Ten Years Free

Today marks ten years since my last seizure. I found this in the archives, an article I wrote a few years ago in response to something….I’m not exactly sure what. I felt like this was an appropriate way to commemorate my tenth anniversary of physical freedom:

Matthew 4:24

News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them.

I was diagnosed with a simple-partial seizure disorder in the summer of ’93, being told by the doctors then the mysterious nauseous sensation I had been experiencing from the time my brain developed enough to hold a memory was actually a seizure.  I began a regimen of neurological meds after my diagnosis and rotated on and off every new drug for seizures from that point on (all of you Pirate BSUers became all too familiar with my disorder and the side effects of the drugs!).  Due to this disorder, I was not able to keep a driver’s license for very long (thanks for trusting me with your car for that volleyball class, Brent!), I missed out on many of the late night memorable moments with the BSU crowd (fatigue would result in a barrage of seizures), and even had to limit what classes I took and concentration for my degree (seizures and TIG/MIG welding in a sculpture class don’t mix well!)  On a positive note, God kept me out of trouble through this disorder, alcohol and drugs would interfere with my medicine levels, causing more seizures).

Through my teenage years, I learned to live with my seizures and disciplined myself to taking palms full of medication 2-3 times a day (depending on the drug of the month).  I regularly bummed rides to work, school, and home from friends.  My wife and I basically dated over AIM, seeing each other for the occasional BSU Convention or holiday party.  During our first year and a half of marriage, she would drive me to work in the morning before heading to work herself (making her commute twice as long).  In 2003, my Neurologist suggested a brain scan that had not been tried previously.  At my next appointment I heard these words; “We saw something on the scan and are going to let a Neurosurgeon look at it”.  In our first two years of marriage, God brought Julie and I through the death of her grandmother, a job loss(for our first Christmas!), the struggles of my seizure disorder, not to mention the normal stresses of the first year, and now we’re facing major brain surgery.

We met with the surgeon who showed us the scar tissue on the front of my right temporal lobe which was interfering with the neurons in that area, causing misfires resulting in seizures.  He assured us this procedure would be risky, but not as much as others being that the affected area was on the right side of my brain (the creative side) and not the left side which contains functional controls and memory.  He prepared us both for some memory loss, but did not go into detail as to how much.

On Dec. 16, 2003 at 5am, I was rolled into the operating room; giving my wife one last kiss and promising her I wouldn’t be long.  The last seizure I remembered was two days before (they came in clumps, a few days between).  I remember the room looking very sterile, everything seemed some shade of white but for the hands and numbers of the clock on the wall, the clear mask pumping nitrous was placed over my face and then blackness.  After 6 hours of surgery, I awoke in the ICU to see my wife looking down at me.  My first words?  “Hey sexy!”

After 23 years of seizures, 10 years of medicine and my father’s prayers, God answered my dad’s plea of Matthew 4:24.  I went into surgery averaging 40 seizures per month, I awoke never to have another.  In December of 2003, I was taking 20 pills per day to control my disorder, on Thanksgiving Day 2004 I swallowed my last anti-convulsant capsule.  I have been seizure free without medication since.

Now holding down a solid job, a driver’s license, and hanging up my medic-alert tag, I thank God every day for the mercy bestowed to me that day and will pass this testimony on to my three boys.

The medicine bottle, half full of leftover Dilantin pills, rests in my container of found objects while I patiently brainstorm the perfect composition. I anxiously and expectantly wait to use those pills as medium, translating the release I feel, being free from them.

Blessed

1-20-13, City on a Hill 1, Blessed

Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed is the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blessed – ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy.

Notice the word ‘happy’ does not appear anywhere in the definition of ‘blessed’ above. Derived from the word ‘happenstance’, happiness is contingent upon extrinsic variables. Our circumstance determines our level of happiness, so if our circumstances are dire, then we cannot be happy (or so we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe). Blessedness is intrinsically motivated. Our level of blessedness is reflected in our gratitude for life (ultimate well-being) and the ability to be joyful in any circumstance. Followers of Jesus learn the secret to joy is not to hoard it, but to give it. Leading another soul to experience joy is an inescapably joyful experience for the one leading! The joy you experience is a direct measure of the joy you bring into the lives of others. Let’s break down these declarations of blessedness from Jesus’s most famous oration into real-world situations:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Pride is a characteristic unbecoming to all who wear it. Pride is often the attitude the bible references when you read of someone being ‘rich’. To enter heaven, one must replace pride with humility.

Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.

Human nature defaults to sympathy in the presence of sadness. Those who are sad are blessed through empathy from others.

Blessed are those who are meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Meekness is strength under control, another reference to humility. When the prideful have fallen from their pedestals, the strong who controlled themselves are who the people look to for leadership.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

God will not withhold righteousness from anyone who desires to embrace it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Pit this statement against the ‘judge not lest you be judged’ verse we’d much prefer to regurgitate. People will be as merciful to you as you are to them.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

No one is entirely pure in their heart. Everyone carries with them a sinful nature that is manifested through selfish motivation. Through humility, we can begin to purify our hearts. This principle echos the first, reminding us of the importance of humility and self-control.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be sons of God.

This line if often reduced to a political statement. Political activism is not a form of peacemaking. Can activism inspire peace in tense political situations, sure. The peacemaker Jesus is referring to is one who creates peace at a more personal level, leading other souls to peace with themselves and peace with God. The only way to lead someone to peace with God is through proclaiming the gospel. Peacemakers of this caliber are sons of God because they literally reflect the very mind of God; peace.

As followers of Jesus, Christians are literal agents of reconciliation within their communities. Wielding mercy and the gospel as our weapons of choice, we fight for peace in our circle of influence by taking advantage of opportunities to show others mercy and taking time to personally share the gospel. Mercy and the gospel must be used in conjunction with each other. Sharing the gospel without showing mercy leads to bigotry, counter-productive to inspiring peace and the antithesis to the gospel of Jesus. Mercy without the gospel is the root of  modern-day social justice. What’s wrong with social justice you may ask? In theory, social justice is at the root of Jesus’s ministry; peace and equality among his people. In action (at least in modern terms) social justice is a band-aid that enables irresponsibility and conditions people to dependency.  One cannot follow the gospel of Christ without also taking full responsibility for every decision. Social justice paired with the gospel requires those being justified (and those doing the justifying) to accept responsibility to sustain their justified state.

Now for the last two, I’ll clump them together.

Blessed are those (you) who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for their’s (your’s) is the kingdom of heaven.

Back the truck up here. I’m bless for being slandered (insignificant in comparison to other forms of persecution) and should accept it with joy?! Pride. Once again, pride is juxtaposed with humility. If you truly are humble, it won’t matter what people say about you because you understand your spiritually broken state. On some level, even outright lies could be conceivably accurate. Pride responds to persecution with defense, humility finds joy in celebrating God’s love for us despite our nature.

Proclaiming the gospel opens the door for persecution, but a blessed heart cannot contain the mercy it’s been given.

May you be blessed.