A Little Note for Readers

In July, I passed the nine year mark for my small Hope Blog. Before that, I had a Blogger.com site called Front Porch Chats (long deleted.) After moving from South Carolina back to Wisconsin 10 years ago, I changed the name and started over. Somehow having chats on a front porch in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin seemed unlikely!

As noted before, I never started this blog to be a success by blogging standards. It was a simple antidote to writing about the toxic state of the evangelical church and American culture that I nearly killed myself doing on the once busy news and comment site  I published as an adjunct to the talk radio show I co-hosted and produced. My heart has always been first at home anyway, and so I have enjoyed writing about my family and the good things there are in this world—good things that are often obscured by the ugly.

I haven’t written on here for a while. After getting really sick in June of this year, I ended up in the hospital where they diagnosed diabetes. The summer has been spent adjusting to an entirely new eating plan and medications. Because I did not fit the typical Type II profile of being overweight, it was somehow missed. It would be an entirely separate post to write about how crucial it is to protect your health as much as possible and be vigilant about it. No emotional stress, no other  person or their agenda can be allowed to dominate you and take your health away. We are not here to be the emotional punching bags for others.  Walk away and stay away.  Lesson learned. Stress, over time, kills. It’s that simple.

emilysecondgradeOur little girl, our surprise baby (was it just yesterday she was born?), just started second grade today. I debated once again about killing the Hope Blog once and for all. I have other outlets on social media that are more gratifying for sharing ideas and thoughts and allow me to have a little tighter control over who can contact me. There are some sad people in this world who enjoy drive-by insults and inflicting pain for the joy of…inflicting pain. But there are a whole lot of others through the years who have contacted me with appreciation for covering some subjects that have helped them. Spiritual abuse, family emotional abuse and the destructive effects of narcissism are just a couple of those topics. It is a sadly high number I have heard from who are living in near despair in family systems or churches where  these emotional and spiritual vampires are destroying them, and they are at a loss as to understand how to deal with the situation.

My own and my family’s horrific experiences in the last few years in particular have given me a lot of painful insight, and all I can do is share what I have learned in hopes that somebody else may benefit. It is tempting to see God as having abandoned you in these situations. That is the worst effect toxic people can have on others – the sense of God also having turned his back. But in spite of damage done, we need to trust that His hand is there, guiding us in the dark, leading us and sending encouragement through others to help us through.  And then, we can be a light to others.

So, in my small way here, I am back, Lord willing. I have always loved to write, and I hope that if God allows me strength, that I can share here in some way that encourages others. All topics are not good, but what is good in them is when we can point to hope in God, our refuge and strength in this life. No matter how much hatred is leveled at us, sometimes inexplicably.

Fall is around the corner. Like it is for many, it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to leaves falling and making pumpkin pie. I can’t enjoy it anymore thanks to my new low carb diet, but Emmy and Tom still can!

I hope anyone reading this has a beautiful day. God made it, so it’s good!

 

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On this Wednesday Morning

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about the written prayers of Pastor Johann
Habermann from 500 years ago. The little black book that was given to me
is full of the riches of prayers that contain and reflect Holy Scripture
in each sentence. You can read more about them in my former post. (All
of the prayers and hymns from Habermann’s original book are here in a
simple text file if you are interested. Bound copies are also available
online if you do a search.)

Here is the prayer for this morning. These prayers are instructive due to
their being rooted in the Word of God. The further we stray from Scripture,
the more our prayers can err, even if we don’t mean to pray amiss. These prayers
are reverent and humble, the only kind of prayer our Lord will hear. He rejects
the prayers of the self-righteous and haughty, but he hears the pleas of his children
who love him.

Almighty, All-gracious God!

All Thy creatures should praise and glorify
Thee. The birds under the heavens magnify Thee with lovely songs early
in the morning as their Lord and Maker. So will I too heartily thank
Thee, that Thou hast preserved me under Thy shelter and protection
during the night now past, and all my life even to the present hour,
and awakening me from the sleep of the darkness of this night, hast
suffered me to arise again in health and joy. I pray Thee for the sake
of the saving resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that Thou
wouldst ever keep me together with all my loved ones from all danger
and evil.

O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance: feed
them also, and lift them up for ever. Fill me also at this early hour
with Thy grace, that I may pass this day rejoicing in Thy commandments,
and free from mortal sin. Let me experience Thy grace as a dew from the
womb of the morning, and as the refreshing moisture that diffuses at
the break of day, making the land fruitful. Thou wouldest spread Thy
goodness over me, that I may gladly and zealously do Thy will. Govern
me with Thy Holy Spirit that I may serve Thee in righteousness and
holiness of truth, well pleasing in Thy sight. Guard me that I sin not
against Thee, nor defile my conscience with carnal lusts that militate
against the soul. Keep my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking
guile. Foolish talking or jesting, unbecoming of Christians, be ever
far removed from me.

Grant, that I offend none with my lips, nor backbite,
judge nor condemn, defame nor vilify. O that I might put a
lock to my lips and seal them with a strong seal, that they bring me
not to naught, nor my tongue destroy me. Give me grace that I may know
my shortcomings and correct them, and not fall into Thy righteous
judgment and condemnation. Grant my prayer, O Eternal God, for the sake
of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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Elie Wiesel – Remembering Him in a Quote

Christians think there is virtue in silence when someone is being abused by a spiritual leader. When they know wrong is being done and they stay silent, they become complicit. A favorite quote of Wiesel’s. “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented..”      Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

A Response to the Movie “Me Before You”

Our culture lives by emotions, not facts or an objective sense of truth. If a movie makes us “feel” and “moves us to tears”, well, then by all means, it must have a good message for us, right? Wrong.

A friend sent this article to me. The movie “Me before You” is yet another death propaganda piece that manages to make suicide look heroic and selfless for a disabled man. He did it for someone else, after all.  I am glad to see this article by a young person responding to the false message the movie promotes. The author begins:

I love romances as much as the next person (perhaps even a little more … I’m a total sap), but I’m decidedly unenthused about the most popular romance in theaters right now. As a disabled person, I really can’t stand “Me Before You.” In my opinion, and in the opinion of much of the disabled community, the film spreads some really harmful misconceptions about life with a disability. In an effort to undo some of the damage caused by this film, I’m here to bust some common myths about disability. (Spoiler warning for “Me Before You,” by the way!)

Read it here.

Remember when movies were filled with things like the triumph of the human spirit against difficult odds, when courage was an admired trait, when steadfastness and strength of character were celebrated? Yes. It seems like a long time ago now.

 

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A Little Concert Excerpt

Will’s  long awaited Gesu Church concert was on the evening of June 14. He will be a junior at Wheaton College Conservatory in the fall. He auditioned for Eastman School of Music after spending three days in New York this spring, and was accepted, which is a great honor for him!  He has, however, chosen to return to Wheaton, a place he really loves, and we support him  in this. God is in all these details, and we have encouraged Will to seek the Lord in all his decisions about the future.

The video starts off rather rocky as Will points audience members to the program notes he wrote about the piece.  It gets stable quickly when he sits down to play.

The piece by Cesar Franck, Piece Heroique, builds and builds with that theme you hear at the beginning, ending in a powerful crescendo. The video doesn’t do justice to the sound of that organ in the acoustics of the church. It is an exciting piece of music and an exciting organ to hear.

I am sorry the next piece, a great contrast to the first, was cut off, but the camera ran out of space! Some day, we will manage to get someone to help professionally record Will’s concerts on video. Fortunately, the audio was captured on some good microphones, so we’re glad for that. When so much work goes in, it’s worth keeping.

There was a great turnout for the concert, and Tom was surprised by a friend who goes back all the way to high school band days, a fellow trumpet player. Additionally, Tom’s boss and department supervisor came.  That made the evening even more special! Also, a reader of this blog turned out with her husband. That was great!  Will was assisted by his good organ friend, Ryan Mueller, who met Will through this blog. Ryan works on these huge organs for a company that repairs and voices them.  We are looking forward to hearing Ryan play at Gesu next month! His concert is Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 7:30pm.

These young men are a blessing from the Lord who gave us the priceless gift of music.

 

 

He Gathered the Pieces

Twenty-one years ago, I was getting ready to marry Tom (on the 30th!) . Our lives have taken many twists and turns with six children, many joys and some big losses. The simplest way to express what my husband has meant to me is found in these words below. For some reason I will never understand, Tom valued my “scattered pieces”, and he picked them up, more than once, and glued them back together. I owe the man my life.  I carry a photo of Tom in my wallet and every time I buy groceries or need ID, I see his face, and I am thankful for him. Every day that goes by, I see God’s kindness to me in providing this man, who loved me when other people in my life that I loved  just walked away. Thank you, Tom, for loving the broken pieces like Jesus.

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Beauty in June

My friend, Kim, is a talented gardener.  The photos of her garden are breathtaking. The poem and photo of one of her roses below are used with permission. Thank you, Kim, for posting such beauty for all of us to enjoy!

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest, –
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back, with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
’T is enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack,
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing, –
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

~ James Russell Lowell

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Personal Boundaries and the Limits of Compassion

I came across an article today on personal boundaries. You may not think it is relevant to you.  With the benefit of age, my suggestion is that the subject of boundaries is relevant to all. If you don’t need this article now, at some point in your life, you will.

boundaries

The article I am referencing is from a secular website. As a Christian, I want to add something to what the writer has said. Having been born into and raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian (pan-denominational) environment, there was precious little teaching on things like personal boundaries and the limits to compassion. (Those subjects were routinely dismissed as “psychobabble.”) Christianity teaches that, like Christ, we are to pour ourselves out for others. I am not here to contradict that. What I will say is that this teaching, unbalanced with the need for limits in giving, can turn into tragedy and ruin for all involved. It’s that simple.

Some reading this article would say, “How self-centered.  If someone is hurting and causing us misery, well, we’re supposed to suffer for others,” or something like that. Having seen the utter destruction of co-dependency and what it looks like long-term when compassion becomes  enabling ,  I can tell you, with authority, that this is not of God. Why? Because if the results of your compassion efforts are  personal destruction and an inability to live the life God gave you, something is seriously wrong.

Being an empathetic person,  this author’s  words resonated strongly with me. There are some in our lives who do not care in the least that their rotting sin problem is a permanent stench in the lives of those who are trying to show love and compassion. They simply don’t care. We offer ourselves up like some kind of gruesome self-sacrifice when we are not in the least called to do so. But without boundaries, we let it happen and then complain that we have too much stress in our lives. Yes.

We need compassion in our hearts and to be willing to help where we can. I believe that with all my heart.  I have been helped by truly kind people over the years, and for their good sense and sound advice, I am grateful.  That is not the same thing as this good article discusses.

“Imagine you have this house — your dream house. The house and everything in it fills you with joy, and you work diligently to keep it clean and organized. You are comfortable there. One day, your mom/partner/friend is coming for a visit. You see them coming down the road, straining under the weight of a ginormous sack, quadruple their size. You walk out on the porch to meet them. “Come help me with this thing, it’s heavy!” they shout. You suggest they just put it down. They refuse. As they get closer you catch a whiff of what approaches. It smells awful. Putrid. Nauseating. You start to panic. Are they bringing that to your house? They reach the porch with their giant bag of trash and again ask for your assistance in bringing it inside. “Why don’t you leave that outside? It doesn’t need to come in,” you plead. They balk at your insistence. “No, it comes in. I want it with me. I feel better when it’s with me.” You nervously insist. “But I just cleaned, and it seems like it will make a really big mess.” They aren’t having it. “It comes in with me. I need it. It will be fine.” With a sigh of defeat, you open the door and they haul their trash inside…”

Read the article by Shannon Ghallagher.

I’ve learned that drawing  boundaries when there were none is costly.  But the spiritual and emotional cost of not drawing boundaries is far higher.

how-to-set-business-boundaries

Eternity in Sound – A Joyful Anniversary Concert Announcement

Willgesuorgan1Our son, Will, the organist of the family, turned 20 years old yesterday. He is a young man who is focused on music as an organ student at Wheaton College Conservatory where he will be a Junior this fall. I am passing on this information to anyone locally who would like to attend a free concert of some of the world’s great organ music. Will writes:

“It was twenty years ago this June that, as a newborn, I heard the pipe organ at Gesu Church for the first time. Ever since then, Gesu’s music ministry has had a substantial impact on my life, including inspiring me to become an organist. That’s why I am so honored to perform at Gesu on June 14, in celebration of five years of their marvelous “new” organ– which contains 6,800 pipes and is the largest in Wisconsin. I hope to see everyone there!”

The date is June 14, 2016 at 7:30pm at Gesu Church in downtown Milwaukee. The world is a troubled and dark place, and there is a loss of hope everywhere.  In the midst of this, music is the bursting into sound of something eternal, it has been said. Depending on the music, you either catch a glimpse of an eternal hell or the eternal beauty of our God and his majesty. Taking an hour out to listen to the power and also the quiet beauty, the whole range of this orchestra within one instrument, is good medicine in these times. Thank you, Will, for the music. To God be the Glory.

Clips from Will at his recent St. John Cantius Church in Chicago and Wheaton College.

willconcert2016