Check out my newest column at xploremyfaith.com where we examine God’s keen interest in making sure the Israelites set up a memorial of their crossing of the Jordan. He ordered this done right away, and He wanted it done, not for them, but for their children. Are you and I making sure that God’s legacy of deliverance is being shared in our homes?

Even some things we see in our life as “curses” or temptations are providences from God. Sometimes in our immaturity we don’t use them in the way God intended. We examine this topic in the third and final part of our series on God’s providence.

Part two of the series on God’s providence is up over at xploremyfaith.com.

The recent scandal at Penn State and the subsequent passing this weekend of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is full of lessons for us all. Some of those lessons lie in the actions (and inaction) of those caught up in the turmoil, yet other insights can be gleaned from observing the reactions of the public to what happened in State College and the ultimate “judgments” on Joe Paterno’s life immediately after his passing.

Lesson One: We live in a sinful, fallen world, and just because someone rises to great heights in power and public notoriety doesn’t mean they’re not sinful, fallen people. This isn’t to single out anyone embroiled in the Penn State saga, not even Jerry Sandusky, the perpetrator of the alleged unspeakable acts against children. This is to remind us not to place people too high on pedestals.

Sandusky was second in command of one of the most dominant college football programs in the country. Locally, in State College, he was no doubt royalty. No doubt this contributed greatly to the obvious lack of oversight in his activities with young boys. Sandusky was a sick, sick man, but he was a famous and connected sick, sick man who no doubt scored tickets and other perks for those in the community that supported his charity that served as a front for his pedophilia.

We prop up our sports heroes, especially our coaches. Where Sandusky’s behavior might have drawn some scrutiny in others, his position no doubt insulated him from that. Further, it’s apparent from the grand jury testimony that even inside the Penn State community that was true.

As for JoePa, he didn’t perpetrate any of those crimes, but he didn’t exercise his authority to stop them either. Being a leader carries a heavy burden. Few, if any ever get it all right. That brings us to lesson two.

Lesson Two: Joe Paterno’s life, like all who have ever lived, is a mixture of triumph and tragedy. Just as Paterno was most likely unfairly lionized for his over 40 years of service to Penn State, his good deeds and philanthropy in the community, he most definitely has been unfairly demonized for his failure to exercise the full extent of his leadership in the Sandusky situation.

JoePa failed. There’s no question about that. Before he passed, Paterno himself admitted as much. That doesn’t make him a pariah, however, it makes him human.

Thomas Jefferson failed. So did Lincoln. George S. Patton was one of the greatest leaders who ever lived, and at the same time, one of the most tragic of humans. So it comes as no surprise that Joe Paterno falls into that category as well.

We’re all one decision away from becoming the next “Rudy” or the next “Macbeth” depending on what we do with that moment (even Rudy has run into his own trouble later in life). No one has a “fixed” character that prevents them from making a monumental mistake, even after a lifetime of good decisions. Conversely, no one is beyond redemption, even after a lifetime of poor choices.

The Bible wisely instructs us to conduct ourselves humbly, always remembering “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Judging from much of the judgmentalism I’ve heard in the wake of Paterno’s death, we might be in need of a reminder of that fact.

JoePa did a lot of good. The lives he touched in a positive way are numerous, judging from the reactions of his former players and colleagues. His “legend” however wasn’t all of who he was. He was also a flawed man. I’m sure he wasn’t the ideal husband or father, especially given his job requirements. We now know, he wasn’t the ideal leader either.

There’s only been one of those thus far in human form who lived up to the ideal. He traveled the Middle East over 2000 years ago teaching people a “better way.” And as much as we may effort to follow that way, the reality is there won’t be another who achieves that ideal until He comes again. The rest of us depend upon His grace and are called to extend that to others.

With that in mind, rest in peace, JoePa. For all the good you did, thank you. For your failures, I pray that you have found mercy. May God have mercy on all our souls.

 

After taking a few months to establish my sportswriting career (it really is the “toy department” of life) it’s time to get back to the real world and start writing about what really matters again.

I’ll be writing some original pieces here, but I’m also teaming up with a great group of writers at xploremyfaith.com. My first piece there was published today. You can access it here. 

Lots of folks struggle with how God looks at them. Too many see God as some “taskmaster” or as some cosmic version of Jeff Probst conducting a universal game of “Survivor.” They think it’s only a matter of time before they get “voted off the island.”

We’re going to take a look at what the Bible really says about that. We need to understand the truth about our relationship with God so that we can then understand the truth about how we relate with each other.

Today I want to pause from my usual general look at relationships and focus on one in particular: my marriage. Today is the 16th anniversary of my birthday. Now, I know you’re scratching your head and figuring I’m more round the bend than normal, but let me explain.

I chose a special poem for our wedding ceremony that really described what was happening that day. It was Christina Rosetti’s “Birthday.”

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Yes, my life started over on August 12, 1995, a life much for the better. I have been privileged to have been married to the epitome of the “good wife” mentioned in Proverbs 31. And since Noblesville has no city gates that I’m aware of, I’ve chosen my blog as the place from which to shout her praises.

There are three main qualities mentioned in this chapter that exemplify my wife. First, she is trustworthy, “without reserve.” I have entrusted her with so much, our money, so many day-to-day decisions, and of course, our children. And she’s always up to the task. She’s really amazing in how she handles so many things so well and with such grace. At times, I just want to stand back and admire her in the way she lives and works.

Most of those accomplishments are due to her industriousness. Now while she’s not one to be up at the crack of dawn, when she is up (after she’s had her breakfast, of course) she doesn’t stop. She has a plan for her day, every day, and is driven to accomplishment. I so admire that. She’s taught me a lot in that regard. I have to run just to keep up… and that’s a good thing. I’m thankful to have a wife who takes such great care for me and our kids and pays such attention to every detail of our lives.

Of course, it’s not just us either, for which she strives. She’s got such a great heart for others. She loves to serve. Whether it’s through an outreach with our church or her job working with physically challenged kids, she’s got a patience and a kindness that never ends. It’s a great model for our kids, seeing their mom so actively engaged caring for others, and not just for them. And for me too.

All of this comes out and has elevated me in the community. Because of her, I am blessed. Not just from the things I receive from her, but because of her. Throughout our 16 years together, I have been so proud to be her husband. She has so much integrity, so much industriousness, so much caring, that it’s rubbed off on me! I am a better person because of my wife. It’s the greatest gift any human can ever give to another, and I thank God for putting her in my life. She is a literal incarnation of his love.

So thank you all for listening to me extol the virtues of my wonderful wife on this celebration of the day she made me a new man. And thank you, Alysa, for loving me, warts and all, and for making me better every day. I love you.

So now we’ve discussed the nature of porn addiction, some of its causes, and even some roadblocks to recovery. It’s time now to talk about solutions. There is a healthy, productive life out there for the person struggling with pornography. It takes time and commitment, but it’s there for those who really want to get out of their bonds.

It all starts with admission of the problem. As long as addicts think they’re “in control,” the reality is they’re slaves. It takes a lot of self-honesty and courage to admit that you’ve lost control and that something has that much power over your life. But, if you’re an addict, you’ve already witnessed the results. Your life is a shell of what it once was. The only way to get back to any semblance of that is to “come clean” and confess your state.

That confession as well as the “processing” involved in recovery should take place with someone you trust. Heads up: this probably WON’T be your spouse. Odds are that this addiction has done some serious harm to your relationship. You can only hope that can be repaired to some extent. I can guarantee that your spouse or anyone else who’s been injured from the addiction isn’t the candidate to help you through recovery. The best options are a trusted friend, a minister, or even a therapist. It’s critical that someone you trust to be “real” with you and hold you accountable be involved.

The next step is to make a “prevention plan.” The temptation to view pornography WILL be back, many times. Instead of relying on your ability to make the right choice “in the moment,” make a proactive plan that will “lead you not into temptation, but deliver you from evil.”

Set boundaries for yourself. You know what triggers the temptation. It could be anywhere. It’s up to you to know where those places are and STAY AWAY.

In addition to having a confidante, set up a network of contacts with whom you can talk when temptation arrives. Have their cell numbers on speed dial. If you see a tempting image online, send someone an e-mail message or tweet letting them know how your feeling. The bottom line is to share what your feeling. This brings help and makes you accountable.

Develop alternative behaviors. When temptation rears its ugly head, have an escape route. It might be prayer, reading, running, anything that’s productive rather than destructive. Have a number of behaviors that can be used in any situation at your disposal.

Set up a “rewards” program for resisting. If you’ve had temptation and shared that with someone who’s helping you, ask them to join you for an ice cream cone or some other activity that you would view as a “prize” for following through on your commitment.

Use technology as your friend. Set up firewalls and restrictions on all your internet devices so that you won’t even accidentally run into tempting images. There’s some great monitoring software on the market as well that can help you do that.

Finally, get involved in a 12-step group or a sexual addiction recovery group if there’s one available. Undoubtedly there will be some sort of recovery group in your community even if one dealing with sexual issue or pornography isn’t available. Go and go regularly. The addiction recovery process is the same even if the “substance” is not. These groups are great places for support and to help you realize your not alone in your fight.

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