Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What is Restorative Peacemaking?

(Below is a short abstract of who we are & what we do. Check out the above tabs for our Vision Statement, Services, overview of our Curriculum, and more! Feel free to contact us anytime at

The heart of Restorative Peacemaking is to understand & define the emotional barriers that disconnect us from God, and divide our families & communities. Our mandate is to create a culture of forgiveness by defusing the culture of codependency in which we live. Founders Kyle and Kelsie Meyers aim to partner together with various organizations to cultivate shame resilience & true compassion through holistic training in the areas of conflict mediation & spiritual direction.

The commitment to Restorative Peacemaking is an intentional act towards creating a culture of forgiveness. Conflict between us is understood as an opportunity for humility, growth, and intimacy. We assist one another in the process of moving from a reaction to a response, self-justification to self-reflection, antagonism to resonance. We pursue reconciliation & understanding by being emotionally honest, creating space for our diversity, and honoring each other’s talents. Trust is developed through vulnerability & transparency.

This cultivation requires us to first develop an awareness of the hidden rules of codependency, perfectionism, and our worth being bound to “performance” & “achievement”. The heart of codependency is emotional dishonesty with self, which consequently results in dishonest relationships that neglect space for vulnerability, failure, and weakness. Because most of us have not been given the grace to understand or learn from our failures, we have created masks in order to survive in a culture that thrives on comparison & judgement. Our value is determined by rank or grade, rather than acceptance & growth. Becoming human requires us to remove our masks, “peel away the layers of brokenness”, reveal our imperfections, and begin to learn about our real self.

The process of Restorative Peacemaking is designed to create safe spaces to have this conversation with ourselves, others, and God regarding our experiences with guilt, shame, and insecurity. Through this process, we will begin to develop shame resilience by reincorporating the fragments of our identity. As Dr. Brene Brown suggests, "When we can let go of what other people think & own our story, we gain access to our worthiness - the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love & belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don't fit with who we think we're supposed to be, we stand outside of our story & hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness - that critically important piece that gives us access to love & belonging - lives inside of our story."

We believe this narrative process is the gateway towards emotional intelligence & authentic spirituality.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Descending Way


The greatest among you must be your servants. Anyone who raises himself up may be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up. Matthew 23: 11-12

Jesus invites us to follow him on his humbling way: “The one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). “Anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:35). “The one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:4). If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). “How happy are the poor in spirit...those who mourn...those who hunger...who are persecuted” (Matt 5:3-10) “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44)

“This is the way of Jesus and the way to which he calls his disciples. It is the way that at first frightens or at least embarrasses us. Who wants to be humbled? Who wants to be the last? Who wants to be like a little, powerless child? Who desires to lose his or her life, to be poor, mourning, and hungry? All this appears to be against our natural inclinations. But once we see what Jesus reveals to us, in his radically downward pull, the compassionate nature of God, we begin to understand that to follow him is to participate in the ongoing self-revelation of God.

Jesus presents to us the great mystery of the descending way. It is the way of suffering, but also the way to healing. It is the way of humiliation, but also the way to resurrection...It is the way of hiddenness, but also the way that leads to the light that will shine for all people. It is the way of persecution, oppression, martyrdom, and death, but also the way to the full disclosure of God’s Love. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up.” You see in these words how the descending way of Jesus becomes the ascending way. The “lifting up” that Jesus speaks of refers both to his being raised up on the cross in total humiliation and to his being raised up from the dead in total glorification...

You are probably wondering how, in imitation of Jesus, you are to find that descending way. That’s a very personal and intimate question, and in the end I don’t think anyone can answer it but you. It’s not simply a matter of renouncing your money, your possessions, your intellectual information, or your friends or family. For some people, it has indeed meant this but only because they felt personally called to take that road. Each one of us has to seek out our own descending way of love. That calls for much prayer, much patience, and much guidance. It has nothing at all to do with spiritual heroics, dramatically throwing everything overboard to “follow” Jesus. The descending way is a way that is concealed in each person’s heart. But because it is so seldom walked on, it’s often overgrown with weeds. Slowly but surely we have to clear the weeds, open the way, and set out on it unafraid.

For me, this weeding out process is always related to prayer, because to pray is to make free time for God, even when we’re very busy with important matters of one kind or another. Every time we make free time for God, we clear up a bit of the descending path, and we see where we can plant our feet on the way of love."

- Henri Nouwen (Show Me The Way - Daily Lenten Readings)


Sunday, December 29, 2013



It's been over four months since I have posted anything here.  I have almost completed a post about why, which I hope will be posted before the new year.  But for now, I  just wanted to post my intro-to-lamentation reading (from the prayer service today at CV) for continued contemplation.  It's not likely to read as it was spoken, but I will leave it as is.  Most of it was derived from a chapter in "Reconciling All Things - A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace, and Healing".  It is an essential part of the CRP curriculum - and I would like to expand on it in future postings.  Also, I hope to take time to focus on the psalms of lament that we meditated on today - and consider why we should contemplate some even darker, more violent Psalms from time-to-time.  

Anyways...thanks for listening & participating...


"Lament teaches us about what must be learned and what must be unlearned in order to live well in a broken world. But we should first understand that Lament is not despair. Lament is not whining. Lament is not a cry into the void. It is a cry directed at God - A God who is willing to emotionally suffer & grieve with us.

Lament is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.

To the extent we do not experience an internal shattering, something new cannot break in. Therefore, the relationship between lament and hope is crucial, because Lamentation gives birth to a more radical vision of hope. And any hope that does not require deep impoverished.

But those who have been shattered by our broken reality...are those who are not easily consoled...and who have entered a place of restlessness. They've opened their hands to accept a different vision. Lament becomes they’re prayer, because they recognize that without God’s intervention, there can be no reconciliation within themselves, their relationships, or their world..

And so...through the intentional practice of lament as a prayer, we become people who are willing to engage the wounds of the world, singing over them & washing them, allowing the unsettling, vulnerable cry of be heard."


Friday, August 23, 2013



We need to touch the reality of who we are.
It is then, as we grow gradually
into the acceptance of our wounds & fragility,
that we grow into wholeness,
and from that wholeness, life begins to flow forth
to others around us.

It is important to take time to be silent,
to be alone with Jesus,
to look at the reality of who we are,
be in contact with our hidden places of pain
and little by little we can become a friend of our weakness.


In 1980, when I left the role of community leader in Trosly,
I lived a year at La Forestiere, one of our homes
for men & women with profound disabilities.
I have told you about Eric, but there was also Lucien.
Lucien was born with severe mental & physical disabilities.
He cannot walk or talk or move his arms.
His body is a bit twisted
and he has to remain in his wheelchair or in his bed.
He never looks anyone directly in the eyes.
Lucien's father died when he was twelve.
He lived the first thirty years of his life with his mother,
who cared for him & understood Lucien & his needs;
she could interpret his body language.

He was at peace & felt secure with her.
One day she fell sick & had to go to the hospital.
Lucien was put into another hospital
and was plunged into a totally strange & unknown world.
He had lost all his familiar points of reference;
no one seemed to understand him.
Screams of anguish rose up in him
which were unbearable to hear.
Finally he came to La Forestiere.
We felt quite powerless in the face of his constant
If we tried to touch him to calm him down,
this very touch seemed to increase his anguish.
There was nothing to do but wait.

The pitch of Lucien's scream was piercing
and seemed to penetrate the very core of my being,
awakening to my own inner anguish.
I could sense anger, violence, and even hatred
rising up within me.
I would have been capable of hurting him to keep him quiet.
It was as if a part of my being that I had learned to control
was exploding.
It was not only Lucien's anguish
that was difficult for me to accept
but the revelation of what was inside my own heart,
--my capacity to hurt others--
I who had been called to share my life with the weak,
had the power of hatred for a weak person!...


How painful it is for us to look reality in the face,
to discover our own fragility
and our capacity for anger & hatred.
The temptation to avoid or run away from
those who reveal our inner limits & brokenness is so great.
The roots of much racism, rejection, and exclusion are here.

It is so important not to run away,
but to find someone with whom we can speak
about these shadow areas of our being,
these inner "demons", the "wolf" within us,
someone who can help us not to be controlled by them
so that they no longer haunt our lives.

- Jean Vanier Befriending the Stranger



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Stories We Tell"


"When we can let go of what other people think & own our story, we gain access to our worthiness - the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love & belonging.  When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts (puzzle pieces) of our lives that don't fit with who we think we're supposed to be, we stand outside of our story & hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.  Our sense of worthiness - that critically important piece that gives us access to love & belonging - lives inside of our story." Dr. Brene Brown

"Our sense of worthiness lives inside of our story."  

Owning our entire story is another important aspect of "changing the language of performance & achievement to that of surrender, trust, & vulnerability."  Being able to intentionally see the "parts" of our lives as pieces to a larger puzzle, rather than a variety of unrelated fragments - is essential to this narrative process.  These pieces/parts/fragments likely include parents/siblings/relatives, bullies & mentors, experiences of triumph & trauma, feelings of joy & pain, love & grief, reality & fantasy, religion & spirituality, trust & manipulation, vulnerability & shame, oppression & liberation, emotional connection & objective sexuality, safety & fear, etc, etc, etc...

Seeing the bigger picture of who you are - all that shaped your identity through actions & reactions - allows for a narrative understanding that gives you the capacity to articulate & own your story - which is the first step towards honesty, authenticity, self-compassion - and ultimately compassion for others.  (Compassion being understood as "suffering with" instead of "pity for".) And the only "authentic" way to suffer with another person (in addition to empathetic listening) is to be able share your own experience & process in relationship to their own - which will almost always work towards unraveling shame.  From there, the real work of understanding, growth, & healing begins from this place of emotional trust & spiritual connection.  

(Unfortunately, when we haven't encountered compassion/self-compassion, we seek out or generally default to the doctor/patient, counselor/client scenario of "I have a problem that needs to be diagnosed, treated, & fixed" - and when we aren't "fixed", we often begin to subconsciously believe that "I AM a problem that needs to be diagnosed, treated, & fixed".  -which not only becomes quite costly economically & emotionally, but will invariably create more "fragments" of self.  This is especially true for children subjected to counseling by parents who are themselves fragmented & struggle to connect emotionally to their kids - and now feel that their child is acting erratic & has become or is becoming "abnormal".  A true cycle of poverty.)  


To tell a bit of our own story...  

My wife & I moved to Boston in 2003, and began growing our family while pursuing further education.  It was an enriching, tumultuous, challenging, transforming three years for our marriage.  By 2006, we were ready to jump oceans - seeing another continent as a natural next step for us - but God confirmed to both of us (separately) that Columbus, OH was where we were being called to live in the months to come.  A step backwards it seemed to us - as we had already spent most of our lives in Ohio, and had now basically written it off...with the exception of our friendships & family.  As things took shape, however, we began to look forward to what God had for us in C-Bus.  Although, they didn't quite develop as quickly as we thought - so far as job & housing - and in the fall of 2006, we moved in with my parents (and later my grandmother) in southern most tip of Ohio, down along the river, across from WV & KY.  We thought we would be there no more than a couple of months...but it turned out to be an entire year!

That feeling of a "step backwards" now felt more like time travel.  :)  This, of course, forced me to confront all of my arrogant "better than" bullshit - and begin learning some intense lessons on how to bridge the past with the present - and why it was excessively necessary for the future - which is still revealing itself six years later.  It was here that we began learning to grow & preserve food - began reading Wendell Berry & Shane Claiborne - began to understand the need for honest community in contrast to social work, religion, & politics - and most importantly, began to understand how I could not detach myself from the people & place that raised me.  Only then was I able to see how my Appalachian context had informed my identity - and how often it identified me apart from others (in negative & beneficial ways) in all of the places I have lived since leaving home.   I was able to reclaim it, rather than feeling a sense of shame, unworthiness, or "less than" about it.  And the (largely counter-cultural) aspect I was most proud of (that I now see I have always identified with), was a more reflective, slow, sometimes apathetic pace - that wasn't necessarily looking to be anywhere, or to achieve any objective goals - but was instead mostly interested in making sense of the world from the inside-out - not unlike a certain barber from the Wendell Berry novel, "Jayber Crow" - which mirrored my experience at that time.

It was an unanticipated reconciliation, necessary for maturation.


If you have read this far, maybe you are willing to press in a bit more by beginning to build a bridge to your past - particularly the parts of the past that seem fragmented & disjointed.  One of the ways to do this is to invite God into the process - maybe visit a safe person or two from the past - or maybe simply peek in on the stories of others, like Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" (showing at Gateway next week), or listen to the story of a friend or a relative or a stranger, or read the (highly recommended) autobiography of Malcolm X (for example).  Why not?  

This is all potentially valuable because how we relate to someone else's narrative of suffering & acceptance usually says something substantial about our own narrative, and may allow us to reclaim something from it - or to at least begin putting the pieces back into the puzzle of our identity.

If you do see Sarah Polley's film next week (see trailer below), or read the autobiography of Malcolm X or Berry's Jayber Crow, look me up soon & let's discuss it over coffee...  


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Poem for Franklinton


July 3rd has proven to be the most exceptional day/night of the year to live in Columbus, Ohio's oldest neighborhood of Franklinton.  The neighbors here bring their own "fireworks" to the party - and their party will often last through the night.  It is something to experience, unless you want to sleep.

Franklinton is our home.  It has been for six years.  I came here to teach & counsel - but mostly found myself learning from & being mentored by ex-prostitutes, ex-offenders, recovering addicts, and indigenous leaders. I have also learned (symbolically) from the shards of glass that surface (from the soil) every spring in our backyard, the abandoned houses where addicts & prostitutes shack up, the raccoons that live in the sewers, and the black mold that grows in the walls - that poverty is something internal - inside of us all - and not something economic or political.  If we are not living, working, praying, and processing from the inside-out - then we are likely only perpetuating (and often enabling) deeper levels of poverty.

One of our mantras here in Franklinton (particularly at Lower Lights) has been the discovery that... "(economic) poverty is a mask we put on a person to cover up his or her real (internal) wealth - and (economic) wealth is a disguise we put on a person to hide his or her profound (internal) poverty."  This conceptual reality allows for us to begin consideration & discussion regarding what is actually perpetuating economic poverty, discrimination, abuse & neglect, etc., is not so much political policy or personal responsibility - as much as our inability to confront our own privilege, power, and spiritual poverty with self-reflection.

Many of us who moved here together six years ago have already taken our privilege & power to another neighborhood, city, or rural area - and our family has been tempted to do the same, and will likely not be here forever either.  However, for us (and some who left) the process of confronting our privilege & power though living & working in Franklinton - while also learning how to genuinely give up & let go of various levels of this spiritual poverty - has allowed us to understand that the process of "suffering with" is the gateway to connection with anyone experiencing poverty in their life - from the bottom to the top - from the circumstantial to the emotional.

So, this "obligation to struggle" has become a way of life.  We expect the shards of glass rise to the surface with the tulips & daffodils.  And Franklinton has become the birthplace of Restorative Peacemaking.

Below is a poem of tension & prayer from another of our poets residing in the bottoms.  Thanks Joy. :)


A Poem for Franklinton by Joy Sullivan

“Even if we are not sure how it is going to end, we still have this obligation to struggle.” Chinua Achebe

When Jacob met the angel,

he embraced divinity with such ferocity, 

the light of heaven broke bone and sunk socket.

Still, Jacob would not relent. He caught the wings

of God and bellowed for blessing.

Here, in the bottoms, we know what it is to bellow,

to grapple with angels. We’ve learned to beg

benedictions, to hurl petitions at the moon.

Prayers come back as crippled echoes,

bruised sonar, splintered

into pavement, abandoned houses,

into altar bread and the freckled faces of children.

Here, we know the best way to pray is to pant

with your whole body. Even the dogs teach us that.

Here, we wrestle God and demons

and leopards and angels and some days

we cannot tell the difference.

Here, we dance because there is quicksand

beneath our feet and because we are not ready to sink.

Here, when I think of loosing my grip on Heaven, 

when my prayers boomerang back

and my hips quake from the shaking,

I imagine Jacob, limping home, his thigh bent and magnificent,

a fit of feathers still clenched in one unflinching fist.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Qualification of Love


"We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable & powerful selves to be deeply seen & known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture & grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them - we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.  Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare." - Dr. Brene Brown

I am intrigued by how Brene Brown's understanding of love is described in direct/symbolic agricultural terms (cultivate, growth, roots) - and how that serves as a powerful reframe for how we care for ourselves & one another - while suggesting that our relationship to food & soil might offer a necessary mirror to that process (see Wendell Berry).  I won't jump to any cliche conclusions here (ie "you are what you eat") - but I highly value the agricultural mirror for myself & my most intimate relationships - believing it to be a very restorative peacemaking process unto itself.

Another path towards engagement with Dr. Brown's subjective/vulnerable/emotional laden definition of love is (as you might have guessed) the cinema - particularly the "Before" trilogy (pictured above) - but also a host of other great films that open us up to the internal conversation by peeling away layers of emotional distortion.  Difficult to endure maybe, but a necessary process none-the-less.

Most noteworthy, however, is a deeper level truth from Dr. Brown - "We can only love others as much as we love ourselves" - that most of us know to be a slight variation on the second greatest commandment - "love your neighbor as yourself" - which we too often (co-dependently) interpret as "love your neighbor 'instead' of yourself".  What this means in-part (to love ourselves) is to give ourselves the freedom to learn from our failures - the freedom to forgive ourselves & ask forgiveness from others - the freedom to not be perfect - the freedom to need love & connection (and seek it!) with God & significant others - the freedom to risk everything - the freedom to be different - the freedom to ask questions - the freedom to be vulnerable - the freedom to confess shame - the freedom to desire - the freedom to believe - the freedom to confront reality - the freedom to be known - the freedom to learn who you are - the freedom to make choices - the freedom to engage conflict - the freedom to be emotional - the freedom to evolve & mature as a human being.  If we cannot allow these freedoms for ourselves (and believe that God allows for them too) - then we cannot give them to others with honesty & integrity.  If we cannot believe we are worth something beyond (or without) achievements - then we will likely not be able to see the inherent value inside another person outside of their performance ("good behavior").  This process plays out most severely between parents & children.  Quite simply - parents who can't love themselves are essentially incapable of loving (accepting) their children - even though it may be their greatest desire.   

Thich Nhat Hanh once stated that "understanding & love are one".  If we can strive to (at the very least) understand our emotions, our imperfections, our beliefs, our identity, etc., rather than placing judgement upon them, we might be able to do the same for others.  We might also be more willing to invite God into our mess.  If we can allow for such vulnerability, we will likely encounter Truth within the process.