Chantry, Hezekiah and Chloe

What more can I say, than what has already been said. Oh, except that even truth is slander if it can hurt someone. God forbid that we hurt someone in power, or that those of us in power are confronted. Instead, let us all gather round and throw rocks at those who tell the truth that wounds, or confronts.

Frankly, I’d rather be confronted and have opportunity to be transformed – or repent if it is a sin issue – than to bring further damage to the brokenhearted.

And it’s not just the ‘wolves’ that need to be challenged. Good leaders have blindspots too. We all need it. If we can’t be wrong, handle being confronted and admit it, then we’re in no shape to be leading others. Because that is one of the things that definitely needs to be exemplified in this crazy battle against abuse. I’ve had to apologize before, and I will have to again. But before I apologize for speaking out against abuse – whether spiritual, sexual or other abuse – I’ll take the inevitable beating.

So, like the author said, “Listen to Chloe. You just might learn something.” And listen to Sam too.

This is an excellent read!

My Only Comfort

When thoughts collide…

Last week I was preparing for my Sunday School teaching on Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem. As I was preparing, I was struck by this message from Isaiah to Hezekiah:

Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard (2 Kings 19:20)

Hezekiah was in bad trouble. Sennacherib had conquered the whole world, and he was unstoppable. He had now surrounded Jerusalem and gave Hezekiah the terms of absolute surrender. There was no strength left in Hezekiah.

And Hezekiah took the letter demanding his surrender and laid it on the altar of God, crying out to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and telling God the problem. He spoke honestly and directly.

God delights when we call upon him. God takes pleasure in our prayers, when we speak to him honestly and directly. When we are in trouble, and when…

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Trust, disruption, obstreperous victims, repentant offenders, pastors in prison, the church & the law, and finding a new way forward

“Trust Me” ~ GOD ~
When God says “Trust Me”, and you do it, and then everything in your human nature wants to trust people – good people – and all the good advice they give. Advice that collides with what you know God has spoken, the most tempting thing as a human is to cave and cater to human reasoning and logic and explanations – on either side, whether the ‘most spiritual’ or the ‘most humanistic’. But just contemplating it, causes your spirit to rise up ‘in remembrance of what He has spoken. “Trust Me,” He says again. So you return to the place of discomfort and wait. Alone. Or at least feeling alone. And you do this because you choose to trust Him, above all.

Obstreperous Victims, and Repentant Offenders
I’ve said it many times. I live in a space where both sides collide – where one force pulls this way on me and the other pulls that way – living between two sides in opposition. But I intentionally choose this place where generally neither ‘side’ is particularly pleased with me, and I do it because I genuinely believe it is one of the most critical aspects of breaking the cycle of abuse in churches.

I *advocate* for victims, and victims only. But I long for the healing and personal redemption of both victims and offenders. I hold tenaciously to the truth. And sometimes I have it wrong. But it will not be some human that convinces me I have it wrong, based on reasoning, excuses, explanations or any other thing. It will be God, and His people who take me to the place of my error and show me. Until He does that – directly or through His people – I will not say and do the things that please the crowds. I cannot live with myself if I do that.

And individuals on both sides of almost any situation I am in – whether a ‘situation’ or my day to day ministry – try often to persuade me to see it their way, or to “do this or that” or “do (whatever that thing is) this way or that”. Lovely people. Kind people. Well-meaning people. And all they want is peace. But true peace comes from letting latent and buried conflict rise to the surface, and erupt – sometimes into messy and chaotic ‘explosions’ – so that the ‘lie about peace’ is exposed, and true peace can be sought. Buried conflict presents as peace, but, alas, it is not. It is ongoing unacknowledged destruction. People’s spirits die. The next generation pays the price for the previous generations’ *peace* – which indeed was not peace – and the cycle continues. And most are content with this illusion of peace, because the alternative shakes things at a place that is uncomfortable, and takes the messy to places many cannot handle.

On the ‘Healing for All’ Side and Disrupting Norms
I advocate for victims. I believe working in cooperation with the law is ideal. And I fight for the healing and redemption of both victims and offenders. Because whichever piece (or ‘side’) we neglect to bring healing, is the side that will drag the sexual violence into the next generation. On the one side it goes forward through coverup and silence. And on the other side it goes on through unhealed trauma. It cannot be about this side or that, in any conflict or trauma, if real meaningful and lasting change is to come, and the cycle broken. But that middle place is at times a lonely place to stand and fight, with just a few who stand together. It is a place of fighting for the past (those who already were victimized or who already offended), and simultaneously fighting for the future to break the cycle. It is a place of disrupting norms, disrupting the illusion of peace, and of standing for two unpopular and polar opposite positions.

For this reason I am uncomfortable at a personal level with a vindictive approach to exposing corruption. But I will not silence voices and police what is said, unless it becomes directly abusive. I tend, rather, to counter it with what I believe. That anger is the result of generations of not being heard, and is linked to deep, deep pain and trauma. And pain demands to be acknowledged, one way or another. The sooner we all learn that leaning in and really hearing those devastated by abuse, rather than writing them off as bitter, the better off we will be and the more effectively we will break this dreadful scourge, and end (at least a large portion) of this horrible cycle. Because bitterness turns to hope and grace when the love of Jesus touches it, and it is not done through formula. It is done through relationship. And once that trusted relationship has been built, you’d be amazed what you earn permission to say to someone to help them heal! But your goal has to be simply loving them, not some other agenda.

It seems ‘easier’ for many Christians to deal with offenders and give them a place in Christian community because of this messy process of hearing victims who have been silenced. (And I would propose that victims who are heard immediately, seldom, if ever, get as dark and as messy as those in religious communities who have been silenced, blamed and shamed).  For offenders, all that is required for them to be embraced in Christian community  is for them to say “I’m sorry”. That’s it. If they are sorry – genuine or just skilled at appearing that way; and both do happen – they are back in. Immediately they are surrounded, applauded amid tears of joy at the ‘prodigal returned’. After that, whether they play the victim who is hated, or the gracious martyr ‘sinner come home’ who acknowledges that the victim rightfully feels negatively toward them, in either case, the offender finds a place more easily than the ‘bitter victim’ does. Power is more easily integrated with Christianity than messy pain, and it requires little investment, if any, by the community. Victims, on the other hand, need care, compassion, a listening ear, someone to speak gentle truth, and so much more, on every level, than most offenders. So offenders are often more welcomed than victims, for many reasons.

I would like to see both – the life of the victim and the life of the offender – redeemed. Each, individually, restored to God and peace. Each with the support in the church that they need.

A Place of Safety for the Victimized
The victim given a safe place to acknowledge and experience the pain  in its messy stages, while being guided to wholeness and redemption. To be allowed to grieve and mourn, without being labeled or thought insane. They’re not insane. In fact, the more they are allowed to honestly grieve, the more whole they will become. Rather than judging as bitter, we need to lean in and hear all that has been silenced and shut down, for many generations, behind that uncomfortable expression of grief. And the victim being protected from unnecessary upheaval, to the point of asking the offender to attend elsewhere if the victim cannot cope with their presence. Forgiveness to be the path we walk with them not the demand we place on them. The latter is damaging an shuts down the spirit, the former is relational and life-giving.

Speaking of bitterness and victims’ anger, I asked Mike Yoder of Milton PA this week if he finds many victims of abuse wanting revenge or retribution. (Mike is “trained in STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) and has also received training in Restorative Justice and Community Peacebuilding through the Center for Justice and Peace at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VAH”, and is passionate about impacting the epidemic of sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities). He said no, but with a disclaimer and an exception of ‘unless they tried to speak out and their voices have been silenced’. (That is as close to verbatim as I can recall his statement.) This lines up with my experience. Victims generally want offenders to take ownership without excuse, and courageously face whatever the consequences and fallout is of transparency and repentance. (Because that truly does symbolize repentance, to be willing to face consequences. In fact, I would argue if self-protection is still present, repentance is not complete.) Many victims have no desire for retribution or revenge. Many don’t even want their offenders to go to prison, and will even actively try to prevent such a thing, unless they believe there is a risk of reoffending, in which case they may actively seek to have the offender imprisoned. This is not for their own good, but for the protection of potential victims. Countless victims have said to me that if they were absolutely certain there was zero risk of reoffending, they would want nothing to do with the legal process. So the notion and judgement that most victims are part of an angry mob wanting to get even or cause pain, is highly inaccurate. So that mentality needs to shift.

Does the Offender Have a Place in Church and God’s Kingdom?
Yes, but not behind the pulpit.
For the offender, there must be both encouragement to repent, and permission to really repent – King David style, in sackcloth and ashes, with nothing held back, and no excuses left for sins committed. They need to be encouraged to face consequences with courage. It is the coward who assaults an innocent and defenceless child or vulnerable adult, and then thinks he/she doesn’t deserve the consequences for that crime. And it is a group of cowards who stand in the way of such courage rather than encouraging the offender to face those consequences, and daring to walk alongside. The enablers who play the role of protecting, are often good-hearted naive men and women who are of deep faith but have little understanding of predators – different than those who offend and then come forward and seek help, and change – and predators know how to play on the emotions and compassion of this crowd. The offender convinces this compassionate crowd that they were helpless in the face of struggle and meant no harm, or they “only did ___, not ____” and list a ‘small offence’ in contrast with rape. Or they may even say that the child intentionally tempted them. (Yes, I’ve heard this too often!) That offender is not helpless in the face of temptation, and not nearly as helpless in the face of a prison sentence as the child he/she assaulted. For grown men and women to band together and cover for such a person, or downplay their crime, is destructive and cowardly. Adults have physical, mental and spiritual advantages when facing consequences that the child (or vulnerable adult) did not have in that moment of victimization.  That said, I would like to see healthy cooperation with the law to support offenders in this process so that redemption is possible for them, and the risk of reoffending is decreased. That is in everyone’s best interest.

Along with this ‘place to repent’, we need to believe that transformation is possible (I do believe that it is, as do many other professionals) but with the balance of recognizing that we have no right to impose risk on the vulnerable. An adult who has molested children should not be given positions of power or leadership over children. It is absurd to think this is wise, and it is the wrong place to prove that transformation has happened. It is wrong to impose that risk on children and the vulnerable, and it is wrong to place the offenders in such a position of temptation/risk. I may be a recovered alcoholic, but becoming a bartender to prove my freedom from addiction is foolishness. Even more so when that addiction imposes risk on innocent, helpless or vulnerable individuals.

There is a difference in situations where teens and children have molested and gotten help. First of all, in most places such knowledge cannot be made public. Secondly, in cases I have worked, many teens who offended came forward on their own seeking help. And statistics indicate that teens who get help are most unlikely to reoffend. Even so, I know of teen offence cases where those young offenders have grown up to self-impose boundaries and accountability for everyone’s protection, using the ‘buddy system’ to ensure no one is ever at risk, and that they are never tempted or falsely accused. There is great wisdom in this. And, whether teens or adults, we should always believe that transformation is possible, and be equally committed to not taking risks or imposing risks on others, by using healthy boundaries to protect everyone. This is the responsibility of families, church leaders, ministry leaders (and, by law, businesses, to an extent and in some places), and is in the best interest of all.

The “I am trustworthy, they are not” mentality
I am amazed at how many adults have said to me that they don’t believe such transformation is possible, and it doesn’t matter if the offender is a youth or adult. It’s not possible. They insist that the offences of all who have offended by publicized, even if they were minors, and heavy boundaries imposed. (I’ve worked with several situations where 5 to 7 year olds were demonized for inappropriate touch. That, in my opinion, is another form of child abuse and is highly inappropriate. As is spanking the ‘offending’ party. But that’s another blog for another day.) When these individuals push this aggressive agenda, I sometimes ask if they ever offended sexually, as a pre-teen or teen, and the answer sometimes is, “Yes, but….” They make exceptions for themselves, because they know they: 1.) came forward on their own (or) 2.) only did it because, through the abuse they suffered, they were taught to reenact it (or) 3.) only did it until they understood what sex was (or) 4.) it’s obvious ‘my offender’ isn’t sorry, because he/she makes excuses (all the while forgetting they are making excuses as well)… and the list goes on. (I inject here that, depending on the conversation, it is perfectly appropriate to ask someone if they have offended but only on the condition that the individual asking is willing to answer the same question. If you molested as a teen and are not transparent about it, you have no authority or business to be holding others accountable. That’s hypocrisy, as is holding them to a higher standard in any way.) The truth is, if one offender can be transformed or rehabilitated, then we need to believe it is possible for others, and it is pride that holds oneself higher (or better) than another. It doesn’t mean that we have to get cozy with our offenders and pretend like it never happened, but we do need to allow for ‘them’ to also change their ways. (Again, I reiterate, while never putting minors and the vulnerable at risk to prove that ‘work of grace’ or transformation in the offender. That is one of the consequences that a humble and repentant offender will accept. And those who do accept it, are the least likely to offend because they don’t place themselves in a position of risk.)

Regarding Pastors/Leaders and the Duty to Report
I admit, I feel an element of relief at seeing the law hold leaders accountable for not reporting, because of the incredible damage the silence has done to victims, and to the Christian community. I am equally relieved to have both secular and Christian media paying attention to the problem of sexual abuse among us, and the problem of churches covering it up. However, while I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader, on this front I hold a somewhat controversial personal position in that I don’t like the idea of having hundreds of leaders put behind bars for this failure unless they insist on their own innocence, and there is no reason to believe they will protect going forward. Where leaders get a revelationeven if it is inspired by pressure from the lawI am inclined to work cooperatively with them. Earlier today, Pastor Dale Ingraham – who is my personal ministry pastor and, together with his wife Faith, founded Speaking Truth in Love Ministries – and I had a lengthy conversation addressing this topic (as well as that of teen offences in closed communities), and we agree that there needs to be a healthy process for transitioning from the old way (covering up and silencing) to leaders embracing transparency, accountability. Meeting the leaders ‘where they are at’, if they so much as show interest in learning to respond well to abuse, rather than pushing for imprisonment, seems redemptive and critical in breaking cycles. We are both interested in helping leaders in this process, and supporting them in a restorative approach to dealing with past coverups and failure to report, as it is most likely to result in positive outcomes all around, going forward. (I read this to Pastor Dale prior to publishing)

The exposure – through media and law –  will reveal the extent of the problem, much as the story in Spotlight and the exposure of sexual abuse in Catholic churches is influencing greater accountability and transparency among them. And restorative approaches to dealing with these leaders will most effectively turn the tide across our culture and bring positive change. And ultimately – Pastor Dale and Faith and I agree – our goal is to break the cycle and bring positive change. Where cover-up continues and offenders are not held accountable, prison is an excellent short-term consequence, but fails to influence long-term positive outcomes.

A Segue: Our Legal System & An Alternative
That’s the spiritual/church/religious side of it. From a legal system perspective, the truth is the system isn’t equipped to work well with sexual violence. It is faulty and the only thing it seems to offer is getting offenders off the street for a time after which they return with an increased likelihood of offending. In this way it contributes to the problem, albeit not as much as religious cover-ups, from my perception of things. So, somehow these two things need to change, ideally simultaneously. At the same time as the church stops covering up for offenders and preventing consequences, we need to find healthier ways of working proactively and in cooperation with the law, even while the system for handling sex crimes is questioned. Here, from my observation, we need a new way of working with cases. Sexual abuse is one crime in which the criminal is often very closely related to the victim, though not always, and in which the arbitrary process of imposing the law on both parties can do a lot of damage to the victim, as his/her voice is lost in the process. It offers only the comfort of the offender being behind bars, if the case ends up being one of the few in which the offender ends up prosecuted. (Based on information provided by StatCan, between 2009 and 2014, if an accused is identified in 300 of 500 (3×100 of 5×100), the end result is that in approximately 129 cases charges are laid, 63.21 would go to court, 17.04 lead to a conviction, and in the end, 9.54 of the 300 are placed in custody. That’s a pretty low percent of convictions, meaning most who are charged, and almost half of those convicted, are never incarcerated.) This, alone, leads me to believe that we can be far more effective in partnership with the law than to leave the law to its own devices, or to expect the religious system to deal with abuse, when both are currently clearly ineffective.

For this reason, one of my dreams and passions and brainstorms is that, much like Child Protective Service organizations, there be an alternative to the police force – albeit one that works in cooperation with the law and within the confines of the law – to handle sex abuse cases. The more specialized the team, the more sensitivity there will be toward victims, and the more likely it is that offenders will be truly ‘rehabilitated’ and given ongoing healthy accountability and support to prevent re-offending. These things, as part of reintegration into community, are among the most effective and necessary steps in preventing recidivism. Like every other addiction, isolation and loneliness increase the risk. Therefore, the way we are most accustomed to responding – by alienating, shaming-without-redemption (because it is healthy to be ashamed of such crime), and excluding from community – are contributing to the problem.

What the church is doing in most cases is an epic fail, and no one can convince me it is the Jesus Way or God’s heart. It’s not. And what the law has to offer is sadly just as inadequate. So, somehow we have to transform these two ways of responding to sexual crimes. And it is my prayer that this will come.

A Place in the Middle, and a Path to be Pursued
It is the thing for which I advocate, and for which I stand in the middle – that place between two opposing sides – and long to help both sides, while never compromising truth, justice, mercy and love. Calling out abuses, injustice, coverups, abuse of power and the like, and never silencing the victims’ pain even if it is entirely uncomfortable to hear their anger (yet not endorsing abusive attacks), and believing offenders can change. yet never compromising on the need for consequences and healthy boundaries even if the offender is completely repentant, and then working for the greater good…  this, I believe, is key to a path forward.

And that is the path I seek to walk. At a leadership level, it is a path of being held accountable, and holding others accountable – and those leaders who are willing to commit to such transparency are the only leaders I wish to work closely with, even while allowing for failure in that goal. A path of standing firm and honouring the voice of God when those around insist you choose their particular path or condemn the path God set before you. It is a path that is groundbreaking, in this field of sexual violence, and is therefore one of failure and stumbling. Therefore it must also be a path of repentance, in which I humbly acknowledge “I have sinned’, when God reveals – either directly or through other godly voices (and dare I add, through relationally ‘present’ individuals who are not agenda driven) – that we have done wrong. (I throw this disclaimer in because I get advice from absolute strangers – even people I’ve never seen or heard of before – and while I listen and hear them, I do not take every criticism to heart, or adjust my position/belief at every ‘word of wisdom’ or ‘message God told me to give’.)

Truth is, even from people I know and have personal relationships, I can get two messages on any given day, both devout Christians who have a ‘word from God’, and the two messages are polar opposites. I am then supposed to decide which one is the true word and follow it, I suppose. But often they are opinion-based ‘words from God’ – advice that clearly supports one agenda or the other – and when I hold them up to ‘the JESUS Way’, neither is inherently wrong or right. Sometimes the difference is whether the person sharing ‘the word’ is endorsing Anabaptist non-resistant views, the Apostle Paul confronting Peter in public views, or some other personal opinion.

I choose to take my counsel from those nearest – those in my inner circle I never disregard – as well as those who I may never have met, who clearly are not agenda-driven, who reflect the heart of Jesus consistently (not perfectly). Those who listen, really listen…. Those who obviously and actively pursue God, truth, peace, justice and mercy… with love. These are the voices that I value most, whether they agree with me or not, because these are among the things that matter most to God. And it is my heart to value what God values.

So I press forward and onward…. thankful for grace. And I wait for God to speak…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

 

Behind Our Pulpits…

EDIT: (Since posting this and the previous blog, I discovered several websites doing the same thing we started here. As a result, and since there is no good reason for a few of us to do the same thing, I am updating the info for reporting abusers. Please forward all requests to the contact info here: https://www.themaplist.org/#contact and check out the list already started here: https://www.themaplist.org/the-map-list/. This group is posting publicly, which we were not prepared to do.)

Our goal is not to bring destruction, but healing, hope and accountability. This accountability includes accountability to the laws of the land, and also includes a willingness (even preference for) working with Restorative Justice initiatives where victims voices are heard and included, and where offenders are offered support to help them overcome their addictions and remain accountable to a team of people upon release from prison.

We are not targeting ‘our people’ to destroy anyone (not even the culture), to shame anyone (not even the leaders or the culture), but to give victims who are terrified to speak out a safe place to be heard. The power under which many victims function is suffocating. And in a purity culture of silence, the shame and consequences for speaking out make it all but impossible for victims to break free and find a voice. Advised to take medications (by leaders, family and friends) while held in that silence, is deadly. The spirit dies. The soul dies. The mind goes insane. Or numb. Everything goes numb.

Medications have a place, but they are not the answer, and the number of victims barely surviving, popping pills but speaking to no one, is tragic. It is also unnecessary to suffer in silence. If you are a victim, I encourage you to find the courage to speak out. We will support you as much as possible in helping you find the supports you need. Those who want people ‘on the inside’ (leaders and lay people in the conservative Anabaptist church) we can connect you to these leaders. We trust them, and we are confident you can too. Those who wish for support only outside of the culture, we will honour that.

But you need to know, there are conservative leaders (none on our team, as that would prove intimidating for many victims) whom we know are 100% supportive of you and who will fight for you. They are amazing, godly men and women who are real ‘Jesus people’. Yes, in their straight-cut, plain suits, and black hats, and their wives in cape dresses, white coverings and black bonnets… they are there rooting for you and fighting for you. They pray and they care. They don’t ever need to know what you are going through (nor will we disclose your info to them) but you need to know that they are among you. That is true in Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and beyond. We are not asking you to trust them, or have any interaction and (it bears repeating) we won’t leak any info to them. But you deserve to know there are those who sit in your pews who bless the work we are doing, as Generations Unleashed. (Those who oppose and hate people who work with sexual violence in the church are often (eventually) exposed for sexual sin and/or hiding it for family or friends.)

God is moving on the inside… He has heard the prayers and cries of many, many wounded and their families, and is keeping His promise in Habakkuk, that he will do a thing that we would not have believed if someone had told us. Early in ministry, a conservative Mennonite woman sent me those verses and said God showed her that in relation to our ministry to victims. I still have her note. And I still believe that God is doing just that.

To this end, I pray…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

6 Ways the Church Fosters Sexual Abuse

Well worth our read. Grace filled and direct. No hate, just redemption and a cry for change. Amen to this!

broken2BmadeBEAUTIFUL

  1. In response to the world’s overt worship of sex, the church goes silent.

“Let your manhood be a blessing; rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight.” Proverbs 5:18-19, TLB

Did you know if you Google ‘what the Bible says about sex’, Google will suggest ‘what the Bible says about sexual immorality’? The popular search engine suggests that we are well-versed in how not to do sex, but do we really know what sex is?

Sex is a beautiful act of worship to God. The sexual union of male and female within the marriage commitment is a beautiful expression of love that brings God great glory. Satan does not want God to receive this glory, so he twists sex that it becomes about man worshiping himself instead of God.

Instead of rising up to…

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Turn Down the Noise to Hear Love’s Whisper

This morning on the way to church, when ‘Stand By You’ played, I looked at Tim and said, “I’m sorry… bear with me here…” And with that I cranked the song like a teenager. (I would have said ‘like a boss’ because that’s a cool thing to say right now, but it really was more like a teenager.) I offered Tim an apology like that because I was fully aware if there was anything he hoped to say, it would be lost in the loudness of my moment, and would need to wait or go unheard. In essence I was tuning him out, not because I don’t love him, but because I wanted a moment of indulgence in a catchy tune, with a message that feels like our story.  

The song offers a bold declaration that ‘no matter what, I’m sticking with you… we might never attain that perfect relational ‘heaven’, but I’m committed to walking beside you in the ‘hell’ of what you’ve suffered, scars and all”. Tim, who sat beside me drowned out and unable to effectively communicate with me in that moment, has lived that very grace and tenderness in my pain.

Moments later, Hillsong’s “With Everything”played at a far more reasonable volume: a gentle cry for God to break down walls, to help us see the things that touch His heart, to restore hope:

“Open our eyes,
To see the things
That make Your heart cry,
To be the church
That You would desire.Light to be seen. 

Break down our pride,

And all the walls
We’ve built up inside,
Our earthly crowns
And all our desires,

We lay at Your feet.

So let hope rise,

And darkness tremble
In Your holy light,
And every eye will see
Jesus, our God,
Great and mighty to be praised.

God of all days,

Glorious in all of Your ways.
Your majesty, the wonder and grace,
In the light of Your name. 

With everything,

With everything,
We will shout for your glory. 

With everything,

With everything,
We will shout forth your praise.
 

Our hearts they cry

Be glorified,
Be lifted high,
Above all names.
For You our King,
With everything,
We will shout forth your praise.
Woah…”

 

Suddenly my heart was drawn to worship, not war…to being fought for, rather than fighting; to a deep inner need for a Saviour , not being someone’s saviour; to breathing in deep, not exhaling; to inviting in, not drowning out. But more than that, I started feeling deeply in ways that the past few weeks have not allowed, and was able to communicate with Tim about my heart, and the emotions welling up inside me.

The moment showed me just how much ‘noise’–even good noise–has filled my life since early November. Intense client situations. Meetings with police and organizational directors to brainstorm on ways to help ‘closed’ cultures–including but not limited to Mennonites and Amish–in a way that honours the culture and works with them, rather than against them. Travel to US. Clients moving here from US. Sitting with suicidal victims and encouraging them, speaking life and hope into the darkness. Inviting Jesus into places long held hostage.

So much noise… So much good noise. Noise that the mind and spirit are not created to hold inside longterm, without a place to release and process, and yet some things must remain private and be processed very personally to protect all involved…

In a moment of worship, I heard God speak. And when God speaks, the darkness turns to light. It doesn’t just scatter; it becomes light to Him. Tears spilled over, releasing the weight of the pain I touch daily.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot, I was appropriately composed, knowing well that later I will listen to worship, meditate on the truth of God’s promises, and the tears will spill again. Because God will speak. And when God speaks, burdens grow wings and become butterflies, and my heart releases its burdens. When He speaks, tears of gratitude water the soil of the heart, creating a tender place where we are touched by needs around us, and risk emotional pain to help others.

Rising from that place of worship, my heart will be strong and the identity of the One who first spoke purpose and promises into my life will fill my spirit with all that I need for the week ahead…. Because I already know that this coming week will require more courage, more dependence on the Spirit of God, and more resilience than any other week in ministry, so far. God has called us to places that are uncomfortable and that come with great risk to us and to others. Meeting with victims and abusers is not something I do lightly, and the ripples that follow often turn into full blown waves that threaten to destroy people… regardless of the grace and gentleness we exercise in that moment.

I know that God is with me. I know He goes before me, to protect from harm and to guide; and He comes behind, wiping up the ‘spills’ and redeeming the places I fail or am failed. Learning to trust Him at this level has been a journey of faith, and one that I continue to grow in. In it all, a most critical piece is  turning the noise low, hearing His voice and allowing Him to restore my heart and strengthen me.

We say we cannot hear God… that He isn’t speaking to us. But the problem isn’t that God is silent; it is the very nature of God to desire relationship with us, therefore God speaks with constant loving invitation. The problem is we can’t hear Him, because we’ve turned up the volume with an “I’m sorry… bear with me here…”

My prayer for you this week is that you will turn down the noise in your world, so that you are able to hear God speak love and affirmation over you.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Perspective; When another view is helpful & when it is not

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One of the advantages to letting another individual into our stories, is fresh perspective. Being victimized opens the door to countless lies; This is all I have to offer… I am dirty/disgusting/ugly… My body is gross… It was my fault… And the list goes on.

To let the right person into that head-space, is to create the potential for truth to take those lies hostage, and set us free from their grip. One solid voice that will not surrender to the lies, but will gently and persistently speak truth, with gentleness and compassion, is all it takes for a life to begin to heal and go through radical transformation. Two is even better, or three, four and more.

Several pitfalls come with this, however, if we are not careful. We can become emotional ‘mooches’, where all we do is run around drawing from people out of our neediness. If the ‘healthy voices’ that speak into our lives–whether counselors, mentors or some other cheerleader–are wise voices, they will affirm, but not allow themselves to be drained, or become an end to a ‘feel good’ rush for us.  

And, in the realm of Christianity, inviting God in as the source makes the biggest difference, so that He fills and builds up, rather than our energy sources being the ‘well’ from which people draw.

If the voices are themselves ‘needy’, it is the perfect set-up for co-dependence and unhealthy relationship. One is very needy, and the other gets mileage out of being the ‘saviour’ and filling that emotional need, which is dysfunctional and unhealthy. (The Christian Co-dependence Recovery Workbook has been highly recommended by a client, whose life changed dramatically after going through the book.)

But there is another risk associated with inviting other people into our stories…. There is the risk that they will not understand, that they will blame us, and make things worse, rather than better.

So, while a fresh perspective can be the best thing in the world, to avoid setbacks it is good to be intentional about whom we invite to be the predominant voices in our lives. They need to be people who believe in healing and hope; in living a full life even after abuse. People who acknowledge our story, dare to walk through our pain, and always, always lift our eyes from ourselves and our ‘stuff’ to something greater; Someone greater. Because every one of us needs to feel purpose and hope beyond ourselves; beyond our circumstances. 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Why Canada Should Welcome Every Refugee

She walked into Tim Hortons, just after I ordered my coffee; I stood off to the side, waiting for it. With nothing better to do, I entertained myself with people watching, discreetly of course, and she inevitably caught my eye. She looked like she came from ‘that’ part of the world; Middle-East, somewhere. I noted she didn’t quite look the girl taking her order in the eye, quickly glancing down as she dug in her purse. Then up again, but not quite in the eye. She looked shy; nervously uncomfortable. We got our drinks at the same time, and she was now a few steps ahead of me, and seated herself at a lonely little table, tucked in beside a wall. I had a booth not far away. Her eyes, I noted, looked sad or ‘down’. And then I caught myself wondering, What would it feel like to be that woman, to be anyone from the Middle East right now, in a restaurant full of Caucasians… or to look like maybe I was ‘one of them’, regardless of my birth place? And I concluded it must be unsettling, even frightening or shameful; shame for ‘my people’ and atrocities committed by them. My heart was stirred with compassion, and I wished for a moment I could ask to sit with her, but I had a client coming in minutes, and besides, it would be beyond awkward for both of us….

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The title of this blog works much better as a question than as a statement. Why should Canada welcome every refugee? Why should we? Why should USA, for that matter? Or any other country? The truth is, no one should. Because national security is a matter not to be taken lightly, by leaders of a country. And our leaders should think it through carefully, before making decisions.

Emotion-driven ‘help’ and hype-driven ‘compassion’ isn’t compassion. It’s guilt. And it’s not about the refugees. It’s about us. If a moment of emotional response, at seeing a toddler washed up on shore, is the sole driving force for me–as an individual or leader– to say, “Bring them in by the masses!” Then we are utterly selfish, not to mention entirely foolish. Because we are merely trying to assuage our guilt by an act of kindness toward someone who doesn’t have the luxury of peace we have.

And guilt-drive act of kindness that could well have been custom designed to captivate Western Society, according to some. And it’s true, we don’t really know the real story behind that drowning. Children drown in Canada, USA, and around the world, and it is always possible that such a thing could be used for manipulation, to gain access, or to draw compassion. We may never know that. But regardless of the details, a child drowning is tragic and yanks at every parent’s heartstrings, every aunt, every uncle, every grandparent, and pretty much any compassionate human being. And it should stir us. It better.

And even if, worst case scenario, it was a manipulative act and a set up to draw compassion from Western culture–as numerous individuals have surmised, wondered and suggested, and a question that wondered through my own mind that very first news broadcast–it doesn’t make the crisis any less real. And it doesn’t make the need any less legitimate. Syrians are suffering and displaced, and they do need help. But the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and logistics of it are not matters for impulsive action, from the perspective of a country. World leaders will need to exercise great wisdom in making the right call. And only the future will declare which avenue was the ‘right’ one, for good outcomes. Whether Putin’s locked and guarded gates, or Canada’s open door, or any leader in between, only time will tell.

I’ve read opinions pieces by both secular and Christian writers, declaring colliding views with confidence, certain of one move or another. I would suggest that certainty of anything, in a time like this, is as reliable as blowing smoke rings. They are most certainly there, until they are not. And then you have to make new ones. Just like bubbles. Blow them, and they exist, until they don’t. Likewise with the ‘right moves’ in this… until they are not.

Not one of us can be certain of the outcome of this thing. And our country’s leaders, like every other country’s leaders, must determine what is the best action for those under their care and protection as a nation, while extending compassion. My hope is that they don’t throw caution, common sense and discernment to the wind, and that they act in the best interest of each country while not abandoning the truly needy and destitute.

So what is the Christian response at this time? I hear some cry out that the country should close all borders–surely God would–and others that it should open them wide, even at risk to our country. Maybe it is reflective of a broader societal shirt, and broader shift in Christian thinking, maybe not, but at the very least it rings of insisting that leaders–Christian or not–are not called first to protect responsibly, those in their care. And there seems an inability for some to separate the responsibility of the state, from the responsibility of each individual Christian, and Christians collectively, to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, and to love sacrificially.

And when I think about how I would want to be loved, I can say with certainty I would want to be rescued from the hell some suffer. But I can say with the same certainty that I would want it done wisely so I don’t land in the same hell somewhere else. Otherwise I have gained nothing and they have lost everything. Wisdom is crucial in the ‘how’, and I pray our leaders use that wisdom and discernment in this process.

I certainly don’t see grounds for the place some Christians are taking it, to declare that Jesus meant we are to rescue every refugee across the world, and if we are not compelled to try, then we have somehow failed to love as Christians should love. That’s a popular and unreasonable judgment on social media these days, offered by some driven by emotion and the need to put everyone in their own box of what love is and should be.  We are created uniquely, each one of us, and we love differently. But we can love well, differently. Some of us love by swinging hearts and doors wide open, throwing caution to the wind, with a short sustainability, and others love in more calculated (and sometimes more responsible) ways that are sustainable longterm. We need both views for balance.

The opposite response, of hate and closing our hearts to compassion is not the solution. What I do know with certainty, is that my role as a Christian is to be like Jesus. That is not a matter in question. Whomever God brings across my path, is who is my neighbour today. and Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour, so that is the person I will love in this moment in time, while I am with them, and embrace as my neighbour.

Should that person violate my trust and put my life at risk, I will never regret having loved them. And should they prove to be a friend, and one with whose heart I connect, and whose values–if not beliefs, religion and lifestyle–at the very least offer respect, then I will also never regret having loved them. And if they meet Jesus in me, whether they ever embrace Him or not, I will never regret having loved them.

If love means requires me to ‘lay down my life’, then that is what I need to do. And if it means to jump in front of  train track to save someone, at the risk of my own life lost, I need to do it. And if it means putting boundaries in place to protect, then that is what I need to do. Any particular and strongly touted ‘belief’, when taken to it’s ultimate end, falls flat. Some who declares ‘open the borders wide’, will not be the one to open their front door and displace their own children. And yet, that belief, taken to it’s inevitable end would require just that. And some of us would. Who is the true hero, and offers the ‘best’ love is something time will tell….

And keeping in mind that even Jesus didn’t disregard danger when confronted with it. He removed Himself from those wishing to stone Him, in John 8:59, rather than choosing to stick around and prove His love. There has to be a time for common sense, even in love. The same Jesus who said, “I send you out like sheep among wolves, so be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We’ve got the ‘harmless’ down pat, some of us non-resistant ones, but could focus on the wise as serpents part. And some have the ‘wise’ part mastered, but wish to resort to fighting with the sword.

Love is a powerful force. It is a Kingdom of God kind of force that does not fully make sense to the human mind, yet is not intended to function without thought. And each of us must express in the moment-by-moment, as believers, in the place where we walk with God today, if we want to live in the Way of Jesus.

As for Canada, and what it should do…. until I am Prime Minister–which currently looks to be a bare minimum of 4 years away, since we just had an election–it’s not my call to make. As for personal opinion–which I’ve mostly avoided throwing out there strongly–I do have strong opinions. They are somewhat true to the tone of this article; help the Syrian refugees, but at the same time use common sense and caution in the process, which I hope and (somewhat) trust my country is doing. All risk cannot be eliminated, but closing all doors to helping the most needy is a bit too self-preserving for me.

And functioning out of fear goes against my nature. From the first day, when the little boy washed ashore and I saw the hype, I said, “Even if it is a ploy to get inside the hearts of people, and thereby into our countries… and even if it is for ill-will by some, I would not say we should not help them.” But I am, by nature, a risk taker. Somewhat calculated, until I’m not. Then I just do what I believe to be right in a spontaneous moment. Which is why I even tackled this topic… because ‘calculated risk’ told me it is not wise to go there. And then when several friends called me out, I put on my mudding boots, and now here I am with my head stuck out, waiting for the hail to begin.

Nonetheless, for now I will focus on loving my neighbour… Including the Christian who sees it differently than me. That love is the only thing that will convince the world that we are the disciples of Jesus. And that love seems a lot harder to exercise than loving the refugee in a far away land. It seems less noble, less ’cause’ worthy. But it is the trademark of our relationship with God through Jesus. All other actions taken, from a faith perspective are but a racket, and a loud noise, if we don’t first exercise love in the Body of Christ.

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The young woman left Tim Hortons. I was lost in a world of my own by that time, hearing a client’s heart; her story. Compassion easily shared with someone from my own culture, the Mennonites. We are a strong group, with powerful beliefs; some that we would be willing to die for, others not so much. And we’re divided on which ones are worth dying for, when it comes right down to it.

My day went on, as usual. Except for moments when her face flashed through my memory and I again found myself wondering, again, What would it be like to be one of them, or look like one of them, but with no desire for bloodshed and hate…. What would it be like?

And compassion awakens again in my heart, and I whisper a prayer for wisdom for our leaders to do the right thing, the compassionate thing, and also the wise thing.

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Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Peace…

It is a word many victims of abuse don’t understand, experientially. At times the word is merely a mockery of that thing we crave and cannot attain. Our spirits scream for it, our minds are desperate for it, and our bodies ache from their wanting… But peace evades us at every turn.

Unfortunately I cannot simplify it into one quick anecdote for the turmoil, fear, pain and anguish.

It is a rise and fall… A learning to hold onto it a little longer before it slips away… A persistent leaning into a sheltered place… Staying intentionally in the Rock that hides us in the storm and covers us… Learning to abandon the need to prove a thing at all… Abandoning the desire for approval and perfection…

And resting in the One who defines us… Loves us… Accepts us…

Ah… sweet Love…

Because there is no fear in Love. And where there is no fear, there is peace.

Peace… that inner quiet… surrounded by a world with chaos all around…

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Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Father’s Day Blessings, to all the Broken & Imperfect Ones

“You patiently loved me when I was difficult… You celebrated my achievements…” The card in my hand spoke all manner of nice things about fathers. I put it back, picked up the next one. “You were always there for me, loving, caring and teaching…”

Every year it was the same thing, standing in front of the card rack, trying to find a card that said, ‘In spite of everything, I love you! Happy Father’s Day’, without all the other niceties that didn’t fit. Every year the same quiet breaking of something inside and the wishing I could either experience the wonder of having that ‘Daddy’, or say it as it really was…

“Dear Dad, 

Every year when this day rolls around my heart hurts a little… because every year I am reminded of what a father-daughter relationship could be. I am sad, not only for what I lost, but what you missed out on. In fact, if I am perfectly honest, I feel more sad for you than for me… It must be lonely, surrounded by children, but with walls around your heart, that keep them out…

I know you’ve been hurt, and it is hard for you to risk relationships, hard for you to trust, even your own children. And you have hurt us–hurt me–and you find it hard to forgive yourself, or accept forgiveness, because you feel helpless to overcome the cycle of abuse. Truth is, I can’t imagine living with some of the things you have done, and I don’t know what to do with it, in our relationship…. In spite of all of this, you are my father, and I love you. There is a deep desire within me to have a relationship with you that is real; to face the brokenness of what has been, with honesty…. and that desire will never go away. Because every little girl wants to be her daddy’s princess.

Today I will settle for being your daughter, and love you and bless you, broken and imperfect, believing that one day our relationship will heal.  

With Love on Father’s Day, 
Your daughter

Dear Daddy_All I ever wanted

I never found a card that arranged those kinds of thoughts in poetic verse, or incorporated them into something ‘Father’s Day appropriate’. And I never had the courage to write these things out or even say them, other than quiet whispers, through tears, to my Heavenly Father–my ‘Papa’–when I shared those deep desires, hoping one day He would heal.

And God granted my request. Every Father’s Day I remember with deep gratitude sitting by his bedside numerous times in his last eighteen months, watching him weep, listening to a broken man speak from a place behind the walls of his heart. His grief, at who he had become and what he had done, and all he had lost because of it, along with gratefulness for mercy, poured out in those tears. And almost every year, on Father’s Day and the anniversary of dad’s passing, I think of ‘Living Years, by Mike and the Mechanics‘ and thank God we had some healing and some conversations in the living years.

Harder Family in Mexico

Granted, there was so much history that all we could really do is acknowledge it, and each deal with it in our hearts. There is no undoing it, no ‘unremembering’ or forgetting. There was only ‘remembering with grace’, and working through the trauma, one layer at a time, with the ‘knowing’ that God will redeem it, somehow. And I thank God for this redemption.

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Today, to all you dads–the good and whole ones, and the imperfect and broken ones–your daughters and sons long for relationship. They may have tough exteriors and broken hearts, but behind those fronts is a deep longing, buried under the pain. In fact, their anger is a sure sign of a deep desire; betrayal can only happen when their should be trust, and it can only hurt when we care, or once cared. So maybe they will need space from you because you wounded them; give them permission to find that space. Maybe it will take a long time, and even the humility and patience to release them and wait until they are ready; be willing to wait. But never stop believing that they long to know you.

To all you sons and daughters who couldn’t find a card that fit, because not one touched on that deep pain… or who didn’t even bother to look for one this year, because he wouldn’t even care if you did try…. Today, I remind you that you are worth more than he did to you. You are worth being acknowledged… loved… embraced… held. You are worth being celebrated. Your Heavenly Father–your ‘Papa’–celebrates you. That’s true whether you believe in him or not. You are created in His image, to reflect His heart. He delights in you! And the joy you bring Him, causes Him to sing over you with deep affection. (Zephaniah 3:17)

To all you ‘daddies at heart’ who were never able to have children, or maybe even marry, I pray blessing over you, as you mentor and ‘father’ the orphan children in your life who need someone to listen and care.

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And to all you daddies whose children have passed away, and the sons and daughters whose daddies have passed away, may God comfort you today. Alone or surrounded, and possibly celebrating the relationships you have, today is a reminder of a lonely ache in a place in your heart that could only ever belong to that one person. I pray that God will fill your day with kind words, hope,  and understanding friends, and much love from those around you.

To my husband, thank you for showing me what the word ‘Papa’ means, in the way you love and care for your family. Each year I am more thankful for you and the love you live in our lives. I would choose you all over again, and walk this way again, with you.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger