Perfectly Abnormal: A Review

Recently I was given a chance to review a book on a subject that hits close to home for me: chronic illness and disability.  Not only in my own life have I suffered it, through my shattered elbow, but in a very dear friend of mine, Bonnie Spencer, who suffered and succumbed to Sarcoidosis and Neuropathy.  This book is a great tool for those who have not experienced what these issues can do to your life even when it is not you suffering it.  When offered an early copy to review, I could not say no.

Moreover, I am glad I read it.

 

When Mr. Morris asked for reviewers for his book, I jumped at the chance. Through my friends, my family and myself I had seen and dealt with chronic health issues throughout my life. I was not sure how useful it would be since I had my own theories on it all, but was very pleasantly surprised at how thorough this book can be on the subject.

This book is a lifeline for those in the depths of the struggle, and a revelation for those who have just been indoctrinated into this world of imperfect health. It is trite to just say ‘you are not alone’, but even trite things have meaning from time to time, and this book is so much more than trite anecdotes and pop psyche feel good stories. It is a reminder that none of this is in vain. Sometimes, that is the best news that anyone facing these trials can get. You would be remiss in just clicking through.

“Perfectly Abnormal” covers a lot of the basics of what happens to those struggling with chronic illness and disability face and combat every day. It gives hope to those who may have lost it. I continually found tidbits of advice and reinforcement in faith sprinkled throughout the book like welcome oasis in the desert. Things I had forgotten, and things that had become weak in me.

Mr. Morris tackles the subject with logic, clarity and faith in a way that is both helpful and entertaining. His humor is both well timed and apt for the subject. Even in the bleakest of hours dealing with the pain of chronic illness and disability, a smile or laugh can be the best medicine.

For those who are in the throes of such trials, this book is a pleasant reminder that God is still with you. He has not thrown outside His grace, redemption or love. Mr. Morris debunks the myths that suffering in the form of illness is automatically “your fault and you deserve it for your sin”. Remember, Jesus could not have performed miracles of healing if there was no one to heal. God may use an illness, not just as a punishment, but to glorify Himself or for the benefit of others. That may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is essential to understand.

Being chronically ill or disabled is a huge, life consuming experience even for those not directly suffering. Mr. Morris makes sure to point out that even the caregivers who surround the suffering are doing God’s work and there is greater purpose for them in this. But furthermore, they too need to remember God’s in them with this and their experience too can minister to others. From the simplest act of kindness to a life long devotion with someone who can never get well. God is working through everyone involved. We should take heart that this is all according to His manifest will and cautions us not to shun those who are facing those trials, for even the caregivers need support.

The problem of chronic illness and disability will never go away. Jesus promises this, so we best be prepared to confront this. “Perfectly Abnormal” is an excellent tool for this. Take one and be a blessing unto others.

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The Strange Dichotomy I Stumbled Upon

Akiniwazi is a complex project.  It’s roots are based in some big philosophical questions:

  1. Can you make a Christian based “magic system”?
  2. What would the world look like if the Vikings discovered the New World
  3. What would a civilization look like if it discovered steam power but not gunpowder?

Number two and three have been possibly some of the most fun while number one has been the most trying.  When laying out the rules of the world in my mind, and on many scraps of paper (I tell you if this thing becomes a blockbuster, there are going to be so many scraps of real source material floating around for collectors after I die if I don’t burn them).  The biggest, even before I realized the alternative history aspects that are many of its roots is that this is based on the philosophy of what I call the “War Behind the Veil”.  The idea that there is a war between God and his rebellious creations following Lucifer and the effects it has on the physical world.

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Now, originally, this was to be a complete fantasy world with nothing in common to Earth and the world as we knew it.  But… I hit upon a huge problem:  How can you have Jesus and Christianity in truth, if you tamper with the the world and make it all fantasy.

I was stuck!

I realized you could not have that if there were any changes done to the “Old World” of Asia, Africa and Europe.  I had to leave them be, untouched and historically the same.  That single realization was a terror to overcome.  How could I have this setting I envisioned with the world being exactly as it was historically?  Then I stumbled upon it,

The New World can be totally different!

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The map was mutable.  I could make the new world and have it all the way I wanted, save for one last issue:  The Skaerslinger.

It is painfully obvious that I have taken heavily from Native American cultures.  The names of the lakes are taken from corrupted translations of Ojibwa words, for example.  But something I want totally divorced from this is to make the Skaerslinger anything like the actual indigenous people.  While the old world medieval Viking culture and related materials have to be at least honestly researched (maybe not perfect, but darn good enough to satisfy all but the biggest nerds/experts who will pick at this), I needed to abandon the same level of research and historical accuracy to the Skaerslinger.

I can’t do this, because I am not going to be accused of hate speech or racism (though some might try it anyway) because they want real world accuracy on their cultures in a fantasy novel.  So there is a big reason why I have thrown historical research for all New World cultures out the window and thrown in multiple influences into the mix from Celts, Cossack to Zulu to Aztec and Inca.  Plus many other ideas I have that make for a good ‘spice palette’ of the culture as it develops.

There are some very strong black and white lines because that is the nature of the novel, but I do not want to have anyone claim I’m saying “insert Native American culture is Satanic”.  I’m not, and will not.  But there is a reason for the structure, what I have to say and what is to come. It will be illustrated throughout the entire series.

So that’s the strange dichotomy.  All things in the old world and before the discovery of Akiniwazi are going to be considered as truthful and attempts will be made to make it accurate.  The New World, its people and geography and events there are a rapidly diverging splinter timeline and world from the base because it is fantasy and it MUST be.  This gives me freedom to create from raw cloth as well as just spice things up a bit from time to time, or even take interesting aspects from those cultures and use them as a template.

Many of these things will not really come about till book 3-4 I think, but you’ll see hints as we go.

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BTW, I am toying with releasing another sample chapter as it passes through the third or fourth edit.  Let me know below if you want to see another chapter out of the book!

 

 

Christian Magic: The Philosophical Foundations of the Supernatural in Akiniwazi

One of the reasons I have a love/hate relationship with fantasy is due to my faith.  My testimony is long and winding, and with some strange bumps that even I don’t understand why I experienced them or could prove if they were real.  Suffice it to say, it’s very strange that I’m writing fantasy at all, and here’s why.

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I came from a background where I was raised Lutheran, had my faith broken completely and fell into paganism and new age occultism for 7 years before being born again, I saw and experienced some things I could not place in the natural.  I knew in my heart of hearts that the supernatural existed, and that becoming Christian again did not erase those experiences.  No, instead it made the Bible become that more alive to me!  I saw how the supernatural worked from the wrong side of the tracks to some degree, and then learned even more about the spiritual war that we live in. You may not believe in the supernatural, and that is fine.  Just know I believe in a reality that is more complex and irrational than what you might dream of in your philosophy.  And that’s cool.

“Yes, but M.D., what does this have to do with your distaste for fantasy?”

I’m getting to that, oh precocious one.

Because of my experiences, I’m very open and constantly fighting against temptations and experiences I was opened to from sinning in these areas.  Palmistry, divination, sorcery… Or one big dose of self delusion as well, I need to guard my mind all the more.  A portion of my life that well, I have lots of scars and weak spots from so I have to avoid it a lot.  This means some of my favorite fantasy books, or games are ‘no-go zones’ now.  They tempt me far to greatly no matter how well they’re written, or awesome or whatever.  That means I never have, nor never will read Harry Potter among many other things.  Pick your jaw up.

I also stay away from a lot of horror and sxi fi.  It is part of why I will not read any Transhumanist SF and quit participating in a shared Transhumanist collaboration.  Plus other supernatural things for just that reason.  It gets in my head and messes with me, but the love of the genre is there.  At least some of the best selling fantasy series of all time are Christian.

…so … there’s that, I guess.

“The point is…..?”

The point is that this is part of why I started to be inspired to write this series.  I liked the challenge of creating a fantasy world where there was all the ‘sorcery’ and ‘magic’ like flavor, but it was based on Scripture and in alignment with God’s Word.  For many years I struggled with this very thing when it finally hit me.

“Hey…. ” I sez to Me.  “What about the Gifts of the Spirit?”

“Bwuh???”  Me responds.  “What about them?”

“Well,” sez I. “Miracles and healing, and prophecy and all that stuff is pretty spectacular cinematic goodness, right?”

“Yeah,” Me sez skeptically.

“And demons and angels manifesting would be pretty wild.  Plus you’ve experienced some weird stuff in the form of inanimate objects and seen the possessed be delivered before.  That’s some crazy-ass stuff too, right?  Just as good as flinging around fireballs and lightning bolts.”

“Well… it could be if you turned the special effects of it up to eleven.” Me agrees.

“So why not do that?  You know that’s what you want.” I sez.

“You know what?” Me agrees.  “That’s a bloody fine idea as long as we keep it to stuff founded on scripture and be very careful about it.”

That conversation blazed through the head, and I realized I had a very different way of looking at magic as compared to what I had seen in RPGs and some of the fantasy books I knew from the past.  So the whole philosophy I took to the book is the supernatural is about spiritual authority and relationships.  It’s not like so many games where you find magic lying around like coal or electricity: an impersonal power for you to mine out of the ground or hunt like deer just to bend it to your own will… or even your own supercharged willpower like in another RPG that created the most terrifying “realistic” magic system and view ever.  If I get enough people to ask about it, I’ll explain that.  Post below of you really want to hear me riff on it.  The magic number is 10 comments.

See what I did there?

So, The idea in the novel is that supernatural comes from God or Satan.  God can impart power directly through the Holy Spirit, while Satan sends minion demons to connect you to power from him or his minions.  That means knowingly or not, you pick a side.  There is no neutral.  If you want to know power, you need to follow your master, be it God or Satan.

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So that’s the big underpinning of all the metaphysical stuff going on in Akiniwazi.

For the TL:DR.

  1. It’s a relationship between you and either God or Satan.
  2. There is no neutral party or self empowerment to gain supernatural power.
  3. Your source is your master.
  4. Even if you do not have supernatural power, you chose a side even by doing nothing.

There will be more to come.  Again, comment below if you want me to expound more on something that caught your eye.

 

Oh, as a reminder I will be on vacation next week so I will be not posting anything big I think… But who knows?  Something cool might happen.

Cutting My Way to Healing: Surgery

When my elbow was shattered three years ago on D-Day, the wrack and ruin of the injury was a real shocker to me.  I had never broken a bone, never had surgery, never even stayed in a hospital, save for one diagnostic thing years before… nothing serious.  Now, my surgeon tells me that I have three broken bones in my right elbow that could take up to a year to recover.  That also assumes no other complications set in and I even can return to work some day let alone regain use of my arm.

The break had torn all the soft connection tissue free.  That all had to be anchored back down and repaired.  Then the bones themselves were in 10 different pieces!  The head of the Radius and Ulna were shattered essentially into three and four pieces each.  The Humerus head had snapped just above in one big chunk making it the easiest repair.  What a way to look at it, but when your surgeon has put together elbows and wrists of men wounded in battle, I’m thinking I fared pretty well.

Throughout this time, I kept praying.  “Why, God?  What is Your purpose in all this?  I cannot see you, and know that I should be afraid, but for some reason, I am not.”  that was the strange thing.  I was scared, but I had peace.  A peace I should not have had, by human standards.  By spiritual standards, I know why.  He carried me through it all for I did not do it by my own strength or denial alone.

The day of the surgery was more of a relief on many levels.  It was going to hurt and freak me out, but at least it would be over and I would be able to heal proper and get better.  They never asked me to count down for the anesthetic knocking me out, so I volunteered anyway.  I remember distinctly saying, “Wow!  I didn’t think I’d make it past 85, but I’m still awake.”  They laughed at me, good-naturedly I hoped.  I don’t remember 84.

Then was in a hospital bed feeling like I had been out drinking all night.  Not hungover, but still buzzed and hating it.  My arm did not hurt at first, but then I moved reflexively.  Well didn’t that just tilt the pinball machine!  What went from a kinda tolerable, but miserable 7 on the pain scale to a 10.  Oh yeah, this is gonna be fun was my thought.  It wasn’t till the last week of rehab did I learn how the pain scale was supposed to be calculated.

Having to pee was embarrassing too.  You finally have to go so bad and are so gorked out of your mind you just don’t care who is watching and what you piss on.  I remember the process of  getting to the can being a disgusting an humorous operation, dragging poles and machines that went ‘ping’ behind me and finally not caring what my accuracy was, and the fact I was naked in front of three female nurses.  Oh who CARES!  My bladder is calling the shots and it says “You go NOW!” like an angry sumo wrestler.  Oh the joys of bodily functions in front of strangers.

Beyond that, mother morphine played deletion roulette with much of my memory.  I do remember lunch before being picked up being surprisingly tasty.

My father picked me up and we went to see the surgeon where I was informed of what kind of a mess I was.  A plate a bunch of plastic anchors and glue holding my tendons and ligaments together, a bunch of cartilage scooped out and a metal plate with four screws, and one for good measure through my Humerus.  Just…. really.  My surgeon cautioning me that because of my size, I could EASILY tear these things loose and be forced to suffer another surgery and some real potential problems.  So for two months, I had to live, arm locked at a 90 degree angle and praying that something horrifying did not happen, like falling in the shower (Which I did, more on that later) or worse.

Living alone, there was some concern about how I was going to handle things on my own.  Hell, I was worried too.  But, God provided a way.  I was always able to find a friend, or neighbor or family to take my clumsy butt where I needed, go shopping with me or help out.  To those people, you are saints, and I praise God for you.

But, that was the first big step in what has been a multi-year recovery.