Gaslighting

by Elizabeth

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Gaslighting. The first time it happens to you, you may be unimaginably confused. You may not know what is going on for years — maybe even decades. But once you see gaslighting for the manipulative mess it really is, you won’t be so easily confused (or controlled) the next time.

I’m going to describe just one aspect of gaslighting, the aspect I’m most familiar with: false accusations. For years I was confused by false accusations. I knew I had not done the things I and my loved ones were accused of doing. I thought if I could just explain what really happened, that my accuser would finally understand and agree that I — and we — did not do those things.

I misunderstood. I thought truth was the goal. I was wrong. Truth was never the goal. Manipulation was the goal. Control was the goal. But truth was never the goal. Unfortunately, pain was the result.

Today we are in an era of Me Too, a long-overdue time when victims of abuse absolutely must be heard and cared for. I’ve been an advocate for victims in the past. So has my husband.

But I was double minded. On the one hand, I knew we needed to believe victims when they get brave enough to tell their (oftentimes horrific) stories. On the other hand, I was afraid that advocating for victim stories meant that all accusations should be believed, even and including the false accusations that I (and other loved ones) had been receiving for years.

I feared that advocating for Me Too would automatically mean that all accusations of abuse of any kind would be believed. I feared that in an atmosphere of victims speaking out, that someone might believe the kinds of accusations that had been leveled against us. Being in public ministry, this was a double fear. It was not just about the truth, it was not just about my good name. I was also afraid of false accusations wrecking our ministry. Destroying any positive influence we had. And even dissolving our salary.

This is a false fear. Just because we need to listen to the stories of abuse victims doesn’t mean that there aren’t also false accusations out there. We must take in the entire context of a story. And the entire context is that an abuser will abuse. They will hurt you on purpose, over and over and over again. And a gaslighter will gaslight. They will accuse you of doing and saying things you never, ever did. Things you would never, ever dream of doing or saying. That’s why it’s so confusing.

To top it all off, the things the gaslighter accuses you of are often the very sins they are themselves guilty of. But until you know your gaslighter much better, you won’t realize they are accusing you of their own sins, their own crimes. That’s part of why it can take so long to see it, the first time it happens to you. Gaslighters are masters at control and manipulation, so they will hide their sins from you. You won’t know they are projecting their sins onto you. You won’t know where the false allegations came from. You will think they are coming out of thin air. You will think you can clear up the “misunderstanding” with better communication. But you can’t clear it up, because those accusations didn’t come out of thin air: they came from inside the gaslighter.

But you don’t know any of this the first time it happens to you. The first time it happens, it feels like the ground is falling out from under you. You start to doubt your memory, even if you (like me) have always had an exceptional memory. You think to yourself that you never did that thing. You KNOW you never did that thing. But when someone else is so insistent that you did or said that thing, you start to wonder if maybe you did do that thing, and that you just don’t remember it. It’s absolutely crazymaking.

Eventually you might receive such outrageous accusations that you do in fact know you never did those things. That is about the time you start to see the gaslighting for what it is: behavior meant to entrap you.

But wait, there’s more to it than that. Sometimes a gaslighter will pop in with wonderful acts of kindness. They will spend money on you, give you a gift, spend a lovely afternoon with you. They will suddenly be super sweet and kind to you after months or years of nastiness. Don’t be fooled by this tactic, either. It’s also meant to confuse you. You will think, that person was so cruel to me, but now they are being so kind, maybe they really aren’t that bad. Maybe they are someone I really do want in my life.

Except they aren’t someone you want in your life. You will always be on edge around them, fearing the next false accusation while simultaneously hoping like a heroine addict for the next act of kindness. That heroine reference is no joke. Experiments have been done showing that rats get more addicted to drug dispensers that unpredictably dispense the drugs. More addicted to unpredictable dispenser than predictable dispensers. Being rewarded unevenly is more addictive that being rewarded evenly. That’s because you never know what you’re going to get, and you’re always hoping that this will be the time you will get the drug (or the kindness).

So you stay. You wait. You hope for goodness, you hope for change. You hope for something better. And because you occasionally get treated better, you keep sticking around thinking it’s going to happen again. Even though most of the treatment is cruel and manipulative. Even though you don’t feel safe, ever — even when the kindness is pouring out, because you know deep down the kindness won’t last. But those confusing messages of cruelty and kindness will keep you there in the clutches of the gaslighter.

It’s very difficult to see, the first time it happens to you. It may take years of pain and even time in a counselor’s office, working through what you think are YOUR issues, to see that the issue was never yours to begin with. The simple truth is that you were dealing with a manipulator. A gaslighter. And it’s not your fault. But it is your responsibility. To run. To put up boundaries between yourself and your gaslighter. To do the hard work of releasing yourself from guilt over staying in an unhealthy relationship so long, because you didn’t know any better. And truly, you didn’t know. But when you do know, you can protect yourself. You can get out.

And you need to get out, even if getting out means that your gaslighter will tell lies about you to other people, lies that are believed because gaslighters are very good at manipulating emotions in other people (beginning with yours!). Getting out of a relationship with a gaslighter means you have to accept that other people might believe the gaslighter. That’s ok. What other people believe about you is not your responsibility, even if it’s unjust and unfair. (And believe me, I know how unjust and unfair it is!) Getting away from a toxic person is good and healthy for you, even if your reputation takes a hit. Being with a toxic person is a continuous hit on your heart and your soul. It’s better to get out, even if false accusations come later.

Here’s the thing about false accusations: they’re false. You know, and God knows, and the people who really know you, also know that they are false. Of course an accuser is going to accuse. Of course an abuser is going to abuse. That is what they do. That is what you can expect them to do. It shouldn’t surprise us when liars lie and stealers steal and abusers abuse and gaslighters gaslight. If we are still afraid of our gaslighter making public, false accusations, then we are living in fear. We are still under their control. We are still under their spell. We are always looking over our shoulders, desperately afraid the other shoe will drop, and they will “ruin” everything.

But I think we need to tell and live a different story. In situations like these I think the bravest, sanest thing we can do is refuse to be afraid of false accusations from a habitual false accuser. We can choose to live FREE.

The Key to Being a Human Christian

I love the Psalms.

In my work as a pastoral counselor and occasional preacher, I talk about them a lot. The hope is that by developing an awareness of the Psalms, folks would feel free to start feeling their feelings, talking about their feelings, and perhaps even talking to God about their feelings. That would be a good thing.

But I didn’t know I talked about them this much. As is evident by the lists below, I’ve talked and sung and written a bunch about the Psalms. And I’m not stopping.

Because although the Psalms do not help us to become super Christians, the Psalms do in fact help us to become human Christians. And the world (and global missions) needs as many of those types as we can get…

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Articles
The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement (part 1)

The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement (part 2)

A Missionary’s Call to the Psalms and Deeper Emotional Intelligence

Some thoughts on how to combine the Psalms with Discovery Bible Studies and inner healing ministries.

Here’s a three-minute video showing one way to interface with the Psalms. You can read more on this method here.

 

Podcasts/Sermons
Despair is Where Hope Lives (Psalm 130)

Pilgrim Songs (Psalms 120-124)

On Peace, Busyness, and Remembering that I’m Not God (Psalm 131)

Teleporting, Editing, and Borrowing (Psalm 31)

On Rest, Loss, and Revenge (Psalm 3)

The Posture of God (Psalm 116)

Psalms – Songs for our time

 

Songs
Follow Close (Psalm 63)

 

Spiritual Warfare Lullaby (Psalm 23, Psalm 91)

 

Psalm 13

 

One Thing I Ask (Psalm 27)

In a world gone mad, sympathy is not enough. Here’s something that is. {from A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

Cross-cultural workers often have tons of sympathy. We see the needs (physical, spiritual, etc.), we answer the call, and we GO. And that’s just great.

Sometimes we stir up sympathy for the poor and the marginalized; we fund raise with pictures aimed to generate pity and money. And that’s not so great. But it is relatively easy.

Sympathy is a powerful start, but it is not the finish. So I don’t want to talk about sympathy. I don’t want to talk about the pros and cons of feeling (or generating) sympathy. I want to talk about something much more potent.

I want to talk about empathy. I want to talk about the power of empathy in a world gone mad.

“Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And, if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees.” ~ Brené Brown

 

Continue reading over at A Life Overseas

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Rest is Not the Absence of Work, It’s the Presence of the King {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today . . . .

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The words sleep and rest are nearly synonymous in my mind. We wake feeling rested after a good night’s sleep. Conversely, we feel disappointingly not rested after a fitful night’s sleep. Sleep is a gift, and certainly, it is a type of rest, but it’s not the only kind of rest we need.

We also need the kind of rest that lets us stop striving. The kind of rest that lets us stop worrying, that lets us stop working. We need the kind of rest that lets us stop rushing. “All our busy rushing ends in nothing,” David proclaimed in Psalm 39:6. Our daily lives have changed significantly since then, but in all those years the human heart hasn’t changed. David’s words are as true today as they were 3000 years ago.

If we spend some time studying the world David lived in, we can find fresh meaning in the word rest. In the Old Testament, “rest” referred to a dwelling or habitation. More specifically, the settlement in Canaan provided rest to the Israelites. In ancient times in general, rest meant that the battle was over and the king was on his throne. Rest meant that regular rhythms could be taken up because the people weren’t at war anymore.

Finish reading here.

10 Life Lessons That Leading Worship 600 Times Taught Me

It just sort of happened.

As a teenager growing up in an a cappella church with an a cappella youth group, I sang a lot. In a non-instrumental church, any guy who can loosely carry a tune will be asked to carry that tune. A lot. And so I was. Over and over. And over. No guitar skills necessary.

In college, our inter-denominational student ministry needed a band leader. I still lacked all guitar skills, but no matter, they tagged me and I became the de facto leader for our Thursday night gatherings.

And then I actually started working for a church, leading the youth and worship ministries. I led worship nearly every Sunday for about six years. And that’s how we get to 600 plus.

I recently sat down to ponder what life lessons those experiences taught me.

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1. It’s not about me.
Whether I’m standing before a group of 15 or 500, it’s not about me. It’s about the struggling mom of littles, the financially-strapped couple wondering how to make ends meet. It’s about the widower who feels his loneliness deep in his bones. It’s about the teen who’s trying to figure out who she is — and who God is.

Of course, it’s not about me.

And of course, it’s not primarily about them either. It’s about the Father who is longing to connect with his beloved people through moments of communion and community. It’s about the presence of the only One who is worthy; it’s about what the Spirit is saying to his Church.

 

2. Sometimes, you just have to show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
When you do anything over and over and over again, even if it’s a good thing, there will come a time when you don’t feel like doing it. Well, what’s a worship leader (or human) supposed to do? Is it inauthentic to stand before people when you’ve had a crappy night’s sleep, or when you’re in the middle of a big fight with your wife, and pretend that things are OK?

I really had to wrestle with this. Every Sunday is not a glorious day, and there were many Sundays the last thing I wanted to do was go to church, much less lead people in worship.

Showing up and doing your job, even when you don’t feel like it, isn’t inauthenticity. It’s actually maturity.

One question that continues to help me with this is, “Who is benefiting from my NOT revealing everything?” Am I hiding my true self from people in order to protect myself? In order to avoid intimacy? Or am I not revealing EVERY THING IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT to get myself out of the way and help people meet with God? Is it for me or for them? If it’s for them, then it’s probably OK. (Of course, this assumes that at some point, and with some people, the leader will be authentic and vulnerable.)

God is worthy of worship whether I feel like it or not, and sometimes I need to stand before him and worship not because of my feelings, but in spite of my feelings. This is true about leading worship, and it’s true about leading life.

 

3. Smiling matters. A lot.
Effie Harnden was a kind old lady who became The Great Encourager of my 16-year-old self. When I was just starting out, someone told me, “Locate the few people who are smiling; look at them often.” I looked at Effie a lot.

It’s pretty good life advice too, “Locate the few people who are smiling; look at them often.”

 

4. Eye contact matters.
I’ve seen worship leaders who never look at a single person in the audience. That M.O. can look super-spiritual, and maybe it is. Maybe they’re lost in total adoration, caught up in the moment. Or maybe they’re just super disconnected from the people their leading.

In life too, I’ve seen people who never notice the people in front of them. So look at people, look at their eyes, wonder about their stories, ask about their stories. If you do, you will impact people very deeply; for when it comes down to it, we are all longing to be seen, even if we’re desperately afraid of it.

 

5. Church people are the worst.
Some people at some churches hated me. They disliked my style, my music, and maybe even my face. It’s just the way it is. Some people will not like you no matter what you do. That does not necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong or bad, but it does mean that you (and they) are humans.

 

6. Church people are the best.
It was church guys who painted our house when my mom was sick with terminal cancer.

It was the “casserole ladies” who fed us.

It was inter-generational trips and Bible studies that showed me how to be a Christian adult, not just a Christian teen.

It was a man, a leader in the church, who came to my side when I couldn’t finish leading God Moves In a Mysterious Way. The cancer-induced tears were drowning me. He stood with me, shoulder to shoulder. We were two men at the front of a church, one young and crying, unable to voice anything. The other, older, an elder, choking tears and singing through empathy.

I will never forget that moment, because in that moment, standing vulnerable before God and his people, I was not alone. I was joined by a man thirty years my senior, and I was saved.

 

7. Complainers complain.
It’s what they do. But it is possible, sometimes, to maintain a positive relationship with complainers. And when it’s possible, it’s also extremely valuable.

But sometimes complainers are just toxic and keeping relationship with them is inadvisable. One key difference? If the complainers really want what’s best for you and for the church, they just really disagree with you, it’s probably best to try to maintain a friendship. If they’re out to control and dominate, manipulating through pressure and threats, to meet their own twisted needs, yeah, run away.

 

8. Every minute leading people requires two minutes NOT leading people.
At least.

The times that you’re NOT leading are more important than the times when you are leading. It may not look related, but sabbath has a direct impact on Sunday.

 

9. Displaying authentic emotions, even tears, in front of people, may be the most “leaderish” thing you ever do.
We live in hard times, and my current job as a pastoral counselor has convinced me (again) that most people do not feel free to really feel their feelings. They feel societal, religious, familial pressure to “keep it all together,” whatever that means. By showing emotions, leaders can help change this. We must change this.

 

10. If at the end of the day, people only remember your skills (or skinny jeans), you’ve failed.
When it really matters, people won’t care about your vocal ability. People won’t care about your flashy .pptx or Prezi or Keynote. People won’t care about your hair style or flannel shirt. At the end of the day, people will ask, “Did he care about us? Did he care about the Church?”

Basically, what matters when the sun sets are these three things:

  • Was I a person of faith, even in my doubts?
  • Did I demonstrate hope, even through my despair?
  • And in a world gone mad, did I love like Christ?

May God help us all to live towards that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I drafted this article, I wept.

I remembered my church, the Red Bridge church of Christ, and my breath caught.

You see, as I pondered, I realized something: I needed them way more than they needed me. That’s just the truth. I was in front of them, but they were leading me. I taught them new songs, but they taught me what Jesus looked like with skin on. I cried in front of them, and they joined their hearts with mine and embodied those beautiful people who mourn with. I got frustrated with them and I’m sure they got frustrated with me, and yet, we stayed friends. I’m so very glad we did, for those dear saints showed me what a “long obedience” could look like.

I’ll forever be grateful for the group of God’s people who invited a scrawny teenager with a pitch pipe to stand, to cry, to lead. They taught me so much, and I will never forget them.

 

*Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

 

10 Life Lessons that leading worship 600 times taught me

A Few of My Favorite Things {September/October 2018}

by Elizabeth

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We moved back to Asia two months ago and have been busy ever since, but I’m here today with some favorites for you.

A couple online fitness sources I’m really loving right now are the Lazy Dancer Tips Youtube channel and the Fitness Blender website. I especially love videos for improving core strength, releasing back and neck pain, and improving overall flexibility. (Ask me for specific favorites if you want them!)

I’m using some essential oils: peppermint in the morning (and for headaches) and lavender at night.

I’m back to enjoying coconut milk in my morning coffee. I just couldn’t find any coconut milk in America that tasted like the coconut milk here in Cambodia, so I used half and half. I like half and half, but I also like coconut milk on tropical mornings!

I got to start teaching science at co-op again, and it really helps sew up the tears in my soul. I might write more about that some time, but for now I’m just happy to be in the classroom again.

I attended an adult dance class. I’m trying to take better care of my mind and my body and tend to the ways in which they are connected, and I hope this dance class can be part of that. I was thoroughly confused during much of the first class, but I’m hoping that changes as I attend in the future.

I’m also working on my anxiety. Will be able to talk more about that in the coming months. For now I’m just admitting I have been struggling with anxiety for awhile and seeking more guidance and healing. I had not dealt with it for many years, but it’s back and getting in the way of normal life functioning.

 

BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Delightful story. Montgomery was a favorite childhood author of mine. A friend on Facebook recommended this book, so it inspired me to read it (it’s cheap and I had loaded it onto my Kindle ages ago but never read it). I was entranced. The story is hilarious, and Montgomery is also a wise observer of human nature and relationships. I always get a kick out of old authors who describe reality so accurately. Life may have changed over the years, but humans haven’t changed much, have they? It’s a short read (and cheap on Kindle!), so treat yourself to it soon.

Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse. Also recommended by a friend on FB. Wodehouse is hilarious in his Bertram Wooster series. He’s still funny in this stand-alone story, though somewhat less so in my opinion. Free on Kindle!

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I re-read this book to my younger kids, who didn’t hear it the first time around. We loved it. Again, this is a book nearly a hundred years old that seems so contemporary. Such a great handbook on child development too, if you want to see it that way. If you just want to see it as a great story, that’s fine too. Cheap on Kindle.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Rereading this to my younger children for our Sonlight American History course. It is just as good as it was several years ago, if not more so! I wrote about it before, here.

Families Where Grace is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff Van Vonderen. I’ve read a lot of books on marriage and parenting, so many that I’ve stopped reading them — so many seem formulaic or simplistic or place more burdens on already tired, struggling people. This book is different. I’ve had it for years but for some reason the introduction didn’t pull me in, so I never actually read it till now. It is so good. Van Vonderen is a counselor and it’s clear he has sat with so many suffering people. He shines a light on the way religion can be used to keep people captive. He explains how unhealthy relationships get started and keep going. He shows how shame hurts people. And then he teaches us how we can do family life better: with grace, boundaries, and honesty. Single best book I’ve ever read on the Christian family.

(No More Perfect Kids is probably the second best book I’ve read about parenting. Other important influences on my parenting have generally just been good books on Grace, on receiving it for myself. I can’t give my kids what I haven’t received from God myself. I think of Grace for the Good Girl, From Good to Grace, and Prodigal God as top three contenders in the Grace arena.  But marriage and parenting books in general, I dislike and don’t think are particularly helpful. I’d love to hear in the comments either how you feel about marriage and parenting books or which ones you think are particularly helpful.)

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher. This book is about so much more than NFP (which, full disclosure, I don’t practice anymore). I bought the book because I read several of Simcha Fisher’s scathing, insightful blog posts (which are linked in a section below). I thought this would be a funny and practical take on life with NFP, but like I said, it was about so much more. This book is worth the price for chapter 3 alone, which delves into the ideas of “God’s will.” Anyone who grew up in 1990’s cultural Christianity with heavy emphasis on finding and doing the Will of God needs this chapter. She balances our incorrect views of what God’s will means, and if you’re anything like me, it will make you cry both with its compassion and with its truth.

She also delves into suffering — the Cross. That we should not look down on our suffering, just because it isn’t our neighbor’s, and we should not look down on our neighbor’s suffering, just because it isn’t ours: we all have a Cross. She gave me the courage to accept the suffering that is in my life right now, regardless of what it looks like compared to other people’s suffering. Simcha offers a fresh interpretation of Jesus’ words “do not worry about tomorrow,” something I always need more of. It goes something like this: “Your now self can’t imagine handling the future, but you won’t be your now-self handling the future, you will be your future-self” (my paraphrase). Later on she has a lot of insight into marriage, specifically regarding issues of NFP, but they are applicable all across the board for how married people can love each other better.

The Message by Eugene Peterson. I have not historically enjoyed The Message. It seemed too “out there.” I really, really like the New Living Translation and have been reading it for about 10 years now. I’m still using the NLT while using the Message more as a commentary on favorite passages (especially Matthew 6) and the Psalms rather than a primary reading source. Mainly to add a different perspective to my original reading. But my Bible reading tastes are varied, because I also use the Scottish Psalter, published in 1635, as an adjunct to my Psalm reading. The Psalter enables Psalm-singing, and I love it.

And I’m back to reading Christianity Today. I think my brain was too tired in America to keep reading their articles. But now that I’m back into a routine in Cambodia, my brain is able to engage a little bit more. I appreciate that Christianity Today, while never misinterpreting or teaching against the Bible, still dares to question unhealthy or merely cultural practices and mindsets. After 6 years overseas, I find that I can still strongly relate to the content in Christianity Today, an American periodical. In my opinion, CT remains true to biblical Christianity without being overly culturally influenced.

 

BLOG POSTS FOR OVERSEAS WORKERS

Moving Abroad Can Sure Mess Up Your Autocomplete by Craig Thompson. Funny!

5 Newton Street – a Love Story by Marilyn Gardner. Emotive and insightful as always.

Missions or Wanderlust? by Stephie. Important.

If I Had to Get a Job by Anisha Hopkinson. Again, funny.

10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, a Quiz by Rachel Pieh Jones. Really important reminders.

8 Things I Forget to Love About a Life Overseas by Jerry Jones. More important reminders.

GRIT: A Guide to Praying for Third Culture Kids by Lauren Wells. Exactly what the title says it is.

TCK Lessons: Everyone Leaves by Tanya Crossman. This is a real phenomenon for Third Culture Kids. My kids have been saying this phrase for some time now, and recently had occasion to say it again. How can it not be true? We are all, after all, guests in our host country. No matter how long-term we are as global workers, we will, in time, return to our passport countries.

 

BLOG POSTS REGARDING ABUSE, ASSAULT, AND ACCUSATIONS

Lament for the Disbelieved by Tanya Marlow. Some of the political controversy in the States may be over for now, but this is still a vitally important message. The same goes for the next two pieces by Simcha Fisher, author of the NFP book I reviewed above.

Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, When Do Girls Matter? (Be prepared for a bad word at the end.)

If she was sexually assaulted, why didn’t she say something sooner? Written a year ago, long before the most recent political catastrophe. The issues are the same and have been for decades. We need to wake up and pay attention to this problem.

 

JUST PLAIN GOOD BLOG POSTS

You are not dead. You are waiting. By Simcha Fisher.

Would You Even Like Jesus? by Jonathan Trotter

He’s just a . . . by Jonathan Trotter. (Yes I do like my husband’s writing, thankyouverymuch!)

Still Scandalous by Jen Pollock Michel.

On Seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls and Pondering My Own Household God by Jen Oshman.

A God Veiled in Time and Space But Revealed in Christ by Shayne Looper. I’ve had some real life conversations and watched some online video interviews and have been contemplating belief and unbelief. I want to write more about it eventually, but I think in the end having belief means making room for mystery and not having all the questions answered. Unbelief doesn’t answer all the questions either. It has its own set of problems. This is a good discussion of some of the issues.

 

MOVIES AND PODCASTS

Goodbye Christopher Robin. A lot of the issues in this story applies to ministry families. A real tear-jerker.

Wonder. We watched this as a family. I had avoided it for fear it would be too sad or difficult. But it’s really really worth the watch, even if I did cry!

Faith and Reason from Bibliofiles. Good discussion of faith and unbelief.

Forgive Jerks, a short video from Nadia Bolz-Weber.

 

SONGS

Defender by Rita Springer. “When I thought I lost me, you knew where I left me.” This song met me in all kinds of good ways.

Sing My Way Back by Steffany Gretzinger. “When I lose direction, when I can’t see the stars, if we get disconnected, I’ll sing my way back to Your heart, I’ll sing my way back to Your arms.”