The Blues
Jun 8th, 2009 by Sonja

I seem to be a little dry lately and don’t have a lot to say, either in real life or here in on my blog.  So I haven’t been saying much.  That’s why you haven’t seen me around here very often.  I have a feeling that might be changing soon (or not), I don’t know.

A little while ago, Mike Todd did a really good piece on atonement (it’s long) and it sparked some really great discussion.  I read through it all and tried to jump in the conversation here and there, but … as I said, I’m kinda dry right now.  So I just listened and absorbed it all.  If you weren’t privy to it, I’d recommend reading it now.   Or not.  I’m just telling you about to set the scene, so to speak.  So you know what I was percolating on.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching a lot of afternoon television the last couple of weeks.  It’s been keeping me company while I’ve done lots and lots of sewing.  I have two channels I prefer in the late afternoon and they run re-runs of “murder” television, as my family calls it; Law & Order, mostly, but also Bones and House.   One episode of either Bones or House ended with a song one day that I could not let go of.  It was a mostly a refrain that went, “none of us are free, none of us are free, one of us in chains, none of us are free.”

So I did some internet sleuthing and found the song and artist.  Bought the whole album from iTunes.  It’s a blues album.  I’m a sucker for the blues.  If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to absolutely choose a favorite genre of music, I likely choose the blues.  Of course, I like almost all genres equally, but there’s something about the blues that gets under my skin.

The song is “None Of Us Are Free” by Solomon Burke and you can enjoy it below … watch the video and listen hard to the words.  It’s a spiritual wrapped up in the blues.

This song reminds me that no matter what theory of atonement you subscribe to, in the end it doesn’t matter.  We are all bound up in this kingdom together until we enter God’s Kingdom …. all together.

None of us are free.  Maybe that’s why this gospel of my own personal Jesus always feels so empty and void.

None of us are free.  One of us are chained.  None of us are free.

Lilly Ledbetter and Her Sparkly New Law
Jan 30th, 2009 by Sonja

It’s just too bad she won’t accrue any benefits from it.

Maybe you remember Lilly from last year’s presidential campaign. Or if you’re really observant, from the news in May 2007. If you don’t, allow me to tell you a little bit of Lilly’s story.

Lilly Ledbetter worked for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber company down in Alabama. She was an Area Manager (aka plant supervisor). She worked at Goodyear from 1979 to 1998. When she retired in 1998, she was the only female Area Manager, the rest of her colleagues were male. All 15 of them. Another unique characteristic that her colleagues shared was that they all earned more than she did. Every single one of them. Even those who had worked at Goodyear less time than Lilly had. Even those who did a worse job than she did.

Sometime in early 1998, Lilly finally had enough evidence and she filed paperwork with the EEOC (that’s the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). She retired in July and in November she filed a lawsuit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company claiming that they had discriminated against her on the basis of her gender. That’s when the legal wrangling began. I’ll spare you the details. But it went all the way up to the highest court in the land.

The Supremes got it. No, poodles, not Diana Ross and the Supremes. The Supreme Court. The Nine in Black. However, their decision made just about as much sense as MacArthur Park.

Now you can read the ruling in it’s entirety if you’d like. You can download it for yourself here. However, the essence of the majority (5 to 4) decision, handed down by Justice Alito, was that Ms. Ledbetter had missed the boat. You see, Lilly had filed suit saying, in essence, that because there was discrimination in her pay at the end of her employment, there had been ongoing discrimination for a long period of time. Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas (who, being African American, ought to know better) disagreed and wrote, essentially that Ms. Ledbetter ought to have known about the discrimination in her salary from the very beginning and in order to have gained redress, should have filed grievances at every instance. They used plenty of the court’s own rulings as precedence for this. Every single one of which as been overwritten by Congress. They ignored the intent and the scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the National Labor Relations Act.

You see, the original court in which Ms. Ledbetter filed her claim she was given redress for the wrong and was awarded $3.5 million dollars in lost income. That seemed a little steep to me when I first saw the number, because at the time of her retirement the disparity in income was not that great. Ms. Ledbetter was earning $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236. However, then I realized that while the immediate difference was not great, this difference would play out for perhaps 30 years or more during her retirement. Ms. Ledbetter had not had the opportunity to save as much for retirement, nor Social Security as her male counterparts and so that must also be accounted for in the redress.

You may be wondering why Ms. Ledbetter won. Well, until the Supreme Court ruling, the presumption was that the clock (180 days) started running on the day that one recieved the most recent (or current) discriminatory paycheck, NOT the first discriminatory paycheck. So the court in which she originally filed suit found that she presented a valid case and gave her redress. Goodyear Tire did not like that answer and filed an appeal. Thus the case wound it’s way to the Supreme Court.

Think back for a moment to your employment experiences. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Think about the notion that salary decisions might be public knowledge.

Have you finished guffawing yet?

That’s exactly what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought too. She wrote the dissenting opinion. Then took the unusual step of reading it from the bench after the majority opinion had been read. If you’ve never read Supreme Court decisions, this is a good one to cut your teeth on. It’s fairly straightforward and you already know what’s going on. Even more interesting (to me) are the dissenting opinions. The writing in those are more relaxed and less full of legalese, because they don’t count for as much. That is, future jurisprudence will not necessarily be relying upon the dissent. Reading the dissenting opinion from the bench is very unusual. It carries a certain weight; it goes beyond saying, “We in the minority disagree.” to also spitting on your shoes. In public. Here is some of what Justice Ginsburg had to say:

The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differentials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasons for those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.

Pay disparities are thus significantly different from adverse actions “such as termination, failure to promote, . . . or refusal to hire,” all involving fully communicated discrete acts, “easy to identify” as discriminatory.

There is so much more. This may not sound like much to the untrained ear/eye, but in the language of the Supreme Court it is a stinging rebuke. Especially since it was delivered in a public address.

And so things stood for nearly two years. But two days ago, President Obama and the U.S. Senate set the scales of justice just a little bit right again. The Senate approved legislation which would establish that the clock starts with the most recent discriminatory paycheck NOT the first one. Then President Obama signed it into law. It was the second law he signed since taking office. It’s known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And, God bless her, Lilly won’t get one thin dime from it. The rest of us will. Or not. But at least we will have gained an equal footing on which to stand up for ourselves.

As Gail Collins wrote in yesterday’s NYTimes:

Ledbetter, who was widowed in December, won’t get any restitution of her lost wages; her case can’t be retried. She’s now part of a long line of working women who went to court and changed a little bit of the world in fights that often brought them minimal personal benefit.

I highly recommend that op-ed piece. For two reasons. First, you’ll read about women who have paved the way for the rest of us, the un-sung heroines in mostly blue-collar jobs who made it possible for us to get where we are today. Second, many of the cases that Gail writes about, were also used as precedence by Alito, et al; cases the Court ruled on which were then overwritten by Congress.

So, if you think about it today, say a prayer for Lilly Ledbetter and Eulalie Cooper and Patricia Lorance and Lorena Weeks. They fought so we could stand.
Cross-posted at Emerging Women

And Justice Flowed …
Nov 5th, 2008 by Sonja

Celebrate

So …

Where were you when?

Where were you when John Glenn Neil Armstrong (thanks BroKen) walked on the moon?

Where were you when …

… the first man of African-American descent was elected president?

I’m going to remember every step of this process.  I’m going to relish it.

Sometime last weekend it was announced that the final rally of Obama’s campaign would be literally in my backyard.  In my hometown.  Less than two miles from my house, on Monday evening.  So CoachWonderWoman and her daughter, LightGirl and I all walked to the appointed place.  We stood around watching the people and wondering for about three hours.  There was an amazing cross-section of people at the rally.  There were young and old, of every ethnic background and all walks of life.  We could have been in an airport, or on a street corner, or in a bus station.  There was everyone there.  Everyone.  (And some bad music.  I don’t know who was in charge of the live music, but it was horrid.  Think Bill Murray Lounge Lizard.  Ugh.  They played “Celebrate” by Kool & The Gang and I thought I was in the world’s largest elevator.  And I discovered that I can hear “Beautiful Day” too many times in one evening – five, for the record)  It was a typical political rally and hearing Obama speak was wonderful.  I’m glad we saw him (microscopically) in person.  I’m glad we had the experience of being amongst fellow supporters and seeing what that was like … that was more important to me.  Apparently, there were about 80,000 of us packed into that field.  I still can’t quite get my head around that.

Yesterday I walked to my polling place alone.  Both children were otherwise engaged and LightHusband had a meeting.  He was going to vote later.  My polling place just so happens to be in a middle school which was once the place of worship for a church I used to go to (my CLB1).  Usually the voting room is in the chorus room in the back.  But yesterday in anticipation of long lines and increased voter turnout, they had moved the voting to the cafeteria.  This happened to be the very place where we used to worship.  I didn’t really take note of this until after I’d left.

I went to where my last name lined up with the letters and waited my turn … less than a minute.  I noticed a table off to the left groaning with snack food for poll workers.  Then it was my turn and I handed my voter registration card to the people at the table, they asked me for my identifying information, assigned me number 243 and I went to await a booth.  I got to the booth and was overwhelmed with exuberance.  I don’t know.  I just got happy.  Everytime I hit a button on the touch screen I had to do a tiny jig.  Well, this was a little bit too much for the tiny little African-American lady who was attending my booth.  I think she was worried I was going to knock it over or something.  She was smiling at me, yet nervous.  When I was done and she handed me my sticker, she also gave me a big hug.  Then I promptly tried to walk out the wrong doors! and everyone hollered, “Ma’m you’re going the wrong way!!”  oops.

What a ninny.  So I turned around with a big grin on and all the poll workers were smiling at me.  So I waved and shrugged and went the right direction.  And told them I had the blonde streaks applied for a reason!!

Then I came home and giggled the whole way.  I wore my sticker with pride.  For the first time since my first time voting (1980), I’ve been excited about a candidate.  I’m inspired.   I’m inspired because Obama gets scripture; he quotes it regularly and not just the easy, well-known stuff … he quoted from Amos last night.  And I’m inspired because he gets the “social contract” in a way that many of our latter-day leaders have not … to whit:

His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world. (italics mine for emphasis)  From today’s NYTimes editorial

In other words, there are things that are the responsibility of the government and things that are the responsibility of us as individuals.  Give us the empowerment to do our thing and then do the stuff that is the responsibility of the government.   Give us the the space to do things locally in our communities to bring about change where ever we are and in the things that impassion us.  And, well … that is the way to truly change history.

Leadership In An Age of Cholera
Nov 4th, 2008 by Sonja

Crime & CholeraCholera: any of several diseases of humans and domestic animals usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms ; especially : an acute diarrheal disease caused by an enterotoxin produced by a comma-shaped gram-negative bacillus (Vibrio cholerae syn. V. comma) when it is present in large numbers in the proximal part of the human small intestine.  Merriam-Webster on-line

I just voted.  Yes, I voted for the hip, young man of color for President.  I have many reasons why and I’ll get to them in a second.  But first a wee story or two.

It was exciting to go and vote this time.  In fact, I scared my poor poll worker, I was so exuberant at the little screen.  Then when she handed me my sticker, she hugged me.  As I attempted to dance through the wrong doors in exit, all the poll workers called to me and I turned around abashed at my silliness.  I was just too giddy.  Why was I giddy?  Here’s why.

I remember the 1960’s.  Most of all, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  If I had to pick a hero, he’d be it.  He was a legend in his own time.  I might pick Gandhi, but for a real American hero, I’d pick King.  Every year I listen to his “I Have A Dream” speech and cry.  I’ve studied his speeches and writings; I have a fairly good idea of which Biblical prophets he was studying when he wrote.  And today … well, today … I got to vote for someone based upon the content of his character not the color of his skin.  Amen and hallelujah.  And the tiny little poll worker who hugged me?  Well, she was African-American too.

Mind you, I did NOT vote for Obama because of his roots either. Did I listen to both sides?  No, not equally.  I lost respect for the Republican party back in 2000 and again when Republicans treated James Jeffords with such disrespect when he became an independent.  The party had huge barriers to overcome in my mind, and they failed to get there.

Here is why I voted for Obama …

“People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” John Kotter

I didn’t find that quote until about a week ago when I was looking for something else entirely.   But it encapsulates my reasons for choosing Obama for president.  Even my father has some qualms about the details of his platform, the hows and wherefors.  What exactly will he do if he is elected?  For someone with little time in his role in the Senate those are very legitimate questions.  But it’s his ability to inspire that I look at.

Frankly, I’m tired of leaders who go around poking into private business looking for what is wrong.  I want leaders who will inspire us to find our dreams and make them reality.  It is in those dreams and that reality that we will rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, get us off the dependence on petroleum and many of the other ills that we currently find ourselves in.   That sort of leadership is transformational; it begins at the top and trickles down.  We learn how to encourage and develop our own dreams.  Then we learn how to encourage and develop the dreams of others.

Or will it?  Can a charismatic leader help us overcome our addiction to power?  That’s the question for the ages.  Too often people in leadership are at the top, they lead from above and are in a position of power.  They have the ability to cause hardship, pain and devastation to those they purport to lead.  Typically, those who are leading hold all or most of the cards.  But in this new scenario, of dream empowerment, the little guy, the individual is given the space to dream and realize those dreams.

So, will we find this in Obama?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But that’s what I voted for; that’s what I’m hoping for.  That’s the kind of leadership I’m hoping for.  In this age of choleric leadership, we need something new.  We need something that won’t revolt us and turn our stomachs.  Something, someone nationally, and locally who will help us find our own dreams and turn them into reality.

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

This is part of synchroblog on Leadership … the rest of the most excellent writings are below, please check them out:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Privatize Gains; Socialize Losses
Sep 20th, 2008 by Sonja

I’m so angry right now I almost can’t sleep at night.  It’s a boiling, gutteral fury.  When I try to speak of it, I begin to sputter and use bad language because I don’t have enough words to express the utter depth of my rage.

My In-lawsMy in-laws turned 70 this year.  My mother will turn 70 early next year and my father is 75.  My parents are extremely fortunate because a relative left them unexpectedly very well off about 14 years ago.  However, my in-laws are not in that place.

My father-in-law worked hard all his life.  He still works hard.  He is 70 years old and with a bachelors degree in economics he works in a hardware store.  This year they will not be taking their annual three month winter trip to Florida as they cannot afford it.  Financially.  Unfortunately, their children and children-in-laws are all holding their breath for the toll this will take on their health.  They are good people who depend on the vagaries of the stock market for their fixed income retirement package.  They are good people who were depending on the stability of real estate to sell their home of 35 years when they needed to to supplement their retirement income.  Now they can do neither.

Remember when I said that the first national election I ever voted in, I voted for John Anderson?  Well … I had turned nineteen that May and Ronald Reagan won that election for those of you who remember which race John Anderson ran in.  So, for the entirety of my adult life, I have heard lessons on the economy from the conservative side of the street.  In a nutshell, those lessons may be summed up by saying, “The market will correct itself, the government does not need to regulate it.”  and “We’re not a socialist state, keep the government out of the market.”  Don’t fool yourselves, Bill Clinton was no liberal when it came to economics.  There was a very good reason why he kept Alan Greenspan in charge of the Federal Reserve for almost the entirety of his presidency.  Clinton was a fiscal conservative and only barely a social liberal.

Yet, every time I turn around these same fiscal conservatives … these Republicans who hue and cry about the government staying out of the market … run to the government for a bailout when their greed fails them.  When their pride, hubris, greed and foolishness fail and put all of us in jeopardy … they run to the government teat, just like a welfare mother in the projects.  I am way past disgust.  Just where exactly do they think that government money comes from?  The trees?  No … I have news for these financiers of great and immortal fame … it comes from me and you.  We are now paying for their foolishness.

Those men of millions and billions, who ran their companies into the ground, ran to Uncle Sam for help cleaning up the mess, are now keeping the millions they gained personally and have the unmitigated gall to fight for their 60 and 70 million dollar severance packages.  They are keeping their houses (multiples each), their personal jets, their yachts, their jewelry, their … whatever, whatever, whatever AND all their money AND we get to clean up the mess they made; AND we get to pay the court fees for the battle that they’ll stage to keep their severance packages.

The ugly thing about this is this is privatizing gains and socializing losses. So when things are going well, the managements make out, the shareholders make out, the counterparties are fine. All the private sector people do well. But when something goes wrong, when decisions are made that turn out to be bad decisions, the U.S. taxpayer has to take on the problem.

And there’s something very wrong about that. Because all of those people that made all that money are running off here into the distance with the money, carrying it in their bags. And the United States taxpayer is on the hook. Gretchen Morgenson of the Times on Bill Moyers Journal Sept. 19

So … when does the market correct itself?  I’m just curious.

I think these people need to help pay for the mistakes and help clean up the mess they’ve made … just like I do with my children.  The only thing anyone “needs” is one house and one car.  Strip them of everything else and use that money to begin the bailout … that’s market correction.  Because I want someone, anyone, to help my in-laws out of this mess.  They have lived life well, made responsible, wise, and even generous decisions … so why on earth should they and everyone else who have done likewise be made to clean up this mess?

After all, the only people who didn’t see this coming were those who don’t know their history.  That would be … almost everyone.

A Mission From God
Sep 17th, 2008 by Sonja

Sometime during the last week or so, LightBoy came to me with a request for his Halloween costume this year.”I want to be a Blues Brother, Mom.”

It kinda took me by surprise.  I had no idea where he came by that idea.  I last saw that movie when it was in theaters and I think I was in high school, or maybe in college.  Shortly after that there was a conversation dripping in disdain between he and LightGirl concerning the relative importance of the Blues Brothers.  It ended with LightBoy reporting confidently, “Well, of course, they’re important!  They INVENTED the blues.”  I struggled mightily to keep from bursting into laughter at this and decided that it was time for my kids to be initiated into the comedic genius of John Belushi.

So it was that we watched “The Blues Brothers” for Friday’s family movie night.  It turned out that in the intervening 25-ish years I’d forgotten quite a bit.  No surprise there.  It’s still a really funny movie.  There’s quite a bit of, um, language in it.  But since I was a naive 18 year old when I saw it the first time, I had no idea how many jazz and blues greats had been assembled to make that movie.  Or how many blues tunes were in it.  It was really amazing from that perspective as well.

Of course, the plot was very, very thin.  Jake (John Belushi) gets released from prison.  Jake & Elwood (Dan Ackroyd) go to visit the orphanage they were raised in.  It is about to be auctioned off for delinquent taxes and is run by nuns, with an aged caretaker (Cab Calloway).  Jake & Elwood decide to gather together their band and raise the back taxes.  There are plot twists, etc.  At every obstacle, Elwood responds, “We’re on a mission from God.”  It’s his assurance that they will overcome every hurdle no matter how broad or high.  It keeps them focused and on task.  Ultimately and hilariously they do prevail, just in front of the police, the US Army, the “American Nazi Party,” and who knows else.  The taxes are paid, the orphanage saved, but Jake & Elwood are triumphantly lead away in handcuffs.

I’ve been thinking about the movie quite a bit in the days since we watched it.  It was funny, no doubt about it.  Elwood’s signature line has been often repeated around our house with great glee and laughter.  “We’re on a mission from God.”  and it would lead him to some fairly nefarious behavior; behavior that inevitably involved fast cars or other silliness.

I’ve been thinking though, about how often we do that.  We all do it.  We think we’re on a mission from God; we’ve got righteousness on our side and so we can act with aplomb.  Because our ends are right, we will somehow escape the consequences of our behavior.  Or it may be that we won’t escape the consequences of our behavior, but those consequences will be worth it, just as they were for Jake & Elwood.

I’ve been wondering though about the detritus that we leave in our wake.  If you watch that video (which is sped up and is really a montage), you see what happens when Jake and Elwood become so hyper-focused on getting the tax money to the office on time.  The analogy has limits, I’ll admit, but then again, maybe it doesn’t .  How many times do we do the same thing?  How often do we think that we have to do something, that we cannot entrust a task to someone else and the cars pile up in our wake?  All because, “we’re on a mission from God.”

How many times do we think that getting to an end point involves skirting the edges of the law or ethical behavior, maybe even falling over the edge, and that’s alright because, “we’re on a mission from God?”  But the cars pile up in our wake.

So the question I’m posing today is this:  does being on a “mission from God” excuse one’s behavior?  Does being “right” or “correct” trump the commands given by Jesus in Matthew 22?  Or is there something in there that will help us do both, that is be correct and be loving at the same time … without having the cars pile up behind us?

Feelings …
Jul 29th, 2008 by Sonja

You may have noticed I haven’t been around much lately.  There’s been a bunch going on off-line and so I haven’t been on my computer as much recently.  Some of you may remember a quilting class I took almost two years ago?  Well … yesterday I finally finished the quilt top.  Almost.  I still have to put borders on it.  I have to find that fabric which is somewhere in the house.  But I finished the hard part.  The tedious part.  The part that was making me slightly nutty.

I’d learned what I needed to learn and could have moved on.  I really did not need to finish the quilt.  But I had a picture in my head that needed completion.  Of course, it was not small.  It’s never small.  These pictures are always big.  Bigger than life.  This quilt will be big enough for a queen size bed … almost.  I could have learned what I needed to learn in a wall hanging.  But that picture was not enough.  So I did an enormous quilt … it will be almost 9 feet square when I’m done.  It’s an old habit of mine …

My grandfather (on my father’s side) used to look at my plate at the end of a meal and say, “Hmmm … it looks to me as though your eyes were bigger than your stomach again.”  And left me to puzzle it out.  He was forever saying mysterious things like that.  He couldn’t just say, “Shut the door, please.”  He’d say, “Put the wood in the hole.”  Then us kids would sit there in a puzzlement while he grinned like the Cheshire Cat.  He’d hand out hints like lollipops, slowly and one at a time, until we figured it out.

All of that is to say, I’ve been taking on things that are perhaps too big and too much all my life.  My eyes are bigger than my stomach.  I don’t know when to quit.  I’m learning though the lessons have been hard, hard won and slow.  So I’ve been sewing a lot lately.  And a lot of the sewing has been of the tedious nature.  Repetitive.  There are parts of quilt-making that I love and other parts I endure.  The sewing tiny bits part, I endure because of the end result … which can be spectacular.  There is a zen to it, to be sure, but sometimes it’s just boring.  So I have the television on for distraction.

Now, if I’m going to have the television on … it has to be certain shows.  Basically, it has to be a show that I’m really not terribly interested in, so that I can just listen along but not get too distracted.  Otherwise, I’ll stop sewing and pay attention to what’s on the television.  TNT is a good network for me to have on … they have on shows that I can listen to, but not actively watch (mostly).  Especially on weekday afternoons.  Two hours of Law & Order, then two hours of Charmed, then dinner mixed in with more Law & Order in the evening and I get a lot of sewing in.

Charmed (if you’ve never seen it) was a show on WB (which is now defunct),  … about three witches who were good witches and fought demons.  They were sisters.  There was a whole mythology surrounding them.  Alyssa Milano played one of them (Phoebe, the other two were named Piper and Paige[sometimes] and Prue [in the beginning]).  Now if you find anything concerning magic offensive, you won’t like this show.  I find it a great way to have spiritual conversations with my kids.

A couple of days ago one of the episodes was quite interesting.  The sisters had grown very weary of fighting demons (it’s the last year of the series) and want to have a “normal” life.  I find this desire interesting since they were born to fight demons, so for them they have a normal life.  But that’s another blog post.  In any case, events have transpired so that they have tipped the balance of power in the world almost entirely to good with the help of some beings called “avatars.”   However, there are still a very few people who still have some latent anger that they can’t cope with and those people are simply “disappeared” by the avatars.  Here’s the interesting thing.  When that happens, those who love the people who “disappear” don’t grieve, they just go about their business a little bit blue and say things like, “Well, it’s for the best, you know s/he is in a better place after all.”

Two of the three sisters lost someone they loved; one of them lost her husband who has been a fixture on the show for the entire series.  He planned it as part of the way to tip the scales back.  Because by now he and the third sister have realized that having everything good has unleashed a set consequences that they knew nothing about (the “avatars” are not good and all, you see).   Now the third sister, Phoebe, has to get Piper and Paige to realize that they are not feeling anything. She has to make them understand that feelings are important.  She eventually does this and casts a spell to give them their feelings back.  The scene that followed as they embraced grief was astonishing and well done.

The whole episode made me think about our church and our culture.  How much do we value feelings?  How much do we value showing an even temper in the worst of times?  How many times have you heard someone say “after all s/he is in a better place” in the face of the death of a loved one?  with a brave, wavery chin?  We try so hard to find a silver lining in all of our clouds that we don’t feel the rain on our faces.   How can we feel and embrace those feelings?  How can we love each other in the midst of life’s rollercoaster which can often put us at odds with one another?  This makes it all terribly difficult … but then … we were never told that the way would be easy.  Just narrow.

Take a minute, and feel the rain on your face.  Be unafraid and unashamed, for the God of all comfort will be with you even unto the end of the age.

Unwritten

At What Cost?
Jul 7th, 2008 by Sonja

Earlier this year I went on a little road trip with two friends.  We were investigating the possibility of purchasing a quilt shop in a little town not too far from here.  That possibility did not pan out, but on the road trip we discovered a wonderful Mennonite grocery store where they sold sandwiches to order.  The sandwiches were delicious.  Hanging on the wall over the cash register I saw this hand-lettered sign:

“The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.”

That is a profound truth.  The cost of something is not necessarily the price tag that is put there by the merchant from whom the customer purchases an item, but it is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.

So … exactly how much should that bottle of TwoBuckChuck cost? … in light of the following? (ht Christy at DryBonesDance)

Farm Worker Died Connected To Two Buck Chuck

We told you about the tragic death of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died while laboring in a Stockton area vineyard in 100 plus degree heat. According to a Wednesday AP story, the San Joaquin County Coroner has officially confirmed that Maria died of heat stroke. Maria had been working 8 hours in the blistering heat without shade or sufficient water. The closest water supply was a 10 minute walk away.

Because Maria worked for a labor contractor, she most likely never knew she was part of the production team for Bronco Winery who is better known for Charles Shaw wines–commonly called “Two-Buck Chuck.”  This best selling wine is available exclusively at Trader Joe’s stores.  According to Trader Joe’s web site, “these super-value wines began as the result of an oversupply of wine and a great relationship with a valued supplier.”

MariaMaria’s Story

On May 14, the official temperature was 95 degrees; it was even hotter inside the wine grape vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming, east of Stockton, where Maria and her fiancé, Florentino Bautista, worked. Maria had been working for nine hours.

At 3:40 p.m. Maria became dizzy. She didn’t know where she was and didn’t recognize Florentino. Maria passed out.  Florentino helplessly held her in his arms.

There was no water for the workers from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. When water arrived, it was a 10-minute walk from where Maria was working, too far to access. There was no shade or training for foremen and workers about what to do if someone became ill from the heat—as required by law.

After a number of delays Maria was taken to a clinic. On the in Lodi, the foreman called on the driver’s cell phone and spoke to Florentino. “If you take her to a clinic,” the foreman said, “don’t say she was working [for the contractor]. Say she became sick because she was jogging to get exercise. Since she’s underage, it will create big problems for us.”

Maria’s temperature upon arriving at the hospital was 108.6.  After two days and six heart stoppages, she died.

“The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.”

Friday Five Fireworks Edition
Jul 4th, 2008 by Sonja

Sally Coleman writes – “I have to admit that I am chuckling to myself a little; how strange it seems for me a Brit to be posting the Friday Five on 4th July! I realise that most of our revgals will be celebrating in some way today, but I hope that you can make a little room for Friday Five! From my short stay in Texas my memories of the celebrations are of fireworks and picnics, one year we went in to central Houston to watch the fireworks and hear the Symphony Orchestra play, we were welcomed and included, and that meant a lot!”

So lets have a bit of fun:

1. Barbeque’s or picnics ( or are they essentially the same thing?) – My definition? Picnics are never at someone’s home.  You take your (cold) food somewhere else.  It’s usually sandwiches and/or finger foods.  Fruit and cookies.  Wine or beer for grown ups.  Simple fun stuff to eat.  Barbeque’s mean grills and sloppy food and potato salad and coleslaw.    The latter two are must haves for barbeques.  Must.  Haves.  Oh.  and brownies.

2. The park/ the lake/ the beach or staying at home simply being?  It depends … I’ve done all.  This year we are staying at home simply being.  It helps that we can watch a great fireworks display from our front yard.  Friends are coming for dessert.  But that’s it.  My favorite years were back when we were allowed to camp out on the lawn in front of General’s Row at Fort Myer in Arlington to watch the DC fireworks.  This is no longer allowed because of all the security measures.  It’s sad to me.

3. Fireworks- love ’em or hate ’em?  I absolutely adore fireworks.  I could watch them for hours and hours.  We need to go back next year and see the DC fireworks now that our kids are older and can appreciate them.  DC has spectacular fireworks.  Absolutely spectacular.

4. Parades- have you ever taken part- share a memory… I have been in so many parades.  I spent almost every fourth of July from the time I was 15 until I was 33 marching in a parade.  Except two or three when I was in college.  They’ve kinda blurred together.  It was always, always, always HOT and sweaty.  I hated marching in parades on the fourth.  We have an ugly national anthem … it’s a beer drinking song.  I hate Yankee Doodle; because I’ve played it 9,438,527 too many times.  I’m not the most patriotic person, so all the flag-waving and histrionics made/make me sort of nauseous.  Besides … it wasn’t July 4 that was important at all.  It was more like July 2 or something.  I still love the fireworks.

5. Time for a musical interlude– if you could sum up holidays in a piece of music what would it be? Well … of course the 1812 Overture with real live cannons.

Shall We Dance – Perichoresis v. Hierarchy
Jun 30th, 2008 by Sonja

PDL Banner

One of the places I follow along loosely is Porpoise Diving Life.  The editor is Bill Dahl.  He’s a very interesting guy with a neat purpose for the site.  But he needed to take this year off and do some writing, reading and growing.  So he asked around for some help to keep things going.  I think it’s been a great success.  Each month a different person has stepped forward to take the helm and organize the content.  The result has been startling, refreshing and riveting.  Like the difference between cold clear mountain spring water and fizzy sassy mineral water.  Both taste wonderful and slake your thirst, but they have a remarkably different feel in your mouth.

Patrick Oden (of Dual Ravens) and I decided that we’d handle the wheel for month of August.  Patrick is also the author of  It’s A Dance, a wonderful conversation about perichoresis … the dance of relationship between the Trinity and us.  I fell in love with the book.  Then I read The Shack and we had visions of doing something that would cross-pollinate the two books.  But that never took off.  So we’re focusing, instead, on the differences between perichoresis and hierarchy.  And best of all … we need you.  Yep.  You.  You with the great ideas, poems, photos, stories, articles, etc.

You see it’s like this:

The Trinity is hard to understand.  It’s far too complex to have been made up, and no where do we have it explained to us with any kind of absolute understanding. We’re faced with the fact there’s one God, and yet there is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They’re all different.  But there’s only one God.  Unity and Diversity.  Three in One.  How does this work?  Well, there have been a lot of suggestions over the centuries.  The latest prevailing attitude has been to see the Trinity as a hierarchy. The Father, then the Son, then the Spirit.  But that’s not quite right, because there’s a lot of discussion in Scripture that doesn’t make it all that neat.  The Father gives all his authority to the Son, who sends the Spirit, who had already sent the Son.  It’s unusual.

Add to this the fact it’s not the kind of relationship we’re used to dealing with in organizations. They love each other. It’s the love and the relationship that is the bond. God is love. There’s no intimidation or manipulation or ambition or dissension. There’s just relationship.  And this kind of relationship has been given a name. Perichoresis.  Basically this is a big word to say something not that hard to understand, but almost impossible to live.  Instead of being a hierarchy, the persons in the Trinity are continually circling around each other, interwoven, interdependent, interpenetrating. Or to put it more simply… the relationship is kinda like a dance.

When the idea of hierarchy really was getting attention it was thought that churches should be modeled on this.  So, churches became about authority. From Father to Jesus to Apostles to Pope to Bishops to Priests to the People.  Some churches are still like this either explicitly or implicitly.

Notice who is left out. The Holy Spirit.  Paul tells us the Holy Spirit works in all of us, and makes a very interesting metaphor.  We’re not a hierarchy.  We’re a body.  Yes, Jesus is the head. But we, the Church, are to be a body. Gathered together in unity, expressing the diversity of the Spirit who works through all of us in different ways.  We too are a unity and diversity.   However, we still aren’t comfortable with that. The Trinity doesn’t have sin or ambition.  We do.  In our gathered communities we still tend to manipulate or seek authority or otherwise intimidate others and try to prove we’re somehow better. This seems worth considering.  Not leadership or organization topics. Rather ‘dance’ versus ‘power and manipulation’.  Perichoresis versus hierarchy and power.  This isn’t only something for those high in the hierarchy to consider.  We all face this.  We all use the tools at our disposal to gain an advantage, stand out, and sometimes push others down and aside.

When we use the tools at our disposal to engage in power and manipulation to subdue others in our presence … by whatever means, we are negating the power of the Gospel in the very space that the Gospel is to be transcendent.   So … how should we dress, act, engage? Well … that’s up to you and your particular dance with the Holy Spirit. See, none of us is the same. The rules are all the same, yet they’re all different. All we can do is ask questions of each other … where do you live? How do your neighbors dress?  What is your context?  What are the local standards? What is welcoming amongst them? How do you create a welcoming environment in your space, where you are free to proclaim the Good News to people so they will hear it from you?”

Please consider writing, musing, considering music, church liturgy, and other forms of God’s call in our lives that has been distorted by grabbing power rather than dancing with the Trinity.  We’d love to have articles, poems, stories, videos, paintings, photos,  … anything that you create that speaks about the Dance.

If you feel that that tug on your sleeve calling you to join us, please let me know in the comments and I’ll get in contact with you with more details about the whole process.

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