Are You A Prisoner?

Looking back there are many things I don’t remember about my life. For various reasons I wasn’t present or walking in awareness of my reality. Instead I was a prisoner in my own mind. A Prisoner of the Moment...

 There are many ways one can be A Prisoner of the Moment here are some:

1. Distracting ourselves with things of the world prevent us from being present.
2. Focusing on a memory or fantasy prevents us from being present.
There’s no doubt living in the moment is critical to living a healthy life.
People use a variety of things to stay out of the now. It may be an Internet pornography addiction with an out of control fantasy life, drugs and alcohol; food or sex; sports and entertainment; shopping for more and material possessions, staying constantly surrounded by people or involved in too many activities, etc… ad infinitum, ad nauseam… all to numb themselves from their painful reality.

They all do the same thing, keep us from dealing with who we are, where we are and what we’re feeling.

If we constantly keep ourselves from the present, our lives have no thread of meaning running through them. We remain empty vessels living with no eternal purpose; just taking up space; a zombie-like walking dead person.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve lived enough of my life that way! I don’t want to live just floating along on the breeze; wherever my current fantasy takes me. I want to go forward aware, intentional, making a difference in my life and the lives of others, living each moment with an eternal perspective.
Are you keeping your self-preoccupied or distracted so that you don’t actually live your life?
What are you doing today that will have an eternal impact for yourself or others?

There is only one thing worth being concerned about. ~Luke 10:42

Working the Steps: Step 8

In my personal recovery walk I focus my daily devotions on the Step that coincides with the month of the year. For the month of August I’m focusing on Step 8. 

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

In Step 8 we start to grow up. We begin doing things that mature people do–taking responsibility for our actions and the wrongs we committed.

Prior to this we have focused mostly on ourselves. In Step 4 we took our moral inventory. In Step 5 we admitted our wrongs. In Step 8 it’s time to look beyond our self to see how we affected those around us.

Step 8 is a very humbling experience. We must recognize our part in the harm that has been done to others. Removing our need to blame others and accepting full responsibility for our actions.

Like our personal inventory, remembering the faces of those we have hurt, can be a very painful process. We must write their names down, carefully considering our relationships and how we harmed them.

Total honesty with ourselves is important in making restitution and going forward with peace of mind. But along with the pain of recognizing the damage we have done, comes a welcome relief that we’ll no longer cause these injuries to our self and others.

Once the list of those we have harmed is prepared, we must ask God for the willingness needed to make the amends. With His help and in His time we can. 

 Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~ Luke 6:31

This Is Only A Test!

The Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis. The test allowed the FCC and broadcasters to verify that the EBS tone transmitters and decoders were functioning properly and that outlets nationwide would carry emergency programming within a period of five minutes when the system was activated.

Growing up I remember the Emergency Broadcasting System testing weekly on television. The above image would appear on the screen along with a high pitched tone signal to get our attention, followed by an announcement similar to this:

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and other authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news or instructions. This is only a test.

What about you? Is God trying to get your attention with troubling circumstances? 

Are you living in a crisis, war or threat of war?

Job loss, bill collectors, bankruptcy?

Kids on drugs, involved in crime and headed for jail. 

Stress is taking a toll on your marriage or physical health. 

Does it seem like everything will come crashing down at any moment?

When will it end???

You may not have this exact set of problems. But at one time or another everyone meets a crisis in their family. When we do it’s easy to ask: Why God Why? or When God When?

In school, we don’t get promoted to the next grade level without taking tests. Life works the same way. God gives us tests of faith to see if we are ready to go to the next level. The nice thing about God’s tests is if you fail them, you get to take them over and over again until you pass.

Instead of whining, complaining and begging God for answers, we need to heed God’s EBS warning and wake up! It’s time to change the view of our circumstances and see things from an eternal perspective. When we look at things from God’s view it’s easier to see potential purpose in times of struggle.

God never wastes anything. He will bring about something good if we will truly give it to Him.

So when we go through times of struggle let’s ask God to teach us the lesson He wants us to learn quickly so we can pass the test and move on to our promotion.

Will you pass your test?  Call out to God today. He will hear you.

In my distress I cried out to the Lord;
      yes, I prayed to my God for help.
   He heard me from his sanctuary;
      my cry to him reached his ears.

               ~ Psalm 18:6

Don’t Just Drink the Juice… Eat the Apple!

In today’s instant solution society, shortcuts to the “good life” abound…

Get rich quick schemes vs. old fashioned hard work.

Crime vs. education.

Lottery tickets vs. a savings account.

Quick weight loss fads vs. a changed lifestyle.

Watching the movie vs. reading the book.

Junk food vs. cooking a healthy meal.

Sermon recordings vs. in depth self study.

Juice vs. eating the whole fruit.


Certainly all these things in moderation are not bad. But when our entire life is bent on taking the short cut, we will miss some important lessons the world has to offer.

As suggested by my title, let’s consider fruit juice for example…

Weighing the pros and cons of fruit vs. juice, it seems whole fruit (and vegetables for that matter) win. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Many commercial juices remove the fiber from the fruit to make juice; so you lose a nutrient rich, disease fighting component.
  2. Some “juice drinks” add sugar or are made from concentrates with not much nutritional value at all!
  3. Loads of research shows that beverages do not register in the same way as foods do in terms of filling us up. So, if you have a weight loss or weight loss maintenance goal, stick to the chewable food!
  4. For the pros on the juice side, if you are having a hard time eating the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables, and if you have a home juicer THAT PRESERVES THE FIBER, this might help you increase your intake. To make a healthy juice simply use 3 vegetables to every 1 fruit and do not add additional ingredients like sweeteners, protein powders, etc. 

The point I’m trying to make is so often we want someone else to do the hard work for us but we still get all the benefits. The only place I can think where that really works is in the case of our Spiritual Inheritance, which Jesus died to give us. We didn’t have to do anything, just accept the work that Christ did for us on the cross. 

A firm foundation is built on growth, not rushing. Growth, whether plant growth, muscle growth, or mind growth is governed by natural laws. It can’t be forced beyond previous preparation. Each day’s growth prepares for the next day’s growth. We can’t break nature’s laws, but often break ourselves trying. ~ Anonymous



Let’s make a commitment to dig in, and go deeper in the Lord; not depending on someone else’s study and hard work to summarize for us. But take our own time and effort so we will learn and grow. 

It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the flood waters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. ~ Luke 6:47-48 NLT

Have You Made Your Reservation?

With the heat of summer on and vacations all a bustle; making reservations are top of mind for many today. We busy ourselves making arrangements to fly or drive, for destinations and accommodations; locating friends and family to visit and oh, yes, don’t forget about the budget. 

Along the way we’ll travel many miles, see special sights, take memorable photos and gather collectable souvenirs. 

But in the midst of our fun and frolic have we forgotten to make our most important reservation?

Photo courtesy of 123RF Stock Photos

My husband, Bill and I were studying Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel the other day; an amazing chapter with many important events, but I’ll share only one story today: Jesus sends out 72 disciples. 
You may not realize it but Jesus had more than 12 disciples. Luke tells us: Jesus appointed 72 others and sent them out two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go.

The teams were given instructions and sent on their way. Upon their return they joyfully reported to Jesus that even the demons obeyed when they used His name. Jesus told them don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you, rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.


Bill and I took great notice of this last statement. Our names are registered in the most important reservation book!
In a recent post titled Reflections I wrote about a trip Bill and I took to North Carolina for a ministry conference. While there, we took the opportunity to do some sight seeing and visited The Biltmore. As America’s largest home with over 175,000 sq ft and 250 rooms it is a grand castle indeed; certainly the biggest mansion I’ll see this side of heaven.

In the Gospel of John Jesus said:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

By believing in Christ we make the reservation for our room in that Great Mansion in Glory. We can only imagine the beauty and grandeur that await us in our Heavenly Home!
Is your reservation made?  If not please take a moment to pray this prayer:

Dear God in heaven, I come to You in the name of Jesus Christ. I’m sorry for my sins and the life I’ve lived without You. I ask You to come into my heart; forgive me and erase my past mistakes with the blood that Jesus shed for me on the cross. Today I make You my Lord and Savior. O God, You are now more than my God; You are my Heavenly Father and I’m going to serve You all the days of my Life. I thank You that my name is registered in heaven and I have a place waiting for me to be with You for eternity! Amen

Book Review: Real Sex ~The Naked Truth About Chastity

Real Sex ~ The Naked Truth About Chastity
by Lauren F. Winner
Published by Brazos Press 2006
183 pp

Wow! …Is the best place to start with Lauren Winner’s hard hitting book Real Sex ~ The Naked Truth About Chastity. I’ve taken a long break from reading, so it took me a bit to get into; but once in, I couldn’t put it down and plowed through it in one day.

Ms.Winner beautifully and intelligently takes on the subject of sex: sex in our culture and the community, sex before and after marriage, sex and single adults and most importantly sex and the church. Real Sex is conservative yet honest, direct and engaging, intellectual (keep a dictionary handy) and best of all–completely scriptural!

Real Sex is a must read for every Christian adult, single or married. Parents, read it and share what you learn with your teens and tweens. There are excellent discussion questions in the back of the book for small groups or family talks around the dinner table.

Ms.Winner teaches us valuable lessons about how our culture and the Christian church view sex and deal with chastity. She raises some great points that will leave your thinking about what we should do differently. We would all do well to step up to the challenges she humbly puts forth. This book would be an great resource for single and married adult ministries as well as youth ministries across America.

In the last 6 years I’ve read numerous books on sexuality, secular and Christian. But I have yet to find a more relative book that speaks directly to my testimony and the ministry to which I have been called. Blessings, gratitude and applause to Ms. Lauren Winner. I am now a huge fan!

I highly recommend Real Sex~The Naked Truth About Chastity and intend to use it regularly as a resource for my ministry…

Working the Steps–Step 7

Continuing my goal to work The Twelve Steps, one Step for each month of the year; focusing on Step 7 for July…

Step Seven:
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

Step Seven is critical to the cleansing process and will prepare us for the next stages of our recovery. In the first six steps, we became aware of our problems, looked at ourselves honestly, revealed hidden parts of ourselves and became ready to change.

Step Seven is the opportunity for God to remove these hidden areas. If you are anything like me, your list is long and painful to reflect on. That pain may bring us to our knees, but what better place to humble ourselves before the Lord in prayer.

We must not hold anything back. It is only in surrendering everything to Him, that we will find true healing and freedom. We must take the inventory list and give each item to God; only then will we experience the serenity that brings the true joy we seek.

Going down the list of shortcomings can cause us to dwell on our self. To take our mind off self, we can meditate on Christ’s presence in our life, on being free to live life following His example. We will soon begin to care more for others and put our self in proper perspective. We will begin to understand who we are and find joy in becoming the person God wants us to be.

To truly humble ourselves in the biblical sense, we must see ourselves as God see us. This can be difficult when our entire life as been spent seeing our self as worthless. By reading and meditating on God’s word regularly we will find the value God sees in us and His plan for our life. We must empty our self like Christ did, surrender to God’s will, serve others and thereby fulfill God’s plan for our life.

It takes faith and courage to ask God to remove our shortcomings. We must trust that God hears us when we pray and believe He wants to answer us. We may not feel or sense an immediate change, but in thankfulness we can go forward confessing that God has heard our request and has begun the change in us. In time change will come to our sight.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. — Psalm 51:10-12

Originally posted January, 9, 2009

“Mimi, What is Love?”

…asked my three year old grand daughter in her innocent boldness.

Surprised at a question that most adults can’t even ask, I quickly summoned a simple answer…

Well, Anna, love can be many things: sharing, caring, helping, listening. God is love and we show His love by doing these things for others.

Later I thought more about Anna’s question.  

What is love? How do we usually look for that answer in the world?

Growing up I stereotypically looked for love in all the wrong places. But even today, living as a Christ follower, it’s easy to look to my husband, children, friends, even things and activities to fill an empty place in my heart that can only be satisfied by God’s Love.

The world often equals sex to love. God graciously allows us the joy of sex to show love to our spouses, but that isn’t love by definition.

Then there’s love languages. I read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman many years ago. But for the purposes of this blog, I decided to retake The Assessment Test. The scoring system is 0-12 with 12 being most important.

Here are my results

  • Words of Affirmation-9
  • Quality Time-8
  • Acts of Service-8
  • Receiving Gifts-5
  • Physical Touch-0

As a recovering sex addict, I find it very interesting that physical touch didn’t even register! Just goes to show you… sex isn’t always about love; and acting out in my addiction, it never was.

In a previous post titled Reflections, I wrote about the Exodus Freedom Conference where I attended a workshop called A Basic Understanding of Female Homosexuality. Christian Counselor, Melissa Ingraham spoke on the complexity of lesbianism and factors contributing to same sex attraction.

Because of family circumstances, and by no fault of my mother, the primary factor for my same sex attraction  was: I never bonded with my feminine nurturer. Which is why Physical Touch isn’t my love language. Being unmet, that childhood need still hungers; and with my mother deceased now 2 years, I’m left with an emptiness that only God can heal.

So what is this thing deep inside that we need? Is it love? 

Yes, not a human or worldly love…

But THE LoveGod.

And the only way to get it is to press in that much more, to the Heart of God, His Word and His Presence. It is there we will find …True Love.

** Prayer for healing.**

Almighty God, creator of all things, Who in Your infinite mystery, can be both mother and father to those in need; reach down with Your Hand, that overflows with Love and touch the recesses of our souls, our hearts, our minds and our bodies to bring about full and complete healing. Thank You Lord Jesus that we can walk forward, fully confident and whole, with Your Ever Present Love filling us by The Holy Spirit. Amen

This post is dedicated to my incredible husband on our 32nd wedding anniversary. Bill, thank you for never giving up and for believing in me when I couldn’t. I love you more than ever! ~ Tamara

Working the Steps: Step 6

Having been out of town the better part of the month, I’m late posting June’s 12 Step work. Better late than never 😉 Blessings…

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Getting ready for God to remove character defects in itself is a process. Some character defects are like old friends, comfortable and available.

We can’t even get ready with out God’s help!

In Steps One and Two we realized our powerlessness and found God’s Power to be greater than ours. Step Three we turned our life and our will over to God. Steps Four and Five we admitted hard truths to God, to ourselves and to another person.

Now in Step 6 we wait for God to do some internal work on our hearts. It’s not an action step on our part, but rather preparation that will enable us to become ready to release our character faults when the time comes in Step 7.

This is not quick work. Most of our character defects have been deeply ingrained in us since childhood. These patterns of behavior were often used as coping mechanisms in a traumatic environment. It will take time and practice to switch from our comfortable character defect to trusting God and allowing Him to be completely in control.

We must see our faults not as comfortable friends but harmful behaviors that have begun to control our lives. Once we know the truth about our faults and what must be removed; we can overcome our fears and with God’s help, gather our self in readiness to go forward in recovery.

Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.~ James 4:10

Reflections

The Blue Ridge Mountains

Two weeks ago, my husband, Bill and I set off on a road trip from Dallas to North Carolina for the Exodus Freedom Conference. It wasn’t an official vacation, though we stopped for some interesting tours along the way…

Our first stop was Memphis, TN. I’ve never been an Elvis fan, which my husband says I shouldn’t admit in public, but after taking the tour of Graceland, I now see why so many people love him. It was totally a time warp experience, with the home still decorated the way it was when Elvis lived there and the audio guide providing real life sounds from the glory days.  

We left reflecting on a life that once rejoiced in God but sadly got lost in the fame and glamor of celebrity. 

On to Tennessee where we stopped for dinner at Loretta Lynn‘s Kitchen. We were too late for the tour but were able to drive around her sprawling dude ranch and plantation home in Hurricane Mills. Most amazing was the wonderful vacation getaway she and her family have created on their property for her fans; with museums, shopping, camping, horseback riding, rafting and more.
 
We left reflecting on family togetherness and enjoying the simple things in life.

Our trip destination was the Ridgecrest Conference Center nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Established over 100 years ago on 1,300 acres, its rustic charm offers excellent accommodations and activities for all ages. During our stay the camp was bustling with several events: a teen youth camp; marriage and family retreats and our Exodus Freedom Conference.  

We left reflecting on the heritage of an organization providing a spiritual retreat where people can come enjoy the mountains –  and listen to God.

The Exodus Freedom Conference was excellent! The morning and evening general sessions brought amazing worship followed by touching testimonies and incredible main speakers focusing on The Reality of Grace. During the day a variety of workshops were available for those struggling with unwanted same sex attraction and for ministers called to help those who struggle. Mine was the dual purpose. 

I left reflecting on the growth in my own journey, more aware of weaknesses to press through.

Homeward bound after the conference, our first stop was in nearby Asheville, NC at The Biltmore; the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, built over 6 years by 1000 workers and completed in 1895. It is America’s largest home with over 175,000 sq ft and 250 rooms; an authentic American castle with grand rooms, exquisite tapestries, lush gardens and the first scientifically designed forest. Another fascinating time warp tour with sights and sounds of the Gilded Age long gone by.  

We left reflecting on wealth and affluence with a sense of emptiness that still longs for more.

It was no accident that our last tourist stop was The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. Located a few miles from where Billy Graham grew up, the barn-shaped building displays the life of a humble farm boy who became an ambassador of God’s love to the world. As we entered the doorway, beautifully designed as a glass cross; we immediately felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit. With the help of multimedia presentations and memorabilia, we walked through 60 years of ministry that touched the lives of presidents, queens, celebrities and everyday people; through wars, the civil rights movement and the fall of communism. True to its purpose, The Billy Graham Library isn’t a memorial or a museum, but an ongoing crusade communicating the unchanging, life-giving message of Jesus Christ.  

We left reflecting on our own spiritual walk; where we have come from and where we are going; feeling some what clumsy but inspired to do better and be better. 

Q4U: What are your summer reflections?

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT