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Welcome to readingremy.com

Glad you stopped by. My blog has evolved over time. It has served as a place for me to discuss topics found in my books. But other times what I discuss turns into a book, as it did with “Out of Exile.”

Because I’m both pastor and an addiction spirituality consultant, I interact with people on how God can help them overcome their problems in practical ways. My writing isn’t hyper-spiritual but down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice. 

My writing isn’t hyper-spiritual but down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice.

A common theme with me is helping people make a comeback. I like to look “under the hood” to find what’s wrong with our thinking, help get things rewired, and then encourage people to trust God to find a new life.

Much of my writing is to pastors; both to help them and to help them help others. But I think everyone can find things here that will help them.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and like my Facebook page in the margin. And feel free to send me a note. I promise to read it and reply. If you sign up for my monthly newsletter, you can download my latest book, Out of Exile, for free.  Thanks for spending some time on my site!- F. Remy Diederich

p.s. – Pastors, when you order “Out of Exile,” send me your receipt and I’ll forward you three message transcripts from a series I preached called, “Return from Exile.” It will help your congregation learn how to recover from a setback.

When Does Celebrating Become Flaunting?

In my last post I made an appeal to the Church to seek unity more than celebrate or defend their side of the current same-sex marriage court ruling. But unity, like love, takes a lot of work.  white_house_rainbow_zps24ptrqtq

For example, unity not only requires that you are careful in what you do or say, it requires being careful with how you are perceived. You can’t always control this. You don’t want to obsess about it. But when the apostle Paul tells us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” I think we can do more than we often do.

What I’m thinking of is seeing the White House lit up in rainbow colors. Whoever thought of that was a brilliant PR person. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and think they did that out of pure excitement and with no malice. They knew the supreme court decision made many people happy and so they threw a party for them. But I have to wonder if the same level of celebration would have been offered if the supreme court decision was 4-5 against and not 5-4 in favor. Or would the decision have been cast as a dark day in America?

When individuals put a rainbow on their Facebook page, that’s one thing. That’s an individual saying “YEAH for my team.” I’m okay with that. But when the government openly celebrates one side of a hotly debated issue it insults the other side. The government has the right to pass a law that people disagree with. I respect that. But it would be nice if they respected all the people who were not represented in their decision by not being so partisan. It only breeds contempt.

Do you see what I’m saying? When does celebrating your win turn to flaunting your win, or worse, mocking and even taunting those who lost? Like I said, I want to think the best. But not everyone is so charitable. To some, the illuminated White House was an aggressive act of “in your FACE!” I think it only added fuel to a raging fire.

In the church I’m seeing a lot of people using the Bell coined phrase, “Love Wins.” Again, I give people the benefit of the doubt. How can you fault celebrating love? But that phrase can easily be interpreted as “Haters Lose.” Do you see how these words can subtly undermine trust within the church? If your side “loves” what does that make the other side? Those who disagree with the court’s decision can easily feel painted as fascist bigots.  Some are, but many aren’t. No one likes to be labeled and then dismissed as a hater.

I’m not trying to be negative here. I just want to point out something that we all need to recognize as a potential threat to unity. Celebrating isn’t always innocent…at least it’s not perceived that way. Wisdom suggests we factor this in whenever OUR side wins, whatever side you are on. Let’s all be careful to make EVERY EFFORT to keep the unity of the Spirit.

What Ever Happened to Unity?

unityI shared the following thoughts at my church yesterday:

I’d like to bring some perspective on the recent supreme court ruling if I can. It’s interesting to me that in some churches today, they are celebrating. I understand why. Yet in other churches, they are mad and fearful of what may happen next. I understand their concerns too. In many other churches, there is just confusion. I don’t want us to be confused by this.

I can’t say that I know God’s heart but from reading his word,  God may not share any of these emotions this morning. I think this morning God might be grieved because his church is divided.

The agenda that should take priority over all agendas is our walking in unity with people even if we can’t agree with them. That’s a topic I’m willing to talk about.

Jesus prayed, “Father, might they be one as you and I are one.” He prayed that we might love each other in order that we might show the world that He exists. The apostle Paul said that we should make every effort to maintain the unity of the church. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is people taking sides and saying terrible things about the other side of the argument. It’s not right. As your pastor, I want to encourage you to not join in this war of words and actions.

The Bible is clear about Satan’s agenda: he wants to divide believers. If he can divide us and create bitterness in our hearts toward each other, he has done his job. I think that is what has happened. I don’t want our church to fall into his trap.

Jesus said we should be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Paul said we should speak with grace and truth. There is no greater time for this than now. This is a watershed moment in the church. I hope you realize the historical implication of what has happened. This decision by the supreme court, and how we react to it, can affect the church for years to come. 

Our church and denomination has always believed in the traditional view of marriage. But I’m not interested in that becoming our agenda. There is a bigger issue at hand (not to diminish the marriage issue). The agenda that should take priority over all agendas is our walking in unity with people even if we can’t agree with them. That’s a topic I’m willing to talk about.

Let’s not be seduced into discrediting and disrespecting people just because they don’t agree with how we see things. I hope our church can be an island of reason amidst a conversation that is often filled with people saying things that they don’t always understand.  

As is often the case in divisive issues: there is truth on both sides of the issue. If one side had no truth it would be obvious and there would be no debate.  We all grab bits of truth and attempt to build our case. It’s important to affirm the truth on both sides in order to find common ground.

To cast off either side of the argument as wrong, stupid, ungodly, wicked, ignorant, backwards, or whatever pejorative you can think of, is unfair and only causes people to dig their heels in deeper in defense of their position. You’ve only made it harder for them to see the truth that you so clearly see.

I’m just one more voice in a sea of voices. But I hope, if you are a follower of Jesus, that you will strive to walk in unity and show respect for all people. The only way through a divisive time like this is if people feel free to openly share their thoughts without threat of being labeled and dismissed as a fool. We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I’m committed to that. I hope you are too. Then unity might have a chance.

Parents Need to Reframe Failure

On Father’s Day I gave a message at my church that took all 59 of my years to speak. What I had to say about failure stood out to me as especially important. For the whole message you can click here.

Parents, You Need to Reframe Failure

The older your kids get, the more they will explore. And the more they explore, the greater the chance they’ll get into trouble. So, mom and dad, you need to decide in advance how you are going to handle their failure. What’s going to be your response? What will you say? How will you say it? What will be your facial expression when you say it?father-daughter-family

Your child will learn a lot about himself or herself based on how you respond to their failure. They look to you to interpret their failure. They want to know what YOU think.  Have you ever noticed what a child does right after they fail at something? They look to their parents to see their response. If they show disgust and disappointment the child will believe they ARE a failure. Failure will become their identity and their behavior will show it. So you need to reframe failure for them.

Einstein defined failure as “success in progress.” That’s a great perspective. So, with your encouragement, your child will learn that failure is just one stop on the road to success and not a dead-end street. Failure isn’t cause for shame or defeat. It’s just a temporary setback on a child’s way to success.

Failure isn’t cause for shame or defeat. It’s just a temporary setback on a child’s way to success.

For some of you, being this positive might take some work. It does for me. My first reaction is often negative. People don’t always know that about me. If you know me well, you see my negative side. But if you just listen to me on Sunday, you probably think I’m very positive. I am, but it’s a two-step process. I often think a negative thought and then have to reframe it before I speak. Dads, you might want to try that if you are naturally negative. If you want your kids to love being with you, learn to be positive.

For example, what’s the first thing you tell your kids when you see them in the morning, or when you get home from work, or after a game, or when you pick them up to from your ex for the weekend? Do you criticize their hair, or their clothes, or how late they are? Or do you smile and tell them it’s good to see them first? It’s easier to hear about being late from someone who is smiling than from someone who is scowling.

I was listening to a Christian radio station yesterday. It’s called K-LOVE and its tag line is “positive and encouraging.” Dads, that should be our tag line too. Positive and encouraging. When our kids think of us, I want them to think of us as their biggest supporter.

Listen or read the full message here.

Healing the Hurts of Your Past

I believe that words are powerful. Words can change lives if they are understood and internalized. Occasionally my words have caused people to change their lives and they will write to tell me. Nothing is more rewarding than when that happens.

That happened today when someone wrote back to me after reading the book: Healing the Hurts of Your Past.  I want to share with you what was said in case you know someone who might be looking to find some freedom in their life:

I have just finished reading your book “Healing the Healing Promo Image 2Hurts of Your Past”. On Monday 18th May I asked God for help. All sorts of bad stuff had come back over the past two years from ages ago to haunt me and make me miserable.

After I don’t know how much medicine, appointments with the psychologist, arguments with my nearest and dearest and so on I was at the end of my tether because it just would not get better. I asked God simply, “please help me”. I bought your book on Kindle a short while later. I have never believed in coincidences!

By Tuesday I had read about a third of your book and I felt so much better. By Wednesday I was pretty much cured. I have just finished it. (I hope that this feeling of liberation and joy stays with me – I will do my best to try to make sure that it does by following the suggestions in your book!).

Thank you so much for writing the book. I asked God for help and He pointed me in your direction. I am at ease with myself again. I am in your debt sir.

I’m guessing that this person’s feeling of being “cured” is an overstatement, but I’m glad my words helped send them in the right direction. Healing is usually a process, not an event. Is there someone you know that needs to read this book?

If you’ve read this book, or one of my other books, I’d love to hear back from you too!

Divorce, Remarriage, and Grace

Some people have found it hard to find any grace in Jesus’ words about divorce and remarriage. But if you understand the context of what Jesus was saying, you will see more grace than you might first think.divorce-remarriage

I’ve been teaching my way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at Cedarbrook. In my younger years I’d often get hung up on each sentence. But by seeing the Sermon as a whole, the individual sentences make so much more sense to me now.

In regard to divorce and remarriage, it seems that the range of interpretation is to either take Jesus so literally that you must divorce your second spouse to return to your first, or hyper-spiritualize the text to an unattainable ideal that Jesus never meant for us to tackle.

But I think there is a reasonable third way that views the issue through a grid of grace. I’ll give you a snapshot of my thinking here and let you read or listen to my message if you want to hear more on this.

Religious Loophole for Divorce?

In approaching divorce and remarriage it’s important to remember the thrust of Jesus’ teaching. He wasn’t out to shame sinners. He was out to teach his disciples that an acceptable religion practice of the day was unacceptable to Jesus. Namely, using religious loopholes to hide their sin.

In that day, a man could essentially “annul” his wedding without cause with a certificate of divorce. So, in theory, you could get married many times and never have to admit to a divorce if you gave your wife a certificate. Sweet deal. (Meanwhile subjecting your ex-wife to shame and poverty).

But Jesus said: not so fast. God’s not fooled by your religious “work-around.” Call it what it is: adultery.You’ve broken the unity bond of marriage. This bond represents who God is. To break this bond undermines one of the ways we reflect God in this world. Don’t think your “certificate” gives you a free pass on sin.God knows the truth even if you fool others.

There is Grace for You

Jesus was speaking against hypocrites who wanted to hide their sin, not people who regretfully failed in marriage. To them he would say: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jesus was warning his disciples of what NOT to do when they follow him.

Jesus wants to help you start over. He is the God of second chances. He’s not out to shame broken people. He just doesn’t want us to play religious games. Call your sin what it is (in this case:adultery) find forgiveness, and then move on. God will work with you to make your second marriage a success if you let him.

Too often people elevate divorce and remarriage to be worse than other sins and let it taint their second marriage, always doubting its validity before God. It’s good to admit and own your failure. Make the amends you can. But then move forward. Life is too short to let regrets rob from you every day.

You can read or listen to the message here.

Creating a Positive Staff Culture

churchstaffA friend of mine recently told me how much they hate working at their church. They said that everyone on staff is miserable.

WHAT?  How is that even possible?

But this is true in more churches than you may realize. Today I want to offer some practical suggestions on how to create a positive church staff culture.

Many people join a church staff and assume it’s going to be upbeat, positive, and spiritually uplifting, only to experience the drudgery related my friend. Surprised? I sure was. Before I joined a church staff I just assumed it would be the best work environment this side of heaven. I mean, everyone is a believer. Everyone is nice, and positive, and friendly, right? Plus, you have the best mission statement in the world: to reach people with the message of Jesus. What could possibly be bad about working at a church?  More than you realize. Church offices can suffer from the same problems that exist in the business world.

When I asked my friend what it was he didn’t like about working at his church he said that there was no enthusiasm. Everyone just did their job and stayed out of each other’s way. He said he looked for excuses to work by himself because it was such a negative environment.  I asked what the senior pastor was like. He said he kept to himself and was often depressed. I thought that might be true. The senior leader always sets the tone whether that’s at home, at work, at school, or a church.

Five Ways to Turn Your Staff Culture Around

Here are a few recommendations for your staff that have worked for me through the years:

1. Meet with your staff individually each week. I’m surprised how rare this is. When I was an associate pastor I regularly had to ASK my senior pastor to meet. I never understood how you could have a staff and not meet with them on a regular basis. Even if you give them no direction (which you should), you show them so much value just by checking in with them each week. 

Suffering for Jesus shouldn’t mean going to work on Monday! Church offices SHOULD be the best place to work in town: the most rewarding and fulfilling. If your office isn’t, change it.

I check in with my direct-reports personally as well as professionally. I offer real-time feedback so they always know what I like about what they are doing or know my concerns. And I want to hear the same from them about me too. How can I improve if I don’t have a feedback loop?

2. Meet as a staff once a week. We meet for an hour and a half. Here is how we use our time:

  • Check in. One third of our time is just asking how everyone is doing. We go around the room (ten people) and everyone takes 2-3 minutes to give the highs/lows of their week. It might be mundane, funny or heart breaking. It’s all good. We do this in our elder meetings too. It sets the tone for the meeting (friendly) and puts everyone on the same level.
  • Share solutions. Staff meetings aren’t for problem solving. We try to solve problems in smaller meetings and then come with solutions to share with everyone.
  • Invite input. There’s always room for push-back. If our “solution” isn’t good, people have the right to say so and we will revisit it. When people have no say in what’s going on they feel invalidated and lose interest.
  • Pray together. We don’t take a lot of time, maybe five or ten minutes. But we bring church members, upcoming events, and ministries before God. After all, it’s his church. And it’s not a business. Prayer brings us together and creates a sense of intimacy among each other.
  • End on time. This is one of my golden rules in life. When you don’t end on time, people feel cheated. They feel taken for granted. Don’t do that.

3. Keep other meetings to a minimum. Other than staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with staff, we have very few meetings. I’ve never understood pastors that say they spend all day in meetings. I’ve never heard anyone tell me that what they like most about their job is the opportunity to spend their day in meetings!

4. Build relationships and have fun. Just like my wife and I regularly have dates and vacations, our staff regularly has team building events. We recently went  on an overnight at a church camp and each member took 20 minutes to share their life story. We played games and ate together. Simple stuff, but very bonding. We go bowling, take boat rides in the summer, go out for tacos or coffee to celebrate a success, do service projects together, etc. It costs a little money and takes some time away from work, but the payback is huge.

5. Keep an open door. Everyone keeps their doors at least cracked. It’s not a rule. It’s just the culture. It’s friendly. It says, “I’m available.” It can be abused. So be careful. But for some reason that’s not an issue for us. We are a “get-er done” kind of staff…very results oriented. But we know that we can always bop into someones office with a question, or a joke, or to make quick plans to hang out together after work.

Suffering for Jesus shouldn’t mean going to work on Monday! Church offices SHOULD be the best place to work in town: the most rewarding and fulfilling. If your office isn’t, change it. If you are the senior leader, you need to make the first move. If you aren’t, print this off and slip it under the senior leaders’ door!

Tell me what your office is like. What makes it great or what makes it drudgery? I’d love to hear back. What starts in your church office will naturally flow into your congregation…for good or bad.

How to Reclaim Your Church from Spiritual Abuse

nextstepsThis is part six in a six part series on spiritual abuse. Today I want to suggest steps a church might take to help them move on from a past with spiritual abuse.

Please read parts four and five before reading this post because my recommendations are based on the problems I outlined there.

The problems in MHC’s (Mars Hill Church) communications were for every issue, they denied, hedged, evaded and accused others for as long as they could. Then, once there was undeniable evidence, they made excuses, laid blame or made diversions by nitpicking the details. Even the few times they had a “buck stops here” moments or Mark Driscoll “accepted responsibility,” he blamed his elders and claimed he never knew. blogger

So the LORD will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; the elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. Isaiah 9:14-16

A lot can be learned from a major fallout out like Mars Hill Church in Seattle. And a lot can be learned from Israel in the Old Testament. Some things never change. Israel dissolved. Ten tribes were lost to the nations. Mars Hill also dissolved. I was part of a church of 2000 in Minneapolis that dissolved after immorality was revealed in the leadership.

My point is that if you don’t handle a crisis well, your church may cease to exist. It happens. So please be careful how you handle a crisis. If you don’t want your church to dissolve from spiritual abuse, you need to take bold action.

Next Steps to Reclaim Your Church From Spiritual Abuse

These are the steps I recommend to church leaders if they want to get back on track:

1. Get outside help. Whether you realize it or not, your thinking has become distorted. You don’t see straight. If you did, the abuse wouldn’t have taken place in the first place. You need outside influence – fresh eyes – to see what’s wrong and make objective decisions. When spiritual abuse exists, there is a dysfunctional system in place that supports the abuse. Even if you stop the abuse, the dysfunctional system remains. Until the dysfunctional system is dismantled your problems will continue.

Hopefully you are part of a denomination. One of the primary roles of a denomination is to provide outside support and direction to a church in a time of crisis. Use them. If you don’t have a denomination, hire a consultant, or invite a respected church to help lead your church out of your mess. It’s humbling to ask for help, but it will give you clear, objective thinkers during a cloudy season and your congregation will trust you more moving forward.

2. Change up the leadership. Every position in leadership, staff and elders, should be up for consideration. It might require termination, resignation, paid or unpaid time-off, etc. New people need to be brought in who don’t share the tainted past.

Your denomination can help you with these decisions. Most people don’t like to take bold action like this. They are afraid of overreacting and regretting it. But my experience is that taking bold action during a time of crisis is what saves the day. People who try to walk the middle line, and please everyone, end up inviting the disaster they are hoping to avoid.

3. Review what happened. Abuse didn’t just jump out of a box one day. It developed over time. Think through how it came about. What were the steps that led you and others to compromise what you knew to be true, and/or allowed someone in authority to take advantage of innocent people?

4. Isolate the errors and false teaching. As you review the past and find the missteps, name them. List them out. Understand the depth of the error: relationally, spiritually, biblically, etc. 

Coming out of a time of spiritual abuse is not the time to be passive or equivocate. It’s time to clear the air as quickly as possible. People need to know that you see the problem and are doing everything you can, as fast as you can, to right the ship.

5. Tell your stories. The abuse happened in community. It needs to be processed in community. People like to think the consequences of abuse will magically go away. They won’t; not unless you take action to make them go away. You need to shed light into the darkness of abuse by openly talking about it.

One way you help that happen is by telling your story. When you tell your story you will see the horror in people’s eyes, validating your experience. For years you minimized the abuse. You told yourself that you were wrong and your abuser was right. They were smarter than you and you just needed to toe the line. But seeing the reaction of people who hear your story will help empower you. They will confirm what you felt deep down all along. Hearing their story will do the same.

6. Fully admit and own the abuse. This will help you to clean house and regain trust from the congregation.

7. Grieve the losses. A death has happened. Life has been stolen from people. Time has been taken. Relationships have been broken. You don’t skip away from these things. Most people don’t understand the importance of grief. New life can’t come to you, or your church, unless you embrace the sorrow and confusion of grief. If you try to move on prematurely, the wounds of abuse will get buried and fester and putrefy, coming back to haunt you in years to come.

8. Be patient with each other. Everyone heals in different ways and at different rates. Two people may have had the same experience, but because of their personality and past experience, one can rebound quickly while the other seems lost for a few years. There is no right or wrong way to recover. Don’t judge people for not recovering like you do. This will only revictimize the abused. Don’t rush things. Recovery times time.

9. Trust God. God is the god of resurrection. That’s his game. All roads lead to resurrection and renewal with God if you will consistently take his hand and let him take you there. But it’s a process. It took years for the effects of spiritual abuse to sink in. It may take years for it’s grip to let you go. Don’t give up. God is faithful to complete the work he started in you.

Coming out of a time of spiritual abuse is not the time to be passive or equivocate. It’s time to clear the air as quickly as possible. People need to know that you see the problem and are doing everything you can, as fast as you can, to right the ship.

The fear of being honest is that you’ll lose people. But you’ve already lost people. You’ll lose more either way. So the question is: do you want to lose people because you are not being fully honest or because you were fully honest? I think the answer is clear.

I hope these six posts have given you some insight into the problem of spiritual abuse and how to move on from it. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks for reading!

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