Dee's Blog
www.takecourage.org
Fri 12/12/2014
Hijacked Religion
Topic: Christmas
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Novel Peace Prize, is turning the world upside down with her youthful courage and commitment to speaking the truth!  If you've not read her autobiography, written with the assistance of Christine Lamb, put it on your "must read' list.  The title is 

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.

The young author speaks often about how the Taliban has hijacked the faith that inspires her to keep going.  She insists that the Taliban is doing the opposite of what traditional Islam promotes.  Malala is very angry at what this hijacking has done to her culture. Yet she is determined that it will not destroy her, even if it takes her life.

I'm angry, too, anytime religion gets hijacked so that it is used to promote violence.  If I could sit down with Malala, I would tell her that it's not just Islam that gets hijacked.  In fact, Christianity has suffered the same fate throughout its history.  Jesus' message was about change that leads to peace.  It was about shining light into the darkness.  The Old Testament was filled with stories showing how people believed that God condoned violence, how God was on the side of certain people and not others.  

Today, far too many people who espouse Christianity do not understand that Jesus would not have agreed with those teachings at all.  People often end up suffering for what they believe, as Jesus did. After all, the world doesn't have much use for radicals who stand for peace.  However, suffering alone does not necessarily make us better people or more devout followers.  Sufering actually leads many people into hate and bitterness, just as it did with guerrilla warfare during the American Civil War.

When people use any religion based on love to promote hate, whether it is ethnic or class warfare, homophobia, or gender inequality, you can be sure that these are not the true followers of  that religion at all.  They are hijackers, trying to take the world in the opposite direction from where it needs to go.

Rather than throwing out the Baby Jesus with the bathwater of corruption and distortion that is making "Jesus" only a four-letter word to so many, it's time we clarified the true message: 

Peace on earth! Good will to humanity the world over!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:18 PM CST
Wed 12/19/2012
Finding Focus in Spite of it All
Topic: Christmas

Days before the shock of last Friday's school shooting, I was already writing about the darkness of Christmas.

Suddenly, Christmas, 2012, was shattered for us all by a young man whom nobody would have predicted to be capable of making a name for himself, in such a way, on the last day of his life!  A young man who must have felt immensely powerless until something snapped.

For Ron and I, we had just finished a quiet, elegant meal with dear friends, at our own dining table.  Conversation suddenly halted when Ron picked up the news from the radio, turned down low, in another part of the house. 

This makes us stop and think about our own children and grandchildren.  It forces us to re-visit discussions that have kept us in gridlock on gun control.  They are age-old questions about freedom and rights--the same philosophical questions that surround so many other issues that divide our nation today.

If we are honest, the tragedy makes us also stop and think about the blend of darkness and light in ourselves and all of the people who cross our paths.  We are confused.  We are puzzled.  We are troubled.  None of which makes Christmas seem like Christmas.

Seems to me the only thing left for most of us is to search our own souls, so we do not lose sight of "whatsoever is good....." For only by keeping our eyes on things that "have virtue and are worthy of true praise" can we most contribute to the changes needed in our world, especially in the United States.  I'm talking about limits on people who, for whatever reason, seem to live on another planet where Christmas cannot be found.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:26 AM CST
Updated: Wed 12/19/2012 10:30 AM 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
Thu 12/25/2008
A New Carol
Topic: Christmas

Sojourners magazine (www.sojo.net) calls it a subversive carol.  They invite us to all sing it this year.  I just sung every word.  Living it will be much harder, but I'm working on it as I'm trying to re-imagine Christmas in some new ways this year.  I think you'll know, as soon as you read the first two lines, what tune to bellow out.

May you have a very merry christmas and a peace and justice new year, as well--all year long!

Have Yourself a Peace and Justice Christmas

Have yourself a peace and justice Christmas,
Set your heart a-right.
Flee the malls and focus on Christ’s guiding light.

Have yourself a peace and justice Christmas,
Give your time a way.
Share God’s love, And serve “the least of these” today.

Here we are, as we pray for peace,
We’ll live simply and give more.
We care for those far and near to us,
Which brings cheer to us, once more.

God brings down
The haughty from high places,
And lifts up the low.
God cares for the hungry and the humble, so –
Forget the stress and let the peace and justice flow!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Wed 12/24/2008
Time to Connect
Topic: Christmas

Many victims of violence say that they feel disconnected from the world, as if they no longer belong.  Christmas offers us a time to connect in some ways we may have forgotten, through meaningful traditions that have not been ruined by the actions of others.

May you focus this week on the ways that remain and the people who are still strong in your life, rather the ones who may have brought sorrow or, through their actions, have robbed you of a sense of well-being.

More importantly, may we all find ways to connect and be compassionate toward those whom we may have harmed.  Especially those that we have unknowingly harmed through omissions.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Fri 12/19/2008

Topic: Christmas
This story came in No. 6 for TIME magazine's list of under-reported stories in 2008.  Just behind several stories of international atrocities or major goof's!  The Southern Baptist Convention may not be as thrilled to see it as I am--chances are it will find a way not to notice that they made the list because of the data-base rejection instead of the Convention's pledge to somehow rid itself of child predators.
To me, it feels like an odd gift, considering how long I've been writing about the problem of collusion, while working mostly behind the scenes, knowing that there is no real hope unless people in any system are willing to do the honest, heart work that is a pre-requisite to the reduction of denial and defensiveness. 
My contention has always been that, without an independent review board (a whole other issue that will repeatedly be rejected faster than the data-base), even the data-base would be virtually worthless.  Most Baptists still don't want to believe, as Presbyterians have recently recognized, that collusion will be profound whenver the decisions are left to those who are leaders inside the system!  That opinion just comes from nearly a lifetime of experience, living inside the system, and having experienced the power of the belief system that is impossible to penetrate.
In fact, when Christa Brown told me a couple of years ago of her plans to push this idea, I suggested that it would be a waste of time because there was no hope of getting this accomplished.  I told her she would just be setting herself up for devastating disappointment.  When the SBC decided to set up a committee to study the possibility, I feared that the renewed hope of Brown and many other survivors was just going to be dashed against the rocks of despair, as they fell further into hopelessness, under the power of the denomination. 
In a way, I was correct in that prediction--pursuing it was a "failure" so far as getting the SBC to choose safety over protection of the patriarchal power that is preserved by doing nothing.  Yet Christa's incredible hope kept her going so that she was successful in bringing about an outcome that illuminates the problem.  Even if the system seems impossible to penetrate, the outside world, at least, recognizes the problem. 
Ironically, because the press has helped to bring this story forward, churches are going to be less likely to have the opportunity to even be informed.  Some survivors will be able to go to the police, where they may find support and credibility.  Yet many more are less likely to waste their time and energy in hoping to be heard by a system that is impotent in offering real protection.  They will figure out the sad truth that the only hope for spiritual recovery may be to go elsewhere or to leave organized religion entirely and seek other sources for spiritual renewal.   The only other hope will be the small number who can somehow find a way through the legal loopholes, individually or collectively, to speak through the courts or the press.  So, ironically, the only hope of being heard will result in alienating most people within the system that has sworn to offer protection! 
Yet, with the speaking, some may see a grain of hope for change in a system so resistant and impotent?  Time will tell--both TIME magazine and the time it takes for the historic unfolding of a story that is far from finished!
So here we are, at the end of 2008, with the Good Lord once again showing a sense of humor through this Time Magazine recognition of the arrogant and naive refusal of a group that still believes that someday churches can be trusted to govern themselves in matters for which they have absolutely no expertise, a matter that doesn't just put their financial books at risk, but the far more important treasures--the hearts and souls of vulnerable people.  Along with the reputation of the Convention.
Of course, if those souls can be silenced and easily coaxed into just going away quietly, then who really cares?

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thu 12/18/2008 11:57 AM CST
Thu 12/18/2008
Charity or Compassion?
Topic: Christmas

Coming into Christmas, 2008, I find myself having new ideas this year.  Partly because of the economic turn-down.  Much more so, however, because of the Brene Brown's conference on shame resiliency.  (if you are new to this blog, more info can be found at http://brenebrown.squarespace.com/ )

Compassion comes only when we learn to neither shame, nor to blame, another person who is experiencing misfortune. 

One can extend a lot of charity without having compassion.  Jesus took the higher road.  He told the bystanders to quit throwing their stones, to quit blaming.  He looked into the eyes of people so that they could see his understanding as he extended his hand.  That extension was not one of sympathy, but of the shared humanity that He knew and felt in his heart.

Why?  Because his life was filled with a mixture of joy and sorrow, of light and darkness.  All because he dared to look at the light and darkness that fills our world.

He looked beyond his own sorrows and needs, but felt them deeply.  He knew what it was to live in poverty, and didn't consider that the worst thing in the world.  Far worse, He realized and tried to teach us, is living in shame and self-doubt.  Or feeling that life isn't worth living if we don't have all that Santa Claus makes us dream of having.

So, somehow in kindness, yet without mincing words or lowering standards, he was saying to us:  "Keep growing up and facing reality.  In so doing, you will find peace, light, and compassion for people beyond your little world--the little world that stops at the borders or shores that you recognize as important."


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thu 12/18/2008 9:02 AM CST

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