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.

We The Purple – Book Review
Aug 2nd, 2008 by Sonja

We The Purple, book coverThere are several things I want to say about this book.  But I need to begin with a disclaimer.  This is one of my Ooze book reviews.  I received a copy of this book, gratis, with the expectation that I’d write a review of it.  Just so that everyone knows.  Okay …

So … I approached this book with a lot of goodwill and anticipation.  After all, I’ve been a political independent for a long, long time.  Yes, I will admit this in public now for maybe the first time.  I’m one of the few people who actually voted for John Anderson in 1980.  There are about 17 of us (actually he got about 5.7 million votes … but there are only 17 of us who will admit it).  Unfortunately, I was slightly disappointed … with the book, as well as with my vote for John Anderson (but that’s another story).

It’s a good book.  If you’re looking for reasons to join the vast middle ground in this country, I would recommend it.  If you’ve been in the middle for a long time and are comfortable there (like me), you might find it covering old ground.  I have to say though, I recommend it with a couple of caveats.  They are these.

First, I wish that whoever Ms. Ford had editing this book had done a better job.  I found countless mistakes in both spelling and grammar that left me floundering.  Some of them were clearly places where re-writes had failed to remove extra words.  Whatever the problem, the spelling errors and extra words began to drive me nuts and detract from the readability of the book.  I can overlook one or two, but several per chapter and I wanted to read with a red pen in hand.

Second, was that much of the writing had the nature of a rant and began, through the course of the book, to sound like a conspiracy theory.  Now I’m as jaded and cynical as anyone when it comes to the political process … maybe even more than most, but I’m not sure I’d buy much of what Ms. Ford is selling.  Or … maybe I’d say it this way.  I’d buy the stripped down version, but I don’t think the fully loaded set is necessarily true.  For instance, she makes the claim that it is in the best interests of both (political) parties to keep voter participation low on election day and goes to some length through out the book to back this claim up.  Some of the arguments have merit.  Some I’m not so sure of.  Like this one about poll taxes.  Poll taxes (that is taxing people on real estate and other property before they could vote) was outlawed in the early 1960’s.  They were a popular tool used in the South to prevent African-Americans from being able to vote.  Ms. Ford claims that Southern states now use other means of levying a “poll tax” without calling it that.  She used as an example the fees that Georgia charges to gain or renew a drivers license – $35.00.  That didn’t sit right with me.  So I looked it up.  In Virginia it costs $4 per year to gain or renew a drivers license and you do so for 5 to 8 years at a time.  So it will cost anywhere from $20 to $32 for your drivers license.  Now I cannot remember whether or not I was asked for identification when I went to the polls for the primary.  Apparently, you need one in Georgia.  However, in Georgia you may apply for an ID card for voting purposes … and that is free and good for ten years.   In Vermont, a driver’s license costs $40 for four years … very expensive.  But again, I don’t know what the identification requirements are at voting.  I do know that Vermont requires a Voters Oath.  (BTW … I checked Vermont and Virginia because I have context for both.  And they are about as opposite as you can get from one another in terms of culture, demographics, philosophy, etc.)

Here’s the thing.  For someone who is so impoverished that they do not have and cannot afford a state issued identification card, voting is very low on their list of priorities.  I’m fairly certain that eating and keeping a roof over their head is going to take up most of their time and energy.  I hope I don’t sound callous when I write this and I don’t mean to.  I also don’t mean to say that impoverished people should be excluded from the conversation that is voting.  What I am saying is that there are greater obstacles to their participation than that presented by a fee for an identification card.  Maybe we need to care more about those obstacles and work around them.

Ms. Ford really shines in her description of political independents and the church.  Why we’re necessary.  Why we’ve felt so ostracized.  The damage that political polarization (on both sides) has done to the church.  And how things are changing.  The book is worth the price of admission on those chapters alone.   So I’ll leave you with a quote:

Within conservative evangelicalism, the notion that America is a Christian nation is a baby step away from the potentially disastrous belief that God is on our side–as long as we have conservative Christians making vital decisions that affect our domestic life and our foreign affairs.  This attitude is evident “in the way political and religious conservatives vigorously and often angrily attempt to force their views and interests on everyone as if their interests, by definition, are God’s interests,” writes Obery Hendricks in The Politics of Jesus.  “This is not faith; this is arrogance.”

Book Review – Porn Nation
Jun 25th, 2008 by Sonja

Porn Nation - the bookI received Porn Nation:  Conquering America’s #1 Addiction, by Michael Leahy a couple of months ago in stack of books from The Ooze.  I’ve become an OozeSelect blogger.  It was the first book I read in the stack and I’ve been struggling with how to review it.

It’s a well written and poignant account of one man’s struggle with a harmful addiction to pornography.   Michael Leahy lost a lot of his life to porn.  It was difficult reading in places, because it didn’t appear that he left anything out.  I venture to guess that he was harder on himeself than he might have been on someone else.

Yet …

I’m struggling with this review.  I find I cannot say to everyone that it’s a must read.  Or even a need to read.  I’m struggling with some of the themes that Michael presented.  Most of all I find that I don’t agree with the pervasive sense of fear that is engendered by reading this book.

Is pornography America’s number one addiction?  I don’t know. It’s very likely.  I do know that it is an enormous stumbling block to making things right for women in my generation.  We will never have equality as long as large groups of men see women as sexual objects; toys for them to get their jollies on with.  In that regard, pornography is a sin.  It degrades God’s creation and abuses others.   The entire industry creates abuse … of the women, of the men of everyone associated with it.

In many ways sexual addictions are like food addiction.  If one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, one has the option of quitting cold turkey … never to face that temptation again.  However, if one has become addicted to looking at a woman’s body (for example) how does one go about quitting that?  Michael recounts his struggles with overcoming the addiction and how he broke it’s claim on his life very clearly.  He is at his best when he is telling about the personal cost of pornographic addiction.  There is much to be learned here and his private pain is worth the read.  But if I were a betting woman (and I’m not … my addiction is to caffeine), I would say that given Michael’s family of origin, he was vulnerable to an addiction of some sort from an early age.  It was his bad luck (?) that some dirty photos came his way.

The problem is, however, I don’t agree that everyone is vulnerable to pornography.  This seemed to be an underlying theme to the book.  When I finished the book, I felt vaguely unclean and as if I needed to follow my children around to obssess over their every internet move.  This is unnecessary.  We have established sane protocols with our children and I trust them.  We have good relationships.  They come to us with questions on a regular basis.  So I resented this seed of fear that got planted, and ripped it out summarily.

While I object to the pornography industry (deeply, sincerely, even bitterly).  While I also sympathize with the pain of Mr. Leahy’s addiction and recovery.  I find I can’t give this book an unqualified great review.  I felt too much fear emanating from it’s pages.  I am sensitive to fear.  Fear will lock us up and throw away the key if given the chance.  We must resist her siren song on all fronts.  There are many reasons to resist pornograpy and many, many reasons to help it’s victims, all of them … but fear is not one of them.

Book Review – My Beautiful Idol
Apr 20th, 2008 by Sonja

As you may (or more likely not) have noticed on my sidebar over there, I’m a member of The Daily Scribe. We’re a loosely organized group of bloggers and you can visit the site to learn more about us. Our intrepid leader, Shawn Anthony, finds different ways of exploiting our greatness and building our blogginess. One of those is getting books into our hands to review. In one way or another, we’re all nerds and like to read so free books are a bonus. So it was as a result of all of this that I was recently accepted as an Ooze Select Blogger. This = free books to review.

Book imageI received an e-mail announcing my first book. Approximately two days later LightBoy brought me a small package with an ominous look on his small face, “More educational hell, Mom,” he announced. Hmmm, I thought … I haven’t ordered any educational hell recently, so I wonder what this could be? It was, in fact, my first book from Zondervan; My Beautiful Idol, by Pete Gall. It had been announced in the e-mail as a confessional memoir and the promise waved that it would stand up to Traveling Mercies or Blue Like Jazz. My red flag sailed up the pole and I tossed the book onto my coffee table. Those are two of my favorite books and no mere interloper on the scene could possibly measure up to them. I didn’t even want to look at it.

And … by the way … have I mentioned this quilt I’m working on?

I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, and curiosity killed my cat, so I picked it up on my way out the door. After all, I’d promised to read it. I might as well get started. Since I only manage to read about two pages a night, I’d need plenty of time to get the review in under the deadline. Well …

I finished it at about 9 o’clock that evening. I would have finished it closer to dinner time, except that we left the house for several hours in the late afternoon to do some shopping. I did take a break in the morning for some computer work and a couple of naps in the early afternoon. But I read the whole book in one day. In one sitting, so to speak.

So, Pete Gall is not as laugh-out-loud funny as Anne or Don, but he’s deeper than they are. Maybe not deeper than Anne, but definitely deeper and more serious than Don Miller. He packs some serious theological juice into this book, but it’s readable, ponderable and believable. It’s more than a stand-up routine. I loved Blue Like Jazz, but I read that for the punch lines and the laughs. I loved the deconstruction that was in there, but I never could quite believe that anyone really lived that life. Pete’s life is utterly believable from the opening cab ride to Burritoville, to the ending ride home to Zionville.

His life is believable because the scripted things don’t happen. He writes as if they were about to, but then … they don’t and we must wrestle with the theology and theodicy of why those things did or did not happen. Life is not a television script where all things work together for good in our human ken. What we understand as good must be wrestled with in the face of great evil and darkness even in those who would do great good. Money and food do show up at the last minute, but it’s not the result of prayer or living “righteously” as most people have us believe. They show up, no matter how Pete screws up … or sometimes doesn’t. Because God is not a gumball god. We can’t put in our quarter and get back a prize, no matter how much we want to believe that’s how it works.

Christianity has this entire worldview that treats the filth of life as impermanent, redeemable, escapable, and unable to make the bride too filthy to be loved. But we have this thing in our culture where we don’t believe a bit of it. We work so overly hard to make God look good that what we say has no credibility at all; we’re such cow-brained dullards. In our insecurities and arrogance, and our lack of honesty, we demand to see God turn lives around, to do something cool for us. To be our dancing poodle. We want to be able to tell a great story about well our lives have been transformed by this God who, to exquisite torture, simply does not do enough flashy stuff for us to feel comfortable letting his work stand on its own. We are so desperate to share the good news that we almost always fake it. We forge the miraculous and we promise more than we really experience ourselves. And we are so conflicted about how to be “good Christians” — people whose lives been turned around and made squeaky clean — even though that’s not what we experience exactly, that we have developed a twisted, hand-wringing culture where we are far less matter-of-fact about sin and temptation and doubt and the profane than are our Scriptures, our God, or even the rest of the world around us where there is no promise of rescue or redemption. We’re obnoxious fools, and our dishonesty makes us incredibly vulnerable and weak — and far from trustworthy people who could actually benefit from knowing the truth according to God. (p. 148-9)

Pete is at his best when he’s pulling together his story lines and spinning an abstract web from his concrete story slabs. The conversations are a little contrived, but that may be because he is recalling them from over ten years ago. He is better still drawing analogies which return time and again making more sense with each coda.

As we discuss our respective desires to be used, to have a mission in life, it strikes me that we’re more alike than I’d thought for a long time. Maybe we’re not the only ones. Both my mother and I are determined to point to something outside of ourselves to demonstrate our worth and our utility. The crab shell must be covered, well and completely, beautifully and wisely, by a collection of things or by the sponge of Jesus held desperately by hopelessly inadequate hind legs, or we will have no one to blame but ourselves when the squid brings the pain. We want to be important enough to be loved, both of us.

Strangely, somewhere both my mother and and I have come to believe worth and utility are the same thing. But they are not. There is a great difference between being worthless and being useless, and there is a great difference between the things that make us useful the true measure of our worth. One is what we do, and the other is what we are. One is developed and grown, and the other full and unchanging from the moment of our conception. (p. 212-13)

There are two things I wish had been different in this book. One is that I wish that Pete had spent more time exploring this value gap of worth vs. use. I think there is a gold mine of how we in the West mix up our theology with our economic philosophy in that discussion. Unfortunately, I rather think that would not have reflected his journey.

The other thing I wish had been different is this. Very early in the book, as in on page one or two, Pete admits to lying for fun and profit with people. He never really backs away from this and I can’t get rid of the image. While the book is utterly believable, I’m left with the contrasting image from the beginning of a man who lies to sell things. It is unsettling, unnerving and the reader is left to wrestle with that image. In the end there are no white hats and no black hats. Just people, wondering when and how their scaffolding will collapse, and hoping the pain won’t kill them.

Would I recommend this book? If you are person who can live with grey areas, metaphors which might collapse at any moment, or uncomfortable analogies, then yes, I would recommend this book with fervor. If you are a person who likes boxes in your head, who likes life as you now know it, and is not into questions with no answers, then no … do not read this book. So it depends. There are some people for whom I will purchase this book and wrap it up with a bow and others for whom I would suggest perhaps not reading it. It is however, a very well written and engaging memoir of one man’s coming to grips with his spiritual nature. If you read it, you might come to grips with yours as well.

In the Memetime and Lent Resource
Feb 14th, 2008 by Sonja

Well … so I’m re-thinking and deconstructing myself and my previous post. Because my friends have given me much to think about in the comments. It is good to have friends who are wise and brave enough to do this and also who will give of themselves to be transparent before the world. I am humbled by this.

In the memetime, Shawn tagged me with the 123 meme which keeps circling and circling, but will not end. It brings to mind a song … maybe I will sing for you. LOL … that would not be pretty. In any case, for the one and a half of you who have not yet read the rules, here they are:

1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating! 2. Find page 123. 3. Find the first 5 sentences. 4. Post the next 3 sentences. 5. Tag 5 people.

I’ve done this one once before, but I was kind of wanting to do it again … just because I love books. Since then I’ve taken to reading a book outloud to the LightChildren. So it’s nearly always at hand here in our family room. So here’s my contribution:

From Hundred In the Hand, by Joseph M. Marshall III:

“When it [a rattlesnake] crawls into your lodge a second time, what do you do?”

The younger man rubbed the wooden stock of his new rifle. “Kill it,” he replied.

So, now … hmmm … who to tag? Most everyone I know has been tagged at least once. So, if I tap you again, my apologies, but this is fun and I know you all have many, many good books you could put your hands to.

Patrick – for recommending this good book to me

Doug – cause he’s blogging again

Jamie – cause he’s got a whole bookstore to pull from

Peggy – cause she tells it like is

Lyn – for needing time to read adult books

Sally – I’m guessing she has really interesting books

If you downloaded that funny little Lent journal I started and are wondering if I’m going to continue it, the answer is: Yes. I have finished days six through twenty and they can be downloaded here. Remember that the graphic is not mine, it came from the talented Si Smith at MayBe (a faith community in the UK). The general idea came from Peggy the Virtual Abbess, I just mixed it up a little bit. And of course, the Jesus Creed itself from Scot McKnight.

I Have A Dream …
Feb 9th, 2008 by Sonja

Those are some famous words, spoken to outline a deeply held and righteous dream of a culture. Many of us have dreams that are not so famous. Yet just as closely held. They speak of who we are and who we are meant to be. My beloved grandfather used to tell me, “If you never have a dream, you’ll never have a dream come true.” So I used to dream big dreams and hold them close, believing for sure that at least one would come true some day. None of them did. As the years went my dreams grew smaller and smaller and now I don’t bother much at all. I have a few scattered hopes left, but my dreams … well.

Late last year you may recall that I read and reviewed It’s A Dance by Patrick Oden. There’s a link to the book in my sidebar (over to the left there and down a little). I was quite enamoured by it. You can read my review here. Over the past year or so Patrick and I have developed a good cyber-friendship and corresponded with some regularity.

Shortly after It’s A Dance, I read The Shack by William P. Young. Now The Shack has gotten a much wider acclaim than IAD, so I did not write a review and I may not have even mentioned it here. However, I was deeply moved by it and am reading it a second time. What struck me though, was how much the two books were alike. The authors knew nothing about one another … nothing at all. I know that there are very few people who have read both books. Certainly very very few who read them back to back as I did.

Slowly, an idea was born that somehow the two books or the ideas in them, or the authors … or somehow in someway they needed to be together. But I kept putting the idea away. Because it was is impossible. I know Patrick. I don’t know Mr. Young. Don’t know him from a hole in the ground. And I’ve got no background with which to talk to him. No entree, so to speak.

Then the impossible became probable. Today, through a series of far out events, I am going to meet William (Paul) Young at the home of a friend. Sort of. The friend of a friend (whom I have met before and know) is having an open house and the guests of honor are Mr. Young and Wayne Jacobsen (another of my heroes). I don’t know if anything will come of this. Or if my hope is a silly hope. But if you read this and it crosses your mind today, I’d appreciate the prayers.

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

Or at least some of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ht: Bill Kinnon)

From the post at SoulPastor:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Best of 2007 – My Personal Favorites
Jan 1st, 2008 by Sonja

Today is LightGirl’s 14th birthday. I write that in a much more understated manner than I feel. What the h e double hockeysticks happened? Where did the time go? How did thirteen whole years go by so fast? Why is she wearing so much makeup? So many, many questions with no answers. I feel all gulpy inside. Some days I want to hold her close and make certain that nothing bad ever happens. Most days I know that’s not possible; I have to know that she has a good head on her shoulders, a sprout of faith, and the best I can do as her mom is to prepare her to handle life with grace and aplomb. The rest is up to her. But I still feel all gulpy inside.

So … in order to deal with that feeling of gulpyness here is a list of my personal favorites from last year. These are not necessarily the posts that got the most hits (in fact some of them barely got any), or the most comments (again, most of them got zero), but they are my favorites because they are the posts that I still think about. I may revisit these ideas this year in other forms, you never know …

On The Ways of Geese – perspectives on leadership
Losing Ground – decision making
My Vision – for faith communities
Shavuot-The Feast of Pentecost the Megillah of Ruth
Slice It, Dice It, Anyway You Want It … social, cultural constructs for looking at the Bible
Book Review – Organic Community – surprise! A book review.
Christendom? Post-Christendom? – a look at labels.
Critique, Criticism and the Gong Show – what’s love got to do with it?
On Creating Space – what do hockey and church have in common?
Living Within The System and Non-Violence – a look at living in the world but not being of it.
Good Gifts – every parent desires to give good gifts, but what are they?

Keeping Up and Keeping On
Nov 20th, 2007 by Sonja

Well then. I’m now keepin’ up with the Joneses and keepin’ on with getting ready for Thanksgiving.

Our first guests arrive today. The house is not ready. It will be. Sort of. Things will be fine and we’ll all have fun. It won’t go according to my original plan, but the necessary things will get done and the unnecessary things will drop away. Hopefully, I will remember to put the turkey in the oven on time.

It turns out that I do not have stress-induced eczema. I have a fungus that is causing the itching. Super! In what has become a standing pre-Thanksgiving tradition for LightHusband and I, we had matching doctors appointments yesterday afternoon. He has an upper respiratory infection and a sinus infection. I have fungus. Ewweth. Apparently we all have fungus on our skin, but if it gets underneath through a break in the skin then it becomes a problem. Bleh. Something I did not want to learn.
It makes having 16 for dinner on Thanksgiving and hosting a party for 35 the next day just another hoop to jump through. Keeping up and keeping on.

In other news, the grandparents will stay an extra day. We’re going to a Washington Capitals game on Saturday evening. This came up as a surprise yesterday afternoon. LightGirl has been chosen to skate with 3 of her team mates to help clear the ice between periods of the game that night. So while the rest of the thousands of fans will be there to see the game, at least five of the fans will be watching the cleaning of the ice! It’s very important you know 😀

Last, I’ve finished The Shack, by William P. Young. It was all the rage several months ago. I read several reviews of it all around the blog-o-sphere (including this one). It looked intriguing. So I threw it in my shopping cart in Amazon. Then one day it arrived. Such a miracle.

I know many (most) folks who read it sat down and did so in one sitting. Certainly, that is possible. And I wish I could have done so. But that wasn’t bloodly likely given my schedule lately. So I grabbed odd moments and before bed-time to read it. It’s a very powerful book packed into a small space. There’s a lot there.

I found it made an excellent companion piece to the book I reviewed here recently, It’s A Dance, by Patrick Oden. Having recently read that book gave me texture to bring to The Shack that I would not have had had I read it earlier.

I’m not entirely certain that every last jot and tittle of the theology is correct.  But then, I don’t know that anyone’s is.  Every one of us are making educated guesses.  Some guesses are more educated than others.  But not one of us knows the whole of what God is up to.  At best we see through a glass darkly; we see in part.  This book’s vision of the whole is winsome, captivating and certainly worth considering.  And certainly well worth the read.

It’s A Dance – Review
Oct 17th, 2007 by Sonja

It's A DanceAs promised yesterday here is my review of It’s A Dance: Moving With The Holy Spirit, by Patrick Oden.

In a nutshell … I want to buy this book for all my friends and sit down and talk about it with them over coffee and Bishop’s Bread (my very favorite coffee cake – homemade). Of course, since they are spread out over four time zones this might be fairly difficult. I’m having a hard time writing a serious review that all of you will pay attention to, because really … the book just makes me grin and laugh and think all at the same time. It makes me want to dance again.

For everyone who needs experience with the Holy Spirit … get It’s A Dance. For those of you who are post-charismatic or charismissional … get It’s A Dance. It’s a must. Seriously (and now I feel slightly like a used car salesman … but … I really mean this).

Here are my favorite things about It’s A Dance

First, it’s so holistic. It is complete and whole and yet within the warp and woof of the text I found room for my own story to weave in and out; making a new picture amongst the original.

When I was a child my dad used to play a silly game with me. He would put his hands together and put his fingers together in a certain manner and say, “Here is the church.” Then he’d change their position, “Here is the steeple.” Then he’d change the position again, “Open the door,” and he’d flip his hands around and waggle his fingers in the air at me, “and see all the people.”

So many books on theology and the church don’t have any place for the people. There are no people in the church or in theology. They are dry. When you flip them around and open them up, there’s nothing there to waggle. But It’s A Dance has room for people in it’s theology and in the church. I suspect each person reading this book will find a uniquely different story here, because they have a different story to weave in amongst it’s main threads.

Patrick also manages to deal with huge themes fairly thoroughly in a smallish book. He doesn’t do so completely, but he hits the high points and does so gracefully and thoroughly through the venue of conversational story-telling. We read about power, pride, church issues, giving, receiving, marriage, love, creativity, unity, leadership, following, going, staying, sacred and secular … among many other things.

Second, It’s A Dance really is a dance. One of the things I love is finding patterns that reveal further patterns. It’s one of the things I love about history. It’s also one of the things I love about quilting. So many quilts use fabric patterns and block patterns to reveal secondary, larger patterns going on. So you begin making one thing and end up making something entirely different. Patrick used the metaphor of a dance to describe the relationship of the Trinity to one another. He does so beautifully in this piece of conversation:

“Well, I know that God doesn’t seem too concerned if he doesn’t make sense, but I do think God works and exists in a way that can make sense to us, if only on some level. One basic way of understanding God’s interaction with himself is to think of his existence as a dance.”

“A dance?”

“Yeah, a dance. What happens when people are dancing?”

I pause for a moment, not quite sure what he’s asking. “Depends on the style I guess, but people move together following a specific rhythm.”

“Take ballroom dancing,” Nate says.

“I did, and lasted about half the class before falling too far behind.”

“It’s complicated,” he laughs. “Two people have to act in a concerted way to the music. Moving their whole bodies in intricate patterns together, always acting and reacting to what the other person is doing, always moving with each other even if they aren’t doing the same thing.”

“God is a dancer?”

“God is all the dancers, and the music, and everything. Think of the Trinity as interacting in this complicated and amazingly intricate dance. They are all moving as one, together, even as they are not the same person and even if they are doing different things in different ways.”

“God is not line dancing, is He?”

“No,” Nate laughs. “That’s everyone doing the same sort of thing together, all in a row. God is like a ballroom dancer, or even better, a ballet, with the whole show being this gathered collection of intricate steps and interactions. The dancers highlight each other, point to each other. They create this rhythmic flow out of their separate contributions.”

“The Trinity is that sort of dance?”

“That’s basically what the term perichoresis means. It’s a swirling together dance of the Trinitarian persons.” (p. 85-86)

Yet on a deeper level, It’s A Dance is also a dance between textbook, novel and Scripture. Patrick very adeptly uses the dance metaphor as a description and as an organizational tool to form the basis of the conversation that flows throughout this book. The conversation dances along, winding it’s way through scripture and text and story always leaving space for the reader to improvise a few steps of their own and find their own story within the larger story; to say, “Hey, I recognize that,” or “I remember when that happened and I …” or “Wow, that looks something like x in our community and I bet we could …”

Third, the historian in me was oh, so happy to discover that everything old really is new again. When I first read reviews of the book it was revealed that it is a novel written in conversation form. It takes place almost entirely in the form of conversations between Luke, a newspaper reporter, and Nate, a “pastor” (you’ll have to read the book to discover why I put quotes around that 😉 ) and several other people involved in Nate’s church. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Interesting approach.” But then I got to the end of the book and read (as I always do) the notes on the sources. Well, first I read the Bibliography. Before that I have to tell you that there are no footnotes in this book making it a wonderfully refreshing read. The bibliography is diverse and spread out … by which I mean I think there are books in this bibliography from all periods in Christian history. Indeed the final quote in the main body of the book comes from Tertullian … not entirely expected in a book on the Holy Spirit, but in the end, entirely apt. Then I read that the idea of writing the text in the format of a conversation came from, not something new and novel, but from an extremely old and ancient source … The Conferences, written by John Cassian in the 400’s AD. As Patrick writes (in his notes on sources):

The conversation breaks up the difficult considerations and allows for questions to be asked–questions that are often on the readers’ minds. It also makes the theology into a story. This is not a removed set of philosophical statements but instead people living the life God has called them to live. We remember the story, the characters, the conversation much better than we remember details and notes. (p. 266)

He’s right. We do remember stories and characters and conversations. Theology … not so much. But if it’s put into the context of story, we can remember it. More than that, we can embrace it and find it in our own story. And this last is why I think this book is so important. It allows the reader to approach and embrace some really important theology in a way that many other books on the subject do not. It brings lofty subjects down to street level … which is where God might just want them in the first place.

So … if you only get one book in November, let this be it. Or put it on your Christmas list. Just make sure you read it.

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