Thursday, October 2, 2014

Defensive Fortifications and Constant Protection

I just finished reading Alma chapter 50. This is an amazing chapter that describes in good detail the steps Captain Moroni took to protect his people. Moroni did more than place armies in the most vulnerable parts of the land. He built actual forts. Moroni turned each city on the front lines into a strong hold that could be used to defend the city. And after making the cities forts, he placed armies there to protect them.

The Book of Mormon tells that the people of the Nephites picked for their military leaders, except in times of wickedness, men who had the spirit of prophecy. Captain Moroni was one of these men. After Moroni finished these preparations, there was approximately four years of peace. Four years with no wars or contentions or bloodshed. For many at the time, the preparations probably seemed excessive. Many might have thought the government wasted money on such protections. And I can imagine many were critical of Moroni for having gone through such an undertaking.

But one years, their enemies, the Lamanites, attacked them. That was approximately 67 BC. The wars lasted until approximately a decade. Ten years, where the entire goal of the Nephites was to get back their lands and to rid themselves of the Lamanites and send them back to their own lands. Never did the Nephites take a truly offensive posture, unless it was to get back lands that had been taken by the Lamanites. The Nephites never invaded the Lamanite lands, but they sought their own lands.

During and after the war, Moroni's preparations seemed very wise. Even though many cities were still taken, it can be said that the conquest of the Lamanites was diminished because of the difficulty in conquering the Nephite cities. Without the fortifications of Moroni's designs, each city would have been easily obtainable. And any chance to fortify the lands after the manner Moroni instructed during the war would have been utterly impossible and resulted in even more death for the Nephites.

Moroni's wisdom in early preparation is not without warning for us today. I, who am in the middle of recovery from a pornography addiction, have had many struggles in my life that could have been prevented had I built better fortifications when younger. Not wanting to dwell on mistakes made in the past, but learn from them, I find myself in a place where I have the struggle of fighting a battle and strengthening my fortifications at the same time. In the realm of the spiritual, thankfully it isn't impossible, but it is still difficult. There are many things I have learned.

I have learned that my enemy is fairly constant in attacks against me. The Adversary doesn't have to tempt me, my body will do that for me. I have learned that there is a difference between having a good day and having a day where the addiction is present, but not consuming and I don't heed the pulls and tugs it offers. Just a few days ago, my mind was offered images about once an hour for an 8 hours shift. Not once did I indulge, give heed or pay attention. I was able to dismiss the thoughts very easily. While the day was good, the addiction was beginning its cycle. I have learned that I need to know that cycle and pay attention to it so I can break it.

Thankfully, in this battle for body and spirit, I have a Captain on my side, who not only knows the enemies tactics, but has already prepared a way for the enemy to be destroyed. Christ has given me many tools for defeating this enemy of mine and I need to learn them. Then I must also take steps on my own to build the fortifications to protect myself from further attack and protect my family. read the scriptures; say daily prayers twice a day; study about what my addiction does to me physically; attend the temple; have people I can call when the addiction is near; confide in my wife and be honest about my struggle.

Christ has stated He will not leave us. That's why He stands at the door and knocks. He only waits for us to act with Him. He waits for us to receive His comfort, healing  and grace. There is no enemy Christ has not conquered. Since Christ has conquered His enemies, He can also conquer ours.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Destruction and Contruction of Intimacy and Building Zion

Being married, the topic of intimacy is never far from my mind. I love my wife and she loves me. We are intimate with one another. And over the course of my addiction and recovery, I have learned an awful lot of what intimacy truly is. I hope to impart some of this to you today. I hope this is done appropriately since I am talking about a sacred subject.

Pornography addiction gives to the addict a certain idea of what intimacy entails. Addicts believe the foundation of intimacy is physical, and from the physical aspects of intimacy, emotions bloom that help men have a greater love for their wives. I believe the world accepts this as true also along with the idea that intimacy is emotional. There can be later debate if the world believes the foundation of intimacy is physical or emotional, and I will talk about emotions roles in intimacy later.

It is true that true love, romantic love and even sexual intimacy have their foundation in the chemical emotions people experience when they begin their journey together.But these first emotions cannot be the continuing foundation of intimacy. These first emotions when a person catches our eye will not sustain a marriage into the eternities.

The addict isn't wrong though, and I will return to that thought in a moment. But what the addict doesn't understand is what the addiction does to destroy intimacy. One part of love that addiction kills is the capacity to grow in love. The addict does love their spouse and children, but their love is trapped at the point that the addict lost their agency. What the addiction does to the brain is feed the addict the idea, through chemical means, that sex and intimate touch are purely physical; there are no emotions attached to touch. The chemicals dampen and eventually kill the the part of the brain that allows love to grow. I wish I could state this scientifically, but I can't. I have read experts and this is my summation of them.

The spiritual aspect of love that requires agency to chose to love our spouse is deadened because we are addicted. We have no agency. We cannot chose to love our spouse more because our brain won't allow us and our agency has been taken. Our love is stuck, as it were.

But there is something interesting about the addict's perspective on what physical intimacy is supposed to do. The addict isn't wrong. There should be a growth of love that comes from physical intimacy. But the addict can't experience it for the reasons I have stated. The problem with the addict's version is that it is incomplete. There is far more to intimacy than what the addict knows.

One other thing the world tends to believe is that intimacy is emotional, and they are correct. When physical intimacy is performed with emotions aligned, there is a growth of love between husband and wife. Couples that are dating or are engaged can feel their love grow through appropriate displays of physical intimacy when the driving force is a desire to love each other.

And this is beautiful. This is wonderful when couples come away from being intimate, however simple the display, and their love has grown. I have felt that as well, and the feeling is awesome.

But there is something still missing. There is something that will make for greater love between husband and wife. There is a third component to intimacy that bring greater ecstasy to the a marriage and it uses both the emotional and physical aspects of intimacy to amplify it: intimacy is spiritual in nature.

The world may laugh and addicts won't understand just yet, but the true foundation of intimacy is spiritual. Something I have learned is that love is built. We don't fall in love. We grow in love; we build love. A Gospel centered relationship is one that has a foundation centered on Christ and the love husbands and wives have for each other uses Christ as the center. It may seem inappropriate though it is not, but Christ wants to see husbands and wives have sex. When done with the right foundation, a spiritual foundation, the Holy Spirit will amplify the love and the physical joy that comes from physical intimacy.

The scriptures state that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh; Neither is the man without the women nor the woman without the man in the Lord. There is a purpose to this. Men and women are to become one. I believe it is widely known in the Christian world that the oneness is done through sex and bringing children into this world. But that is not it. That is not the end of the oneness.

The Lord called his people Zion. Why? Because they were of one heart and one mind. The family is the foundation of society and husband and wife are to be one. Physical intimacy is, for the man and woman, the ultimate way to bring Zion into their own home because the greatest display of love in marriage is found in physical intimacy. Prophets have said the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother. There are a myriad of ways to accomplish this and physical intimacy is one of the ways.

I have learned some amazing truths, some through harsh experience, of how sacred intimacy is between husband and wife. But as I progress through the recovery and grow in the light and knowledge of the Gospel, I learn some amazing things about love. I have learned much about what the relationship between my wife and I is supposed to be like. I am learning, growing and we are growing. It is wonderful, and beautiful to behold. I hope you too are seeing, and feeling, the beauty.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Can't Give My Wife a Valentine's Present This Year.

When I embarked on the journey that is marriage, I never would have guessed how hard marriage would be. Like I saw someone say recently, no one is ever prepared for marriage. Almost ten years into it, I am still learning about my wife and making her happy.

My wife and I have seen troubles, trials, tribulations and temptations. But we have also seen success serenity, silliness and happiness. I am sorry, I couldn't continue my alliteration. I am typing before my mind has been awakened.

Those who have every read my sporadic blog posts know that I am a recovering pornography addict. I make no mystery of that. Those in recovery should not be ashamed of what has happened to them. We feel sorrow that leads us to repent, but we should not feel shame. But because of my addiction, I have put my beloved wife through severe emotional and mental pain.

Nothing can be more degrading to a woman than to learn she is not the object of her husband's desires. These urges that men feel, which help begin the long journey that blossoms into love, are God-given, but they can be degrading when not used properly. I can say I degraded my wife many times by not mastering these godly desires.

Through my path of recovery, I have had a rocky, difficult and painful expedition. I have had relapses; I have struggled; I have slipped.

I have made her cry, sob, threaten to leave and yet every single time I have hurt her, she has showed me how amazing of a woman she is. Every time I relapsed and brought to bear all the pain I caused in the past and opened the scarred wounds from previous times, she has loved me. When she has learned that I put other women before her, and I have broken promises I made, she continues faithful in her promises.

But I have never stopped. I have seen the joys that come from making progress; that come from repentance; that come from seeing my wife rejoice in my recovery. I have pushed through the mire that is addiction so my wife can have her eternal companion that she fell in love with over ten years ago. I want to be that person and I am making progress towards becoming and staying that person.

What, then, can I give someone this Valentine's Day who has proved time and again that she is worthy of the greatest gifts God has to give his children? What can I give to a woman who has proven her love a thousand times over? What can I give to my beloved companion that would show how deeply grateful I am for her faithfulness and virtue?

And the answer?

I can't give her anything. There is nothing that I can give her this Valentine's Day that will express how grateful I am for what she has done for me. There is no gift, no present, no poem I could write (well, maybe a poem), nothing of monetary value out there that can express my appreciation and love to my amazing wife.

But in the end, I am not bereft of something I can give her. But this gift is not one of material value. The gift is not something tangible that can be held, touched or readily visible to the human eye. This gift will also not be given this Valentine's Day, but can be given every Valentine's Day, every birthday, every Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving and every day that I live. It is a life of virtue, chastity, and love shown towards my beautiful wife.

I will be getting her something for Valentine's Day though. I will be making an entryway table for our new house. As much as she wants the table, I will make it for her. I love her. I hope I do a good job on the table.

But this gift will be nothing compared to living a virtuous life. I want her. I want to be with her for eternity. I love her, even to spend the countless ages of a never ending existence with her. I can imagine nothing sweeter than knowing she is mine, and I am her's, experiencing the endless bliss with her.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I am back, for a limited time only.

I know I really need to do this blog. It is good for my ego, my soul, me heart and my addiction. The problem is, I don't know when I will get to it regularly. I hope to do this on a semi-quasi-irregular basis. I also hope this blog to turn into what I have always hoped it would turn into: A place of refuge for those who have suffered from addiction and are looking for hope that recovery is possible.

Things have changed in my life tremendously, and for the better. Recovery is going well. The Lord has blessed me immensely. Recovery has been beautiful since I baptized my son, which was one of the highlights of my still young life. The pullings and tuggings of addiction have lessened to the point of almost non-existence. I feel the Spirit of God in my life again. I am truly blessed.

Another big change has been our move from Montana to Wyoming where I am working as a police officer for the city of Rock Springs. It is a though, but rewarding, profession. I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of doing, thinking and thinking of what I might have to do in my life. This move was a great shift for us and we are glad we did it.

We have also bought a house. I am not the most thrilled of having a huge lump of money added onto my debt, but we feel this home is going to be a great blessing for us.

So, I hope that those who come by will find something new posted every now and then. I hope this isn't for just a limited time. I hope this will be permanent and helpful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

There is Hope After All

Amid the trials, tribulations, troubles, tempests, terrors and tasks that are ours to perform in this life, I am always amazed at the ability of the human spirit to rise above the filth that would darken our lives and drag us to depths we would not otherwise have gone.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, my mind honed in on hope, which was already a topic I was thinking about. Seeing one couple embrace the higher, Christ-like road was more than a breath of fresh air. It did more than raise the spirits of the down trodden who did not react the same way this amazing couple did. This couple, whose oldest daughter was killed that day, showed us that there is a greater plateau to live on. A better standard of living to embrace.

This standard of living is not found in the philosophies of men who, at one time or another, questioned the rationality of believing in a loving God. They deny the idea that there was a man who underwent the "human experiment" and can say to us, "I have walked a mile in your shoes. Let me help you."

There is no greater concept to ponder than the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That greatest of all events provides to men the chance to hope that good will, in the end, prevail.

I can imagine the couples that have chosen to let go instead of languish in agony have drawn upon the strength of the Savior. They have allowed Him to lift the burden which bears down upon them. He is the great physician and with him, there is healing. Through Him, we have hope; a hope which will never fail because He has never failed. We will see the good in this world and in others. Life will be, as it has been, better.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

To The Saintliest Woman

While this title equally applies to my beautiful wife, this post is not about her. This post is about my grandmother, Lorraine Sudweeks Burnham. This post is also a long time coming. My grandmother passed away October 22, 2011.

I was at Basic Combat Training and was with my platoon cleaning the drill pad when I head Drill Sergeant Bush call out for "Burnham!" I grabbed a battle buddy and we approached the drill sergeant and stood at ease. He invited me into the CQ (Charge of Quarters) Office and asked my battle (short for battle buddy) to wait outside. He then closed the door.

In my heart I knew what he was going to say. I just knew it. Yet even when he told me "Your grandmother, Lorraine, passed away today..." the weight of her death didn't hit me. I was given instructions to call my wife and I did. She was blessed enough to have her mother there, through what was really a very, very difficult time.

After I talked with my beloved wife, I left and went upstairs where the rest of the platoon was at. They were getting ready for the night; showering, getting in PTs (physical training uniform) for sleep and doing what they always do. I sat on my bed, buried my hands in my face and sobbed. Very few came to ask what was wrong. I was OK with that. After a good cry, I readied myself for bed and went to sleep. I thought, erroneously, after a good night's sleep, I would be fine. I was wrong.

Over the course of the next four or five days, while ruck marching, firing weapons, cleaning, learning drill and ceremony, I had multiple times where I wanted to break down crying. I needed to talk. I spoke with my platoon sergeant, asking him if he could spare some time to talk, and letting him know why. I had felt the night of the 22nd that I needed to talk with him in particular, but BCT scheduling isn't always conducive to what we want.

I finally did get my audience with Drill Sergeant Bell. I spoke with him for thirty minutes about my grandmother and what she meant to my wife and I. I cried, but tears of hope instead of grief. He asked if I would like to attend the funeral and I said no. My grandfather, Willard Burnham, was a ten year military man and my grandmother loved him for his service and to stay and do everything I was being asked to do at BCT would be honor to her. He understood. And then he did something I didn't expect. He got very personal with me.

Drill Sergeant Bell was at his AIT when he received word that his grandmother died. He was able to go to her funeral, but he regretted it, as he couldn't cry while he was there. He though something was wrong with him. Well, two weeks after her funeral, at the most inopportune time according to him, he broke down crying. But he was able to pull himself through his trials, as I was pulling myself through mine.

But there is so much more to my grandmother than her support of the military and her passing away when I was unable to attend her funeral. Those who know my wife know she struggled with Postpartum depression. At a time when I was full blown into my addiction, going to school full time and working seventy-two hours a weeks, I was unable to give her the full attention she needed.

It turned out that my sister just moved out of my grandmother's mobile home with her family so I asked her if we could live with her. I explained why we needed her help. She was willing to let us live there with little compensation to her. That turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. My wife was saved from her PPD because of my precious grandmother. She was an ear for listening, sage advice when needed, a great storyteller and even on occasional baby sitter.

This wonderful angel never asked anything of us other than a few dollars a month rent. She never asked us to give to her for the sacrifice she made to have us living there. All she did, and this was literal, was thank us for the privilege of serving us. Little did she know what her charity would do to our relationship. Now she knows far better than we do what her kindness has done. Thank you Grandma. You were a saint when you were on earth. Now you are an angel in heaven.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Behold The Man"

This blog has turned in to a place for me to write about my addiction recovery and I love sharing what I have learned in the hopes it will give someone, whether male or female, any age, the strength they need to cast aside their own addictions and recover through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As of late, though, I have sought to expand this blog into more than just my recovery, and to that end, I post this, entitled "Behold The Man."

There are many people I know who think the pinnacle of manhood consists of beer, football, partying, sex and women. In high school, I vividly recall being put down because I refused behaviors that others around me held in high esteem. I was not innocent though. I had my addiction, but lest people thought less of me, I didn't advertise my sins.

As I have grown though, I have learned, in quite different terms, what a man is or does. I remember a talk given by Richard C. Edgley, formerly of the Presiding Bishopric, and he told a young man named Ben who we can look to as the peak of manhood. He took a phrase out of the New Testament where Pontius Pilot had Christ before the Jews and said "Behold, the man."

I doubt Pilot realized that what he did was show to all the Jews that Christ truly is the perfection of a man. His characteristics and daily life are what each man should be doing to live as a man. Having Christ as the standard is great because there is no variation in Him. While different forms of Christianity will differ in interpreting His teachings, we can all agree that His life was one of perfection. There is a clear standard and bar to measure up to. It will not vary for Christ did not vary.

An overview of Christ's life will show there are times to get mad, times to turn the other cheek, to pray, to do nothing, to act, to teach, to listen, to learn, to persevere and dare I say quit.

I don't claim to hold answers to every aspect of manhood, but I do know where I stand in my own quest to be a man. I know where to find my example, which is the same place to find help: Christ.