Mar 26th, 2014 by Sonja

When I was in 4th grade, I made a discovery.  I found a book of Greek myths that had been my mother’s textbook in highschool.  It was filled with the most wonderful stories about gods and goddesses and heroes galore.  I loved that book and read it cover-to-cover more times than I can count.

One of the myths that I remember the most vividly is the one about Persephone.  Persephone was the young, beautiful daughter of Ceres (the goddess of crops and the harvest).  Hades (god of the underworld) saw her one day and fell in love.  So he stole Persephone and took her to his home; the dark glittering underworld, where he married her.  Two things happened as a result.  Persephone did not like her new home and started a hunger strike.  Her mother mourned the fact that her daughter was missing and wandered the earth leaving it fallow as she walked.  Zeus (king of the gods) got wind of what was happening and he convinced Hades to give Persephone back to her mother.  Hades acquiesced, with the provision that Persephone must have remained on her hunger strike during her entire stay with him.  It turned out that she had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds.  So it was agreed that Persephone would live 6 months of each year with Hades and 6 months above ground with her mother.  Now it is said that each year Ceres mourns the absence of her daughter and we have winter, but each spring Persephone comes back to life from death and Ceres blesses the earth with new life.

Persephone is the immortal visage of spring; young, beautiful, nubile and bursting with life.  I think of her each year when the calendar winds around to April-ish.  She will return to her mother soon and we will have new life in abundance after the cold empty winter months.

I’ve always thought that it’s interesting that Easter falls in April(ish) each year.  The ancient Greeks had Persephone and we have Jesus.  The timeline is different with Jesus.  He only spent 3 days in the underworld.  And because he was fully human, he actually died on the cross bearing the weight of all of our sin.  And His renewal, his resurrection, signifies new life for all of us.

This year in particular I find myself hopeful as the dark days of Lent spin themselves out and we approach Easter.  It’s been a long, dark winter for me as I found myself battling a recurrence of major depressive disorder (complete with increased anxiety and panic).  I’m hoping that as the weather turns and I get my brain focused back in that the new life of spring and Jesus will bring me back to myself.  Here’s to spring.  Here’s to new life.

This post is part of the March 2014 Synchroblog – New Life.  Check out the links below for some great reading on the subject:
Michael Donahoe – New Life
K.W. Leslie – Sin Kills; God Brings New Life
Carol Kuniholm – New Life. Mystery Fruit.
Jeremy Myers – I Get Depressed On Facebook
Glenn Hager – A Personal Resurrection Story
Loveday Anyim – Spring Forth – Ideas That Speak New Life
Loveday Anyim – Inspired By Spring To Create A New Life
Sarah Quezada – Post Winter Delight
Edwin Aldrich – Finding New Life In Our New Home
Doreen A. Mannion – Each Day A New Decision: Choose Life
kathy escobar – new life through nonviolent communication
Anita Coleman New Life, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Eternal Living
Mallory Pickering New Life Masterpiece Theater Style
Liz Dyer New Life, Empowerment and Dropping Keys

Sometimes I Really Am An Ent
Mar 16th, 2010 by Sonja

As regular readers of this blog may be aware, I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Loved the books and loved the movies.  I still read the books from time to time.  And watch the movies over and over again.  But I guess I don’t need to tell any of you that.

One of my very favorite scenes in either books or movies is the scene between Merry, Pippin and Treebeard where the hobbits are trying their very best to convince the ent that the ents must join with the forces of men, elves, hobbits and dwarves against the orcs in this epic battle.  It takes them quite a bit of convincing just to get Treebeard to move.  But he finally decides that meeting would be a good idea and off he went for an interminably long meeting.  He came back to make a report after days … literally, days … of talking.  His report?  “Weeeeee haaave decided.  Yoooouuuuu aaaarrrrrreeee noooooot Orcs.”

The look of dismay, mixed with disgust, need and something else on Merry and Pippin’s faces was priceless.  I love that moment.  It is such an amazing clash of cultures and paradigms.  Each learning how to interact with the other.

Yesterday morning, I was brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed and mulling over some long standing issues in my life.  By long standing, I mean they’ve been sitting out there for about three or four years.  So I mulled and thought and came to some resolution about how I wanted to moved.  I finished up, went downstairs and said to LightHusband, “I’ve made a decision.”  He looked at me with a grin, “What?  I’m not an orc?”  I laughed and replied, “Well, I’ve known you’re not an orc for 20 years now.  But I’ve decided that there are some people who are orcs to me.  Or at least I need to treat them that way … sort of.  For me to be healthy.”  He arched a brow and said, “You mean I got it right?  You really are an ent?”  “Yes, I really am an ent.”

I went on make the following explanation.  Well.  My explanation to him was similar.  But not the same.

I’ve spent the last three years playing the part of Lot’s wife.  Sometimes I wonder about that story.  I remember reading about it in some popular literature when I was younger.  There was speculation that the weapon of destruction for Sodom was a nuclear bomb and Lot’s wife died of radiation.  But I think she was turned to stone from grief.  Grief can stop us in our tracks and turn us to stone and the operative action that causes it is “turning back.”  Lot’s wife turned back, and her tears turned her into a pillar of salt.  That has been my reality for far too long now.

I have allowed myself to look back and pine for what was, what can never be and what I wish for.  I doubt they ever will be and my wishing my life away is not healthy for me or anyone else involved.  So my quilts will be for those who I am in active contact with at this time.  That means people I see and talk to on the telephone … who know what is going on in my life beyond Facebook and Twitter statuses (stati?).  To those of you reading this who have gone down that road (and you know who you are), choosing to believe your church leaders about us and thinking you might still love us is no longer possible.  It is time to stop looking back.

Those of you who would like to remain in relationship with us, you will need to be able to talk with us openly about that horrible time in our lives and hear our pain without denying it or taking it away from us.  It is a wound that continues to bleed and tear at our souls.  You will need to be unafraid of picking up the phone and calling us or writing us an old-fashioned e-mail now and then.  More now than then.  In short, you will have to desire a relationship with us that requires something of you.  So … I am going to un-Friend you on Facebook and Twitter.  And sever those tenuous ties with you.  I need to move forward.  I need to release myself from the grip that era has on my mind and my soul.

Because sometimes … people who are not orcs, really do have an orc-like effect on others.  And then they need to be kept at a distance if one is to remain healthy and on the road to happy without “looking back” and turning into a pillar of salt.

Curling 2010
Feb 16th, 2010 by Sonja

Four years ago I re-discovered an old acquaintance.  I’m having fun now watching again.

Four years ago I was in the middle of the darkest caves and curling was the only time of day I could breath freely.  Something about the commentary, the rhythm, the pace all combined to give me peace and comfort.

It’s been a long and winding road.  But I can finally say that the fall is over.  I might even be out of the caves and in the sunshine on most days.

Life is good.

Smaug Makes a Comeback
Sep 24th, 2008 by Sonja

I’ve felt a general dis-ease with my life for a couple of weeks.  I’ve been in a weird place.

On one hand, I seem to be doing well.  I’ve been laughing.  I’ve been getting things done.  I’ve been eating.  I’ve been sleeping in what are normal patterns for me.  And yet … something was askew.

I finally figured out what it was the other day.  I seem to be angry a lot.  It especially leaks out here in the rants that I seem to be posting lately.  And I realized that I don’t like that.  It’s not who I am or want to be.  Part of the problem is that I’ve had no time to myself for months and my batteries are running on empty … literally.  But there is another component that I could not identify.

So, yesterday I mentioned all of this to my counselor.  I’ve been seeing her for two and a half years now.  When I first walked into her office in February of 2006, I was very nearly hospitalized for depression and panic.  It was only the support system from the LightFamily and the SheepFamily that kept me home.  So she’s worked with me through quite a bit.  She listened carefully, and thought it was time to administer another testing instrument.  Something to look at where my head is at somewhat more objectively.  So we did.  And the results were not surprising, but somewhat unnerving.  I scored as mid-range in mild depression – and my counselor noted disappointment at this, since I’m on some strong anti-depressants.  She felt this score should have been closer to the normal range.  I scored in the normal range in the panic section so that has been effectively dealt with.  But then we got to anger.  I scored in the “severe” range for anger … so now I have anger issues to deal with.  Beautiful.  (sarcasm)  Just beautiful.

I’ve worked so much else out and in waltzes anger.  It never seems to end and I feel overwhelmed on this road to health and wholeness.

So, I’m sorry I’ve subjected all of you to my anger, albeit without intent.  But still … there it is, I did it.  So I am sorry.  I can only say that I will be working through this and hopefully gain more insight in the future to keep myself in check.

Surprised By Grief
Apr 22nd, 2008 by Sonja

About a month ago, BlisteringSheep and BlazingEwe told us about a radio broadcast they’d listened to and I wanted to listen to it. It had been on NPR, so I knew how to find it. I did, and went through the necessary steps to download the podcast. Then I discovered that I can subscribe to their podcast. WOW! This means that I just open up my iTunes window regularly and, poof!, they download some new stuff. I am now discovering that this is also true at Allelon and other wonderful places as well. I am so far behind the curve that it’s a wonder I don’t still believe the world is flat. I know that is a place where I could find a lot of information and do some multi-tasking is by listening to podcasts.

U2 Special EditionHere’s my problem though. I don’t have an iPod. I live in a house filled with iPods, but I don’t have one. I used to have one. I loved my iPod. It was the original U2 Special Edition iPod that came out in late 2004. Shiny on the back with the boys autographs engraved on it. Matte black and red on the front. Sleek. Proud. Special. And it came with all of their music. And it was mine. For the first time in my whole life I didn’t have to share my music with anyone else, or cringe when I listened to the same song over and over and over again, or … well … anything really. It was mine. But because I’ve always shared my music, I shared this as well. Shared too well, apparently, because it disappeared. I think it stayed at my CLB2 that last day we were there. That’s the last time I remember having it, I’d used it for music that morning and given it to the sound guys. In the flurry of clean up at the end of the morning, I would often forget those details … but we were always set to return. We’d always see each other again, you know? But then … we didn’t. And likely never will.

I didn’t discover that my black beauty was missing for months. I was too sad, too angry, too hurt to listen to music for a very, very long time after we left. I still don’t listen to music very often. Now I listen to the LightChildren’s music, or LightHusband’s music. On the rare days I want to listen to music, so I find it on the dish … and listen to the radio on our television. But I want to listen to those podcasts while I’m sewing, or sorting, or whatever. So I claimed the one iPod that won’t fit into the car jack this morning. Told the kids, “I need this.” They really didn’t squawk too much. They are very good kids.

Then I sat here with my computer on my lap and the iTouch in my hand and cried.

It’s time to move on, and stop looking back. Stop wondering what might have been. Stop wishing for the love and the community that broke so badly. I understand some of the pieces of what happened. Some of them I will never understand. It’s time to let those go.

I was surprised by the grief that poured out at the thought of finally putting my old iPod to rest. It’s gone. Really gone. For some reason, and in an odd way, it’s come to symbolize putting those friendships and that part of my life to rest for good and all. I’ve known this for some time now, but I’m fumbling with the how.

An old friend stopped by about a month ago for a brief chat. As we caught up with all of our respective goings on, he asked LightHusband and I, “So have you made a lot of new friends with all the hockey parents?” and in my mind I came to a full stop. No one else noticed, of course. But the question washed over me like wave in November, numbing with cold and I froze. The answer that tumbled into a wreck behind my teeth was, “Well, no … I can’t make friends now. I have no earthly idea how to trust anyone. I don’t know when that will ever happen again.” Fortunately, LightHusband had a more socially acceptable answer and conversation continued on without my contribution. But I’ve been sitting with that ever since and watching myself walk around mistrustful, angry, broken, wary … of people. This is/was not my normal functional state. I am not comfortable like this. For 40+ years my automatic assumption was to trust others implicitly and that has been completely shattered.

I want my trust back. I want hope. While I grieve what did not happen and what can never happen in my former community, there is also a sense in which I am grieving the idea that it might never happen. Or that I will never be able to participate in it because I will be too afraid of the pain. I will have lost that sense of fearlessness which is a necessary component for entering into it.

So, I have yet to re-program that iTouch. It’s sitting next to me on the sofa. Shiny and black. It’s speaking to me of the possibilities inside. I also know that there are opportunities available on the web to purchase a replacement for my beloved U2 Special Edition iPod and I’ve found them. But it seems that there are a few paths I need to walk down first. When I’ve done that, then I’ll be ready to have my own iPod again.

Jan 23rd, 2008 by Sonja

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pushing My Own Envelope (part 1 in a series)
Dec 29th, 2007 by Sonja

A while ago my friend, Mr. Bill, and I publicly revealed that we have an agreement. We’ve agreed to always agree. When we don’t agree, well, we’ll disagree to disagree. Then, being a double negative, we’ll actually agree and everything will be all right. So, our agreement to agree works for us. We like it. One of the best parts of this agreement to agree is that Bill has one of the best blogrolls ever and I’ve been exposed to some new and wonderful writers through this arrangement.

I think one of the best has to be Brant Hansen at Letters from Kamp Krusty. If he’s not the best writer, he definitely has the best hair. If it’s not the best hair, it’s definitely the most like Jesus. For the longest time, I went to Brant’s blog and refused to believe that the guy pictured in the corner was really him … nobody who was real, really looked like that. Only fake people on television and in magazines look like that. But if you go to his blog, that really is him. Most of his writing is laugh out loud funny, but the photos aren’t. They are real.

You may have noticed I said that *most* of his writing is funny. It is too. He makes many a sharply aimed point with boisterous humor. It’s amazingly well done. He’s really smart. All good comedians are. He knows how to use language really well too. But once in a while he drops the curtain a little and gives us a peek into himself. And that is equally if not more well done.

Shortly after Thanksgiving Brant took a brief hiatus from blogging; about a week or so. When he came back he had a few posts about his reasons … here (1) and here (2). In one of them he revealed a long battle with depression and anger. He also revealed that he’s been using anti-depressants for sometime as a weapon in this battle. He confessed how inadequate this made him feel as a Christian and as a man and on a whole bunch of other levels. I wept. I read and wanted to comment. But what could I say? “Dude! I’m right there with you.” But I’m not. I’m right here with me. Brant’s experience is his and mine is mine. On some level they are similar because depression has similarities. But then again …

So. Several people linked to his posts and I read them again. I was undone. Like I was being unsupportive or something because I knew I was in this same boat so to speak, but remaining silent. Yet I am not in the same boat. We both have similar leaky barges on the same stream; there is a mixture of anger and relief about that. It might be that we both spend a lot of time waving our arms and yelling, when we could be bailing. Yet my silence was not condemnation or fear. If anything I had too much to say and eventually I realized I needed to let it process and write later in my own space. So here it is … my own words about being here with me.

A little less than two years ago I fell off a cliff. Most people would not know that to look at me, because no bones were broken and I have no lacerations or bruises … outwardly. But inwardly … well, now, that’s a whole other story. I faced a Balroc and like Gandalf, just when I thought he was gone, the tip of his lash caught the hem of my robe and pulled me over the edge with him. The fall was long, endless and sheer torture to a person with so great a fear of falling that I could not even watch that scene in the Fellowship of the Ring.

I had endless panic attacks and stopped eating and stopped drinking coffee (for the first and only time since my 12th birthday). I couldn’t sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time and naps were out of the question … unless I snoozed out sitting up on the sofa. The only time I truly felt at peace was during the daily broadcast of the curling competitions in the Winter Olympics and when we were out on our daily walks. Whatever metaphorical demons had been unleashed in my brain were quelled during those brief moments. I could barely leave the house and only with an escort … LightHusband or BlazingEwe and had to have someone in the house with me at all times. In short … it was a nightmare.

I have been walking through a sine wave of depression for most of my adult life. It ebbs and flows, sometimes greater and sometimes lesser, but it has been an ever present companion. A shadow, if you will, lengthening or drawing close depending upon the position of the sun. Always lurking and never overwhelming. It was enough to make me angry sometimes. Or make me wonder why I am so different. Or wonder why I see things that others don’t. Or how I could ever get through one more day and then another. And wonder what is real joy? What does happiness feel like? Is this it? How about now?

Here’s the thing about depression that goes on that long. After a while you begin to not trust happiness or joy. It’s not that you don’t enjoy them. You do. You love them. At first. But then you wonder how long they’re going to stick around; like a deadbeat dad, you wonder when they’re going to leave again. And you kick them out first so you won’t get hurt again when they leave too soon. You get conflicted about them after a while.

Depression was casting one of its longest shadows when I found Jesus sitting around in my neighborhood back in 1990. He came into my life in the form of my neighbor, a pastor’s wife. She saved my life from depression (caused in part by my personality and in part by some meds I was taking for a newly discovered seizure disorder) and from spiders that I have an inordinate fear of. She talked to me for hours about anything I wanted to talk about. Sometimes I even listened to her. That’s how I know she was Jesus. I was 29 at the time and then turned 30. And sometime in that time period I did it … I said the magical words and planted the magical beans … and got saved. Or whatever you want to call it. Got washed and then baptized. Gave my life to Christ. Etc. PW (pastor’s wife) was very good about reassuring me that nothing would likely change right away.

On the other hand, as time went on, I began to hear tales of people who had been saved and then SAVED from this or that. I heard especially about people being saved from depression and other mental illnesses. I heard that Jesus would be enough. Funny, Brant seems to have heard that too. I think a lot of people have heard that one. Jesus is enough. Well, I suspect He is. I’ll come back to that in a few minutes.

The shadow ebbed and flowed … sometimes longer and shorter. Like any roommate, I learned how to live with it’s eccentricities and quirks. What would happen if I left the toothpaste tube uncapped and how to handle the temper tantrums. I also began to give it due consideration. Was I just like this? After all, there were no clear indicators from childhood. Other than I come from a long line of phlegmatic personalities … my father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a great grandmother. On my mother’s side of the family there is a documented history of depression and suicide for unknown causes. What if this just is … what if I am just wired this way? How does that figure into the equation?

Fast forward to my journey through the caverns of Moria and the fall off the cliff. I was very fortunate to have a sympathetic and proactive family doctor. She got me into a psychiatrist and a counselor very quickly. In turn they got me onto some good anti-depressants and mood stabilizers and got me talking, respectively. I’ve been with both of them for the rest of the journey since then and they are wonderful. My psychiatrist suggested that it was grounds for a celebration when I told him that I’d driven across the Bay Bridge not once, but four times in one week in early October. It was a mark of how far I’ve come from the days when not only could I not drive, I could barely leave my house. He has been conservative, yet sensitive to how I’ve reacted to the meds. Keeping me in just enough meds so that I can breath, but not so much that I am comatose.

That’s the thing about anti-depressants. When you have enough, you can breath and eat and grow. You become a living thing again … by Sesame Street standards. In all seriousness, I can … I can breath and eat and grow again. I have space in my head for all three, sometimes even at the same time. But if you have too much, you become a wooden stick. As someone else once told me, you can’t cry, even when you want to … or know you should. On the other hand, not enough medication and most times, just breathing is a chore, eating and growing are right out.

So now I have my blue and green happy pills. I call them my happy pills, not because they make me happy but because they allow me to live. They allow me space inside my head to consider different paths when the way before me is desperate and hard. They allow me to consider others. And, they allow me to be more me. Now we come right down to the fine hard grit. Who am I?

I still have my shadow-friend walking with me. I have come to accept that she is likely to be part of who I am. She is woven into my character from many threads in my life. I am not certain that she would or could be unwoven now. Here is where I begin to struggle with the question that haunted Brant and one which haunts many Christians in similar circumstances … if I am wired this way, then why is Jesus not enough? Why is who I am and how I was made so uncomfortable that I need to take pills in order to get along … for me, I need them to get along with myself some days. There are days when I am so crabby and unsettled that I cannot get along inside my own skin. We are told that Jesus should be enough for all of that … He will heal you. But He doesn’t … or something. So here are my several different answers to that conundrum of faith. I believe and use them all depending on my mood/attitude. On days when I have more grace, I am able to use the more gracious reasons. On days when I have less, I am more pugnacious. (You know? I’m not a robot … my mood and attitude does change from day to day. So deal with it. 😉 )

I’ve listed them as I think of them … not in any particular order:

One idea … God could heal my eyes too … but since I was seven I’ve worn glasses and no one bothers to tell me that Jesus is enough for my eyes. They just accept my glasses as part of me; the spectacles are not a character flaw, but the anti-depressants are? I wonder why that is. I also take acid reducers and multi-vitamins … Jesus should be enough for those too, I guess. But it’s a fallen world we live in, my body needs some help and no one sees that as a character flaw. But anti-depressants … well, that’s a horse of a different color. We’ve still got enough Puritan left in our cultural psyche to think that those who are depressed ought to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over themselves. Okay … I’ll just do that.

Another idea … Jesus may be enough, but I am clearly not. Really. That’s the thought that runs through my mind when I hear that. I know for certain that Jesus is enough for all this and a bag of chips. He threw the stars into place and the sand into the sea. The oceans rise and fall at his breath, surely He is enough for me. Yep, He really is. But I am not. I am miserable. My bread doesn’t rise properly, I forget the physics of heat transfer and ask my son to pick up a scorching pan lid with no oven mitts on, I can’t keep all my friends straight and I can’t meet their expectations of me and I can’t meet my expectations of myself. No use telling me to lower my expectations because at 46 I’ve tried that over and over and over again. You think I haven’t? Like that’s a new idea? Yes, I’ve tried that … expectations are what they are. Try lowering your own sometime and see what happens. Nine times out ten that’s called … d i s a p p o i n t m e n t. Then you have doubled your fun. You don’t meet your expectations and now you’re miserable, because you also failed to lower them. YAY. So, by myself, I am not enough and I haven’t figured out how to do the partnering with Jesus thing.

Another idea … Grace is enough. Grace is enough, yet it is not enough either. Here is probably my most bitter commentary on the church and our greater culture in general. We do not accept others for who they are anymore. We have discovered that, “You know, there’s a pill for that …” instead of working at relationships and understanding that others are truly different from us, we all insist that others conform to us. Our culture has become a chaos of bubble Napoleonic little kingdoms each demanding that everyone else conform to them. We cannot accept one another as individuals anymore because we no longer have a vision for what that is. We want crazy Uncle Fred to take a pill so he’ll be like us, and overly affectionate Aunt Edna to keep her distance. I have to wonder, why is Uncle Fred crazy? Uncle Fred is a package … there’s crazy Uncle Fred PLUS genius Uncle Fred, but you can’t just have the genius. You have to have the crazy too. More than that, you must embrace the crazy … even if it hurts. That’s grace being enough. Telling Uncle Fred to “take a pill for that” is not grace, it’s legalism. Reducing Uncle Fred to the crazy guy in the corner is not grace, it’s contempt. Containing Uncle Fred out of fear is not grace … it’s fear.

Related similar idea … We have discovered the beast of legal mood altering drugs and released him on society. Now we can make everyone just alike. Don’t fit the cookie cutter? Let’s lop that awkward corner off with a pill. Smooth that rough edge with another one. Some days I wonder if we’ve entered that Brave New World that Aldous Huxley wrote about. Or the Big Brother of George Orwell. Too many of the outlandish mind control projects written about by the science fiction authors of the 30s and 40s seem to be morphing into existence today without government intervention, just a cultural demand for bland homogeneity of character. Stepford Wives and Redford Husbands; happy, smiling with nothing to mar their bland existence. Perfect teeth, beautiful hair, we must all conform to cultural norms. We’ve got a pill for that, ya know.

I am glad to be taking my lovely blue and green pills, don’t get me wrong. They help me understand my life and process my emotions in ways that I need right now. I guess I just wonder about the pace and tectonic forces of a culture which has pushed so many of us to this point. Why do so many people need mood-altering psychotropic drugs just to get through the day? Why do we need a pill for that?

P.S. Don’t answer more hard work, or less stuff … those are the easy answers and they do not account for the complexities of where our society and culture are right now. And anyone who comes by and says some version of, “you need God.” will be hung at sunrise – virtually … and in the kindest, most Christian way – by their toes.

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.

Where Am I?
Oct 10th, 2007 by Sonja

I don’t know.

The grand living room project won’t get finished. It made me angry at about the sixth coat of red. And I got tired. So now it’s waiting for the trim to be painted. I need to finish it.

The whole house is in shambles. It feels as though the monsters got out from under the beds and had a rumpus like the one in Where The Wild Things Are.

LightHusband’s parents, siblings and families are coming for Thanksgiving (40 some odd days from now). And the house is in shambles … rumpused, as it were.

Worse than that, I am rumpused. I am torn and lost and tattered by the events of the past year. Grief continues to assail me at the worst possible times. Smaug is generally quiet. I can do all the things a functioning adult is supposed to do. But I am sad and tired.

Every so often the thought of sneaking into the back of a church for a service crosses one of our minds. It would be good to be amongst the faithful again for a little while. But I cannot bear the rape of my soul that goes along with it.

So the droughth continues.

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