How Can We Not Fear Death? A dog’s end of life as an example.

“He had his head held high and his tail wagging. How can this be?” My buddy, Aron, asks this of me. Aron had shared how he had to put his beloved dog, Mac, down after having him for 15 years. Mac had been with the family through several moves, family tragedies, many good times and tons of “regular ol’ days”…you know those days that just happened and when you think back to the specific day–be it last week, month or a few years ago–nothing at all stands out about it. We all have a lot of these days and need to be much more thankful for them! They are good, good days!
Aron and I have been spending several hours a week, for about a year, together training for different lengths of races (10, 15, 25k, half-marathons and even some marathon training miles) and he branched out into doing triathlons convincing me to tackle one too. We had just finished an evening of lake swimming and afterward were telling each other about our day. Aron is a very laid-back personality, overall. It doesn’t take much though (so he tells me) to get him “wound up” and “going off” on people, especially his employees. I’ve never witnessed this and I’m glad. It really is hard for me to believe him when he says this about himself. Guess, for me, it is truth when I “see if for myself.”
He started telling about his guys on a job (he owns a construction company) where he had paid them to tape off a huge area of a remodel that needed some touch-up paint work. They were totally ignoring the plastic he paid them put down to protect the new flooring and were about to make it even worse as there was a problem with a paint gun that was about to go off and cause a huge amount of destruction when he dropped by the site. I could sense his anger and frustration and thought to myself, “Well, maybe he’s not kidding about his temper?”
Then he shared how he had to stop during his day and take his dog to the vet to be put down. This was an abrupt direction change in the conversation which totally caught my attention. As he started telling the story I had in my mind several friends on Facebook sharing how they had just lost their beloved pet and several stating they had to put their “fur friend” to sleep. These posts always put me in tears! Always!!
His dog was more his wife’s as Mac followed his wife around the house, slept at her feet while watching TV, occupied his side of the bed right next to his wife until he came to bed and then begrudgingly went to her feet to sleep. I know how this works as it happens with our dogs and my wife and I (usually they follow me around though).
That morning Aron’s wife had already said her good-byes to Mac, with many tears being shed. She left the house telling him she could not take Mac to the vet and he would have to take him. For a while now Mac had slept on a doggy-bed on the main floor as he could no longer climb the stairs. When my buddy came down the stairs Mac got up off his bed and came over and leaned against his legs. This was not Mac’s norm. This put my buddy in tears knowing this was the last day of Mac’s life. Mac then went to the door waiting to go out to the car like he knew what was to happen.
My buddy had an early meeting and couldn’t take Mac first thing to the vet. Mac went out with him and right over to the truck. This too was not Mac’s norm as he wasn’t fond of riding in the car either. Aron explained how he would be back for him later and it wasn’t time to go yet. Mac looked at him and went back to the house. This really made Aron think, “Wow, Mac knows what is to happen today.”
About mid-morning Aron sidelines his day and heads home to take Mac to the vet. When he gets there, again, Mac gets up and comes to greet him with his tail wagging. After a short “hello” Mac heads to the door waiting for Aron to open it for him and goes right to the truck. Aron has to lift him in and does so with no hesitation from Mac. Not normal.
Mac is content riding to the vet and Aron is loving on him and talking to him about all the times they have shared together. Mac looks at him several times with understanding looks and again, Aron thinks, “He knows what is happening.”
When they get to the vet it isn’t Mac who is anxious or upset, as that is what is normal. He takes him to the waiting room, explaining first why he is there to the person behind the counter, and they sit for a few minutes. Again, Aron is talking to him and loving on him with Mac looking at him with understanding eyes.
The door opens and the vet tech comes over putting a leash on Mac and Aron takes off Mac’s leash from him. Mac goes with the tech. And in Aron’s own words, “Mac had his head held high and his tail waggin.” Aron shared how he knew Mac was not afraid. Mac knew his life was about to be over. He had had a great life. He had two people to love, protect, take great care of and they had been there for him all his life too. Life had been good.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Mac knew the truth of these words. He was ready to meet His creator. He had lived a full life serving his purpose well–to take great care of Aron and his wife.
Knowing your purpose, and serving well in doing it, will help you when you reach the end of your life to have great confidence of what is next, and not to fear.
As I reflect upon my thoughts about death, first I am thankful for great understanding and wisdom the Bible teaches in how death is nothing to fear. Also, books like “One Month To Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life” by Kerry and Chris Shook have helped me not to fear death. Third, growing my identity in Jesus and allowing Holy Spirit to bring “secrets” into the light. They have no power over me and this has helped me greatly to not fear death.
Now, I cannot say that death causes me no alarm. Truly, it is more the possible “ways’ I could die that still cause me anxiety. This is where the enemy can creep in on me, and you. We are not to be anxious about anything but instead pray and be thankful, Ph 4:6-7. While we are doing this we will develop a great sense of how to prioritize our lives and live in confidence of Jesus’ peace which guards our hearts and minds.
This is not easy, but simple.
We can have our “heads held high and our tails wagging” every day when we walk in Freedom, as most of us will not know what day is our last.
Freedom comes at a great cost and you grow in it when you begin to believe and experience Jesus’ powerful love and grace. If you need help growing in Freedom please leave a comment and I will pray with you and help you in any other way possible.

How God’s Timing Is Perfect

I’m studying the Bible this evening, enjoying some solitude in my man cave. My loyal dogs are at my feet and I can hear faintly the sound of the nighttime serenade of creation beckoning me to soak in its soothing cadence. I love God’s Word. I love summer.

I’m going through a chronological Bible and I’m starting Proverbs. Yes, I am about one and half months behind schedule and I’m not letting this concern me as once a week I read several days at a time and I’m catching up, slowly and surely. I have a great familiarity of Proverbs as for over 15 years a chapter of Proverbs, by the day of the month, was part of my regular study plan. After that many years most would have the Proverbs memorized. Not me though. I am very familiar and maybe someday I’ll put in the effort to memorize them.

“For the Lord detests a perverse man, but takes the upright into his confidence.” Pr 3:32. This stops my reading immediately. God hates people? God hated me because of my perverseness? How could this be true? God is love. I instantly think of the intimacy with Christ I have in prayer, hearing His voice, discerning His desires for me and life. This has grown immensely over the past few years. I juxtapose this closeness with Him and how my life was when steeped in porn, lusting after men’s bodies, desiring from them what I knew deep down I lacked. I had very little intimacy with Jesus then compared to now. What relationship I had was through His blood and the cross. This every repentant sinner has. Did I have a real closeness to Him where I could sense His touch, see and feel prayers answered for myself and others, discern what to say to other people, have thankfulness for all of life–good and bad, and so much more? Absolutely not! Why?

As I contemplated this I remembered reading David Platt’s Radical, Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, where he wrote that God hates sinners. He refutes the cliché, “God hates sin but loves the sinner.” When I read this deep in my being I knew it was true. Did I personalize this? No. That would be crazy. He is writing to other people, not me. Well, tonight God’s Word was speaking right into my soul. I was terrified and so very thankful at the same time. I had been hated by God as I was my sin and He hates sin. Platt’s book explains this well and as I go forward reading Proverbs I find many more that confirm this truth. Here are a few more verses from Proverbs alone:

The LORD detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless. Pr 11:19
The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. Pr 12:22
The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him. Pr 15:8
The LORD detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness. Pr 15:9
The LORD detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him. Pr 15:26
The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Pr 16:5

As I sat and contemplated I could not figure out how I can separate myself from my sin when I willfully desire it. When steeped in homosexual desires and going continually to porn and masturbation and constantly searching out men to fantasize about, I was my sin. My Heavenly Father hated me. You may not see it this way. Fine. For me, I can see clearly now why I struggled so hard as I had a heart that lacked a singular bent, focus, or desire for God’s way to live.

This is crucial in my walk as Christ’s disciple. Is my life centered in Him, His teachings, His way to live? Or, do I justify and rationalize areas of my life so I can continue to indulge in sin telling myself, “God hates my sin but not me.” I instantly think of these Scriptures from James 4:4-10:

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Can this be any more clear? To me, at this moment, no! I cannot let the world tell me truth. I cannot as it will allow me to disassociate myself from my sin and, as I read, pray, and feel the power of God’s Word permeate into my very soul, I must surrender more of myself to Him going to His feet and thanking Him for His perfect love. Or, I can choose any number of other postures–all of which will keep me trapped in my sin or, at the very least–prevent me from experiencing more freedom He desires me to live out.

Now, is there a tension still yet in this whole idea of this preached cliché that God hates sin but loves sinners? Yes. What am I do with this? I understand what these words are trying to convey but why am I believing they are strung together like a necklace that catches the eye but lacks brilliance to hold my attention? If there was a huge, flashy gemstone at the center of the necklace then I would be enamored with it. What is the gemstone that is missing? I’m going to challenge you that it is one that at first glance will catch your breath but not because of its initial beauty. Instead, it is a beauty that is much deeper than the eye can perceive and is found through revelation.

In Platt’s book he mentions John 3:36, calling it one of the most overlooked verses in the Bible. It reads, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Do you see the beauty here? It is there. The wrath of God (cannot imagine what this really means!) is NOT on anyone who believes in Jesus. If you have not said “yes” to the Gospel then you have God’s wrath upon you. Word. If you believe, you are forgiven. Jesus’ blood covers your sin and your Heavenly Abba does not see your sin–any of them. He chooses to not hold them against you. If you reject Jesus, He sees your sin and there is no blanket thick enough or large enough to even begin to cover your sin…no matter how little you might have sinned.

So, the beauty is only found when you contemplate that there is a mighty gem at the center of this necklace and it is truly one-of-a-kind as it is God’s only Son’s sacrifice of His life through His broken body and shed blood on the cross. The cross is powerful, but lacking, if we do not consider the empty tomb. Jesus conquered death, destroying its power, and creating a beautiful package or gift that no one else can give…grace. Grace is the most beautiful stone ever mounted in any necklace. Who is adorned with this beautiful necklace that should be viewed in a museum exhibit guarded by several sentinels and the latest, greatest high-tech sophistication ever invented? You and I. Do we wear this now? Yes and no.

I exist in this world. Is this truly where I reside? No. Colossians 3:3 states, “For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Where does Jesus reside right now? Four verses in Hebrews tells us that Jesus is at the highest place of honor, at the right hand of God (see 1:3, 1:13, 8:1, and 10:12). I am in Christ and in some mysterious way, I am with Him now in Heaven. How can this be? I do not have a full understanding but what I perceive is that in my heart I reside where home is and that is Heaven, where Jesus is now. It is like I have gone on a trip and while I am gone I experience all kinds of sights, foods, people, places and at the same time, I long for home. I can be there so quickly in my thoughts so really that is where I am the whole time I am on my grand adventure. This is how I view the truth of these Scriptures and my life now.

With all this being true, I must consciously live my life knowing that sin separates me from God and having close intimacy with Him. That is why Proverbs 16:32 was so convicting when I read it anew. I must remember the great price that was demanded for my sin…Jesus’ life! Body broken. Blood shed. God is merciful. And, He is just. God is love. And, He is truth. I will never receive what I deserve and I am truly thankful for this. No one will be able to pay the price of their sins no matter how few they might be. Mine is many and mighty! All forgiven. Thank You Jesus!

How you view your sin, God’s love for you, the price tag for your sin, and how to live daily is up to you. You may not agree with my thinking. I challenge you to consider what clichés you take in as truth and how they guide your daily life? This cliché does have Scripture to back it up and yet, for me, I over-identify with one side of the saying or the other and wonder if you maybe do the same? I have downplayed my sin thinking that God loves me no matter what, right? Or, I have hated myself and truly believed God hated me too as I was the lowest, sickest scum in the pond! To balance out this cliché is difficult and if you use it to rationalize your sin and be slack in your pursuit of holiness then I submit to you that these words strung together like cheap costume jewelry need to be dressed up with the priceless stone of “grace” so as to penetrate your very soul helping you to live out a lifestyle of repentance and personal pursuit of holiness. Your intimacy with Christ is on the line. Remember the proverb says, “For the Lord detests a perverse man, but takes the upright into his confidence.” There is very little I want more than to be able to freely converse with God knowing His plans for me as I live daily with Him…to be in His “confidence.”

If any Biblical clichés conflict with Scripture in any way or diminish what a single verse states then really it is a cultural “catch phrase” and needs to be reconsidered. I am not saying this cliché has no truth. I am saying how you live it out is vital in your walk and intimacy with God.

Something noteworthy about this cliché is that it originated with St. Augustine from the phrase, “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum” which translates closely to, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Over time it has become more popular as “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “hate the sin and not the sinner” with the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography. Both Augustine and Gandhi were very wise men and yet, not Jesus. Remember Gandhi wasn’t a Christian.

If you are struggling with a sin-habit then there is hope. There is Freedom. First, you must know what is freedom. May God bless you in your journey with Jesus.

Ten Best Reasons Why I’m Not Gay

When our culture is giving easy approval to someone struggling with unwanted Same Sex Attraction (SSA)/homosexual desires and many churches are falling in suit too, I feel it is necessary to give my reasons why I made the choice not to identify myself as gay. I must say this has been a very difficult journey with much confusion, frustration, loneliness, isolation, anger, fear; lacking in any amount of peace as I worked through this mine field of pain and suffering. On the flip side of the journey now – peace is overflowing with many other positives that were non-existent when I was struggling.

I write these reasons reflecting back into the time when I struggled and why I did not give in and identify myself as gay. This is from my heart and is not backed by any scientific facts, statistics, etc. That will be a post for another day, but not this day.

My list includes, but is not limited to:

1. I refused to let confusing urges drive my identity.

2. Fear stopped me from “acting out” or “experimenting.”

3. Critical thinking.

4. My faith in God, belief in His Word.

5. My family’s values conflicted with this lifestyle, I would have disappointed them.

6. I liked girls.

7. Homosexual acts were disgusting, I felt dirty after thinking them.

8. Refusal to cave to painful, crushing teasing just to have it stop.

9. Deep inside I could not give up on Jesus’ ability to save and transform me.

10. I got married and did not want to destroy my wife and daughter’s lives by giving in to “urges.”

When I heard anyone discuss homosexuality and flatly state it is was a choice, I would cringe inside. I felt they were saying I was choosing to have these unholy desires and that I wanted to be gay. This was not true. I hated the feelings I had. I had no idea where they came from and certainly did not decide to have them. My heart aches for anyone who is struggling with homosexual feelings and cannot understand them. This truly was a cause of depression, loneliness, isolation, and at the same time the catalyst for putting on masks to cover all this as I certainly did not want anyone to know the “real” me, and hate me. Yes, I really believed I would be hated because almost anyone who talked about homosexuality had so much hate in their words. This, to me, meant they hated me. People say they hate the sin and love the sinner. This is basically impossible for the sinner to hear and believe as the hate, I felt, was lodged at me. The sin was me and I was the sin.

How then did I manage to go decades struggling with these feelings and not act out on them? First, knowing God’s Word clearly spoke to me how it is sin and not acceptable to Him. Second, knowing if He said it is wrong then He had to have some way to help me. God is love. He is real. He would not let me struggle with something that felt like tons of anguish weighing me down forever. I would remember the day in the field behind my home at three years of age when for the first time I knew God was real, in Heaven, all around me, we danced, and He told me we would do great things together. [Note: This is in Part 1 of The Short-The Tall, The Skinny-The All] Yes, these were the most compelling factors that held me back along with basically no opportunity presenting itself. I was a loner with no friends. I’d like to think if a guy would have expressed interest in me I would have said no. Guess it doesn’t matter now. I am very thankful I did not act out as most who struggle with these desires. [NOTE: I am talking about “acting out” on an ongoing basis. There were three times where I did “act out” which I tell about in Part 1 of my story and below.]

When I give the reason of “Critical Thinking” above I certainly do not mean any scientific formula or lab experiment. I stopped to think about what was happening inside myself with these confusing desires. And, what always struck me as strange was, if I got to know a guy I was “jonesin” over, the attraction greatly diminished, or went away totally if I became friends with him, even on a very casual basis. How could this be? If I was truly gay and that was how I was made, then why would the desire fade like this? Yes, I had girls I liked and I would feel that “warm-fuzzy-pukie” titillation and it would go away too, but this was different, I really liked girls. With guys the feeling was more obsessive, desiring something from them that I felt I lacked. Girls didn’t have anything I lacked. Instead, they were an enigma, totally different from me which was a great part of the attraction, smelled good, looked good, walked in ways that made me stare and look like a total dufus, they could be so annoying and yet in ways that drew me to them–basically they drove me crazy, and still do! Today there is one girl who has my undivided focus and she creates all these feelings wrapped up in the most beautiful creature ever to walk the earth!! And, the one who drives me the craziest for lots of reasons and I’d never give her up for a man–that would be CRAZY!

My family was just as dysfunctional as any and we loved each other just as much as any family too. Being the youngest, with my twin sister, of five children there was a lot of fighting. Lots of names were called and I know I called my siblings only names of endearment because I was such a perfect little boy. Not! I learned to have a sharp tongue too and used my speech in ways to protect my feelings from a very young age. I say this but honestly, I don’t remember much of my childhood. [Note: Again, if you want more details on this please read Part 1 referred to above.] So, family values were instilled more from the dinner table, the use of a hair brush on my backside when very young, or laying across on old, backless, pink divan (I loathed that piece of furniture for many reasons with the greatest being the pain from whoopins’ inflicted while upon it…and the color! Think Pepto-Bismol. Yes, it was extremely ugly and I have a stomach ache thinking about it no–please pass the Pepto!) and from church.

When I grew up the word “gay” meant happy, carefree, and I remember using it when in the first year or two of grade school. One day I used “gay” about something and was told not to say it as it was a bad word. I didn’t know what my classmate could mean so I asked? I was told it meant a guy kisses another guy and does other “stuff” that he should do with girls. I was shocked! Why would a guy do this? It seemed crazy to me. And, I went on being a little boy and didn’t give it much more thought until later in grade school when I was called this. Then, I knew it was a horrible word as it sliced my heart and ripped from my mind any confidence I had about myself. I knew it was “dirty” and “bad” so this meant I was dirty and bad. I had never kissed a guy or done “other stuff” so why was I being called this? Because I wasn’t athletic, scared of the other boys in school so I didn’t hang around them, and very effeminate for a boy. I never liked school and was afraid of going each year for weeks and weeks into the year until I finally started to feel comfortable with the teacher, and maybe some of the other kids in the class. I remember wanting to be liked, accepted, to fit in and I never did so school was miserable. I was miserable and very sad. I say this now and I really don’t think I knew I was so sad. Sadness was my constant companion. He was better than no companion.

At some point in my childhood my older brother would call me “homo” but he really wasn’t calling me this. This word was just the new word that had started to be used by all kids in school. I remember a speech by our dad at dinner, prompted by mom as she did not like this word being used, telling us that the Bible called this an “abomination” and my dad saying it was horrible and that he didn’t want us to call each other this again. Well, this of course reinforced the use of it because dad had now told how us how horrible it was so it had all the more power to crush when used. I don’t remember being upset if my brother called me this as it was not the same–he did not really believe that about me. The kids at school using this was totally different. I hated it and had no way to make it stop! The pain was killer, I admit it. It killed my confidence, self-respect, and caused me to really wonder if it was true? This was excruciatingly painful and even though I wondered, deep down I was mad, really furious, and decided I would not be this word, or any other that meant the same, just because I was called it! That’s it. It was a decision made deep inside me and it was done. Now, I see it was one of the best decisions I made as a very young child.

Girls made me lose any intelligence I had from a very young age! Not that there was an extreme about of it to begin with! I remember playing with a few girls on the playground, because I was scared of the boys and my sister asked me to come and play with her and some of her friends. By accident while swinging around a pole by one hand a girl came from the opposite direction and kissed me. Everyone laughed except the two of us. We were both very embarrassed. I hated being laughed at, but…the kiss? I liked it! Of course, I ran off because I didn’t know what else to do. I still remember that kiss and the girl who kissed me. She is still a dear friend after many years and when we get together for lunch that kiss comes up and we laugh about it. I think of it as one of the reasons that helped me to know I was not gay. Confused about my sexuality because I didn’t fit in with the boys, teased unmercifully with words that crush a boy’s confidence in his gender, attracted to what he could not have–friends with other boys–which caused sexual confusion…yes I had to deal with all these feelings and none of them made me gay and still would not today.

As I grew into adolescence and the hormones kicked in, so did misery at a level that no one should undergo. It came upon me like an avalanche from the top of Mt Everest. I often wished an actual avalanche would have covered me as the pain and suffering would have ended after suffocation or freezing to death. This avalanche only paralyzed and burdened me so that I suppressed feelings and isolated myself even more than ever. The attraction to guys was so intense and I had no idea why? Oh how I truly hated myself. We went to church and this was very conflicting. I really enjoyed to worship through music, learning Bible stories of people who suffered and how God rescued them–as I needed a rescuer desperately! I wanted to believe God loved me. But I also felt this wasn’t true because of my uncontrollable feeling about other boys, and yet, I wanted to believe it so bad as then it would mean I was not gay. So, this drove me to know, yet again at a new stage in my development that something was wrong with me and that God would fix me. I prayed constantly and would not give up. It felt like it would never happen. It was a lifetime. I sit here now rejoicing that I never gave up on Him. Jesus did heal me. What caused this healing to take so long? Me! I was in a stronghold of fear, rejection, and bound by a secret that I knew I could never tell or I’d be despised. I prayed, hoped, existed as I had no idea what else to do?

After becoming a young man three incidents happened with other guys and each time I wanted to die as the guilt, shame, dirtiness, filthiness, and feelings I could not even give words to came. I hated these feelings and they were not worth the minuscule in comparison of physical pleasure. So, I set in my heart these acts could not happen again. I did not care how strong the desires or urges. They were wrong or else they would not have created such intense damaging and destructive emotions. I prayed and prayed for God to bring me a wife. I wanted to be a family man and become a dad someday. This would change me. I held out and God answered my prayer. He gave me a wife and two daughters all in one package! This answer to my continued prayer was greater than any way I could have imagined!! I was happy for the first time in my life. And, I had three more reasons to hold out for God’s healing, His transformation to change the desires of my heart as I knew I’d lose these people if they knew my deep dark secret. So, I kept it longer. I kept it so long and wore so many masks that this secret became my best friend when sadness left me after getting married. Problem was, sadness doesn’t leave and stay gone. No, he wanted to come back as he wanted my heart and mind and…I let him back in.

Yes, these are my reasons that I clung to to keep me from going insane and making a decision that I believe would have killed me, becoming gay. I did not know then that a horrific tragedy would come into my life years in the future that God would use to bring me the healing I longed for–more than oxygen. I just knew I was not gay and He would save me from this, someday. That was enough. I struggled greatly and failed sinning in so many ways with this beast inside me. Yet, I did not succumb and Jesus was with me the whole time loving and protecting me. His promises are always stronger than the greatest grade of steel and more valuable the purest of gold, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5. And, He never did and He never will! I hesitate to use the word “never” as it is the word most likely to bite me in the backside.. except with God. God is always good for His Word.

Can Your Life Really Change? More How Jesus Transformed Me And Can Do The Same For You

My story’s beginning is not a time of my life I would ever want to re-live. And yet, I am very thankful for my life then. I am not ashamed of anything in my life. I am not proud of the choices I made either as they were sin. I am forgiven of them and walk in freedom. What I share next in my life is Jesus truly moving in very mighty ways. On a day-to-day basis, it was very negligible. Yet, it was happening!

A key Scripture that I sense we (Jesus and I) practiced was during this season of my life was, “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Psalms 5:3, NLT

Another Scripture that is a powerhouse in driving me to never give up on God is, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20, NLT

So, here is more of my story…

After we started attending a different because of the prompting of our youngest daughter. With a group of men from this church I attended a Promise Keepers event in Kansas City and this shook me to the core of my being, I surrendered.  But, I kept my dark secret as I correctly sensed if I came clean I would be rejected.  I was very loved by this time at our church and very involved.  I was a deacon, very active in drama ministry, men’s ministry, started an encouragement/prayer ministry, and loved doing everything I could with the youth – both high school and junior high. I even taught some children and adult classes too. This is proof that God will empower us and allow us to work with Him even when we have deep secrets.

Now, I must tell you from the time I graduated college until I married, and then once later when out of the country with a small group of guys I worked with, there were three times I acted out on my SSA desires.  All three times the other man initiated the very inappropriate behavior.  I rationalized away the seriousness of these acts as I only responded. Each time, I made it stop before much happened because I became VERY scared!  With one of the men it happened over a few months, becoming more and more dangerous. I allowed little to happen because he was married.  He moved out of the state with his wife and I was very glad.  As I look back, I know God shielded me. I did sin for what I allowed.  Even sin can teach us as each time I would analyze what happened and know it was wrong. There was little enjoyment when there was so much guilt and shame, more secrets. It was not worth the minuscule physical pleasure.

After Promise Keepers I became involved in an accountability group with several guys. This stuck with three of us.  We met for over five years and…I kept my secret the whole time.  Almost every time we met I was determined to tell them but I would cave due to fear.

I finally had a great job with a small Internet company and our financial life was turning around slowly.  We had become grandparents of two amazing grandsons who I practically worshiped.  These were the children I never got to have.

Life was good in so many ways, other than my deep dark secret.  I was in and out of porn and, as far as I knew, no one was aware.  It was dragging me down, hard and fast.  I stayed strong in studying the Bible, was an avid reader of Christian non-fiction books (“self-help” is what my wife called them), and yet I still persisted in the porn/masturbation/lusting after men.

The owner of the Internet company I was working for decided to move his business to Orlando, Florida.  He offered to move all his employees too by presenting to us a move package that included purchasing our homes, six months wages for our wives as they looked for jobs, and many other perks.  I did not want to move but I didn’t want to be unemployed again!  While making this decision, I finally caved and told my secret to the two accountability buddies.  It was a huge relief to share this secret and get it outside my body! One was really cool and understanding. He offered to help in prayer and holding me accountable to stay away from the porn.   The other guy was verbally supportive but almost immediately he was different around me.  This confirmed my suspicions on telling my secret and how people would react.  This was approximately three months before we moved to Florida.  I prayed and prayed truly believing this move was the best for us.

We moved, got settled, and lived happily ever after.  No!  The first six months in Florida my wife was one very pissed off woman!  I had taken her away from her two daughters, now three grandchildren, her family, her home.  I kept loving her as I knew it was the right move for us.  We found an amazing church within a couple of months. We were loved on by so many people who truly helped to save our marriage.

I had some setbacks with the porn so I sought out three guys to meet with and told them I had been deep into porn – not saying the particulars while they presumed it was women, and this helped me to break this awful stronghold.  Now really, Christ through them and in me receives all the glory!

We lived there for approximately four years and I became very bored with my life.  I had a fantastic job, we lived in sunny Florida, had a great townhouse, friends, and church, yet I was very dissatisfied.  I started taking professional acting classes and improv classes–actually considering pursuing acting as a real career.  I did tons of dramas at church with much praise and encouragement. Several people were suggesting that I should seek opportunities to grow this talent in one or more of the many theaters, shows, etc. in Orlando as it has tons of opportunities.

At the same time my Bible study and “self-help” reading had greatly increased too.  I prayed much, asking God what He wanted me to do.  A sage older man at church one Sunday suggested, “go to seminary.”  About the same time, another man I had really grown to respect was encouraging me to go on for formal theological studies too.  So, after considering three different universities, Regent University in Virginia Beach was suggested as an option.  I really liked the school’s website.  It really “felt’ right after much prayer so I decided to do it.  Other factors in this decision included: Regent was the only seminary I could find with an online program, it did not have “Christian” in the name (I still do not know why this was important and believe I’ll understand as time passes), and I did not have to take Greek or Hebrew as I barely could manage English!  Yes, these were very deep spiritual decisions.  I am being precocious and yet I know deep down that these were valid and He led me to this amazing school for many, many reasons!

In seminary I shared my secret three more times, each as an act of obedience to what Christ wanted me to do.  The first was at His command via a course syllabus. Yes, God speaks in many ways. The second two times were more profound and as a result of surrender and answering His call to, “follow me.”  Because of these acts of obedience, the sin in my life was falling away and this greatly aided in hearing and understanding Him!  We must choose to be holy (set apart, not perfect), follow scripture, and as we journey the relationship with Jesus grows so deep – I want this for everyone!

I had a preaching class where I was to deliver a sermon on campus in which the scripture I was using for it was the woman with the hemorrhage in Luke chapter 8.  The semester was progressing and I needed to work on this sermon. One day while in the shower, I asked Jesus how to finish the sermon I was to deliver and I clearly heard Him say, “tell your story.”  My instant answer was, “NO!” Then, I knew in my soul I could not tell Him this. So, I prayed, “I will do what You ask and I will need Your courage to do this as even the idea of this scares me to death!” It is amazing how I find He can talk to me while in the shower as my defenses are greatly down – must be something true about being naked before God!  I know what is more true is being naked before Him in our souls as we share secrets and bare all to Him. What happens then? Freedom like no else can give, comes!!

I graduated seminary in May 2010 not having a clue what to do with this master’s degree, deeply in debt to student loans with more freedom that I really understood and, with so much more to come!!

I prayed, fasted, asking key people to pray for me as to what God wanted with me.  My brother had lost his job and was starting a MAT program to be a teacher.  I had looked into this program when we moved back to Missouri from Florida in 2008 but I had two years left of my theology degree and did not want to tackle two programs of study at one time.  Teaching is why I started my theology degree so I took my search to a deeper level with a three-day fast and a trip to IHOP (International House of Prayer) in Kansas City to spend the third day of my fast in their prayer room for almost eight hours of persistent prayer, seeking God’s direction.  During this time I had two Scriptures speak to me that were pointedly about teaching and once I clearly heard, “teach.”  So, I enrolled in the same program with my brother and started pursuing a teaching certificate and another master’s degree.

In May 2011 my world, along with almost everyone else in my community, turned upside down.  A F5 tornado took out 30% of our city and with it my dad perished.  He was missing all night and the next morning God led my son-by-marriage and I right to him.  Prior to the tornado I had interviewed for a few teaching positions and had not had a contract offered to me, so I had started talking to a software company about a position doing support.  I felt like I was going backward as this was the same type of work I had done when I started seminary and was so very dissatisfied.  This company offered me a job so I accepted, thinking I would keep looking for a teaching contract.

After the tornado I knew I could not handle a teaching position.  You see, after my dad was killed and we found him, the next morning my oldest sister died of a stress-induced heart attack from losing our dad.  My family was truly devastated. This pain was almost unbearable, or so I thought. I did not know what was to come though.

I went approximately a month and then started seeing a Christian counselor.  This helped me to deal with the loss but also started me on a journey to the root of my SSA.

Our hearts contain almost an endless number of rooms.  There are rooms with great treasures like: integrity, strength, honesty, courage, confidence, and many other jewels.  There are rooms that have been vacated and need to be cleaned, redecorated, furnished, and used again.  And, there are rooms of great hurt, brokenness, despair, and tragedy.   We found the room that contained pain like no human should go through.  You see, I was molested when I was three years old.  This was revealed through much, much prayer – miraculous prayer – constant feeding on God’s word, His tender sweet voice, and a plethora of other ways He gently encouraged me to follow Him in this journey.

Before starting counseling I completed information about my life, I held nothing back. One item I shared was a flash memory from my early childhood. I had no idea what it meant or even if it was me. This was the only piece of evidence we had to lead us to my room of extreme brokenness. Jesus went before me, met me there, and brought me healing.  This is a story, a very powerful story, for a different post.  Just let me say, we can be in more than one place at a time through inner-healing prayer, or what some would call healing memories prayer.  This prayer was the incubator allowing me to face this tragic event. Jesus come into this room with me and my three-year-old self who had been locked in there alone, terrified, hurt beyond words, betrayed, lied to, used, and left behind by many, but worst of all–by me!!

Honestly, when reflecting upon my life it is a miracle that I am alive now.   My counselor told me this once, sharing that most people with this brokenness turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. in such extremes that their lives are usually short.  God is, and has been, so merciful to me!  He loves me like no other and this is true of you also.  He is love.  I John 4:8.

I am now a man with more wholeness and healing than I could ever have hoped for with much more to come as my Lord and Savior is so generous to me. I know we are not done yet.  Proof of this is that I recently celebrated one year of freedom from masturbation. Previously I had almost two years of freedom in this.  I have been free of porn for almost ten years now.  I see a man who is attractive as a child of God and possibly a brother in Christ and do not have lust in my heart as I did for so very, very long.  My marriage is growing and thriving with no secrets.  Those closest to me know my story and still love me.  Most have more respect and see the courage and might of a warrior of Christ–He truly has transformed me into this warrior!

I have freedom!  I love my heart!  I give all credit for this to God and how He pursued me so gently, wanting to bless me with salvation from my sin and truly give me a life no one else can give–an eternal, full, life now–with Heaven yet to come!  And, I want this for you too.  So, I share my story, our story–meaning Jesus and mine–as I am nothing without Him.  I share my life so the world will see how REAL, ALIVE, LOVING, and KIND our Heavenly Father is and how Jesus truly saves and redeems us from our sin to give us a life we could never grasp on our own.

I pray you know exactly what I feel and have this freedom.  If you do not, I offer here through this blog to be another person in your life to walk with you showing you freedom is available for you also, as God is so very generous and will assist you to have freedom too.  You will have much, much hard work to do with Him. It will cost you everything. The reward will be priceless!

This blog is for us. Who am I talking about? I am reaching out to anyone who wants freedom. I want you to consider the cost. I have paid all. Do I have more to pay? Yes, there will always be more to pay as freedom is a lived out reality trusting Jesus, doing whatever He asks, when He asks. We will love and minister to each other as we journey together, with Jesus. We have found each other here for a reason and if you want freedom like you see in my life, it can happen. If you have the freedom I describe, or better, then I want to journey with you as we need to band together. This is an arduous journey and we cannot do it alone. If you lack freedom then this blog can be for you if you are willing to tell your secrets, surrender, and let Jesus into the rooms of your heart that harbor brokenness, allowing Him to heal you in miraculous ways. I’ll share how Jesus and I worked together to be real in future posts. If you think any of this story is amazing…just wait as there is so much more to tell you. His love never stops amazing me!


Where My SSA Struggle Began and How It Can Relate To Your Story

This is my story. I live with a Biblical worldview so I want to share a couple of Scriptures that I feel are powerful when I consider all that Jesus has done in my life.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11, NKJV

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” NKJV

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2, NKJV

My life has been a struggle. There have been seasons of less struggle, more recently; and there have been seasons where I didn’t think I’d survive. Most of the time I wanted to be anyone but myself! I am very thankful that we (Jesus and I) pushed through to know FREEDOM! My life now is amazing and I would not trade it for anyone else’s life.  This is the result of many factors with the greatest being falling madly in love with Jesus so that anything necessary to know Him more, I did. It starts with surrender.

So, here goes…

One of my favorite authors is Brennan Manning. Of all his books, my favorite is The Ragamuffin Gospel. I love this book so much that I have taken on “Ragamuffin” as my middle name. So, let me introduce myself. I am Carey Ragamuffin Oster. I am a ragamuffin. By birth my name is Carey Ray Oster. My story starts like everyone’s, at the beginning. My beginning is my first real memory in life.

Jumping down from the fence, I look back at my house to make sure no one is watching me from our house. I feel so free out in the open! Today the sun is shining and the sky is a cloudless, perfect blue that is very compelling. I stare at is so hard I have tears in my eyes. Is there anything more beautiful?

No one is looking so I tear off running as fast as my little legs will take me. I am in a hay-field which will be baled soon. I’m running through the grass that is almost as tall as me. This assists in pretending I am in the jungle. I must slow down and crouch as there are lions in this jungle and I don’t want eating me today. Really, any day as I’d be a lion-nugget no bigger than I am. Suddenly, I stop and stand up with the house far behind me. The wind picks up around me causing the grass to sway to and fro. I stretch out my arms to my sides and turn slowly in circles. Stopping, I look up into the sky and know I am not alone. God is up there past the sky. He is smiling at me now. He is real. He loves me. I love Him too. We’re going to do great, mighty things together some day. Inside, I am so content.

This is a memory that I have held tightly in my mind my whole life. It comes to mind often–especially when I am lonely, hurting, rejected, and feeling like no one loves me, which is most of my childhood. This is something I intuit as I have very few memories of my childhood. I gave this little thought, having few memories, until in seminary when I am reading a book that states this is very common for adults who have suffered a traumatic childhood event, or their whole childhood was traumatic. This caused me to wonder about my first years of life, but not for long. I had a dark secret I was keeping locked inside. This secret requires almost one hundred percent of my mental energy each day leaving nothing to allow me to delve into what this could mean? Other than books I’m reading in my classes, I have no other resources to help me, and this secret is consuming me. Keep on reading!

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