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Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Spiritual Feast

After accepting Jesus as my savior, I craved inspirational preaching. 
Being reminded that the negative thoughts I have are not from God.  Being urged to see myself through God’s eyes. Being inspired to be the best me I can be.
These messages are increasingly important in this day and age when we are inundated with messages that we are not good enough.  
Not attractive enough.
Not smart enough.
Not successful enough.
And yet these messages do what pop culture is doing. 
Focus ourselves on us. 
Our problems. 
Our anxiety.
Our depression.
Our guilt. 
And certainly we need to be reminded that these thoughts are not in alignment with God but the key is reminded. 
They should not be the primary message we are taught about God’s love.
Whether it is buying into the hedonistic messages of our society or inspirational messages, we are focused too much on ourselves. 
As a newcomer to Christianity, I look to Jesus as an example.
He didn’t sit around in huts with others, wringing his hands concerned that others might not like him. 
He did not commiserate with his hosts about not having the nicest sandals in the village. 
He did not worry if he was too fat or too thin or tall enough or short enough. 
He didn’t ponder if he was successful. 
He turned all his energies to others. 
He taught them, fed them, healed them.
Following his example, more than anything else, will save us from ourselves.
When we are focused on our own issues we are less able to help others.
I have an image of a giant banquet table filled with all kinds of nutritious and delicious foods.  We can sit off by ourselves eating out of our own bowl that always has the same thing in it, or we can bring our bowl to the feast.
If we give our food away to others and rely upon God to ensure that we are fed, we will be provided with a variety of healthy foods that we otherwise cannot provide for ourselves. While at the same time, what is for us the boring fare that we eat every day, becomes something sustaining to someone else’s spiritual diet.
Service to others will save us from spiritual malnutrition and boredom.
One of the reasons that we are so focused on ourselves is that the government has taken over the role of service in so many cases.
We know that there are government programs to care for the homeless and hungry so we focus on ourselves. Since we are not helping those in need, we might even start resenting them, as they become dollars stolen from our paycheck rather than charity given with a giving heart.
The government has usurped our role as community.
By doing so, it has left us isolated and self-absorbed, increasingly focused on ourselves, our happiness, our well-being, our joy. 
So much so that inspirational speakers are having to teach us how to love ourselves because we are losing models of God’s love.  
Many of us have forgotten what God’s love feels like or never even known it because we were raised to love ourselves rather than rely on the love of others.
Rabbi Haim way back in the 1800’s taught about long spoons.
Dinners in both heaven and hell are provided with spoons that have such long handles that it is impossible for anyone to feed themselves.  Those in hell are eternally starving because they can not navigate food from the bowl into their mouths.  Those in heaven are well nourished and joy filled because others feed them and they feed others.
It might be that our spoon handles have grown too long, or that we are trying to eat from our own bowls, or both. 
We need renewed hope that there is something better for us. We need to bring our bowls to the community table, have faith that as we contribute our food to the table, others will do the same. We need to feel God’s love as we serve others and are served by others.
Though self-help guru’s of all stripes often have the best of intentions, they are promoting the very self-absorption that promotes spiritual starvation.
We need to a spiritual feast.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Sex with Satan: We Need the Full Armor of God Against the Schemes of the...

As a child I was taught that witchcraft and paganism were good and that Christianity was bad. As I look back on one of the books I read as a child, I am overwhelmed with grief when I realize that the memory I had of the book was accurate.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

God's Gift Of Christ

It is easy to get caught up in the materialism of Christmas but there is no gift greater than God's Gift of Christ. I am deeply humbled this morning as I give God thanks!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

When God Asks Me To Cut My Hair!

A few days ago I felt like God was urging me to cut my hair. Unlike in the past, instead of dismissing this feeling or rationalizing why I could ignore it, I responded. As I watched my hair fall to the floor I felt like I was cutting away everything that was beautiful about me.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Jesus Advocated for Women!

As a former separatist feminist (many years ago), I used to blame Christianity for the ills of society assuming that Christianity lead to the oppression of women. Boy was I shocked when I started reading the New Testament and learning how Jesus reached out to even the most marginalized women. During a time when women were often considered property, Jesus' advocated for women. It isn't surprising that women played a pivotal role in spreading the Good News!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Committing to Spiritual Health

Some of us grew up in Christian homes and have known the love of God their whole lives. Some of us are just finding God.
Those who have lived as Christians may sometimes wonder if their lifelong commitment to God is "paying off."
Based on my experience as a newcomer, it reminds me of someone who has cared for their physical health their whole live versus someone who finally makes a commitment to take care of themselves.
The person who has always been spiritually healthy may not recognize the benefits. They might think, "why did I waste all that energy exercising," "why did I avoid desserts and junk food."
They many not realize that they would have gotten cancer ten years earlier if they hadn't taken care of themselves.
They also don't realize how crappy they would have felt if they had been feeding themselves on junk rather than nutritious food.
As someone who hasn't taken care of her spiritual health until recently, I can assure you that the spiritual junk food diet is not fun. You haven't missed out on anything!
As I desperately tried to feed my spirit without God, I never felt nourished. I never felt healthy, in fact, I came close to dying.
With God's love, I am now on a healthy spiritual diet.
Like the junk food junky who changes her diet after a medical emergency caused by her unhealthy habits, I have to work diligently to stay on my new spiritual diet. I have to remember how close to death I came, how sick my soul was.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Christmas as a Christian

This will be the first Christmas I celebrate as a Christian. I am excited to share in the celebration of Christ's birth and encourage others to rejoice in God's love rather than be stressed out by the demands of a secular holiday. Santa only gives gifts to "good little girls and boys" but Christ gives the same gift to everyone!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

We Are Brothers and Sisters

For a long time I have disliked people. Avoided them. Become increasingly isolated and introverted. I realize some of this comes from fear of being hurt. Some also comes from my lack of ability to love myself, accept God's love, and see others as children of God. As I have started to see everyone as a brother or sister, my heart has softened and I am more able to be loving without judgement.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Former Porn Star...

Screenshot of my account the day
I deleted all my videos

I looked up and saw a man watching me.  We made eye contact. He hurried away.  He could just has easily have stood there as I frantically searched for my shirt and underwear blushing with embarrassment. 
I was naked in the mountains, far from any trails. 
I pulled on my shirt and pants without bothering with my bra or panties. 
I was shaking so hard that I struggled to put my socks on.
I threw my things into my backpack and then grabbed my cell phone. It was still video recording.  I stuffed it into my pocket ran down the mountain, berating at myself for being so stupid.

I felt a thrill the first time I pressed the box that confirmed I was over eighteen.  At first it was too much to take in.  Small squares about an inch wide filled the page.  Inside the boxes were pictures of various sex acts.  I was afraid to click on anything.  I left the site after just a few seconds, worried I might get a computer virus.
The next day it was all I could think about.
As soon as I had some time alone, I typed Pornhub into the search bar of my computer. 
My heart pounded.  It was uncharacteristic of me to be drawn to porn, I’d never had the urge to look at it before. I can’t explain why I felt compelled to go back to the Pornhub site. 
I have heard of addicts who have one drink and become alcoholics or take one oxycodone and become addicted to opioids.  Though porn is not a physical substance I was addicted in a way that is difficult to explain.
I am not what people think of when they think about porn. 
I am an introvert. 
I am married.
I am the mother of three children.
I have doctorate degree in education.
And I never understood addiction until I clicked on Pornhub.

I was so cold.  My fingers were numb.  I was about half a mile from a hiking path.  I was having a difficult time putting on my clothes.  My boots were filled with snow.  I started laughing, thinking about being found half naked and frozen solid. 
Despite my shivering, I felt good.  I knew when I uploaded the video I’d just made, the man who requested it would love it. 

Just a few days after I visited Pornhub for the first time, I uploaded a video.
Pornhub works because members don’t just watch videos, they also upload videos so there is always new content. Partly out of curiosity, partly out of a sense of wanting to be a contributing member, I uploaded a video.
Within hours someone sent me a message telling me that they liked my video.  By the end of the week, I’d gotten a number of messages thanking me for the video and asking me if I could make another video.
These messages filled an emptiness that gnawed inside me.  I felt wanted.  I felt loved. 
Almost every video I made was inspired by a request.  Often I’d try to integrate two or three requests into one video.  I kept track of who made the request and sent them a link to the video as soon as I posted it. 
They’d respond with effusive praise and thanks. 
I began to feel like I wasn’t a loser. 

Pornhub is not just a site to post porn.  It is a social site similar to Facebook, with an option to post comments on videos and private message others using the site. 
Anyone with an account is a “member” with a profile page.  One member can friend another member.  Members can private message one another. 
Pornhub is a community.
Most of those who sent me messages were men who were in a sexually unsatisfying marriages.  They felt rejected by their wife.  They didn’t want to have an affair or hire a prostitute, they were just looking for connection or sexual release.  Sometimes they were men who had an unusual sexual fantasy or fetish. 
Every night the first thing I did after logging in was to look at my messages.  Occasionally I’d get a creepy message that bothered me but for the most part the messages were people thanking me for a video, telling me about themselves, or making a request.  Over time, I developed a number of “friends” who I exchanged messages with regularly. 

A fellow from England sent me a message.  He wanted to let me know that I was listed as one of Pornhub’s top amateur performers. I sent him a message back, “LOL, that would be funny!”  He wrote back, “seriously” and included a link.  I clicked on the link and there was my profile picture.  One of Pornhub’s top twenty.  Within a few months, I had over a million views.  Then two million, then five million, then ten million.
Making porn, I discovered what it feels like to be really good at something. 
For the first time in my life, I felt talented. 

I told my therapist that porn gave me purpose in life, describing how I enjoyed going to thrift shops and garage sales to look for props.  I’d get giddy as I planned out a video.  He seemed happy that I’d found something that I was good at.  We talked about how I was performing a community service of sorts, acting out fantasies for lonely guys. 
We talked about how “some people” don’t approve of porn.  He wasn’t one of them.  He told me that there were all kinds of sexual fetishes that are not socially acceptable.  As a therapist, he doesn’t judge and we both agreed it was far safer than the prostitution I'd done as a teenager.

It never occurred to me that making porn was bad.  It gave people pleasure.  It was far safer than prostitution.  For the first time in my life, I felt like I was really good at something. 
Slapping or hitting myself in specific places on my body were common requests.  Hot candle wax and needles were another common requests.  When I was making videos I didn’t feel pain.  Only afterwards would I realize how much I’d hurt myself.
I started doing things I never thought I’d do, things that could cause permanent damage to my body, things that did cause long term damage that I might live with for the rest of my life.  In my hunger for approval, I pushed passed lines I’d promised myself I would not cross. 

It burned to urinate and when I wiped, there was blood on the toilet paper.  A few hours earlier I’d fulfilled a request to insert a mascara brush into my urethra. 

I convinced myself that Pornhub was liberating for women. There were fat women and skinny women.  Women with huge breasts and women who are flat like me. There are white women and black women and brown women.  There are hairy women and shaved women.  There are women with amputations.  I thought it was empowering that women like me, who are not considered attractive by mainstream culture, were validated. I was told I was beautiful, a goddess, the sexist woman alive, the hottest babe on Pornhub. 
Pornhub, I thought, is a place where all women are beautiful.

There wasn’t one “ah ha” moment when I realized that I needed to stop making videos, it was a sick feeling that wouldn’t go away. 
These men didn’t like me, they liked what I did for them, just like men who paid me to have sex when I was in high school. 
I no longer felt special and valued. I felt used. I felt scared. I felt ashamed. 
And most of all, I felt replaceable. 

I stopped making porn a while ago, but it wasn't until recently that I realized the reason I was so drawn to porn is because I was desperately trying to fill an emptiness inside me.  An emptiness that started when my parents divorced and I lost the love of my father.  An emptiness that grew when I was sexually assaulted as a young child.  An emptiness that consumed me as I tried to find someone to love me when I couldn't even love myself.    

When someone told me that God loves me, I shook my head and said "you wouldn't say that if you really knew me."   
And then I started sharing with those who are close to God my history, expecting them to shudder with disgust and back away from me but instead, they pulled me into an embrace and hugged me with love.  Through them, I learned that God could love me, that God does love me.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Therapeutic Benefits of Prayer

As I have started praying more often, I am realizing that prayer promotes positive thinking and action. It allows us to focus on being thankful for what we have as well as on the needs of others. It is also a great way to stop negative self-talk