[wordless]

So that one movie that is based off of that erotic book is being released this weekend.

I won’t be seeing it. I won’t be reading it.

My newsfeed in every social media outlet has been hijacked by this. All I can do is shake my head and keep scrolling.

I am having a hard time putting into words the emotions that are roiling around in my head and heart.

If you know me at all, you know that is a rare thing. Words are my thing. I thrive on words. I’m a wordsmith.

But this has just rattled my cage so much that I just can’t even form a coherent thought in response.

I want to yell and scream and shake all the ladies (and maybe guys) who are obsessed and consumed by this. Not just this one story, but the whole genre.

You say:

“It is just entertainment.”

“It is just a story.”

“It is not about abuse/porn/masochism. It’s a love story.”

“I’m reading/watching it to escape memories of my own abusive relationship(s).”

I say:

It isn’t entertainment. It’s porn. It’s only R-rated to get it into the theaters.

It is more than a story. It is images that will fill your mind. It is a romanticized idea that “consensual” abuse is sexy and acceptable. It paints a sad picture of unrealistic expectations of “love.”

Tell those who have been trapped in manipulative relationships like this that it is not abuse. Because I’m sure that they have a different perspective.

Why would you escape into a story as equally scary as your own real life story?

[blank concerned stare]

Please, spare me any lectures, telling me that I just don’t understand. Or telling me that I am weak-minded. Or telling me that I’m a prude. While those statements are incredibly hurtful, I have to speak up.

This weekend thousands of women are going to be rushing to the theaters to watch this…

Billions of dollars will be culled from this production. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about that.

When did this become the new normal? When did modesty or purity or respect become laughable and disposable?

Why can’t anyone see what this is doing to their hearts and minds?

It is slowing killing you on the inside. Desensitizing you.

You are one step away from subscribing to full on pornography.

Would you let a little girl of tender years read or watch something like this?

The little girl who still resides somewhere in your subconscious is hiding her eyes and covering her ears. Because mine is.

My heart aches.

I don’t feel as though anyone understands what I’m feeling right now.

Or what I’m saying.

I’m crying on the inside.

Can’t you hear?

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Changed

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As I stood worshipping Jesus this morning, this song made an appearance. I knew in the back of my mind that it would be in the set list because I entered the songs into our Sunday morning PowerPoint presentation. But as I stood there, this song struck a chord within me that I had tucked away in the corner of my heart and mind. It was ten years ago that I first heard this song performed by Delirious. But it was also ten years ago this month that I came back to Jesus after living a sinful two years of not having Him in my life, and multiple years of not even really serving Him at all.

This morning, this song just brought it all back to me. I was reminded of how much I truly had failed Jesus. How I had just swept His love under the carpet and gave in to my own sinful desires during those years. But it also caused me to see how much He has brought restoration in my life. He drenched a dry and weary soul with His everlasting water of love and salvation. A most overwhelming feeling. 

I am not perfect. I have tendencies to strive for perfection, but I am a far cry from being perfect. There have been so many times over the last ten years that the enemy has used my weakness of the sinful desire in my heart to try to take me down. Though I might stumble and fall, Jesus has always and will always be there to pick me up again. Jesus knows the heart. A truly repentant heart that comes to Jesus broken and tarnished can always be restored to a shining brilliance that only He can bring. 

It is not an easy way to live. I’ve been scoffed for not dating many men, or hurrying up to have a relationship just to have the children I so desire. But why? Why take the restoration that Jesus has given me and throw it in His face just because I want something so much? Why jeopardize the future that He has promised (in His timing) just to rush something that isn’t the absolute best? Why risk it?

Many people think that purity is only something that should exist before marriage. They are wrong. Purity is not a stage in life. Purity is a lifestyle. Purity belongs outside and inside of marriage. If purity cannot exist outside of marriage, how can a marriage truly be a representation of Christ and His Church? People are watching you, they see everything you say, do, and post on social media. If your life is not exhibiting this purity from all sides, people will notice and it will cause your claim of being a Christ-follower to falter. 

No matter where you are in life, whether you are single or married, 15 or 55, I urge you to make purity a lifestyle. Make it your anthem. Take up purity as your flag and wave it high so that in every area of your life people will see it and know that you’re striving after a life that is pleasing to The Lord.

Purity Matters: Refreshing

“…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV

I saw a video called “Purity Matters” on a youth ministry website a couple of years ago.  It sounded interesting, so I downloaded it and watched it.  The premise of the video was this: a group of young adults went around the city handing out bottles of water. They would ask the intrigued passersby, out of two bottles, which they’d want to have.  Before the person could answer another group of young adults would jump out of a nearby van and grab one of the bottles of water and start chugging it and passing it around.  The guy who had initially asked these clueless people which water they wanted, again would ask “Do you want to drink from that one?”, indicating the now “contaminated” bottle.  The people would look at him with disgust and say things like “No way, I don’t know where their mouths have been!”  They would even be offered $5 or $20 to drink from the back-washed bottle of water; and still they refused.  The guy would then say, “So you want the ‘pure’ water?”  And of course everyone chose the untouched, clean, pure bottle of water.

The video ended with a tag of “purity matters: sex is for marriage”.

That is where the inspiration for PurityMatters.com came from.  The videos depiction of purity is right on.  Who really wants to drink after five, six, or even more people from the same bottle?  No one.  Everyone wants the first, fresh off the assembly line bottle of water.

The same goes for people.  How would you feel if someone came up to you, with the love of your life by the hand and say “Here you go” and hand them to you.  But then you got an instant flashback of all the people they had slept with before meeting you.  And then you were asked “Do you still want this person?”

Do you really want to get to your wedding night and find out that your new groom or bride has “been around the block” several times? Probably not.

Not to say that mistakes can’t be forgiven, because they can.  The Lord is gracious when we mess up and come to Him with a repentant heart.

Those of you who are reading this, this is just to show you how to prevent the heartache of impurity.  It’s an insight to see the right path to take, and how to sidestep temptation before it has a chance to take you down.

(Originally written August 15, 2006)

Blurred Shades of Grey

If you are living and breathing and participating in any form of social media these days then you’ve probably heard whispers (or shouts) about the popular book “Fifty Shades of Grey”. If you haven’t, you will. I haven’t read it, and I refuse to. From what I’ve been able to interpret from reviews and other blog posts, it is not anything that I would want to read. Ever. Or recommend to anyone I know and love. And I hope my plea, and those like mine, reach you before you fall into the trap of reading it. Although I know I’ll probably receive flames about what I’m about to write, I can’t sit idly by as girls, godly girls even, are pulled into the allure of this story. This book is sadistic trash. I’m sorry if you disagree and if I’ve offended you with my statement. Actually…I’m not sorry. Here’s why…

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is classified as an erotic romance. In all actuality though, it goes way beyond that. It is really just a bunch of sickening BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism).  That description in itself is enough to make me blush to my roots and want to throw up. If that makes me a prude, then so be it. But more than that, is the simple fact that so many people are held captive by the lies and bondage of this particular genre, unaware of how much damage it is doing, not only to their psyche but to their soul.

Not only are married ladies in danger, but single ladies (and some rather young influential ladies at that) and their future marriages as well. Men already have unhealthy expectations of what women should look like and what sex should be thanks to the pages of magazines that portray women as sex objects. Now ladies have that issue to battle as well due to decades of lurid romance books (i.e. soft porn, though there’s nothing “soft” about it in my personal opinion). They have this fairy tale image (laced with eroticism) of what sex and love is. Though, still never having experienced either myself, I know it can’t be as fantastical as those books make it out to be.

I can already hear what you’re thinking. “What the crap do you know about marriage? You’re single and still a freakin virgin!” I don’t have to be married to observe what a marriage should contain and what it shouldn’t. What it should contain is Respect.

What does respect have to do with this book? Everything. Respect is something that, if you don’t have it for yourself, you probably won’t have it for your mate (or future mate). The way you look at yourself and the opposite sex can fully effect your marriage. Respect is lacking from this book. The main characters in this book do not respect each other or themselves. In fact, their relationship is nothing to admire. It’s disturbing and all sorts of wrong.

I know what you’re thinking. “It’s only a book…it can’t hurt me.” Believe me, I know all the justifications and arguments out there, because I had these internal conversations with myself so many times. Everyone has addictive qualities about something, whether it be alcohol, tobacco, pornography, self-gratification, whatever it may be… the thing is, we all have vices that will trip us up given the chance. And if you know this, you should do everything you can to protect yourself from it.

I write these things not to cast judgement on anyone (that’s the last thing I want to do), but to warn you. I’ve dealt with years of self-worth issues because of reading books and stories similar to this one. The images and thoughts that the words of the book will evoke will stay with you for life. Ingrained into your memory. The things they will make you do will cause you to not even recognize yourself. Trust me. It’s been several years since the Lord helped me to break free from this bondage, and still to this day I have to battle with those images that try to surface and make me stumble. Daily.

I know from personal experience that words and images can effect the way we think and operate. Media of this nature will suck the very life from your soul until you are lying in the dark one night wondering how you got to that point. But you can break free. It takes time. You’ll have scars. But even Jesus has scars. Scars are part of the story, too.

I was at a women’s rally a couple months ago and the guest speaker reiterated over and over how as ladies we are worth something. That as ladies of faith we needed to share our story. No matter how ugly it is. Some of you may already know my story. Some of you may not. This was a very dark part of my story, and you can read it in its entirety here. But ultimately I want you, ladies and guys, to know that there are things out there that are meant to divert us from the path that the Lord has laid out for us. Things like smutty books, magazines, websites, movies and such. It’s not too late to stop. It’s not too late to get help. There’s freedom there for you if you’re willing to fight for it. And it is worth fighting for.

Does it matter?

So an amazing topic was started tonight at NPC:UNITED.

Purity.

This is SUCH a huge burden on my heart.  My heart yearns that people (at any age!) would take up this lifestyle and make it their own.  I’ve had my own struggles with purity.  Who hasn’t?  But these talks always seem to bring these memories to the forefront of my mind. Which makes me want to hold on even tighter to the lifestyle I have chosen and sworn to live by.

My heart aches to tell those who struggle in the area of keeping your mind and body untainted by the sexual assault that comes at us from all directions – stay strong.  It’s worth it.

It may not seem like it is, in the present, but years down the road, when you look back at the decisions you have made, you will realize that it was all worth it.

The road isn’t easy.  In fact it’s laid with traps easily disguised as convenient detours laced with signs for an easy path.  Signs that point to the “short path” very rarely lead to the destination that is best for you.  Be cautious of these things.  The enemy will use these roadblocks and detours and “signs” to trick you into your old lifestyle.  “It’s just this one time,” he will say.  “No one will know,” he’ll croon.  “God will forgive you. It’s what He’s supposed to do,” he’ll reason.  But be leery of this voice.  It doesn’t have your best interests at heart.  In fact, his sole purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy”.  And he will choose the easiest way to accomplish this: your weaknesses.

As Pastor Jesse pointed out in his talk tonight, find someone who you can talk to about this. Someone who can keep you accountable and who will walk this journey with you.  You will never ever regret this life choice.  It will make you a new person from the inside out.  And who doesn’t like new things?

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. {2 Corinthians 5:17, CEV}

Tarnished Saints

***Warning: Contains Explicit Subject Manner – Please don’t read if you are sensitive or easily offended.***

For generations religion has dictated that if you were a Christian you couldn’t have any faults. It said you couldn’t stumble and fall. And if you did happen to, you were condemned and no amount of forgiveness was attainable.

This post originally started out going to cover the topic of my heroes of the Bible who had shady pasts. I will still touch on this, but ultimately this has become my testimony, a memoir. I feel that God has finally given me leave to share the dark details of my journey.

I grew up in a fairly sheltered environment. I was a Sunday School kid. I could tell you every Bible story from front to back and even illustrate with flannel graph if you asked me to. I had a pleasant childhood. When I was nine I gave my heart to Jesus. This felt like the right thing to do, in my young and tender heart. For a couple years I was as on fire as much as a kid in a fundamental independent denomination could be.

I was always the over achiever. I liked extra curricular reading in the summer time. When I was about twelve I started reading romance novels. You know the kind…the ones with the half naked couple on the front engaging in steamy activities. I could read a couple of these books a week without it phasing me.

This didn’t seem wrong to me. And I don’t place this blame on any one. It just seemed the natural order of things.

As the years went on I read more and more of these books. Some smuttier than others. In my early twenties was when the trouble began.

I’ve always had the desire to write stories. Particularly fictional stories. Fictional stories with adventure and romantic themes. At that time in my life I was deeply engrossed in reading this genre as well. However, it soon crossed over into the realm of unhealthy. The steamy, smutty romance stories that I had been reading turned into overtly and extremely detailed sexual fictional accounts. And I contributed to those accounts in my writings.  I believe the term is “soft porn”.

With this new and yes, exciting territory, came a rather dangerous one as well. My mind was filled with this intense imagery that I couldn’t shake, in fact I wanted more of it. So much so, that I turned to a source that I never thought I would. Online pornography.

Adults admitting to Internet sexual addiction: 10%.

More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month (comScore Media Metrix).

28% those admitting to sexual addiction are women (internet-filter-review.com).

34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn in a recent poll and 1 out of every 6 women, including Christians, struggles with an addiction to pornography (Today’s Christian Woman, Fall 2003).  Source: http://www.safefamilies.org/sfStats.php

I had become a statistic.

This went on for well over a year, likely a couple, that detail is still quite vague. The images that I’d surf the web for overtook my mind and my heart until that’s all I wanted 24/7. And yet I was going to church every Sunday like a “good little Christian” and no one knew the difference.

But I knew. And I hated it. I hated myself.  I would lay in bed every night crying myself to sleep because I didn’t know how to escape the hold that it had on me. I could feel my soul dying more and more as the days went on.

And yet it continued. I kept reading the smut and kept looking at porn. I would be sick afterward, but I was driven by the inane desire to feed this rush of adrenaline.

Every night I would hit my knees and pray to God to help me. To save me from this thing that was controlling me…killing me. Every night. I was sure He didn’t hear me. And yet I kept going back to Him.

It was at this point that I was at the end of my rope. I didn’t know what else to do. I think I had given up. And then somewhere… I don’t even remember how it came to me…but the verse Philippians 4:8 was there in front of me: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

I wrote this gem down and taped it to my night stand where it would be the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes and the first thing I saw when I opened them.

At first it didn’t seem to be working…whatever it was supposed to do. I still engaged in these activities that had taken control of me. It became such an obsession that I believe I would have acted on these carnal thoughts physically had a guy been interested in me at the time. Yes, that’s right, I would have given up my virginity for a single moment of pleasure.

As the last thread of my rope was nearing the end, a friend from work reached out (she had no idea that I was dealing with any of this) and invited me to go to church with her. It was a new church on the north side of town called North Point Church. I put her off for about three months. During that time I knew I was searching for something I just didn’t know what.

And yet still I was praying every night for God to break this hold over me. I knew a darkness was fighting for my soul. Fighting for my failure. I kept meditating on Phil 4:8. I kept on with the acts that were killing me.

Finally the cord broke. I knew that the only way God could help me was for me to take a step toward what He was offering. At the time I didn’t know what that was. But now I know that it was freedom. Freedom in Jesus. As simple as that. I broke that day. Or should I say He broke those chains that had held me captive for too long. He saved me from the pit of darkness and despair.

It was then that I knew I needed change. I conceded to go to church with my friend. Happenstance had it that it was an event for the youth group she was a leader in…the theatrical showing of Passion of the Christ. I came to know Jesus in a whole new way that night. About a month later, I agreed to go to an actual church service with her, that was ironically held in an old movie theater. That day changed my life forever. I can remember that service as clear as day. Pastor Tommy was speaking about Jesus feeding the 5,000. You know the story…where He takes five little fish and two loaves of bread that a little boy offered and supernaturally made it to feed 5,000+ people. I never quite heard it put the way that Tommy put it. So down to earth that it all made sense and I knew what God wanted of me. My undying devotion.

That was seven years ago. I have been free of that bondage for seven years. Has it been easy? Not by a long shot. I have had times of such intense loneliness that it feels like I’m suffocating. I’ve had moments where impure images came to the forefront of my mind. Make no mistake. There are some things that you can never erase from your mind. But for the grace of God, He helps to move those thoughts to the very back recesses and plants good images and thoughts in their place.

I took an oath, I guess you could say, to Him. I am still a virgin. At least physically speaking. As a symbol of this promise to remain pure until I’m married, I wear two purity rings. One on my right hand that says “purity”. And one on my left hand that says “true love waits”. The latter is what I will be giving to the man that I will marry as a way to show him that I loved him even before I met him.

This revelation just struck me tonight. How scared I’ve been all these years that someone might find this out about me. Family, friends, especially someone in church. Because you know, Christians aren’t supposed to fall. I had only shared this in detail with one person before tonight, my best friend who I met at church and who’s stuck by me through thick and thin for five years. And a friend who lives a half a world away and isn’t a Christian. Yet neither of them judged me.

So I ask this of you. Please don’t look at me differently or down on  me, because I’ve done that to others.  But I’ll understand if you do.  Please don’t judge me, because I have judged others. But I’ll understand if you do. Please don’t condemn me. But I’ll understand if you do.

King David had an affair with a married woman and then had that woman’s husband murdered. Yet he was a man after God’s own heart.

Rahab was a prostitute who committed treason against her own people to save a couple of men who were mighty men of God. Yet she was the great great great great (…) grandmother of Jesus Christ.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, became pregnant as a teen in an impossible, inconceivable way, and deserved death according to Jewish law. Yet her life was spared by a man who chose to be her husband rather than run away from an unbelievable situation.

Peter — disciple, apostle, best friend of Jesus — deserted Him when He needed him most. Yet he was asked to protect and lead His sheep.

Saul of Tarsus, aka the Apostle Paul, arrested, tortured and murdered Christ-followers in the name of religion. Yet he became the most renowned Christ-follower throughout history, in fact much of the new testament was penned by him – and was even murdered because of this.

All these saints had rather sordid pasts. Much more than my time of enslavement to a vulgar desire. And though I don’t feel like I’m nearly righteous enough to be included in their ranks, I believe with my whole heart that God honors my devotion as He did theirs. As He redeemed them, He redeemed me.

“…being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His people in the kingdom of light.  For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” Colossians 1:11-13

I am a Tarnished Saint.