Archive for August, 2007

h1

Gleanings From My Bookmarks

August 29, 2007

You know by now that I revel in the offbeat and less-traveled paths in life. That also includes websites. Every once in awhile, I come across lesser-known websites that turn out to be better than most of the sites everyone visits.

As I was cleaning out my “Bookmark” file, I was reminded of several that I use regularly which are so cool and helpful that I thought I would share them with readers of this blog. If any of them help you, please let everyone else know.

In no particular order then:

1. Pocketmod (www.pocketmod.com). You wouldn’t think by looking at it that this little piece of paper could get almost anyone organized. But let me tell you: This will save you all the cost of a PDA or maybe even a laptop. This is like having a Personal Information Manager in your back pocket that never has to be booted up. Try it at least twice and you will be hooked.

2. Zamzar (www.zamzar.com). Have you ever received a file from someone that was in a format you couldn’t read or work with? This site will convert it for free to the format you need. Just upload the file and then pick which format you want it in. Zamzar sends it to your email account.

3. Concisefreeware (www.concisefreeware.com). For years I have been a fan of Open Source Software. OSS is software that is designed and improved upon by the Online world. These programs also happen to be free. This site has a listing of the best of them. It was at Concisefreeware that I was first introduced to OpenOffice (which does a very good job at competing with MS Office), GIMP (an improvement on Photoshop IMO), and Audacity (the world’s best audio editing program).

4. AirFare Prediction (www.farecast.com). You just heard your friend booked his flight to Hawaii for half of what you paid…on the same website! How did that happen? Well, he may have gone to AirFare Predictors. At this site, you can put in your destination and they will give you a very accurate prediction of when that airfare will drop in price…for what kind of seats…and for how long.

5. Bubble (www.bubbl.us). Bubble is my favorite new site. You can propose any idea and branch out from it with many brainstorming directions. Then, when you are finished, it can be printed out easily in a graphical format that gives you a single view of the entire project. I use this tool for my writing all the time.

h1

Mixed Feelings about Ted’s Letter

August 29, 2007

When Ted Haggard left his ministry in Colorado Springs after admitting to sexual misconduct, I did feel a lot of empathy for his predicament, though no sympathy for his consequences. But now I have another ambivalent set of feelings toward him.

He has sent out a letter this month to thousands of members of his former church in Colorado Springs asking for money. This is the way it sounded in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Ted Haggard, former megachurch pastor and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, is in the news again—this time asking gifts to provide two years of financial support while he and his wife Gayle study psychology and counseling at the University of Phoenix.

He sent an e-mail to reporter Tak Landrock of ABC affiliate KRDO—and from the way it appeals to “friends like you,” it sounds like it was sent to a lot of people…

So the first issue is simply that Haggard seems to be operating independently and ahead of those who were appointed to be his spiritual guardians. In so doing, he is not really showing that he is willing to submit to their discipline over him. Unfortunately, this has often been the story with Christian leaders who are caught in sexual sin. They begin remorseful and end resentful because people are perpetually peering over their shoulder.

The second problem with his letter is the actual mailing address Haggard’s letter gives where “friends like you” should mail their donations. According to watchdogs in the blogosphere (see this for a start, which has been linked on multiple other blogs), it is a defunct charity whose mailing addresses belong to a sex offender from Hawaii. Curioser and curioser.

But the biggest issue for me is Haggard’s financial situation:

According to the Gazette:

Haggard received a salary of $115,000 for the 10 months he worked in 2006 and an $85,000 anniversary bonus before the scandal broke, according to church officials. The church’s board of trustees gave him a severance package that included a year’s salary ($138,000). He also collects royalties on his many book titles.

Haggard owns a home in Colorado Springs that has been for sale. It has a market value of $715,051, according to records from the El Paso County assessor.

My real struggle here is whether someone who has been making almost a quarter million dollars a year for over 10 years and hasn’t saved enough to support himself through a few more years of training, ought to have a dime given to him. There are single moms whose husbands have left them in our Christian circle who would love the chance to go to school and have someone pay for them. In fact, I would give to that fund! And they haven’t broken everyone else’s trust.

But I am ambivalent. This may seem like a small point, but where does a career pastor go for a job when he finds himself out of work? It is not like there is a real market for ex-preachers. On those days when I wished there was a softer wall to beat my head against, I have looked through the want-ads (or Craig’s List these days) and realized that if it wasn’t for my counselor training, I couldn’t get a job that would feed my family.

So I understand Ted’s dilemma. He is preacher non grata. Some would say (I am one of them) that is the consequence of committing sexual sin when you are in a position of authority in God’s church. But the other side, the compassion side, does feel for him.

Ted, perhaps trusting God to bring in the money instead of sending out letters may be a wiser move.

h1

He Loves us This Much

August 23, 2007

Here is a skit done on Godtube that will rock your world. The music is Lifehouse’s “Everything” (one of my all-time favorite worship tunes) and it shows how much Jesus loves us. This could only have been done live.

View it at: http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=ee73e63418003b47d7d5

h1

Bursting the Bubble

August 22, 2007

Duane had been a pastor for almost 20 years when he finally admitted to a counselor that he had a sexual addiction. The details of his addiction are unimportant at this juncture, since sometimes the details of an addiction can be as titillating to people as their own addiction can be. Let’s just say that he felt shame most of the time.

Duane went to a Christian Counseling center and spent almost $20,000 for treatment. This happened about seven years ago now. He came out of the center several weeks later and went home to a nervous wife and congregation. Slowly, he meted out the details of his problem to all of them and sought forgiveness and reconciliation, which they heartily gave. In fact, so many people were impressed by the openness and honesty of this pastor that they gave him opportunities to speak about his “freedom” and how the Spirit of God set him on a new road of purity.

The requests to speak on this subject kept coming and people eventually asked him to write a book on the subject. He always intended to, but never got around to it. In fact, that was the reason he and I first met. It was at a Christian writers seminar. As we talked, he learned that I did counseling with pastors in the area of his addiction. A few weeks after we had met, he emailed me and asked if he could fly down to where I lived to do some counseling together.

It had been five years since he had “come clean” about his addiction and publicly began teaching about how to be free from addictive behavior. But he admitted to me that for the last year and a half, he had gone back to his addiction. And though it wasn’t as strong as it used to be, it was still there and he now had the added guilt of speaking to people about Freedom in Christ without being free himself.

We began the process of Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) which helped him to get down to the lies at the heart of his addictive behavior. As we saw the real reasons for his addiction, I suggested that he relinquish the teachings and the speeches on Freedom in Christ and just start living it.

I am not sure how much testimonies really help, to be honest. I hear testimonies these days that talk about absolute freedom and I wonder if that is even possible this side of heaven. Don’t get me wrong…I think we can be set from the evil in this world. I believe in holiness and godliness. But we still have freedom of choice every day. Absolute freedom is our goal, but it is not the reality we have achieved. The purpose of a testimony is to give God credit for what He has done. But perhaps we exaggerate how much God has done in order to lift His name up even higher. I call that “evangelastics”…stretching the truth to give glory to God. However, in Duane’s case, he really did feel free. Shouldn’t he tell the world about his freedom? My question is this: Did Duane’s ability to stay away from sexual addiction mean he was free?

Here is the bubble I want to burst. Most approaches to overcoming sexual addiction amount to some variation of “just say no” or “be accountable” or “ask the Lord to take this away from you”. However, sexual addiction is different from other addictions. You don’t have a relationship with alcohol. You don’t have intimacy with drugs. But sex is the ultimate expression of familial love between a man and a woman. Sexual addiction has so many layers to it and so many things that may contribute to it….in fact, any relationship problems can trigger a relapse into sexual addiction. In a posting a few years ago, I mentioned how the same person could have a dozen different lies they believe, and yet every one of them can manifest the same way. How can you then tell which lie is being triggered if the outcome is always the same?

This is often the case with those who have symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive behavior. As we go through various lies that their heart believes, each of them results in OCD behavior. It is therefore impossible to tell just by a cursory glance what the root cause is by the behavior. This is why I have bailed out of behavioral counseling. I don’t think it has the lasting power of the inner voice of the Spirit of God.

God has to show each person the root lies of their behavior. And none of us do anything randomly. Duane had a lie embedded in himself that told him every time someone disagreed with him they were going to find a way later to hurt him. When he felt this, he responded as he had always done: He pulled away from them. As he did this, they felt hurt and responded by pulling away from him or pushing him hard…either way, he would feel hurt and would pull away more. Eventually people in this process would pull away for good. When he felt this abandonment, he would always medicate it through his sexual addiction.

So what happened during the 3.5 years that he didn’t medicate with sexual addiction? During that time, he was getting lots of props through the success of his speaking ministry. Speaking ministry is usually a one-sided relationship with the speaker giving and everyone else taking. Therefore, for several years, his old lies didn’t get triggered as often. And because he really was relying on God to give him strength each day, that combination kept him from the most egregious behavior of his addiction. But there is a reason it didn’t last. Eventually, the old lies began to trigger him more frequently. As he did not get his book written, people close to him began to suspect that he wasn’t happy with his ministry. Several people confronted him on his inability to finish tasks. He went back into the lie that he would be hurt…and of course, he was. Now, when he tried to “just say no” and to quote memorized scriptures, the internal pain kept getting more intense. In one weak moment in another city, he acted out his addiction. Then, because he couldn’t admit this to anyone, he buried the pain and it just got worse. Now he realized he would hurt more than just his wife and congregation if he came forward. He would hurt the many people who had heard his testimony. He was stuck. He did apply a lot of aversion techniques he had learned in therapy and these did help him stay away from the worst of the addiction. But he had to admit the desire to medicate his pain was still there. Poor Duane: He was stuck at a level of freedom that taunted him without relieving pain.

Duane’s situation just underscores a lot of the danger of the public testimony. So many Christians I know (and pastors in particular) feel doomed once they talk about their freedom. Now, if they have a relapse, they will be ostracized and have fingers pointed at them. I think of young Christians that were popular before they got saved, like Alice Cooper, B.J. Thomas and the Korn guitarist, Brian “Head” Welch who all had marvelous testimonies only to later fall back into some of their problems. All of them later were very sorry they went public with their freedom before they really knew they were free. Now, all three of them are much more quiet about their faith and prefer to grow in anonymity except for the people they know in their local church setting.

I am not saying we should keep quiet about what God is doing in our lives. Or maybe I am. Perhaps what we should say is that God is doing an incredible work and that there is more to do, but I feel freer than I have for a long time. And keep working at sexual addiction or any other addiction, and see that it is a work in progress. But the desire to let the world know how wonderful things are with us can be more of a desire to put on a show than a desire to be free. Duane can tell you today that he hardly acts out on his addiction any more. Oh, he has some relapses, but they are small and manageable. We have identified five different lies that all triggered his addiction. As each new one comes up, Duane is not defeated…instead he is excited that one more piece of his addiction puzzle will go on the board.

That is a testimony worth telling. Only this time, Duane is keeping the audience much smaller.

h1

Lies that Make Porn Easier

August 21, 2007

One of the big misunderstandings perpetuated by those who do not struggle with porn is that it is all about sex. There is no question that porn focuses upon people as sexual images, two-dimensional objects of desire. But this does not mean that the subtext is sexual at its core. At its core, porn is focusing on medicating pain.

As I mentioned in the last post, more women than ever are viewing porn at least monthly. Because men and women tend to have similar kinds of pain in their lives (though the sources are often very different), we can assume that women are using porn to medicate as men have done for years.

This “medicating” process is not unlike the use of recreational or prescription drugs, alcohol abuse or workaholism in its approach to dealing with internal pain. This of course begs the question “why does pain still hang onto us?” As Dr. Ed Smith teaches concerning lie-based thinking, most pain which has the lasting power of years had its origins in young childhood. When one examines certain hallmark memories that contain pain, the pain usually emanates from certain lies that we believe. Therefore, porn’s goal (whether understood or not) is to medicate against the ravages of lies that women believe.

What are the lies that porn may seem to help with? I can immediately think of six lies which often show up in Theophostic ministry sessions with women.

1. “My Life Will never be in my control”. Someone who has been abused, used and had power taken away from them as a child may feel that internal helplessness, especially in the complex working out of relational problems. With porn, the fantasy is that the possessor of porn is completely in control of the images and the acting out of the fantasy. The men and women in the pictures do what you want them to do.

2. “I will be abandoned in all my relationships”. This lie contains a mountain of pain and sends many people into suicidal jaunts. During the treatment of pain, porn can sometimes play a role for women. With porn, you can peer through the fourth wall and watch the lives of those who are engaging in intimacy. It doesn’t take much to believe that you are part of that scene and experiencing a type of intimacy that really doesn’t exist. But the porn stars do not leave you or abandon you. They can be brought back to the beginning any time the woman wants. That usually cannot be done in real life.

3. “I am a dirty person”. This is called the “tainted lie” and often is found with women who were molested. Even if they can honestly acknowledge that they were not to blame for what happened they internally feel they will never be clean again. Porn simply plays upon that lie and proves it to the person. They enjoy the high of porn and then convince themselves it is because they are dirty. So they don’t bother even to challenge the lie any more and just assume a way of life mentally based upon their pre-conceived notion of themselves.

4. “No one will love me”. This ought to be obvious how this leads to porn use. And this doesn’t have to just appeal to single women either. Married women might assume that their husband’s lack of interest in sex, (or sexual interest of a lesser intensity than the wife) means that they do not love them. The viewing of porn gives a type of love which, though it is unsatisfying, is enough to get through the night.

5. “I am unlovable”. This lie forces women to hide who they are. Since porn is all about false intimacy, they can revel in the sex life of another and assume that this is all they will ever have.

6. “I am afraid and this fear will never leave.” The viewing of porn and the release of orgasm from masturbation has been shown to release chemicals that alleviate some of the lesser symptoms of Obseessive-compulsive disorder and any number of phobias. The longer that someone uses porn to escape fears, the more this becomes an addictive behavior.

The answer to all of these lies is to let God lead you to the Truth. For more about this, go to www.theophostic.com.

h1

I Stand Corrected

August 17, 2007

For years I have taught at Pornography seminars that porn is not really a problem for most women. I also intimate that women’s pornography is in the realm of vicarious relationships: i.e. Soap Operas, Romance novels, Bodice Ripping stories etc. I still believe more women struggle with vicarious relationship problems than with visual porn, but I have to change my stance now.

Several recent studies have concluded that women are catching up with their porn watching. 40% of women are now viewing porn at least monthly. 17% of women have some kind of pornography addiction, according to the Cornell Daily News (which they gleaned from the 2006 National Report on Pornography in America). The two fastest growing groups of women struggling with porn are over 60 and under 15.

A friend of mine, Bryan Johnston has an excellent message which mentions some more of women’s problems with porn. You can download that message from The Stirring (Redding, CA) website or from Itunes…it is called “The Dirty Little Secret”. Bryan is one of the founders of XXXchurch.com which is a ministry to rescue people from porn, including those in the porn industry. Their website has an interesting debate with Ron Jeremy, the so-called “King” of the porn stars. In Bryan’s message, he has some interesting things to say about their contact with Jeremy over the years. I advise you to listen to it.

I have also done a seminar recently on porn, and it can be downloaded here.

So why are women getting into porn more and more? Well, I don’t really have a definitive answer, but I have a couple of theories.

1. Women have always been curious about the appeal that porn has for men. That curiosity seems to suggest to them that there is something they need to learn or know. Once again, the draw of this appeal is similar to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you don’t eat from porn’s tree you might not know what is going on. This leads young women especially into a lie that says they must enter into porn’s view of sex to be accepted and acceptable sexually.

2. Western women are becoming more visual in all aspects of life. The visual senses have never been more acute than they are today. Television and the preponderence of reading in school has lead us all down that road. This helps women to see sexuality as something visual as opposed to something relational. God help us (and I mean that) if women start to view sex as men do.

3. It has always been assumed that apart from Anais Nin and Virginia Wolff women do not constantly crave sexuality and the release of masturbation. Even women believed that for many years. At the same time women also are being told that sexual feelings toward other women are not wrong and that men actually get turned on by women who are attracted to other women (see Seinfeld, Friends and Scrubs as examples of shows that perpetuate this). Since much porn involves female homosexual encounters, porn gives women a way to enter into seemingly forbidden territory without the stigmas of having to “practice” in real life. The Internet has now divorced sexuality from the seediest parts of town.

4. Many women in video porn now are not as perfect looking as they were in the past, (read: skinny and perky) and this somehow empowers less-than-perfect women to believe that they don’t have to look perfect to be sexual (that is true, btw…but getting this message from porn leads women into the dark caverns of porn’s addictive nature).

Because women are now becoming more and more interested in porn, I will review in the next posting, six of the lies that porn plays upon and triggers.

h1

Another Voice in the Greed Wilderness

August 16, 2007

I had a number of friends lately criticize me because I have commented on how greed got the country into its current predicament with housing. We made loans to people who were assuming the market would keep up its steep ascent into worth and give them a chance to buy not only the house they wanted, but the loqued-out car, the pimped up boat and the trip to Tahiti they always wanted also…and all of this before they turned 35.

But here is another voice – Mike Baker, a freelance writer and former CIA operative. Here is what he has to say about the current housing “crisis”:

Up until now we’ve heard plenty of people saying that the brokers and lenders are at fault… they were acting dishonestly or, at best, not being completely transparent in explaining the terms of the various mortgages. They took advantage of uneducated consumers who were unable to understand the process and were just trying to get a foot on the ladder of prosperity. Greed drove the lending side into screwing over the country, or so goes the blame-the-industry theory.

I’ve spent several years now in the private sector, working in the fields of business intelligence, due diligence and risk management. Do I think that there were brokers and lenders who operated with less than ideal ethics? You bet I do. You don’t need to be Moose and Squirrel to figure that out…

Here’s what I think about the consumer and the process of buying a home. Buy what you can afford. Notice that the last sentence doesn’t say, “Buy what you can currently afford.”

And it doesn’t say, “Buy above your head because surely the house will appreciate in value and you’ll be able to sell it for a profit before the rates rise and you get hosed.”

Buy what you can freakin’ well afford. Otherwise, rent. And save. And quit blaming others because you wanted more than you could ever logically afford and because you refused to wait until you could afford it. There. That should generate a few thousand nasty emails.

You can read the rest of his article here.

I was raised with the notion that you had to have 20% as a down payment on a house. We never thought it would be possible when we were 25. We were making the poverty level in wages, we had two small children and we lived in a town where every house looked like a ghetto house. Within five years, we had taken a beaten-up, run-down house that was in a bad neighborhood and fixed it up enough so that after living in it for five years, we could sell it during one of the upswings in the housing market for a $12,000 profit. That was enough money when we moved from that town to put the money down on a lower middle-class home which we fixed up (even though I had to rely on books to figure out how to do most of the things I did…and advice and help from people in the church). Our income rose substantially because we had some experience now, and the neighborhood we lived in got better. And, (and this is the main point), we never took a cent of equity out of our house. We made double-payments and were within 18 months of paying off that house by the time we moved to California.

Now we live in an upper-middle class neighborhood, we owe half of what we paid for the house and we still haven’t taken money out of our house for “playing around with”. And we have neighbors who are 28 who complain that they can’t afford their payments and will have to move soon into a neighborhood not quite as good, after knowing the “good life” just a year after marriage that took us 25 years to accomplish.

I see the misconception at work. Do you?

%d bloggers like this: