Dee's Blog
Wed 09/03/2008
Begging to Differ with Gandhi
Topic: spirituality

In my own spiritual journey, I've found wisdom and comfort in the words of Gandhi.  I like much of what he says about many spiritual concepts.  Yet I'm not convinced he provides all of the answers (nor did he claim to), anymore than anyone else.  

For example, unlike Gandhi, I do not see God as ever being tyrannical, though I do see God as the most powerful spirit that moves among us to encourage persistent peace and love.  To see God as tyrannical, to me, would mean that God was the one who was supporting the physical wars of the Old Testament, even when the Israellites were on the offense and committing atrocities against their enemies--atrocities that they were convinced God had told them to commit!  While many fundamentalists see it that way, I ceased being a part of that thought back in college days.  The fundamentalists can blame my influential Christian professors back then in Oklahoma Baptist University, all men that many people eventually decided were heretics!

God, as I understand God to be now, stands firm on principles.  Allowing consequences, but not acting as a tyrant against those who do not choose to believe the Truth--Truth being the best definition of God, according to Gandhi.  On that point, as on many, many others that he has, I fully agree.   

Yet, when we step outside the bounds and try to become God or assume a characteristic that God would not--even for what we see as good causes--then WE become the tyrants.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 6:06 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 09/03/2008 6:42 AM CDT
Tue 09/02/2008
Private Matters
Topic: Power

Lots of discussion going on these days about what's supposed to private for people in power.  For me, it comes down to this:

When multiple personal matters show that an individual is likely to be over the top with stress from issues not related to the job, he or she is in no position to take on the responsibility of a powerful position that allows one to seriously effect the lives of many people, while having major stresses on the back burner.  One's health, one's family, one's personal lifestyle and habits--all of these together aren't entirely personal matters when they can ultimately effect the health and well-being of my family and many others. 

They are also not personal when one is "preaching" one set of values, such as Christianity, and showing symptoms of extreme hypocrisy.  Or showing that what one is so strictly teaching is not working.

You can take this as a political message if you wish.  It also applies to the church.  Character and morals and ethics and values do matter in both arenas.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:20 AM CDT
Mon 09/01/2008
Knowing When to Run
Topic: coping

Just heard it on NPR:  A young man from New Jersey, a bartender who is a newcomer to New Orleans, is choosing to stay and be courageous (as he sees courage) against the hurricane that's approaching Louisiana shores.  He thinks he's being brave.  Says he doesn't want to be like most Americans who run from anything that comes along.

There are some "victims" who can be blamed.  And if this guy turns out to be sorry, it IS his fault!

Well, there's a time to run.  And a time to stay.  When it comes to advocacy work, if you are doing something that you feel will take a big negative chunk out of your life, run as fast as you can.  If you feel it will add meaning to your life, even if you do not succeed in the goals you envision right now, then go for it.

Just don't stay in the midst of a hurricane--ever!!  I've been in one of the worst, running right into the path, while following all the recommendations of meteorologists back then.  It's not a pretty picture.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:25 AM CDT
Updated: Mon 09/01/2008 8:27 AM CDT
Sun 08/31/2008
No Need to Wait for Justice
Topic: coping

This week I was encouraged to look again at the 18th chapter of Luke.  It's the story of the persistent widow who continued to ask until the judge got tired of her being a pain and decided to grant her request.

How I wish that some people I know were as easily worn down as this judge!

Now, the difference in this judge and a lot of people I know is that he admitted that he didn't care about God or people either one--at least, he admitted that to himself.

It's the folks who are like the Pharisees, always running everyone else down, while claiming to love God and be so self-sacrificing and long-suffering that make me want to puke!

The passage is trying to teach us that earthly-minded judges cannot be expected to easily promote justice.  Yet God does.

Many people miss the point of this story, stopping at the idea that justice gives a person what he or she is seeking.  The deeper meaning is one that I've seldom heard taught, but here's what I believe.

We do not have to wait for justice.  We do not have to get it from ANYONE.  The most important kind of justice comes from having a pure heart.  For that's what brings peace.  And when you have peace, whatever others do or do not do really doesn't count for much.  Unless we allow it to.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 08/29/2008
Daring to Dream
Topic: spirituality

Forty years, like 7 years,  is a span of time with Biblical significance.  It's the length of time that the Israellites were free from slavery, yet wandering in the wilderness and suffering from the everyday comforts that are often missing in the desert.  All while dreaming of this unseen place where they believed those comforts could be once again afforded.

Just last night, history was made.   As many African-Americans stood crying and cheering--all in the same instant.  Crying tears of mixed sadness and joy.  Cheering for the significance of the moment.   Forty-four years after Martin Luther King, made his famous speech while daring to "see" an unseen place.

As we Americans hope to be at a much better place in our world in the years to come, so the world is hoping with us.  We know that it will take a new kind of leadership.

Yet, just because history was made last night, there is no guarantee that the nomination of a man with African roots is going to actually rise to the political level to which he aspires.  There is only hope.

Sometimes hope is all that oppressed people have.  No matter what the outcome in the election, however, nobody can take away the glory of witnessing history in the making--something that we all had opportunity to do last night.  As the pyramid of power will never look quite the same to any of us! 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:59 AM CDT
Thu 08/28/2008
A New Friend is Better than Gold!
Topic: coping

One of the greatest blessings from the SNAP conference was meeting a new friend.  A friend who will never see my face, though we have already conversed in person, face to face.

Lindy Morelli is an amazing woman, an amazing survivor, and already has a powerful passion to use her growing professional skills to help mend hearts and souls, in whatever way she can.  Somehow, using skills I cannot imagine, she is working on her doctorate, as a counselor.

Lindy will soon have her story posted on the site she manages to direct  Initially it's a story of rape by an Irish priest in Ireland).  Yet that's not the important part of the story.  It never is for those who have moved to higher ground. 

The important part is that she has managed to find resource people and the energy to overcome--not just overcome the rape, with her faith still intact and growing, but also to compensate very well for being the child of a chronically mentally-ill mother who was unable to give her many of the skills she needed to overcome what others might consider to be tragedies.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Lindy has been blind from birth!  I almost forgot. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 08/27/2008
Growth Isn't Inevitable
Topic: coping

Recently, I was reminded that crises do not insure growth.  They only insure that we have choices about how we respond and think.   Or think and respond, hopefully in that order.

If thinking and responses are out of whack and stay out of whack, growth is not inevitable with crises.  Regression is.  So I must be very careful about saying that I've grown in every way from every crisis I've experienced.  I hope I have, but there are still places I need to grow.  And probably places where I need to stop regressing. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Tue 08/26/2008
Long History of Secrecy
Topic: Power

The fact that there has been a lot of sexual abuse by priests stopped being a secret among priests in the 19th century!  In fact, in 1890 instructions were given from Rome on how to handle cases.  Because of the alarm that the mis-handlng of cases was creating.  In these thorough written instructions, it was said to be a crime even worse than murder and one that must be investigated.  Permission was given--in fact, it was expected protocol--that the "privileged communication" question was not covered by this crime.  Even back then, there was no assumption made about numbers being few.  What's more, they recognized that most of the victims were female--a fact that many of us suspect today, but it's hard to get the hard facts when so many are afraid to speak.

 All of this was presented by Patrick Wall at this year's SNAP conference.  Wall is a renouned consultant in legal proceedings that call the Church into accountability these days.  He's also a former priest, putting him in the camp with many of us who have been professionals formerly working for the institutional church in some aspect, yet unwilling to continue playing the games of collusion.

Problem was those instructions from Rome seem to have been ignored by the masses!  So much for following orders from Rome!  Maybe that's done only if it's convenient? 

As the problems grew, it seems that there was far more concern with controlling the messengers and evidence of the massive trends of cover-up.  In 1941, bishops were further instructed to destroy documents of criminals 10 years after the death of the criminal. 

By 1958 a property growing with inhabitants was shut down.  This happened because tourists discovered this island in the British Isle's that was the home of abusive priests who had been sent there to contain them. 

In 1964, a study revealed that half of the priests in treatment were there for substance abuse.  The other half for abuse of children (30%) or "affairs of the heart" (20%).  The latter, of course, were mis-labelled.  This 20% was the abuse of vulnerable adults.

And the beat goes on.  Only history will tell us if the number of adults who come forward with stories, when they are strong enough to do so, is reduced in decades to come.

What it will really be showing is whether the Church has faced it's shame and negative "pride" and replaced it with a genuine and well-earned pride that is a sign of spiritual health and courage.  For it's courage that is the hardest quality of all to muster, the one shortest in supply.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 08/25/2008
How Shame and Pride Intertwine
Topic: spirituality

Two of the most destructive elements that work against real spirituality are shame and pride.

As a kid, I often heard that my grandfather had "so much pride."  Those who said this thought it was an asset that he possessed.  Truth is it was a negative pride that is born out of shame.  He was ashamed to let people know when he or his family were in need.   Ashamed of being needy.

Real pride IS an asset.  It comes when there is integrity and a healthy self-esteem.  It produces a balance between asking for help when it is needed and having qualities that deserve recognition.  A person with real pride knows that he or she has reason to be proud.

Destructive pride is what dysfunctional families and institutions possess, and both are filled with people who hide in shame and isolation, unwilling to be honest and often lacking integrity.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sun 08/24/2008
Appealing to People Victimized in Various Ways
Topic: Making Changes

Berry encouraged us to try to connect with people who have been ripped off by church systems in other ways.  In other words,  people who have never experienced abuse nor been around those who have, may have difficulty understanding just how serious the impact on victim's lives.  The tendency may be not to identify and not to see that the entire congregation is, in one sense, a victim.

Yet those who have had their schools closed, either from abuse or from embezzlement, may feel ripped off and more willing to join in calling leaders into an accountability about many things.  They may be more willing to see abuse as not "just an error in judgment," but a matter of gross immorality that cuts to the hearts of those who have been victimized. 

Persuading people to talk will be a lot easier as we build bridges with a wider group of people.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT

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