The Realist Speaks: Marching Among the Wounded

When I see an alarming lack of empathy for those who’ve been spiritually abused, I’ve gotta be honest with you, the INFJ in me does a full-body cringe.

Lack of empathy on public display is more than a party foul or an Internet faux pas. It does damage. It sometimes triggers those of us who’ve been wounded. It rips open the scars.

Maybe it’s because many of us who’ve experienced or even witnessed spiritual abuse crave compassion in order to reconcile with the Church, in order to believe that not all Christians are heartless enough to march through a field of wounded wearing boots with cleats.

Or maybe it’s déjà vu, because one very common characteristic of abusers (spiritual or otherwise) is, in fact, a lack of empathy, which is tied closely to narcissism.

Show me your narcissism married to a lack of empathy, and I’ll show you the Most Likely to Abuse Award I’ve got waiting for you in the hall closet.

Sorry.

That was snarky. And maybe even lacking in empathy toward narcissists and those who lack empathy. (Is empathy for narcissists and the unempathetic something worth striving for? Discuss.)

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Empathy: Do you have it?

Empathy says, “I get that I can’t fully understand what you’ve been through, because it didn’t happen to me.” Empathy says, “Tell me your story, so I can learn.” Empathy says, “I’m not going to blame you for bleeding grief and anger when your soul is cut open.” Empathy says, “I’m not going to blame you for the way others have behaved toward you.” 

Empathy. Some of us have it for certain people, while at the same time lacking it for others. (I know this is true of me. Exhibit A can be found just a few paragraphs up.) And some of us have gained our capacity for empathy over time. Maybe we had to experience something for ourselves. Maybe we read a book or watched a film that changed us. Or maybe we were challenged directly by another person, confronted with our lack of empathy, and finally saw the rocky, empty chasm where our empathy should have been.

In fact, there are a lot of ways we can fill the chasm and increase our empathy over time. Most of us are still nurturing it, coaxing it to grow in our hearts every time we see it missing for an individual person or people group.

But here’s the thing about empathy: I can’t force you to have it.

And here’s the thing about spiritual abuse I hope you’ll one day understand: We almost never see it coming.

__________

Sometimes spiritual abuse hits like a drive-by shooting. We’re sitting in conversation with someone we’ve just met, and the next thing we know they are saying incredibly wounding and insensitive things that rip tender places wide open. Judging. Telling us that sharing our stories of hurt and asking for justice is whining. Blaming us for things that have been done to us. Pinning our pain on lack of Bible knowledge or worse, lack of personal faith. And sometimes these things are said with such sincerity and couched in such loving language we don’t even know how deep the bullets went until the marksman turns the corner and leaves us to bleed.

Try getting over the drive-bys.

We can tell ourselves a thousand times the person didn’t know us, means nothing to us, and that their words shouldn’t matter to us or hurt us … and yet, the words will still sting. Even the person’s potentially good intent does little to minimize the damage. Were their motives really pure? Then call it an accident and not a drive-by. More of a reckless hit-and-run. But the bottom line is the same: We didn’t chose to be hurt by the words that came toward us faster than our hard-won boundaries could be laid down.

Other times spiritual abuse creeps up like a cancer. By the time we feel the pain, it’s too late to walk away without losing a part of ourselves. Maybe we didn’t see the warning signs, because we didn’t know to look for them or because they were never revealed to us until the last possible moment. But when the cancer of spiritual manipulation and control makes itself known, cutting it out of our lives, extricating ourselves from its poison, is a battle not everybody wins. The scars can be spiritually and emotionally debilitating for a time, if not for always.

And sometimes spiritual abuse is a sucker punch, delivered at the exact moment we’re looking for the exit. We see the abuse happening to others. We know we have to get away from it. But turning for the door is precisely what puts a target on our backs and makes us vulnerable. Too many of the wounded have been vilified, humiliated and shunned by spiritual abusers precisely because they saw the abuse and chose to exit the building.

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Friends, we almost never see it coming until the damage is done.

But if you haven’t got any empathy for the spiritually wounded, I can’t force it on you.

If you can’t recognize the complexities of spiritual abuse and see that your judgement only harms hurting souls, I can’t help you.

Everything in me wants to stand in that field with the wounded and order you to lose the cleats and take your march elsewhere. Everything in me.

But I’m a realist. I know if I point out the needle-sharp barbs coming out of your shoes, you are likely to present me with a thesis on why the cleats are indispensable for this terrain. You’ll call for reinforcements. You’ll march harder and longer than before.

I know this, because it’s what I do when I’m the one wearing boots.

So, I won’t ask you to remove them. But I will invite you to sit down in this field and stay a while. Listen to our stories. Hear our hearts. Observe our scars. Don’t get hung up on our language. Don’t dismiss our pain. Enter, instead, into experiences you may never fully understand and practice believing a side of the story you may never see with your own eyes.

You might not ever chose to remove the cleats, but maybe next time you’ll tread with greater care.

_______________

Have you ever gained empathy in a particular area? What opened your heart and increased your compassion?

Because I Choose Peace | #FMF

I’ve been wanting to try out Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday blog linkup for some time now and never seem to catch it, but today was my lucky day!

The concept is simple: Write for five minutes and only five, then linkup and visit the blogger who posted immediately before you. Today’s writing prompt was the word RELEASE, and my mind immediately went to just one thing: my need to please.

Ready set go …

 

A life spent people-pleasing is a life that’s spent.

Not lived to the fullest, not fully known, not fully anything but spent.

Spent emotions, spent energy, spent eternally conflicted over an internal debate over who must be pleased today. Tomorrow. And every day after that.

An endless cycle of pleasing, an endless cycle of needing that nod. That approval. That pat on the head or the back.

I’ve confused pleasing with peace too many times, but they’ll never be the same.

Peace is free. Peace is truthful. Peace is me.

Peace is releasing my need to please.

Five Minute Friday

Want to spend five minutes writing your thoughts on RELEASE too? What does YOUR mind immediately go to?
If you don’t have a blog, feel free to spend your five minutes here in the comments section or over at Lisa’s place!

The Realist Speaks: 5 (More) Things You Should Never Say to a Victim

[TW: Abuse and Victim-Blaming]

In February of this year, author and abuse-survivor Mary DeMuth wrote a guest post for Sarah Bessey outlining 21 things that should never be said to an abuse survivor. (Hence the “more” in the title, because I don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, and the DeMuth piece is a must read.) But in the aftermath of the Leadership Journal debacle, I wanted to share a few more things I’ve been reminded of that should also never be said around or to an abuse survivor.

(Hint: You don’t always know if an abuse survivor is in the room with you. Or in your audience/congregation. Or about to drop a comment below yours after a blog post. Or standing behind you at the grocery store.)

1. “If so-and-so had touched me, I’d have told someone right away.” Sorry, friend. What you would or wouldn’t have done is not only completely irrelevant to someone else’s pain, it’s also impossible to know unless you actually faced the exact same abuser in the exact same situation. For the sake of victims you care about, it’s best to refrain from this speculative comment that only hurts.

2. “My parents raised me to stand up to people.” This is victim-blaming, disguised as a compliment to your parents. It implies that the victim’s personality or his/her parents’ parenting style is responsible for the abuse. While some “shy” kids may be targeted at times, many so-called confident kids are also abused. Consider also those who are attacked or drugged, where no mental intimidation and manipulation is even involved. Every case is unique and every victim is unique. Please don’t victim-blame.

3. “Aren’t we called to love rapists and pedophiles too?” This is an inappropriate thing to say to any victim, but it’s particularly inappropriate to say around or in front of people whose history you don’t know. Sure, we are called in Scripture to love everyone. But it must be weighed with justice (which can also be a form of love) and loving others is not your commandment to enforce, friend, when it comes to rapists and pedophiles. There may be places where you can say this and have a legitimate discussion of how the church can love such people. However, putting this on a single *individual* or throwing it out to all abuse survivors is very sketchy territory. If you believe in the Holy Spirit, give this one to the Spirit, let it go, and reserve your thoughts on this matter for appropriate venues where it can be discussed with great care.

4. “You’ll need to learn to talk about this if you want to help others.” No, actually abuse survivors don’t “need” to do anything except survive. Not every abuse survivor needs to be an advocate, and–if they chose to be one–not every battle needs to be theirs. Knowing when to step away, knowing when a conversation is only going to inflict more pain, is part of healing and setting better boundaries.

5. “But what about your abuser’s family? You’re hurting them by speaking up.” This is a tricky one. It’s never really the family’s fault, even if someone was a bit enabling (unless of course the family absolutely knew and did nothing to stop it). The bottom line is that it is the abuser who has hurt his or her family, not the victim. The victim should never carry the weight of protecting the abuser’s family from what their loved one has done. When the abuser’s deeds are brought into the light, the abuser’s family will survive in the truth, just as the victim has had to. The rest of us can work on not hurting the abuser’s family, don’t put this concern on the victim. (And if the abuser WAS the victim’s family, even more reason to keep your worry about hurting others to yourself. The victim is very aware and doesn’t need your reminder that truth can come at a price.)

I’m thankful that an unfortunate event has re-opened the conversation about sexual abuse. It’s an ugly topic, and few want to engage it. But it’s so important that we, the church, start getting this right and that good can come of what went on last week.

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What about you? If you’re a victim, what’s something you wish hadn’t been said to you or in front of you?

 

This One Time, We DID #TakeDownThatPost

TW: Child Abuse

 

It’s amazing to see people come together for a common cause. It’s amazing to see women raise their voices. It’s amazing to see their brothers—both literal and figurative—follow their lead and join their cries.

It’s amazing.

It’s even more amazing when the urgent and immediate goal, even if it’s just the tip of the iceberg, is actually reached. In a matter of just days. In fact, it’s actually easy to count the hours on this one. And that’s something.

That’s really, really something, friends.

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Earlier last week when people like Dianna AndersonEmily Maynard and Dani Kelley (among others) were already talking about the now infamous “My Easy Path from Youth Minister to Felon” (link later) post at Christianity Today International’s Leadership Journal, I was blissfully unaware.

I was getting my hair done.

Then Wednesday night Caris Adel put the original post on Facebook, without much explanation other than her frustration. And I’m glad I had the chance to read it that way, without any front-loading, without any notice of what I was about to read. Because when read it that way … it was truly jaw-droppingly bad.

Five pages of a 30-something man’s selfaggrandized sermonizing (that included throwing his wife under the bus for not “appreciating” him at home) and then a stunning revelation on the final page that this person he’d be having what he described as an “extramarital relationship” with was, in fact, a student in his youth group—hence the felon part. “You may have guessed by now” was how he put it, but the answer for many of us was no. No, we had not guessed by then. The twist in the story that would make him a felon was not actually expected to be statutory rape—not for most of us, anyway—because he’d described it so vividly as mutual and consensual and, well, equal in every way, including their guilt.

But if you’re repentant for your crime, then it is widely believed that you are able to name it. It’s widely believed that if a person understands the gravity of being a sexual offender, they will in fact mention their 100% full responsibility before a five-page essay on the topic goes public. But he did not, so Dianna Anderson had to write this response post. And then a Leadership Journal editor had to add a tiny footnote at the end to clarify for everyone that the felon actually understood he was “100% responsible.”

But, you see, an editor’s footnote didn’t cut it, when there were already five pages screaming otherwise.

So I shook Wednesday night as I got to the end of the post. And I continued to shake as I got on Twitter to see if others were thinking as I was. Becca Rose was equally as outraged and she (as well as many others) began to tweet to the editors of Leadership Journal, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Feelings from every other time I have taken on injustice in the church overwhelmed me. I saw horrible phone calls from manipulative men who talked to me like a child. I saw cold and even brutal emails or—worse, for me—I saw being completely ignored. I even saw a Facebook page with my name in the cover image alongside the word “fascist,” and people I used to love “liking” it. (True stories of justice work in the trenches, you guys.)

That’s what I saw. And I shook. And my whole body hurt. And I had to walk away.

But I also saw a dear friend. I saw my friend who, when she was 14, was forced to sign a confession of adultery. I saw her. I saw her as I knew her then. I saw her as I know her now, over 20 years later, when some of her scars have to be hidden with bracelets (or long sleeves in summer).

I thought about how much I didn’t understand what was happening to her at the time all those years ago, and I thought of how long it took me to get there, to a place of understanding. I thought about all the years I mistakenly classified what happened to her as “mutual,” because I was so young and naive, and didn’t know how to frame it any other way.

I thought about how she and I actually shared that abuser. The abuser who could perform a surgery as easily as he could preach a sermon that would make you want to stand up and shout amen. A skillful, wily, manipulative and brilliant man whose current pastor believes he is half really, really sorry and half really, really not guilty.

And I thought about how I would feel if Leadership Journal published our abuser’s grand tale of spiritual legacy and missionary work gone awry, woven with illustration after illustration from Scripture AS IF HE NEVER LEFT THE PULPIT, and that’s when I wanted to scream with rage.

__________

The next morning the Twitterverse was still abuzz, and I read the ever-audacious and bold Elizabeth Esther’s blog post demanding that damn post be taken down (let’s call it what it was), and my fear of hostility and rejection and repercussions was gone. I was WITH her, I was WITH everyone else already going at it. All I had needed was that hard push to JOIN the voices.

So this happened.


takedownthatpost1

And a few minutes later, I saw this happen.

takedownthatpost2

And I was in awe as things just got louder and louder, with the hashtag or without the hashtag, but then the next day this … yes, THIS happened.

howoldwereyou

And I think you probably know how it went from there, but if you don’t … check out what ALL OF OUR VOICES accomplished TOGETHER.

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Will Leadership Journal stop deleting legitimately critical comments next time a post goes south? I sure hope so.
Will they never again edit a man’s words after we’ve already heard the truth? I sure hope so.
Will they add a “Clergy Misconduct” and an “Abuse” tag to any future posts? I sure hope so.
Will they start getting input from sexual abuse advocates before publishing articles on sexual abuse? I sure hope so.
Will they start writing more about this whole elephant-in-the-room sexual abuse within the church thing?
This horrible, horrible thing that keeps coming into the light again and again and again? I sure hope so.

Because Leadership Journal is a magazine geared at evangelical church leaders, and if we don’t have evangelical church leaders—if we don’t have all church leaders—with us in this fight it will always be uphill. And so HOPE is what I have to do right now. Because too many other matters of injustice feel hopeless. If I look too long at the hopelessness in the battle I have been fighting for that friend of mine and for myself and the others our abuser touched I lose my mind, I really do. I curl up in a ball, because the hopelessness after years of advocacy work with no justice in sight wears thin.

But I’m not curling up in a ball today. Today is a day of hope. Today WE know that TOGETHER we moved a small mountain, and it’s okay if there’s still work to be done. Because this was good. This was really, really good, and when you have lived through how badly these things can go when you start to lose friends and family and not just a few Twitter followers then you KNOW that. You know that TODAY this is GOOD.

So thank you. Because together our voices were stronger. And I’ll always love you for that.

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Shoutouts to those whose amazing voices I felt, who I haven’t already named, like Suzannah Paul, Samantha Field, Bethany Suckrow, Micah J. Murray and his anonymous guest-blogger, and Amy Smith, not to mention my sister Deborah Beddoe, my oldest brother Nathan Barrick, my lifelong bosom friend Diana Durrill (who would have been ALL OVER THIS if she hadn’t been stuck in a car driving across country the whole time), and my OWN youth pastor husband Nate Rice (who would have beat the drum too if he hadn’t been busy banging out not one but TWO grad school term papers) and every other person who shared, liked, tweeted, re-tweeted, wrote an email or picked up a phone.

 

And to the people of #howoldwereyou (which was launched ironically from a very controversial figure among abuse survivors due to her disdain for trigger warnings, Liberty University English Professor Karen Swallow Prior): those of you have survived abuse are so very brave, and I am in awe. That is all. (Read this post for more about that.)

 

I love you guys. Let’s celebrate. Because (can you believe it?) we DID #TakeDownThatPost!

 

Because It’s Time to Take Down That Post

UPDATE: As of tonight, 9:20 PST, Leadership Journal’s Marshall Shelley and Christianity Today Int’l.’s Harold B. Smith posted a full apology for the post (note the new subtitle) and REMOVED it. You can read their apology at the former link. It’s a really, really kind one, and I’m grateful they saw the light and grateful for every person who cried out that they needed to.  You can read more about it here where Dianna Anderson, the first blogger on the scene earlier this week, sums it all up.

TW: Discussion of child abuse

Dear Leadership Journal and Christianity Today,

I’ve written to you privately already, like so many others. I’ve spoken out on Twitter about this, like so many others. And now it’s time to join others in blogging about it too. (Please see Dianna AndersonSuzannah Paul, and Elizabeth Esther, among others.*)

You let a convicted statutory rapist tell his “side” of things in a pages-long post where the victim’s youth was relegated to a side note and the word “abuse” is never mentioned. You let him discuss it as if it were a mutual, consensual affair, as if you have forgotten the influence that a 30-something youth pastor would have over a vulnerable teenage girl. Maybe you don’t know. Maybe you don’t understand how these things work. If you don’t … if you’re really that naive, I beg you to start studying cases like this. Follow the life of a teenage girl in a scenario like this as she journeys into adulthood.

“But he says it was ‘mutual,’ ” is probably your argument. And, sure, she might have thought it was “mutual” at the time too. Do you understand that’s what happens when a man with power and control sets his eyes on someone vulnerable who is NOT his for the taking?

Do you understand that even small children who are abused often believe it’s “mutual” and believe that they share the guilt and that they “wanted it”? They believe this, because their predator  skillfully convinced them that it was true. And surely you GET that it’s never the fault of a small child, right? (Please tell me you do.) So what you seem to be missing here, what’s important here is that you understand that a teenage girl, whether 13 or 17 may have the body of a woman, but she is NOT a woman, and she is NO match for a much older man, her spiritual leader, who has made her his prey.

Spare me the Lolita speech, men of Leadership Journal, because I have seen up close what this scenario does to a teenage girl.

Do you understand that as this girl grows into adulthood she will very likely be more and more horrified by what an adult spiritual leader in her life led her into? Do you understand that it’s statutory rape for a reason? Do you get that he is in jail FOR A REASON? Do you even understand what a horror it is that you let her abuser go on and on and on for pages and pages talking like this was an adult consensual affair, when she was obviously young enough that it LANDED HIM IN JAIL? Do you have any inkling of what he’s done to her and her life and her self-esteem and her sexuality and her emotional health and her spiritual health and everything about her not just for right now but most likely for years to come?

He has taken something from her, and that’s why this is a crime, and I’m not just talking about virginity. If you don’t understand this, I beg you to start listening to the people who do. I beg you to set your egos and need to defend aside and start listening to the people who do.

Did you ask her family for permission to let this predator tell it this way? Did you ask his wife (former wife?) for permission to let him tell it this way? Did you consider getting perspective on him and his sermonizing of his sin from ANYONE who is a victim here?

Did you even think about the message you are sending other youth pastors who you are supposedly “trying to warn” here? What you have actually done is you have let a predator tell any other potential predators that their attraction to students is just something they should tell someone about. You’ve made it an “accountability” issue and you even tagged it accordingly. As if it’s an attraction to an adult of the opposite sex or some minor temptation that doesn’t have the potential to destroy a young and vulnerable heart, as if someone in that position–considering committing a sex crime–doesn’t have a ticking time bomb strapped to their chest ready to take out another human being at any moment.

Any supposed warnings to other pastors out there about a scenario like this should have simply read:

“If you find yourself attracted to one of your students, get out of youth ministry ASAP and get yourself into counseling, because you are contemplating doing something against the law. You are entertaining the idea of ruining another person’s life. You are toying with the notion of doing something that makes you a sex offender. YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING A SEXUAL CRIME. Wake up and get yourself out of ministry and get yourself some help before it’s too late.”

THAT’S a warning. And if this man were truly repentant AND UNDERSTOOD THE GRAVITY OF WHAT HE’S DONE, that’s what he would have said.

We don’t need even one more sex offender preying on our kids under the guise of doing great ministry, and we certainly don’t need even one more evangelical ministry that doesn’t get it. Leadership Journal, you really should have known better, and the fact that you didn’t speaks volumes about you. It speaks volumes about why this is a problem in our churches. It speaks volumes about all the advocacy work still left to do in regard to sexual abuse. Why men like this get a pass, why men like this will get nothing more than a slap on the wrists if no one has the courage to call the cops. You’re already letting him preach a sermon–that’s exactly what it was–and he hasn’t even finished serving his time.

Please, please, for the love all things, TAKE DOWN THAT POST.

Sincerely,

Tamara Rice

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If you agree, please join me in Tweeting #TakeDownThatPost, write to Leadership Journal at LJEditor@ChristianityToday.com or share one of the many articles circulating about this right now.

*If you must see the post for yourself, I get that. Please do so by using this link, provided by reader Joseph: http://www.donotlink.com/k46. It allows you to read the post without becoming another click for them to count.

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UPDATE as of Friday, June 13, 2014:

Editors at Leadership Journal have added a new letter at the beginning of the article that basically tries to address the controversy but falls very short. This note highlights the problem of law suits in churches (no, really) and briefly mentions caring for victims of abuse before going on to make it known that they have altered the criminal’s wording. Yes, they have now put words into his mouth. For example when he used to say “we” regarding the girl, it now says “I.” This is not nearly good enough, friends. They needed him to sound more sorry, so they put words into his mouth. The whole essay was fundamentally problematic and offensive. It needs to come down. 

 

What I’m Into | May 2014

So, I sort of missed the “What I’m Into: April” linkup … by a mile. (Okay, let’s just admit I wasn’t feeling well and it was never going to happen.) And I nearly missed blogging in May altogether. But I just couldn’t let another month slip by without checking in …

ON MY KINDLE …

Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth | So, Leigh Kramer encouraged me to stick with the Divergent Series, and I’m glad I did. While I gotta say Insurgent (the middle book of the trilogy) was my favorite, I did like the unconventional plot twist in Allegiant—no spoilers in the comments!—and found myself highlighting several profound thoughts in this book on forgiveness and woundedness and other deep topics (no, for real). A taste: “Sometimes I think I have forgiven her. Sometimes I’m not certain I have. I don’t know—that’s like asking how you continue on with your life after someone dies. You just do it, and the next day you do it again.” (I know, right?)

And that’s about as far as I got, despite my intentions to read a few other books in May. It was a ridiculously light reading month, just like the last time I checked in, which I blame completely on Party of Five. (See below.)

ON SCREEN …

Party of Five, Seasons 1-4 | I have nothing to say in my defense, except that I just love this show, and while I binged the first four seasons, I plan on savoring the final two. I just love it. I love to make fun of it. I love to get mad at it. I just love the Salingers, even when I don’t love the Salingers. There’s a lot of nostalgia in it for me. I was engaged when the show first started, a newlywed in its heyday, and having babies as it was ending. So the clothes, the music, even reliving my reactions to the plot lines the second time around … it’s all a walk down memory lane and back to simpler times. But rewatching it also offers a lot of laughs. For instance, the Salingers insert … a lot of … awkward … pauses. And the Salingers repeat themselves. (A lot.)

In fact, I’ve compiled a list of lines I’m certain are in almost every episode, and I’m sharing it here just for the amusement of my fellow Party of Five fans. (I’m looking at you Andee Zomerman and Chelsea Nazarian—and also Leigh Kramer, but she’s already getting forty shout outs in this post, so who are we kidding.)

Charlie: “Not now, Claud.”

Bailey: “Where the hell is [insert missing sibling's name here]?” (To be fair, this is also Charlie’s other favorite thing to say.)

Julia: “God, Bay!”

Claudia: *lips tremble*

And honestly, it’s hard looking back now (from the year 2014) not to notice that a family cell phone (or two) in seasons 1 through 3 of Party of Five would have eliminated 70% of the subplots, but this was the 90s, guys. This was pre-smartphone era. I mean, there is actually an episode in season 2 where Bailey mentions getting “that email thing” and Charlie considers buying a cell phone but finds a beeper more useful. In another episode (season 3), Sarah discovers the joy of online chat rooms and has to explain the meaning of “ROFL” to Bailey. I mean, Party of Five contains everything sweet and endearing about the cusp of the digital age. (Like how ugly the shoes were and how you could never get a hold of people once they left the house for the day and how it’s a miracle Owen Salinger survived his childhood.)

IN MY EARS …

Okay, so all you really need to know is that I listened to a lot of Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams last month. Because I needed happy songs. And if you doubt the joy those two can put into your day, just play their duet: “Brand New” (Because you can’t beat a song that includes one of the most famous Brady Bunch lines there is, second only to “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” I mean, that quitters and winners stuff is just gold in a happy song, friends, whether Pharrell intended it to be or not.)

AMONG OTHER THINGS …

slow downMy daughter and I did not regret making this cheesecake (although I swapped out the frozen strawberry puree for fresh), and if you like delicious, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it either.

I also couldn’t get enough of flowers. No really … I took picture after picture after picture. I found so much joy in getting up close to these lovely blooms. (And in getting my iPhone camera too cooperate and focus properly for once!) Spring has never seemed more beautiful than this year. Maybe it’s living in Washington or maybe it’s just that my life is slow enough that I have time to notice. Either way, it’s been an amazing way to enter the summer.

I am also getting really into the art of drinking my coffee (or tea) slowly and at the table … or in a comfy chair with nothing on the telly. Not in a rush on my way to the shower. Or absent-mindedly while checking emails or Twitter. No. Just me. And the hot cup of delight. (Plus a kid or two needing clean socks or permission to eat Chex Mix—depending on the time of day.) It really does taste better when you slow down.

 

What I'm Into

SO, WHAT ARE YOU INTO LATELY?
Tell me all about it in the comments or linkup your blog post over at Leigh’s place!

Because She Blogs: Amy Smith

In a blog-eat-blog world, why do so many writers keep at it? I’ve been putting the spotlight on a few bloggers who are sharing their words, lives and/or passions in cyberspace, and asking why they write, what they hope to offer others, and even what gives them hope. I trust you’ll enjoy their answers as much as I haveand maybe even hop on over to their digs and take a look around.  

THIS WEEK’S “BECAUSE SHE BLOGS” SPOTLIGHT: 
WATCH KEEP

 

watch keep blog

At some point several years ago, I realized one of the most dedicated online advocates for victims of abuse in Christian environments was a beautiful Texan with a big heart named Amy Smith, known to her Twitter followers as @WatchKeep. Justice work usually comes at a cost, especially when you are seeking justice within the Church, and no one knows this better than Amy. But, still, she keeps at it. Even when many of us grow weary.

amy_smithSo, who is she? Amy Smith is a Dallas leader for SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Baylor University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Baylor University School of Nursing. She’s a Registered Nurse with—as her Twitter bio will tell you—a great man and kids too. When I announced she’d be featured here in this series, a few wonderful things were immediately said about Amy in the Twittersphere: She was called courageous and bold, a tireless fighter, and even an “amazing hero” by child protection champion Boz Tchividjian himself.

AMY’S PERSPECTIVE

Me: What made you want to start blogging?

Amy: I started my blog about four years ago really not being sure if blogging was for me and wondered if I would have anything worth blogging about. It became a place for me to post from time to time things meaningful to me or a place to post a recipe that I enjoy baking. Then, it was in the early years of my blog that I began to wrestle with the child sex abuse of boys at my former church, Prestonwood Baptist in Dallas, by my youth music minister John Langworthy.

In 2011, I became the Houston leader with the Survivors Network of Those Abused byPriests, known as SNAP, which is a volunteer self-help organization of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their supporters. I continue to be a SNAP leader today, now in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

The SNAP mission statement says:

We work to end the cycle of abuse in two ways:

    • By supporting one another in personal healing;
    • By pursuing justice and institutional change by holding individual perpetrators responsible and the church accountable.

Our most powerful tool is the light of truth. Through our stories and our actions, we can bring healing and justice to ourselves and others.

Me: What would you like to offer your readers?

Amy: Speaking up has not come without personal pain for me. My parents are extremely angry with me for exposing and reporting Langworthy’s child sex crimes and Prestonwood’s cover up of those crimes. They’ve stated repeatedly that they never want to see me or my family again. My dad even threatened that I would “pay a big price.” But I hope by speaking up for those abused and exposing the truth on my blog that I can, in some small way, give the hope of light shining in the dark places.

In deciding on a name for my blog, the words of the lullaby “All Through the Night” that played frequently while I rocked my youngest daughter, kept coming to mind:

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night;
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night.

Me: What gives you HOPE in your day-to-day life?

Amy: The promise that my Jesus loves me, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
My husband, who is my best friend and biggest supporter and our four daughters. They are my whole world.
Also, really great, strong coffee …

READ AMY AT WATCH KEEP

POWERFUL POST: One of Amy’s most powerful posts chronicles the very case of abuse mishandling that led her into activism: Prestonwood Baptist and the Cone of Silence

HER MOST RECENT POST: I Stand With SGM Victims

This post contains a collection of viral Tweets from Amy and others on May 16th, 2014, and is a fantastic testament to the activism that Amy is known for. She frequently collects information and stories many of us forget and then disperses them to challenge those who would sweep abuse under the rug, to comfort victims, and to rally for justice.