A Light To My Feet

Have you ever read a book and then watch a movie based on the book, only to be disappointed. Or have you ever seen a mediocre movie and then read the book. A lot of times if someone tells me the book was fantastic compared to the movie I’ll read the book.

downloadThis happened to me recently with Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. The previews for the movie looked awesome. So I went to see it but I was rather disappointed. It wasn’t a bad movie, it just wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would be grander. I thought it would be better.

I started reading the book a week or so later. I  was quickly drawn into the story and the lives of the characters. I was able to feel what the characters felt. I was able to more fully understand the motives behind the actions of the characters.

I was able to see and understand what the author wanted me to know and understand.

directorcartoonI would say that the same concept I described above applies to the Bible. I have seen many different movies about Jesus but they always seem to be missing the depth of His character, His being. We seem to miss something when watching some of the stories and miracles.

Take the story of the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him from a hole in the roof for example. If you didn’t already know the story you may find it odd when after saying to the man “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus turns to the crowd and says “Which is 0bcdc23f205742664f5166df15eb8ee4easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” – Mark 2:5,9-10

Of course the reason Jesus says this is because He knew that the teachers of the law present were thinking that He was speaking blasphemy. They didn’t believe he was God so thought Jesus couldn’t forgive sins.

If you don’t know that already, when watching this in a movie, you would completely miss the point that it was proof that Jesus was omniscient, further reinforcing the point that He is God!

There are probably better examples I could have used. But my point is that we miss a lot of what God wants to teach or show us if we get the gospel from movies about Jesus.

God wants us to have more than a knowledge about Him. He wants us to have a personal relationship with Him. Of course, you need a way to get to know Him. He provided us with that way, it’s called The Bible.

biblical-wisdom

God is so eager to have that relationship, he sent Jesus not only to die for us but to show what God is like.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? – John 14:9

We also shouldn’t rely solely on sermons for getting to know God. Don’t get me wrong, sermons are very important. You get to hear from a pastor or preacher who has spent hours and years studying the word. They have probably forgotten more than you or I have learned.

I can’t count how many times I have heard a sermon and been given a new insight on a passage I have read a hundred times. God speaks to us like this. But He also wants to talk to us directly through His Word, guided by the Holy Spirit.

There is so much we can learn and there is so much spiritual growth potential, if we would just open our bibles and read. There is wisdom for life. There are stories of great faith, stories of sacrifice. There are examples of how to live a holy and righteous life. There are examples of how not to live and the consequences of not living according to God’s word.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16

Joshua and the Israelites were commanded to stay in the word.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8

I have to confess that I don’t do nearly enough bible reading and bible study. I probably do at least twice a week but go through periods of daily bible reading that last a week or two. I also go through periods of no bible reading for the same amount of time.

I can tell a difference in my attitude and my mood and thoughts when I am not in the word. I need to be intentional about it. I know that God’s word is the only thing that will keep me on the right path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Advertisements

Reprogramming My Brain

The first three months that I started to take my porn addiction seriously felt like hell to me. Not only was I grieving the loss of a relationship but I was fighting the damage I had done to my brain from about 25 years of exposure to porn. Every night was a battle not to act out, not to go back to my drug of choice.

head-in-viseFor part of the time I was going through physical withdrawal from dopamine and the other chemicals involved. Some people will say there is no withdrawal but they’re wrong. It is subtle and nothing like withdrawal from cocaine or morphine but it is withdrawal just the same.

I had severe headaches, body aches, trouble sleeping, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I even had night sweats. My body had become so accustomed to porn and the release I got from masturbation that it didn’t know what to do without it.

Then I had to separate myself from my addiction. I had to realize that I wasn’t my addiction. I had to realize that the thoughts I had telling me to look at porn, objectify women, and to get off weren’t me. They were the programming of my brain from years of unhealthy behavior and thinking.

does-methadone-help-with-opiate-withdrawal-2Before I continue I want to make it clear that the above is not to be used as an excuse for addictive behavior. I had to make the choice to fight those thoughts and impulses. I just want people to realize that it isn’t easy because of the programming that developed. Just telling someone to simply stop or try harder doesn’t help. It doesn’t work that way.

It takes work and accountability. You can’t do it alone!

I want to talk something that helps me when sexual thoughts or thoughts to act out come into my head. This is something I learned from a book called Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame by George Collins and Andrew Adleman. George is a sex therapist who mostly deals with sexual addiction.

austin-powersThere is more to it than I can explain but basically one of the techniques they talk about is to give those unwanted and unhealthy  sexual thoughts a voice and even a face or identity. They say to give him or her a name. I called him Austin.

I got my addiction’s name when at the time I watched one of the Austin Powers movies (yes, a bad idea, especially at the time) with my accountability partner. It was shortly after this that I read the part of the book about naming the unwanted thoughts. The funny thing is that I was going through the book with my accountability partner but it took him nearly two months before he made the connection of where I got the name. Lol

I know this sounds stupid but it works. When I would have those thoughts I would picture Austin Powers and proceed to talk to him. Sometimes I will just correct him, telling him I don’t want to do that. Telling him that women are not sex objects to be used. Sometimes I would have to yell at him to shut up. Once, I pictured a piece of metal got zipper-mouthslapped over his mouth, like in Beetlejuice. At one point I was so angry about how much porn had cost me, relationally and emotionally, that I imagined myself beating the crap out of Austin. It’s okay to get angry if you have a healthy outlet and don’t hold onto it. Some people may disagree with that last statement but I’m not talking about letting every little thing make you angry.

After awhile I started to have those thoughts less and less. By explaining to Austin why those thoughts were unacceptable it started to reprogram my subconscious. I was able to see an attractive woman and not have to fight the automatic thoughts that would pop into my brain.

Two anecdotes about that last sentence. One day I saw a very beautiful woman and thought wow she’s beautiful, and that was it. No improper thoughts about her. It felt good to see that change.

oh-behaveSecond anecdote. When I watched the Austin Powers movie it was difficult to see Beyonce in some of those outfits. A few month later was the Super Bowl and Beyonce performed. Of course, wearing a tight outfit. Some of the dancing normally would be a problem for me but I was like whatever. I did look away a few times. Don’t need to undo any of the work I had done.

Do I still struggle? Of course, but not as bad or as often as I once did. We live in a society that constantly throws sexual messages at us from advertisements and TV shows.

Don’t think it was easy. It wasn’t. It still isn’t.

Am I completely free from temptation? Not even close. Some days are easy while others are hard as hell. I am getting better. And I’m growing stronger friendships. I don’t feel like a fraud anymore, although I have my moments.

Coming clean and getting help were the best thing I could have ever done.

broken-chain2

Praising the Storm

I have been having some trouble coming up with what to write this week. I think I need a jolt of inspiration.

That’s better. I think I can write now.

Hurricane Matthew just came and gone, but it was not the only storm in my life.

In 2013 I thought I was having a good relationship with God. I was in the Word pretty much daily, my prayer life was pretty good and I felt close to God. I was even studying to be a Christian counselor. I wasn’t really struggling with lust or pornography.

I met a nice Christian girl in an online bible study. It didn’t take long before we became friends and started to develop feelings for each other beyond that. She, like me, had her own set of health problems. So I felt like we were able to understand each other’s struggles in that area.

Sometime during that year I just didn’t have the energy to continue my studies and dropped out of school. This was hard to take. It felt like I was admitting defeat to my disability. I was depressed for a little while but kept going and was able to get past the disappointment. I was still happy and doing good.

Near the end of that year, the girl I met and I talked about being in a relationship. She said no because she didn’t think she could handle that because of her health. I should also add that we lived about 1500 miles apart.

imagesWe were good friends so we kept talking. Then about halfway through the following year (2014) it started getting hard for me. My feelings had grown for her. I just kept praying to God during the emotional storm. Praying for guidance. What do I do with these feelings toward this person who I can’t be with?

Eventually, the situation resolved itself. Well, she resolved it when she told me she loved me. I was quite happy as you can imagine. So we started our relationship.

I need to backup to the beginning of 2014 for a moment. During the first couple months, I was having a struggle with lust. Unfortunately, a few times I gave in to the temptation and looked at stuff I shouldn’t have. Luckily God or something inside of me never let me cross the line and think about her when acting out. Then at some point, the struggle stopped. I was turning to porn instead of God for comfort. I screwed up.

So 2014 ended on a high note in the relationship department.

more-hurricaneThen shortly before Thanksgiving my mom’s pacemaker or defibrillator went off while we were at a dinner at church. There were people there who happened to be nurses and paramedics or EMTs. The paramedics from the local firehouse got there very quickly and took her to the hospital.

This started a six-month season of both of my parents going in and out of the hospital for heart problems. It was a scary time. The first few times turned out to be relatively minor. There was one procedure where we thought my mom wasn’t going to make it. It was what cardiologists consider routine but they didn’t take into consideration that she had a weak heart.

One of the times when my mom was in the hospital for a week, my girlfriend spent time with me every night. It was online but her condition steals her energy. I know it must have taken most of her energy, if not all of it. If it wasn’t for her I would have gone crazy. Some people may say that ship sailed a long time ago.

I wish I could say that my relationship with God stayed strong during that storm, but I would be lying. At first, it was easy to stay close to him. But as the months went on and the hospital stays began adding up I grew further and further away from God. Rather than trusting him and resting in him I went in the opposite direction. I drew away from him.

hurricane-matthew-wavesAgain I started struggling with lust, fantasies, and pornography. I was medicating the pain instead of turning to God. Again it was only a few times but it was worse than last time. I still wasn’t willing to call it what it was, an addiction. I wasn’t letting God work on me through the storm. God wasn’t done trying to get my attention. He just needed to use a bigger baseball bat.

The temptation went away again but came back every once in awhile. But I was so ashamed and so afraid of my girlfriend finding out that I started acting or at least feeling awkward around her sometimes. We would watch a show together and if there was a sexual innuendo or something I would be thinking if she only knew. Or she’ll find out and think I’m a fraud, she’ll leave me. Whether or not this was rational I don’t know.

Then my 40th birthday comes around (2015) and the day trip I went on was a bust. After the rough year with my parent’s health, that was all I needed. I put up a good front but I felt like I was falling apart inside. I was getting depressed and feeling worthless.

I began thinking I was crap and no one would want to have anything to do with me. For the previous two to three months my girlfriend’s health was deteriorating. She didn’t have much energy at all so she couldn’t talk to me as often as either of us would have liked. After spending some time with me on my birthday she wasn’t able to do anything with me for a month.

Between my feeling sorry for myself and the way other women in the past had blown me off I wasn’t thinking clearly. The longer she wasn’t able to talk the more I heard this lie in my head telling me she was avoiding me. This led to a conversation I wish I could take back. I told her what I was thinking and told her I wasn’t even going to try to contact her until she told me she was better. Yep, real boyfriend of the year material!

Two days later I came to my senses and contact her to apologize for being a jerk. I get a reply from her mother telling me that she was really sick and couldn’t talk to me. I kept checking on her through her mother and was able to write her a letter. But instead of simply apologizing I made excuses thinking I was just explaining myself.

This was at least the second time I thought I was being a jerk and when I apologize find out she got sick. You do the math.

I kept waiting and waiting. Then about two weeks before Christmas, I got an email from her breaking up with me. I took it very hard and obviously blamed myself. Her email didn’t explicitly say why but sounded like her health. So whether it was me, her health or both I don’t know for sure.

ap_hurricane_matthew_nc2_mem_161011_4x3_992It doesn’t matter what the reason for the purpose of this post. I finally hit bottom and started to take my addiction seriously after a ten-day binge. I was devastated and completely broken.

God kept trying to get my attention but I wasn’t listening. He finally had my attention. I was finally listening. I haven’t looked at pornography since. I have still had my struggles but I’m growing. I’m far from perfect.

The first three months were hell. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I now realize that God loves me. I realize I am worthy of love and that I have value.

It took a major storm in my life to have a major change in my life.

After Hurricane Matthew, the lead pastor at our church felt led to preach on the story in Matthew 14:22-33 where Jesus and Peter walk on water. I’m sure that’s the part most of us remember.

Our pastor decided to not focus on this part but rather to focus on the storm and how God uses the storms in our lives. You can find the sermon on our church website, gochristfellowship.com, or on YouTube at https://youtu.be/N6XppqzzXxs

This sermon got me to thinking of the storms in my life, especially the most recent ones. So I want to reflect on how God has used those storms in my life.

I had to get off the porn.  I had to fight to get back with God.  Just as Jesus calmed the storm for his disciples, He gave me the strength I needed to fight the addiction.

Even though I thought my world was crashing around me, it served as the motivation to get back on track.

I am happier now.  Better than I have been in a long time.

broken-chain2

And the fight continues.

Thank you, Jesus.