Diversion or Distraction?
Oct 12th, 2011 by Sonja

I may or may not have mentioned it here before but I regularly take some medication that requires the oversight of a psychiatrist.  Mostly this is because I also take some meds for my seizure disorder and it’s good to have someone in charge of all brain medication who knows what they do.  This is the theory anyway.

In any case, I was meeting with my psychiatrist the other day in order to check on all my meds and how I’m doing and I told her that I’m feeling very unfocused.  It’s something I have been struggling with for several years now, but lately it’s been almost overwhelming.  She asked me a couple of pointed questions about current events in my life and pointed out what some side effects were for some of the seizure meds I take and said, “I don’t think you’re unfocused.  I think you’re distracted by what’s going on with you.”

Um.  Really.  So what’s the difference?  It made sense when she said it, now I’m wondering.

Diversion –
1. the act of diverting from a specified course
2. ( Brit ) an official detour used by traffic when a main route is closed
3. something that distracts from business, etc; amusement
4. (military) a feint attack designed to draw an enemy away from the main attack

Distraction –
1. the act or an instance of distracting or the state of being distracted
2. something that serves as a diversion or entertainment
3. an interruption; an obstacle to concentration
4. mental turmoil or madness

Sooo … it looks to me as though being unfocused (or diverted) is makes me the subject of my own sentence.  But being distracted makes me the object.  Or is it vice versa?  I’m not sure … but I think that’s the difference between the two.  I don’t think knowing which is which really matters either.  I just needed to know what was what.

There was an ad campaign for something (I can’t remember what) not too long ago that went, “Life is messy.  Clean it up.”  For the record, all the ads for cleaning products bug me.  More than that, they piss me off.  Who can live in those pristine houses?  Life IS messy.  It’s gross and kind of disgusting down here in the trenches of our own stuff.  I’m not so sure we should clean it up.  I wonder about that sometimes.

Do you wonder about that?  Is just cleaning it up a distraction?  Or a diversion?  What if what we are supposed to do is get rid of that stuff?  What if we are supposed to make it new again?  Redeem it or reconcile it and by swiping it with some magic eraser, we’re diverting our attention to something else?  Have we got “stuff” in our lives that is like that old family room carpet.  It’s old and grungy because it’s in the most used room in the home.  People are always in and out and yes, they eat in there.  Yes, they eat dinner in front of the television on more occasions than any of us would like to admit.  And popcorn during movies and sporting events.  And snacks at other odd times.  So there are probably bits of food ground in there somewhere.  Years worth of pets and children going in and out the back door have ground in bits of mud and grass and heaven-knows-what.  This carpet has seen better days.  We keep vacuuming it and occasionally cleaning it because we know that replacing it is going to be time consuming and expensive.  Eventually we won’t be able to avoid that time and expense, but for now we get by.

We all have stuff in our lives that is deeply ground in, musty and yucky that needs to be replaced with good new and clean stuff.  We want to get at it.  We know we’ll be better off for it, healthier, more well-rounded, and we might even like ourselves better.  But … there it is.  It’s going to be time consuming and expensive.  I don’t mean money.  I mean it’s going to be hard.  It might hurt.  It might cost us some friends.  It might cost us some intangible things that we don’t even imagine when we set out on that journey.  We know that … somewhere in the remote places of our hearts.  So we divert and distract by vacuuming and dusting and saying it’s okay for now.  It’s really okay.  I’ll get to that later.

Life is messy.  I don’t want to clean it up.  I want to embrace the mess and understand it.  I want to own it and then.  I want to redeem it.  But I don’t want to just clean it up with a whitewash of pretty paint.  Because that’s just a mask and I’m done with that now.


This post is part of October’s Synchroblog – Down We Go.  You can read other, insightful, posts at these links:

  • Alan Knox – How Low Can You Go
  • Jeremy Myers – Seeking The Next Demotion
  • Glenn Hager – Pretty People
  • David Derbershire – Reaching The Inner City
  • Tammy Carter – Flight Plan
  • Leah Randall – Jacked Up
  • Leah Randall (her other voice) – How Low Can We Go
  • Liz Dyer – Beautiful Mess
  • Maria Kettleson Anderson – Down
  • Christine Sine – There Is No Failure In The Kingdom of God
  • Leah Sophia – Down We Go
  • Hugh Hollowell – Downward
  • Kathy Escobar – We May Look Like Losers – Redux
  • Anthony Ehrhardt – Slumming It For Jesus
  • Marta Layton – Down The Up Staircase
  • Wendy McCaig – A Material Girl
  • Apologies
    Jun 13th, 2010 by Sonja

    The three people who are still reading this blog after my long hiatus, know that I have started writing again using a series of blog prompts put on by National Blog Posting Month found by clicking on that link back there.  I found it through one of the writers in my feed reader.  The day (last Monday) she posted, the prompt was this:

    Do you owe an apology to anyone? Why?

    That’s been rattling around in my head since then.  I did not post anything that day.  I’ve toyed with the idea of back posting ever since because … well … because.

    Ready for the Ball

    Friday night LightGirl went on her first date.  She and her date went to a dance; the Blumen Ball the dance committee called it.  It was a semi-formal dance put on for homeschoolers.  KidCourageous (as he shall be known here) asked her to go about 10 days before the event.  She accepted and they both were very excited (on a scale of 1 to Christmas morning they agreed it was like going back to Hogwarts).  They had a wonderful time and danced the whole evening.  Their chauffeur for the evening was KidCourageous’ older brother.  LightGirl was presented with a wrist corsage and KidCourageous was a perfect gentleman all evening.  She is still (Sunday morning) walking on air.  If you are friends with me on FaceBook you can see photos there.

    There was only one small snag.  Several of the young men in LightGirl & KidCourageous’ group of friends thought it would be fun and funny to play games with them during the dance.  These young men would surround them and separate the two of them regularly throughout the evening.  It might have been funny had it only happened once or twice, but as young men are wont to do, they carried it on for too long and too far.  LightGirl and KidCourageous became frustrated with the situation.  But they handled it graciously and kindly without creating any fuss.

    The next night, the ringleader of the young men was chatting with LightGirl on FaceBook (which they do regularly).  She was still pretty upset with him for the antics of the previous evening.  I encouraged her to let him know that she was unhappy, but to be kind about it.  I guess she must have because he attempted to apologize.  It was a rusty attempt because I’m not certain he does this very often.  But all the ingredients were there … he acknowledged that he had behaved badly, he empathized that it was hurtful, and he agreed that he shouldn’t have done it.  The only thing lacking were the specific words, “I’m sorry.”  But those are the least important words in an apology; he included the more important ones.  I haven’t been able to convince LightGirl that this is in fact an apology yet.  She (at the time) was still too upset and hurt by past interactions with this young man to be objective.  But I was really proud of him for taking that risk.  She will come around and be able to see it in a day or so.  My hope is that he will not be feeling rejected by then and their friendship will be restored.  I think it will … they seem to practice this sort of thing on each other regularly and are getting better and better at it every time.

    The whole incident pointed out some things about apologies to me that I’ve been reflecting on for some time now.

    The first thing is this … an apology is a risky business.  The person apologizing puts themselves in a vulnerable position vis a vis the person (or group) they are apologizing to.  They are giving power and/or control over to that person/group.  Forgiveness is a form of acceptance and redemption gives one re-entry to the relationship.  When one apologizes one acknowledges both wrongdoing and that the other person may or may not offer grace in return.  The restoration of the relationship is entirely in the hands of the person to whom one has apologized in that moment.

    A proper apology consists of several necessary ingredients – an acknowledgment of wrong/bad/hurtful behavior, empathy with the person/group who was harmed by the behaviour, and agreement both that it should not have happened and that one will endeavor to prevent it from happening again.

    Apologies cannot be demanded or manipulated.  They can only be offered free and clear by the person who is apologizing.  If they are not offered, but instead are made in response to a demand or as a result of manipulation they will be useless or empty.  One cannot acknowledge wrong/bad/hurtful behaviour when one doesn’t know what one has done.  This happens when an apology is demanded or manipulated as a condition to restore one’s relationship.  One can only be mournfully sorry about general malfunctions if an apology is demanded or manipulated.

    Most often, though, between adults (and near adults), apologies run in both directions.  It is extraordinarily rare among two parties to a dispute to have only one which needs to apologize.  When wrongs have been done they often have been committed by both parties.

    If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you may recall an ugly leave-taking with my CLB back in early-ish 2007.  It was hard.  It was hurtful.  It was/is permanent.  It was a long drawn out process, during which an apology was demanded of me in order that my relationships in the church might be restored.  I had no idea what apologize for so it was empty and meaningless.  But I was trying to do anything I could to restore balance and harmony to relationships that had strayed badly off course.

    I’m now apologizing to the people in question here.  I still have no idea what the instigating issues were (though I have been told many times that I do).  However, I can apologize for my very poor behavior during that months long process.  I was defensive, angry and embattled.  I was also very depressed.  In the words of Paul the apostle, what I wanted to do, I could not do and I knew that I was doing what I did not want to do.  Call it arrogance (certainly), call it tunnel vision, call it depression, or some of all of that  and some other things that I have yet to identify, but I could not see any other path at the time than the one I/we traveled.  I know that did damage to the people I was close to.  I know our abrupt departure was frightening, upsetting, and painful.  I apologize for that.  I wish it could have been different.  I wish I were different; stronger, better, wiser.  But I’m not.  I’m zealous, over-protective, and type A-high maintenance.  In an attempt to preserve feelings and group unity, I kept secrets I should not have kept.  Revealing them here, or now would not be profitable.  But keeping them at the time proved ultimately harmful to everyone, including me.  They seemed harmless.  But secrets never are.  All things kept in the dark ultimately prove to be harmful.

    I know that I am in a much healthier frame of mind now.  I have more tools at my disposal for communicating my difference of opinion with others without being as confrontational as I’ve been in the past.  Do I think that any of this will or would change anything?  I don’t know.  All I know is that I need to do this for my own peace of mind.  How it is received and what is done with it is out of my hands.   If I had been healthier at the time there is a chance I might have been able to exit with less damage.  Maybe.  But … I’d hate to speculate now.  What happens now … who knows?

    Back To the Drawing Board
    Feb 15th, 2008 by Sonja

    This week in the Osgiliath Classical School we’ve begun a new project. We are studying the weather. As a spine for this study we’re using a book called The Kids Book of Weather Forecasting with meteorologist Mark Breen. The LightChildren were each assigned the task of reading the first chapter and then they had to work “together” to design a weather log and come up with a list of tools that one might need to keep a weather log current.

    First there was a two day argument over when they would work together. Once they began to work together, there was a loud and protracted argument over who’s list should “win.” LightGirl had a list that was created mostly around her senses. LightBoy had a list that was mostly more objective measuring tools. He, in fact, scoffed at her senses. She attempted to win him over to her more organic manner of observation. However, they were both clubbing each other over the head with their respective lists, in a metaphorical sense. When the clubbing left metaphor and became physical, I intervened.

    “Alright, you two,” said I, “did you actually read your assignment?” Vigorous head nods followed by open mouths ready to assert their righteousness. I quickly went on before words could leave the open mouths, “I believe the assignment was that you were to work together,” and I emphasized the word “together.” “This means, LightGirl, that you do not come up with a list and LightBoy goes along with it. And LightBoy, you do not get to come up with a list and expect that LightGirl will go along with it. Do you both understand me?” More head nods, but the mouths are still open ready to defend their honor and tell me how horrible the other sibling is.

    “No, I don’t think you do. You are both trying to win. There is nothing to win here. You will only win when you work together. It is very likely that there is something of value in both of your lists and that there is something that needs to be dropped in both of your lists. I do not know what those things are … that is for you to figure out” The mouths are closed now and they are beginning to look at each other as realization dawns. “Now. Get thee hence into the school room and work together on one list between the two of you.”

    Off they went. They sat down in the school room and worked out a plan to figure out a list and then worked out a list. Then they presented it to me. The plan involved looking through their book together! Stunning. And thinking and talking together. Their final list was impressive. Lo and behold, it contained elements of both of their original lists.

    I often allow arguments to carry on (until it gets physical). I allow them to work out their own relationship within certain boundaries. It can get painful and loud for the parents. But it is training ground for them to understand how to live with others. How to work out difficulties. How to work together even when each is certain they know the “right” way. I try to emphasize that they are always in this together. There is never a time when one is right and the other wrong. If When there is a fight, they have both contributed to it and both must contribute to reconciliation. As my mother used to say to my brothers and I, “It takes two to tango.”

    So when I wrote yesterday about reconciliation, apology, power, dominant culture and oppressed culture, I was coming to it from that perspective. But most of you don’t know that. I forget that I’m kind of a blank slate when I write. Not an entirely blank slate, but I’m not as three dimensional to you as I am to myself. Most of us bloggers are. If anything, when we read a blog, we bring to it our own perspectives, prejudices, backgrounds, etc and read it through our own particular lens. Sometimes that lens has been broadened, sometimes not, sometimes it has been more healed, sometimes less. Sometimes the issue being written about is the driving force behind how we read the blog that day. There are so many different permutations and combinations of those possibilities, it kind of makes my head explode to think about it.

    I am humbled by the grace extended to me by Patrick, Peggy, Grace and Christy in the conversation that followed. My experience of such has been rare indeed. So, if I may, I would like to give some context and flesh to my post from yesterday.

    When I read posts such as Josh’s critique and participate in conversations about women in church, I often hear a sense of bewilderment and frustration from men of my generation and younger generations. The frustration that I hear sounds something like this, “I don’t know what to say/do. It never seems like enough. There are women in leadership now. We are moving forward. Why won’t women stop complaining.” Please, please read Josh’s critique … it is very good and he does make some very valid points. But … maybe it’s just me, but I can also hear a sense of bewilderment and frustration underlying his piece. A certain sense of why is this happening here? Why is this continuing to continue?

    So, I very baldly and badly wrote that we “need” an apology. Which is not entirely true, as Peggy and Patrick were both very kind to remind me. We women do not “need” an apology. We “need” God/Papa to remind us that we are loved despite any of our earthly hurts. However, what I was trying to communicate was that it would be helpful to the process between the genders if an apology were offered at some point. I was trying to communicate that on the basis of what has happened in South Africa in the 1990s and what is poised to happen in Australia now, an apology might be a way of helping to drain those wounds.

    As Peggy wrote, and I deeply agree with, I’ve got issues with a sense of entitlement. So I’m not certain that I think women are entitled to an apology. But I need to say that in my outloud voice now, because it’s obvious from the comments that at least some of you heard me say that. An apology extended as the result of a demand, is almost worthless as we all know. It is usually extended because of some form of extortion in that case, whether physical or emotional. The apology rendered is then meaningless, and we’ve all endured our share of those.

    So what is the purpose of an apology? I’ve spent a lot of time over the past several years studying that question. I’ve read a couple of books. In short the purpose of an apology is to let a person who has been wronged know that you understand the hurt that has been done, you regret the harm was done in the first place and you will attempt to make it stop. It is an attempt, however feeble, to take some form of responsibility for a wrong done and to understand the harm that has been caused to the person who was wronged. Those are the two main prongs of an apology. Take responsibility and understand harm.

    You’ll notice that my definition of an apology did not include anything about feeling guilty or bad about oneself. I did not write anything about eternal shame. I did write about remorse which is something different. Guilt is entirely different from remorse … guilt is a state of being, while remorse has to do with an action. One ought not to feel guilty about the state into which one was born. However, one might feel remorse about the status of those who are not in that state. Does that make sense?

    None of that, however, makes an apology necessary. In fact, an apology is simply irrelevant in the economy of God’s forgiveness. S/He loves us and will heal our wounds, if we will allow that. What then, do we do about trusting the other? The one or ones who harmed us? Our wounds may be healed, but the trust has been broken and the relationship has not been reconciled. An apology offered (not demanded, but offered) is an incredible first step in that process of rebuilding trust between the two parties wherein the trust has been lost, to whatever degree.

    That is where I think that an apology offered by male leaders of institutions (churches, both local bodies and denominational) could go a long way toward helping to re-establish some of the trust that is currently lacking in some of the female Jesus followers. Are we entitled to it? No. Do we also have junk to apologize for? Yes. Yes, we do. But as Christy wrote in her comment, “It’s not about asking people to feel bad and guilty – it’s about recognizing that all of us are responsible to do our part to work for justice.” It’s about all of us … all of us in this together, recognizing our responsibilities, the harm we’ve done, and the good we’ve done. That the inequities are harmful to the dominant culture just as much as they are to the under dogs. That justice, grace and mercy are for all of us, not just some.

    So, let’s go back to the schoolroom and make our list together. Okay?

    Working Out Reconciliation
    Feb 14th, 2008 by Sonja

    I remember when I first heard about blogging. I was not impressed. I certainly never thought I would actually have a blog. That sort of thing was for silly-hearts and people with nothing better to do all day. I, of course, would never be so nerdy as to need a place to write my thoughts on the internet for all to see.

    Then I was introduced to blogging more seriously and I was intrigued by it. I began to read other people’s blogs and realized that I could participate in them. I thought that perhaps I could write one too. There are things that I have grown to love about blogging. I love the relationships that have developed across the country and around the world through this funny system. I hope that one day I will get to meet some of these cyber-friends I’ve made. I love the new perspectives on life, the universe and everything that I am exposed to through blogging. There is one thing I don’t like about blogging though. That is it’s immediacy. Conversations happen in the blink of an eye and require instantaneous thought. There is little time for reflection and processing or the conversation will move on by. It is, of course, life in the information age. Life moves faster and so must thought.

    For a variety of reasons, I have had an intense week this week and blogging has taken a back seat. I had a number of other things going on that required my time and attention, so yesterday I finally had some space to turn to my clogged reader and do some catch up reading. There I found a small bit in Emerging Women pointing me to a somewhat lengthy conversation at Josh Brown’s place entitled Challenging the Critiques of Emergent: A White Man’s World. I came late to the conversation; Josh had put up his original post on Feb. 11 and I think there were already 50 someodd comments when I stepped into the conversation. In his initial assessment of the critiques of Emergent it’s “just a bunch of white men sitting around talking theology,” Josh makes some valid points that are really worth considering.

    In the comment thread that follows, there is a lot of discussion about the very different perspectives that come out of more mainstream Christian churches contrasted with the perspectives of people who come from a more fundamentalist or evangelical background. It is well worth reading the post and the comment thread. I found it worthwhile, though I felt that there was “something missing,” but could not put my finger on it.

    At the same time, around the world, Kevin Rudd (Australia’s Prime Minister) announced an apology. He apologized to the Stolen Generations of the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia. Please take a moment and read the full text of the apology. It is an apology … a full apology. It offers no excuses, no outs; it is an acceptance of responsibility for wrongs done and offers a way forward to right them. If you use that link, you’ll see an audio-slideshow in a sidebar to the right. One of the voices near the end says, “Sorry is just a word.” She’s right. It will be interesting to see what the government of Australia does to make good on it’s promises. Things are very hopeful right now as I hear from Matt Stone that Mr. Rudd has reached across their aisle to his opposition to ensure that the necessary laws will be passed unanimously.

    I woke up this morning with these two things on my mind. Playing back and forth, as if on a teeter-totter. I couldn’t get White Man’s World off my mind. The post, in general, had a sense of validity, but yet, I could not fully agree. What was missing? I was chewing on it. The Australian Apology was giving me hope. I was in the middle of a conversation about it with Matt. Since my childhood I have felt that our Native American population has been in similar straits as the Australian Aboriginals. We know from the history of South Africa of the great power of an institutional apology and the great lengths to which it can go towards reconciliation.

    I am accustomed to having ideas play around in my head for awhile. So I let them go. They were having fun on the teeter-totter, after all. Who wants to be a kill-joy and pull ideas off of a perfectly good teeter-totter ride? And I went about my important morning business of drinking coffee and reading a few blogs to wake up. I read Christy Lambertson’s Throwing hand grenades at Jesus: This isn’t what I was going to write. She quoted Matthew 23 and went on to write:

    There was a point in my life where chapters like this would tap into my cold fury at Christianity, Inc. and inspire me to launch into my well-rehearsed speech of “Why you people suck!” – delivered with fervor. Today, though, I’m mostly just sad – sad that Matthew 23 feels so very very true, that underneath the anger is still a well of pain. Even after all this time and all this work, some scars never go away, and I may always feel locked out of the kingdom of heaven – whatever that is. Sometimes it still feels like they won, because there is so much about religion I just can’t do: praying and expecting a tangible answer, believing in a personal God who loves me, all the creeds and liturgies and trappings, and a certain simplicity of faith in the goodness of God and things in general.

    I’m at peace on my path, more or less, but I still sometimes think I might be missing something, that there was something I was supposed to be able to believe and participate in, and that faculty of trust got taken away. It would be nice to once, just once, hear someone in a pulpit get up and speak of God and not wonder what he’s hiding or who he’s hurt along the way. I would like to feel like I don’t have to keep my distance if I want to save my soul, like I don’t have to shut myself down completely just to walk in the goddamn door.

    There’s so much more to what Christy wrote that you really, really must read it for yourself. If you’ve never read Dry Bones Dance, you are really missing out. She is a voice in the wilderness. I can’t speak for Christy and I’m not entirely certain about all the different bits that she might be referring to, but … when I read her post the teeter-totter in my mind hit perfect balance and I knew the needful thing.

    An apology.

    I want to be very, very clear. This is not just about Josh. This about men in the church in general and in the emerging conversation specifically.

    Men: We women need an apology. We need it from the leaders and we need it from our local leaders. I understand that many, indeed most, of you are not now part of the problem. We understand that most of you are working to change things. But I think that until you recognize, acknowledge and admit that there is a problem and apologize for your part in being a dominant culture (because you are … I’m not blaming you, it’s just the way things are, until they are changed), we are going to be stuck in some sense.

    There is a well of pain underneath the skin of all of us women of evangelical background. Some have it deeper than others. That well needs to be drained during the working out of gender reconciliation. Or that work will not be complete. It will always have something missing. Women cannot drain the well on their own. The path to opening that well and allowing it to drain begins with an apology.

    That’s all.

    Friday 5 – What Are You Doing For Lent?
    Feb 8th, 2008 by Sonja

    The RevGals Mother Laura writes: Ready or not, Lent is upon us!

    1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?

    The LightFamily celebrated a small and quiet Mardi Gras with a dinner of red beans and rice and kings cake for dessert. The kings cake came with beads which we all wore during a discussion of Mardi Gras and then Lent.

    2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?

    1983 … the prior summer I had worked a “real” job and earned enough money to have a tax return. This was enough to pay for a trip to New Orleans during my February break … which happily coincided with Mardi Gras!! I also had a friend who was going to Tulane who I had met during my semester at American University, so I had a place to stay. That was one wild few days and I absolutely loved New Orleans.

    I got off the plane, took a cab into the middle of the city where I was meeting my friend (Roger – who was/is gay) and the middle of a parade and began catching beads. Somehow in the middle of the crazy drunkeness we managed to meet up. This was in the days before cell phones and all.

    Tuesday morning, the morning of, a group of us white folk somehow ended up in the middle of an African American neighborhood during the Zulu parade. Potentially, this was not a safe place for us. But we were naive and unaware of our surroundings until much later. So we just hoisted the kids onto our shoulders so they could catch the beads, and did our best to fit in … so we did.

    I loved the city for the 4 days after Mardi Gras as well and had a ball there. Getting on the plane to go back to college was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I wanted to throw everything away and stay there. But I did the responsible thing ….

    3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?

    My family is agnostic, so no we did not celebrate Lent as a child. My exposure as a child to Lent was in books and my friends who were Catholic would come to school with ashes on their foreheads … and couldn’t really explain it. Even in highschool. We would all joke about giving up lima beans for Lent, or something equally horrid … like liver. I don’t remember discovering it, because from there my knowledge of it grew until the present day. There was no discovery, more of an evolution of awareness.

    4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?

    I’m somewhere in between and do a little of both.

    5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?

    In terms of giving up … I’ve given up soda. I need to do this for health reasons. It’s just not good to drink soda. In terms of taking on … I’m taking on the Jesus Creed Challenge. I was inspired by the Virtual Abbess and some graphics I remembered from my CLB and developed a journal for the challenge. I’ve only made 5 days of it yet, but if anyone would like to use it, you can download it here. And I’ve committed to decluttering for 15 minutes a day.

    Let Them Eat Cake
    Jan 11th, 2008 by Sonja

    Homeless Kenyan Man

    I ended yesterday’s post wondering if it really matters and I quoted “Crumbs From Your Table” – a song by U2. If you click that link there, you can listen along as you read the lyrics below:

    From the brightest star
    Comes the blackest hole
    You had so much to offer
    Why did you offer your soul?
    I was there for you baby
    When you needed my help
    Would you deny for others
    What you demand for yourself?

    Cool down mama, cool off
    Cool down mama, cool off

    You speak of signs and wonders
    I need something other
    I would believe if I was able
    But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

    You were pretty as a picture
    It was all there to see
    Then your face caught up with your psychology
    With a mouth full of teeth
    You ate all your friends
    And you broke every heart thinking every heart mends

    You speak of signs and wonders
    But I need something other
    I would believe if I was able
    But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

    Where you live should not decide
    Whether you live or whether you die
    Three to a bed
    Sister Ann, she said
    Dignity passes by

    And you speak of signs and wonders
    But I need something other
    I would believe if I was able
    I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

    So why should any of us care what happens in Kenya, or any of the African nations? Or the Middle East? Or Asia? Or anywhere but our little neighborhood for that matter? What does it matter to us? I can think of a million different answers to those questions. I think they’re different for different people. But I’m interested in answering them from the perspective of a Jesus follower. Why do I care? Why is it important for someone who follows Jesus to care what happens in the lives of people half-way around the world?

    There are still numerous answers to that question. There is, of course, the idea of bringing aid to orphans and widows. Then there is the idea that we must succor the least of these brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus for in so doing we are aiding Him. Those are valid and indeed wonderful reasons for caring about people in the name of Jesus.

    I think though, there is a larger reason we need to care. Jesus talked about bringing His Kingdom to pass. He talked about it being here all around us and being not yet. He said when it came to be the deaf would hear, the blind would see, prisoners would be free and the lame would leap for joy. He also said it was here … right now. He said that if we have faith that is the size of a mustard seed we could move a mountain into the sea. We could also bring sight to the blind and sound to the deaf and freedom to the captives … that in our presence the lame would leap for joy! Indeed, this is his Good News that we call the Gospel.

    We also call it hope. It is hope for a better world, a better place and a better time. It is hope that my children and their children will play together and that the content of their character will count for more than the color of their skin (MLK, Jr.). It is hope that where you live will not determine the time of your death (Bono). Because in the now, those things are true and yet not true. In the not yet of God’s Kingdom towards which we strive, they will not be true at all … and that is the hope which we extend and push forward.

    In caring we become ambassadors of hope. In hope there is reconciliation. Where there is not hope, there cannot be peace. When hope has died, neighbors war with neighbors and burn houses to the ground. When the truth of Love has been extinguished, fighting and war breaks out. No one can love their neighbor when hope has left the building.

    We see this time and again throughout history. Marie Antoinette was famously misquoted as saying to the French peasants, “Let them eat cake.” It was a royal solution to a bread shortage. The shortage was not of bread, but of wheat. The royals did not feel the pinch or lack, but the poor did. Poor Antoinette had no clue. Her cloistered, pampered life ill-prepared her for the storms that came her way. She loved her country and her people, but could not give them any hope. The Jacobins and other forces at play in the French Revolution tore at the fabric of hope in the lives of the people.

    In India the reverse happened. Gandhi was determined that independence from British rule could be gained without resorting to violence. Instead of tearing hope away from the poorest of the poor, he restored it. The more real hope he gave them that they could be honestly independent, the stronger and more united the Indians became. Yes, there was violence, but the Indians were not fighting amongst themselves … until later (but that’s another story).

    Kenya (and Uganda, Somalia, Sudan and the list goes on) is important because we Jesus-followers are to be ambassadors of hope. We must restore hope to the little people. It is the poor who are fighting and dying. It is the little people, the poor, who are hurting and crying. The rich all around the world continue to eat cake; while the poor have no bread. If we are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom in the here and for the not yet, we must bring hope. We must restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, freedom to the captives and cause the lame to leap for joy. It is hope, and that hope alone which will restore peace to the country and allow her people to live in harmony with one another; neighbor helping neighbor to overcome the odds.

    Restoring Hope:

    Christian Mission Aid

    OneWorld.net – Kenya … learn more about Kenya overall, follow links and become an expert!

    Avaaz.org – send an e-mail that encourages your foreign minister (US Secretary of State) to put pressure on all parties in the conflict to continue mediation.

    Global Partners – invest in Kenya’s future: women and children

    WorkNets-Help Kenyans – direct connections with Kenyans on the ground during the crisis. I can’t vouch for any of these people or this site, but it looked interesting. Apparently Kenyans can trade phone credits for food?

    Amani Ya Juu – a womens cooperative dedicated to peace and hope in Nairobi (here’s where you can donate to help the women in the current crisis)

    Restoring Relationship:

    The Walrus Blog (ht Achievable Ends)
    Mentalacrobatics (ht Waving or Drowning)
    KenyaUnlimited Blogs Aggregator

    How Can We Sleep?
    Jan 1st, 2008 by Sonja

    When our beds are burning?

    I’ve been reading the reports out of Kenya with increasing agony and sense of shame. I read the latest and wept inside. People were burned inside a church. They had fled for sanctuary to a church and it was burned. There is something about the idea of being trapped inside of a burning building with dozens of other people that scares me skinny. It seems like the worst form of torment.

    Africa is crumbling. In the West we will be held to account for this in some form or another. It is on our shoulders that this mess lies. And it all brought this home to me. I’ve seen it before, but BlisteringSh33p gave it to me again yesterday:


    We gave them our creeds. Then we tried re-writing those creeds for them:

    Masai Tree of LifeWe believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.

    We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

    We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

    But … have we done the work of understanding the other? Of knowing who they are? Of truly becoming One with them as God asks us to? Or do we simply wrap our culture on top of theirs like a blanket and hope that it takes?

    How can we sleep while our beds are burning?

    On Justice
    Nov 2nd, 2007 by Sonja

    I get a daily e-mail from Sojourners. It’s called Verse and Voice. There is a daily scripture and a daily quote that has something to do with the scripture. I read it, more or less, every day. Some days I’m overwhelmed and I don’t read it.

    I can still remember the first time I encountered the scripture that came with today’s verse. It hit me right between the eyes. I was so taken with it, that I wrote it down on an index card and put it on the refrigerator so I could read it everytime I opened the door. And I did. It was a long time ago that I heard that verse … we had the old battleaxe avocado green refrigerator in our townhouse. But I can picture the index card on the freezer door. I had to write small to get it all in, because I didn’t just put the two verses that Sojourners sent … I had a whole bunch more for context. For weeks I would pause to read it whenever I opened the freezer. It took my breath away; my heart fell and broke with God’s at the poverty of our injustice to each other.

    Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled. The Lord saw it, and it displeased [God] that there was no justice.
    Isaiah 59:14-15

    But I had never quite considered it as close to home as the author of today’s quote did. In general, I tend to take a global view of things and some times have a hard time seeing the trees for the forest (I’m quite certain that’s why my house is so messy … I just see the big mess and cannot clean it up 😉 ). Nonetheless, I was quite taken aback by Peter Horsfield’s quote for the day and his perspective on forgiveness:

    Unfortunately, though we often talk about forgiveness within the church, very often by the way we deal with things—attempting to suppress conflict, not making judgments, keeping things secret, not enforcing the ethical conditions we talk about, not holding the powerful accountable—we actually create a situation that stops people from being able to forgive.

    It’s quite a lot to chew on … how justice, mercy and the ability to forgive all walk down the road together, hand in hand. They are, it would seem, interdependent upon each other.

    On Breathing, Painting and Sweden
    Oct 12th, 2007 by Sonja

    I’ve kept reminding myself to breath these last couple of days. Just breath. Just breath.

    Smaug rolled again yesterday and snorted. He did it in the most unlikely of places too. Caught me completely unaware. I hate when that happens. I was happily reading blog posts and sipping my morning coffee. When Googlereader flashed a new post from Bro. M. entitled “Stockholm Syndrome.” “Ohhh … sure to be good,” I thought.  And just clicked on through.

    I’d really recommend reading the whole post and comments for yourself. I know I always do that. You’re probably tired of it. I do that for a number of reasons. Primarily, I do it because words are a dicey form of communication. I interpret them slightly differently than you. So, you’ll read that post a little bit differently than I do … because your context is different from mine. Second, I’m sure to have missed some important point or other … so please go point that out to me. I always need the help. I can synopsize here … but you’re really better off reading it for yourself. Especially the comments, which are also good.

    I spent the better part of yesterday and now this morning stewing over that post. It hit me hard. I don’t know if it was between the eyes or in the solar plexus. In either case, I spun away dizzy and hurt. Churning and emotionally stunned. It wasn’t that Bro. M. wrote anything particularly hurtful. It was that what he wrote stirred up the waters of a pond I have just recently brought to still. I tried several times throughout the day to write a coherent comment at his place and couldn’t. So, I’m writing here. In between breathing and taping the trim and painting.

    Bro. M. likened some of the experiences in church and spiritual abuse to the experience that some kidnap victims have that is known as Stockholm Syndrome. “Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed.”

    I’m not certain that I agree with Bro. M. that Stockholm Syndrome adequately describes the effect or the relationship between the parties in the relationship when spiritual abuse or bullying happens. I think that there are some aspects of it that are present. But here is where I think there is a significant difference between victims who are under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome and victims of spiritual abuse. Victims who are influenced by Stockholm Syndrome eventually come to realize that the things that they feared while under the influence of their kidnapper/protagonist were unreal, unreasonable and/or illegitimate fears. They were (in a word) made up, in many cases, by the kidnapper in order to hold sway over the victim.

    Victims of spiritual abuse never have that realization. Their worst fears are all realized. They lose. They lose their friends. They lose their spiritual family. They lose their source of spiritual support. They lose everything. I can count on one hand the number of friends I have. One. There is hardly anyone to pray for me and mine in the brick and mortar world. We are alone. And it is lonely here. This walk is painful and dry and hungry. On my good days, I know that God is here. On my bad days (and they are frequent) even God is absent.

    In January of 2006 I had a nervous breakdown that involved panic attacks and depression. My panic revolved around an unreasonable fear I had that people (policemen mostly) were going to accuse me of something I hadn’t done and the courts would not believe my testimony or any evidence I gave on my own behalf. I was fortunate to have a good counselor and psychiatrist who working together brought me out of that state in relatively short order. I learned how to deal with those fears and strange thoughts. The brain is an interesting organ. But imagine my dismay when it turned out to be some horrible foreshadowing. In January 2007 the people making the unfounded accusations were not the police, but some of my closest friends and no one would believe my testimony or any of the evidence I gave on my own behalf.

    I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around for a while now. One of the things that I’ve been involved with for a long, long time is the process of peace. Redemption. Reconciliation. Mediation. I first heard about it when I worked with the Neighborhood Justice Project to fulfill my community service requirement in college. This was a group that was devoted to mediating disputes between landlords and tenants in the town where I went to college. I heard about it next when I was interning for Senator Stafford. One of his assistants was involved in an initiative that would eventually become The Network of Peace and Conflict Studies at George Mason University. Both of those examples date back to the very early 1980’s and I could go on. My personal history is rife with such examples. I’m dipping into the deep past to say that I’ve been immersed in the issues of peace, redemption and reconciliation for a very long time and it pre-dates my journey with Jesus by a number of years. I know how to mediate and I know the cost involved in reconciliation. I’ve done both … and it’s painful. It’s hard. I am never good at it. I’m not certain anyone is.

    So this morning I read this post at Jonathan Brink’s blog about the Mark Driscoll kerfuffle. I’m going to quote some of what he wrote. Not because I think MD has anything to do with this issue, but because Jonathan said some significant things about the process of reconciliation (or not) and redemption (or not) that we all highjack:

    All of this makes me realize there might have been a deeper wisdom to Jesus inviting us to, “Turn the other cheek.” How many times have we read that verse assuming it was only our enemy. Maybe Jesus knew we’d need that verse for our own brothers (and sisters) too, for the one’s that hurt us within the church.

    The reality is that my brother is going to miss the mark sometimes. But if I go to him in secret, holding his dignity in love, he’ll know I really am his brother. I can listen to why he thinks this or that and say, “Oh I get it…but have you thought about this.” It’s just between the two of us. Jesus knew that love was the only response that worked. In a mission of restoration and reconciliation, I can’t do that if there are blows thrown.

    Maybe Jesus knew that the moment someone strikes us is the moment we are being invited to destroy ourselves by striking back or running away. When someone hit us was actually the most defining moment of our lives. It was in this moment that life was demanding an answer to who we really are. Are we really the children of a living God?

    See … going to a brother in secret? Well, one sort of supposes that that conversation is kept in confidence. That is when redemption and reconciliation is possible. On the other hand, sometimes those conversations are used as artillery. When one discovers that the conversations have not been kept in confidence, but have been twisted and maimed; taken out of context and given to others. Then one is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I absolutely loved what Jonathan had to say … it’s beautiful and right and good and true. However, if you find that the brother or sister you’ve gone to is not trustworthy or is not playing the same game that you are. There is nothing else to do, but walk away. There is no reconciliation possible. You may over time forgive that person. But until they are ready to reconcile and play on an even field, redemption of the relationship cannot work.

    And so I also found myself at odds with Bill Kinnon (it was a strange day indeed). He riffed on Bro. M.’s post writing about the responsibilities of the congregation under such brutal leadership. He said in part:

    But there are congregations throughout the world that are, for want of a better word, stupid. For, as Forrest Gump is wont to say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

    Rather than exhibiting the power of collective intelligence*, they reflect the swamp of collective stupidity. Their senior pastors operate like potentates with management skills worthy of inclusion in Bob Sutton’s book or possibly one of Robert Hare’s – whilst these so-called leaders are busy self-identifying as Level 5 leaders. Yet the pew people stay loyal followers.

    Sorry, Bill, I need to part ways with you on this. I don’t believe in collective stupidity. I do, however, believe in a state of collective fear. Or should I say … pack behavior. We are, after all, dogs. Or, in the words of Handel, sheep. No one wants to be excluded from the pack (herd). May I refer you to my (not so wonderful) post on the topic? The people in a church know exactly what happens to those who step out of line. The leadership make sure of it.

    I was emotionally raped in front of my team by my leadership in my own livingroom. They did it on purpose. Guess who are their most ardent followers now? Those who saw up close and personal how savage the leaders could be. They know exactly what will happen if they step out of line. They know exactly when, where and how they will be outcast.

    Those things are unspoken in any social construct. Every social entity has a gatekeeper. That gatekeeper lets people in and out. Is the keeper of the pack so to speak. That person is also the keeper of the unwritten and unspoken rules of that social entity. People will go to great lengths to keep that person happy without being aware of what they are doing … without that person even being aware of their own position in the group. People know what they have to do in order to “make” it in a group and so they do those things in order to get along and stay part of the herd. Because the root desire of most people’s heart is to belong. They want to belong to the larger group.

    So, I don’t believe it is collective stupidity that drives people to suspend their good judgment in order to continue to belong to unhealthy groups/churches. I don’t believe it is Stockholm Syndrome. I don’t know what it is. I think there are some parts that want to continue doing and being what and where God calls us to be. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And most of all, nobody wants this … this long walk in a desert. Nobody chooses this. It’s much too hard, too lonely, and people will do almost anything to put it off. I know I did.

    Gathering of the Saints
    Oct 1st, 2007 by Sonja

    The last time I stood in a church and participated in communion was March 4, 2007. I have not stepped into a sanctuary or had the Eucharist since then. I did not go to church on Easter. Not at Pentecost. When I had my annual physical recently, my doctor was astonished that I have forsworn the gathering of the saints. She was very concerned about that.

    The friend I spoke of in my previous post has dealt with her issues of trust in another fashion. Her family attends a local mega-church. As she put it, “Why do you think we go to a church of 11,000 people?” And I responded, “That’s why we don’t go to church at all.”

    Yesterday, however, I gathered with friends at the home of TexasBlueBelle and BlueMan. There were friends of their children present as well. The house overflowed with teenagers, adults, and children of all ages. The neighbors who have stood by them were there too. The couple from the neighborhood who have remained steadfast have lived there for seven years. They are not Jesus following people or people of any particular book. At one time or another it seems that they were indoctrinated in the ways of church, but that was long ago and far away.

    We had lunch and heard the tales in the first person from all four of them for a little while. Things are much worse than I thought. When we all drove in there were people outside watching us arrive. There were people watching the house every time we stepped outside. It was eerie. It was weird. I wondered what they thought we would do or they would see. I waved and smiled as I left. There are six Peace Orders on the court docket scheduled to be heard on Friday, October 5.

    After lunch we gathered in the livingroom for a communion service that I’d put together that included some prayers … the Lorica of St. Patrick, a Caim Prayer and we had open prayer for my friends and their neighbors. Then we all took communion together.

    “Church” happened all afternoon. Love was present in the room. In the house. In the yard. Love and hope and joy and wonder filled the air as we gathered together to support our friends and celebrate communion together. We prayed for shielding from hate and persecution. We prayed for redemption and reconciliation. We prayed for peace.

    I wish I had words for the beauty of what happened in that livingroom. I know that a lot of people cried, but I didn’t. I don’t always cry when things move me, but I will always treasure that afternoon. The prayers of the people and the children were simply beautiful. They were simple. And beautiful. And filled with hope. It was food and drink for the soul in ways that have no words.

    The bread of heaven and the cup of salvation … world without end.

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