Tag: Personal Memoirs

A BRAVE Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH JANYNE MCCONNAUGHEY, PhD

GUEST POST:

Hello. My name is Ms. Skeptic and I am here today to interview Dr. Janyne McConnaughey about her recent revelations concerning her life with a dissociative disorder. She has accepted this interview in hopes she can help others in understanding the disorder. …

Now, Dr. McConnaughey, for those who do not know you, will you tell us a little about your life?

Honestly, the life story I always told was of a pretty idyllic 1950s childhood. Much of my story of growing up in a preacher’s home and serving in church-related educational ministries, and my now thirty-eight year marriage is included here. On the surface, it was a wonderful life!

You are aware most who say they have DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) do not have such idyllic descriptions of their lives? Were there signs that others might have noticed in you?

The disorder is mostly hidden and often misdiagnosed. A few things are helpful in understanding this. The first is an understanding of what a dissociative disorder is. In my journey, I began to understand dissociation as more of a spectrum. To some degree, in order to cope, everyone dissociates from reality on occasion—daydreaming for instance—very common and usually healthy.
On the other end of the spectrum is the person who separates into multiple identities to divide up the pain and live life. In this category there are some who have periods of amnesia while various “parts” live life. In my case, “DID NOS,” (Dissociative Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified) there was not significant amnesia between my alternate identities or “alters.” Thus, I didn’t wake up and find clothes in my closet that I didn’t remember buying. I did have significant blocked memories (due to repression), but none impaired my ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

So no one could tell?

No. After I explain it to my closest family and friends, they often say, “Well, that actually makes sense.” But we all have quirky things we do, and this was what everyone assumed.

I must pause at this point to say there are those in the field of psychology who do not believe in the diagnosis of DID. What are your thoughts on this?

(Sigh) This is so damaging for those who are dissociative—especially in one specific way. Dissociation at every level on the spectrum is a coping mechanism and as such is not a systemic mental illness—in other words, no one is born dissociative, it is a result of what happened to him or her. Granted, there may be some predisposed tendencies, such as intelligence and creative cognitive coping skills, but it is always the result of some type of trauma—usually sexual abuse at a very young age. As a coping mechanism for trauma, dissociation can be healed. It is complicated but possible. If a professional does not believe in the validity of the diagnosis, then the answer is usually medication—which may alleviate the symptoms to some degree but never addresses true healing.
In addition, being believed was important to my healing. I knew there were three adults in my head and felt myself shift to them periodically through the day. There was nothing in my story to cause me at sixty one to suddenly create a fantasy such as this—for what? Attention? (Laughter, lots of laughter.) Dissociative disorders are all about hiding—especially at my level of what I call “functional dissociation.” When I finally came to my own conclusion about being dissociative, it was absolutely crucial to be believed!Did you know?Absolutely not. Did I know something was not right? Yes! Most spend years in therapy before it is correctly diagnosed.

When did you decide to seek therapy? What brought you to this decision?

For some, the idea God audibly told me to go to a specific therapist is probably going to be harder to swallow than the disorder itself, but that is exactly what happened. I described my fear of going to therapy in one of my first blog posts. At sixty one, I was at the top of my professional career, a wife, mother, and grandmother, with many wonderful friends—and absolutely terrified.

Why were you afraid?

Great question. I was unaware of living as multiple identities, but did spend my life running away from a “me” I could neither understand nor tolerate. My life was successfully navigated above the turmoil. I didn’t understand what it was, but I knew it had the power to destroy my carefully-constructed life.

How long were you in therapy before you understood what you were dealing with?

This is a very simple question, which involves a very complicated answer. My first session, in hindsight, was an amazing display put on by “Janyne” to prove there was absolutely nothing wrong. I was just trying to decide about signing the contract for the following year, since teaching at the college didn’t seem like a good fit for me any longer. In the next couple sessions, it became apparent I had mother issues. This is not uncommon—maybe you do too? (Uncomfortable laughter.) By the third or fourth session we decided I should work through some of my anxiety issues by going back to my childhood memories with my mother. This was when I had my first introduction to EMDR.

Can you explain EMDR?

Yes, this is always a question. It is a recognized, research-validated therapy treatment in which the client remains aware but is able to go below the surface of cognitively processed events and resolve the underlying emotions connected to the memories stored in the limbic brain. It is done in a variety of ways by bypassing the cognitive part of the brain and allowing the experience, with all of the intensity of the attached emotions, to surface. In my case, this also released repressed memories. If unfamiliar with this recognized type of therapy, it might be good to explore the EMDR International Association website.

Why was EMDR so important to your healing?

My survival was dependent on cognitive coping strategies and few therapeutic interventions would have been successful in getting underneath my defenses. There are some concerns that EMDR causes memories to surface too quickly and may overwhelm dissociative clients who do not have strong processing structures in place. As with any therapy, the keys are skillful use and care for the client. For me, EMDR was the avenue of healing.

Why do you believe this was true?

Many with dissociative disorders spend years in various therapeutic situations without ever obtaining a correct diagnosis. The whole purpose of dissociation is to hide subconsciously repressed or suppressed memories. While EMDR is designed as a way to process memories, in my case it also served as a mechanism to retrieve frozen memories from dissociative states. This doesn’t mean it would be effective in this specific way for everyone, since each case is unique.
My simple question of “Which one?” (explained in Chapter 4) early in therapy probably moved my healing at warp speed, since it allowed me to see my inner structures of functioning personas and dissociative states. My ability to see and analyze these dissociative structures was a gift, but I would never have allowed myself to see it outside of EMDR therapy. My structures were too perfect and I was too strong.

How do you know the memories were real?

This question voices a common fear. I was concerned that a therapist would convince me something had happened in my early life, but she never did that. This may occur on occasion with the rare, unethical therapist, and probably is the reason for the myth. It is horrible and prevents many from seeking help. Before the first memory of abuse surfaced, I said, “I don’t think we are going to find anything, do you?” My therapist never led me down any path. She simply believed in the truth of the memories that did surface.

But how did you know it was real?

My first memory was when I was probably three. While in the memory, there were neither adult words nor understanding to explain the pain. The truth my body told, and the anguish pouring out of me, could not be manufactured. I have no doubts. Once the memories were processed, the related triggers vanished—proof of the connection between the abuse and the triggers that had plagued me all my life. Many of these triggers are explained in the following pages.

So, you have no doubts about the truth of your memories?

Oh! Thank you for asking this question! Anyone who studies memory knows things may not have happened exactly like you remember them. In my case, there were many false cover memories (flat memories without emotion) to hide the real memories. In every one of them, I was brave and strong and escaped danger. Most of the time, it was illogical that a child, teen, or young adult could have escaped the situation, but my story convinced me. I never said these false versions of the memories in EMDR—even when I wanted to do so. I was a child and while the memory may not be exact, there is no question but something happened—something involving very traumatic sexual abuse. My body told the story during therapy, triggers made me live the memories my entire life, and once I faced the truth, there was nothing in me to doubt it. In fact, it finally made sense.

Didn’t remembering make it worse?

This is exactly what I would have thought, but the process of EMDR takes the power out of the memory by releasing it so it can be understood by the adult self. Integration was not possible until the power was removed from the memory.

What is integration?

The first step to becoming one whole person happened to me the day in therapy when I became aware of the three adults who had been living in separate compartments in my brain. I saw them and they saw each other. One of my therapist friends called it a “perfect three-point landing.” Recognition happened again and again as the alters entered my conscious world. I knew them immediately and could describe each of their personalities. So the first step was awareness. Then we had to find out why they had been created or split—always trauma of some kind had occurred. Once the trauma was healed, if they were twins (one who lived and one who held the pain), they could become one or integrate.
Integration only comes through healing—the split remains because of unprocessed pain. Shifting is a survival skill. I could not have held all the pain in one person.

The process sounds very complicated—how long were you in therapy?

I almost hesitate to answer this question. If someone is heading into therapy, he or she often wants to know exactly how long it will take to be helped. That’s an unanswerable question. I thought I would be “outta there” in a couple sessions. My denial makes me laugh; but in reality, the time it took me to reach integration was unbelievably short. It is very common for people to say eight to twelve years! That seems realistic! It is complicated. I completed the integration of the three adults in less than six months, but was sometimes in therapy for seven to eight hours in a week. What we did in so short a time was literally impossible! To say it is possible or recommend it to anyone would be irresponsible! I did not know how to do this any other way. We all knew this was true. Once the problem presented itself, I attacked it with a vengeance. It was necessary for me to give up almost everything in my life to heal; and I lived through months of hell—while still working. Most of that period of time is a blur. Without my writing, the memory of the deep processing would be lost.
So, never do what I did! Go slowly. Take time. Take breaks. Stabilize. Then go back. Slower would have been better for me; but I didn’t know any other way.

Is it hard for you to go back and read what you wrote during therapy?

Sometimes. Most of the raw processing was accidentally deleted. Those raw documents would probably be difficult to read; I did not have a clear sense of self, probably because of the extent of the trauma which created such a disorganized state. Much of my raw processing was transferred to a version of the story in which my identity was carefully disguised—a method, which distanced me from my own pain. I’m saving the volumes of material related to the psychological process of healing, for a later book. It is a very messy process, but true healing cannot happen unless someone is willing to get messy. Getting messy is something we almost always avoid, probably because we think we are the only ones who ever had such awful thoughts. Part of my sharing my messiness in this book is to tell others it is OK—you are not alone. There is so much fear. We need to help each other feel safe.

Is there anything else you would like your readers to know before they read your Brave books?

It is important to say my parents knew what happened to me at three but made choices based on the era in which they lived. My father loved me, and my mother was incapable of being the mother I needed. They both on separate occasions said I was “difficult” as a child. Yes, I imagine I was. It is also important to know I was born in 1953. What happened to me (multiple times) was unthinkable. As children, we were taught to respect adults and obey them. I had no words to describe what happened, and my perpetrators told me no one would believe me. They were right. Therefore, I used every possible God-given coping mechanism to survive.

It is hard to listen to you and not believe you.

(Laughing.) Yes, I wish I could just sit and talk to anyone who is skeptical. My openness and clear honesty is a gift. I have nothing to gain personally by sharing my story—except to help others.

Thank you for sharing so openly with me today. I do think this interview—and your BRAVE books—will help others to understand more about dissociation. I wish you the best as you continue to live out your life.

~(Excerpted from the book, BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma)

The Animals In Our Lives

Photos of furry creatures and social-media videos of cute animal antics … books and movies of animal adventures … these are popular because they evoke feelings of wonder, memories of beloved pets, joy and excitement of wildlife sightings, or perhaps sensory experiences of a trip to the farm. Here is what I believe about our relationship to animals:

• Animals are our fellow creatures, loved by the Creator.
• Animals can provide companionship, inspiration, and comfort.
• Animals can teach us about the Creator and how to relate to God.
• Animals provide metaphors of our lives that help us understand ourselves.
• Animals (especially those in the wild) represent elements of Mystery.

God cares for his earthly creatures. He created them, blessed them, called them “good.” He saved the animals from the Flood and then made a covenant with “every living creature.” Many Scriptures display God’s care for animals. Old Testament laws protected animals. Jesus’ parables affirmed and spotlighted them.

In God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals, Susan Bulanda asks: “Is it possible that God has put the desire to care for all animals in the hearts of many people … God’s love for his creation showing through humans?” Later, she adds: “Could there be subtle lessons of love God gives us through our pets?”

I think you will recognize these reciprocal lessons of love—some subtle and some not so subtle—in the stories, poems, anecdotes, and reflections included in this volume.

Sometimes animals are mirrors for us to see ourselves more clearly. I have found my dog to be a barometer of my emotions. His responses tell me when I am getting anxious or when my words sound too harsh; he responds much differently when my tone of voice is sweet and cheerful. It makes me feel bad to see him put his ears back and watch me with a worried expression. It makes me feel good to see him wag his tail and smile at me.

Animals, both wild and domestic, also help us by calling forth our sense of awe. As Thomas Berry has said, we need all of creation, including the animals “to evoke a world of mystery, to evoke the sacred.”

I continually wonder at the wilds of nature that can thrive alongside, often in spite of and struggling to adjust in the midst of, the civilized, tamed, domestic world. When a bird comes close and sings, when a deer steps out of the forest; these surprise sightings thrill. Finding myself sharing space with a wild creature, aware of each other, watching each other even for a moment, is a reminder of not only how different we are, but of what we have in common. Both the animal kind and my kind have breath. We communicate with body language and voice. We walk, run, choose mates, nurture families, search for food, seek shelter. And when we share moments of awareness and attention, the resulting experiential knowledge surely changes or affects us both in some way (hopefully not making us more fearful of each other), perhaps increasing our appreciation of our common creation.

We also share our lives with pets and, sometimes, farm animals. Our human friends learn to accept our animals as “part of the deal.” In a deeper application, the slogan often seen on kitchen towels or plaques, “Love me, love my dog” could, I think, be re-phrased “Love God, love God’s creatures.” Theologians have said as much, and more.

  • Celtic saint Columbanus exhorted, “Understand, if you want to know the Creator, created things.”
  • Orthodox scholar Maximus the Confessor taught the idea that creation (as well as Scripture) is God’s book. “God is ‘encoded’ for us in everything he has made. We are surrounded on every side by his ‘letters,’ his ‘analogies’ in creatures….” Our part is to care for, as well as give attention and respect to, the creatures, and even to praise God on their behalf.
  • Protestant evangelical theologian (and bird watcher) John Stott wrote, “God has given to human beings a midway position between himself and the animals. … In consequence, we combine the dependence on God that is common to all his creatures with a responsible dominion over the [animals] that is unique.”
  • Catholic writer Charles Camosy adds, “Nearly all theologians now agree that the biblical dominion God has given human beings over creation is not a license to use and dominate, but rather a command to be caretakers and stewards.”

I am thankful for all the dogs, cats, fish, chickens, ducks, birds, as well as the rabbits, squirrels, and deer that have been part of my life at different stages. I have cared for them, learned from them, and shared life with them. Many times when I or my family were facing challenging times, our hearts and spirits were lightened because the animals were there.

God, of course, is always there, everywhere, ever present to us; but God, who is spirit, does not have a corporeal body with skin, hands, and feet. Animals (as well as people) help God help us feel our loving, relational God’s presence.

With all this in mind, I enjoyed compiling, editing (and writing a number of) these often-funny, sometimes sad, and always awe-inspiring experiences with animals. I hope our readers enjoy these stories, too. You may find yourself laughing, crying, and appreciating more than ever God’s creatures, the animals in our lives.

~Catherine Lawton


Image credit: © Can Stock Photo / Gajus

This blog is extracted from the Introduction to the book, The Animals In Our Lives: Stories of Companionship and Awe. The book contains delightful accounts of people with their dogs, cats, sheep, horses, backyard birds, woodland deer, and many other creatures. Our animals—pets, farm animals, and wildlife—inspire our awe, entertain us, help us, teach us, play with us, mourn with us, even work with us. Any animal lover will enjoy this very readable book.

 

BRAVE WHIMSY and VULNERABILITY

The unique style of author Janyne McConnaughey—interweaving literary whimsy, informative narrative, and raw vulnerability—is reaching into the hearts and minds of readers. For instance, in A BRAVE LIFE we find Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz interacting with Janyne’s three adult selves and many child selves.

We love the way Janyne weaves delightful, fictional characters into her narratives. In Janyne’s previous book, JEANNIE’S BRAVE CHILDHOOD, Alice of Wonderland appears throughout (and rumors are she may return in a future book). But Dorothy of Oz and her Yellow-Brick-Road companions, even Oz himself, fit perfectly in A BRAVE LIFE.

Janyne McConnaughey PhD

In this new book, Janyne shares the story of how she lived her adult life with the effects of childhood trauma and attachment issues. Janyne describes her “Yellow Brick Road” journey that taught her about the abundant life and the many ways it had been stolen from her by childhood trauma. A BRAVE LIFE offers hope and insight to all who have persevered and silently suffered without knowing why…. and it provides a handbook to help Christians in the church minister to those who, as children, were victims of the unspeakable.

Janyne bravely paints a word picture of how a childhood-trauma survivor experienced adulthood—including multiple moves and transitions, marriage and parenting, and a college teaching career—all the time coping through dissociative “split” personalities.

It was a confusing life fraught with “emotional landmines,” but Janyne’s healing journey led to her “Emerald City” as all the parts of Janyne learned to trust each other and work together—which they do beautifully in this book.

Jesus shows up in A BRAVE LIFE also. The scenes where Jesus talks with Janyne’s various selves are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe what Janyne heard the Spirit of Jesus say to her heart, true words that helped heal the effects of what trusted adults had wrongly said to her way back when she was 10.

Just as pushing back the curtain revealed the “real” wizard of Oz, Janyne had the courage to push back the curtain and reveal her feelings of being an “imposter,” of dissociative pain and struggles and their root causes. We agree with Pathway to Hope director, Kiersten Adkins, who says of Janyne, “May her courage inspire us to find safe spaces for ourselves and be those safe spaces for others.”

If you long to find your own safe spaces in which to heal, and to help (not hinder) others’ healing, you may want to join the many readers being encouraged, informed, and helped by the BRAVE series.

(Note: The three graphics above created by Janyne McConnaughey and posted on Facebook. Used here with permission.)

Does a virus catch us, or do we catch a virus?

The news, social media, and our attention has been occupied by the Corona Virus sweeping the world and Covid-19 case numbers increasing daily, Meanwhile, our publishing schedule is interrupted, author events canceled, and I haven’t posted here for a while. The following story (which I wrote and posted for my Facebook friends two days ago) explains part of the reason for my recent silence. Someone said, “Our stories matter. Everyone needs to share their stories.” Here’s mine at this time. This story is longer than most of my posts. Thanks for reading. And thanks for visiting. Feel free to share your response or a bit of your own story at the bottom of the page. ~Cathy on 3-31-20


Not long ago, we heard of a newly mutated virus discovered and starting to spread in a far away place called Wuhan. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But numbers kept increasing. We heard briefly of a “whistle blower,” and it caught our interest more. Then we heard that that exotic virus somehow showed up on our shore. And soon it was spreading in Seattle, where I have friends (including Cladach authors). And it was more and more in the news. It seemed to show up in the area of every international airport (and one of those is an hour away from us). Before long this new virus was in our state of Colorado! Then someone in our state died of it. At that time we heard a lot about washing hands and not touching our faces.

About that time Larry and I attended a philharmonic orchestra concert at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley. Unlike most orchestra concerts, this one was packed! This time Greeley’s wonderful philharmonic invited a tribute singer and his small band of drums, bass, mandolin, and flute to join their orchestra onstage to perform John Denver music. The music was lovely. John Denver is popular in Colorado, and people happily crammed together, reminiscing about concerts at Red Rocks in the good ol’ days, and singing along. No doubt there were a few coughs, as there are in any crowd.

At intermission, the crowd–mostly senior citizens–flocked to the restrooms. We waited close together in line outside and inside the restroom. And because of all the advice about hand washing, we stood patiently in a crowded line to wash our hands, a long time as each person took a little longer (20 seconds?) to scrub.

Just a couple days after the concert, the public was told we needed to practice “social distancing” and stay 3 to 6 feet away from each other. When we took our neighborhood walk and approached other walkers, one neighbor would step off the sidewalk onto the grass or street and we’d greet each other from a few feet distance. We were somewhat careful but not worried.

A few days later, we were told the virus had spread within our city. What?! From Wuhan, China to Greeley, CO in such a short time?! Our church, which had prepared for Sunday by cleaning, putting away pew hymnals and Bibles, and offering plates, now, along with all faith groups in the state, was asked not to meet in groups larger than 10. Actually, that’s when it hit us more seriously. Online church was no longer just a convenient option. It was the only way to “go to church.”

Meanwhile we were going to stores, offices, small group meetings, a medical building. Larry played basketball at the gym several times during the week, as usual. Then the rec centers suddenly closed–indefinitely. It was time for spring break for students. Spring break was extended. Then schools were closed indefinitely.

We thought, well we can still take drives, maybe go to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. But then the park was closed! OK. This is getting real and immediate and a little unsettling.

It seems a virus caught us–somewhat unawares, unprepared, somewhat unbelieving.

And somewhere along the way, I caught a virus.

One day I was walking our dog, Jasper, on our regular route. About 1/4 of the way I began feeling seriously out of breath, strangely, and had to turn back. By the time I got home I was exhausted. But in the usual way I have of ignoring symptoms and determinedly pressing on, I didn’t give it too much thought. Nor did I give the occasional dry cough much thought.

But when I started waking up at night with an awful-feeling achy, burning, tightness in my chest, I wondered. But one day I’d feel better and over-do it. Only to feel worse, though, the next day. I don’t generally take naps, but I had to lie down in the middle of the day. I began taking my temperature. I was running a low-grade fever, which usually isn’t considered crucial.

A week and a half after these symptoms started sneaking up on me, I thought, I should go to the doctor. By then we’d been learning a lot more, and no way did I want to go to a hospital or ER. I called my doctor and was surprised that they said to come in. But they told me to call from my car when I arrived and they would check me in by phone, then they’d meet me inside the door with a mask for me to put on.

Well, my doctor, wearing a mask, examined me and said I had the symptoms of Covid 19. She prescribed one of the meds that doctors worldwide are finding has some effect in fighting Covid 19. She said, “We don’t have tests. We have to save them for patients in hospitals or we’d run out.” She added, “You’re sick. Stay away from people!” and “If you get worse, go to the ER.”

I texted our son and daughter, and you can be sure text messages began to fly back and forth across the country. Our son immediately contacted his close friend who is the head of Emergency medicine in an East Coast city. His advice was relayed to me. Then our son contacted his other good doctor friend, practicing in So Cal. He sent the advice to “Rest, rest, rest!”

Everything I tried to do exhausted me quickly, so I complied. My grown kids know I can’t easily be made to rest, so they keep reminding me. I know they love me, and it’s good to feel their love (and that in itself is probably the best medicine).

Meanwhile, I told my prayer group that I was sick and they have been so concerned and prayerful. I told my sister, and her church’s prayer chain got the word. Many of them are our friends, and some of them called and texted. In the past few days I’ve heard of several groups and prayer chains praying for me! Wow. No wonder I feel such peace. And I’m hopeful I’m turning a corner and coming out of this. It has been two weeks since I first felt symptoms. And I’ve got a ways to go. [But no “place to go” anyway, it seems. 🙂 ]

So, I think a virus catches us as well as we can “catch” it. And, even though the reported case numbers are rising so fast, I’m sure they don’t nearly represent all the actual cases.

Pay attention to cautions, to symptoms, to governor’s orders, etc. Express your love to your loved ones through texts, calls, emails, letters. Take care of yourself and those around you. And pray!

~Catherine Lawton, 3-29-2020

 

 

Current Buzz – Feb. 2020

Over a month into 2020 we’ve had some surprises as well as some planned happenings. In this post I’ll share with you some of the surprises. One of our authors has garnered increased media attention lately:

Hostage In Taipei : A True Story of Forgiveness and Hope by McGill Alexander

This memoir by now-retired South African ambassador and brigadier general tells the dramatic hostage story that occurred in Taiwan. A few years after the book was released, National Geographic TV broadcast a docudrama of this amazing story and testimony of the Alexander’s, which was re-enacted by a British production company. Now the “Locked-up Abroad” episodes, including this one (Season 1, Ep. 10: “Taiwan”), have become available on Amazon video. Viewers of the docudrama sometimes search for more about the story and land on Alexander’s Wikipedia page, which leads to info about Hostage In Taipei, which may lead to the interested party purchasing the paperback or ebook. One such viewer / searcher / reader was a Christian media person, who then invited McGill Alexander as a guest on his podcast. Find it in audio or video here:

 Artwork for Audio Mullet #35: How To Forgive The Man Who Shot Your Daughter Audio Mullet #35: How To Forgive The Man Who Shot Your Daughter  Or, even better, watch video of the episode on Youtube here.

Doug TenNapel and Ethan Nicolle welcome special guest McGill Alexander from South Africa, who was in an intense hostage situation many years ago while living in Taiwan. A notorious murderer and rapist held his family hostage for 26 hours, shooting McGill and his daughter – both survived. McGill and his wife later brought a Bible to the man who held them hostage and led him to Christ, forgiving him for what he put them through. This interview is all about that act – loving those who are your enemies, praying for those who persecute you. Why are we called to do it and what does it mean?

(In the 40-minute interview, McGill tells the story with such passion and freshness, you’d think it happened yesterday.)

Then, it so happens that one of the “Mullet” podcasters, Ethan Nicolle, also co-hosts the Babylon Bee podcast, which then hosted McGill on Jan 24. This one is probably even more indepth and thoughtful. You can listen to this 48-minute podcast segment on this page: Forgiving The Man Who Took My Family Hostage: The McGill Alexander Interview Jan 24, 2020.

You may know the Babylon Bee as a Christian / Political satire site. There are good vibes but no satire this time, as the story is deadly serious, has eternal ramifications, and has provided challenging, inspiring testimony to the world. In their interview, Kyle Mann and Ethan Nicolle covered these topics and more:

    • McGill’s story : How this hostage event happened and who the criminal was

    • McGill’s Christian faith

    • How did McGill get through this horrible event?

    • Forgiveness- what is it and what does it look like?

    • How long did it take to forgive, was this a process, and what was going through his mind as all this was happening?

    • Is forgiveness completely unconditional?

    • Does forgiveness condone the evil?

    • We live in a “show no mercy” culture nowadays, especially on social media. How does forgiveness shape how we approach this culture?

We at Cladach appreciate the length of these podcasts and the time they gave McGill to tell his story, as well as the excellent questions and subjects covered in the discussions. (Thank you, Ethan.) We are also pleased at the increase in sales we have noticed as a result of these media opportunities. And we are even more pleased that the Alexander’s story is reaching ever-widening audiences.

In another part of the world, McGill Alexander was invited to Indonesia by CNA, an English-language Asian news network, to appear in an episode of The Negotiators to tell his hostage-crisis story, which was also reenacted. The 47-minute episode can be viewed at:

 The Negotiators: Ep 2: Taipei Hostage Crisis (Updated: ) Taiwan’s most-wanted criminal holds a South African diplomat’s family hostage at gunpoint. Negotiators find themselves trying to do their work in the midst of a frantic media circus.


Even though McGill was ill while in Indonesia for this filming, he did a great job.

I thank God for continuing to open doors for this story and testimony to be told through both Christian and secular media.

 

On Veteran’s Day – Honoring Our Authors Who Have Served

Today (and every Veterans Day) we especially acknowledge and thank these Cladach Authors who have served in the Armed Forces of their Country and the cause of freedom:

1. John Buzzard

Served in the U.S. Navy during Operation Desert Storm. Buzzard tells a lot of his Navy experience in his memoir Storm Tossed (under the pseudonym Jake Porter)


2. Dennis Ellingson

Served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. At the time Ellingson didn’t know he’d become an author of many books, including God’s Healing Herbs and The Godly Grandparent.


3. George Herbert Cummings

Served in the U.S. Army during World War II and with the occupation forces in Korea, as a Chaplain’s Assistant. Many years later, Rev. Dr. Cummings authored Making It In Marriage.


4. James Troy Turner

Served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Some of Turner’s Poems allude to that experience and its aftermath.


5. McGill Alexander

A highly decorated Paratrooper in the South African Army, he retired as a Brigadier General. More of General Alexander’s thrilling story is told in his book, Hostage In Taipei.


Thank you, gentlemen, for your service.


Everything I Need to Know About Publishing I Learned from my Preacher Father

My father, G.H. Cummings, preaching on the radio as a young man

Practically being raised on a church pew helped set me on a literary path. We sang with gusto the gospel song, “Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace; tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.” During my growing-up years as my father’s daughter, watching him and my mother minister in many churches, I learned:

The potency and potential of words in a book.

In those days in church we were people of two books: the Bible and the hymnal. Every church service began and ended with opening that wondrous, heavy book, often holding it so the person next to you could share it. The hymnal united us as we joined our voices in lilting melodies and straightforward harmonies accompanied by my mother’s lively piano playing, often eliciting “amens” of blessing. All the symbols to help us make music together resided on the pages of that book, all the words to elicit such response, blended in heart-stirring, mind-engaging, and soul-satisfying rhythm, sense and rhyme.

In every meeting the Bible was also opened—and revered. The congregation stood for “the reading of the Word.” With a reverent, sonorous, unctuous voice, the preacher read a passage from the Bible, then exhorted from its inexhaustible storehouse of truth, wisdom, and life application. I saw evangelists hold their big, black, leather Bibles aloft in one large hand while exclaiming something like, “The Word of God is alive! It is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing enough to reveal your sin.” And I quaked. But I also learned, quite young, that real comfort could be experienced from those pages. No mere words on paper. But alive! Jumping off the page and into the mind and heart of the reader or the listener. Quickening!

The joy of writing, printing, and disseminating words on paper.

I watched my preacher father as he typed the church bulletin—and perhaps a newsletter—during the week on his old black typewriter (I loved the clicking of the keys and how the little hammers hit the paper, resulting in words appearing and forming themselves into sentences that said something and that people would read and use to plan their week). On Saturday Daddy would crank out maybe two-hundred copies with his mimeograph machine. I can still smell the ink and hear the sheets of paper swoosh round the rollers and shoot out onto the pile of materials ready to be folded and stacked, then handed out and read—to inform and influence—to be published!

The importance of getting the word out.

Twice a year our churches held extended revival services with an itinerant evangelist, and, in preparation, Daddy would mimeograph a flyer about the upcoming week of meetings. I remember a few times when he paid my sister and me 5¢ each per city block to take the flyers door-to-door and invite people to the services (though “city block” doesn’t quite describe neighborhoods in these rural towns surrounded by farms). My sister and I learned the importance of overcoming our trepidation, knocking on doors, and getting out the word (much like the publicity side of book publishing).

The value of reading and sharing books.

We had few toys and TV (which we got when I was about 11) was our only “tech” entertainment. But always there were books. Books lined the shelves in my father’s study. He took my sister and me to the public library regularly, encouraging us to browse and check out books that interested us. My sister read every horse book she could find, especially those by Walter Farley. I read all the Louisa May Alcott books. And when we brought books home from school or library, our mother often read them, too, and we all enjoyed discussing together the stories. In fact, my sister and I always told each other the stories we read. As a result, I felt I’d read the Black Stallion books even though I never did. And she knew the characters and plots in Little Women and Under the Lilacs even though she didn’t read them. She didn’t have to. That ability to vicariously experience the stories really helped, because there were so many more books to discover! (A side note: When I was a girl I’d hear people argue their point in conversation by saying, “I know it’s true. I read it in a book!” Whether people were readers or not, I observed that most had a sort of reverential awe of books.)

The importance of knowing your readers, your audience, your market.

My father made it a practice to call on his flock in their homes regularly and also to be there whenever trouble hit a family. He would stop by their businesses, farms, and work places for a friendly chat. When he stood in the pulpit to preach on Sunday, he knew those people. He knew their families, their joys and sorrows, the challenges they faced. He also knew their interests, their hobbies, what made them laugh or cry.

How to recruit, train, and encourage workers.

The work and mission of the church needed people of all abilities and ages (and still does). I saw discernment in operation, encouragement expressed, and responsibilities entrusted. Organizing, scheduling, holding meetings were necessary. But loving God and loving people mattered most. Whether or not I heard that expressed in so many words, I definitely “caught” the mindset. As a publisher I want to see increased sales and distribution. I want well-edited and designed books, I want engaged authors, reliable print providers, and enthusiastic book reviewers. I want readers to be encouraged, enlightened, and entertained by our books. But most of all I want to experience God’s presence in all we do. I want to always remember that, as a Christian publisher, what we publish truly is “glad tidings.”

~Catherine Lawton

Sweet Sorrow at Christmas

Ah, Christmas! Bright lights, hustle and bustle, joyous music and celebrations….

Yet, hidden behind all the glitter, many people feel the pangs of sadness and loneliness more acutely during the Christmas season. If you have ever experienced a great loss at Christmastime, the holiday season awakens that grief again each year.

I know. My mother died on December 19, many years ago. My father was the pastor of a loving church at the time, and the people were sweet to us, though they also grieved the death of their beloved pastor’s wife. Our family found comfort in togetherness—my husband and I with our two toddlers, my sister, and our dad. After the funeral, we stayed and spent Christmas in our parents’ home, with everything around us to remind us of Mother. … But no mother/wife/grandmother. She simply and permanently was not here.

At a time when we celebrated the birth of Jesus who brought new life, we learned first-hand the awful separation and finality of death. The first night after she died, I lay awake in the guest bedroom listening to Daddy sobbing his heart out in the next room.

She was too young to die—in her forties. But she was gone.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I wanted our toddler children to have fun, not just sadness, so we borrowed little sleds and took them out to play in the snowy woods. In the fresh, crisp air, laughter came as a wonderful relief, and was exactly what Mother would want for us. Maybe she saw us and smiled with joy.

Mother had a way of infusing Christmas with music, anticipation, beauty, delicious tastes and scents, warmth and surprises. She loved decorating the house and the church, preparing special music and programs for Christmas Sunday, often sewing new dresses for my sister and me, baking cookies, and taking us Christmas shopping.

I love Christmas, too; but even after many years, the bright lights, the biting scent of pine, the taste of cinnamon and cider, the making of fudge and fruitcake, the singing of carols, the ringing of Christmas bells, the decorating of the tree, the excitement of gift giving—all is sweet sorrow.

I wonder: Did sadness mix with joy for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she carried her baby to the temple and heard Simeon prophesy her child’s death? He said, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary didn’t understand yet that Jesus’ death as well as his life would bring eternal joy in the heavens and cause celebrations of his birth for centuries to come. But she would certainly experience heart-piercing sorrow and separation.

Years later, as Mary watched Jesus die a tragic, painful death, did she despair? Or did the memory of the miracles surrounding his birth and life give her hope? Life won out. His death brought our spiritual birth.

Now we know, because of his birth, life and death, we can live—and celebrate Christmas—in the certain hope that death will not have the final victory.

That one Christmas—the year my vibrant, young Mother died—has influenced every one of my Christmases since. Our bereaved family celebrated together that year with gifts and festive food. Then we drove up a snowy hillside to a fresh, flower-covered grave site. The contrast of the red roses and holly-covered grave against the icy, brown hills spoke to my warring emotions.

There, feeling the pain of death’s separation, I looked up into the evening sky and noticed the first star twinkling, and I smiled through my tears. Her physical presence is gone from us here. But someday we may be with her “there.” The realities of pain, suffering, and death are inescapable. But the hope of Christmas lives!


The story of the healing I have experienced in regards to my mother is found in the book, Journeys to Mother Love: Nine Women Tell Their Stories of Forgiveness and Healing.

 

Season of Anticipation

Welcome, November! A season of change and anticipation.

Here in Colorado we can see “every season in every season.” A sudden chill may hit and bring snow in October or November. Then back to 60 and 70 degree sunny days. But no matter where you live, change is in the air.

As we anticipate upcoming holy days and holidays, we at Cladach are preparing good things to share with our readers—some for this season and some for all seasons

1. Janyne McConnaughey has written a companion volume to her psychological memoir, BRAVE, entitled Jeannie’s BRAVE Childhood : Behavior and Healing through the Lens of Attachment and Trauma with a release planned for January/February. We hope to have the book available by Christmas. What a great gift for anyone who has children or works with children, and anyone who experienced trauma in their own childhood. If you enjoyed BRAVE (and many have) then you will love this companion volume.

2.    Yes, I (Catherine Lawton) am the publisher at Cladach, But I am also an author and poet. I am passionate about some things, such as my grandchildren, good books, and experiencing God in nature. I have combined these interests in a Christmas picture book, Something Is Coming To Our World : How a Backyard Bird Sees Christmas. Available late November on Amazon and elsewhere. This little, colorful book will be an experience for families to share.

3. Watch for new interviews, videos, giveaways, and sales on the many seasonal and gift-worthy books we publish. Stay tuned! Let joy-filled anticipation of good things rise in your heart throughout the month of November.

Look for—and you will find—God, in this season.
“Praise the Lord from the heavens… Praise the Lord from the earth … Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 148:1,7,14)
Art by Isabelle Lawton © 2016. See more of her art/illustrations in my book of poetry, Remembering Softly : A Life In Poems.
 

 

Grace to Mothers and Fathers Grieving Aborted Babies

Sunset sky

Mother’s Day is painful for many people, for the bereaved, the childless, and those who suffer from post-abortion grief.

Not long so, my husband and I visited a friend in his home. Though he’s been married more than once, he has no children. Speaking of that fact, he got a little misty-eyed. Then he pointed to a memento sitting atop his TV: a ceramic baby booty. He said it represents a baby he fathered that the mother didn’t allow to come to birth.

I saw the tear in our friend’s eye. And I heard the wistfulness in his voice when he told me he believed this child of his would meet in Heaven.

I was touched by the emotions of this man, over something that happened decades ago.

If you believe, as many Christians do, that babies and young children who die before the age of accountability go to Heaven; and if you believe that unborn babies are persons with eternal souls; then you believe as I do that all those aborted babies will be in Heaven. Perhaps they’ve been growing and developing in the nurture of Jesus and loving saints. Then, what a host of beloved children are waiting there.

Our friend obviously believes and hopes to meet his one child someday in the heavenly realms.

One of the contributors to Journeys to Mother Love, Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, has written movingly about her post-abortion experiences and healing. To our friend and to Kyleen, and to the many women and men who chose abortion when they felt trapped, hopeless, and helpless … the Lord of mercy and grace has healing, hope, and restoration for you. And He is taking care of your child. May that thought give you comfort this Mother’s Day.

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The emotions that can lead to—and result from—the choice of an abortion, are expressed in this video trailer for the novel Katie’s Choice, by Tracy Langford:

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