Giving It Up For Lent
Feb 13th, 2013 by Sonja

So … I’m giving up sugar for Lent.

To be absolutely clear … I’m giving up any food which has sugar (or one of it’s counterparts: honey, syrup in all it’s variety, molasses, etc.) as one of the first 5 ingredients listed. There is one exception, dark chocolate. I can have dark (70% coca or greater) chocolate in sparing amounts … 1 oz. per day. But I can’t save that up. If I don’t eat an ounce today, that doesn’t mean I can eat 2 oz. tomorrow. If I have it I can eat it.

Other than that exception, no more sugar for 40 days. I feel as though I am casually wandering into a food desert. No more sugar. Gack!

No Jif peanut butter, no jelly … thus no pb&j sandwiches, which I love. No ice cream. No cake (including LightBoy’s birthday). No pies. No cookies. No brownies. No store bought bread. No Frosted Mini-wheats. No store bought granola.

I am quickly discovering how much of our processed food contains sugar (or one of it’s variants). It’s really quite remarkable … and not in a good way.

On the other hand, I am also looking forward to the adventure of it all. What will I discover as I wander down this road? How will I manage cravings? And (most importantly) will I see any health benefits from this? Will those benefits encourage to me or discourage me?

I have no idea what I will find down this road, but I’m hoping to find my way back to certain places in my heart. That cutting out sugar will force me to face some things and let them go, rather than eating my pain, anger and frustration. That I will learn new and more healthy habits … not just with eating, but with life.

Who knows … I might even find myself darkening the door of a church again.

Don’t hold your breath.

Scholarships and Discipleship
Aug 17th, 2012 by Sonja

As most of you know by now, LightGirl has been playing hockey since she was 12. To say she loves it is an understatement. If more than 7 days go by in a row in which she is not on the ice, she starts to get a little wiggy.

This year she is playing for a competitive travel team (Tier 1). The coach gave a version of the following to the team parents in a meeting back in June:

“We are a competitive team for this area. But there are a lot stronger teams out there. Put it this way … there are approximately 200 D1 (NCAA top level) scholarships for women hockey players. Of those 200, all but 11 of them usually go to Canadian women. The remaining 11 are spread out amongst all US women hockey players. We are going to play hard and practice hard, but if you really think your daughter is a serious candidate for one of those 11 scholarships, you are in the wrong program. “

My husband told me about this the other day as I wasn’t at the meeting. And I thought about it for a while. He’s right about this program … it’s a good one, but there are many others that are out there and girls who are going to go to a top-rated hockey college will be playing for those other programs … not here in Northern Virginia. He will push this team to do their best, but ultimately, any success these girls accomplish will not be here, but will be because of the lessons they’ve learned here … on the ice. And that’s a good thing.

I thought about this for a while and let it percolate as I thought about the church and the damaging, hurtful ideas I see out there being promoted by people who claim the name of Christ.

I thought to myself that it’s extremely unfortunate that the church does not have anyone from the outside that will be heard to say, “If you think you’re special enough to speak judgement into this or that situation, you’re in the wrong program.” You’re in the wrong place to be making statements about God and what S/He wants or will do or … anything. You … We don’t have the knowledge necessary to make those judgements. We don’t have anyone who can intrude on all the righteousness and self-righteousness to say, “Wait a minute. Stop and think about who you are and what needs to happen here.” What are the real measures of success? And are we chasing the wrong rabbit?

They Went Walking
Apr 12th, 2011 by Sonja

One of LightGirl’s most favorite little girl books was a lesser known book called, I Went Walking. It featured a small child who walked around her world discovering animals of varying colors who were looking at her. LightGirl adored this book and it was in her hands as required reading most days; sometimes two or three times a day. Walking with friends is still one of her favorite pastimes.

So it came as no surprise when I heard from her that a group of her friends had gone walking from their home to a nearby shopping center for dinner lovely spring evening. I was driving the friends and the LightChildren from pillar to post (and a stop at Dairy Queen for sustenance) the next day. They were recounting their adventures on the sleepover (not so much sleep) with dinner (Chinese) and their walk when they told the following story:

“While we were out walking this group of brown-skinned kids came up to us. They said they were new to the area and didn’t know very many kids yet. They seemed to be really cool. They told us their names and we told them ours. And we were talking. I (LightGirl) was thinking that this was really cool that we were going to make new friends right here on the street like that. I thought it was really cool because they seemed genuinely interested in us. And then all of a sudden they started in with this stuff about Jesus loves us too and we should come to their church.

“Yeah, Matt wanted to say something like he’s a Satan worshiper. [giggle giggle] I wanted to say that I love Jesus too, I love listening to those fictional bedtime stories before I go to sleep. [more laughter]

“Did you guys notice how long they waited for us outside the restaurant? Yeah, we stayed there til like 10 and that’s past their bedtime.”

I talked to them all about the event a little bit. If I’m interpreting their responses correctly, and I think I am, they felt a little bit betrayed and used. And sort of angry. These are a really good group of kids who offer their friendship very openly to any who ask. They do not discriminate based on anything. I have seen them open their ranks to all kinds of teens, from all walks of life. Literally … all are welcomed. Then this very openness was turned and used as a tool for sales on them.

I tried to apologize for those in my faith who feel the need to use the openness of others to assuage their own sense of helplessness. But the words died in my throat. After all, the encounters with Jesus or his disciples did not leave people feeling used for someone else’s ends. Why is that so often the case with His 21st century followers?

Bumpersticker Theology
Mar 20th, 2011 by Sonja

The bright blue sedan sped merrily down that major artery; providing oxygen on an otherwise dreary journey into the city. Small and fuel-efficent, there were a number of profiles the driver might fit into. But it was the array of festive bumper stickers that made the car merry. They were happy; cheeky. Then there was the central sticker, located under the brake light: “I pray that God isn’t too picky.”

Hmmmm …

That one made me think of the firestorm that has recently engulfed the social media world (blogs, twitter, facebook) concerning a certain book by a certain young cheeky pastor (Rockstar) and his (potential) views on Hell and who might go there.

I never planned to write about this one. I don’t care about it. Mostly, I’m no theologian. The finer points that these people are arguing make my head spin and in a world where much more interesting things are happening (like democracies emerging in the Middle East) and tragedies must be observed (Japan), my poor brain has very little space left over for jots and tittles. But then, along sped this merry little automobile and I began to think.

Why is it that the Gospel, the so-called Good News, has become this? Yay! When you die, you don’t go to your room. If you are very, very lucky or something … you get to go to God’s room.

Now. I know that a bunch of people are going to come on here in comments to correct my description of the Gospel. Yep. You are all probably correct. I’m not talking about that. I’m writing about what our popular culture HEARS from the church. Because it doesn’t matter what we think we’re saying. What matters is what people hear. If what people hear sounds like the teachers/adults in a Charlie Brown television special, why then it doesn’t really matter what Rockstar writes (good, bad or ugly) or what his detractors say about him … because the only people listening are the choir.

The church is now arguing over how many camels will fit on the head of a pin … really?

On The Road To Nowhere – December Synchroblog Advent Reflection
Dec 7th, 2010 by Sonja

I remember an Advent season 17 years ago.  I was expecting our first child and we anticipated the birth in late January.  It was a very busy season as I was then working for Prison Fellowship and had found their Project Angel Tree program.  I was very inspired by this program and brought it to our church.  I loved Chuck Colson’s books, especially The Body.  It had given feet to my faith and a place for my passion.  I think arch-conservative Chuck Colson would be astonished to know that his book inspired at least one reader to a faith that breathes social justice rather than moral correctness, but that is for another blog post.

I was very, very busy; spending all my free time at our church.  I was organizing Project Angel Tree, I was involved with our youth group (Jr. High at the time) and I was working.  Since this was the first year our church had done Angel Tree there was a lot of organizing and out right marketing to be done.  We could have delivered the gifts to individual homes, but I wanted to have a party (because that’s how I roll).  If I remember correctly, the jr. high kids helped me out with this party quite a bit.  I don’t remember too much about the party other than that I loved doing it and that the Angel Tree Children were happy for an afternoon … so were the parents and grandparents.  They all came in with varying degrees of wariness shrouding their faces, but left wreathed in smiles.  We may not have shared the gospel in words that day, but we did it in deed.

As it turned out, I nearly worked myself to death that Advent season.  I went for a pre-natal check up two days after Christmas and my blood pressure was sky high; I had all the symptoms of pre-eclampsia, a dangerous condition for both mother and child.  It was bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy (my due date was Jan 24) for me.  I whined, I cried, I tried reason and logic … but the doctor would not budge.  Bed rest.  On my left side.  This was apparently quite serious.  And fortunately for me, LightGirl decided to make an early appearance on Jan. 1, so I only spent about 5 days on bed rest rather than 5 weeks.

My intervening Advent seasons have been no less busy, but slightly less health impairing.  This season we have between Thanksgiving and Christmas and which has now seemed to stretch to Halloween, is filled with plans, and gifts, and parties; movies, sparklies, decorating, and food … not just any food, but special food traditions.  All of it is good.  But the pressure and the process can be overwhelming, as LightHusband expressed the other day, “I hate this time of year.  It’s just one more responsibility in a life of unmet responsibilities.”

So I began to think about waiting.  What is it that we do when we wait?  Waiting involves changing what we do.  It involves watching or paying attention; being alert to changes that would signal the arrival of that which we wait for.  Waiting means being prepared for that arrival.  We will have cleaned the house, tidied the bathroom, prepared a feast, and changed the linens in the guest room.  Once those tasks are done, we put music on and we wait … ears tuned, eyes watching the road.

If we are waiting upon the birth of a child, we prepare the nursery.  Gifts of vast quantity yet tiny proportion are given.  Diapers abound.  Depending upon the socio-economic status of the parent(s), there will be car seats and strollers, wipe warmers and night lights, toys and crib danglies to spare.  We are raising baby einsteins as our culture reminds us.  Mother will carefully put everything away each tiny thing in it’s own special place.  As her womb grows more and more unwieldy and uncomfortable, she will slow down and become more alert to the changes in her body that signal the arrival of her baby.  She waits.

And I wondered, how do we connect these pictures of peaceful waiting with the frenetic busy-ness that our holiday season has come to represent?  The church is no different than the culture at large in this regard.  There are special parties, ornament making gatherings to bring your unchurched friends to, extra worship services (and if you’re involved with putting those on – extra practices/development time) … in short, lots of busy-ness.  And I haven’t even mentioned the singular craziness of Christmas cards one time in this post!

More and more I was seeing my Advent journey as a road to nowhere, the Advent Sunday mileposts nothwithstanding.  Without having the time and space during the season to be calm, aware and alert to changes that signal the arrival of that baby Christ Child, I would plod ahead often distracted by all the shiny baubles, happy songs and pretty parties of a holiday season too busy for waiting.  So I learned to build in time.  I make Christmas gifts instead of purchasing them and that allows me time to meditate on the recipient, pray for them and love them as I make their gifts.  I make food from scratch rather than from boxes and spend time finding recipes … not every day, but some days.  Last, I limit the commitments I make to just the things I either absolutely must do, or the things I absolutely love to do.  There is only one thing I absolutely must do (in support of LightHusband) the rest are things I love to do.

And I’ve given up on Christmas cards.  They were too much for me.

I won’t say this has cured everything.  But cutting out some of the distractions has helped my road to nowhere become a little bit more Bethlehem bound; it’s still very circuitous and mostly I don’t know where I’m going (because my donkey does not have a GPS! ).  But this has helped my journey be more peaceful and me to be more gracious and kind in a season where nerves are usually stretched thin and fraying at the edges.


This is part of our December Synchroblog series – Advent – A Journey.  Please follow some of the links below for some excellent reading on the subject!

Jun 13th, 2010 by Sonja

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

Do you owe an apology to anyone? Why?

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

Ready for the Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Price of Belonging Is Silence
Mar 10th, 2009 by Sonja

I’ve been on FaceBook for a couple of years now.  When I joined there were mostly college kids and just a few emerging church types around.  For the longest time I had about 30 or so friends.  I’d gain a friend or so here and there and then I had 50.  And then my blogging network grew and I gained some more friends.  But still it was hit or miss.

Then the floodgates opened up.  Anyone could join FaceBook.  And they have.  O Mi Goodness.  Grandmothers (as in people old enough to be my mother) are on FaceBook.  And people from my long lost past have been finding me.  And I’ve been finding them.  It’s been a grand adventure.  Some particular joys have been finding friends from college.  I’ve been to a couple of high school reunions and I do hear news of those friends from home from time to time.  But college friends?  Well, when I left college, I was done.  In the words of Jesus, I wiped the dust off my feet and got out of town.   I thought I didn’t care if I never heard from anyone ever again.  But it turned out that I did.

Now I have.  Several in fact.  And I’ve been having a ball exchanging news of families and children and lives.  Not all is great news, of course, but it’s catching up with one another.  So that is good.  I may indeed have the courage to go to our 30th reunion in four years ;-).  Who knows, through the wonders of FaceBook, alot of colleges may see a ressurgence in reunion attendance.  That would be an interesting statistic to look at.

One thing I’ve noticed on many of my old/new friend’s profiles is attendance or notation of their 30th highschool reunions this year.  And realized … hah!  Mine should be as well.  Not that it will be, because our class (rather than an alumnae association) is in charge of such things and we’re notoriously unorganized and under-unified.  The class before us and after us … hyper-together.  Us?  Not so much.

In any case, it’s got me thinking about highschool too.  I don’t remember terribly much about highschool.   Most of you wouldn’t recognize my highschool experience.  I went to highschool in the mid to late 70’s at a school which was designed to be both experimental and experiential.  By the late 80’s it had morphed to a more traditional format, but when I was there it was fairly cutting edge in terms of educational theory.

When we didn’t have a class scheduled, we had free time and could do anything we wanted to do.  Literally, anything as long as we did not disturb another class that was in session.  We called our teachers by their first names (with only one or two exceptions).  We had a smoking lounge for kids who smoked.  We had a regular lounge to just hang out in when we had free time.  We could hang out in the library.  Or the science lab.  Or the art workshop.  Or with a teacher.  Or outside on the lawn if it was a nice day.

We had great class selections too.  Not your standard English classes … I remember a great class in science fiction one semester, another class in movie-making.  One year for science I took a hands on earth science class wherein we disproved the standing Vermont Geological Survey’s theory on the direction that the last glacier had taken through the state.  Our class’s Adamant Pebble Campaign was written up and published in Vermont Geological History.  That happened when I was in ninth grade.

All of it sounds fairly idyllic.  And some of the time it was.  For many of the students it was as well.  However, for many of my years in highschool my father was chairman of the schoolboard.  For all of my years there, he was on the schoolboard.  I love my dad.  I think my dad is pretty wonderful.  But those years were hell.  Because my dad is a stickler for fiscal responsibility and is financially extremely conservative.  The mid to late 70s were not years when any local community had a spare sou to rub together.  So he was probably a great person to have in charge of the school’s budget during those years.  But not if you asked the teachers.  Add to that the fact that he was a reformed smoker and he took the teachers smoking lounge away from them.  Many of the teachers were mature enough to be able to separate me, the student, from my father, the schoolboard chairman.  But there were many who could not, including a few who I had once been close to.

I don’t remember talking to my parents about it.  But I do remember wishing that my father would just shut up.  I could not figure out what drove him.  Why did he have to make such a stink?  Why couldn’t he just let it be?  Let the teachers have their stupid smoking lounge?  Let the budget go?  Didn’t he know how hard it was … how the teachers were talking (and falling silent when I came by) and looking?  Even the bus drivers looked sideways at me sometimes.  I think I might have asked my mom once or twice and she tried to explain.  But I couldn’t verbalize what was going on at school, and as I look back on it now, I’m not sure it was really that important.

Or was it?

I learned something really important from those teachers during those years.  It had nothing to do with readin’ ‘ritin’ or ‘rithmatic.  Those years were my first brutal lesson that the price of belonging is silence.

I’ve had to learn it over and over again since then, to be sure.  Most people prefer the status quo.  They want the easy road, the way things are or the way things have “always been done,” to change.  They prefer the wizard in the back pulling levers and their green spectacles, to having a full spectrum of color on their own.  When you point out the wizard … you will be expelled, you may be sure.

I’ve learned with my father that sometimes you have to speak.  You can’t not speak.  The price of belonging may be silence.  But, sometimes, that price is too high.

Transformative Leaders – Where Are You?
Jan 12th, 2009 by Sonja

I probably have better things to think about, but it bugs me when the newspapers glorify religious leaders like Mark Driscoll.  The recent NYTimes article about him, his church and his ministry, entitled, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen was well-written and fairly balanced. But it bugs me because it’s not an accurate depiction of people of faith. There are so very many of us in churches across denominational lines who care deeply for their neighbors, love justice, seek mercy and walk humbly after God; and do those things in very quantifiable ways. They’re not all sitting in plush theatres listening to a self-aggrandizing hack talk about having sex and calling it love.

I wish the papers would pick up more articles about people stepping up to the plate for the little guy. For the underdog. People like Roy Bourgeois … a now excommunicated Catholic priest.

You may wonder what Father Roy did to get himself excommunicated. It was likely pretty bad. Given the news lately about Catholic priests lately, it would not be unlikely for you to think that he had abused boys in his care. But you would be wrong. Father Roy Bourgeois did the unthinkable. He participated in the ordination of women on August 8 and refused to recant. You can read parts of his letter here (ht Christy Lambertson, Dry Bones Dance). It’s quite beautiful.

So I’m thinking today about leadership and transformation into something more Christ-like. What those leaders might look like and where they might be found.

If you’d like to participate in a discussion about this and other thought-provoking articles that people read this week, come join Missional Tribe and our discussion group, Wisdom Lingers.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jan 4th, 2009 by Sonja

We’ve had a special guest visiting here at the LightHouse the past few weeks.  She has been a very good guest and has made no intrusions in our routines.  She hasn’t asked anything particularly difficult of us.  She’s very bright and inquisitive and, importantly, gets along well with Sam and Monty.  Her name is Sally and we are really loving her.

Sally and me - Christmas day

We’re taking care of her for a friend while he visits his parents until early next week.  She’s going to leave a hole in our hearts when she’s gone back home.

Sally being cuteIt has been amusing watching all the pets get used to one another.  Sam has had the worst time of it.  You see he has no concept of his actual size and does not understand why she gets to *be* a lap dog and he does not.  After all, to his pea-sized brain, he’s earned it.  She’s done nothing but waltz in here, jump onto the sofa and look cute.  What’s up with that?

We had a really funny moment on Christmas morning.  Both Sally and Sam had been given rawhide bones to chew on as a special treat.  Sam took to his right away and went through about half of it before losing interest in it because he wanted to go outside for a while.  Sally then took over.  Well, not exactly.  She came to the bone.  Sniffed it.  Realized it was too big for her and promptly decided to stand guard over it.  None of which the humans were aware of.  We did know, however, that Sam had left the bone in the midst of the walkway from the door at the back deck to the eating area in the kitchen.  Pretty soon, Monty (the cat) came in through the door and nonchalantly made his way toward the eating area.  He was on a mission to his food dish in the laundry room.  He was also unaware of the bone.  As most of us know, rawhide bones are beneath the notice of any self-respecting cat.  Sally had not received that memo.  Everyone in the room was startled by the sudden eruption of snarling, barking and growling that Monty received as he attempted to walk past the (non-existent to him) bone.  No one was more surprised than the cat.  Sally was very pleased with herself and promptly came to me, wagging her tail and smiling, proud of a guard job well done.

Monty spent an hour in the livingroom wondering just what had happened to him.

It was hilarious to watch.  And there was absolutely nothing we could have done to change it.  There was no explaining to any of the animals how they didn’t need to worry about each other.  It’s just been something they have to learn.

I’ve been thinking about that incident quite a bit lately.  It was funny to be sure.  Remembering the look on Monty’s face has elicited a laugh on more than one occasion.  But I’ve also been wondering about it a lot too.  I’ve been thinking about all the times that we humans do the same thing that Sally did.  How many times do we do that?  Do we lash out, snarl, bark and growl to protect something that was never being threatened in the first place?  We think someone walking by our *stuff* is out to get it so we lash out at them, but the reality is they’re on their way to the food bowl in the other room.  Then we’re pretty happy with how well we’ve protected our *stuff* (whatever that stuff might be) so we turn to our communities with our metaphorical tails wagging and we go to them seeking approval.  But for no earthly reason we just sent someone into the livingroom wondering what the h*ll happened and why.

I guess doing that makes us human.

Then I look at Sam and his insatiable desire to be noticed, loved on and sit on my lap.  This would not be a bad thing except for the fact that Sam weighs almost 90 pounds and has a lot of fur.  A lot.  He’s a golden retriever.  They are known for many wonderful qualities … being a lap dog is not one of them.  Poor Sam.  He just cannot reconcile how Sally gets to waltz through the door and onto our laps.  She gets to sit there, cuddle up and sleep.  He has to take his daily 10 hour nap on the floor.  And wonders why he’s been a bad dog.  Or what Sally has done to merit such undeserved favor.

You’d think from Sam’s attitude and behavior this week that no one has noticed him since Sally came to town.  That he never gets fed, loved, petted or anything.  However, just the reverse has been true.  We’ve spent more time with him in an effort to overcome his feelings of inadequacy.  And we’ve played with both dogs together.  Now that is an interesting sight … playing with a 90 pound dog and a 25 pound dog together.  But they get along famously and do well side by side.

How often do we do that?  We humans do this all the time.  We carve out little kingdoms for ourselves … tiny areas of carpet and declare them ours.  Then someone else waltzes in and does it better.  Hops up and gets all the applause.  I remember the first time I recognized it in myself.  I’d learned how to cook and bake when I was quite young and by the time I was a teen made all the desserts in my family.  Then my younger brother came along and learned how to bake bread from scratch.  At first, I was so jealous and annoyed with his ability that I could not even enjoy his bread.  It only took two or three batches and I overcame that tendency.  I mean … who can withstand freshly baked bread!!  And he has the knack for it.  I’ve never been able to quite get it with the yeast.  So … I do a lot of other things well (like cake :-) ), but bread has escaped me.  Big deal.

What about in church?  How many times are there people who have a place they’ve made for themselves and believe it to be “God ordained” … then a Sally waltzes in, hops up on the sofa and they’re left sleeping on the floor.    How can that be?  Their place, their kingdom … it was God ordained, no one else can have it.  Certainly not that Sally-come-lately.  She must have some nefarious purpose.  He must be up to something evil.  Whoever they are, that Sally-come-lately, they are out to get Sam.  They want to knock Sam off his standing in his community.  That’s what they’re up to … make him/her lose their status, standing or favor.

Here’s the thing … Sam was never wired to hop up on the sofa and he doesn’t see that she does sleep on the floor sometimes.  He also doesn’t see that Sally adores him.  Or that the whole family doesn’t care that he can’t get on the sofa (in fact, we prefer that he doesn’t).  We love Sam for being Sam and there are things he can do that Sally cannot (like run and catch a ball).  We love Sally for her traits.  And despite the fact that Monty wakes us up in the middle of the night more consistently than our children ever did, we love him too. I think it has something to do with his really loud purr.  But we never expect Monty to act like Sam, or Sam to act like Monty or Sally to act like any of them.  We respond to each of them individually and love them each individually.

Admittedly, Sam and Sally and Monty are pets and rather simple to parse out.  A church is made up of people; a much more complex behavioral system and far more difficult to work our way through. I think, though, the principles are the same.  Sam and Sally and Monty can be symbolic of both individuals and groups within a larger group.  Some are lap dogs, others are retrievers, and still others are cats.  Some people are oblivious to that bone  and/or area of carpet you’re so zealously guarding.  When you growl, snarl and bark at them, they are going to retreat in horror and wonder what the h*ll happened.  Sometimes it will take them years to nurse their wounds … especially if you add a parfait of deceit, gossip, emotional bullying, and condemnation to their head as they leave.  Some people are wondering why it looks so easy for the Sally-come-lately and others don’t know she was once an abandoned dog with problems of her own.

The thing is the church, however you want to define that sacred space or community of faith, is supposed to be different.  Jesus gave us a beautiful description of what we’re supposed to look like in the book of John.  He said, “… you’ll be known by your love.”  Further on in his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul gave us a description of love that has withstood the test of time:

 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (italics are mine for emphasis)

I think this is a description of God’s economy.  The economy we were created to enjoy.  The one in which there is enough for everyone.  Enough love, enough money, enough time … enough.  That economy where greed, and pride and envy do not rip and tear at us every day.  Unfortunately, the economy we live in is limited and finite, rather than infinite.  We forget that we have access to the infinite, especially to the infinite love that God has made available to us.  And church, that sacred space, that community of faith becomes just like any other group of humans.  Mean.  Nasty.  Brutish.  And short.  To (mis)quote Thomas Hobbes.  We lose our grip on the Divine and hang on to the corporeal plane with our fingernails.

We bark and snarl and snap at people who are oblivious to our rawhide bones or other preciously guarded objects.  We are jealous of others’ talents or abilities as they waltz through the door and seemingly into the spotlight.  We cause wounds on the souls of others that may take a lifetime to heal in response to them just being.  This is not the church that Jesus called us to.  This is not love.  This is humans being human rather than humans in constant contact with the Divine.

As I face 2009 and am now nearly two years away from my CLB, I’ve come to realize a number of things.

I am unforgiven.  When I left my CLB, the most hurtful thing that was said and done was to tell me that I could not be forgiven for obliviously walking past the rawhide bone.  I tried apologizing, but since I didn’t know what I’d done (and, um, walking through the room isn’t wrong in the first place), my apology was not very well done.  And, you guessed it, I walked through the room again, so I was deemed unrepentant as well.

It has taken me nearly two years, the help of some wonderful friends and a really good counselor, but I’m finally at the place where I’m strong enough to say that being unforgiven is not my problem.  My state of condemnation is not my doing and it’s not my undoing.  It is not my responsibility.   Eventually, I will also be free from the guilt and harm that came with it.

Doing these things, participating in these things, having these feelings … those things do not make one evil.  Those are all human qualities.  However, when one wallows in them and fails to allow Jesus to pull them out of that muck; preaching one thing on Sunday morning (for instance, a passage from James about only thinking the best of each other) then using your position as leader in the church during the following week to spread lies, slander and gossip … in the church this is known as evil behavior, in the secular world it is known as bullying behavior.  Using your position as leader to triangulate and create divisions … that is evil.  Using your position to attempt to create division within my 19+ year marriage by telling my husband in meetings, “I know this is going to be hard for you to hear, but you don’t really know her …” bullying, evil behavior.

For nearly two years now I believed there was some grain of truth to the lies and the slander.  They did untold damage to me, to my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my children, they wounded my husband and my children as well.  They wounded my best friends and my relationships with them.  It is doubtful that our family will ever darken the door of a church again.  The wounds have caused my children to turn their backs on their budding faith; they no longer want anything to do with the things of God, nor want Him spoken of in their presence.  The poison is bitter.  But I’ve come to the place where I know that initially I did nothing wrong.  I did not respond well to attack and I am gravely sorry for my part in defending myself.  But walking through the room on my way to the food dish is nothing to be sorry for, nor is being able to jump up on the sofa when others are not.

I have to say that I am glad 2008 is over.  It was not nearly as bad or hopeless as 2007, but it came close.  I’m looking forward to 2009.  I’m looking forward because I’m ready now to turn around and look ahead.  I’m ready now to let this all go; it is finished.  Will I continue to grieve?  You bet.  But I think the worst is over now.  I’m slowly (re)learning what it’s like to be in communitas again.  Really be in community with people who listen.  It’s an amazing experience and a true gift from my Papa who continues to love me.

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