Good Friday
Mar 21st, 2008 by Sonja


Good Friday, 1613.

Riding Westward

John Donne (1572-1631)

1Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,
2 The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
3 And as the other Spheares, by being growne
4 Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,
5 And being by others hurried every day,
6 Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
7 Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit
8 For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
9 Hence is’t, that I am carryed towards the West
10 This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
11 There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
12 And by that setting endlesse day beget;
13 But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
14 Sinne had eternally benighted all.
15 Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
16 That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
17 Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
18 What a death were it then to see God dye?
19 It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
20 It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
21 Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
22 And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?
23 Could I behold that endlesse height which is
24 Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
25 Humbled below us? or that blood which is
26 The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
27 Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
28 By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?
29 If on these things I durst not looke, durst
30 Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,
31 Who was Gods partner here, and furnish’d thus
32 Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom’d us?
33 Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
34 They’are present yet unto my memory,
35 For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards mee,
36 O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
37 I turne my backe to thee, but to receive
38 Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
39 O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,
40Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,
41 Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
42 That thou may’st know mee, and I’ll turne my face.

Kingdom of Heaven
Mar 9th, 2008 by Sonja

LightHusband loves gadgets. He especially loves electronic gadgets.

I may have mentioned that I lost the battle over the large screen television. Did I mention that? He got a lovely bonus this year. I lost the battle. When we got the television, we got a new gadget to go with it. It’s called Apple TV.

Apple TVApple TV is a network device designed to play digital content originating from the iTunes Store or another computer onto an enhanced-definition or high-definition widescreen television. Apple TV can store content on an internal hard drive or stream it across a network from another computer running iTunes on either Mac OS X or Windows.

LightHusband thinks this is the coolest thing since sliced bread. I am much more understated.

However, last night we were able to go to iTunes on our television screen. Did you see that?? On our television screen … which is as hugelynormous as a small wall. So, we’re at iTunes. We look for movies. We find movies. We search them for a few minutes and find one that looks interesting. We rent it. For $3.99. It downloads. In less than TWO minutes we are watching the movie. No driving. No boxes to lose. No movie to return (or not … ). No fines to pay … and trust me – we ALWAYS pay fines, because we are 12 and not that organized. We/I can watch that movie as many times as we/I want in 24 hours. For three dollars and ninety-nine cents. Amazing.

So, we rented Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Eva Green, and Jeremy Irons. It came out in 2005. It was an excellent movie … but beware. It is not for the faint of heart or queazy of stomach. It is a movie which does not hide the violence or filth of the times from the viewer. I wondered if Orlando Bloom washed his hands at any point during the making of this movie as I watched.

It was thoroughly enjoyable. However, without some knowledge of history and/or the religions involved I’d imagine a viewer would be thoroughly bored. But I loved the fact that for the first in history there was a movie made about the Crusades in which the thoroughly evil people were not the Saracens but the Knights Templar. Those radical fundamentalists who could not live except when they were killing innocents of another race. Hate and fear had twisted their faces.

If you love history, the history of Christianity and/or Islam this is well worth a watch. It is historical fiction and the writers have played with some of the history. However the main characters are all real people who were in and around Jerusalem. Who played a part in the fragile peace of Jerusalem in between the 2nd and 3rd Crusades. Who’s to say they didn’t believe they were bringing about a kingdom of heaven?

All The Things I Want You To Know
Jan 31st, 2008 by Sonja

Or at least some of them.

Did you know that camels don’t really store water in their humps? It’s really fat. They store water in their bloodstream and can drink up to 50 gallons of water at once. They can go as many as 7 days between stops at a water hole. Here’s the real kicker: “The famous line … “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” is possibly a mistranslation, where the original Aramaic word gamta ‘sturdy rope,’ was confused with gamla, ‘camel.'” (from p. 93 of The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson) … now that makes more sense. As a quilter I know that putting a sturdy rope through the eye of needle is just about as impossible as a camel, but at least the analogy makes more sense. Or maybe Jesus was just being sarcastic.

I had my hair done today. It was long past due and I didn’t realize it was making me sort of insane. I love it again … it’s all stripey. My hairdresser called it tiramisu. I love my hairdresser. She’s fabulous. She’s also from Ghana. We get along like long lost best friends. We chatter away when I’m there. No one else talks. We talk about big things and little things. She regales me with tales of growing up the youngest of 19 children in Ghana. I love the stories. I tell her about growing up the oldest of 3 in Vermont. She loves those stories. Today we traded tales of uncomfortable clothing … I hated itchy wool and had to wear it all the time. She had over-protective older brothers who pegged rotten fruit at unwanted suitors. The suitors were unwanted by the brothers not by her.

We talked about the unrest (to put it mildly) in Kenya for a while. She called it a fire that will not go out for a long time to come. I think she said, “It’s been lit now and it will not go out.” She’s worried about her home country and whether or not this will spill over the borders to harm her people. She was mostly concerned about the influx of refugees. I asked why she wasn’t concerned about the government. Her response? All the politicians are supported by women. Apparently, in Ghana the money is held by women. I have to track that idea down. Next time I see her I also have to take her some tiramisu … she didn’t know it was a real dessert.

I found a way to give so it will help real Kenyans who are in need. This assistance will to go help feed, clothe and assist refugees directly displaced by the current unrest/coup d’etat. I’ve participated. If you feel called to participate, please also help. This will go directly to help out women and children and men who have lost everything to the politics of power:

Displaced KenyanIf you would like to help financially you can by sending a check payable to Soul Sanctuary and mail it to:
Soul Sanctuary
187 Henlow Bay
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3Y 1G4
****Mark on the check KENYA
Or you can use PayPal off our website

If you use PayPal, please email me ( ) with the amount so that our accountant will add the gift to “aid in Kenya.” ALL DONATIONS OVER $5 will be issued a tax reciept.

(ht: Bill Kinnon)

From the post at SoulPastor:

Again, thank you so much for your prayers. This country needs God’s help. As do we. Thank you!

Today ******* was quiet. We heard very few shots fired. There was one incident at night, but that was when the power suddenly went off at the police station and the refugees there thought the Kikuyu were coming to get them and everyone started screaming. The police shot into the air at that point but all then went quiet when they got the generator running.
The first time ******** ventured into town we were struck by the bizarre situation. The town appeared to be mostly back to normal. People were in the streets, the taxis were running again, the market was open, many shops were doing brisk business as people came into town to refresh their dwindling stock of supplies. Along the streets were some shops which had been broken open and all the personal effects burned outside: tables, chairs, even bicycles and refrigerator coolers. (They even burnt one …. woman’s expensive Toyota Landcruiser!) How would the displaced people feel – those whose lives have been threatened, who have lost everything, may even have had loved ones hacked to death – if they would see the other tribe members just getting on with their lives as though nothing had happened?

In one of the poorer areas of town we came across an unusual sight. Amongst the narrow trails between the houses there were many piles of burnt personal effects outside poor people’s houses. The paths had been cleared of the boulders but these were still strewn along the road side as though in preparation for the next wave of violence. But as we drove behind one house we saw on one pile of ash all kinds of furniture and other personal effects. You couldn’t help wondering why the things had not been burned. Did the youths run out of petrol? Or had they expended their hatred? Or did they maybe break into the wrong house?
We didn’t see the smoke clouds billowing up from the town neighbourhoods like yesterday. Only one huge plume of smoke was evident. But even that makes you wonder if something is about to blow up again. Everybody is very much on edge so the smallest thing is enough to make you wonder if the violence is about to start up all over again.

On another note … is it just me, or is anyone else sick and tired of Viola and Barna’s Pagan Christianity yet? It’s not even out and it’s been reviewed and discussed more than the proverbial dead horse. From what I can tell (no, I have not read it and with all the hoopla, I’m not likely to either), they’re not saying anything new here folks, so what’s the big deal? It’s just me, but I tend to run fast and far from books that get so popular.

Some things appear innocuous, even beautiful. But they are dangerous and deadly. We need to avoid those activities when made aware of them.

There’s a fairly amazing discussion going on over at Grace’s. It’s been happening for well over a week. It began in a fairly raucous manner, but the keel has been righted and redemption has reared it’s beautiful head. It’ll take some doing to wade through all of the comments. It all started when Grace pointed out a blog with some stringent commenting guidelines. You need to read her post and some of the following comments, then read this amazingly gracious and humble comment from the blogger she originally pointed to and read the continuing conversation from there.


Last, there’s a discussion going on in various places that I’m aware of in the blogosphere concerning standards for modesty. I had some things to say on the issue but they were edited out of recognition in one place because of the mores of the blogger. I won’t comment on that except to say that it’s a shame because that editing controlled the direction of the conversation. Here’s my take on modesty … unedited except by me … Standards of modesty are almost purely cultural. There have been times when a woman’s ankles were considered provocative. Other times when it was her forearms. During the Napoleonic era and AnteBellum era the breast was not nearly as sexually charged as it is now, so it was considered quite fashionable (and not a sexual statement) to wear very lowcut dresses, while the legs were completely covered up. This is why it was so provocative for dance hall girls to kick their legs and reveal them for brief moments of time. See? What is perceived as provocative and/or modest changes according to custom and culture across time. My point is that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we each are responsible to Her in how we present that temple to the world. We are not sex objects. We are not evangelism toys. We are temples. We are children of God. We are creations beautifully and wonderfully made. And I’m well and thoroughly fed up with being told I must dress to please anyone but Him. In the words of Beatrix Potter, “Please sir (or madam), I am no longer in the habit of being lectured to and thankfully I no longer require your approval or anyone else’s.” (ht Bobbie)

To Guide and Direct
Jan 31st, 2008 by Sonja

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter’s hockey team played a double header on a Saturday afternoon. We had just enough time between games to take the team out to lunch at a local grill. We played a fairly local team from just south of here which we are well matched against. Everyone anticipated some good hockey, hard play and tough skating. There were all of those, and then there were hard knocks, rough language and downright bullying on the ice from the other team. We weren’t anticipating the latter. It spun our girls off balance for a good portion of the first game. Tempers flared, emotions spun and flew and a stick even waved once or twice.

The other team was significantly larger in stature than our team. This is not usually a problem. But it soon became clear that they had a significantly different standard of play than we do. Something was not adding up. Girls who usually skate well and keep their feet were on the ice often. Our team captain took a particularly hard check and was told to, “Stay down, b*tch!” as she lay prone on the ice.

Stay Down B*tch

We lost that first game, 2-1. We took the break, had lunch and refocused the girls on their task … play excellent hockey. CoachWonderWoman gave them excellent advice, “Pretend that the other team is speaking a foreign language and you can’t understand what they’re saying. The power of an insult is carried in it’s result … if you don’t respond, there is no power in the insult.” The team pulled it together after that in an amazing way. The insults had no power over them. The hard knocks continued, but tempers stayed in check. They maintained and they won the second game by one point.

It was a hard, hard day. It was difficult to watch as a parent. There were some brutal hits taken and our goalie was out for the following week with deep muscle bruising from the slashing she took. Hockey can be a rough game and I knew that when LightGirl signed up for it. But it can also be played with finesse, skill and especially good sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship was not in particular evidence that Saturday afternoon.

The girls have moved on since then, the parents have been processing. There has been discussion about whether or not to file an official protest concerning some aspects of the games. I’ve been doing some of that writing. Concensus has gathered around the idea that much of the responsibility for the atmosphere at both games lies with the officiating and with the coaching for the other team. We’ve been considering whether or not to officially complain about the lack of proper officiating at the games and in particular the first game. If proper sanctions been levied against the other team for some of their behavior, some of the injuries to our team might not have happened. Certainly, the excellence of play would have been more evident.

As I’ve been writing and preparing the formal complaint, I’ve also been reading the official rules of hockey. This has been a new education for me, which has been interesting in and of itself. But I was very interested to read the preamble to the rules:

The goal of USA Hockey is to promote a safe and positive playing environment for all participants while continuing to focus on skill development and enjoyment of the sport. All officials, coaches, players, parents, spectators and volunteers are encouraged to observe these “Points of Emphasis” when participating in the sport of ice hockey.

Fair Play and Respect
Fair play and respect are the backbone of any successful amateur sports program. In order for a positive environment to be created, it is imperative that all participants and spectators have respect for all players, coaches, officials administrators, spectators and the sport of hockey. Hockey is a game demanding high levels of concentration and skill.
Intimidation or “bullying” has no place in ice hockey. Any act that includes taunting or teasing of players, coaches, officials, or spectators by means of verbal ridicule, obscene gesture, threat of physical violence, or physical violence itself will not be tolerated at USA Hockey events.
Players are encouraged to develop a deep sense of respect for all (opponents and officials) while endeavoring to enjoy the sport and improve their playing ability. Each player is encouraged to use proper skill and technique when engaging in any type of body contact.
Coaches are responsible for instructing their players to play the sport in a safe and sportsmanlike manner. To that end, coaches are directed to teach only those skills necessary to allow for proper and legal body contact.
Officials should be diligent and confident when officiating the sport. Each official should enforce the playing rules fairly and respectfully.
Spectators are encouraged to support their teams while showing respect for all players, coaches, officials and other spectators.

The whole point of officials and coaches is to make the game safe, enjoyable and a learning experience for everyone. This ain’t pond hockey. It’s about winning, but more than that, it really is about how you play the game. The officials and coaches are there to ensure that a healthy, safe and positive environment is maintained for all players … not just the winning players.

I’ve been thinking about that lately for many reasons. But it came up especially yesterday as I stumbled into a brand new world. I was looking for a word that I couldn’t locate in my organic random access memory, so I Googled around to find it anyway. I found the word, and along the way I found this article – Grief Without God, by Carol A. Fiore. Ms. Fiore is a widow and an atheist. Her husband was a test pilot who died in a flight accident eight years ago. The article recounts the 36 days he spent in the hospital before he died and her experiences with people of faith during that time. To be blunt, they were not positive:

Before I arrived at the hospital just hours after the accident, Eric had been given the last rites by a Catholic priest. On whose authority? During the entire time I lived at the hospital I heard the following comments over and over: “God has a plan”, “God never gives us more than we can handle”, “Put your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” One respiratory therapist even told me that unless I prayed for Eric, he would die. She’d seen it happen before, she repeated. When the family doesn’t pray, the patient dies. Almost without exception, every single person who visited, called, or sent cards said the same thing “I’m praying for your husband.”

After Eric died I heard the same statements but with a new even more infuriating one thrown in: “He’s in a better place.” What place? He was dead! I can assure everyone that Eric loved life, his family, his job. There was no better place for him than right here. And what of God’s plan? Did these people really believe that their God was watching Eric, out of all the beings in the universe? If so, why didn’t he answer the prayers of more than half the city of Wichita? If there is a God and he has a plan, maybe this is what he was thinking:
Gee, I think I’ll cause a really great guy to crash on takeoff. He’s a test pilot who tries to make the skies safe for everyone, but just for fun I’ll cause the jet to stall, plow into the runway, and catch fire. Then, just to torture the wife, I’ll make her watch the test pilot suffer horrible injuries and burns for 36 days. Then as the final blow, I’ll make sure the small children are present at the moment of death so their lives will be screwed up forever. I will ignore their pleas not to let their Daddy die because hey, I’m God and I can do whatever I want.

I’d really encourage you to read her entire article. It is quite moving and her tribute to her husband is loving and beautiful. More than that, Ms. Fiore raises important questions about the nature of God and the nature of evil in the world which are not easily dismissed with platitudes and euphemisms.

As well, the way she was treated and the easy manner in which people of faith slipped God into a conversation with someone so obviously and decidedly uncomfortable with faith at a time when she was fragile and vulnerable teeters on the thin edge of being abusive. One can certainly look at this behavior and see spiritual manipulation afoot.

So, I’ve been thinking about the parallels between the physical bullying I saw on the ice that Saturday afternoon and the spiritual bullying we often participate in during life events. We think we’re justified because “souls are at risk.” But are they? What is our justification? Is this a game that we should win at all costs? What if our spiritual bullying ends up causing some to choose death? Have we won? Or lost? Who won in this case and who lost … really. Think about that for a minute. We are so caught up in our zero-sum games in our culture that we cannot conceive of a different outcome or a different kind of game.

As is the case with my daughter’s hockey team, it is the responsibility of the leaders and officials to guide and direct us into “fair play” and sportsmanlike behavior. We all need that in order level the playing field and create a positive environment for everyone. You are likely thinking to yourself that that sounds a little hokey right now. But consider this, the second commandment is to what? The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot continue playing zero-sum games and love others as we love ourselves, the two things are mutually exclusive. So we need leaders and officials who will teach us a new way to love others. Who will help us to define it. Then help us to carry it out.

It will not include platitudes, false hope, dishonesty or manipulation.

MLK Conversation and then some
Jan 25th, 2008 by Sonja

The other day I retold the story of a conversation between LightBoy and I about the difference between freedom and justice.  He’s still mulling that over.  In the meantime, I gave him an assignment (LightGirl too).  They have to write a paper every two weeks.  Their current assignment is to write about William Wilberforce.  They can pick anything about him that they want.  Their last assignment was the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  LightBoy’s paper morphed into Benedict Arnold, but that’s okay.  Now they are researching the famous liberator.

LightBoy, “Dad, what’s hersey mean?”

“What?  How do you spell it?”

“h e a r s e y … I think.”

“Oh, that’s hearsay, and it means to overhear something and repeat it.”

LightBoy went back to the encyclopedia.  Pretty soon he came back, with the encyclopedia and a very dire look on his face.

“Dad!  I don’t think that’s what it means.  LOOK!”

burned at the stake

LightHusband looked at the picture and the word in question:

H E R E S Y.

And promptly explained the difference.

Jan 23rd, 2008 by Sonja

alm-grandfatherI know I’ve been away for a couple of days. It may go on for a few more.

All I can say is that I am feeling a certain empathy with the Alm-Grandfather in Heidi. I understand why he retreated to live alone on the mountain, only to visit the village when he needed groceries once a year. People can be very dangerous.

I’ll be back soon. I have a couple of posts percolating. I think they’ll break through the edges shortly.

(Un)Conditional Love? (part 2 in my series)
Jan 13th, 2008 by Sonja

(Part 2 in my series … Part 1 is here at Pushing My Own Envelope.  I don’t know yet whether or not there will be a part 3 or more, I’m waiting on the muse for that.)

One night a few weeks ago, we all snuggled down together as a family and watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation together. I had truly forgotten how obnoxiously hilarious that movie is. But there was one character who had completely fallen off my radar screen. Aunt Bethany. Remember her? She was the elderly aunt who showed up on Christmas Eve having wrapped up her cat as a gift. Yeah, I’d left her behind too. I looked her up a minute ago, the actress who played her was the same lady who played the voice of Olive Oyl in all the Popeye cartoons for 30 years.

In the movie no one quite knew what to do with her. The actress did a marvelous job with her part, prompting LightBoy to comment that it must have been fun to play that role. This was my favorite scene. Clark reveled in having the family together for Christmas Eve dinner. Everyone gathered round the beautifully set table, dressed, and primped. He did honor to his aunt by asking her to bless the meal:

Her response is priceless. She knows what to do … sort of. When told that she is the speaker, she then knows that something important should be spoken, so she gathered all of her wits and recited. She recited the first thing that came to mind. The Pledge of Allegiance.

Clark was devastated. My heart broke for him. He wanted a blessing. He wanted blessing on the food, on the day, on the family, and most of all on him. He wanted to know that he was loved. But Eddie, well, Eddie the hick … he knew how to respond. He stood up and clapped his hand right over his heart, his whole body ramrod straight at attention. Yep. Say the Pledge and Eddie knows what to do. No one else quite did though. They did not know where to put their eyes. There were some uncomfortable wiggles. Sideways glances. Then everyone settled in and accepted the Pledge of Allegiance as the blessing for Christmas dinner.

When she done, Aunt Bethany smiled shyly at a job well done and Clark began to cut the turkey. And that was yet another disaster neatly averted.

You have to feel sort of sorry for Clark. He’s clearly going insane straining against increasing odds to pull off some sort of Norman Rockwell Christmas for his family … capped by a swimming pool gift at the end. He’s giving himself a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder and most of it is caused by his own set of expectations.

As I watched and later reflected on the film, I wondered how the story would have changed if Clark had just gone with it. In some cases, he did. As he did with the blessing to hilarious results. But in real life (irl) we don’t. We call this planning. We plan for things so that there won’t be snafus or messes to clean up. We don’t want people to be exposed to the Aunt Bethany’s and the Eddie’s of real life, so we plan and give out scripts …

We explain our expectations to people so that they can meet them. We script life, worship, events, parties, etc. so that when the time comes for a blessing we don’t get the Pledge of Allegiance or something equally messy. Real people misunderstand what is expected and/or asked of them in critical moments and they make mistakes. But here’s the thing … our culture has zero tolerance for mistakes. We have a zero tolerance for reality; for the texture and nuance of human-ness.

This is why movies like Christmas Vacation remain at such icon status. We laugh and wonder why no one is like this anymore. Reality television is a huge hit because mistakes get you “voted off the island.” Err at work, and there are hundreds more like you to hire in your place. Mess up in a relationship? Your significant other will find someone new. There are other friends, other relationships out there. Make a mistake, and you’re gone, done, finished, finito. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Church. Why … it’s Biblical to vote people off the island, doncha know? Just cover your behind by making certain that they’re unrepentant.

No wonder so many people are taking pills to cope. I heard just the other day of yet another friend taking up the pill train of anti-depressants and another friend who is investigating the possibility. A sister-in-law is on them and another ought to be but isn’t. I do not have enough fingers to count the friends who take them. Maybe I need to use my toes too.

As I consider this intersection of culture, expectation and reality I begin to wonder how it effects our emotional state. (Or is that affect? I never get that right.) We are in many, many respects a culture devoid of grace. We talk about love, but we have none. We talk about tolerance, but there is none. The roots of so very many of our problems may be found in a lack of love, respect and honor for our fellow human beings as individuals. We talk about large groups, but we cannot get along as neighbors on a cul de sac or street corner.

The other day I wrote about hope being necessary to the process of peace in Kenya and many other “hot spots” world wide.  But I’m beginning to wonder … I think hope may also need to be restored here at home too.  I think hope may look different for us.  Hope looks like clean drinking water, food, education and liberation in Africa.  Here, hope looks like real tolerance, and unconditional love, and acceptance of a messy blessing on Christmas Eve.

Living Within the System and Non-violence
Nov 30th, 2007 by Sonja

In an earlier post I was pondering the socio-economic system within which we live and how it forces us to make choices that go against the grain of our faith on many occasions. There is a rather large gap between how we are able to live and the standard set forth for us by Jesus. We all have choices that we make on a moment by moment basis for how each us might close that gap, but the truth of the matter is that we will never close it. Not in our current system. I’m not talking here about that abominable chasm illustrated insufferably by the Four Spiritual Laws. I’m simply sayin’ … with the way things are in capitalism, or socialism, or any other socio-economic system that we’ve got at the moment there is a tension between what we want to be able to do and the limits on what we are able to do. All of us make different choices with how we will live within those boundaries. Some of those choices seem nonsensical to others, illogical, even ironical at times.

In the comments of that post Patrick wrote deeply about the circle of giving and I wanted to quote him here:

Giving is a profound spiritual act of faith, not just in terms of money or tithing, but in what we have. If really done as a community then there is a sharing, a mutuality, in which it might not look terribly different except underneath the surface. Meaning someone who has money gives, say for good words written by someone who had to forsake pursuing money for a time to write them, or music by someone who ponders something deeply, or a service, or some other way of participating in the life of another.

If we are all giving then it seems like we are also receiving from each other, a circle, but not a circle in which we look out for ourselves but a circle in which we fall into the arms of each other trusting them for, maybe, even our daily bread. We empty what we have, and are filled by anothers emptying.

I love this image of the circle. That’s really beautiful and moves the conversation in a helpful direction. It’s a direction that talks about how we can both live within the system and close the gap that exists.  How we can begin to imagine living both in the world but not of it and bringing the Kingdom a little bit closer.

I was a little bit worried that some would see my post as a critique for any of us for participating in the system. We all do and we all must because we are in it. We cannot “get out of it”, we cannot excise ourselves from it as if we were teeth.  We mustn’t point fingers at one another saying that one is better than another. Or that one choice is better than another. Nor should the musings, ponderings and reflections of others be taken as criticisms or advocating wholesale change in one’s life. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. The people I know who are following Jesus are doing their best to follow him with their whole heart. In every person that looks different. Not everyone eschews commercialism because not every person is called to it. But not every person is called to be a finger, or a liver or a rib. We are each called to different things and different acts of contrition, faith, mercy, kindness and grace … and the world is healthier, more whole and better for it.

Thankful … really
Nov 29th, 2007 by Sonja

Thankful image

Rachel … a woman downunder that I have the privilege of getting to know, virtually, has tagged me in the Thankfulness meme that has become viral during this season of gratitude. It’s kind of cool to watch how these things meander through blogdom. I’d love to have the skill to write a code and make a map of it. That would be quite a map.

I’ve been thinking hard about the things for which I am thankful, grateful and appreciative. There are many for which I could post. I’ve been trying to write this post for days now and it just would not leap out of my fingertips. Though there are many, many things I could write about. I was uninspired. This is not like me. Not at all.

Then, this morning, as I stood at the mirror, with my mouth full of toothpaste, it hit me. The words to the Jewish prayer floated through my mind and I felt weak in my knees, “”Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman, a Gentile or a slave.” For centuries this was the daily prayer of gratitude for millions of Hebrew men. I don’t want to go into the misogyny or the racism or any of that here, although I certainly could. That’s not my point. My point is this … any time I am thankful for something, it carries with it the possibility of pointing out a drought for someone else. Of unintentionally poking at a friend’s sore spot.

If I am thankful for my children, there are those who read this blog struggling with fertility issues. If I am thankful for my friends, there are many struggling with solitude and neighbor issues. If I am thankful for how God has spoken in my life, there are many to whom God has been silent. It carries the possibility of creating a stumbling block, a rage, a hurt. It carries the possibility of doing violence to someone else without ever having that intention at all.

So, for today and the days to come, I am thankful. I am grateful for so many, many things this year. I am indeed a much blessed woman. But I will keep the specifics between me and the source of all Gratitude. Which, in the end, is as She would wish.

If you want to be involved in this meme, you can do the following things.
1. Post 5 things you are thankful for
2. Tag 5 friends to take part also
3. Link back to John’s post (optional) and encourage others to leave a link in his comments section back to their completed post so we get to keep track of all this thankfulness!

I’m supposed to tag five people now … but while I’ve been following this, I cannot remember who has been tagged and who has not. So, if I’ve double tagged anyone, I apologize.


On Capitalism and the Violence Inherent In the System
Nov 27th, 2007 by Sonja

This is one of my very favorite movie clips of all time. I absolutely love this bit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. It has so much texture and it’s funny to boot. It never fails to get me laughing. Never. Even though I can just about recite it from memory. But watch … then we’ll talk.

So I was reading over at Bill Kinnon’s the other day about the latest irony in Christendom. I guess Brian McLaren is decrying consumerism by asking folks to buy his books and CDs. Kinda funny, no? Not funny, haha, but funny weird as my Grampy O would say. Yeah, it’s ironic and sorta sad. But Brian is just doing his schtick. He’s gotta make money too, ya know. We all havta make money.

Someone wrote a fairly insightful comment at Bill’s and it got me thinking. Here’s the bit that sparked my brain, but you should read the rest at Bill’s place:

I question our use of a system that is biased towards marketability regardless of quality. This creates a profit oriented motive to do “ministry” and fosters the growth of dubious theology. It entices people to compromise on their values and principles to get better sales and/or increase marketability.

I question whether the growing trend towards fee-for-service ministry is appropriate because it shuts out the poor. One of the marks of the messiah that Jesus shared with the followers of John the Baptist was that the gospel is proclaimed to the poor. — Leighton Tebay

This idea is not fully fleshed out yet, so please bear with me. But my thinking is that we poor humans have absolutely no idea of what to do with an infinite God. In this capitalist age, we are less equipped than ever. In the days when faith reigned supreme we had a chance, but now in the age of reason we are handicapped, stunted and miserly in our perspectives on God and His provisions.

We start young. We begin as children, competing for the attention of our parents. Various behavioral issues are seen as efforts to compete for a limited resource (our parent’s time and attention). It continues even more voraciously in our public schools with 20 or more children in a classroom competing for the limited resources of the school system. Most obviously they compete for the time and attention of the teacher on a daily basis. Life becomes a zero-sum game. And all of us learn how to play it quite young. In places that we’d never suspect it we begin to assign winners and losers in the crevices of our minds. We understand that in an environment of limited resources, we are responsible for grabbing all that we can for ourselves. God helps those who help themselves, right? It’s in the Bible somewhere. And no one wants to be stamped with the scarlet “L” for Loser. Because losers don’t get any of those scarce resources … whatever those resources might be.

Can you hear the violence inherent that system? In such a system we must constantly be at war with one another. True love is not entirely possible, because we must also compete with each other for limited resources. Thus, even while we know that commercialism is wrong, we might tell each other of it in the same breath as asking for increased sales of our books and cds. While this makes no logical sense, it does within the context of our socio-economic system.

There is, however, a better way.  God spoke of it when He revealed himself to us in his human form.  It involves laying aside our limited ideas of wealth, self-care, and resources.  It involves relying on the infinite and becoming careless and carefree.  All of this appears silly and we will become losers in the zero-sum game of capitalism.  But for an infinite God with infinite resources, with whom we do not have to compete for His attention.

No, I have no idea what this looks like.  I’m still thinking about it.  If any of you have some ideas … please put them in the comments, I’d love to hear them.

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