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Welcome to readingremy.com

Glad you stopped by!

I’m a pastor and author, plus I consult in an addiction treatment center where I help people consider how God might join them in their recovery.

My goal is to help people overcome everyday problems in practical ways with God’s help. I purposefully write and speak in a way that makes God approachable and understandable.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and “like” my Facebook page in the margin. As my way of saying “thanks,” please download the Kindle version of my book, “Out of Exile” for free right now.

Feel free to send me a question. I promise to read it and reply. Thanks for spending some time on my site!- F. Remy Diederich

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The Gift of Cancer

gift of cancerIn my book, Out of Exile, I help people reframe their loss by showing how God might use it to broaden them as a person. When you are able to believe that good can come from evil you are able to return from “exile” and live a fuller life that blesses others. With this in mind, I’d like to share with you what my sister has come to call her “gift of cancer.”

Last year my sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and has been receiving chemotherapy for the last several months with very positive results.

Before I share her thoughts, it’s important to admit that, if your life, or the life of a loved one, was ravaged by cancer, hearing it called a “gift” might be offensive. I understand and appreciate that. Everyone’s experience is different.

If my sister’s treatment hadn’t gone so well, maybe she’d have a different perspective. But I’m happy to know that she’s gained something from her cancer experience and not let it steal from her. I hope her words might encourage you. This is what she wrote:

The Gift of Cancer

In reading other blogs, I have seen that maintaining a positive attitude through our journeys is common of the bloggers and their followers.  On that note, I have rewritten a common saying on what cancer cannot do to what it can do for us.

This saying has been sent to me a couple of times over the past 8 months and they are posted in my office.
Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit. – Author unknown

I believe all these statements are true, but I also see that cancer has been a gift in my life.  I have chosen not to fight it, and be angry with it, but to recognize its gifts, be grateful for them, and then encourage it to leave my body.  So far, it’s been a good approach.

We are parting ways each day and I honestly feel it has left my body.  I am hopeful that the gifts it showered on me will remain with me the rest of my life and the cancer will not return.  I have chosen to rewrite the common cancer phrases in a more positive light.  I hope you can understand my position on why I choose to follow this journey:

Cancer can be a gift…
It can expand your love,
It can encourage hope,
It can enhance faith,
It can bring peace,
It can build friendships,
It can make new memories,
It can develop courage,
It can blossom the soul,
It can help me face eternal life,
It can inspire the spirit. – author – Diedre Kaye

No matter what journey we are following, whether it’s a loss of a loved one, a concern for a child, a tragic occurrence, depression, or any disease, we all need to keep the spirit of joy, love and gratitude in our hearts.  May we all look for those gifts every day that make us happy. Diedre Kaye

Back to Remy here. From my perspective, you can trust God to make good out of anything, even cancer. It’s the ultimate act of worship. Rather than focus and lament over what’s been lost, why not focus on what’s been gained?

Too often I hear people speak as if God owes them a pain-free life. Any pain is fought with bitterness and they resent God for allowing it to visit them.

But I never read that guarantee anywhere. I’m grateful that God is willing to walk with me through my pain and give me eyes to see the silver lining that exists if I look for it.

Bitterness will shut you down and close you off to all that’s good, even the healing you might be longing for. Gratefulness does just the opposite. I hope you might see the gifts in your life today.

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Seven Steps To Help The Hurting

hurting peopleI’ve been sharing the highlights from a recent series  on RelationSLIPS. In my last message I talked about how we often slip up with people who are hurting. Rather than offering words of healing, we often put our foot in mouths.

(Note: this post went out by mistake on Friday. Sorry if you got this twice).

You can download the text of my message here, but I’d like to give you  the main points in this post.

Seven Steps to Help the Hurting

Imagine that a friend drops some big news on you. Bad news. They are getting divorced. They’ve got cancer. Their mother just died. Their teenager was just arrested for drugs. They lost their job.

…let your friend know that you will stand with them through their pain.

It’s going to happen. Are you prepared? Do you know what to say? Here are seven ideas to help you know what to do and say (and not say):

  1. Listen without any distractions. Turn off the tv and your phone. Don’t let your kids interrupt. If you can’t avoid being interrupted, tell your friend that you want to give them your full attention so you need to schedule a better time.
  2. Dial into their emotion. Bad news strikes at our fear of losing control. It might also undermine our sense of worth if the loss has to do with being rejected (divorce, fired from job, etc.). By dialing into those emotions it will give you empathy for what your friend is experiencing. The pain isn’t just from the loss itself but from what the loss means for their future.
  3. Don’t share clichés, even if they are from the Bible. This is harder than it sounds. Profound truths will pop into your mind and you might be tempted to think that God gave you wisdom for the moment! Probably not. Wisdom just listens. So don’t say any of the following: It’s all a part of God’s plan, God won’t give you any more than you can handle, There’s a reason for everything, You need to just let go and let God. When someone dies, don’t say; God takes the people he loves the most, or God needed another angel, or They are in a better place now.
  4. Don’t correct them, even if they need correcting. Sometimes your friends’ bad news is a direct result of their poor choices. Bite your tongue. That’s not the time to show cause and effect. It’s not a teachable moment, so don’t try. If you do, you might lose a friend. They will be waiting to see if you seize the moment to preach at them or love them. So love them. You might get a chance later to share your wisdom…if they ask for it.
  5. Ask people what kind of space they need to process their pain. Everyone’s different. What comforts one person, offends another. I’ve learned this as a pastor. It’s frustrating. I’ve found the best thing is to just ask people: How can I help you right now? Would you like to meet to talk or would you just like some space to process this on your own?
  6. Affirm your commitment to stand with them. One of the most powerful verses in the Bible is when God tells us that he will never leave us or forsake us. You see, one of our greatest fears is that we’ll be alone. Abandoned. Left to face the world by ourselves. So let your friend know that you will stand with them through their pain. It doesn’t mean you will agree with everything they do, but you will stand with them.
  7. Offer to help in a specific way. People often tell a hurting person; If you need anything, just call. Odds are, they won’t. They don’t know what they need. Having to think of something and then call you is just work. So identify a need and just do it, like, mow their lawn. If you know them well, offer to pick up their kids or shop for them. This will be a huge relief.

Hurting people are an opportunity for you to show God’s love in a powerful way. Don’t run from it. But don’t run to them unprepared either, causing a relationSLIP.

What are some other tips you might offer to help a hurting friend. Scroll to the bottom of this page to leave your comment.

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Seven Steps to Handle Crucial Conversations

I recently finished a seven week sermon series on How to Prevent and crucial conversationsOvercome RelationSLIPS. One of the messages dealt with how to have success with crucial conversations.

Today I want to share with you some of the highlights from my message. My thoughts came from my personal experiences (mostly mistakes), the Bible, and the book, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.

The book defines a crucial conversation as having three main components: high stakes, strong emotions, and differing opinions. Whenever those three ingredients combine, a little light should start flashing in your brain warning: CAUTION…proceed with care!

Strangely, the authors of the book tell us that when conversations turn crucial we are often on our worst behavior. Dang! Why is that? All those great lessons we’ve learned seem to fly out the window as we revert to our “flight or fight” reptilian brain tendencies.

Relationship Principle #7: You prevent and overcome relationSLIPS when you are able to successfully handle crucial conversations. So how do you do that?

Seven Steps to Handle Crucial Conversations

  1. Go to the person. There are some exceptions to this step, but in general, the best way to handle conflict is to speak directly to the person. Jesus said, whether you are at fault or the other person is at fault, go to them. Matthew 5:23,24, 18:15.
  2. Put the relationship first. Our big mistake in conflict is that we either want to be right or we want to punish the other person for being wrong. Or both. But if you “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” (as the apostle Paul said) you will keep yourself from doing damage. Ephesians 4:3, Romans 12:18, John 17:21
  3. Expand the pool of knowledge. This phrase came from the book, Crucial Conversations. Conflict comes from different perspectives. So rather than battling perspectives, the goal should be to “expand the pool of knowledge” by each party sharing what they know. You want to both become wiser by hearing each other out, not proving each other wrong.
  4. Make it safe. Here are a few things you can do to make the other party relax in your presence and not get defensive: (see Galatians 6:1)
  • Look for signs of fear: pleasing, punishing, pulling away. When you see theses defense mechanisms, double your efforts at being safe.
  • Be curious, not condemning. Draw the other person out with good questions.
  • Admit your faults. When the other party sees your humility, they will realize that this isn’t a witch hunt but an attempt at reconciliation.
  • Listen more than you talk. James 1:19
  1. State your case: where you agree and disagree. The other person isn’t all wrong. You can agree with this but struggle with that.
  2. Move to a decision or next step. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you’ve discussed the problem that you resolved it.
  3. Circle back to reaffirm your conversation and commitments. We often lose the “good feelings” of a reconciling discussion within a few hours as doubt creeps in. Reaffirm your discussion by contacting the person within 24 hours.

You can download the manuscript here of my message or download the audio here. The book Crucial Conversations is also helpful as is my book STUCK, if you want a fuller understanding on this topic.

There’s nothing more God-like than striving to achieve unity between two people in conflict. I hope you will “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.”

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“Out of Exile” is Free This Week

This week I’ve made my book, “Out of Exile” available for free on Kindle. Soout of exile, free scoop it up and tell a friend!

The book was written to encourage hurting pastors who feel stuck in the “wilderness” from some kind of setback. It’s set up as a 40 day journey with 40 short chapters, followed by questions to help you process your loss.

But don’t let the “Pastor’s Edition” scare you away. We all suffer loss. We all get stuck in the wilderness, or “exile,” and we all need to find a way back. I’m currently rewriting the book with examples that apply to a variety of losses. But in the meantime, I think you will find it very helpful.

Download “Out of Exile” for Free This Week

You can download it here on Amazon.com. 

Please tell your pastor about this offer. If you read the book reviews, you’ll see how it’s encouraged people and renewed their vision for ministry. In fact, here’s what one pastor wrote:

God used Remy to save my soul. I forgave my offenders, forgave myself, and recalibrated. I’m back in ministry, due in large part to the writings you’ll find in this book.

As someone who knows quite personally the pain of exile, I found this book to be exactly the gentle salve I needed. I stumbled upon Diederich’s writing quite accidentally, but it was the best accident I’ve ever experienced. His writings offered deeply biblical perspective for overcoming the ministry hurts I’d experienced, and renewed my perspective on how God might orchestrate a comeback through exile.

Let me be blunt… I hated those who had railroaded me, had just about given up on God, couldn’t imagine another day in ministry, was deeply skeptical of the local church… but God used Remy to save my soul. I forgave my offenders, forgave myself, and recalibrated. I’m back in ministry, due in large part to the writings you’ll find in this book.

Am I overstating? Not if you knew my story. Thank you, Remy, and thank you, God, for excellent writing that offers hope and perspective when ministry gets the best of you. I’m on the comeback trail.

If you read it, let me know what you think. Since I’m still rewriting the new version for the general public, let me know what you’d like me to add. Thanks!

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Six Ways to Rebuild Trust

rebuild trust

Six Ways to Rebuild Trust

When you’ve let someone down, you have one task: to rebuild trust with them. The problem is, since you weren’t the one offended, you are often out of touch with what the other person needs for you to rebuild their trust.

I often work with addicts. They have a long line of people with whom they’ve broken trust. The other day someone asked me what they can do to rebuild trust with their family and this is what I shared with them…

Six Ways to Rebuild Trust

  1. Apologize well. I cover this in other posts. But the idea is to fully admit your errors with sincerity. If the other person can see that you mean what you say, you’ve started well.
  2. Ask what they need to see from you. The person you betrayed lives in fear of you reoffending them. So ask them what those fears are. What will undermine their trust in you? Better to ask up front than to find out later when they are ready to give up on you.

    Trust is what makes a relationship safe and allows for intimacy.

  3. Give them permission to not trust you. People often confuse trust with forgiveness. They know they should forgive you but they wrongly think that means they should trust you too.  They feel guilty. They shouldn’t. You need to win them back. So tell them that you’d love their forgiveness but you want to work to earn their trust and are committed to the long haul. They will appreciate that. It will remove a burden from them.
  4. Change your behavior. This might seem obvious but it needs to be said. This is what trust is ultimately about. Work at being consistent. Gaps in your behavior set the clock back to zero and you have to start all over again.
  5. Over communicate. If you are going to be home late, call. Check in with the person at key points where they might be wondering what you are up to. To you, it might seem petty. But they will appreciate your thoughtfulness. If you take the mystery out of your behavior, they won’t have to wonder if the other shoe is going to drop.
  6. Don’t pressure people to trust you prematurely. Rebuilding trust always takes longer than you can imagine or want to believe. If you pressure them to trust you, you might lose them. You aren’t the one to decide if you’ve done enough to rebuild trust with them. They are. If you broke trust for years, it might take years to win it back.

Trust is what makes a relationship safe and allows for intimacy. It’s a beautiful thing. But it takes significant work to create it. You have to decide how much it’s worth to restore the broken relationship.

Are there other ways you can think that will help build trust? Scroll to the bottom of this page to add your comment. Share this with a friend who needs to rebuild trust with someone.

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Four Guidelines to Set Healthy Boundaries

set healthy BoundariesAt Cedarbrook I’ve been speaking about Relation-SLIPS…those stupid things  we do that undermine our relationships. One of the most common relationslips is to not set boundaries. I want to offer you four guidelines to help you set healthy boundaries.

People who fail to set boundaries allow anyone into their life. They lose control of their life and often simmer in anger for it.

Now, before I give you some tips on how to set boundaries, I want to answer the question that some people have: where does it talk about boundaries in the Bible? Or, did Jesus have boundaries? Those are fair questions.

People who fail to set boundaries allow anyone into their life. They lose control of their life and often simmer in anger for it.

Jesus Had Boundaries

Jesus definitely had boundaries. Here are a few quick examples:

 

  • Luke 4:1-13: Jesus used boundaries when he was being tempted by the devil, defining what he was willing and not willing to do.
  • Luke 4:28-30: The people wanted to kill Jesus but he walked away. He wouldn’t play by their rules.
  • Luke 5:14-16: People came to Jesus for healing but he withdrew to pray and rest.
  • Matthew 12:46-50: Jesus’ mom and brothers called him out of a meeting but he refused to listen to them, saying that people who chose to do God’s will were his true family.

You see, Jesus could only lay down his life once. Before that, he had to decide how vulnerable he was willing to make himself in each encounter. He used boundaries to help people understand his limits.

Four Guidelines to Set Healthy Boundaries

Now, let me give you a few ideas for setting boundaries (see other related posts below):

  1. Set boundaries to protect yourself, not punish others. Too often we wait until people have used and abused us before we set a boundary. But by then, we are often so mad that our “boundary” is actually a form of punishment. We come across harshly and offend people.
  2. Set boundaries before things get awkward. The answer to my first point is to set boundaries early on. Don’t assume people will respect your space. I mean, how can they if they don’t know what your space is? It’s not rude or selfish to communicate your boundaries. It’s helpful.
  3. Set boundaries with respect and without apology. Let people know that your boundaries are to help YOU, not because you don’t like them. And don’t feel like you need to apologize or explain yourself.
  4. Set boundaries with appropriate consequences. Where there are no consequences, there are no boundaries. In sports, you pay a price when you step out of bounds.
    • Consequences should equal the trespass. Small transgression, small consequence and vice versa.
    • Enforcement should be without drama. Wen consequences are communicated in advance you can naturally enforce them without overreacting.
    • Increase consequences until your boundaries are respected. In another post I talk about the four degrees of boundaries. You start small and eep increasing the pain until you get the results you want.

You can hear my message on how to set healthy boundaries by downloading RelationSlips Part 5. (Note, the link will change in a few weeks. Look for it in Past Sermons). Download the text version here to read it. 

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I Left My Toxic Church…Now What?

Last year I posted a number of articles (see more links below) helping people to identify a toxic church. I  took a long look at spiritual toxic churchabuse, along with steps to deal with a toxic church. But I’m realizing that I left out at least one important post: what do you do when you leave a toxic church?

Entering a new church can be tricky. It’s like rebounding off a bad relationship. Some people swear off dating altogether while others fling themselves at the next person walking by. Both are unhealthy reactions. So let’s take a look at this.

Engaging Your New Church

First you have to realize the condition you are in. You belong to the walking wounded. You might look good, but all is not well inside. If you’ve been in a spiritually abusive church it’s affected your thinking. You aren’t seeing straight. Your view of God and other people has been skewed.  So be aware that you are prone to misread situations at your new church. That’s not bad, you just need to be aware of it and factor that in.

That means: go slow. Sit in the back row and observe. Don’t be too quick to judge the new church as right or wrong because, remember: you are off center. It’s going to take some time to recalibrate.

Be careful not to overreact. Talk to the pastor about any concerns rather than jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. You don’t want to infect your new church with the toxicity from your past.

Grieving the Toxic Church Experience

A toxic church causes a number of losses that need to be grieved. You need to come to terms with those losses before you reengage in a new church. I’m not saying you shouldn’t attend a church, just don’t jump in and start leading or serving in any significant way. You might end up hurting yourself and the new church.

The best thing you can do for your new church is to get healthy. There’s plenty of time for you to get involved later.

Let me walk you through the fives stages of grief as they apply to recovering from spiritual abuse:

Denial. It’s hard to admit that someone could take advantage of you spiritually. No one likes to admit being duped or that they elevated a pastor beyond human status. It’s embarrassing. But the first step to any healing is to admit what went wrong.  Yes, you bought into the toxicity hook, line and sinker. You are in a place you never thought you’d be. There. You said it. Now you can move on.

Anger. Anger is the natural response to any loss. Don’t kid yourself. You have lots of anger at the church, specific leaders, and anyone who convinced you to “just trust the pastor.” You might even be mad at God. The tendency is to cover it up. But that will only hurt you in the long run.  Instead, get in touch with your anger. Anger is appropriate when you’ve been hurt like this. Give yourself permission to feel the God-given emotion.

List out the losses you experienced at the toxic church. What did the toxic thinking rob from you?  Maybe a sense of dignity? Control? A true concept of God? Healthy relationships? Money? The list might be long.

But here is one tip for dealing with your anger…find healthy, constructive ways to process it. Too often the “ex’s” of a toxic church spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing with each other about the bad old days and how awful they were. Plus there is the constant update on who is still in the toxic church and who has left.  This is so tempting to do and so unhealthy.

Looking back is only helpful if it exposes the faulty thinking that you absorbed. But it’s very easy to slip into slander and gossip. People will quickly grow tired of you singing the same sad song all the time. So find a support group, or friend, or counselor where you can process your anger without infecting others with the negativity.

Bargaining: This is when you look for a quick fix to solve your problem, like, “God get me out of this mess.” It involves a desperate mindset that encourages you to look for simplistic solutions. For example, you might pray, “God, just show me a new church where I can jump in and forget about the past.” You don’t want to do the hard work of healing. You just want a quick fix. Be careful. That can backfire on you in the long run.

Depression: It’s easy to give up on church altogether. You assume that church is broken and it’s not worth the effort to try again. It’s all an illusion. You become cynical and distrusting of every leader and what church is all about. You might even give up on God. So either you quit church, or you attend, but you are a negative influence because you’ve lost hope.

I know what’s that like. I was there once. But this is where you need to believe in the God of resurrection. God wants to bring something from the ashes of your experience. He’ll use what you learned for good, if you let him. He did with me.

Acceptance: This happens when you are willing to accept that something died and believe that life can be good again. You no longer try to make the past work or make sense. You put the nails in the coffin of your experience and bury it. You no longer talk about it with your ex-church mates. You have moved on and are willing to accept the new church experience God has given you. You won’t let your past experience infect your new experience.

I love the church and its people. I hate spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is bad enough when it happens. But simply leaving a church doesn’t solve the problem. You can carry the disease of spiritual abuse with you if you don’t treat it properly.  I hope these few tips help you find the road to recovery and to reengage in church in a healthy way.

What kind of problems have you faced after you left a toxic church? Leave a comment below and it might not only help you but help others in the same situation. I’ll do my best to give you some advice.

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