Feb 26 2009

Purity

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Over the last couple of weeks, the youth group at my church has been talking about purity. They asked me to share some of my story with the girls. I wish I could say that I really connected with them and sharing my story made a positive difference in their lives… but I can’t say that it did. I’m glad that I shared… but it was awkward!

The sad thing about doing a youth purity series is that the kids who would benefit from it the most are the least likely to show up.

And even if the ones who need it do show up, I’m really not sure that anything a youth pastor / youth leader says is going to have any real impact. Most of them have parents who are not modeling a “pure” lifestyle themselves.

But then again… I had a good family and good examples to follow, and I still fell into it…

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Jan 02 2009

The Shack

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If you haven’t read the book The Shack by Paul Young… it’s definitely worth the read. Here’s a video of the author’s testimony — he talks about his own struggles with sexual abuse and addiction. I’m re-reading the book now.

If you haven’t read the book, I won’t give away too much — but I will tell you that I had a very difficult time with it the first time I read it. It’s a fictional story. The author describes it as a parable. The main character has to come to a place where he faces an extremely painful situation from his past before he really meets God… but once he does meet God, it’s a close, intensely personal relationship… and despite my initial  questions about the author’s theology, I couldn’t help but find myself longing for that same kind of relationship with God… and wondering if that part of the book was nothing more than fiction too.

The idea that I could have such a close relationship with God was so appealing… but the thought I’d have to face the pain of my past in order to get there was absolutely terrifying.

The Shack was just one of the first things that God used to kinda nudge me towards a deeper relationship with Him. God used many other things and a few very special people to finally bring me to the place where I could face the pain and let someone else see my wounds.

There was a reason why I had to face the pain before I could begin to know God this way… and it wasn’t that God was withholding Himself from me as punishment for *not* dealing with it. In fact, quite the opposite was true! I was withholding myself from Him. I needed to be real with Him. My life was broken up into fragments, and I wanted to pick and choose the fragments that I’d share with God. But He wanted it all. He wanted me to face the failures and pain up-close-and-personal with my eyes open… not to shame me, but to show me that He loved me anyway, and show me the way to healing and wholeness.

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Dec 15 2008

Temptation

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Years ago, I quit a techie job because it gave me easy access to porn, and because most of the folks I worked with at the time were pretty deeply hooked on it themselves. They’d pass around files or access codes that they had found… send images… etc.

I’m glad that I got away from all that… but recently, I took a temporary job that kinda threw me into an environment where I’d have access to stuff like that again and be working with folks who had a similar mindset.

I’m glad to be able to report that I made it through the job, and despite being in a few interesting situations and working with some folks who had issues of their own, the worst thing I did was use a qausi-curse word. (Not that I’m endorsing profanity, but I am from New York City so there was a time when I made frequent use of an extensive collection of four-letter words!)

I was relieved that there wasn’t as much blatant stuff as I was expecting on this job. That helped. But it also helped that I went in with a plan to keep myself from falling:

1. I used my 1-hour commute to spend time with God. That helped me get in the right mindset for the day ahead. It’s hard to do something wrong when you’ve got a worship song stuck in your head!

2. I knew that there would be other techs on this job, so I knew that I could pass up the users where there would obviously be problems and let the other techs handle those folks. 

3. If I was accidentally exposed to something, I would just get it off the screen as quickly as possible.

4. Whenever possible, I wouldn’t work alone.  

5. I would work as quickly as possible and stay busy even if I didn’t have to be.

Things weren’t as difficult or tempting as they could have been — and I’m grateful for that — but I certainly could have gotten into some bad stuff if I had wanted to… so I’m also grateful that I passed the test in that sense.

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Nov 27 2008

Thankfulness

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Today was Thanksgiving. I’m single & all of my entended family are hundreds of miles away… so I accepted an invite from a friend to have dinner with their family. On this particular Thanksgiving, even if I had nothing else to be thankful for, this dinner experience made me extremely grateful that the family I met today wasn’t my family!

(Just kidding guys… kinda!)

But regardless, I do have a lot to be thankful for this year.

I don’t remember exactly how long it’s been since the last time I gave in to porn. The truth is, I spent so much time feeling guilty and ashamed of my past failures that I never stopped to celebrate the present victory. So this year, I’m especially thankful for that.

I’m extremely thankful to be in a church now where I can admit to a failure and not be ostracized… and where others feel comfortable sharing their failures with me. Because of this church, I’m growing in my relationship with God, finding healing… and just plain becoming a better person.

I’m thankful that even though they are hundreds of miles away, I have a family that loves me even when they don’t understand me.

I’m thankful that I can make a living doing things that I love, things that are interesting… and even things that help others.

But most of all, and trite as it might sound, I am very thankful to God for orchestrating all of this so that it came together at the perfect time and in the perfect place.

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Nov 05 2008

Forgiveness

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A couple of Sundays ago (the weekend after my last blog post), my pastor spoke about the woman who was caught in adultery… how they brought her to Jesus, and how Jesus turned the situation around by challenging the one who was without sin to cast the first stone. Jesus had no sin — He could have cast that stone — but He didn’t. He didn’t condemn the woman, but He didn’t let her off the hook either: He told her to go and sin no more.

I’ve often wondered how awesome it must have been for that woman to hear from Jesus Himself that He did not condemn her. It must have been such a huge relief! It was probably easier for her to “go and sin no more” without the weight of that condemnation on her shoulders. Everytime she thought about her failure, she could call to mind that special moment when Jesus Himself told her that she was forgiven!

I’ve often also wished the same thing for me… to have that same feeling of release and peace… that same certainty that forgiveness is mine. It’s one thing to know in your head that you’re forgiven, it’s another to feel it in your heart. My failure was a tangible thing — an event, an exact moment I could (and often did) recall. But forgiveness was more nebulous: maybe it was there, maybe it wasn’t. I still felt condemned… and believed that if people really knew me, they’d condemn me too.

But last week, forgiveness became much less nebulous…

My pastor looked me in the eyes and told me that God had forgiven me and he didn’t condemn me either. It was just a simple statement, but it made a huge impact because I think I really believed it for the first time. This wasn’t just some generic spiritual platitude… my pastor knows my story. Now, when I start to feel condemned and I start to remember my failures, I can recall another specific, tangible “event” that counteracts the condemnation. I can’t explain it fully… but that one small statement that I was forgiven has made a world of difference.

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Oct 21 2008

Valued

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The sermon at my church this past weekend had a huge impact on me. Part of it focused on just how much God loves and values us. It isn’t that I haven’t heard that sort of message before, because I have. But this time, it helped me see something different.

My relationship with God hasn’t been quite as close or strong as it should be. It’s definitely better now than it was when I was still dealing with my porn addiction, but there’s always been a certain distance there. I could attribute that to any number of things… and I’m sure there’s plenty of reasons in reality… but this weekend it was like God turned the spotlight on one area.

A couple of months ago, my pastor suggested that I read Ps 131. Here it is from the NLT:

1 Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.

2 Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
now and always.

He went on to explain the imagery in a way that I just hadn’t considered before.

A weaned child isn’t an infant, it’s a child that doesn’t need to nurse anymore. The New American Standard bible puts it this way “Like a weaned child rests against his mother.” So the picture there is of a child who climbs into his mother’s lap, not because he needs food, but to find comfort and just be close to his mother.

My pastor went on to suggest that this was the kind of relationship I needed to have with God. It was one of those things that just resonated with me immediately — I knew that what he was saying was true, I knew that I needed to have that kind of relationship with God… but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine myself actually getting there.

What he was describing was a relationship with God that involved something emotional… and I was terrified to go there for a lot of different reasons. I kinda “shut down” the emotional side of my relationship with God as a defensive thing years ago.

On Sunday, when my pastor was talking about how much God loved and valued us, I realized that there was still a part of me that just didn’t accept that as true… at least not for me. Even though I had asked God to forgive me many times for my sin, there was still a part of me that felt absolutely disgusting and unlovable… a part of me that believed NO ONE would ever want to get that close to me, not even God.

I wish I could say that I had a wonderful life-changing moment of “revelation” and the walls came down and my relationship with God became instantly wonderful. That hasn’t happened. But I know that God is up to something in my life…

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Oct 16 2008

Fear of falling

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I guess I’ll start this blog with something of a confession.

I’m scared.

And that’s why I’m starting out as kinda “anonymous.” I’m afraid of how people might react to me — what they might think about me — if they knew the person that I used to be. What would they think if they knew that I still had temptations from time to time?

Or my greater fear: what if I take this stand… then somehow I wind up falling again?

Is this really worth the risk?

Well, obviously I’ve taken the risk so I must think that there is value in it!

But I’m still scared.

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Oct 12 2008

Welcome

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This is my first post… and I don’t really even know where to start.

So I guess I’ll leave it for now!

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