Friday, March 30, 2012

Porn - Book Review

There are no coincidences in life.

Recently, I was away from home for about three nights.  One night in my hotel, I came across a documentary on pornography and I was drawn in.  What was most telling was how the women were trying to convince themselves and others that porn was a legitimate industry and it was similar to any other job.  Then there was the couple who had taken to filming their sex life and was now making more money than when they were both school teachers.
After watching, I felt disturbed and dirty.

Then I read Exposed by Ashley Weiss.  Its a story about how porn affects a marriage, told through the wife and the porn star's eyes.  In this story, once the wife found out about her husband's addiction she really struggled with her self worth.  She had these issues before, but her husband's addiction brought them to a head.  She questioned her looks, her body, her reasons for being married, infertility, everything. Ironically, she is a Christian Marriage Counselor, and is now unable to provide counsel based on what she's going through in her own marriage. She had an idealized view of marriage and her marriage no longer fell in to it.

The porn star also struggled with her self worth; because of her lack of self worth she inadvertently becomes a porn star. She never thought she was pretty or had anything to offer anyone; also she didn't come from a stable home.  Unsure about what to do with her life after graduating from high school, she responded to a modeling ad that would pay $500/day.  The recruiter (who eventually becomes her pimp) thought she was beautiful and started taking pictures of her.  She lost her virginity in her first film, and after that became deadened to most things around her and what was happening to her body.  Ultimately she gets pregnant, but what happens after she gives birth, will make you believe in redemption. Every life, no matter how dirty and used, can be redeemed.



There's lots of twist and turns in this story, but the author humanizes the porn star's reality. Contrary to the documentary, I did not feel dirty after reading this book.  The author took great pains in presenting a palatable version of the porn star's life, a side we often don't think about.


From the Author
This is the story of my own journey, but not completely. While I wrote much of this book based off of my own life, Ally and Jessie's story is a lot different than mine. Ally tends to be a little nicer than I was during this trial in our marriage. Honestly, I relate more to Taylor, the porn star, in this book. Some people may think Taylor is the cliche porn star story, but her story was based off of many actual porn stars and ex-porn stars I met throughout this journey. While Ally is obviously closer to my heart in many ways, Taylor isn't far from the girl I used to be either. I think that's the biggest theme I want people to come away from when reading Exposed... that we are not very different from each other at all. As women, our hearts carry the same tune. I realized this while writing Exposed, and I hope my readers find this while reading it.


Women have bought in to the false reality that they're the ones in control within the industry and control the shots.  This power comes at a high cost as it perverts sexuality, deadens you to what's real and gives you a warped view of yourself.
My brother and I had a very interesting and awkward conversation around this issue. Many men are affected by pornography.  There's another book out there that deals with this issue - Every Man's Battle.  (We'll discuss at another time).

Understand the things that make you prone to sin and remove them - And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.  Mark 9:47

Have you ever been affected by pornography?  Has it affected your marriage?  Do you talk about this with your spouse? 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Conversations...


Conversations make life sweeter; good conversations with friends enrich us; great conversations with good friends are priceless.

Conversations
Out of the blue, I received a phone call from someone I befriended at last year's Harvest Crusade. The experience was not what I expected and I went home deflated.  I signed up to be an usher and because we were working together, L and I exchanged cell phone numbers.  When I left after working my shift, I didn't even say goodbye - I just left.
Yesterday my cell phone rang and it was L.  She left a message so I called her back.  She needed someone to talk to as her husband of ten years decided that he wanted to be with another woman. She went through all of the emotions that would accompany such a decision and now was finally at a place where she was making peace with it and adjusting to her new reality. I felt good that she called me, prayed with her (as I didn't know what else to do) and then listened as she talked.  She just needed to talk - she talked about her father, her mother, her ex-husband, intimacy, her cats - she talked, I listened. I hope my words were like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Good conversations
Do you have friends in your life, who you don't speak to on a daily basis, but when you do speak with them it's like yesterday?
Having moved to the West Coast, I've learned the value of friendships. I spoke with my family babysitter who is a good friend - we reminisced and caught up and then she said, "Your good deeds won't go unrewarded." To provide some context we had both shared how, at various times we had gone the extra mile for people in our lives and it was not acknowledged.  We both mentioned how that unacknowledged feeling sometimes leaves you feeling hurt and then she provided her encouragement. Her words were like apples of gold in settings of silver.
In another conversation with another friend, somehow we ended up sharing our bucket lists.  Mine was to wear a bright yellow bikini, with my 60s Afro while on a beach on vacation.  We both burst out laughing!!!

Great conversations
As I'm typing this, I'm talking to my husband about things only a husband and wife could talk about.  After 23 years this Sunday, some things do get easier and more pleasant.
Talking with God produces some great conversations and some great results, also. - His words are always perfect.

Have you had any conversations lately? Did some one reconnect with you out of the blue? Do you have conversations with God?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Six Words

I got this idea from yesterday's Our Daily Bread devotionalWhen asked to do this, Pulitzer Prize winner Ernest Hemingway wrote this poignant bio: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Imagine the sad story behind those six words.


Here are a sampling of six word phrases that describe me:
  • A sinner saved by God's Grace.
  • Mother of four, wife of one!
  • Frustrated writer, frustrated writer, frustrated writer
  • There's a Blessing in the storm.
  • Researching God's Word makes me Wise

So how would you describe yourself in six words? Please share.



Monday, March 12, 2012

MORE - Sharing My Faith

How do you share your faith?
Is your faith important enough to share?



I know for me, my faith is too good not to share; it's like finding a designer dress on sale for a ridiculously cheap price and wanting to tell everyone within ear shot.  My faith in Christ is that good!

However, sometimes I struggle with the how of sharing my faith and perhaps you do also.
Today we live in a cliche, feel good culture - if you're on the Internet or social media every other person is quoting a Bible verse or declaring something in the name of the Lord.  While I have no problem with people sharing over the Internet, it doesn't seem to add up.  If there are so many Christians out there, we should be turning the world upside down, instead as Christians we seem to have lost our way.

There are two scenarios when it comes to sharing:
By the time you share your faith, its a culmination of many actions and your hearers genuinely are curious about your intentions, motivations and heart.  Because of who you are and how you live, it's something to be coveted.

The other scenario is once you share your faith - all eyes are on you.  They don't know you, but now they're curious about you. They're trying to figure out if your actions are consistent with your beliefs.  So many times these two don't line up, which is why many people are turned off by those who call themselves Christians.

I worked with a young lady who brought her Bible to work daily and was always quoting scripture.  She only wore skirts and was modest in her appearance. It was a high pressured environment and I even remember having a conversation with my manager alluding to the fact that she brings her Bible to work with her so we should be all right.  He warily agreed with me.  Unfortunately, he was right about his reservations of her because in the long run she turned out to be one of the worse employees we'd ever had.  She was unreliable, lazy, and belligerent. I learned from that experience that just because you can quote it, doesn't mean you live it.  All of the Word applies to you, not just the parts you think are easy to follow.

I share my faith by my actions, by how I live, prayerfully and with knowledge. I never know when opportunities may arise, so I'm prepared by cultivating daily quiet time that's just me and the Lord. Sometimes I'm caught off guard, but that doesn't deter me. Sharing doesn't mean that everyone will be converted; it's simply telling and displaying something you have. I am encouraged by many verses, this being one of them: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:20-21

It's not sufficient to talk it, you've got to live it.  Living it will produce natural opportunities to share. Bloom where you are planted - share.

How do you share your faith? Is it important to you?  Are "Christians" your best or worse employees (contractors, etc)? 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Beauty and the Beast?


I recently saw this on twitter - "Two women cannot be friends when one is stunningly beautiful and the other questions her beauty."

I met Jo (not her real name) when we worked at a local college and had to share an office. She was the Program Manager and I was the Technical Assistant. I took this job because I was not happy being a SAHM and needed something else to keep my mind occupied.

Jo was pretty, but she had a stern exterior. I was my usual cheerful self. I never felt intimidated by her looks or capabilities; slowly but surely she began to thaw and we became friends.

One Saturday we were required to be at a workshop. As I parked, I saw this beautiful lady outside crying - it was Jo. I approached her and asked her what's wrong and that's when I began to hear of her relationship woes. I listened, and she eventually made it inside where she was able to complete the day.

Over time I got to know a lot about Jo; we were a good team. She encouraged me to pursue other professional opportunities because she saw something in me that I did not see. Ultimately we were both recruited to work in a local school district. This school district was a high need school district and it took a toll on both of us.

One day I passed by her office and notice that her clear complexion had broken out. I am one of those people that if I care about you, will ask you a question even if it's considered off-limits by others. I asked her about her face. She proceeded to tell me that a male co-worker had attempted to take advantage of her and she did not know what to do. Because a similar situation had happened to me in college, I knew she needed to speak up - and that's what I told her to do. I hugged her and provided the best counsel I could so that she wouldn't jeopardize her job and continue to suffer unnecessary stress. In the end, the offender was removed and she remained in her job.

A funny event that transpired during our friendship - we had to visit one of our schools together. When we arrived we were greeted by a very handsome custodian - who seemed to wear many hats at the school. Through the course of our interactions, it became clear that he was flirting with me and ignoring my co-worker. My co-worker was taken aback and I was highly amused (and flattered). She surely thought he would be attracted to her instead of me. Sigh...it happens. Perhaps we were both beautiful!

We started walking together in the evenings and our children hung out together. We were friends and her stunning beauty did not stand in the way of our friendship. Stunning beauties need real friends.

Maya Angelou wrote this poem called Phenomenal Woman which encapsulates the concept of beauty that comes from within and glows without. It's long but I wanted you to read it.


Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size 
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips, 
The stride of my step, 
The curl of my lips. 
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please, 
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees. 
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees. 
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes, 
And the flash of my teeth, 
The swing in my waist, 
And the joy in my feet. 
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered 
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them, 
They say they still can't see. 
I say,
It's in the arch of my back, 
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed. 
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud. 
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels, 
The bend of my hair, 
The palm of my hand, 
The need for my care. 
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

—Maya Angelou

This poem defines inner beauty that radiates outward. Beauty on the inside makes you more beautiful to look at. 


This thing we define as beauty is fleeting and ever changing depending on who is looking. I think most people are beautiful even if society's standards don't say you are. I think one's personality enhances one's looks.

Outward beauty fades over time, but your insides - your character can grow over time if nurtured.
Every culture has different standards of beauty - so what may be pretty here is considered unattractive elsewhere.  Your beauty shouldn't depend on who is looking at you. God made all women to be something beautiful
Take time to know you. Don't let anyone define your beauty. Know you're beautiful because God says you are.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7   

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. Song of Solomon 4:7

Are you beautiful? Do you have any beautiful friends? Do you question your beauty? Does the original statement ring true?


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Home: Coming and Going

I called this blog, "Life...After Death of A Brother" because two years ago on March 5th , my oldest brother died of a chronic autoimmune illness - scleroderma.  His homegoing service took place a week later to a packed house.  It was a sad yet happy time.  A happy time because my brother was no longer suffering with all of the effects of this disease. A happy time because he blessed so many with his words and life in spite of his illness.

Twenty two years ago, I birthed my first child, a boy and brought him home.  He was a good baby - quiet, even temperament, smart and loving.

Every year on March 5th, I'm reminded of life and death - the birth of my son and the death of my brother. Birthing a child is an experience that defies words - it feels like you're taking part in a miracle.  Having someone close to you die (even if expected) also defies words.  I still remember the thud in my chest when I got the phone call that he had moved on from this world .

In my brother's short time here on earth he was a living example of what it means to be a believer, even when our circumstances aren't favorable.  His example also had an impact on my son who struggled in dealing with his uncle's death.  As my son is at the cusp of his manhood, I hope and pray that he is a Godly influence to all he interacts with.  Death reminds us of the brevity of life - no one knows when he will take his last breath.  With this in mind, I hope we live in a way that acknowledges a Holy God and that He is in charge of our lives.  It doesn't mean that we can't enjoy life, but that we live with purpose and not reckless abandonment.
I'm sure my brother echoed the sentiments in Philippians 1:23 - For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.


I checked in with my mom to make sure that she was OK and she was.  She knows her son is finally resting. One other lingering thought - as a parent you never know the impact others will have on your children's lives. We weren't close geographically, and I don't remember any major moments when we got together.  But apparently something about the way my brother handled himself, had an impact on my children.

Every year on March 5th, these are some of the things that run through my mind.  I'm not too sad on this day - I know my brother is in heaven and I'm always hoping and praying my son (all my children) will live Godly lives and that they - Walk worthy of the vocation of which you are called.....Ephesians 4:1


Who has had an impact on your life?  If they are still alive, tell them.




Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday...

My little one is sick with a fever and I have no idea why - none.  Without any warning, this fever has overtaken her body for the past 3 days.  She's lethargic, sluggish, and hot.  I'm keeping her hydrated while giving her medicine to break the fever.I usually give a fever 3 days before I run to the doctor; I'm hoping it breaks today - if not I'll be at the doctor bright and early tomorrow.

I find hymns to be so comforting when I'm dealing with anything - so my classic hymns CD has been on rotation this morning.

Two songs have ministered to me today - What A Friend We Have in Jesus and

O Perfect Love (the congregation sang this at our wedding - (I'm such an old soul!)); Below are the words:

O Perfect Love Hymn

O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance,
Of tender charity and steadfast faith,
Of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.

Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
Grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife,
And to life’s day the glorious unknown morrow
That dawns upon eternal love and life.

Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
Through Jesus Christ, Thy coeternal Word,
Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
Now and to endless ages art adored.

Keep me in your thoughts, won't you.  Thanks! What's your favorite hymn?


Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Can Pray


I started to think about my day and all that I had to accomplish and it occurred to me - I can pray.

I was thinking about a co-worker who is in a bit of a pickle because of his current job situation - I prayed for him and his situation.

Another co-worker has a bit of an ornery personality - I prayed for him and also prayed that I respond in a pleasing manner toward to him.

I was at a conference this week doing booth duty which is quite tiring - I prayed for strength to complete the job and to do it well.

My company is trying to figure out how to grow and move to the next level - I prayed for the company.

I was travelling this week, but still keeping in touch with happenings on the home front - I prayed for my family.

Sometimes I don't know what or how to pray, but that's not a problem for God - I bring it all before Him and let Him handle it.  I groan because sometimes I just don't have the words - but He knows.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16


The next time you feel overwhelmed, remember, you can pray. Then pray.