On Being Free
Nov 11th, 2010 by Sonja

As one of the three women who work together to get the synchroblog going each month, it’s really pitiful that here I am … bringing up the rear in November.  But something was stopping me from writing this month.  Oh, I have plenty to say on the topic (Voices of the Marginalized) and there were/are many directions I felt I could take.  Yet every time I wanted to write, I couldn’t.  There was a time when I would have fretted and fussed.  Sat down and made something up.  But if I’ve learned anything over the last five or six years, I’ve learned how to wait.  How to be patient.  How to let things percolate and bubble to the surface.  And last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I finally knew what to write about.  So here I am this morning … a couple days late, and a couple dollars short.  I hope you find it worthy.

Marginalization results in an individual’s exclusion from meaningful participation in society and it’s source is many. Economic circumstances, illness, disability, geographical location, gender, sexuality, race, religion are all dominant sources of individuals being marginalized. Sometimes it’s easy to see holidays or certain systems from a position of power or privilege. * As God’s people, what does it mean to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized?

  • What is it like to be one of the marginalized?
  • How can we be part of bridging some of these gaps?

Here in the LightHouse we’ve been discussing some particularly knotty extended family issues over the last week or so.  This has been an ongoing conversation that has ebbed and flowed around work schedules, hockey schedules, and our emotional barometers.  We have worked it around to a place where we realized we are not free to say, “No, this or that will not work for us.” within this relationship.  Well, I suppose we are free to say that, but the emotional damage to the relationship will be very high.  In order to maintain the relationship, we are required to affirm the other party’s desires, no matter what else is going on with us.

It struck me as I was drifting off to sleep last night, that this is the quintessential difference between those who are in and those who are marginalized.  Those who are in have power, are equals and may say yes or no to whatever they please.  They have the freedom to choose their lives and their horizons.  Those who have been pushed to the edges do not have this freedom, they are required to say yes in order to maintain their relationship with those in power around them.  Their choices/our choices are then limited by what they are given to say yes to.  A relationship between equals will allow negotiation; it will allow for a yes OR a no.  A relationship between a powerful and a powerless will only allow for a yes and negotiation will be minimal at best.

What this means is that those who are marginalized in our country are not free.  They are bound by invisible bonds.  The ties are tightly woven and they are kept in place (in some cases over generations) just as surely as those of a plantation owner in the Antebellum South.  We tell ourselves that now we no longer capitalize on human suffering, but is that really true?  Perhaps if we took a different perspective on the relationship of power and wealth vs. poverty, we might begin to see how much of our power grid really does still capitalize on human suffering; on some humans having less than others and on a zero-sum paradigm of the world.

And as I was thinking all of this through, I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul again, in the letter to the church at Galatia:

All of you are God’s children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. (Gal. 3:26-28)

That is the gospel of freedom.  That we would all be free to make our yes be yes and our no be no.  To be equal with one another.  That in the end, our relationships with one another will not be driven by who is powerful and who is powerless, but by love.  And our mission during our brief stint here is bring the Kingdom to the dusty corners that we find.  Help those in our path see new horizons and find ways to speak; to say no when they need to and yes only when they want to.  To have healthy relationships based on love, rather than warped relationships based on fear or power.


As I wrote above, this is a synchroblog post, and no synchroblog would be complete without a list of juicy links for you to read at the end.  Please take some time to read what others have written on this important subject.  Thanks!

A Theory Of Everything
Aug 25th, 2008 by Sonja

 … but I might revise it later

So, as you know I’ve been on vacation.  No television (thus no Olympics to squander my braincells).  Lots of porch time for pondering.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve been trying to catch up on my belated Ooze reading (and I have … sort of).  Then my brother came and landed a new book in my lap.  My mom insisted I read it … first … so I could send it on to my other brother and his wife.  Okay.

In Defense of FoodIt’s an easy read.  Well, the reading is easy and engaging.  But it pulls you into some deep deep thinking too.  Dangerous territory.  The book is “In Defense Of Food:  An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  You might recognize him as the author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire.”

As I’ve been reading this book, the Lakeland Revival and Todd Bentley have been unraveling rather publicly.  You can read blogger opinions about it in various places.  I (of course) have been following Kingdom Grace (start with Apostolic Bullshit and then read parts II and III), Brother Maynard, Bill Kinnon and iMonk (among others).  In a post the other day, Bro M asked the question whether or not Christians are more gullible than the rest of the general population.  And something that has been unsettled in my head clicked into place.  This post is a result of that click; perhaps it was an epiphany or maybe it’s just a rant … I’ll let you be the judge.

As I first jumped into the book I found it striking how closely it paralleled the Christian sub-culture.  Quotes such as this jumped out at me:

“The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutrition science, and – ahem – journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding the most elemental question an omnivore confronts.  But humans deciding what to eat without professional guidance—something they have been doing with notable success since comgin down out of the trees—is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, a definite career loser if you’re a nutritionist, and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor or reporter.  (Or, for that matter, an eater.  Who wants to hear, yet again, that you should “eat more fruits and vegetables.”?)  And so like a large gray cloud, a great Conspiracy of Scientific Complexity has gathered around the simplest questions of nutrition—much to the advantage of everyone involved.  Except perhaps the supposed beneficiary of all this nutritional advice:  us, and our health and happiness as eaters.”

Then there’s this:

The first thing to understand about nutritionism is that it is not the same thing as nutrition.  As the “-ism” suggests, it is not a scientific subject, but an ideology.  Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.  This quality makes an ideology particularly hard to see, at least while it’s still exerting its hold on your culture.  A reigning ideology is a little like the weather—all pervasive and so virtually impossible to escape.  Still we can try.  (italics mine for emphasis)

Well, I won’t bore you with the quotes on all of the pages I’ve flagged, just tell you that this book looks like a veritable rainbow when you see the long page edge of it shut.

Michael Pollan does a masterful job telling us that it is highly likely that the source of many of our health ills (from diabetes to depression, heart diseases to hyper-activity) in the modern world is the so-called “Western Diet.”  That diet composed of refined sugar, refined grains and refined fats.  We have so depleted our soil that we are now both overweight and starving ourselves to death.  It’s the Modern paradox.

(Aside … I’m particularly fond of Michael because he outs soy as a modern evil.  I’ve been convinced for years that soy will be our downfall and refuse to consume it in any form if I can help it –I’m also highly allergic to it–but now you know what my tinfoil hat is 😉 )

So what, you would be correct in asking, does any of this have to do with Todd Bentley and the unraveling of the Lakeland Revival?  Nothing at all.  And … well … everything.

You see, a long time ago, and not so long ago when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, we humans relied on each other for advice.  We relied on our elders to teach us how to walk in the world, how to behave, what were good things to eat, what weren’t, who the charlatans were and who they weren’t.  We lived in close community with one another.  Sometimes that was painful and ugly.  Sometimes it was beautiful.  But regardless, the advice we got from each other was given by people who knew one another with some level of intimacy and (here’s the important part) the giver of the advice didn’t have a horse in the race.  In other words, the giver of the advice wasn’t going to receive remuneration or paybacks for any kind of change in the behavior of the receiver of the advice.

Things have changed rather dramatically in the last 100 or so years.  Now we pay for advice that used to come from the elders in our communities.  Not only do we pay for it, but in paying for it, we subsidize those who stand to gain the most from our receiving their words of wisdom.  We change, and they get paid twice.  Something is amiss.

Or this example:  meningitis.  A drug company has developed a vaccine for meningitis.  I know this because LightGirl recently went in for a physical.  She was offered a vaccination for meningitis.  We took it.  But I was blind-sided by it.  I’m not so certain it was necessary or right.  The doctor presented it as a good thing, the insurance company covered it.  So … no big deal.  Not really.  But she’s young enough that she’ll need a booster before college and no one really knows the long term effects of this vaccine.  Really.  And what is this vaccinating against?  What are the realistic chances that she’ll contract viral meningitis?  Uh … slim and none … realistically.  When I look at it, the doctor had every reason to “sell” this vaccine to me and the drug company had every reason to “sell” it to him.   I had virtually no opportunity to sit back and peruse the situation from a dispassionate vantage point and the doctor?  He had horse in the race.  I was not getting unbiased information from him.  Now he’s a good doctor, LightGirl is not disadvantaged by having this vaccine that we know of.  My point is … we don’t know enough.  I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.  I only have enough information to make a decision that benefits the person giving me advice.

I can never have enough information to make that informed decision … because I cannot get outside the box of the medical ideology that permeates our culture to find that kind of information.

Here’s where I find my theory of everything in the nexus between this book and Lakeland.  My generation (Gen X believe it or not) and Gen Y and Millenials and maybe even Boomers and really anyone alive today have been raised to be distrustful of their elders.  We’ve all … all of us … Christians, atheists, Hindus, whoever … religion has nothing to do with this … been taught to believe that only professionals can teach us what to do next.  That’s why we look to professionals in every area of our life.  We have professional Christians, professional nutritionists, professional child rearing experts (of every stripe) … you name the issue … we have professionals to tell us what to do.  Often confusing professionals who dole out conflicting advice which changes every few months or years.  So we must keep changing the stuff we purchase … the gadgets, gee-gaws and books … more and more books on every subject under the sun.

The reality is that most of us know … we know … what to do.  We know what’s best and good and right and true.  We know the right way to be and how to be that way.  Or maybe we don’t … but an expert is cannot tell us the best road to choose.  Only someone who knows us can give us advice.  Only someone who is intimate with what is important to us, can ask the right questions.   Sometimes we do know in our heart of hearts that when Sara Lee markets a loaf of bread as “Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White” bread it’s an oxymoronic crock of smelly dung so deep and wide that not even God’s grace can cross it.  We don’t buy it and we shouldn’t buy it … not literally and not metaphorically.

It’s not that we (Christians … or anyone else) are necessarily gullible.  It’s that we’ve been taught to suspend our native intelligence over and over and over again on so many issues.  We’ve been taught by our governments and our religious leaders; our politicians and our teachers to listen to the experts.  Listen to the experts and the professionals … they know what they’re talking about.

But they all have a horse in the race.  No one ever told us that part.  They all … every DAMN ONE OF THEM has something to gain by getting the lot of us to suspend our good judgment and believe their twisted un-truths.

So … are Christians gullible?

Not any more gullible than the Congress of the United States who believed George W. Bush when he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, yet it patently did not … according to every single unbiased study that had been done.   Hell, I knew it didn’t … a stay at home mom in Virginia.

Not any more gullible than the hordes of people who believed Bill Clinton when he said he hadn’t had sex with Monica Lewinsky or hadn’t smoked marijuana because he hadn’t inhaled.

The problem is not that we’re gullible.  The problem is that we’re listening to the wrong “experts.”  For hundreds, even thousands of years we listened to people who knew us and were in relationship with us.  People who know, for example, that I get wigged out when faced with unexpected trouble (like a car breaking down on my way to college is likely to ruin my entire college career).  I have learned over time how to manage those issues better, but my elders who know me, also know to ignore some of my outbursts as, “she’ll get past it.”  Not, “let’s medicate that.”  Or they might ask a few pertinent questions, such as, “How important is this?”   Now we think we need to see an “expert” or a “professional” about the many different issues in our lives … these experts, these professionals have a vested interest in “selling” us something … a way of life, a medicine, a book, something …

So, the next time you get all hyped up about something, remind yourself that you live in a capitalist system.  You do.  Every thing.  Every damn thing costs.  So when you ask for or receive advice from an expert or a professional, ask yourself what does that person stand to gain from their advice … even if it appears to be as wholesome as a revival in a church.

Justice and the Death Penalty
Jan 7th, 2008 by Sonja

It’s probable that I should not have read this article.  I should have just passed it by when it caught my eye as I was skimming the article list before coffee this morning.  But I read it.  I’m slightly out of sorts anyway.  We’ve had too much company, this last batch staying longer than we anticipated.  LightGirl has had her hair straightened and no longer looks like herself.  I have a quilt burning through my fingers.  Yes, I’m out of sorts.  I should not have read this article before coffee … which is my most out-of-sorts part of the day.

The title alone made me grumpy:  High court to weigh in on lethal injection.  But as an informed citizen, I thought I should read the article.  So I did.  There is a lot in there about how we go about killing our fellow citizens.   And whether or not it is humane.  Which methods are more humane than the other.  Are they more or less humane than the methods we use for euthanizing animals?

My grumpy, uncaffeinated mind retorted, “Humane is no death penalty … it’s kinda like birth control.  You can only truly be humane when you abstain.”

As I began to drink my coffee and process this, I realize that this, of course, won’t fly in this country.  I’m being grumpily naive … or naively grumpy.  Or something.

I don’t believe in the death penalty, as you might guess from this.  Here’s why.  It serves no purpose other than retribution.  We call it justice … but there’s no justice in death.  We call it punishment … but punishment implies correction.  Correction means that a person can correct their behavior and go on to live a productive life.  But not when they’re dead, or waiting to be dead.

If I could have my wish, we’d have a deep conversation about justice and the criminal justice system in our country.  Our criminal justice system is broken.  Fractured beyond repair.  We have rules piled on laws stacked up on code until we are all chasing our tails.  More rules, harsher incarceration terms and limits aren’t solving the problems.  Have we even defined what the problems are?  Do we really know what problem we’re trying to solve?

In the cases before the Supreme Court today one is a man who ran into another car then killed the couple who’s car he ran into.  Who does that?  Who runs into a car, then kills the occupants?  Answer:  Someone who is impaired because of drugs, alcohol or mental incapacity of some sort.  No one in their right mind runs into a car then kills the occupants.  The death penalty in that case is not a deterrent.  It’s not a punishment.  It’s either retribution.  Or, we could just say we’re tired of paying for the criminal upkeep and it’s more efficient.  Let’s just call it what it is.  Be honest all you friends of the death penalty.  The bottom line is that it’s efficient.  We don’t have to think very hard about what we’re doing.  Or how we’re doing it.  It looks good.  It sounds good.  The criminals are locked up.  Or dead.

The thing is, our prisons are full and overflowing.  Our courts are full and overflowing.  Crime ebbs and flows; we think it responds to this or that change in the laws.  But I’m not so sure.  I participated in a long, convoluted conversation about the value of human life just before Christmas.  As a result of that I did some research into how the gun carry laws affected the murder rate in the various states.  The answer I found, it doesn’t.  Both are all over the map.  So, clearly, too many other factors are at work to effect crime rates than criminal law.

One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  Can an entire nation be declared insane?  We keep doing the same thing over and over and over and over again, expecting a different result … yet we keep getting the same result.  And we’re surprised again and again and again.

Here are the questions I’d love to ask.  What purpose does our criminal justice system serve?  What problems are we trying to solve?  How does the death penalty fit into that purpose?  It is only after we (as a people) answer those questions that we can begin to answer the question of how to pursue a humane death penalty.

Standing Against the Tide
Dec 20th, 2007 by Sonja

I love the beach and the ocean. It’s always been a favored spot of mine. We haven’t been in a very, very long time. There was a time when we went, along with several other families, every October. It was an annual retreat to the Outer Banks. That has gone by the wayside now for a variety of different reasons, almost all of which point to a new season in our lives. I will have to find a new time and place to visit the ocean each year.

Stand against the wavesWhen I was a child one of my favorite things to do was to stand about knee deep or so and let the waves buffet me. I wanted to see how long I could stand before the outrushing tide swept the sand out from under my feet and I no longer had a foundation on which to plant myself. Could I curl my toes around enough sand to make a stand? Me against the elements! The horse she saith into the trumpets ha ha! And I played that game with myself for many long minutes, until the temptation of the waves and my brothers became too much and off we’d go to swim or build castles in the air or something equally delightful.

As an adult, I’ve tried this but it’s lost much of its charm. I’m stronger now and more adept. I can stand now in the face of all but the most outrageous waves. In fact, the waves that it takes to knock me down as an adult are really quite dangerous and I should not be standing out in them. The ocean holds other charms for me now.

I was reading through the blog-o-sphere this morning and came upon this at Bill Kinnon’s place:

One writer against Christmas went so far as to say that the shopkeepers for their own commercial purposes alone sustain Christmas Day. I am not sure whether he said that the shopkeepers invented Christmas Day. Perhaps he thought that the shopkeepers invented Christianity. It is a quaint picture, the secret conclave between the cheese-monger, the poulterer, and the toy-shop keeper, in order to draw up a theology that shall convert all Europe and sell some of their goods. Opponents of Christianity would believe anything except Christianity. That the shopkeepers make Christmas is about as conceivable as that the confectioners make children. It is about as sane as that milliners manufacture women.
— G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, January 13, 1906.

Bill, in dry spot, was quoting the inimitable Chesterton. Fancy that. It kinda got me thinking though. I had a conversation yesterday with BlazingEwe about the nature of stuff and why we have so much. And why we think we have to have more. Why we like to shop, etc. We have these sorts of conversations regularly. Because we both know we have too much stuff and we feel assaulted by the messages to get more all the time. I commented on Bill’s post that shopkeepers might not have invented Christmas, but they surely feast upon it. Yes, they do.

This quote got me thinking about the ways in which we attempt to stand against the tide as adults. Chesterton is both pithily correct and yet, wrong. We’ve long known that in the aftermath of the Depression and WWII, the shopkeepers did get together and consciously (or perhaps not) decide on the path of planned obsolescence in order to create markets and economies and desires for their products in the masses. It’s a very symbiotic relationship and this did not happen overnight, nor was it done in a vacuum without the consent and knowledge of said masses. We may like to pretend we didn’t know, but we know. We’ve bought into it on some level.

So what have we done? Over the years, the decades, the generations, we’ve allowed the powers and principalities to tell us and we’ve told each other that the way to express our love for each other is to buy bigger and better gifts for each other. We’ve done this. No one else has. We can point to the manufacturers, the advertisers, the shopkeepers, etc. But in the end, we have met the enemy and he is us. Gifts keep getting bigger. Credit card debt gets deeper. The advertising gets gnarlier. First it was radios. Then it was televisions. Now it’s big screen televisions complete with play stations. Or complete kitchen makeovers. The giving is enormous. There is jewelry, clothing, automobiles. Using one’s credit cards will allow one to compete for prizes such as the perfect gift (that will cause the special someone to swoon). ( Lest you think I’ve been watching too much television, a good friend has been working retail this year and many of my examples come from her.)

Now before you think I’m a grinch (though I am 😀 ), I don’t have anything against gifts to express our love. I just wonder if we haven’t derailed a bit. I wonder if there isn’t some other way that we can express how we feel about our loved ones. I remember reading Little House in the Big Woods with LightGirl. And in that series Laura Ingalls Wilder revealed an entirely different cultural expectation for love and how it was expressed. It was seen over and over again, not just during their several Christmas celebrations, but during the thick and thin of their lives. And … no, I’m not advocating a return to the prairie. I’m just thinking about how they expressed themselves to one another. The gifts they gave each other were rarely physical. When they were, the gift had a special significance that revealed something about the recipient’s character or the relationship between the giver and recipient. The gifts revealed a level of thought and care that are rarely seen these days.

As I reflected on Bill’s GKC quote, the things that have been disturbing me about Christmas giving were put to rest. I’m relatively unconcerned about whether or not a gift is handmade. I don’t care about how much or how little is spent. I want to know that the giver spent time and care thinking about me. Just as I spend time and care thinking about the people that I give gifts to. Giving is akin to a spiritual ritual for me and I don’t enter into it lightly. It is one of the places where I continue to curl my toes into the sand and attempt to stand against the tide. I still can’t keep my feet. I get knocked around fairly regularly by the waves. But I keep getting back up and trying again. It feels just about as useless as standing against the ocean, but she saith into the trumpets … ha ha!

The Zen of Blog Maintenance
Nov 5th, 2007 by Sonja

I’ve been fumbling around lately. There’s a lot going on in my head (which may be dangerous). You’ve seen the results of some of it, but not too much. I feel torn though. I have a lot of different people who read this blog. Some of them (hi Mom) read it because they love me. Others read it because I’ve fooled them into thinking I’ve got something interesting to say every once in a while. But I find that I want to focus my scope here. So, I’ve been doing some building and creating. I’ve made a couple of other homes … this may make me feel slightly schizophrenic, I don’t know. But I made a blog to talk about my family life; hockey, homeschooling, etc. Like I can brag over there that LightGirl was named Player of the Week on her team last week. That blog is called Grandfather Ent and if you’ve developed any sort of interest in my kids and their hockey, you can follow them over there. I also decided that I needed a place to write about my adventures in quilting because not writing about it was making me a little bit nutty. I’m also going to post occasional photos of my WISPs (that is Works In Slow Progress). I called that blog Withywindle Counterpanes. I’ll be writing more about churchy, Jesusy things here from now on and keeping my children and design things for my “other” spaces. I’ll see how that works.

I’ve done some maintenance on my sidebar here too. I’ve split up my blogroll into two pieces. I wanted to call attention to the women bloggers that I follow and give them a special place. So I called that folder “Galadriel” for the leader of Lothlorien in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. She was a leader with power who focused on peace. The men that I follow are still under “Beacon-Hills” which I also think is fitting.

You may have noticed a trend here … I seem to find a lot of my nomenclature from MiddleEarth. Yep. I do. That’s because those stories have always spoken into my life and continue to do so. For instance, Calacirya is the name of a ravine. It’s mentioned only once in the books … but it’s known as the Ravine of Light, hence the reason I refer to my husband and children as LightHusband and LightChildren. I used to have a pseudonym which was Celtic and meant Lady of Light. I like the light theme and will be using it more often in the future. I’m not certain how that will play out, but it will.

I’ve also added a couple of icons to my sidebar.  One is for the new book written by Patrick Oden, It’s A Dance.  This icon leads to the website he’s created to go with the book.  Patrick’s got a unique vision for church that I’d like to encourage … so here’s my tiny, little helping hand.  Click on that link and explore his site.  Better yet, read the book! then go to the website.  I know Thanksgiving is nigh, but I now have a hunger for something better and not yet after reading it.  I’m fairly certain it’s not pie!!  The second icon will lead you to the Daily Office of the Northumbria Community.  I’ve been praying that off and on for several years now out of my book (Celtic Book of Daily Prayer), which can get awkward and cumbersome; flipping back and forth between bible and pages, etc.  I just discovered that the Northumbria Community has their Office on-line and it is sooooo convenient.  I even built myself a “gadget” for my Google Homepage … it will be available to the general public in about ten days if you’re interested.   This makes it fabulously easy to pray with the saints worldwide.  So you can get to it through the icon on my sidebar and wander around the island at Northumbria for a while.  Then stay and pray with me if you will.  I’d love it.

There you have it … I’m seeking some zen or other of blogging.  I’ll let you know if I find it.  We’ll see if this works out … or not.

Death by Memes
Jul 20th, 2007 by Sonja

My friend, Doug, who peregrines around the land hath tagged me once again. It is the dread 8 random facts meme … but I’m not so into random facts lately. I don’t know what to do here. I want to point people to 8 … somethings. But in the end that’s really pointing to me and what I like and there’s something about these memes that are ultimately very self-centered. Of course, the whole blogging thing is too for that matter.

So I am tasked with coming up with 8 items of note about something, someone, or etc. Soo … here are 8 things I am thankful for today:

1. I am thankful that LightGirl’s temperment is not at all like mine. This is not because I have self-image issues, but because I am enjoying watching someone with an entirely different outlook explore and enter the world. I really love talking with her about different episodes in her life and hearing her perspective on them. She is so completely different from me and I am enjoying that very much.

2. I am thankful for antibiotics. I seem to have inherited my maternal grandfather’s predilection for sinus problems and so I’m thankful for the drugs that cure these ills.

3. I am thankful for coffee. I love coffee. If I could travel back in time, I would go back to the time when people first discovered coffee was good to drink and I would kiss their feet. Well … maybe not their feet. But I would hug them and kiss them and tell them what a wonderful thing they had done!

4. I am thankful for cotton. It’s one of three fabrics that feels good to my allergic skin and the other two are frightfully expensive. So I love cotton. I especially love it when it comes in the form of quilting fabric and I’m working on a quilt for someone I love (yes, GreatPea, your time is coming soon 😉 ).

5. I am thankful for BlazingEwe and TexasBlueBelle. They have kept my feet on the ground and helped me put one foot in front of the other more times than I can count.

6. I am thankful for the gift of creativity. The joy that comes from experimenting, designing, doodling and creating is without words. I love to play with color and words and shapes and make them all come together and “say” something using very few (if any) words.

7. I am also thankful for words, because I love to write. I love giving voice to the stories and ideas that wrestle in my head. I love to study the evolution of language and how words have depth, texture and meaning beyond what we think they do. That our language is not flat and two dimensional, but rich and deep and even four dimensional as it changes with time.

8. I am thankful that as I get older I am more and more able to embrace being an introvert. As a woman it is unacceptable to be an introvert, so I had to interact as an extrovert my whole life. But I’m learning how to balance cultural expectations with my own needs a little better now. Interpreted, yes, this means I’m learning to not care what others think quite so much anymore and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that I’m growing more comfortable in the skin God gave me.

Sooo … the rules state that I’m to tag eight more people and they have to do this too.


Rules … schmools. Did I also tell you that I’m somewhat rebellious? I’m going to tag a few people … I don’t know how many … for the all new Thankfulness Meme … You have to list 6 – 8 things you’re thankful for and then pass it on to whomever you think might need this little exercise in futility … Here are my victims er friends:
JJ the Smu

Bridging the Gap (July Synchroblog)
Jul 12th, 2007 by Sonja

I count myself among the lucky ones. The lucky few. When I was young, certainly this was not on our agenda. It was not going to be our heritage. This became ours rather later in my life. I’m speaking of our summer home on the lake.

Chateaugay at big dockWe call it “camp.” This is somewhat of a misnomer. When I speak of camp, as in, “We’re going to camp,” most people think of a camp with bunk houses and mess hall and that sort of thing. Not so much. This is a turn of the last century Victorian summer cottage. There are five bedrooms and we’re right on the waters of Lake Champlain in Vermont. A few 100 feet from our front porch lie the remains of the old concrete dock where the Ticonderoga steam paddlewheeler used to dock. This boat brought people and goods from New York City to the people who summered here. It was quite fashionable back in the day for the wealthy and upper-middle class of the cities to have summer homes on lakes. The men would send their families to those homes for the summer. Often they also sent the wait staff as well. The men would join them for weekends and a week or two of vacation. Hence the necessity of the Ticonderoga and its sister ship the Chateaugay … they ferried men from the end of the railroad that had brought them up from the city to the summer homes on the lake for vacations and weekends, then back to the city at the end of each stay. Women and children stayed for the whole summer. The camps stayed in families for generations, or were given to new families. Each point has it’s own community and character or “feeling.”

It’s interesting being here. There’s a sense of community here that is permeable. Permanent. A sense of permanence that is from another time. We have traditions here that are silly and timeless, but tolerated. The roots here run deep. We come back summer after summer for truncated friendships that last for years.

It’s a funny place too. There is something in the air here. In the photo above, the dock is at the very tip of our point. If you round the point by foot you can’t get very far as the rocks rise high in the air out of the water. But right there, just before the cliffs begin, at the waters edge there is a clear spot. There is a large rock just off the shoreline and across the lake is Split Rock in New York. If you sit very still and quietly you can begin to sense the other world shimmering just over the horizon. You can hear it thrumming in your ears. It is a place where the glass clears briefly. I get the sense sometimes that it is an ancient passage. I wonder if it is because the Abenaki tribe used this spot for their rituals, or did the Abenaki get this sense as well and thus choose the spot?

These camps and our rituals here were established in era when men (humans) gazed into the future triumphantly. It was only a matter of time and trial before the key to utopia was found. The utopian vision of human perfection was fresh, the dream was real and realizable. I wonder sometimes if these little communities were established as a step towards achieving utopia … achieving perfection … at least for a little piece of time. Maybe only during the summer.

It has been a hallmark of the modern era to search for perfection. We have reached for the skies in our buildings, modes of transportation, and even discovery. We have dug down deep into the cellular and molecular level to find medical perfection. Perfect bodies can be sculpted with knives and silicon and other bits. Perfect minds can be created with medication. Perfectly comfortable environments can be created to achieve the desired mood … Do we want people to shop? Create this temperature, this music, that atmosphere. Do we want them to work? Then this temperature, that music, this atmosphere. Whatever we want from people, we have the ability to manufacture the perfect place … utopia. We have even achieved the ability to extend life beyond the time when perhaps it is wise … now we no longer know when death occurs in many cases. Or when it should. We argue over when life begins … and when it ends. May we live forever. Utopia.

I wonder if we’re coming to the beginning of the end of that era. If we are beginning to realize the limits of our human fallibility. The new so-called post-modern era may be the beginning the pendulum swinging back. It is a sea change of how the world works. If we begin to understand that all of life here on earth is not ultimately perfectible, how do we live? That basic assumption has guided western thought for the past 350 years. Search yourself. Think hard about how go about each day and how you think about the future … you will find that your assumptions are that your life is going to slowly but surely get better. We assume that it is a “rule” that each succeeding generation should “do better” than it’s parents. These are utopian ideas at their core. The idea that heaven can be achieved here, without God.

So, as I sit on the porch of this nearly 100 year old cottage, and reflect on the people who built it. I think about them and their dreams. Why they built this place, what they were escaping. Some of the things they were escaping were the same as I … the city heat and stink, cramped space and loud noise. Others are different and yet the same. They came here to get fresh air and so do I. Yet I come here to feel the fresh air, not canned, perfect air. They came here to achieve a little utopia and I come here to escape the modern version. I come here to understand, again, the limits of our human hands and feel, once again, the power of the elements on my skin. And I marvel at how a place from the past can be a bridge to the future. A future that will likely be stripped of utopian thinking, but will be all the more livable because of it.

This month’s SynchroBlog is a series of discussions on Utopian ideas. As is a perfect Utopian concept, we have not mandated the topic on Utopia to be specific to any one concept, or dogma. So please … follow the links to check out what ma peeps’s writ’n ’bout:

Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
John Morehead at John Morehead’s Musings
Nudity, Innocence, and Christian Distopia at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Utopia Today: Living Above Consumerism at Be the Revolution
Nowhere Will Be Here at Igneous Quill
A This-Worldly Faith at Elizaphanian
The Ostrich and the Utopian Myth at Decompressing Faith
Being Content in the Present at One Hand Clapping
Eternity in their Hearts by Tim Abbott
Relationship – The catch-22 of the Internet Utopia at Jeremiah’s Blog
U-topia or My-topia? at On Earth as in Heaven
A SecondLife Utopia at Mike’s Musings
Mrs. Brown and the Kingdom of God at Eternal Echoes

Jun 22nd, 2007 by Sonja

Then there’s this.  I/We are walking with some friends who are preparing to move to another state.  There are some potential pitfalls and ups and downs involved with this move.  They hit a snag, a snafu (that’s Army for Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) as it were, this past week.  Up to now they were very happy with the house they’d found, gleeful in fact.  They felt that it was “in God’s plan,” for them.  This snag, this snafu, caused them to begin to doubt the rightness of the house for them.  Just for a moment.  They have continued ahead with the move because the house really is a good place for them.  It really is a good decision.  But the conversations and prayers have gotten me thinking.  I’ve been thinking about how we perceive and communicate God’s plan in our lives.

It’s quite common in the evangelical/institutional church to discuss “God’s plan” for one’s life as if it’s a blue print that may be discerned by a variety of means.  Some of those means are almost magical and require spiritual gifts and talents that merge with those of a nature that I liken to tarot card reading, looking into a crystal ball, or prophesying/divining (and I don’t mean in God’s name).  People wonder if they’re going to the “right” college (i.e. the one that is in “God’s” plan for their lives), or if they’re marrying the “right” person, or taking the “right” job, or purchasing the “right” house or the “right” car and so they look around for signs and symbols that they are making the “right” decision.  That is, the decision that puts them on the path that is in “God’s Plan” for their lives.

Increasingly, I am having a hard time with that line of thinking.  I used to think like that.  I used to think that there was a “right” decision to make and a “wrong” one about things like jobs and colleges and cars and such.  (I still think there might be a right and wrong mate, but that has nothing to do with God’s plan and everything to do with personalities and character and traits and things).   I’m not sure that God really cares about which college I go to.  Okay, well, I’m not going to college.  I don’t think S/He cares about which car I drive, other than the fact that cars degrade creation.  So in my decision to purchase a car, I ought to take that into account.  I need to take my income into account when I’m purchasing a home so that I can continue to be obedient to God’s call in my life after purchasing a home … but I’m pretty certain that God doesn’t particularly care which house I choose.  It’s just a house.  And any cover over our head is a blessing.

I think that something very uncomfortable has happened in Western evangelicalism.  We’ve taken a verse out of context and made it mean something completely adverse to its original purpose.  Big surprise there.  In these times of decision people often quote Jeremiah 29:11.  Some people have even co-opted it as their “life” verse.  So I went to the chapter and re-read the whole thing this morning.  Here’s the verse all by itself.  Actually, I’m just going to quote the part that people usually say all alone:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, … “  Then they put that with a bit about the sparrows and the lillies in the field (parables in Matthew) and come up with an idea that God has put together an individualized blue print for each of our lives.  If we could just divine that blueprint and live accordingly, we’d have a perfect happy life.

I have a lot of problems with the picture that paints of God.  What kind of God is it that has a perfect plan for Her children, but keeps it secret?  Which of us, as parents, has plans for our children, but dangles only enough details for them to get in trouble and then holds them accountable?  Even we humans are not that evil.  That paints a picture of a mean, stingy God who is waiting for His children to get into trouble.  The God I read about in scripture loves us.  Loves us enough to give us free will.  But having a closely held blueprint and a free will I think are somewhat oxymoronish.  If my path to sanctification lies through that blueprint, but I cannot know the details.  And I have a free will to do what I choose.  Then do I have a free will at all?  If my path is already chosen, do I actually have free will?  I know that some would say that free will lies in my choice to be obedient to the path, the blueprint, or not.  But I don’t quite believe that.  Here’s why.

I went to Jeremiah chapter 29 and read the whole thing.  The first verse stunned me.  Chapter 29 of Jeremiah is a letter!  It is a letter from God to the exiled Hebrews in Babylon.  The first four verses are the bona fides.  But verse five gets into the meat of what God wants the Israelites to hear from him.  So read with me now:

5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. [b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

15 You may say, “The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the LORD says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your countrymen who did not go with you into exile- 17 yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like poor figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth and an object of cursing and horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the LORD, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the LORD.

20 Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: “I will hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes. 22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘The LORD treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and in my name have spoken lies, which I did not tell them to do. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the LORD.

When I read this letter, I hear the words of a parent speaking peace and calm to a troubled child.  I hear myself saying to my children things such as, “Yes, you really screwed up this time.  Here are the consequences of your bad behavior.  But you’re going to live.  You’ll survive and thrive.  I still love you and want what is best for you.  When you calm down, you can join us again at the dinner table.”  Okay … I know that’s the human version and God has much more stringent standards of behavior than I do.  But I think you get the picture.  What this verse does NOT say is that God has a plan for our lives that involves which college to choose, which car, which house, which mate … that’s why S/He gave us free will and good brains.

I believe that generally S/He wishes to bless us, to bring good into our lives (whether or not we can recognize it).  Generally, we ought to (because of our love response) desire to spread that love around to others using our gifts and talents.  In that way, we are living within Her plan for our lives.  But I’m beginning to think that where and how and when we do it, is kind of up to us.  We’re grown ups, after all.  Praying about those decisions, I’m increasingly thinking, is like praying for a good parking space.  It just might be a little trivial.  What do you think?

Me and John …
Jan 16th, 2007 by Sonja

… Stuart Mill, that is.

I took a silly on-line quiz. You know the kind. You know you do. This one was devoted to what sort of philosopher you’d be if you were one.

I’d be John Stuart Mill. I was surprised … and amazed. It sort of fits. That makes me a little uncomfortable in my own skin.


You scored 26% Skepticism, 18% Iconoclasm, 55% Dogmatism, and 46% Inventiveness!

John Stuart Mill (May 20, 1806 – May 8, 1873), an English philosopher and political economist, was an influential liberal thinker of the 19th century. He was an advocate of utilitarianism, the ethical theory that was systemised by his godfather, Jeremy Bentham, but adapted to German romanticism. It is usually suggested that Mill is an advocate of Negative liberty. However, this has been contested by many academics, notably Dr. David Walker of Newcastle University in England.

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