Prince of Peace

Filed under:Christmas, being jesus, dreams, gifts, holidays, love, peace — posted by Sonja on December 24, 2012 @ 6:25 am

There’s an overused quote by Chesterton that goes something like, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Let that sink in a moment.

We are in the midst of the Christmas season right now; our annual frenzy of indulgent consumption. According to both popular Christmas carols and the testimony of the Gospels, Jesus’ birth was heralded as the coming Messiah. He was to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy …

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.I)”>
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

This messiah was going to bring peace on earth and good will toward men.

What does that mean? What would peace on earth look like? Our imaginations are dull and we assume that the presence of peace is simply the absence of war or violence. So we think that “his government” is going to be a political enforcement of an absence of war. The rule of this Messiah would take away all weapons.

But that’s not what Jesus did. He came and nothing changed outwardly. The Roman Empire went on about it’s business and at what would be the end of Jesus’ 3 year ministry, crucified him. Giving rise to a secondary frenzy of indulgent consumption (but that’s another story). Jesus did manage to speak a few words that have been handed down to us in the millennia since his birth. He said things like this, “21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Read it carefully. Jesus was talking about more than the absence of murder, but the presence of love. We have laws which punish murderers and keep the crime rate low, but law cannot overcome the presence of hate. When we hate someone, we dismiss their humanity, we find reasons to ignore their thoughts and needs by calling them a “fool.” I am chief among sinners in this regard. But there it is. I cannot turn my face away from the idea that when I dismiss someone as a fool, I have morally killed them in my mind.

This brings me back to the Chesterton quote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

There are many other bits that Jesus threw out in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I find in my life that I fail those far more often than I succeed. But if I put them all together in a holistic picture of how to live, I find that these bits create a vision of what peace could look like. It would be so much more than the absence of war or violence, but the presence of love. The kind of love which can cast out fear, making violence unnecessary.

Perhaps that prophecy in Isaiah meant not that God would enforce an everlasting peace through government, but that all the humans here would learn to love their enemies without fear, that we would not dismiss another’s humanity, that we would be able to live in peace and harmony with each other, not because of laws, but because our hearts have grown three sizes too large (to quote a more secular source) and we have begun to operate out of abundance, love and harmony. Maybe that is the hope we express every year … that someday soon we will all know peace.

Superpowers

Filed under:NaBlaPoMo, books, dreams, freedom, fun things to know and tell, gifts, life, silliness — posted by Sonja on June 15, 2010 @ 8:05 am

What’s your superpower?

Tilting at Windmills

My superpower is tilting at windmills.  From Wikipedia -

Tilting at windmills is an English idiom which means attacking imaginary enemies, or fighting unwinnable or futile battles. The word “tilt”, in this context, comes from jousting. (emphasis mine … for … well … emphasis).

I can’t decide if I should pick my battles better, or carry on knowing that I am simply planting the seeds for future winnable battles.  I’m still pondering that …

Aunt Jemima – International Women’s Day Synchroblog

Filed under:expectantly, fat bottomed girls, gifts, girls, history, hope, international women's day, justice, life, mystery, subversive, synchroblog, women — posted by Sonja on March 7, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Julie Clawson of One Hand Clapping challenged us to find some unsung heroines of the Bible and celebrate their stories today in a synchroblog.  So I pulled up BibleGateway and put “daughter” into their search engine.  I think it came back with about 110 hits … or something like that.

Some daughters just got honorable mention.  That is, they were simply mentioned as so and so’s daughter and that was the end of that.  Others had an actual story attached to their name.  Sometimes the story was fairly mysterious.  As in the case with Caleb’s daughter.  She was married to her cousin, by Caleb’s younger brother because Caleb had promised his daughter to whomever won a particular battle.  His nephew won the battle, so he married off his daughter.  This is not very acceptable by today’s standards, but in that culture we can understand it.  The next couple of verses recount an event that is odd.  Caleb’s daughter went to him and asked for some additional land.  When he gave it to her, she also asked for a couple of springs.  So he gave her those.  And there the story of Caleb’s daughter ends.  With the gift of springs.  It’s mysterious, really.  In there for a reason, but why?

So I moved on and found the story of Job’s daughters:  Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch.  This story can be found in Job, chapter 42 … the very end of the book.  Job has come through his trials with some version of success:

1 Then Job replied to the LORD :

 2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

 5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

 6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

This is curious to me, because here we see the result of what happens to friends who might give you (however well-meaning) an incorrect perspective of God during your trials.  Those friends will have to sacrifice in your presence and have you pray over them.  This is an interesting perspective that I’ve not heard taken away from Job … but more on that another time.   I’m just thinking we need to be very careful with what we say to people about God when they are experiencing trials.

In any case, the account goes on tell us what happens to Job in the rest of his life:

 10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.

Wait?  What?  Three short sentences.  That is all we have of Job’s daughters.  They were part of a family of 10 siblings.  We don’t know where they fell in the sibling order.  We do know who among the girls was eldest, middle and youngest.  We know they were beautiful.  Most astonishing of all, we know that “… their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.”  That’s it.

It’s a genealogist’s worst nightmare.  We have names and nothing else.  We know only the most bare facts of their existence.  But we know one more thing.  Job gave them status.  He told the world that his daughters were equal to men.  His daughters were not chattel to belong to their husbands.  They owned something of their father in their own right.  I’m not certain I can fully convey how remarkable this was for that time.

It was miraculous.  Unheard of.  Women were not considered capable of owning or managing the things that men did.   But Job did it.

These are the just sorts of passages I do love.  Open-ended, without a tidy message.  We don’t know what happened to Job’s daughters.  We do know that Job lived to see “… his children and their children to the fourth generation.”  I believe that would be his great, great grandchildren if I’ve figured correctly.  My guess is that his daughters married and children of their own.  So how did they use their inheritance?  And … did they pass it on to their daughters?  What was their inheritance?  Was it land, animals, jewels?

I wonder about those things you see.  We have things (land, jewels and the like) that have been only passed to women in my family.  Our summer lake house is among them.  When my aunt left it to our family, she left it to my mom (her relative).  Her will stipulated that if my mother had pre-deceased her, it was to go to me and my brothers.  She was emphatic that it stay in her family.  In the 100 years prior to that, the house had always passed woman to woman.

They are so intriguing to me.  Those daughters.  Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch.  They are the opposing book-end to Job’s first three daughters.  As I thought about them and let their names rattle around I came to another realization.  I’d heard two of the names before.  Jemimah and Keziah were common names given to girls who were slaves in the American South.

I started looking for confirmation of that.  Of course, I quickly ran into a brick wall … because records of what slaves were named by each other were … um … slim.  Nobody thought it was important to keep track of what they called each other.  Sometimes just the gender and the slaveholders last name is recorded.  Certainly, no inheritance was given to these men and women.  It is intriguing to me that Jemima and Keziah were used as girls names though.

I wonder … could those names have been picked on purpose?  Are they names of hope?  We’ll never know for certain.  But we do know some few things.  We know that some slaves were given Christian training.  Some were even given Bible teaching.  We know that some of the stories resonated with their experience and certainly Job’s would have been among them.  It’s not a terrible stretch to imagine naming your daughter Jemima or Keziah out of hope … hope that one day you would have an inheritance to leave her, hope that she would be known as the daughter of a man who was blessed by God, hope that your trial would be ended in blessing rather than curses.

I think there might be something to that.  None of Job’s other children are named.  Not his first ten children (seven sons, three daughters) and not his second seven sons; just these three daughters.  So, it seems to me that these names spring to the top as names that are symbolic of the hope of a good outcome at the end of horrible trials … the kind of trials endured by slaves in the antebellum South.

Aunt JemimaThus I came to the Aunt Jemima pancake empire.  It was begun in the 1890’s by two men who, having created an instant pancake mix, needed an icon to name it and represent.  One of them ducked into a black-face minstrel show and there heard the following song:

The monkey dressed in soldier clothes,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Went out in the woods for to drill some crows,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
The jay bird hung on the swinging limb,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
I up with a stone and hit him on the shin,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Oh, Carline, oh, Carline,
Can’t you dance the bee line,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!

The bullfrog married the tadpole’s sister,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
He smacked his lips and then he kissed her,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
She says if you love me as I love you,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
No knife can cut our love in two,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Oh, Carline, oh, Carline,
Can’t you dance the bee line,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!

Shortly after hearing the name, Nancy Green was hired to represent Aunt Jemima.  She was currently working as a servant for a judge in Chicago, but had been born and raised a slave in antebellum Kentucky.  Aunt Jemima and her pancakes were introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.  It was held from May to November and Nancy smiled, sang, told slave tales, flipped and served almost a million pancakes during that six month period.  In the hundred and ten years since then she has become perhaps the most well-known African American female face in history.

Yet, there is something vaguely disturbing about that.  This name, Jemimah, started out as a name of hope, blessing, inheritance and beauty had become a term interchangeable with disparagement, slavery and bondage and now … commerce.  You never hear Jemimah as a name anymore.  There are no young women with that name … no fathers or mothers hoping to pass on that message of hope, blessing and inheritance to their daughters with that name because it’s lost all of it’s power.

We still hear Keziah.  You might not recognize it.  You’ll hear Keshia or Aisha.  Both of those names have their roots in Keziah.  A name of hope and blessing and inheritance for girls.   That’s just what we need to give our daughters today … a sense of hope and blessing and inheritance.  What sort of inheritance will you give your daughters?

*****************************************************

This is my contribution to the International Women’s Day Synchroblog -

Here are links to some others -

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s workteenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Patrick Oden on Rahab and the spies
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women

Feel – A Book Review

Filed under:blessing, books, expectantly, faith, gifts, grief, joy, life, ooze blogger book — posted by Sonja on August 19, 2008 @ 7:33 am

Feel - Image

Feel:  The Power Of Listening To Your Heart by Matthew Elliott

This book was a breath of fresh air for me.  Sort of.  Matthew Elliott wants very badly to believe what he’s writing.  But I never quite got the feeling that he really did.  And I want to believe it too.  Whenever there’s been a dust up in my life, I’ve heard this: “You’re too emotional.  Why can’t you ________?” Fill in the blank with one of the following:

  • get a thicker skin
  • blow it off
  • ignore them/him/her; they’ll get bored and quit
  • just calm down
  • stop being so irrational/emotional/unreasonable

So it was a huge relief to read a book that was devoted to the idea that emotions are not scary.  Emotions are not bad.  Indeed, emotions are a necessary barometer that help us navigate and negotiate through life.

Mr. Elliott’s premise is that, contrary to popular psychology, ancient Greek philosophy and most modern thought, emotions were and are to be trusted.  They are an inner compass to the dance of the Holy Spirit.  It is when we cease to listen to our emotions that we are most at risk for not hearing from God.   He even laid to rest the horrible train visual that has scourged so many of us for so long:

Fact Faith Feeling

The promise of God’s Word, the Bible — not our feelings — is our authority. The Christian lives by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word. This train diagram illustrates the relationship among fact (God and His Word), faith (our trust in God and His Word), and feeling (the result of our faith and obedience) (John 14:21).

The train will run with or without a caboose. However, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, as Christians we do not depend on feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word.

Thus have thousands been coerced into distrusting their innermost compass.  There is a grain of truth to these statements, but there is also a pound is dishonesty.  Sorting it out takes finesse and maturity.  Neither of which seem to be encouraged in the church of today.

Matthew Elliott takes great pains to prove his premise … but he does so in a very rational, logical manner.  I found this both comforting and paradoxical at the same time.  He makes the fine point that the notion that emotions cannot be trusted dates back to Plato and thus may be traced through Augustine in our church history.  He then traces its path through modern psychology and Darwinian thought to the present.  But the reality in the Bible is that God, His people and our relationship with Her are all rooted in emotion from the very beginning.

For those breaking free of any kind of emotional straight-jacket this is a must read.  Mr. Elliott also has a blog and throughout the book encourages participation on it.   There is also a website with study guide resources for individual and small group study (this book would be fine for both).

We Interrupt This Blog …

Filed under:art, fun, gifts, quilting — posted by Sonja on August 14, 2008 @ 7:03 am

… for a special announcement.

Some of you may remember a period of whining and complaining earlier this year when BlazingEwe and I were involved in making my/our guild’s raffle quilt (pattern is Shakespeare In The Park, copyright by Judy Martin in The Creative Pattern Book).  It was finished in June, quilted and everything.  We’re kinda happy with it.

So we entered it in our county fair …

Shakespeare In The Park

… and WON … Best Of Show AND First Place in our category (made by a group).

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Hokey Pokey – Book Review

Filed under:books, gifts, joy, life, mystery, odd jobs, ooze blogger book, theology — posted by Sonja on August 12, 2008 @ 7:49 am

Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey: Curious People Finding What Life’s All About by Matthew Paul Turner

I remember being small and pestering my mother with “what if” questions til she’d finally cry “Uncle.”  “We’re not playing the ‘what if’ game today.”  I was a curious child and have continued to be a curious adult.

It was that curiosity that lead me to chase down God; only to find He hadn’t exactly been hiding.  I simply hadn’t been looking very effectively.   No matter, we met up.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the many of God’s messengers here in earth have done their level best to squelch my inborn curiosity about life, living and all things to with the here and the hereafter.  I tried to contain it for a long time.  Then I tried to channel it into respectable outlets, but I’m a woman so there aren’t really any for me.  I taught youth group, I taught women’s classes, but they all got too deep and I continued to ask too many questions.  Silly me.

So I liked this book and I didn’t like this book.  And for the same reason.  It challenged me to get off my duff once more and dance.  Life’s been sorta painful these last couple of years.  The last few times I’ve “put my left arm in and shook it all about …” I got it ripped off and clubbed with the wet end (as my grandfather was fond of saying).  I’m not so anxious to try again.  I’m not even certain I want to listen to the music at this point, but let me finish telling you about the book.

I do highly recommend Hokey Pokey (although I really wish for a better title) for those seeking validation of their curious nature and for those beginning to ask questions but wonder if it’s okay (yes, it is).

Honestly, when I first cracked this book open I wondered how much there could be to write on the subject of curiosity.  Mr. Turner takes the subject far more seriously than his title suggests.  Along the way he manages to deal with calling, the silence of God, mentors, negative relationships, community, waiting on God, our image in God as well as several other fairly deep topics (these are what struck me).  Far from being a light read, I found this to be challenging on a level that I wasn’t anticipating.  Hokey Pokey would make a good book for a small group study for a group that has been together for some time and knows one another well.  It would also make a good book to read and journal through with a friend or on one’s own (as I plan to do later this fall).  It also made for enjoyable reading on it’s own and I found a lot that I simply relished; not the least of which was that many places were familiar as Mr. Turner lived and worked in the DC area and he managed the coffee house where I used to go to church.

To Give Hope (The Missional Synchroblog)

Filed under:being jesus, community, expectantly, faith, gifts, hope, joy, laughter, love, missional — posted by Sonja on June 23, 2008 @ 8:29 am

So … here it is.  Today’s the day.  The day of the big synchroblog.  The big hitters are writing about this.  Fifty of us are writing to define the word “missional.”  When Rick sent out his call for this by blog and by e-mail (thank you, Rick), I thought, “Yeah … I do have something to say.”  In the intervening weeks though, my scattered thoughts have not gathered themselves.

I am no theologian.  I am not trained in exegesis or any of the other long scary unknowable words that people use to make themselves seem smart.  I am, at the end of the day, a teacher.  And a quilter (I love color)  And a story-teller.  So I will tell a story and teach a lesson about how I and my family are missional in the suburbs.  In our house missional means lawncare … among other things.

It all began with a door to nowhere.  Or more precisely, a door to our backyard with a 5 foot drop for a first step.  We lived in our house for 3 years with a french door that we could not use because, well, “Watch out for the first step, it’s a lou-lou.”  So we had a deck built.

Two guys built it.  I think they spoke about 10 words of English between the two of them.  Just enough to ask for the bathroom and water when they needed it.  We’d go out and admire their workmanship occasionally; they’d smile and nod.

During this time I was caring for a friend’s four children once a week while she and her husband went to marriage counseling.  It was the tradition for she and her kids to have dinner with us when the counseling was done.  One evening, it happened that the deck makers were also there.  We invited them to have dinner with us in the back yard.  We’d have eaten in the house, but we had no way to get the grilled meat into the house because of the construction.  We set up a plastic banquet table and paper plates. BlazingEwe and her FlamingLambs were here too.  The kids ate all over the yard and the grown ups ate together at the table.  I remembered about as much Spanish from highschool as they knew English.  So we were able to communicate over sticky drumsticks and gooey potato salad.  We all ate and smiled until our stomachs and faces were full.  It was one of the happiest meals I remember.

We’ve carried on the tradition since then.  Whenever people come to work on or around our home, we bring them water or share a meal with them depending on the circumstances.  This year, we’ve finally broken down and hired a lawncare service.  This has turned out to be a Hispanic man and his sons.  We don’t do lawn care with any regularity and our lawn has always been the po’white trash lawn on the block … a certain disgrace to a particular neighbor of ours.  It is the elder son who does the talking and negotiating with us.  He must be about LightGirl’s age, but sober and sturdy.  Responsible, quick and dependable.  They come whenever to mow our lawn, if we’re here we pay them, otherwise, they come another time for payment.  If we’re here, we take them water.  One evening the father was taking a little too long with his part and the sons played joyfully on our trampoline.  LightBoy joined them.  And the joy was exponential.  Our lawn has become beautiful in their capable hands, but more importantly we are slowly building a friendship with them.  Our goal is to invite them to a meal soon.  To share our hospitality with them.

You see, to me, missional is about giving hope in a world of gray.  It’s about smiling at people who routinely wear frowns.  I may never have the chance to speak the words of the Gospel to them in my outloud voice.  But I can say to my (agnostic) friend when her sense of being gets too tied up in her website, “You are more than that.  You are not your website.  You are beautiful and created for much more than that.”  Help her move beyond despair and into grace.

Missional is about loving my neighbor and that can be expressed in thousands of ways, but the thought that came into my head this morning and will not leave is the verse from Jeremiah that most people use in very different circumstances.  Jeremiah 29:11 … “1 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Plans to give hope and a future.   You see that’s so often lacking in our world today.  Hope … AND a future.

So I speak hope into the lives of the people I know and the people I meet.  I try to know them and find the hope that is there.  Find the light that leads to the future and together we will walk towards God.

********************************************************************************

This is part of a synchroblog that has been organized by Blind Beggar (Rick Meigs) that is hoping to clarify and define the term “missional.”  I have more than likely just muddied the waters with my craziness here.  But these other folks will have done a much better job than I, so please read them:

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
DoSi
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Grace
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Kent Leslie
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner

Friends Are The Family You Choose

Filed under:children, community, family, gifts, joy, life, quilting — posted by Sonja on June 7, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

amber & iToday marked a milestone of sorts.

One day about 14 years ago I signed up to take a meal to a woman who’d just had some sort of surgery. She had two small children and her husband worked alot of hours. The family were members of our church and it was the beneficent thing to do. The children were about 4 and 1 (at the time) and LightGirl was around 6 months old. I figured I’d drop the meal off, say a few words and leave. It was around LightGirl’s naptime afterall. I think I left about 3 hours later.

The way I figure it I think we’ve spent the equivalent of a year of our lives on the phone together. Most of that laughing. I spent the wee hours of the morning with her oldest two when child number three joined them, and then child four and then finally, child number five (who is now five).

Child number 2 and number 3 are LightGirl and LightBoy’s ages … they have grown up together.

The oldest, a girl, graduated from highschool yesterday. A milestone of sorts. My first friend to have a child graduating from highschool. More than that though … I’ve known this girl virtually her whole life. I remember more about the funny things these children said when they were little, than my blood nieces and nephews. We hid out together during tornado watches and cooked chicken feet one day. We’ve watched each other’s children for overnights and for vacations.

signing the quiltWe fell away from each other for a few years for no particular reason. We staying in sporadic contact, but falling off of a cliff in the middle of the mines of Moria made me a little difficult to reach for a while. So when we received the invitation to her graduation party, our whole family was delighted. Even better was LaughingEye’s reaction when she opened the door this afternoon. Her whole body radiated joy.

I made her an album quilt … a quilt with space for her friends and family to sign. She was thrilled. I am thrilled. And I sat, absorbed back into my friend’s family and realized that friends really are the family you choose.

amber and her quilt

Miles Of Thread Later

Filed under:art, fun, gifts, quilting — posted by Sonja on April 24, 2008 @ 8:36 am

And I do mean that literally. Quite literally. Eight bobbins and two large spools of thread equals miles of thread.

Finished Quilt Top

We are finished. Well, we’re finished with our part. Now we take it to a long-arm quilter to have the three layers that make it a quilt put together and stitched. But our part is finished and we are happy with it. So happy that we have both agreed that we will likely spend far too much in raffle tickets in our attempts to win the quilt back … because now we LOVE it. How can we give it away to a stranger?

We will if we must … but only after we take plenty of photographs.

Clay Jars

Filed under:being jesus, faith, gifts, hope, life, peace, redemption — posted by Sonja on March 27, 2008 @ 8:18 am

clay jarsOne of my favorite blogs to read and meditate on is Velveteen Rabbi by Rachel Barenblatt. Rachel is a rabbinical student who lives and blogs in western Massachusetts. This is coincidentally near where my brother lives and near where I spent a lot of time as a child, so I feel a tie to her for this reason. But I would love her writing no matter where she did it. It is is full of imagery that makes the divine more approachable, more meaningful, and more real.

She often, as a rabbinical student, writes some form of commentary on the weekly parshat (portion). I hesitate to use words here because those words will define something that I am not qualified to define. But here is my very limited understanding of the Jewish tradition surrounding their scriptures. It is very usual to read through the scriptures (Torah … a portion of our Old Testament) every year. You begin and end during Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah (which holiday falls at the end of the high holidays in the autumn). The scriptures are broken into portions (parshats) that are defined and one could find those in a variety of places. So that on any given week, those Jews who are doing so are all reading the same portions of scripture together. There is something comforting in that to me.

This week (as she has in weeks past) she wrote a poem, but led off with this bit from Leviticus:

And if any of those falls into an earthen vessel, everything inside it shall be unclean and [the vessel] itself you shall break. –Leviticus 11:33

I stopped right there. And could not go on. I did not (at that moment) read the poem. “Paul said something about earthen vessels. I know he did. Now where was it? And what was it, exactly?” All I could remember at that moment was it was a good thing and I needed to know the exact quote and I needed to read it in context. So I found it in 2 Corinthians 4 -

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Then I went back to Leviticus, searching for earthen vessels and what their specific outcome was to be. I read bits of Leviticus for the first time and was legitimately fascinated. Paul, the phormer Pharisee, would have known this. Clay or earthen vessels could be used for sacrifice, but once used, they must be broken. Bronze vessels could be scoured and cleansed, but clay vessels must be broken. I was particularly struck by this in Leviticus 6 -

24 The LORD said to Moses, 25 “Say to Aaron and his sons: ‘These are the regulations for the sin offering: The sin offering is to be slaughtered before the LORD in the place the burnt offering is slaughtered; it is most holy. 26 The priest who offers it shall eat it; it is to be eaten in a holy place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. 27 Whatever touches any of the flesh will become holy, and if any of the blood is spattered on a garment, you must wash it in a holy place. 28 The clay pot the meat is cooked in must be broken; but if it is cooked in a bronze pot, the pot is to be scoured and rinsed with water. (italics are mine)

After all of this, I went back and read Rachel’s beautiful poem and was immediately struck by this verse:

The heart is an earthen vessel,
the body an urn: made from dust

and patched with slip,
divine fingerprints everywhere.

Read her whole poem, then her explanation of Talmudic tradition concerning clay pots. How they are broken and then glued together again. The Hasidic tradition which teaches that the earthen vessel is also a metaphor for our hearts. And I go back again to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth … “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” We will be (or maybe we are already) broken, and then glued back together … “patched with slip, divine fingerprints everywhere.” Rendered useless and then useful again. In the process of becoming holy, we must also become broken and put back together. We must leave our cracks on the outside … an aesthetically imperfect vessel, which God can now use.


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