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Feb 06

I received this question from someone who had just read my book, Freedom’s Just Another Word, where I confront some pretty bad demons from my past:


How did you overcome your fear of dealing with all the pain coming to the surface? I have not been able to conquer this fear I have of experiencing all that pain. I can talk to myself, try to reason it all out. I know this stuff is poison. If I let it all stay buried in there it is going to continue to rot my soul. I can know this in my head, but the fear is greater than my reasoning.


Here’s how I responded:
OK – that really is the essential question. The fear of dealing with all the pain coming to the surface. A very real, very pertinent question. It sort of gets back to simple concepts - “The way out is through!” “The only pain you can avoid is the pain of avoidance.” In my case, I had watched my Dad for 20 years be sober in a 12 step program, but not be willing to deal with the feelings underneath his drinking, which I strongly suspect were from his childhood. He had his first heart attack at age 44, open heart surgery at 47, a colostomy at 52, and died of a stroke at 59. OK – for me, I knew I was destined to go down that same road if I didn’t change the dynamic in some way. Intuitively and spiritually, I knew that meant I had to face the demon of the old, buried feelings – it would continue to “rot my soul” and I would end up dying early as well. So at that point – at the time of Freedom’s Just Another Word – dealing with the pain was for me a life and death struggle. Once I acknowledged that, I became more like they talk about in recovery literature, “willing to go to any lengths.” Hence the title, and the associated second part of the song line I had “Nothing Left to Lose.” I didn’t choose that path, I was watching all my friends have normal lives and I was having to go through this shit, and resenting it – but that was the path I needed to go down.


So I had realized I needed to do this work – but how to actually get to it. Several ways. Fortunately I had the wonderful sponsor in one of the 12 step programs who gave me this huge gift. He told me that if we start doing feeling work and it gets to be too much, there is a natural defense mechanism in the body that will shut it down. I found that to be true! I would start crying a box of Kleenex cry, deep and intense for several minutes, and then almost magically I would pull out, it would ease off, and I would be fine for a couple of days until we needed to release some more feelings. It happened many times with the sadness. Where I didn’t trust it was with the anger. That’s a couple of books down the sequence, but I will soon write a book about how it was for me in dealing with an anger so pure and white hot it scared me. And eventually it went away. It was that way with the feelings. They felt like they would never stop, and as I kept unloading and unloading, they subsided and finally went away, and I was left with a new awareness, attitude and sense of peace. It really happened! I was pretty surprised, because I sort of never thought I could get there.


Another thing that really sustained me in continuing down the path of dumping all that old stuff was a book I mentioned in Freedom - “Hind’s Feet on High Places.” It is a Christian allegory about a woman named Much Afraid who lived in the Valley of the Fearings with her cousins, Bitterness, Envy, Fear and I believe Resentment. She left to go on a journey to be with the Shepherd in the High Places. That book spoke so much to me about a journey of faith, knowing what you should do and doing it – even if others don’t understand, coming to a deeper faith in trusting that God is with you when you go on that journey. It is a powerful book, it soothed my heart, and kept my feet moving forward when I wasn’t sure I could keep going.


The third thing that I think was hugely beneficial was a strong set of friends who did support me and encourage me to keep going. I had to let some people go who were negative influences, but I still had some solid people who could be there for me – even if they didn’t really understand what I was struggling with. Yes, it is an isolating journey, and I think friends like you have will be an invaluable asset for you in countering that isolation as you let those feelings out. I mean, the essence of what I learned in a 12 step program for those who grew up with alcoholism was “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel” and those were the family rules I was trying to overcome.


I hope this helps, and I know with your great therapist, you are setting a platform from which you can confront those old feelings and bleed them from your system! They do eventually go away – I’m living proof. I just turned 59 (yes, the age my Dad was when he died) and I plan to be a 90 year old guy, writing books and doing Tai Chi. When I went for my physical last year, the doc said “so other than a few allergies, you have nothing wrong with you.” It took a while for the power of that statement to sink in – all the old ailments I was accumulating while stuffing those feelings have gone away, and I am in a whole new space!
Regards,
Dan Hays

Jul 04

It was during the Bicentennial July 4 when 50 college students suddenly lost their voices—in the hillsides of Tennessee. 

 

We sang with Cincinnati’s men's glee club, mostly classic vocals and many freedom songs inspired by the still lingering memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The preacher was gone a few years when the club crossed the Mason Dixon line from our town for a grand tour of the South. 

 

Our destination was New Orleans; in between lay a series of performances in auditoriums and church halls from Kentucky to Mississippi.  It was 1976, but--as we baritones and tenors were soon to learn--it might as well have been 1936 in such towns as Welch, W. Va., and Veramayne, Tenn.
 
The summer sun steamed down as we arrived in the latter community and were greeted by the local church leaders.  It was in their house of worship that we would perform our nightly repertory of show tunes, ballads, and folk songs.  Our conductor was always first off the bus.  Bill Ermey, thin as a reed, endowed with an iron will that kept our libidos at bay even as our voices were in sync, would make the preliminary arrangements as to set up, equipment checks, and housing.
 
In this Tennessee borough, however, Bill ran into a little bit of a problem—the holiday notwithstanding.

 

The town fathers and mothers had peered into the windows of our charter bus and, alas, noticed a sprinkling of black faces among us fifty young men.  They gathered into a tight circle of discussion and duplicity as we boys peered out the window.  Two or three of them pulled Bill aside, away from the bus and spoke to him.  There would apparently be no houses available for the “Negro boys” to lodge in.

 

I remember Bill's face as he dragged himself up the steps of the bus.  The late afternoon sun emphasized his paleness and pain.  "They won't let us all sleep in their homes," he spoke in agony over the static-filled microphone.  "Our black members are supposed to spend the night in the motel down the road."

 

"And they expect us to think of their church as a house of God!" called out Larry Tidrow from the rear, already contemplating his career as a Baptist minister.  But his sentiment was being echoed in the throats and hearts of every one of us who sat, stunned, in a Greyhound bus that was now the vehicle of a new and dreadful awareness.
 
 "Well, boys," said Bill now, his voice suddenly strong and thrilled.  "I'm your leader.  And I say that if we can't all sleep in their houses, then none of us can sing in their church."  In the dim light, I saw that Bill's normally pasty face shone with something I had not seen before.
 
 "Well, that's MLK with me!" chimed in the irrepressible Reverend Tidrow.
 
 

A burst of cheering and applause rocked the bus, along with a booming cadence of "It's MLK with me!"  Bill turned his narrow back around in the doorway, leaned out, and yelled to the nearby cluster of church leaders:
 
 "We're sorry, people, but we will not be singing here tonight.  But we do propose that you have a meeting tonight in your church and ask God why these nice boys lost their voices while passing through this town of yours."
 
 

The University of Cincinnati Men's Glee Club wound up sleeping aboard the Greyhound that night, parked alongside US 231 in a rather dreary roadside stop that sucked in the darkness. We, however, laughed and sang and eventually slept as cheerfully as our teacher's convictions had been inspired back down the road at a church with no God. 

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To find out more about Ben, go to: www.benkamin.com

 

More Ben Kamin articles, click here

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Sep 10

The most difficult thing for any of us to know is who it is that other people see when look at us.

Almost weekly I experience this strange phenomenon.  My wife Rachel makes several observations about my mood, thought process, attitude toward others, as well as things I do that are allegedly annoying to others.  She seems to believe that I would do well to change my approach to life in countless ways.


This causes me a couple of issues.  First, why would anyone pay such close attention to the way I live?  It seems that I am not alone in asking this.  When I get together with other husbands they invariably have the same story, which leads us to wonder why women would marry us?   It seems that we married our wives because we liked them.  I appears our wives seemed to married us for our potential.


We never claimed to have potential.  I certainly didn’t.


The second problem is that if we get together with friends and the topic of “me” comes up, Rachel, albeit somewhat edited, shares with the group her frustrations and my “growing points.” What’s worse, everyone seems to agree with her  -- including the men.


It doesn’t take them 10 minutes to sort me out; it actually takes nanoseconds.


Before I can even get a word in, the group is onto another subject.  They don’t seem annoyed with me; Rachel seems more relaxed, and I feel lost.


What is it that I’m missing and how did I miss it?  Moreover, why am I still missing it, what is it that I’m missing, and will I ever figure me out?


When I am lost and confused, I like to read people who are more lost and confused than me.  Friedrich Nietzsche is at the top of my list. In his book “The Genealogy of Morals,” he writes,


     We are unknown, we knowers, to ourselves. . . . Of necessity we remain  to ourselves, we understand ourselves not, in our selves    we are bound to be mistaken, for each of us holds good to all eternity the motto, “Each is the farthest away from himself”—as far as ourselves are concerned we are not knowers.


It appears I am not alone in feeling clueless.  Socrates realized that the only thing he knew is what he didn’t know, and St. Augustine constantly prayed that God would help him to know his heart. 


So what can we do?  What can I do?  Being in this situation where I can’t see the real me, has created profound insecurity within me.  I’ve come to feel unlovable.  I’m much more aware of what is wrong with me than what is right with me. 


To deal with my latent insecurity I tried three different strategies to compensate – to become someone worth loving. 


First, I’ve tried to find self-worth through accomplishment.  My hope was that if I accomplished a lot, I would have self-worth.  But when my wife and kids speak to me or of me, my accomplishments are rarely mentioned.  Accomplishments don’t mean a lot to them. 


Second, I’ve tried to find self-worth by providing for my family a high standard of living.  Leaving aside for the moment the status of my 401K, the money hasn’t changed the nature of discussions we have about me.  It’s not that my family is ungrateful, but money is not what they want from me. 


Third, I’ve tried to find self-worth through fame and public recognition.  Neither my family nor my friends seem to care all that much that I am a published author, a public servant, a pastor, or have a variety of awards on my wall. 


As it has become apparent that all three of these strategies result in a dead-end, I’ve felt increasingly hopeless and defeated.  I’ve done everything I know to make myself worthy of love.  Not only have these three approaches not worked, I’ve found that the harder I've tried, those closest to me have become increasingly frustrated with me.


Recently, I found myself praying desperately, like Saint Augustine, for a solution to this conundrum, and as I did the words of an old Dutch priest, Henri Nouwen, spoke to my heart.


Dale, you are not what you do.


Dale, you are not what you have.


Dale, you are not what people say about you.


You are the beloved of God.  You are made in the image of God, loved by God, and he wishes to be with you forever. 


This is who you are.


As hard as it is to believe, and trust me, it is hard. I believe he speaks truly.  


Believing this is not easy for me.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  


I’ve coming to see that embracing this as the truth about who I am is my only hope.  It will not “cure” all that ails me on this side of heaven, but it provides the only path I know of getting outside of myself enough to love others and myself. 


Some ask me how, in this bizarre world in which we live, I can believe in God.

Some ask me why, given the lack of grace and love in this world, I remain a Christian.


It is because I believe this to be true: 


I am the beloved of God. I am made in the image of God and he loves me so much that he will come to take me to his home, that we might be together forever.


This is his birthday present to me.  What’s better, rumor has it he has a big house and a lot of birthday presents to give others.  It won’t be lonely in heaven, and for me, that will be a welcomed relief.

 

  

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 


Read other columns by Dale Kuehne here

 

 ©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Oct 08

I believe that the church is rapidly becoming one of the most culturally insignificant organizations in America.


If the purpose of the church is to be Christ to the world until He comes again, I think there can be little argument about the state and trajectory of the American church.  If, as is self-reported, almost half of Americans are Christians, as a group they make remarkably little cultural impact.  There are much smaller groups making a much larger impact.  Consider those who are working to change the definition of marriage in America.  What they have achieved in 20 years is social change the magnitude of which the Church has not made since the second Great Awakening in the 19th century.


I make this criticism as an insider. I was raised and have been involved in the church for my entire life.  I was ordained in 2000, and became a pastor of the Emmanuel Covenant Church in 2001.  I came to this conclusion about the cultural relevance of the church when I was in high school and I have not seen the need to revisit it – until now.


Pastoring Emmanuel Covenant has slowly changed my mind, and in my final days as pastor I am having a conversion experience.  I came to Emmanuel Covenant after a five-year battle with cancer.  When I arrived it seemed that Emmanuel was moving into hospice care.  It seemed that my job was to help its life to end well.


Years earlier I would never have consented to be part of a church burial.  But I looked at life much differently after my battle with cancer.  I realized that death was part of life, and I saw my personal brokenness in ways I never had.  I gladly accepted the invitation.  It seemed that we were meant for each other.  Little did I know.


I remember the church meeting, about six months after my arrival, when we finally voted to close.  We were open to re-forming if both our denomination and an area church would join with us, but while the congregation hoped, I had little confidence this would occur.  There was no earthly reason to invest financial and human resources in a congregation of 12 people three months behind on its mortgage, and emotionally burned-out.  I’m not sure I believed prayers of dying hope would be answered.


Much to my surprise, assistance came, and over the last decade we have been resurrected into a curiously healthy worshipping community.  Not only did it come back to life, it has given and sustained my life.  How? 


I don’t know.  Really.


There really is no “how” to report.  I’m not sure anyone can explain it in human terms.  We are the antithesis of church growth models.  The best characterization I can give to us is to say that we are a community of glorious misfits.  One of the few things we have in common is the understanding that each of us is a misfit.  We have wealthy misfits and less-wealthy misfits.  We have educated and less educated misfits.  We have Republican misfits, Democratic misfits and none-of-the-above misfits.  We have married misfits, divorced misfits, and other misfits. Being a misfit is the human condition, but our culture lives in denial.  At Emmanuel, for some strange reason, we are a collection of people who have been beaten down enough to be able to admit we are misfits to God and each other. 


How have we been able to come to this point? 


I don’t know.  Really.


I had little to do with it.  Some might accuse me of false modesty on this point, but my wife and other church leaders will attest that virtually nothing I proposed in the last decade ever worked.  In fact, very little that church leadership proposed ever worked.  We’d make plans and almost nothing we planned ever happened. 


So why am I so intensely grieving stepping down as pastor of Emmanuel; and, why has my time at Emmanuel restored my belief in the church? 


I don’t yet know.


I do know is that Emmanuel is a place where the love of God and each other abides.  All are welcome, as you are, for as long as you wish.  No one will ever ask you for money, and there is little need to ask others to do things, because if a need is made known, people respond.  They respond in ways that amaze.  It isn’t what they do that amazes so much as how they do it.  They do so without the desire for attention or reward.  Often anonymously.  To this day I suspect I don’t know the half of it.


What’s better, when people walk in the doors on Sunday morning they almost universally report the sense of feeling something special.  As it cannot be due to the smell or condition of the building, I believe it is the presence of God in His most splendored dimension, love.


This is a church that love has built and sustains, and since God is love, it is as it should be.


For the first time in my life, I have had the honor of dwelling in a congregation in which love dwells.  I can say this because love is healing and sustaining me.


I don’t know how all of this came to happen.  I just know that it isn’t of me.  I came as a person desperately in need of love. I came as a person more broken than my humility would allow me to imagine. 


I have committed some of the biggest mistakes and trespasses of my life with the people of this church, and I have not only been forgiven, I’ve been loved.


I’ve never known love like this before.  I’ve never known God like this before. 


I don’t know what the future holds for Emmanuel, the world, or me.  But I know for the first time in my life that love will conquer all.


The tragedy of the American church is not that it is culturally irrelevant, it’s that it doesn’t have to be.

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Jan 14

Demi Moore is my soul mate.  Well, that’s a bit strong.


Demi Moore is my sister.  Well, that’s not true.


But if Demi and I ever spent an evening together we’d have a lot to talk about it.  It seems that we share something in common: the fear that we are not worthy of love. Such is her confession in an interview with “Harper's BAZAAR.” 


“What scares me is that I’m going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved. That there’s something fundamentally wrong with me.” 


That quote could have been attributed to me, but Harper’s didn’t ask. 


Had they contacted me I would have done one better than Demi. My fear is not what I might find at the end of my life, but what I fear at present. 


This blog could be perceived by some to be a rather self-serving attempt to get the attention of Ms. Moore in hopes of securing a private evening together where we can wax eloquent about the meaning of life over some Dom Perignon.


True enough. 


I'd love to spend an evening with her.  Some quiet place on the Pacific ocean would be ideal. We’d have to go “Dutch” but I think the conversation would make it worth her while. 


I can imagine sipping champagne together overlooking a moonlit ocean. The breeze is warm and gentle, and carries with the faint sound of an old 10cc lyric: 


Too many broken hearts have fallen down the river
Too many lonely souls have drifted out to sea
You lay your bets and then you pay the price
The things we do for love
(the things we do for love)
 


As the evening unfolds our conversation becomes unguarded and without pretense.  She is merely Demi, and I, Dale.  Time seems to be suspended as we look back over our lives exploring the conundrum of love.  Our stories are different but have common themes.  Hurts in childhood, difficulties with parents, betrayal by lovers, and our own self-destructive relational habits.  Our stories have so redefined us that if it weren’t for the comfort of the champagne, and a sense of the divine in the night sky, we would be alone together. 


But on this evening the cosmos has brought together all that is necessary for us to feel covered under a canopy of safety that allows us to explore love. 


As the waves break gently on the shore, the more honest we become. As the conversation deepens we no longer seek a dream, but yearn for hope. 


We wish to cast off the burden of rejection, betrayal, and loneliness that enslaves us.  This burden is so heavy and painful it is hard to acknowledge it ... but not tonight.   On this evening we are freed by a glimmer of hope.  The stars bear witness to the fact we may not believe we are loveable, the universe is held together by love.  We may not feel the love of another, but there is love to be felt. Its presence surrounds us. Tonight our worry is that yet again love will pass us by.  


We don't speak of it, but we both wonder if we have befallen the fate of Jacob Marley.  To see what we might have had ... and be tormented by it forever. 


A second bottle arrives and as we toast love, another stanza is carried on the wind. 


When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
 


On any other evening this would strike me as a silly song, but on this evening it punctuates the conundrum of the moment.  I can see the intrinsic worth of Demi, and she me.  Indeed love has so transformed our evening that we find ourselves loving the other; not romantically but from a deeper place within.  We love the other, but we are powerless to persuade the other that they are worthy of love.


Why? 


We explore this until dawn, and the reluctant revelation it brings.


Love is within our reach.  We can feel its presence, but we cannot receive it as we are. 


The years have taken their toll.  Over time we gradually remade ourselves into something other than who we are.   


The bitter irony is that while we cannot love ourselves because we do not like who we have made ourselves to be, we cannot remember who we are.


But remember we must. In order to feel the love that can renew our lives, we have to die to our self-made phantom, and be reborn.


Demi is so many fantasies to so many people, but she is not a fantasy.  


Demi is a child of God.  Loved by God.  And by me.


But somewhere along the way she lost sight of who she really is.  


As did I.


We capitulated to the expectations of others and our misperceived deficiencies, by making ourselves into someone we are not. 


We listened to the lie that we can't be loved for who we are.  Only now, as the conversation comes to climax do we see that we don't love who we are not.  Moreover, others who proclaim love for who we are not do not love us.


As the morning sky bids farewell to the evening, everything looks different,  It is as if the creator has remade the world in HD.


Something else has changed. Our eyes.  As we come together to part we see in the eyes of the other a person of greater depth and beauty than what was revealed just a few hours earlier.  What's more Demi's eyes are also a mirror into my soul.  I can see "me" in a way I never have before and I can't believe I like what I see.  As she looks away I can see, like me, she has had a glimpse of unimagined beauty within her.  


Victor Hugo put into words over a century ago what Demi and I unexpectedly discovered tonight: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  


It is only in the eyes of love that we can see ourselves. And we see not just the face of God, but the abiding presence of love within.   


As we take our leave we see a new path before us.  It diverges from the road we are traveling and confronts us with the choice we never knew we had. We can continue as we are and become more and more what we are not, and die a little with every step.  


Or we can traverse the narrower road.  But to do so requires that we die to the lie of what we are not, and open ourselves to becoming who we are.  


We are promised love, and are given no other assurance.  


At this moment I am praying for Demi. That she forsakes what she is not to become who she is. That she would die to the lie, and awaken to the Demi love designed. 


She is looking quizzical at me.  Each of us is powerless to walk toward the narrow gate.


It seems that you cannot walk this path without the help of another.  We can escort the other, but only if we are willing to be escorted.  


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.” He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Feb 04

We do agree that there is evil—plenty of it.  The difference, succinctly put, is that Christianity generally believes that evil comes from outside people; the Jews accept that there is some evil and some good within every person born.  In other words, we do not believe in Satan; people themselves can be satanic enough.  

                                                                                                      

We’re not that intrigued by sins, sinners, demonic forces, as some of our good neighbors in other faith communities.  We’re much more fascinated with life itself, milestones, experience, and repairing the world.


But not only that: “The devil” is not involved in our liturgies, because we don’t have a corporeal devil concept in Judaism (except in some peripheral sects) and we don’t burden people with trying to get God to exorcise any kind of evil entity out of themselves.  We’re just trying to get ourselves to change—this is the leitmotif of the whole exercise.  Change, or “turning over” comes from within—and this is an area where Judaism does differ significantly with Christianity.


Nor are we afraid of evil—we just wish to protect our children from it. No third party, human or divine, is required for human moments of outreach and healing.  It's all in our hands.  And completing these good works guards us against our inner "evil inclination."  Given the Holocaust, if we actually thought that a vile deity equal to heaven exterminated six million people, including 1.5 million kids, we’d be without a trace of hope and our God would be invalidated.  The Germans and their many accomplices did it; men and women went mad and all we had was God to hold on to. 


God is life and we’re still here.


If there were really a Devil, why bother reaching out to another person?  That arrangement precludes my ability to serve human life, to be creative, to fight injustice, and be God’s partner on earth.  I personally would have a hard time believing in a system that starts out by weakening God with a 50 percent demonic degradation, presumes I’m inherently evil and has a quick existence on the planet just to shed that doom in a future world.  This makes my existence more a competition than an opportunity.


With respect:  Christianity, a great faith that has helped a lot of people for a very long time, perceives evil as a force from without human life.  That is why the Adam and Eve story, when it is strained by the serpent and the forbidden fruit, is labeled as the chronicle of Original Sin.   For the Jews, Adam and Eve didn’t sin; they grew up.


None of us can—or would want to—live in paradise forever.  There comes a time, whether it’s college, marriage, a job change, a recovery from trouble or misfortune, when we realize that from bittersweet wisdom comes growth.  There also come many times when we realize that we might have done something really bad, even evil, to someone else, or to ourselves.  We thought about it and halted the evil inclination and chose the good—both necessary human attributes.  In that tension is a harvest of knowledge.


When a Christian asks, what’s in store in the afterlife, the answer is often: “the Judgment.”  When a Jew asks about it, the answer usually is: “We don’t know.  Let’s eat.”

 

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

  

More Ben Kamin articles, click here  

  

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group 
Mar 11

When I awoke it seemed like an ordinary day.  Much like any other.  


No day has been ordinary since.


While it is a day I will never forget, I don’t remember how it started.  


I imagine it started like most, with me dwelling somewhere on the continuum of believing and doubting God.


There are days I wake up, look out the window, and the existence of God seems utterly obvious.


There are other days I wake up, look within, and the idea of God seems too good to be true. 


This day changed my place on the God continuum.


It was a sunny day near Kansas City, Missouri.  I had returned to visit William Jewell College where I had taught for five years.  They were five terrific years, and after having been away for a year-and-a-half I was glad to have a day to come back and visit old friends.


I don’t remember much about the morning.  I must have had coffee with several people around town.  My first memory is walking toward the college about noon.  It was a leisurely walk as I had two hours until my next appointment.  


I remember pondering where I should go and who I should visit, and decided that I wanted to go visit Patt Kern in the President’s office.  Patt is one of my favorite people, and the first student to give me an apple.  It is a wooden one that still graces my desk.


I walked up the hill to the campus quad at which point I was enraptured by a thousand memories.  


I must have been living in the memories for several minutes when a young woman conjured another memory by interrupting me with, “Prof. Kuehne?”


I turned, instantly recognized her, and looked at her for a moment while I recalled her name. “Joahn, it is so good to see you.  I thought you had graduated.”


“It’s good to see you too," she replied.  "I did graduate. And moved away.  I was driving home to Denver from Chicago and I decided I wanted to talk to you, so I took a detour and drove to campus.  When I got here they told me you didn’t teach here anymore, so I was walking back to my car to drive home to Denver. … What are you doing here?”


The enormity of this encounter was beginning to overwhelm me, and after a pause I stammered, “I’m just here for the day,” 


At this point we just looked at each other.  We were both caught up in enormity; and the sun stood still. 


There is a verse in the book of Joshua that says there was a day when the sun stood still.  Until this moment I had never understood how that was possible.  Now I realized that anything is possible.

 

We needed the sun to be still in order to contemplate what was occurring.


We, who lived 2,000 miles apart away, who had lost contact with each other, had just encountered the other on the William Jewell quad, on this day, at this precise moment.


At some point the earth continued its rotation around the sun, and I said, “Joahn, I’d love to talk, what do you want to talk about?”


“I want to ask you some questions about God.”


Somewhere within me I knew she was going to say that.  What other force in the universe could have ordained this crossing of paths?  God has many names, but “coincidence” is not one of them.


But when she said it a shiver went through me that I can still feel as I write this.


I never did get to see Patt Kern, nor did I go to my 2 o’clock appointment.  Joahn and I went to a coffee shop and spent hours talking about God and everything under the sun.  


I don’t remember much about the conversation, except the distinct sense there were three of us at a table for two.  God didn’t crowd in, but He filled the room. 


That afternoon changed the way I look at life every morning. 


Belief is not certainty.  When something is certain it is known, not believed. 


On this side of heaven God is believed and doubted. 


Both are part of our relationship.  But on that day faith grew within me, and drew me along the continuum toward belief.


Most of my days still look ordinary, but each morning I am aware that something extraordinary is going on all around us.


Every once awhile I get another glimpse of the divine in ordinary time and each time the sun takes a pause.  Each experience brings me back to the quad at William Jewell College and the moment I heard Joahn speak my name.  Her wondrous inquisitive face is etched into my soul.  


I haven’t seen her since, but I doubt whether either of us will ever forget the other.  Fortunately the author of our conversation will never will.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 08


I am not a faith hero.  To do so requires discipline, commitment, and sacrifice greater than I would like to give.


I may be an ordained minister, but truth be told I don’t really want to live like Abraham, Joseph, Noah, or virtually any of the Biblical heroes.  I know love needs heroes, but I fear the cost of faith and am well aware of the humiliation of the misguided.  I’d prefer to be a member of the crowd, but faith asks more of us.


The life of faith requires a belief that God acts through whatever means he chooses for purposes of His own.  It assumes that we can hear the voice of God when He chooses to speak to us.  Most importantly it requires we respond obediently regardless of whether what He asks makes sense to us.


The faithful say, “Yes Lord.” 


I say, “Why me?”


Noah was asked to build an ark, and the promised flood doesn’t come for decades.  But he sees it through despite the taunting.


Abraham is asked to leave his home and take a journey toward an indeterminate destination on the promise he and his wife Sarah will have a child and descendants there is no earthly reason to believe they will have.  But they live as if the promise is true.


Joseph is asked to remain faithful and attentive to God despite the fact he is in prison and there is no reason to believe he will ever be released.  And he ends up a prince of Egypt.


Jesus is asked to believe that his life achieved its purpose when at his moment of greatest need virtually everyone in whom he had invested deserted him.  After losing everything he found a throne.


So what’s my hesitation?  The fear of being wrong.  Judas, Solomon, and others who were close to the heart of God, assumed they were being faithful even as their heart led them astray.


What do I believe to be my calling?  To explain to a culture that doesn’t want to hear it, why the historical teaching confining sexual relations to a marriage between one man and one woman is good news for everyone.


When I share this sense of calling with friends, they usually respond with phrases like, “Why?”  “Better you than me,” or, “I think you are on the wrong side of history.”


That last sentence haunts me.  Faith is belief, not certainty.  The annals of history are filled with those who sought to defend the status quo and others who challenged it.  History judges them with a perspective those in the present never possess.  


Our culture's conception of marriage is changing so quickly that it’s not clear which position is counter-cultural, let alone on the right side of history.  


But I digress.  I am not asked to predict the verdict of history, I am asked, we are asked, to live faithfully come what may.

I am not a brave man nor am not emotionally well adjusted.  I continually pray for wisdom, guidance, and hoped that this “cup” would be taken from me.


I can see why Jesus felt forsaken as he hung dying.


The life of faith is frightening.


Abraham, Joseph, and Noah must have experienced discouragement, despair, and had every good reason to give up, because there was no really good reason to go forward, but in their moments of darkness they lived faithfully and didn’t waver.


When I was a young man, I believed I was called by God to live at the nexus of faith and public life.  


As I scanned the horizon, I found virtually no role models.  I saw religious politicians, and I saw political pastors, and virtually no one did both well.  Mostly I saw people doing it poorly.


But I felt called to live well in both worlds and to get there I got a seminary degree, a Ph.D. in government, and all the debt that goes with it.


In my younger years I never wanted to pastor.  I didn’t like the church that much, but after I turned 40 I gave into deep sense God was asking me to become a pastor.


Much to my surprise I found myself living in both worlds as I taught government and pastored a church, and I found much joy in both.  What’s more I earned accolades and respect in both realms, and I reveled in it.


Until now.


Twenty years ago the questions concerning sexuality and marriage were merely academic and there was little need to address the issues.


But the times have been a ‘changing and I found that the changing cultural views on sexuality were impacting my students and parishioners in significant ways and the existing resources were inadequate to address these questions in a post-modern age.


Unexpectedly I sensed God asking me to write a book on the trifecta of political incorrectness: Sexuality, Theology, and Politics.


I knew that doing so would have an undesirable impact on my family, life, and work.  But I felt utterly compelled.  All my education and training had put me in a position to write this book.  And I did.  I wrote it with the desire to clarify the issues in such a way so as to help facilitate a discussion among people.  On issues like these, our society doesn’t need more polarization, but a safe place to discuss issues that are very important and personal.


All the while I've believed I am being faithful, even as I've hoped I wasn't walking in the footsteps of the misguided.  I live in the ambiguity of faith and not the security of certainty.


When Sex and the iWorld was published, my life changed. Addressing the trifecta of political incorrectness had the immediate effect of narrowing my professional opportunities. 


I tried to ignore that by focusing on the fact that fewer professional opportunities translated into more time to speak to the subject, which is my passion.


Unfortunately, I’ve not needed the time.  Except for a surprising high level of interest in Europe, Asia, and Australia, I’ve been largely ignored in the US by religious institutions.  To my surprise the few invitations I've received have come from largely secular organizations.


Apparently it’s not part of the business plan of the American church to discuss sex.  


All this was discouraging, but it didn’t deter me.  No worries I said.  “God works in his own ways and has a plan for my life.”


In October I felt compelled to step down from pastoring after a decade with a congregation I loved.  I did so with the belief that such a move was right for all concerned and that it would give me more time to write and speak, because after all, the speaking invitations would come. They had to come!  The issues surrounding my book are more relevant today than the day they were written.


But after a few months the speaking opportunities I had, such as they were, dried up, and while I realize man cannot live on bread alone, I haven’t figured out how to make do in the absence of it.


I found that I had arrived at the "last minute.”  I pleaded with God to intervene before more hardship came upon me.  


I believed he would rescue me at the "last minute."  


The "last minute" came and went.  Nothing happened, except my fears being realized.


But when my grief and denial subsided I discovered I was still alive and the world was still here.  


I find myself in a place I never knew existed.  Life on the other side of the "last minute.”


Every doubt I’ve ever had is here to greet me. Foremost among them is the question of whether I’ve been faithful or misguided.


Misguided or not I've discovered much to my surprise that this place, on the other side of the "last minute," is where every story of real faith begins.  When our expectations are exhausted, common sense is a distant memory, and we cannot rescue ourselves, we have come to the place where true faith is exercised.  Our heroes all found themselves here and they persevered.


I am not at a dead end, but the way forward is dark. 


I can see left and right, but not forward.


Doubt is in plentiful supply.


Did I hear right?  Did I hear wrong?


I am looking with renewed interest at Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and Jesus.


They lived for decades on the other side of “the last minute.”


They listened well.


They walked forward into the darkness and discovered what cannot be seen.


Now is my opportunity.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jun 03


(NOTE: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that each year approximately 40 million debilitating illnesses or injuries occur among Americans as the result of their use of tobacco, alcohol or another addictive drug. Addiction and substance abuse is not just an individual problem, but one that affects families and communities. NIDA estimates substance abuse costs the United States an estimated $484 billion per year.)

 

 

 

Once again, I am in a throwdown with God, and things won’t be easier until I do this: surrender to all the control I want to have, the approval I hope to gain, the fear I hold onto (fear of angry people and people in authority are my big ones), the perfectionism and procrastination I cling to that causes me to be late on timely commitments.  I surrender. There are other character flaws I can add to the list, but I am powerless over wanting to do everything all at once, so I give up, too, on completing that list.

 

It’s time to turn in work and I am afraid. Truly, there are probably 10 pieces I’ve already written that would be good and good enough. But as the child of an alcoholic, even though I am 56 years old, I still feel overwhelming self-doubt and fear when I am not practicing the kind of self-care I know I need.

 

As one of almost 30 million children of alcoholics (COAs), I know I am not alone in having this deep-seated fear.  When my fear overpowers my faith, I start trying to run things, and “forget” to practice the self-care that helps me remember that I am not in control.

 

(Note to self: remember when trying to control things I need to take a deep breath, ask God for help figuring out how to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  ACTION:  I take a break for 1.5 hours to attend support meeting. It is no coincidence that the topic is giving up control. God sure gives me what I need when I admit I do not have all the answers.)

 

My fellow "co-addicts" and I developed unhealthy relationship patterns in response to growing up with alcoholics or others addicted to substances or compulsive behaviors. I call what we have an addiction to “toxic intensity.”

 

Despite years of humbling work in therapy and support groups, if I become fearful, angry, excited, or arrogant, I can flat-out find a way to recreate the toxic dysfunction I knew as a child. Denying  there is a part of me that still has that childlike fear will kick my butt every time I forget.  What is even more amazing is that when I am in that fear, I tend to attract others who are also in their fearful, child-like states, and together we can make a monstrous mess that may take years to untangle. There are plenty of us around (again, there are almost 30 million children of alcoholics; further, one in four school children says alcohol or drug use causes trouble at home).

 

Whether at work or at home, on a phone call with a customer service person in India or Indiana, those of us affected by the chaos of addiction can trip and trigger and bring out the very worst in each other. The spiral continues.  And widens. The disease, which is really the devil, loves that.  We can become the very people we do not want to be instead of the peaceful, productive, mature people we are.

 

When I am triggered, I have to stop and do what I wrote about in my book, the book I would love to rename as simply “TurnAround Parenting.” I am not “The turnaround mom, but one of millions of parents/people affected by the alcohol and drug abuse of others.  There are many millions more, too, affected by the behavioral addictions of others: overeating, overspending, addictions to sex, pornography, and work.  We are all part of a tribe of humans who seem to feel fear, guilt, and shame at a deep, toxic level. Feeling these emotions so deeply, we hope if we are blessed with children, that they will be healthy, and not debilitated by the family legacies that may lead us to act out the very behaviors we swore we would not repeat.

 

I am a mom who prays that I have stopped mid-trigger to breathe deeply and seek peace, one of the most important forms of self-care. I pray that I have done enough deep breathing, boundary setting, support system building, peaceful time seeking, toxic intensity avoiding, healthy relationship building and such that my children won’t have the central nervous system wiring I inherited that makes me forget self-care, struggle with setting boundaries, forget about the sane people who love me, and sometimes succumb to the toxicity of “the dark side,” i.e.fear-based judgment, control, procrastination.

 

It is so easy to abandon self-care right now. Though my stepdad is in end-stage Alzheimer’s, it is my MOTHER who just went into hospice. He took care of himself, working out, eating well, doing rewarding volunteer work. She took care of him and everyone else. The irony is rich and sad and the lesson is right in front of me and my fellow children of chaos: we can be triggered into old behaviors by situations big, such as the illness of a parent, or small and every day, such as the early return of a loved one (YIKES! I’M NOT FINISHED CLEANING!). We can know how to care for ourselves and still end up killing ourselves trying to save others, to attain perfection, to control situations, to justify abuse, to make decisions, and to deny reality.

 

Denial wants me to forget that I cannot do it all.  Fear wants me to freeze and stay in indecision while decisions are made by others.  Denial  wants me to believe situations in my life that are NOT normal ARE normal, and that situations that ARE normal are NOT. Fear wants me to obsess about all of this, and miss being in the moment, so there are even more regrets.

 

It’s like a giant game of whack-a-mole. Every toxic mole hit is replaced by three more, so there is no way to win. The only way to win is to put the hammer down and walk away from the game.

 

So the lesson learned is that we don't need to keep repeating the lesson.  I surrender.

Today the healthy part of me – the part that is winning in this woman-against-self struggle – knows God has it under control.

 

If I will just take care of myself, and pull the plank from my own eye, I won’t have to kill myself trying to take the speck from anyone else’s.  And we will all be happier, healthier, and less likely to become toxic.


There is help for Children of Alcoholics is at nacoa.org (National Association for Children of Alcoholics) and adultchildren.org (Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization Worldwide, Inc.) 

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Aug 27

I am 54 years old and I find my journey has led me to a dead end and a crossroad.  A dead end, because I can no longer go in the direction I was traveling.  A crossroad because I have to turn to the right or the left.  One direction leads to life, the other to death.   

You may ask, what's the dilemma?


I'm not sure which is which.


Why?


The sign at the crossroad says, "Know Thyself."


That's the problem.  I don’t know who I am.


I could take a cue from Dr. Laura and say I am my children’s father, but that wouldn’t be authentic.  


Neither does saying I am Rachel’s husband.


I am both of those, but I must be more.


In asking this, I am not having a mid-life crisis.  


My crisis is a whole life crisis.  


I only recently discovered I am not who I thought I was.  


As a child I took identity from my family and place.  On several occasions I was told to act like a “Kuehne,” which was a code for saying, “Whoever you think you are presently, you are not.”


I am a Kuehne, I am a husband, and I am a father, but I must be more.


While it was difficult to divine what it means to be a Kuehne, it was easier to understand what it meant to be a Minnesotan.  


That meant to eat your jello salad and like it.  To prefer Cool Whip to the real thing, (which made no sense at all coming from a dairy state).  To come in second in politics and football and be satisfied.  To take niceness to a new level of nice.


But I no longer live in Minnesota and none of these things are valued in New England.


But since I wasn’t born in New England, I can’t be a New Englander.


If I am no longer Minnesotan and can never be a New Englander, then who am I?


When I became an adult I was under the impression that I am defined by what I do.


When asked to introduce myself the first thing I’d say is that I was a university professor or a pastor.  I worked hard to become both and until recently I’ve been happily engaged in each.  


But a funny thing happened.  A colleague recently asked me what I am going to do when I retire?


I had never given retirement a thought.  I’ve been so absorbed in career and how long it took me to establish myself, it didn’t really occur to me that I may only have a decade to go.


If I am not what I do, then who am I?


Even as I have been absorbed by my dueling careers, I have drawn much of my identity from what I have.  As I’ve gone up the career ladder, I’ve accumulated more and more things.  A house, a car, a family, a dog. and an attic full of things I’ve forgotten.


Accumulating more and more things seemed to give my life purpose.


And then I was hit by bankruptcy.


I found myself with a negative net worth, that was reflected in my self-worth.


I no longer want to be what I have, or haven’t.


If I am not what I have then who am I?


I realize that for as long as I can remember, I have defined myself by what people said about me.  First my parents, then friends, then my wife and family, and just about anyone.


While embracing identity in this fashion borders insanity, it was a region I have willingly inhabited for all these 54 years.


But living and dying by how people regard me is not working.  Writing a book about theology, sexuality, and politics is a sure cure for popularity.   Living a life focused on things other than relationships doesn’t make me popular with family and friends.  Trying to write a book about the importance of human relationships when I’ve lived anything but doesn’t even make me popular with myself.


If I am not what people say about me then who am I?


If I am not what I have then who am I?


If I am not what I do then who am I?


I am 54 years old and I am only now becoming aware that I'm uncertain about who I am.


But I can't go further without knowing.


When I allow myself the torment of solitude there is a voice that whispers hope to me.  


It is hope I don’t deserve.


The louder voices can’t drown this one out.


It is telling me I am a child of God, loved by God for all eternity.


Hell is not hard to believe.  Life has been a tutorial on hell.  Hell is existence in the absence of love.   


Heaven is hard to believe, because it is hard to have faith in what I do not deserve.


My path has brought me to the intersection of love.  One direction leads to life.  


The path I choose will define me forever.


Who am I?


Can I believe that which seems too good to be true?


Or will I settle for less.


Love rescue me.



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister, and is presently the Interim Pastor at the Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH. He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Sep 17

I knew God would rescue me at the last minute.  

After all, I was doing what he told me to do.

He asked me to write a book about faith, politics and sexuality.  


I spent five years writing it, and every day I was aware that upon publication I was going to lose friends and my sphere of influence.


I believe the historic Christian teaching that sexual relations should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman and is good for society and us, despite how we feel about it.


That used to be accepted wisdom.


Now it is politically incorrect.


Not just politically incorrect but something that borders hate speech.


I knew what I had to say would not be merely academic,  but also personal. 


I would be regarded as bigot and many would either ignore me or seek to marginalize me.  


I’m not sure which is worse.


I will, however, have time to figure it out … because I was right.


Without getting into the details, since I published the book I lost 45 percent of my income.


What’s worse, I bought a house while I was writing the book, in August of 2007.  


I wasn’t prepared for losing 45 percent of the value of my home or income.


But, I didn’t need to be.  Whether anyone agrees with me or not, I knew God would rescue me at the last minute.  


That’s what faith is all about.  Laying it on the line and being rescued when all appears hopeless.


Isn’t that the story of faith?


I didn’t want God to wait until the last minute, but that tends to be the why He does business.


He dispenses instruction on a need to know basis, and as far as he is concerned there is little we need to know.


But that’s what faith is all about. Being obedient until the last minute.


Isn’t that the story of faith?


Not in my case.


Despite a balance sheet only slightly better than investment banks before their government bailout, I knew I would be rescued on the brink of insolvency.  


And I lived accordingly.


Even as my anxiety level increased and I used a personal accounting scheme that resembled a ponzi scheme.


I didn’t tell anyone the details of my financial scheme because I knew what they would tell me what I already knew.  I was in a hopeless situation.  


Humanly speaking.


But being a man of faith, I knew better.


I’d be rescued at the last minute.


And I wasn’t.


I’ll never forget the moment I signed my bankruptcy application at my lawyer’s office, because I’ll never forget what my wife looked like when she signed them as well.


“My God, My God, how could you forsake me?”


This was the cry of my heart 24/7.


For days.


For weeks.


I wasn’t humiliated.


I wasn’t angry.


I was numb.


The good in me was dead.


What’s most important is what I didn’t notice.


Each day the sun came up.


I was living on the other side of the last minute.


What’s more I wasn’t alone.


I hadn’t noticed I was in good company.


With guys like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.


What would it have been like to have been Noah?  To be asked to build an ark for a flood that didn’t come … for decades.


He must have lived on the other side of the last minute.


To be Abraham and to pick up and move to a strange place for a child he had no hope of having.  


And he didn’t … for decades.


He and Sarah lived on the other side of the last minute as Hagar and Ishmael can attest.


Then there is Joseph.  Aside from being an obnoxious teenager, he was facing a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.  


And each day the sun came up.


And each day he got up.


He lived on the other side of the last minute.


Beyond hope.


But not all hope.


I used to read the Bible with the outcome in mind.  


Not now.


To be a person of faith is to be one who lives on the other side of the last minute.


Even if you are numb.


God’s ways are not our ways.


It is our ways that are forsaken.


Not us.



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister and is the Interim Pastor at Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Oct 06


The past lives in me, and I need to make it homeless.


What scares me is that the past has twisted me to the point where I feel as though I can’t live without it.  

 

My past shapes my self-understanding by creating a personal narrative that seeks to define me.


In my case, my narrative is shame.  Overwhelming and self-defeating shame.  


I am not alone.


We victims of sexual abuse all struggle with shame guilt, and inadequacy.  Overwhelming shame.


But you don’t need to be a victim of abuse to have a personal narrative of shame.  It is impossible to take the journey of life and not be shamed by others or yourself.  


Each of us can instantly recall experiences in our past that have come to define us.  These are not the good experiences, but the painful ones.  


Guilt and shame seek to define us all.  


They neutralize and defuse the positive potential of the good parts of our past.  Guilt and shame relentlessly shout that these good things were accidents of the cosmos, We don’t deserve good because we are not worthy.


There are so many good things about each of us and much that is good in our past.


There is also much that is good in our present, but the past that defines us provides us with a narrative that seeks to rob us of enjoying the good of the present.


I am have been married to an incredible woman for 32 years.


We have three children whom I wouldn’t trade for anything.


I have a dog that wants nothing more than to be with me.  


It is criminal that I allow my shame to rob me of the gift of their love.


It is beyond sad that my shame has created such insecurity within me that I don’t believe I can love them well.  My shame tells me that I am a danger to them and so I repeatedly deny them the gift of me and my love.


My shame has created a life-long identity crisis and it leads me to deny to myself what I believe to be true for everyone else.


We are not our past.


What are not what people say about us.


We are children of God, loved by God.


That is who we are.  That is who I am.


It is what we always have been and always will be.


My shame is seeking to deny me the truth of who I am.


And I have submitted to the shame willingly.


Daily.


The past can’t tell us who we are, but it is constantly speaking its lie into us.


It speaks hypnotically and seeks to take us into captivity.  


If we succumb, it becomes us.


I have become my past.


For decades I couldn’t see it.


But now I can.


Which is good news.


But only if I say no to the past.


And saying no is proving to be the hardest thing I have ever done.


I literally can’t let it go.  It has taken up residence in my heart.  I send it eviction notices but never follow through.


Despite all of its pain, I made friends with my past.  It has become me and I am desperately afraid to let it go.


I feel as though that without my past I am nothing.


I Iive the contradiction a wise man stated eloquently.


I don’t do the good I know to do, but rather the evil I don’t.


I want life, but I prefer death.


Who will save me from this body of shame?


How will I be saved from this body of shame?


My hope is in the future.


My only hope is divine deliverance.


God stands at the end of history singing us a love song


It is a song that speaks the truth about who I am.


It is a song that can free me from the prison of my shame


How can I do what I need to do allow this song to define me?


I can’t.


I’ve lately realized I don’t even have it within me to say “Yes” to God.


Instead I have to stop saying “No”.


The truth is that shame isn’t me.


The truth is that I am made for love.  To love and be loved.


I can’t save myself, but I can stop saying no.


Love rescue me.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister and is the Interim Pastor at Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Jan 19


We all agree that one more gun related death is one too many, whether it happen in the context of Newtown, a workplace, a family, or a suicide.


We all agree that the rise in gun related violence is one of the most disturbing developments of the last decade.  


Addressing this crisis effectively is of the utmost importance.


Unfortunately the National Rifle Association (NRA) and President Obama each have it wrong when it comes to the present debate about guns and violence in schools. 


In writing this I am treading where angels fear to tread.  But tread we must and I hope I am still alive when you read this.


The NRA has it wrong on the meaning of the Second Amendment and the president has it wrong on how to effectively address the issue.


First how the NRA is missing the point.


Contrary to decades of rhetoric, there is no Constitutional guarantee that individual citizens have the inalienable right to own guns.


The Second Amendment states: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.


The key phrase is the first: A well regulated militia.


The Second Amendment ensures the right for each state to have its own militia and arm the militia as it sees fit.  When the Constitution was written, the states had no professional militia and, as a result, virtually every man could be called up to serve in the militia if needed.  Hence, so long as you could be part of the militia you had a right to keep and bear arms.


But, that is no longer the case.  Today each state has a militia: The National Guard.  The Second Amendment still applies.  The federal government cannot disarm a state militia nor take guns away from those serving in it.


That is the extent of the protection of the Second Amendment.  If you are not in the militia, there is no Constitutional right to have a gun.  Hence President Obama and Congress do have the right to regulate the purchase and possession of guns, as do the states.


Having taken on the NRA, I’ve now lost half of my friends.  Let me now lose the rest of my friends by explaining how President Obama is missing the point.


The fundamental challenge we as a society face in regard to gun-related violence in schools and elsewhere is not primarily a product of the existence of guns. Hence, the current efforts to curb the sale and possession of guns will not make us safer nor deter further attacks like we witnessed recently in Newtown, CT.


Responsible legislation about the type of weapons sold and to whom makes sense, but the fundamental problem isn't the existence of guns. Rather it is the increasing number of citizens who choose to use them in horrific ways.  The solution isn’t gun control, but a change in the mind, heart, and soul of our fellow citizens.


Let me explain.


When I was in junior high school I brought a 22-caliber rifle to school every Wednesday, as did most of my other male classmates.  It was part of the Minnesota school curriculum to teach young men how to use a gun and how to hunt safely.  So after school on Wednesday's we gathered with Principal Cooksey for lessons in how to clean a gun, use a gun, how to shoot, and the etiquette of hunting.


We carried our guns to school and dropped them off in the principal’s office for use after school, and them carried them home.  My walk was 2 miles in a residential neighborhood.


During my entire childhood, there was not one instance of gun violence in my schools, nor can I recollect one instance in the entire state.  Moreover, I remember as a child we'd not lock our house at night because we did not fear our neighbor.


So what has changed?


Not the existence of guns, but our spiritual and moral fabric.


The problem we as a society face is not a gun issue, but a character issue related to how we regard ourselves and our neighbor.


Both President Obama and the NRA are missing the lesson behind the Newtown shootings, to say nothing of all the other mass murder-suicides our society has recently witnessed.


If the NRA gets its way, things won't get better.


If President Obama gets his way the fundamental problem won’t change.


If we think the problem is the existence of guns we are missing the point.


The problem isn’t guns, it’s us.


Since the late 1960’s we’ve tried to function as a society as if there is no such thing as an ultimate truth that forms the foundation of ethics and character.  We’ve avoided normative discussions of morality, ethics, and religion under the guise that there is no such thing as truth.


Historically, societies have debated the nature of truth.  We don't all agree.  But the debate about what it is is different than disregarding its existence.


We’ve told our children to make good choices but we cannot, or will not, tell them the meaning of the word good.


We’ve exposed our children to unprecedented violence, but with fewer exceptions, we are not helping our children understand what it means to truly love our neighbor, to resist hate, to turn the other check and to forgive.


We’ve told our children that the highest value is to live for self, but self-gratification has no moral center and does not provide happiness.


Happiness is a by-product of being in healthy and loving relationships.


If we think for one more minute that our nation’s epidemic of unacceptable violence will be solved by focusing on guns is to miss the point.


What is the point?


The “freedom” taught in he 1960’s is a failure.


Moral relativism is a failed experiment.


There is right and wrong, and we need to rediscover it and teach it.


How?


To begin with we can look and see what has worked.


I grew up in a world where there was a generally accepted understanding of right and wrong and if I violated it in the presence of an adult I got called out on it.


We brought guns to school but never misused them in school. 


I grew up in a world where virtually everyone worshipped God weekly.


And that moral framework defined our lives.


So what is the point?


In an “Atlantic Monthly” article several years ago Dr. Glenn Tinder asked the question, “Can we be good without God?”


If we can’t, we better start searching for God.


If we can, it’s time for someone to show us the way.


To focus our efforts elsewhere is to miss the point.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister, and is presently the Interim Pastor at the Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


 

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Mar 16


I am sitting in a hospital family room and 30 feet away Theo is fighting for life.  Theo is the 15-year-old son of some of my dearest friends.  I should be in despair.  But I can’t find it.

Theo’s medical nightmare began during my last trip to Florida in October of 2011.


We picked Theo up from a soccer game.  He had bruising all over his body. It didn’t make sense and couldn't be ignored.


After multiple visits to hospitals and doctors from Boston to Florida Theo was diagnosed with Myleodysplastic Syndrome (MDS).  It’s the same disease Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” has been fighting.


Theo went through a bone marrow transplant last year, but his body has been rejecting it.  Accordingly, his immune system has become so compromised he has been infected by a deadly fungus.  There is every reason to believe that it is presently in his blood stream or shortly will be, and the result should be fatal.


Medically speaking, Theo should have been ushered to heaven by now.  


Medically speaking it will happen today or tomorrow.


There is nothing more the doctors can do to attack the fungus. 


Either the medicines kick in in the nick of time or God performs a miracle of healing. Actually, either would constitute a miracle.


As I sit here with Brant and Emily, Theo’s Mom and Dad, we should be overwhelmed with grief and sadness, if not bitterness.


But we are not.  Rather we are experiencing the most curious thing: peace.


There is an overwhelming presence in our midst that is speaking peace to our souls.  It is telling us all will be well no matter what happens.


The presence of peace in this time and place makes no sense, but it is undeniable.


Why is it here?  Prayer.


How can I be so certain?


I’ve experienced this before.


When I lay dying.


I’ve fought thyroid cancer for over a decade and had many surgeries and hospital stays.  During those times people from all over the world have prayed for me. 


And I got what I didn’t ask for.


Peace.


People prayed for healing, but what I received was the presence of the God of peace. 


Since it is not what I prayed for I’ve never adequately appreciated it for the gift it is, until now.


As I sit with Brant and Emily I am overwhelmed with the presence of a peace that cannot be understood.


We pray for healing.  The world is praying for healing, but the gift we have been given is the presence of God.


I’m only now beginning to realize that I’ve been praying for the wrong things even as God has answered the prayer I should have prayed for but didn’t.


I’m 54 years old, an ordained minister and until now I’ve missed the point of prayer and faith.


I’ve been so obsessed with asking God to take away people’s pain; I’ve not understood that there is something far greater than asking God to be a pain reliever.  God wishes to grace us with his presence from the first day of our lives to the first day of the rest of lives.  It is not healing that matters but being held in the arms of God and knowing his presence.


He doesn’t take away the pain, but he wishes to grace us with a presence that transcends the pain and carries us through all manner of pain and sorrow.


How do we get to access such comfort?


Prayer.


It has never been the case that I was miraculously healed, or so I perceive, but it is the case that on those days when the world was praying for me I felt this unexplainable deep sense of peace.  The sense that I am being held in the arms of God and that all will be well, despite looking at the specter of death.


People on every continent, who have different religious convictions, are praying for Theo Menswar and I am sitting here in the hospital, with his parents, being blessed by the answer to these prayers, the presence of God.


I don’t know how many days Theo has.


I don’t know how many days I have.


None of us do.


But I know that what matters is being in the presence of God and that God listens to us when we ask, even as he responds in His own way.


I think he is trying to tell me what what we need is not "healing" but to abide in His presence yesterday, today, and forever.


Nothing else matters. Truly.


What good would it be to be healed and not feel what we feel now: the presence of God?


Keep praying for Theo.







Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is a Professor of Politics at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister, and is presently the Interim Pastor at the Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  



 

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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