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What about fear?

It’s Monday Grace!

Fear is real. The object of our fears may not be real, but the fear itself is both real and powerful. Fear can make a strong person weak. Fear can make a smart person sound foolish. Fear can stop the progress a powerful enemy would not have been able to stop. Fear can make us quit after the work is done and the end is in sight. Fear can stop the beginning. Fear can hold us in when we want to go. Fear can push us out when we want to stay. Few of us have any idea of what we could have accomplished without fear.

Even Christians can be debilitated by fear. Stopped on their way to do something great. Pushed into something dumb. Trapped in places and situations they hate. God calls, but they can’t respond because they are afraid. Adam and Eve hid from God because of their fear. The people of Israel failed their mission because of fear. They limited the joy of their lives and the power of their call because of fear.

Some try to tell us that fear isn’t real. Others say that fear is a sin. Someone has suggested that fear comes because we know too much. We know the possible consequences or obstacles or dangers. If we didn’t know, we might just stumble into something great, they say. Zig Zigler used to say that fear came because of what we see, “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Like hallucinations, the things we fear can’t really hurt us.

But fear is real. And fear is an enemy.

I would suggest that fear comes from not knowing the whole truth, or maybe from not believing the truth. One of my favorite stories comes from 2 Kings 6, where the army of the Syrians has come to bring Elisha back to their king. Elisha’s servant was afraid when he saw the city surrounded by the horses and chariots and soldiers. The fear in his heart came from not knowing. What he saw did make him afraid, but what he didn’t see was the rest of the story.

And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
2 Kings 6:17

We understand that the young servant was terrified by what he saw, but we know he would have been comforted by what he did not see. Certainly, when he saw that the forces of the Lord around Elisha were far more in number and power than the Syrian army, the young man understood how his master could stand calmly in the midst of the threat.

But here’s the zinger: there is no indication that Elisha could see the armies of the Lord! He knew they were there because he knew the Lord was His protector. His faith overcame his fear.

The call to us is to trust the Lord who loves us. When we begin to understand how the Lord thinks of us, we will find fear fading away. So many people across the church worry that God is against them, that their sins will cause severe consequence, that they will miss Heaven, and that they will not measure up in the day of judgment. They suffer fear because they don’t know the truth of God’s love.

Some people ask, “What could you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Then you are supposed to get out there and do that thing without fear. But that’s not the right question. We will fail, maybe over and over. The better question is what would you accomplish if your failure didn’t define the results? In other words, if your failure was only a sign of progress? Edison and other great inventors accomplished great things because they didn’t let fear of failure stop them. They kept going despite failures. And we are to do the right thing despite fear, because there is more to the story that we cannot see.

Do what the Lord who loves you leads you to do. Ignore failure. Ignore errors. Ignore setbacks. If you fall, pick yourself up and start again. If you sin, give it to Jesus and get back on track.

Trust that your fate is in the hands of the One who loves you. Trust that walking the path is more important than reaching your goal. Trust that you are safe in the hands of your Lord.

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Normal

It’s Narcissist Friday!

They took away normal.

Of all the things the narcissist takes, taking normal is at least one of the most grievous.

Some of you know very well what I mean. It wasn’t that the dysfunctional relationship replaced the definition of normal; it was that normal just disappeared.

When you got married, started the job, joined the church—at the beginning of the narcissistic relationship—you thought you had an idea of what normal would be. A certain amount of challenge; a certain amount of joy; added to a mixture of sadness, fear, excitement, passion, anticipation, and more. Things would be, you know, normal.

But normal never settled in.

Narcissistic relationships, like television dramas, move from crisis to crisis. Unlike the television dramas, real life crises, no matter how often they come, are not normal. By keeping things stirred up, the narcissistic boss keeps the employees in constant crisis. They wait for the next bad review, odd job requirement, or new company policy. The narcissistic mother, spouse, friend all do the same thing. We chuckle and say, “Well, never a dull moment,” but we long for a break.

And there’s the rub. We begin to think that normal would be a rest time, a vacation, a break. We think that normal is the absence of fear or sadness or trouble. We no longer know what normal could be.

So, when we get out of the narcissistic relationship, we don’t know what to do. How can you get your work done without someone yelling at you? What does a spouse want if he doesn’t make demands or threats? What kind of friend doesn’t criticize others and works to make you feel good about yourself?

The old line is that “normal is just a setting on the dryer.” We laugh, but we cry a little at the same time. We know life should not revolve around crises and threats and anxiety. We know normal is out there somewhere.

We have a lot of wrong ideas about normal. We sometimes think normal is what others have and we don’t. We think normal means perfect. We think normal could come if (insert current challenge) were removed. We think normal is Mayberry, the town where everyone lives at peace and nothing fearful ever happens. But normal isn’t defined by the outside world. Normal is inside.

You see, normal is being who you are wherever life takes you. This is why I like to teach about identity. Normal is you. Chances are pretty good that you are not a person who moves easily and joyfully from one personal crisis to the next. At the same time, remembering who you are is the key to knowing how to survive. And remembering who you are is the path to normal.

I suppose I should say that normal is healthy. As you grow more healthy, you experience more that is normal. When others are not dictating how you feel about yourself, when criticisms and comparisons no longer prescribe your actions and thoughts, that’s when health begins, and you find normal. When you discover something in yourself that you like, something you can call good, something that matters—that’s healthy and normal.

Now, many people have never experienced normal. Those who grew up in narcissistic homes, for example. A narcissistic parent can’t model normal and probably wouldn’t want to. But there’s more. Most of us grew up not knowing ourselves. When we looked in the mirror, we only saw what others judged. Our work, our plans, our hopes, our pleasures were all influenced (if not dictated) by the input of others. We grew up caring more for what others thought of us than what we thought of ourselves. In fact, we only thought of ourselves in relation to what others thought of us. That might be what almost everyone does, but that is not normal. Normal is using the mirror for self-care, rather than for self-presentation. Normal is liking the person who looks back at you. Normal is healthy.

If you have read this blog much, you know that I believe we find healthy when we begin to understand that the Lord truly loves us. When we embrace the fact that we are precious and welcome in Him, that our value comes as He reflects His love to us, and that He made us to be the persons He wanted us to be—then we are finding normal. When you and I are secure in His love for us, remembering that no one else has the right to judge us or make us feel less than we are, then we are finding health.

Jesus loves me. This I know. That is a statement of health. That is normal. If I can live in that, I can face the crazy world with peace and joy and confidence. The normal me is the victorious me. Victory over the criticisms and comparisons and even the attacks. Peace inside. Rest inside. All because Jesus loves me. That’s your normal!

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What about sin?

It’s Monday Grace!

Sin!

Sin is the big issue for believers and the church. Right? Wrong!

I know that some preachers and teachers make sin the focus of their ministry. I know that sin is the foremost thing on the minds of many who call themselves Christians. They create boundaries for their lives, accountability structures, and new habits to try to avoid sin. They become open to any teaching that offers to help them stop sinning. Their Christian life is all about managing sin.

But is sin the foremost thing on the mind of God? That’s a resounding NO!

No, the foremost thing on the mind of God is you! I realize some preachers don’t like that, but everything in the Bible says it is true. Jesus came for you. The warnings against sin are to protect you. The call to reconciliation is because God loves you. From beginning to end, the Bible tells the story of how God seeks to save and restore those who were lost in the fall. That’s why Jesus came.

Jesus rescued us from sin. Jesus conquered sin. Jesus has cleansed us from sin. Jesus has set us free from sin. Jesus has put away sin.

Think about that. That means God dealt with our sin in Jesus. That’s what it was all about. The incarnation, the earthly ministry, the cross, the resurrection. All about dealing with sin for us. God became man to rescue us from sin’s power.

And it worked!

Sin is not the focus of the heart of God, nor should it be the focus of the thoughts of believers. Sure, sin is bad. Sin hurts you and the people in your life. Don’t sin. But, if you do, remember the love of God that overcame the power of sin in your life.

Sin is a defeated enemy. I know it doesn’t feel like it when you are in the battle. I know the evil one wants you to believe you are just as stuck, just as bound, as you have ever been. But look to Jesus and find the freedom He came to give. And look to Him to see the forgiveness He has already given you.

It’s not about sin. It’s about the grace of God’s love for us.

And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
1 John 3:5

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7

He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Hebrews 9:26

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:2

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
Romans 6:22

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:11

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Romans 6:5-7

*****

Two New Books!

Believe it or not, I have two new books on Amazon! I find myself to be a better writer than marketer, but I want you to know about these two new books.

The first is a book that has been in the works for a long time. I call it “Practical Grace.” The idea is that such an important topic should be relevant to our daily lives. Not everything in life seems limited to the spiritual realm. We struggle in relationships, with our mortality, with getting through the day. Does grace matter day by day? Yes! God cares about your real-life struggle. His grace is for you.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

The second book is meant to be for those who have understood the message of grace in the past, maybe you took a class or read something about God’s grace but have found it hard to stay on track. It is so easy to slip back into a performance system. It is also easy to become discouraged. This book will give you five “touchpoints” to which you can return often as you walk your journey through life.

Click book for Amazon link

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Reputation

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Are all narcissists liars?

It seems to be very common for those who leave the narcissist to learn that the narcissist has been spreading lies about them. Whether it’s a spouse or a parent or a friend, the narcissist will often create stories or twist truth to make their victim seem at fault. Because the narcissist cannot admit any blame, they have to pass it on to someone. So, if something goes wrong or a relationship becomes broken, it has to be your fault.

I could tell some horror stories. Most of them have come from readers here. Stories of lies told after a marriage breakup. Stories of lies told by a parent or sibling when the victim finally dares to deny contact or speak against the abuse. Stories of lies told by people who used to be friends. Some have been shocked to hear what has been said. Others know what their narcissist will say.

The true shock comes when the victim realizes that lies have been told before the end of the relationship, almost as though the narcissist was anticipating the end. In fact, narcissists usually prepare for negative results by insinuating the incompetence or wickedness of others. They speak against almost everyone in their lives to someone. Wives will hear negative words about bosses that no one at the company will ever hear. Bosses will hear comments about co-workers, suggesting that they aren’t doing their jobs or are compromised in some other way. Then, when the trouble becomes obvious, the traps have already been laid.

I found an interesting article in Psychology Today about how narcissists destroy the reputations of those they abuse. It is worth a quick read. There are always little things in these articles with which I might disagree, but the main one in this is the statement:

“the narcissist is so committed to his “truth” that his lies may not be conscious.”

I would suggest that this is not the best way to look at the narcissist’s lies. Yes, they may become so habitual that they roll off the tongue almost without thought. Yes, the narcissist might see the roles of right and wrong quite differently than their victims. Yes, the narcissist might believe himself/herself to be justified in seeking justice or revenge. But the point is not whether the narcissist lies unconsciously. The point is that the narcissist doesn’t care if he/she lies.

To the narcissist, a lie is simply a tool to use. Never forget that the narcissist has no empathy. He/she doesn’t know or care about the pain of others unless that pain has a purpose. If it works to hurt someone, the narcissist will do it. And, if a lie will serve the purpose, there is no hesitation to use it. A lie means nothing to the narcissist. So, I would not say that the lie is unconscious, but the lie is unimportant.

So, when you leave the narcissist or dare to stand up to him/her, be prepared for the lies. Be prepared to learn things about yourself that simply are not true. The narcissist will say things that can easily be proved wrong, but won’t care because the damage will be done. If confronted with the lie, he or she will probably just shrug it off. Like one politician said a few years ago: “We won didn’t we?” The end is all that matters to the narcissist. If it takes a lie, a lie will be used.

Now you are left with a bad reputation, and you didn’t even do the things people think you did. What are you supposed to do? Keep moving forward. Some people will believe the lie without giving you the chance to set the record straight. Some already rejected the lie because they know you. Some may wonder but will watch to see. As much as you can, don’t look back. Just look forward.

And listen: the narcissist will also tell your secrets. Maybe the stories aren’t exactly a lie, but a very hurtful version of the truth. Maybe people now know something you never wanted them to know. Narcissists are cruel.

Still move forward. You can’t undo what you did, and you can’t undo what others heard. What you can do is prove by your daily life that those accusations either never did or no longer do represent you. You are free of the narcissist and living a new life. When you have the opportunity, set the record straight. Or just say that it is being misrepresented and you don’t want to talk about it. You are still the one in charge. When people look to you, show them a person of love and integrity. Yesterday is long gone.

The narcissist is accountable to God for his/her lies and for betraying your confidence. But you may never hear an apology. Nor is this something the narcissist did “unconsciously.” It was wrong! It was cruel! And the narcissist did it knowingly. But, again, there may be nothing you can do to make things right except move forward with your life. You can say that your narcissist has lied or twisted truth to those who will listen, but your reputation begins today. Who you are today is what matters.

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the LORD; I shall not slip.
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
and I have walked in Your truth.
Psalm 26:1-3

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God promises Protection

It’s Monday Grace!

Well, you made it through another year! Congratulations! Some of you are surprised. You weren’t sure you were going to make it. The battle was too much at times. But here you are.

For some, it was last year or a few years ago. Didn’t think you were going to survive. Didn’t think you could ever find peace or happiness or health or love again. Felt like life was at an end. But it wasn’t. You made it through.

And those who look to Jesus can see His hand in all of it. At times you may have felt like He was far away or not real at all. But now, as you look again, you realize that He never let you down. He walked the path with you, kept you safe, and delivered you. He was faithful.

The hand of the Lord is on those who look to Him. His strong arm will protect you. He gets us through.

I don’t know why the Lord allows some things in our lives. I know He loves us and is strong enough to change our circumstances. I also know we all have a lot to learn and changes to make in our hearts. But I have learned (at least I try) to trust Him when difficult things come. I don’t work to guess why it is happening, I just want Him to be with me through it.

If you trust in the Lord’s love, you don’t blame Him for the things that happen. Instead, you look to Him during the difficult times and find strength and protection. You find His presence and encouragement.

It isn’t the Lord who places you in difficulties, but it is the Lord who will get you through.

And now you face a new year. Because you know that He was with you through the troubles, you know that He will be with you through this year as well. You have more confidence, more faith, more hope as you face tomorrow, knowing that He has been faithful in the past.

So this new year will be good. Struggles will come, but the Lord will protect you. His grace will truly be sufficient.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

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Hope

It’s Narcissist Friday!

The years go by quickly, don’t they? I started to write our Christmas letter several weeks ago and realized that most of the things in our lives were the same as the year before. The little ones are growing, of course. They change. But the rest of us just keep doing our thing. And that’s good.

The new year provides a starting point for change, but for most of us, it is just a date on the calendar. If life is good, that’s fine. We don’t need change. But what if life is a struggle?

A narcissistic relationship can rob us of hope. Anticipating the same pain we experienced today or yesterday, leaves us feeling weak and afraid. It is easy to become defeated and discouraged. Especially when nothing seems to change.

I have been in awe of those who write to me to tell of 40 years with a narcissistic spouse or maybe 70 years with a narcissistic parent. One year is pretty much like the last, the same struggle and pain. But these folks have not written to tell me how terrible they feel. They write to tell me that they have hope. Maybe they finally left the narcissist. Maybe they finally allowed themselves to be healthy apart from the narcissist. For some the relationship hasn’t ended, but knowledge is power and faith provides hope.

It was the Lord who taught us to mark time, to note the changes of seasons and days and years. He is eternal, living always in the present, and seeing all of His people in that present. He is the same: yesterday, today, and forever. But He allows us to live with past, present, and future. He tells us that the past is gone and that the future is full of hope. He tells us of the good plans He has for us. Things are getting better.

And, no, things are not the same. Every day, those who look to Jesus grow a little stronger. Every day, we learn more of the truth. Every day our hope grows. We are changing, even when our situation might not seem to be.

Even the stages of grief are progressive. Each stage eventually yields to the next. The denial falls away as the anger rises. The anger subsides as the bargaining begins. The bargaining is left behind as we become depressed. Eventually, even the depression is overcome by our acceptance. And acceptance opens the door for hope. Dealing with the reality of what has happened, whether still in the relationship or not, begins a process that allows a new start, a change that we can mark or even celebrate.

For the believer, hope is found in the love of Jesus. He has never left your side, even when you might have thought you left His. Hope is never lost to us because He is always with us. His love promises new and better things for us.

The new year might be just a mark on the calendar, but it offers a reminder that our Lord is the One who makes all things new. This year will be better. You have changed and you will continue to change. You will become stronger and wiser. You will move toward health and heart peace. Whatever your situation, it cannot stop your progress as you walk with the Lord who loves you.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.
Psalm 42:5

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.
Psalm 31:24

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Revelation 21:5

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May the New Year bring blessings to all of you, and may you know the love of the Lord in new and wonderful ways!

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