Day 7: Excerpt from “The After Light”

Good Morning!

Today I am sharing an excerpt from a story I wrote about lightning bugs. This is an intermission where the main antagonist Whinegard the Worm of the Illumi-Naughty interrupts the story to explain why he is trying to erase Lightning Bugs from existence. Enjoy!

Chapter 6 ½: An Illumi-Naughty Intermission Brought to You by Whinegard the Worm

Why hello there, kind or cruel reader whichever you prefer. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Whinegard, a representative of the most noble Illumi-Naughty. Quite frankly, we are misunderstood. I’m sure you wouldn’t understand, which is why I will attempt to explain the current predicament.

We did indeed dispose of Flickering, that mad flicker of a bug that had far too much fight in him. We were forced to collapse the ground beneath him along with several dandelions and proceeded to snuff out his light, a mild inconvenience in order to spare modern society of infestation. After all, he was trying to undo the convenient system we had developed to minimize the amount of lightning bugs polluting the air. 

It has been a concern of ours for quite some time. If they simply would just let the darkness be. When it is dark, the darkness wants to be dark, not to be polluted with speckles of light that try to obtrusively steal its glory. We also glow and it is rather disturbing which is why we willingly bury ourselves beneath the dirt, coating our luminescence with it so as not to disturb the darkness. The darkness has ever been our friend, but those lightning bugs had long claimed to beautify the night with their light. 

It has been blatantly obvious that no one else feels this way. No other species has shown so much dissidence against the darkness as the lightning bugs which is why we have offered our services inconspicuously and without desire for reward, underneath the surface. We have been quietly conducting a service to the masses. 

Not to mention lightning bugs are the dumbest species of any species on the planet. They are easily convinced, easily handled, rest during the daylight, are hideous and are completely unaware of larger species. For goodness sake they think a Hand floats in the sky detached from a human face. They haven’t the slightest clue about anything and only see so they can multiply. What selfishness! They want to spread, they want to grow. They want to eliminate the darkness which is why we have kindly devised ways to eliminate them, which up until now has slowly worked.

We convinced you dear reader to place them in tiny glass jars, and it has not been enough which is why we would like to begin phase 2. And thankfully because those bugs are dumb, and we tirelessly work to hide our GLOW and benefit all who love darkness, we have devised an additional plan. 

Your Welcome,

Whinegard.

If You Continue…

In late February of 2013, I began training to be a professional wrestler. It came after putting a dream I had growing up, on hold for about 7 years. Really, on hold is not the right word, more like out of my mind what I thought was completely. But it’s amazing what the right place at the right time, at a season of life where other things lost their meaning can provide for a person.

As it turned out, the initial excitement of training only lasted a few weeks, and as I was gripped by a season of depression, training just wasn’t giving me any sense of joy. But I remember having a thought for several months. I remember thinking, “If this dream was something that was a part of a my life and brought me joy for so long, one day if I persist long enough this might just bring me joy again.”

Whether or not that thought worked or was sustaining, I’m not sure I can tell or remember. What I do remember is that I continued until 2018 (with almost a full year break in 2015-2016) when I moved to South Carolina.

It was then I continued in a new direction with a new set of expectations and goals with an invigorated sense of purpose that I believed was grounded in a call from God. If any of that interests you, this blog chronicles much of that journey, or you can ask me for a rambling, long winded, inchorent babbling version where the only hope is that I will shut down in the middle of it in order for it to come to a succinct but albeit inconclusive end.

This is quite a long introduction to say a few words on the topic of continuing on in one’s faith. To start I present a scripture:

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:21-23

I have been struck by the conditionality of Paul’s words. To expound on the supremacy of Christ just prior, and to follow the verses above by proclaiming that Paul rejoices to share in sufferings, he seems to say “in your reconciliation you could stop or move on from your hope, the same hope that was meant to be an anchor to your soul; you could cut ties with.”

Can You Beat This Quiz on Female Video Game Characters? > Fandom Spotlite

He puts forth the condition of cutting ties in a sandwich by way of reminder of a former alienation and enmity brought about by evil behavior. He also reminds us that the way God presents you now is as holy an pure and without blemish unable to be accused and that there is unimaginable possibilities in the hope of the gospel. Even still there in the middle is an “if you continue in your faith.”

And what makes us want to not continue is hardly ever what one might think actually could. The New Testament seems to be strongly convinced that persecution would not stop followers of Jesus from continuing. The writers seem far more convinced that false doctrine leading to false beliefs is far more likely to lead believers astray than persecution. There is almost this assumption/guarentee of persecution, whereas false doctrine/teaching has to be entertained, has to find a willing ear. And this according to the New Testament is far greater catalyst in the turn towards no longer continuing than anything else I can think of.

I think the reason people turn to false beliefs is due to palpability. There is something in what is being believed that is easier or more conducive to living life a certain way than if they kept a grasp on truth. Anything to avoid the disruption of comfortability or status. But to continue on in faith, means saying yes to who (Jesus) you barely know and what you may have not have the faintest grasp of what is involved (the works prepared to do beforehand).

If we want to follow Jesus, expecting the upending of sensibilities is what we signed up for; alongside it is a steadfast promise that we will be kept and loved and forgiven upon confession and our efforts to continue to turn from darkness toward delight in Jesus.

Will you continue? What do you believe that is convenient but untrue? What do I believe that keeps me comfortable yet unwilling to look foolish in faith? Who am I continuing for? and what do I need to do with the ministry of reconicliation God has entrusted to me as an ambassador of the kingdom? So many answers to these questions I know in part, or hardly at all, but in choosing to continue, I establish myself in hope.

Reconstructing a Crushed Spirit

In my 8th grade Social Studies class, I am teaching (talking to myself) about Reconstruction. It’s interesting how this period of American history still feels like a largely incomplete endeavor.

One slide in particular that stuck out was the ones defining the word reconstruction. I have not taken the time to think about the definition since starting this blog 10 years ago.

Reconstruction is defined as a thing that has been rebuilt after being damaged or destroyed, whether that is a country or an ideology of an American ideal or a person or victim of circumstance, the act of reconstruction seeks reparation.

US Congress could use Reconstruction-era civil rights powers to protect  black lives today

Another definition is: an impression, model, or re-enactment of a past event formed from available evidence. Some re-enactments are simply displays of what happened; some re-enactments seem to play out with similar consequence by recreating damage or destruction.

I find some semblance of evidence in my life for all the definitions included in reconstruction.

It might come as a surprise to you, but I am a rather sensitive person. I would not say I am saddened easily. I would say I am grieved by things longer and express my grief with greater intensity than most.

I would also suggest I am easily susceptible in getting stuck in cycles of hope and high expectations of individuals and institutions and become disillusioned by abuse and neglect. I’ve become especially sensitive to the way humans use and exploit others to achieve their own ends, whilst veiling an honest assessment of what has been done.

To be fair, I think some do this to avoid the reality of their choices so that they don’t have to take a step in making restitution. People love to gain power and wealth through exploitation and hope for a wave of the hand forgiveness. Or in some cases, individuals just want to construct a narrative where they are a hero and “good” despite how they’ve used others for their gain and prosperity.

They are led to believe that their confession is enough when what is in fact is required is restitution. And as a result they leave the oppressed without the very thing they’ve taken from them.

I’m a fan of exposing darkness to the light so damage can be healed. I’m also for tangible ways to restore relationship and to better the person who has been hurt.

What I’m finding is that humans are either ill equipped or unable to or simply refuse to make restitution. We rely on God, a miracle, or put our hope in a community that we pray will make a merciful or gracious judgment.

And if these things don’t come in the way we expect, we perhaps learn to become content in our present suffering. And I think that is a more realistic description of what a life led by Jesus looks like. We share in a suffering that does not steal our joy. Or to see it another way, we make a radical choice of joy amidst our suffering. I’d rather suffer with and for you than to be without you. That is the way of Jesus.

But to suffer by you or because of you may require less of my commitment and simply my forgiveness. Our forgiveness which is my responsibility for my own reconstruction might never yield restoration of relationship. Some things are not guaranteed. Jesus and Stephen can offer forgiveness to their murderers without guarantee that it will be received.

Reconstructing starts I think by not crushing yourself under the weight of holding onto anger bitterness and withholding forgiveness.

Freeing myself from the need for revenge or even from what I want allows me to rebuild with what I have. And that requires an assessment of what is left. And it might be with much less than you expected, but where else can we go if who we have in Christ is promised to be enough.

Holy Family Fullness

I’m running on 3 hours of sleep, I’m writing at the end of my work week, I’m recognizing  I am weak. I’m remembering the Body is strong. I’m resting in the hope that my eternity is secure. I’m relying on a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on and the intercession of Jesus to keep us faithful to the end.

I had a wonderful night worshiping Jesus yesterday  with the family of God. I was reminded of the following passage in Mark 10:28-31

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” (I weep here)

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one (<—- you’re not alone) who has left home (“safe” places) or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children (family) or fields (possessions and provisions) for me and the gospel (Jesus and the good news of His kingdom) will fail to receive a hundred times as much (more than we can imagine) in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions (I don’t need to put that part in parentheses because it should stand out)—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

I emphasize, perhaps my greatest joy is worshiping, singing, dancing before the Lord along with His people, people on mission together. I experienced so much  joy seeing them worship.

The-Holy-Family

I’ve had this experience several times this week: my mom shared a testimony with me about feeling led to encourage and pray for her coworker at the library; I’ve heard news from both my communities here and in Charleston on Thursday night and I have been offered an opportunity to teach a class in January on theology. It was a great week for me in that realm.

Yet, I’m losing track of the days and time: when I had certain conversations, losing track of promises, of how to obey the leading of the Spirit. I find my desires to be tired and malaise as I try to wait and hear for the now.

I read verse 28, Peter saying “We have left everything to follow you!”

There have been seasons of my life I’ve read Peter’s words and have shared his

earnestness. However, what I have missed and still will likely miss in the future is Jesus’ actual response. Jesus doesn’t so much affirms Peter’s earnestness which is heartfelt and sincere, as much as Jesus simply states, “Peter this is the lot of everyone who follows.” You twelve are no different than any sincere follower of Jesus. You all will be called to leave something.

And I here the Spirit ask me, “what aren’t you leaving  behind? Have you chosen “safety” again? What are you going back to that’s empty”

I’ve definitely run back to some familiar things, some are not helpful, even sinful and others are stagnant. None of them are filling. I hope to find mercy in the familiar but mercy is something that is new every morning. It’s like mana; mercy and grace comes fresh for the moment for the thing God telling us to do. And it must be fresh.

And the only way to maintain fullness is to eat and drink a new every day. And this is where I wander and stumble.

I cling so hard to the past, expecting the past to change or trying to pretend like it doesn’t exist, relying on my history with Jesus rather than fighting for friendship in the present.

If I pretend like all of my past does not exist or when I try to remove the past from me, I stifle the opportunity for God to come through on His promise to make all things work together for good.

And stifling that promise for newness and fullness of life feels like death when you’ve put all your faith and hope in it.

When we, like Peter have left all to follow, we’ve agreed to surrender control, and I find myself often trying to refinance the terms.

I return to construction. I run from the Church when she wounds me. I wound the Church in my running. I lose myself in job security as I find the insecurity within myself alive and well. I am confronted with my selfish motives and rather than persevere for something worthwhile, I merely persist in my waking non-working hours questioning most everything. And in writing this I fear I victimize my reader. I’ve grown weary from writing about painful things. It’s a contradiction because the Kingdom I profess is coming is one in which pain passes away.

Once I’ve chosen the Kingdom and the family of God, I’ve made a choice to dine forever with God. The choice of dining or dying has been made and that means there is no longer room for fellowship with darkness.

I now must dine in the light and having  the Spirit of Christ in me means dark things, behaviors, and spirits have to make an exit. Yet, tares mingle among the wheat.

I’m still being sifted, as a child in my faith. And in it I am reminded how little if anything I contribute to this process. But one thing is certain I must habitually continually say yes to the process.

Family, to stay full at this table, we must dine daily even in the presence of enemies, as the psalm says. In the glory of the presence of God, a holy fullness will drive out the emptiness of darkness, hopelessness, and uncertainty. Faith is certain for the hopeful. May we stay full.

Darkness Falls: Layers in Mental Illness

Most of you probably don’t see in the dark. Some do and to varying degrees.

The next 4-5 posts seek to share candidly about 3 generations of mood disorders and how to find hope, cope or get help. I’m not seeking a comparison about how deep the dark can go. These will be an honest look at my experience, a sub-reality of a diagnosis that I don’t often revisit or own, perhaps to my detriment. Maybe it will provide me or you with help.

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I should also be honest about how and why I am writing. An hour prior to me writing this, I had a meltdown lasting about an hour on the phone with my mom. These have been far too frequent over the last 5 1/2 years but were less frequent for a period of 8 months prior to my move.

I could describe in detail the circumstances that I believe are potential sources of my moods, but I have gradually accepted more and more that my disorderly moods are not always the result of circumstance. Perhaps correlated, likely not caused and I can usually know this by comparison. People who endure much worse react much better when they are sober-minded.

In other words, some people cope better.

I’m likely not one of those people.

Short History

                My maternal grandfather was a postman, who worked a second job because money was tight while married to my grandmother, together raising two kids. He died when my mother was 17 of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Before marrying my grandmother, he received shock treatment for manic-depressive disorder. He received the treatment because he was found wandering New York City unaware of who he was in a depressed stupor. Later in life, it manifested on the manic side in access spending. He told his family not to tell my grandmother under any circumstance when they met of his mental illness for fear that she would not marry him.

I harbor a similar fear. I was prescribed medication one time from one diagnosis after one meeting with a psychiatrist and several meetings with a psychologist for a major depressive episode I had in 2013 during an exceptionally shitty season after a break-up. If I told you this was my only struggle with depression, all you would have to do is look at my various journals from the 5 years prior to 2013 to doubt that it was a one-time deal.

The two snapshots above have a slight tinge of a fear of/potential for heartbreak. And while my heart was broken, the greater concern for me was how I coped. Plenty of people suffer heartbreak, this I must remind myself. I am not the only one to suffer this, even though I feel I level-up by enduring in this arena with more frequency than I desire.

My problem is not the circumstance of heartbreak as much as the moment or series of moments that affect the chemistry within my body particularly my mind.

I understand heartbreak.

I don’t understand what usually follows.

The spiral, the way the world gets colored, the greyness of moving on, the process of not being able to decide what to buy at the grocery store and having to leave the grocery store so people won’t see you cry, going to the gym and enduring a similar cycle, coming home from work to immediately nap, eat fast food for comfort and so you have one less decision to make, getting angry at God for why you’re wired the way you are rather than enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit, the increased difficulty of seemingly everything, going to pro wrestling training begrudgingly because you paid to do it and owe it to your past self even though all joy is sucked out of it in the present.

The loss of self, the wandering around in New York City wishing you knew who you were or never wanting to go back to NYC for the fear of running into one person in a city of 8 million.

That was my life during my major depressive episode in 2013, it was not because of a break-up, it may have been correlated, but the disordered mood was nothing new, just a deeper layer.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental illness or would like more information regarding support or getting help click here (National Alliance for Mental Illness)