Confusing Customs

Published December 26, 2012 by sojournerkat

752px-Gerard_van_Honthorst_001This has been a confusing Christmas, but a wonderful one. Since my host family was going to get together at Maria’s parents’ house (If I forgot to mention it earlier, Maria’s grandparents are my hosts) Maria, Jordan and I all just crashed on Maria’s couch after the Christmas Eve marathon. Oh… I should also explain that Jordan’s parents are elsewhere for Christmas this year… I forget whether they’re visiting one of his siblings or on vacation or whatever…

Anywho… Every church has their own traditions and customs around the entire Christmas season. I missed some of the things I used to do with my own family. My mom was Catholic, and my grandparents kept up those traditions for my sake even after my mother died. There have been other churches I’ve explored, and there’s always something different. One church would put on an elaborate play, different each year, where the kids had to audition for parts and commit to rehearsals months in advance. Others put an emphasis on music, with either multiple groups performing, or paid guests, or one big cantata.

I missed Hanukkah this year. I was so caught up in everything, I just didn’t… well, I can’t say I didn’t remember. It’s just that there are no other Jews in my life right now. My father sent a present. My grandparents sent a gift certificate. I sent them stuff too… it just didn’t seem the same.

There is something very important about fellowship. Faithful Heart has it in spades. I’m not just talking about the schedule of worship services and other events. I’m talking about how the people there just really love to be together, whether it’s a pot luck dinner or a really boring committee meeting. It’s so hard to chase people out of the church after meeting are over. There are always more than a few stragglers, people who act like they haven’t seen each other in ages even though they see each other at least three or four times a week.

We had confusing customs when I was growing up. Not confusing=bad, just confusing=complicated. Although my mother made sure the Catholic traditions were front and center, and those traditions are dear to me, we made room for the Jewish traditions as well.

I’m just not sure how to do that all by myself.


Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love

Published December 16, 2012 by sojournerjorgenssen


On this, the third Sunday in advent, many churches are lighting the candle of joy.

In the light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, I’d like to switch the concentration of today’s post. I, and I’m sure most of you, are not feeling joyful today. We are saddened and horrified at the senseless and violent deaths of so many children and the adults who cared for them.

The Second Chapter of Matthew from Biblegateway:

The Magi Visit the Messiah

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[c]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[d]

The Return to Nazareth

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Evil is not new. At Christmastime, we tend to concentrate on the wonderful parts of Jesus’ story. How miraculous that God sent his son to be among mankind! How joyous that he came to save us all! How adorable, the peaceful scene of the holy child in a stable, surrounded by animals and angels and shepherds.

The story of Jesus’ birth is so much more than the sanitized version we usually see. Not that there isn’t value in the sanitized version; that is exactly what we should present to young children. That is exactly what we should celebrate with our families.

However, as adults, we understand the greater, deeper story. How difficult it was for Joseph to take his pregnant wife on a long journey just because the powers that be decided it should be so. Arriving there, trusting in God, only to end up in a barn with the animals.

How must Joseph and Mary have felt when they escaped with their baby son, only to know that hundreds of other baby boys were dying? To know that their deaths were ordered because one fearful king was trying to kill their baby? I can not imagine the mix of relief, guilt, anger and anguish they must have experienced. I can not imagine what emotions must be coursing through the parents of students at Sandy Hook Elementary right now, the parents of those children who survived. Relief, certainly. But although their children live, they will forever carry this trauma with them. They are living victims.

No words can express the sorrow. No words can cover the grief. As humankind we mourn, whether Christian or not, whether American or not, whether we are parents or not. Together, we pray that someday humankind will, together, find a way to prevent such senseless tragedies from ever happening again.

Hugging and Not Letting Go

Published December 15, 2012 by sojournerjulie
Security by David Bowman

Security by David Bowman

Ford is sick of being hugged.

Various relatives have told me “Enough with the hugging already! Let the boy go.”

But I’m not going to stop. After what happened yesterday, I just can’t imagine how I would go on without my son. I know it’s a cliche, but he really is my whole world. Everything I do, I do for him.

I didn’t really realize it until now. I thought my decisions… to be a Sojourner, to create a new life for us as a family away from the family where I was raised…I often felt selfish. But the horrors of yesterday’s events have been echoing in my brain. I try not to dwell, but I find my mind drifting to what my life would be like without Ford.

I can’t even contemplate. It’s too terrible.

I became a Sojourner because I needed… we needed to live our own life. I am and always will be grateful to the family members who did everything for us while I finished High School. Although some of our family looked the other way while I went through certain life changes, at least they never actively opposed me. And when I decided that Ford and I needed to move away, although they tsk-tsk’d and said it was a bad idea, they didn’t try to make it difficult for us.

Ford and I are “home” for the holidays. We have been since Thanksgiving. I was extra careful to have all my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed on the paperwork for Ford’s homeschooling so we could come back to see grandparents and everybody for a whole month. For more than a month…we’ll be here through New Year’s.

I have a permanent scar on my lip, I’ve had to bite it so many times. But it’s par for the course with my family. Everyone has opinions, and they’re not afraid to express them. There are certain rules I’ve stood my ground on, and others I’ve let relax. There are some rules that I don’t like but we’ve had to accept while we’re here. My parents think Ford should be limited to a half hour of computer use each day. They seem to think it’s just a brain-washing video game. They don’t understand what kind of a tool it is. I’ve bought him a tablet, and we’ve shown the elders how it’s a great way to read books. We don’t mention how he can also use it to access the web and a thousand aps. (Don’t worry. They won’t read this blog, not in a million years. It’s “new-fangled unnecessariness!”)

We still have a few weeks before we go back to Colorado. Rev. Mark said he might have a couple of short-term placements for me. We’re still hoping for a post where we can stay for a whole year. Ford’s good at making friends, but it’s hard for a kid to have to move around so much.

Whatever may come, I lay it in God’s hands.

Tears Tonight

Published December 15, 2012 by sojournerkat

I’m sorry if this is short and edited funny, but I’m trying to type on my nook and the on-screen keyboard takes some getting used to.

I came into church tonight for the prayer vigil for the school shooting in Newtown today. That’s less than an hour from us. Although none of our Sunday School kids go to Sandy Hook, many in our congregation have friends and family there.

Reverend Longoria and Reverend Daniels have their hands full with all the people pouring in. Some come by and don’t say a word. They just sit quietly for a while, then leave. Some cry. Some need to talk, and many are outraged.

Reverend Saunders (Jordan) and Maria are up in the youth lounge. Some of the older youth have shown up on their own. Some want to be with their friends and reassure each other that they’re OK. Some of the kids were dragged here by their parents, and they really don’t want to think about it or deal with it.

I spent the last twelve hours with Jordan and Maria. Two of the girls are still here now, even though it’s after midnight. They have relatives in Newtown. Their mom drove up there to be with her sister, and wouldn’t let them come with. Apparently they begged their dad to bring them here. They’re understandably upset; they’ve been bending Jordan’s ear for a couple of hours now. They really want answers, but there are no answers to be had.

In Mourning

Published December 14, 2012 by sojournerdoug

God In SchoolsEveryone is reacting differently to today’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Anger, sadness, grief, outrage… of course all these emotions are going to surface whether we knew the victims personally, or whether we were far away. I’ve talked to Kat, and she still isn’t sure whether any of the victims are connected to their church. I think they’re about 45 minutes away… it’s likely that someone in their church knows someone from Newtown.

In the midst of outrage, some people are sticking feet into mouths and swallowing whole. We should not respond to violence with violence. We should not take this as a cue to debate controversial laws. We shouldn’t point fingers and look for someone to blame; the gunman is dead.

One popular meme I’ve seen really makes me angry. It says “Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools?” and has God answering “Because I’m not allowed in schools.”


First of all, this implies that God “allows” violence. It is an atheist misconception that Christians believe God controls everything. No. God didn’t “take” your grandmother from you when she died. He didn’t “allow” war and tragedy and disaster to happen. You’re confusing God with a fiction writer. Writers do things to their characters in order to create a story that people will want to read, and people love reading about train wrecks.

Secondly, it implies that God is off in a corner petulantly saying “since you won’t allow me in the school, I’ll let horrible things happen there.” Some versions imply God is a gentleman who doesn’t go where he’s not invited.

NO! Good frickin’ grief people! Again, you’re assigning human attributes to God. To GOD. God is not human, God is great and vast and surpasses all human understanding. God is all knowing and infinitely loving.

God did not turn his back on a horrid, devastating event simply because it happened in a school. If you want to debate prayer in schools or gun laws or the importance of mental health care, do it somewhere else. This is a time for people to come together in love to comfort each other.

Happy Hanukkah

Published December 9, 2012 by sojournerjorgenssen

Matthias_Stom_-_Holy_Family_-_Google_Art_ProjectWhat if Jesus Christ was around today?

I’m not talking about the second coming or Armageddon or anything like that, no…

What if he just quietly slipped down to Earth as a perfectly average Jewish-guy-next-door?

What would he think of all the holiday celebrations, or lack thereof, around the world?

Yes, I think he would be weirded out about seeing a plastic version of himself as a baby, but I think he’d understand. Athletes see themselves on cereal boxes, celebrities see themselves in tabloids. Although most great persons are celebrated as adults, that is because their greatness came upon in adulthood. Jesus was special from the moment of his conception. He also died quite young, by today’s standards. It is simply an affectation of today’s society that we have a plethora of images and other representations of the story.

I don’t think he’d be at all surprised about how inaccurate all the details are now. After all, it’s been a couple thousand years! Even the best documented events get skewed by the eyeglass of time.

What would he think of the conflict in the middle east? Horrified and saddened I’m sure. Aren’t we all?

What about the wars? So many… of course he’d be sickened and saddened by these as well.

But the people… I know he’d love the people. Even the jerks. That’s what he does, and he does it well. And he’s Jewish, so this time of year, he’d be eating oodles of latkes and celebrating Hanukkah with the community.

Happy Hanukkah, not just to my Jewish friends, but to you all.250px-Menorah_0307

A Chance to Be Private

Published December 8, 2012 by sojournerkat

800px-US_Navy_020712-N-5471P-010_EOD_teams_detonate_expired_ordnance_in_the_Kuwaiti_desertDon’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore my host family! I have the entire upstairs to myself, and they respect my privacy. The entire church has been so welcoming and wonderful…I have no complaints!

Well maybe I do. They’re just not the kind of thing that I’d ever say out loud. They’re petty little things, like people talking with food in their mouths and parents who don’t teach their kids to say “please” and “thank you.” These are the kinds of things I only mention around people I trust can listen to me spill my guts without taking those guts and eviscerating me publicly.

Jordan and Maria do this for me. Jordan’s the Youth Pastor, and we spend enough time together to be thoroughly sick of each other by the end of the day. And yet somehow we almost always end up having dinner together, often with Maria (my host’s grand-daughter) and laughing into the evening.

There’s a young woman in the church who works in telephone customer service for a large company. She has to “keep a smile in her voice” no matter what the customer says. It’s emotionally exhausting! If a supervisor overhears her and her co-workers venting to each other about customers, even when they’re in the company cafeteria far away from the phones, in a secure building where the only people who can hear them are their fellow workers, the supervisor chastises them.

This is counter productive. Everybody needs to vent somewhere, and the best possible place these people can vent is at work to each other! I think all the employees would be so much happier and better able to “keep a smile in their voice” if they could just spend twenty minutes of their day venting with each other.

One of the college guys just came home for Christmas. He’s a Resident Assistant in his dormitory, and they have meetings twice a week. Once with just their building, and another large meeting with all the Residential Life staff on campus. They are not only permitted, but encouraged to vent during these times, which are behind closed doors and far away from prying ears. They get to hear the truth behind incidents that came up during the week, instead of hearing through the whispered grapevine things that may or may not be true. The staff makes it very clear that everything they talk about is confidential, and should not be talked about outside where there is even the slightest chance to be overheard.

One of the moms in the church is a writer. She was telling me how frustrating it is to have to maintain a positive and upbeat persona in public, whether it’s online or at a book signing or convention. Some people like to throw rocks at anyone in the spotlight, even if it’s a tiny spotlight on a little known, mildly successful romance author. There are several sites where people can leave reviews of books, and although this writer hasn’t had a problem, her friends who write erotica or GLBTQ or other so-called non-traditional, or at least non-mainstream romances are plagued with people who put up negative reviews before the book is even available to the public! On Goodreads, people can name their bookshelves things like “Authors Who Stink” and they can pick a book they hate and put it on this shelf. Everyone who looks at that book’s page can see that someone labeled it “Authors Who Stink.” There is no vetting or moderation of comments. People can say anything.

This writer was venting to me mostly because we were sitting alone, waiting for the kids to do something (I forget what) and she knew I wouldn’t take her spilled guts and eviscerate her. The only time she interacts with other authors is online, which is the worst possible place to vent when you’re trying to maintain a mature and professional demeanor. She does see others at conventions, but with so many people around you can never be sure when an innocent comment might be taken the wrong way. Sadly, she has to be careful about what she says around both her GLBTQ writer friends and her Inspirational writer friends. There isn’t much crossover there, which is sad.

I’m a big proponent of “Why can’t we all just get along?”  However people will always have differences, and opinions and times when they just need to vent. Instead of trying to smother these feelings, we should help people let it out in a safe way.