I’d been slaving away in the kitchen for hours. The holidays had been weighing on me heavily and to top it all off, my mother had been in the hospital for five days with cellulitis on her face. Finally, Christmas day had arrived and I had three events to attend. I was looking forward to all three, especially having my family cram into my medium-sized apartment for dinner.
Everyone arrived at my house promptly at 5:30 and I was still in the throes of preparing dinner: Pioneer Woman Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes with Grated Gruyere, and Bacon Wrapped Asparagus. As soon as my nephew walked in he asked, “Where are my presents Uncle Eddo?” I’d been so busy I hadn’t even had time to wrap them. I quickly asked my mom, who is a wizard when it comes to wrapping, to wrap the gifts in my room while I continued to cook. Dinner was almost ready and my mom came out with the wrapped presents. We decided to pause for a moment and unwrap the gifts. It was a quick exchange since we only buy for the kids under 18 in our family. Aiden unwrapped his gift and exclaimed with delight, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!” He was so delighted with his gift which was a toy that allowed you to melt crayons into different shapes. After he calmed down he asked me, “Can I open it and play with it?” His mom immediately cut in and said, “You can open it, but we can’t melt the crayons here at Uncle Eddo’s house.” I confirmed this response and expected my nephew to just accept this decision with delight, instead he started to pout. At first I thought it would just be a mini pout session, but I was wrong.
I continued to cook and I noticed that my nephew was laying on the ground by the front door with his toy on his face. This was Pout Phase 1 which included a little bit of moaning. His mom asked him what was wrong and he said he wanted to play with his toy. She told him “No, you have to wait.” As soon as his mom walked away he looked at me and repeatedly said, “Please, Please, Please, Please” to the point of annoyance, this was Pout Phase 2. I told him no and I sort of wished I hadn’t gotten him a gift at all. How could he be such a brat when he had so much? His birthday is the day before mine, December 16, and he turned eight. We had a big part for him at Chuck E. Cheese’s. His grandparents got him an iPhone 5s and he got so many toys that most kids, even rich ones, would have burned with envy.
When we finally got around to eating dinner my nephew wouldn’t eat. This was Pout Phase 3. Finally, his hunger gave in and my mom got him a plate of mashed potatoes, but he wanted to sit on the couch to eat. We don’t eat on the furniture in my house so I told him if he wanted to eat he had to join us at the table. After dinner my nephew continued to pout by laying on the couch – Pout Phase 4. My mom tried to console him, but he wasn’t having any of it.
Two days prior to Christmas day I got to watch my nephew while my sister was at work and I bought him a Jenga game that he wanted. We played and had the best time. I couldn’t believe this was the same kid. How could he be so ungrateful?
When everyone left and the house was quiet I received a word of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. How many times have I been given a gift by God, but he asked me to wait to use it? How many times have I thrown a tantrum when God didn’t give me what I wanted when I wanted it?
I talked to my mom the next day and she said, “Well, he was upset because his sister got to open her toy and play with it right away…” Kapow! I felt another punch of shame and guilt once again because I do the exact same thing. I compare myself to others and say, “Well, look at them, they have ________.” For me this usually comes in the form of a wife. I’d love to be married and at 38 I can’t help but feel a little impatient that I’m having to save myself for marriage while others who are much younger than me are getting married left and right. I want what I want, when I want it. I think it is unfair even though I’ve been given SO MUCH. I pout often when I don’t get my way and in my frustration I rebel. Why is it that submitting to God’s will and his best for us is so hard?
After I burned hotly with shame for my behavior I prayed to God for forgiveness and mercy. In just one instance of bad behavior I wanted to retract my gift to my nephew, but how many times have I acted the same way toward God? Furthermore, my nephew’s pouting did not make me want to give him his gifts faster, but just the opposite, it made me not want to give him any gifts at all. Ouch. I’m surprised God even has anything to do with me. I’d put me on a permanent timeout.
2013 has been a year of painful lessons. I’m thankful God disciplines those he loves, but I’m hopefully learning from my mistakes because my backside is feeling awfully raw and chafed these days!
Hopefully you had a Merry Christmas and during this season God taught you something while you were spending time with your family.
As a business owner I am often hit up for free services. I run a DJ business as well as a graphic and web design business. In my business I DJ weddings mostly, but also the occasional barbecue or school dance, as well as a corporate event or karaoke party. In my graphic and web business I do brochures, business cards, fliers, customized stationery and much more. Because of the broad range of services that I provide I normally get asked at least once a week to do something for free or at a discount. What is important to note is that both of these businesses are ran entirely by one person – me. I run both websites for each business, handle the invoices and the marketing, and all of the other tasks that come along with running a business. So when someone asks me to provide services at a discount or for free I have to consider it carefully.
Often I feel obligated to help out friends, family members or even my existing clientele and I don’t know how to communicate to them how asking for free services impacts my business. Imagine if you were working your regular 40 hour per week job and your boss said, “Hey Bob, do you mind working at a discounted hourly rate this week?” Or even better, “Hey Bob, can you work this week for free?” Now if you are salary you may do that to some extent, but that is something you agreed to when you took the salaried position. As a self-employed individual working for free comes at a higher price.
So how do you ask for free stuff or discounts without hurting a relationship? My suggestion is to be very clear and up front. Let the person you are requesting services or free stuff from that you are on a tight budget and you are willing to pay for services rendered. If possible, say something like, “Hey, Jenni and I are getting married, but, we only have $500 to cover all of the food, what do you normally charge to feed $300 people.” This is a nice way of asking for a price quote, but also letting the person know that you realize their services are valuable.
If you don’t have money, then maybe you can offer to help them in trade. If they provide you with a discount then you can help promote their business through social media or doing some type of work for them.
If you are a non-profit organization and you ask for services, then be sure to let the people in the community who is supporting you by placing their company logo on your website or on the brochure and materials that are part of the event.
In my business I don’t mind helping out individuals who are truly in need, but I don’t appreciate people expecting a “hook up” just because they know me, or, they know someone who knows me. I once gave free hosting to a friend who paid me to do her website. Later I received a call from an acquaintance of hers and she said, “Hey, I hear you do free hosting!” Nope. I don’t.
Also, when you get a free or discounted service, don’t tell other people about it. I DJ’d a wedding for a friend for a very low rate because I knew that they were tight on funds. A few months later I get a call from a lady and when I quoted her my standard rate she said, “Well, you did so and so’s wedding for X number of dollars!” I appreciated the referral from my friend, but I had to let her know that my normal rate was substantially higher than what I had charged her and I thought she was aware of that.
Lastly, when you do get something for free and a people normally tip for that service, then you should still give a tip if the service you received was excellent. If you get a gift card for a free massage you are still expected to tip the masseuse.
There are a number of kind and giving business owners out there. I love to be able to pay it forward and help out when I can, but I don’t like to be used or taken advantage of either. Make sure that you say thanks and give proper credit to anyone that helps you out in life, not just in your business dealings.
How does bullying start?
This video starts with a simple story that shows how something so simple can lead to bullying and a life of pain. The video continues to go through several scenarios that help people understand the lifelong impact that bullying has on someone’s life.
“You sound like a girl!” – The insult stung like a swift slap to the face. It came from one of the cool boys. The most athletic, the one with the parents that had a lot of money, the one who had never known want or pain or imperfection. Counselors will tell you that bullies will bully because of their own hurt inside and they want to feel better about themselves, but sometimes, people are just cruel because they are born that way.
Being called “Prince and Michael Jackson” became pretty standard for me. I cried easily and that made me easy prey. Recess, bathroom breaks and then later in life the locker room were all places of torment. It didn’t happen every day, but it happened enough that I hated going to school. I was called a girl, gay and fat and a few other insults. I was punched in the eye and pushed around a few times. Looking back they were all pretty minor incidents, but they happened often and enough times over the years that they left a lasting and damaging impression on me. A few years back I finally went to counseling to deal with a lot of the emotional baggage, but the residue of that pain will be with me for the rest of my life. I don’t even think that is necessarily a bad thing, it is knowledge and with knowledge there is power. Those of us that bounce back despite all odds are over comers. We press on despite the hurt and shame and do our best to prove the haters wrong – but that doesn’t happen for many of us.
What I’ve learned over the years is that words hurt and they shape us. Words are like little chisels fashioning the way we see ourselves. The words become our truth and distort our vision to the point that we are no longer able to see clearly who we really are, but instead only see the distorted picture that cruel individuals have painted for us. Being told you are ugly, fat, stupid, gay, worthless… when you hear them enough you start to believe them.
So why isn’t the awareness of the problem helping?
How many people need to die before something changes? It seems that the issue needs to be worked at the heart of the problem, but where is that? Will better parenting help the bullied children or do parents need to better educate their children who are doing the bullying? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that a zero tolerance policy would have been nice when I was in school. It seemed that the teachers did their best to help with the bullying, but they can only stop what they see or hear and they can’t be with a student all of the time. Bullying can get so bad at times that you become an emotional wreck. Extreme measures seem to be the only option and those measures normally end up being acts of violence upon the perpetrators or themselves. The only real way to solve problems is to come back to the only truth that we have and that is the Bible. We have to “love thy neighbor as thyself” – until we get that right we will continue to careen out of control on a path that leads to destruction.
Recent News of Suicide Related to Bullying
When I’d been invited to visit Preferred Popcorn by my buddy Sam, I had this immediate vision of golden fields laden with ears of corn bursting forth with an abundance of soon-to-be buttered bounty. I pictured giant tractors backdropped by cerulean blue skies and big red barns. This was the breadbasket of America right? So why was it so hot and dry? Did I somehow take a wrong turn and land in the oven?
As I made my way through Oklahoma, then Kansas and finally Nebraska, I was underwhelmed. Here the land was stripped of all pretense. There were no large plantation style homes or happy cows sipping from babbling brooks. I didn’t see a single red barn or a cheerful farmer on a rustic tractor wearing overalls and chewing happily on a corn-cob pipe. Instead I found myself bored by the lack of personality, or rather, the lack of life altogether in the bountiful but somehow desolate land. Fields stretched out forever in blankets of green wrapped tightly around the Earth. Cornstalks six to eight feet high and soy beans so green they were almost blue, were watched over by giant sprinkler systems that silently yet mercilessly demanded only one thing – Produce, Produce, Produce.
I finally met up with my buddy Sam and after our initial greeting he immediately took me for a tour of the “estate”. Their home, which I had imagined to be a mansion befitting the third largest popcorn plant in the nation, was nothing more than a 100 year old farm house that had been jazzed up with a new roof, new siding and some river rock. It was modest, humble even, and the inside of it smelled to me not like humans who had been working in the field all day – which is what I expected, but instead it actually smelled of freshly popped popcorn. I don’t know why this surprised me, but it did.
Here in this world I was completely out of my element. There was no internet, my phone registered almost no satellite signal. There were no homes as far as my eye could see and for some reason, I felt that we were alone here, as if God himself had decided that he was much needed someplace else and that he could leave just a handful of rookie angels to watch over things while he was away.
When we went into town I kept expecting to see something more, like any minute now we would round a corner and there would be a Walmart or a shopping mall. I started to get almost desperate for a Walgreens or even a McDonalds but the Golden Arches were not to be found. Here, in Central City, Nebraska, they didn’t have much of a need for large convenience stores, shopping malls, or hamburgers churned out by the hundreds and served alongside piles of deep fried and piping hot sticks of salty bliss. No, here there was no time for that. People got up early and irrigated their fields and when they weren’t irrigating, or planting or harvesting, I’m sure they were praying. Farming is a difficult task that has been honed down to a science, however, science can do nothing without God who ultimately controls the outcome of everything. He provides the sun, the rain, and the grasshoppers and at times he provides bounty and at other times he provides famine. In both we have a lesson to learn.
As Sam and I went about on bumpy dirt trails to open and close pipes and to adjust pivots, I couldn’t help but admire these farmers who actually are the ones that feed America. They literally put food on our table. They labor and toil so I can go to the movies and have a $6 bag of golden goodness popped freshly in coconut oil and then drizzled with delicious artificial butter. I’m thankful for that.
The best part of the trip was getting to spend time with my friend, my brother, Sam, who we lovingly refer to as Popcorn here in Texas. In the last year he has become very dear to me and while we knew a great deal about each other, there is nothing like spending time with someone and their family to really get to know them. Here in his hometown with his parents and sister I saw the hardworking young man that was covered in dirt more than he was clean. His hair was in need of a visit from a pair of scissors, his face and neck an appointment with a razor, but despite this exterior grime I saw Sam more clearly than ever. He was not wearing seminary approved clothing or sporting about in his bright yellow mustang, instead he was working at a task as old as civilization and my estimation of him increased. It was like seeing inside of Mary Poppins’ bag and being surprised at the depth there.
As I drove away from Nebraska and Kansas I had a better appreciation for agriculture, a better understanding of my friend and a gratitude for the fact that I get to work inside in ice cold air conditioning in a town that is close to a Walmart.
For starters this blog is VERY frank and open. I don’t hold much back on this post because I don’t think keeping secrets really does anyone any good. We are all jacked up in some way or another, it’s why we need Christ. The views and opinions in this article are my own unless otherwise stated. Leave a comment if you want, but I delete insensitive or unproductive comments.
The Beginning of My Addiction
I was probably 8 years old the first time I saw pornography. This wasn’t just pictures of nude women in Playboy, but the real deal. It belonged to a relative and one of my cousins found the stash and showed it to me. It was frightening and made me feel sick to my stomach.
Fast-forward to 6th grade. I was only 10 years old in the 6th grade. My classmates snuck Playboy mags into the locker room. Guys would huddle around and look as one boy flipped pages. It would last for all of 5 minutes, no harm done right?
A couple years later I worked at a horse ranch at the age of 12. My boss always treated me like an adult. He let me drive his car. He gave me big responsibilities. He left stacks of porn on his doorstep.
Over the years porn would not be something that I would search for, but something that would pretty much be dropped into my lap, however, my addiction to it didn’t really begin until I was about 24. By this time I was no longer living at home or too busy with college and friends. I had settled into a job. I had an apartment by myself and I had access to the internet as well as years of insecurity and repressed desire. As a christian I knew online pornography was wrong, but hey, at least I wasn’t having sex right?
That’s what you do with porn as a christian – you rationalize and justify the sin down until it almost becomes a good thing. It is the lesser of two evils. For married men they probably tell themselves “Well, at least I’m not cheating”. There is always a reason, a justification and now it has become mainstream. When I was a kid people were ashamed to admit to masturbating. Not so anymore. Movies like “Hall Pass” talk about taking mental pictures and storing them in a “Spank Bank”. Magazines for men and women often discuss the best sites for free porn and even tips on masturbation. In an article I read in Details magazine it stated that 1 in 4 had herpes and while the article made it sound like it was a pretty horrific sexually transmitted disease, that in reality the question was not if you’d get it, but when. Porn, Sex, Masturbation STD’s – they are all no big deal… at least that is the lie we’ve been sold.
There is this constant message in our media that seems to suggest that everyone is having sex and that if you aren’t, something is wrong with you. We use sex to sell everything from cheeseburgers to shampoo and there seems to be very little understanding of romance or real intimacy. Instead the guy that shows any sort of sensitivity or romantic feelings for his wife or girlfriend is considered “whipped” – not chivalrous or masculine.
For me I justified my online pornography use even further because I wasn’t looking at “airbrushed perfection” but instead real people. I liked to go into chat rooms. I thought that there was little harm in this despite the intense shame I felt for hiding this dirty secret and even going online to seek out that type of gratification.
This issue plagued me for years. No one really tells you the consequences of porn or that it is addictive like a drug and that it wreaks havoc on your relationships and your mental health. While as kids we are often told not to do something, we aren’t always educated on the real reason as to why not. The simple answer? Because it is freaking dangerous. Online porn will MESS. YOU. UP. Don’t believe me? Read this article. Kids are becoming registered sex offenders at the age of 13 and even younger. There is an epidemic of children under the age of 17 becoming addicted to viewing online porn.
So what do we do? For starters you need to educate your children – boys and girls – at an early age. Make them aware of the dangers and let them know that it is not right and that it is like a drug. The aforementioned article says this:
‘Our research at the clinic has found that although the internet doesn’t create these problems, it can release interests which would never have surfaced otherwise.’
Meaning that when people of any age are exposed to something like meth, cocaine, heroine, pornography – we don’t know what issues and interests will surface. Will everyone that views online porn have an overwhelming addiction or want to rape and maim? No. But there are some that will.
What do you do if you are already addicted to online porn? GET HELP.
I remember going to a friend and telling him “I’m addicted. I’m almost manic with desire and temptation. I’m going to really mess up.” I had even planned an anonymous rendezvous in a hotel that I never followed through with it – less out of heart conviction and more out of a fear of STD’s. Fortunately my friend told me to go and see a counselor and so I did.
How did I overcome my addiction?
I think that for me I have to remain extremely humble in this area. As someone who was literally shattered by this sin and failed so many times I truly started to believe that it was something that was impossible to give up. I sort of loved my addiction. It was something that I craved when things got tough. Upset because I didn’t get a job? Look at porn. Just got dumped by a girl? Look at porn. Parental problems? Porn. For me porn was always my answer. It was my drug of choice followed closely by food and spending money.
Jesus is the Answer?
For me Jesus was never the answer to my problems, instead I liked to think that he was the cause. I blamed God for so many things in my life (Being Fat, Losing my Hair, Not being born rich, My skin color, Not being cool enough or smart enough…) and while I preached to others about loving Christ and trusting in him, in my own heart this wasn’t the case. I had all these ill feelings and resentments in my life and I was unwilling to truly trust God to provide for me in the areas that I was coming up short – and in case you haven’t noticed from this article I was coming up short in just about every possible area.
Finally after literally years of trying to fix this problem on my own I got help from a counselor and then later a group of guys that kept me accountable. Yeah, I’d had accountability partners in the past but I mostly just lied to them, but this time it was different. This group of guys were quality with a a capital Q. Solid men who were grounded in truth and were willing to actually listen and care. Through them I found the intimacy in my Christian faith that I had been missing for most of my Christian life. God used these guys to show me that Jesus truly was the answer to my problems, I just wasn’t willing to to let go long enough for him to step in and clean up the mess.
It Wasn’t Easy
So how did I overcome this issue? First of all I had to confess my gross past to these dudes and ask for prayer. Then I had to admit to them when I messed up. I lied a few times at the beginning, but they loved me and were so sincere that eventually I came clean 100%. I let them know when I stumbled and over time the allure of online pornography became less and less – but, the desire to masturbate, the biological need was and is still there. I’ll admit it. I’m a dude. We like sex. Duh. But is there a way to just stop masturbating and to forever go this primal urge? To that I have to say I have no idea. What I do know is that I don’t spend 10 hours a month viewing online porn and masturbating every other day. Over time I realized that my desire to self-gratify came more from the desire to escape from how I was feeling and less about sex. I find that when I have a healthy relationship with the Lord as well as my finances, diet and relationships that there isn’t a great need to compulsively masturbate.
Being a single man of integrity is not easy, but being a single man who is addicted to internet porn isn’t so great either. Eventually my desire to escape from reality to internet porn diminished entirely. This I believe is a sweet, sweet gift that I received from the Holy Spirit and is something I never want to take credit for or take for granted. Like a serial dieter I had become a serial quitter when it came to pornography and each time I gave back in to my temptation it was pure bliss… and then suddenly it wasn’t. It was strange really. I went from being constantly plagued with these desires to suddenly having this feeling of “What are you doing? You aren’t even enjoying this…” Something in me literally clicked. Like a key turning in the lock to release my chains. For the first time I truly felt free. Now in the past I have had these little breakthroughs where I feel like I’ve overcome a big addiction. I’ve lost 20-30 pounds on a diet and vowed never to return to Dr. Pepper only to give in 30, 60, or even 90 days down the road. Normally during these periods of “Break Through” I would still have a craving but I would have willpower or this great feeling of pride in my self and what I had accomplished. My Facebook status would tout my abstinence or achievement and I’d feel good about myself for my amazing willpower. That wasn’t the case this time. For me I had a Romans 12:2 moment where I literally understood first-hand what it meant to no longer be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. I understood the verse in John 8:32 about the truth and how it will set you free and finally I had a new confidence, not in myself, but in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit and how Paul said in Philippians 1:6 that he who began a good work in me would carry it out until completion. I’m still being worked on. I’m a big fat work in progress, but now I’ve truly decided to take the easy way out and the easy way is trusting in Jesus. Before everyone told me “Oh, that’s the easy way out” when it came to porn, but in reality porn carries a heavy price with it. It traps your mind and warps your thinking. It holds you in bondage so tightly that eventually the sick strain becomes comfortable and you no longer hunger and thirst for the things that will satisfy you, but instead you have an insatiable appetite for something that is destroying you.
For me the next steps are to continue in deep prayer and connection to the Holy Spirit. I have to constantly guard my eyes and resist even minuscule temptations. In the past I allowed my mind to wander and even invited mental images that would arouse and even justify them as being “not that big of a deal”. Now I know different. 2 Corinthians says “5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I love that word “Demolish”. I love the idea of obliterating evil thoughts that come into my mind. The same thoughts that would have me believe that this world and all it’s shiny trappings can somehow take the place of Jesus Christ in my life. Those thoughts that I once welcome with open arms I know want to punch in the face. “LIES!” I want to shout in the face of temptation.
Now each day I live with gratitude that my eyes have been opened to see the path of destruction that I was headed down. I am so thankful every day to the 5 men in my accountability group that have walked this final leg of my looong journey through recovery and continue to walk by my side each day in prayer and support.
Finally, I pray that you are not where I was – standing on a precipice waiting for the inevitable fall – and if you are slipping, I hope that you have someone in your life that is reaching out a hand of hope and salvation and if you don’t have that, then please shout for help.
Other Resources and Articles that I Found Helpful
I used Eddie Traughber as a counselor for a year, he was the first step in my recovery process.
Download or Read online Porn-Again Christian
Feel free to contact me directly if you need to talk or want some help.