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.

 

 

Ghosting In the Machine

This post has nothing to do with Gilbert Ryle, or Arthur Koestler, or the English rock band, The Police. It has to do with something that goes on among Christians far too often within the “machine” we call the “church.”

Benjamin Corey at Patheos has an excellent piece on the practice of Christian “ghosting.” The term refers to  the act of cutting people out of your life overnight without a second glance behind you. If you’ve been “ghosted”, you cease to exist to those involved.

Corey’s article describes how this happened to him in his church fellowship and what the fallout was for him and his family. Once you are labeled, those who disagree with you on any number of issues can then discard you with ease. In many churches, there is no concept of co-existing with those who have divergent views. I’m not talking about views on cardinal doctrine, I am talking about things like gun ownership, length of hair on either gender, clothing choices, types of music listened to, education or vaccines—that sort of thing. Oh, and people will ghost you on secondary or tertiary doctrinal issues as well, like age at baptism, Christian “Sabbath” keeping, election and predestination, etc. etc.

I spoke once, this was about 12 years ago, to a family in the UK. They had helped to found a church in North America that became very large. Their family suffered a terrible wrong at the hands of one of the church members. Because the victimizer was a family member of an elder, the wagons were circled, the perpetrator was protected, and the church family, of one accord, turned on the victim with blame. Both parents took turns on the phone describing the horror of going from church founders,  beloved members of a church community, to pariahs. To be seen at a local mall and to have backs turned on you, people who once supposedly loved and cared for you is devastating. The couple and their family ended up leaving to return to their home in the UK.  It was a multi-layered tragedy., the fallout of which continued through the years in their family.

Lack of love and respect for others within what calls itself Christianity is a recurring theme at this blog. Daily, I am reminded of the damage done when sinful conduct towards others not only goes on, but is even passed off as piety. “We separated from the terrible compromisers!” Or, “We removed the leaven from among us!”  Actually, you attempted to cover the stench of your spiritual rot with the more powerful stench of your sanctimony.  But don’t let that get in the way of your act, ghosters.

The absence of a conscience on these matters is the hallmark of our times.  I often ask myself if those who have “ghosted” our family ever have a thought in the night of what they did.  Do they ever lie awake and feel an ounce of shame? What excuses do they tell themselves to justify what they did when we had done nothing to them? I can say with confidence that they don’t think of it.  If you have love, it compels you to right wrongs. If you fear the Lord in the right way, you can’t leave things unsettled for years on end. Shame, the right kind of shame you feel when you’ve done something bad to someone else, has to kick in at some point, and it makes you yearn for things to be right. That’s if you have a conscience.

It’s odd how the verse in Scripture about the loss of natural affection in the Last Days is frequently used by fundamentalist Christians  to describe things like aborting or otherwise abusing a child, a parent against child, a child against parent. We see this all over the headlines. But the most blatant loss of natural affection for each other as believers is ignored. That’s also a sign of the perilous times the Scriptures speak of.  No shame in treating your fellow Christians badly. No conscience on things that matter most—being right with other people around you.

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say it again.  The moaning about the exodus of young adults from evangelical and fundamental churches misses the most obvious cause for the departure. The forms of religion continue – but the power of God is gone. Where God’s power is, there is forgiveness. There is love for each other that is not easily wiped out. There is the right kind of tolerance–tolerance that allows the Holy Spirit to do the work in the lives of others,  tolerance that accepts differences of opinion, that doesn’t sit back and judge the motives and tastes of fellow Christians as though we alone have it right on every single issue.

You can mark it down. Wherever there is humility and reconciliation, that is where the Lord is present. Most churches today, I don’t care what stripe or label they claim, are operating by the power of the flesh. That includes many churches that thunder against the moral issues in the world while ignoring the weightier matters of cannibalism within their own ranks. That is why the landscape spiritually is so bleak. Hearts softened by the living Lord are moved to forgive.  They are moved with genuine concern, not about church growth—but about the well being of people.  That’s where healing is. That’s where joy is. And that’s the kind of living Christianity that will attract rather than repel.

The ‘Can’t Talk’ Rule – Red Flags in Abusive Churches

At a time when spiritual abuse in churches is epidemic, being able to spot it when it occurs is crucial. I’ve written a number of posts on this topic, and time and again, I am reminded of why understanding how abusive church leaders operate is important. Abusive leaders all tend to operate with the same play book. The difference between a secular abusive environment and one that is religious is that abusers in high places of a church have some extra tools in their control toolbox to bludgeon those under them into submission. Throughout history, on a grand scale or on a small scale, you can see how corrupt religious leaders make full use of speaking for God in order to consolidate and wield their power. It’s how they roll.

One of the hallmarks of this kind of corruption in churches is the application of the “Can’t Talk Rule.” This rule is best explained by authors David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen in their book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. (See image below.)

That book is just one of the many that spells out, in clearest terms, how these pastors and church boards operate. They fear exposure. More than anything else, these corrupt, prideful leaders fear having the harm they do to others laid bare to the public. The only recourse they see, like so many before them, is to try to crush talk. Spiritual manipulation of a congregation is easy enough. Call it gossip. Call it sin. Rebuke those who speak up for innocent people run off from the church and characterize the cries of those being injured as also being gossip and malicious undermining of church “authority.” It’s all so very easy to do.

Meanwhile, those members who value friendship, history and comfort over what is right and true smugly inform those who are deeply troubled over spiritual leadership that is biblically off the rails that they choose not to get involved. These are the abuse enablers who contribute to the destruction of reputations, faith and families.

The good news is that when a church engages in this conduct – a sign of desperation – they cannot succeed in their growth plans for very long. If churches looked to the political scene alone, they would see that corruption always becomes public eventually. Rot on the inside of any leadership always makes its way outward. It’s only a matter of time. Tick Tock. Those pastors and leaders who behave like crime families should not expect anything but a revolving door of members and staff. Anyone with an ounce of discernment should hit the road when they see this happening. There’s always a reason for it.

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.

 

 

 

Stop Enabling Bad Churches

Over the years, I’ve noted that not enough has been written on the topic of Bad Church Enablers. Much is available on enablers of dysfunctional and abusive people in family relationships, but not so much has been written about those who enable and support churches that have an established pattern of injuring church members–not the shiny people, but the little people who always end up getting hurt. There is a time to pray and stay. There’s also a time to head for the parking lot one last time and hit the gas without looking back.

If your church’s inner workings have more in common with an organized crime family, with circles of secrecy, political maneuvering as a matter of practice, free speech crackdowns driven by paranoia and so on, it just may be time to find the exit sign. If the ongoing climate at your church is a foretaste of hell with defrauding, injustice,  lying,  backstabbing, betrayal and eternal conflict, what in the world is the point? Do you seriously think God is going to allow any of that into heaven? Seek peace, and if you can’t find that in a Christian church, of all places, than head for the door.

Those who stay and keep these temples of doom afloat are part of the problem. You pave the way for others to be injured by staying and supporting a  church that refuses to address sin in a biblical manner. They never get away with it, and the conflict always follows the corruption. Always. Sin’s cancer grows and metastasizes in these places. It gets in the spiritual lymph system and ultimately kills whatever good there is.

Corrupt churches are the hallmark of our bleak times, and leadership policy and practice not based in the Scriptures quickly creates a spiritual destruction machine that takes in Christ’s sheep at one end and spits out their bleeding remains from the other. That is not too extreme a picture. Bullies, frauds, the entitled, the power hungry and their self-serving followers would soon find themselves with a much reduced ability to harm others if the good people, God’s true people, removed themselves from the seats and drove away once and for all.

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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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A Good Name in Ministry

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

Othello Act 3, scene 3, 155–161

In the fantasy world of corrupt spiritual leaders, and by corrupt, I mean far more than the Creflo Dollar types, a “good name” is highly valued. After all, these leaders have built impressive organizations with a wide outreach and many expensive assets.

As the injured limp or crawl away from these ministries and word begins to circulate about what happened to innocent people, the common strategy from organizational leaders is to run smear campaigns for cover.

There is so much literature written on this behavior the web is choked with it. At stake is the “good name” of the leader and ministry. It must be preserved. The terrible “slander” of the “good name” must be stopped, even if it means lawsuits, behind the scenes threats and outrageous lies.

But a good name is far more than a public image solid enough to keep donations rolling in. A good name is far more than the holographic image projected by media, an image untarnished by any financial impropriety, DUI arrests or lurid sexploits.

A good name is supposed to represent an entire person, not just an image. In the minds of malignant narcissist leaders, including the self-deprecating variety found so often in fundamentalist Christian circles, anyone who dents that image, questions something or holds up a mirror to them about the harm they are doing behind the scenes is the one who must be destroyed, threatened, intimidated into silence. Their name must be mud-spattered.

The rationale for a leader’s legal threats, for example, is the protection of their “good name.” The fact that their own malicious and ungodly behavior has generated the cries of pain heard by the public is neatly covered over. The simpletons who listen to these leaders cluck and shake their heads. “Such a shame, so terrible.” In the distorted thinking of these useful tools of the narcissist, it is impossible that their beloved hologram could possibly engage in harm to innocent people or family members. It’s easier to believe the narrative cleverly spun by the Good Name. It requires no moral courage, no discernment, no critical thinking or godly analysis if fans just go with the legend instead.

In this way, enablers and sycophants help fuel the destruction machine for innocent people and their names. When evidence and testimony of witnesses is ignored in favor of the hologram’s teary-eyed stories, you have a cult mentality, not a Christian organization.

It is ironic, and sadly so, that as judgment descends on this country, the true state of the hearts in many evangelical and conservative ministries today is one of the reasons for it. The idea that Scriptural instructions are for everyone else but leaders is an entrenched one. It isn’t said or thought outright. It simply is the operating principle for many. Of course, this never ends well.

The good name of a manual laborer matters as much as that of someone in the public eye. And the name is only as “good” as the character behind it. When there is no transparency in donor-supported ministries (i.e.the names of those on boards of donor supported ministries should be public), no responsible and professional boards of directors who actually “direct” rather than serve as human rubber stamps, the good names of those departing these dysfunctional ministries get harmed. They are labeled as malcontents, slanderers, rebels, divas, nutcases, and so forth and so on.

I have news for anyone harmed by these outfits. The word ICHABOD is written over the door frames of the facilities. Any glory has departed. Whether it is ten months or ten years, any organization claiming to be Christian where there is no compassion, no heart for truth (that means listening to more than one party involved), and no concern for the souls on staff, has a bleak future.

What an avoidable tragedy it is. I believe that God honors repentance in individuals and by leaders of organizations. It is so rare, however, that I cannot name a single case of it.

There has never been more of a need for light in the darkness of our times. Sadly, neglect of first things, ambition, idolatry and opportunism in the name of ministry have weakened the underpinnings of Christian organizations all over. Like the bridge in Minneapolis a few years ago that came crashing down from bolts that quietly rusted away, ministries risk a similar demise.

At stake is more than the “good name” of temporal leaders. It’s the good Name of our Savior and his Gospel that hangs in the balance. Those who are harmed are not to blame for crying out and supposedly besmirching the Name of Above All Names. The squelching of  the victims of spiritual abuse to avoid public scrutiny is not the solution. Addressing abuse and making amends (and restituion, if necessary) to those harmed is the answer. When this does not happen, the bolts on the bridge continue to deteriorate. Tick tock.

P.S. A pastor was once asked by a journalist to explain an unsavory situation he was involved with. “We are Christians, we don’t air our dirty laundry,” he said pompously. No, sir, instead we fail to wash the laundry until the stench is so bad the wider world takes note. Something to think about.

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Sanctuary – A Repost

I first shared this post back in January of 2013. Due to several conversations recently with friends, I felt the need to re-run it here at the Hope Blog. If you are weary beyond words or discouraged, I hope it is a blessing to you.

hillsJust off the main highway that winds through the rolling green hills is a dirt road. You would miss it if you didn’t know to watch for it.

On the south side of the road, a small, weathered sign in the shape of a T has the words “Sanctuary” on it. That’s where you turn in.

You’ll drive a good half a mile on that rough dirt road that turns and twists slowly up a hill. The trees crowd on either side and the sunlight is filtered through the leaves as you travel along. If your windows are open, the air is riotous with the sound of songbirds.

Then, suddenly, you are at the top of the hill and there you will see your destination. There stand several buildings made of the creamy field stone the area is known for. The structures look so solid that no wind could ever blow them down. The prettiest of them all, overlooking the lush valley down below, is a chapel building with a small steeple and bell tower. There are flower beds along the brick walkway, and in summer they are alive with color.

At evensong, when the sun begins to sink, the bells in that chapel can be heard for miles. There is a carillon that each evening chimes sweet peace to all of God’s creatures. sunsetWhether it is heard by the sheep dog resting on the porch of the frame farmhouse down the road or the family eating dinner in the valley, the sounds of those bells are carried on the gentle evening air.

A woman named Joan runs the place. She is a woman in her early 60’s, vigorous, with rough hands that are chapped with constant work. Her silver hair is short, because she has no interest or time to deal with it, her skin is tanned and shows the effects of much sun, but she has light blue eyes that are kindly and they nearly always have a smile in them.

There is a library in one of those stone buildings. A carpenter volunteered and put in shelves from ceiling to floor. Over the years, the book collection burgeoned and grew until Joan had to stop taking donations. The large fireplace, made of the same stone, was put in later. On cold winter nights, the library is as snug a haven as you could possibly find. Joan’s yellow lab likes to lie there on the rug before the fire, toasting himself, the firelight flickering on the backs of the books.

The green hills that shimmer in the summer heat are still with the silence and cold of winter. A different, frozen kind of peace descends. Footsteps and sounds seem muffled as the snow and ice blanket the beauty that lies in waiting.

Joan was once terribly hurt in her life. She was so hurt that she nearly gave up, turned her back on her faith and died for any useful purpose.

Then she inherited money and bought an old property up in the hills. Aroused from despair and defeat, throwing off her depression and her sense of worthlessness, she determined to provide a haven in the war zone of life for women who needed a sanctuary.

She made up her mind that she would never market her safe place. God would bring those who needed a rest, and she would provide it. And one by one, injured sheep make their way to her refuge. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they have to crawl.

She does not preach to them. But she prays for all who come. She offers her ear, her experience and plain comfort from the Bible.

Most of those who come are refugees from spiritual abuse. Like Joan. Sitting in her study, she listens to stories that are enough to make the angels weep. She sees the damage and the scars carried by those who have been nearly killed off by spiritual leaders, husbands, family members wielding the name of Jesus. Some are those suffering great loss or from long term, unresolved stress in their lives and who are nearly unable to function in their everyday lives as a result. They open their hearts in this safe place, sometimes for the first time.

And there, those same hurt people are given the opportunity to rest. It flows to them from the Scriptures and hymns at evensong, it shines down from the glories of God’s creation, where the billions of stars are not obscured by harsh city lights, it comes to them sitting on the swing where the small creatures can be heard rustling in the grass as they go about their nightly affairs.

Rest comes in the quiet of rooms, where in their plainness and simplicity, the Bibles on the nightstand can be opened without distraction, and prayer can take place without the oppression of digital noise that permeates everyday life.

Rest comes in healthy meals and walking in the hills, the sunshine warming backs and necks made stiff with stress. It comes in not having a schedule screaming its demands and all the expectations rising, exhausting and depleting.

Sometimes visitors stay a day. Others stay for weeks. When they leave, they give a donation of what they can or sometimes they donate their time to help work on the property in exchange for the kindness of their host.

There is a plaque in the narthex of the chapel, just to the left of the door.

It reads,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” ~ Jesus

The need for peaceful interludes in our lives can’t be underscored enough. Our modern life has many running on fumes. For those facing truly devastating losses and long-term struggles, time away from it all isn’t just a want, it is a need. The place I have described above is fictional, part of a writing project. I thought I would share it on the Hope Blog because it describes what so many women today would love to have–time away to find quiet and peace.

We may not be able to get away, and there may be no place like the Sanctuary in real life where we can physically get strength and perspective back, but all of us can cultivate a sanctuary in our hearts, a place where we won’t let anything or anyone disrupt the peace of God. The evil of our day wars against this peace. It is a real commitment to keep hearts and minds fixed on truth, on the real Jesus, not the brutal counterfeit offered up so often today in His name.

I love this piece by Secret Garden. The nature photography in the video is very restful to watch. Watching it, I find my own sanctuary.

Spiritual Abuse – The Fallout Can Be Catastrophic *See updated at bottom*

abuseMy friend Karen posted a link to an article that captures the results of spiritual abuse. Hostility and opposition from those who hate Christians is one level of abuse. To have those you trusted with your soul and heart and mind, those who maybe even taught you what you should believe about God, to have them turn on you and discard you is a whole different thing. It makes you unable to believe any spiritual leader who says, “believe this”, or “this is who God is.”

I often see people linking to spiritual leaders on FB who have personally treated others worse than dog dirt. I think to myself, “They don’t know. I know who these people are screeching about worldview, etc. They are thugs. They lie. They destroy others without a conscience. They blame the victims and scapegoat rather than admit their own sin. They don’t care that they have destroyed souls. They just.don’t.care.

The Sola Sisters article accurately nails the fallout from such experiences.

Quotes from survivors of spiritual abuse express more clearly the effect of the experience.

•”I cannot express the deep anger this has left me with.”
•”This place is like a huge machine that sucks people in, chews them up and spits them out again.”
•”My husband finds ‘church’ impossible and has not been a regular attendee since last summer.”
•”This experience can damage the way we see God so that we distrust him as much as we distrust our pastors.”
•”I’m very cynical. But now, you see, I see a different side to people. I don’t trust people, I don’t trust people in authority.”

The long-term effects of spiritual abuse should not be minimized. In our experience the process of an individual coming to terms with what has happened can take years and there does seem to be a process to work through to come to some acceptance. It must be noted that for many individuals this does not happen and they remain angry. Their experiences invariably raise serious questions about God and the church. Many of these individuals will never attend church again.” (From Sola Sisters: Hope For the Spiritually Abused -Read the article here.

*A friend sent me this news story this morning. Dr. Warren Throckmorton has been covering the Mark Driscoll train wreck for a long time. He reports this morning that 21 former Mars Hill Church pastors have filed formal charges against Driscoll that surprised me not at all. The documentation from 21 former pastors pretty much spells it out. How did this kind of man end up in leadership? We spotted this 10 years ago, many of us. It was self-evident that Driscoll had no business in the ministry, period. Now he has left stacks of bodies behind. It took this long? Only in American Evangelicalism.