Dee's Blog
Sun 08/03/2008
Spiritual Assault
Topic: spirituality
"Waking up is painful," Tom Doyle tells us.  "Being fully awake is liberating."  Especially when one is recovering from what he calls a "spiritual assault."

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 07/30/2008 10:00 AM CDT
Sat 08/02/2008
Forgiving Ourselves
Topic: coping

Tom Doyle says that the person he's found hardest to forgive is himself.  For keeping his own pain alive.

That raises the questions:  "How do I kill the pain that comes to all, from not living in 'paradise' or from, psychologically, 'living in the paradise of denial' without medicating it or acting compulsively?"

"How do I accept pain as a part of life and realize that it doesn't really have to be totally annihilated?"

"How do I learn to use the pain as a warning sign?"

"How do I not allow dysfunctional pain--which physiologically comes from an old injury that really makes the pain useless and senseless today--to take over my life?"  Perhaps that means finding a way to "cut the nerve," which is a method used by neurologists in some situation.  The problem is that cutting a nerve leaves some section numb, so that it cannot feel some pleasant sensations, as well. 

I think the answers to these questions are as many as the people in this world.  We do not stop pain until we no longer are drawing oxygen into our lungs.  We learn to manage it.  In a world where everyone we meet is struggling with invisible pain over some issue. 

When I look at it like that, I realize just how complicated "bearing one another's burdens" can be.  As complicated as bearing our own!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 07/31/2008
No Longer Blind
Topic: music

Yesterday afternoon I taught a second-grade boy to play "Amazing Grace."  Not in the way he had it in his head exactly, from growing up hearing it at church.  For often, with familiar tunes, we've heard them butchered in everyday life to the point that we memorize slightly impaired rhythms.  This hymn, like so many songs, only comes alive, musically, when the musician looks at the music on paper and really studies it.  For those of you who are musicians, you'll understand why I told Adam that I want to hear those "nice, crisp eighth notes."  In just a few minutes, we were both smiling at the beauty produced by this little child.

If we are half asleep--and that's what religion often does when it teaches us to "trust" what we "know" without questioning--we automatically assume that people who act inappropriately or say inappropriate things, yet wear a title (or a collar), deserve our awe and respect automatically.

In a world where children do not stay close to the home fires for as long as they did in previous generations, they must learn very early the lessons of not trusting automatically.  I wish it were as easy as it is with piano, to know that we have succeeded in teaching them all of the important rules.  So they can enjoy the music of life with the confidence that they are precisely making the right decisions, at just the right time.

Music is complicated, when analyzed.  So is life, though the latter is a lot trickier and filled with more dangers than messing up the music.  We don't want to over-analyze either music nor life, however--even when we feel that our failure to do so at some point has taken us to places, psychologically and spiritually, that we did not intend to go. 

Perhaps the trick is learning that it's okay to sometimes risk going places we did not intend to be.  While forgiving ourselves for the "wrong notes" we've played.  After all, isn't that where little children often learn best? 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 07/30/2008
Giving Up Childhood
Topic: Making Changes

In talking about the culture of the priesthood, Doyle stated (regarding people who believe the myths that create the aura):  "They do not want to give up their childhood." 

The same could be said about all of us at times.  I would prefer to live in idealism.  Or in the other ditch, where I see monsters in everything and try to figure out how to avoid them.  It's just too complicated to think that I have to be responsible while constantly sorting out what I need to do in order to act responsibly. 

In a sense, we have to be "like little children," as Jesus spoke of.  Living with enough faith to keep pressing on to higher things, with a sense of wonder at what is new.  Welcoming the new into our lives and having the courage to keep exploring.

All while having the wisdom to trust ourselves to find the resources that we need, within ourselves or in our world, to make decisions in a responsible way.  I believe that's the recipe for living in faith, peace, and joy.  As a growing piece of creation.  Regardless of our age.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Tue 07/29/2008
Tolerance--the Other Side of the Church Challenge
Topic: spirituality

I'm sure you heard about the horror in Knoxville on Sunday.  When a deranged man entered a Universalist Unitarian church with about 200 people and opened fire! 

It's still under investigation, of course.  Yet I heard this morning that this guy had a low tolerance for people who have a high tolerance for those of other beliefs.  Ironic, isn't it? 

Raises the question of how we can be tolerant and manage to keep the dangerous people or very immature ones from taking over. 

To kick out all of the people who act like children, we'd all probably have to exit the church at times.  And those who are in the most need would be so persistently like children that there would be no possibility of them coming at all.

Church, like life, can be very messy.  For it's just a cross-section of society if we do act in tolerance.

Problem comes, as I see it, when we do not expect the professionals and elected leaders to be adults with very hgh standards.  With clear boundaries in many areas.  It's a monumental challenge.

At SNAP, Thomas Doyle reminded us that we do no need to have all the answers if we are comfortable within ourselves.  That pertains to all areas of violence in church, no matter how uncomfortable we are about what we've witnessed--personally, as well as on national news.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 07/28/2008
Growing Up Means Thinking for Yourself
Topic: Power

The way things are set up in the current institutional church, there is often a sense of an earthly kingdom.  Not in all congregations, though.  Some pastors seem to set it up so that they are the playmates, rather than the leaders, of their flock.  No boundaries to speak of.  "Just have a good time."  That's one ditch that can be as deep, in these modern times, as the one that brings me to the other side of the road today.

In traditional ways of doing church, it is a kingdom.  Not a heavenly Kingdom, though, where there would be no kings.  I'm not sure we've gotten a clear picture of what the Kingdom that Jesus was describing would even be like.  I see it as a group where everyone is a grown-up and the leaders just make some suggestions and play roles.   More like when our adult children come into the kitchen with Ron and I and help get things back in order.  "You want to wash while I put the food away?"  Everyone just figures things out and takes a role as we concentrate on conversation that, hopefully, is on a higher plane than maintaining the kitchen. 

Now, when the grandchildren "help"--and the older ones do at times--that's a different scene.  We expect to give them more direction, for we are teaching them how to be adults.

The problem with our thinking about church is that we don't see it as a community of adults who work together.   Maybe that's because so many adults act like children.  Or leave when they grow up because they get sick of the "children" who are over-grown in size. 

We may see it as if we are all children--except for the Almighty leader, who might himself prefer that we see it that way.  He (occasionally she) is the only "adult."  He gets to veto all of our ideas or uses a delegation to help him decide whether to veto or not.

If that's been your idea of how church operates.  If it's still how your church operates, get out!!  Immediately!  You are likely an adult if you are reading this column, and it's time you and everyone else recognizes that. 

Those who want you to stay on a child's level do not deserve to have a relationship with you.  They definitely do not deserve to have power over you.  They will, however, as long as you either act like a child or allow others to do so.   We all have a right to expect others to act like adults, and sometimes the only way to deal with immaturity is to simply cut off a relationship entirely. Or to cut down on the intensity or frequency of interaction.

It's painful to wake up.  It's painful to grow up.  Yet it's what we are all called to do.  And that will change everything!!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 07/24/2008 1:06 PM CDT
Sun 07/27/2008
Waking Up Means Growing Up

Thomas Doyle reminds us that when we are spiritually assaulted, it is painful.  Yet spiritual assault also wakes us up.  Of course, this is true unless we choose to immediately go back to sleep and fail to acknowledge that we've been assaulted. 

It takes time to wake up from deep sleep.  Especially the deep sleep that occurs when one is just going through the motions of religion, blindly following people who may be in deep sleep themselves!

As Thomas seems to see things now--and he's quick to say that nobody else has to see it the way he does--the "spirituality" that is held by priests (and those who follow blindly) needs to go.  People need to wake up.  Or grow up.  It's one and the same.

Problem is that people do not want to give up their childhood.  That sounds a lot like some of the words of Paul, back in New Testament days, when people were already corrupting the message of Jesus and going back to the simpler, more convenient way of spiritual immaturity. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 07/25/2008
Respect, Not Fear
Topic: spirituality

"The fear of the Lord" is a poor translation, my husband Ron explained years ago.  The word for "fear" in the original text was probably closer to "respect."

As my understanding of God has evolved over the years, it's become easier and easier to "respect God."  Or to stand in awe, which is another way of understanding "the fear of the Lord." 

I'm in awe of how the Spirit that I understand as God moves in people who are open to caring, reaching out, and doing things to make this world a better place to live.  I'm amazed at how that Spirit moves in me, when I'm open to it.  It calms me, energizes me, and gives enlightenment.   It makes me exceedingly patient with children who are learning the smallest tasks.  It challenges me to aspire to always move higher, though I often fail to do that.

When we stop fearing (in the literal understanding of that word) and stop expecting to be punished or have somebody else punished for wrong-doing, we stop expecting God to be something that God never has been.  Something that the old patriarchs dreamed up in their fantasy about a God who comes down and zaps people.  Or gets on the side of the winner in a war where there is corruption on both sides.  We stop watching our backs and stop focusing on evil as we find positive ways of addressing problems and encouraging others to do good things to efficiently stop evil.  Or dysfunction.  Or imbalances.  Or whatever you want to label the various ills of this world. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 07/24/2008
The Excommunication Problem Gets Solved

One man, well passed middle age, impressed me at SNAP.  He was one of the participants I'd last seen a dozen years ago at Linkup.  This time he was smiling and having fun telling how he got free from the cloud of fear.

It came the day the priest threatened to ex-communicate him.  To which he replied:  "Tell you what, I'll just save you the trouble.  I'm ex-communicating myself."  And so did his wife in the next breath.  By then, of course, he'd come to realize that he didn't need to maintain a cordial relationship with any priest.  Nor did he feel the need to have one around to hear his confessions. 

I joined him in the laughter and informed him that I understood fully.  For those of us who grew up Baptists, I explained, communication has never been an issue.  I realized almost immediately how funny this sounded and how true it had become in more ways than one for me! 

Of course, not having to go through any mediator to communicate with God has some definite advantages.  As long as one doesn't fear that God.  For me, that's not been an issue since I was a small child--fearing God wasn't a lesson that stuck with me very well.  Maybe that's why I've found it to be a problem in my relationships with those who DO have that fear.  And why communication seems to be a challenge for me now, especially with a lot of Baptists.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 07/24/2008 7:45 AM CDT
Wed 07/23/2008
Words from Jason Berry
Topic: Making Changes

Jason Berry is an author and change agent who has often been quoted as an authority on clergy sexual abuse.  He tells us that 1993, when abuse in Catholic circles, was featured with a 60-Minutes documentary, was the year that he sees as the hub of the movement.  That was the year that I first heard Berry speak and gained respect for his voice of authority as a journalist.

In recent years, he advised in his speech at the 2008 SNAP conference, we have reached a plateau.  The Story is no longer really news, and it's much harder to bend the ear of journalists unless one really has something new to say.  After all, old news isn't of interest to people, even if old news was never digested.  It just doesn't sell.  So it's not what drives the market.

1993 was, of course, the year that my first book mentioned on this site (How Little We Knew) was released.  In a year that was considered to also be a pivotal year, followed by a plateau that followed soon afterwards, in regard to gender issues in the institutional church.

Berry reminds us that it is always a moral requirement, even when it's not a legal requirement, for us to act as a strong voice whenever possible.  He also cautioned people to avoid trying to be a voice unless they were fully prepared to speak as effectively as possible.  To speak as people who come across as successful, sane, and strong.  This is something especially difficult for survivors.  For identifying oneself as a survivor may lend credibility in some circles, yet not in circles of power and influence.  Sad, but true.  That's why it is very important for those who speak or bring court cases to act with boldness and clarity whenever it is possible to do so.

Yet, I would add, not to feel guilty if it isn't possible, for whatever reason, to be heard. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 2:02 PM CDT

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