Dee's Blog
www.takecourage.org
Tue 03/06/2012
Dancing in the Rain
Topic: coping

A long-time friend, who encountered immense collusion in her church several years ago, just gave Ron and I a gift that we'll treasure for the rest of our lives.  It's a plaque that reads:  "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain." 

At one time, I was convinced that collusion in the institutional church would just pass when people got over the shock that it existed and learned how to stop participating in the collusion. 

 My goals in this work were twofold:

1) Educate

2) Offer support to anyone who had suffered to consequences of collusion, whether a survivor or a professional.

I figured if enough of us chose to join the goal of educating, the collusion would stop.  Then, the storm would be over, and I could get back to "dancing."

Long after I realized this was unrealistic, I was still hearing from people who refused to let go of that very thinking.  It was often hard for us to be on the same wavelength because.....well......I guess I'd been dancing too long in spite of the rain.  Though I never realized that until I got this wonderful gift, along with a note from the giver, saying:  "Thank you for teaching me to dance in the rain."  

While I don't take credit for being such an educator, it's nice to know that the message somehow was conveyed and came back in greater clarity to my own back door!" 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:37 PM CST
Updated: Fri 10/05/2012 1:52 PM CDT
Sat 02/25/2012
The Desire of Evil
Topic: Power

A few weeks ago, my grandson was sitting across the table from me.  It was just the two of us.  The conversation was at a lull, as often is the case between adults and 12-year-olds.  My eyes drifted to the book he'd laid aside while attending to his chicken nuggets.

"Is this a good book?"  I asked. 

 He assured me that it certainly was, then began to share the plot about an aspiring dragon who was having to disguise herself as a boy in order to proceed in her quest for power. 

 "Sounds like a book about girl power," I said.

"No it isn't," he assured me, as if he wouldn't be caught dead reading a book about 'girl power.'"  He allowed me to look at the summary on the back cover.

"Yep," I nodded.  "Definitely about girl power.  Is it any good?"  His response was affirmative.

"Sounds like something I need to read," I said, reaching for a pen to write down the title.  "Eon:  Dragoneye Reborn," I wrote.  "I'll find it and get back to you when I've read it, too"

Back home, I discovered the library had a waiting list.  So I elected to listen to it on CD.  Wow!  What a mind-boggling book.  It's been "sanitized" somewhat for younger minds--good thing, considering the violence that even includes a metaphorical rape that I'm thinking most young minds would not quite grasp. It's the kind of book that I could probably revisit a dozen times and still not have all the gems it offers. In fact, I'm going to recommend that my grandson go back to it again in about five years.     And maybe again in another few years when he possibly contemplates marriage and/or entering the business world.

The greatest idea that I gained from the book didn't come from the author's words.  Her words sparked my thinking to generate a profound spiritual principle that about jolted me out of my shoes!  Here it is in my own words:

EVIL DOES NOT WANT US DEAD.  IT WANTS US HELPLESS SO IT CAN USE US!  WHEN IT CAN NO LONGER USE US, EVIL IS DEFEATED.  IT CAN GO ON TO CONQUER OTHERS, BUT CANNOT HAVE A VICTORY OVER OUR SOULS.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:42 PM CST
Sun 02/19/2012
My Calling
Topic: Making Decisions

My divine calling is to stand up for what I believe.  As I understand it, this is the divine calling for everyone.  This is what requires me to sometimes sacrifice my time or money.   That's what I was taught, ironically in the Southern Baptist Convention, which ultimately became what I was required to stand against.  They taught me!!

Even when it went against what an institution insisted was "God's will" for me--controlling what I say--the calling, as I understood it, was one that I had to exercise.

Another vital belief--the priesthood of every believer--mixed with it to make my difficult decision to leave the work I loved, the work into which I had poured my very soul, knowing that somehow my true soul would survive.

The pain of being a "living sacrifice" sometimes continues.  I still miss old friends I lost when I stayed true to the calling that ranked higher than going somewhere far away in service to God and humanity. 

This week, my 9-year-old granddaughter couldn't sleep, so I got out the old photo albums of her dad's growing up years in the strange land where she has never been (but someday will likely go to visit with him).  Some of those pictures, as always, tug at my heart when I see the smiling faces of people with whom I'd shared so much, people I no longer would even recognize nor be able to relate with the deepest integrity I once did.

My granddaughter asked:  "Why did you ever go to Africa in the first place?"  I was able to put it in simple, 9-year-old terms.  And I think I successfully communicated what she could understand.  Someday, when the time is right, she will understand just as well what brought us home. 

A chunk of my life was cut out in 1988.  The cutting really began in 1986, when my co-workers abandoned their own calling and betrayed a lot more people than just my family and I!  In it's place, within me, is something amazing that could not have been sewn into the fabric of my soul had I remained "comfortable" with the patriarchs replacing God for me.  It includes friends--some of you I've known for longer than I ever knew my missionary co-workers.  It's new friends I would never have found, for I would not likely have ended up in this place, where new friends often receive my entire story and affirm it.

Nor would I have come full circle, arriving "at home" within a circle of Quakers today.  Maybe I was kidnapped before birth.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:33 AM CST
Updated: Mon 11/19/2012 10:44 AM CST
Sat 02/18/2012
Is it a Personnel or Public Problem?
Topic: Power

There's a front page debate going on here in Lawrence, KS right now.  Two unidentified policemen are being investigated for fixing tickets in exchange for tickets to sporting events. 

 Very interesting because the people whose tickets were fixed have been convicted.  Seems no doubt, therefore, that a crime was committed.  

Yet the Police Dept. considers this a "personnel" matter that allows them to protect the identity of the professionals under investigation.

 It raises the question, once again, as to how we can justify protecting people who have a fiduciary duty to not mis-use their power for their own good.

If you've studied this site on collusion (www.takecourage.org) , I think you know what I think.  What about you?


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:02 AM CST
Updated: Mon 11/19/2012 10:38 AM CST
Thu 02/02/2012
Letter to Lawrence Journal World Regarding a Good Decision

I believe it's much more important, whenever possible, to give affirmation for good decisions that an institute makes than to berate them for the bad.

It's just like giving positive reenforcement to children.  Problem is that it seems to often be more difficult to find good decisions to honor in institutions than it is in children.

Yesterday, a local front page story (not easily available online) was that the University of Kansas has just adopted a written policy that any child abuse that is known to have occurred on campus will be reported to appropriate law enforcement officers immediately.  The article explained that this came in the aftermath of the Penn State problems. 

Except for it seeming like something that should have been done decades ago, there was nothing alarming about the article.  It certainly is a good step forward.  

Wanting to strike while the iron was hot on this one, I took time to send a letter to the journalist who has since past it on to the editorial dept. 

Here are my comments:

 "  As Chancellor Gray-Little says, we do have a moral obligation to protect members of our community. In my opinion, ALL adults should be mandatory reporters!   I am grateful that KU has now spelled out the requirement to report child sexual abuse.  Not only does this protect the children.  It protects the University.  Furthermore, it should insure that a person who reports a colleague will not be in danger of being punished by the system for doing so. 

 As a writer, the problems of institutional collusion have been a major concern of mine since I had a horrible first-hand experience of career loss myself, decades ago, because I refused to be silent when a colleague was abusing adolescent girls.  In that case, the institution was more interested in protecting itself from exposure than in protecting the young people who were victimized!  Since then, I've heard from many victims of professional sexual misconduct.  Sadly, collusion is still more the norm than the exception.
Unfortunately, the abuse of minors is just the tip of the iceberg so far as universities are involved.  We still need a lot of public education, as well as increased training of faculty members and students, so that everyone understands that young people don't stop being vulnerable at age 18 to educator abuse.  Because of the power imbalance, there is no such thing as "consensual sex" in a relationship between a faculty member and a student.  It is always an ethical violation of the one in power, regardless of the circumstances.  The laws to protect young adult students from abuse by professionals are not as strong as for minors; but the moral obligation to intervene and to support the victim, while protecting others from harm, should be of equal concern to all. 
S.E.S.A.M.E. (see http://www.sesamenet.org )  describes educator abuse, regardless of the age of the student, as 'behavior that is psychologically equivalent to incest.'  " 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 6:08 PM CST
Tue 01/31/2012
Giving Up Before Starting
Topic: coping

"If I had to live life like that, I'd just have them give me a big pill and be done with it."  The man was speaking to my husband in the locker room of a sports club, where they'd just finished a water yoga class. 

Ron wasn't insulted, just shocked.  Amazing to think how often we may all give up on the possibility of coping with something that we think would be impossible--even long before we encounter it.  We imagine the worst and play the scene with all the awful things that may be entailed in a situation.

"Oh, but I'm enjoying life in so many ways!"  Ron responded immediately.  Then, came home to marvel at this guy's reaction.   It made me think that, in all likelihood, this is how a lot of people see life in a chair.  Perhaps this is why eyes are averted and people are ignored or the passerby talks to me, as if I'm the only one who has a life or an opinion.  This is something we adjusting to, something we are coming to understand, leading us to find new ways of communicating with others.

This very much relates to how often we can, if feeling powerless, pass by the opportunities that we have to speak in a poignant and polite manner to people of more power and/or people who are closed-minded about a matter that we have come to understand through experience, giving them opportunity to see things in a little different way.  Think you can't do it.  Well, maybe you CAN.  Never know until you try.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:27 PM CST
Mon 01/30/2012
Welcoming the Unexpected
Topic: spirituality

Yesterday, an hour before lunchtime, I got a call from my son.  Did we have any plans for the day?  Nothing really, I assured him.  Suddenly we had wonderful plans.  They decided on the spur of the moment to come our way.  Just as quickly, I figured out that the frig happened to have just enough for 4 adults and 2 granddaughters.

Here they came an hour later, toting three doll cribs filled with baby dolls.  Oh, what joy! 

It's the sudden things that can so lighten our hearts--those things we don't plan which seem to crop up because of the foundations we've laid.  They bring hope for the future and energize us all.  They inspire us to continue the day-to-day mundane tasks whose importance we may even question at the time.  

Rest assured, whether we are speaking to power or simply nurturing others so that they may someday do so at the most unexpected moments, if we keep our focus on the future and how we can help to bring about change in our world, then we truly will have lived life to it's fullest--no matter what the unexpected may be.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:51 PM CST
Sun 01/29/2012
What Gives Me Some Optimism
Topic: Making Changes

 Near my computer, I put a Christmas card I got from my friend Amy this year.  It says:  "the Four phases of Santa:  1. You believe in Santa  2. You don't believe in Santa.  3. You are Santa.  4. You Look like Santa" 

 I'm starting to realize that we must become more like the person we want God to be if we are to self-actualize.  I like to think that, some days, I'm on the way.  Other days, I know I'm very far from it.  Still it remains an aspiration.

My faith still teaches me that institutions and cultures can change over generations if we, as individuals, each do our own part.  None of us are stagnant.  We just move at a snail's pace.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 4:45 PM CST
Sat 01/28/2012
The Problem with Stereotyping

Adolescents are known for black and white thinking.  "All adults are idiots," one might say to the other.

Adolescents aren't alone in their rigidity that allows for stereotyping. 

Through my years of listening and working with many oppressed and traumatized people, I've noticed that black and white thinking is a common way of being stuck or getting stuck.  To believe that members of a group are all the same as the ones who are oppressors or abusers is a prime example of this. 

Ben Franklin, like almost all colonists of his day, owned slaves and didn't see any problem with doing so until he happened to visit a Negro school run by Rev. William Sturgeon of Philadelphia several years before the Revolutionary War.   Sturgeon's students, Franklin noted, were just as bright as any white-skinned children he'd ever observed.  Because Franklin was a thinking person who was not afraid to entertain new ideas, he began to wrestle with his old belief system, changing his thoughts and attitudes.  Eventually, he concluded that slavery was indefensible.

Adolescents use black and white thinking because they are insecure about themselves and the world they live in.  They are afraid to trust themselves or to trust others outside of their group.  I am convinced it is the same with traumatized people who remain stuck.

Whether we are considering a culture, an institution, or an individual, my own belief in progressive divine revelation leads me to have hope--sometimes faint hope, but a definite hope--that, there are degrees of enlightenment in each of us.  Then, to go on believing that, in time, cultures, institutions, and each of us can deal with our fears and blind spots so that we can see more and more clearly.

It is this hope that keeps me sharing with others what I feel about many things, knowing that sometimes I am speaking from a vantage point of power while at other times I may, even inadvertently, be speaking to powers that I do not even know exist. 

 It is this hope that also keeps me listening.

 

 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:27 PM CST
Fri 01/27/2012
Evoking a Powerful Theology
Topic: Power

Do you ever hesitate to share something good with others you may know for fear of their theological interpretation?  Or maybe it's something really bad?

Amazing how the good always gets attributed to "God was watching out for you."  While the bad may bring comments like "You must have done something that took you out of God's graces."

Such theological interpretations serve as a hot stove to me.  I become much more careful what I say, in the same way that I move cautiously around a hot stove.

Oh, that these comments and ideas could be replaced with a powerfully simple:  "That's great!"  or "That's just not fair."


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 6:28 PM CST

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