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Eternal Fingerprints

My big question is this. What does it really look like to walk with God? What does it mean? Religious answers do not satisfy me. I want an answer that I connect with and can share with others.

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This blog is intended to be a shared journey through scripture, spiritual ideas and a wrestling with God and man.

It is a battle of vulnerability with all my flaws and weakness but with a hope in a God who is perfect and without flaw.

This God seems to accept a humility and brokenness in lieu of perfection. A God who desires heart rather than piousness and religiousness.

My commentary on scripture to the best of my knowledge and understanding is theologically accurate and written in contemporary language. It’s not perfect. I have never met anyone with perfect theology. So much of our worldview is anchored in our own experience even when viewed through a reasonably sound exegetical lense. We all have our subtle and not so subtle angles on interpretation.

It is written in a style that is meaningful and connected with my own experience of life and spirituality. I hope any readers will also find meaning and connection in this journey. More than anything I hope I can communicate the heart of God rather than any emphasis on doctrine or law.

I am a Christian. I am not your average religious person though. I struggle with religiousness and religious groups. I make no judgment about church culture because I see many people find meaning, purpose and some kind of security within that framework.

I understand this. I worked full time in the ministry for a large group of churches for 16 years. I spoke in many Cities around the world. It worked for me. …at least I thought it did.

In the latter years I disengaged, allowed bitterness to rule my heart and pressed the self destruct button on my life on a scale of greater magnitude than even in the days and years before I found God.

I had a complete moral failure and meltdown that saw me head for oblivion in a dark pit of self pity, deceit, manipulation, adultery, cruelty and thievery. These events were dealt with very publicly and quite rightly usurped me from my seat of influence. I should be in jail but I am not.

The way I see it is that it was an intervention from God. It’s as if he said “Human judgment is flawed. I am not going to put you under human judgment. Instead I am going to put myself under human judgment”. This he did at the cross. I wake up each day with gratitude and a clear conscience. This is not because I am innocent but it is because I am free.

I must add that I am free not because anything was swept under the carpet. Far from it. Everything was exposed in broad daylight and put under Crystal clear scrutiny. It was the most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with. To face people I had betrayed, hurt and let down. To experience the full gravity of guilt and shame and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This was the key to a great healing and reconciliation. This is God’s way. I am forever changed as a result of what happened. This is good.

I know that faith is not simply an intellectual exercise but is to be lived with intentional activity and that walking with God demands that we live in community with other believers and share our message of hope to those who are suffering in this broken world without hope. I want to unpack these ideas or tenets in this blog. I want to explore them in the light of scripture.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he effectively answered his enquirer that it is to “love God and love people” (Matthew 22:36-40). This is not something that can be practiced in isolation. Neither is it something that can be measured by law.

My big question is this. What does it really look like to walk with God? What does it mean? Religious answers do not satisfy me. I want an answer that I connect with and can share with others.

I have titled the blog “Eternal Fingerprints” because it is a piece of work that I hope will leave eternal fingerprints on your heart as I seek the same transformation of my own. They are not my fingerprints but rather they are the fingerprints of God from his word.

This is one reason that I choose to write with anonymity. I want my readers to focus on the message rather than the messenger. Some of my readers will know who I am if you move in the same congregational circles that I have moved in. I hope that if you feel any sense of hurt or betrayal as a result of my actions and we have not yet had the opportunity to meet face to face then you will draw something helpful and healing from these words.

This is my journey. I am happy to share it with you.

Psalm 12

Men’s words do hurt, they can be toxic, manipulative, controlling, aggressive, undermining and destructive but the Lord’s words heal.

In Psalm 12, these are the thoughts that preoccupy David. The psalm begins and ends with the reality of the current reign of the wicked. Yet amidst this very dark setting, the truth shines all the more brightly. The truth is described as a refined precious metal, purified … something of high value and complete purity. 

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Psalm 12

For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful any more;
    those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbour;
    they flatter with their lips
    but harbour deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
    and every boastful tongue –
those who say,
    ‘By our tongues we will prevail;
    our own lips will defend us – who is lord over us?’

‘Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
    I will now arise,’ says the Lord.
    ‘I will protect them from those who malign them.’
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold refined seven times.

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us for ever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
    when what is vile is honoured by the human race.


The oppression of the righteous by the wicked is especially felt in the realm of arrogant speech (verse 2-5), but the righteous find comfort in the trustworthy Word of God (verse 6).

Men’s words do hurt, they can be toxic, manipulative, controlling, aggressive, undermining and destructive but the Lord’s words heal.

In Psalm 12, these are the thoughts that preoccupy David. The psalm begins and ends with the reality of the current reign of the wicked. Yet amidst this very dark setting, the truth shines all the more brightly. The truth is described as a refined precious metal, purified … something of high value and complete purity.

These 8 verses are characterised by subtle repetitions and bold contrasts. In the development of Psalm 12, David sets us up to respond appropriately to two radically different sources of speech.

(1)  Surviving the Propaganda of Depraved Speech (12:1-4).

  1.  By Prayer (12:1-2);
  2.  By Petition (12:3-4).

(2)  Security in the Protection of Divine Speech (12:5-8).

  1.  Its Promises (12:5);
  2.  Its Purity (12:6);
  3.  Its Perseverance (12:7-8).

There were negative rumours and destructive words being spread about David. There was a campaign to discredit him and undermine him. We don’t know exactly when this was, but it clearly wasn’t his finest hour.

His words and phraseology are deliberately hyperbolic, yet David’s perception indeed was that the faithful have perished!

These smooth-talking sinners verbally abuse the remnant (verses 2-3), and verbally defy their Sovereign (verse 4).

David says, “People do not mean what they say”. They tell King Saul one thing, but mean something else.

Flattery is a form of manipulation. Those who play the games are merely using words to get a particular outcome. I am an expert at this. It is a dangerous and toxic tool that erodes trust and destroys relationships. This sadly is the way of the world. We see it in politics, in business, in churches, in social groups, in families. It destroys the very thing we are designed and wired for. It disconnects what should be connected. Relationships are broken and when relationships are broken then the world is broken.

 

David was up against it. but he understood that it was  no his place to fight his enemies, God would do the fighting in this case.

Men find silver in the ground. It is dirty. People make it clean with fire. It is then very beautiful and of great value. David is saying that God’s words are also like this. Gods words are refined, pure and of high value.

David contrasts the vain “words” of people with “pure” words of the Lord (119:140; Prov. 30:5). God’s words are “as silver” that is passed through fire seven times to achieve greatest possible purity. The dross is consumed, and only the bright, precious metal remains. In the same way, God’s words are free from all error, impurity and unfaithfulness.

The hostile realities of verse 8 call for the heavenly resources of verse 7.

God would guard and protect the poor and the needy who were suffering from the wrongs inflicted on them.

David’s complaint was that his generation was a generation of flatterers, and oppressors. The idea is, that that entire generation was eminently wicked, and that none but God could deliver the poor and the needy from this inequality, this unfair disparity.

Ultimately, they had nothing to fear, for God was their refuge and their help.

The bottom line is that David’s world was corrupt and it seemed that the evildoers had the upper hand. However, he knew that God would bring about justice. He trusted that God’s ways were his answer. His focus was to keep his side of the street clean to trust that if he took care of God’s concerns then God would take care of his.

In Psalm 12:5 David speaks as a prophet. He tells people what God will do. David does not say when God will do it. There is no timetable but just a complete certainty that it will be done.

This Psalm calls on us to keep our side of the street clean. What others say or do is not our concern. Our concern is only to do what God would want us to do. It makes me think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 “… seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well”.

what things? our needs, the stuff we worry about.

God says “take care of my business and my concerns and let me take care of yours”. It seems like a healthy arrangement to me.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Psalm 12
And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
———————————————-
I have to focus on God’s word being flawless. The Psalms are helpful for guiding my prayer life but I need to seek deeper study again. I am thinking about what form that will take. I will give it some consideration when I am at my brothers’ in the next days.

There appears to have been a breakthrough with my younger daughter. She has said to my wife that she is okay with me being in the house. It’s not clear whether she is willing to engage with me or not. I feel very sad about the damage I have done to my relationship with her. I keep thinking about the last time we were together at the Fleetwood Mac concert. I was emotionally absent and she had chosen me to be with her when she could have chosen her mum or one of her friends. I feel a deep sadness about that.

I have a phone conversation with my former boss tomorrow and a possible meeting next week. He wants to talk about the details of my role and ensure there is adequate cover in the holiday period. I feel okay about talking with him but I am not sure how I feel about meeting him. I find it hard to be with people I hurt when I am not sure if I can answer their questions about why things happened. I am barely understanding myself at the moment. I feel really sad about the trail of chaos I left behind at work. I am usually quite skilled at sifting through chaos and creating structure and order but I wouldn’t want to go into the mess that I left behind in the workplace. That’s just the practical day to day functionality of the organisation…never mind the relational carnage.

I will write a short letter to each of my children and leave it in the house when I leave for my brother’s house. I read the one minute apology to get a feel for an effective apology. These are my paraphrased notes about what connected with me from the book:

“At the core of most problems is a truth you don’t want to face”
“The truth can feel very uncomfortable, especially if you are living a lie”

There are two ingredients to the One Minute apology

1. SURRENDER
Be truthful and admit to yourself that you have done something wrong and need to make up for it.

Take full responsibility for your actions and any harm done to anyone else.

Have a sense of urgency about apologizing – Act as soon as possible. 

Tell everyone you have harmed exactly what you now realize was your mistake – you are very specific

Share with those you harmed how bad you feel about what you did – enough to change your behavior and not do it again.

2. INTEGRITY
Honesty is telling the truth to ourselves and others. Integrity is living that truth.

Recognize that what you did or failed to do is wrong and is inconsistent with who you want to be.

Reaffirm that you are better than your poor behaviour and forgive yourself.

Recognize how much you have hurt others, and make amends to them for the harm you have caused.

Make a commitment to yourself and others not to repeat the act, and demonstrate your commitment by changing your behavior.

THE HEART
Your true value has no connection with your performance or the opinion of others.

The purpose of the apology is not for an outcome but because you know you were wrong and it’s the right thing to do.

The best way to apologize to someone you have harmed is to tell them that you have made a mistake , you feel bad about it and how you will change your behaviour.

People with humility don’t think less of themselves. They just think about themselves less.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MYSELF
What mistakes did I make?
Who have I hurt, disappointed, let down, offended?
What has been the emotional impact on others?
What other damage has been done?
Why did I do this?
How much of what I did, was impulsive and thoughtless?
How much was calculated?
What was going on for me (fear, anger, frustration)?
What was my motivation?
Why did I allow it to spiral out of control and become a pattern in my life?
What is the truth I did not deal with?
What kind of man do I want to be?

I need to visit these questions and think about what happened, why it happened, how it happened and when certain behavioural patterns changed from a one off incident to routine and habit. I feel very uncomfortable thinking about all this let alone talking to someone about it or beginning to write about it but I want to address this and understand it. I will spend these days away trying to unpack these questions.

My marriage, my job both in the ministry and at charity were built on trust in the person I was and intend to be again. I destroyed that trust by allowing myself to gradually go out of control over a period of time that escalated from the beginning of this year (2015). I have identified some of the triggers that sparked certain bad decisions and embedded patterns in me.

I have always had emotional, spiritual and addictive issues but at certain points I have had long spells of being on top of these issues with the support of different people in my life. 

It’s not my place to determine outcomes or consequences and I know that I have to allow others the privilege to judge whether I change and when I have changed. That’s not my business. My business is to make those changes.


Reflections two years on

Wow, it’s poignant reading this again 812 days later. It is 828 days since I came to my senses or at least was roughly heading for my right mind. So many things are different today. I can meet with anyone and talk candidly and openly about what happened, I can articulate my sorrow, my grieving and sadness. I am clear about the triggers and roots of all this. I feel peace as opposed to turmoil and every day my focus is indeed on the fact that God’s word is flawless and that my responsibility with that is to take care of his business and trust that he will take care of mine.

It’s not easy but then it looks as though it wasn’t easy for David either. It’s hard to quieten negative voices whether external or self talk. It’s hard to hear judgements that determine your value in other peoples eyes when all that matters is how God sees you.

I had a situation at work this week that left me feeling completely misjudged and useless. The annoying thing is that I am on annual leave this week and I opened an email that summoned me to a meeting where there are major concerns about some of my work. I had answered all of these questions already and I sensed from the email that my boss was simply showing to the directors that he is being proactive to cover his own back.

There is nothing else that I can add that I have not already said and I doubt there is a new line of questioning that has not already been thought about. When I presented the case to the board a couple of weeks ago I was told it was brilliant and that they are so glad that they have me on the team.

I was annoyed with myself for opening work email whilst on annual leave. On the one hand I wanted to be helpful to my oldest daughter who works on the team and was feeling some stresses about work whilst I was off but on the other there were emails that triggered negative responses. This was one of about 3 or 4 in my inbox amongst an overwhelming 150+ messages (usually I keep my inbox at zero).

These negative feelings stayed with me throughout the whole day yesterday despite prayer and wrestling with my self talk, attempting to put things into perspective.

I wondered if God has brought me this far to turn up the heat and test me. The pressure is a lot different than the pressure I felt when running the rehab but the feelings are the same, the desire to withdraw and pull back are the same, the constant fear at the thought of returning to work next week is the same, the pit in the stomach, the heart racing, the feeling of my heart being in my throat, the desire to run …except this time I don’t run. I just get on with it. I pray and reluctantly accept that it is there and that I am more fragile than I like to think.

I recognise that my reaction is an over reaction but accept that it is a reality that I have to live with. I feel dread about going back to work on Monday. I am more fragile than I want to allow myself to be, the world is broken. I am broken. All communication taking place is underpinned by fear and self preservation rather than love.

My job is to keep my side of the street clean. I can do nothing about how anyone else chooses to communicate or what they choose to do to me or not do to me. It’s not pretty but then this world is not pretty. This Psalm offers comfort and perspective.

 

Psalm 11

“Flee as a bird to your mountain” his friends and advisers cried, but David refused, regarding the Lord as a much more secure refuge than any human fortress. David’s response was “In the LORD put I my trust”.

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Psalm 11

 

For the director of music. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge.

    How then can you say to me:

    ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain.

For look, the wicked bend their bows;

    they set their arrows against the strings

to shoot from the shadows

    at the upright in heart.

When the foundations are being destroyed,

    what can the righteous do?’

The Lord is in his holy temple;

    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.

He observes everyone on earth;

    his eyes examine them.

The Lord examines the righteous,

    but the wicked, those who love violence,

    he hates with a passion.

On the wicked he will rain

    fiery coals and burning sulphur;

    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,

    he loves justice;

    the upright will see his face.


After David killed Goliath he lived with King Saul. One of David’s functions in the royal household was to play music that soothed Saul’s troubled mind.

Later, Saul thought that David wanted to usurp his throne. He became paranoid about David’s popularity.  He wanted David dead. David’s friends told him to “run away”. He was reluctant but in the end he became a fugitive because God told him to go!

The panic that launched this psalm was not David’s but that of his apparently well-meaning counsellors.

Their mood is panic, but David’s is peace. In view of David’s attitude, this psalm can be listed with the psalms of confidence (Psalms 4, 16, 23, 27, 62, 125, and 131). Also, the solidarity of the theocratic king and the theocratic people is obvious, as indicated by the shifts back and forth between singular and plural phrasings. The developing verses and lines of this psalm reveal that, although two different “voices” were speaking to David in yet another context of personal and national crisis, he had made up his mind to trust only in God.

David asks his friends why they tell him to run away. His friends say, “The godless want to kill the righteous”. David’s resolve to stay put is admirable. I think I would have been one of the friends. When trouble comes I want to run. I see only my own strength and God becomes small in moments of trouble. It’s changed in the last two years …a lot but the flight response is immediate and it takes discipline and faithful resolve to stand my ground. I hate conflict, I hate trouble and running always is my gut response. I learned two years ago though that when I run I only run from myself because God can always keep up with me and he will bring about the match that is needed through other means.

 

“Flee as a bird to your mountain” his friends and advisers cried, but David refused, regarding the Lord as a much more secure refuge than any human fortress. David’s response was “In the LORD put I my trust”.

We could run to safety, away from the trials of life. but generally speaking, the problem would follow us. We are usually our own troublemaker and though it may be convenient to blame external things.

 

 

Verse 3 gives us the words of a committed but confused saint. His philosophical problem is, “In view of the crumbling of the theocratic society, what can one righteous person, out of a shrinking remnant, do?” David’s fainthearted counsellors believed the very cornerstones of their nation were in jeopardy, namely, the Mosaic Law and other institutions of the faith.

Verses 4 – 7 inform us of David’s beliefs in this moment
· God is in his temple. God is home !
· God can see all that is going on.
· God will sort everything out.
· God is just and fair.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Psalm 11
For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.
———————————–

God loves justice got me thinking. What does justice look like for all I have done? All I know is that God is just, he is fair and that his motive is always love. I know that he will put everything right. Every single piece of mess that we as humans have created, he will bring about a restoration of what is true and right.It won’t happen on my timetable or anyone else’s for that matter but it will happen if not now, at judgment and the realms of eternity.

Most of my anxiety comes from the expectations I put on myself. It’s interesting that I have a blank slate about how I use my time at the moment. I really am accountable to no one at this particular juncture of my life. I have never been in this situation before. Financial limitations apart I can do what I like. Why do I choose to do what I do? Let me take an honest inventory of that.

Looking for work I pay lip service to at the moment. I do it to keep DWP happy and to have a chance of receiving some benefits. There’s not much point being too proactive about it until I know if there will be a court case.

Reading, reflection, journalling and prayer time is the most enjoyable part of each day for me. I really would like to spend more time doing this. I am finding it helpful and I am finding some peace as a result of doing this. I wondered if I go to jail, how would I do this? Perhaps I cannot. I am sure I would adapt but it would be very hard to not have this time each day.

I spend time with the people I want to spend time with now and not those I feel obligated to be with. I enjoy that. I reached out to a homeless guy called Mark today. We had a short conversation and I gave him some change. It wasn’t much but it felt good to talk to someone who appreciated me stopping.

I am listing stuff on eBay because I want to protect my wife’s chance of getting the mortgage that she needs and keeping the house.

I went to SLAA out of curiosity and wondering if it would help me.

Just a few of the tapes that run in my head about decisions I make and don’t make:

What will people think?
No one will find out.
Who am I to assert my thoughts / ideas?
I don’t have the credibility to contribute.
No one is interested in my opinion.
I am not respected enough to have an opinion.
Their needs are more important than mine.
I will be accepted if I meet this person’s request. I will change my plans.
I should do this for the good of the ministry.
If I say no to this it will look like I don’t care.
If I produce those results I will be accepted.
It’s better for me to keep quiet or just agree. I don’t need the hassle of disagreeing.
I will do this even though I don’t want to but I just don’t want the hassle if I don’t do it.
If I am honest people will think I am weird and I will not be accepted.
If am open I will be judged
If they knew the truth about me I will not be liked.

I read in the book “The gifts of imperfection” the following definition of shame: “The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

I think this is my problem. I don’t belong so I try to fit in and I am not very good at that because deep down I always feel like an outsider, someone on the outside looking in. My peer group does not feel like my peer group. I always think I am interacting above my station and I should be down a peg or two. I don’t belong in the company of leaders and in circles of influence. I don’t feel that I fit there. I really don’t like myself that much. I feel I am an under achiever even though I work hard. My confidence is low and my self esteem quite low. I can carry myself in some social settings and get away with it but inside I feel fake.

I applied for 11 jobs today.

I did my traffic warden entrance exam and I am sure I scored 100%. They said I would most likely be called in for an interview within the next week. The interview will focus on hypothetical scenarios relating to “Communication”, “Customer service” & “Conflict resolution”. Three things I am passionate about and I love. I actually would like to try being a traffic warden !!! I must be a rare breed who could get excited about that. I spoke to one of the other candidates and felt good in his company.

My wife messaged me and said that my son is willing to connect with me next week which really encouraged me. She said that my youngest daughter is not comfortable with me being in the house. I need to find somewhere to stay on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week. I felt very sad about that, quite tearful actually. I really miss her but most of the sadness was about what I have broken in her. I cry as I write now. My wife tells me that she is really finding it hard to process all this. I would give anything to have an opportunity to reconcile with her.


Reflections two years on

It’s actually 14 months later as I write this and life has changed considerably. In the summer of 2015 chaos, uncertainty and self pity consumed me as I emerged from the fog of some very bad decisions and actions that completely destroyed my family and everything I had built my life on. My emphasis in the journal at that time was one of wrestling with who I am in the presence of God, licking my wounds and walking amidst the burning embers of what was left of my life. The Psalm gave me a sense of assurance of God being fair and just and though I knew I didn’t deserve anything much, I did know that God knew my heart and knew my story intimately and I would come out of this not unscathed of course but with hope and with a future. 

My propensity to run from trouble is what got me into this mess. Eventually I saw that I was just running from myself. Today, I have enough in my tank to stand firm and look to God and his ways to direct my steps in those tough situations one of which arose yesterday as a former mistress sent me a very manipulative email. I deleted it and marked it as spam without any sense of wanting to respond or defend or justify or keep any door open. I stood firm, I stood where I was and I did what was right. The last exchange took place more than two years ago. It was final and the door was closed. This door stays closed. I shared the email with my wife and about 6 other close friends whom I trust.

Jesus is recorded as having said to his disciples “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The context is that the penny was beginning to drop about what they had signed up for. The Cross was ahead and after the initial euphoria of the resurrection would come persecution and difficulty for all of them. Jesus told them these things plainly …apparently so that in him they may have peace. Life, trouble and hardship are synonymous with each other. Following Jesus and trouble and hardship ups the stakes somewhat because then the whole world is also going to be fighting against you and the more that you live in the light, and live by the truth the intensity of such trouble will increase. It’s guaranteed.

Where’s the good news in that?  well, bringing it back to the words of David in this Psalm…

“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth” … and the closing words …”For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”

Psalm 10

The conclusion is that he reigns, and he will reign forever. This is one of the instances which frequently occur in the Psalms. The Psalm begins with a desponding spirit, or an apprehension of danger, it ends with the language of exultation and triumph.

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Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
    he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
    in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, ‘Nothing will ever shake me.’
    He swears, ‘No one will ever do me harm.’

His mouth is full of lies and threats;
    trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, ‘God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.’

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    ‘He won’t call me to account’?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
    call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
    that would not otherwise be found out.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.


The acrostic is incomplete. The psalm is all there, but a few words were changed. They still mean the same thing.

Psalm 10 in contrast to the prayer at the end of the preceding psalm, now points to the present condition in the world, where God seems to have permitted the wicked to triumph over the righteous (verses 1-11). He then appeals to the Lord to act, to set the matter right, confident that the King of all creation will do so (verses 12-18).

Psalm 10 begins in despair. In Psalm 9 the psalmist was confident of the sure coming of Divine justice; in Psalm 10 injustice prevails; To the Psalmist, God seems disinterested.

However, the psalmist’s walking more by sight than by faith will slowly turn around as he shifts his focus from empirical observations to theological facts. This is not an easy turn-around, especially since he is surrounded by so many people who have no belief in God (compare verses 4, 11, 13).

This Psalm illustrates how the faithful seem to live in two different worlds at the same time.

The world is full of hostility and discouragement (10:1-11);

The world is full of hope and encouragement (10:12-18).

In Psalm 9 we read about the enemy of God. He was also the enemy of David. The enemy was probably a foreign country. In Psalm 10 we read about the wicked man, or the wicked. They were people that lived in David’s country.

Two “whys” of lament boldly blurt out the psalmist’s question: God, why do you remain aloof?” (Compare Psalms 13:1; 22:11; 38:21; 44:24; 71:12; 88:14). The psalmist here shows his own impatience and despair.

The wicked person described here, is scheming against the poor. The word pride shows us that the wicked thinks himself better than the poor. David is saying in this, let this wicked person be caught in his own trap. The wicked’s modus operandi is the opposite of God’s ways.

The psalmist calls on God to punish the unbridled disrespect and scorn of the wicked, which has reached such a pitch that it seems as if God is indifferent. The wicked mistake God’s patience with evil for disinterest in justice and the victims. Their boldness grows as they no longer sense any accountability for their actions. To the Psalmist, God seems to be rewarding the ruthless.

David prays that God will do something. In verses 16-18 David tells his people that God will do something. He knew that after fighting foreign countries there was unrest in his own kingdom. He attempted to deal with it but ultimately God would deal with it.

“Lift up your hand” in verse 12 is an idiom for God’s strength and power especially as it is used in the context of retaliation.

He has been describing the ways of the evil person in his dealings with the weak and poor of the earth. Now, he is saying; Lord help those who cannot help themselves. The humble here, are speaking of people who have no earthly influence. Their only help, their only hope is the Lord.

God is pictured as Helper or Advocate again, but this time in association with orphans. He is the Defender of the defenceless. We see a cry from the Psalmist for God to hurry up and bring judgement on these evil ones. God judges however, when He is ready, not when we want Him to.


The confident mood of this great climax outshines the psalm’s introductory protestations. The psalmist’s great Lord listens (verse 17), and acts (verse 18).

The conclusion is that he reigns, and he will reign forever. This is one of the instances which frequently occur in the Psalms. The Psalm begins with a desponding spirit, or an apprehension of danger, it ends with the language of exultation and triumph.

The psalmist speaks here as if what he had desired was actually accomplished. And as if the enemies that had encompassed him, and all the enemies of the Lord, were actually overthrown, and God now reigned supreme. He was so confident that this would be so, that he speaks of it as if it were already done.

 


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Psalm 10
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart,
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord,
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
————————————————————
This was my attitude when immersed in that life. I wouldn’t have recognised as this at the time. The two world’s I lived in never touched each other except towards the end in the last three or four months. Everything was about me and meeting my needs and desires. Everything was manipulated to my advantage, the way that I wanted and there was an arrogant invincibility about me.

My attitude to God was that he was part of my “other life” and he lived and operated in my other life at my convenience but when I was in that other life it was as though my double life never existed. I closed it off, the lid was shut and the door would never open.

I was able to switch between the two with ease and look authentic in both of them until May of this year (2015). I could see at this point that God was closing in on me and my time was almost up. The finances were more and more out of control. I was less and less present at home. I was less present at work and less on top of my responsibilities. I was less on top of ordinary chores at home. Normal living became too much effort as I was obsessed, consumed and compulsively enslaved.

I read some more from “The gifts of imperfection” today.

Everyone wants “How to” solutions and yet we have them at our fingertips. There is more “How to” information available to us than ever before. How to eat healthy, how to stay in shape, how to manage our money, how to be effective in almost anything.

However we are the most overweight, over indulgent, addicted, in debt society ever. We have all the information “How to”. I had all the knowledge … Bible knowledge, addiction recovery knowledge. I have more of that knowledge than most people. The reason I landed in this moral failure was not lack of knowledge.

I know the difference between right and wrong and even if I am attracted to another way of living the knowledge in my head is aware of the risks and all the for and against arguments. It’s a no brainer to do what is right!!!

I have a very disciplined, ordered, structured and strategic brain too. Above average when it is switched on.

Something caused me to bypass this well organised and well understood knowledge that is in my head. Bypass it so much that when I was in the madness it was almost as though the knowledge did not exist or I could not access that part of my brain.

I love this quote from the book “If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear and vulnerability”.

There is an idea in Jungian circles that shame is the swampland of the soul. It’s not that we should wade in and set up camp. It’s an important place to visit but it’s not the place I want to live. The choice is to stand on the shore looking over to the other side catastrophizing about what would happen if we opened up and talked honestly about our fears or grabbing the hand of a trusted friend and wading across the swamp. I like that imagery and it suggests that crossing the swamp is going to lead to freedom and be less painful in the long run.

I can see why people (including me) are drawn into the “How to” …why cross the swamp when you can bypass it? The problem with “How to’s” is that they leave me procrastinating because the problem is not knowledge but dealing with my obstacles… it’s my fear, it’s my shame and it’s my lack of vulnerability.

“How to” is a seductive shortcut but it leaves me standing in the same place, not moving forward, not growing, longing for connection, longing for intimacy and longing for meaning. It leaves me feeling empty because the problem is not “How to”.

I speak brilliantly about “How to”, “What to” and all the various concepts that enrich life. The irony is that I don’t live it and the reason for this is that I cannot because I have not understood or engaged with the obstacles that prevent me from doing so. Each time I engage with a “How to” I hit a road block and I stand at the road block stagnant, not moving forward.

A few weeks back when I was still immersed in the insanity that has been my life, the woman whom I was having an affair with had been scouring the internet almost obsessively to dig up information about me.

She sent me a link to a sermon I preached in April 2013. “What did you come out to see?” and said that I should listen to the last ten minutes. I listened to whole thing and it really exposed my hypocrisy. It was hard to listen to myself deliver such a passionate, articulate sermon that was packed with meaning, information about the way to live and yet I was not doing it. I am convinced now it is because I really did not have the courage to wade through the swamp of my soul. I was standing on the shore full of fear, shame and a veneer that protected myself from any scrutiny by being hard working, productive, busy and showing that I understood what I was talking about. At this point in my journey my spiritual life and my secret other life never touched each other, never got in the way of each other. If it looked like there may be a collision I managed things adequately enough to avoid the collision between real life and fantasy life.

Knowledge is useful but it’s not the answer. The answer is vulnerability. I know the 12 steps, I know the Bible, I know about the heart of God, I know about Jesus’ love and compassion for those in Spiritual poverty but knowledge as the Bible says “Puffs up” at the end it is about love and love demands vulnerability, honesty and selflessness which are all been seriously lacking in my life. I was a Pharisee of the highest order. The very thing that I rebelled against I had become.

I listed a few more items on eBay. I am starting to list things now that cause an emotional tug on me. My Akai wind synth and various effects and sound processors that have underpinned the music I have created in recent years are hard to give up especially seeing the kind of prices they will go for, much less than they are truly worth. It’s good for my soul though. I try to think of the money that will help my wife. I try to think about the money that people have given to help her and the children these weeks, I try to think of the money that I owe my former employers and wrestle my will against what is morally right. I really don’t have a right to anything. It’s hard to accept but it is true. If I end up in prison I know it will bring that home a bit more.


Reflections two years on
First of all, wow … what a journey. Gratitude is the key word of the day. I think about where I was just over two years ago and where I am today. It is mind blowing. I was the person that David complained about in the Psalm. I took advantage of people’s trust. I stole money that was supposed to help the defenceless. To anyone observing from the outside who may have suspected or known what was going on … it may have looked the way that David observed the situation in the beginning of the Psalm.
Of course, God knows what he is doing and no one, no matter how smart or clever can hoodwink the Lord. He knew the right time to intervene. He knew how far I would have to for into the abyss to have any chance of coming out with repentant heart and at just the right time.
I know that this raises questions about those who suffered as a result of my thievery, manipulation, sexual predatory ways and where is the justice. The truth of that is that God always brings about justice in his own way and on his own timetable. I am not affording myself any credit when I consider what I did but God knew what my wife needed to go through in order to grow spiritually, he knew what my family needed to go through. They would not have grown without being enveloped in such darkness none of which was their own doing.
My assumption is that either God allows for things to go for as long as is necessary to bring about repentance or as long as is necessary to bring about the oblivion that is the outcome of such wayward disregard for God and others.
…and then there is always judgement and eternity.

Psalm 9

We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him. 

Mortal
Psalm 9

 

For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Death of the Son’. A psalm of David.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

My enemies turn back;

    they stumble and perish before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause,

    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;

    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,

    you have uprooted their cities;

    even the memory of them has perished.

The Lord reigns for ever;

    he has established his throne for judgment.

He rules the world in righteousness

    and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,

    a stronghold in times of trouble.

10 Those who know your name trust in you,

    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;

    proclaim among the nations what he has done.

12 For he who avenges blood remembers;

    he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!

    Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,

14 that I may declare your praises

    in the gates of Daughter Zion,

    and there rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;

    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.

16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;

    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,

    all the nations that forget God.

18 But God will never forget the needy;

    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;

    let the nations be judged in your presence.

20 Strike them with terror, Lord;

    let the nations know they are only mortal.


The psalms are Hebrew poetry. We mostly think about rhyming poetry where the ends of words rhyme.

Another type of poetry is to make the ideas sound like each other.

Psalm 9:8 is a good example of this. The 2 parts of the verse mean the same.

Another form of Hebrew poetry was to use an acrostic. This often caused the words to be jumbled and makes for difficult reading or awkward translation like Psalm 9:3.

Not many of the psalms are acrostics. Psalm 119 is the most well known acrostic. The others are 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145.

We do not usually translate them into English as acrostics, because there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. However psalm 9 and 10 have been translated in this way because some of the letters are missing.

David probably wrote Psalm 9 and 10 as one psalm. Jewish tradition holds that he wrote it after he killed Goliath. The first part says that God beat the foreign enemy (Psalm 9). The second part says that wicked men in Israel are making the helpless into oppressed people. (Psalm 10)

The reasons for thinking that it was one psalm are:

  ·   Psalm 10 has no words at the top about David or music. This is quite unusual in a psalm by David.

  ·   Hebrew words that David did not often use are in Psalms 9 and 10.

  ·   Psalms 9 and 10 make one acrostic.

However, Psalms 9 and 10 evidence two different approaches. The first is an individual hymn while the second is an individual lament.

In the first part (verses 1-12), praise is prominent, and in the second part (verses 13-20), prayer is prominent. Many subtle patterns weave the thoughts of its verses and lines together. Shifting back and forth between the individual and corporate perspectives is characteristic, as are introverted, structures.

David’s hymn in Psalm 9 ebbs and flows through two respective tides of prayer and praise dealing with individual and corporate perspectives.

Verses 1-2 introduce some “I will” statements as we glimpse David’s dedication to exuberant worship of the Lord.

There is a strong sense of gratitude for the fact that God has made him victorious over his enemies (presumably the Philistines).

Marvelous works are celebrated, referencing God’s extraordinary interventions into history on behalf of His people (compare the Exodus events).

This is a psalm determined to praise God and connect with him in awe and gratitude. The opening verses are deeply expressive.

Verses 5 and 6 reveal the just Judge’s dealings with the godless. Verses 7 and 8, deal with His dealings with all men in general, and verses 9 and 10 deal with His gracious dealings with the faithful.

We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him.

In verses 9-10 we are informed that he is a refuge. God as a place of safety is a recurring theme in the Psalms (46:1-2; 91:1-2). A refuge or stronghold, sometimes translated “fortress”. He is a high place of security and protection (1 Samuel 23:14, 19, 29).

There is a “both/and” tension running throughout the Old Testament, i.e., God is enthroned in and above the heavens, and also, He symbolically dwells locally in Zion in His tabernacle (compare 1 Kings Chapter 8; Psalm 11:4).

As the result of this omnipresent wonder and in celebration of his work and intervention. The heart of the psalmist is full of praise and joy. He wants the world to know just who is this God!

In God’s kingdom the humble are celebrated, the weak are protected and the violators of peace are brought to justice. He will remember those who have suffered innocent bloodshed and he brings judgement on their oppressors.

Death is depicted like an earthly city, surrounded by a wall, where people are held captive – hence the reference to the gates of death.

The idea in verses 13 & 14 is, that the dead could not praise God, that his work of  is not yet complete, so he calls on God to intervene and save him so that he can continue to worship and praise him on the earth. This of course is an earthly perspective.

The psalm finishes by telling us 2 things:

  ·   God will remember the oppressed, even if they have to wait what appears to be a long time

  ·   God will teach us that we are only human and therefore mortal. It is only God that is really powerful

In verses 15-16, we are presented with God’s unfailing  boomerang. The principle of exact retribution. This in popular culture today is called karma or “what goes around, comes around”.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

I spent a good amount of the day going through the loft looking for things to list on eBay. I have a lot of vinyl records, some that are worth decent sums of money but are a bit awkward to list from the phone and the computer is painfully slow but I managed to get a few items up. I was trying to find my EWI (Electronic woodwind instrument). I am sure I could get at least £200 for that but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was quite puzzled and a little consumed by the apparent loss of this instrument. I could not  remember taking it out of the house for many months and was sure I had seen it since. I found it eventually at about 11pm and was so relieved.

My dad phoned. It was a better conversation than last time. A little less of an edge. It must be difficult for him. I am sure it must bring up some of his own stuff plus I just learned that his sister, my aunt had just come out of a coma so he had all that going on when he last called. I knew she was very sick but I had no idea that she was in a coma until today. He was still mainly concerned about me being out of work, the financial situation but he did ask towards the end of the conversation “what are the chances of a reconciliation with my wife”. I told him that it was early days yet and that we both needed space and processing time but I would not rule it out.

PSALM 9
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
…………………….
I hold on to these words in Psalm 9. God is my stronghold in times of trouble. All I can do in this moment is to seek God. He will not forget about me.

My experience of God is an absent God…he’s out there doing his thing, being God but he’s not so interested in me. He is busy with the universe and other people who are more connected to him and have better hearts than me. Of course that experience is erroneous and in contradiction to scripture.

I know Jesus saved his strongest words for the self righteous and religious. I am a sinner of the highest order. I can see Jacob the deceiver in me, Samson the manipulator, David the adulterer who covered his steps by killing her husband, I am Jonah the moaner who ran away. I am not a pretty picture but God used all these people despite their flaws.

One of my friends and journal recipients came round in the evening and we spent a couple of hours together. It was great to see him. I talked through my story and he asked me a number of questions. We prayed and he told me that it was really helpful for him to be able to have more empathy for me. I really am glad that he is in this loop. He is a great friend. Meeting with him gave me the confidence and desire to make some more connections. I thinking about others I want to connect with. Yesterday was a pretty good day in the end.


Reflections two years on

The first thing that strikes me about this Psalm is that gratitude is key. I didn’t have a whole lot of gratitude two years ago. My thought life was dominated by fear, anxiety, anger, judgement, sadness and mostly self pity.

There was however a small glimmer of light and enough of an awareness of the presence of God to edge me forward. People were generally more gracious than I expected to. This gave me confidence to edge further forward, make apologies, some amends and reconnect.

Psalm 9 is a celebration of who God is. It is a Psalm of wonder and confidence in his absolute sovereignty.

It reminds me that though I have many limitations, God compensates for all this. In him there is more than hope. There is surety that every injustice, every despair, every failing will be put right. God is God…we are not.

Psalm 8

The name of God refers to the revealed Person of God, encompassing all of His attributes. It is an enthusiastic and powerful expression of praise, a “wow” moment, a moment of amazement and awe. His name is above all names. All of creation bows down to him. 

heavens
Psalm 8

 For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

Lord, our Lord,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

    in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants

    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

    to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,

    the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

    which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels

    and crowned them with glory and honour.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

    you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds,

    and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,

    and the fish in the sea,

    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!


To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.

Though the bulk of the psalm describes man and his dominion over the universe, the first and last verses make clear to the reader that the psalm was written primarily to exalt the Creator. “A little lower than the angels” (verse 5), is literally “a little lower than God” (the Hebrew word “Elohim” is used, which is the normal generic word for God). The Septuagint translated the word as “angels”, however, and this translation is quoted (in Hebrews 2:6-8). The word may be taken in a loose sense,” divine beings”, in which case it could refer to both God and the angels. Three interpretations of man’s position are described (in verses 5-8):

(1)  It refers only to man’s original condition (Gen. 1:26-28);

(2)  It refers to man’s present, actual position, though ruined somewhat by the Fall.

(3)  It points to man redeemed and restored in the future to his exalted position.

The second view is preferred since the psalmist seems to be observing life as it is in the present. The words “When I consider”, being the give away (verse 3).

The theme of Psalm 8 is “how excellent” is the creator. It blazes across this Psalm from start to finish (8:1, 9). The psalmist wants to understand that their meaning starts and ends with the glory of God and who He is.

The beginning and ending of the psalm suggest that it is essentially a hymn of praise. Yet, a major portion qualifies it as a so-called nature psalm, i.e., a psalm of creation. There is also a significant focus on the importance of man in God’s eyes.

 

Another instrument is referenced in this title, most probably a guitar-like harp associated with Gath in Philistia. Maybe he used music from Gath.

As a young man or even as a boy, David had kept sheep. He would have very likely been with the sheep in the hills at night and able to see the stars in the sky. Perhaps this is something that inspired this Psalm fuelled by thoughts of the vastness and beauty of the night sky. It’s rare to see the fullness of the stars in the sky above London but on occasions when I have been able to spend time out of the city and in more rural areas I have seen a night sky that is breathtaking and beautiful and in those moments can be filled with wonder and in awe of God as well as being aware that I am merely dust, water and gas.

Verse 1 offers direct address to God with the use of twin nouns, the first is His specially revealed name Yahweh (Exodus 3:14), and the second puts an emphasis on His sovereignty.

The name of God refers to the revealed Person of God, encompassing all of His attributes. It is an enthusiastic and powerful expression of praise, a “wow” moment, a moment of amazement and awe. His name is above all names. All of creation bows down to him.

The Psalmist acknowledges that there are enemies of God and yet they are levelled through the simple praise of children. The introductory irony about children sets the stage for a contrast between the dependent and the self-sufficient.

The question about the value of man in God’s sight is brought to the table. What is man that you are mindful of him? What can he bring to you? If the whole universe is diminutive in the sight of the Divine Creator, how much less is the significance of mankind! Even the word for “man” used in verse 4 alludes to his weakness.

Verses 5-8 consistently emphasise the significance of man, who was created in the image and likeness of God to exercise dominion over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26-28).

The psalm closes with the same sentiment that it begins with.

 

 

 


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Psalm 8
Lord, our Lord. How majestic is your name in all the earth

Today’s Psalm had nothing of special relevance but I love the way we sing the song as a congregation. I am not a fan of many songs / hymns that we sing but this one I love. My other favourite is “Be still my soul” to the tune of “Finlandia” by Sibelius. I found myself singing them both this morning.

I went to find a Church that had been recommended to me by our local minister. Our movement had come out of this movement, we were vaguely related, sharing key doctrinal positions.

It appeared that they had no access to their building and decided to meet on Wanstead flats. I felt very insecure. I am an introvert by nature but usually a confident introvert. My confidence has been smashed by everything being exposed but it will be rebuilt through authenticity.

Some of my insecurity was about the culture of the congregation. It was an all black congregation. I am used to a mixed cosmopolitan congregation that at least resembles some of the demographic of the city that I live in. In time a second white person appeared. I sat on the outside of the group, didn’t talk to anyone and no one talked to me. It was a strange experience. The sun was out though and it was nice to be on Wanstead flats.

I met the chairman of the board of my former employers that I had stolen all the money from. He kindly bought me lunch and once we started to talk it was very easy talking with him. He asked me about my awareness of what I had done and the impact of it.

I told him that apart from the obvious financial hole I have created, I am sure there is a lot of hurt, anger, disappointment, sense of betrayal and broken trust. Inconvenience, potential damage to the reputation of the organization and it’s relationship with it’s stakeholders. I hadn’t connected with the full gravity of that because I am in the early stages of processing myself and I had not been privy to people’s reactions.

I said that my intent at this point is to repay the money and do all I can to repair the relational and other damage. I am long way from being in a position to do either and because of the nature of my emotional, mental health and “addiction” I could not guarantee that I will do this.

In my experience of working with addicts about 40% at some point or another find recovery too overwhelming and they bolt. I could be one of the 40%. I don’t believe that I am today because already everything is exposed and I think I have enough in my emotional tank to do the repair work. My spiritual training has perhaps equipped me to handle a lot more than the average addict and the fact that I have a better spiritual grounding but the truth is I don’t know if I will fulfil this.

It would be a better conversation to have in 12 months time. Today I intend to do this. It has been my intent since the beginning. He also asked if prison would help me or hinder me from recovery. I said that I really don’t know. I think I stand a better chance outside of prison because I have great support and I feel I am making slow but steady progress. I would lose that in prison but who knows what that would bring up. Maybe it is what I need, maybe I will meet someone there who would be a great support, maybe God will refine me more there. Prison scares the life out of me. I have been in prisons assessing potential clients and representing the organization I was working for and it really intimidated me even as a visitor. Last time I was in Brixton prison, a couple of months back I thought I could be here soon as a resident. That thought actually went through my head as I was contemplating coming clean. In the end the meeting with my former employer was seasoned with grace and positive.

I was still wrestling with the idea of going to the SLAA meeting in Brixton. The thought quite overwhelmed me and the guy I had spoken with the previous day had left me a message in the morning reminding me of the meeting which triggered “Old school” heavy accountability thoughts in me. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. I went home and went to sleep.

I woke up just in time to go to the meeting and I decided out of curiosity that I would go. There was also a part of me that thought at least when he calls tonight I can say that I went, there was also a part of me that thought if I try this then at least it shows good intent to others who have a vested interest in my recovery or are watching me in judgment. These however were not my dominant thoughts. Curiosity was my primary motivator. As I set out I started to worry about being in Brixton that I would meet former clients or volunteers.

I read the SLAA beginners pack on the journey to the meeting. A lot of the material I was very familiar with, perhaps too familiar with for it to have any impact because being around this stuff in the rehab made me very familiar with recovery jargon, slogans, tag lines and philosophy. This causes a loss of the “Wow” factor …if indeed there is one.

I pasted some quotes (in italics) and my reflections on them, from the section about “Withdrawal” that really resonated with me.

“The addictive experience has been so mind altering for most of us that, once enmeshed in it, we have lost track of ever wanting to be out of it!”

———————————————

To think about sex and love addiction being mind altering is a bizarre thought when I think about the comparison with drugs and alcohol but really it is and perhaps more intoxicating in some ways because it is a legitimate need and the shift from fulfilling the legitimate need to addiction flies under the radar, it’s harder to detect and therefore more subtle. It used my normal feelings and in some ways a normal human social experience to give me a hit. It’s a lot more deceptive and a lot harder to recognize the problem. I knew what I was doing was morally wrong and wilful sin but at the same time the feelings were seemingly authentic feelings, perhaps more intense and more passionate than normal but nevertheless authentic “real” feelings underpinned by deluded sense of entitlement that said I deserve this. Everyone should be able to feel this. Those feelings of course were manufactured by fantasy and imagination, fuelled by the fact that I knew I could never really possess this love or this intimacy or this passion however I viewed it in the moment. I really didn’t want to be out of it until I began to see that it was unsustainable and becoming increasingly demanding on my emotional and physical resources.

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There is great truth to this. Usually, however, by the time we let the concept of withdrawal into our thinking, the addiction was not reliably delivering the oblivion or pleasure we sought so ardently.More and more energy had to be poured into the emotional and sexual activities just to break even, let alone “go to the moon.” It was as though an inner voice was saying, as we embarked on each new sexual or romantic episode, “Wherever I’m ‘going’ with this new face, or body, or mind, I’ve already ‘been there’ a thousand times before!”

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And this is the bottom line of the beginning of my recovery journey. It really was no longer delivering. The cost of breaking even emotionally was crossing over from a well managed and contained double life that I skillfully kept secret from everyone and bleeding over into my real life.

The amount of money I needed to sustain it was increasing, the communication level demanded of me in this latest relationship was unsustainable. It was causing greater problems with my time and exposing me to greater risk. The time away was harder and harder to justify. It was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the lies and even make them consistent. The problem was that I was at the point that the addiction, the mental obsession and compulsion to act had gripped me like it never had before. I can pinpoint many opportunities where I could have walked away from the double life along the way and the fall out would have been minimal. I even contemplated it at times and I am sure I could have prevented myself from acting out in such an extreme way. I remember stopping for months at a time between 2011 – 2013 but I never really engaged with the idea that this was an addiction for me, so I kept open doors and opportunities to go back to it again. I think in the end it had to crash and burn in the way that it did so that everything could be exposed and I could be stripped of everything, so I am in a position to restore the real me.

By May of 2015 I was beginning to let out subtle cries for help in the form of half truths and I talked about this woman  first with my wife and a handful of others. By June I was depressed and almost suicidal as I was attempting withdrawal. I went to the doctors and asked for a mental health assessment, my behaviour was erratic and I was sure that I was having some kind of breakdown. I started entertaining the idea of just pressing the destruct button and exposing all and started to look at ideas on the internet about how possible it is to run away to a foreign land and live an anonymous life. In this modern age it’s really not easy to do that. Especially from such a well protected border as the UK.

I would need a lot of cash, no contact with anyone and either a fake passport or someone who could give me safe passage to somewhere. The problem was that I was in the grip of addiction. I had met my match in this latest encounter. I now think that she has the same problem so there was ongoing manipulation, obsession and compulsion both ways and everything was turbulent, chaotic and destructive between us but I was at a crossroads.

I had two choices (1) Come clean about everything and risk losing everything … family, friends, job, addiction (yes, there is a grieving in that), freedom or (2) Give myself over to the addiction fully and risk losing everything. The problem was that I could not decide. I did not want to lose anything. This intoxicating relationship was pushing me to decide and in the same way that heroin beckons the drug user …she promised everything and I was confused. Of course I knew she would not deliver, my experience of her up to now had already proven that. This was the addiction calling and I was sitting right on the fence. I knew about powerlessness and this was it. The only way now was to be impulsive and see where it landed me knowing that it wasn’t going to be pretty.

I wanted to please my mistress, I wanted to please my wife, I wanted to keep my family, I had lost interest in church but I wanted to somehow find my way spiritually again, I wanted to be a musician again and I saw that opportunity in this country I kept travelling to to fuel my affair, I had lost my passion for the work I was doing in the rehab. I began to feel more like a political figure to connect the church and charity than someone helping people. Always my favourite moments in the rehab were with the clients. I hated playing politics and trying to meet and impress stakeholders. I had begun to trust one of the members of staff and I desperately wanted to draw closer to him. I saw in him someone who could help me but he was too close to home but perhaps he could find me a therapist that could help me so I started to give him half truths of my story. I desperately wanted out of this but at the same time I felt I was being sucked in deeper. I knew that the end was near.

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In “going public” with those whom we had routinely deceived about our activities, the motive was not to punish. We were relying on these people, and their reactions to the disclosures of our shoddiness, in order to guarantee that we would encounter the consequences of our actions right away. We were choosing to pull the rug out from under our inclinations to cover up, segregate, or manage our intrigues and liaisons. It was often the cumulative result of these consequences in our relationships with those people who mattered to us which finally forced us to an awareness of the lack of control in our behaviour, and the need to label it as addictive. This inner commitment to sustain a stringent standard of honesty with others about our sexual and emotional behaviour seemed to be sufficient, in itself to start the inner process of self honesty which finally delivered us over into unconditional surrender and withdrawal.

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My wife was always going to be the first person I told. I did not have the courage to bring everything in one go but knew that it all would have to come out in the end. Whilst all this was happening, my mistresses pursuit of me was getting more intense as she began to sense that she was losing me. I was being pulled back in by the lure of more and the possibility of escape and running away. I was feeling the pull in both directions and my head was gone. I was one moment longing to have my old life back and in the other being lured by a false promise of something more exciting, more thrilling, more creatively engaging and I was trying to appease both women at the same time whilst I consider my choice. I wasn’t in a stable enough mental state to make any choice. I feel intense sadness when I think about how cruel I was to my wife. The truth is that I was cruel to both women and the other women I encountered in these years.

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Of course, to speak of “ways” of entering withdrawal from active sex and love addiction is a bit misleading, because we are not really the conscious architects of how we get there. Most of us can identify with some parts of each of these paths into withdrawal. Finally, it is important to emphasise, again, that however honest we became through any last ditch efforts at “control,” our sobriety did not really begin until the last reservation had been let go, and we gave up the right, for one day (or one hour) at a time, to have “one more” liaison with our addiction.

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It’s hard to speak of sobriety days as we do in NA or AA. Abstinence from a substance is a lot easier to quantify and measure than abstinence from a sex and love addiction.

Perhaps it is easier as a Christian because I can use the Biblical standard as my guide. The bottom line for the Christian is lust which I have heard defined as “the second look” which doesn’t really do it for me. It’s more about entertaining thoughts. If I use that as my standard then I am not yet fully in withdrawal but the process of withdrawal has begun. The thoughts are less frequent and the grip of my mistress is no longer there though I have moments where I am tempted to fill the void with a new “adventure” I know also that it would be the death knell for all I am trying to achieve.

If I allow myself back into this I will lose myself completely. The addicts mindset is one of “the next time will be different. I can manage it better” …and even more so after some sobriety and feeling well for a bit. I don’t want to go back but the call of addiction is there. It’s present. It’s alive promising an easier life, a more fulfilling life and a life where I will feel more “alive” but I know the reality and I know that sin when it is full grown gives birth to death. Today I am resolved to not act out, not entertain and focus on recovery.

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We can not go through your withdrawal for you, nor would we, if we could. Who would ever knowingly volunteer to go through it again? Certainly none of us! Yet the pain of each withdrawal is unique and special, even precious (although you probably don’t now think so). In a sense, the experience is you, a part of you which has been trying to surface for a long time. You have been avoiding or postponing this pain for a long time now, yet you have never been able to lastingly outrun it. You need to go through withdrawal in order to become a whole person. You need to meet yourself. Behind the terror of what you fear, withdrawal contains the seeds for your own personal wholeness. It must be experienced for you to realise, or make real, that potential for you and your life which has been stored there for so long. There are different ways sex and love addicts have started this process. The end result is the same: addictive sexual and emotional behaviour, on a daily basis, stops.

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I am beginning to discover myself again. There are little green shoots surfacing in the dirt. I can see them. Though the embers are still burning and the smoke is still rising from all of this, the flames are subdued and new life is already emerging. Of course it would not take much for a spark to ignite it all again and destroy everything. I have moments where I feel the pain of withdrawal and there is an emptiness, a sadness, a grieving for what I have lost. The grieving is in part about the loss as a result of the consequences of my life and part the loss of the addiction itself as my coping mechanism to deal with the emptiness and void in my soul. I know that walking with God is the true solution to that puzzle. Even the 12 steps recognise that. I remember sitting with one of the recovery clients after supporting him with a court case three months after completing treatment and he told me that praying was an alien concept to him at the beginning of his recovery journey but now it was the most important part of his day and he knows that without prayer he cannot survive.

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It also does not matter what the specifics of your own pattern of sex and love addiction have been, although it is important that you do identify your own pattern. Some of our patterns have included “one night stands,” frantic sexual liaisons with no emotional tics, or manic masturbation, exhibitionism and/or voyeurism. Others have involved obsessive intrigue with, or dependency on, one or many people (serially or concurrently) with the conviction that without an “other” we would be at death’s door. Regardless of which pattern is yours, it has to stop. No matter how powerfully your thoughts and feelings are tugging at you to continue indulging, you cease acting on them. It is this point when you finally stop that really signals the start of your recovery

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The acting out has stopped. I could say that this is my first clean day (after yesterdays relapse) if acting out is the benchmark. The intention to act out has stopped and the more I reflect and engage in spiritually focused reading and writing, my head is beginning to become more quiet with the obsession I have.

I went to the SLAA meeting.I am not sure if it was helpful or not. I was bored for much of the meeting. There was a lot of rambling as people shared. I don’t know that much of value was shared. I found myself judging people.

There were some very attractive women there that made me feel quite uncomfortable. One of them shared very vulnerably and started to cry and I could feel myself being drawn to her. She was sitting next to me. This is an area that I was very skilled at connecting with emotionally vulnerable women. I felt a strong temptation but made a decision not to make eye contact with her or talk with her in the fellowship afterwards. I am mystified at the wisdom of having mixed meetings for people with sex addiction issues, but then some of the participants were gay and there was at least one transsexual person there.

Another thing that made me feel uncomfortable was the presence of a former rehab client and volunteer. We did not acknowledge each other. Everyone read from one of the SLAA books. The focus was around Step 6 and everyone shared something that connected with them from the passage that they read. I read and shared candidly and honestly. It felt very therapeutic to share so vulnerably …at least all I could pack into the three minutes allowed. Overall I came away thinking that I am not sure if this is for me. I didn’t really enjoy the meeting. I felt uncomfortable in the presence of attractive women sharing this stuff and hearing them share. I felt the expected commitment reminded me of the church and considered that when I do get on my feet I want to be part of a fellowship that helps me to connect with Jesus.

On the way home one of my good friends and confidants called me and I am glad he did because what we talked about was everything that I had been subconsciously thinking but not fully processed at this time. He suggested that perhaps I was doing too much and trying to systemize my recovery. We talked through my rebellion as a result of my conversation with the guy from SLAA. We talked about doing things because people suggest them and though it’s not necessarily a bad thing I need to think through do I really want to do that. Will it be helpful and is it what I want to do? I thought about it and saw that God was putting assertive, even domineering people in my path to test my resolve.

I really want to be someone who is his own man and makes decisions because I believe in something or I want something and not simply to allow me to fit in. I want to belong and not fit in.

I spoke to the SLAA representative on the phone when I got home and though he was very persuasive and at times I felt a strong desire to appease him and tell him what he wanted to hear I told him that I was not certain that SLAA is for me. I want to work the steps and I may attend a couple more meetings to see but I would initiate any further contact with him should I desire it. He was quite pushy for a bit but softened a bit when I explained my situation and saw that he would not move me on this. I felt good.


Reflections two years on

This was written just over a week into coming to something that might resemble my right mind. The journey back was not pretty but repentance is rarely anything less than a bumpy ride. It is amazing that we are made a little lower than the angels, it is amazing to me that I am chosen, I am picked to share in God’s work on this earth and that this God who created the universe thinks of us flawed, broken, rebellious humans as the crown of his creation.

The truth is that God works in the most amazing way through human darkness. Once we know and accept that our demands for our own autonomy have failed then we are in a position to be moulded into something more Christlike, something more in line with the original intent of being in the image of God.

Psalm 7

David’s confidence in God as Judge is the backbone of Psalm 7. His wrestling helps him shift from a tense anxiety to a transcendent assurance. This psalm follows David through 3 progressively calming stages of expression in response to the painfully false accusations that were being hurled against him.

Divine vindication

Psalm 7

shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.

Lord my God, I take refuge in you;

    save and deliver me from all who pursue me,

or they will tear me apart like a lion

    and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Lord my God, if I have done this

    and there is guilt on my hands –

if I have repaid my ally with evil

    or without cause have robbed my foe –

then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;

    let him trample my life to the ground

    and make me sleep in the dust.

Arise, Lord, in your anger;

    rise up against the rage of my enemies.

    Awake, my God; decree justice.

Let the assembled peoples gather round you,

    while you sit enthroned over them on high.

    Let the Lord judge the peoples.

Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,

    according to my integrity, O Most High.

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked

    and make the righteous secure –

you, the righteous God

    who probes minds and hearts.

10 My shield is God Most High,

    who saves the upright in heart.

11 God is a righteous judge,

    a God who displays his wrath every day.

12 If he does not relent,

    he will sharpen his sword;

    he will bend and string his bow.

13 He has prepared his deadly weapons;

    he makes ready his flaming arrows.

14 Whoever is pregnant with evil

    conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.

15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out

    falls into the pit they have made.

16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;

    their violence comes down on their own heads.

17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;

    I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.


When David was young he worked for King Saul. Saul was Israel’s first king (1050 BC). David was popular with the people. This troubled Saul. He wanted to kill David. So David ran away from Saul. He lived in the fields, woods and mountains. Saul went in pursuit of him. David had other enemies. One was Cush.

Cush was from the people of Benjamin. They were one of the 12 tribes that made up Israel. Cush aggravated the situation with Saul by telling him that David wanted to kill him. This was not the case. David was informed of this and his reaction is recorded in this Psalm.

The superscription indicates that the psalm was written while David was being assailed by “Cush the Benjamite”, who was evidently one of Saul’s radical kinsmen. David is confident in both his own innocence (verses 3-5), and the certainty that God would punish Cush (verses 6-17).

The incident with Cush cannot be identified from the historical books. However, whoever this was or whatever the name represented, some enemy had obviously been falsely charging David.

David asked God to judge. A judge at that time was more than a decision maker about what is true and right but would also be a helper, an arbiter. They also led the Jews when they fought their enemies. They were political leaders.

David’s confidence in God as Judge is the backbone of Psalm 7. His wrestling helps him shift from a tense anxiety to a transcendent assurance. This psalm follows David through 3 progressively calming stages of expression in response to the painfully false accusations that were being hurled against him.

  • David raises his concern as he pleads with God for intervention (Verses 1-5).
  • David establishes his defence against the accusation (Verses 6-16).
  • David’s composure is evident as he trusts in God’s verdict and judgement (Verse 17).

Psalm 7 introduces one of the more enigmatic terms found in superscription’s of the psalms, “a Shiggaion (Hebrew), of David”. It is probably related to the idea of wondering, reeling, veering, or weaving. Consequently, the term may also indicate the song’s irregularity in rhythm (see Habakkuk 3:1). “He sang” also indicates that this was a vocal solo.

Strong’s Concordance says the word Shiggaion (The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music). Some noted scholars call this Psalm the Song of the Slandered Saint.

In verse 2 the wild animal is a lion. David probably means that Cush is like a wild animal. The friend in verse 4 is probably Saul.

David’s claim to righteousness and integrity in verse 8 is not a declaration of being without sin but of innocence in this matter.

In verse 9 we see David’s confidence in God as the just judge with perfect insight (compare this to God examining the heart and mind in Jeremiah 17:10; and Acts 1:24; 15:8). God knows us intimately, he knows our deepest emotions, desires, thought, and motivations (1 Samuel 16:7).

Verses 12-16 are rich in poetic metaphor.

  ·   God’s weaponry to punish is compared to deadly flaming arrows (verse 13) .

  ·   Cush is described as pregnant with evil. The fruit of this pregnancy will be disappointment (verse 14)

  ·   Cush is said to dig a hole presumably as a trap but ends up falling in and being caught up in his own snare. The modern expression being that what goes around comes around. (Verses 15-16)

“The Lord most high” is a title rarely found outside the Psalms. It is first encountered in the story of Melchizedek and Abram (Genesis 14:18-22). David uses this title to announce God’s power and rule over all nations (47:2; 78:35).


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

I paraphrase from “The gifts of imperfection”

Fitting in and belonging are not the same. Fitting in actually hinders belonging. Fitting in is about understanding the situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted.

Belonging however, doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are. Belonging is about authenticity. Love and belonging are connected. I think about my life and as far as I remember I have tried to fit in rather than belong.

At school I felt very much on the outside, at work I felt the bottom of the pack until I worked for one particular company where I learned to be wholehearted in my work there and was promoted 3 times in three years but when I became a senior manager and mixed with other managers I felt socially awkward and on the outside.

The same thing occurred in the company I went to next. I think becoming a Christian around the same time automatically put me on the outside of this rather “cool and trendy” culture that seemed to prevail in that company.

Going into the full time ministry in a role that was not understood or valued kept me on the outside. The elders at the time really did all they could to influence other staff about the significance and importance of the role myself and my wife played but at the outset not many staff had children and visitors at church and baptisms was the only currency that counted.

I tend not to know about things that men talk about. I don’t know much about the financial world or cars. I don’t keep up much with the news or entertainment. I don’t know about property or DIY. I do know a lot about football and I do know a lot about certain non mainstream niches of music and also the history of rock music. I feel often that I don’t fit, I don’t belong and I am on the outside. I feel I am the least in my family.

The reality is that nothing external to me kept me on the outside but all the time I tried to either fit in or not be noticed at all. I have to find who I am and be authentic about that. I really want to belong. I really want to discover the real me.

We are designed and wired for love. Jesus was asked “What is the greatest command” his answer in a nutshell was “Love God, love people” …it’s not more complicated than that. It is our purpose for using up air on this planet. Our biology, our cognition, our physical being and spirituality is all designed for love …heart, mind, body, soul and spirit. When love is not met in us we don’t function as we are meant to. We break, we hurt, we fall apart, we go numb, we ache, we hurt others, we get sick.

The difference between professing love and loving someone is huge. I think you can experience “the feelings of love” but not love and you can love without the feelings. To be “in” love and to love are not the same thing. Being in love is subjective, it’s about a personal interpretation of experienced feelings.

I could manufacture those feelings with words and my imagination but they are not anchored in reality. They are a product of my imagination or a fantasy. They are euphoric and maybe that’s why I used multiple women to feed this euphoria. If one was not feeding that need I would use another one. It was like the hit from heroin or cocaine for me. I am addicted to that feeling. It’s quite frightening to think of it like that.

To love someone is a very different experience. It’s actually about putting 1 Corinthians 13 into practice. It’s the purest definition of love that I know. The Bible is all about love but these verses define it well. You can do this and live this without the feelings, you can actually practice and live this with someone you don’t even like. I want to be a man who loves and does it well.

I spoke to one of the leaders from Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Within 1 minute of speaking with him on the phone I felt a strong dislike for him. We didn’t connect. I told him my story and I found him too quick to be directive. It reminded me of some discipling experiences in the early 1990’s. He was very militant about a number of things. He told me to tell my wife that I need money from the equity of the house to pay off my debt to to the charity that I was working for and tell the chairman tomorrow, he told me to message a woman that I was previously involved with, whilst I was on the phone to him and gave me an exact sentence to write “I am getting help with Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. I would appreciate it if we have no more contact. I wish you well”. (She is still sending messages which I am ignoring).

He sent me a 32 page document at 11pm at night and that I should read it all before I go to sleep, he told me that I should go to a meeting in Brixton tomorrow and if I was serious about changing I would do all these things. I tried to tell him about my dishonesty and especially with people who come across in such a forthright and what I perceive to overbearing way. He didn’t seem interested and just said he wants to help me, he has been where I am and he knows what works. He also said that I was wasting his time. He spoke with me on the phone for more than one hour and said that he was giving up his free time whilst away on a break in Wiltshire but he is not convinced I want to change. Some would call it “tough love” but it felt lacking in empathy. I did none of the suggestions but I think I will go to the meeting in Brixton. I want to find out more. I will read the document today. I reasoned that they may not all be as militant as this guy. When I worked in the addiction recovery field some 12 step fellowships were known to be more militant than others and I wondered if this might be the case.

I masturbated after the conversation. I found some pictures on an old hard drive. I should have deleted them. I felt back at where all this story began. I could have read the 32 page document it would have been more helpful. I could have prayed or read the Bible. I felt terrible afterwards. The whole event informed me of one of my triggers being one of disappointment, being misunderstood, closed down.

I read Psalm 7. Here are some of the words that connected with me…


Psalm 7

LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me


There are many people in this world who are judgemental, self righteous and unforgiving. What I have done is not deserving of anything less than that. God is my only refuge and though he may not protect me from the consequences. The Lord disciplines those he loves. He will still be my shelter and in the end my salvation.


Psalm 7

Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into a pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.


I have been living this and now I am feeling the consequences of it.

I had a great start to the day but it ended in a dark place. The conversation with the guy from the sex and love addicts group was a negative trigger in me. It wasn’t completely negative. The material he sent looks useful. The 40 questions for self diagnosis. forms part of it. I scored a “yes” for 28 out of the 40 questions which appears to put me firmly in the category of sex addict and yet there is also a part of me that considers this as merely a lack of self discipline that has allowed my sinful nature to overrun my soul. I am not sure if I am an addict or not. The characteristics of sex and love addiction which form part of the pack give 12 characteristics and of those 12 I have been living with 5. The point is that I have a problem that has caused a train wreck in my life and the lives of people I love and care for. I need to address it.

Some of the things he talked about made a lot of sense. Maybe I should give him a chance to warm to me and me to him. At the end of Saturday I felt hopeless, sad and a failure.


Reflections two years on

Everything was so raw two years ago. I cannot help but praise God for his intervention and be thankful of where I have come from and where I am today. It is a great blessing to wake up with a clear conscience every day and to live intentionally motivated by love rather than fear. That’s not to say that fear does not enter my life. Certainly it does but walking with God keeps it in perspective and ensures that it does not take control of my thoughts or actions in such a catastrophic way.

The chaos, the reaping of consequences were good for me and God knew the perfect measure that I needed at that time. He protected me from what could have been a much severe outcome on many fronts. I could have gone to jail, I am free. I could have been rejected by my family, I am reconciled. I could have caught some sexually transmitted disease, I am in good health. It could have caused untold spiritual damage in my family, it brought about growth. God is gracious and perfect in his judgement. I deserved a much more severe outcome but I am thankful for the one that I have.

David’s confidence in God shines through in Psalm 7. He describes him as his shield and refuge. Through all of this darkness I experienced there was a small glimmer of holding onto this truth that I did not doubt.

David was afraid but he knew the truth about who God was and ultimately he trusted that. I was afraid and I struggled to trust that God would take care of my needs so I took matters into my own hands. I was not being pursued by an enemy. I was my own enemy. Somehow, not because of anything I merited a light was left on that caused me to have enough within me to know that God is indeed my refuge and shield.

Psalm 6

Sometimes wrestling in prayer to surrender to God’s will and ask for his mercy can bring about a confidence and great peace even without the circumstances being different. David demonstrates this with a bold stance against his enemies. David has taken his eyes off his worldly problems and fixed them on God knowing that he can do more than he can ask or imagine. 

have-mercy-peggy-pool
Psalm 6

 

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger

    or discipline me in your wrath.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;

    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

My soul is in deep anguish.

    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;

    save me because of your unfailing love.

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.

    Who praises you from his grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping

    and drench my couch with tears.

My eyes grow weak with sorrow;

    they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,

    for the Lord has heard my weeping.

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;

    the Lord accepts my prayer.

10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;

    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

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It appears that David was ill. We are not given any detail and there are no solid clues as to when it was written or the source of his affliction.

There are speculative assumptions that it was either when Absalom tried to become king (2 Samuel 15:14) or when King Saul tried to kill David (1 Samuel 19:18)

It is evident that David isolated and struggling emotionally. He was seemingly ill in body and in mind. He felt that God had abandoned him.

 

The lament is intense. David is sleepless. His circumstances seem hopeless. The early Christian church regarded this psalm as the first among the “penitential psalms” (compare Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143). David’s cries, coming from his despair addresses two different audiences.

He pours out his soul before God, He has a defeatist mentality (6:1-7), and then he turns his attention to his enemies with a bold defiance (6:8-10).

A new musical direction appears, literally “upon an eight”, indicating either “upon an eight-stringed lyre” or “upon the octave” (i.e., a lower bass melody to accompany these lyrics of intense lament).

David appears to be deeply troubled by something, possibly an illness that his own sin may have caused (Psalm 41:4; Hosea 6:1). He pleads God for mercy, knowing that it is not deserved but urgently needed. “My bones” and “my soul” represent the whole person. There are allusions to his condition being an emotional or mental illness as well as physical. He does not ask for immunity from judgement, but for the tempering of God’s discipline with mercy.

His pleading is that God will not abandon him, this could well be a spiritual illness as a result of sin. The mention of bodily parts does not necessary imply a physical ailment. In Old Testament anthropology such references are metaphors for an affliction of his total being.

 

There is an evident turn of events or at least in his mindset. Sometimes wrestling in prayer to surrender to God’s will and ask for his mercy can bring about a confidence and great peace even without the circumstances being different. David demonstrates this with a bold stance against his enemies. David has taken his eyes off his worldly problems and fixed them on God knowing that he can do more than he can ask or imagine.

 

 


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015


In all of this darkness, it is a blessing to be out of work at the moment. To be able to sit in the park, to journal, to reflect, to have processing time. It’s like God has given me a sabbatical. I feel the grace of God.

Reading “The gifts of imperfection” is very engaging and invigorating.

I have been trading in authenticity for approval. It’s easy to see it now. I want people to like me, to tell me I am somebody, I want to be close and to be emotionally intimate but I am afraid. I think back to interactions with my parents and teachers that closed me down. I can’t blame them. I am an adult. Why didn’t I get this? Why was I able to manufacture enough vulnerability for people to believe I was open and honest. Why didn’t I actually be honest?

Shame hates it when we tell our story. Satan hates it when we walk in the light because he cannot operate in the light. We are told not to give him a foothold (Ephesians 4:27) and if we are in the light the accuser cannot accuse because our answer to his accusations will always be “I know and so do my friends and praise God for the blood of Jesus”. I really believe that. Why don’t I live it? I don’t understand.

I need friends to tell my story too
But I need to choose my inner circle wisely.

I personalize and paraphrase some helpful notes from the book below.

I have different kinds of friends who in any given situation could respond in an unhelpful way. This is not a question of sincerity but more a question of their life, their experiences and their ability to be what I need in a given moment.

Examples of who I don’t need:
1. Someone who hears my story, feels the shame and gasps at how horrified I should be followed by awkward silence and then it becomes my role to make them feel better.

2. Someone who responds with sympathy rather than empathy. The last thing I need is for someone to feel sorry for me.

3. Someone who is too disappointed because they expect me to be a pillar of worthiness and authenticity.

4. Someone who is uncomfortable with vulnerability and the first thing out of their mouth is “How did you let this happen?” Or “What were you thinking?” Or perhaps they look for someone to blame.

5. Someone who wants to just make me feel better so refuses to acknowledge what’s happened. They insist that I am  exaggerating or tell me about all my positive traits and remind me that everyone thinks I am awesome.

6. Someone who goes on to say “That’s nothing. Let me tell you about what happened to me”.

I have been all of those people at any given time but what I need in that moment is to feel safe enough to be vulnerable, exposed and at the same time to be completely loved and accepted. That is the definition of compassion that I will work with for now.

I have two men that I trust implicitly in my inner circle at the moment. I thought about adding another specific person but his role in recent years has been too directive and I don’t feel safe to be vulnerable but I do want to add one or two more people.

The root word for courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. The origins of the word courage are “To speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart”. Speaking honestly and openly about who we are , about what we are feeling, about our good and bad  experiences is the true definition of courage. Heroes facing fearful situations is just one facet of courage but it is the popular definition. Ordinary courage is putting our vulnerability on the line and that’s what I want to continue working on and developing.

It’s important for me to recognize that I need help.

PSALM 6
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

The only totally dependable thing I have to lean on is God’s unfailing love. This kind of love never fails. No matter what is going on for me. Everything is an act of love from God. I need to hold on to that. I need to live it and breath it. Sometimes I struggle to pray. I struggle to say the words. I can write well but too often my prayer life descends into rambling. I am not sure if it matters or if I will grow in it. I know if I am honest with God it’s enough. He takes our honesty in lieu of our perfection.

My local congregational minister called me. It was good to hear from him. He asked me how I was and towards the end of the conversation he asked me what I was doing about going to church. My cynical mind went to a place where he is trying to figure out if I should be still on the membership or not or that I will be judged on the basis of my attendance. I don’t really think God pays much attention to the membership role. In our movement we used to view the membership as though it was the book of life. We laugh at that now but there is an underlying sense of if you are not on the membership your chances of making it are slim.

It’s not the point. I explained to him that I was not ready to attend church meetings yet and that because I am so well known could not think of anywhere in the UK churches where I would feel safe. He suggested that I look up a specific group who are the roots of our movement and we share a similar doctrinal position. I told him that I would give it consideration but would not guarantee. I wanted to be honest with him. I was pleased that I was. There have been times in my relationship with him when I have said “Yes” when I meant “no” or “I am not sure” but today was different. I probably will go. I am curious to see what it’s like but there’s a part of me that has been enjoying free time on Sundays and not rushing around being a cog in the system. I am in no hurry to get back. I know I need fellowship, relationships but meetings don’t really provide that for me.

It’s amazing I have 12 extra hours in the day from not working and I still don’t get everything done. Today I was frustrated about that.

I wrestled with the controls of the DVD player for my grandson for about 30 minutes and I couldn’t get it to work. I felt inadequate. I also felt inadequate about all the little repair jobs around the house my brother in law had done for my wife in my absence. She proudly showed the results to me. Some she had asked me to do numerous times but I didn’t have a clue what to do. I always felt a failure as a man with this stuff. I should know how to fix things etc.  It felt like rubbing salt into a wound.

The bank put my wife’s mortgage application for referral because “someone associated with her has a bad credit rating”. That’s me of course. I felt terrible.

Skype, Facebook and Facebook messenger are open on my work phone and someone there is reading and responding to my private messages. Only saying I am not there anymore. I have now asked three times for these apps to be deleted from the phone and I feel very uncomfortable that they can read my messages. I started to wonder if they are legally allowed. Surely it’s like opening someone else’s post. I wrote again politely asking that they remove these apps.

I am going to write a letter to each of my children. I don’t know how they will respond. I am not expecting anything from them. I have no business expecting anything at all. The only thing I can do is write, take responsibility, acknowledge the pain, distress and hurt I have caused. However they choose to respond is their choice. This takes faith.

I watched the two Ted Talks again last night. The addiction talk connected with me. The idea of addiction being a bonding issue makes a lot of sense. We bond with people when we are happy and healthy because in the core of our being we are wired for relationship. If we have not been given the tools to bind with people or we have suffered trauma or some kind of unresolved grief we bond with something else. My bonding was a perverse way of bonding with people. It was about manipulating attention, affection and manufacturing an artificial intimacy and love. I used women to meet this end, I have used music to meet this end, I have used carving out a niche in my work or even my work ethic itself to meet this end, I have tried to achieve to meet this end, I have done a lot to try and impress people to meet this end.

In normal life there are bonds and connections that people want to be present for – family, friends, work, social activities and interests. I ask myself why wasn’t that giving me a sense of purpose? What was missing? Why did I press the destruct button? It’s got to be something about my relationship with me. It’s got to be that I don’t like to be present with myself for some reason. I don’t know why that is. I need to discover this. I need to discover purpose, passion, authentic bonds and connection.

It is often said that we are the most connected society but it’s a parody of connection. It’s artificial. In crisis where are my Twitter followers? Where are my Facebook friends? I leaned on them too much and exposed too much to them. Why? for an artificial intimacy. I think the reality is that we are an increasingly isolated society and perhaps the loneliest society ever.

I think Mother Theresa may have said that loneliness is the harshest form of poverty. I paraphrase but I think whoever said that is right. For a few days living in my car I was the loneliest I had ever been. I felt abandoned by everyone. The reality was that I isolated myself. We have lost our sense of community in the modern world. We have lost our sense of belonging. Social recovery is what I need, rediscovering community is what I need …ultimately “All you need is love” …the Beatles were right after all. I wonder why the community of the church didn’t work for me and wonder if it will ever work. For my wife it’s everything. I see how she benefits from the support. Is it all down to my bohemian, maverick or rebellious spirit? Surely people like me can belong too? Was I kicking against religiousness and challenging for authenticity …my sermons seem to suggest that but all the time I was losing my authenticity and in the end I was the least authentic of all. It’s crazy, the very thing I craved I destroyed in myself by a compromise of dishonesty and moral failure. Why? I want to be honest and authentic but I need to understand why I was not.

The second talk on infidelity really resonated with me. The changing interpretations of marital unfaithfulness, the changing interpretation of monogamy …One person for life or one person at a time?  The only command repeated twice in the Bible …once for doing it and once for only thinking about it.

I liked her definition of an affair. A secret relationship, an emotional connection and a sexual alchemy.

The carnage that has occurred as a result of my infidelity has been hard to hear and I am only scratching the surface. I see shock in some, I see anger in others, I have my oldest daughter’s text and letter as a concrete reminder. I see my wife’s emotional fragility when always I knew her as the most robust of women. I don’t know how my son and my other daughter feel. I see the trauma and how it has destroyed my wife’s sense of self. I live every day with the consequences of having violated trust, I see my own identity crisis, I see my wife’s identity crisis and the identity crisis of what was our marriage.

Something inside me said I was entitled to do all I did and that this pursuit was legitimate despite my understanding of God’s word and even acceptance of God’s word. I remember justifying it by the mess I observed in the Old Testament …I am no worse than David and he was a man after God’s own heart.

I am only struggling with the things that are common to man. The strongest man (Samson), the wisest man (Solomon) and the man after God’s own heart (David) all had this problem. Why is there inside of me this entitlement that says “I deserve to be happy”. Is it a generational or genetic thing? Is it simply an issue of personal moral failure and sin.

I crossed a line that I never thought I would cross and after that the other lines were very easy to cross. The whole thing gathered momentum that by the time I put the brakes on it was way too late. It was like applying the brakes to a high speed train. It would take a while before it would stop and the crash was inevitable. Why would I risk losing everything? Did I believe I would lose everything? I don’t think I really thought much about the consequences. I felt I would always find a way out. Other times I remember thinking (especially towards the end) that I was heading for a crash and I think I pressed the destruct button for one last burst of feeling alive. When running the addiction recovery service, I often encountered people who would try “One last use up” before treatment.

I think this story was about self discovery. It was about longing and loss. It was about the discovery of a vitality that I never had. It really wasn’t my wife that I was turning away from but it was the person I had become. I really wasn’t looking for another partner but another self. It wasn’t about sex but it was about desire, attention and the fact that I could never have my lover .. It kept me in the state of desire, of wanting. It was a mental obsession and an act of compulsion.

In the talk the speaker said that every affair redefines the relationship and its important to ask the question what the legacy of the affair is. The victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage. It’s an opportunity and a paradox with hurt and betrayal on one side with growth and self discovery on the other. The question of what it did to my wife and what did it mean to me needs to be answered. It’s too early to see it with the optimism of a journey of discovery but a mustard seed of faith and enough intent to say I want to repair, restore and repay is a starting point where I can see a glimmer of light.

This marriage is over. It can never be what it was. It will never be the same again but there is perhaps the possibility of inviting my wife to create a new marriage together in the future. I hope for this.


Reflections two years on

It is incredible to see how far we have come in two years. That is something to celebrate. I really can’t give myself much credit for this but God can reach way beyond what is possible with our human pride and selfishness. I am grateful that today I connect deeply with all of my children and with my wife …more deeply than I was capable of connecting with them before.

I can relate to David’s battle in the Psalm. The anguish of his emotional darkness and who knows what physical manifestations. His self focus and inability to see God in that moment is evident. Writing is powerful for exorcising our demons and to write with a mindful intent to bring God into the arena and wrestle with that has a unique power.

I was staying in the family home after a few days of living in my car in a supermarket car park when I wrote those words two years ago. My wife and children were gracious enough to allow me to stay in the garage. It was very early in my recovery journey, less than two weeks in. I felt the affliction and darkness that David describes in the Psalm and I prayed these words:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

God answered, not on account of my heart but on account of his.