Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No More "White Cane"!

The air was still crisp as I walked across the 9th fairway on my way over to the fitness center. I'd gotten into the habit of trying to swim and take a jacuzzi and sauna nearly every day. Suddenly, my mind was filled with a thought that I couldn't shake. I'm not certain where it came from, but it wasn't just stopping by for a second. It wanted an answer. "Of all the kids in the family, you are NOT the one that anyone would have figured would end up in jail!"

Could it be true? I had to think about it. Certainly, I had never been a trouble maker. Now my little brother....he could have ended up in prison! In fact, part of his high school years were spent in a private school because of a bad choice he made. The judge told my folks it was either a private school, or he could go to the State Reform School for Boys. I think it was probably an easy decision. (At least I hope it was.) But he was kind of a renegade growing up. He loved fast cars and getting a little wild and crazy at times. He would have been a candidate for the "Steel Bar Motel" before me.

And my sister. Well, I will probably never know all of her story. But, she did do a few things in college that they put people in jail for. Some "recreational use" of some certain substances that society frowns on. I know that people can go to jail for that kind of stuff. And I have to admit, I never did venture into those kind of activities. Surely she could have found herself a "guest of the county" instead of me...couldn't she?

My older brother...well he's a different story. Almost everyone would tell you that he certainly would not be a candidate for an orange jumpsuit. But, well, I know a little bit more about his life than most people. And, he made a few decisions along the way that officials might frown on. Decisions that put some people behind bars.

As I walked and thought about this issue, at first I was totally convinced that if the news media were asking all of my friends or the people I grew up with, they would all be shocked that I would ever do anything to send me to "Club Fed." I'm sure they would say things like, "he was always such a good kid. I don't think he ever got in trouble at school." Or, "Mark! The Mark I knew was so squeaky clean...they must have the wrong guy!" Even as I looked at my life, I was doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that I was just never "that bad"...certainly not prison material.

It's funny how Satan does such a good job of blinding us...at at least me. I actually believed the lies I was telling myself. I didn't see my life for what it really was. It was filled with sin and bad choices from my early childhood. A black-out drunk by the time I graduated from high school. Easily an opportunity for multiple DWI's and a couple of leaving the scene could have been on my record. I was caught shoplifting when I was about 10 years old...but no one ever knew. Countless sexual relationships before marriage...and some with married women. I certainly did NOT have a life that was squeaky clean. But in my mind...I just didn't see it.

But on that spring day, walking toward the fitness center, God allowed me to have a Damascus Road experience. It wasn't filled with a bright, blinding light like Paul had, but for the first time in my life, the scales fell from my eyes. Satan couldn't keep the reality of my life hidden from me any longer. God was allowing me to see my life for what it really was...allowing me to see ME for who I really was. And the picture just wasn't very pretty.

Before I went to prison, I wasn't really a fan of the song "Amazing Grace." It was just too familiar...it seemed like it was the "one" church song that was always played. I had never really bothered to pay attention to the words, but I had the melody line down. While I was in prison, I heard and sang that song a lot. I even learned the story behind the song, and the man who wrote it. I learned what God's Grace is really all about! Every time I sing the last line of the first verse, my walk that morning comes to mind. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see" That is the story of my life for the past four years. God had given me the gift of sight...not natural sight, but spiritual sight. And because I have that gift, I've been allowed to see the sin of my life...an opportunity to turn and run in the opposite direction of the choices that I made for years. I no longer need a "white cane" because of my blindness...it has been substituted by the cross of Christ and my vision has been restored!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


The snow is gone and the bright colors of early summer surround me each day as I walk near our condo. I see the occasional golfer, but I tend to keep my head down...not really wanting to be seen or recognized. Some days, the guilt just feels too heavy to bear and it seems I can barely place one foot in front of the next.

God's majestic creation greets me at each turn. The spring wildflowers on the hill. The deer and her fawn that jumped from the bushes as I walked past this morning. The greens on the golf course seem vibrant and so neatly manicured. So unlike my life! My world these days seems so uncertain...so fragmented.

Paula and I have decided to divorce and the pain is like my guilt...unbearable! I can't imagine my life without her. I can't imagine life at all right now! Everything is such a blur. Most mornings I don't recognize the image in the mirror as I stand in front of the sink. "Who is that man?" "Why is he so...what-unhappy? angry? lost?" Lost is probably the right word. All of my life it seems that I have had a plan. I've known where I was going...what came next. So much has changed.

I find myself getting angry...but at who? I can only blame myself, but I want to share this blame with someone. Surely someone could have done something! Surely Pastor John should have done a better job of checking up on me-holding me accountable. Even Geoff said he would be an accountability partner, but he never once called to make sure I wasn't going on-line and chatting again. Can I blame him? Or pastor? It just doesn't seem fair today that I'm in this on my own. But as I reflect, that's what my actions were saying I wanted...to be alone so I could spend as much time as I wanted on-line, talking to my "friends". My "friends". The stupid irony of all of this is that they don't exist. It's not like I had an affair with a real person. If that had been the case, I would have someone to go comiserate with. But my "friends"...my "affair" was with someone who never existed to begin with. The reality hits me like Mac truck! Everything wasted! My career! My marriage! My possessions! My reputation! All for something that never existed to begin with...like a mirage.

I feel so disjointed. I don't seem to fit anyplace. It feels like my anchor rope has been cut and I'm adrift. I know there are serious rapids ahead, but I don't know how long it will take to get there. Bad news! I've never gone over rapids before, but I think it might be dangerous. I just feel so lost!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Letter from my Father

During the three years that I was in prison, one of the things that I came to appreciate more than anything else was mail. It wasn't often that I received a letter, but when I did, it helped to make the day a little bit more special. It helped me to know that there was someone out there...someone thinking about me and wondering how I was. It reminded me that someone cared.

Prison wasn't the first time after my arrest that someone sent me words of encouragement and love. On a cold, blustery spring day in April of 2004, as I was on my knees in the living room of our condo, the Spirit prompted me to pick up a pen and a tablet.

My Precious Child

I am so pleased with you! I love how you have thrown off your cloak of arrogance and self pretentiousness and have come to seek Me as a child. When you sought me last night, unafraid to be asked to be loved, I wept for you.

As I knelt there on my knees, I knew that my hand was writing and that the voice of God was passing through my fingers, but the words before me were a blur...probably from the tears that streamed down my face. How many years had I longed to hear words like that! How many years had I longed to know that my father, any father, would speak such words of love...would cry for me.

You have grown so much in two months, Mark, and I am pleased. You have been willing, and have actually sought, to seek the truth about yourself. You have not given into denial about the stark truths and reality of your sin and your choices. While you have sat there in disbelief at times, you have accepted My truth.

As a child, I never had any real conversations with my dad. He was a quiet man, at least on a personal level. He was a screamer when he was angry...and I heard enough of those outbursts during my childhood. I wish so much that I would have had a relationship with my dad that would have facilitated a conversation like the one that my true Father was having with me that morning.

Mark, you are finally starting to see and hear clearly My truth and the truth of your life. You are being obedient to My call and My voice. You have relaxed and begun to trust and have faith, instead of looking for Me so hard, you can't see Me. Continue to seek as the child you were last night...the child who wanted His Father, so you were willing to go and find Him.

How could I have ever trusted my dad the way that I was learning to trust my Father? I don't remember ever having a reason to truly trust him. The verbal abuse. The physical abuse. To be in the same room with him was to be tense and on edge. He wasn't a man that I ever felt I could just go talk to...to ask questions about the things in my life I was confused about. To show any kind of a weakness in front of him. In my heart, I only believed that a show of weakness would result in being hurt...even more.

Continue to be willing to peel back the hardness that had covered your heart...the shyness, the embarrassment, the unwillingness to risk for what you love. Continue in your search for truth, your search for Me. I will always be here to be found by you.

Why couldn't my own dad have seen the struggles that I was having as a child? Why couldn't he have taken the time to sit down...and truly get to know me? It was no secret that I was so shy. Anyone could see it. Didn't it seem odd to him that I was the quiet one of the family? Would it have been too much to take the time during our deer hunts to just ask how my life was going? It never happened. I know I can't blame him completely...he only parented as he knew how. But it left a void in me, one that wouldn't be filled until I was in my 40's.

Continue to use these days and weeks you have before you to grow stronger spiritually, to rebuild your foundation and your life in My truth and My Word. As long as you continue to walk in My light and not turn aside to look at the darkness, you will find the life of peace and joy and love that you desire. You will live in a freedom you have never experienced.

As my knees began to throb and my legs felt life pin cushions as the circulation was cut off as I spent that time in prayer before Him, His words spoke power into my life. My Father was giving me instructions for life that I would need to survive what lay before me. Never in my life had words like these been spoken to me. Not as I went off to grade school, or into junior high. As I went off to college, there was nothing to prepare me. Even as I entered into a marriage covenant, dad never let me know what to expect or what to be ready for. But now, as I was getting ready to experience perhaps the most difficult test of my life, my Father was there. His words and love getting me ready.

Don't become satisfied with how far you've come, the journey is just beginning. Your journey on the path I have mapped out for you. Stay strong in the truth and in the Word. Continue to seek Me with our heart, and I will ALWAYS be here for you! Thank you for your words of love and compassion last night. You have much to be hopeful for. I love you, Son!

Could it be true that the words that flowed through me that morning were from my Father in Heaven? There is no doubt! Those kinds of words of love had never been expressed to me before. No one truly knew the pain that I felt in my heart, the fear gripped my heart and my mind. I didn't know what lay before me, or ever how to prepare for it. But on that April day, my Father knew! He was there watching over me and giving me a strength and peace that no man should feel, knowing that he is going to prison. The preparation for wilderness was beginning.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Beginning the Preparation for the Wilderness

I didn't know what my life was going to be like after Paula left on that Wednesday morning. I didn't know what the future held for me, short term or long term. I only knew that I was in trouble and my life had changed. It was pretty much assured that I would be going to prison, something that I couldn't even comprehend. I was to find that the next six months of my life would be a time of preparation for the wilderness that I was soon to enter.

The loneliness in the condo was almost overwhelming at times. I had turned the ringer off on the telephone because I didn't want to deal with the media calling and asking for my comment on what had happened. I called and had the satellite TV disconnected to save on money. For the first time in too many years to remember, I didn't have a job or an income.

I dove into the Bible, spending hours on end each day reading. I had read the Bible a couple of times before, but I had never really spent "time" in it. As I read it this time, the message jumped off the page in ways I had never seen it before. I could see application of so many things in my life. I wondered why they hadn't been clear before. But the loneliness remained. Each day, I would walk. The ground was still covered in snow, so I would spend most of my time walking the plowed streets that wound through the condo and golf course community. The fresh air and beauty of God's creation surrounding me were therapy that I could never find elsewhere.

The muscles in my thighs and back would knot up each day as I spent time on my knees in prayer. Prayer is a funny thing...at least it was for me. No one had ever really "taught" me how to pray. I just tried to mimic what I had seen others do. Paula. Mom and Dad. Even the pastors that had led the church services where I had attended before. But something seemed to be missing. I would give thanks and seek guidance and strength. I would spend long hours speaking to God. And then I would go about my business. It seemed fruitless and I couldn't see any answers coming to my requests.

All of that changed after Paula came back up to the condo on Easter. We were going to go through our storage units together to see what she wanted to take back to Tacoma with her and put into storage over there. At that time, she was planning to resettle in that area. When she arrived at the condo that evening, we sat and the couch and just visited. As she talked, she said one of the most profound things I had ever heard and it changed my life and my relationship with God. We were talking about our own relationship and our marriage and our communication. Or, more accurately, our lack of communication. I've never been much of a conversationalist. In our marriage, Paula was the one who would carry the conversation. I would ask questions and then just let her talk. I loved to hear her talk about the kids, or the family or what was going on in her life or the lives of her friends. I very seldom talked about me or what was on my mind. In hindsight, I believe it's because there was so much I was hiding and burying, I just didn't want to go there.

But as we talked, she said that when people love each other, they talk to each other...about anything and everything. There is nothing held back. Sadly, I couldn't undo how I had failed to communicate with Paula during our marriage. But, the Spirit laid it on my heart that I could show God how much I loved Him by actually entering into a "love" relationship with Him through my prayer life. Amazing things began to happen. For the first time in my life, I began to regularly hear the voice of God! Each morning as I spent time with Him, He would respond to me. I began to keep a prayer journal, recording His Words to me. His love, correction, rebukes and accolades. On one of those mornings, He did something I never expected. He talked to me first!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Invitation

A grey mist hung over the golf course outside as I stood in the kitchen. My mind and body were still numb as I waited for the coffee to finish dripping through the Mr. Coffee on the counter top. Paula was in the bedroom, talking on the phone to our daughter, trying her best to explain what had happened. We had a friend who was visiting us, there to give both of us some support...and to assist me with any counseling if I should need it. The clock on the microwave read 8:42 in its pale red numbers when I heard the voice behind me. I turned, expecting to see someone there, but the front room was empty. It had seemed so real. I returned my gaze to the slowly dripping coffee pot when I heard it again, even more distinctly than the first time. Two words...spoken softly yet firmly. "Seek Me!" Even before I turned to look, I knew in my spirit Whose voice it had been. For the first time in my life, I had heard the voice of God.

As I reflect back on that day...and those times in my life, I found myself once again at a crossroads in my life. I'd been here many times before, and I'm certain now that God called to me at those times too. But my ears were blocked. Blocked with my own pridefulness...my own arrogance...my own hypocrisy. Today it was different. That morning my ears were open to hear the message.

But even as I stood in the kitchen of our condo, I was in the same place I had been so many times before. The choice was before me. I had heard it loud and clear. But which path would I take. Would I select the path of "Mark can do it by himself!"? I knew that path so well. It had led me to many victories...or so I thought in my vain conceit. Would I choose once again to turn my back on the only true source of power I've ever had in my life? I'd never really ventured down that path very far before. It just seemed too scary...to uncertain. It wasn't that I didn't believe in God and the power of prayer. It was just that my idea of prayer and God's idea of prayer were two completely different things. You would probably find them in different universes.

For the first time in my life, I had come to the realization that this was something that I couldn't do on my own. Strangely, at the time, I had no idea even what it was I was going to up against. I only knew that I had never felt so empty or alone before in my life. Everything that I thought was so important to me was gone...or soon would be. This problem was so much greater than any that I had ever faced before and I would need a great deal of help to overcome this.

A few minutes later, Paula came into the kitchen and told me that she was going to drive to Sunnyside to tell Conrad, our youngest son, what had happened. She didn't want to try to explain over the phone. She knew that Conrad loved me like his own father and didn't know how he would react. She wanted to be with him to personally help him through the pain and confusion. Carolyn offered to stay and pray with me and take me through some healing prayer, but I told her that I just needed to be alone with God. I'd never said those words before..."need to be alone with God." If I had, I probably wouldn't be in the situation I found myself in.

Paula left and Carolyn stayed a little while with me and prayed with me. Even without Paula saying it, we both knew that our marriage was over. Paula was leaving that cold Wednesday morning and she wouldn't be back. As we prayed, I curled on the floor, pulling myself into a fetal position. My body throbbed as the sobs escaped from deeper within me than I knew existed. The tears flowed, making their way down my cheeks to puddle on the floor beneath me.

I'm not sure how long I stayed there on the floor. When I finally got up, Carolyn was gone. I was alone in the condo. It was darkening outside as the winter afternoon faded. I was exhausted. I hadn't eaten for three days and my sleep had been fitful to say the least for the past two nights. But there was also an unexpected peace that I found covering me. A peace that certainly had not been there for the past 48 hours. I knew that I had encountered something in my prayers that afternoon and the complete release of my soul that I had never experienced before. I had accepted the invitation. I had agreed to enter the open door that God had created for me. I had set my pride aside and allowed a power so much greater than any that I had held or seen to help me this time.

That cold, wintry morning found me at a crossroads that would lead to two completely different places. One would lead to Hell. Thankfully, I chose the other. At the time, I didn't know where it would take me. But I would soon find myself in a time of preparation for a journey in the wilderness.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I never thought anything like this could...or would...ever happen to me. I was at the top; everything had been going my way. I had the job I wanted. We had just passed our school levy, which in a way was the acceptance of my leadership by the community. Paula was falling back in love with me, and our life together seemed to be getting better...that we were going to make it over the steep mountain that I had created in our lives a few years before. It's not that I had really changed much...I had just gotten sneakier, and more deceitful. I was careful in ways that I hadn't been before. Surely, I would never get caught this time.

It was a date I will never forget. February 23, 2004. I had known from the Friday before that it might be coming. I prayed over that weekend like I hadn't prayed in years. But, it didn't seem like God was listening much, not that I would have blamed Him. When I returned from Rotary on that Friday afternoon, I had a message to call the high school principal. I got a hold of him and he said he just thought I should know that he had been contacted by the FBI and that they would be in the district on Monday. Apparently, they were investigating a report that someone in our district (probably one of his students, he guessed) had downloaded some child pornography on a school computer. My heart stopped. Fortunately, we were talking on the phone or he surely would have seen me blanch...to see all the color disappear from my face. I managed to tell him to keep me informed on Monday and to have a good weekend.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to get rid of any evidence that I might have on my computer. I knew there was a chance that it was me they were after, but I hoped that it was some poor schmuck at the high school. Better him than me, I thought. I searched all over for my software that would cover over everything on my computer that I had put in the trash, but couldn't find it. I nearly tore my office apart, but to no avail. I had some images stored on CD and I broke them to pieces and threw them in the trash on my way home.

The weekend was spent looking over my shoulder whenever I was out driving. "Was the white Bronco the FBI?" "Was I being followed?" "What would I do on Monday if they really were after me?" Needless to say, it was not a comfortable weekend. But amazingly, Paula and I spent the entire two days together, enjoying each other in ways we hadn't in months. We attended church for the first time in our new community. I continued to pray that God would show me mercy. "Just let it be someone else, God", I prayed. I made deals with Him, promising never to go to one of those chat rooms ever again. I quit looking at any kind of pornography. After all, I'd broken those CD's with all the pictures, didn't I? Even as I went to work on Monday morning, I bypassed my usual check of my email accounts to see if any new pictures had come in. And, I didn't check any of my chat names to see if anyone had written me over the weekend. Boy, I was doing so good...certainly God would see how hard I was trying and save this time.

I was down at the elementary school when my cell phone went off. I knew even before I took it out of my pocket that it was going to be about the FBI. And it was. My secretary told me that the FBI and a deputy sheriff was in my office and would like to talk with me. For the briefest of moments, my brain asked if I should just run. But, I knew I could never do that. I drove back to my office and greeted the agent as I walked into my office. I explained that I knew they were in the district to investigate a child pornography report and asked if they had any luck at the high school. Instead of answering, the FBI agent started to ask me personal information about myself. My age. My social security number. How long I had worked in the office. I paused, knowing in my heart I was busted. I asked why the personal questions, and if I needed an attorney (not that I had one, or had the foggiest idea where to get one.) He said I could get one if I wanted to, but that he had some questions and he wasn't leaving my office without my computer.

In that one moment, my entire life changed. Not only mine, but so many other people as well. People that I loved and people who had trusted me. My life would never be the same. The agent pulled some pictures out of his folder and asked if I'd ever seen them before. I almost threw up on the spot. They were copies of some of the pornography pictures that I had in some of my files. I recognized every one of them. It was over. I admitted that I had seen them and that I had them in my computer. I asked him if I could make a phone call. It was the hardest call I would ever make in my life.

I went into the outer office and phoned the numbers I knew by heart. Paula picked up on the second or third ring. She knew immediately that something was wrong by the tone of my voice. She thought perhaps I'd been in a car accident or that I was hurt seriously in some way. It was so much worse. I told her that the FBI was in my office and that my past had caught up with me. She knew immediately what it was. Paula asked what she could do and I simply asked her to pray. She said she would and wanted my permission to call some friends who were in the ministry to pray as well. After saying yes, I told her that the FBI was going to want to talk with her as well, and that they would be out sometime that afternoon.

The rest of the day is a blur. The agent went to my computer and spent several hours going into many of me email accounts and downloading pictures that had been emailed to me. At one point, I asked to use the rest room and was given permission. I noticed that the deputy remained out in the hall way as I did my business. When I returned to my office, the FBI agent apologized, but told me it was for my own protection. He had been a part of a similar investigation the year before and the judge they were investigating asked to use the restroom and went into the bathroom and killed himself with a gun he had hidden in his coat. The agent didn't want me to make the same kind of decision.

Later that evening, I met with my board of directors and informed them what had happened. They shock and disappointment was written all over their faces. Their anger boiled just below the surface. I told them that I needed to resign my position and told them how sorry I was for my poor judgement. Words couldn't express my shame and guilt. But I will never forget an act of mercy and grace that one of the members showed me. He asked me to come into a separate office with me and told me the board accepted my resignation and would conduct the meeting without me. Then he asked if he could pray with me. There was no judgement. No anger. Just compassion and grace.

I drove the 20 miles back up to our condo, nestled in the mountains. The golf course blanketed in fresh, white snow. As I walked into the living room, Paula waited quietly on the couch. Asking how I was doing, she invited me to sit next to her. My body and mind were numb, still not fully grasping what had just happened. She drew me to her, pulling my head onto her lap, and slowly and gently rubbed my back and shoulders. She was quiet...there were no words. Her own mind must have been trying to understand...to fathom how I could have done this. How I could have lied to her again. How I could have continued to deceive her for two and half years. I think at that moment, she understood better than I did how much different life would be, for both of us.

As I look back on that day, at the time I was so disappointed that God hadn't saved me. Why hadn't He rescued me again? If not for, certainly He could have done it for Paula and our family. But in hindsight, that is exactly what He did do that day. In His wisdom, He knew (and knows) the weaknesses that I have. He knew I would never be able to keep my promises to Him. After all, I hadn't been faithful in my previous promises. Instead, in His love, He allowed me to reach the bottom. I found the bottom of the miry pit. I was in a place I would never be able to get out of without the help of One much greater and more powerful than I. God knew what I needed. At that moment, I could never have fathomed what that rescue would entail. But like all rescues, the one being rescued has to be willing to reach out his hand and receive it. I was soon to find out what that would mean in my own life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Falling Back Into the Pit

It's getting harder to come here to write...getting closer to sharing a betrayal like that of Judas. I still really can't explain the reasons. I was visiting my brother just the other night, and he plainly asked me why did I continue to go back on-line after Paula had caught me the first time. I easy answer is that I just don't know. But the real answer is probably that I was so arrogant that I just thought that I could get away with it. As the old adage goes, "I wanted my cake and to eat it too."

Those first months after Paula confronted me in November of 2001, I stayed off the computer and away from any of the chat rooms or the porn sites. Paula and I spent a lot of time talking, trying to figure out what had happened and why it had happened. For a long time, Paula believed that it was something that she must have done...something about our marriage that didn't make me happy. I'm thankful that she now knows that it had nothing to do with her. She can't be faulted in any way. The bottom line is, I was searching for something that no one else could help me find.

I lasted two months before I went back to the sites. I can still remember the day...at work in my office. I can remember my body shaking, my hands trembling as I sat in front of that compute screen. I didn't want to go back on...but I was drawn to it like a magnet. I should have gotten up and gone for a walk. Or a visit to one of the schools. Or called Paula and asked her to pray for me. I should have done a lot of things. Instead, I reloaded the Yahoo messenger program on my computer and checked to see if anyone that I knew was on-line. There wasn't and that should have been enough. But I kept going back. And then it was making new chat friends...going to new chat rooms. I was right back where I was before, only maybe a little deeper this time.

Paula and I went to counselling, driving almost 300 miles round trip every other week. It wasn't effective. It couldn't be as long as I kept lying. But that's what I did. I lied to Paula, I lied to the counselor, I lied to myself...I lied to everyone. The counseling did cause me to try to take a closer look at my past, to see if there was anything there that I could identify that might help to explain what it was I was looking for. The only answer that was revealed was that I had never really had any long term male friends at any time in my life. Something would always end the relationship...usually them moving away. We talked some about my sexual experiences as a boy, but there was really nothing that I can remember that was a new revelation.

During those three and a half years between getting caught by Paula and my eventual arrest, Paula and I slowly rebuilt our marriage. There was still a great deal of non-trust by Paula, but that was deserved. We still slept in the same bed, but there was no intimacy. I hid my actions on the computer much better the second time around, not spending late hours at work, not using the home computer for my chats. But I was still stuck in my sin. Whenever Paula was gone out of town, I'd bring a computer home from work and go back to the chat rooms. Many nights, I would stay on all night long. I would try to quit on my own, but I wasn't able too, I just didn't have the strength or the willpower to give it up. In the back of my mind, I knew I had a lot to lose if I got caught, but I just KNEW I would never get caught. My pridefulness was blinding me in ways I couldn't see myself.

When I look at the lives of other people and the bad habits or addictions that they have, it's easy to think that they should be able to simply walk away. The cost will be too great. The family is suffering, or the job is at risk. I guess until you've been there, that's an easy assumption to make. But I've come to understand that Satan can blind any of us...he certainly blinded me for many years. I simply couldn't see what it was I was doing. I thought I had it all under control. But the reality is, my life was quickly spinning out of control...accelerating each day. That is, until they day they showed up in my office.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Shattered by the Deceiver

Paula came back from her visit with our sister-in-law on that Sunday night and I could tell something was wrong. Deep in my gut, I feared I knew what it was, but I hoped against all hope that I was wrong. When I asked her about it, she said it was nothing...that maybe we would need to talk later. But not now.

The week passed ball quickly. It was busy for me...much of my time spent in some district wide training we were providing to staff. I still found time to sneak away and spend some time in the chat rooms, but not a lot. Halloween fell that week, and Paula and I always loved to sit in the front room and watch all of the kids come to the door in their various costumes. We always had more than two hundred visitors each year. But his year was different. Paula didn't want to do Halloween, so the lights were kept off. We were invited to a dinner with the superintendent and the guest who was leading our workshop, but Paula begged off and said she wanted to stay home. So, I went alone.

As the week came to an end, I sat in my office on that Friday working when a co-worker who was friends with both Paula and I came into my office and told me she had just been talking to Paula on the phone and she said that Paula sounded like she was dying. I rushed home to make sure everything was alright, and I went upstairs and found Paula in my office, working on the computer. I asked if she was ok and she said "yes" and that we would talk when I got home from work. As I slowly walked back down the stairs, I knew that she knew, or had guessed what I had been doing the past year and a half.

Paula is an incredible woman and has always been able to read me pretty good. She could sense immediately after I started to go to the chatrooms that something was wrong. Even though I tried to maintain the "status quo", apparently I was different. I started to stay later at work, and that was unusual for me. There were many times when Paula and I were together that she would ask if everything was ok with me...with us. Each time, I would answer the same: "Everything is fine...why do you ask?" At times, there was almost a pleading in her voice, but I just kept giving her the same answer. What else could I do? There was no way that I could tell Paula, or anyone else, what was going on in my life and the issues that I was trying to deal with.

It has taken me the past six years to realize that there was something in my life that I didn't have that everyone needs...to be able to trust. I have never loved anyone in my life like I loved, and still love Paula. With all of my being, I thought that I trusted her completely. And in many ways, I did. I wasn't jealous and never believed that she would cheat on me. I knew that if I shared something with her and asked her to keep my confidence, I never had to worry that she would tell. There was nothing that I didn't trust her with...except my secret. In my mind, I was convinced that to tell her what I had gone through as a boy and the desires that I still struggled with at times would only hurt her, and that was the last thing I wanted to ever do to her. It's strange sometimes how the things we try the most to prevent, we often times end up causing to a much greater degree.

I know now, in hindsight, that it would have been ok to tell Paula. She would have been hurt...of that there is no doubt. But, she loved me enough that she would have been willing to help me through it. To help to find help or counseling, whatever it took. But, the enemy of our souls has a way of trying to keep us isolated...to make us feel like we are so different from anyone else. He tells us that our past is so bad, we could never tell anyone. If "they" knew, they would drop us like a blazing coal. I listened to that lying voice all of my life, to the point of lying to and deceiving the one that I loved above everyone else.

I went back to the office and started to destroy any evidence of what I had been doing on my computer. I erased files and deleted websites from history of the computer. I knew that I was going to have to tell Paula the truth and I accepted that. I had no idea what the outcome would be, but on that Friday afternoon, only the truth mattered.

As I walked in from the garage, Paula was there waiting for me. If I was a screenwriter, I would have scripted it differently. Paula would have been waiting for me...waiting to jump down my throat with all she had. And that is what I would have deserved. The neighbors would have been able to hear the "conversation" over the lawnmower outside. But that's not what I faced as I walked through the laundry room, into the main part of the house. Paula was sitting on the couch, beautifully made up. She looked like she had spent the past three hours doing her hair and expertly putting on her make-up. She handed me a glass of wine and said that we needed to talk. I was taken back for a moment, and then took the glass and set it down. I told her I needed to go upstairs and take my contacts out because I knew the tears would be flowing.

As I sat on the couch next to this woman that I loved, I couldn't believe that it had come to this. I was about to tell her that I had been going to gay chatrooms and exploring gay pornography websites. Before I could begin to speak, all Paula said is that she knew the truth and just wanted me to be honest with her. So I was. I started at the beginning...with my childhood. She learned much of what I have written in these blogs over the past month. Not all, because even I didn't remember it all at that time. It just poured out.

It was almost surreal, like much of my life has been for the past six years. It came out so easily. There was no condemnation. There was love and compassion and I couldn't understand that. Paula was supposed to be screaming at me...hating me. She was supposed to telling me what a pervert I was and how I was the worst person that ever walked the face of the earth. That's what the "voice" had been telling me for years. I had been deceived by the voice...convinced that to ever speak the words that I was speaking would drive Paula out of my life.

We sat and talked for hours...the first time we had really talked in months. Paula asked so many questions, and unlike before, I answered each one completely and honestly. But there was one question that I just didn't have an answer for: "Why didn't you trust me enough to tell this when I asked what was wrong 15 months ago?" The only answer I had was that I was afraid, but it wasn't really enough.

I expected Paula to leave me the next day, but she didn't. Instead, we travelled 200 miles, together in a quiet car, to Vancouver where we were going to a surprise 50th birthday party for my sister. No one else knew what had happened the night before. Paula was as beautiful and gracious as ever. I remember looking across the room at her during the celebration. She was holding up the mask so well. I could see the pain in her eyes, but I doubt anyone else could. But that night, as we went back to our hotel room and laid down on the bed together, the quiet was almost overwhelming. I finally drifted off to sleep, not knowing what the next day or next weeks would hold for us. Paula stayed up most of the night, watching the boats pass by on river outside the room. She didn't really see the boats though...instead, she only saw the millions of pieces of our life that we had built together that had been destroyed by my sin.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In the Spring When Kings go Off to War

I love the story of David in the Old Testament. There are so many lessons to learn in the story of his life...and beautiful Psalms that he left us. Like all of us, David was human. He had his times of triumph and his times of failure. And the Bible shares both with us...with me. In the book of 2 Samuel, we find most of the story of David. It seemed like he had everything. He had advanced from a poor shepherd boy, the youngest in his family, to the become a member of the king's household. He found success as a great warrior and leader, defeating the enemies of Israel at every opportunity. He had gone through his "wilderness" journey, running from king Saul for many years, but remaining faithful to God. But he finally found himself at the pinnacle...the King of all Israel. He had arrived! He had it all! Or, did he?

In the eleventh chapter of 2 Samuel, something terrible happens in David's life. I find it interesting how the chapter opens: "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war...But David remained in Jerusalem." Oh, the lesson God gives us...has given to me in that one short verse. The chapter to goes on tell of David's moral failure...his taking of Bathsheba to his bed...the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. And finally, of David's repentance. But today, it is only the first verse that speaks to me, because it is a lesson I wish I had learned so many years ago. David failed because he didn't do his job...he wasn't where he was supposed to be. And the enemy of our soul attacked him.

I can look at several points in my life where I chose not to be where I was supposed to be, and it has directly or indirectly led to the dark valley in my life that I wandered for the last several years. The first, when I was thirteen. I was supposed to be in school, but instead I stayed home. I didn't feel all that good, but certainly in hindsight, well enough to go to school. But instead, I stayed home that day and discovered masturbation. That discovery has impacted my life every day since, and in many ways, directed it. It's not that I most likely wouldn't have discovered the self gratification at another time, but not in the same way. And it may not have grabbed me in the same way. But, at at time when boys goes off to school, I remained at home.

The second event was when I was much older...45 to be exact. I was near the top of my career...a success by every social definition of the word. I was happy in my marriage, I was happy in my job. We had a beautiful home. But there was something missing that I still struggle in understanding. I still found myself drawn to pornography. By now, it wasn't just an occasional trip to an adult book store when I was out of town on my own. No...by now I had discovered internet pornography. Even that discovery would be another example of not being where I should be, but that may be a story for another time. On this day, I found myself in my hotel room after a long day of a conference. I had spent some time on the "net", checking all the usual porn sites. I had called Paula, telling her how much I missed her (which I did). But then, when I should have found myself in a good book, or reading an article in a professional journal, I found myself drawn back to my laptop...back to the sites. However, it seemed nothing I looked at nor anything I read fulfilled any of the longing, or lust, or desire that I felt. And then it happened.

I found myself choosing to explore a chat room. I can't completely explain why. I had never gone to one before. Our youngest son had spent some time, actually a lot of time, in some chat rooms the previous month when we were on vacation together, but I still don't know if that was what led me there. But there I was, at the "Hotmail" homepage, looking at the link to "chat" and I pressed it. For awhile, I went from page to page, exploring the titles of the different rooms. They were so varied, essentially a chat room for just about everything. I ended up clicking on a master link that said "teen". And again, a long list of room titles. Then it happened...one stood out to me. I can still remember the name, even after six plus years. "15/m/ga" What did it mean? I really didn't know, and in fact I really didn't understand completely until months later. But in my mind, I thought it meant a 15 year old male who was gay. I paused for a second, and then clicked and found myself in a room with two people talking. It was obvious that I interupted them, though in my nievity I didn't really get it. One of them asked me for my "ASL". I just sat there, wondering what that could possible mean. Then he said he was going to kick me out because I didn't answer him, and I found myself out of the room, looking at the big list again. I should have taken that as a warning, but I didn't...my stubborness raised its ugly head. Instead, I re-entered. As I did, I felt a wave of an ice-cold breeze blow across my naked body, but I didn't heed that either. Again, he asked me my ASL? This time I told him I had never been in a chat room before and didn't know what ASL was. So he told me..."age, sex, location." Oh, I thought. I knew I couldn't tell him the truth, so I answered, "15/m/Washington state". He told me his name was John and that he lived in Georgia. (I finally figured out the GA was Georgia, not gay about 6 months later.) The other person left and John and I found ourselves just talking...until he told me he had to go because it was getting late. I looked at the bedside alarm and saw the red LED reading out almost 1:00 AM. I was shocked...I had been chatting with this guy for over an hour and a half. He gave me his e-mail address and told me he'd like to visit again sometime. As he logged off, I couldn't believe that there was someone out there who was going through the same struggles with his sexuality that I had struggled with as a teenager myself. It was like there was someone that I could finally talk to about it.

As time went on, I became almost consumed with wanting to chat with teenage boys who were struggling with there feelings about other boys. I would find myself going to chatrooms at work, even staying late at times because I was in a conversation and I would lose track of time. When Paula was out of town, I would go on-line to talk to these new "friends" I had made in the rooms. I would go off-line just long enough to call her each night, and tell her how much I missed her, and how much I loved her...and then go back on-line as soon as we would hang up. There were nights that I would chat all night long, glancing at the clock and see that it was 5:30 AM and I would need to get ready for work in a half an hour. Sadly, all of the chats weren't just about talking. My sexual depravity was also triggered, and I would find others who would want a sexual release as much as I did, and I would find myself in "cybersex". Now I would just call it "pornography in words." I may never know the damage those "sessions" have done to my soul.

But, the damage to my life are visible for all to see. The chatrooms led to people giving me links to "other" pornography. I didn't look for it, the pictures of teen boys with each other, but it found me anyway. And like during the earlier years of my life, the pornograhy hooked me. I would join more and more "groups" that had the pictures. I didn't find myself looking at them often, but it was like I had to have them...I had to have more and more. The pictures were images of my own youth in many ways...and of my fantasies during those years.

Eventually, Paula found out. The first time, it shattered her heart. The second time, it shattered our lives!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Fruit of Summer...and...

I love the summer! The warmth of the sunshine on my skin. The cool splash of water as I swim or go water skiing. The time away from school and the joy I find in work. As a boy, it was the time of helping to pull the weeds in the vegetable garden, mowing the lawn and bringing the freshly cut and baled hay into the barn. As I reflect on summer, it's a time of fruit...and a time of weeds.

The summer of my life is much the like the summers we find in nature. For me, the majority of my focus was always on the fruit, while I let the weeds slowly grow, setting their roots deep into my soul. If one were to look at my life, from the time I graduated from college, until I was arrested, they would probably see the definition of success. I took my first teaching job, working as a high school science teacher and assistant coach in football and wrestling. Almost immediately, I continued to go back to college, spending countless night commuting up to 150 miles round trip for each class. The community I was living and working in was small and had no college campus of its own. I took part time jobs in the summer and on the nights I wasn't taking classes or coaching to help pay the bills. Regardless of what many people want to say...young teachers do not make a lot of money.

After a couple of years, I had started into a masters program in administration. After seven years as an assistant coach, I became a head football coach and spent the next five years trying to lead and mold young men, while at the same time, trying to put some numbers in the "win" column. They were far and few between. I finished up my masters degree and looked to move onto administration.

The frustrations of trying to get a job were frustrating the first year. Countless resumes sent out, but only two interviews...one in my own home district. But alas, no job offer. So it was another year in the classroom, continuing to improve my administrative skills, working hard not to burn any bridges in this district that I was working in...this district who didn't hire their own. But the following spring, I was back on the job hunt trail. More resumes sent out. Trips across the state to drop them off personally...time with Paula in the car. Once again, a job in my own district. Once again, a rejection. At times the pain still flairs from that last rejection. But God had other plans for me, and I was hired as an assistant principal in a high school in a community about 30 miles away from where I was working.

That first year went fast, and as springtime came around, the principal walked over to my office and sat down and told me he was retiring. He suggested that I should consider applying for his job. I was surprised...I had only been an administrator for a year and I didn't have the experience I thought the district would want in a leader at the high school level. I was wrong...and in late May of that year, I was hired as the principal of the high school. That wouldn't have happened if I had stayed where I was. Not if my last district would have hired me for any of the three jobs I had applied for. But God's plan is so much greater than my own. He continued to bring forth fruit in my life.

A new job. A new home...a dream home that Paula and I helped to design ourselves. The years went by quickly...too quickly as I reflect now. I loved the job, but there was always a job that was a little higher up the chain. The people I worked with liked and respected my management style and the way I treated people. They liked the way I was always learning...trying to stay out front in our profession. And when a job as an assistant superintendent came open in our district, they encouraged me to go for it. So I did after thought and prayer. I thought I would always want to be a principal...working closely with teachers and students. But the opportunity to provide instructional and curricular improvement for all of the students and teachers in the district was too great for me, so I applied for the job. And once again, I got it. I continued the climb up the "success ladder" that as a society we place so much emphasis on. The success always brings happiness...doesn't it?

The thing about jobs is that no matter where we are and no matter what our current job is, there always seems to be a better one. As I worked as an assistant superintendent, my boss Rich encouraged me to continue my schooling and go back to school for my superintendents credential. That way, if I ever wanted to apply for the "top job", I'd be ready. I took his advise. He was a good mentor for me, the type of superintendent in my many ways I would want to be. Once again, God opened a door for me. It was a new community, a new district. And when I went and interviewed for the job, it was crystal clear that this would be my next job. And it was. In the summer of 2003, I had it...the top job. I was a superintendent of schools...one of less than 300 like jobs in the state. From the outside, the fruit of the summer was magnificent. The crop was bumper. The barns were full and the prospects of having plenty for next season was high. But, it was an illusion. For during that summer season of my life, I had focused on the fruit...the produce, but I had neglected the weeds. And the weeds were like none you usually see in a field. No, these weeds were deep, and deceptive. You had to look deep to find them and if you didn't get rid of them from the deep roots, they could destroy everything. The weeds were there, and they were left unattended.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tears for Edmund...tears for Me

I just got through watching "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" for the third time this morning. As I sat in my RV...what I call home right now, I was surprised (and not) to find hot, burning tears running down my cheeks throughout the movie. It is a beautiful story by C.S. Lewis, actually the entire series of "The Chronicles of Narnia" are so magical and teach such a wonderful lesson of life here on planet earth. I didn't read the series until the summer before I went into prison...a mere three years ago. And in fact, I had never heard of the books until I was 46 years old. I'm sure there was a reason for the delay, as there always is in the grander scheme of things. For if I'd read the books when I was a child, I may not have revisited them as an adult, when I really needed to learn the lessons that Lewis was teaching through his writing.

As I watched the movie again today, I thought about the characters. The casting director for the movie did an amazing job in choosing the actors for each part, especially Peter and Edmund. I recall as I read the book, I pictured myself more like Peter. I think most boys, and men, would. After all, who doesn't want to be the "Magnificent" king. In the movie, he looks like a young Prince William, future king of England. Striking, handsome, blonde, noble. I'm sure there are other adjectives. While at times he is uncertain, he always seems to come through as the hero. He made the right decisions at the right time. He was brave at just the right time. He was fearless when he needed to be fearless. He's who I wanted to be as boy. In my dreams, he is who I would have chosen to be..."Peter, the Magnificent."

But life isn't like that. And that is why the tears came again today. The first two times I watched this movie, I was in prison. And you probably would not be surprised to know that it isn't a very good idea for a grown man to find himself in tears watching a family movie in prison. The other men there would like at you kind of strangely...and perhaps dangerously. But today, I just let them flow. I've always found myself crying easily at movies, especially those involving children. And even more so when there is something about the plot and story line that reminds me something of my own hurts or pains or memories. The tears today were for Edmund. Today, for the first time maybe, I saw myself clearly in his character...and it broke my heart.

If you look deep into the character, you can see the pain in his life. His dad is gone, maybe never to return. He is the third of four children. There is an older brother who seems to know it all, and tries to step in and take charge. He's an angry young man, and he's probably not even sure why. And, he's a liar and traitor. I can look at myself in the mirror and see my life in his. My tears started today as he ventured into Narnia for the first time and encounter the White Witch. She claimed to be something she wasn't and offered him something, Turkish Delight, that he craved. It's not so different from discovering the pleasures I discovered as a thirteen year old. It became an insatiable desire, a thirst I would do most anything to quench.

The tears continued to flow as he lied to Peter and Susan when he and Lucy came back from Narnia the first time. Like mine had so many times, his lies flowed so easily. He had a secret, and he felt he had to do anything, including lying, to keep it that way. The sting of the tears were for the inner pain and turmoil you could see in his eyes...at least I could because I've felt them before. Every major scene Edmond was in brought a new round of tears. The humiliation of having to wear the "girls" fur coat and the way Peter made him feel like it was an appropriate for of attire for him...striking at the heart of his young, developing masculinity. The fear he had when he finds himself in the prison of the White Witch, in chains. Chains of bondage brought on by his reckless desire for the Turkish Delight. I've had my own chains...the chains of impure desires, pornography and masturbation.

One of the most powerful scenes in the entire movie is when Edmund is standing at the top of the hill, his head down in shame, facing Aslan. At times, I think Edmund is braver in that scene than I've been many times in my life, but I can thank God that I was eventually brought to that place. The place where I finally faced my past, all of the demons and the mistakes. Edmund slowly walks down the hill, his brother and sisters waiting for him. His head still hanging, embarrassed...not knowing what to say. Aslan saves him from the apology...telling them that the past is past and there's no need to talk about it. As Edmund's sisters walk up, smiling and hugging him, the tears flow harder...waiting. For what? Peter. What will he do? What will become of the relationship with his brother? It's not what I had hoped for...not what I would have needed if I was Edmund at that point. There's no hug...no "glad to see back home and safe"...not even a smile at first. Peter tells him to go get some rest, and then as Edmund walks away, a slight joke about not wandering off again. It brought a smile to Edmund, but not to me.

I almost found myself sobbing, and I had to ask myself why? What was it that I needed...or that I need now...that brought the wracking in my chest? I believe it is simply relationship. Like every human, I needed to be a part of a family. To feel loved. To feel needed. To feel like I belong. But sin has such a terrible power to take all of that away. It isolated me, even from myself. Certainly from those that I loved the most, and those that loved me.

Finally, the tears came as Peter and Edmund learn of the death of Aslan. They weren't tears for Aslan...I know how the story ends. But it was for Edmund, as he finally gets it. And for Peter, who finally becomes the king he was destined to be. The scene shows Edmund and Peter talking, and Edmund telling Peter that he must lead the army into battle against the armies of the White Witch. Peter says that he can't do it, but Edmund finally understands. He understands because he has already received the gift...the gift of forgiveness, from Aslan. And in his own way, he passes that gift on to Peter. He tells Peter that Aslan believed Peter could lead them to victory, and that he did too. It was such a profound moment. All of the anger and frustration that Edmund had toward his brother was gone. His forgiveness for every pain that Peter had caused him, intentionally or not, were forgiven. And my heart cried at that, because that's where I find myself. In a state of complete forgiveness. Forgiveness toward my parents, toward those who abused me as a child, for myself.

That forgiveness is such a gift from God. It allows me to sit here today and write this. Without the forgiveness, the words would be full of hatred and bitterness. I pray that they are not. I pray that through all that I write in these entries, my heart is revealed. My heart is healed. I'm not alone in my pain...there are so many who have faced much greater adversity than I have. There are those who have paid terrible prices for the sins of others...I know that only too well.

After I finished watching the movied this morning, I put the DVD back in...and I watched it again. The tears didn't come the second time. I don't believe it was because I was "cried out." No, as I watched the second time, I understood. I saw who I was...who I had been. I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we would all have to admit we are more like Edmund that we are like Peter. And, surprising, I'm glad that I can see that. And I'm proud in a way that I was like Edmund at both the beginning of the story and at the end. He was transformed from a liar and traitor to a friend...a brother... a hero. So today, as I watched...and cried...I shed those tears for Edmund, and I shed them for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Beginning of the Summer of my Life

The first day of summer arrived one week ago as I walk along the deck that leads to Paula's front door. We have known each other now for a year and half and I have never had feelings for anyone like I have for her. I still remember the cold, October 27th in 1984 when I met her for the first time. I had seen her once before, in the weight room at the high school where I taught. She and a friend were there, working out, as part of a city recreation program I was supervising. I noticed her beauty then, but didn't approach her. She was way out of my league. But months later, I received a call from a common acquaintance that Paula would like to meet me and that I should call her. So, I did...and we met in the parking lot of an elementary school in a neighboring town.

I was moving into a new place that day, so I arrived in faded blue jeans and a sweatshirt. I hadn't even showered and I'm not sure if I had even shaved that morning. After all, it was a Saturday. I arrived in the parking lot and saw the car, the only one in the lot. I pulled up beside it in my sporty RX7. She was driving a white Chevrolet. As I approached the car, I saw the most beautiful woman imaginable. You see, when I agreed to meet Paula, I didn't really know who she was. I had agreed to meet her because I wasn't seeing anyone, and our acquaintance said she was a good, and nice person. Her long blonde hair cascaded down over the collar of her white fur coat. Her smile captivated me and her eyes sparkled like the stars in the blackest night. As she sat there in the driver's seat, she invited me to join her and I sat beside her in the passenger seat.

The next several hours are still a blur. We sat and talked...and talked. She had prepared a list of questions. Paula wanted to get to know who I was. It was amazing as I sat there, answering her questions. I'm not sure if I really asked her much about herself. As I reflect back on the late afternoon, as the cold wind blew across the Yakima valley, Paula was teaching me much about what it meant to be a friend...yet I missed the lesson. It was about communication. She got it, but I didn't. I had a bit of a reputation during those days...not all good. It seemed that most everyone it seems knew that I didn't hesitate to sleep with everyone woman that I went out with. It seem to matter if they were married or not. I say that with great regret, because at times the women were the wives of my "friends". So she asked questions about my sexuality. She even said that she had heard rumors that I might be gay. I quickly denied it, not so much because I was afraid I might be gay, but because I just didn't want to talk about that part of my past. In fact, I hadn't really thought much about that time of my life during those years. I realize now that God had given me an opportunity on the cold afternoon to face some of my past, and that He had placed someone in my life who would have listened. Of course, I also know that it's possible that if I had shared that day those aspects of my personal history, it might have been my one and only meeting with Paula.

The afternoon and early evening went by much too quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to leave. The questions were over, and it seemed that I had passed the test...even with the questions that I glossed over. As I said goodbye, I leaned across the car and gave this special woman a brief kiss. It could have lasted so much longer, but even then, I didn't know if my lips would ever touch hers again. I got in my car, and sat there for a moment, watching her drive away. My heart was full...it felt bigger than it had in years, maybe even ever.

I remember going back to my little apartment and loaded my last boxes in my car and drove to my new place. I put the few boxes that I had in the various rooms and went to my bedroom where the phone was located. I wanted to tell someone about this incredible woman that I had just met, so I called my sister. She lived about 200 miles away, but we had been close at different times in my life. During my college years, it was my sister who would write me regularly, even sending me an occasional "care package" of home made chocolate chip cookies. She was single at the time, working for a technology firm. Her life would soon change as she would get married and we would drift apart to a certain degree, as all family members do. But now, she was single again. She had recently divorced and was going back to school.

I think she may have been a little surprised to hear my voice when she picked up the phone. We talked a little bit and then I told her. I can still remember the words. I told her, "I met the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with today!" I knew at that moment that Paula was the one that I wanted to be my wife. My sister and I talked for a while as I explained my visit that afternoon. I'm sure she probably thought that I was crazy to think that after being with Paula for only a few hours that I truly thought she should be my wife. In my heart, I'm not sure I believed that it could ever really happen. She was so beautiful and had so much going for her. In my mind's eye, I was just an ordinary guy. Not overly attractive. My ears were too large and I was on the shy side. But, I didn't think about that at that particular moment. I just knew that this incredible woman had just entered my life, and I didn't want to lose her.

As it turned out, we started dating and we would spend hours together, just talking. Like Scott, she had the gift of conversation. We talked about a future and the places we wanted to go someday. We talked about her three children, who ranged from the age of 5 to 14. As time went on, I met her family and she met mine. Her's were incredible to me, a picture of love and what I had always dreamed a family should be. And so, I decided.

I had made reservations at a "one of a kind" restaurant in nearby Yakima. And I had spent a day in Seattle picking out just the perfect ring. I was nervous as I walked up the deck to her front door. She didn't have a clue what I had planned. She opened the door and took my breath away...once again, as she always did when I saw her. As I went in and took a seat on the couch, the phone rang and it was her daughter calling. She was spending the weekend out at the farm with her dad. I don't remember what the conversation was about, but it wasn't a good one. By the time Paula got off the phone, she was near the onset of a migraine. I thought for a moment about postponing my plan for the evening, but I decided this was the time. So I walked across the front room and reached into my pocket and pulled out the small, black box. I'm not sure if it immediately registered to Paula what it was. I often gave her jewelry. As she opened the box, the reaction wasn't exactly what I expected. She didn't scream or run into my arms. She just looked at the ring, and then at me. Back and forth. And then I said it...I wanted her to be my wife, to spend the rest our lives together. There was pain in her eyes, either from the migraine that was creeping up on her, or from the thought of what it would be mean to be married. She knew she was bringing baggage into a marriage and that in her own mind, she didn't think I should have to bear raising three kids that weren't my own. She knew that my marrying a divorced woman would change me in some way as it would any man. She accepted the ring, but didn't give me an answer on the warm day, one week into that summer of 1986. We went on to dinner and a night I will remember forever...a time that was at the beginning of the summer of my life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Scott...a definition of friendship...and not

I'm struggling today...wondering why I have been writing here. Wondering if the writing alone is bringing me any peace. I know that it will take much more than just seeing parts of the story of my life in print. I realize that if I believe that pouring the words out on paper by itself will bring the healing and the peace I seek, I am only destined to repeat the failures of my past. There is truly only one path to the peace that I seek, and that's through my Lord, Jesus. Maybe Jesus is using this process to see what it was I truly was for so many years. I know that I will never know exactly what it is that I want Christ to do in my life...the changes I want Him to make through me if I don't realize where I've been--and what I've done.

It has always been difficult for me to open up...to be transparent. I guess that just means I'm a man because most men face that same challenge. I can count on less than one hand the number of people that I can remember in my life that I've been able to talk to, not just listen to. That is usually my comfort level...listening as someone else carries the conversation. I've become very adept at asking the open ended question that someone else can spend minutes...or sometimes hours, answering. There is a lot of safety in that for me. As I've considered this communication strategy I've used, I've come to understand that it has been my means of protecting myself. If I'm not telling much of my own story, I've been able to keep my secrets...and my worries and fears to myself. Even some of those that I've been able to really talk to, I've managed to damage the relationship through my actions when I've been drunk.

One of these individuals is named Scott. He was my college room mate and someone who brought things out in me that few others ever have. He could make me talk...not sure the surface stuff, but really talk. I met him during my third year in college when he entered as a freshman and lived on the same floor of the dorm as I did. I had met his older brother the year before, but had never met Scott. One evening, I found him knocking on my door. Apparently he knew that I loved to golf, and he needed to know how to spell a particular word that maybe only an avid golfer would know. He was writing an English paper on golf and couldn't remember if "Titleist" contained an "e" or not. I gave him the correct spelling and tossed him a golf ball. We soon started to become friends. He was a very good golfer and we spent many afternoons in the spring on the golf course. He made me feel very comfortable and free for the first time in many years. Scott was a genuine friend, and didn't want or expect anything from me.

One night that first year he was in the dorm, we went over to a movie night that specialized in adult movies on the weekends. I had had too much to drink and during the movie, one of my hands ended up where it shouldn't have. The memory of the night was foggy to me the next morning but I woke with that fear that I often did the morning after a drunk. Scott got very quiet and the next day, began to avoid me. Our friendship was fractured. Although he never told me at the time why he drifted away, in my heart I think I knew. But Scott did something few other 'friends' ever did. He got over it and our friendship only grew stronger. It was the following year that we became room mates.

There were many nights during the two years that we roomed together when I'd be laying in my bed and Scott would be over in his small room and he would speak across the middle room, asking me if I wanted to "BS" tonight. My answer was always yes. I enjoyed his conversation and he made me feel alive. As the years progressed, Scott became like a brother to me. Actually, more than that because I developed a bond and love for him that I didn't have with my own brothers...not with anyone. I remember as we continued to build and strengthen our friendship, I told him that I wanted him to be my best man when I got married. He accepted and said that he would be honored to.

But my secrets and my life would even manage to destroy that. During my last semester of college, Scott was with me and some our other friends. We had all been out partying most of the night and about ten of us all crashed at a friends house. The friend was gay and before the night was over, the "friend" and I found ourselves together. Things happened that shouldn't have, and Scott didn't sleep all the way through the night.

When we got back to college the following Monday, he was once again quiet and distant. Even though I guessed that he must have seen or heard something, I asked him. He explained it all. He point blank asked me if I was gay. I told him what I believed then, and I still believe today. I told him "no." But I also told him that I struggled with doing things with other guys when I was drunk. I didn't tell him my entire history or things from my childhood. I never told anyone those things. Scott told me about what had happened the two years before at the movie theater and I told him how sorry I was. Scott's friendship to me was more important than getting intimate with him in any way. It took about a week, but our friendship seemed to grow back together. I remember that I took a girl back to my side of the room one night while I knew he was on the other side and had sex with her. It was important to me that he knew I was telling him the truth.

Many years passed from the days that we shared a dorm room and the weekend of my marriage. I didn't see Scott often, but when I'd go back home, I'd try to see him. I missed his wedding to Kris, a friend of both of ours. It is one of the greatest regrets that I have. I didn't feel very good that day...it was football season and I'd been coaching a game the night before. I was fighting a cold and it was a five hour drive to the wedding so I stayed home. I wasn't the friend to him I should have been. As my own wedding day approached, I thought of Scott and the request I'd made of him when we were room mates...to be my best man. But I was afraid. Scott knew too much of my past and Paula knew nothing. I was afraid that Scott might say something...let something slip that would tarnish who I was before my bride. So, I broke my word to my best friend. I didn't ask him to be my best man. I didn't know at the time how much I'd hurt him.

About three years later, I was in Spokane with a couple of my assistant football coaches for a golf tournament. One of our foursome dropped out at the last minute and we were looking for a fourth. I called Scott because he lived relatively close. He agreed to come to Spokane the next day and play in our group. It was a great day. You know how it is with friends. You just seem to pick up where your last conversation ended...even if it was five years ago. Scott never mentioned my wedding or his not being invited. After the tournament was over, we all spent a night of drinking. Scott had way too much to drink and I wasn't far behind him. As we closed down the bars in Spokane, we told Scott he needed to stay in town with us because it was too far for him to drive home as drunk as he was. But he was a new father, and he wanted to get home to his baby girl and Kris.

I told him I would drive him. I tossed the keys to my car to my friends and I jumped in his car and we started to drive with my friends following. I didn't tell them that Scott lived almost 45 miles away. I remember little about the drive to his house...I just remember getting there. Kris was awake, waiting for Scott to get home. I helped Scott into the house and gave him a big hug and he staggered into the bedroom. Then I went into the kitchen and hugged Kris. Although I was older than both Scott or Kris, we had become friends. Kris shared with me that night how hurt Scott was that I didn't ask him to be my best man. I couldn't tell her why I didn't...I only apologized to her and told her to tell Scott how sorry I was.

When I was arrested three and half years ago, Scott is the only friend that I wanted to call. But I didn't. My shame was too great. My heart still anguishes over my inability to be a good friend. My inability to trust...anyone. I know in my heart that Scott was much too good of a friend to have betrayed my past at my wedding or with my wife. But, still, at the time I didn't trust. Nearly 18 years after not trusting the best friend I had before the age of 30, I would repeat that lack of trust with the person who was the best friend I ever had in my entire life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Great Escape

These last few entries have been very hard for me. In fact, some I haven't even posted because of the shame and embarrassment they bring to me. It's hard to look back at my life and see how self destructive I have been. For years, I never saw it...I guess because I wasn't looking for it. I was living a lie where I thought that I was in control of everything. I was successful because I worked hard! I had a beautiful wife because there must have been something about ME that she loved. Of course, there was, but what she saw in me was only a part of who I am...who I was.

I believe all men want to believe that they are more powerful than they really are. And when something comes in our life that challenges us, that is too powerful for us to overcome on our own, we retreat somewhere. It's probably an innate response that has helped to ensure the survival of our species for eons. But there are some very dangerous places to retreat out there...places that I found.

While my parents had faults, one of the things that I can look back and appreciate is that they didn't drink very much alcohol. It may have been because there was alcoholism on my mom's side of the family, or maybe they were just aware enough to know how dangerous it can be. Sadly though, that didn't prevent me from discovering the pleasures...and the hell...of alcohol on my own.

Like most of us, my first taste a beer was not very pleasant...in truth, it tasted pretty horrible to me. And so did the Canadian Club whiskey that one of my brothers and his friends "found" in the boats that were moored in the boathouses all along the lake and river near where we lived. But while I didn't like the taste of the alcohol at first, I did like the way that it made me feel. It allowed me to drop my guard, to let some of my inhibitions free. Sometimes that was a good thing, because I would find it easier to talk to others even though I was shy. But there was a much darker side for me, just as there is for most who abuse the 'nectar of the vine'. It brought out the impure desires of my heart, the fantasies that lay there, and with the lowered inhibitions, at times I acted on them.

I've read that many victims of sexual abuse tend to "sexualize" their relationships. That was the case with me. In my mind, as twisted and damaged as it was, it seemed like it would be natural that if someone liked me, or I liked someone, they would want to be sexual with me. This was especially true when I had been drinking. I can look back on my adolescent years and see most of my friendships damaged or destroyed because I pushed the envelope too far when it came to 'physical contact'. For the most part, it wasn't an overt sexual touch, but I think most of my friends could tell there was something slightly 'inappropriate' about things I would say or do. Those former friends and acquaintances can probably look back now and not be surprised by the events of my life int the past four years.

It seemed as I moved further along in junior high and high school, by frequency of drinking and binging increased. By the time my sophomore year was over, I had nearly overdosed on alcohol at least once, drinking essentially an entire bottle of rum that my brother had in his bedroom on New Year's Eve. By the time I graduated, I was a black out drinker, not remembering much of what may have transpired during a night of drinking. I would find myself back at home, or at a friends house in the morning, and not have any idea how I got there.

As damaging as the drinking was, it served me for what I wanted it to be. It was my escape. At times, my great escape. For the few hours, I could be someone I wasn't. Or, in a darker sense, be someone or do something that I knew in the depths of my heart were wrong. The effect of the booze kept the knowledge hidden, at least for a few hours. Of course, there was always the piper to pay in the morning. Not just the throbbing headache and other hangover effects, by the impact on my soul. The guilt and shame. The questions I would ask myself...wondering if I had done anything that might reveal my secret fantasies--wondering if any of my friends or classmates would look at me differently on Monday because of what I'd become on Saturday. I'm not sure how I survived my high school years without my fantasies and secret life being revealed. But soon, my luck would change, and in some ways, my life was changed forever.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Into Bondage

At the time, I had no idea what was going to happen. I was thirteen, just trying to figure out this new body I was acquiring. It was changing so rapidly...most if it I think I enjoyed, but it was still confusing. I started to feel things physically and emotionally that were all new to me. It seems like I spent a lot of time exploring this new body of mine. It was amazing the sensations that a simple or prolonged touch could bring to me.

How it actually happened isn't really that important, although it is an event that I am not likely to ever forget, as I doubt anyone does. I'm talking of course about my first experience with masturbation and ecstasy that comes with the release. Like a first kiss, there is probably nothing that compares to the first orgasm. And that became my problem...trying to get it right again.

I've never used drugs, so I don't know what it's like to be high. I don't know what it's like to be addicted to a chemical substance...or even an organic one. But there are times now that I wonder if I would have been better off if it had been pot or something else that put its hooks in me. Because with that first time, I surrendered a part of me. To whom or what, I don't have the answer. I think many of us would probably describe him as someone with a pitchfork and horns and long tail with a point on the end of it. I really don't know. But I do know that with that one simple act as a thirteen year old, I came into a bondage I can't completely describe. A friend asked me recently what my worst habit was. I didn't answer him completely, but only that it was one that began when I was thirteen. I think you can easily guess what it is, as I'm sure he did as well.

The "problem" has plagued me my life every since that moment. Until the age of nineteen, there probably wasn't more than three days ever pass without my seeking the pleasure and the release. At nineteen, I was able to go six weeks, and that seemed almost unbearable. But I was in the Navy at the time, and there wasn't much privacy nor opportunity or I probably wouldn't have lasted that long. As I look back on my life from this end, it's easy to see that I've been a slave to the act and have used it much like I used books before that first time. It has been my method of escape...an entry into a fantasy world. It was one way that I could control some aspect of my life, even if only for a few moments. It has been my crutch when I've been angry, or depressed. Stressed or frustrated. At times, even when I was happy...or at least it seemed I was. But the fantasy continued to call me.

The fantasies pulled me into a different world though...my dark closet. At first, the thoughts were what you might expect from any young teenage boy. I thought of the girls I had crushes on, or the images I would see in the pornography I would steal from my dad. But they soon drifted to something more real, something I could grasp to at least a minor degree. My fantasies started to revolve around the only sexual contact I had really had, and that was with other boys. The guilt of the act was bad enough...the guilt of the thoughts that I was having was nearly unbearable. So I hid them, deep in my mind and my heart. I would only bring them out when I would go to that secret place, that dark closet when I would seek the pleasure and the release. And then, the thoughts, the memories (at least the pleasant ones), the fantasies would return. The boys in the fantasy rarely ever had a face to it. It was the thought of what we would be doing together. It was a feeling that was comfortable....it was a feeling of being cared for by someone. And it was attractive to me, very attractive.

But in my mind, and in my heart, I knew the feelings were wrong. They were sinful. They were condemning. And so, I began my life of self-condemnation. A life lived in two places. One, in the world with everyone else...seemingly normal. The other in the dark recesses of my mind where I wouldn't let anyone else enter. It was my secret. At times I felt like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings...like I was Smeagle at times and at other times like Gollum himself...self destructive. I wanted to give up the "ring", to give up the secret fantasies and desires, but it kept calling me back. Everytime I would seem to break away from the desire and the draw, some event would wind its way into my life to restore the feelings or the thoughts. As I got older, as I entered high school, the bondage was reinforced as I discovered a new way of escape. But it wasn't an escape from the bondage I was in, it was just another chain that connected with the dark secret that I was living in my mind.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Superhero is born!

For awhile, the books were my escape...the place I would go in my loneliness to find something I was looking for. Book after book, I would seek, but whatever it was, it still seemed so far off. As the years began to pass by, I began to change. It was that time...a time I think we all look forward to, yet dread at the same time. It's when our bodies begin to change in ways that we don't understand, and in some ways, we don't like.

Like many boys my age, I was curious about my body as it began to change. Things start to get larger and hair started to grow in places it didn't exist as anything other than fine gossamer threads. Although I had friends who were girls in elementary school, I began to look at them differently. They looked...different, and very nice. As I entered junior high school, I began to have my first real crushes on girls, and it brought something out in my heart that I really didn't even know existed...a yearning to really love someone-and be loved in return.

I remember an occasion during that time when I was at our "other place", Green Acres. It was a small farm my parents had purchased across the railroad tracks from our dairy. As kids, we would play and explore there often. It was at the foot of our "Mountain" where we spent countless hours and summers playing as children. But on this occasion, something was birthed within me. A superhero.

As a child reading, we would often have many comic books around. It was one of the ways our parents would keep us quiet and still on our many Sunday drives. A quick stop at the store and a handful of comic books were tossed into the back seat. I remember most of them as the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, or Little Lotta or the like. But occasionally, we also got a Batman and Robin or a Superman. On TV, we would sometimes watch the Batman and Robin serial in the afternoons. And like many kids, I wanted to be something special like those superheroes. So, I created on in my own mind.

I became..."Loverboy!" As I think back on it today, it seems so corny. And it was. But I realize something today that I never realized then, and actually not even until very recently. As "Loverboy", I wanted to love and be loved. It was missing from my life. There was a great emptiness in my heart. Any love that may have been in my life wasn't penetrating the scars that were in my chest...on my heart. So, like the books I had immersed myself into for the previous two years, I developed a fantasy person. A person who would be loved by everyone he came into contact with, and who would love them back. I remember a time, sitting on a fence rail, a sheet or towel wrapped around my neck, draping behind me, thinking that I was truly that superhero. That I could make anyone love me...and that I could love everyone else.

But reality has a harsh way of invading our fantasies, and junior high for most kids is a harsh reality. The girls that I developed crushes on didn't return the affection. For the most part, they laughed...or ignored. With each rejection, it became more difficult to reach out to the next girl. I became more and more shy and reserved. I found it less painful to live in my fantasies than it was to face the reality of life as a thirteen year old. I know I'm not alone in this journey. There are countless boys and girls, men and women, who walked the same painful hallways that I did. Some may not have become a superhero in their own mind...they coped with the rejection in some other way. Some more destructive than others. But for me, that superhero was my refuge, until I discovered a different way of escape...a way that would control me in a way for the next 35 years.