Don’t Quit!

Contrast this advice in verse with the blame, hatred and self-pity fostered in today’s victim culture. This is the spirit that made America what it once was. It’s still the motto of those who succeed in life and overcome great hardship. Don’t give up!

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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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Just a Small Lighthouse

lighthouseThere is a children’s book that was originally published in 1942 called, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift. My daughter and I read it the other night. It tells the story of the building of the great George Washington Bridge through the eyes of a little red lighthouse on the Hudson River (based on a real lighthouse that was once in this location.)

We read the story of how the little lighthouse originally felt proud and important to help keep the vessels on the river safe in fog and rough weather with its flashing warnings about the dangerous rocks on the shoreline. Its warnings, night after night, kept those on the river safe from harm.

But one day, a shadow fell on the lighthouse as a vast bridge was  built right over it. When the bridge was completed, the little lighthouse noticed  that a huge light from the top of the bridge was flashing against the sky.  It was a big, brilliant flashing light that far outshone its much smaller rays.

The lighthouses felt that it was no longer needed, because of the much more effective light at the top of the bridge.  It felt discarded and forgotten and useless. But there came a night when the fog closed in and the lighthouse saw the danger on the river that no light was shining upon. It waited and waited for the man to come who would turn on the light, but the man did not come. Finally, when all seemed to be lost, the man appeared. Someone had stolen his keys, delaying him. He lit the lamp in the lighthouse, and the  light beams immediately flashed out through the fog as a warning to the vessels in peril.

The little lighthouse was needed after all. It had been dark, though, because its lamp was out. It could not light itself, no matter how hard it wanted to. It required the one with the key to come and light it.  In the end, the small, red lighthouse learned that the big flashing light it thought had taken its place was designed to warn airplanes, not boats and barges on the river. Only he could do that.

When I read that story, a light came on in my own mind. What a beautiful metaphor for those of us who feel useless at some points in our lives. We see the bigger, grander lights erected around us, the ones that pierce the darkness so much more effectively  and in a much more professional manner. We sit in the dark and wonder if our use is at an end. It looks that way at times, doesn’t it? We can feel unwanted. Useless. Discarded. And then one dark night, when there is danger for someone traveling in the dark and the fog, we see it, and we want to help light the way. But our light has flickered and gone out. We’ve been forgotten, it seems. The only One who can light our lamp feels like they have gone forever.

And then, there is the sound of the key in the lock, and our  cold, dark  lamp is lit by a kind and steady hand.  The One who had the Master Key all along had to open the door to light our lamp.  Then the  Light flashes on, the darkness is lit by our small but steady, strong beam, and danger is averted for someone lost in the fog of this world.

Our light is needed, no matter how small we think it is.  We may never realize what it means to someone else. This morning I opened a Hope Blog contact form message from someone who wrote anonymously.  The writer sent words of kindness and blessing to me. Their light shone brightly for this one person today. That light was needed. Thank you to the kind man who sent that.  God bless you. May the One who alone can light our lamps come again to our hearts and give us His light to illumine  the darkness.

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+