Monday, August 31, 2009

When Your Anger Gets the Best of You

By Ed Chin

My Dad was a fine Christian man. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. Dad was widely respected and loved by his family, within our town, on his job, in the church and throughout all the circles of his life. Everyone liked Jack Chinn.

But, one day in 1956, he exploded in anger and severely punished me and my brother, Vernon. We did nothing wrong; he just became strangely furious and abusive. To this day, more than half a century later, Vernon, my mother, and I remain perplexed about what happened that day.

What caused such a fine man to explode? Although we will never know the reasons, we do have some clues. He had recently made a real estate investment which appeared to be bad. So, as a young husband and father of two little boys, he probably felt threatened with the prospect of losing everything. Like others of his generation, the Great Depression damaged him, and it was still (just twenty years afterwards) a powerful presence in the collective national memory.

Also, in a classic "dark night of the soul," Dad struggled spiritually. The issue seemed to be about where he would place the boundaries of his service and devotion to the Lord. Another issue was his fairly recent military service; the crucible of war and the loss of so many friends haunted him.

Of course, I forgave him for his outburst before his passed away, but, as I've aged and come to a greater understanding of his emotional context at the time, I have a deeper reservoir of forgiveness and grace about the whole episode.

Ignoring the warning lights
Anger always reveals other mitigating factors going on down in the "springs of life." In that sense, anger is a very helpful warning light on the "dashboard" of life.

We shouldn't be paranoid or unduly sensitive about anger. Everyone has a capacity for it. Most of us have very normal (even healthy) flashes of anger when we witness cruelty, injustice, betrayal and other transgressions of people. God created our emotions. Anger certainly has a righteous role.

But burning or prolonged anger is a warning light that something is out of balance in life. Anger is closely tied to feeling threatened. A sense of threat, real or imagined, usually arises out of a perception of oppression, humiliation, injustice, physical danger or just a lack of control over our environment and circumstances.

Guilt can also trigger anger. For example, if we know or feel that we've violated the law (biblical, moral, or civic), we may live under a cloud that God or the IRS or the sheriff is about to get us. That lack of control over our circumstances can make us angry.
Of course, this territory of human psychology is not a recent discovery. People have always struggled with these issues. Rage exploded into murder in the very first family. So it may be useful to step out of 21st century thinking and literature and seek the more classic wisdom of the Bible on anger.

A biblical view of anger
The Bible is more real than it is religious. It portrays real people and speaks to real life situations. It is only the centuries of stained-glass culture which has turned it into religion.
What, then, does this very real book tell us about anger?

James wrote (1:19), ". . . let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." He isn't saying that anger is wrong. Of course, we're going to get angry; that's just part of our creation package. Essentially, James just said, "Don't be quick-tempered."

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians almost the same thing: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger . . ." (Ephesians 4:26).

Like James, he was realistic. After all, anger is part of life; just don't let it carry you into sin. In these passages and many others, the Bible is basically saying to lead a balanced life.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 19:11: "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." In other words, balance gives a sense of discretion in life. And, it is the mark of wisdom to be able to overlook perceived transgressions.

A few verses earlier, Solomon wrote one of the great principles of balanced living: "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city." (Proverbs 16:32)

As in many other scriptures, the issue is not anger, but how much it controls us. Being slow to anger is a mark of strength, mastery, and leadership. Self control (ruling your spirit) brings more leadership and success than being able to capture a city.

Finally, Paul told the Christians in Ephesus: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).

When we see the warning light of anger flashing on our dashboard, we don't have to react in despair or recoil into guilt. Just repent of it, reject it, and walk away from it. Seek wise counsel in dealing with the issues below the hood. You will find that most of them are resolved through forgiveness.

Ed Chinn is an organizational consultant and freelance writer from Fort Worth, Texas ( His work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post,, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Chinn. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Cries of the Heart

By Ravi Zacharias

Some time ago my wife, Margie, returned from an errand visibly shaken by a heartrending conversation she had experienced. She was about the very simple task of selecting a picture and a frame when a dialogue began with the owner of the shop. When Margie said that she would like a scene with children in it the woman quite casually asked if the people for whom the picture was being purchased had any children of their own. "No," replied my wife, "but that is not by their choice." There was a momentary pause. Suddenly, like a hydrant uncorked, a question burst with unveiled hostility from the other woman’s lips: "Have you ever lost a child?" Margie was somewhat taken aback and immediately sensed that a terrible tragedy probably lurked behind the abrupt question.

The conversation had obviously taken an unsettling turn. But even at that she was not prepared for the flood of emotion and anger that was yet to follow, from this one who was still a stranger. The sorry tale quickly unfolded. The woman proceeded to speak of the two children she had lost, each loss carrying a heartache all its own. "Now," she added, "I am standing by watching my sister as she is about to lose her child." There was no masking of her bitterness and no hesitancy about where to ascribe the blame for these tragedies. Unable to utter anything that would alleviate the pain of this gaping wound in the woman’s heart, my wife began to say, "I am sorry," when she was interrupted with a stern rebuke, "Don’t say anything!" She finally managed to be heard just long enough to say in parting, "I’ll be praying for you through this difficult time." But even that brought a crisp rejoinder—"Don’t bother."

After leaving her, Margie returned to her car and just wept out of shock and out of a longing to reach out to this broken life. Even more, ever since that conversation she has carried with her an unshakable mental picture of a woman’s face whose every muscle contorted with anger and anguish—at once seeking a touch yet holding back, yearning for consolation but silencing anyone who sought to help, shoving at people along the way to get to God. Strangely, this episode spawned a friendship and we have had the wonderful privilege of getting close to her and of praying with her in our home. We have even felt her embrace of gratitude and have reflected much as she has tried in numerous ways to say, "Thank you."

But through this all she has represented to us a symbol of smothered cries, genuine and well thought through, and of a search for answers that need time before that anger is overcome by trust, and anguish gives way to contentment.

These smothered cries and the wordless reality that infuses every life may well be endemic to the human condition—men, women, young people and even children. Numerous professional voices are now awakening us from the illusion under which men particularly have lived in many cultures, that strength lies in not feeling. What a price has been paid for living with such amputation. Not every cry is ridden by anguish, but every life has its own cry or has heard the cry of another who is struggling with emotions or passions in need of explanation. Not every struggle is vented with such force, but many a life is governed by much inner conflict. And just as some are able to cope more readily with failure, so also are some better able to handle the vicissitudes of life.

The purpose of this book, therefore, is not simply to apply some healing balm to the bitter pain of an unheard cry, rather, to face squarely the reality that all of us in our private moments deal with suppressed cries. Years ago Reader’s Digest printed an article entitled, "When We Are Alone We Dance." The main idea was that when we are alone and nobody is watching, we all have some rhythmic expression. We may not succeed in clicking our heels in midair but that does not keep us from trying. Within that private world, each one of us also wrestles with some heart-consuming battle. For one it may be the inner ache of loneliness; for another it may be the daunting and haunting specter of guilt. For yet another it may be the question, "Why do I not feel God to be near when I have done all that I know to be right?" And for still another it may be the question of all questions—"Who are you, God?"

The reader will immediately recognize the range of our existential struggles. If anything unites our cultures today it is the unanswered questions we face that have a felt reality. The loneliness of an unloved life is the same in Bombay as it is in Barcelona. The life tormented by guilt is the same for a movie icon in Hollywood as it is for a schoolteacher in Havana. How do I choose a life that has pleasure without living a life that is immoral?

These gnawing questions were underscored by a grim and dreadful incident that took place in New York City some years ago, the culmination of a series of almost indescribable events that had befallen a young woman. The story is too heartrending to repeat. Feeling the silent pain of a whole city, a state senator agonized,"How can so much go wrong in one life and nobody be aware of it?"

After days of pondering that obvious question, a city councilman gave the only plausible answer. He said, "Life is too busy and complicated for me to hear the cry of every person in my community. As a matter of fact, I struggle to find time to even hear the cries of my own family. If I had to listen to the cry of everyone in New York City, you may as well ask me to listen to the sound of every blade of grass growing and to the heartbeat of every squirrel. The noise would be deafening on the other side of silence." I doubt that he overstated his point. If the cries of the heart in any community were to be cumulatively sounded, the noise would indeed be deafening.

Where then, might one go? There is a place where there is an aggregate of human suffering and questioning. That place is the heart of God. The Bible repeatedly portrays for us the anguished, though sometimes silent, cries of those in need, pleading for one who might bring hope.

Of all the stories in the Scriptures, none so reflects those varied needs as the story of the Woman at the Well in her conversation with Jesus. In the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel we read of the encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. The disciples had left Him to get a little rest while they went into town to buy some food. When they returned they were astounded to see Him talking to this Samaritan woman, but they were afraid to ask why He would talk to her or to question what prompted this curious familiarity.

Jesus’s response to her is profound. The woman represented all that was oppressed or rejected in that society. She was a woman, not a man. She was a Samaritan burdened with ethnic rejection. She was discarded and broken from five failed marriages. She identified God with a particular location, not having the faintest clue how to reach Him. Was it possible to have any less self-esteem than in her fragmented world?Jesus began His tender yet determined task to dislodge her from the well-doctored and cosmetically dressed-up theological jargon she threw at Him, so that she could voice the real cry of her heart. Almost like peeling off the layers of an onion, He steadily moved her away from her own fears and prejudices, from her own schemes for self-preservation, from her own ploys for hiding her hurts, to the radiant and thrilling source of her greatest fulfillment, Christ Himself. But He did not stop there, He went further. That "further" will draw some of our attention in this book.

In short, He moved her from the abstract to the concrete; from the concrete to the proximate; from the proximate to the personal. She had come to find water for the thirst of her body. He fulfilled a greater thirst, that of her soul.

When the disciples finally managed to break into the conversation, they asked Jesus if He was not hungry enough to want to eat. But Jesus said, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." By now completely bewildered, they wondered if someone had already fed Him. They were on a completely different level of hungers and thirsts, while He was about His Father’s business of giving the bread of life and of opening the spring of living water so that one need never thirst again.

In this simple narrative converge our own hungers and God’s great longing to fulfill those inner hungers and satisfy those deep longings. I recall on one occasion speaking to a man who had come from a country where much blood had been spilled in internal strife, a land where someone’s heart was broken every day by some stray bullet or a hate-filled ideological conflict. He told me that even though for years he had found comfort in the knowledge that Christ had borne his sins, it was a new realization years later when he took note that Christ had borne our sorrows, too.

That intimacy with God is a knowledge that has bridged what one knows with what one feels. Such knowledge takes what we know and what we feel seriously. This is not a fatalistic posture that says, "So be it," resigned to accept what flies in the face of reason. When we learn God’s profound answers to every sentiment we feel, we find contentment and courage and live a life of hope and confidence. We then make every day count with significance, while treasuring His thoughts and harnessing our feelings.

For too long we have forced a dichotomy between fact and feeling and have unwittingly bought into systems of thought that held on to the one while doing disservice to the other. Voltaire once remarked that all of man’s miseries are a reflection of his grandeur. In other words, our senses and sensations can and ought to be joint indicators of the eternal and the true. That which God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

We well remember the words of the song, "How can it be wrong when it feels so right?" and we might legitimately take issue with that plundering of the objective realm of right and wrong at the mercy of momentary passion.

But there is another side to it: How can things be right when they feel so wrong? That is a much more difficult issue. Does God expect one who is plagued by a lonely existence to dismiss that feeling as unreal? Does the search for a personal God in an impersonal world not raise legitimate questions? Do the questions of a person in agony not count? Must we not have wisdom amidst the myriad pleasures that surround us? That is where this book hopes to lead us. We will not be content to merely deal with the problems as they surface by an intellectual stroke of the pen. We will not stop at the point where the answers are merely stated as glib responses. Our hope will be to bring the whole of our being to engage with the questions and the cries of the heart. Cries are born out of real feelings. So also must joy betoken a real confidence and repose.

In the Psalms David described himself as one wounded and crying in his bed at night. This same David spoke of the happiness that came when he took his cry to the Lord. With that same confidence, let us begin our journey to respond to the cries of the heart. We might be surprised to know how much bottled-up sentiment will be uncovered. When God speaks we will not respond by saying, "Don’t say a thing;" rather, we will be soothed by His touch and will rest in His comfort, knowing that He has bothered to hear our cries and to come near in our need.

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The Test of Trust

By Margaret Manning

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 were some of the first Scripture verses I memorized as a child. For some reason, the words seemed to bounce with joy, energy, and a sense of lightness as I learned them. For me, these were very "happy" verses in Scripture—verses that seemed to indicate God's direct guidance for all his children down happy, straight pathways. I inferred that trusting in God's guidance would be the result of seeing the wonderful, straight pathways laid out before me that I would willingly and gladly walk on towards all my goals, desires, and dreams.

Yet "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding" took on new meaning in the face of absence, want, and unfulfillment. Have you ever experienced this dissonance that comes from the contradiction of your personal experience and your beliefs? What do you do, for example, when you've believed that God always heals, and yet you watch helplessly as your mother dies of cancer? What do you feel when you've been told that God has a wonderful plan for your life, and yet you can't square that wonderful plan with a series of professional and personal failures?

If you're like me, the fortress of beliefs you thought were impenetrable come crashing down as life experience smashes that fortress like a battering ram. In the aftermath, the alternative shelters of cynical doubt or blind faith beckon you to take your refuge with them. For most of us, we run perilously between both extremes, without the sense of security that the fortress once provided.

While these are still precious Scripture verses to me, I have come to understand them differently as an adult. I recognize now that trusting the Lord was easy when everything was going my way! I didn't rely on my own understanding because I didn't have to! But, when dreams began to die, life-goals went unmet, and desires dried up, I realized the challenge these verses really offer; they offered me the opportunity to learn the real meaning of "trust."

Real trust in the Lord is only forged out of the fires of testing—testing that reveals whether we truly trust in the Lord or in what we want the Lord to give us. In other words, do we trust the Provider, or the Provider's provisions? In my own life, when it seemed that God withdrew the "provisions" and things stopped going my way, my plans failed, or my goals and dreams didn't materialize, I began to realize that my trust was in my own understanding of what was necessary to make my paths straight. So, as God had abandoned my plans, my test of trust began.

A New Perspective

The Bible is replete with stories about individuals who faced the difficult conflict between what they held to be the truth and what they experienced in their lives. Think of the patriarch Joseph. He was told by God through a sequence of dreams that he would be great one day—so great, in fact, that his own brothers would come and bow down in reverence for him. He had been given a glimpse of his destiny, and perhaps he believed his path to that destiny would be paved with gold. Instead, his gilded trip to glory yielded an attempted murder by his own brothers, his enslavement in a foreign land, and much of his life spent in and out of prison falsely accused of various crimes he did not commit. How could this be the path to glory God promised to provide for Joseph?

Joseph's belief in a God who loved him and had compassion on him was now being challenged by God's demonstration of his compassionate care. Sitting in his jail cell, I'm sure Joseph wrestled with his ideas about God's loving care.

Despite the contradiction between his life experience and what he thought he knew about God, Joseph ultimately affirmed that God is good and trustworthy. How did he arrive at this? I would suggest that as Joseph (like his father, Jacob) wrestled with God, God gave him a new perspective and a deeper understanding of his love for him. But that new perspective is not lightly gained, but again, forged out of the fires of testing.

In his book When God Interrupts (InterVarsity, 1996), author and pastor Craig Barnes poignantly describes the emergence of new perspectives as the very process of conversion:

The deep fear behind every loss is that we have been abandoned by the God who should have saved us. The transforming moment in Christian conversion comes when we realize that even God has left us. We then discover it was not God, but our image of God that abandoned us.... Only then is change possible.

Indeed, Joseph reveals his new perspective to his brothers who betrayed him: "As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive" (Genesis 50:20). This is no biblical cliché. Joseph did witness God's intervention and love. But not in the way he expected. God has not promised to make our lives go as we plan. Instead, God promises to give us the necessary new perspective to see his goodness and grace in the midst of our abandoned expectations.

C.S. Lewis once wrote in his marvelous book The Screwtape Letters that in order for the believer to gain this new perspective and mature in trust, God must withdraw "all the supports and incentives" and "leave the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish." He continues this thought through the character of Uncle Screwtape, a senior demon who is coaching his nephew Wormwood on the skills of devilry:

It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He [God] wants it to be…. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's [God's] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

You see, when our paths are crooked we are tempted to place our trust in the things God provides. As God withdraws those supports we have the challenge of leaning on our own understanding (grasping for things), or allowing true trust in the Lord to develop and bloom (grasping for God). As we trust God even while feeling lost and abandoned to crooked, twisting, and unsafe paths, paths that we thought would lead us to our plans, dreams, and desires, only then can we follow the ever-straightening path to our heart's desire found in God alone.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." As you find yourself wandering down crooked paths of disappointment, may you find God leading you to place your trust in Him alone. As your trust grows, may you see straight paths of rest and contentment unfold before you. As you release your own understanding, may you find the Lord to be your heart's desire.

Margaret Manning is associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When God Doesn't Make Sense

By Gary Petty

How can we trust God when many times we just don't understand what He's doing? Have you ever felt that way?

Most people claim to believe in a Supreme Being, with their ideas about God shaped by the Bible. It teaches that God is loving, all-powerful and able to be everywhere at the same time.

Yet at times those who believe in God find themselves in situations that don't seem to make sense. Why doesn't God intervene in a personal crisis? Why is a young person allowed to suffer an untimely death? Have we been left in the dark to work this out for ourselves?
Every human being desires a purpose in his or her life—a reason for existence. We all possess an emotional necessity to believe that we have value and that there is meaning in suffering.

These needs originate in an inherent deep-seated hunger for God. We try to fill that hunger with careers, wealth, sex, drugs, social crusades, the newest pop psychology theory and all kinds of other pursuits, but the hunger still exists. This hunger can't be satisfied until we recognize that we were created to have a relationship with our Creator.

Why doesn't God always answer prayer?
One of the remarkable gifts the Creator has given human beings is free will. We have self-consciousness, creativity, emotions and the ability to reason and make choices.

This freedom to make choices is one reason the world is in such a mess. Human history is a catalog of failed experiments involving governments, religions and philosophies that have promised happiness, peace and prosperity for everyone. The missing ingredient in all of these experiments is the way of life designed by the Creator of life.

It's not that God doesn't want to be involved—it's that most of the time we don't invite Him to be involved. Each of us labors under the belief that "I can do it my way" and make life work. Regrettably, we seldom stop to ask, "Is this really working?"

We can talk with God anytime, but a quirk of human nature is that if we don't get an immediate and positive answer, we conclude He didn't respond to our prayer.

When God doesn't seem to respond to our prayers, we need to ask ourselves whether we have separated ourselves from Him by our actions and choices. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God says: "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save . . . but your iniquities have separated you from your God . . ." (Isaiah 59:1-2).

Sometimes we need to evaluate our own humility before the Creator of the universe. He's not the proverbial genie in a bottle granting wishes to those who perform the right incantations. Far too many approach God with a flippant, disrespectful attitude and wonder why He doesn't respond.

Jesus said that if we have faith, then we can ask God to move mountains and He will cast them into the sea. It's safe to say that God doesn't want Christians going around throwing all the mountains into the sea. One of the most difficult aspects of having free will is having enough trust in God to say, "Your will be done." We must have confidence that God has our best interests at heart.

Sometimes God's answer isn't what we want
Sometimes we have to accept that God's answer is "no" or "wait." Any adult understands that "wait" is a wise response to a 5-year-old boy's request for a pocketknife even though "wait" seems arbitrary, even cruel, to the child because of his limited reasoning ability.
Anyone who works with children has tried to explain a simple concept only to be asked repeatedly, "Why?" No matter how many times you change your wording, talk slower or raise your voice, sometimes a child just can't understand the reality an adult perceives.
It's the same way between God and us. He sees a bigger picture of life. He understands our personalities, our weaknesses and our anxieties, and He certainly cares about our ultimate good. But with our limited minds we keep asking, "But why, Daddy?" At some point we have to trust that Daddy knows what He's doing.

Due to our limitations as human beings, there will be times when God seems beyond our reach. It is haunting to consider Jesus' exclamation, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). It's hard to imagine the Son of God experiencing that level of despair.

Yet in that statement we can find comfort. Christ, who now sits in heaven at the right hand of the Father, knows what it's like to feel estranged from the Majesty and Power of the universe. He experienced what it is to be human.

In that way Christ's intercession is more than a legal action of taking our sins on Himself. It involves a personal relationship with us. Because of Christ's intercession, we can ask God for what the apostle Paul calls the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). We may not always be able to understand what God is doing, but we can experience inner peace and confidence in what He is doing.

People confused by Jesus
Jesus had a special relationship with a man from Bethany named Lazarus. John 11 records how Jesus was teaching in another town when messengers arrived to inform Him that Lazarus was very ill. Jesus then did something that seems to make no sense—instead of rushing to the side of His sick friend, He stayed where He was for two days. In fact, He deliberately waited until Lazarus died before going to Bethany.

Imagine the thoughts that went through the minds of Christ's disciples. He performed miracles wherever He went, but now He deliberately delayed going to His seriously ill friend.
Jesus arrived in Bethany and was confronted by Martha, Lazarus' sister. She was perplexed by Jesus' delay. His actions toward His friend just didn't make any sense. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (verse 21).

Mary, Lazarus' other sister, was also perplexed by Jesus' delay and asked Him why He didn't come sooner. Jesus became so overwhelmed by the grief of those around Him that He wept.

Jesus then went to Lazarus' tomb and prayed for God to resurrect Lazarus from the dead as proof that Jesus was the Messiah. Lazarus came walking from the tomb, wrapped in his burial clothes, like some mummy in an old movie.

Lazarus' death had been allowed by God as part of a greater plan to reveal His Son. Of course, there was no way for friends and family to understand this during the crisis. God's picture was much bigger than their immediate difficulties. And therein lies the dilemma: Human beings must trust in God's bigger plan even though we can't always see it.

Life is like putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. We have to trust that eventually all the pieces will fit together to create the picture on the cover of the box.

God's help in times of despair
Our predicament originates in a simple concept. Human beings were made in the image of God. Sin is any action, thought or emotion that differs from how the Creator designed life. Once sin enters into our experience, our emotions and thoughts become twisted. The result is suffering, broken relationships, meaningless lives and eventual death.

The gospel is the message of how God sent His Son to take our sins on Himself and receive the penalty we deserve. But that isn't all there is to the gospel. Human beings are an incomplete creation. We have to be prepared for eternity. Eternity arrives when Christ returns a second time to resurrect the dead and establish His Father's Kingdom on earth.
Understanding why our lives got into such a mess and how God has a plan to get us out of it is the beginning of seeing that bigger picture. We have to accept that our emotions and thought processes are damaged. Then we can begin to seek God's help in being healed.
This includes living the way of life outlined in the Bible. Healing is more than going to a physician. You must also put into action the changes needed for getting well.

This healing includes accepting God's love and the incredible future He has in store for those who are willing to let Him be involved in their lives. Today we can begin, in a very limited way, to view our present sufferings in the tapestry of the Creator's plan for His creation, which includes Christ's second coming to fix the world in which we live.

Many times it is easier to heal human illness than to restore damaged human emotions. When faced with terrible loss, or a difficult time of life, first accept that it's okay to be human. Emotions like grief are a natural response to intense loss, not a lack of faith.
It's important to have a support group in times of crisis. You don't want to end up isolated. Most importantly, we need to be able to pour out our emotions to God. Write down what you are experiencing and read these intimate thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.

God isn't the cause of suffering, but He is the only solution. As beings with free will, we have the opportunity to explore every possible solution to the human condition. We continue to come up woefully short.

When we suffer, the outcome isn't usually as dramatic or immediate as it was for Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Remember, though, that during the dark days of Lazarus' illness and death they didn't know what the outcome would be.

All they had during those times of despair was a faith that God had not abandoned them and that Lazarus would someday be resurrected from the dead. Faith is more than belief in God. It is the trust that He is always acting for the ultimate, eternal good for every human being. It is the basis for hope in the future.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Prepare to Fight Fair

By Bill Beahm

The Williams family was at it again. Mom accused Dad of being rude to her that morning, and Dad denied it. His memory, he claimed, was much more accurate than hers. Mom said he was crazy-if he couldn't even remember to put up the toilet seat, how could he claim to remember the fight! Dad exploded in anger, and mom said he was acting just like his father. Dad yelled that she was stupid and overweight.

At that point, twelve-year-old Jenny came in for some help with a math problem, and Dad told her to shut up and go to her room. The other two kids, six and nine, cowered on the couch with wide eyes.

Nobody won the fight. Mom went to the bedroom and cried. Jenny hid in her room. The younger two sat transfixed on the couch, afraid to move. Dad ranted and raved in the basement. And wounds were inflicted that would last for years.

Communicating in conflict is perhaps the most difficult type of communication possible. In such a tense verbal exchange, it is simply too easy to seek to inflict wounds on family members. As dads, we must remember that not all conflict is bad. It can actually be an opportunity to help our families learn to manage conflict in healthy ways. Preparation is the key. We can utilize times of peace to think through and even visualize healthy ways to help control the emotional explosions often found in family fights. Let me offer several suggestions:

1. Plan To Be Calm
Establish a routine that will help you remain under control. Agree with your family in advance that it's okay for anyone to take a time out during a family fight. It's that important to stop the escalation of the fight and be calm.When you take a time out, get alone and do all you can to relax. Go for a walk, do exercises, or take deep breaths and say to yourself something like, "Calm down. I'm upset now, but I love her (him, them)." Once you have calmed down, approach your family member and continue your discussion.

2. Speak and Listen Non-defensively.
When you listen or speak without getting defensive, you help defuse your family member's defensiveness, and you reduce the intense emotions in yourself that can make you much more likely to say and do things you'll later regret.
How do you do this? Remain calm and pay close attention to what you're communicating, both verbally and non-verbally. Try to avoid blaming, sarcasm, rolling your eyes, and sounding contemptuous. Listen for what your family member is actually saying, and not what you think she means.

3. Validate Your Family Members
Validation is when you put yourself in your child's shoes and then let him know you understand why he feels the way he does. It's really a simple concept, but it brings very real benefits. He feels welcomed and accepted, the conflict is reduced, and he will be more willing to listen to your perspective as well.

How do you validate? First, you take responsibility. If your daughter is mad because you were late picking her up from school, you can say, "I really made you angry, didn't I?"

Second, apologize. A simple apology validates your family member because it let's him know you consider his gripe to be important and worth respecting. It isn't enough to mumble, "Sorry." When you apologize, you say, in a humble and broken way, "I was wrong, and I am so sorry for what I did."

Third, acknowledge your family member's view. It can be as direct as, "Yes, I know that it upsets you," when your spouse complains about the dirty house. Or it can be as simple as saying, "I see," as you listen to a complaint, or nodding your head and giving verbal validations like, "Mmm Hmm ...."

4. Don't Argue About What You Said in the Past
Perhaps the most fruitless fights family members can have are over what was said or done in the past. Don't assume your memory is perfect. Admit that you might not remember things as they really happened, and that your family member might be correct. Then move on to what you think or feel about the current matter.

Let's face it-communicating in conflict is never easy. But these four tools can help bring some order to the strong feelings-and the destruction they can cause. Start preparing now for your next family conflict. And start preparing your children. These skills will be an invaluable asset to your children as they grow up, relate to people, and someday have families of their own.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Freedom In Forgiveness

By Grace Ketterman, M.D., David Hazard

If you're like many people, you may want to be free of past offenses, but you still carry bitter memories of or hard feelings toward those who have wronged you. Take comfort: Forgiving even the worst offenses against you is not impossible. You can find freedom from the past and peace that comes from God by learning to really forgive from the heart.

Forgiveness is easier to grasp when broken into a five-step process.

Admit the Pain

Offenses always cause pain; our pride makes us deny it. Some take an attitude, "Who cares? You're insignificant in my life. You can't hurt me!" This insulates us from the acute pain of the moment, but it allows the infectious agent of resentment, like toxic bacteria, to enter our soul where it festers, creating a spiritual disease of bitterness. Such a condition gradually estranges us from others and even from God.

Denying pain keeps us from starting on the path to forgiveness. But the degree of pain required in this exercise is bearable. Honestly experiencing it long enough to understand the exact nature of the offense is actually the beginning of healing.

Work Through Confused Feelings

When an offense has occurred, we often need to clearly and carefully sort out responsibilities in a particular incident. As children, we believe the world revolves around us. Although this tendency is strongest in our formative years, it also persists somewhat into adulthood. When traumatic events occur, kids believe it's mostly their fault. ("If I hadn't made Dad angry, he wouldn't have had a heart attack and died.")

As adults we need to develop firm ground within ourselves — to set boundaries and defend them when limits are violated.

Seek Information

Once we're clear as to who's responsible for what, the next step is to discover why the offender hurt us. This keeps us from dwelling single-mindedly on how we were hurt or how we wish to see the other person punished. If appropriate, we may need to ask friends or family members for information. Or we can use our imagination and place ourselves in the offender's position.

What we're not doing is looking for an excuse. No reasoning can excuse, for example, crimes against humanity such as torture, rape, extortion, blackmail, murder and the like. But gathering information is important.

Consider Rita's experience. Her husband had an affair with an emotionally disturbed woman. He eventually broke off the relationship and tried to repair the damage he'd done to Rita, whom he still loved. But Rita couldn't forgive her husband or the other woman. It was bad enough he'd had an affair — but to choose such a wretchedly unhappy and abused woman added insult to injury.

Inadvertently, Rita learned a bit about the other woman's history. As a little girl, she'd often been made to bend naked over the bathtub while her father beat her with a belt until blood ran down her legs. As Rita heard this story, she found tears running down her cheeks. Any child raised by such a criminally abusive father might wind up seducing men in a desperate search for love. This information also lent credibility to her husband's story that he'd first befriended the woman because he felt sorry for her; he then felt affectionate toward this "hurting soul." ... Eventually, the lines between affection and sexual involvement blurred. Further searching unearthed events in her husband's life that explained his vulnerability to such a strange relationship.

It didn't happen overnight, but the more Rita understood the facts, the more she was able to relinquish her anger and pain. She could truly forgive and sincerely pray for the woman. Understanding was not condoning the affair. And much work had to be done to heal her husband's past to prevent further offenses.

But for Rita, the restoration process took a step forward when the truth was known.

Allow Information to Become Insight

Once the facts are clear, we might imagine that forgiveness occurs automatically. Too often, however, our humanity gets in the way. Our self-protective and vengeful impulses can pitch us into rounds of self-pity, bitterness and anger.

It takes heroic effort to move beyond our own pain to understand what prevents us from saying, "I forgive you."

In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom describes the most extreme abuses imaginable perpetrated on her and the other inmates of a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Months after the war was over, Corrie was traveling through Germany speaking in churches about God's love and forgiveness. Inwardly, though, she knew her words had a hollow sound.

After speaking in a church in Munich, she was approached by a man she recognized as one of her former guards, a particularly cruel one. He now reflected a semblance of humanity and smiled brightly as he talked about his newfound faith in God. Looking Corrie in the eye, he held out his hand. "Fraülein, if you can forgive me, then I'll know what you say is true — that God forgives me."

Gripped by a terrible conflict, Corrie wanted either to turn her back on this man or do violence to him. In her mind's eye she could see her father and sister, who were both killed by the Nazis; she'd wanted to forgive those who were responsible. And this moment brought insight as to why she'd been unable to do more than speak hollowly about forgiveness. She was daily reliving the horror of the camp.

Corrie also realized that she would continue to be haunted by old feelings and memories if she did not move beyond them. This was her chance. But could she do it?

Her arm remained frozen at her side, while the man's remained outstretched. As he stared at her, Corrie prayed for strength she could not find in herself. Giving her will over to God, unable to change it on her own, coldly she stuck out her hand and clasped the palm of her former enemy.

"In that moment," she later wrote, "something miraculous happened. A current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me."

Forgiveness is a gift of God's grace. What Corrie described — the healing of one heart, the freeing of another — is a true miracle. The wonder of it is that God gives us insight into our own heart and involves us with Him in the freeing of another.

Choose to Relinquish the Whole Event

It was, interestingly, in a psychiatry class that I (Grace) learned relinquishment.

The class was discussing how to let go of past tragedies and trauma that hurt and scar. One man, Lou, had been weeping copiously, obviously reliving some pain of his own.

"Lou," the professor said, "I want you to wrap up that handkerchief and hold it tightly in your hand." After a long silence, he said, "Now, let it fall." The bunched handkerchief landed on the floor.

In a few moments, Lou reached down to pick up his handkerchief. But another student observed him and suggested that this was the way we all tried to "pick up our old burdens again." With a smile now, Lou left the handkerchief there.

We all saw that it's our choice — an act of our will — that sets us free from burdens of the past.

It seems that human beings have always had trouble with the idea of forgiving someone who has wronged them. It's just not natural to us. But Jesus Christ, the master of forgiveness came to show us a new way, a supernatural way, to live. He teaches us how to adopt new attitudes of the heart that help us live "above" our natural impulses.

You, too, can be healed and set free as you learn to walk the path of forgiveness. The gifts of personal wholeness in Jesus Christ can be yours, even when you think forgiveness is impossible. The question is, are you willing to begin?

From When You Can't Say "I Forgive You", published by NavPress,

Is There a Hope for My Marriage?

Often we think an unhappy couple has only two options:

-Stay together and be miserable

-Get a divorce

But there is a third option, and many couples successfully take this other road. In an exciting new study, couples participating in a national survey were asked to rate their marriage on a scale of one to seven, with one being very unhappy and seven being very happy. Those who rated their marriages a "one" had incredible turnarounds just five years later – if they stayed together. In fact, 77 percent of those giving their marriage a very unhappy "one" rated their marriage as a "seven" after five years. Was there some breakthrough therapy involved? No. In fact, many did relatively little – they just "stuck it out" and things got better.

As mentioned earlier, another study found that about 60 percent of marriages that ended in divorce were not bad marriages, but average. They had average levels of positive interactions and average levels of conflict. Basically, these marriages were "good enough" but could be improved. Most marriages go through emotional ups and downs – times of great happiness and times of boredom and fatigue.

To have good marriages, we need to ride out the "lows" and learn from those times so that the relationship can be strengthened. If your relationship is at a low point and you wonder what happened to the spark, there is good news. It's not too late to revitalize your relationship.

What Makes Marriages Get Better?

Researchers followed up on those couples who rated their marriages as unhappy at first and happy five years later. Here's what the couples told them were the reasons for the dramatic turnaround:

Waiting. Since many couples have unhappy marriages due to outside pressures (like a job loss or the demands of young children), the passage of time changed those circumstances. Things just naturally got better again.

Working at it. Many of the problems in marriage are a result of poor communication. Some couples told the researchers they simply learned to take small steps – like listening to each other – which resulted in happier marriages. For example, husbands learned to compliment wives, and wives learned to encourage husbands.

Personal happiness/perspective change in one spouse. Sometimes, one spouse simply decided not to base all of his or her happiness on the mood of the other spouse. Instead, one spouse took up a hobby or simply made an attitude adjustment that allowed him or her to be more patient and accepting of the other.

Credible threat of consequences for bad behavior. Some of the marriages were initially very unhappy because the husbands were engaged in "bad behaviors" – out late drinking with the boys, infidelity or even occasional abuse. Just as Dr. James Dobson advises in his book Love Must Be Tough, these wives took firm action and let their husbands know they would not tolerate such behavior. The husbands changed.

There are many ways to improve your marriage. Today, there are hundreds of tools focused on ways to build strong, healthy relationships. A few examples include weekend getaway-style marriage conferences by Family Life Today or Marriage Encounter, film series and seminars hosted by local churches under the title "Marriage Enrichment" and mentoring programs through local churches.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Church is Not an iPhone App

History's greatest evangelical tools:

1. The Apostle Paul's feet (and pen)
2. Gutenberg's printing press
3. Billy Graham's voice
4. Apple's iPhone?

Maybe. Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the nation's most tech-savvy congregations, has announced the release of its new iPhone app. The Mars Hill app will let you listen to or watch any sermon, prayer or song, get all of the congregation's news and announcements, and even put money in the virtual offering plate.

"God has often used technological advancement to spread the Gospel through the church," Mars Hill explained in a blog. "At the time of Paul it was the Roman's system of roads. For the Reformers it was the printing press. For Billy Graham it was sound amplification systems and stadiums. For Mars Hill, we have been blessed to have the opportunity to use the advances in video and internet distribution."

The Mars Hill app looks and sounds cool, and it's a great way to help busy congregation members stay in touch. Wireless digital technology certainly has the potential to "spread the Gospel" -- at least the actual words of and about the Gospel -- faster and farther than ever. But what might be lost if worship becomes just another download?

Church is more than a building, but if you can download a worship service anytime you want wherever you are, why bother to take the time to go to the actual service?

Church is more than a sermon, but if your mobile can deliver sermons by Mars Hill's "charismatic Calvinist" Marc Driscoll -- or T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen -- why bother going to hear the perhaps less than charismatic preacher down the street or across town?

Church is more than a weekly public event, but it's not meant to be a solitary or remote activity.
As Verna Dozier explained in The Dream of God, "there must be those resting places where the story is treasured and passed on in liturgy and education. There must be those islands of refuge where the wounded find healing; the confused, light; the fearful, courage, the lonely, community; the alienated, acceptance; the strong, gratitude."
Church is not an app.

By David Waters

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Perfect Family


Rushing off to work ... coming home weary... paying the bills ... raising the kids. It often seems like an endless cycle. But during the quiet moments, do you dare to be honest with yourself? Have you ever wondered, "Is this all there is to life? Is it merely a 70-year cycle of eating and sleeping, of getting and spending, of growing older and older?"

If your heart longs for something or someone that will give meaning to your existence, this article can help. The following takes a straightforward look at the things we value in this world and shows that there is much more.

There is a way to live that brings satisfaction at our innermost levels. You'll learn that nothing is more valuable than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And by joining God's family, we can have a first-class quality life — a winning life.

It had been nearly two years, but in just minutes he'd be back, and he wondered what it would be like. He had written ahead — they knew he was coming. In his memory, he heard the squeak of Dad's chair, the metal clang of spoon and pan in the kitchen, the crackle and thump as a log slipped in the fireplace. He could almost smell the sweet aroma of dinner nearly done. Then Mom would call, and everyone would scramble to the table.

It was good then. He belonged. But now?

Tom's sigh broke the daydream as he turned into the lane. Familiar sights and sounds engulfed him. Ten strides ... three stairs ... warped wooden porch floor stretching to the white clapboard walls ... and the creaky swing.

He rang the bell. The door swung open, and loving arms pulled him in and close. Then with his tears soaking into her white sweater, from beneath gray hair and wrinkled brow came the words he longed to hear. "Welcome home, Son, welcome home!"

All people long for a place where they are welcome, accepted, loved. Where they don't have to pretend or be on their guard. Where just being there is a cause for celebration. Warm, relaxing, open — that's home. Or at least that's the Norman Rockwell portrayal of it.

Less than perfect

But not all homecomings evoke such memories. And while coming home often brings high expectations, it rarely lives up to its advertising. Cousin Cheryl is late and the turkey dries out. Nephew Norbert gets violently ill at the table. Uncle Arthur and Brother Bob argue about foreign policy. A giant dustball rolls out from under the sofa at Aunt Agatha's feet, and Sister Samantha points out to Mom that her children are more polite than yours.

Much worse, of course, are homes that do not provide the loving support they should. A frightened boy listens from beneath his bedcovers as the shouting of his angry parents shatters the night air. A young girl dreads the end of the school day because Mom will almost certainly be drunk again. A soldier or prisoner fears that during his absence his wife has been unfaithful and will not take him back. A single mother tries to shut out the department store Christmas music this first December since her divorce and her mother's death. And a bag lady has no place, not even a hotel room, to call home.

When home does not live up to our dreams or expectations, we grow restless. We long for relationships, connections, continuity, understanding, communication — things we imagine people had in abundance a hundred years ago before big corporations, automobiles and housing developments made it easy for extended families to fragment and scatter across the country. We feel isolated and alone.

A long way from home

We may be lonely, but we are not alone. A lot of people today feel far from home. Perhaps they are divorced or widowed. Maybe they live hundreds of miles from their parents, siblings and cousins. Even if they love their families dearly, they are often so busy working, commuting and running errands that they have little time to spend with the people closest to them. They long for home and family, a place to be and become. But the kind of home they crave seems as improbable as a 1945 Saturday Evening Post cover.

It's harsh, but true: Nobody ever finds, inherits or lives in a perfect home where the people always listen to and understand each other, take care of each other, or even like each other. And yet most of us keep looking for just that — a place where we are appreciated, where we can be comfortable, where we can be truly ourselves.

Are we doomed to a lifetime of searching without finding? Must we become disillusioned and cynical? Or are we perhaps, in the words of the song, "looking for love in all the wrong places"?

Restless hearts

More than 1,500 years ago, St. Augustine diagnosed the situation of many searching people. He knew from personal experience what it meant to be far from family, to try — and fail — to find love in a chain of short relationships, to feel as if nobody really cared. Speaking to God, he said, "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You."

If St. Augustine was right, our unfulfilled longings might not be satisfied even if we were able to stage a whole succession of perfect homecomings, flawless Thanksgiving dinners and harmonious family reunions. As wonderful as home can be, even the best of homes cannot bring peace to our restless hearts. Always we need something deeper and broader than the love of a father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife.

We would like to have parents, siblings and spouses who are always there for us and who are able to meet all our needs: provide for us, listen to us, care for us, counsel us, discipline us, protect us and enjoy us. We'd like these "superpersons" to know us inside and out, to love us all the same, to give to us generously and to keep all their promises. We don't want these people to ever grow old or get sick or die. We want them to share our experiences, stick up for us, teach us what they know and never say "I told you so. "

Impossible? It sounds like it. But God has all these characteristics. What is more, He strongly desires to make all people part of His family — a family that will one day be perfect and last forever.

The ideal Father

Let's back up for a minute. To understand God's invitation to join His family, it's important to know who God is. The Bible paints this picture of Him:

In many ways, God is like an excellent human father. He loves His children and is pleased when they love Him in return. He provides for them and protects them. He gives guidance and, when necessary, punishment. He understands their limitations, though, and is quick to forgive. Above all, He is generous (the Bible calls His generosity grace).

In other ways, God is far greater than any human father could ever be. For one thing, He is all powerful. Nothing can keep Him from helping His children. For another, He is all-loving. In God there is no selfishness or pride to interfere with His relationship with His children. God is also all-knowing, so His guidance is completely worthy of trust. Since God is present everywhere at once, His children never have to strike out on their own, and since He is eternal, they never fear being abandoned.

The ideal family

Homecoming can be a joyous time, even if the pumpkin pie crust is soggy and Great-Uncle Herbert has forgotten his table manners. But no earthly homecoming, no matter how memorable, can compare with the joy of coming home to God.

God's love, after all, is the source of all earthly love. It is stronger and more enduring than love between husband and wife, parent and child, brothers and sisters. At the same time, God's love strengthens our human ties and increases our love for those dear to us.

This article explains why all human beings need God's love. It explains how to respond to His invitation and become part of His family. But there is one thing it cannot do: It cannot say "yes" to God for you.

If your heart is restless; if you find yourself longing for a home you've never known; if you would like eternal life with Jesus that begins now and continues in heaven where there is no suffering, sin, or death — say yes to Jesus. Join the family. Come home.

There's no better time than now.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

All Abuse Hurts

By Brenda Branson

Most people think “abuse” is just physical attacks such as hitting, punching, kicking, pulling hair, twisting limbs, pinching, slapping, biting, etc.

There are many other type of abusive behavior which hurt just as much or more than physical abuse. Just because an abuser stops hitting his spouse doesn't mean he has stopped being abusive. Here are other varieties of abuse which are just as destructive as physical abuse:

Emotional Abuse — Name-calling, mind games, “crazy-making,” belittling, shaming, extreme manipulation, coercion

Economic Abuse — Withholding money as punishment and making partner beg for necessities, demanding partner to relinquish rights to her own paycheck, requiring partner to account for all money spent (down to the exact penny)

Isolation — Limits phone calls or visits to or from friends or family; listens in or “bugs” phone calls; restricts access to telephone, mail, car, or people; monitors all incoming and outgoing mail; forbids partner to leave the house unless given permission or accompanied by abuser

Sexual Abuse — Forces partner to have sex at any time, any place abuser desires; demands sexual acts that are uncomfortable or distasteful to partner; physical abuse to sexual organs; subjects partner to pornography or bizarre sexual activities; degrades partner's body

Threats — To leave or end the relationship, to commit suicide or harm someone else, to take the children, to spread lies about their partner, to hurt or kill their partner or partner's family/friends, to ruin partner financially, to destroy personal property or kill pets, to reveal secrets or confidential conversations

Intimidation — Suggesting that partner is inferior or “less than;” cruel remarks about partner's looks; ridiculing partner's ideas; using gestures, angry looks, loud voice, or cursing to control or cause fear, yelling and screaming

Humiliation (much like intimidation) —Inappropriate humor designed to put down partner; public criticism of appearance, parenting skills, housekeeping or cooking skills; pushing someone's face into a bowl of food (or worse); forcing food or other objects into someone's mouth; public showing of embarrassing photos or video clips

Violence to pets or property — Throwing things, punching holes in walls, stomping on things which he has thrown to the floor, pounding fists on doors or tables to generate fear, breaking doors or windows to get to partner, destroying partner's personal property or keepsakes, injuring or killing pets

Silent Treatment — Refusing to communicate, using silence as a weapon to manipulate

Using Children — Manipulating children to get information or give information, misuse or disrespect of visitation time, withholding child support, bribing children with gifts or activities, undermining the other parent's authority, blaming or putting down the other parent in front of the children, using subtle manipulation to brainwash the child into believing one parent is trying to prevent the child from seeing the other, competing to be the most caring parent in the child's eyes

Irrational Blaming — Holding the other partner responsible for everything that goes wrong, for problems with children, financial difficulties, car breakdowns, holiday stress, loss of promotion, loss of job, weight loss or gain, losing his temper, violent behavior, etc., etc., etc.

Spiritual Abuse — Misuses scripture to keep partner “in line,” unbiblical interpretation of “submission” and lack of understanding about husband's role in the home (servant leader), using scripture to justify abusive and oppressive behavior

Macho Male Privilege — Treats children and spouse like property to use or dispose of at his whim, punishes spouse when she disobeys or disappoints, dictates orders and makes all decisions, expects everyone in home to cater to his needs, threatens anyone who defies or questions his authority

Power and Control — Will not allow anyone to make any decisions without his approval; monitors food consumed, money spent, utilities used (heat, air, water), phone calls, mail, time spent outside the home; governs activities inside the home; rules TV choices and volume; restricts right to decorate or organize home without his permission, refuses to allow repairs or replace broken appliances; controls clothing choices and hairstyles; will not allow spouse to express opinions or develop friendships; denies spouse any free time to relax or recover from illness; leaves daily list of demands with a warning attached if they are not accomplished

Stalking — Following to work, church, appointments, etc.; calling multiple times a day to check up on things; spying, leaving messages on car or under door to let you know they have access to you when they want it; finding about appointments with doctors, lawyers, or counselors and contacting them before you arrive with an intimidating message.

All of the above abuse is not illegal, but all is sinful and destructive. All abuse hurts!

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