For those of you close to us, you know our family has been going through quite a time as our teenage daughter has begun an outward wrestling with her identity in Christ. She’s been given great tools and great teaching, but in the confusion of her adolescent brain (remember those days? I do… and shudder) has chosen destructive paths to express her long bottled up emotions. This is not an indictment against her, rather a recounting of the facts as she and we have discussed them. For her privacy’s sake, we’ll draw the line here in terms of detail. Let it just be said that we are fully committed to and currently engaged in getting her all the help she needs as she navigates this exponentially complicated season of her life. Her commitment to this process, moving forward over the next 90 days and beyond, is between her and her Savior – or, as we say “a vertical issue”.
Rest in Peace
Recently, a friend and mentor of mine verbalized his observation of my “stable” state of mind and attitude in the wake of all she’s done to herself, and by extension, to us as a family. I didn’t even realize how stable & peaceful I was feeling at that moment. In fact, I was torn with whether or not to even mention it here so
publicly for fear of taking credit for something that was so far outside of my own doing. But, there you have it: it wasn’t my doing. I wasn’t keeping myself in peace [Is. 26.3] by intense concentration or fierce labor of the body, I had merely decided not to fight against the all powerful God whose name is “Master of the Universe” (Adonai, melech ha olam). With regard to all Brie is going through, Cristine and I have acknowledged that God is in control and despite the fact that we disagree with His methods of sanctifying our daughter (and again, by extension, us…) at this time, we trust Him to have a far better plan than we to accomplish His ends.
Then, today, as I was reading Jim Cymbala’s “Spirit Rising”, I noticed Cristine had circled one line in Francis Chan’s introduction – “It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is no help at all. (John 6.63)”
Praise the Lord.
The truth was right there in black and white. Mere paragraphs from one of my favorite and misquoted verses in scripture: “if you hold to my teachings, then you are truly my disciples. And, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8.31-32)” And, there I was – set free by the truth that my flesh (my natural tendency to do things in my own power and will) was of no help in bringing me peace and stability. At any given moment, we have a choice – we can wrestle with God (which very rarely pays off – see Gen. 32.35 and Gen. 18 for examples) in our own strength or we can yield to the Spirit.
The Hard Question:
Are you striving or trusting, right now?
Jesus made a big deal about the Holy Spirit – “…it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16.7)” If it was better for Him to go and the Spirit to come, shouldn’t we expect more of the Spirit in our lives? YES!!! I didn’t feel any tingling in my bones, didn’t glow in the dark, didn’t even speak in tongues – but when my mentor mentioned my demeanor, I did notice the peace that I had no part in creating. I simply yielded to the Spirit. That promise and peace are available to you, and all who call upon the name of Christ with a pure heart. Isn’t that NUTS?! Just for the asking and the yielding. You don’t have to wield an axe and chop down a forest, you just have to sit and rest.
So, sit. Rest. Know that He is sovereign and you are His.
Peace. Really – rest… in… peace.
From the time of Moses, Aaron was always known as “the mouthpiece” for the prophet. As Executive Director and “Chief Tellum Boutitall” of Seasons of Life, It’s no surprise that I’ve been the mouthpiece of our organization and for our “prophet”. This year, considering all we’ve been through, I’ve felt the prompting of God to have Cristine share some of her story and give you an update on how she’s doing and what God has done for her, for us, and for those who call Seasons of Life their “running partner”. “Take it away, Cristine!” -AP
I was sooo exhausted in July. It’s so weird to be so tired, but not being able to get a whole night of sleep. I was sleeping only about two hours a night for most of the month. I could tell I was starting to show signs of burnout from the nonstop pace we were living at.
We had fasted in July – a “Daniel Fast” (no meat, no dairy, no bread, nothing to drink other than water, and no sugar). Fasting always exposes what’s going on in your life at a deeper level. But, my husband and I have four kids, 3 of them were under 3 then and they always got up at 7 o’clock and it was a lot to keep them going throughout the day. Aarron’s family lives in Massachusetts and my Mom lives in Florida, taking care of her parents, so we had almost no support to help with the kids. What our fast exposed was that we were nearing burnout, quickly. So, when the fast, the burnout, and a few really bad relationship explosions collided, the insomnia got worse.
If You’re not Sleeping Well,
Try This… and THIS!
A lot of people thought it was just nutrition and gave us all kinds of vitamins and supplements (St. John’s Wort, Valerian Root, L-theanine, B-12, Benadryl, Melatonin) to get me to sleep, but none of it even touched it [the sleeplessness]. I mean, I wasn’t drinking caffeine at all that month, but I was taking all these supplements and eating all this food that’s supposed to help, but I’m still awake at 2:00 in the morning.
That’s because it wasn’t about insomnia. At all. Insomnia was just a symptom of what I really had, which is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – a severe form of constant “fight or flight”. Even with support groups and counseling, most people take years to recover from PTSD. So, we had to go see someone that knew the Lord, His word, and what they were talking about with PTSD. So, I started seeing Dr. Bob Montes and he had already treated people for PTSD with this thing called EMDR. It would have taken a few years to heal from what I had been through without it, but with prayer (a lot of yours, adds my husband) the power of God, and the EMDR, instead it only took a few months.
The Storm before the Calm:
Before the recovery, I was reading a lot of books and praying like, all the time. “God, you’ve got to deliver me from this.” And I got really nasty. I was raging all the time over stuff that wasn’t really all that bad, but I just felt like nobody understood what I was going though, so I would explode screaming and throwing things.
One Sunday in August, we were packing up for church and Aarron had put all the kids in the van and I was getting in, when Presleigh (our almost 3 year old) spilled her breakfast shake all over her and Aarron started cleaning it up. Then, I just lost it. I got out of the van and went back in the house and just grabbed the closest thing I could and threw it against the wall. It was these champagne glasses from our wedding and they just went flying into the wall and shattered. So, I reached for something else and threw that and finally Aarron came over and just hugged me really hard and kept telling me he loved me and I was like “Why?!”
Carry Each Others’ Burdens?
I kept feeling guilty because my husband had to do all kinds of things that I just didn’t have the energy to do, activities of daily living – like 5 loads of laundry and cleaning the house and taking care of the kids and all of his own work and running the ministry. Then he kind of broke down one day and realized not only was I depressed and exhausted, but he was suffering from burnout.
Some of the books we were reading talked about how to minister to people going through the deep wounding I was dealing with, but we both kind of got nervous when Aarron started to show signs of burnout. There was a lot of load to carry and he was carrying it, but if he couldn’t carry it suddenly, it would be a disaster. All the books we were reading talked about “the dark night of the soul”. They described it as something that when God says it’s time for you to go through it, you’d better go through it. But, we were like “how can we both go through it at the same time with four kids?”
Backup First, Then Restore
|Would you save these wilting flowers?
Aarron was telling me this morning that sometimes we have to defragment our computers or even “wipe” them clean, but first you have to back up the important files. Sometimes the computer gets a bunch of junk on it that slows it down. We had a lot of junk from our past slowing us down and just needed to have it wiped clean. But, isn’t that great that our Heavenly Father, who is making us look more like Jesus is already doing that?
As things were getting really hard for me emotionally & physically, I had a moment where I took this vase of flowers my husband had given me and brought it outside. Some of the flowers had been wilting, so I chucked them on the far side of our lawn. Then, the Lord spoke to me so clearly – “Not all of those are done for… wilted to the point of no return.” As I picked several of them up, I discovered there were still gorgeous petals underneath some of the bad ones. I heard the Lord say “this was you and all the others like you.” The world would have tossed them.
The Wind Up of it Is… [Lessons Learned]
In our lives, God already has a backup of the important files. As we walk through life, past hurts, fears, and brokenness leaves junk on our life. But, God knows the value we each have to Him. The world might throw us aside when our beauty doesn’t match up, but God hadn’t forgotten about them, me, or you.
Today, I feel restored – almost 40 people who are very dear to me are about to show up for a late birthday party for me. Aarron was shocked that I would have a big party because he’s done surprises for me before and I didn’t like them because I usually hate being the center of attention. This time, it’s different – I want to celebrate this new season of my life with the people who mean the most to me and tell of the great things He has done. My recovery has been nothing shy of a miracle from God.
We are stronger and better today because God has backed us up, wiped us clean, and restored us. But, like Job, I think He has made us better off than we were before. In order to face my dark night of the soul, I had to cancel a small group study I was going to lead. When I told the girls I’d have to bow out and why, they were more than supportive of me. But, three of those same girls emailed me back and said that they had been going through past hurts, too, but they hadn’t been willing to talk about them or seek help until they heard my story… God’s story. Today, I am grateful to my Abba-Father, Jehovah-Rapha “The LORD is my healer”, that He has healed me, but also restored me to be able to lock arms with other women who have yet to walk through their own dark night of the soul. (Now, if I can find time to meet with all of them, it will really be an act of God!!!)
Praise and honor to Him,
This post is not appropriate for children
At What Cost?
Michael Leahy’s story is easily Googleable (look, I invented a new form of the verb “Google”). Look it up or watch some of these clips on Vimeo
. I won’t go far into his story for purposes of brevity. The short version is this: because of his addiction to pornography decades ago, he lost his job as a very successful software sales exec, his marriage, the respect (and relationship with, for a time) of his kids. Today, he stands as a man restored by God, often on a stage in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of college students, many of which come out to see veteran porn actor Ron Jeremy debate with him.
He has been featured on 20/20, The View, Fox, Good Morning America, and a whole lot of college campuses, which his ministry “Bravehearts” spends a lot of time and attention raising the awareness of students to the dangers presented by the initial, short term, and even long term use of porn.
I’m grateful to know Michael and to call him a friend. I had an opportunity to talk with Michael about my past addiction to porn several years ago when I was only a few years “clean and sober” of it. If you’ve watched his material at any of his events, you may even see his interview with me. Today, I want to return the favor, because if I’ve been meeting with you for discipleship or you’ve been meeting with my wife, Michael has had an indirect impact on our conversation(s). Tomorrow morning
(Friday, 02.03.2012) he will give a 20 minute opener to about 100 men as a setup for “microgroup” discussion about porn, lust, and the truth of God’s word. Men will have an opportunity to explore deeply challenging questions and confront clear-cut truths of scripture. “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8.32)” Pray many of these men walk away even more free.
Andy Stanley on Porn
I had a chance to catch up with Michael this summer as local pastor Andy Stanley was presenting a series called “New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating”. While it wasn’t a deep exegesis of scripture, Andy does have a way of really “teasing out” the practical applications of the truth of God’s word. For this reason, I recommend the series
(specifically, part 2 – “Gentlemen’s Club”) as a great teaching aid when it comes to biblical worldview regarding lust, porn, and what God has to say about the current hyper-sexualized climate of our culture.
While Andy is well known for his ability to simplify the complex, Michael, too brought porn down to the simplest terms. “I start out with just the basic dictionary definition for porn: ‘Any material created for the purpose of arousing you sexually’.” From there, he states, “But, when expanded, that means photo, video, writing, sexting, chat, conversation, and what I wore to school today. It can also mean the conversation with the girl in line in front of me at Starbuck’s – am I being suggestive in my innuendos just feeling her out to see what she’ll say?”
So, What’s the Problem. I’m Just Looking…
Almost every problem we face in this world can be traced back to a lie we once believed. “But, when you’re exposed to porn, especially repeatedly, you’re learning a new belief system”, says Leahy. Pornography is a discipleship – you’re being taught that sex is a commodity, “dehumanizes men – that men are just to be pleased, women are just for pleasure, and, it’s all about getting off”.
For years, prior to my acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior I heard the term “dehumanizing” and denied it tooth and nail. You may have just completely tuned out when I said that term, too. If you did, I respect your choice, but I have a question for you that Michael shared with me in our interview:
“[When you watch pornography] you are not holding a woman in awe for anything more than her sexuality. When’s the last time you did that for something other than her sexuality, Mother Theresa?” – Michael Leahy
When the answer is “no” it’s bold evidence of dehumanization – reducing a person to something far less than their humanity. Does porn encourage you to consider the needs of the performer(s)? Does it spur you on to “love them as Christ loved the church and laid himself down for her to make her holy”? Are we tracking?
If you’re living with porn as your secret or you think it’s okay, my first question is “do you love Jesus and trust Him as your Lord and Savior” or are you counting on the popular belief that without Jesus you’ll get into heaven because you’re “good enough and God should just let you in or it’s unfair”. If you answered “a) Lord & Savior” then you’ve got a different question to wrestle with – “How are you dealing with the voice of the Holy Spirit when he tells you to leave the porn alone?” Second question: “what men are walking close enough to you to help you when you ignore the voice of the Spirit of God that is in you?” Call Michael. Call me. Call my wife.
Get discipled in the truth. Yesterday.
If you’re not a “Lord and Savior” guy, watch Andy’s series (especially part 2) for an understanding of what God has to say about women, their worth, and how He views them and then read the book of John, the book of Romans, confess Christ as your Lord, receive the Holy Spirit, and live by His power. Without His power I, too, would still have hooks deep in my life from pornography. Praise God for freedom in Christ.
I have met with no less than two dozen men who have gotten honest with me about the impact of pornography in their lives. It. Is. Devastating. Sneaky, but devastating. Andy Stanley hits it on the head in one of his messages and I hope this truth sinks in like an anchor in your discipleship of the people around you:
“Every time you sit down and entertain yourself with pictures of naked women, you’re at school. And, in this particular school you’re learning three very important lessons:
1. A real body isn’t good enough.
2. One body isn’t good enough.
3. Your wife’s body isn’t good enough.”
– Andy Stanley
Michael Leahy and Bravehearts Ministries works closely with one of the largest evangelistic college ministries in the country and shared with me some of the most difficult reality slapping I’d heard in a long time. I asked him “how did porn impact your ability to function in your spiritual gifts?” Leahy: “One of the most noticed things about people who struggle with that sin is forgiving themselves. You beat yourself up because you sinned against you. For me, it had a huge impact and barrier to my relationship w/ God. The average rational human being knows when they’re doing right & wrong, and the strength of my recovery is in direct proportion to my intimacy to God. I’m susceptible to sexual temptation when I’m out of fellowship w Him. That’s what sexual sin does. I literally remember praying to God with a gun in my mouth – ‘teach me how to pray again’.
[More poignantly,] porn keeps totally qualified leaders on the sidelines [in college ministry]. The dirty little secret of college ministry is that 80-90% of guys who apply for staff or go on mission trips are disqualified because of this issue. If you were an HR mgr and you had to disqualify 80-90% of your workforce that you want to promote, how big a problem would that be? The top 10 ministries (groups of hundreds of students) have evaporated in a year because these guys witnesses has been so badly damaged by porn. Is it a ministry of Christ followers or a Christian club of “friends with benefits”? [It can make us] impotent in our power for God.
So, think about it. Talk about it. Pray about it. And, listen/obey the Spirit of God. Then decide “what (more importantly who
) do you want to give your life to?” Anyone can find something worth living for. Are you willing to find something worth dying for? Would that someone be willing to die for you?
Jesus did. Your thoughts?
It’s not a question. I’m not asking if Christians should celebrate it. I’m making a conditional charge: should you do x, y will happen. How often do we seriously consider the ramifications of our ways? I have often been very much like Peter – act first, think later. As time has gone by and God has begun shifting my focus from playing to an audience of men to playing to an audience of Him, I’ve also begun learning restraint, prudence, and consequence: I’m considering my ways and how they impact His bigger picture.
Should we celebrate Halloween, something will result. Bottom line, is that something “Glory to God” or “Not glory to God”?
I, being so very ADD, get off task often. On track or off track has everything to do with purpose: “What is your purpose on this earth?” If you believe that Christ is Lord and God sent Him to save sinners bound for hell, it’s not a big leap to assume you believe God’s purpose for man is to love God and to worship and enjoy Him forever. This is called a “doxological” statement, meaning – it’s about God’s glory. Are we here to glorify God or not? If so, then anything we do that doesn’t point toward the glory of God is a rabbit trail, resulting in either sin or error. By the grace and power of God, He can and will redeem it, regardless. (Another story for another time.)
I’m reading Justin Holcomb’s post, a guy that I like and genuinely believe to be a clear thinker, but I think he’s just wrong on this one. He quotes Nicholas Roger’s book, which charges that the Celtic Samhain was not a holiday based on human sacrifice. Holcomb seems to dismiss the argument against the pagan roots of Halloween in favor of the early church celebration of the martyrs of the Roman persecutions. But, he agrees with Rogers that about 500 years later it had become “a holiday that affirmed the collective claims that the dead had on the living.” So, let’s throw out the most common objection to celebrating Halloween “it’s rooted in pagan tradition”. No problem, we won’t cavel over that one.
With that point off the table, can I just play the village idiot and ask a question: “If a holiday started out as a Holy Day dedicated to honoring the saints persecuted by the Romans but took on an alternative meaning linked to “claims the dead had on the living”, has the holiday been hijacked? If so, how do we reclaim its original meaning without getting knocked off our own course? More to my opening point: “How does wearing a costume, indulging ourselves with more candy anyone can safely metabolize in a year, and decorating our homes with pagan symbolism (ghosts, which are not departed loved ones, rather demons impersonating loved ones, witches – which we’re clearly forbidden from emulating, bats, black cats, and other symbols which point only toward a culture of darkness), bring glory to God?”
I’m not being a smarty-pants. I’m sincerely trying to advance my own understanding of this issue. I agree with Holcomb and guys like Mark Driscoll who try to fit culture into the 3r’s receive, reject, and redeem. If we decide not to reject Halloween outright, my only practical question is this: “Does redeeming it mean participating in it? Is it possible to mock a pagan ritual without glorifying it in some way? Or, does ‘redeeming’ it mean a flat out return to the original intent for the Holy Day with a no-apologies approach, wherein the martyrs of the faith are celebrated and the name of Jesus Christ is lifted high, worshipped with no pretense, superfluous flow of chocolate, nor costume of any kind?”
Doesn’t that return us to our purpose and turn the water cooler conversation abruptly back to the gospel?
“Hey, Jim, you coming to the Halloween party on Monday?”
“No, I’m heading over to XYZ Church for a big celebration.”
“Really? What do they have going on, a Halloween party or a ‘Fall Festival‘?”
“Neither. It’s actually a celebration for a bunch of people who lived and died for a guy named Jesus who lived, died, and was resurrected so you and I could spend eternity with our Father in heaven. Ever heard of Him?”
Albert Mohler stated regarding this matter about four years ago:
“The complications of Halloween go far beyond its pagan roots, however. In modern culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic…
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God’s Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ’s church on earth. Let’s put the dark side on the defensive.”
If living for a Man who is both fully man and fully God and died for me is my express purpose in life, when I do something, I want it to reflect Him. Shouldn’t we all? So, why do we invest so much money, time, energy, excitement, and anticipation in partaking in traditions that fail outright to reflect how great He is and what He has done for us? Should you do one, you cannot do the other. Or, am I completely “narrow minded”?
As my friend Dan Diaddigo said to me yesterday:
“At it’s best, Halloween is a secular expression of community… But, community is about something; it circles a center. And the center of Halloween is darkness.” Well spoke, Dan.
This is a discipleship issue. How we live is an overflow of how we believe. If the church is to be a community that circles a center, how we circle will show the world our center. Should we celebrate Halloween, there is a spot of darkness emulated somewhere at the center to be seen by those looking in. Should we celebrate Jesus, there isn’t a spot of darkness that will not be lit up by the light that shines from within. How, then, should we shine?
Happy Reformation Day.
to God be the glory.