When a Stronghold Falls

For the weapons of our warfare are not those of the world. Instead, they have the power of God to demolish fortresses.   ~ II Corinthians 10:4

Did you ever see a stronghold of the enemy fall? The enemy I refer to is the enemy of souls who the Scriptures describe as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” In our world broken by sin, there are certain situations long dominated by the enemy that are his territory, and it seems that nothing will ever take down those fortress walls.

It does not often happen in this world that these walls fall. Every one of us knows of families, areas in society, or people who are under the sway of evil, and even prayer, no amount of it, will change that. Even churches can be a stronghold of evil and those committed to praying against it will sometimes end up leaving when nothing changes. (Just a note to such places – when the prayer warriors leave, that is a major warning sign that judgement is at the door. When God removes those who are on their knees in intercession, your days of warning are over.)

Only very rarely are we blessed to see a stronghold fall. But if you ever have, you will never forget it. I once saw a powerful fortress fall. Here’s what it took. It took ONE key person who did the right thing. One person to move from a seemingly immovable position. I often think of situations like this as a log jam in a river – logs forced together in such a way that they simply do not move and become a dam. But all it can take is movement in just ONE key log, and the dam blocking the flow of the river breaks apart.

When strongholds fall, God’s blessing is immediately evident. The fall of those walls will cause a small earthquake felt by many —the thunder of God at work to restore and to heal.

The fastest way to build a stronghold of evil is to shut out God’s call to our consciences, to sit in pride, especially pride or cowardice and silently witness evil done to others. We forget to self-assess or weigh our role in perpetrating or supporting evil, even tacitly. Years go by, relationships are lost, families or churches are destroyed. The ruins left behind on ground sown with salt become a monument to the work of Apollyon – the Destroyer. A Satanic trophy.

But God. There is a photograph from many years ago on a bookcase in my home that marks the earthquake of joy that occurred with the falling of one such stronghold. There are no smoking ruins in that photograph. It is a triumph of love over alienation, of joy over grief and anger, and it is the working of the Author of all that is good and beautiful.

Whenever I grow discouraged at the many strongholds with walls intact, I look at that photo and think, this is what God can do. I saw it happen before my eyes. We all need to see this at least once in our lives, especially now, when things around us are often so dark.

May 2017 see the work of God in the pulling down of strongholds in our lives, and may territory be taken back to the glory of Jesus Christ. He is able to do far more than we ask or think.

I hope to write more on this subject in the coming months. This blog is now in its 10th year, and I pray that those who stumble across it leave with hope that comes from our heavenly Father. God is not dead nor does He sleep.

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Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
’Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

–Frances Ridley Havergal

This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Sherry, in Des Moines, who “adopted” me and my family and who has shown non-stop love in the 11 years I have known her.  She also introduced me to the poems and hymns of Frances Ridley Havergal. Thank you, Sherry.

 

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A Tribute to Sears – And Kind People

searsTom and I have a special sentimental place in our hearts for Sears, the American store that has been in business for so long. We both grew up with our moms shopping there. My earliest memories of a department store were at the Sears off Fond du Lac in Milwaukee. We entered the store from the back where the first thing you saw and the first thing you experienced was the sight and aroma of the nut, candy and popcorn in the glass cases. My mom would sometimes get us a small paper bag  with red stripes  of Spanish peanuts, still warm from the lights in the glass case.

The neighborhood was deteriorating quickly around that store that had been in business for so long. It eventually closed, and we started going to the store at the Brookfield Square Mall when I was around 12 or so. From then on, that store was a part of my life.  (And Tom’s life as well, unbenownst to me at the time.) Those walls saw me grow up, saw me expecting my first baby. Charlie’s crib was purchased there in the baby department that was by the escalator. Then I shopped there  with two little boys  (after Sam came along) who wore their Toughskins jeans. I bought many little blue suits and white dress shirts and ties there for Charlie and Sammy, always one size apart. School shoes, school clothes and winter coats, all of it at Sears.  Then along came Will years later. Another crib purchased, and then Mary came. Little girls clothes! Easter dresses, Christmas dresses! Ah. Then Jonathan. We bought his first dress clothes there two days after he arrived from Bulgaria. It was Mother’s Day Sunday the next day, and I have photos of us at Sears with his interpreter who flew him here helping us  out.  An exciting and wonderful day that was! All at Sears.

Then Emmy. The night we found out Emmy was on the way we had wandered through Sears and there was Christmas music on the loudspeakers. We passed through the baby department and I admired the Christmas dresses,  for some reason, I was unusually teary eyed and sentimental. There was a reason for that. Our little girl was on the way, and Sears was the backdrop for the news shortly thereafter.

It is sad to see the decline of Sears in recent years. Tom and I still shop there when we can. We have said often that we hope our Sears at Brookfield Square Mall doesn’t go out of business. When it does, we will take it personally.  There is one portion of the outside of the store on the backside that has escaped change. We frequently comment that it’s comforting to have one small bit of continuity from the past.

So today when I spotted this piece in the Chicago Tribune, it really touched my heart. The author of it, who rose above his difficult childhood in such an amazing way, pays tribute to the Sears store that made such a difference in his life. Of course, it was the people there. But somehow you don’t forget the back drop, the scene, and in his case, he has special reason for that. Thank God for kind people. One kind person can have an impact. Several kind people at once can have  a special kind of impact.  A good thing to remember.

(The author of the piece in the Chicago Tribune is Douglas MacKinnon,  former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir “Rolling Pennies in the Dark”.) Alto a thank-you to the wonderful Facebook page, Pleasant Family Shopping, for posting this where I saw it. That page is a lot of sentimental fun from the past. “Like” it if you have a chance.

Don’t Feed the Beast – Understanding Fuel and Malignant Narcissists

Hope comes with understanding in bad situations. Deep confusion leads to despair. I have received many messages of appreciation for the series I have published in the last few years on the topic of narcissistic abuse and toxic people/relationships. A search on my home page (search window is just under comments in the right hand column)  under those terms will locate them. It is eye-opening and tragic  to hear from so many dealing with these issues.

Holidays can bring up a great deal of turmoil, both for those living in the midst of a malignant narcissist’s emotional, spiritual  (or other) abuse or, those who are attempting to recover from it, even years later. The grief over a shattered ideal of a love that never was, wasted time, and often, failure to properly see things earlier is real. A time of year rife with sentiment and memories can open these wounds afresh.

One of the most painful things to watch are the enablers of malignant narcissists. These people serve to provide  fuel for the perpetrator in harming a target. Their intentions, however pious, and their (willful) ignorance are beside the point. No malignant narc can operate without gas in his or her tank to run the engine of emotional and spiritual abuse.  It’s important to understand the fuel and who is providing it in these situations. This is the subject of my latest article, linked here.

Additionally, a good  article by another (and the comments below it) linked here, describes the difference between unconditional love and the toxic variety in these situations. It is crucial to understand this.  It is easy to miss it when your heart and soul are involved with someone.

The latest article I have written  is relevant to all, because even if you have not faced this situation personally, others around you have and are. You don’t want to be one of those operating the fuel pump for evil.  Nobody should want to be a tool in the destruction of others.

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On Thanksgiving 2016

Will recorded this traditional Thanksgiving hymn a couple of years ago. I thought I’d post it again this Thanksgiving. To American readers, have a wonderful day of thanks with friends and loved ones!

 

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

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Will Goes Russian

Yesterday, our 20-year-old son Will played at a recital at Wheaton College. He played the Third Movement from Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Dr. Karin Edwards, his teacher, on the accompaniment piano. This is the last 4 minutes of the movement (it is 14 minutes long total.) If anyone would like to see the whole thing, I will post the other 2 segments in the comment section.  A friend of his took this video from the balcony. The video isn’t sharp, but the sound is good!

We heard this piece develop beginning last summer when Will decided to learn it after hearing the Chicago Symphony perform this at Wheaton with a Russian pianist. When Will decides to do something, all you can do is get out of the way. He would finish with his landscaping job where he worked hard all day, and then he would head straight to a church that let him use their grand piano to practice. He would return home at 11pm sometimes, not even having eaten dinner.

What I admire most in our son is his dogged tenacity and his work ethic. I have learned things watching him. This is a tremendously difficult piece of music. At times, it seemed like it would conquer him. But he kept at it, and ultimately, conquered it. That’s the spirit we all need. Never give up. Tomorrow comes the music!   +Soli Deo Gloria+

Morning Song

My songbird was up early and cheered my heart today. This is what she sang out in the kitchen in the first stanza. (She’s learning this at school.)  There is good counsel in this hymn, written in 1734, Stanza 3 is particularly fitting today with all the fear and tumult on the political scene in our country.

With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.

Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast every care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.

With the Savior at your side,
Foes need not alarm you;
In his promises confide,
And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose
In the mighty master,
Who in wisdom truly knows
How to stem disaster.

If your task by thus begun
With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run,
Toward the promise pressing.
Good will follow every where
While you here must wander.
You at last the joy will share
In the mansions yonder.

Hymn # 483
Lutheran Worship
Author: Peter Frank
Tune: Fang Dein Werk
1st Published in: 1734

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Cheerful Guy

cheerful2Once in a while I treat Emily to the breakfast sandwiches she loves at a local McDonald’s. (I am making quite a confession here!) On  a school morning, if we leave by 7am, we have plenty of time to sit in the parking lot while she munches away and we talk.

There’s a middle-aged man  who works in the drive-through who is there every time on that shift. We sometimes get him on the speaker when we order and, he’s there  either in the money window or the pick-up window. Emily always notices. “Mom, he’s always so cheerful.” He is. He  comes across always as professional, courteous and warm sounding. That is a rare thing in the service industry. So he stood out, even to my young daughter.

Today was one of our drive-through mornings and there he was.  As I took the bag, I told him my daughter calls him “the cheerful guy.” His face broke out in a huge smile. “Well, thank you, that means a lot!” he said.

People like him stand out, because there’s anger everywhere right now, and it’s catching. I feel it catching hold of me thanks to the constant drum beat of terrible things that frankly, we can do little about.  Yes, we are in bad times as a country, but that’s why when you find a cheerful person in your small part of the world, or somebody who smiles when they don’t have to,  who treats you kindly, they shine like a bright light.

It isn’t easy to be cheerful. I think of the man in the drive-through and having to deal with the public all the time. People can be really ugly. Really ugly. But he somehow manages to come across as cheerful anyway.

Here’s to all the cheerful guys and gals who do their best at their jobs, whatever they may be, and treat others well. Whatever your employment, caring about excellence and caring about people is an awesome and rare trait to have. You are a blessing, and you are noticed!

(As a P.S.,  letting people know that you appreciate their cheerfulness may brighten their day. You just never know!)

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Hello, Again

My husband is a professional trumpet player and for 21 years, he has called from intermissions at orchestra concerts, ballets and shows he’s playing at night to help support our family. I look at the clock and know right when the phone will go off and I’ll hear his voice.   “Hi, Ing…”