Friday, November 30, 2007

Elephant Jackasses

After watching some of the recent presidential debates, and seeing how the powers that be are currently running our country, I've come to the conclusion that both political parties have truly embodied the persona's of the animals which represent them. The Republicans have become a bunch of small-minded Goliaths, ready to sound their trumpets and stampede at the first sign of anything different, or change. While the Democrats seem content to be running around wildly, kicking their feet in the air, and gibbering a lot of "he-haw!" Neither party seems very interested in actually solving any of the problems going on in our country today. They're too wrapped up in themselves to see past their own political aspirations for power and glory to be able to work together to get anything done. As far as I'm concerned, they've become nothing more than a bunch of elephant jackasses, and nothing more.

God help us if this is the best we have to vote for!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Off Track

Yesterday was a really good day. I felt good. My Dad surprised me by staying home from work. He'd woke up a little on the sickly side and so he took the day off. It turned out to be just me and him for most of the day. We both ate breakfast (I had frosted flakes) and then we sat around and talked politics for almost two hours in the living room. That's always been sort of a thing we've both enjoyed. It's one of the few things we can both relate to each other about, given that we share most of the same political views. After that, he suggested we go play two-player on one of my video games. That's something we used to do a lot back a few years ago, but had kind of gotten out of. I always loved those times with my dad, so I eagerly agreed. We then spent the next hour or so playing against each other (I pretty much blasted him into tomorrow).

After that, my grandparents came by for a few minutes and I got to spend time with them too. It had been awhile since I'd been able to do that. Then, not long after, my brother phoned and said he had a flat tire and he wanted my help with it. I drove over to his place and got to see him and one of my nephews, and even though we had to change the tire in the dark and in the cold rain I enjoyed every minute of getting to be around them.

I've been doing a lot of thinking the last few days. I've come to the conclusion I've gotten off track. The last few months I haven't been going to church very regularly. In fact, I've hardly been at all since about last May. I just couldn't bring myself to go. The last several times I attended, back in the spring, I left every service crying my eyes out. I was so frustrated with the way things had turned out between me and my preacher that I just couldn't stand being around him. I felt like he'd judged me. I felt angry at him for that. And I felt sort of abandoned by him and the rest of the people at my church. I no longer trusted them, or what they had to say. So, I just stopped going. I didn't realize it until just a few days ago, but I'd let those feelings against my preacher and church swell to the point of being a full-fledged grudge against the church as a whole. My attitude was one of distaste and anger, feeling as though there was little point, or little good, in me attending church. I realize I was wrong about that. Terribly wrong! Besides, my grudge wasn't against the church, it was against a preacher who did his best to help me, but simply didn't know how to help me. Was I right to hold a grudge against him for that? I don't think so. Was I right to not go to church? Absolutely not! If I couldn't bring myself to go to this church, I should have at least went to another one.

Despite my feelings, I decided to go to church this week. After attending, I realized how much I've been missing out on—fellowship with other believers, messages of hope, love, and encouragement, Bible lessons, and prayer. But most of all, I missed that feeling of peace I usually get when I'm in church. I need to be in church. I need to have Christian influence in my life. And I need to free myself from all these negative feelings that's been festering up inside of me for so long now.

That goes not only for church, but with life in general. For the last eight months I worked at a job which literally sucked the life out of me. I had a boss who was an absolute nightmare to work for, workers who drove me crazy with their incompetence, and self-righteous, arrogant customers who couldn't care less about their fellow man if their lives depended on it. To be blunt, I hated my job. I dreaded being around some of the other people I had to be around. I despised having to be around some of them. I know now that those negative feelings for a few others caused me to become so very rude, hateful, and uncaring to a few people I in no way ever wanted to be that way to. I think maybe I'd been that way quite a bit actually, and I regret that. I'm no longer working there, and I thank God for that. I don't have to be in that sort of atmosphere on a daily basis anymore. And being freed from all those negative feelings related to that place I've been able to see just how far away from being Christlike to others I'd become. That's one thing I sure hope to remedy, and fast.

In recent weeks I've given a lot of thought to giving up. I've felt so frustrated and lonely and angry that I just haven't cared about anything. I've backed away from a lot of people, including God, and that needs to change. There's a lot I do care about. There's a lot of people I care about. And I don't want to hurt them. Furthermore, I don't want to hurt myself. I've thought a lot about giving up my fight against homosexuality and just embracing it. In the long run of things, I know that would never make me happy. I realize I've drifted down the wrong road in my thinking. I don't want to be angry and selfish all the time, and I don't want to give into things I know better than to give in to. So, my goal for now is to get back on the right track. To make peace with God, myself, and everybody else, to start caring again, and to figure out what I truly want for myself in life and to go for it.

God, please help me! And please forgive me for being so stupid here lately. You taught me to be better than this.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Fight Against Pornography

The first time I ever looked at pornography was when I was twelve years old. I had went to the theater with a friend of mine and halfway through the movie he nudged me and asked me to accompany him to the restroom. When we got there we were alone, and he proceeded to pull out a Hustler magazine from under his sweater. He told me he had found it in his father's closet and quickly began showing me some of the pictures of naked girls inside. That was how pornography entered my life—through a friend.

From that moment on, I would be consumed with a pornography addiction for another ten years. I realized Hustler didn't exactly have what I wanted to see, and so it wasn't long until I began secretly looking up gay porn on the internet while my parents were away. I'd wait for times when they were away or asleep at night and then I'd get online and look up one picture after another. There were days when I remember doing absolutely nothing but look up porn. And I remember times when I would anxiously look forward to getting home just so I could take a look. I'm sickened now by the thought of how much time I've wasted in my life doing all that. I was a slave to it.

It was pornography that led to my brother finding out I liked other men. While I was at work one day, he decided to snoop through my bedroom and he came across a couple of videos I had. Neither one was marked in any way to indicate what they were, but having them hid, I suppose he put two and two together as to what they must be. He put one of them on and immediately saw two men having sex with each other. He acted funny around me for about a month before finally telling me what he'd seen. At that point, he had moved into his own place and wasn't wanting anything to do with me. It was when I stopped by his place one evening after work that he told me.

I didn't want my little brother knowing I was gay. In fact, I'd always hated the thought of him finding out. So, when he told me he knew, I was devastated to say to the least. And I was even more devastated when he told me some of the hard truths of the matter; that I was living in sin, acting and believing in things that I shouldn't. But the worst of it was that he didn't want to be around me anymore.

After a period of grieving due to my exposed sins, I realized my brother was right. I didn't need to be looking at that stuff. I threw away those two videos and most of the magazines I had, and I tried my best not to look at any of it online. But I also realized I was addicted to it. It's been said that pornography can be a drug, and that's certainly true. I used it that way. I'd look at those other men having sex, and I'd visualize I was either one of them or a further participant. I did that in order to feel closer to other men and accepted—to feel better about myself, in some strange way. I don't know how many men I've had sex with that way. It's more than I can remember. But looking back, I see how true Jesus' words are about those who lust with the eye, committing adultery in the heart. I might not have physically been there, but I might as well have been. The effect was the same. None of that ever truly made me feel better or more accepted. It only made me feel dirty and guilt-ridden, and ashamed. And it made me feel even more distanced from other men, and God.

Over the last two and half years, I've not only been trying to give up pornography, but homosexuality as well. I've never found any true happiness by engaging in any of that sort of thing. And believing those things to be sinful in nature, I want to resist giving into them because I know they are against God, and what God wants for me. Nothing good could ever come from those things.

Having said that, I have to admit that at times I do still give in. I struggle with myself not to give into pornography, lust, creating sexual fantasies, masturbation, and this annoying fixation of wanting to just give up this fight and go out and find myself a boyfriend and to just be gay. I know none of these things are good. However, in moments of weakness, I find myself giving into them. I don't give into them like I used to. In fact, I can see very clearly where in the last couple of years I have managed to gradually wean myself away from them. In the case of pornography, I initially only threw away about half of what I had. Then a few months later (about a year ago), I added XXXchurch, an online accountability program, to my computer. That's helped me dramatically in resisting online pornography. And only a few months ago, I threw away what magazines or pictures I still had left. I went from looking at the stuff on almost a daily basis, to now-a-day only looking at it maybe once every other month, if that. At least that's how it's been the last year or so, and I hope I'll eventually reach a point of not ever looking at it.

I've been questioned about the level of hatred I have for the stuff, and I'll admit that it's probably not enough. But I do hate it. I hate the thought of what sort of lives those other guys must be living, and their lack of humility in allowing the whole world to view them that way. I hate the thought that those guys, more than likely, are just like me in so many ways. They've probably went through some of the exact same pains and grief and struggling in their lives as I have. And to see them living out a lie, that homosexual sex will somehow bring them some sort of happiness, saddens me beyond belief.

In my last post, I mentioned the regret I felt about looking at pornography last Friday night. Yes, I hated the way it made me feel afterwards. It made me feel dirty and ashamed. But I also hated the fact that I'd given into something and supported something that's ruining so many people's lives. I hated that I'd disobeyed God like I did. I hated the fact that the whole time I was looking at it, God was gently calling me away from it through a song I've been listening to lately, and yet I ignored His call. I hate that, by giving in, I only managed to set myself back even further from the goal I wish to achieve. To be free!

Jay mentioned about praying for those people in the pornography as a means of deterring myself from looking at it. It was in doing that that I've been able to reduce so drastically the amount of time I spend looking at pornography. In the last year, I don't know if I've even looked at any of it a total of ten times, but any number of times is too many. Usually, when tempted to look, I think back to one particular guy—a thin, weak looking, young man—whose image has pretty much been burned into the back of my mind, and I pray for him. I pray that he's no longer involved in any of that, and that he's found God, living right, and is happy. I've even cried for him a few times. I've wanted to reach out and to help him. And yet I'll never be able to. I'll never know if my prayers have helped him. At least not in this life. And I realize that it's people like me who give that industry the money which allowed him to be bought into that. I think about all that, and whatever desire to look at pornography I've felt goes right out the window. I no longer see those guys as sexual objects. I see them as REAL people with REAL problems and REAL struggles, and I feel sorry for them. And I feel sorrow for their families as well.

In my last post, I posed the question “So why do I keep turning to other things” instead of God? I know why I did the other night. I was feeling frustrated, stressed, tired, and lonely, and all that had basically built up for over a week to the point where that was all that was on my mind. And I just no longer cared about resisting. I just wanted to feel something good for a change. So, I turned to pornography and masturbation. And, naturally, that did absolutely nothing to help me with my problems. It only left me feeling more frustrated than I did. When I turned to those things, it was only because I'd allowed so many things to weigh me down that I'd pushed God to the back of my mind. As I said before, I should have been turning to Christ concerning everything that's been going on lately, and instead, I was ignoring Him and turning to old ways. I temporarily forgot all I had learned the last couple of years and resorted back to what used to work--to what physically feels good. I'm not trying to justify what I did, only to try to explain why I think I did it.

One of you mentioned you thought I was being a little hard on myself. Maybe I was. Now I say that, because we all fall from time to time. Not one of us is perfect, and in moments of weakness it's real easy sometimes to slip up. It's important to remember that and not just fall to pieces when that happens. God still loves you and forgives you even if you do give in to temptation.

I think about the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Romans, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

What Paul was saying is that no body's perfect. We are all tempted by something, and sometimes we give in to those thing, even if we don't want to. That's why I keep on turning to other things. It's in the sinfulness of the flesh that I am constantly battling. The desire to please God verses the desire to please myself. The other night, I allowed my flesh to take over. I wanted to please myself, and so I gave in to something I hate. I did that which I did not want to do.

In Jeff Konrad's book, “You Don't Have to Be Gay”, he uses an acronym to help people better learn when they might fall. That acronym is H.A.L.T., which stands for “Are you hungry, are you angry, are you lonely, are you tired?” It is in these feelings that people are most likely to give up their fights and give into their temptations. In learning how to recognize these feelings when they come upon you, a person can work to counter these things and be on their guard. The other night, I was both lonely and tired. I suppose I was a little angry about a few things as well. And rather than recognizing these things and turning to God for help, I decided to wallow in self-pity and depression and take an easy, temporary, way out. That's why I looked at that pornography.

Now, to talk about the effects of pornography. I know it's polluted my mind. It's caused me to envy and lust after other men. I've held these above average looking guys up on a pedestal and downgraded the very body God gave me. I've told myself I could never measure up to or be as good as them. That I'm not good-looking. In truth, I don't really think I'm that bad off. However, I am still awfully self-conscious about my looks sometimes. It's damaged my self-esteem. And in looking at those other guys having sex, that has made me want to have sex as well. It's tempted me to not only look, but go out and do. It's made me feel dirty and ashamed and distanced from God. And it's saddened me. I'm saddened to think about how much of my life I've wasted on it. I'm saddened by the secrecy of looking at it. I'm saddened by the thought that, by looking at it, I've supported it, and therefore allowed it to continue on in the world. I've helped other people sin, by looking at it, and that bothers me greatly. I'm mournful for those men, and women, who get sucked in and involved in that industry.

I know if I could go back in time, to when my friend first introduced me to pornography, I would tell him “No thanks” and I'd never again take another look at it. But since I can't go back, all I can do is pray for forgiveness and do absolutely everything I can to resist and to fight the temptations to look at it. If any of you are struggling with pornography, please do everything you can to give it up too. Throw away all of it you have. Stay out of the adult bookstores and the like. Find an accountability partner. Add the XXXchurch program onto your computer. Even better, add on the SafeEyes internet filter. Whatever you do, just get away from it as much as you can. Turn to Jesus and live to please Him rather than yourself. Because that's where only true happiness lies. It's not found in pornography.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Bomb Went Off

Last night, I fell apart and gave into sin. I'd felt really upset about a few things going on in my life right now, and on top of that, I was feeling very lonely. For a few reasons I've felt somewhat rejected the last two or three days, and I suppose I let that get the better of me. After a few hours of sporadic crying and feeling sorry for myself, I resolved to go online and try to get my mind off of everything. I checked my email, looked at the comments from my last post, commented back, and then just started browsing a few other websites I like to look up from time to time. Well, I should have known better. Feeling lonely and depressed, and being online, is never a good idea for me. I ended up looking up a couple of pornographic websites I used to look up quite regularly back a year or two ago. And naturally, that led to me giving in to masturbation. By one in the morning last night, I'd managed to make myself feel even worse than I did to begin with. I turned last night into a night of rebellion, giving into sinful temptations I knew better than to give into. I knew I should have turned to God with all those things that's been bothering me. I should have let Jesus fill that void that I've been feeling lately. But that's not what I did. I turned to things which didn't satisfy any of those feelings, but only left me feeling dirty and so full of remorse that I went to bed crying my eyes out, hoping like crazy God would forgive me.

This morning, I woke up feeling just as bad as I did last night. I felt lifeless and empty, and so depressed that I couldn't stand it. I decided to write to my Setting Captives Free mentor and confess what I'd done, and to ask him to pray for me about the things that have been bothering me. In the middle of writing to him, I realized he didn't need to be the first person I turned to for help. I knew I needed to turn to Jesus to make things right. I stopped my writing, bowed my head, and prayed. I took everything to Jesus first. I asked Him to forgive me, and to help me with everything that's been going on. I did what I should have done in the first place when I first started feeling bad. That's helped me. I don't feel quite as bad now as I did. I do still feel bad about what I did last night, because I knew better than to do those things, but I know I made the right decision today, and I've made things right with God again.

I just wish I could remember to always turn to Jesus first! I wish I could get it stuck in my mind to always trust Him to help me--in all things. I don't know why I can't seem to fully learn that lesson. I don't know why I keep turning to all those other things all the time. I know they never help me. They only leave me feeling worse--about myself, and everything. I know nothing but Jesus ever really works to make me happy. He's the only one who ever satisfies me. He's the only one whose always there for me, loves me, comforts me, and cares for me. He's the best friend anyone could ever have.

So why do I keep turning to other things?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Under Pressure

The last few days I've really struggled with the idea of wanting a boyfriend. I've wanted to feel that sort of intimate closeness to another guy, and it's got me a little frustrated. I'm actually feeling pretty good right now, but this is just one of those things that keeps bugging me. I suppose if I could just make a really close male friend, someone I could spend time with on a regular basis and hang out with, that I wouldn't feel such a huge desire such as this. I've noticed in the past that when I spend a lot of time with other guys, I'm not as prone to want to date or be sexually involved with another guy. But when there's a prolonged period of time I'm not around other guys, I begin to feel this way. Here lately, I've not been able to be around many other guys. And the desire for male closeness just seems to be consuming my every thought because of that.

This in turn has caused me to be tempted to look at pornography, create sexual fantasies, lust, to masturbate, and to even just finally give up this fight and go searching for a boyfriend. I'm tempted right now to do all those things, and yet I know if I did, I'd literally fall to pieces. I have never ever found any true happiness in pursuing any of those things or anything of a homosexual nature. Anytime I've went down that road I've found myself so utterly miserable and full of depression that life just didn't seem worth the living. There's a longing there that never gets met, and I always become disillusioned and guilt-ridden for having disobeyed God doing something I knew full and well wouldn't make me happy and I shouldn't do.

So, I've had all that to battle with recently.

As for today, my brothers girlfriend has decided it's her mission in life to set me up with this girl she knows, and she keeps bugging the everlasting life out of me to go out with her.

Okay, first off, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever for a girlfriend right now. Even if I found a girl I really did like, I still don't think I would want to go out with her. The entire heterosexual courtship absolutely does nothing for me at all. Not personally, that is. Holding hands with a girl, kissing a girl, talking on the phone with a girl, dating a girl in general, none of that appeals to me in the least little bit.

And so here I am, trying to politely say “no thanks” to my brother's annoying girlfriend, and the whole time thinking that if it were a guy she was trying to hook me up with, I might actually go for that. But on top of that, I don't want her knowing I struggle with my sexuality, so I feel like I'm constantly having to juggle about my disinterest to her friend without having to come across gay. I just wish she'd leave me alone and mind her own business. Furthermore, since my brother does know what I struggle with, I wish he'd actually come to my aid and tell her to back off. But that's my brother through and through. I'm sure it's never even entered his mind as to how uncomfortable all this is making me.

As if all that stuff wasn't bad enough, I had to listen to my dad try to explain homosexuality to my fourteen year old cousin tonight. She had heard in school some people say that homosexuality is something people are born with, and others say it was something people choose. So, she was asking my dad (who happens to be her church youth leader) about which it was. To my surprise, Dad actually said enough, in a somewhat humorous and fumbling about sort of way, that he believed it wasn't something a person was born with, at least not completely, but that he did feel a person had a choice in what they did in their lives. I was actually surprised, because he basically gave the answer I'd like to have given. He said, in a way, that homosexuals don't choose to be homosexuals, but they can choose what activities they engage in. As I was listening to my Dad speak (who still doesn't know that I'm gay), I was actually feeling some odd sort of excitement and relief, because I was finally able to figure out how he looked at all this. I feel like now, if I did tell him, he might actually be somewhat understanding and not jump to a bunch of conclusions. Heck, he even admitted to having watched some program about homosexuals not long back on television, where a group of men were discussing gay issues, and how he'd learned a few things from that. Overall, I'd have to say I feel better just finally being able to know where he stands on some of this. He was about the most non-vague tonight about this as I've ever heard him to be. So, that was a good thing, I think.

I do feel more encouraged to finally tell my parents. At least Dad. I'm still not so sure about Mom. I honestly just don't think she could take that sort of news right now. But with Dad, I'm sure he's had to have wondered about me before. I've never pursued any romantic relationships with any girls, and I'm sure that's had to have made him scratch his head a few times throughout the years.

All I know is that tonight, with the way I've been feeling, and with being pressured to go out with that girl, and the issue of homosexuality coming up, I just really felt like a time bomb getting ready to go off at any moment. I'm tired of keeping this secret. I just want everyone to know already. Maybe then, everyone will stop always trying to find me a girlfriend, and asking me questions about that, and I'll finally feel more comfortable just being myself around everybody. I know it's going to eventually come to a head anyway, so I'm really feeling like getting it over and done with, working through all the issues related to that now while I'm younger rather than older, and hopefully just getting all this behind me so I can move on a little. I just hope everything will turn out for the best.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where to Go, What to Do

Here lately I've been thinking quite a bit about my future. I find myself currently at a time in my life where I could go in any direction I see fit to go in. I'm only twenty-four, my job is about to come to an end, I have no wife/girlfriend/boyfriend or anything like that to tie me down, no kids... so, I find myself considering all my options.

I've thought a lot about moving. Just packing my bags and going on some grand adventure, some journey of discovery, away from everything familiar. I've always thought that if I did move away, I'd want to go someplace either in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, or maybe West Virginia. I guess I'm just in love with the mountains in those states. But if I do move away, wherever that turns out to be, that place would have to be better than where I live now. Otherwise, what's the point in moving? It would be nice to find a town with better jobs. Or a church where a person can actually be accepted even if they've been involved in something as horrible as, yes, heaven forbid, homosexuality. It would be nice to find a church where people openly love God and the people around them. It would be nice to find a place where I could be myself without fear of anyone ever truly knowing me. I'd like nothing more than for everyone just to know I like other guys and for it to not be a big deal to them—that they wouldn't treat me with disgust or as some sort of freak or different. I've thought for a long time now that if I could just move away I could live like that. Living where I do now, I have family to have to deal with. Not to mention all those people I grew up with. And as much as I love my family, I don't always feel like I can be myself or honest with them. I fear being honest with them sometimes, and I know that leads to me not being honest with others for fear that my parents or other family members will eventually find out by word of mouth what it is I struggle with. If I lived someplace else, I wouldn't have to worry so much about my family finding out. I could just be myself more.

I also think about what career to pursue. Writer, teacher, house builder, architect, interior designer, farmer, ... what? I still don't know what to do with my life. Thing is, I'm increasingly beginning to believe that maybe I should settle for being a jack of all trades, but master of none. Maybe I should do a little bit of everything? Of course, something really should be a main source of income, but what? I still don't know what to do with my life. I just don't want to wake up at sixty years of age or older and have to wonder if there was ever anything significant, important, or meaningful in what work I've done during my life. I want to do something meaningful and worthwhile.

So, with all that, I have been considering what sort of future to make for myself. And in considering all these things, I have to keep in mind what God wants for me. I've been praying about these things for quite some time now. Thing is, I only recently realized how great an opportunity I have coming up for making some big changes in my life. And I know that the only thing to hold me back is really just myself. I have to admit that the prospect of moving away or going to a different church does sort of frighten me some. It means that I'm on my own. But I realize that's not necessarily a bad thing. It could actually be a really good thing, because often, when you're on your own like that, that's when you tend to learn the most. You grow as a person and as an individual. At least I do.

This leads to thoughts of other things. I realize how much growing up I've had to do the last couple of years. I realize how much I've held myself back in the past. I never pursued anyone for any type of relationship for being afraid of rejection. And yet the very thing I've always wanted was acceptance. Well, it's kind of hard to find that if I never pursue any friendships with anyone. I've learned that, and I've now made several friends because of that. I'm stepping out more than I used to. But I get discouraged sometimes. I make friends and then I push them away, and then I don't try to make friends like I should, and when I do make friends I tend to be insecure enough in that friendship to be a little panicky about losing those friends. And then I know I probably get a little weird at times because of that. I just keep trying to be myself and to open up around others, but I find that really hard to do sometimes. I get self-conscience and nervous. There again, I fear.

I also know that I've relied too much on my parents for things that I shouldn't have. I've allowed them to take care of me more than I should have. That's something I didn't realize until just a few months ago. So, here lately, I've been trying to rectify that by being a little more self-sufficient about certain things. I'm glad that my parents love me and care about me, but I don't think it's so good that they care for me enough to do things for me that really I ought to be doing for myself by now.

I've also learned not to be so naïve about a few things. Such as: most politicians will actually lie just to get elected; preachers do not equal God; I'm not the only person who struggles with certain things in life; most businesses are only in it for the money; some people will take advantage of you so long as they think they can get away with it; other denominations aren't necessarily worse than my own—some are actually better in several regards; and my parents aren't always right about everything.

I guess to sum everything up, I'm just wanting a new start. I've spent the last couple of years trying to grow up and discover myself and figure things out, and I'm tired. I feel like I'm being held back. I'd just like to get away from everything for awhile and start all over again with a fresh start. I'd like to actually begin my life rather than just trail along as I've been. I feel like I know better what I want now, and I'd like to go out and finally start getting those things. All I know is that I'm in the mood to take some risks, there's nothing holding me back, and I'm ready to get started. I'm anxious to get started. There's just so much I want to do and so many places I'd like to go.

Lord, please help me to find my way. Lead me in whatever direction you'd have me to go. And help me to be happy with my life and in whatever I do. Amen.