Persephone

Filed under:Smaug, blessing, faith, holy days, lent, life, redemption — posted by Sonja on March 26, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving It Up For Lent

Filed under:anger, blessing, church, comestibles, expectantly, faith, holy days, ice cream, lent — posted by Sonja on February 13, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

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.

The Resurrection and The Life

Filed under:dreams, faith, holy days, hope, love, synchroblog, theology — posted by Sonja on April 10, 2012 @ 8:09 am

This post is part of the April Synchroblog – What If The Resurrection Was A Hoax? Examining faith in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Do you ever think about life (or some part of it) without basic assumptions in place?  What would life be like if …. ?  I do that with some regularity.  It’s a long held habit.  I remember my mother saying to me, “I’m not playing the ‘What if’ game with you anymore,” in sheer frustration over the questions I was peppering her with.  So this month’s synchroblog seemed a natural for me … what if the Resurrection was a hoax?

When I was young in the faith, I heard a number of men in various formats and venues arguing the reality of the Resurrection.  They made arguments such a Chuck Colson’s; a man will not die for a lie and 12 men will not die for that lie.  He based his argument on the response of the co-conspirators in Nixon’s Watergate crisis.  It’s a valid argument and has some basis in human nature.  But I always wondered why these impassioned arguments mattered.  They were fun to listen to because I love a good, well-reasoned argument, but from my very limited perspective it always seemed that the Resurrection of Jesus was a matter of faith – “1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.

I’ve held on to that definition for a long time.  And when I read another recent article about faith some things clicked into place.

Thomas Jefferson is held as an icon of American spirit.  He had a firm hand in writing many of our founding documents.  He was an early ambassador and third president.  He is at the front of many lists about our nation’s founding.  Among his things was eventually found a Bible with the New Testament heavily edited with a razor.  He cut out all of the stuff that did not come straight from Jesus.  A modern wordsmith, using a razor in place of our cut and paste system, he wanted to know if the teachings of Jesus could stand on their own without the miracles and other “distractions.”  His conclusion was that it could.  That Jesus’ teachings were in and of themselves a divine miracle.  And that following them would take divine inspiration for giving up the trappings of this world (power, wealth, fame) in hopes of the next.

Andrew Sullivan, writing for The Daily Beast, describes it:

Jefferson feared that the alternative to a Christianity founded on “internal persuasion” was a revival of the brutal, bloody wars of religion that America was founded to escape. And what he grasped in his sacrilegious mutilation of a sacred text was the core simplicity of Jesus’ message of renunciation. He believed that stripped of the doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the various miracles, the message of Jesus was the deepest miracle. And that it was radically simple. It was explained in stories, parables, and metaphors—not theological doctrines of immense complexity. It was proven by his willingness to submit himself to an unjustified execution. The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he endured. The point was how he conducted himself through it all—calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God. Jesus, like Francis, was a homeless person, as were his closest followers. He possessed nothing—and thereby everything.

So when I come down to the bottom of everything, I come to this.  Jesus embodied love to the point of death.  His Resurrection (and Incarnation) are necessary to the holistic theology of Jesus.  But these miracles do not inform how we should live.  They are celebrated as part and parcel of our theology, but how we live our daily lives in a reflection of the Love Divine becomes the path through which we realize God’s Kingdom come and His will be done … here on earth (as it is in heaven).

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

This is a Synchroblog post … the following people also made outstanding contributions to thinking about Christian life without the Resurrection.

Who’s Life Is It?

Filed under:children, faith, life, violence — posted by Sonja on January 30, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

So one night a couple months ago a friend asked me this question: “You have have been pregnant and had kids. At what point during your pregnancies were the children you carried your children? I mean, when did you consider them life? (not trying to start an argument, just trying to understand is all)”

She asked me in a chat window and made reference to something I posted on FaceBook concerning the beginning of life.  I am ashamed to say that I did not answer her right away and I went off-line.  It was not the kind of question I felt I could answer in a chat window.  I wanted to take my time working through a lot of angry thoughts I was having about the state of affairs in our country concerning women, pregnancy and the beginning of life right now.  I did not want to dump those on to my friend.  I needed to let the question percolate and I wanted to write about my thoughts more fully here.

My friend is correct, as all of you know, I have two children (the LightChildren).  But I’ve had four pregnancies.  Two pregnancies ended as live births and two ended as abortions.  One abortion was caused by medical professionals, one was caused by nature’s capriciousness.  Both of those pregnancies ended at about the same point – between 9 and 10 weeks.  You see, a miscarriage is medically classified as an “abortion.”  I didn’t know that until I read my chart in the emergency room.  I grieved after both pregnancies ended.  I was sad.  I was much sadder after the second (a planned pregnancy) than after the first (unplanned).  After the second I also felt a crushing sense of guilt because the thought occurred to me that the justice of a God who required an eye for an eye might have taken the second pregnancy in payment for the first.  I now recognize that this is not true.

So I began to think (after my friend posed her question) what was it that I was grieving?  Why was I sad at the end of those pregnancies?  When did I feel that my children’s lives began?

My best answer to that is … I don’t know when I actually considered my children to be alive and embodied with who they are (their soul, for lack of a better term).  It might have been when I first felt them move.  I know that when those two pregnancies ended I was not grieving actual people.  I was grieving dreams, potentials, wishes and hopes.  Far more were shattered when the second one ended capriciously than when the first ended as a planned event.  But even though I and LightHusband knew that first pregnancy had to end (for reasons far too complex to write about here), it was not something we did lightly or without sober thought.  Given the circumstances surrounding that pregnancy and the context we were in, I believe I would do it again.  My sense of loss and failure were the tightly woven warp amongst the weft of self-preservation, ability, and meeting expectations.

I know that for every reason given by every mother who makes that Hobbesian choice, there is a person out there who can counter with a Tebow like story of transcendent victory over obstacles with God’s grace or the assistance of some other natural intervention.  Yet there are an equal number of stories of children born into oblivion.  Mothers who have multiple children in their teens, but only one (if any) is given up for adoption.  The cycle of poverty, ignorance and misery is visited upon another generation.  For them the American dream is a nightmare of squalor, dependence, and terrible options.

We sit at a crossroads in our country right now.  No one is comfortable here and a lot of vitriol is being thrown around in attempts to regain comfort levels and upper hands.  People who support the right of a woman to be in control of her body and pregnancies are called by various factions, “Pro-choice” and “Pro-abortion.”  People who support the right of the fetus to exist to the limits of it’s potential are called variously, “Pro-life” and “Pro-fetus” or “Anti-Choice”.  The problem is that none of those labels are adequate.  People who support the right of a woman to be in control of her body are not running around promoting abortion (despite what anyone says).  I have yet to meet a single person who thinks it’s even a mediocre idea; it’s not a choice that anyone wants.  Believe me.  So saying that one is in favor of a choice you never want to make is like saying you love blood ice cream.  Gross.  What women are really saying is that they want freedom (and I’m going to get back to that in a minute).  On the flip side of the coin, those who support the existence of the fetus are not truly pro-life.  There are a few in that set of people who take on what might be called a consistent ethic of life positions (that is, they also reject war, death penalty, etc.) and thus are truly PRO-life.  However, most of the speaking on behalf of the fetus/baby has been just that … simply get the child born.  Once born (since the pro-life movement is primarily conservative) there is not very much support for it’s life after that should s/he be born into an impoverished family.

Boiled down, we have an impasse between mother and fetus.  What a terrible crossroads to be at … pitting mother against pre-child?  One set of people proposes that the mother’s rights are paramount.  The other side proposes that the fetuses rights are paramount.  Yet both sets of rights must inhabit the same body.  Both sets of rights (if we are going to grant rights to a fetus, and I am not certain that we should) may not be compatible with one another.

How have we gotten to this impasse?  Well, it’s been a twisty, windy road.  But I’ve lived through some of it.  So I’ll describe some of the view from my perspective.  Just as we’ve reached an impasse between mother and pre-child, we are also coming to an impasse between reason/science and faith.

Reason and science teach us many things about the pre-child.  But they cannot teach us when a child is given its soul; that breath of being that brings a sparkle to each of our eyes.  We know that a fetal monitor can find a heart beat at 8 weeks.  That at 12 weeks s/he is growing fingernails.  At 24 weeks a pre-child is considered “viable.”  Viable means that doctors and medical personnel can keep it alive outside the womb with costly medical equipment.  Whether or not the child will suffer permanent loss of different abilities (both physical and mental) as a result of these heroics seems to be capricious.  And when I looked up fetal development here is what I found for 25 weeks -

  • At 25 weeks pregnant, the structures of the spine begin to form — joints, ligaments and rings. These will protect the all important spinal cord which serves as the information transmitter for your child’s body.
  • Blood vessels of the lungs develop.
  • Your baby’s nostrils begin to open. There is a study out of Belfast that suggests babies at this stage have the capability of scent preferences!
  • The nerves around the mouth and lip area are showing more sensitivity now. When baby is rooting for food later on, these will be valuable!
  • His swallowing reflexes are developing at week 25 of your pregnancy.

Based on this, a baby born at 24 weeks would not have a spinal structure, nor blood vessels in the lungs and no swallowing reflexes!!  Getting a baby to survive under those circumstances is a miracle!  Some of them thrive.  But does a tiny baby born at 24 weeks have a soul?  Or is it a fetus outside the womb?  How would we know?

I have seen in the papers (read that on-line media) that politicians in various places want to introduce legislation that prohibit abortion … even in the case of incest and rape and even when the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the mother.   I read those articles with a sense of awe and bewilderment.  Awe that someone could be so wed to their principle that they don’t see the human face on it.  Bewildered at the lack of understanding and the lack of nuance.  Somehow it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the mother for the baby.  No, what doesn’t make sense is that the sacrifice would be codified into law.  There are some families who might choose that sacrifice, but it should never be forced on anyone.  Nor should the bearing of a child as the result of a rape or (worse) incest be forced on a woman or young girl.  Should she decide to make that sacrifice, wonderful!  Let’s embrace that and applaud it.  But don’t make it a law, molesting women a second time.

We, as a culture, are in a place where science has outstripped our ability to make decisions.  50 years ago, women very often didn’t know they were pregnant until enough time had passed that abortion was not even an option.  Now we have the ability to know within hours of conception.  The language we use surrounding pregnancy has become dystopian in many ways.  I believe this is an attempt to relieve some of the pressure that has built up around pregnancies and our choices concerning them.  What are the ethics of competing rights inhabiting one body?  How do we choose which rights are paramount?  Some would say faith points the way, others say science.  I think that both carry inherent flaws and strengths that need to be explored.  But that is for another post.  Hopefully later this week.

On The Road To Nowhere – December Synchroblog Advent Reflection

Filed under:Christmas, church, faith, synchroblog, women — posted by Sonja on December 7, 2010 @ 11:49 am

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!

Ends & Pieces

Filed under:being jesus, children, dreams, faith, family, fun, girls, healthcare, laughter, life with teens, missional, women — posted by Sonja on July 28, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

This was a real treat when I was a child.  Ends & Pieces.  That would be bacon I’m talking about here.  The meat packing plant would pack up all the bits that are left over when they are finished slicing up the perfect strips of bacon and they heap them onto a styrofoam tray, wrap some plastic around them and call it good.  You get some real treats in there, nice meaty pieces of bacon, but you also get some real duds; slabs of nothing but fat.  It’s cheaper than so-called regular bacon because it’s not very pretty.  But it’s very tasty.  So that’s what you’re getting today … ends and pieces.  Cheaper than the regular thing, some pieces might be really meaty, but you might find some that are pure lard.  You’ll have to decide.

About 7 months ago, LightHusband and I joined Weight Watchers.  We’ve added more than a few pounds over the years and we need to send those extra pounds packing; go find someone else to torment, thank you very much.  BlisteringSh33p and BlazingEwe had joined about 5 months before we did, so they were old hands at it.  So off we go every Monday night to face the ScaleMiser and listen to our FearlessLeader as he gives us help, tips and pointers for the week to come.  This is a long tedious process during which I am coming face to face with my very unhealthy relationship with food and how I use it to feed many things in my life besides my bodily functions.  sigh.  But that’s another story.  Last night as we sat in the meeting, I came face to face to with another gremlin in my life.  ADHD.  It’s something I’ve often wondered thought I might be dealing with or have dealt with and I laugh at myself about it a lot.  But it was not even a diagnosis when I was young, so I was certainly never given that label.  And now I’m not sure I want it.  But it would be nice to know because then I could figure out how to overcome it.  In any case, our FearlessLeader was describing the 4 main ingredients in what WW calls, Filling Foods.  These are foods that give you the most bang for the buck (the calories they contain).  Mostly they are high fiber/low calorie fruits and vegetables.  He said, “blah, blah, blah air, water, fiber, protein …. ” and I had a fully formed vision of Air, Water, Fiber and Protein as the SuperFriends from the Hall of Justice.  I could not stop giggling and leaned over to tell BlazingEwe.  She started giggling.  Then neither of us could stop.  And poor FearlessLeader had to bring the meeting to a halt because we were about on the floor!  I ‘fessed up to my vision and brought the house down.  But my point is, I’m always having visions like this and have had since I was very little.  When I was younger, I thought everyone did.  As I get older, I’m finding that no, I’m kinda weird.  Not everyone thinks like this.  In fact, it’s mostly people who have brains which can’t sit still think like this.

I know I can get medicine to help with this.  But I don’t think I want it.  I think I’m going to read up on coping and figure myself out.  I’m going to try and harness this energy for good, not evil ;-) and work with it.  This could be a good thing eventually.

The other day (maybe the same day) I had conversation with a young lady about reincarnation.  She confided in me that she believes in reincarnation and proceeded to give me some statistics that bore out this belief.  I listened politely.  Then she asked me if I believed in reincarnation.  No, I said, I do not.  I do, however, believe that our soul continues to exist past the life of our physical body, but I do not believe that it goes on to live in another body.  She wanted to know why I don’t believe that, but our conversation was cut short and I didn’t have a chance to explain myself.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then and the short answer is grace.  And, honestly, that’s the long answer too.  Oh, I used to believe in all kinds of different things, and yes, I even spent some time believing that reincarnation was a likely possibility.  But then I discovered grace and I just can’t get enough of it.  I don’t like the idea that we’re born over and over again to atone for the sins of a past life that we can’t remember.  It seems capricious and mean and points to a standard of behavior and perfection that really no one can live up to.  It reminds of the legend of Sisyphus somehow; always hungering and thirsting for something we cannot have.  But the God I found in my late 20’s and early 30’s was giving out love and mercy and grace liberally, to all who wanted it.  Believe in me, S/He said, and that’s all S/He wanted; some trust, some faith and some love in return.  I can do that.  So, no, I do not believe in reincarnation, but I believe in grace and the One who Loves endlessly.  But sometimes it’s fun to talk about past lives and imagine … I’ll grant you that ;-)

It’s that time of year again … in many different places people are talking about reunions.  They are talking about class reunions, family reunions, school reunions, etc.  I had a startling revelation about the power of our minds the other day.  It was very revealing to me.  About 6 months ago, the LightChildren and I joined a couple of homeschooling groups for the purpose of socializing with other teenagers.  We get together with one group in particular about once a week and all of us have made friends … me too!  It’s been a welcome relief after the past three years in the desert.  The moms are all about my age, some a little older, some a little younger.  But they are around my age.  We all look like a peer group.  I admire these women and see them as adults in the middle of their lives.  Then one day I was thinking about a couple of my dear friends from highschool who I will be seeing when I go to Vermont next week.  It was startling to me that I do not “see” them as being the same age as the women who I am friends with now.  For some reason, my perception of my highschool friends is that they are younger than my current cohort group, when the fact is that they are likely older than the ladies here in Virginia.  Then I wonder, do my highschool friends and I behave differently when we’re together?  Do we revert and act more like our younger selves?  What forces are at play here?  Or do I behave more maturely when I am with my friends here in Virginia?  Or … am I the same and I just play cruel mind games on myself?  It’s all very mysterious and makes me realize what a powerful force our minds are when we are dealing with reality vs. perception.

Sunday night we had a huge scare.  LightGirl ended up in the emergency room after an anaphylactic reaction to ???  We don’t know what.  The best guess at the moment is that she had Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis.  This is not common, but it usually caused by a combination of food and exercise.  This does not mean that the patient is allergic to the food they have eaten, but it may mean that they are sensitive to it and the increased blood flow, etc. of exercise causes an extreme anti-histamine reaction causing anaphylactic shock.  She is going to the allergist tomorrow where we will find out more about this.  Her lungs still hurt and she is having trouble talking.  I can find out plenty about anaphylaxis on the internet, but nothing about the aftermath and recovery.  If anyone reading this has gone through it and knows what we might expect, I’d love to hear your story.  It would be a huge help to us.

In a week we go to Vermont for our annual pilgrimage.  It’s going to be a somewhat shorter trip this year.  But it will be fun nonetheless.  I’m looking forward to some porch time to say the least!

You Are What You Eat

Filed under:ain't nuthin can be done, anger, being jesus, education, faith, freedom, girls, grief, justice, life, violence, women in church — posted by Sonja on July 12, 2010 @ 8:05 am

The other day I wrote about a Barna survey that will be coming out with full documentation in about a year.  The posted statistics are quite provocative as I (and several other women) noted.  The data have raised a lot of criticism and left many women scratching their heads, thinking, “That’s not my experience, so how can those numbers be so high?”  It will be interesting to see the full report when Jim Henderson publishes his book next year.

FTR, I am still aghast that a man, without any co-authorship from a woman, is writing this book.  Upon reading Pam Hogeweide’s testimony about her involvement with it, I am further dismayed.  I don’t know Jim Henderson at all so I cannot comment on this.  I will speak my own mind and say that to me it feels as though he is stealing our voices for himself.  He has said that he is writing this because no woman has stepped forward to write it.  That may be.  It may also be that the time is not right for a woman to write it and therefore as a man he is taking away our right to speak for ourselves in our way, in our own time and with our own unique voice.  Que sera, sera …

I stopped writing about this issue for some time.  In fact, I stopped writing at all for a long time because I was and am undone by a lot of this.  I am struggling to find my place in the world; struggling to understand my faith without the trappings of church.  I don’t always know what is real and what is a reflection in a funhouse mirror.  But then I saw this data and began to remember …

I remembered a time when I might also have answered all those questions affirmatively.  Or in such a way that I might be part of the large percentage of women who were following the tail in front of them.  I grew up in an egalitarian home; a home in which my mother finally decided that she would NOT learn how to use a chainsaw because then she would have to use it more frequently than she wanted to because the boundaries between women’s work and men’s work were blurred (except dishes and laundry).  Everyone did everything.  I took shop classes in highschool.  My brothers took Home-Ec and I was jealous that my brother can still bake a better loaf of bread than I can.

Then LightHusband and I joined an EFree Church.  As a new believer I remember that I wanted to be like the other women in my church.  I think I wanted it mostly because that was the way to fit in and be part of the group.  But it was also the key … the key to being “Godly.”  In an evangelical or Bible-believing church, this is the defining characteristic of any adult … are they Godly?  I have no idea what that means.  What I can tell you is that people stand around looking very serious and hand out that superlative like it’s a crown.  It is placed on the head of this person or that person … it was never put on my head, I’ll tell you that up front.  Usually the character qualities that seem to be in common with a “Godly” person are those found in the fruits of the Spirit verses in Galatians:  self-control, patience, peace, etc.  They also have to be really good with their money (aka … rich).  Women should be submissive to their husbands.  Men should be the head of the family and make all the decisions.

I struggled to fit my round-peg into this square hole for 14 years.  I now battle an most likely lifelong case of depression because I so depleted myself from this.  I cannot even begin to catalogue the fallout from all of this in my life.  I’ve been gone for 7 years now.  I’m finally beginning to get my life and my mind back.  I have held on to my faith by the barest edge; the evidence of grace and love.

I did some poking around because of a throw-away comment in my earlier post.  I said that the Church is like an anorexic who looks in the mirror and sees someone who is fat and needs to lose weight, but the reality is she is wasting away and starving herself.  I thought about that some more and did a little research into eating disorders.  I found a little known cousin to anorexia called, orthorexia.  Orthorexia is like anorexia because people (mostly women) who become trapped in its snare waste away and starve.  However, the motivation for orthorexics is different.  It is an eating disorder characterized by a focus on eating healthy or natural foods.  The person who has become orthorexic feels better and better as they are able to purify their diet.  As it becomes an obsession, the person begins to focus more and more time and attention on what they eat.  I first discovered this through an on-line journal of a young woman who ultimately died as a result of her obsession with natural/healthy food.  As I discovered more about this, I found this helpful Ten Signs Of Orthorexia:

Dr. Bratman suggests that you may be orthorexic, or on your way there, if you:

  • Spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.
  • Plan your day’s menu more than 24 hour ahead of time.
  • Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it.
  • Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your food increases.
  • Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.
  • Base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
  • Eat “correct” foods to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
  • So limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
  • Feel guilt or self-loathing when you eat “incorrect” foods.
  • Derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”

Bratman suggests that if more than four of these descriptions applies to you, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your attitude toward what you eat. If they all apply, you’re in the grip of an obsession.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve included this here.  As I was reading about orthorexics and their quest for a pure diet, the parallels between seeking a pure and undefiled diet and seeking after a pure and undefiled faith became very clear to me.  They may not be to you.  But I began to look at the Church in terms of this obsession with pure food.  I think we all exist on a spectrum here.  Some believers have no issue with pure/right faith, others are obsessed with it to the point of starving themselves of any other sort of food than that which they deem pure.  Think about those 10 markers in terms of the faith of believers you know or about yourself -

  • Spend more than three hours a day thinking about a healthy faith
  • Plan your day’s faith practices more than 24 hour ahead of time.
  • Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your faith than from actively participating in it.
  • Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your faith increases.
  • Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your faith practices (and those of others).
  • Base your self-esteem on your knowledge of Scripture, your pure faith, etc., and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
  • Expose yourself to “correct” media to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
  • So limit what you can be exposed to that you can practice your faith “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
  • Feel guilt or self-loathing when you expose yourself to ideas, images, etc that are “incorrect” according to the tenets of your faith.
  • Derive a sense of self-control from practicing your faith “properly.”

So what does this have to do with women in church and/or church leadership? I’m not sure yet. But I do know that in many churches today there is an unhealthy focus on being “Godly,” on having correct doctrine, and on having a pure faith. For many of those churches, this includes attitudes about women and men that are not reflective of a healthy body. Some of these attitudes run to the extreme (such as a growing trend known as Christian Domestic Discipline, or another growing trend known sometimes as Quiverfull others as “radical family planning”).  Some of them are more middle of the road and merely separate men and women into different classes during Sunday School, women are not allowed to teach men either from the pulpit or in a class, etc.

No one can fault these churches or these believers because they really truly are seeking after God and seeking to find Him in the purest way they know how.  They get a lot of satisfaction from being a “Bible-believing” church, or having that crown of “Godliness” bestowed upon them.  And truth be told, we all get that sense of satisfaction when we’re told that we’re doing something good and pure and right.  It makes us want to be part of it and work harder for that cause … whatever that cause may be … so that we’ll get some more of that praise and that sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done.  When we’re part of a group, that’s what happens in our socially-inclined brains.

But what do you do if your group is killing you?  I mean that both literally (sometimes women die from trying to have their babies unassisted at home in the so-called “Quiverfull” movement) and figuratively.  What if seeking after a pure faith (even walking in the middle of that road) isn’t an obsession, but just a concern … and the “food” you’ve decided is healthy, really isn’t?  How would anyone know?  How do you know when you’re being slowly inexhorably being poisoned and it’s gone on all your life?

Shiny Happy …. Women

Filed under:anger, being jesus, faith, freedom, grief, justice, poverty, power, righteous anger, women in church — posted by Sonja on July 7, 2010 @ 7:09 am

The first rumble of something in the wind came late yesterday.  I was tired.  Grumpy even.  The day had been empty and I was supposed to be able to sew all day after a busy weekend.  But I ended up driving all day.  So I sat on the sofa and was mad.  It had been good for everyone else.  Just not me.  There seems to be a theme in that lately and I am slowly but steadily ending up without so much wick to my candle.  So I checked into my googlereader and found that kathy escobar had posted a rather interestingly titled post, “drinking the company koolaid.” Now since she usually writes about more Jesus-y things and her church-y gathering, I wondered what could be up with that!  And read it.

It was a most uncharacteristic rant from her about the state of women in the church.  Not that she thinks that women in the church over all have it made and we should stop going on about it.  Far from that.  It’s just that usually she has other things on her mind.  And she is very good about choosing her battles (windmills) very wisely.  She is no Don Quixote (unlike yours truly).  She referenced a post by Pam Hogeweide (Happy Christian Women … really??) … which is a must read.  But more importantly, she linked to some data that is being published by Jim Henderson, of Off The Map.  It’s a recent Barna Group survey of 603 Christian (self-described) women and what they thought of women and leadership in the church.

What he has published so far seems to be fairly provocative -

1. 84% say that their church’s perspective on women in ministry is almost identical, very similar, or somewhat similar to their own.

2. 83% say that their Senior Pastor is somewhat, highly or completely supportive of women leading in their church

3. 82% say they can tell by their church’s actions that the church values the leadership of women

4. 81% say that their church provides women with the same degree of leadership opportunities as Jesus would.

5. 72% say they possess a lot of spiritual freedom in their life

6. 70% say that the media has little influence on their decision-making

7. 71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life

8. 62% say that ALL leadership roles are open to them in their church.

9. Only 1% say they often struggle with jealousy

10. Among those who feel they are capable of doing more to serve God, and should be doing more, only 4% say that their fear of failure is holding them back from doing more to serve God.

I commented at Jim’s blog (where he published this data).  I’m wondering how this survey was taken.  If it was taken on paper (either virtual or literal) or by phone that would give different results … especially when dealing with a group of women.   I think that this is incredibly revealing of how the church has become a system of brain-washing rather than God’s Kingdom revealed tiny piece by tiny piece. Because the Kingdom of Heaven is not about men or women or leadership.  Or who will be first.  It’s about who will be last.  It’s about finding the lost sheep, the lost penny; giving away your wrap when someone needs a shirt; enabling someone to care for others when at first they can barely care for themselves; it’s about spreading the Love Divine around, not keeping it for yourself.

It made me angry to read these statistics.  It made me angry, not just for the women … but for all the people involved in those churches.  They are losing out.  This is not the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, or as he walked with his disciples or at any time.  Would even Peter, or John the beloved disciple be able to answer these questions so affirmatively?  How about Mary Magdalene?  Good grief, if even the disciples struggled with jealousy why on earth can only 6 women out 603 acknowledge it?  Perhaps it was the word, often, that threw them off.  Maybe they decided that they could deny that jealousy was something that strolled in and regularly did battle in their hearts.  I know I will stand up and say that I am jealous all the time.  It doesn’t make me mean anymore, but acknowledging it to myself and being able to laugh at it has made it easier.

Then this report made me sad.  The kind of sad that aches in my bones.  Because when I look at it I see poverty.  The church in North America (like the US) may have a lot of money.  It may have a lot of stuff.  We may also have a lot of people for all I know.  But we are starving to death.  Emaciated and dying for lack of food, water and oxygen.  Worse, we are doing it to ourselves.  With a huge smile on our faces.  We are a people with anorexia or bulemia.  When we look in the mirror we see fat and happy, but the reality is we are starving.  Dying.

In the end, we can know a lot of stuff about the Bible.  We can even know a lot of stuff about God and Jesus.  But if we do not have love … love enough to be honest with ourselves and our neighbors and our communities, then we are nothing but a clanging gong.

For The Win!

Filed under:expectantly, faith, mercy, mystery, poverty, women — posted by Sonja on June 28, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

A friend of mine recently posted as her status on FB that just when she thinks she has God all figured out he throws a curveball and they win.  This statement was obviously made as a praise.  Now I’ve known this very kind and gracious lady for nearly as long as LightGirl has been alive.  Her faith is rock solid and she is very wonderful.  But the statement got me thinking.

We have this notion that God is on our side when we win, and we’re being tempted by Satan when we lose.  But what do we do with all of the red words to the contrary … like the first shall be last?  Or he who loses his life shall gain his soul?

What if we have it all backwards?  What if the temptation is in the winning and God is on our side when we lose?  How would that change your faith?

Doing Something Nice

Filed under:NaBlaPoMo, being jesus, faith, missional — posted by Sonja on June 23, 2010 @ 7:31 am

So … today’s prompt is this -

Do something nice for someone today. Then tell us about what you did.

Really?  You’re kidding.  I find myself wondering just what that would look like.

Oh.  Not the doing something nice.  I do that all the time and I’m not going to tell you about it here, because that’s decidedly not how I roll.  And that’s the problem.  I do do so-called nice things for people.  And by the way, I hate the word “nice” so I’m going to use the word “kind” or “gracious” from now on.

You see, I call that living a missional life.  My calling in this world is to reflect Jesus to the people around me.  Of course, most of the time, when they look at me or how I live they get a fun-house mirror reflection of him, because I’m all human and totally screwed up.  But I do have this dance with the Holy Spirit (or as I like to call her, Soraya), that I live in.  My dance naturally includes a lot of other people.  But if I tell anyone what I’m doing or what I’ve done, that will take all the fun and all the mystery and all the joy out of it.  Telling people (or writing about it here) will change the focus of how I live.  It will put the focus on me and that is not where it belongs.

So I will do, as always, several acts of kindness today.  But I won’t tell anyone about them.


next page