Where judges aren’t welcome

An early love for judges

One of my favorite judges, Judy Sheindlin. Photo courtesy of Susan Roberts.
One of my favorite judges, Judy Sheindlin. Photo courtesy of Susan Roberts.

I started watching judge shows in high school. While my parents divorced during the summer between my junior and senior year, I watched the Newlywed Game and Divorce Court—back to back—religiously.

In the game show, raunchy newlyweds flirted to win washing machines. In the court show, couples described messy failed relationships, pleading to the cool sophisticated judge who gave them clean outcomes that didn’t always make sense: he gets the washing machine, she gets the dryer. I took comfort in seeing someone in control above the brutal fighting; I myself was living in the fray.

My internal judge and me today

Today chaos or insecurity triggers my internal judge who gives opinions on all aspects of my existence, including the way I pray and my creative process. It can get overwhelming. Instead of fortifying my self-image, the judge can become so destructive that nothing seems good enough.

This internal judge is almost certainly the voice that silences many people from writing at all. Before a song, story or prayer can be fully fleshed out, the judge squelches it.

A courtroom—not a mind or a private journal—is the perfect time and place for a judge. Judges make great editors, or list-makers for pros and cons, or researchers for the best washing machine. Much as I love them, judges don’t have a place in the early creative process.

Writing to deepen the spiritual experience

Spiritual writing is all about process. Results don’t matter. You only need to show up, put pen to paper and let the judge know you’ll call her later, if you need her. You won’t miss her. The divine presence will show love through ink and fiber, if you let it.

The practice of spiritual writing is a balm to heal and nourish my creative self. I face the water, put my hand in like a boat and let my work set sail. The spirit supplies the wind.

Upcoming Sunday School Class

As part of our church’s Christian Education hour, my friend, Resa Kerns, and I will offer a spiritual writing class 10 a.m. this Sunday, June 1, in the resource room (lower level) of Broadway Christian Church. It’s an 8-week class, and everyone is invited. Internal judges might tag along, but they won’t be listened to. In the space of spiritual writing, we will listen for God.

While I teach the class this summer, I will include some of my topics on this blog so you can follow along and try some writing on your own. No experience needed!

The pen is the path. As we write, we might be surprised by who travels with us.

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” —Luke 24:31-32


Lord, when there seems no escape
from our fumbling, our fears,
our frantic chasing of the next goal,
our harsh self-judgements,
bless us with acceptance.

Let’s practice devotion.

May we accept what is real
and rest in your kingdom.

Tell me your thoughts!

How much rule does the judge have in your mind? How much rule does God have?

Tell that trash talkin’ opossum, “No thanks!”

Baby birds

What’s it like in your head? Is it an easy, relaxed place to be? At the end of the day, do you feel positive and excited for the next day or drained and discouraged, dreading what the next day will bring?

I have good news if you’re in the drained and discouraged camp: you can change your mind and change your mood.

Years ago, my mind was like a neglected alley, overrun by opossums eating out of knocked-down trash cans under dull yellow light. My thoughts were a daily toxic stream of unforgiving words and mean judgments directed toward myself. I could do no right in my own eyes. It was exhausting.

I cringe when I hear an adult say to a kid, “No! What’s wrong with you? You’re so stupid!” I know from experience that kids can be super recorders and replay hard words in their heads for a lifetime.

You have competing elements for your inner voice. One is a cruel self-critic, and sounds like a opossum that hisses and eats trash. The other is the voice of your spirit, less noticeable and more fragile. Like a fledgling songbird, it needs to be nurtured to grow stronger. The opossum can climb into the songbird’s nest and crunch its bones if you let it. Or you can feed the songbird until it’s strong enough to fly and carry your thoughts with it.

An old opossum message might have been I’m so stupid! What’s wrong with me?

If you find yourself thinking that, try following it with a songbird message of, It’s OK. Mistakes happen. I can learn from this.

You might think a opossum thought such as, I’m too fat/skinny/bald/hairy/old/young. Nobody likes/understands/wants me.

Your new songbird thought can be, So what? I’m going to try things and enjoy life regardless of my weight/hair situation/age. I’ll do what I can to be a blessing to other people.

Be a friend to yourself. Let your mind be a place of song and spirit. Tell that trash talkin’ opossum, “No thanks!”

Do you want to make or have you made a change in the way you think? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

PS—No hate mail from opossum lovers please! Called “America’s finest marsupials” by Logan Howard, I recognize opossums as creatures that deserve respect but all’s fair in love and metaphor.

Baby birds