.  Doing it under the guise of loving children is hypocrisy.  The best way to love children is to stop demonizing their mothers, and give them healthy mothers who can provide for them.

This post is part of the March Syncroblog – All About Eve.  Check out some of the other fabulous writing at the links below:

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The WomenChristine Sine – It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

Sticks and Stones …
Jan 10th, 2011 by Sonja

Remember that childhood nursery rhyme?  We used it to ward off name-calling and taunts; as an umbrella of protection when words rained down pain upon our little heads:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

Then we all grew up and we learned how much power there is in words.  We learned that words, when they are repeated over and over again, can become a person’s reality and perception.  We understand now that name-calling and taunts create a poisonous environment for children and workers.  We even have a name for this … we call it bullying and it has garnered a negative reputation nationwide.  Behaviour that makes some people uncomfortable by putting them down, threatening them with harm, making pejorative statements about their ethnicity, gender or any other physical characteristic OR their belief system is generally considered off limits.  This is considered negative behaviour and in many cases is shunned or disallowed.  Why?  Because “nice” people don’t do that, sweetie.  People who are educated, with manners; people who want to be known by their self-control (as ladies or as gentlemen) don’t do those kinds of things to others.

Yet there is one large crevice where we still allow this sort of bad behaviour.  Nay … there are some portions of our culture who even encourage it.  That would be our political culture.  Our political culture (and one party in particular) takes pleasure in name calling, insults based on race, gender and physical characteristics and creating a poisonous environment for others.

What happened in Tucson was tragic.  But it was only a matter of time.  And frankly, I am surprised it did not happen sooner than this.  I expected this sort of thing to happen on the campaign trail last October.  Yes, that young man is mentally deranged and that is very sad.  But mentally deranged people listen to rhetoric just like the rest of us.  The only difference is … many people with these mental health issues cannot separate rhetoric from reality.

That is why putting out websites with crosshairs on Democrats and encouraging your followers to carry weapons to rallies (even though they may -or may not- be unloaded) is dangerous.  While people have every right to do those things, those are not necessarily the most responsible or the most gracious things to do. Encouraging your followers to stop and accost motorists with bumper stickers of your opposition on their car with antagonistic, insulting, and pejorative questions is not responsible leadership.  It makes for great drama and excellent ratings, but it creates an atmosphere of poison and hate.  This is the sort of atmosphere which will bring the mentally challenged people out with their guns (in this case a Glock 9mm … because I’m certain that’s an excellent hunting weapon) to hunt people.

And in this poisonous atmosphere that we have created, please don’t anyone act surprised.  Because now we have lowered ourselves to the level of many developing nations where they shoot politicians when they don’t like them.

These words were spoken by Clinton in 2010 as he reflected on the Oklahoma City bombing:
“The words we use really do matter. There’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike.”
h/t Liz Dyer

You Are What You Eat
Jul 12th, 2010 by Sonja

The other day I wrote about a Barna survey that will be coming out with full documentation in about a year.  The posted statistics are quite provocative as I (and several other women) noted.  The data have raised a lot of criticism and left many women scratching their heads, thinking, “That’s not my experience, so how can those numbers be so high?”  It will be interesting to see the full report when Jim Henderson publishes his book next year.

FTR, I am still aghast that a man, without any co-authorship from a woman, is writing this book.  Upon reading Pam Hogeweide’s testimony about her involvement with it, I am further dismayed.  I don’t know Jim Henderson at all so I cannot comment on this.  I will speak my own mind and say that to me it feels as though he is stealing our voices for himself.  He has said that he is writing this because no woman has stepped forward to write it.  That may be.  It may also be that the time is not right for a woman to write it and therefore as a man he is taking away our right to speak for ourselves in our way, in our own time and with our own unique voice.  Que sera, sera …

I stopped writing about this issue for some time.  In fact, I stopped writing at all for a long time because I was and am undone by a lot of this.  I am struggling to find my place in the world; struggling to understand my faith without the trappings of church.  I don’t always know what is real and what is a reflection in a funhouse mirror.  But then I saw this data and began to remember …

I remembered a time when I might also have answered all those questions affirmatively.  Or in such a way that I might be part of the large percentage of women who were following the tail in front of them.  I grew up in an egalitarian home; a home in which my mother finally decided that she would NOT learn how to use a chainsaw because then she would have to use it more frequently than she wanted to because the boundaries between women’s work and men’s work were blurred (except dishes and laundry).  Everyone did everything.  I took shop classes in highschool.  My brothers took Home-Ec and I was jealous that my brother can still bake a better loaf of bread than I can.

Then LightHusband and I joined an EFree Church.  As a new believer I remember that I wanted to be like the other women in my church.  I think I wanted it mostly because that was the way to fit in and be part of the group.  But it was also the key … the key to being “Godly.”  In an evangelical or Bible-believing church, this is the defining characteristic of any adult … are they Godly?  I have no idea what that means.  What I can tell you is that people stand around looking very serious and hand out that superlative like it’s a crown.  It is placed on the head of this person or that person … it was never put on my head, I’ll tell you that up front.  Usually the character qualities that seem to be in common with a “Godly” person are those found in the fruits of the Spirit verses in Galatians:  self-control, patience, peace, etc.  They also have to be really good with their money (aka … rich).  Women should be submissive to their husbands.  Men should be the head of the family and make all the decisions.

I struggled to fit my round-peg into this square hole for 14 years.  I now battle an most likely lifelong case of depression because I so depleted myself from this.  I cannot even begin to catalogue the fallout from all of this in my life.  I’ve been gone for 7 years now.  I’m finally beginning to get my life and my mind back.  I have held on to my faith by the barest edge; the evidence of grace and love.

I did some poking around because of a throw-away comment in my earlier post.  I said that the Church is like an anorexic who looks in the mirror and sees someone who is fat and needs to lose weight, but the reality is she is wasting away and starving herself.  I thought about that some more and did a little research into eating disorders.  I found a little known cousin to anorexia called, orthorexia.  Orthorexia is like anorexia because people (mostly women) who become trapped in its snare waste away and starve.  However, the motivation for orthorexics is different.  It is an eating disorder characterized by a focus on eating healthy or natural foods.  The person who has become orthorexic feels better and better as they are able to purify their diet.  As it becomes an obsession, the person begins to focus more and more time and attention on what they eat.  I first discovered this through an on-line journal of a young woman who ultimately died as a result of her obsession with natural/healthy food.  As I discovered more about this, I found this helpful Ten Signs Of Orthorexia:

Dr. Bratman suggests that you may be orthorexic, or on your way there, if you:

  • Spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.
  • Plan your day’s menu more than 24 hour ahead of time.
  • Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it.
  • Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your food increases.
  • Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.
  • Base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
  • Eat “correct” foods to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
  • So limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
  • Feel guilt or self-loathing when you eat “incorrect” foods.
  • Derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”

Bratman suggests that if more than four of these descriptions applies to you, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your attitude toward what you eat. If they all apply, you’re in the grip of an obsession.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve included this here.  As I was reading about orthorexics and their quest for a pure diet, the parallels between seeking a pure and undefiled diet and seeking after a pure and undefiled faith became very clear to me.  They may not be to you.  But I began to look at the Church in terms of this obsession with pure food.  I think we all exist on a spectrum here.  Some believers have no issue with pure/right faith, others are obsessed with it to the point of starving themselves of any other sort of food than that which they deem pure.  Think about those 10 markers in terms of the faith of believers you know or about yourself –

  • Spend more than three hours a day thinking about a healthy faith
  • Plan your day’s faith practices more than 24 hour ahead of time.
  • Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your faith than from actively participating in it.
  • Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your faith increases.
  • Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your faith practices (and those of others).
  • Base your self-esteem on your knowledge of Scripture, your pure faith, etc., and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
  • Expose yourself to “correct” media to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
  • So limit what you can be exposed to that you can practice your faith “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
  • Feel guilt or self-loathing when you expose yourself to ideas, images, etc that are “incorrect” according to the tenets of your faith.
  • Derive a sense of self-control from practicing your faith “properly.”

So what does this have to do with women in church and/or church leadership? I’m not sure yet. But I do know that in many churches today there is an unhealthy focus on being “Godly,” on having correct doctrine, and on having a pure faith. For many of those churches, this includes attitudes about women and men that are not reflective of a healthy body. Some of these attitudes run to the extreme (such as a growing trend known as Christian Domestic Discipline, or another growing trend known sometimes as Quiverfull others as “radical family planning”).  Some of them are more middle of the road and merely separate men and women into different classes during Sunday School, women are not allowed to teach men either from the pulpit or in a class, etc.

No one can fault these churches or these believers because they really truly are seeking after God and seeking to find Him in the purest way they know how.  They get a lot of satisfaction from being a “Bible-believing” church, or having that crown of “Godliness” bestowed upon them.  And truth be told, we all get that sense of satisfaction when we’re told that we’re doing something good and pure and right.  It makes us want to be part of it and work harder for that cause … whatever that cause may be … so that we’ll get some more of that praise and that sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done.  When we’re part of a group, that’s what happens in our socially-inclined brains.

But what do you do if your group is killing you?  I mean that both literally (sometimes women die from trying to have their babies unassisted at home in the so-called “Quiverfull” movement) and figuratively.  What if seeking after a pure faith (even walking in the middle of that road) isn’t an obsession, but just a concern … and the “food” you’ve decided is healthy, really isn’t?  How would anyone know?  How do you know when you’re being slowly inexhorably being poisoned and it’s gone on all your life?

Shiny Happy …. Women
Jul 7th, 2010 by Sonja

The first rumble of something in the wind came late yesterday.  I was tired.  Grumpy even.  The day had been empty and I was supposed to be able to sew all day after a busy weekend.  But I ended up driving all day.  So I sat on the sofa and was mad.  It had been good for everyone else.  Just not me.  There seems to be a theme in that lately and I am slowly but steadily ending up without so much wick to my candle.  So I checked into my googlereader and found that kathy escobar had posted a rather interestingly titled post, “drinking the company koolaid.” Now since she usually writes about more Jesus-y things and her church-y gathering, I wondered what could be up with that!  And read it.

It was a most uncharacteristic rant from her about the state of women in the church.  Not that she thinks that women in the church over all have it made and we should stop going on about it.  Far from that.  It’s just that usually she has other things on her mind.  And she is very good about choosing her battles (windmills) very wisely.  She is no Don Quixote (unlike yours truly).  She referenced a post by Pam Hogeweide (Happy Christian Women … really??) … which is a must read.  But more importantly, she linked to some data that is being published by Jim Henderson, of Off The Map.  It’s a recent Barna Group survey of 603 Christian (self-described) women and what they thought of women and leadership in the church.

What he has published so far seems to be fairly provocative –

1. 84% say that their church’s perspective on women in ministry is almost identical, very similar, or somewhat similar to their own.

2. 83% say that their Senior Pastor is somewhat, highly or completely supportive of women leading in their church

3. 82% say they can tell by their church’s actions that the church values the leadership of women

4. 81% say that their church provides women with the same degree of leadership opportunities as Jesus would.

5. 72% say they possess a lot of spiritual freedom in their life

6. 70% say that the media has little influence on their decision-making

7. 71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life

8. 62% say that ALL leadership roles are open to them in their church.

9. Only 1% say they often struggle with jealousy

10. Among those who feel they are capable of doing more to serve God, and should be doing more, only 4% say that their fear of failure is holding them back from doing more to serve God.

I commented at Jim’s blog (where he published this data).  I’m wondering how this survey was taken.  If it was taken on paper (either virtual or literal) or by phone that would give different results … especially when dealing with a group of women.   I think that this is incredibly revealing of how the church has become a system of brain-washing rather than God’s Kingdom revealed tiny piece by tiny piece. Because the Kingdom of Heaven is not about men or women or leadership.  Or who will be first.  It’s about who will be last.  It’s about finding the lost sheep, the lost penny; giving away your wrap when someone needs a shirt; enabling someone to care for others when at first they can barely care for themselves; it’s about spreading the Love Divine around, not keeping it for yourself.

It made me angry to read these statistics.  It made me angry, not just for the women … but for all the people involved in those churches.  They are losing out.  This is not the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, or as he walked with his disciples or at any time.  Would even Peter, or John the beloved disciple be able to answer these questions so affirmatively?  How about Mary Magdalene?  Good grief, if even the disciples struggled with jealousy why on earth can only 6 women out 603 acknowledge it?  Perhaps it was the word, often, that threw them off.  Maybe they decided that they could deny that jealousy was something that strolled in and regularly did battle in their hearts.  I know I will stand up and say that I am jealous all the time.  It doesn’t make me mean anymore, but acknowledging it to myself and being able to laugh at it has made it easier.

Then this report made me sad.  The kind of sad that aches in my bones.  Because when I look at it I see poverty.  The church in North America (like the US) may have a lot of money.  It may have a lot of stuff.  We may also have a lot of people for all I know.  But we are starving to death.  Emaciated and dying for lack of food, water and oxygen.  Worse, we are doing it to ourselves.  With a huge smile on our faces.  We are a people with anorexia or bulemia.  When we look in the mirror we see fat and happy, but the reality is we are starving.  Dying.

In the end, we can know a lot of stuff about the Bible.  We can even know a lot of stuff about God and Jesus.  But if we do not have love … love enough to be honest with ourselves and our neighbors and our communities, then we are nothing but a clanging gong.

I’m Sick of War
Oct 25th, 2009 by Sonja

And mostly I’m sick of guns!!

I have a 12 yo son.  Lately (as in for the past year) it seems as though the only game he and his friends can play is war of some form or another.  They play it on video games.  They play it with nerf guns.  They play it with air soft guns.  He plays it in his head all by himself.  He and his dad watch WWII movies or Vietnam movies.  They talk battle tactics.

I’m sick of living in a culture that is permeated with war and news of war.  Of living in a society where bomb blasts and mourning top the daily headlines.  And soldiering (killing) is glorified.

Literally … it’s making me sick.

I understand why it’s happening … I’m just sick of it.

UPDATE – I had to put my beloved dog of 8 years to sleep very unexpectedly this afternoon.  The comment thread is now closed.

On Anger and Gender
Oct 17th, 2009 by Sonja

I’m sitting in the rink on an early, early Saturday morning once again, having driven here with a quiet but not sullen pre-teen next to me.  He was eating a bagel.  The pouring rain and inky, black pre-dawn required most of my concentration, but in the quiet times I’ve had recently I’ve been thinking about anger.  More specifically, how we treat anger and gender.  I had a couple of instances recently that brought it to my attention, one is personal and the other happened to a friend.

First, the friend:  Makeesha writes about her anger here – “I have never felt this much anger – ever – and I don’t know what to do with it. I know anger is a secondary emotion and I can identify the primary emotions but I still feel angry and I still don’t know how to stop feeling angry.”  Go read her whole post so you know what’s driving her anger … I’ve only copied the part that’s pertinent to what I’m writing about here.

I had a recent incident with LightGirl’s hockey team in which I had an inappropriate outburst at her new (male) teammates for treating her poorly.  She has a couple of guys on the team who are making life miserable for a lot of kids, but they are using her gender to make life miserable for her and that is steaming me up.  I lost my temper after a recent practice and … well … let’s just leave the details out of it, but the boys in question just laughed.  And, to be fair, I bet I was pretty funny looking.  We talked it through with her coach and it’s being worked out.  But that’s not the point of all this.

I began to specifically think about women and anger.  I don’t think women are supposed to be angry in our culture.  We’re considered either funny or unacceptable in some way when we get angry.  When men get angry, they are frightening and taken seriously. Women are … something else.

The other thing that I’ve been tossing around both in my mind and in conversation (with LightGirl) is the idea that we should “stop feeling” anger (as Mak puts it).  That anger is an emotion to get rid of.  What if it’s an emotion that is to signal that something is wrong (which it is) and it is to give us energy to change that wrong or walk through the wrong (if we can’t change it)?  I wonder a lot about our culture’s desire to ameliorate negative emotions so that we don’t feel sadness or anger or pain for too long.

Which brings me to a quote I heard on a new drama on NBC called “Mercy.”  The main character is being convinced against her will to get marital and PTSD counseling by some friends.  They are giving her all the standard advice about why she should talk about her feelings and her response?  “I like my feelings all pushed down and compressed.  That way they pop out at random and inappropriate moments.”   This is not the way we should live, but it’s the way most of us do live despite all that we know about how to be emotionally healthy individuals or communities.  No one likes to see a sad face or someone with angry eyebrows, so we put on masks for the outside world.  Women in particular are very good at this … and we’re expected to be.  We’re expected to smooth the waters for the family, for any given mixed gender group we are a part of, and when we do not the labels that are attached to us are not complimentary.  To say the least.

So I have not come to any conclusions; I still have questions and wonderings about what role anger should play in our lives.  Should we embrace it?  Sit with it longer and see what it will tell us about ourselves and what we need to do?  Without allowing it to control us (that is).  Do you see things differently than I?  Are women treated the same as men in anger?  Or are they treated differently?  What are your thoughts about all of this?  I’d love to hear them …

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