Free from Harm

Romans 13:10
Romans 13:10

The morning sun rises over the mountain and it will be a beautiful day again. Love abounds in my house, so it should be a good day right? Except for one thing; a classmate from college was murdered. The news must have covered it late last night because that was when I found out. A friend on Facebook posted it. When I went to the person’s page, someone alluded that the act may have been one of domestic violence. Another person posted more on the war on guns. Here’s a sad reality; if this was an instance of domestic violence, the guy would have killed her even if he had not accessed a gun.

On the website of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) the 2015 statistics show that 20 people per minute are murdered by someone they loved. Domestic violence is one of the more hideous crimes to me because of the implications on trust and how it affects the way in which we see “love”. Also, domestic violence is a crime that we are afraid to talk about, or embarrassed to talk about. Why? Who knows? Perhaps it’s because we all know someone who has been abused. Perhaps we have been abused too and don’t want anyone to know it.

Yet, one of the reasons that this is still a major crime is because we are not brave enough to talk about it in our churches, our families, or to our friends. It’s time to talk. We must stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves: for those who have died before us and sadly, for those who are now in abusive situations or will be in abusive situations. I know that I’ve not talked much about the things that happened to me because I was embarrassed that I could be so dumb. My friends always said that I was naïve and too trusting. Being in two different abusive relationships made me feed dumb. After a LOT of counseling and the support of amazing friends, I got the help I need. Still, I was more fortunate than many because I was not murdered. My lovely wife still has to deal with the fears instilled in me in those years however.

Some important facts:

  • Stalking is illegal in all 50 states. Often, domestic violence first begins as stalking of some sort. If you are being stalked, please visit the Stalking Resource Center to find how to get help in your state.
  • Domestic violence has warning flags. The NCDVA lists these examples of abusive tendencies include but are not limited to:1
    • Telling the victim that they can never do anything right
    • Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away
    • Accusing the victim of cheating
    • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members
    • Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
    • Controlling every penny spent in the household
    • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses
    • Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing
    • Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do
    • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
    • Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
    • Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
    • Telling the victim that they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children
    • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets
    • Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons
    • Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
    • Forcing sex with others
    • Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control
    • Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
    • Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school
    • Destroying the victim’s property

 

As I grieve the loss of my friend, I cannot do anything besides pray for her family and their loss. In case she was a victim of domestic violence, I decided to write this because it is something I can do. Even if you are in an abusive relationship, it is not the end of the world. The sites listed above offer places and resources where one can get help. Talk to your clergy member and if that person doesn’t help, go find someone else. New Choices has a 24 hour hotline you can call at 937-498-7261 if you need someone to talk to right now.

Don’t think that domestic violence limits itself to straight couples either. I know many people (including myself) who have lived in these situations. I call domestic violence in a LGBTQIA relationship the “Secret within a Secret” because if a person is closeted, they have to remain silent in two ways or their lives are endangered.  Love and relationships are meant to build us up, not tear us down. You can have a better life without being harmed!

New Choices - Get Help!
New Choices – Get Help!

I know this because I finally got the help I needed after losing almost everything. When I moved back to North Carolina, I thought I would never be happy again, but at least I would be near friends. My second and last abusive partner convinced me to move West to have more power over me. The first abusive partner stole everything from me and threatened me with a gun if I told anyone. She was later imprisoned for two years on fraud, but I had not told because I did not want to be shot with the unregistered gun that threatened me. There’s more, but it is still too hard for me to write out. The pain so real. The damage done. You too can get help. Hope still abides. Don’t give up. Get out!

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by Marie Fortune
Excellent Resource
Clergy Resources Here
Clergy Resources can be found at the Faith Trust Institute. Click above photo.

 

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Stepping Up to Love

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Love one another.

Love is a tricky word and also a word we use too casually. Time and again, I will use Frederick Beuchner’s definition of love to explain what I mean when I use the word separately from romantic love. Beuchner explains it this way:

“In the Christian sense, love is not primarily an emotion but an act of the will. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling.

You can as well produce a cozy emotional feeling as you can a cough or sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our well-being to that end.”  

                              from his book Wishful Thinking

 

We are one
We are one

This morning on NPR, a teacher talked about why she thought our country is going backwards. The story told was of a tow truck driver who wouldn’t town a car with a Bernie sticker on it. She explained that both people were white, so it wasn’t a racial issue. The story upset me, not for political reasons, but to hear that our basic sense of respect for one another is waning. We all need one another whether we want to face that limitation or not.

Jesus would tell us to love one another, or perhaps tell the story again of the Good Samaritan. Our scripture is filled with stories of the importance of seeing the “stranger” as a guest.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.   Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV)

We are strangers in an alien world and it is only through being kind to one another and respecting one another that we can survive. Yes, death comes to each of us. That doesn’t mean we have to be miserable until that end. It doesn’t mean we have to constantly fight each other in words. Our world has come a long way since I was born in the 1960s. I never thought that I would be able to marry in my lifetime. The conversations we are having, I never thought I would hear about them and read about them in public. The conversations are hard, but they are worthwhile.

I’m struggling this morning as the rain falls. How can I express my concern? What does it mean to “love” or “respect” someone we may not even like? I’ve always believed that each person, each creation, is a gift to the earth. As such, how can we view the differences in opinions and ways of getting through life that each of us struggle with in the day to day? I wish I could say I have an answer. My hope in this particular writing is begin a discussion. Perhaps you’ll write me. If not, perhaps you will talk to your best friend about it or your Pastor or Lama. Maybe it means sitting on a park bench and watching all the diverse people walk by as you eat your lunch.

 “Have a big enough heart to love unconditionally, and a broad enough mind to embrace the differences that make each of us unique.”      ― D.B. Harrop

As I wrote this blog, a Joy Williams song started playing. Over and again, she sings “We can never go back” and all I want to sing to the world is that same phrase. Let’s go forward in love. Let us work together to serve and uplift those in need. What does it mean to STEP UP TO LOVE? All I know is that I don’t want us to go back. Let us go forward in respect and kindness for one another. Let us work together to conquer the world of hatred by respect, compassion, and love for one another. It’s not a pipe dream. It can happen even if it’s only in my little space of time. Even if it only starts with your family. Even if it means only taking time to breathe before we say something hurtful. One breath at a time, we can love.

 

 

“The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”
― Frederick Buechner from  The Magnificent Defeat

 

Copyright © 2016· All Rights Reserved · JRobin Whitley

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Vacation in Nature and Listen

Panther Road, Bryson City ©2016 JRobin Whitley
Panther Road, Bryson City – ©2016 JRobin Whitley

 

Nature is a mystery that reveals herself to us in many ways. I’ve always been a fan of nature. Just this morning, as I drove to my friend’s house, I had to roll down the window so I could hear the quiet out where he lived. While I live in the mountains, I am also near a major highway. Because I am by nature first an aural person, I most often hear something before I see it. That makes the sounds of nature even more beautiful for me. No special effects or Hollywood producer can create anything as beautiful as the sights and sounds of nature.

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We live in an area where many people camp or choose to vacation. There is white water rafting, hiking, camping, Cherokee is nearby. You can access the Blue Ridge Parkway from several different areas. That can mean a lot of noise pollution. As you camp, vacation, and hike, please keep in mind that there are many who have never heard the sounds of nature. Be respectful of nature as well. In the section from NPR’s Morning Edition, today’s episode talks about how many animals are also affected by our noise. Get out of the house. Have fun. But remember, there’s always someone listening!

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Thought for the Morning – June 23, 2016

 

after reading Pema Chödrön's book, When Things Fall Apart
after reading Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart

 

I wonder

when we will begin to see;

doing nothing is often doing something…

and doing something is often doing nothing?

~2016 ©jrobinwhitley

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Finding Joy

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This Sunday, I will be playing music and telling stories with my good friend, David Brewin. We will be playing at the UUF in Franklin North Carolina. They’re a great fellowship full of love, compassion, and welcome. The last time David and I were there, we talked about death. Not a cheery topic, but something we all have to face at some time. As they say in one of the shows I like to watch on Netflix, “…nobody gets out alive.” That being said, it doesn’t mean we always have to focus on the sadness in life. Because of the seriousness of the last event, we decided that we would present something more joyful. As a result, we talk will be on music and finding joy in life.

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Finding joy in life may seem like an odd topic after recent events in Orlando. However, life does go on while we work for the good of others. Even when life is difficult we must also work for our own good. If we don’t find the joy in every day life, it is hard to carry on even if we are working for issues of justice. I do want to say however, that Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Joy is being able to see the beauty in the ordinary. Joy may not bring happy feelings to us, but it does bring us to the hope we need to carry on.

 

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Joy can be as simple as a flower blooming in your garden. Joy can be as simple as a stranger’s smile that catches you off guard. Joy can be a song on the radio, a special word from a friend, a note or letter in your physical mailbox. Having time to read brings me joy. Sitting on the Couch with my wife and kids brings me joy. Silence always fills my heart to overflowing.

Taking time to notice joy, to listen and remember the things or people that matter to you is a vital way of energizing goodness in yourself and the world. What is it that brings you joy?
________________________________________________ Continue reading “Finding Joy”

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