Dee's Blog
Sun 12/16/2012
When the Blues Turn to Black

Every year, about the middle of December, I start hearing from people whose worlds look a little bluer.  Some a lot bluer, especially those who may be struggling with collusion with evil, coming from people in high places.

This week we have witnessed the most extreme of darkness imaginable--the horrific murder of so many little children and the teachers who were trying to protect them!  Our world has turned pitch black because of this.

Collusion with evil, which is the topic that continues to draw people to my writing, has a way of reminding me of Herod in an odd way of connecting things.  Herod and the current "criminal of the week," neither one of them, valued the lives of anyone.  They must both have felt utter darkness inside, unable to imagine a world where they could be a part of making things brighter for anyone.  For the abuse of power and true Light can never occupy the same heart! 

Both the Herod of Christmas past and the murderer of Christmas, 2012 bring the dark side to Christmas.

Herod did benefit, though, unlike the 2012 perpetrator. At least, he benefited by keeping his job, for what it was really worth! Remember that Herod could only keep his job by oppressing others.  That was what he was paid to do.

Well, a lot of people manage to keep their jobs by  joining the "good old boy system" that continues to oppress people in many ways.  Of course, when it gets done through the institutional church, as we are seeing a lot these days on many issues of oppression, then the blues can feel totally black. 

If you are one of the recipients, whether a member of the GLBT community, a woman who is being "kept in her place" in spite of being ordained, a member of a minority group, a victim of abuse, or perhaps a person whose story the church does not want to hear for whatever reason, may you find some comfort in knowing that power bases are being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses like never before in history.

The truth that's larger than all of us manages to shine through in this world at surprising moments, just like the bright lights of Christmas, even if your heart still sees navy blue.  Or even black that's as solid as if you yourself were a perpetrator of evil!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:53 AM CST
Updated: Sun 12/16/2012 9:04 PM CST
Tue 12/11/2012
The Real "King of the Jews"

Herod had a big job.  As a puppet of the Roman Empire, he could only maintain his power through abusing those that he was expected to control.

Having lived in a country that was theoretically a police state, I can tell you that people under such a leader do everything they can to avoid showing disrespect.  The control is not because anyone is fooled.  It's because they are petrified--if not that they will personally be victims of violent outbursts, the fear is that they will starve trying to pay outrageous taxes.

This is the world into which Jesus was born, the world to which he was destined to speak with such boldness!  This is why he ended up being born in a stable. It's why his family had to change their plans rather than taking their newborn back home as they must have longed to do.

The oppressed aren't the only ones that have to be on their toes, constantly watching behind their backs.  So do the oppressors, fearing that the truth will be found out.  Does this remind you of anything you've ever experienced or witnessed?  What in today's news stories does this parallel?

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:27 PM CST
Mon 12/10/2012
Finding Temperance at Christmas

The skit we saw yesterday, in the little town of Lecompton, KS (population 844), carried a message about temperance during the Christmas season. The performers might look askance if they heard me say this.  Yet that was what I thought, for I've been thinking a lot about temperance after reading John Bradshaw's book, Reclaiming Virtue

Over and over, the skit reminded us of all the ways the Grinch can steal our Christmas--in the shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, card sending, baking, etc.--if any of them are done in excess or in an attempt to keep up with the neighbors or the expectations of our family.

Moderation is the key.  This is born out of a maturity that allows us to be self-controlled, rather than having what is often called "an external locus of control." Only people who cultivate an internal locus are able to shine in the darkness or commercialism, oppression, and ignorance.

Next blog, I'll be talking about how Jesus was born into a family that knew fear and oppression because of the most dangerous of the non-temperant.  That would be people who hoard immense power and abuse the opportunity to use it for good.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:00 PM CST
Updated: Mon 12/10/2012 1:02 PM CST
Tue 12/04/2012
The Myth of the Peaceful Christmas
Topic: Christmas

If you think Washington is in chaos now, the movie Lincoln may help put things into perspective!  What I took away, certain that I will never forget, was the stress and violent discord that was going on in Washington, far away from the battlegrounds!  It seemed that, at any moment, the elected officials might break forth with an actual war in the capitol!!

As I think on Christmases past, compared to Christmas today, I am reminded that there wasn't peace, joy, and abounding love on the first Christmas either.  The hate, oppression, manipulation, patriarchy, and evil was of epic proportions.  The baby Jesus, as a Jew, was one of the hated!  He was also a light shining in the darkness, while not eradicating the darkness. 

Cynics say Jesus changed nothing.  Idealists see the light getting stronger and speak of a time when all will be peace, love, and joy.  Pessimists see the world getting worse and worse.  Whereas realists are likely to focus on the mixed conditions of our world, our nation, our families, and each of us. 

Christmas is a time for each of us to center, once again, on the inward peace, love, and joy that can be found in each of our hearts through the application of principles of good spiritual and mental health.  That is all we have control over.  That is, in fact, our only hope.

Let us return to the things of old as all things become new!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:34 AM CST
Fri 11/30/2012
Halo Missing an Angel
Topic: Christmas

Since writing about my angel, who's missing half a halo, I heard from a reader who tells me that her Christmas tree always has an ornament with the opposite problem:  the halo lost it's angel!  What the angel represented to the family must have been really precious for them to continue revering the halo she left behind.

My dear reader didn't know, but this comment reminded me of her.  You see, she's been going through some tough times, coming to grip with difficult things from her past. 

Because she's needed time and space to find herself, she has chosen to leave her career in ministry--something she loved and was really good at it, I'm absolutely certain. 

Now..... because I believe she's one of those people who has lots of halos, despite the possibility that some may be a little cracked or discolored, I'm quite certain that one of them is still shining in her former congregation.  For her words, her smiles, and her actions are not gone.  These are the seeds that remain, clinging like glitter to the halo of memories that will continue to work in the hearts of the people she loves.

My guess is that she also will be getting light from all the halos she brought with her. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:54 PM CST
Thu 11/29/2012
The Broken Halo
Topic: Christmas

Almost twenty years ago, while still recovering from breast cancer, I brought home a beautiful angel.  Her face and lovely clothing were illuminated by a single light that has never yet burned out.  She carries it in her hand.  Like a live doll, she stands thirty-two inches high and keeps constant watch throughout the night, if I don't remember to switch her off.

Initially, I thought the light was moving.  It was only after placing her in our front window that I noticed:  the light wasn't moving at all.  The angel was--her body slowly gliding while supporting her two large wings and halo.  Just watching her each evening brought me to a place of inexplicable peace!  The effect is still the same today, though she has stood in the front window of three houses now.

Last year, as I carefully pulled her from the packing where she had lain during the move to Kansas, my heart skipped a beat.  Half her halo was missing!  How could we possibly display an angel with a broken halo?  Then again, I wondered, how could we not?  Our grandchildren have never known a Christmas without her!  Besides, she was still perfect in every other way. 

In fact, perhaps more perfect because of what she now illustrates to us all, as if the neighbors even notice what's missing.  We all have broken halos; but as long as the Light keeps shining in spite of our brokenness, it doesn't matter at all!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:23 PM CST
Tue 11/27/2012
The First Snowflake
Topic: Christmas

"Oh!  Isn't that a snowflake I see?"  My eight-year-old granddaughter's voice rang out from the back seat yesterday.  It was for all of us the first snowflake of the season!  I might have missed it altogether, the precipitation was so light.  Light compared to the heavy traffic in downtown Kansas City, that is, where my attention was glued.

Kellyn's big sister, Haley, also in the backseat but engrossed in her homework, quickly changed her focus, as well.  Momentarily, she was slightly skeptical, though soon also thrilled, congratulating her little sister for being so observant.

I thought how quickly young children learn to recognize something unusual, especially something that has periodically brought them immense joy in the few short years they have been alive.

It is the simple things, even in spite of a long period of not seeing something so wonderful.....yes, these simple things help people of all ages to also notice what may be bizarre in our world.  Things that make absolutely no sense in our world.  Or in our own imperfect selves.

This season, that's what I want to keep upmost in my mind as I focus on the new and the old.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:34 AM CST
Sat 11/24/2012
Heads CAN Change
Topic: Making Decisions

Neuroplasticity is a big word that describes the ability of the brain to change, actually increasing the volume of sections that are activated and exercised over the course of a lifetime of learning.  Fifty years ago this was only the stuff of science fiction!

What exciting applications are being made as we understand just why practice really does make progress.  Not just with musicians, chess players, and scientists. 

Practice makes progress when it comes to making sound decisions, too!  As long as we don't rush the process.

I hope you caught what I just said because I believe it's the most important and most difficult thing that any musician must learn.  Speed kills--not just with driving.

Speed, which can be equated with impulsivity when it comes to learning any new skill, is counter-productive.  Here's why:  Human beings VERY quickly learn to memorize mistakes.  Speed often keeps us from even SEEING mistakes!  So we make the mistake over and over, rushing through our "practice" (better known as life when it comes to making very important decisions). 

Sometimes it's impossible for me to get a student to slow down, even when I'm standing right there.  I have to get very cranky if I succeed with most students.  That's because they want to just "play the piano" rather than practice something first.  Eighty percent of students--yes 80%--have to learn the hard way that when they have played a section of music as few as five times, making the same error, they have already memorized the mistake!!  It will then take five times as long to un-learn and re-program the brain so that the result will be what the music calls for!  What's more:  the student will get so used to the sound of the error that the teacher will be hard pressed to convince the student that there IS an error!!!!!

Same goes for learning to make good, moral decisions.  Both music and good decisions can be made almost without thinking; but not before one has done so persistently over a long period of time.

Practice DOES make progress, even if it never makes perfection in any individual or institution.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:34 PM CST
Fri 11/23/2012
Making Progress
Topic: Making Decisions

"Practice does NOT make perfect," I often tell my piano students.  Before adding:  "It DOES make progress, though--always."

There are NO perfect pianists.  There are just pianists who learn well to cover their mistakes.  The pro's even do so by incorporating their mistakes into something more beautiful!

Of course, that's music.  And one of the beauties of music is that it's not a matter of life nor death. 

Ironically, the same thinking process that leads to progress in musicians goes into making progress when it comes to making solid, wise, moral decisions. 

To be continued......

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:40 AM CST
Tue 11/20/2012
Topic: spirituality

Good gardeners do not usually have to wait years to see if a seed is going to sprout. The little packets come with instructions and reasonable expectations as to when there should be some evidence.  Total crop failure, year after year, means something is seriously amiss.

Not so for those who plant seeds of thoughts or ideas, planting with the hope that at some future season there may be evidence that we have ever communicated.  Seeing results of our efforts may take generations, as any good teacher or minister will tell you.

"Sometimes planting seeds and watering them tries my patience. I want a forest right now," Renae Cobb recently said to me. Renae is a mother and a therapist.  At times, she writes of her observations, joys, and frustrations in her blog

Having evidence of things not seen is a part of Renae's unwritten job descriptions!  Oh, how I relate to her feelings!

If we choose our words carefully, there seems to be a stronger chance that the seeds will some day bring forth what we envision. Yet, truth is, we never will know with some of those "seeds." We may never see evidence; for the seeds may be carried far, far away, perhaps even passed on to another person while blowing right over the head of the person for whom we intended. This can happen even with generations. Our peers may not be able to relate to what we are saying, yet a little child sitting nearby may be taking notes.

"The wind bloweth where it listeth." (John 3:8) For me, this means that there are many factors beyond my control, determining when and where the "seeds" that I plant may decide to grow while others lie fallow, perhaps forever. Keep planting and watering, knowing that the only fertilizer you need is hope. For only in persistently doing so can we experience positive, creative change in this world.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 2:28 PM CST
Updated: Tue 11/20/2012 2:56 PM CST

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