Sorry

This month’s synchroblog calls on bloggers to address the subject of handling spiritual abuse so the Christian tenets of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption are honored.

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Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another. Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid. Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence. Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness. Sorry is sometimes self-pity. But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift. 
― 
Craig SilveyJasper Jones

At first I had a very difficult time imagining what the path to restoration would look like for a religious leader who had committed spiritual abuse.

My difficulty comes from the fact that far too often spiritual abusers aren’t held accountable for their actions because they hold too much power or celebrity and the abuse is ignored and goes on without being confronted until it becomes normalized. Too often the abused are told that they are the problem and their perspective is wrong.

If the abuser is not held accountable and doesn’t take personal responsibility I can’t imagine a way that the Christian tenets of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption can be honored.

But, if the abuser is held accountable for their actions, is willing to take responsibility and is sincerely sorry for their actions and the harm they have done I believe there is a way for us to honor the Christian ideals of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption; and I believe it can be done by practicing a form of restorative justice.

In my opinion the process would need to emphasize repairing the harm caused by the abuser and would include:

  1. Creating opportunities for victims, offenders and community members to meet and discuss the abuse and its aftermath.
  2. Allowing those who were abused to participate in determining the resolution.
  3. Having offenders take steps to personally work towards repairing the harm they caused.

If this sort of process is practiced I believe that there is a way the offender could be restored to a whole, contributing member of the Christian community. However, I think we must be cautious about setting that up as the goal. I believe the goal of the process should be to seek the justice, protection and restoration of those who have been abused.

I believe that when offenders are truly sorry about their actions and the harm they have caused and are more concerned with the well-being of those who have been harmed than their own self the possibility of their redemption and restoration become real.

Sorry is the necessary sacrament, the imperative offering, the essential gift.

Be sure and check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Happy Reading: Disquiet Time

(This post is the beginning of what I hope to be an ongoing series on Grace Rules called “Happy Reading” where I write about books I recommend and why.)

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I love to read and for years I read a LOT of “Christian” books – some “Christian” fiction but mostly “Christian” non-fiction. I was always teaching at least one, usually two, women’s bible studies and leading women’s ministry so I was always in need of “new material” as I was in front of people talking a lot about the bible (which I was digging into pretty much everyday – mostly because of needing to prepare lessons and presentations – once I even memorized the whole book of Philippians for a bible study) and what it meant to live a Christian life.

When Nick came out the thing that “stuck” from ALL the bazillion minutes of time and study and prayer and teaching and reading – the thing that seemed to really matter – the thing that seemed to be the answer … was love. God loved me, God loved Nick, I was supposed to love Nick the same way that God loved me and Nick. ALL the other stuff didn’t seem that important anymore.

I did spend about a year or a little longer digging into the clobber verses and ideas and questions that came from studying those verses. I wanted to figure out what scripture really did or did not say about same sex relationships.

As I’ve mentioned before I was surprised that scripture turned out to be so vague on the subject. There just wasn’t anything ironclad in scripture to condemn a loving, committed same sex relationship … the kind of relationship that my son wanted to find with another guy.

At first it was a real shock to me to realize that I couldn’t find “the” answer in scripture that I was looking for. I cried out to God “what in the world do I do without a clear answer about this?” “who do I believe” “how do I go forward?”

Over and over again Micah 6:8 kept coming up … He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

All the questions I was asking had the word “do” in them and here was Micah 6:8 telling me what to “do” …. I started looking at the different versions … do justly, do justice, do what is right, to act justly, to act with justice, promote justice, do right judgment.

That led to me studying “justice” and how God views justice and what he perceives as justice. And there was plenty in scripture about justice and how passionate God is about justice.

In the end I realized it would be unjust for me to condemn something without sufficient evidence that it should be condemned….if there was no scripture that clearly condemned it and there was no clear evidence that it was harmful then it would be “unjust” for me to condemn it. It would be wrong and God calls me to do right, to do justice.

People often think that I became affirming because my son was gay and I loved him so much that I was willing to disregard what scripture says and go against God. To be honest with you I don’t know what would have happened if I had found evidence that same sex relationships were wrong. I know I would not have quit loving my son or quit being in a relationship with him – that was decided long before I had finished wrestling with the clobber verses. And I don’t think I would have abandoned my faith either. I love God and I love my son. No matter how it turned out I don’t think I would have had to choose between the two. BUT it didn’t even turn out to be a problem. My love for my son did not blind me, it did not make me have to twist anything to fit, my love for my son combined with my love for God sent me on the sincerest search I have ever been on and I am completely at peace with the answers I found.

These days I hardly read the bible and I don’t read very many Christian books. I still read a lot but I read mostly very good fiction which I think holds a lot of truth that God uses in my life …. but when it comes to “Christian” books I usually feel like I’ve read it before if you know what I mean and I’m still working on trying to live out the stuff in scripture that I do understand … like loving my neighbor as myself, doing justice, loving mercy and being humble before God.

Of course there are a few exceptions – sometimes something sends me running to scripture the way I sometimes need to listen to a certain song or reread a beautiful poem and sometimes a good Christian book comes along that is different enough that I want to read it in hopes that it will show me something new that I am ready to know and I try to keep my eye out for those … which leads me to the reason I started out this post in the first place…

I wanted to tell you about a “Christian” book that I just ordered, one that is being praised by some people that I respect and one I am pretty excited about reading.

It’s a book of essays from a collection of diverse writers who wrestle with the challenges that thoughtful faith provokes.

“Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels” is not your average Christian book and I hear that some of the essays might even make some people mad.

I’m excited about reading it because it sounds like it might be written by people who are sincerely searching for answers, people who have allowed themselves to really delve into how their life and scripture intersect, people who are not afraid to ask questions, or to say something doesn’t make sense or to point out the problems they have with something that scripture says.

I like that kind of honest approach to scripture and I like to listen to others who take that kind of approach.

I like what Steve Beard had to say in a review he wrote about the book:

“With nearly 50 different contributors, this isn’t an authoritative text on biblical interpretation. Instead, it is more like a funky theological jam session – no sheet music, brother riffing off of sister, guitar solos, tooting of the horns, banging of the drums, thumping of the bass – testifying about both estrangement and enduring love for the Bible.”

If you are interested in checking DisQuiet Time out there is a whole site of information here

Happy Reading!

Finding the Courage to Break the Silence

To commemorate the launch of Sarah Griffith Lund’s new book — Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church — and to participate in National Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 5-11), the October Synchroblog theme is “Mental Illness Awareness” which invites bloggers to break the silence about mental illness in their life or community.

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As a mother of a son who is gay, I am in community with a lot of LGBT people and their friends and families. Getting to know LGBT people and their friends and family members has made me highly aware of the struggles and challenges LGBT people must face. Although there have been great gains made in the acceptance of LGBT people there is still a lot of discrimination, stigma, marginalization and rejection that LGBT people have to face and LGBT youth are especially vulnerable.  Many young LGBT people face harassment, violence, stigma, rejection, and discrimination in their families, schools, workplaces, and social settings. Many times those struggles and challenges result in serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, phobias, ocd and self-injury disorders.

Research has demonstrated that LGBT youth are significantly more likely than heterosexuals to attempt to commit suicide—up to 40 percent more likely, according to some reports.  Most of the mental health issues related to these youth are directly related to the harassment, bullying, rejection and isolation they face in their daily lives from their families, peers and community (including churches).

LGBT people whose parents and/or legal guardians support them have better overall health, mental health, and self-esteem and are much less likely to be depressed, experience anxiety disorders, use illegal drugs, think about or attempt suicide.

In an effort to help other parents of LGBT kids learn how to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their kids I created a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms who have LGBT kids.

The group is a safe place for moms of LGBT kids to ask questions, share resources and support one another as they work to develop and maintain healthy relationships with their kids and try to make the world a safer place for their kids to live. The private group currently has more than 225 members and continues to grow.

Studies show LGBT kids who have a loving, supportive family and home, where they can find safety, acceptance and love, are more likely to be healthy in every way.

And I have found, when parents of LGBT kids realize they are not alone they become braver and bolder about working to change their schools, churches, workplaces and communities into safer, kinder, more loving places for LGBT people to live.

In a short time, I have seen many moms in my private Facebook group go from not wanting anyone to know their child is LGBT to starting support groups at their local church, attending Pride events as an ally, serving at their local PFLAG organization, celebrating their child’s engagement/wedding/family, starting a supportive blog or online site, sharing their story publicly, speaking out against conversion therapy and making an effort to connect with and educate other moms of LGBT kids.

I believe we see healing and growth take place at a quicker rate because in community we have the benefit of finding:

  • Collective wisdom from all different stages of the journey.
  • Borrowed motivation to help us keep trying even when things get tough.
  • People who believe in us and cheer for us.
  • Inspiration to change the status quo.
  • New ideas and perspectives we wouldn’t think of on our own.
  • Understanding and compassion from people who know our story.
  • A safe place to be a mess because we all are sometimes.
  • Courage to take some risks because we know we have people in our corner.

Being in a safe, hopeful, supportive community can give us the courage and inspiration we need to break the silence.

If anyone is interested in joining the private Facebook group, Serendipitydodah for Moms, please email Liz Dyer at lizdyer55@gmail.com for more information.

Here is a list of the other synchroblog posts:

 

Quotes Worth Repeating: Become Who You Truly Are

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“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”  - C.G. Jung

Living authentically is not stagnant: it is constantly shifting and taking on new forms. If we truly believe in living an authentic life, we must continue to learn about ourselves and be willing to challenge what we know. It is about learning to face fears and doubts, to be able to reach deep within ourselves to find out what makes our heart sing, our spirit soar. It is finding where our authentic self feels the most alive, free and unburdened — and then having the courage to live from that place.

Why are American churches still so racially segregated?

This month synchrobloggers were invited to write about “Race and Violence and Why We Need to Talk About It.

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As I thought about the questions from this month’s synchroblog theme and recent events, such as the one in Ferguson, I began to reflect on the lack of racial diversity in American churches and wondered if things might be different if our churches were more integrated.


Would we be having more and better conversations if our churches weren’t so segregated?

Would there be less racial prejudice if there was more diversity in our faith communities?

Would it help eliminate some of the violence, fear, marginalization, demonization that exists in our society if our faith communities were racially integrated?

 

On March 31, 1968, a few short days before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and spoke a phrase he had used on a number of occasions and which by now, almost 50 years later, has gained a hard proverbial ring:

“Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of America.”

According to a recent study not much has changed. The study found that churches are as racially segregated today as they have ever been in the history of our country.

Why are American churches still so racially segregated?

Why aren’t churches working harder to achieve racial diversity?

Do you think the racial segregation that exists in American churches is harmful?

Do you think we can have true racial integration in our country if we persist in remaining segregated in the worship experience on Sundays, even when we share the same religious beliefs that teach otherwise?

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Check out the other September synchroblog posts:

 

Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

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This post is part of the August synchroblog and the theme is “connection”.

When I think about connection I am reminded that significant, deep, meaningful connection with others is what I want most out of life. I think it is what most people desire. And yet there are times when we find the pursuit of connection daunting.

Brene’ Brown, who researches, writes, teaches and speaks on a range of topics, including connection, vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame says,

“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives,”

She goes on to define connection as:

“the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

In her books, Brown develops the idea that creating the kind of life giving connection that we are wired for requires empathy and then she drops this on us:

“we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.”

Boom! There’s the problem, isn’t it!?

In order to experience the kind of connection that we long for we are going to have to put ourselves out there. We are going to have to be vulnerable and take some risks. We are going to have to share our own fears and failings and fragilities.

And we can’t substitute sympathy for empathy. Sympathy isn’t a bad thing – it just doesn’t lead to the deep, meaningful connections we long for – for that we are going to need to “feel with people”.

Here’s the difference in sympathy and empathy:

Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others. 

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges, created a great animated short that uses Brene’ Brown’s commentary about empathy and how it leads to connection:

If we can learn to be vulnerable enough to risk practicing empathy we open up the potential to experience the kind of life giving, whole hearted, healing connection we long for.

Empathy is connection!

Be sure and check out these other posts for this month’s synchroblog:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada - Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer - Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm - Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy
Loveday Anyim - Why Get Connected to God when He can’t be there for Me?

Dear Me

This post is part of the June Synchroblog which asks the question “what would you tell your younger self if you could travel back in time?” So, without further ado, here you go …

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Nothing mind blowing here – in fact, I feel like I have known these things all of my life, although it took a long time for me to “really” believe them.

My younger self would probably say, “tell me something I don’t know, like where to invest my money and who to marry!”

Yet, these are the things I would share with the hopes that my younger self would “get it” a lot sooner than I did …

1) You are enough! No, seriously, you are! So stop doubting yourself and get on with being “you”! Don’t waste any more time trying to be what you think others want you to be. Be you and enjoy it! You will be loved and accepted as you are! No, not by everyone – but there will be “enough” love and acceptance. So, believe in yourself! You are smart enough – you are good enough – you are pretty enough – you are enough!

PS Other people are also enough! Let them be who they are – give them lots of space and encouragement to be themselves!

2) Take more risks! Don’t just do the things that you know you are good at … do the things that you are passionate about – the things you dream of doing. Sure, you might have a few more failures but who knows what you might succeed at … and a few failures here and there make for a good story.

3) Give up perfectionism! Being perfect is way over-rated! AND it’s impossible to achieve! You will only end up frustrating yourself and others. Lower your expectations of yourself, others, even God! Relax a little more! Breathe deep several hundred times in a day! Spend more time in the present! You really don’t want to miss a thing!

4) Think for yourself! Don’t believe anything until you have thought about it, examined it, pondered it, studied it, argued against it and finally deemed it worthy to believe! No matter who said it or endorsed it! No matter how many people believe it or how long it has been believed! No matter how many times you have heard it! Think for yourself!

5) Always! Always! Always! stand up for what you believe in … while at the same time Always! Always! Always! take into consideration that you might be wrong about what you believe! So live out what you believe with conviction but hang on to enough humility to be able to receive new information. Your beliefs will change over time and it doesn’t have to be so hard when that happens.

6) Invest $50 in the stock market every month. Eat out less – buy a few less clothes – go out one less night a month. You can do it and it will be worth it!

7) Intentionally create stillness and quiet into your life. Learn to meditate and do it regularly. Go for walks or ride a bike alone. Sit and daydream. These things will open up the creative juices inside of you like nothing else. This is how you will discover the best ideas that are living inside of you. This will be one of the most important aspects to becoming a whole, healthy, happy person. Start immediately!

8) Trust your gut! You really can know what you should do, what job to take, who to date, what to purchase etc. That doesn’t mean you have to decide quickly. Take your time and think about it, gather information – but in the end trust your gut. You will know – so trust yourself!

9) Worry less! It doesn’t help. Think about what needs to happen and make a plan and do it … but stop worrying about it.

10) More often than not LOVE is the answer! I know it sounds cliche but it is true. Love is what matters and more times than not it is what wins in the end. It’s hard to explain but trust me on this one. Don’t ever give up on love! Give it, receive it, embrace it, practice it! LOVE LOVE LOVE! LOVE ON!

Be sure and check out the other synchroblog posts!