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Book review and report of “Surfing for God” by Michael John Cusick

Book review and report of “Surfing for God” by Michael John Cusick

                “Surfing for God” is really amazing book of it kind which tries to find out what it means to be addicted, what are the factors behind a person getting addicted and how to come out of it. One amazing thing I notice in this book is it addresses the issue why many people take decision and why they are not able to overcome it in reality. Also it addresses why porn is so attractive to people. The personal experience of the author adds credibility to the subject dealt with. Also the way he connects story and personal instances with the subject makes the book interesting.

The author starts the book with an exciting quote from Bonhoffer, “The pursuit of purity is not about the suppression of lust, but about the reorientation of one’s life to a larger goal”. In the introduction chapter “What’s better than porn?” he talks how porn is using the deception, the hiddenness, and the damage to our souls. He also says two important statements people talk about porn like “I am tired of how little porn delivers” and “I am tired of the never-ending battle over lust.” Having said this he offers as to how Gospel has the power to free a person from porn. He also promises that one will find knowledge and understanding to help you identify the real issues contributing to sexual struggles so you can offer grace, hope, and guidance. The author puts the book in the plot of a rabbi and his young disciple.

In the first chapter “Getting your feathers back”, He expresses how the efforts of many people which come from deep and meaningful commitments of genuine surrender—only to return to masturbation and porn. He calls this a bipolar struggle. He also says that “identifying this struggle and acknowledging our failure to manage it gives us the hopeful building blocks of a growing belief and true maturity”. Another point he makes vehemently is that porn allures us with the image or fantasy of being with a woman, while preventing us from being able to actually engage with a real woman. Porn keeps us from flying the jet, getting in the game, or sailing the high seas. He says God designed one to be a hero— to focus your strength and courage on behalf of something and someone bigger than yourself. He says we are created to do something bigger and not to live a life of shame.

In the second chapter “it’s not about sex” he brings out the point your struggles with lust and porn are not actually about sex. The way you are sexually aroused reflects what’s happening deep in your soul, beyond your sexual organs. The point that lures many is that the reality is that your heart needs something, and porn promises to meet that need. He says From my experiences, research, and observations, porn promises fulfilment of five key desires, all without responsibility like: validation of our manhood without requiring strength, sexual fulfilment without relationship, intimacy without requiring risk and suffering, pass ion and life without connection to your soul, promises comfort and care without depending on others and power over women without responsibility and humility.

In the third chapter “Insatiable Thirst” he deals with lust. Quoting scriptures he puts how Desire and thirst are central to Christianity. Every sinful behaviour is rooted in a legitimate God-given appetite. So he first asks the readers to identify and write out fifty deep thirsts or longings in their hearts. He also offers a list which offers a straightforward way for you to begin to put words to what lies below the surface of your life. All the core thirsts are God-given appetites and longings. Once one has identified ones deepest desires, he can begin understanding why pornography is so alluring. One can see beyond the easy rationale of your body’s libido to the underlying longings of your soul. But the problem is Lust Is the Outcome of Disordered Desire. Disordered desire results from desires that are disowned, demanded, or misplaced. Disowned desire usually results from shame or pain. Demanded desire is the opposite of disowned desire because we demand relief from the pain of unmet thirst. When we misplace our desires, we direct our hearts toward something that takes the place of God’s good gifts. He warns that sexual desires expressed outside of God’s boundaries and design  causes damage and destruction.

In the next chapter “Gathering the Broken Pieces” he shows how we are broken men who must live from our brokenness. Our behavior is just the tip of the iceberg. Connecting these deep passions and purposes below the waterline to the behaviors, struggles, and issues above the waterline helps us recognize the cause of our confusing behavior. Understanding ourselves at this level is not about the “what” of our sin (I can’t stop looking at porn), but the “why” (porn promises to meet some need in me). The whys that explain our addictions can be categorized into four interwoven, underlying dimensions: wickedness, weaknesses, woundedness, and warfare. Our brokenness begins with our wickedness, accentuates our weakness, encompasses our woundedness and attracts the enemy’s warfare. The greatest barrier to the life of freedom that God desires for us is not our brokenness. It is brokenness unsurrendered.

In the fifth chapter “Exposing the Counterfeits” he explains about the counterfeit. Quoting Jesus tempted by Satan he exposes three counterfeits: COUNTERFEIT GOOD, COUNTERFEIT TRUTH and COUNTERFEIT WORSHIP. Then he says how Compulsive sexual sin, porn, and lust operate like our own little Disneyland—our Magic Kingdom—where we can escape our momentary struggles, pains, or boredom. What we see is the progression of compulsion. It starts when we turn away from God as our source of life and turn other things into idols that we’re convinced will satisfy our desires. We worship and serve “created things rather than the Creator”— that’s counterfeit worship. What we see is the progression of compulsion. It starts when we turn away from God as our source of life and turn other things into idols that we’re convinced will satisfy our desires. We worship and serve “created things rather than the Creator”— that’s counterfeit worship. it is never too late to exchange the false intimacy of images and illicit encounters for authentic relationships and God’s gifts. A living encounter with God is the destination. But first, we need to explore the obstacles that stand in the way of such an encounter.

“Shame and Core Beliefs” is the sixth chapter where he explains to us the ways of shame and overcoming it. In this chapter he categorically draws a difference between shame and guilt. “Guilt is the conviction we feel when we have violated some standard, when we have done wrong”. “Shame is a feeling (which quickly becomes a belief) that we are defective, flawed, bad, or worthless”. He goes on to bring out how sin initially brought shame. Whereas erstwhile they could be naked and unashamed before each other. God doesn’t shame us but hiding the brokenness brings us shame. With that he goes on to take the reader examine his core believes which make him to be ashamed like: “I Am Basically a Bad/Unworthy Person, Nobody Would Love Me as I Am, I Can’t Get My Needs Met by Depending on Others, and Sex Is My Most Important Need”. He then gives tips on overcoming the shame by following tips: By Pulling Back the Curtain and seeing us as we really are, “we overcome our shame by identifying the core beliefs and convictions that contradict God’s truth about who we are”, by “learning to practice true humility” (At the core of humility is trust—trusting God, and trusting others with who you are.)

In the seventh chapter “The Soul Snare path” where he explains why we actually take up the things that we renounced at a point of time. Then he explains what he calls as soul snare cycle where he talks about four elements in the cycle naming: soul brokenness—wickedness, woundedness, weakness, and warfare. This will lead to soul preoccupation a stage where passion works toward the pursuit of sexual gratification. Next stage is what he calls as soul snare where desire is put into action. The soul snare cycle then leads us to the soul shame stage. Here he gives a clear explanation as to how our brokenness fuels fire for this soul snare. Then he helps the reader to understand what triggers porn. “Internal triggers include feelings and thoughts. Emotions such as disappointment, loneliness, rejection, anxiety, anger, and boredom are common triggers. Physical feelings, including fatigue, headaches, hunger, or chronic pain, can also serve as internal triggers”. Before ending this chapter he makes aimportant point as to how shame fuels brokenness.

In the next chapter “Your Good heart” he talks about the role of Gospel in making a new heart for a man. Here he explains how our hearts “are bent in a direction away from God”. With the he explains the need for a heart transplant which can be done by the Gospel. He explains how “God has worked in such a way that our hearts that were bent away from God (before Christ) are now bent toward God because of Christ”. This new heart gives us true identity and true core belief as against the older core belief that leads us to shame.

The chapter with the title “The invisible battle” explains the spiritual war. Here he explains as to how satan makes sexuality as one of the targets in this war. Then he explain how he uses idols (an Omega watch or images of naked women, etc) gives satan opportunity in to enter in war after which he uses two important strategies to further deepen our bondage: footholds and strongholds. Then he gives the tips to break footholds and strongholds like: “announce the lie you have befriended”, “renounce the lie” and finally “pronounce the truth”.

The next chapter “Your brain on porn” is crucial as it brings it to us how brain is one’s most important sex organ. Then he goes on to prove how porn over stimulates our brain which causes brain to change and rewires the brain. Then he gives tips on rebooting our brain. The first step of rebooting as he mentions is defining objective. The objective describes the person he really want to become. Then he talks about 90 days of abstinence. Next step is being careful about cravings and being ready for relapse. He also gives more tips to rewire brain like: “Practice Intentional Thinking”, “Pursue Alternate Passions”, “Employ the Power of Repetition”

In the 11th chapter “Less is more” he deals with inner struggle. Here he tries to help us understand how the porn addict should try to transform his emptiness to listening to God’s voice in solitude. The next chapter “The Soul Care Highway” he deals with dealing with soul snare cycle. Here gives a counter cycle: soul brokenness, soul attentiveness, soul care and soul transformation. Here he gives practical suggestion like “Making the Connection Between Brokenness and Porn”, “Stalk Your Triggers”, “Interrogate Your Cravings” and finding out genuine thirst, “Surf Your Urges” and directing the focus to on one specific area where you are experiencing the urge and carrying tension. Then he asks the reader to ponder on the following questions and help one understand ones’ genuine need: What does my soul really need right now? What Does the Physical “You” Need? What Does the Relational “You” Need? What Does the Emotional “You” Need? What Does the Spiritual “You” Need?. The 13th chapter “Freedom to Live” explains various aspects of being free and focusing on God to have true freedom. The next  “Going under the knife” he talks about circumcision of heart. In the concluding chapter “Becoming the Hero that you are” the author reiterates the need for a fresh vision for life encourages the readers to completely kill the porn that controls a person.

The book is an awesome book of its kind where it analyzes various aspects of addiction including circumstances, emotion, physical and spiritual aspects. The way the author brings the pint with a proper blend of Spiritual insights from Word of God and psycho analytic details. The way the author deals with the topic with lot of real life incident gives credibility the details presented. The way it is presented in the backdrop of lot of allegories and illustrations makes the work interesting to read. In short this book is an awesome book which will definitely help the porn addict to come out of it.

Few important links regarding the book:

Amazon books: http://www.amazon.com/Surfing-God-Discovering-Beneath-Struggle/dp/0849947235

Dussehra celebrations in Varanasi

Dussehra celebrations in Varanasi:

It is a great time being here in Varanasi. I wish there be festivals throughout the calendar. I could see garbage cleaned out, pits in few roads (at least that’s great if not all is repaired!). The city is decorated and was seen at its best. There were different pandals and lightings in different parts of the city. I was fortunate to have my travel to Gorakhpur in Bus as I could see Ramleela being performed in different places. In the evenings at least 30% of the city is outside visitng pandals and enjoying the festivities.

Initially I used to wonder why somebody is calling it “Dussera”, some others “Durga Puja” when the calendar marks it as “Vijaya Dasami”. Another addition to this confusion is in Tamil Nadu we have something called “Pooja holidays”. Then I had a kind of googling and found out how a festival with a similar concept is celebrated in different places with regional emphasis. As this is the time of harvest it has some significance as harvest festival too.

Few themes that come out of this festival:

a)     Navarathri 1: Celebrating God. We live in times of theory of relativity. We have rejected absolutes. As a result we could see a wide range of decline in morality in our nation. I see a similar theme of Worshipping God in Bible as well (whenever I make comparisons I do agree fundamentally there are strange differences. For the sake of explanation I am taking the points that superficially appear to be similar). We are called to worship Him in truth and Spirit. Worship in Bible is considered as a lifestyle. So the celebration of Navratri as I see is a remainder to live a life worthy of God where in we accept the standards that God kept for us and strive to achieve a harmonious living for all mankind and pleasing God.

b)     Navratri 2: In Navratri people decide to keep fast. Most devotees take only a single meal during the day. Non-vegetarian food is totally avoided. Some people confine to milk and fruits during the nine days. Some devotees only observe fast during three days i.e., first fast during any one of the first three days and second fast during any one of the next three and last in any one of final three days. In Bible too we find this theme of fasting. It shows our desperate need of God and dependence on Him. It also portrays a life of separateness. A person who performs fast decides to live by divine standards. But sometimes what worries me is (be in any religion: Christianity, Hinduism, Islamism, etc) we are perfectly alright during the time of fast. But once we finish it we go back to our old wretched life. This may be a call for us to give up our filthy life and have a fresh start. I feel along with other request we keep before God, let this (a crave to live a holy life) be one of our most important requests

c)     Dussera: Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara literally means remover of ten referring to Lord Rama’s defeat of the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons Mahishasur. One theme I draw from both these is the victory of good over evil. Be it defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama or Mahishsur by Maa Durga. This should be a great hope in the wicked world we live. In the Bible too we have mention about Jesus completely destroying satan at the cross. Thereby whoever believes in Jesus can live a life of overcoming evil. Let this hope abound in us as we recollect this festival.

We have successfully celebrated Dusshera yesterday. Let not the message of this festival go with the passing of the festival. Let this festival challenge us to live a more worthy life.

When will India have responsible government employees?

We live in a corrupt nation where no system works without bribe. Recent addition to my anger is a irresponsible railway employee in Bareilly Railway station on 17th of October 2012. “Enquiry” cabin in a railway station is one of the most important place. This is the place from where people can get their queries answered. But the arrogance of government employees in office deserve the cruellest punishment. A very big que was there and enquiring about different query related to their train travel. The only response of that employee sitting in the cabin was a nod. She did not utter even a word. After few minutes she went to gossip with her colleague without attending any of the queries of passenger. There was not even a single person in the cabin for more than half an hour. We beat our chest and say RTI is passed in our nation. But what right of information do we have when there is no one in the railway enquiry counter and if she is present does not respond?

Why this arrogance by the government employees? We need a better system in Indian government with performance appraisal and 360 degree feedback. The working culture we have in India is the most lazy working culture in the world. Here things move in only when they receive some tips or some pressure from politicians. When will we get a government which gives customer satisfaction?

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The enquiry counter without any staff