Momentum

 

 

 

“An object is either remains at rest or moves at a constant velocity, unless an external force acts upon it.” -Newtons First Law of Physics

I’ve recently added a second book to my current reading list: “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. Before departing from each other, my ex-girlfriend and I exchanged books, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years being one of them. I read “Blue Like Jazz,” Donal Miller’s #1 Best Seller a year ago, and it gave definition to emotions and questions I couldn’t articulate. I figured another book by the man who put words to my heart, wouldn’t be a bad bet. I was right.

The book speaks of living a good story. All good stories have basic elements–protagonists, antagonists, rising and falling actions, conflict and resolution. Don’s friend Jordan summarizes story in the simplest of terms, “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”

How many of us are living good stories?

Don, at a specific point in his book says, (In regards to the massacre in Mumbai) When we watch the news, we grieve all of this, but when we go to the movies, we want more of it. Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”

We, as human beings, hate risk and love comfort. We flee fear and embrace the secure. We avoid conflict or change yet fight for homeostasis. And yet, the elements we love, cherish and embrace as humanity are the exact things contrary to a good story.

If we watch a story about a man who is raised in great home, had everything given to him, figured out life without risk, gets a career job, finds a beautiful wife, has 2.5 children and rescues a dog named Chewy from the humane society because his 2.5 kids begged and pleaded, we’d walk out of the theatre infuriated as the credits rolled. We want risk, triumph, failure, overcoming all odds to see the character we love succeed, regardless of costs. In fact, the higher the costs, the harsher the struggle, the more we love the story. But still we prod on for meaninglessness and security.

Don later discovers that all characters, whether in a fictitious novel or real life, don’t choose to move, don’t choose to embrace the story. They must be forced. An Inciting Incident.

An object at rest will remain at rest, unless and a object of equal or greater force acts upon it. It’s more than physics.

Since coming home from oversees, I haven’t dreamed; I haven’t soared. Why? For fear. Afraid to fail. Afraid to succeed. Afraid if there really is a God up there that gives a damn. Afraid I’ll let people down. Afraid of what I want. My dreams have been shipwreck on the coral reef of fear, and though everything in me screams, “ABANDON SHIP!!! SETTLE FOR A NORMAL LIFE!!! GET A DEGREE!!! FIND A CAREER!!! LIVE A NORMAL LIFE!!!” There is a hardwiring in my soul like that of a captain…

I’d rather drown aboard my sinking vessel which was born to set sail and see the sacred seas, than loose all hope and cast my anchor down.

The Inciting Incident… Or rather, Incidents (guess I needed a bigger push).

1. An Old Friend
I stood on a hill overlooking the city I grew up in, with a friend reunited hugging me from behind. “Where’s the Landon I knew? Where’s the Landon that believed God for crazy things and loved people so deeply? You say you’re happy, but I don’t believe you. I’ve seen you happy. You’re not happy.”

As Adam’s words continued to cascade over me, I was reminded of a Landon long lost. A Landon I loved being, but am not now. A Landon who I’ve been trying to find, but elusive and evasive. A Landon, whose name isn’t Landon.

I want to be him again.

2. An Unwanted Roller Coaster Ride
Last night I went to a Switchfoot concert. I’m not a diehard fan of Switchfoot or the concert scene for that matter. I’d rather listen to the perfectly crafted EP that I can pick whichever song pleases me or fits my mood. A concert doesn’t accomplish that. You join the band in the journey they desire, while we, the audience, simply get on the roller coaster, choosing to either lift our hands in excitement or blow our chunks in vertigo. Needless to say, I get motion sickness easily. But as I watched a film of how Switchfoot flew to the shores of Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Indonesia and listened to them sing, “I dare you to move,” I lifted my hands on their roller coaster of a concert.

I want this.

I want to move. I don’t want to sit still and settle for the foreseen and senile. As much as I hate it, I want risk. As much as I loathe it, I want the highs and lows of life.

Last year I read a fantastic book named, “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. In the beginning of his autobiography, he speaks of the highs and lows of life. He truly believes there is a choice as to whether we will live a flat line safe life, or an insecure on of highs and lows.
“So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still the joy would be worth the pain-if, indeed, they went together. If there was a choice-and he suspected there was-a choice between, on one hand, the heights and depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.”
-A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

As I began to dream again, hearing the words, “I dare you to move; I dare you to move; I dare you to lift yourself up on off the floor,” I saw Latta Ditti, a prostitute dying of AIDS and tuberculosis. I saw Navid, a little Indian boy whose mom is locked up in a lifestyle of sex. I saw Jr Higher students ascending above me as they sing praises to their God.

What am I living for? What am I living for?

When my stories written, do I want it to be said I limped along, crippled by a porn addiction? Or do I want it read, he saw lives transformed as he lavished love from a God above? And I guess the question simplified is “Do I want to risk?”

Epiphanies in the Perverse

I’m sitting here in my car waiting for a friend outside Five Guys to grab a burger and to speak of friendship and hurt, and as I wait I’m thinking about thoughts I never really allowed myself to mull over. I saw an attractive guy in Whole Foods today. I couldn’t help but lock eyes with him here and there as he passed back and forth through my peripheral vision. Why am I attracted to him? And the answer came in the gentlest of whispers…

You want to be him.

As I analyze the mystery man, I realize how much of this is true. How he’s handsome. How he has a smile in every task he undertakes. He’s dripping with joy while sweeping up trash. How he’s engaging with people on a genuine level.

It’s how I know I can be and should, but why am I not?

The thoughts continued, but now twist and turn into something sexual. Initially, I pulled back, not allowing myself to lust, but then a thought came–let’s allow the thoughts, Landon; let’s analyze this and see what your heart is longing for below all the sex.

And thus began the thought process.

Would I be top or bottom?
Bottom.
Why?
Because I want to be led.
What sex position would I want?
Sitting on his lap facing him as he held me.
Why?
Because I want to feel secure and cherished while looking into his eyes.
What would you want to happen besides sex?
I would want him to hold me close to his chest, to smile at me in approval, to tell me what he thinks of me, to make promises of never leaving me.

What does this say? What’s the root of what I truly want?

I want love. Masculine love.
I want someone to show me the way and how to be a man, to lead me and never leave me, to hold me close and create a sense of security, to be delighted in all that I am, shortfalls and all.
Why? Why do I feel the need for this? Why do I want to be led by a strong masculine man? Why do I want someone to hug me and say they’re not going to leave me? Why is the approval of one person so important, and why does that one person’s opinion mean so much?

When I encounter Jake, my friend online, a phrase he kept saying that brought so much pleasure to my heart was, “You’re absolutely awesome.” He’d say it about my bod, my hair, my personality, my jokes, my deep thoughts. He thought it was all so great. I was intoxicated with his approval. But when I couldn’t reach him in the following days, I thought I would loose my mind.
I do this often–putting all my “eggs in one basket” with someone’s approval. As I look at my life, in every season there was someone who’s opinion meant everything. I could be loved by all I encounter, but if that one person didn’t approve I was a shipwrecked heart.

The speculation continues as I analyze roots and wounds.
I was abandoned by my best friends in my deepest hours of need. I thought there was something wrong with me to chase the away. Instead of being chased I had to do the chasing, and I’m tired of it.
My dad never showed me how to be a man. He never inspired me with masculinity, saying, “Follow me; I know the way.” He never believed in me and sent me out to conquer and succeed. As a result, I don’t feel like I can succeed as a man, and I need someone to show me the way.

I need someone to show me the way.

I process; I ponder. My mind wrestles and wanders. But ultimately I know the answer, and it’s a lot more simple than I care to imagine, and more cliché than an aspiring writing finds taste for.

The love of God.

As I was driving to meet my friend, abraded with pilfering thought processes, the phrase “daddy’s boy,” came to mind, and it warmed my heart like hot chocolate. I’m daddy’s boy. Why does this mantra mean so much?
It’s interesting to note, that the three years of homosexual abstancy, we’re also the three years a potently powerful truth was swallowed into the depths of my being: you are God’s son, and He is your loving Father. This is also the number one way Jesus chose to relate to God: as His Father.

What if the the cure all was simply bathing in this knowledge?
The cure for homosexuality.
The cure for sexual promiscuity.
The cure for loneliness.
The cure for contempt.
The cure for pride.
The cure for every bereavement and curse of the soul.

Too simple? Maybe so. But it did work at one point in this author’s life. Maybe I’ve simply complicated things. Why don’t I just come back to that simple truth, and keep it just that—simple.

Country Roads

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Country Roads…

I’m currently in West Virginia–home of the “Wild and Wonderful” Appalachians, hillbillies, moonshine and this author’s wonderful girlfriend.

Wait.
Hold up.
This guy has a girlfriend?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this hormonally confused guy does, in fact, have a girlfriend, and I’ll be with her and her family for a week come Thursday. This far, it’s been incredibly hard.

Just because a heterosexual life is the one I choose, doesn’t mean this is easy. The days have been roller coasters, full of ups and downs, moment by moment. In one moment, I’m so glad I’m here, gazing into her lovely green eyes. In the next, I want to wake up in my own bed. In yet another, I want to be engaging in sexual acts with another dude. In still another, I want to end this relationship to date another girl I can’t stop thinking about.

It’s a messy situation to say the least.

In the furious longings of God by Brennan Manning, he says, “The rest of Brennan Manning is a bundle of paradoxes and contradictions… I love and I hate. I feel better about feeling good. I feel guilty if I don’t feel guilty. I’m wide open, I’m locked in. I’m trusting and suspicious. I’m honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I’m a rational animal. But I’m not. That’s some of the rest of Brennan Manning.”

I’m right there with Brennan… A bundle of paradoxes and contradictions.

I love God, but I flirt with sin. I’m longing for a life with a woman, yet lust for men. I’m here in West Virginia, while my heart wanders to a girl in Nashville. I’m pure in His sight, yet soiled with “sin dirt.” I’m happy; I’m discontent. I’m real, and I’m fake.

…I’m confused.

If there is one defining term to envelop the rest, it simply comes down to that–confusion… about life as a whole.

Back when I was a young lad, I dreamed of romancing a girl, of sweeping her off of her feet and running into the sunset. You know, Disney stuff. Well, Disney lied, and I’m left reeling with feelings of devastated disillusionment. I’ve been conned… Or this is not how it should be.

On the drive back from Virginia, after witnessing a wedding with my girlfriend, we sat silently, and all I could think about was how this relationship needs to end. I need to talk to her. This needs to stop.

Why do I feel the need to leave?
Because I’m wrestling with homosexual thoughts.
Because I want to date another girl.
Because I feel broken and inadequate.
Because this is awkward, and we haven’t spoken for an hour!
Because I feel this relationship isn’t spiritual enough.
Because I simply want to run.
Because I’m afraid I’ll break her heart.

Why do I stay?
Because I’m scared.
Because I actually do like her.
Because of the way she laughs and the sparkle in her “bedazzled” eyes.
Because of how she loves and cares for every child of God she encounters.
Because I’m uncertain.
Because I simply want to stay.
Because I’m afraid I’ll break her heart.

What will I do?
I don’t know.
It changes minute by minute, because I’m a contradiction and a bundle of paradoxes.

The song “Country Roads,” sung by John Denver sings, “Country roads, take me home to the place I belong, West Virginia, Mountain Mama take me home, country roads.”

I think that’s ultimately it–I don’t feel at home with her, not yet anyway.

Should I wait this out, hoping the sense of home will arise? Or should I keep searching? Country roads, leading to the place I belong, to the home of the heart, where are you? Where is that rugged asphalt, and where does it begin, that I may traverse its winding road, leading me to its unknown destination. Country roads, lead me home! … wherever that is.

on a dirt mountain road underneath the blazing stars…

It’s been hard to say the least.

Since re-entering America, I’ve had the hardest of times. I’m Martha burnt out in the kitchen. I’m the church of Ephesus in Revelation, robbed of its romance. I’m done.
The past several days the cry of my heart has been, “Jesus, just come find me.”
I have so many questions…
A resurgence has erupted in the bowels of my chest, a wound uncared for, now festering and gangrene…

Homosexuality… It’s a bitch.

Nearly every night I’ve been on my iPad scouring the Internet for moral contraband. Hardcore porn. Miscellaneous webcams. Craigslist rendezvous’s. It’s been a mess. Just today I laid in bed till 3 in the afternoon. Laid out in the wake of hours wasted on the Internet. This doesn’t satisfy.
The catalyst of my near abandonment to the plight I find myself in occurred a few days ago in an alternative gay chat roulette. I met a 22 year old with the same story as my own.
Raised a Christian. Held church leadership positions. Has a serious relationship with a girl.
AND YET, he’s dabbling in “the sin unspeakable.” We both are.
Multiple times throughout our conversation as we divulged our stories, the comment “TWIN” became a consistent occurrence. We’re even identical in our strategies as to how we hid our “heinous” acts.
We talked for hours when, initially, all we wanted was to gaze upon each other’s penises. In the end, we exposed our private parts briefly, making the comment, “Well, we should probably do what we came on here to do in the first place,” but it’s not what we wanted.
Since then, I’ve been manically internally digesting whether or not I should just abandon it all, including my Jesus, in order to fall madly into these “dark desires,” as Mumford puts it, letting them clutch me in their dark vice-grip claws.

I’m at a loss. Rather, I am lost… In desperate need of being found.

I came out to the mountains tonight. It’s currently 1:24 am. Underneath the stars I beg the question of God: where are you? Where are you in this? Why do I feel so alone? What do I do?
Prior, all sorts of questions abraded my mind. Do I throw myself into this completely, becoming the “Prodigal?” Do I “give myself over to Satan for the sifting of my soul?” What about my girlfriend? Do I end that relationship? Do I tell her?
Truth be told, I’m tired of fighting. I’ve given in. When temptation comes, I thrust myself into it headlong. Luckily, my demons haven’t flung me into any “physical encounters.”

And this is where the shift happened.

Immediately before running up into the mountains, I headed downtown. Hungering to satisfy my lusts, I “happened upon” the location of a local gay bar. I drove by, intending to simply pass… That’s not what happened.
A block passes by. I pull over and park. I get out, walking the block I just passed. I stand outside the heavy metal door, music blaring within. That was when it dawned on me—I don’t want gay sex. I simply want intimacy.
Now, out in the mountains, I’m talking to my Jesus. There’s always been a stronger connection to Him while the blazing infernos millions of miles away gaze down upon me. I ask, “What’s happened to us? We’ve fallen out like all my other relationships. Where did I go wrong? Where was the wrong turn, many miles ago?” I heaved and moaned, as the things locked up in my chest oozed to the surface. It felt like a vomit of soul.

It was there, in my ranting and raving, I heard Him.

“We’ve already been through the ringer, Brandon. This relationship, like all true relationships, has been tested with fire. This is no different, and I’m not intimidated by it. Come back to me. Don’t worry about the “sin.” I just want you to know me, and I you. I’m not trying to make you “good.” I’m trying to show you you’re loved. It’s what I’ve been trying to do since the beginning.”

Tonight, before the stop in downtown and the trek to the mountains, I spent the day with two great friends. We watched “The Kings of Summer.” It was there that the idea of friendship being the deep desire of my heart, rather than sodomy, or other male-on-male actions for that matter, dawned on me. I never had what these boys had—a beautiful, adventurous, unadulterated love through the bond of pure friendship. We catch a glance of this love in other movies as well—”The Goonies,” “Lean on Me” and “Super 8.” The coming of age movies that remind me of what I missed. Or the epics—”Braveheart,” “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings.” A beautiful love that has nothing to do with sex, but intimacy, of accepting and fighting for the one you love, of being brothers.

This is the desire of my heart.

While talking to Jake, my roulette encountered friend, we both asked, “Why do we do this?” I think this is the answer—our hearts long for something beautiful, intimate, real. Something directly out of the heart of God. A verse that actually comes to mind is Ecclesiastes 4:11—the verse about two lying together to keep warm. Many a time I’ve shared a bed or patch of grass with another man, and it had NOTHING to do with sex. It was two friends keeping each other warm in heart and body. Some of my favorite moments have been lying next to a friend I love. No sex. No lust. Just love in brotherhood.
What’s wrong with that?
Deep down I know the cry of my heart is not gay sex. It’s true unadulterated friendship, and it all starts with a friendship with The Friend—the origin and its author. That’s what io tend to do, to drink of the fountain that will truly quench my soul’s thirsting.

Father, return me to Your heart. Return me to Your Love. Plunge me deep into Your rivers of grace, and wash over me anew with Your ferocious AGAPE. Woo me. Undo me. Flirt with my soul and romance my heart. I guess, what I’m actually asking is, would You be my friend, for You are its definition. Void our relationship of moral duty, and in its place institute desire.

Sincerely,
Your friend…

A Continued Thought Process…

Continuing this great read—The Brain That Changes Itself

But before I continue in my mental digest, it is important to know WHY Ted Haggard gave me this book. The reason why I even attempted to meet this infamous man, is I’m afraid to become him.

I was raised in Ted’s old church–New Life. At the age of 12, I began looking at gay pornography, and I was terrified.

It’s the sin unspeakable, the permanent moral stain, the unforgiveable. Scared of judgment, I rarely reached out, telling my story to rarely anyone. When I did, the looks came, the words cut and often I was prayed over like a someone demon-possessed child. One such traumatic moment is still very vivid in my mind.

“You struggle with what?” The self-proclaimed small group leader responded. “Brandon, this is demonic! We need to pray over you right now.”

I was taken out of the house where “people wouldn’t hear us,” and told, “Now, when we cast out this demon, it’s natural to feel the need to throw up or cough. It’s a physical manifestation of that which is happening spiritually.”

The man then proceeded to “exorcize” me. I don’t remember the prayer. I don’t remember what happened next. I was left dumbfounded, feeling so contaminated and dirty. I had a demon?

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I didn’t tell anyone.  This is the reason I’m not the only petrified sexually confused boy muted by fear of the congregants.  EVERYONE freaks in the church, unable to handle/understand the situation at hand.

It wasn’t until 16 that my parents found out, and it was NOT my choice. I was “perusing images,” a.k.a. looking at hardcore gay porn, when my dad happened upon me.

Food for thought: at that moment in time, I had recently returned from a mission trip to LA, helping the homeless and destitute within our own country, and a youth conference about the pursuit of God. I was raised talking to God on a regular basis. But NONE of that mattered in that terrible moment with my dad.

After yelling at me, dragging me downstairs, exposing me to my family, asking “Why, why, why?” he took me to the local prayer house where I was prayed over in a janitor’s closet, because talking about it in public was too humiliating. That night was simply the coronation of the most difficult year of my life.

My parents kept me under consistent surveillance, and yet I still managed to feed my lusts. I was caught “perusing” again while babysitting, and the parents freaked.  I was immediately fired. Moment by moment, I was consistently reminded of my “dirtiness,” whether from outside sources or my continual self-loathing that initiated long before I was “discovered” by my dad, but was now “firing all cylinders.” To top it all off, my pastor, the man I had looked up to for truth, love and, above all, integrity, was caught in a massive scandal–the man had received a hand job from a local male masseur.

My world came crashing down, while my fears piled up.  I loved ministry. I had been involved in some way, shape or form since I was kid. As my addiction (for that’s exactly what it was) to male pornography grew unmanageable, my greatest fear grew with it to a paramount–I would go into ministry and this addiction would be my downfall. And there, in front of my very eyes, I saw my fears manifested first hand. I was doomed.

However, something happened that year. May 20th, 2007. Crying on my bed, begging God for mercy, I heard the Uncreated One speak in my heart of hearts. This may sound absolutely ridiculous, but in that moment I was Neo and God was Morpheus. And just like Morpheus, God had two hands outstretched before me. But instead of a blue and a red pill, it was life or death.

“Brandon, I love you. I want the best for you. I don’t make sense all the time, but I have your best interest in mind. You can come with me, and trust me, leading to a life of abundance, or you can have your own way, lead your own life, which will ultimately result in a death of mind, soul and body. What do you want?”

In that moment I put my faith in Jesus, and in that moment a five year addiction was broken.

Fast forward for sake of time.

Finished high school. Went to a crazy “Bible College.” Became a youth pastor. Six months after I began my pastor role, I started looking at gay porn again. My fears were beginning to become reality. But instead of being kicked out of not only the church but the state, like Ted Haggard was, life was spoken over me, and I was surrounded by love and support.

Fast forward.

Went off to missions for a year. Came back.  Guess what?  I’m still looking at the stuff, and guess who’s church my family is now attending… the very man that instilled so much fear.  The man I saw plummet from “soaring spiritual heights.”

Sitting across from him with an oak desk between us, I’m looking for answers. I’m looking hope. I’m looking for my God that I once knew so well as His Neo. What does Pastor Ted give me? A book. A book about how the brain is not born a certain way; how it’s not a pre-programmed machine, nor a stagnant unalterable force that persistently propels me forward to its pre-programmed auto-pilot destination. It’s malleable.

What does this mean for me?

I’m not trying to change myself to “make it through the narrow gate.” I’m in. I understand that now. Christ died for ALL. No exceptions. The only difference between me and some “non-believer” is just that–they simply don’t believe. Doesn’t change reality.

Ted asked me a very daring question, one that would NEVER be asked within the confines of the stereotypical church. “Well Brandon, what do you want to be? Do you want to be gay, bi or straight?”  Not, “What does the Bible say?”  Not, “You know that’s wrong, right?”  As if I can be cured by rhetorical questions.  But, “What do you want to be?”

That’s just it. I WANT to be straight, and guess what? I can be.

The reason I’m reading this book is because I know this attraction/addiction doesn’t satisfy. It’s left me void. I’m in a fantastic relationship with a beautiful girl inside and out. I don’t want to fuck this up. I want her. I want this feeling, and it can by mine. We’re not “born this way.” The brain is ours to form, and this is what I want it to look like, so screw Lady Gaga. Yes, true, “God makes no mistakes,” and, yes, “Love yourself.” But we’re not born this way. We are made daily by the choices we make.

Destiny has been place into our hands. Where will go?  What will we make of ourselves?

Neuroplasticity

They (series of unexpected discoveries) showed that the brain changed its very structure with each different activity it performed, perfecting its circuits so it was better suited to the task at hand. If certain “parts” failed, then other parts could sometimes take over. The machine metaphor, of the brain as an organ with specialized parts, could not fully account for the changes the scientists were seeing. They began to call this fundamental brain property “neuroplasticity.”

The Brain that Changes Itself–by Norman Doidge, M.D.

This book was recently purchased for my by the renowned ex-pastor of New Life ChurchTed Haggard. Seven years post incident, the once NAE President now pastors a new church named “St James” in the very city he was expedited from. It is in this church my family and I have found asylum from the dogmatic doldrums of religion. Sunday after Sunday we are confronted with graceful authenticity and bewildered by authentic grace.

Sitting across an oak desk from each other, Ted and I divulge our hearts with taboos erased. An unrestrained and unfiltered torrent of the heart is its true elixir. Ted asked me questions no pastor dare inquire–a true breath of fresh air.

After one such inhale exhale, Ted brought me over to the computer and purchased the two most popular books on brain malleability and its possible reprograming. It is in this book that new epiphanies and passions are awakened.

As I sit here in Starbucks, perusing these pages about blindness healed, strokes reversed and balance restored, I’m inspired. This is mindboggling! The brain is fathomless. It heals; it changes; it adapts; it’s in perpetual motion of adaption.

To date, the method of approach to the brain is viewing it as a mechanism, as a machine. Certain parts do certain things. If things break, they’re broken forever. Programs of a computer. This is NOT the case for the brain. It is malleable and organic, pushed and pulled by forces consciously and subconsiously. And this, my friends, has radical implications.