Tag Archives: Celebrate Recovery

The Struggle Is Real: Community Calls

I had attended church my entire life. I had known Christian community—I had close friends in college, I had worked in the church forever…and yet I was still struggling with issues related to a pornography addiction I had years earlier. I knew that to get the healing I needed, I had to find true, authentic community. And I knew I couldn’t find that on Facebook, Twitter, or social media. Instead, I had to step away from the computer and boldly into a place where I could find the face-to-face accountability that I needed to move forward out of addiction.

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

These days, it is easy to “find” community online—to say that we are talking to others, relating to others, and being honest with others because we are connecting with others through social media. But putting all my “junk” into an online forum, staying behind a computer screen, and remaining anonymous and “unknown” were not the things that helped me find health and healing. Instead, I began attending Celebrate Recovery at a local church, where I joined a small group step study designed for intimate community and intricate healing.

Here are three reasons why it’s important for women who are struggling with pornography and sexual addiction to find real, face-to-face community with other believers:

  • Community breeds vulnerability. You’ve noticed it yourself: you’re not likely to confess yourself to a bunch of strangers (unless it’s online). You build trust and relationships by spending time with others—and you have to do that to build community. In person, you want to find someone who you know well and can trust with your deepest darkest secrets. This is one reason the Bible encourages us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Spending quality time with other believers regularly is an important step in dealing with our struggles.
  • Vulnerability leads to confession. The more time you spend with others, the more you will want to share with them. As I went through my Celebrate Recovery step study, I began to trust the women who were there. At the beginning, it was hard to “go first” in sharing our secrets and pain—there is always some hesitation in going first or sharing at all. But by the end of our ten months together, we were freely sharing all of our struggles with each other. So don’t just find community, allow yourselves to be vulnerable in your community—because this will breed an authentic atmosphere where confession flows freely.
  • Confession brings healing. Upon graduating from our step study program, we wrote notes of encouragement for each of our study members. One of my study members wrote to me, “You shared your struggles with brutal honesty—and that is why the healing is so strong.” I have kept that in mind as I’ve continued to share my struggles and pain with my Christian community. Confession always leads to healing; how much we confess will determine the amount of healing we experience. I have quoted James 5:16 many times on my blog, but here it is again, because it is such an important verse: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” The Bible is right: true healing requires confession.

Finding community and staying in community can be difficult because any community contains sinful humans. But the Bible encourages us to stay in community with others—not just because it teaches us to love others more, but because of the healing we can receive in the process. Authentic, Christian community is calling you: will you answer?

How has being in community helped you to be more authentic about your struggles?

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The Struggle Is Real: Mainstream Media Miss

When I decided to stop looking at pornography, I was pretty successful at throwing away all of my stuff. But as I was aging, technology was getting better—the Internet was born and gaining popularity—and cable television, which I had never had growing up, came into my life. So even though I threw out many of the things that had hooked me, the lure of sexually explicit materials came from other directions that had not been a problem before. I was struggling because of mainstream media.

media by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

While I did not struggle with the Internet, I found that television and movies caused me lots in problems in the battle for my mind. I had never considered being careful about the movies or television shows that I watched. But suddenly, I realized the content of mainstream media had shifted; the public was much more accepting of sexually explicit materials on prime-time television, and cable was even worse. When I finally went into recovery, I realized I had to take drastic measures to lessen the media’s influence on me and my porn/lust issues. Here are four things I did:

  • Take inventory. The media is not going to look out for you. When I realized that I had to look out for myself, I took action. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” But it’s not just about your eyes: the music you listen to can trigger thoughts and emotions as well, and being a musician who loves music, I still struggle with boundaries in this area. But I know that media is a slippery slope, and I must constantly test whether I am watching and listening to things that are good for me and pleasing to God. You must know your own limits as well—they may not be as strict as mine, but it is important to set them in advance and take account.
  • Use filters. Just because I restrict myself, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy movies and media—but I do use filters as boundaries. For example, I use the website Plugged In, which reviews movies, television shows, and music. Plugged In is a Focus on the Family website, so they count every curse word and detail every bit of violence and sex in media. I may not always agree with their assessment, but checking out Plugged In before I go to the movies has saved me from falling into lust again. In addition, I have a filter on my phone—honestly, you never know when you’re going to click on a website that may contain unsuitable images.
  • Unplug. If you’re inside watching TV or on your computer, you are most likely not interacting with people. So unplug! Leave your phone at home or at least put it down for a few hours. Step away from the computer or television. Get with other people and form community. Be vulnerable and honest with them. Form intimate bonds with them, not with images on a screen. Real relationships are difficult and a lot of work: but they are worth the struggle and better for your soul. The more time I spent with others, the less time I have to devote to meaningless media.
  • Get in the Word. God’s Word is the best replacement for media, whether it is through prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship with others, or listening to uplifting Christian music. The illicit images in your head need to be replaced with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and/or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Find things that fit this description and begin filling your mind with these things. As you do, you will find the desire for mainstream media decreases as your desire for God increases. That’s been my experience!

People laugh when I tell them that I only watch Disney Channel and sports. They believe that I am missing out on the coolest shows, the best songs, and Oscar-winning movies. But what I am really missing out on is the explicit sexual content that causes me to struggle with sexual purity and pornographic thoughts. And quite honestly, I don’t miss that at all. Neither will you!

What are some ways you recognize mainstream media has influenced your thought life?

The Struggle Is Real: Shame on Me

When I was growing up, no adult—not even my mother—had “the talk” with me about sex. Once when I was caught doing something, my mom scolded me and told me not to do it again—but she never explained why or what sex was even really about. So when I stumbled upon pornography around age 10, I kept it a secret. Even though I was curious about it, I knew that I shouldn’t like it so I kept quiet. My church never talked about sex, except when we were told that we just shouldn’t do it. And most kids were too afraid to ask questions of any adults. So everything I learned about sex, I learned from my non-Christian peers or from pornography—meaning what I learned was a skewed and perverted form of the beauty that God intended.

ashamed girl by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

One of the biggest issues surrounding women, pornography, sex, and the church is simple: shame. It’s not just shame surrounding an addiction to sex or pornography: women in the church feel shame if they aren’t sexually pure until marriage, if they have sexual desires and drives that are unmet, and/or if they struggle with sexuality at all. I realized that the church was not a safe place to discuss sex, sexuality, and the temptations that go with them. In addition, I saw the gossiping about Christian girls who were sexually active, and I knew the “secrecy” of sex had led even the “purest” Christian girls to act out. I did not want to experience that public shaming and ridicule, so I kept my secret.

In order to help women truly move forward from sexual addictions and towards Godly purity, here are a few things the church needs to do:

  • Start the discussion somewhere. After Easter, my pastor begins a sermon series entitled, “What’s Missing from Sex.” He has struggled with that title—he changed the word “sex” to “love” but realized that “love” might not convey what God was telling him to say. He knows that some folks may not want to hear these sermons. But he also recognizes that there are several young generations that are struggling to know the Godly intention and beauty of sex. He knows that something is missing for many people, and he is starting the discussion. I am proud that my church is a church that is tackling these tough issues. If you want to check out the sermon series, please visit our website beginning April 27.
  • Provide safe environments to keep talking. Obviously, having a sermon series is great to open the discussion, but we have to keep talking after that. Small groups and recovery groups are all great places to share. However, it is important that we offer same-sex groups or accountability partners for these struggles.  Women need to share with other women, and men need to share with other men. While husbands and wives should be open and honest with each other, women need their own safe, open place for confessing their struggles so that healing can begin (James 5:16).
  • Remove the shameful labels. When looking at us, God doesn’t see my sin as worse or better than yours; He simply sees sin and His heart breaks. We spend too much time “sorting sins” in the church, placing shameful labels on each other and separating ourselves from “those people.” When a woman was caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). When we judge others, we throw stones and create unsafe environments for others to share. Instead of throwing stones, allow yourself to be vulnerable and open about your own struggles. Watch the labels disappear as you connect with others on a deeper level.

The church is not perfect, but as Christ’s bride, we can help remove the shame of sexual addictions and sins and replace it with love, forgiveness, and acceptance. When we do this, we become more like Jesus and the church God designed us to be.

How are you/your church helping to remove shame from sexual sins and addictions?

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: Post Recovery

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25 

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net

After attending Celebrate Recovery for a year, I felt God calling me back to my former church—yes, the one I had left abruptly. I had made amends with my pastor, and he had told me, “Oakdale will always be your home.” However, I somehow believed that completing a recovery process meant that I wouldn’t face any obstacles and that I was finished with my work. So even though I returned to the church a different and better person, God was not finished His work in me. I had a lot of growing to do. In fact, I found that I was still struggling with people and with how to use my gifts. So after a brief stint back, I left again, hoping to find a place where my gifts could be used—even though my heart was not in the right place.

My search turned up dry, though, and in the midst of feeling out of community, I became involved with a man who offered me false community and intimacy. He claimed to be a Christian but was not practicing or in community with other believers. We began a relationship while he was still married. I somehow convinced myself that this was not adultery because he and his wife were separating. However, because I had stopped talking with my close Christian friends, I had no accountability. It was a brief relationship, and thankfully, God delivered me from it and opened my eyes to my sins. When the relationship ended, I repented and returned once again to the church I had left—to the community of believers who showed me the grace and love I had been searching for.

The latest years of my life have shown me a few important things:

  1. Recovery is ongoing. Even though I was free from my pornography addiction and related issues, I was still struggling with my relationships. My beliefs about relationships with men and my own worth still needed work. And I realized that my thought life was still an issue—daydreaming and control issues ran rampant. I did not leave Celebrate Recovery fully healed: I left healed of many issues, but I still need constant work to continue to grow in my walk with God.
  2. Ongoing recovery requires community. I didn’t have to stay at Celebrate Recovery, but I needed to be in community SOMEWHERE. When I stopped attending church, hanging with my Christ-like friends, and allowing myself to be held accountable, I fell into sin very easily. I went down the slippery slope so fast, I was unable to recover in time. I praise God for His grace, but I know that not having community was the biggest reason I fell into sin. Now I make community a priority in my life—so that recovery can continue!
  3. Every community is made up of sinners like me. When I left my church, it was because I didn’t believe people were communicating with God about how to use my gifts. As it turns out, I was the one not in tune with God. No matter what church you attend, no one there is perfect—including you. I had to temper my expectations about people and about God. And I had to realize that people—even and especially my Christian friends, would disappoint me and even hurt me. When I understood and accepted those things, staying in community became that much easier.

When I returned to my church this last time, I spent one year in a ministry supporting in the background. I finally submitted to God, allowing Him to develop patience in me and allowing Him to use that year to mature me in very specific spiritual and emotional areas. And when I humbled myself before Him, He lifted me up (James 4:10)—to the perfect worship leadership position for me. I currently serve there, and though it is challenging, I know that God is using this time to develop and grow me even more, so that I can face the next eight years with full confidence in Him and who I am in Him. And that is the reason I sing!

Thank you for reading my story and hearing my song! I pray that it has blessed you and encouraged you in your own walk with Christ! 

Becoming Fearlessly Fulfilled: Find Your Catalyst!

I was watching an acquaintance’s wedding video this morning. A wave of emotion washed over me when I saw one of the groomsmen getting ready. I recognized him from the chin down shot immediately. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in more than four years, but here I was, feeling all sorts of unresolved emotions. When I decided to no longer be friends with George*, it left an incredible hole in my heart and life. But I knew it was best for us both. And though we are no longer friends, he was my catalyst towards emotional health.

go by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

A catalyst is defined as “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.” George pushed me into looking deeply at myself and deciding to get better. Catalysts are meant to provoke you to change or action and they help you develop an attitude of change because they are often emotionally charged agents. Even as I was writing this blog, I was overcome with emotion about how important George was to me becoming fearlessly fulfilled. That is a catalyst’s role!

Catalysts do three things to help you develop an attitude of change:

  • Catalysts show you something you want but don’t really have. For me, I wanted a real relationship—with George, with my family and other friends, with anyone. I wanted to know how to truly love others instead of being judgmental and self-righteous. I wanted to know myself and love myself so that I could love others more deeply. My failed friendship with George brought these things into the forefront in my life.
  • Catalysts show you something you have but don’t really want. I had real issues with emotional health. I was constantly jealous, angry, and controlling in all of my relationships. As I’ve said before, I thought that people were objects to be used for my pleasure instead of gifts from God to treasure. I didn’t want to be that way, but I was because it was the only way I knew to be. If not for my catalyst, I might still be that person today.
  • Catalysts help bring you to the end of yourself. We don’t get to the end of ourselves all alone; something usually pushes us there. For me, it was losing my friendship with George permanently. Even now, God has not allowed me to reconnect with him—even though we live in the same county and have some of the same friends—for reasons I may not know until heaven. And today while writing this, I realize that I miss him terribly. However, what I DO know is that if George would have held on to me back then, I may not have taken that required step into Celebrate Recovery and grown as exponentially as I did. It was at the end of myself that I found God, health, and my true worth. It was at the end of myself that God healed my broken heart and bound up my wounds (Psalm 147:3).

True, lasting change is always accompanied by a catalyst. I feel I owe George a huge thank you for the true, lasting change he inspired me to find. And maybe one day I can share that with him face to face. In the meantime, I’m still a work in progress who will continue to thank God for providing me with the perfect catalyst to propel me towards health and wealth in Him.

Have you found a catalyst to propel you towards becoming fearlessly fulfilled? Share with me in the comments or visit my Contact Me page for a free 30-minute Identity Intensive!

*Name changed.

Please Identify Yourself

image courtesy of nuchylee/freedigitalphotos.net

“The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are.” –Peter Scazzero

Far too many people coast through life wondering who they are because they do not know how to find out (or Who can tell them); hiding who they are because they are afraid that people won’t like them if they know the truth; or being someone else because they have surrendered to other people’s assumptions about them. Few people, and even fewer Christians, are walking in their God-given identity. They lack self-awareness.

I was there. Ten years ago, I had the self-awareness of a square, the emotional intelligence of a newborn, and the self-control of a rabid dog. I was a complete mess with no idea of who I was, who God said I was, and who I was becoming. Quite honestly, I would have been content with chasing the “American dream” of having a husband, kids, a house, and a couple of nice cars. I would have “settled” for those things because that would have given my life some “definition.” It was a worldly definition, but it was a definition nonetheless.

Thankfully, an incredible friend introduced me to the motivational spiritual gifts and explained to me that I was a prophet. Oh, to feel understood and to understand how God had made me! And as I looked further into who I was, I saw where I needed to improve and how I could live out God’s dream and vision for my life!

So if self-awareness is crucial to great leadership, then where do you start? Here are two valuable ways you can improve your self-awareness:

  • Find your motivational gift (Romans 12:6-8). Knowing why you are motivated in specific ways can help you understand yourself better in big AND small ways. It also can show in which areas you need to improve. For example, prophets tend to value truth over relationship. This is an area I am constantly trying to improve as I learn that God is the real truth-giver who has called me be quiet and be in relationship—especially when it is tough. Knowing this about myself has helped me to solve a host of issues at my job, home, and church.
  • Acknowledge and overcome your past (see the story of Joseph in Genesis 37). Your past does not have to define you, but you can learn from it and move forward. If you have unresolved wounds from your past, you cannot fully experience the life God intended. Explore your family of origin, how your parent(s) raised you, and significant life events—both good and bad—to discover who you are so that you can live joyfully in your new family: God’s family. I acknowledged and overcame my past through Celebrate Recovery, but there are many awesome programs/people out there that can help you walk through your hurts, hang-ups, and habits and discover new life in Christ. The old saying is right: you can’t know where you’re going ’til you know where you’ve been!

To become a great leader, you must know yourself. Who are you?

Interested in discovering your motivational spiritual gift and leadership style? Click on “Contact Me” at the top of this page and submit the form. I’d love to have a free discovery call with you.