This is how scandal is ignored in the church

I have been hit hard by the recent scandals in the church. It cuts especially deep when I have experienced sexual abuse by the hands of one of the clergy, and I have experienced firsthand a bishop dismissing not only my testimony, but that of two other priests, one of them the president of the college I attended at the time. This is not an easy story to write, and I share reluctantly. You may have seen this on Twitter, but if not, here it is:

Sticking it out amidst scandals is hard. I was groomed by a deacon for sexual favours when I was a young, naive adult (~19). Not unlike the seminarians, I suspect, who were groomed by McCarrick.

This guy’s bishop was informed by the priest who helped me through it () as well as the president of the theological college I attended, but concerns were dubbed inconsequential. As I understood it, I was not the only one whom he groomed.

I thankfully had a good therapist who took my broken hand and walked me through it; bringing the problem to light was part of how she helped. It was the bishop who decided it wasn’t worth acknowledging. I remember thinking ‘My only wish is for this to never happen to anyone else’

I am a voice of the voiceless. My testimony is often discounted because I am a woman. But abuse of position, especially of trust, is -never- okay. I have a very clear view of the clergy because of this, and I have nearly zero chance of putting any on a pedestal. This is good.

‘what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Mt 26:13

Except, the apostles forgot her name.

What are the names of the other victims out there?

Who can say, because their voice has been discounted and their story generalized, like me. Like ‘the seminarians.’ Like ‘the children.’

But we are all individual people who have been violated. For every -one- who speaks, there are many more who are silent.

My hope rests continually in Jesus, who knows me and calls me by name, though he may be the only one. He knows my story. He knows the violations against me and is righteously angry and sad about them. And he still asks me to forgive, as he has done.

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

Here’s the thing: I recognise I am not a popular person. As much as I want to fight that, I also accept it.

You want to know how scandal is overlooked in the church? It is by not recognising or acknowledging the stories of those who step forward – exercised even today in sharing my own story in a public forum. Over 100 people read the tweet (thanks twitter insights) but only 4 acknowledged it. It was only when someone with influence shared the story that it gained more track. I do not begrudge this at all, but it does show where the weight of responsibility lies (sorry Darryl! ;)).

Because I’m not popular on this forum, I am ignorable. Because these people who were sexually abused by clergy members were not popular with the right people, THEY WERE IGNORABLE.

This is how scandal is ignored in the church: no one wants to hear that they are a part of the problem, but it is EVERYONE. Including my own failures. Did you respond to the popular person’s question, but ignored the nobody who looks like they have a history of PTSD? I’ve seen her. She’s on Twitter and no one responds to her (hint – it’s not me). Do you listen to the nobodies or only your friends? Now, apply this to real life situations instead of Twitter. This is how scandal happens.

How many others are out there? I am one person sharing my voice. There are many others who cannot share because being that vulnerable and being ignored has happened to them already and they don’t want to risk it again. It is painful enough that people contemplate suicide over it (or have followed through). Putting your story out there is a very risky thing.

If you believe otherwise, then you’ve not been placed in a position like this before, or not seriously enough. Apparently I’m just the one ridiculous enough to do it again for the sake of those who don’t speak (I suspect the Spirit is the one who maintains the drive in me). Listen to the nobodies – make friends with them and hear their stories (if they choose to share), as Jesus did.

No one likes putting themselves out there on social media, especially when the chance of being ignored is high.

But God has a preferential option for the poor, just as these. And so should all Christians.

The quote that has helped keep me sane over the past several years comes from Mother Teresa:

He [Jesus] has his heart opened wide to receive you. Then when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross and you will know what is happening. Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign you have come so close that he can kiss you.

If you are not in these things, you’re not that close to Jesus. He is on that cross still today, still crucified. And this is where he’s called you to be, in order to be with him.

Are you?

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The Sorting Companion to the Lord of the Rings – Part 1

There’s nothing I love more than a really good story. I have been reading the Lord of the Rings since high school. In college I ventured into the extended books (Silmarillion & Unfinished Tales) and also made a solid attempt at learning Quenya (truly fascinating). I happened to get Andy into the stories too, and he’s now more into the stories that I think I am (hello Cirdan the Shipwright, I never really knew you before!)

I have loved the Harry Potter books since reading the first one right after the third book came out in 1999. My high school friends can attest to my love of them (they often made fun of me). I did finally convince one of my friends to read them, and she also jumped onto the band wagon and we organised one of the best Hallowe’en parties I’ve ever been a part of (even still! but I also don’t get out much…) The theme, of course, was Harry Potter.

I religiously followed all the newest theories and discussions on Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron and loved the antics of their Pottercast (podcast) with Melissa Anelli and John Noe (who had a character in the books named after him!) when it started. I was totally all the alls for this series of books. (By the by, the heads of both those sites had an exclusive interview with JK Rowling in 2005. You can read it here!)

So recently I’ve been thinking about both of these, and have been wondering which House a character from Lord of the Rings would fall into and then I got wondering which house best represents each race. There were a couple surprises as I worked these out, but enter into the theory-dom of my imagination and let’s see how it works out and you can tell me whether you agree or disagree at the end. This is a two-part post, the first delving into sorting the races in Lord of the Rings, the second part will be sorting the characters.

The House of Each Race

Before I can get into individual characters, we need to acknowledge that each of the races in The Lord of the Rings have a House flair about them. It is not that all of a certain race are necessarily of that House; however, the culture they grow up and live in decidedly has this general attitude. I would say these observations are true of the races as we know them in the Lord of the Rings series, not (necessarily) in earlier or previous Ages.

Hobbits: Hufflepuff

These hobbits love their parties, they love their families, they are intensely loyal to one another. There is little doubt that hobbits have a Hufflepuff culture. While they did not deal with other races so much in this late second Age, their relationships with each other were of utmost importance. As JRR Tolkien noted at the end of his chapter, Concerning Hobbits:

All Hobbits were, in any case, clannish and reckoned up their relationships with great care. They drew long and elaborate family-trees with innumerable branches. In dealing with Hobbits it is important to remember who is related to whom, and in what degree.

Dwarves: Slytherin

Fiercely set on getting their way; the battle of 5 armies is the descriptive chapter that comes to mind for me. They so desperately wanted the riches they were willing to hole themselves up and starve in the Lonely Mountain before choosing friendship over riches. In fact, their culture reminds me very similarly of the Ferengi of Star Trek reknown. They have a rule of life that they live by, and two of their rules also seem to apply to dwarves:

18 A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.
21 Never place friendship above profit.

Just substitute ‘dwarves’ in for Ferengi and you’ve got it all right here.

The Maiar: Ravenclaw

The maiar are kind and gentle Ravenclaws, they have supranatural knowledge and remain aloof in their meddlings. They have knowledge, they prize knowledge, and they use their knowledge for power (good and ill, as we see). It is knowledge that drives their actions and for which they make their alliances.

Elves: Slytherin

Snobby and secretive, they look down upon those not of their own kind. And they shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

*coughcough* Er.

A little carried away, maybe. But it aptly describes the elves. They do not involve themselves in the war because it does not further their interest. They are reluctant to give aid apart from small tokens to help others risk their necks, and offer one representative for the task (similar to the dwarves.)

HOWEVER, I admit there is an extremely strong Ravenclaw flair within their society as well. They are extremely dedicated to the Arts and value knowledge greatly. If it wasn’t for their consistent value of saving their own skin and trying to manipulate to get what they want, they might have been sorted into the Ravenclaw house instead.

Humans (and Númenóreans): Gryffindor

Bravery runs deep in Gondor, and while the Rohirrim were for awhile overtaken by a darkness, their valour triumphed. Both these human cultures hold honour and gallantry in high esteem. Were it not for their dedication to these values, all might have been lost.

Nearly all the main characters of the Rohirrim exemplify the daring needed for the house of Gryffindor. One man defies his father to maintain the Gryffindor spirit; he dies for this cause. Another man takes up the challenge and daring defense of another people, knowing the cost for his people in doing so but weighing the alternatives, knows it is the right thing to do. And one woman who knows her gifts and talents well, will not be placed on the sidelines that these would wither away. Nay, she rightly takes her place as a warrior renown – against unfathomable odds she bravely takes up her sword and fights for the honour and for the dignity of her people – the ones she loves. I’ll admit, it was a layered choice, but she exemplifies Gryffindor throughout her story.

Two outstanding captains of Gondor exhibit qualities of bravery and daring, not to mention their leige, the king, who over and over again dedicates himself to the task of doing the right thing, often struggling to decide what the right course of action to take. They do so not out of any loyalty except to that which is right and just.

Well, what is your opinion? Do you differ in which races belong to which house? I’m curious to know!

Stay tuned for the next post – delving into characters and their houses!

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Amounts to Nothing

Dwarfed.

One of the things I struggle with is feeling the need to compare. It has often led me to the feeling of being dwarfed.

When I was younger, I had dreams of being a writer/journalist. I wrote tons of personal stories, I created a symbolic language in which to write a story when I was about 10, and I wrote nearly books and books of fan fiction. Then as I left high school, it all fell away. It ended up amounting to nothing.

I finished my Certificate in Culinary Arts. At the end interview, my chefs asked me where I was hoping to go next – into the work force (which they could potentially help with) or continue into the undergrad program. I told them I was going to go study theology. Their faces spoke volumes: she amounted to nothing.

I earned my theology degree and struggled through the growth of belief. After the degree I tried working in churches. I have only recently learned that I can’t work under supervisors (ordained or otherwise) who will not let go of their own power (especially when it’s a woman) nor seek the discernment of God in ministry, and now it looks as though my degree has amounted to nothing.

Though we had some good times…

While living in Ottawa, I tried to take a Masters theology program at the University of St. Paul. I was underwhelmed by the expectations of the program, having been more challenged in my undergrad. And then, my firstborn baby came 5 weeks earlier than expected. I asked if they would make an exception to my course load and allow me to complete some of it from home. They said no and never contacted me again. It amounted to nothing.

While still under the assumption church work would be what I finally went into, I took the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, thinking this would be a great resource for future ministry. I loved it and learned tons, but, ultimately, it has amounted to nothing.

Social media does little to help reduce the comparative game, as anyone can tell you, everyone’s an expert in theology (or whatever your specialty is). My time on social media tends to amount to nothing.

Antidote to Comparison

I am not ungrateful for where I am. Nor am I unhappy. But this struggle is real. The antidote is gratefulness. A journey of gratefulness is the ultimate cure for comparison. And a great book to help one get started on that journey is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand GiftsShe is surprisingly Catholic in her writing, and it was a joy to read and to begin acting upon her premise.

I know I’m not the only person out there who has this very same struggle, but with a different history. I am happy because I choose happiness. Nothing in this world can gain me happiness. Occasionally I feel embittered, occasionally I feel at the bottom of the barrel.

But there is joy in my life that wasn’t calculated. Meeting my husband was unexpected and wonderful. Meeting such good friends in California for the short stint I was there was to some degree unexpected, and terribly mirthful. Making family into amazing friends while in Ottawa was a great surprise and delight. Ending up having three boisterous and lovable children is a joy of our marriage. “Meeting” a few precious people through social media has also been a delight. My worth is not dependent upon my feelings, nor what I perceive other people think of me.

Even if after all the endevours of my life amount to nothing, my life is still invaluable. Who I am is more than what I think of me, or even the choices I make. And this is due to the inherent dignity I have in being human, made in the image and likeness of God.  I do forget this and instead fallaciously remind myself negatively of how I hardly compare to others around me. It is disordered thinking, because not only do I have dignity from being Created, but I have also been Redeemed. And these indelible marks on my soul are more important than anything on earth can provide me.

Comparison and the Deadly Sins

The comparison game, though. It’s a difficult one to ignore. Comparison is the love-child of envy, pride, and greed. It’s never a place one chooses to go (in my experience), it’s more like getting lost while wandering in a strange city and wondering either ‘Do I stay here until help comes?’ or ‘which is the way I get myself out of here?’ The problem is the window-shops – they all look so pretty. They draw me in to stay awhile. But their cost is too high.

It all comes down to choice. I can choose happiness. It is similar in the way that love is a choice. Feelings, though insightful, are not good determinations for how to live out life. They should never be ignored because they point to something within us, but they do not need to be what determine our actions. I can choose how I act, no matter how I feel at the time. And this actually reveals my true humanity better than just reacting. But it is hard. It is the narrow path, as is evidenced by so many people I encounter.

By no means am I great at this, but it is at least grounded in me. I am not unaware of the breadth of my ability to choose. But, sometimes, the feelings can overtake me. I just need to get up off the ground and get back on the horse, bruises and all.

I might feel like I amount to nothing sometimes, but it’s a lot of ‘nothing’ that’s here, and I actually like it quite a bit. Maybe I’m still a mustard seed, waiting for the right time to be a tall bush. I don’t know. But it is enough. 

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Uhhh, hello? Is this thing still on?

*Blows onto the keyboard, a cloud of dust billowing in front of the screen*

Welp.

It’s been a quiet year. On el-bloggo.

I’m not shocked at my lack of blogging; there have been several stresses this year that have prevented me from using le blog to its natural reach, but, it’s also felt like it’s been too long.

We had an excursion. A tropical excursion.

Hard to go wrong with ice cream on a hot day.

Constantly building sand forts and looooving it.

Riding the waves in on a floatie…for hours…

It’s name is Hawai’i

We visited the Polynesian Cultural Centre, which I found absolutely fabulous. They had a lime tree growing (with tons and tons of limes on it!) and that made the whole trip worth it. We watched a comedy routine in the area dedicated to Samoa. Also, a guy climbed a coconut tree. Watched a presentation about Aotearoa which was super amazing. For a glimpse of what we saw, check out their video.

The contention with that trip was that we took The Bus (actual name of transit system) and it was completely across the island, which amounted to about two hours of bus time each way. The kids were less than impressed. Perhaps even worse was that the bus that was supposed to come at 3:50pm did not show, and the buses only run every 40 minutes, so the kids already had their fill of boring time.

But anyway. 

We went to the Dole pineapple plantation, and that was a fun excursion. They have three activities you can do: train ride around some crops, a maze, and stroll the gardens (all, of course, costing you money). I opted out of the maze in favour of the gardens (the kids foolishly took the opposite choice, or maybe that was Andy who did…) and they both were amazing. I loved the gardens like crazy. So many beautiful flowers! Lots of luscious fruit! 

The hotel we were at was just up the road from St. Augustine-By-the-Sea. The church had a hedge growing along the side of it with these pretty little white flowers on it. I plucked one and discovered that they’re jasmine flowers! One of my most favourite scents! So I immediately shared them with the person closest, which happened to be the youngest child.

Hanauma Bay. Didn’t get to snorkel, but, it is awesome to behold.

Palm trees in the sun

We had a lovely time.

Lower Mainland

Finished off our vacation with a family reunion in Vancouver.

First Scottish drink from a Scottish chalice with the clan stamp in the bottom. Epic.

Larger than Life Jenga

Felicity told me just tonight she now has a “very best friend”…

I have thoughts thinking in my brain, but it is a long post. Perhaps on the next one I can get to some of them.

What does your vacation look like this summer?

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No Easy Task to Trust the Holy Spirit

Tonight, I’m drinking cherry whiskey mixed with coconut rum.

Yesterday, I thought that it wasn’t worth people knowing that I drank a beer before noon to actually do it.

Training Takeover

A couple weeks ago there was a Catechist training session (week long, 45 hours) for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The week prior the training start date, the whole thing got plopped on my lap to ensure its survival and execution.

If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit having such a hand in this, there is no way it would have worked out. Consequently, though, my work load went from organising childcare for participants to doing that as well as organising facilities, making and serving the lunches, running the errands, and managing the registration and budget.

There was a little of Teresa of Ávila that came out that week, who once said, “Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few!” as she nearly lost footing in a deep river on the way to visit one of her monasteries.

Trusting the Holy Spirit is no easy task. Especially when the budget portion is not solidified until the training week is finished. I’m not sure how many times in my life I’ve had moments where my attitude was, ‘Well, God, this is your doing, so you’d better figure this out,’ but this one has certainly taken the cake. It’s a weird combination of stress over the working-it-out and yet also a trust, knowing God’s hand in it meant that it was going to have success. I certainly wasn’t the cause of the success; I just managed to stay out of the way of the Spirit enough to allow the work to be done, while doing my own part.

I do feel like I witnessed miracles. Not Miracle on 34th Street or I was dying and God healed me fully type miracles. More the I never thought that would work out as smoothly as it did, God type miracles, the Wow, God, you totally changed that person’s heart about this financial need type miracle. Also, I can’t believe I caught my math error and discovered we’re not $1000 over-budget type miracles. Let me just say, I’m not a math person. I never will be.

Revenge of the Cats

Following this harrowing experience, we discovered our friends were in a very bad place, having to evict a tenant from their property who had eight bloody cats (unbeknown to them) and were desperately in need of help to clean up after this mess (oh! the smell! Ten showers won’t be enough!) so that they could acquire a property management company to take over the rentals. So Andy took a day off and we went and we scrubbed. And scrubbed. And threw things out. And washed all the darned cat hair out of the darned fridge (amongst other things). And scrubbed.

Self-portrait, a la ‘I should be watching Paw Patrol but I found the camera while my parents were cleaning’ style

Prompted by the Spirit, whose empathy and compassion know no bounds, our lives are shaped by the way we pour out ourselves for others. Not without boundaries. And not from an empty cup. Maybe we didn’t realise it, but our own cups were full enough to be able to overflow into others’ empty cups. Replenishing, giving drink, being balm. I wouldn’t have offered if God hadn’t nudged me. If I hadn’t responded, I wouldn’t have known how full my own cup was, and that, surprisingly, I could pour out for others. But, it’s no easy task.

This doesn’t mean I’ve got everything under control. Rather, there’s a wildness that runs through it all. I can’t contain the Spirit, who moves wherever she wills. To my untrained experience, it feels wild, out of control, even dangerous. But I do trust that God knows what he’s doing, even if it feels like I can’t always contain or direct it.

Neither does it mean that I am always so aware of the Spirit’s movements, or that I respond even half as well as I should. I am not a perfect vessel, and I have many cracks and breaks. I admit I’m surprised when I feel I can sense the Spirit’s movements clearly at all.

Pentecost is coming soon. An abundant outpouring of the Spirit. Fire, wild and playful, taking shape over us and inflaming us.

What wild ride is the Spirit calling you to be a part of?

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