I’m still mad and terrified

In case anyone was wondering, even though people stop paying attention, this is still my reality. I have made contact with the diocese in which my abuser serves, and as much as I have confidence in God’s ability to read hearts, I fear that these people do not have enough experience with abuse nor with the serious amount of deception that takes place from the abuser. I can relate to Jesus in Gethsemane (mildly speaking), where he knew what was about to take place. He knew the whispered deceptions about him. Likewise, he knew the result of his actions and of being in Jerusalem. He also was terrified. I’m not sweating blood, but as scared as I am, not my will, but his be done. If Jesus was resurrected after all this…

The one thing I have is faith in God’s faithfulness. That’s all that I can cling to. It feels so fake, so phony saying it out on paper (so to speak), but, what else is there? This is what it comes down to for me. Without this faith, I have nothing to stand on. Here’s hoping my fears prove false.

Hopeful Wishes

I have tried to get in contact with the priest who was president of the college at the time, who spoke for me to the bishop, but his congregation has not responded to my request. He is also somewhere in the age of 80+ years; I do not know if that contact will end up being fruitful or not.

And amidst all this, I wish I could remember the last name of my therapist at the time. I only remember her first name, and I haven’t the courage to go through my journals in detail to see if I wrote down her last name.

Solace

I had the joy of being able to go to adoration last night for an hour. As I sat there, I thought about how we sometimes think that God is this unmovable statue; this constant being that disconnectedly overlooks the world and all that is in it. Like the gods of old, polished, shiny, intimidating, aloof. Worthy of worship and awe, but nonreciprocating.

But that’s not God at all.

I sat on the hard wood bench in the chapel, and it isn’t some disconnected god on the altar, but Jesus. It is his heart there, in the experience of ordinary broken bread. It is pulsing, breathing, breaking, bleeding. He is calling our names from that altar, each of us. He’s not just in some shiny monstrance, he’s presently calling to every person in that room. Calling us to be with him to join him. But how do we do that?

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 can come so close that he can kiss you.

Mother Teresa

I keep coming back to this because I know he is on that cross still, he is nailed there and is bleeding over all these scandals, over all the sin. His crucifixion is my experience, and that of every other person. And he is asking each one of us in our moments of pain and horror, when we are tempted to turn our backs and look away, or give into the fear and be silent,

“But do you not want to be here with me?”

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The Work Now Before Me

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

Amos 7:14-15

I have a collection of journals in my closet. Up until the last 10 or so years, I journaled to Jesus about life, the universe, and everything. While I’ve tried to continue that, it has been much more sporadic, especially since having kids.

Yet I know my history is kept up there in the closet.

I do not know if I kept the journals from my first year of theology, when the abuse happened. It’s possible that I threw them out, not wanting to have any memory of the vile grease left. But it’s possible that they are still up there.

I know I need to get a chair (being short) and reach up and take those things off that dusty shelf, and glance through them to see if the record of it exists in my own archives.

But I don’t want to.

I don’t want to reread the humiliation. The loneliness. The confusion. I don’t want to read about how I thought it was true friendship, that it was a good thing. I want to shake that girl who thought she saw kindness and tell her, ‘it’s a farce! run away while you can!’

But I can’t, and it pains me greatly to think how easy it was to trust in kindness. And it saddens me greatly that I can’t trust in kindness. Because I know firsthand how kindness can be a sinister deception. That kindness, instead of being the soil in which to bear the fruit of friendship, love, trust, and good works, is instead a puss-filled infection, breeding grounds for festering greed, self-indulgence, powerlessness. But it looks exactly like kindness.

And now it’s my job to go back into that wound; to cut open the scar and painfully prod into the flesh, searching for that poison. Searching for evidence of it, looking for how it got there and analyse what can be better done to prevent it from happening again. The wound might need to be put on display, so others also can analyse its corruption.

I don’t want to be here, remembering. I have been plucked from my life as a herdswoman and dresser of children. This is not where I would choose to be, but I know it is something I am being strongly called to do. There is still an infection, and it is crippling the church. The red, swollen skin is nearly pulsing with filth, evidence of both people’s denial and of Satan’s work.

How much further will the red, inflamed lines stretch across the body of Christ before the infection is dealt with? Who else is in the silence, who was either intimidated or told their story doesn’t matter? Their experiences are cells of poisonous bacteria, keeping the infection alive. Their story must be listened to, acknowledged, and then something must be done for the reparation of sins

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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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