Catching Up

It has been a while, so I thought I’d simply catch you up on some goings on.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” –CS Lewis

Writing.

Much of the month of May, I was busy writing an essay about my experience with depression for possible acceptance to a book at Civitas Press.  Until I hear yay or nay, I cannot publish it here.  But I thought perhaps I’d include a paragraph or two to tantalize you.

Hope Heals

By Melody Harrison Hanson

“I will search for my lost ones who strayed away and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak…” (Ezekiel 34:16 – NLT)

This is the story of how I fell into the sinkhole of depression and climbed my way out again. My story began with pride and self-delusion and moved to healing and acceptance—forgiving myself for being less than I imagined. The path of brokenness took me to frightening, even diabolical places, but God found me in the pit of my depression, tenderly loving me as I accepted my raging need for him. Finally, in my forties, after a decade of turmoil, the crooked path led to hope and healing. Writing this, going back and lingering, has been harder than I expected. I offer it here because of what God has done in me.

When I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom, I was unprepared for how unhappy I became. Forever seeing my life in terms of success or failure, I believed that I was failing. What kind of a mother doesn’t love being at home with her children? Over the years we shared long, sun-burnt summer days at the pool and sweaty bike rides but, even as we meandered through the zoo and the farmer’s market, I grew increasingly restless and miserable. If I was truthful, I had been frantic and dissatisfied at work. Leaving was more like running away under the ruse of caring for the kids. For years my job had buoyed me up on the raging ocean of my insecurities and fear of failure. Going home took away that life-preserver. I had never dealt with the need every human being has for purpose and significance. I had no where left to run!

I was at that time incapable of being happy at work or at home, battling the haunting, negative tape loops in my head repeating vicious lies.

I feel unimaginably grateful for so many things today.  Even if the essay doesn’t get published in the book, the exercise of going back was terrific—hard and good.

Photography.

I continue to relish taking photographs for Our Lives Magazine.  As I talked with a new acquaintance and took images of him, he spoke of wanting to be a bridge person between the Mormon community and LGBTQ friends.  That pretty much sums up why I continue with OL.  As a Christ-follower, I hope that we can know one another and treat one another with love and respect.  Darren is a photographer as well and he turned my own camera on me.  It reminded me of the feeling of always having a camera in your face (unpleasant) but I appreciated that he was able to capture a smile!  He said “You’re much nicer than your picture on the website implies.”  Thanks Darren!

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” — CS Lewis

Family.

A field trip to Old World Wisconsin, was informative and fun!

6th graders have a Middle Ages unit.  Lucky for us, Grandma Hanson can sew and she was willing and so able!

My sister and I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum the other day.

The pool is open!

Summer!

Summer officially starts for us in a week.  I will have one child in morning summer school, two middleschoolers in Young Shakespeare Player‘s rehearsing all summer for Romeo & Juliet which performs August 11-21.  And of course we have an aging college student in the house, whose laissez-faire attitude and bouncing emotions I find irritating, and draining.  But each child stretches me.  Each one, uniquely challenges my wisdom, sense of humor and grit.

The pool is open and it is finally warm!  I know we will spend long hours there, though I am no longer allowed to sun!  Squamous cell carcinoma requires me to cover up, lather up and basically consider the sun my enemy.  (Secretly, I still love the sun and being sun-kissed, hot and becoming brown and freckly.  As long as my sunscreen is strong, I do risk a little.)

I am launching int o the big task of dividing perennials in my garden.   (Let me know if you want anything).  Not just Hosta and ferns, of which I have a plethora, but lots of other plants.  I’m rethinking the front of my yard.  Because of a neighboring Black Walnut tree I’m about to give in to the fact that nothing will grow happily and I will move a number of plants and put in something (I don’t know what is resistant to Black Walnut) to cover the ground.  I’m also going to plant an herb garden in the sunny blank patch in front.

Gardening and Thinking about Writing.

While I dig in the dirt, I’ve been thinking about whether I’ve got a book in me.  The essay was incredibly challenging, fun and a lot of work!  I can see now why it sometimes takes years to write a book.  I’ve boiled over for years about women in the evangelical church, and wonder…   Is there a need for a book to challenge the current situation in the local church?  What do women need to hear?  What do men need to hear? What hasn’t been said?  What needs to be said differently?

The friend that helped me edit my essay says the full story, a memoir, could/should be told, of my fall into the sinkhole of depression.  Coming from being a workaholic and the brokenness of my dysfunctional childhood and how the Lord found me in the pit of depression and for the first time I experienced grace and peace, hope.  Perhaps there is a book there?  I have found, as I tell my story, that many people suffer from depression and feel isolated and alone.

Some images of spring in Wisconsin.

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all women, most richly blessed.” (author unknown)

I don’t know about you but I am reveling in my blessings.  And because I have to work at it  it is sweeter.  I am so grateful.

50 Years for Better or Worse

"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...
Excuse my perverse sense of humor. Image via Wikipedia

My in-laws celebrate fifty years of marriage this year and each family member was asked to write something to them.

December, 2010

Dear Bonnie & Terry, 

I must say how much I have been blessed by a marriage that is relatively easy — For Tom and me, it was a joining of two people’s lives that made complete and total sense.  Growing up, my parent’s marriage seemed so hard, which I now know was as much a reflection on the people than the institution of marriage.

I am so grateful for the man that Tom is, the man you raised him to be and for his life experiences that have shaped him into the person he is today. But I know that much of his character was formed as child in your home and I am so grateful to you and to God for allowing him to grow up in a healthy home with Christian parents who loved one another!

When I think of you two, I feel I feel more than a little awe.  Your partnership seems to work so well.  You two don’t talk a lot about your marriage — whether it has been easy or difficult.  There is so much I would like to know.  Your marriage seems to have a quiet strength.   I suppose the best testimony is the 50 years you have been together.  Yours has shown the test of time.  CS Lewis described that kind of love as not only a feeling but a deep unity, that must “be maintained by choice and will, and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parties ask, and receive, from God.”  It is clear that you made a choice a long time ago and you work daily to support and reinforce it.  “This quieter love enables people to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (Mere Christianity)

When I think of you two, I think of that deep unity and the quiet love that Lewis speaks of and I know that it must have been a daily choice to make it this long!  But more than simply choosing because it is the right thing to do, you both seem to be happy in your marriage.  My parents certainly loved each other, but they had a strange relationship.  It was a puzzle to me why they stuck it out when they often seemed so miserable.  But you all have been together for more than fifty years and you seem to enjoy your life!  That’s a great example to us and to our kids.

Recently I read an article that said in a committed relationship roughly two-thirds of the problems are unresolvable.  That’s daunting when you think of it, but especially in a coventant of marriage where you plan to stay together until death parts you. 

You two seem to be quite different and yet you have made a good life together.   Whatever it is that you have found, it works and it is a joy to see you share your lives together happily.  Although we cannot hope to resolve every problem, being committed to a person and to the life that you want to build together, seems to be the key.

May your lives continue to be an example to us and to your grandchildren for many, many years to come.

I love and admire you both.

 Melody

I Don’t Know (A poem)

And from my eleven year old son, Dylan:

Happy anniversary Grandma and Grandpa. 

I hope you have had a wonderful 50 years together. And that you have many more years. I think you are nice and generous people. Thank you for being my grandparents.  

Love, Dylan

From my nine year old, Jacob (with a little help from his parents.)

 Dear Grandma and Grandpa — Thank you for coming to Wisconsin in the middle of he winter and for all the trips you have made here from warm Florida.  You are fun and kind.  I love you.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for coming to stay with us and taking care of us when my parents go on trips!  You do a good job.  I am glad that you are my dad’s parents!  Love- Jacob

 

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44 and 40 more!

I know, I know.  Hoky.  But I can’t help it — that phrase is ringing in my  head — “44 and 40 more.”

DWELL IN POSSIBILITY.

– Emily Dickinson

I love, love, love dear Emily D.

I have without a doubt found healing and answers in the last few years looking backward.  The truth of those experiences needed to be brought into the light and this was important because my family had lived so many years afraid and not able to speak truthfully.  But …

several things happened on my birthday that confirmed the idea that I am easily drawn to the negative.  Perhaps this is my nature.  Perhaps this is human nature?  I have to tell the truth, which I am grateful to be able to in all honesty.   But I don’t think it is completely about truth telling or not at this point.  So, what is on my mind and heart  is to dwell in possibility.

Of this I am certain — that I am to focus on the unlimited possibilities found in today.

CS Lewis said: “Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.”

What comes to mind this morning …

Perseverance is a long obedience in the right direction!

(Who said that?)

Seize This Very Minute

Did I know growing up that I was half awake?  No, indeed not.  And I don’t think my parents knew either.  They nor I realized that I wasn’t fully experiencing life.  Last night over dinner, it became a funny anecdote that I began smoking at 37 years of age — What most people explore at 17 or even less.  I laughed too but it was bitter-tasting.  No one was laughing at me but I felt in that moment the loss of all those years.  The resounding echo of emptiness.

I found myself telling my story to these new friends and as I did each season of my life, each transition, began and ended with an aspiration I had and my father shutting me down.  He had very different ideas about what I should do and become.  I think he was afraid for me on some level and I don’t know why.

Now if you don’t know me well, let me reassure you that I can be a formidable person.  I ran my own communications department for many years in my twenties.  And my brilliant husband sometimes quakes when he knows I’m out of sorts.   But as I described “allowing” on each of those occasions someone (usually my father) to tell me no it hit me again, very hard, how much loss I feel for a life half-lived.  I acquiesced to his will over and over again.  As my kids would say, I caved.

I am a strong person, but I lived most of my life seeming weak.  I got the message that I could not make good decisions — that my choices were poor and would result in consequences that I couldn’t see.

My mother’s Feng shui coach described her recently as an incredibly a “strong and self-aware person.”  And I was shocked and almost corrected her.  As I tilted my head, looked from her to my mother, I thoughts about it further.  Was my mother strong?  Is my mother strong?  She has always seemed weak to me.  She didn’t leave my father when he put her head through a wall early in their marriage.  She rarely stood between us — defended us — when dad was on a tirade.  She gave up her career choices, her health, her aspirations so that his career moved forward.  Things I always saw as weak.  But to have survived my father’s anger, his cruel behavior and abusive treatment for 40+ years she must be strong!  The same must go for me.

I never stood up to my father.  I learned to be quiet, to not express my opinions or sense of humor.  I learned quite early that it wasn’t worth it.  I have up.  Being sensitive and a peacemaker by nature and being intuitively aware of others emotional world was a combination that made for a devastating childhood.  But the same must be true for me.  I am strong to have survived.  Strong to be able at 40 to say I want to know myself.  To be able to bravely face the fear of not knowing your inner self and pursue it.

It is too easy to look back on time with regret.  Much too simple to think of all I could have done, or should have said.  Especially in an abusive relationship, you think of what you wanted to say sometimes years later.  Too late!  Especially when the perpetrator is dead!!!

Ah, but if only we could live in now.  Carpe Diem, yes, seize this day.  Goethe, said this:

“Then indecision brings its own delays,

And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.

Are you in earnest?

Seize this very minute;

What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

I am longing for the power and magic needed to live for today.  I do not want to linger another second in yesterday and wonder what might have been.  There is too much grief there.  Too many regrets.  I must forgive myself for not being the person I might have been.  And, surely, forgive my father which I have.  I must make today what I like.

And, it is very important for me to know that I need not repeat that legacy in my own children.  I will not, I do not.  I want to embrace their unique interests, fan the flame of their passions, allow them to dream.

If it is true what CS Lewis said: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” then I must figure out not the past any longer, but what the future will be.

forgiveness: expect miracles

“Everyone says that forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” – CS Lewis

Forgiveness of grave acts of injustice can feel like an abstract concept to those who have not experienced those acts. ( — PRISM magazine)

Sometimes I write, telling parts of my story, in order take what is anything but abstract for me and try to make it clear to others – to help my fellow journeymen (and women.)

My pastor said yesterday … that anger and the need to retaliate when someone has hurt you is “normal“; as normal as the reflexes a doctor checks when she taps on our knees during a check-up.  Normal.

I hate that word.  I don’t understand the use of it.  It is a bit reckless to say anything is normal these days when people have such diverse experiences.  But think I understand what he was trying to say —  that  a wish for vindication when you have been hurt is a healthy response.  But even that doesn’t sound quite right.  How about a human response?

But what response  should one have to being hurt or abused or rebuked or shamed or yelled at?  To retaliate?  No, I think he means a human response to lighter stuff like being gossiped against is to strike back.   Because when I think about my childhood, I think the healthy response is to shrink. One will cower.  One learns to hide, to disappear, to not be the object of that person’s attention.  Perhaps this response  is not “normal” but it sure was “reflexive” for me. That’s why it is hard to hear that “wanting revenge is normal” if that is indeed what he meant.

Then, as I look back, I see that THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES when I wanted a sort of revenge with my father and mother.

I have carried fear of my father for as long as I can remember and an anger at my mom for not protecting us.  And a kind of fury. I used to have rage dreams and on the really rare occasion I will have them still.  But they are  thankfully now years in-between.

The powerlessness that comes from having a father who never admitted he was wrong creates that anger and sense of worthlessness.

It is not worth trying to explain yourself.

It is not worth needing your own opinion.

It is not worth expending energy because nothing really matters.  Nothing

really matters at all.

I am so glad I am past that.

It’s just too bad he had to died for me to come to this place. I carry a huge feeling of loss that I never knew a sweetness in my relationship with my dad.  I loved him out of fear and a wish to please him.  I know he loved me.  But he just – couldn’t – help himself?

It is true he couldn’t help himself.  I wish he could have let God help him.

I miss him now, as I ponder what could have been.  He really was a dear man, loved by so many around the world who were his friends and never knew the secret rage inside him.  I’m glad that many people didn’t know – in a way – because Dad accomplished many good things.  Helped many people.  Was loved by many.

God why did you take him so young?  Sixty-two?  I hope

it wasn’t simply

so I could live.

No, I don’t think God works like that.

It was simply a convergence of events coming together to give him cancer and take him home.  And my ability to heal, to forgive, well I have to believe that I might have come to it even if my dad was still here.  Perhaps it would have taken longer, but it would have come.

I have forgiven my father and then I think of my mother, who still has a story to tell.  I don’t know if anyone would believe her, but she has so much in her life story that could be helpful to others.  Surely we can’t be the only ones in this situation, caught between a person who does good things and has their secrets A Christian leader who means well but whose home life isn’t right at all.  But that, is her story.   Perhaps one day I can help her tell it.

IN THE END what needs to be said is this.

Forgiveness is what each  Christ follower is asked to do in response to the forgiveness Jesus extends to us.  It is not easy.  It can take a long time.  It often depends on the emotional health of the person doing the forgiving.  It always depends on all the factors surrounding the situation and each person has to sort that out, often with the help of a pastor or a counselor.

I have been in therapy of one sort or another, off and on, for almost twenty years!  Wow, that’s crazy sounding but it’s true.

Pulling back the layers of pain,

the years of stagnation and lack of  healthy growth as a human being,

the crazy mixed up ideas,

the strange perspectives and opinions picked up over the years.

The times of resisting and not being willing to obey God.

And finally coming to a point that one decides for themselves what to do  — without the guilt or coercion of others, but in complete obedience.

It’s messy.  It’s damn difficult.

But it is so sweet, when finally healing, forgiveness and the mercy of Jesus at the cross come down on you.

And you begin anew… and your story continues…

Where does rage come from?

I do not know and I have pondered my father’s strange rage for many years.  I cannot pretend to have answers and obviously I cannot ask him.  But I have a friend who works with incest survivors.  She has a very special ministry. My father always said that he was sexually abused as a child, by a minister in his church.  I never believed him.  But I asked my friend about this and she said:  “When a person admits to this as an adult, they are telling the truth.  They have no reason to lie.”

No reason to lie.  She also said very often anger like that comes from abuse in the past.

I don’t know if it is true but I cannot ignore this:

In Forgiveness: following Jesus into radical loving Paula Huston says: “Regarding the tender souls of children, Jesus says in a passage that can be read as referring either to young human beings or to “baby” Christians: ‘Things that cause people to sin will inevitably occur.  It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.‘ (Luke 17:1-3)  The roots of our adult sin patterns are often to be found in the still-gaping wounds of childhood.”

So my father was hurt as a child.  And I was crushed by his pain and hurt, as he took it out in the form of rage and anger.

At some point we are each responsible to work through our experiences and get to a point of healing.

Again, from Huston,

“Then, and only then (after the process to be sure) we can see the other person as “a human being, no matter how degraded, a fellow soul made in the image and likeness of the God we adore.” (added by me)

God causes his sun to fall on both the good and the evil, and his rain to fall on both the righteous and unrighteous. (Phooey, I can’t remember the reference.)

The longer we shut up our heart against the one that has hurt us the closer we come

to losing our own heart,

our humanity,

even our life.

And for some even our minds.

These things  happened to me in the form of depression, alcoholism, and self-loathing.

And so, for today, I just want you, the reader, to know that there is hope.  It is found in Jesus at the cross if you will spend some time there.  Lay those things down; the heavy burden of pain — close your eyes and picture** putting it at Jesus’ feet.  Give it to God.  Release it when you are ready and be ready for miracles.

MHH

** Some people have a hard time picturing things in their mind’s eye.  If that is true for you I would urge you to watch the movie THE MISSION.  That movie will give you a picture of your pain and lack of forgiveness as those heavy pieces of armor  that the priest dragged up a water fall as penance.  Whenever I begin to forget what my bitterness and anger, lack of forgiveness are doing to me, I can see in my mind’s eye that sack of armor.  No one can live that way.  No one should live that way.  No one needs to live that way.

Somewhere in my heart, it’s the end of the world & Satan takes a pass. (Haiti)

I spent last evening from 9pm to 12am watching AC 360 and reading blogs about Haiti. Anderson Cooper, because he is there on site.  And I think he’s an excellent journalist (“Not to mention he’s a hunk and have you seen his muscles?” my 72-year-old Mother said to me recently. Yes, that’s funny.  You can laugh.)

And then, as it does all day long my mind goes back to Haiti.  I just can’t stop dwelling there. I’m vacuuming or making dinner and my mind is with the Haitians who are still being pulled from the rubble four days later.  Alive. Surviving on nothing while I am pulling boiled chicken off the bones for soup.  The fat is clinging to my fingers.

We are so abundantly blessed. If you haven’t yet, I would ask you to give money for Haiti. This blog I follow Blood & Milk: Examining International Development gave practical advice on giving.

“My own suggestion is this – the single most important thing you can do when choosing where to donate is to pick an organization with a history in Haiti. That will make all the different in the speed and quality of their work.”

Photographs (a must see).

Some disturbing and horrifying images from Haiti, six days later in the Boston Globe. Personally I think they are a must see.  For they are seared in my aortas and as I pray I cannot help but remember them.

History I never learned.

Many of us are coming up to speed quickly on this tiny nation.  To be honest I have given no energy or time toward this country.  It has never been on my grid.

This article Requiem for Port-au-Prince is insightful and interesting.  Haitian writers and visitors to the island nation talk about Port-au-Prince before the earthquake.  Also another interesting article with a time line of  the Unluckiest Country. Both articles are from Foreign Policy magazine.

A Personal Story

And then, late last night I read this by Régine Chassagne who is Haitian talking about her week since she heard about the earthquake.  It’s a first hand account and is very touching as the Haitian singer demands that her homeland isn’t once again abandoned by the west.  Heart breaking.

I let out a cry, as if I’d heard everybody I loved had died.

Somewhere in my heart, it’s the end of the world.  These days, nothing is funny. I am mourning people I know. People I don’t know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won’t be rescued in time. I can’t help it.  Everybody I talk to says the same thing: time has stopped.

Simultaneously, time is at work. Sneakily passing through the cracks, taking the lives of survivors away, one by one.

Diaspora overloads the satellites. Calling families, friends of families, family friends. Did you know about George et Mireille? Have you heard about Alix, Michaelle etc, etc? But I know that my personal anguish is small compared to the overwhelming reality of what is going on down there.

When it happened I was at home in Montreal, safe and cosy, surfing the internet, half randomly, like millions of westerners. Breaking news: 7.0 earthquake hits Haiti near Port-au-Prince.

Such emotion came over me. My breath stopped. My heart sank and went straight into panic mode. I knew right away that the whole city is in no way built to resist this kind of assault and that this meant that thousands were under rubble. I saw it straight away.

I ran downstairs and turned on the television. It was true. Tears came rushing right to my eyes and I let out a cry, as if I had just heard that everybody I love had died. The reality, unfortunately, is much worse. Although everything around me is peaceful, I have been in an internal state of emergency for days. My house is quiet, but I forget to eat (food is tasteless). I forget to sleep. I’m on the phone, on email, non-stop. I’m nearly not moving, but my pulse is still fast. I forget who I talked to and who I told what. I leave the house without my bag, my keys. I cannot rest.

I grew up with parents who escaped during the brutal years of the Papa Doc regime. My grandfather was taken by the Tonton Macoutes and it was 10 years before my father finally learnt he had been killed. My mother and her sister returned home from the market to find their cousins and friends murdered. She found herself on her knees in front of the Dominican embassy begging for her life in broken Spanish. Growing up, I absorbed those stories, heard a new version every year; adults around the dinner table speaking in creole about poor Haiti.

When I was growing up, we never had the money to return. Even if we had, my mother never could go back. Until she died, she would have nightmares about people coming to “take her away”. My mum passed away before she could meet my future husband, or see our band perform and start to have success, and though I have dreamed of her dancing to my music, I know she would have been very worried to hear that I was travelling to Haiti for the first time last year.

It is strange that I was introduced to my country by a white doctor from Florida called Paul Farmer who speaks perfect Creole and knows how to pronounce my name right. He is the co-founder of an organisation titled Partners in Health (Zanmi Lasante in Creole). There are several charity organisations that are doing good work in Haiti – Fonkoze is a great micro-lending organisation – but in terms of thorough medical care, follow-up and combining of parallel necessary services (education, sanitation, training, water, agriculture), there is none that I could ­recommend more than Partners in Health. It takes its work for the Haitian people very seriously and, indeed, most of the staff on the ground are Haitian. PIH has been serving the poorest of the poor for more than 20 years with a ­curriculum that really astounded me, given the limited resources available in the area.

Visiting its facilities, I was overwhelmed by, and impressed with, the high-level, top-quality services provided in areas where people own next to nothing and were never given the opportunity to learn how to sign their own name. I was delightfully shocked to see the radically positive impact it has had in the communities it serves. Of course, during my visit, I saw some clinics and hospitals that were at different stages than others, but through it all, I could clearly see that PIH staff are very resourceful and set the bar extremely high for themselves. I know that, right now, they are using their full ­capacities to save as many lives as possible.

So in these critical times where death comes every minute, I urge you to donate to Partners in Health (www.pih.org) and be as generous as you can. I know from having talked to some staff that they are on the ground right now, setting up and managing field hospitals as well as receiving the injured at their clinics in the surrounding areas.

I realize that by the time you read this it will be Sunday. The cries will have died out and few miracles will remain possible. But the suffering survivors should not be abandoned and should be treated with the best care countries like ours can offer.

Many Haitians expect to be let down. History shows they are right to feel that way. Haitians know that they have been wronged many, many times. What we are seeing on the news right now is more than a natural disaster. This earthquake has torn away the veil and revealed the crushing poverty that has been allowed by the west’s centuries of disregard. That we must respond with a substantial emergency effort is beyond argument, but in the aftermath, Haiti must be rebuilt.

Ultimately, we need to treat Haiti with compassion and respect and make sure that the country gets back on its feet once and for all. Haiti’s independence from France more than two centuries ago should be thought of as one of the most remarkable tales of ­freedom; instead, she was brought to her knees by the French and forced to pay a debt for the value of the lost colony (including the value of the slaves: the equivalent of $21bn by current calculations). We cannot ­overestimate the strength and resilience of the brave people living in this country whose ancestors had to buy their own bodies back.

The west has funded truly corrupt governments in the past.  Right now, in Haiti, there is a democratically elected government.  Impossibly weak, but standing. This is the moment where we need to show our best support and solidarity.

Since Haiti shook and crumbled, I feel as if something has collapsed over my head, too. Miles away, somehow, I’m trapped in this nightmare. My heart is crushed. I’ve been thinking about nothing else.  Time has stopped – but time is of the essence.

So I’ve been sitting here at my computer, food in the fridge, hot water in the tap, a nice comfy bed waiting for me at some point… but…  Somewhere in my heart, it’s the end of the world.

Régine Chassagne is a member of the rock band Arcade Fire.

Obviously a student of CS Lewis, a woman wrote a Letter to the editor in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

Dear Pat Robertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll. You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan

LILY COYLE, MINNEAPOLIS

It’s about pain: Concern for Christian women in the church

This is a followup to writing about multi-ethnicity, race and culture and the culturally insensitive and offensive book, Deadly Viper. I’ve concluded that the only way to change that story is to boycott the book but even that is ineffective. And apparently the authors are “good guys” and they didn’t mean any harm. Okay.  Beyond that, I’m going to continue to follow and cheer on, virtually, my (new) Asian American contacts, for they must continue to raise their concerns about WHY this is so inappropriate.  If you want to do something, here’s the email for the appropriate person to contact at Zondervan, the VP of PR and Communication, Jason.Vines@Zondervan.com.

I keep reading on (mostly) from women blogging, and here, that aspects of Deadly Viper are offensive to women, to which I heave a sigh of frustration!  I don’t want to read their silly book.  I’m not ready to talk about my pain and concerns for Christian women in the church.  And I do not look forward to writing this post which is essentially about PAIN! Yes, pain.

Before you, dear reader, get annoyed because we women are always offended, please understand how much I do not want to talk about this, knowing you think I should stop whining.

For me it starts with questioning why people, but Christians especially, cause one another pain so needlessly?  And especially why do we cause pain for those that are different from us?  Why are Christians so dogmatic, so closed-minded, so unwilling to change, so proud, and so damn selfish?  This is a serious generalization, but I cannot stand the reputations that Christians have right now in the media and in any secular context.  I cannot stand the way many, many Christians behave, it’s embarrassing!  We, above all, as followers of Christ are instructed to love, as Jesus loved (Remember the poor, the meek, the widow, the prisoner.)

If a person is in pain, whose fault is it?  I’m especially cognizant of this question because I have three kids very close in age and my husband and I are constantly being called upon to administer justice. (i.e. break up fights.)  Is it: a) their own fault for being too sensitive or getting hurt? b) the fault of the person who caused the pain in the past so it’s pushing buttons and causing additional anguish, or c) the fault of the person who caused the pain this time?

I suspect though, as we try to figure out who did what to whom and why, that we are asking the wrong questions.  Someone was hurt and pain occurred.  Where do we go from here?  How to make it right.  How to create conversation and learn?  These are the things I try to work through with my children and these are the things we should focus on now, as it relates to very difficult painful experiences.

Let’s be real. Racism exists.  Homophobia is very real. And I can step up boldly to the mike and say: SEXISM IS REAL and alive, though I genuinely wish it were not so.  And it causes minorities, gays and women pain, sometimes deeply, scarring because it is often repeatedly happening.

And yet we live with it.  We learn to get along. Sometimes we even smile and act polite; we don’t want to offend.  occasionally, we get angry.  Women don’t want to be perceived as a bitch.  Christians don’t want to be perceived a liberal.  Many don’t want to be labeled a feminist.  Hardly anyone is willing to, dare I say it, admit to being a person that loves gay people.  And so we live with the pain of repeated offenses, getting along, and leaning on those who are the lightning rods for us, like Dr. Soong Chan Rah and Kathy Khang .   I’m not so sure who other lightning rods are for women but I appreciated Julie Clawson on the topic this week.

So where do we go from here?

I haven’t been in the fray for a long time.  And I haven’t missed it, not really.  But allow me to tell you a true story, the short version of nearly ten years of my life.  Every word is true although admittedly my perspective. I worked for many years for a para-church organization.  I was lucky in that  I was given tons of responsibility and opportunities for leadership.  I was using my abilities, influencing, it was a good place.   As fast as I could catch I was being thrown responsibility and I love it.  I was Gen X right when Gen X was a hot topic and I was able to bring that to the organization’s communications efforts.  admittedly, I was promoted quickly over just a few years.

Running parallel to this was a tension growing between myself and another leader.   He was older (by two decades ), intellectual, theological, super influential and made a big splash all the time and he had made himself integral to all aspects of the organization.

I was an up and comer and although people liked my work, and my work ethic and my productivity, it wasn’t long before it was clear that we were competitors.  There are more spiritual ways of saying it without sounding crass, but there’s only so much turf in a small organization and we both wanted it.  Were fighting for it all the time.  Oh, not to each others’ faces but in everything we did we were working toward taking charge of the area of communication. Trust me I was not a perfect leader by any means, but I would say probably my greatest vice (other than an insane desire to be perfect and in control of everything and working too hard) was working my staff too hard and not providing enough coaching.  No one had ever coached me and I didn’t know how, but that’s another topic (throwing leaders into the fire without grooming them.)  His vice?  Temper temper.  He threw a Bible at my friend in anger.  He treated people (below him) horribly.  Severe abuse which I would hear about and would bring up with my supervisor and it hit the President’s office and stayed there.  They were buddies.

Being an emotional person, I cried floods of tears at home in bed to my husband and I prayed, but at work I tried to prove to everyone what I “just knew” — that I was supposed to be the one in charge.  I was young, innovative, I was ‘the future.’  Meanwhile, I was also having babies while working full-time.  I would have these meetings with my supervisor where I would try to make him understand how horrible it all was the infighting and how people were being treated and that people were leaving the organization because of this person, and as he said “We waded through blood together.”

Then one day he brought me into his office and he had a time line on the whiteboard.  I kid you not, he had a time line for my life where I would finish out the current assignment, I would go be a mommy for a few years, and this person would have retired and then I would come back and rule!  Once I got over the hurt, knowing that he was done advocating for me AND  he was essentially telling me I had gone as far as I was going to there.  So I finished the gig I had and quit.  That was nine years ago and I haven’t gone back and they haven’t asked me.  Draw your own conclusions.

AND SO I FOUND A PARTIAL COPY OF DEADLY VIPERS ONLINE.

I began to read.  I first learned one of the authors owns a Media Firm (Yikes! What a revelation!)  They need some sensitivity training.  But I digress, sort of.  I’d like to ask the authors of Deadly Vipers if they have daughters.  Because if they do, how can they speak so diminutively about girls and women?  Here’s an example:

“there’s little old us looking like school girls with plaid skirts on, because we are unskilled and undisciplined in the area of character. We’re weaklings with rail skinny arms and toothpick legs.” DV, page 8

I have a daughter.  I am a daughter and a woman and I must say I resent being used as an example of weak and pathetic, totally lacking in character and discipline and I do not want my daughter thinking that she is either.  Even worse, would be my sons learning about “leadership” from macho, cool, trendy dewdes.

These guys are my worst nightmare.  They even make fun of ugly people!! Yes, I mean nerds, geeks, “four eyes,” me.  Yep guys, you’ve gone and made me mad.  How can you use ugly people in such a way?  So that did make me cringe and wonder at their sophomoric attempts at humor, and cool, and their strange lingo.  But I stopped reading when I read the phrase:  “We are asking you to go balls out with us.” mostly because I had to look it up.  They can’t mean what I think they mean …?  Go look for yourself, but I can tell you that you exclude women from your book at this point boys, as this is something that we just physically can’t do.

So forget about Deadly Vipers.  I’m tired of that topic already and I don’t really want to beat up on these poor guys.  They are just trying to be cool, and hip and relevant.  Just trying is what they are doing, trying too hard.

I shall put my Communications hat on for a second and tell Zondervan and their PR people what I think.

1) Say you’re sorry and you messed up, when you’re sorry and you mess up. Just do it cause it will make you a stronger person. Humility is a part of integrity.  Then, fix it.

Once I produced a poster for a convention featuring all sorts of images of people serving in different capacities.  What I didn’t notice, nor did the graphic designer, or a whole slew of other people who saw the thing, that all of the servees were ethnic and/or darker skinned and the servers were lighter skin.  The posters got a reaction from our multi-ethnic staff.  I was crushed.  But I had messed up.  So, I pulled the posters and they were trashed.  We quickly redid a promo poster and I can tell you that I will never forget that.  Not because I messed up, but becuase I saw how you can do so and survive if your heart is remorseful and you are willing to change.

2) Change your infrastructure. You must have women and minorities at the table on all levels of your organization if you want to stop making these huge grotesque blunders.  (Well they are huge and grotesque to me.)  In the board room, in the leadership, in the communications team, as your artists and ideas people.  I’m not an ethnic minority so I can’t speak to that, but there are people who consult on such things who could generally help the communications of an organization by having advice on the ways that you communicate and what you’re saying.  I am a woman with a background in communications/marketing and I could easily look over anything quickly to tell you if it’s insulting to women.

3) If that seems too impossible a task (to hire us I mean) then get your organization some cultural sensitivity training.  Again, tons of firms that could help both secular and Christian.  Every person on staff should get such training.

And then tonight I read about Presidential hiring process at Wheaton College and to be honest I had no idea it had gotten to be so backward.  One would assume that Wheaton would hire the best qualified person.  Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex is not only illegal, but morally wrong.  I cannot believe that people feel they need to ask that some women and minority candidates be considered,but like Justice Sonia Sotomeyor said,

“if you are a white male who thinks that race and gender don’t matter, conjure up the image of a Supreme Court made up of all-hispanic and black women, and you will know how the rest of the US feels when faced by the prospect of an overwhelmingly white male Supreme Court.”

If women want an equal world, we have to work for it by accepting positions of authority and responsibility.  Not by walking away from the fight, like I did.  But I gave it everything and frankly almost lost my faith in the process.  And so, I have to look forward to a day when men work side by side with women,  people of every color and stripe, with joy and common purpose. That did not happen for me, but I speak out because I hope that things will be better for my sons and daughters, for my nieces and nephews who are all bi-racial or of a minority culture.   It will be a better world for them.  It just has to be.

Fundamentally, it is our hearts that give us up every time.  And out of our hearts spew what we believe.  It’s our hearts that need changing.

CS Lewis wrote: The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.

Enough for tonight.

Random Sadness (a poem)


God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.     C.S. Lewis

Random sadness cannot be shaken

or filled up with things that may have worked before

food or drink,

distractions of children,

hard work,

general busyness,

exercise,

or even photography.

Random sadness, following me

like a weight on my neck and shoulders.

Sleep, my usual solace only brings bad dreams.

I cannot run from this

random sadness

which will be my constant companion today.

Melody Hanson
1 Nov 08