Abuser-Enabling Pastors: A Vital Question

This post from Crying Out for Justice is spot on. A warm thank you to Jeff Crippen for writing it. Over and over again, I have heard the stories of those affected by abuse-enabling pastors and churches. The churches themselves are abuse systems far too often. The testimony of the targets is disregarded and disbelieved in these places. The abuser is believed, backed up, enabled, and strengthened in harming.  It’s worth looking more closely at this.

The post from Crying Out for Justice asks the question, “Where are all these abuser enabling pastors coming from?” I add my own. question: “Why are secular counselors more often equipped to identify evil and provide help to those being abused than these pastors who claim to speak for the Lord?”

Yes, I believe seminaries are not adequately preparing pastors to  recognize evil when they see it, and when there are so many books that spell out, exactly, how it operates in people, there is no excuse for not knowing these things.  Evil doesn’t normally come billowing clouds of sulfur in the form of a red devil with a pitchfork and a tail. It comes beautifully, deceptively and with a tongue that can spin clever lies.

I believe something else as well. The lack of love in pastors and churches blinds them and prevents discernment from the Lord. When you have two people with two vastly different stories, how do  pastors know who is lying and manipulating in a counseling session? Wouldn’t you think that the real presence of the Holy Spirit would allow the truth to be seen? If these were men of prayer doing the counseling, wouldn’t the indwelling of the Lord in their thoughts show clearly the truth in the testimony of the abused and help them spot the smoke blown by the liar? The absence of discernment from the Lord is the hallmark of our times.

Pastors are not only enabling abuse. They sometimes are the abusive ones. As our culture spins more and more out of control, and  we see more and more churches that long ago lost their first love, if they ever had it,  there are a growing number of abusive pastors  with fawning, sycophant followers who refuse to see their malignant narcissistic leadership for what it is.

There is no denominational corner on this. These abusive and corrupt leadership structures exist in churches across the spectrum. Seeker big box monstrosities are just as likely to have an abusive pastor as a dried up little doctrinal sermon club/church. The common denominator is sin unchecked and the the ensuing absence of love that means an absence of discernment from the Lord.

No pastoral training is complete without warnings from teachers and professors about how evil operates . Knowing the enemy’s devices is absolutely essential. Without that knowledge, pastors, tragically, can end up enabling  evil and further harming those already abused, resulting in lasting damage to the faith and families in their care.

 

 

 

The Dad of Our Home

Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.

Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Edgar Guest

Tom,  on the porch this week, home from work. He is the father of our home, and one of the “best of men” Edgar Guest referred to.

Sound Track of Love

I was walking around the house this morning warbling “Good Morning to You..” and “Beautiful Dreamer” for no particular reason other than the sun was shining.  My Emmy said, “You have a beautiful singing voice, Mama.”

I smiled, because to anyone else, I am sure I do not, but it made me remember my mom singing when I was her age, something she did all the time–in the car and the kitchen doing dishes, everywhere, and I remember thinking how beautiful her voice was. Recording worthy even! Love makes it all beautiful, I think.

I learned a lot of songs and hymns from my mom. We sang in the car with her many times. Lisa sang harmony, and I sang third part. One memory is when we were camping out on Hinsdale Island up in the boundary waters of the Kabetogama State Forest . We were in the tent one evening around sunset, and Mom was singing this one:

Love divine, so great and wondrous,
Deep and mighty, pure, sublime,
Coming from the heart of Jesus.
Just the same through tests of time!

He the pearly gates will open,
So that I may enter in;
For He purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

In life’s eventide at twilight,
At His door I’ll knock and wait;
By the precious love of Jesus,
I shall enter heaven’s gate.

Lisa and I liked to join in on the chorus.

He the pearly gates will open,
So that I may enter in;
For He purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin
.

If Mom was singing, we knew everything was alright. No matter what else was wrong in this crazy old world, Mom was singing, so things were A-OK in ours.

We have no idea  how the music we play and sing is imprinted on the minds and hearts of our children. The memories of my mom singing go far back into earliest childhood. She sang many songs wherever we were, but the Christian songs and hymns are the ones that I remember most.  Her singing laid the soundtrack for my life and that of my siblings, and that soundtrack has never shut off. Sometimes, during the rough passages in life, the soundtrack grew quieter, but it has never left me. As I grow older, those same hymns and songs come back to me in full volume, and I try to pass some of them down.

I was singing this song recently, and my little daughter asked me about it. The song passes along everything I want to convey to her and to all of my children—most important words in the soundtrack of her life.

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives

And then one day
We’ll all cross the river
And fight life’s final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know he reigns

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives

One last thought. Emmy passed the speakers at home one day recently and stopped in her tracks. It was the song I posted here recently, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” She listened to it on her way out the door to play. “That’s a very nice song,” she said, and she  walked out. Just another song in the soundtrack of love in her life.

 

 

 

The Gospel of Madeleine L’Engle

I realize the subject matter of this post is a little off the beaten track for the Hope Blog. A friend recently described the growing influence of occult and paranormal  themes in children’s literature.  A trip to the children’s section of any bookstore will show just how true this is.  Like many parents, I have witnessed an acceleration of this in recent years.

The Gospel of Madeleine L’Engle is written by Claris Van Kuiken, an author and researcher I have known for over 25 years. While it is off the beaten track for my blog here, the spiritual nature of the subject matter makes it highly relevant.  One of the early children’s authors to blatantly introduce occult concepts and terms to children was the late Madeleine L’Engle.  The article details just how extensive these ideas are within her books, both for children and adults.  For Christian parents, it’s worth knowing.

 

 

Come Back, Please

Following up on last week’s post, Shepherds False and True, I want to focus on one aspect of that piece. I want to talk about love that pursues.

In my previous post, I referenced the passage of Scripture that describes the man with one hundred sheep, the one who left the 99 to go after the one that was missing. This story ended in rejoicing that after a search, the sheep had been found. The man loved the sheep enough to go after it. He pursued it.

For many of us, the thought of being pursued in love, and I’m not talking about some sick control thing, by any church when there is a problem is beyond comprehension. These institutions are so used to having traffic go both ways on a regular basis that one more family out the door means nothing.

If a family is struggling with something at the church, it is far easier, a relief even, for these leaders to just wave good-bye  than to actually face the issues at hand. Doing so might reveal deep problems, sin, real issues at the church, and “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Love that pursues.  Think of what these words below would mean when you are having to walk away in a seemingly unsolvable situation:

“Wait, would you come back? We value you. We love you and your family. You are important to us. Can we talk this over one more time? Please don’t leave yet.”

Think how healing these words, spoken in sincerity, would be! Think how beautiful to know that your presence, your family’s presence, matters. That all is not lost.

Imagine this scenario. A church has serious issues going on. Gossip is rampant, families are leaving in droves. Hearts are broken everywhere, as the environment deteriorates and families see no other choice but to drive away.

What if the pastor(s), rather than circling the wagons, meeting with lawyers, holding stern congregational meetings with threats about gossip and slander, stopped everything planned.

What if every meeting, every Bible class, every Sunday School class, every youth group event, every small group get-together, every single thing on the schedule came to a halt? And for as long as it took, they held prayer meetings inside the church sanctuary. Sackcloth and ashes time. A call to reconciliation and confession of pride and everything else. Pastors on their faces rather than lecturing against gossip. Imagine a congregation following the leadership’s model of humility and love.

What if apologies were sent out to pursue wronged and departed members, letters of contrition, letters of love and requested reconciliation to those families forced to leave by arrogance, pride and cold hearts at the top on down?

No slick “revivals”, no professional seminars, no programmatic anything. Just seeking the Jesus so often talked about, and yet so rarely present.

Would this change things? Yes, it would change everything if cold, unfeeling hearts were replaced by the Holy Spirit with new ones, tender and easily broken.  It would change things very quickly if callous indifference were replaced with love, the love that pursues and doesn’t give up.

Maybe this has happened in our time, somewhere in America. I have never heard of it if it has. I do know of countless Christians who have been forced to leave churches they once loved, churches where they hoped to raise their families. This is the terrible reality many know. Meanwhile, the church show must go on.

On a related note, there is general concern expressed in many places about the departure of Millennials from churches. I’ve read countless articles from various Christian news sources about how this demographic is walking away from evangelical and fundamentalist churches.

I’ve also read all the suggested fixes for this, ranging from the usual “cool church” makeovers of formerly staid and conservative congregations to denying cardinal doctrine.  It’s all a howling joke, people. It won’t work.

Some young people will leave church, because the message of the Gospel is offensive and they prefer the world. But who is to answer for the many others  who have walked away, because they have never, ever seen any reality of Jesus in the professing Christians in the churches where they were raised, and theyhave ceased to believe Jesus even exists? Who will give an account for the church politics (I could tell so many stories about that one), the obsession with image over reality, the false fronts, the play acting, the egos, the fraud and the total absence of power in the lives of the “believers” they knew from earliest childhood? Absence of power? What power? The power of forgiveness and reconciliation from Jesus Christ as seen in relationships! The power that can cause a hard heart to grow soft — a miracle only God can achieve. The power that causes change, not just empty talk.

This is what young people need to see. It’s what all of us need to see, more than ever in these times when the “love of many has grown cold.” It’s what we need to show in our own lives.

We may have nobody who pursues us in love, especially from any institution calling itself church. But we must be the church and pursue others in love when there are problems. Pride shuts the door and locks it on those with whom there is a problem. Churches like this are citadels of pride. We can all be citadels of pride. But where pride reigns, it ruins. It ruins people, and it ruins churches as a result.

“Please don’t go. You and your family matter to us. Come back, won’t you? Let’s talk this out. We love you.”

Those beautiful words, so rarely spoken in sincerity.  What wonders they could accomplish.

Shepherds False and True

A shepherd tended a flock of sheep on the hills  At night, they were herded into a sturdy sheep pen made of field stone. The pen was solid and protected them all from predators. The shepherd made perfunctory checks on the sheep each night and went through the motions of his job each day. No one could fault him  for not carrying out the basic tasks that he went through like clockwork. Every day, the same routines without fail. That was the job he got paid for.

At dawn one morning, an injured sheep showed up at the door of the pen, waking him with pitiful bleating. It was not his. He had no way to know where the sheep had come from. It was limping and blood was coming out of a wound.

The shepherd was annoyed.  He didn’t have time to deal with it. The animal looked like it was dying anyway and probably would wander off shortly into the trees. What was the point? The shepherd left the sheep lying against the stone wall and herded the rest of the flock briskly out of the pen to the water and grass on the hillsides. He realized he was already behind schedule.

Hours later when he got back to the pen with the sheep for the night, the injured sheep was still there, barely. The animal weakly lifted its head.  Its eyes implored the shepherd to help.

In disgust, the shepherd turned away.  He’d have to get rid of that mess soon or the carcass would draw wolves and vultures, not to mention flies.

Some of the other sheep looked curiously at the sick one as they filed into their safe, clean pen for the night. A couple stopped with sheeply concern, but the shepherd impatiently flicked them with his rod to get moving.

The shepherd was tired and decided to leave the bloody sheep to die outside the wall of the pen. He would deal with it in the morning. He completely forgot about the animal and dozed off immediately.

In the morning, the injured sheep was gone. Surprised, the shepherd looked around. He hadn’t thought the sheep could move enough to get away.  There was a trail of blood behind that led to a grove of trees down the road. What relief. He hadn’t had to deal with the mess. The sun was rising in the eastern sky. It looked like a beautiful day ahead.

He was leaning against a leafy tree while his flock was grazing later that day when he spotted a dark cloud in the sky some distance away. It moved a bit closer, and he could see they were vultures. One by one they dropped down into a grove of trees. Probably the dead sheep, he thought. Good riddance. He looked with complacent eyes on the sheep from his fold, grazing on the hills. Time for a little nap, he thought, as the gentle breeze caressed his face.


Over the years of working in Christian radio, the various types of churches in America became evident. For many years, the seeker, church-growth, Peter Drucker-influenced model changed the landscape. Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, years ago, developed associations that smaller churches could join to help them imitate the supposedly successful Willow Creek and Saddleback models. Seminars by satellite are still beamed all over the country, as bright-eyed young pastors dream about church greatness and big crowds. That’s one type of American church.

I also addressed the dying mainline churches, churches that long ago abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints and replaced it with a form of baptized anthropology. They exchanged the truth for a lie. The stench of embalming fluid fills these places.  That’s another kind of church.

But there is yet another type of church that I didn’t address much on the program. I should have. These churches have highly biblical doctrinal statements, maintain their commitment to orthodoxy and root out even the slightest growth of false teaching. They are known for not compromising. They outwardly have  a look of health. Their parking lots are full on Sunday with committed parishioners. But there is a problem, and that problem flows from shepherds on down.

If I had to characterize the issue with this kind of problem church, I could do so easily.  No love. The shepherds of these churches can be seen above in the small illustration. They are utterly committed to their churches in the sense that no church service, program, no church sponsored event will be neglected or done in a half-baked fashion. The sheep are herded in, and herded out, like clockwork. The floors are polished. These pastors and churches are not given to change, ridiculous fads or innovation. They are always on time.

But there is a problem. Shepherds in these churches can be so committed to the sustaining of a schedule, to programs, to upcoming this and upcoming that, they can miss the trail of blood in their foyers where “sheep”, deeply wounded and desperately asking for help, have come in and gone out, without it.

Complacent eyes take on a type of blindness. It’s not that they can’t see anything. It’s that they cannot see those who matter most.  These “shepherds” cannot see the hemorrhaging sheep in front of them, asking for help, as their responsibility before God who is the owner of the flock.

They see programs, conferences, schedules, administrative things, opportunities, but the desperation in the face of a hurting person who does not fit the plan? No. That disrupts order. That requires something beyond what they are willing to give.  They have places to go and things to do.

Contrast this with the picture of the caring shepherd that our LORD gives in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ ”

I have heard from so many through the years whose experiences are not primarily in circus churches with three rings and a trapeze in their ceilings, or mainline spiritual mortuaries. They are limping away, terribly wounded, from the third type of church—the ones that value doctrinal correctness and will not tolerate compromise, but they lack the one needful thing – the thing that is supposed to set them apart in the eyes of the world, the thing that heals and gives life to those who need extra care, because they have suffered terrible injuries. What’s missing is real love.

Shepherds in these places not only won’t leave the fold and  to locate a wandering “sheep”, they can’t be bothered with the bleeding “sheep”  right in front of them. The bleeding and wounded bring nothing but work. Their care is tedious. These sheep don’t nicely fit into a program, an activity, an orderly slot. So the shepherd looks away, progressively blind and deaf to the terrible need in front of him. Not only does he not care for them, he will not so much as call on an assistant to do so.

These shepherds may not even notice the dark cloud of vultures off in the distance, descending on the spiritual carcasses of  the sheep that slowly walked away.  They are busy with an itinerary their secretaries just ran off on the printer. Another opportunity awaits. There is no time for the wounded. No time.

My heart goes out to every single one who has come to what they thought was help, only to be ignored, neglected and passed by. Even a cursory reading of the Scriptures show that this model of “shepherd” is false in every respect.

Jesus Christ is the GOOD Shepherd. Again and again, we see the compassion and care of our Savior who heard the call of the blind, the beggar, the oppressed, the sick and the cripple. He touched the “untouchables” and healed them. The touch of love.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” cried the man by the side of the road. Unwashed, alone and in darkness, Jesus was his only hope. People told him to shut up, but he only cried louder, hoping against all hope that Jesus would hear.

What did the Good Shepherd do when he heard this man? Listen to the urging of his handlers to move on, as he had a scheduled appointment for teaching in Galilee? Did He head to an august council of great theologians and scholars to discuss fine points of the Law?

Here is what happened.

“When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” (Gospel of Luke, chapter 18)

The Lord heard the cry first, and then he responded. That cry was heard and acted upon. This is the example of a true shepherd.

I am sorry if any reading this have been injured by false shepherds. False shepherds are far more than those teaching erroneous doctrine or self-help, feel good messages. Any shepherd who does not have compassion that acts in the face of pain and injury is false.

All we can do, and we all need reminding of this in these brutal times of coldness and callous disregard in churches, is look to the Good Shepherd above by faith—the One who never fails, who hears our cries in mercy, and who tends to our wounds in love.

The Good Shepherd shows his love to us by sending other concerned “sheep” in our direction, people, those who encourage and who walk with us on the rough terrain on the winding path to the Celestial City.  We can urge each other on and help untangle things when some get caught in the brambles and minister to those who are sick.

May the Good Shepherd tend to your heart today if you are hurting. The LORD Jesus Christ is His name. Call on Him, the One who always hears.


The Light that Was Dark – A Prayer Request

My old friend and colleague, Warren Smith, had a heart attack yesterday. I’ve known him for over 25 years. I came across his first book, The Light that Was Dark (first printing in the early1990’s) where he described his coming out of the Rajneesh cult and heavy duty occult/New Age teachings into the light of Jesus Christ. His books went from there. Every so many months, I would hear his articulate voice on the phone. “Ingrid, I’ve been writing this new book…”, and we would strategize for the next radio interview.

Warren’s eloquent first hand description of the “light” he encountered in the New Age movement and his discovery that it was a counterfeit light sums up spiritual deception better than any I have heard. He hasn’t wavered in his message of warning. There are counterfeits, because the real thing exists spiritually. Please remember Warren in prayer.

For those interested in his books, here is Lighthouse Trails’ page. for more information. (The books are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and other outlets.)  I wish I could share the many interviews we did on Crosstalk Radio through the years. So many times, I felt the Lord’s direction and help in those programs which were a wake-up call to many. If you would like to send well wishes to Warren Smith, here is the contact information.

Early Mother’s Day Joy

Son Will (20) gave me an early Mother’s Day gift and invited me  along with him to Gesu Church downtown where he had a practice scheduled. Knowing my love of the old hymns and gospel songs, he played several for me. I can’t add much, because these old hymn tunes say it all to those who love them. One of my all time favorites is, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” which he played for me. I hope is blesses you, and if you know it, sing along.  Here are the words.

(Note: Another couple of hymns I will post in the comment section.)

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

We Are Their World

I was very young when I first became a mother. Little Charlie in all his vulnerability wrapped his little fingers around my heart, and I have never looked back to what life would have been without him or any of my six children.

There are so many happy joyful memories of being a mother. So many times of laughter and fun. But the true bonds of mother and child are developed in the difficult times, the worrisome times, when you are awake in the night feeling a feverish little body, and that grip of fear on your heart reminds you of how dear that child is to you.

My second son had severe asthma from six months onward. He was hospitalized over 30 times between six months and age 6, both in ER visits and usually for 2 to 3 day stays. He was allergic to almost everything environmentally, which made it especially difficult to get his wheezing under control. Every cold he had resulted in bronchospasms that would mean him having to be treated with IV steroids and various other drugs that were the latest in treatment to open his airways. He spent days on end on 7 North and 7 South, the asthma wards at that time. We knew all the nurses, and we watched the seasons change there.

There are so many memories of holding him hooked up to the various monitors, worrying and praying for him, trying to keep his time there positive and happy.  He still remembers me bringing the red and white striped bags from the gift shop with a small surprise for him each time. It was a tradition for us. He remembers the bins of toys I’d bring in from the play room and getting to watch children’s TV, something he usually didn’t get to do at home.

Sam is a husband and father of three children himself now. Nearly 30 years old. But he told me that he has no negative memories from those hospitalizations, despite the papoose boards used to restrain him for IV’s, the endless breathing treatments, and horrible tasting medicines and misery. To me, that said so much about children and mothering. He remembers the love and care, and me nearby, always nearby trying to sleep on the small couch, because I couldn’t leave him alone at night in case he felt scared and needed me.

I had to leave the hospital once for several hours to go home and take care of some things. I was gone longer than intended, and getting off the elevator that evening, I saw a nurse pulling Sammy in a small wagon down the hall. His look was one of utter dejection. He was slumped in the wagon, looking sad. As the wagon approached the nurses station, he looked up to see me. I’ll never forget the look of sheer joy in his eyes. His arms flew up for me to hug him. Mom was back. His world was OK again.

I remember that all these years later, because it showed me how important moms are to their children. We are their world. Our choices and decisions have a direct impact on their well-being and happiness. It’s a sobering thing.

So many mothers struggle, and I understand that with all my heart. I was a single parent at the time with a world of burdens on my shoulders.  Those mothers who have no support and help or who are dealing with counter-parents rather than co-parents carry unbelievable loads.  Those who continue to love their children, day in and day out, and who try to give their children the best they can in spite of circumstances are true heroes. I think of these moms on Mother’s Day.

My adult son told me something recently that I’ll always carry with me. He said, “I always remember the feeling of being safe with you, Mom.” Isn’t that what we strive for? That , come what may, in this broken and often bleak world, our children have a safe refuge with us. No matter the housing, the financial situation, or any other negative in their lives, they are safe with Mom–a mother who believes them, protects them, cherishes them to the best of her ability.  Creating that safe zone is the work of all mothers. If our children remember that, we have done our jobs well.