Old Comfort in Perilous Times

In the tumultuous times in which we live, I find great comfort in the old paths, the old hymns, old Truth.  As the old hymn asks, “Does your anchor hold?” We certainly need an anchor now, more than ever.

I find myself frequently lost in the old spiritual songs and hymns that I grew up with. It isn’t sentimentality for the past that drives me back to them. It is the Savior who is sung about with such tenderness in this music that draws me.  When listening, “…the things of earth go strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Most younger generations will never know these simple melodies. The simplicity of the tunes, the sheer singability of them, combined with equally simple–but rich in truth lyrics–drive them deep into your mind and soul.

Our little daughter listens to these songs and hymns on her CD player at night. Recently, she came into the kitchen and asked if I knew the song, “Bring back the Springtime.”  I told her I could sing it all. “That’s my favorite song,” she said. “I love George Beverly Shea.”  I doubt many eight-year-olds have that dear saint now in heaven on their list of favorite singers, but the kindliness and love in his voice transcends time.  Best of all, these recordings are introducing her to the beautiful songs and hymns that she will hopefully draw from all her life, both in grief and joy.

Here are a couple of the songs I listened to today that blessed my heart. The first is the song, “Then Jesus Came…”   Like the blind beggar touched by the Savior, our darkness of our souls is filled with light when “Jesus comes to stay.” That song is followed by “Beautiful Savior” by the choir. The Savior, who deserves all of our praise and worship, is lifted up in this music.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

The second video is a precious song to me for several reasons. George Beverly Shea is 103 in this recording with Guy Penrod. I first heard this song at age 22 at a time when the burdens in life seemed unbearable. I found an old tape of Paul and Bob, a blind singer who sang duets with another man on a radio program. The tape would have been laughed at by many young adults even then, but this simple song reminded me that Jesus DID care about all that was going on in my life. Someone may see this today and also need that reminder. If so, this is for you!

Child Character – Take the Long View

Many young parents (and some not so young) wrongly believe that rotten character in kids is just a phase, and they even glorify it by posting videos of young children mouthing off to parents, flagrantly disobeying and then lying about it. These kind of videos are laughed at routinely on social media. Anyone who notes that this conduct is not funny and is, in fact, harmful, is howled down and ridiculed for being too uptight.

You would have to be a blind fool not to see the working out of rotten character into all areas of society. The breakdown of respect for authority is real, and it threatens every one of us who try to live in peace with our families. Lawlessness is the new normal.  Looking at the state of American parenting in the last two generations, this should not be a surprise.

I wrote this piece at Medium.com today, noting how important it is that we correct our children when we see traits like selfishness in them. Left to grow,  things will not end well for children or those they touch.

 

 

Thankful for the Mender of Broken Things

On the eve of Thanksgiving, a brief thought. The other day I broke a little figure that meant a lot to me in sentimental value. It was part of a pair I had for years and years, a little touch of continuity through so much change. Tom heard me lament that it was broken beyond repair, in jagged pieces. I made too big of a deal of it probably.

Tonight I went to pull the blinds in the living room, and there it was, next to its twin on the table. I thought I was seeing things. It was perfect. Tom said he had fished the broken pieces out of the trash and said he felt bad about it, so he gave it his best shot putting it back together. He did a beautiful job. I was moved so much with that small act. It was more than just an act of love. It was a metaphor for all he has done for me and our children. He has represented Jesus in my life through the years. Constant, faithful, caring about even the small things and heartaches. A true Christian man.

God mends us in many ways, and often through the love of others. I am grateful. Tonight, I think of those who have really been the healing hand of kindness to me and a great encouragement in tough times. Thank you. I will never forget it.  There is so much to be thankful for, and I thank God for his mercies every day. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving Day, friends.

 

 

 

Clarity in the Fog and Darkness

Some celebrity said or tweeted an attack on Christians and their prayers yesterday as the bodies of the church shooting victims were barely cold. I would like to point out, beyond the non-surprising, obvious bigotry on the “star’s” part, that looking at the flaming open sewer that is Hollywood, I wonder where he is getting his credibility.

You can’t beat something with nothing. Hollywood has nothing to speak into the growing darkness in America. They ARE the darkness and confusion – the merchants of it to every home that will let them in. The ever-new, laser clarity of Psalm 1 says all that is needed, as we see moral anarchy worsening almost weekly. However discouraged we become, this is eternal light and truth for our path, for the few who want it:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Psalm 1

Counterfeits are everywhere, and the danger is especially acute in Christianity. But we know this – the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish. This passage from Malachi is so beautiful:

“Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

“On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.

“And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays…”

~ verses from Malachi 3-4

Abusive Churches: Why Do People Stay?

I have been following the implosion of a church in Illinois with great sadness. The situation is beyond belief really. The question I, and a friend who helped found  the church, have asked repeatedly is this: How can people stay in these abusive churches when there is a track record a mile long that should have concerned them?

A good blog post on this subject of why people stay is at the Counter Thought site.  Read it here.

It is important to note that abusive churches are not just those with some slickster celebrity pastor offering up heresy burgers and chasing out the old timers, not just those with top heavy layers of church government. . Some of the most abusive churches are those with suit-wearing, Bible-wielding (“We stand on the Word”) churches. These are often the covert abusers, and the true problem begins behind the scenes due to a corrupt power structure. Behind the scenes mafia tactics, requiring non-disclosure agreements from departing staff, handed out with dark threats, secret meetings, late night calls, smear campaigns, manipulation, and so forth. Something is very wrong at the top, back in the offices, and the damage flows from there, not primarily from  the messages in the pulpit.

If the solid people who have been the prayer warriors, the backbone of the church, the founders of the church, are peeling off and leaving, this is a massive red flag. There is a sickness in a place like this. Staying enables the wrongdoers, and emboldens them. When truly godly people you have known for years are leaving, and you allow them to be labeled “malcontents”, without any interest in getting to the bottom of it, you are part of an abusive system. Stay at your own peril.

The key line in the blog post  is here, I believe. “People stay in abusive systems because the desire for community has overwhelmed all other needs.”  Valuing comfort over truth is always a dangerous thing to do. Your abusive church is spiritually dead, a church with broken walls and no roof, spiritually speaking. . Protect yourself and your family before it is too late.

 

What a Shame

Anyone who has been a target of malignant narcissist abuse has a long journey to health, both physically and emotionally. (The two are related.)

For those affected, no reading is complete without understanding the role of toxic shame.  Here’s a definition of what that is:

Toxic Shame is a neurotic, irrational feeling of worthlessness, humiliation, self loathing and paralyzing feeling that has been inflicted onto an individual through repeated, traumatic experiences often, but not always, rooted in childhood.

There is the shame our consciences feel as God intended – the healthy shame – when we engage in things that really are shameful. Mistreatment of others, lying, stealing—you get the picture. This is what prompts us to try to make right our wrongs and keeps us (hopefully) from repeating truly shameful behavior. There’s a remarkable lack of this kind of healthy shame anymore in our culture.

Toxic shame is what is meted out by  emotionally abusive people, both as a tool of manipulation and also as punishment by sociopaths who have NO sense of shame themselves and who are skilled at using others for their own ends.

When this occurs, targets begin to absorb this false thinking into their identity — something that can cripple the target and destroy their ability to recover a true sense of themselves. It is startling to realize how emotionally abusive  people use this tactic so effectively.

Looking at this topic from a Christian standpoint, you can easily see how the enemy of souls uses people like this to kill, steal and destroy. Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren.” Yes, indeed, and he works through his willing tools on this planet to do so.

Those who are close to a narcissist, especially in a family or partner relationship, display their fears, insecurities and weaknesses as we all do with those we trust. What is so evil about how narcs work is that these same insecurities, fears and weaknesses are the source of the toxic shame these narcs  heap on the target once the degrading and discarding points in the relationship begin.

So, for example, if a target has anxiety problems, that will not only be thrown in the face of the target as proof they are inferior or mentally ill or otherwise unhinged, and during the smear campaign phase, if the target manages to leave,  it will be spread abroad as widely as possible as proof of just how deranged and flawed the target is.  Your vulnerability when you trusted that person becomes the place to insert the knife by the narc. They were storing up that information for future use. I heard one target describe the mind of a narc as a “steel trap” that retained useful bits of info that was later used – out of context – as a weapon to try to destroy. That’s how they roll.

The gas-lighting they engage in furthers the belief  in the target’s mind that they must be the one who is crazy. Self-doubt washes over the head of the target like a tidal wave.  The sense of (false) shame becomes the most prominent feature in the life of the target. They must be a tremendously flawed person, they think. Depression and hopelessness follow.

Satan is a liar.  His servants who have been given over to prideful minds serve as powerful tools in the destruction of others.   The target is faced with not only combating the  lies thrown at them, but also facing the cold shoulders of those who willingly enabled the narc in his destruction campaign. It can be a formidable challenge to overcome this.

When fake spirituality  is added to the mix, and the abuse takes place by someone claiming to be a Christian, , the impact  on faith can be huge. The disassociation that targets utilize to survive gets read by them internally as loss of faith and all the guilt that goes with that follows. The ultimate goal of the spiritual power behind malignant narcs is ultimately that. The destruction of a person on every level, most importantly, faith in the Lord. Whatever image they portray to others, malignant narcissists are the embodiment of evil.  Secular counselors will call it a “personality disorder.” Be that as it may, it is spiritual at its core. The enemy of souls stalks the vulnerable and innocent through them. Without understanding the devices of the evil one, it is difficult to recover.

There are some good resources on this subject that are essential reading by those who have experienced this firsthand.

I highly recommend this book, “How to Kill a Narcissist.  Don’t  worry, the title refers to the killing of the lying myths narcissists hand out to targets. It is tremendously helpful in grasping what these abusive liars do. Once unmasked, the power they have wielded over targets using toxic shame becomes less and less.

For Facebook users. Shannon Thomas of Southlake Christian Counseling has been one of the most helpful sources of truth on this subject that I have encountered yet. Linking to her Facebook page will give you a constant stream of truth — all aimed at a hopeful outcome for those affected.

I want to conclude this post with a word of caution. Be very careful about those you see for counseling on these issues.  If a counselor does not have a handle on how these moral monsters work (malignant narcissists), you will not only NOT find help, you will also end up with additional burdens of false guilt that you in no way should carry.

We are told in Scripture to “understand the enemy’s devices” so as not to be outwitted.  (II Corinthians 2:11) Biblical counselors who want to apportion equal blame to those in these horrendous situations further victimize the target.  Malignant narcs who end up in counseling with targets (a rare thing) are skilled at pointing to reactions they have provoked by their extreme lies to prove to the counselor that they are not the problem. Foolish and incompetent counselors, particularly those of the “biblical counseling” variety, fall for this way too often. Snakes in the grass are known to provoke wild reactions with their venomous bites not witnessed by others. When the reaction of the snake bite victim becomes the focus of outrage and concern, the snake and its poison have succeeded. It really is that simple.

A few helpful points in these memes below.

 

 

Presenting…Sophia!

Sophia Renee joined the family last night. Son Sam and his wife Laura welcomed a little girl into their family.  Beautiful Sophia joins big sister, Gianna Maria, and big brothers, Max and Peter. I could not help but share the happy news today of our fifth grandchild. We  thank the Lord for a healthy baby and a healthy mother!

The Coddling Trap

I wanted to share a  little insight into the problems frequently cited in young people today — their sense of entitlement and their  emotional incontinence. A few years back I was reading a book called, The Christmas Mouse (published in 1973) by a British author who used the pen name, Miss Read. It isn’t a children’s book, it is  a charming story set in an English village with some female characters (along with some children.)

In the course of the plot, one of the female characters, recently widowed, is home alone on Christmas Eve and has a run away child break into her pantry that stormy night. The boy was a foster child from a good family she knew down the road. What struck me reading the book was the response of Mrs. Barry to the hungry, crying child eating her pies in the pantry. The boy being fostered at the farm down the road was upset, because he felt the kids of the foster family had a better set of gifts than he received, and he felt left out not having his own family, so he ran away.

Initially, I found myself thinking, Oh, poor child!  So alone and sad on Christmas Eve without his own family!  But the response of Mrs. Barry set me back very quickly. Rather than emotionally surrounding the shivering boy with a blanket of emotional comfort and understanding, she proceeded to address the core problems. The core issues were that he was A) ungrateful for the warm, safe family home where he was living B) ungrateful for the wonderful family that had taken him in and their buying him gifts he otherwise would not have had C) That he had worried this good family by running away D) That he felt he had the right to break in to her home and steal her food, because he was unhappy.

In short, she rebuked his sense of entitlement and brought him to see, eventually, his wrongheadedness on every front. She let him warm by the fire, met his needs and then called his foster family.

This is the set of values that made Britain and the US strong.  In the West, we  long ago departed from this way of handling children. We are prone to coddle kids when there are core character issues that need addressing. The results are all around us.  Didn’t get what I deserve!You have ‘privilege’ and I don’t!, You have better stuff and it’s not fair!,   I’m entitled to what you have cause I have nothing!

Christian teachings – as found in the Bible – emphasize humility, gratitude and respect for others. When a culture at large ceases to value that and it is no longer taught in homes, you get the atrocious state of things we are now witnessing. I DEMAND this !, I DESERVE WHAT YOU HAVE! , I’M A VICTIM AND YOU OWE ME!I’m UNHAPPY AND YOU NEED TO FIX IT!

No loving,  responsible parent is going to ignore the emotional needs of their children. But there is a difference between idolizing happiness, as though anything that threatens happiness is the problem – in essence, allowing for the tyranny of emotions in a child’s life –  and making sure a child is not carrying unnecessary emotional burdens  I tell this to our young daughter  when she is very unhappy and very unhappy that she is unhappy. “Your happiness is not the most important thing. Obeying and doing the right thing comes first.  Sometimes we are sad, angry, and unhappy. That’s just how life works. But how we ultimately pick ourselves up and respond to it  is what matters.” That’s what I try to get across to my children (and myself!)

Something to remember is that the ongoing mindset of victimhood wars against acknowledging the GRACE in our lives and squelches gratitude. It kills it.

The Christmas Mouse is a wonderful little book by Miss Read, but I found something deeper there worth recognizing, I think.

(There are still copies of this book in some libraries, and there are used versions of this little book available online with a simple search. Sometimes it is combined with two other Christmas stories by Miss Read, all of which are a joy to read.)

When History Makes Us Sick

Someone loaned me some books of fascinating old newspapers from my city that dated back to the 1940’s. I enjoy local history and seeing ow people used to live, what they paid for rent and such, and seeing the old fashions, etc. I posted some photos from these newspapers on a history page for our city with photos of real estate ads back in the 40’s. It was shocking to see how far above just inflation prices have gone.  Many were interested in what the photos revealed.

But the newspapers were crumbling around the edges. They also reeked of mildew. After a day or two, I couldn’t take it anymore and put the large books of newspapers back in my van to return to the owner.

I vacuumed up the crumbles of old newspaper  on my floor and coffee table at home and drove around for a few days with the newspapers in the back of my van, intending each day to return them. I procrastinated. But my daughter and I started sneezing in the van and the mildew smell got overpowering.

I finally made a point to return the disintegrating newspapers and to vacuum out my van. The thought hit me as I cleaned up the remnants of the past from my van. This is what we do in our lives at times. We get too wrapped up in the past. We carry around in our minds and hearts old, moldy things that no longer have any relevance to our lives. If we don’t get the past out and clean up the remnants, the past can make us sick. Literally.

The past can so enthrall us and interest us that we never look up into the present. We’re so busy looking in the rear view mirror, trying to understand that view, that the broad view of the windshield – the road in front of us –  totally misses us. If we did this while literally driving a car, we would end up in the ditch or worse.

I’m hoping to embark on a fresh campaign of downsizing and removing a lot of things saved from our home. It’s a physical way of driving home this truth. The past has it’s place, but it isn’t supposed to be carried around with us, making us sick.  The past has its place. We can acknowledge it, good or bad, but then we need to  look up to what God has for us in this day. We cannot afford to waste our lives so caught up in the lives of those who already made their choices and lived and died. These are our lives, given us by God.  The question I am asking afresh each day  is this: What do I do with my life today, Lord?