Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Story 1: Jeff Myers: Pornography, Drugs, Divorce, Alcohol, Suicide and yet Redemption, a new man.

Jeff Myers started out with a typical story.   He got married in his early 30's and had a good paying job.  But deep seated insecurities eventually led him to take those first steps through the door of a strip club.  He found a new world.   He felt wanted.   He felt important.  He soon became a regular at those strip clubs spending thousands of dollars and ultimately dooming his marriage.   He was divorced just 5 years later.

One of the dancers would later ask for his help getting pornographic pictures of herself online.  The very first week, they made several thousands dollars.   The success was intoxicating.   Money became the drug that fed the pornographic need.   Seeing the success, he dove fully into the pornography industry. Nineteen websites later, he was raking in tens of thousands of dollars a month.

But such success comes with a price.He was working over 100 hours a week and he began taking drugs to help him get through.   What started out as just something to help keep him awake and have the energy to finish his work, soon developed into a full fledged addiction.  He slowly moved on to harder and harder drugs. While mentally, he knew what he was doing was wrong, knew that he was hurting the lives of millions, the money was too good and the drug kept him happy.   He never stopped.  

Eventually, he was caught.   He was charged with the manufacture of methamphetamine ecstasy and its distribution.  Federal agents took everything that he owned.    His "friends" all disappeared, fleeing from him in an act of self preservation. That night he attempted suicide overdosing with drugs and alcohol.  

Jeff was broken, crushed and felt terribly depressed and alone.   His friends had abandoned him.   He literally had nothing. He was so broken, that he felt he was beyond repair, beyond love.   There are those who feel that people like Jeff will never change.   And so he found condemnation everywhere, including from himself.  

The next part of the story is best told by Jeff himself.  

I woke up the next morning when I shouldn’t have. I think at that point I realized I need help and I can’t do this on my own. I just so desperately wanted someone to reach out to me, and I was alone."
He drove to a Christian camp he attended as a young man. That night at camp they gave an altar call. Jeff was one of the first to come. He prayed and asked God to forgive his sins and give him a new start.
"I don’t know if this God thing is going to work. I’d done way too much, and in my mind, I had gone way off the deep end. There was no redemptive values for me at all. I wasn’t worthy. Although I knew that something had happened that day, I certainly didn’t feel like God could restore me."
He saught out an old friend from camp who had become a pastor. Within a few days, he had moved in with the pastor and his family.
"He was very broken and searching and really didn’t know what to do with his life," says Pastor Daryl Blank. "I knew our church would offer grace and love, and he needed that ."
Jeff says, "What they did is just what Jesus would have done. He didn’t look at my past. He didn’t look at what I was doing, how I was acting, He just loved me. They wrapped their arms around me and loved me and took care of me beyond what I could even possibly imagine. That meant everything. That was confirmation that grace was real."
Jeff spent his days reading the Bible and listening to worship music. Before long, he noticed something different.
"Over the next several days, I’d wake up in the morning with this worship song in my head. It was always a different one. It was just like I was being washed from the inside out. My mind was being purified, and all those images were going away. It completely washed my mind. I had no recollection of anything I’d produced, or any of those images it was gone. It was like He had used that music and stuff I’d read and cleansed me and made me new, pour me out and start again. That’s the point where I said, 'Wow, He can fix me? Me, with the mess and the millions of lives that I’ve touched in a very very negative way.' But He still loves me."
Jeff was sentenced to a year in prison. He used the time to study the Bible and pray. After his release he used his Internet development skills and started a new website.  He says, "Instead of sharing filth, He’s given me an opportunity to share God’s love and put it in as many homes as we can. It’s my personal mission of redemption. It’s like, ‘God, You’ve given me these skills. Let's use them for Your glory instead of Your destruction.'"
Jeff says he has experienced the love, mercy and grace of God.
"My life was a disaster. I was a drug-addicted, alcoholic pornographer that ruined millions of lives. He’s taken my life and turned it around. He loves me in spite of my mess. I’m still growing and I’m still learning. Every day He’s chipping off a little chip of the mess I’d made. I know I’ll never be perfect, but He’s taken what Satan meant for evil and turned it into something amazing. Just further proof of God’s amazing grace. The things He can do and the restoration He can make blows my mind still." 
My source for this post: http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/amazing/Jeff_Myers_062410.aspx

This is just the first story of many.   But they all follow a similar path.  A regular person, slowly led down the path of terrible sin or the victim of some terrible sin.   Usually, there are many different problems that have caused the person to be shattered not just one.  In this case, Jeff suffered divorce, severe depression and attempted suicide.   He was into pornography, was a drug addict and an alcoholic.   He had helped to destroy thousands of lives.  

And while he cannot take back any of the actions of his past, as much as he would love to do so, he was not irretrievably lost as society would have us believe. In the absolute depths of despair and in the shattered state of his soul.  He reached out to God.   God reached back.

As you can tell form his story, his life has not only been repaired, but he has become an instrument in the hands of God to help others.   And while he may not be able to fix what he has done in the past, he is now a tool in God's hands serving others, but his life story is a story of hope.

His brokenness is easy to see.   His sins unquestionably terrible, his brokeness complete.  But his whole life was changed by the power of accepting Christ in his life.   Allowing the Savior to change him.   He is a new man.   And his story gives hope to anyone caught in the throes of brokeness, that they too can become new no matter how deeply they may have fallen.  No matter how hopeless the situation might feel.   Much like the art of Kintsugi, his brokeness was gently handled and through art of "repair" that is the power of Christ, he has become of greater worth and value and a testament to the reality of the power of Christ.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Kintsugi and the Power of Forgiveness and Healing through Christ

In Church recently,  I heard for the first time about the Japanese practice of Kintsugi. 

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of taking broken pieces of pottery with a lacquer that has been combined with a precious metal such as gold or silver.  Items repaired through the method of Kintsugi are often considered more beautiful and valuable than they were before being broken.  Sounds simple enough. 

One theory on the history of kintsugi is that it may have originated when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century.  When it was returned, repaired with ugly metal staples, it prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetic means of repair. Collectors became so enamored with the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi. (from Wikipedia article on Kintsugi)

This method of repairing pottery is not just another tool in the arsenal of artists.   There is a deep and powerful philosophy that is an integral part of the art of Kintsugi.

First and foremost is that the fixed piece of broken pottery is now considered more valuable and beautiful than before.   The repair that was done is now considered a part of the history of the object rather than something to hide.   In fact, Kintsugi not only repairs the object but very literally highlights the damage.   Additionally, this method encourages people to not throw away an object once it has become broken, but rather provides a reason to keep it.   Rather than being rejected and thrown away for good, the flaws and imperfections of the broken piece are embraced and used to create a work of beauty and of great worth.  

I would venture to say that everyone one of us has felt broken and crushed at one point or another in our lives.   Some of you who are reading this post may feel that way now.   Perhaps we have been the victims of abuse of some sort or other terrible actions by others.   Our souls crushed, our heart betrayed.  Or perhaps we are the ones who have committed some terrible sin, afflicted by an awful addition, and deeply hurt those we love.   

We all break for many reasons either as victims or perpetrators and sometimes both, but we all have broken at one point or another in our lives.  Broken and shattered.   Hearts crushed and betrayed.   Words and actions we wished we could take back but never can.  
But the power of forgiveness through Christ is a lot like Kintsugi.   The power of healing from His Grace is incredible.   And because of that power of healing and forgiveness, there is hope.  

Through the miracle of kinstsugi in Christ, a broken and shattered person can know that they won’t be rejected or thrown away, even though they feel like they will be and even though they might personally feel like they should be.  They still can feel loved, and valued.
Our flaws and imperfections are swallowed up in Christ and used to create a person that is now more valuable and beautiful than they ever were before.   The repair that is done is now is a part of the history of that person.  We rejoice in the beauty of that forgiven and new person precisely because we know of the pain that they have been through and their personal brokenness that they have overcome through Christ.

I am amazed and uplifted, when I hear stories of addicts, homeless and other broken men and women, who have found a way through Christ to become a new creature in him.   Of people who have had their lives destroyed through the sins of others, rise above it and find strength in Christ.   We find hope and strength as we hear their stories. See the repair that has been done.  Hope and strength for a way out of our own brokenness.  
But we need to hear those stories.  We need to see that it works.  We need to see that no matter how deep and dark the hole, how hellish the road, how crushed the soul….no matter how ugly the circumstance…the soul can rise.  Through the power of Christ, it can overcome all.  

This blog will be devoted to sharing stories of redemption.   Too many places out there are focused on sharing how evil others are.  This blog will be about what is good out there.  About the power to overcome evil, whether we have committed that evil, or if it has been done to us.  Through the power of Christ we can overcome anything, no matter how broken our souls may feel, and still be of great worth and value to Him, to our loved ones, and to those around us.