Burgess Shale Pilgrimage

The Secular group that we are a part of went on a pilgrimage to the holy of holies, the Burgess Shale. The place of fossils so ancient, so strange, and so integral to evolutionary theory, that all travelers must stop in awe.

It was a 10 hour trek. Our guide informed us that we went on the nicest day she had all season and that we were one of the most enjoyable groups. Apparently there is often friction when creationists and non-creationists go to look at fossils that are over 500 million years old. Many of us came from not only creationist backgrounds, but Young Earth creationist backgrounds so we felt obligated to hunt for rabbit fossils among the Odaraia latas and Hallucigenia sparsas like one of us had been told existed.

Because this was many months ago, I have forgotten most of the funny and interesting things that we learned, which is sad because we were fortunate to have a few scientists with us. There was much laughing, hiking, and sharing of food and water. It was the perfect pilgrimage.

Photo credits: John Hordyk

Paintbrush Song

This is fiction. Wordy, cheesy, melodramatic fiction. Maybe I am a sappy romantic after all.


I will be in charge of my paintbrush today. The primed canvas smiles at me, daring me to do great things. My fingers itch. The rhythm of the music around me pulsates in my fingers and I begin.

At first, I have complete control. My fingers are still stiff and rigid like the grid I am filling in. My sketch is nearly exact and ready to be coaxed into life.

The music changes and my mind begins to wander. I remember this song. Its notes gently stroke my ears, the way she did. I can feel the small of my back ache, almost as if it had been touched. My rigid posture begins to melt and I swear I can smell her. Prairie flowers, clover and hay. Dust, sweat and that sweet smell of desire floating on the wild airy notes of our song.

My eyes close and I imagine her strong quick fingers playing in my hair, rhythmic but loose. The paintbrush falls. My eyes snap open and see a dripping purple gash where my neighbour’s grandmother was supposed to be. Then I notice in the background darting figures hidden in the foliage- jumping, embracing and …

Crap. I can’t cover over everything.  I give up and let my brushes take control, guided by the music.

The music is now urgent and throbbing. The colours fly, illuminating the contours and limbs and torsos, twisting, thrashing; the aching, pounding music is now ebbing away. A new song.

My brushes softly caress the gentle curves of the newest figure, rising out from the background shapes – covering my carefully calculated sketch- with what is looking more and more like her. The music is dreamy, like the deep rose of her areoli, purple shadows pushing out erect nipples. I can’t stroke her with my fingers but my paintbrush fills in the space between us. Back and forth, up and down, around and around…

The music stops. The light is gone. Tomorrow I will start again with a fresh canvas. And I will know better than to listen to the music mix she made for me.

Vagina Dialogues

I was tucking my darlings into bed when the oldest one told me, “Mom, some people have nicknames for their vulvas. I’ve decided to call mine ‘vagina’.”

I replied that isn’t surprising because many people call vulvas ‘vaginas’, but that the vagina is inside the body and not seen, while most people don’t know that everything on the outside is even called a vulva, so they get them confused.

She thought about this for a while. Peer pressure is pretty important, and she had to decide whether she was going to believe her friends or her mom. Dilemma.

Meanwhile, the youngest one asked, “Mom, when do I get a vagina?”

“You already have one sweetheart. You were born with it.”

She: “Wow!”

Me: “In fact, you had one before you were born.”

She: “Awesome!” and got up to do the dance of excitement preschoolers do when they learn something new.

Then they asked if they could see what a vagina looked like. At that point, I realized we were well into bedtime stalling techniques.

This morning, C-minor tried distracting me from getting her to eat her vegetables by asking me what colour of blood various animals had. Now you know how to distract me- ask anatomy questions.

Its not real torture, its an illustration

JW man: Hello, have you heard the good news…
Me: Probably.  Just so you don’t waste your time, let me tell you that I used to be a devout believer and also tried to convert people.  I am more than happy to have a conversation about why I am no longer, but don’t expect you to.
JW man: Oh, that’s terrible!  [Pause] Why?
Me: I finally read the bible with critical thinking skills and could no longer ignore my issues with condoning genocide, slavery and eternal torture for thought crimes.  

JW man: [in a tone of condescension] The Old testament had to be like that to keep the Hebrew people separate.
Me: By giving rules about how badly you were allowed to beat your slave?
JW man: They were much better than the people around them.
Me: Have you read Hammurabi’s laws?  

JW man: [changing tactics to evade the question] Of course I understand why you left.

Me: Really?  I would be very surprised if you did understand.  I have had many believers tell me that they understand and not one of them has.  They most often have made up excuses that have nothing to do with my reasons and everything to do with making them feel safe and separate so that they don’t have to worry it could happen to them.  I also find it terribly insulting to have someone tell me I was never a true believer as if they knew more about me than I did.  They are basically calling me a liar.  You can see why I don’t appreciate that.

JW man: [pause] Well, would you let me read you a scripture?
Me: Of course!  I used to think the bible had magical powers too.  Just reading the word could change people.  I lost count of how many times I read the bible and I memorized several books:  Matthew, Luke, Acts, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Proverbs… I am terrible with verse references but start reading and lets see if I can finish it.
JW man: [puts his bible away]
JW woman: [face of horror] But dear, surely you have not abandoned the bible!  There are so many beautiful things that help you be a better mother.
Me: Of course I still appreciate the beautiful things.  I was surprised to learn that some of Jesus’ most beautiful teachings were part of Buddhist teachings many years before Jesus came along though.
JW woman: But Jesus was such a superior moral teacher!
Me: Except for that part about eternal punishment for thought crimes.  That hardly seems compassionate or just.

JW man: Eternal punishment is never part of hell!

Me: I suppose it depends on which hell you are referring to.  There are at least 4 distinct types of hells referenced in the bible.
JW man: I mean the New Testament!

Me: That does narrow it down a bit, but those ones are the most disturbing. “into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched where their worm dieth not” (Mark 9: 44)
JW man: That isn’t describing actual torture.  Jesus was just giving an illustration.
Me: [blinks in disbelief] So that is how you get around that.  Huh.

JW man: I won’t waste anymore of your time.

I wonder if he realized he admitted that in his rationalization, Jesus was deliberately misrepresenting hell in order to scare people into submission.  So, he evaded eternal torture by calling Jesus a manipulative liar.  I tend to agree.

Retelling FoF stories: Homo-Jelly

Our family listened to Focus on the Family nearly every night when I was a child. I remember some of the stories very well, although I can’t recall if it is from the radio program or a story from one of their magazines.

Homo-Jelly (not the original title)

In this story, a hetero WASP SAH mother talks about her neighbours. They are *gasp* lesbians and they have a *gasp* daughter who is the same age as our Dear Christian Narrator’s (DCN) daughter. The two children are friends, and while DCN will not allow her child to play at the lesbians’ house, she is very happy to have their daughter over. Of course, she is a shining example of Christian love and heteronormativity.

I don’t remember the age of the children, but I’m guessing around 10 as they are both in school and need little supervision. DCN seems to spend her time cleaning the house and baking, as any proper Christian wife should. Both of the lesbian Mamas work, which inspires DCN to express sympathy (or was it scorn?) for them and their poor daughter. DCN spent some time talking about her long hair and long flowered skirt and contrasting them to the lesbian Mamas short hair and pants. These details were important.

Not so important was DCN’s husband. We knew he existed because her hetero status was a major theme of her story, as well as her ability to work at home for free. I assume he also had short hair and pants but cannot confirm my suspicion.

The story ended with our DCN noticing one of the lesbian Mamas on her evening stroll around the neighbourhood. She paused in front of DCN’s house for a few minutes and then walked on. At this point, DCN congratulates herself for being such a good example of heteroChristianSAMship and speculates that the look lesbian Mama had on her face was that of longing. Obviously to DCN, the longing the woman had was for a life just like hers of church rules, long flowered skirts and an absentish male breadwinner. The End.

Now to change the narrators.

There is a Christian woman on our block. I’m pretty sure she is some type of fundy since she wears long flowery skirts most of the time and the telltale Jesus fish bumper sticker. She has a little girl the same age as ours and she refuses to let her come over to play. Is she overprotective or homophobic?
The children seem to get along very well so we let our baby go over there to play. I really hope the mother doesn’t proselytize or shame her. Our sweetheart has enough bigotry to deal with at school because she has two moms. I wish I could protect her from that – it breaks my heart.
The hetero mama is almost always home. I wonder if it is because she enjoys it or if she feels too guilty to work outside the home. Does she even have the choice?
When I go on my evening walk, I often see her sitting in front of the window looking out. Tonight I pause and look up at her. I know she sees me but she looks right through me as if she doesn’t. She looks trapped. I wonder if she doesn’t long for a more free life, like mine.

Food and Punishment

Our relationship to food could be simple. As my grandfather liked to tell me, “You want to work, you need to eat.” I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farms, where food was work, livelihood, and community.  We gathered eggs, planted, weeded, harvested, butchered, milked, hulled, peeled, and stored food together. I was witness to (and begrudging active in) the wonderful process of bread from start to finish. While applesauce, herbs, onions, turnips and potatoes would last the whole winter, the strawberries and raspberries disappeared early – especially when when us kids were old enough to pick them by ourselves. Eating the food was something you did so you could continue growing it.
My dad studied nutrition at University (as well as other things – he is a Renaissance style genius) and we spent much time playing at his health food store, so we learned about nutrients early. Food was science. It was the childhood glee of killing potato bugs. My grandmother reciting poetry while we worked in the garden or kitchen. It was as ubiquitous as air.
Then, puberty happened and my skinny body stopped being so skinny.  I didn’t like the new shape.  I became hyper-aware of the fat-shaming culture I had always lived in but felt immune too.  Food was still a necessity but now it was dangerous.  I heard the girls around me share tips on how to eat less and exercise more.  My cousin would point at overweight women and say “that’s you in a few years!” and I knew this was a terrible fate.  At 5 foot 6 and 125 lbs (168 cm, 55 kg) I felt like a globular walrus.
Food was fuel, unless I was mad at myself.  Then it was punishment.  I would force myself to eat a bowl of cookie dough, or half a chocolate zucchini cake and with each bite I would say “I’m ugly, I deserve to be fat”.   Not eating sweets was a sign of strength and hope, so overeating them was the appropriate punishment.
A different cousin came to live with me.  Instead of fretting about her body, she loved it.  She loved food too, and we would walk across town even through -40 C on candy runs.  She wore clothes that appreciated her impressive cleavage and encouraged me to borrow her clothes.   (This sometimes had unfortunate results.)  br />After years of seeing food as a way to police my worth as a person and a necessary evil, I still struggle with seeing food as anything but a tool for survival. It is easier to see it as a formula – so many fats, carbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals to plug in every day. I’m free(er) of the impulse to punish myself by indulging or withholding food, and now I can work on learning to enjoy it.

Answering Van Impe on his “Good News” about the “Impending Islamic Takeover”

We received some Jack Van Impe Ministries propaganda in the mail.  Jack Van Impe is the perfect name for a devil, eh?  

Van Impe asks some questions which I will answer.

1) What is the true goal of Islam? The answer to this question literally places YOUR FUTURE on the line!

Umm, probably the same as any religion?  That is, there are many goals and many variations.  A few would be: sense of purpose, community, policing societal mores, etc.  Since I don’t make money by scare-mongering, this doesn’t affect my future.

2. What have Islamic leaders warned they would do in promoting Islam’s rule over all the world?  How should Christians respond?

I’m guessing no worse than Christians of ages past (and present) have done.  I would hope Christians could respond like compassionate reasonable mature people, and realize that Muslims are also compassionate reasonable mature people.  No one wants a new version of the crusades.  At least, most people don’t.

3. How can we know whether we will experience terrifying wars ahead of us? Fear not!  The Rapture will come first.
Sigh.  Going by human history, I’d say the odds are high for war and zero for Rapture.  

4. How does Scripture connect Russia, China, Syria, and Iran? We’re seeing it today!
Apparently his xenophobia isn’t restricted to non-white people – I was beginning to think his racism was just basic bigotry.  As to his question- it doesn’t.  

5. What is a biblical answer for the distress and killings going on in Syria right now?

One answer would be to add to them: 1 Kg.20:28-30; 2 Chron. 8:5-6, 14; 2 Kings 13…  God liked talking about smiting Syria.  

Or t just annihilate all the non-Jews: 2 Chronicles 15:13 Whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Another answer would be to provide aid and support: Deuteronomy 10:19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Rom 13:10 says love does no harm to a neighbour. 
And there is the eternally beautiful story of the Good Samaritan.  Which Van Impe should read, inserting “Muslim” for “Samaritan”.  
However, I’m afraid Van Impe would see these girls as victims in need of his condescending rescue and would miss how much he needs to be educated by them. Or he would just be terrified of them.
Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliffe