A guest blog by Kim Thames
I am a member of the Across the Bridge class at Campus Church because this is where the giants of faith come to drink Willie Mae’s coffee every Sunday morning. And after a few minutes together we are almost as strong. We are strong enough to face another week of whatever brutality and beauty the world will be throwing our way. Although it is labeled as a class for folks in recovery, they graciously allow us other people to attend pretending we are there to support them. It does not take long to learn it is quite the other way around, and to learn we have a lot of recovering to do ourselves. We find ourselves making fearless moral inventories. Discovering the relief of vulnerability. We are lifted on their shoulders to renew the joy of our salvation.
One of these giants shakes her head and closes her eyes when she speaks of her life before recovery. She and her husband twelve-stepped their way off the streets and into sobriety together, and she gives all the glory to God. Lots and lots and lots of glory to God all the time, all the time. She never misses an opportunity to make sure you know that God gets all the credit for lifting her up and lifting you up and lifting us all up, all the time. He did it all, does it all, and he is still doing it. Then cancer came for her husband. I saw her last Sunday as I have every single Sunday since she lost him. I said to her, “You are awesome.”
OH, NO, she said, and she pauses for a wide grin, then says again, “OH, NO, God is awesome.”
She pauses again to look at me intently. “I cannot love. It is only Jesus in me that can love.” Then she slips into bible class.
And I stand there for a moment because I know I am on holy ground.
Down here on the Gulf Coast it seems that every day I cross a bridge with lots of water and marshes or bayou below it. The other day while crossing another short one, an alligator was swimming parallel to me and I thought to myself how much I enjoy this area. Shortly after, a friend mentioned something aboutWater Under The Bridge and it all came together for me.
Let me first share the Wiktionary definition of Water Under The Bridge: Something in the past that cannot be controlled or undone, but must be accepted, forgiven or forgotten.
For any of us who have dealt with addiction or troubling circumstances in our past this is a very difficult thing to put behind us. Some cling to that past because there is nothing else worth moving ahead on. Some are stuck in that past and continue to live in it rather than in the reality of today. It is much easier to dwell on what used to be instead of what is.
Others feel so bad about what they did that they can not accept forgiveness or love from another human being, and constantly put themselves down for being worthless to society. I know all of these because I have felt at one time or another like that about myself. It seems like we are treading water and the alligators are catching up to us faster than we can tread!
There is of course an answer should we choose to accept the solution. A major barrier to that is how our parents, friends or spouses reacted toward us in the past by not offering us to accept, forgive or forget, and, though we can understand the hurt we may have inflicted upon them, we wonder if God will be like that as well.
Fear not, he isn't. He has accepted us by his actions on the cross by dying to forgive us. He has forgiven us as symbolized by his resurrection from the grave which signifies our redemption from the grips of sin. And, he has forgotten our sins because God is not here to remind us of how bad we are or have been, but instead shows us how good we can be.
In Him we are truly a new creation, we just need to learn how to act like we are instead of falling into old patterns of behavior. Again I know because I have lived through over 30 years of a roller coaster ride of recovery. The only answer is to offer a complete surrender to Christ.
Then, we let the water of our past flow under that bridge and out to sea, gone forever............
That is the spiritual definition of Water Under The Bridge!
by guest blogger Allison Miller
I didn’t know what that had to do with me, nor was it a subject I believed I carried the authority to discuss.
“Come on, Allison. This is an epidemic!” He was right. I know what the research says. Nine of ten boys and six of ten girls have been exposed to pornography by age 18, and the average age they are first exposed is 11 years old. Americans alone spend more than $10 billion a year on pornography!
He was right. Maybe I should be talking more about the increasingly damaging effects of pornography on one’s life.
Two weeks ago, Glenn mentioned in his blog he was nearly sexually abused by an older man when he was young. He said what saved him was his physical strength and the protective hand of God.
I have a question. What makes a man want to have sex with a younger man? Better yet, why does he want to do it forcefully, without consent?
Does it start as a kid, viewing soft pornography hiding under the covers after bedtime with a flashlight? Is it at a campout with all the guys? Is that the beginning of this distorted and addictive behavior? Did this man who wanted to harm Glenn grow increasingly tired of the pictures and something inside drove him to need and want more? And if this is so, why did he want to do it by force, especially on one who might not be able to defend himself?
They say that participation in pornography eventually leads one to desire the real thing. When operating in addictive behaviors, we all know there is almost nothing a person won’t do to get what he/she needs. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, shopping, plastic surgery or the need for acceptance, addictive behaviors operate the same. After a while you need more, a stronger hit, higher high, bigger adrenaline rush. And yes, it is written that the longer the addiction stays with us, the more distorted the lens we look through and the more heinous our behaviors become.
Whatever the drug of choice is that we use to fill the emptiness and lack in our lives, it leads to needing more.
After tiring from pornography, masturbation, strip clubs, parties and other outlets, those addicted to a sexual high will typically seek out a person. They need the drug just as an alcoholic needs his next drink and a user needs his next hit.
Those in their path become their victims. And like I shared earlier they will stop at nothing to get what they want.
People are violated. They are drugged. They are raped. They are tortured. They are manipulated. They suffer emotionally, spiritually and physically.
And more often than not, they are left alone to deal with the shattered pieces of their lives. Maybe because they keep it a secret out of shame or because no one they talk to can understand their desperate pain, struggle and the lifelong impact.
Look, I’m not an expert on this. I don’t know all the answers. God does. But what I do know is it can bring lifelong challenges to a child and he/she will carry them into adulthood.
It’s invasive. It’s demeaning. It’s debilitating. It’s confusing. It’s paralyzing.
And it steals innocence; a precious part of our being that may never be returned.
It causes people to think of themselves as worthless. It brings doubt, uncertainty and a complete incapacity to know true intimacy.
More often than not, it can cause a child to become the very thing he/she hates.
I know I am not alone. You’ve seen it. If you have eyes, I know you have seen it. It’s splattered everywhere.
Some is blatant. It’s on billboards. Magazines. Storefronts. Some is concealed. It hides in our homes on our computers, children’s electronics and in our teen’s room.
I believe if we don’t become a catalyst for change, we will experience greater heartache in our homes, communities and nation. Our future generations will suffer more than we can begin to imagine.
This perverted thing that I heard some have said “is not a Church issue” is a silent killer, a thief and destroyer.
Exposure to pornography can change the trajectory of an innocent young life.
A girl younger than 5 years was exposed to pornography and sex paraphernalia in the home of a family member. It was everywhere. Spread out over coffee tables, end tables, bedside tables.
A man placed his hand inappropriately on her own mother’s bottom, and no one said or did anything. It was accepted; therefore, it was normal.
That is how that little girl began to see and believe. The pornographic magazines, paraphernalia and the behavior she witnessed became normal. Maybe it’s what she believed happened in every home. Isn’t that how most of us think when growing up? Everyone is like us?
At 6 years, she was enticed into the home of an older man. Despite her churning stomach, she went with him down the stairs into the darkness.
As a result of what happened the little girl began acting out and her behavior became a problem. Her parents didn’t know how to deal with the temper tantrums and bedwetting. What was wrong with this little girl? Why was she such a problem?
She played with fire often and was consistently injured. By 7 years old she carried the label as an accident looking for a place to happen.
At 11 years, the dad of her next-door-neighbor friend sexually violated her, during a game of freeze tag. She felt sick. And just as before, she pushed the memory and pain down deep inside.
That same year the new neighbor’s son bullied her. She had become tough as a way to protect herself. She stood strong each time he punched her in the stomach, knocking her breath away.
As a 7th grader, the older kids on the bus bullied her. Her confidence plummeted and she felt unaccepted. She didn’t fit in.
At 19, she became pregnant. With no understanding support system out of loving concern for her future life, another part of her was stolen. She was disillusioned.
By 25, she was married, a mom of a 2-year old and divorced. Within five months she was married to husband number two.
After a series of increasingly abusive encounters, almost dying and being stalked, she fled with her now two children.
She found a new love. This time it was a younger man with addictive behaviors to drugs and alcohol. But that was not discovered until after standing in a Justice of the Peace office. She fled almost as quickly as she said, “I do,” but not before nearly shooting him.
Later, she foolishly went on a date in a man’s home where he cared for his elderly mom. She was drugged, dressed up and violently raped. In fear, no report was made, just extreme damage to her insides that required long-term medical attention.
At 37 years, she met a man with an exotic accent. Only after marriage did she learn that he had a past more perverted than her own. She saw the lies, deceit and clashing cultures and she quickly ran.
Surely this young woman had had enough! We see the pattern of her running from one relationship to the next (drug) to fill her longing for love. She was not a quitter. No matter what came against her, she kept running and looking. And 2 years later, she found everything she thought she was looking for and more.
He was an accomplished professional, tall and handsome with distinguished gray hair, charming and said everything she wanted to hear, “I'm going to marry you one day,” and he did. While on a luxury cruise, he presented her with a 4-carat diamond and of course, she said yes. He provided a beautiful home, designer clothes, fine jewelry and luxury cars. But there was a price to pay for all this, and she loved him so deeply she paid it, making him her god, the one she held onto above everything else.
But even he didn’t know how to love her well. He opened the door for her and she followed. Places she never would have visited with clear sight. Places where morality or marriage didn’t matter. Places frequented only at night, in the dark, hidden away. Places where perversion lives. She felt increasingly empty and intimacy was lost when she said, “no more.”
She desired more than anything the happy, carefree, loving family and husband she had always dreamed about.
A job transfer took them to the beautiful South Sea 10,000 miles away where she had every luxury . . . except for the love for which she yearned.
Feeling lonely and depressed, she lost more and more of herself, until one day she just felt dead.
Her world crashed around her and she fled back to America.
It was then, in her darkest hour she found the one love she had longed for.
God divinely intervened in her life. In her darkness and despair, He reached down and lifted her out of the dark hole and into the light. She surrendered and submitted her life to Him, telling Him how she didn’t know how to live her life, but she knew He did. She gave Him control of all her thoughts, words and actions. She began a seeking His ways and developed a relationship of love with Him and His Word that continues to fill her better than anyone or thing ever.
God changed her life as she took time to look in the rear view mirror, replace lies with truth, own her part, learn a new way to think and let it go. She learned to forgive God, herself and others, just as He had forgiven her.
At nearly 60 years old, she is free from the perversion that once stole, killed and destroyed her relationships. Now the stronghold in her life is Jesus.
And I understand that I didn’t receive freedom for myself. I was blessed to bless others with this story so that they will know they are not alone, there is hope and you can experience victory through Jesus Christ. You and your children can be free to have a healthy HEARTbeat in loving relationships after divorce, abuse or addictions through Jesus Christ.
If you are like me, you want the best for your children and the future generations. There are ways to protect your children and the future generations from the downward spiral of sexual perversion. You are the one with the powerful influence in your children’s lives!
I put together a booklet from information I gathered from stopit.org which will give you 5 Crucial Tips to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse. The 5 tips are:
1.Set and respect clear guidelines
2.Watch Out for Signs
4.Support Your Kids
As a gift to you, you can view or download the booklet with expanded ways to protect your children by clicking here. All you will need to do to access the booklet is follow this link and enter your email address on the pop up window.
What can you do to help fulfill the hopes and dreams you have for your children? How can you participate in shaping their lives for the vision you have for their healthy relationships? What about for your own?
I use the SHAPE acronym to help you see how you can shape and influence your children’s lives. You can do the same thing for yourself.
S - Their SPIRITUAL foundation is the most precious part of their identity. Help them know and show them through your own life they are the apple of your eye, your beloved children whom you love. In our own imperfection, we receive amazing gifts from our Heavenly Father.
H - Look at their HEART. There is something awry when someone is misbehaving or out of character. Just like God sees us as pure and holy we can see our children the same way. We must understand that the heart is where life flows from and it is learned from the time of being knit together in the womb. Help them see and get the Truth!
A - Keep a gentle ATTITUDE and open door for unhurried and relaxed time with your child. This will encourage him/her to trust and talk with you about anything that doesn’t “feel” good.
P - PRAY for your children’s protection. God says we can have what we ask. This is in the will of God. It is part of who He is. He is our protector. Spend time reading with them from a children’s version of the Holy Scriptures.
E- EMBRACE their developing personalities and LOVE them, but don’t agree with behavior that is disrespectful. Work to eliminate labeling your child. Our words are either blessing or cursing someone. If there are behaviors such as tantrums, fits, screaming and punches, it’s time to seek outside godly counsel. The greatest thing you can do is LOVE your child and positively parent.
 www.operationintegrity.org – visited site 8.8.2016
Think of all the times in our lives when we were very judgmental of a person or a situation where we felt someone was making a wrong decision or the situation dictated a different direction. And think about the fact we may have been right, but God had a different outlook.
There is no telling us sometimes that we are to stay out of the way, our opinion is not necessary, but yet we must remember, God is God and we are not!
In the story of Samson and Delilah there is a segment that describes how they first met and how Samson made what looked like a pretty dumb dysfunctional decision. Here is the text from Judges 14........
Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, "I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." His father and mother replied, "Isn't there an acceptable woman among the relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumsized Philistine to get a wife?"
Now for a moment remember the last time this was you, you were the one questioning the decision. Did we run it by God before we responded or did we just react? I am not saying every decision is led by God, but I am saying that we should give Godly people the benefit of the doubt before we jump right in with our two cents. Maybe, as we read more in Judges there was another plan in the works that we did not understand.
But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, she's the right one for me." His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines, for at that time they were ruling over Israel.
I am not sure if that last verse hit you like the ton of bricks that hit me, but it has sure made me think and make the commitment to pray and relax before I judge people who I know have a good heart and a heart for the Lord. May same seem very weird to me, but it would surely turn out very normal for a God who knows the outcome.
Turns out of course Samson made some bad choices but they led to God's outcome. You just never know!
But He does.....
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.