Good Tears

Today I found myself driving down the road towards my home when a song started playing from deep within “My Likes” in YouTube Music. Years ago I was obsessed for a time with the movie Brave. I watched it with my kids, listened to the music as I drove around with them, and acted generally as a fanboy for team Merida. Even when Anna and Elsa came on the scene, I looked down my nose at them. I had found my favorite Disney Princess and she was a raucously independent archer who had all of the confidence and self-assurance that I wished for my children.

So today, the song “Touch the Sky” began to play and I listened to the lyrics.

When the cold wind is a-calling
And the sky is clear and bright
Misty mountains sing and beckon
Lead me out into the light

I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky
I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky

Where dark woods hide secret
And mountains are fierce and bold
Deep waters hold reflections
Of times lost long ago
I will hear their every story
Take hold of my own dream
Be as strong as the seas are stormy
And proud as an eagle’s scream

Songwriters: Alex Mandel / Mark Andrews
Touch the Sky lyrics © Reservoir Media Management Inc, Walt Disney Music Company

The last few days I have been feeling very strange. This week I will learn if the court is going to help me see my kids before the year ends. I haven’t had the visitation the court set in place since July and I don’t have a ton of hope that suddenly the court will start to care, so I have been down in the dumps. Tack on the amount I have been working and the reality behind why I don’t feel safe conversing with my former partner even over kid issues (see any of the posts about Domestic Violence from October and they’ll paint a picture in broad strokes even if they never describe things in detail (on purpose)) and I have been really really really down in the dumps.

I have been trying desperately to get a hold of my feelings and my emotions to get them in check before any further bad news pushes me down further. I have been trying to understand what’s happening within as something kept feeling off.

I found myself crying as I drove in the car today because I had a moment and finally understood what was happening. Why haven’t I been hitting the punching bag as aggressively and why have I been taking more pictures of nature? Why did I choose to take my camera on my long walk today and why did I spend most of it texting another father in my fatherhood support group? Why?

As I had been walking earlier an angry song came on my phone and I reached within to connect with what has felt like an endless pit of anger for over a year. When everything else was lost, I could dip into that pit to find fuel to walk another mile, punch the bag for one more set, or even to just stew while driving. It has been so constant and a companion for many miles as I have walked. That deep sense of grief, anger, and sadness has been there for the 1,915 miles that I have walked this year (according to Fitbit). The anger has been as constant as hunger, thirst, and soreness as I have walked on and on.

I had reached in and nothing was there. The bucket hit the bottom and I had been worried that I was broken. What does it mean when you reach in to find the angry part of yourself and find nothing is there? Does it mean that you’re doomed to be unfeeling and lost?

I started crying as the words to the song to Brave came on because I recognized something in them: “When the cold wind is a-calling and the sky is clear and bright, misty mountains sing and beckon: lead me out into the light.” Do you know that there’s a growth on a tree on the Catharine Valley Trail that looks like a snail?

There’s also a ton of damage to the ash trees, likely from a combination of ash borers and woodpeckers. The sight is truly tragic, but also beautiful when you are walking around the woods and suddenly bleach white branches pop out of the woods that are so brown!

Do you know that there are green things that are neither evergreen nor willing to turn brown? Do you know that there are these weird bamboo looking things popping out of the ground in the middle of December? Do you know that the moon is almost full and it can look like fingers of bare branches are reaching into the sky to caress the moon as it rises? Do you know how amazing things are out there in the woods today on the edge of winter? Even as the sun continues to fade for a few more days, do you know how beautiful things are our there?

I cried because I reached down within me to find anger and only found the bottom of a well that hasn’t been empty for a while. I cried because I realized that I understood the lyrics to that song at last. In the midst of the cold wind, I heard the beckoning call to open my eyes and see what God had created. Legs that have walked miles have grown strong enough, skin that has known sun and darkness is thick enough, and even my own sense of fortitude has grown elastic enough that I can take time, even in grief, and see beautifully amazing things.

The song has a second verse that goes ” Where dark woods hide secret and mountains are fierce and bold, deep waters hold reflections of times lost long ago. I will hear their every story: take hold of my own dream. Be as strong as the seas are stormy and proud as an eagle’s scream.”

I’m filled with grief and sorrow, but there’s another part of me that has grown as strong as the seas are stormy. I’m frustrated I need the court’s help to even see my children, but I know what it means to walk miles and see the beauty in the depths of the woods with the endurance to decide that 6 miles into a hike is exactly the time to go wandering down a hill to get a closer look at that bleached white tree down the hill.

Even now, I want to cry because there actually is pride in the person I am becoming. I reached down for anger and found nothing, but I opened my ears and heard a reminder that I am becoming the person I once dreamed of being. Mile by mile, step by step, I am being reforged into someone that my children and I can look upon with joy and pride. I don’t have to be sorrowful today, for I am becoming exactly the kind of person I would have been proud to be when I was young.

This isn’t the road I would have chosen, but it is the road I have, and I am walking it well.

Old boots

I have an old pair of boots that need to be resoled or replaced. Any minute now I’ll lace them up and walk the half an hour to church. Any minute now I’ll shake off these dismal thoughts about how Thanksgiving ruined my weight loss streak and finally convince myself that I don’t need to starve myself with a fast to hurry things along. Any minute now I’ll remember that I walked over nine miles yesterday and that my body needs time to process nutrients and expel waste before that shows. Any minute now sane thoughts will lace these boots. Any minute now…

Lace up your old boots:
draw tight both your loops and will.
Trudge that you might walk
down the road in warmer times
when all is finally well

A Strange Advent Feeling

I don’t really have a Christmas tree desire this year. I love a good Christmas tree and have a lot of fond memories over the years, but this year I am probably not going to put up a tree. There’s a wreath by my garage door and I’ve got my ugly Christmas sweater game on point. No tree though.

Trees are for presents. Trees are for gifts. Trees are for family and I’m not the kind of pet owner who will put presents under the tree for my dog or the fish. I’m getting presents for others, but there’s really no need for a tree.

Instead, this is the year of the Advent Wreath. I’ve put together a really cheesy electric wreath from an inexpensive five candle window candelabra. Three dollars of cheap paint and putting the “wreath” on a smart switch: we’re good to go!

As you can see, cheap is the name of the game, but the other side of things is that it is meaningful to me. Each time I have seen the wreath since I have put it up, I have begun singing the Advent Song from The Faith We Sing: “Candle, candle, burning bright: shining in the cold winter’s night. Candle, candle, burning bright: fill our hearts with Christmas light.”

I don’t need presents. but I do need light. I don’t need wrapping paper, but I do need to be wrapped in hope. I don’t need a continual reminder that there’s nobody here, but I do need to see the light growing week after week.

What do I want for Christmas? Hope, love, joy, and peace. Burn candles, burn.

Sharing a meal

I have the kids today! The only time I can see them again between now and the end of the year is if I exchange them with their morning Sunday morning at 10:00 AM two hours by car from where I have church at 10:15 AM. That part of things is awful, but today I see two of my three kids for the only time from October through December.

So, we broke out the fancy serving dishes and made macaroni and cheese with carrots and hot dogs. It seems silly to put such a simple meal in a nice dish as I never need a serving dish when alone, but this is a good silly.

Break out the good plates:
garnish with tasty extras
and join your children.
To eat while you're not alone
is a fleeting gift these days.

The Stumbling Block

I wrote this poem while thinking of the passage from Matthew 18:6-9, which says that it is better to be drown in the sea than to cause someone else to stumble. I am trying to come to a place of peace with the frustration which is continuing to take root in me despite my best efforts. I am working as hard as I can to burn off the anger through diet, exercise, and even spiritual disciplines, but there are times when things are simply wrong and more than an irritation. There are times when people do real harm to you and that pain becomes a thorn in the side that will not go away.

Even if there may be divine punishment for the person who causes another person to stumble, it still hurts deeply to be the person with broken toes, scraped knees, and a noticeable limp. I don’t doubt for a second that all that is happening is noticed and noted in the Book of Life and any equivalent book with opposite purpose. It would still be nice if there could be some relief.

Broken heart longs for them
The hugs, smiles, and dumb jokes
as joy is hard to coax
when you're alone

Prayers flow as I walk
Burn the anger with fat.
I look more and more flat
but rage lives on.

Walking, praying, fasting:
I curse this stumbling block
as on the Door I knock
and ask for help.

Even so, upon further reflection, a better passage to consider might be Romans 14:12-19 which is far more balanced in perspective. What I mean by balanced is that Paul does a decent job in Romans in balancing the concerns. Yes, it is wrong when someone else causes us harm, but Paul writes in a way that invites people to look inside before looking at one’s neighbor. It is not right for your neighbor to harm you, but first consider whether or not you will be ashamed when you give your account to God about how you lived your life and what you did, which is different from what your neighbor did to you.

So, how do I live with this pain in my side and sorrow in my heart? I see wisdom in Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians 12:7-12. I have asked time and time again for this thorn to be removed, but it hasn’t budged. I guess that God’s strength is shown in my weakness, so I’ll keep trudging down the road while remembering the simple truth from a few verses earlier in Romans 14:7-10:

“We don’t live for ourselves and we don’t die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God”

Romans 14:7-10, Common English Bible

This life I live with thorn-gifted pain is the life that I have to live. My “neighbor” may look at me with disdain or judgment, keep me from my children in defiance of the court order, and teach them that it is dangerous to speak with me (since I might call Child Protective Services if something goes wrong and the kids are in danger). Even with that sorrow and pain, I am called to live, so I will live. When the day of my death comes, even if I am alone I will die in the Lord with hope in my heart that:

“We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:2-5, Common English Bible

Thorn in my side or not, I will live in hope and I shall not be ashamed of the Lord. I will seek hope all of my days, even with broken bones in my soul, for God loves me and will make all of this right one day. Even with broken places in my soul, I am still fearfully and wonderfully made and God loves me. I am God’s child and I trust that my Parent will hold me as close as I wish I could hold my children.

Post-Court Lament

I should change my name.
"Curse God and die already."
Job’s name would fit well,
as I, also, do refuse
to give in to the sorrow.

Here I sit in ash:
Emmanuel hear my cry.
As sun sets again,
I would prefer a whirlwind
to agonizing silence.

Peaceful night

The wind shifts the leaves
The moon dimly glows this night
as peace covers all

No rude words out there
No deeds to fear in this home
Peace swaddles with hope

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

It is okay

I worked a lot today. I wrote over 40 letters to people in my church, prepared the slideshow for tomorrow, and designed and rendered the pre-church video slideshow. My fingers hurt and my back aches from inactivity after only walking around four miles and sitting so much.

I want to post every day this month for domestic violence awareness, but I don’t think I have a poem with me and I know I don’t have a long drawn out dissertation based on some part of the Book of Resolutions or the Book of Worship.

What I do have is my own character and experience. I had a long conversation yesterday with someone going through similar life circumstances. We were talking about how it is so easy to lose hope or to be swallowed by anger. I am fortunate enough to have a religious belief system that’s big enough and broad enough to allow me to give to God the things that I can’t always carry, like my anger or frustration.

It isn’t much for tonight, but I can offer this little bit of wisdom to people going through similar circumstances . You don’t have to carry everything all the time. You can let go of your anger, frustration, or even hatred for a few minutes and it will be okay.

If you’re religious like me, perhaps you can trust your higher power to carry your burdens for a little bit. If you’re not religious, maybe it is okay to take a few minutes and watch a funny movie or call a friend to share a cuppa coffee. You don’t have to carry everything all the time, especially things as painful and toxic as anger.

Friends, perhaps we don’t have to be fancy tonight. Rest up for tomorrow is coming.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

It is okay

I worked a lot today. I wrote over 40 letters to people in my church, prepared the slideshow for tomorrow, and designed and rendered the pre-church video slideshow. My fingers hurt and my back aches from inactivity after only walking around four miles and sitting so much.

I want to post every day this month for domestic violence awareness, but I don’t think I have a poem with me and I know I don’t have a long drawn out dissertation based on some part of the Book of Resolutions or the Book of Worship.

What I do have is my own character and experience. I had a long conversation yesterday with someone going through similar life circumstances. We were talking about how it is so easy to lose hope or to be swallowed by anger. I am fortunate enough to have a religious belief system that’s big enough and broad enough to allow me to give to God the things that I can’t always carry, like my anger or frustration.

It isn’t much for tonight, but I can offer this little bit of wisdom to people going through similar circumstances . You don’t have to carry everything all the time. You can let go of your anger, frustration, or even hatred for a few minutes and it will be okay.

If you’re religious like me, perhaps you can trust your higher power to carry your burdens for a little bit. If you’re not religious, maybe it is okay to take a few minutes and watch a funny movie or call a friend to share a cuppa coffee. You don’t have to carry everything all the time, especially things as painful and toxic as anger.

Friends, perhaps we don’t have to be fancy tonight. Rest up for tomorrow is coming.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Poem born from Lamentations

The other day I shared a blessing from the United Methodist Book of Worship “For a Victim or Survivor of Crime or Oppression.” Since that day I have been working toward raising awareness by writing poetry based on the suggested poetry found in that blessing.

Today I wrote a poem based on Lamentations 3:1-24, which can be found in the Common English Bible through this hyperlink. As I pondered the reading, it seemed pretty dark at first. I was wondering what the compilers of the Book of Worship were thinking until I came across the shift from verses 19-24, which I found startling and incredibly powerful.

Verse 19 compares the feelings of homelessness and affliction to being poisoned to the brim with bitterness. I understood those feelings as I consider my past. I remember more than the feelings that came about in the first days after I filed for divorce. I remembered tears from a broken heart behind closed doors, sodden pillowcases, and the bitter feeling of knowing that promises made at the altar meant nothing. The shame, the guilt, the uselessness, and futility still come to mind easily even after time has begun to heal my wounds.

After all of this comes to mind, does Jeremiah give up hope? No, instead the very pain in Jeremiah’s soul transforms from a place of broken doubt to a place of stubborn waiting. The grief and loss do not translate into a faithless existence but into a spirit that will steadfastly wait for God to act. This! This is a feeling I know! “Waking” after sleepless nights, pulling on my boots, and stepping into my role as a minister with all of the confidence I could despite my own sorrow. This I know!

Helping church members say goodbye to loved ones with the compassion that comes from knowing what it is like to come home to an empty home! That was an act of faithful waiting! Sharing communion with people with the understanding that comes from knowing what it means to share a “meal” with others when you eat alone the rest of the week. That was an act of faithful waiting! Listening to the troubles of others knowing what it is like to have nobody at home to listen to my struggles. That was an act of faithful waiting!

Even now, I wait. The poem I wrote is as much a prayer for God to act as it is a piece of poetry inspired by this passage. I hope it is helpful and brings to mind the reality that brokenness does not mean that healing is beyond you.

"Homeless and poisoned in my inmost soul"
I ponder the broken and sleepless nights.
Endless tears fell into fathomless hole
as I thought of all of my stolen rights.

Future empty and present in shambles,
hopeful words called out from the ancient past
before wounds left me with frothing rambles:
that place where only ashes seem to last.

I remember the hope flickering faint.
I beheld the light that would not go out.
Even shattered, the call to be a saint,
not of perfect life, but one lived through doubt.

I remember and still I sit and wait
for the Just One to come bearing our fate.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Poem on one of Isaiah’s Visions

The other day I posted a blessing from the Book of Worship “for those who “For a Victim of Crime or Oppression.” Within that blessing were several recommended scriptures, which I am now using in the task of writing poetry based on the imagery and promises found in those verses. Today I am posting on Isaiah 59:6b-8, 15b-18, which can be found here in the Common English Bible. I hope these poems are helpful both to people who have gone through Domestic Abuse or Violence and for people who might not understand how such verses affect and strike a person who has gone through that experience.

Today’s poem leans a bit into the spookiness of Halloween if you read the poem from the outside. I really do not believe that the author of this passage was writing from the outside of pain and suffering. Spider-like (in the most stereotypical sense) is great imagery to use for the wicked in this passage, and I say that as someone with passing bouts of arachnophobia.

Poison dripping fangs, a macabre sight
as wicked ones weave ill within deep gloom.
Eldritch clothing from fevered, frightful night
covers little malice born of the tomb.

Desolate pain drenched cries reach out to plea
Dark bruises, broken bones, sharp tongues and lies
echo the words of lives full of debris
from lonely places where hope often dies.

Would You rise to wrap knuckles and square up
for those they rendered voiceless and oppressed?
Many have had to drink the bitter cup
forced to the lips of those who live distressed.

Ringside, black-eyed, we look to You with hope
and dream of when we will do more than cope.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Poem on Job’s Sorrow

This poem was written as a reflection on Job 3:1-26. In that passage Job is broken, shattered, and ready to breathe his last breath. I have felt like Job, have cried in the night, and eventually found a place where peace began to fill my heart again. This poem also references Jeremiah 31:29-30.

Perish the day that I first took a breath?
Would my heavy gaze fall on mirrored sight
and see any reason to wish for death?
Would narrowed eyes see so little this night?

Job calls out with a heavy-ladened cry
In his words there are cryptic broken dreams
bloody losses soak visions dark with dye
heart shattered, soul scarred, will torn at the seams.

There is room for new thoughts within my heart
that twirl and show that pain may be passing.
Sisyphean burden left at the start
as sour grapes are left to those harassing.

Let their teeth chatter in deserved sorrow
and may Job find new hope for tomorrow.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

“For a VIctim or Survivor of Crime or Oppression”

The following is shamelessly borrowed from the United Methodist Book of Worship. I share the content as the content was designed to be used by pastors (which I am) as a tool to share with those who need to hear the words (which I am doing here as an Ordained Elder within the United Methodist Church: (from the preface to the Book of Worship: “We believe that the United Methodist Book of Worship will strengthen our worship and empower our ministry and mission. May God’s grace be with all who use this book…”)).

I share this with the caveat that I did some altering on the pronoun options for inclusivity purposes. The following is the entry underneath the category of Blessings and is found on page 547-548 under the Heading of “For a VIctim or Survivor of Crime or Oppression”

Commentary: One of the following may be read before the blessing:
Job 3:1-26 (Lamentation of Job)
Isaiah 59:6b-8, 15b-18 (God appalled by evil and injustice)
Lamentations 3:1-24 (One who knows affliction)
Lamentations 3:49-59 (You come to my aid)
Matthew 5:1-10 (The Beatitudes)
Matthew 10:28-31 (Do not be afraid)
Luke 10:25-37

Commentary One of the following hymns from the United Methodist Hymnal may be sung before the blessing:
479, “Jesus , Lover of my Soul”
488, “Jesus Remember Me”
480, “O Love That Wilt Not Let me Go”
512, “Stand by Me”
507, “Through it all”

Lord God of liberation,
you saw your people as slaves in Egypt
and delivered them from captivity,
you see the works of violence and weep.
Relieve the suffering of (Name),
grant (him/her/them/zir) peace of mind
and a renewed faith in your protection and care.
Protect us all from the violence of others,
keep us safe from the weapons of hate,
and restore us to tranquility and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

United Methodist Book of Worship, #547; (Book of Blessings, USA, 20th Century, alt.), alt.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Learning Self-Respect

How do you teach respect to a child? I don’t mean tyrannical respect, but a general respect for other people (e.g., How do you teach them to be considerate of the needs of other people, to have gratitude for the efforts others put into their relationship, etc.).

I always thought the best way to teach my children was through the example of my own actions. To this day I don’t tear down my former partner in front of our kids and even have difficulty at times expressing how bad things were when that means I have to say things that cast my former partner in a negative light.

At one level, I have done an excellent job and not tearing down my former partner. I have given an example to my children on how you can live with someone difficult without having to constantly tear them down.

It isn’t as easy when I consider how I teach them self-respect. There are times when I show respect to my former partner by being silent about terrible things that have happened to me. I have bit my tongue and allowed things to stand over the years that were not acceptable

This blog post doesn’t have the answers on how you do that, but writing it will force me to think today about how I show my self respect, how I teach my children to respect themselves, and how all of that fits into my relationship with my former partner I wish my cojourneyers luck


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Reminder

Like many good things 
Healing may take some time
Treat yourself gently

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Keeping Perspective

This afternoon I had the joy of spending time with a former seminary classmate and his daughter over a cup of coffee. One of the largest struggles I have had to face while in recovery from both alcoholism and domestic violence has been the message that was handed to me by both my culture and my partner.

My culture taught me from an early age that alcoholics looked a certain way and were untrustworthy. I was not told that they had a disease with real physical roots. I was told that alcoholics drank out of paper bags under bridges or in book clubs depending on how much money was in their bank account. I was never given the perspective that an alcoholic was someone who could recover with support, care, and love. When I realized I had a problem with alcohol, I immediately was ashamed of who I was as a person despite the fact that I am a human being with a disease that was quite treatable and was not a one-way ticket to a lifestyle under a bridge.

My partner taught me through her actions and words that I wasn’t worthy of any better treatment than how society treated alcoholics. I was told multiple times that I was not good enough, was worthless, was inadequate, and told me, “God must love you because nobody else does.” Even though she is gone, I can still hear the exact inflection of and scorn in her voice as she cast such judgments over me and my value.

Do you know what my friend from seminary told me today? When my partner left, there was joyful cheering (along with the tears on the other end of the state). To be clear, they didn’t cheer because I was hurt. They were thankful that I was free from a sick and desperate situation that they saw coming years before I began to recognize what was happening. They believed in me, cared about me, and he went out of the way with his daughter to come and see me because I matter to them, which they did with the full and enthusiastic support of his wife (who is also my friend).

I often forget the simple truths my friend reminded me of this afternoon. I didn’t lose value because I became sick: I became a person in need of healing and support. I didn’t lose value because someone tore me to shreds: I just needed to look for value in people who believed in me, cared for me, and loved me as a friend and person. Now that the shackles are breaking, I can choose to keep investing in healthy relationships even as I continue to seek my freedom from the person who tore me down.

It is easy to forget how much we matter, especially if we are recovering from domestic abuse or an addiction. It is easy to forget that there may be people who love us and support us in spite of what others have said about us or done to us. Yes, God loves us: there may be people who love us as well.

If you’re recovering from abuse or addiction, may I invite you to believe that you have value? Although it is close to the end, may I suggest that a good thing to remember during National Suicide Prevention Week (which is also part of National Suicide Prevention Month, which is halfway to completion) is that you have value? As much as the tagline this month is about Domestic Violence, allow me to point out that in the United States you can dial 988 to reach someone who can support you if you are feeling suicidal. No matter what others may have told you, your life matters and I hope you stick around.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Under the Weather

I received my booster shot yesterday. I’m trying my best to take it easy after feeling unwell while walking my dog last night. Today my arm aches and I feel more tired than usual.

When I was married I saw our vows as promising that I would care for her when she was unwell and she would care for me when I was unwell. I was naïve to think that we both understood that commitment to each other when we were twenty five.

Today I’m alone. My attorney called to give me an update about working towards finalizing my divorce yesterday. I’m grieving that loss today while remembering how it felt to believe I could rely on someone.

Nobody is here to help me feel better today, but nobody is here tearing me down either.

If I were to give someone advice in similar circumstances i would relay to them the truth that there are lonely days when seeking peace and safety. It is possible to get through them and even to thrive because of them. I would tell them to have patience with the process.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Creation Narratives and Domestic Violence

Okay, so this one is going to require a stretch of one’s imagination. This morning I was working through Genesis 1:1-2:3 out of the Common English Bible as a part of today’s reading with our church’s DISCIPLE Bible Study group. In my reading of this passage from the Common English Bible today I found the text to be replete with words of plenty. We noted in our study this week that the mindset of the reader, the context where the text is read, and other variables affect the way we approach scripture. Today I must be feeling very open hearted and expansive as the words that I read were filled with expansive imagery.

As an example I would point out how in Genesis 1:14-15 God speaks expansively of the lights in the dome of the sky. These lights are signals and signposts of the passage of time, the coming of seasons, and invite creation into sacred times. Keeping in mind that I take these portions of the scriptures as sharing truth born of wisdom rather than concrete facts born of the scientific method, I was the heavens brimming with lights pouring forth after the divine word. Letters from divine words arcing out from the divine mouth before shifting into stars, moons, and the special star known as our sun. In such ways, God speaks and the world and universe are transformed from chaos into creation.

When God speaks of humanity, even the Common English Bible uses words of mastery, but I did not read words of domination into the creation account today. Humanity masters the world not for domineering or destructive purposes but for the cause of caretaking. Humanity takes charge of the fish, the birds, the animals, the plants, and all of the wandering and stationary lifeforms that cover the globe for the purpose of creative caretaking. God spoke into the world words of life and humanity is invested with the divine image in order to continue to work in the divine image as caretakers and agents of blessing to help keep the world from slipping back into chaos.

The story is quite beautiful when read with an expansive and generous mindset. What does any of this have to do with Domestic Violence or Domestic Violence Awareness? In the end, the connection I made in my mind is a very delicate one.

If we are called to treat creation with such care and respect, how can we live lives where we exert our will violently on each other? If we are called to be caretakers and agents of blessing, how can we decide to turn our backs on this divine call to love in order to strike out at the people in our homes? If the very core of our creation narrative revolves around humanity existing for the purpose of blessing, how can we curse the people we live with day by day in such abominable ways?

To be certain, if I were to read this text as a text inviting domination, a case could be made, but the whole of scripture is wildly biased against such views. While there are certainly stories of domination in our scripture, the whole of the Bible is thrown from such ways of thought by the person of Jesus.

In John 8, Jesus was offered an opportunity to dominate another person and to stone to death a woman who committed adultery (in the context of a society where that was legal, which was a different context than our society where such punitive behavior is illegal, immoral, and labeled as absolutely wrong by both church and state). Even though it was permissible, legal, and in accordance with the religious rules of Jesus’ day, Jesus refused to engage in such brutal acts. This is just one example of many where Christ taught love in situations that invited brutality.

I cannot see Jesus approving of domestic violence taking place in our homes. Even if we could read words of domination into scriptures  like those found in Genesis 1:28, I cannot see Jesus approving of such behavior. Passages like those in Genesis can be read with different eyes than those of a person seeking to dominate or subjugate others. If we can read such words with grace and plenty in our minds, then we can consider the idea that we were never meant to dominate, demean, or subjugate the people who share our slice of the garden in this life.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Take Care of Yourself

I just got home a little bit ago. I went to work shortly after the sun came up this morning, ran all over the place helping people have communion, and then led bible study this evening until just before 9 o’clock.

I forced myself to come home because I wanted to keep working, but realized that I have limits. I was told, often without needing to be told outright, that nothing I did would ever be enough. I have been going for days, working long hours, and not taking a break. When I came home it was after realizing that if I didn’t take a break I probably would be working in my office until around 11 o’clock tonight.

There is so much in my life that doesn’t look like the result of domestic violence, but if I stop working I hear that voice speaking in my ears. I don’t make overtime. I get nothing out of working myself into an early grave. In truth, working too hard will probably lead to me having less of what I want, which is more time with my kids. No matter how hard I work, I will never win the approval of that voice that tore me down for years.

For me, an ongoing part of my recovery from domestic violence is to learn to trust my own best judgment when I realize that I cannot do everything alone, cannot keep going constantly without a break, and cannot earn back the affection of someone who did not care for my well-being, especially if I try to earn that approval by burning whatever well-being is left into ashes.

Friends, if you have experienced domestic violence, I invite you to have some grace with yourself. Give yourself moments of kindness, moments of love, and places where you feel okay taking care of yourself. It is okay to admit that you have needs and it is okay to take care of them.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

“The Rights of Men”

“We recognize that men are also victims of domestic violence and abuse. We encourage communities to offer the same policies and protection as provided for women in similar situations. We affirm the right of men to live free from violence and abuse and urge governments to enact policies that protect men against all forms of violence and discrimination in any sector of society.

We recognize that men’s role in raising children is in equal importance to women’s and call for equal rights as women in opportunities for parental leave. When parents divorce, men often have less contact with their children. We call for equal access to child-custody, but emphasize that the best interest of the child always is the most important.”

162.III.G, The Rights of Men, The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 2016

For today, I wanted to share this excerpt from the Book of Resolutions for a few reasons:

  • Men (and non-binary folks) deserve the same rights as women, including the right to be believed and protected from abusive individuals.
  • Men (and non-binary folks) have an equal role in parenting as mothers. Although fathers tend to have less contact with their children, that unfortunate reality should only occur if it is in the best interest of the child or children. It is possible for situations to arise where men have more contact than women in the parenting process (i.e., when Domestic Violence has occured, when the mother’s judgment is suspect, etc.), even if such situations happen less often and are statistically improbable at this point in our society’s maturation process.
  • The Book of Resolutions is a book of ideals from people gathered around the globe. Together, those individuals representing hundreds of thousands of United Methodists have proclaimed that men have rights and should be protected just as zealously as other victims of Domestic Abuse. If you have gone through this experience, you are not alone and people see your plight.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

What do we do with nightmares?

I woke up yesterday morning with an aching knee. The few days before Sunday were full of Annual Conference business. Annual Conference is both the name of the regional body of churches that I serve within as a United Methodist and an exact description of how often the whole of that body meets to do business. Normally Annual Conference for us in the Upper New York Annual Conference is in the late spring just before summer, but this year our session was held virtually in the fall due to COVID concerns.

My knee ached because I have been walking all over the place during the past few days. As I write this entry on Sunday night, my knee will probably hurt once again tonight as I walked into town to reach the church, stood through church,, walked across town for lunch after church, participated in the CROP Walk after lunch, and then walked back home from town. My knee will probably ache tonight, but it likely will be a far more peaceful night than last night.

Why? I am not certain if it was the change in diet, lengthy Conference activity, or stress levels over the past few days, but I honestly had a terrible nightmare coming into Sunday morning. I dreamed a horrible dream that woke me up in panic and covered with sweat.

What was the dream about last night? To be blunt for the sake of this post, the dream was a dream where everything terrible I heard over the years came true. In the dream I was called and acted pathetic, was broke and unable to care for what needed to be cared for, and was run out of my job for not being good enough for my role as a minister. Everyone I met in the dream was angry with me, frustrated with me, or full of scorn for me. It was frankly terrifying to wake up feeling awful about myself.

So, what did I do after waking up with a hurting knee and a tortured spirit? I got up, took a shower, strapped on my boots, and went back to work. I walked to work, which I was able to do quite nicely despite my knee’s complaints the night before. I led Sunday School where we had a great conversation and then led worship which led to people coming up to me that were engaged in the message connecting scripture, theology, and the problem of domestic violence.. After a nice salad from the nearby deli, I then walked around town with church members raising money for world hunger and having some great conversations. When that was done I walked home, had a quick dinner, and then went out to grab a cup of coffee and milk to make my yogurt for the week ahead.

In other words, all those terrible things I heard in the dream didn’t stop me from doing what I had to do today. I stood up, laced my boots, and faced my fears, which turned out to be nothing important at all. I am thoroughly proud with myself for moving past my fears and nightmares into a healthier place tonight.

As the day draws to a close, I don’t know what’s ahead of me tonight, but I know one thing to be true: all the terrible things that I once heard from my abuser do not define who I am today. I don’t need to be ashamed of who I am as a person. I don’t need to seek the approval and love of a person who tore my spirit and soul down violently. I can choose to face today no matter what my abuser believes. I will live and I will do so in a way that makes me proud to be me.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Sermon: “A Letter to God”

Sermon: “A Letter to God”
Preached; October 10, 2022
Scriptures: Luke 17:11-19; Psalm 111
Preacher: Rev. Robert Dean

Holy Christ, I wanted to write you an open letter this morning for a few reasons, all of which you already know. The fact that you know the contents of this letter is one of the fun parts about writing a letter to you, but I am fairly certain you do not mind my sharing this letter with your congregation.

One reason I chose to write you a letter this morning is the very real tiredness which comes from attending Annual Conference for several days in a row. Preaching a sermon while looking people in the eye and focusing on body language is a bit much after several days of long meetings. Such a presentation might be beyond me this morning, but presenting a letter is within my capacity. 

Another reason is the very real challenge that comes with the subject matter. You know the subject we are speaking around is very near and dear to my heart as a person. I wanted to choose my words carefully around this touchy subject, so I chose each word in advance this week. 

So, dear Lord, let me get to the heart of why I wanted to write to you today. The scripture reading that we just read included a psalm from the Hebrew Scriptures around the work of God and a story from Christ’s life. The psalm shared how your goodness and majesty are embodied within the earth. You are described in words with words like majestic, glorious, righteous, and honest. In covenant, you are revealed as faithful, trustworthy, merciful, and compassionate.

Now, you know what I do for a living. As an Elder in the United Methodist Church I am called to a ministry where I share the Word, offer the Sacraments, invite others alongside the community into a life of Christian Service, and Order the church life through acts of administration with ordained authority. While I live out my ordained role within the community I perform wedding rites, counsel and encourage individuals and couples in relationships, and help to advocate and work towards ensuring that the churches I serve are safe places for children and vulnerable adults. I am in ministry with elder saints, married adults, single adults, adults in relationships, with teenagers, and with children. To put it in Methodist terms, since “the world is my parish,” I am called to minister to all parts of the community and not simply the people who walk through the doors of my church or who officially enter church membership..

I enjoy what I do for a living. I derive comfort from helping others. I enjoy sharing in deep conversations about you (God) and about what life can be like while living with you. If it were not for paperwork, there are very few days where going to work feels like drudgery, but that does not mean that it is always easy or painless.

In those moments of both joy and pain, I rely on you both as the One who walks with us and sets an example for us. You, Lord, are all the things described in our psalm. When I marry people, I share with them about the way that Christ models a healthy way to live in love with a spouse. When I confirm students into church membership, I ask those students point blank about their relationship with you, their divine parent and Savior. All of these conversations use relationships as a simile for our relationship with you. God, you are like our Parent. God, you are like our spouse.

So, what am I supposed to do when I come across places where spouses hit spouses? Didn’t I just say that a loving relationship with a partner is like a loving relationship with you? Do such analogies work after a spouse bruises a spouse? Do they do more harm than good after such moments? In a similar vein, what do I say when a teenager tells me that their parent or parents tear them down? What do I say when a child tells me that their parent does not love them? What do I say when a child mentions one parent hitting another?

The other day you know that I had Chinese for lunch on the first day of the Annual Conference. You know what that fortune cookie told me. The cookie stated in bold fashion that “Fate loves the fearless.” You know that I read that fortune and thought of this moment in this letter to you. You know the questions I wanted to ask after reading that short little proverb. 

It is nice to think that people who are unafraid have a place to live in this world. What of the others? Who favors the fearful? Who favors the frightened? Who favors those who have felt pigeonholed into places of darkness and doom? 

We know as a people that domestic violence is not okay. The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church affirms that belief when it shares on behalf of the church the words: “We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community.” 

We understand that domestic violence is not acceptable and harms the covenants within our community. We understand that God cares for us deeply and does not want us to suffer in such ways, but these actions happen in spite of our best intentions and desires.

So what do we do, Lord? Where do I point as a proclaimer of the Word? If people see you as their divine parent and their example of a parent is violent, then how do I share that there’s a difference between what the worst of humanity shows us and the way you want to care for us? Where can I point? Where can I tell a hurt person to look?

Of course, you know the answer to that question. I already know the answer to that question. A lot of people who have spent time in church know where I should invite people to look. Where do I point people who have such questions, concerns, and fears? 

I point them to Jesus. When they need to see a person whose life is marked by compassionate love rather than impassioned hatred, I point them to Jesus. When they need to see a person who does more than say pretty words, I point them to Jesus. Jesus not only spoke about love and nonviolence, but went so far as to heal the ear of a soldier who was hurt by Jesus’ disciple when that soldier came to arrest Jesus on the night before his crucifixion. 

Look at our story! Jesus is confronted on the road by ten people with skin diseases which were identified by translators for many years as leprosy. There are ten lepers on the road who need help. They are unclean and by both religious law and cultural tradition they had to keep their distance from Jesus and his disciples. From a distance they cry out for help. 

Does Jesus berate them? Does Jesus throw things at them? Does Jesus mock them? Does Jesus ignore them? Does Jesus tell them to go somewhere else? Jesus does none of these things.Jesus heals them. All ten of them. Nine of them are healed, but apparently have their own plans about what to do next. The nine walk away, but one returns.

Was this person a rich person? We don’t see that in the text. Was this cleansed person a person of importance? We don’t see that in the text. What we do see is that this person was that there was more going on with this person than just a skin disease. This person was a foreigner from outside the Jewish people. Beyond unclean, this person’s entire being was outside of the people God called and sanctified in the desert. 

So, Jesus was nice to this leper when there was just a disease and the leper was one of many. Perhaps now Jesus will reject this person as a distraction, a nuisance, or an outsider? Perhaps now Jesus will strike the foreigner, mock the foreigner, or just ignore the fact that they have returned. 

Jesus doesn’t do any of those terrible things. Jesus does not strike out at this person physically, verbally, or even culturally. Jesus invites this person to go forth as a person who has been healed. Even though the praise of God comes from someone other than a child of Abraham, Jesus welcomes the praise, accepts the thanks, and sends this person out with a blessing. There isn’t even a touch of cruelty shown to this person. All that remains is love and kindness for a person who needed help.

This is the kind of example that I point to when I tell people to love their partner like Jesus. This is the kind of behavior a loving parent should show their child, should model in their home, and should ideally invite their child to share with someone else one day. Do I expect that anyone can live this kind of a loving life 24/7 without divine help? No, but this is the ideal. 

The love shown by Christ when shared between two people is holy and good. It does not harm or hate. It does not mock or denigrate. It does not tear down or destroy. It is good, holy, and kind. This is the love I want people to share with God. This is the kind of love that I pray will fill the lives of the people who stand before me when I perform a marriage. This is the kind of love I pray will anoint every child and every adult that I baptize. This is love incarnate.

Of course, I know that trust is hard, especially after the wounding that can take place when people face domestic violence. Here’s what I propose. God, if we do our best to trust that you are kind, loving, and graceful, will you help us to believe? Will you meet us in the moment we are tempted to see you in the same light as the broken parts of humanity we may have seen? Will you help us to believe in you when the worst criticisms of all come from within?

Truthfully, although this letter addresses domestic violence as a major issue, I hope that you will meet people who struggle to believe in a loving God in other situations. Some people live life with happy parents, loving children, and without a cloud in the sky of their home life while still struggling to believe. Will you meet them too? Right here and right now, will you meet them if you ask for help? 

I trust you will meet everyone who turns to you in these moments. I trust you will help people to come to know love deeply, to understand hope intimately, and to cultivate faith in the internal garden they share with you. 

Likewise, I trust that the people who hear me read this letter to you or who read it later on their own will understand the message that should not need to be said. The Book of Resolutions teaches after the passage we read before that: 

“We encourage the Church to provide a safe environment, counsel, and support for the victim and to work with the abuser to understand the root causes and forms of abuse and to overcome such behaviors. Regardless of the cause or the abuse, both the victim and the abuser need the love of the Church. While we deplore the actions of the abuser, we affirm that person to be in need of God’s redeeming love.”

 ¶161.ii.h. “The Nurturing Community, Family violence and abuse” in the Book Of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 2016

If someone who reads these words needs help, we are called to be a place where help can be found, whether they are the victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. All people are called to the redeeming and redemptive God of love and we will do our best to walk with each person who comes in need of help. Taking it a step further theologically and philosophically, as a church we will work with you through the Spirit so that we can do better than our best in such moments.

In the end God, for me the journey towards healing begins in trusting in You. Whether we are recovering from abuse, facing abuse, living out destructive patterns of abuse, or walking with others who face such terrors, we are called to trust in Christ. Like the foreigner long ago, we can choose to walk away even after Christ works in our lives. We can also choose to come back in faith.

It is only in returning to Christ that the cleansed person found welcome. It is only by stepping towards God in faith that the foreigner was sent forth with a blessing. In stepping towards Christ an example was set where blessing came from drawing near even after all was made right in that person’s life. 

I would end this letter with a straightforward prayer: Holy God, help us to draw near to you. As someone who has faced such circumstances, help me to offer words of hope to others as a minister, an advocate, and as a Christian. Help each Christian to stand for a world where abuse fades in the light of love. Teach us to advocate for redemption in the lives of the least of these as well as healing in the lives of those they have abused. Help us to treat them like we would treat Jesus. Let that light of love shine in dark corners and help to bring hope into the darkest of places. We ask for your help in Jesus’ name. Amen.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Healing and Sharing

How do we begin to heal after the pain of the past? How do we start to find our way forward after trust is broken, hearts are shattered, and faith falls flat? 

For me, one tool in my toolbox of healing is to care for other people. Often the things that I need on my path to a healthier place are the very things needed by people who have walked a similar path. While I need them, I don’t always recognize my needs. Being around and caring for people who have walked similar roads often helps me to see in others the things I need in my own life.

Do you know what I mean? I may need to hear a loving voice, but I don’t recognize that need until I see how much a friend needs to hear my loving voice. I may need to go easier on myself, but I will be harsh until I walk alongside someone who is just as harsh to themselves as me. 

To put this in Biblical terms, I might relate it to what is said in the Common English Bible in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

There have been places in my life where I have felt completely broken, but I have found the process of healing begins when I reach out loving hands to another person suffering. Selfishly, one reason I am being so open about my woundedness this month is to help others find a compassionate voice because I understand that compassion acts like a boomerang. When I send it out and away it comes back to me. 

I hope that these posts bring encouragement to others and help them to understand that they are not alone. I hope that others find my voice to be loving, sympathetic, and inviting. I hope that others take encouragement from what I write this month and pour that love out to others. I hope that divine cycle of giving love and receiving love will keep spreading, but even if it never goes beyond the words on this page, I will reach out and invite others to reach with me.

Just as I think I am just done,
Everything switches as I hear
How another person has walked
Over roads I once might have tread.
Very slowly my closed heart creaks
As deep compassion stirs within:
Healing pours in as love flows out.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.