Dee's Blog
Mon 08/18/2008
Too Healthy?
Topic: coping

"You are too healthy for the world."  That was the assessment given by Eugene Kennedy, a psyhologist and former priest who first disocvered problems in the priesthood way back in the1970's.  He was speaking to the national conference of SNAP when he said this.  It's obvious that Kennedy fits in that category of "too healthy" folks himself.

Most people do not have the privilege of seeing the transformation of people who have been transformed from the depths of suffering to the mountaintop of the "upper room" where people "wash one another's feet,"  he went on to say.  People back away from those who have been transformed by suffering because the anxiety of witnessing this is just too high.

Especially those who are in a position to exercise authority and are uneasy about doing so.  He was speaking, of course, about the people in power in the institutional church.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sun 08/17/2008
So Much for Average
Topic: Making Decisions

The day I brought home my first C, my father looked like he'd been hit in the face with a wet dishrag soaked in buttermilk!  I'd been telling him that I was struggling in math that year. Only when he saw the C did it register, I suppose.

I was rather happy to have the C, considering with how hard I'd been struggling.   And I told him so.  

Dad didn't punish me--at least not visibly.  Yet the look on his face was plenty of punishment.  I'd never seen him so devastated about anything I'd ever done. 

Perhaps he was revisiting his own youth.  After all, he'd been a high school dropout, having quit school to join the service.  Then, following World War II, he redeemed himself by getting into college on probation and managing to make the honor roll at times before graduating and going on to seminary.  I'm sure he was thinking that he didn't want his daughter to struggle as he'd done.  Like many parents, he and my mother had an inflated opinion about their firstborn daughter in those formative years.  I'd just burst my father's bubble, no doubt, and brought him down to reality. 

It wasn't my last C, but Dad learned to accept others when they occasionally made a dent in my otherwise above-average grades. 

In addition to his look, I remember his words more than any words I ever heard him speak!  That's just how big an impact that experience made on me.  So large that I'm certain I've internalized the feelings of that moment; and they continue to work in me, sometimes for good and sometimes not so good.

"Average!!  Don't ever be content with being average," he said.  "Average doesn't usually get much done that's important."

While I am definitely content to be average in many things, and even below average in some, if it's something that I think really matters, I do my best to remember my father's challenge.  The world is full of people who don't try to be above average in much of anything, and that keeps the world revolving.  It all depends on whether we want to revolve or evolve, as I see it.  I prefer the latter.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 08/20/2008 7:45 PM CDT
Sat 08/16/2008
Having Faith in the Next Generation
Topic: Making Changes

Sixteen years ago, I met Jeannie Miller, founder of Linkup. This is an organization that only has a few people still using the name.  Yet the spirit of this rather short-lived activist organization lives on.  The spirit that was concerned about making changes in the faith community, but emphasizing the need to make changes in ourselves as the paramount concern.

The organization's leadership was willing to challenge survivors of abuse by clergy to not look to the Church with great expectations, though it challenged the Church to look at itself.  Today a small fragment of this group meets every week in Chicago, I learned reacquainted myself with some of them at SNAP.

It's such hard work to have faith in future generations and to trust the tedious process of change when making paradigm shifts.  That's what Jeannie told the national meeting of Linkup, however, back in 1992.  She said that we had to learn to trust the process--not the process of doing church, but the process of change that takes generations.  She even said we have to learn to enjoy the process--that's even harder for those of us who want to look beyond the standards that seem to satisfy most people.  Not because we believe we are better than others, but because we believe that we can all be better and more mature if we refuse to be satisfied with the status quo.

I've seen many people come and go in this work.  It seems to me that only those of us trust the process end up staying on. 

We believe in the next generation.  Or, at least,  we hope they will carry on in making progress.  And so we encourage the younger folks, empowering them and recruiting them in every way that we can.  As we dare to look into "the Promised Land," as Martin Luther King understood it.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 08/14/2008
Promised Land Isn't Necessarily "in the sweet by and by"

As a kid, one of the most sing-able hymns we sang was "I am Bound for the Promised Land."  My little voice could be heard sometimes above all of the adults.  Especially when we got to the part where people shouted "Hallelujah."

As a kid, I saw "the Promised Land" as being literally Heaven.  Not anymore.  I believe it is here and now.  We get there by moving forward or resisting the temptation to go backwards.  We can be in it one day and not the next; but with practice, we dwell in the Promised Land and create it in our homes more and more often. 

We only experience it when we are at peace.  Not because we live in a perfect world, but because we have a sense of peace in spite of the imperfect world.  That's a state of spiritual health that comes when we get in touch with the divine power that is available in each of us.  And through our relationships as we connect with other people when they are also truly in a state of peace. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Tue 08/12/2008
More on Liberation
Topic: spirituality

Without really digressing from the SNAP conference, I  want to continue in the line of thinking that Tom Doyle left with us.  About liberation.  Yet going to another organization that I found through Catherine Clark Kroeger and advocate and writer who is working hard to address the problems of domestic abuse in the Christian community.

Kroeger has been instrumental in establishing Peace and Safety in the Christian Home   The organization has a wonderful newsletter that I recently began receiving.  The title of the front page of article of  June/July 2008 issue is "Free Indeed."  It's Part 3 of a series, written by Joanna Barr.  Based on Exodus 7:14-10. 

Barr points out that Pharaoh's promises, interspersed with the 9 plagues in Egypt, illustrate well the cycle of abuse.  Because of the persistence and divine power exhibited by the plagues, the abuser was only able to be successful to an extent.  Yet each time there was resistance, he made promises of letting his victims go.  Only to abandon those promises as soon as there was relief from the pressure.

You may believe in the story literally, viewing God as one who uses violence to confront violence.  I saw it that way for many years.  Today I see the story as a metaphor with great meaning.  Either way it holds a message about where a loving God stands.  It's on the side of liberation. 

Psychologically, I do not have to plead with anyone to let me go.  If I am entrapped psychologically by anyone, I am the Pharaoh that is not letting myself be free of the one or the institution that is entrapping me.  Keeping me from being the person that I now understand God intends for me to be.  A person who has truly been liberated.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 08/11/2008
The Craziness of Automatic Respect

Automatically respecting someone for their credentials or title or office, according to Doyle, is "like accepting an unfaithful wife.  It's crazy to do that!"

The benefits of losing respect, by contrast, is serenity and the ability to communicate with really healthy people.  That's how I see it.

Losing respect for the familiar can be very scary, though.   We have to find healthy people to replace the ones  for whom we've lost respect.  That takes time and patience.  It takes faith to believe that you are going to find them, while you sit in the void that's created by loss of respect.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sun 08/10/2008
New Definition of Prayer
Topic: spirituality

You may not agree.  Or you may think that this is only partially true. 

Tom Doyle, however, suggests that prayer is sitting still and quiwetly until the negative goes away. 

However you see prayer, if you use that definition, it's an exercise we dare not neglect.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sat 08/09/2008
Learning to Embrace Many Dissenters in our World
Topic: Making Changes

In the free world, we like to think that we welcome new ideas and challenges.  To the extent that we do, there is a better chance of progress.  Not that all new ideas are good ideas--many are not.

Thinking people do not immediately throw out new ideas.  Neither are healthy people are not threatened by new ideas.  

Thinking people are also more willing to pay the price of being a dissenter.  Standing up to evil when it's obvious that evil exists. 

Not through jaded ideas that make us see everything that's different or odd as evil.  And not through seeing everything that's "normal" or ordinarily expected as good.  That would be black and white thinking. 

Thinking people act in good timing.  Taking time to examine new ideas, but not too much time.  Taking time to decide when being a dissenter is a good idea and when it is not.  And going through that process EVERY time a new idea is encountered.

It's work!!  Work worth doing.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 08/06/2008 7:07 PM CDT
Thu 08/07/2008
Worshipping Other Images
Topic: spirituality

The depth of Thomas Doyle's address just continues to unfold as I meditate on what he said in a few moments in the final address at SNAP.  One expansion to my thinking about "worshipping graven images" came when he suggested that we fail to arrive at a place of liberation when we worship someone else's image of God rather than our own.

In man-made religions, that's exactly what happens.  We give our allegiance to others' images of God, we fail to develop our own ability to discern who God is on our own--something that I believe any mature person is capable of doing by filtering out what obviously doesn't contribute to spiritual health.  Obvious to those with common sense, anyway.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 08/06/2008
Advocates Must Sort Out Feelings to be Effective
Topic: Making Changes

Guilt, depression, and anger aren't just stuff for emotionally unstable persons.  Yet the "Christian" way of seeing these feelings often leads us to view them as bad.

Doyle reminded us at this year's SNAP conference that guilt, depression, and anger are a part of the journey of an advocate, too.  Feelings he's experienced many times as he's been a trail  blazer in the Catholic Church.

While the system may want us to see that being docile and obedient, not challenging the aristocracy, keeping the rules are all qualities to be regarded highly, people who transcend the system look at it differently. 

Transcendence allows us to sort out the mandates of the system and to examine our own rules that may be formed because of the system.  Or perhaps formed because of our own emotional instability.  Either way, the sorting out allows us to develop a healthy sense of guilt, to be temporarily depressed over things as we are sorting them out (without developing a clinical depression) and to get angry at a level that is appropriate to the situation at hand. 

When we bring the negative feelings into check, the impact of the changes that follow can be profound.  Not just the impact on others.  Mostly, the impact on ourselves.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 08/06/2008 7:03 PM CDT

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