YouthSTAR Parent Night: How Pornography Use Effects the Brain

Check out the new article I wrote about a recent event we had and some helpful science related to sexual addiction and teenagers (great resource for parents):

LifeSTAR Central Valley Blog

This week we had the privilege of hosting our first parent night for our YouthSTAR program. The lesson was on how pornography use changes and harms the teenage brain. We featured this insightful video by a highly knowledgeable neurosurgeon: Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD Speaks to Youth and Parents about Pornography and Its Impact on the Brain

In this video, Dr Hilton talked about the damaging effects of pornography addiction on the brain, based on the research. He shared about the conclusive results of four studies: 1) A cocaine study, 2) A methamphetamine study, 3) An overeating leading to obesity study, and 4) A sexual addiction study. He talked about “these four different studies done in four different scientific institutions and published in four different scientific journals, all showing the same thing: that this frontal area, this brake of the brain, actually shrinks with addiction – whether to…

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What Are You Worth?

A pattern I’ve observed is that we humans tend to base our sense of worth on how others have treated us. I think this tendency is wired into us from birth. We look for that approving parent to respond with excitement and adoration. Some get it, some don’t. Some get the opposite, with resulting scars. It seems we so often internalize those experiences and set our value accordingly.

What a trap this can be. What if the reality was that our value is not set by others or even by ourselves? What if the one who created us establishes our importance? Do we so easily forget that “God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good” (Genesis 1:31)? God dotes over His creation. If we stopped and asked Him about our value, I wonder if He would look longingly into our eyes and soothingly say to us:

“Prized, you want to feel prized. Others did not prize you in the way you wanted or needed as a child, the way I prize you. You are my treasure. I delight in having you as my child. I prize the core of you, the inside, that others do not know, below the mask. The place where pain and raw emotion dwell, the shadows & strengths. I see it all and I know you and love you. Let me prizing you today be your anchor. Let knowing your value as you go out be a power source, even when others try to devalue you.

My child, you are worthy of love. Abide in that state today. Live out of your worthiness. Live loved. You have experienced some great pain but you are loved and you are mine. I cherish you. I hold you close to my chest. Listen to my heart beating for you. Sync your breath with mine. Let my arms fold around you. Let this love satisfy your searching soul.”

In other words:

“The Place of the Present” by Forest Benedict

On a recent early morning I walked the beach and watched the waves. I savored the sand and the sky. I stood in a sliver of sunlight as it painted my back with warmth. I thought about the Divine and enjoyed the company of my baby boy as he waved at dogs and their people passing by. And in that matchless moment the question hovered, “where are the feelings”? I felt flawed knowing that I was basking in beauty and the accompanying emotions were vacant.

Later that day, I sat inside, viewing a video that began with a silent orchestra. The organ started the tune, then additional instruments layered progressively onto the melody. When, in unison, the violin voices weaved into the music, I felt the surge and tears poured into my eyes. Emotion embraced me.

As I think about these instances, I wonder if I measure the value of an experience by how deeply I feel it. If this is true, then how many genuinely miraculous minutes of my life do I demean and discount simply because I don’t have the parallel emotions? How many distracting detours does my life take in the pursuit of “great” feelings and the relief from the others? What will change when I become mindful and grateful in every moment, whether it engages my heart deeply or flat-lines? And in those times when there is pain, discomfort, shame, numbing, or nothing, can I treasure the gift of a flash of time that will swiftly morph into memory, aware that in the place of the present I am alive.

“Ruled by Reluctance” by Forest Benedict

Fear is familiar. It is my natural mindset; the default state I’m drawn to. As I stew in my mental juices, the awareness surfaces that my world is often orchestrated around anxiety avoidance. If I control all variables, maybe then I will feel secure.

 My life is too often…

Safe, yet stagnant.

Responsible, yet repressed.

Shaded, yet stunted.

Controlled, yet chained.

In this unending quest to protect myself from harm, I am left thirsty, longing for life. The deeper tragedy is that I call myself a Christ follower. My structured moments whisper to the world that the rugged, rebellious, real-life Jesus is instead a rules-based religious icon. Sadly, this protected and predictable version of myself does not embody the abundant life Jesus promised to those who love him (John 10:10).

It is not always this way. Sometimes the aroma of adventure steams into my nostrils and God’s spirit awakens within me. Then, everything is possible, joyous, and exploding with energy. In those instances, the Jewish carpenter’s blood enlivens my veins and the world senses His life-giving presence. Those are the dangerous, mesmerizing moments I enjoy and yearn for.

My life becomes…

Exposed, yet exciting.

Risky, yet radiating.

Messy, yet memorable.

Uncertain, yet unshackled.

That is true Christianity. Running with the God who is good but not safe. Trusting that when presence trumps predictability, life bursts and spills from within. That is the life God invites me into. That is the life I choose today.