Fighting the Man Pleasing Spirit

As I briefly mentioned before our Church is watching John Bevere’s Breaking Intimidation movies and while they’ve been very deep and thought provoking I think God is trying to say something specific to me.

From my daily scripture readings this week:

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble? Psalms 27:1

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Romans 8:31-34

I started reading Romans 8 after listening to one of my dad’s old sermons that Brit had posted on the web. (Isn’t amazing that God can still use him to minister to me even after he’s gone home to be with the Lord? My dad would love to hear that.)

From the plaque I received today as part of raffle (lol God so doesn’t do random or coisedence does he?)

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

I think God is trying to tell me something here. All of this really struck home when Pastor Michelle was telling Arielle and I about a conversation she had with someone, and in the midst of that conversation she told the person that he/she had a “Man Pleasing Spirit” and needed to deal with it. What is a man pleasing spirit but a spirit of fear/intimidation? (exactly what everything up above deals with) And while I know that PM wasn’t saying that to me, it felt like it. It really hit my heart. And I realized that this is what God has been trying to get through to me these past couple of weeks. With God’s help I will conquer this spirit and step into the place God has called me to be. (I know beyond a doubt that I couldn’t conquer this without his help)

Thoughts of Throwing Away God’s Gift

For as long as I can remember, whenever life gets tough I start to seriously consider the temptation to throw away God’s gift. And more often than not, I buy into the lie that the devil is selling. I can still remember times, when I struggled early on in school, that I’d tell my mom, “I wish I had never been born”. Then later on in life when things just seemed to be too hard, my thoughts turned to how I could end it all, to be free of pain, sorrow, loneliness, and despair that seemed to plague my life. To say it plainly, for the majority of my life I’ve struggled with thoughts of suicide. And I don’t think I’m the only one. It breaks my heart every time I read about someone taking their own life, and not even that I almost cry when I read of someone who cuts themselves to dull the pain of their life. I know that God loves them and if only they could understand that, they wouldn’t have to hurt themselves to find peace.

Now I’m not writting this to tell you how I overcame suicide through my own strength or through my own force of will. Because as I stated earlier I bought into the satan’s lie, I believed whole heartedly that I was worthless, that the world would be a much better place without me. But rather how God has repeatedly saved my life, from myself. All glory and honor be to the one who created me, the one who loves me even though at times I haven’t loved myself, the one who had a plan for my life even before I was in my mother’s womb, all the praise belongs to God for taking me beyond the lies and into his heart of truth and love. I’m being transparent here, honest as I can be, not holding anything back (and trust me putting something like this out there isn’t easy) because I believe God has asked me to write about my journey and battling thoughts of suicide has been part of it (an ugly part of it). 

One of the reasons I believe this has been a constant struggle in my life, is because every time I wish I was dead, or fantasied about killing myself, the devil was throwing the miracle of my life back in God’s face. If you haven’t read my testimony, then you should know that God preserved my life at a time when I was defenseless, a time when my mother’s decisions meant life or death for me, a time when babies all over the world were being slaughtered simply to make a mother’s life a little more easy (click here if you’d like to read a more detailed account). So if the devil had ever been able to get me to follow through with what I was thinking that would have been a major victory for him, but he seems perfectly fine with a minor victory and insulting God. Thankfully God is not one to let Satan win lasting victories.

Another reason I believe that I was readily open to this attack of the enemy, is that as a human being I love doing things the easy way, or doing the easy things in life. Looking back now, non of the things that made me wish I was dead were really that hard. Math, spelling, heartbreak, loneliness, fear, and failure were all temporary and all things that eventually I worked through (obviously since I’m writing this ;-)). But the lies of the enemy made mole hills turn into mountains. Had I taken these things to God rather than working them out through my own limited human abilities, they would not have seemed so difficult. But I chose to trust in myself rather than the one who made me.

But the root cause of all of this is something I mentioned above, fear. Fear, is brought to us by a spirit of intimidation. This is a spirit I’m very familiar with, I’ve lived under it for so long, I’ve been bound by it’s chains, set free only be the awesome power of Jesus Christ! One of fear’s most used tools is a feeling of hopelessness. For the longest time I had no hope for ever finding a life long friend, I had no hope that I would ever find the woman that God had out there for me (and yes that’s how warped my mind was I acknowledged that God had selected a woman for me but yet didn’t have hope that he would lead me to her, how whacked is that?), I had no hope that I would ever find joy and happiness, and I had no hope that I would ever find understanding. So anytime life would get rough, this spirit would remind me of my hopelessness and I would buy into it. The logical conclusion being that if there is no hope for my life, why live it? As John Bevere talks about in his book “Breaking Intimidation“, fear makes us focus on ourselves. The thoughts constantly running through my head focused almost entirely on me and my current condition. I focused on how sad I was that my “girlfriend” left me, and focusing on something like that long enough I would start to think about how I’d never be able to find someone. This train of thought is something Pastor Michelle would call a death spiral. My other fears were similiar in that my focus was me, and my problems. The opposite of fear, is love. Love forces us to put our focus on others and breaks us free from the death spiral that fear has us trapped in.

I could talk more about the spirit of intimidation’s other tools like a false sense of control or the constant need to blame others, but if you want to know more about breaking this spirit’s control over your life I recommend John Bevere’s book Breaking Intimidation. I could also talk about the things God used in my life to encourage me, to give me hope and how he used my friends Brad and Jen, my Mom and Dad, and my love Arielle to show me how much he loves and cares for me, he used them to save my life in ways they will probably never understand, but if you want to hear more about that you’ll have to ask me someday or God will put it on my heart to write it here. Instead what I’d like to leave you with is this, as I’ve said before, the devil is a liar. Look at what I was so worried about above; finding the right woman for me, finding friendship and understanding. God has provided all those things and then some. I just want to encourage you to stop focusing on yourself and focus on God and he will provide all your needs. I’m a walking example of his love and his provision and I hope that my testimony will be used by God in your life to draw you closer to him.

My Journey pt 6: A brave new world.

So often we buy into the view that our inner self (thoughts, feelings, and will) is just the mind, but that view of your inner self is so very wrong. And anyone who has experienced loss can tell you that the mind and the heart are not just two different organs, they are almost two different beings, but really they two different ways of interacting with the world. Through that heart we feel for one another, love one another, but the mind is all logical, at times cold and ruthlessly calculating.

But after the loss of a loved one you can feel the three go there seperate directions, the mind is numb, the heart aches, and the soul is almost drunk at the wheel (not literally). This may not be an entirely accurate, but I wanted to capture my state after my dad passed away. I was broken, not physically, but in pretty much every other way. My usual stoic self couldn’t handle my new reality.

I remember driving my mom home from the hospital, we talked a bit, tried to put into words what had just happened, and how we felt about it. But I wasn’t really there. My mind was numb not just then, but for days after. What went on around me seemed like a dream that I was unable to wake from. When I was able to feel again, all I could feel was a dull ache where my heart used to be, and that ache reached into depths of who I was. My mind knew that my Dad was in a better place, that his pain and suffering was all gone, replaced with endless joy. It comforted me knowing and believing that when I see him again, it will be tears of joy, instead of the kind tears shed at the hospital. But my heart didn’t seem to grasp the concept. It ached, it cried, it was broken, it had a giant hole right in the middle and no amount of knowing something was going to fix it. Only time and God’s gentle touch seem to be the cure.

People often wonder how someone makes it through those tough times, and while I could offer you all the Church answers possible, but the simple truth is that the support of friends and family make the going much easier to bear. The out pouring of love on my family was amazing. The next day friends came over and cleaned my Mom’s house from top to bottom. Food overflowed from my mom’s refrigerator, and I don’t think it stopped coming in till weeks after. Friends and family called, flew in, or drove in, some we hadn’t seen in years, to be with us (physically or in spirit) during an extremely rough time. One thing that really blew our minds were the financial gifts, people and congregations we hardly knew were such an amazing blessing to our family by giving money, it was truly awesome to watch God provide for us. When the distraction of friends and family finally ends, and where the rubber meets the road that’s where you will find God most, because that’s when you will need him most. Don’t get me wrong, God is in your friends visiting, bringing you food, or caring for you in other ways. But most of us are to wrapped up in our own things to notice God’s subtle touch. It’s not till all that is gone do we really seek God and our real healing begins.

For me personally, I turned to my angel, Arielle, for comfort and support. At first we didn’t talk much about feelings or try to work through the issues I was dealing, we more chit chatted about what was going, the real and tangible things that are easy to talk about (weather, funerals, you know). Eventually Arielle asked more detailed questions and as I struggled to answer them, I would work out how I felt. Arielle was amazingly patient and would listen to me ramble on and on about some weird storied I had to tell or just stay by the phone and listen when i didn’t have anything to say at all. In many ways I think having Arielle there to support me really made those early months much more easy to bear. 

Things get easier as time moves on, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about my dad, in fact I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I don’t think about him. Penn State scores just about move me to tears (I’m not sure if a win or a lose is worse). And ask Arielle how many times I’ve told her, my dad used to do this, or my dad used to love that. I’m sure she’ll never get sick of hearing about him, but I’m sure my kids will. I used to think it weird when my dad would drive us to see where he played football as a kid, but I think I’m starting to understand, why we were out there and what he was trying to tell us. It’s just to late for us to enjoy the understanding together.

As my head and heart started to get back in sync, I realized a few things. First that my time on this world is short, so I better start living my life, here in the real world. From Jan 2008 to now I’ve been free of the chains called World of Warcraft and Pornography. Second I realized I better get right with God (Thanks to Arielle’s encouraging). I had lived with this idea of me coming back to the Lord when I was good and ready for too long (I was really pushing my luck). I started reading several books Desire by John Eldredge, Driven by Eternity (Thanks to Arielle), and a technical vb.net book. All three books were instrumental in preparing me for the months ahead. There are no coincides with God. The book Desire, was God’s first steps towards a true healing of my still aching heart. In it John describes what he went through after the death of his best friend, of course his situation didn’t match mine exactly, but the main point God was trying to get a acoss to me were still valid. The book Driven By Eternity was God’s next step, God used it to paint a very vivid picture in my mind of where my dad was at and how happy he is and forever will be. The peace that came to my heart after reading those books is really undescribable.

It was during this period of time that my 25th birthday fell. And on a whim (so I thought), I decided to take the day off from work and drive a lot of miles, to be exact, to see Arielle and to hang out with the girl of my dreams. I had had a crush on her for a very long time. At the time though I just needed to get away from where I was at, away the pain that still lingered, away from the big empty hole at the family birthday party, and away from the rut that had become my life. And while my stay here in FL that time was temporary, it was the foundation for something God had been planning for my life, for a very long time.

My Journey pt 5: A Virtual World vs A Real World

Of all the posts I’ve put on this blog, this one has been the hardest to write. But I have to finish the story, because the ending is full of grace, and even though this part is dark the next part is full of light and God’s glory. But most of all I have to be obedient.

A few months before I moved out of my parents house and became Brad’s roommate, I bought a new laptop with my hard earned money. It is a good Dell, that I’d recommend to anyone looking to buy one. Along with the laptop I bought a game, that I had been dying to get, World of Warcarft. WoW had been a huge hit with the gaming nerds like myself and I was dying to get it. Prior to this I had heard a lot about MMPORG’s, but I had never played one. I had played a few RPG’s (KOTOR, FableJade Empire, and Mass Effect) and really liked the genre, so I couldn’t wait to play with millions of others. But the cost of the game + the monthly fee + the cost of Internet + a crummy computer + poor college student with fraternity dues meant that I would have to wait. So when I got out into the real world with a real job and money to burn (not literally) and quite a bit of free time on my hands there was no stopping me. My first few weeks and months playing the game, were spent learning about the world, learning the terminology, learning how to play, and making friends that, while I would never meet most of them, I spent more time talking to them then I did some of my real world friends and sadly to say some of my family. While my guild was never the most successful one in all of the gaming world, we did pretty well, and I’m proud of all that we accomplished in that virtual world. And yes there was pinch of sarcasm included in that last sentence. I invested two years of my life into this game, and it wasn’t cause the game was all that. It was cause I had friends there, I was accepted. In that virtual world I could be a leader, when in the real world I was lost, and I could be the hero, when in the real world I felt like a zero. For a year I was also involved in a long distance relationship with a girl that played the game too. Every night I would be on-line raiding, farming, pvping, questing, leveling, or just hanging out. Most weekends I’d be on-line 10-12 hours straight doing the same thing. I’m sorry if you feel like all of this is too much information, but I’m trying to get convey how wrapped up in this game I had become. And how likely it would be that I’d still be wrapped up in this game, if my world had not been turned upside down by God.

In summer of that year, my dad stepped down from ministry to deal with some issues that he had been struggling with and was unable to get victory in without devoting his full attention to them. By stepping down he was able to admit before the entire congregation his problem and finally be free to get some help. I can still remember talking to him before that meeting, he asked me to read the letter he had written and offer any advice I could give. I wish at that time I could have comforted him, but I wasn’t able to come up with anything profound to say. Thankfully where I lacked, God provided. You see he was worried about the congregation’s reaction, to what many would call a minor sin. He was worried they would think less of him, but when the time came and he stood up before them in true humility. They rewarded his 20+ years of service and hard work by standing with him in his time of need. Their response was a witness to work my dad had done, the character of every single person there, and the grace of God. So for a season my Dad stepped down from the bee-ma, he started getting the counseling he needed and started working for Terminex. And for a brief moment it seemed that this season of my dad’s life would be just that something temporary, something that we would eventually look back on as a living lesson, but that season didn’t go the way any of us thought it would go.

It was during this time period that I turned twenty-four years old (my birthday is in January btw). I don’t remember what we did for my twenty-fourth birthday, but what I do remember is noticing that my Dad was wheezing with every breath. At that time they weren’t sure why he was wheezing, but doctors thought he might have pneumonia. Just to be on the safe side the doctors were going to run a few tests. One of the first tests my dad took was a chest x-ray, and the results showed a mass on his lung. The first time the doctors went in to take a biopsy they found the mass to be tightly wrapped around a major blood vessel, so after a second try the test results showed the growth to be cancerous. When I first heard the news I was in shock, and a feeling that would be come all too familiar swept over me. For the longest time it felt like I was living in a dream world. Sure I had heard of friend’s relatives dying of cancer, and even my own Grandmother had passed way due to lung cancer. But cancer was something older people got, not someone as young and alive as my dad. It wasn’t long till he started chemo, you could see him growing weaker, as the poison designed to kill the cancerous cells, killed the healthy cells as well. I cut back my WoW playing making sure that I visited my mom and dad as many weekends as possible, but looking back now I wish I would have stopped playing altogether. At first it seemed as though the chemo was doing its job, and there was talk about my dad being reinstated as the Rabbi of Brit Hadasha. Almost a year to the day, my dad having been faithful, even while doing chemo, to complete his counseling sessions he was brought back to his rightful place of leadership. It was a happy time. However it didn’t stay that way, my dad continued to get sicker, the doctors tried new chemo combinations but they didn’t seem to work. (I’m sorry, I know I’m leaving stuff out, and maybe getting events out of order.) Towards the end of October, I was flying out to see the girl I met while WoW, whom I wasn’t “seeing” anymore, for her birthday. Since I lived a good hour from the airport and had a very early flight my mom offered to let me sleep at home and take me to the airport in the morning. What I hadn’t realized up to that point was how rough of a time my dad was having at night. I won’t go into it here, but even now the memory brings tears. How my family got through those months was a miracle in itself. My return flight on Monday got me in sometime in the early afternoon, so I stopped by to see how my dad was doing before I returned home. We had a great talk, probably one of our best since the trip to Virginia Beach. I still feel bad that I didn’t take more time to talk with him, but I “had” to get back so that I could wash my clothes and do all the other things that seemed so important at the time. Looking back though those things couldn’t have been more trivial. On Thursday while I was at work, I got a call from my mom that my dad was in the hospital, and I should come down asap. 

When I got to the hospital, he was already on quite a few drugs, and they had to incubate him. So he couldn’t talk. The doctors explained that the cancer had in my understanding eaten a hole into his tracea causing blood to fill the lower part of his lungs. For the time being the patch the doctor had put down there, plus the tube was keeping more blood from coming in but any sudden movement or violent cough could rupture it. In order prevent that from happening they gave him some milky white looking drug, that caused him to sleep. The doctors wanted to give his tracea a chance to heal and for a scab to form. So many people showed up, pretty much all of Brit and quite a few people that we hadn’t seen in years. Through 20 years of ministry my dad touched so many lives. On Saturday the doctors decided to try and take out the ventilator tube and allow him to breathe on his own. They slowly weened him off the milky drug that was keeping him unconscience and eventuallly they turned off the ventilator. My brothers Sam and Matt were out in the waiting room as my mom and I watched my dad slowly wake up. … He was only awake for a few seconds before the doctors realized there was a problem. Thankfully my mom was smart enough to get us both out of the room while the nurses started to work on him. It was then that we had to make a really difficult decision, Do we tell the doctor to patch the hole again and re-ventilate him? Or should the doctor just make him as comfortable as he can? It was a decision that neither of us wanted to make, but in the end we decided that putting him back through that torture would just be too much. My dad passed away early the next morning, with his wife, sons, and brit family by his side.

My Journey Pt 4 : Transitions

The transition from high-school to college was one of fear and excitement. You start college not knowing anything (about college I mean). You worry about how to get from class to class, about the kind of professors you’ll get, how hard the work will be, what you’ll do for fun, and how you’ll survive on your own. But by your senior year, you will have the system down pat, you know what professors to get, none of your classes start before ten, you begin to like learning new things, and you like the freedom college offers you. Basically you have become comfortable. It’s usually about this time that you graduate and begin a new chapter in your life. And that’s where we pick up my story.

I graduated in December of 2004 a full semester early. Considering that most people told me to expect a fifth year of college, that’s a fact I’m proud of. I don’t remember much from the ceremony itself, it was typical bland almost boring, I don’t know what I expected maybe trumpets blaring or something else spectacular. But that’s not how the real world operates I guess. What I do remember is how proud my parents were, how much I appreciated them being there, and how happy I was to celebrate with my friends. The ceremony wasn’t the only disappointment about graduation, the other was waking up the next morning. Again I don’t know what I expected, maybe that I would wake up more mature, maybe I’d wake up the wise college graduate. But none of those things happened I woke up the next morning the same as the day before, feeling insecure about my future, feeling like I was eighteen again, young and not mature enough to handle myself in a bigger pond. In a word I was afraid, but I hid it, covered it up like I think a lot of high school and college graduates do. And maybe that is the essence of being a worldly person, covering up your own fear and insecurities in anyway possible.

After graduation I moved back to my parents house, for what would normally have just been winter break. Of course many people congratulated me, and then would follow that up with the dreaded question of the hour, “So what are your plans now?”. Plans?!?! I had no plan. My plan was to enjoy my Christmas break the way I always had. My parents let me slide a little bit, they let me enjoy the Christmas season, and thankfully after that was over they got on my case about finding a job. At the time I wasn’t so happy they were constantly bugging/nagging me to get a resume’ together, and go out to apply for jobs. Yep I graduated college and hadn’t really focused on putting my resume’ together. At first I almost resented their constant “So what have you done today to find a job?” interrogations, but they only had the best in mind for me. They wanted to see me grow and spread my wings, they probably knew better than me that if they merely allowed me to continue on hiding from the world, I would not become the man I was supposed to be.

So I started working on it, I put together a resume’ and posted it on every job website known to man. And then I waited. And waited. I got a few nibbles. A few phone interviews, but nothing serious. One company asked me to take a test, but they never called back after I took it. So to say the least I became discouraged. It was about that time, my dad, who I know was constantly praying about my situation, stepped in and started making a few phone calls. He set up a few meetings with friends of his, but before those could bear fruit. On of my friends from school sent me an IM saying that one of my old professors was trying to get in touch with me. It turns out that he had heard of a job posting and had sent a letter of recommendation for me. I got in touch with the company emailing them my resume’, and thanks to God they called me back to set up a time to interview. My Mom and Dad were more excited than I was, I think, this was my first real face to face job interview. My mom took me out to buy a suit, and my dad brought out his shoe shine kit (something rarely seen except for the High Holidays). So early in the morning I got up, drove out Ripley, TN to interview at Marvin Windows and Doors of Tennessee. To make a long story short, after about four or so interviews, during which I was insanely nervous, and jabbered on like an idiot at times; I returned home to wait for the phone call. I waited and waited during that time I put in an app to be a dock worker at the Memphis airport. And then one morning, I got a phone call, Marvin wanted to hire me on as an Associate Programmer/Analyst for $35,000 a year. Wow! For a kid just out of college that was a lot of money. On March the twenty-first I started my first real job.

The commute for this job was an hour and half, both ways! I remember waking up at 5:30 (now that was a real change from college) getting dressed and grabbing a banana on my way out the door. The drive wasn’t horrible, for the most part I was going the opposite way that the traffic was going, plus it was so stinking early in the morning that I rarely had problems getting to work. But the drive did start to wear me out. I made quick friends with another young fella who worked in the IT department, Brad. Brad had started three months or so before I had, so we were both somewhat new to the job and even though he was a few years older than I was were both new to the IT world. I could write a whole post on my experiences working for Marvin, but first they would mostly be technical in nature (and that’s not my desire for this blog) and second it would probably be boring to most of you.

One of my fondest memories of working at Marvin, was the time my dad got to visit the plant. I had been there a year or so when my dad was going to visit someone near Ripley, so he arranged it so that he would be in town around lunch time. For lunch we went to the local steak house (I think the sight of the Chinese restaurant scared him 🙂 ). It was awesome sitting there taking a lunch break with my dad. It’s one of the few times I actually felt like a grown up. We talked for a little bit and then I got to take him back to Marvin and show him around the plant a little bit. He was so impressed and so proud of me. I don’t think he ever understood what it was that I did, he had a general idea don’t get me wrong, but how I did it wasn’t something that was easy to explain or understand. But he was proud of his son, and that made me so happy.

It wasn’t too much longer after that, that I moved out of the house, and started sharing a place with my good friend Brad. I moved out of the house in March of 2006 and began a whole new adventure.

My Journey Pt 3 : School Days

I started kindergarden while we were still living in Virgina Beach, VA. I have a lot of fond memories there, we played a game called 7Up and quite a few times my dad would pick me up in the mail van (he worked in the mail room, while he was in school). Its amazing how vivid my memory of that van is even to today. My dad graduated, and became the Rabbi at congregation Brit Hadasha in Memphis, TN that October. That spring I started at a new private school. My memories of that first semester are not quite as bright. The most I can remmeber is a math robot and darkness. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a bad place, just wasn’t as fun as the place i had come from. The rest of my years there were better, my teachers were truly dedicated my and my classmate’s educations and futures. With that said these were the hardest years of my education.  I struggled with spelling, reading, and math. I can remember hours upon hours of me and my mom studying spelling after school. I would get fustrated and start crying, she would get fustrated, but in the end we fought through it. After three hard years I got tested for dyslexia, they found I had a mild case of it. I struggled in class copying down information down from the board, but after finding this information out, my teachers really started pitching in and put forth a lot of extra effort to help me learn. After fifth grade my mom decided to homeschool me and my brother. I left private school behind in my reading, grammer, and math skills.

My mom homeschooled me from sixth grade to ninth grade. She invested so much extra time in teaching us. I remember waking up one morning to find a tray on the counter filled with dirt, she had made a fake archeological dig for us. She got us involved with a group of other homeschoolers, together we put on plays, took field trips, achievement tests, and quite a few other extra circular activities. All the while this was going on my mom was constantly trying out new techniques to help me learn. I remember spending several afternoons standing in the living spelling out words in the air. The idea was that tying the motion and the spelling toghether would imprint the information on my mind. It sounds silly, but it proved out to be very effective. I maintained the practice well into college through writting out again and again information from class in order to memorize it. During this time I over compensated for my reading deficency by reading every book I could get my hands on, this too was something that has carried through with me to today.

My sophmore year, something changed. Matt and I went back to private school (Sam remained homeschooled). The main reason for the change was that my mom really didn’t feel adaquate teaching us the higher level stuff. I worked very hard my first year back in private school, and I was very stressed. At times I wasn’t even able to eat dinner with my parents. The hard work payed of though, the next two years in comparison were so very easy. Overall my highschool experience academically was in stark constrast to my elementary school work. My skills in math grew by leaps and bounds, to the point of almost being easy. My reading and writting skills had caught up if not surpassed my classmates, and my love for history even won me a few awards. One of my favorite things about highschool was football. It was out on the practice field that I learned a lot about myself. I didn’t get to see a lot of playing time, but I did enjoy the times I got to get in there. The star of the show was my brother Matt, he was crazy out there, and I was so proud of his athletic accomplishments. There was way too much that went on in highschool for me to write out here, but it was definetly a positive experience.

My academic success continued on into college, where I majored in Computer Science, with a minor in Math. Its hard for me to say that without a smirk on my face. Recognizing all the hard work it was built upon. Lots of sweat equity was built into the foundation of that degree. My college years were a dark time in my walk with God. For the most part I was a Christian in name only. Sadly so were many of my friends. Its not that there were new areas of sin opened up in my life during this time, just that many of them just ran unchecked. I started drinking a few weeks before graduated high school, and it really bloomed in the fraternity lifestyle. There are nights that I can’t remember, many nights that I spent puking, or just in general making a fool of myself. At the time I viewed alcohol as a means to let myself go, as a way to put aside all my concerns and just focus on having a good time. But what I didn’t see were the chains that were binding me and blinding me to the truth, that my life was empty, hollow, void of any meaning aside from seeking self pleasure. My alcohol abuse hit its peak when my dad died, and I literally tried to use alcohol to soften the pain. Glory be to God that He woke me out of the stupor before alcohol consumed my life. It was also during this time (back to my college days) that pornography took an even deeper foothold in my life. Recognizing my shallow existance, I became suicidal. I never made any attempts, but I enjoyed thought. And on more than one occasion came very close to going through with it. Who am I to take away the gift God has given me? Who am I to undo my biological mother’s courageous decision? In the depths of my despair I couldn’t see the simple truth, that I was not alone. Even though I’m a wretched sinner amazingly God still loved me, and He wanted me to be restored to Him. Unfortunetly it took my dad dying for me to realize this. But I know that today, right now, he is rejoicing in heaven, as a whole man, a restored man! Again this was something that started before college, but so many nights bored nights with just me and my computer it became almost a way of life. This grew into sinful relationships with women. It wasn’t until I gave up this lifestyle that I found a true relationship with a Godly woman. Sadly one of the consequences of my sins will always be the lingering regret. But through God, I’ve been forgiven and my sins washed clean. Through God’s grace none of these things hindered my school work (unlike many of my friends who either dropped out or flunked out), and through Jesus’ blood I’ve been set free from the bondage that bound me.