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The Rigidity of Evil

I have a heart--but it is broken and crushed.
I have a heart–but it is broken and crushed.

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust, or even loathing. It’s more like a weariness, an exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There is a real rigidity to evil. As I have seen it– sin hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks about having a hard heart. It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are only four real options.

  • The first is seed that never arrives.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third possibility is landing on thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

    Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh
    The Battle of the Heart

The question I have is this, can the hard soil become soft, and can the good soil become overgrown with thistles? Is this a static, set experience? Or could it be far more fluid? I seem to move from one soil condition to another.

I have found that my own  heart drifts. Manic Depression is a mental illness where emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and than there. I maybe depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

I want my heart to soften. I want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He is thinking about. Any sin I entertain has a hardening effect in my spiritual heart. This really scares me. *


ybic, Bryan


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When Despair Empties You


“It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  

Acts 14:22

As a broken believer this happens. I breakdown, my faith is questioned, and I feel all alone. Issues like a simple hot shower and eating something seem impossible. I’m embarrassed to say I once went 34 days with a shower. I laid in bed unable to function. That is the insidious truth about chronic depression, I know it well. God seems far, far away from me. Life doesn’t matter anymore.

There is much I can do before  it gets to this point. And although life seems insurmountable. Clinical depression kills people. It slowly devours “a sound mind.” It cripples before it takes away your life. There is nothing quite like it; people tell you it will pass, and that you’ll see the sun again. But at the time that seems to be the worst advice ever given.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Meds help a lot. I take Zoloft and that is a godsend. I never miss a dose. I know I’m not bulletproof. I’ve taken it for several years now. (It’s like insulin for a diabetic).

Afflicted souls are special to God. And that truly comforts me. Sometimes it seems like there is an invisible tether that holds from completely dropping off the edge. When I do pray, it is desperate and brief. More like a quiet scream for help. There are no frills and no eloquence, but I know I’m being heard by Him who guards my soul.

People for the most part, are of little help. I admit that my attitude can be less than stellar. “Unless you have been lost in this section of hell yourself, it’s best if you just shut up.” (I don’t really say this, but I’m tempted to.)

But there are a few that can speak. Almost always these are the ones who have been through some affliction themselves. They have been hurt and they ‘walk with a limp.’ I’m convinced that they can speak in direct proportion to the pain they themselves have suffered. I once woke up to another pastor praying prostrate on my bedroom floor. He didn’t have to do or say anything else. He left without saying some ‘pious’ word to me, what he did was wonderfully done.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”   

John Henry Newman

Take care of yourself. If this isn’t your first major depression, prepare in advance spiritually for the next. Identify those ‘dear-hearts’ who can help you in advance. Keep taking your meds, even if you think your o.k. And speak often with the Lord, and learn to listen to His voice. That “sound mind” is a promise for those who truly need it.

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Paranoia for Beginners

No Escape
No Escape

A person who is paranoid has fears, such as being watched, harmed or poisoned. He or she does not trust others and is suspicious that others are “out to get” him or her.

It is normal to wonder if people are talking about you when you hear them whispering as you walk into a room. These thoughts are usually passed off and not dwelled upon for most people.

A person who is paranoid, however, does dwells upon suspicious thoughts. He or she goes out of their way to prove their suspicions even though no evidence exists to confirm their thoughts. It’s very hard to reason or speak what is real. Paranoia is usually found in small degrees in almost every mental illness.


  • Use and/or withdrawal of certain drugs, such as marijuana, crack cocaine and angel dust (PCP)
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Deafness or problems with hearing
  • Illnesses that affect the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, a stroke, a brain tumor
  • Mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
  • Paranoid personality disorder, (PPD)

How to Recognize Paranoia

A person with paranoia may also:

  • Appear cold and aloof
  • Be withdrawn and anxious in social situations
  • Act stubborn and combative
  • Appear “on guard” at all times, out of fear of being harmed

A paranoid person also:

  • Complains about his or her health and often feels vulnerable and inferior to others
  • Holds grudges easily
  • Displays bitterness and resentment toward others
  • May be easily drawn into religious cults or other groups with strict beliefs
  • Can have delusions of being persecuted


Treatment for paranoia depends on its cause. If it is a symptom of another condition, treatment for the condition will often take care of or lessen the paranoia. Paranoid personality disorder is treated with counseling, support therapy and often with medication. Treatment for this disorder is not easy, though, due to the nature of paranoia. Persons who are paranoid often do not trust others including doctors, therapists or family members trying to help them get treatment. It is likely that you will need to intervene, patiently and gently.  Paranoia treatment requires a huge commitment.

What You Can Do for a Friend or Relative

The most important thing you can do is to encourage your friend or relative to get professional help. Be aware that you may need to make the initial appointment with a professional. You may also need to take them to the appointment and stay with them. Be supportive. Paranoia requires patience, understanding, love and encouragement of the person’s loved ones and friends.

Be aware of the types of medication your friend or relative takes and when they should take it. You should also alert their physician or psychiatrist to any side effects that you notice when they do or do not take their medication.  If I may, I would suggest a film for you to watch, “A Beautiful Mind“.  This may give you insight into what you are dealing with.

Further Resources

Cleveland Clinic PPD Intoduction Site

Suite 101 PPD Site

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The Part of My Depression That Terrifies Me

“Must I then, indeed,  Pain, live with you

All through my life? –sharing my fire, my bed,

Sharing–oh, worst of things!–the same head?–

And, when I feed myself, feeding you, too?”

 Edna St. Vincent Millay

The critical issue we face is the reality of  living with ourselves through an acute episode of depression or mania.  I think that cohabitating with something that is trying its darndest to kill you is especially frightening.  Depression is my mortal enemy, and here I am, actually enabling it. How disturbing.

In a way it is sinister, the stuff of scary movies and bad novels.  It is the parasite is making its residence in the body of its host.  It sounds like something from a crazy ‘story line’ out of Star Trek.  I know how strange it sounds, but we some of us are enmeshed to melancholy.  It is in essence, part of our personality. We instinctively carry a dark despair and a savage despondency wherever we go.

When it slumbers, life can proceed on.  I can play with my kids, be a good husband, friend and neighbor.  Everything seems quiet and normal.  But when the dragon awakes, there will be ‘hell to pay.’  But exactly when, you can never be too sure. But living with this fear is equally as hard as the depression itself. How will I handle it next time? Will I be in shape for Christmas, or will my ‘cheese slide off my cracker’ again this year? I just don’t know. Under the veneer things can get very rough— very, very quickly.

My wife and kids lived in Mexico for almost three years.  We had a trailer, and part of that time we parked on the slanted slopes of a volcano.   Trust me on this, living on it was like living on a bomb!  I reasoned and rationalized, but each day I spent time thinking about it.  It wasn’t a big deal, but it worked its way into my thinking. Living on a volcano will do that to you.

There is this promise found in Psalm 139—

“You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!”

Psalm 139:5-6

I am glad that God decided to intervene in my life.  Without question, I need Him to watch me and deliver me ‘day-to-day.’  As a believer in Jesus, I know he has put his hands on me.  He shields me from the dragon.  I believe that he protects me from the worst of it.  The Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.  I am glad I belong to Him! I’m thrilled that He loves me. The fear of a plummeting relapse is now His concern. I bear it no more.

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Tourette Syndrome [Awareness]

To understand and name something is often half the battle.  An understanding of Tourette Syndrome can help us to serve people who painfully struggle with this particular challenge.

What is Tourette syndrome?

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. The disorder is named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the pioneering French neurologist who in 1885 first described the condition in an 86-year-old French noblewoman.

The early symptoms of TS are almost always noticed first in childhood, with the average onset between the ages of 7 and 10 years. TS occurs in people from all ethnic groups; males are affected about three to four times more often than females.

It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of TS, and as many as one in 100 exhibit milder and less complex symptoms such as chronic motor or vocal tics or transient tics of childhood. Although TS can be a chronic condition with symptoms lasting a lifetime, most people with the condition experience their worst symptoms in their early teens, with improvement occurring in the late teens and continuing into adulthood.

What are the symptoms?

Tics are classified as either simple or complex. Simple motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements that involve a limited number of muscle groups. Some of the more common simple tics include eye blinking and other vision irregularities, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking.  Simple vocalizations might include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.

Complex tics are distinct, coordinated patterns of movements involving several muscle groups. Complex motor tics might include facial grimacing combined with a head twist and a shoulder shrug. Other complex motor tics may actually appear purposeful, including sniffing or touching objects, hopping, jumping, bending, or twisting. Simple vocal tics may include throat-clearing, sniffing/snorting, grunting, or barking. More complex vocal tics include words or phrases.

Perhaps the most dramatic and disabling tics include motor movements that result in self-harm such as punching oneself in the face or vocal tics including coprolalia (uttering swear words) or echolalia (repeating the words or phrases of others). Some tics are preceded by an urge or sensation in the affected muscle group, commonly called a premonitory urge. Some with TS will describe a need to complete a tic in a certain way or a certain number of times in order to relieve the urge or decrease the sensation.

Tics are often worse with excitement or anxiety and better during calm, focused activities. Certain physical experiences can trigger or worsen tics, for example tight collars may trigger neck tics, or hearing another person sniff or throat-clear may trigger similar sounds. Tics do not go away during sleep but are often significantly diminished.

What is the course of TS?

Tics come and go over time, varying in type, frequency, location, and severity.  The first symptoms usually occur in the head and neck area and may progress to include muscles of the trunk and extremities. Motor tics generally precede the development of vocal tics and simple tics often precede complex tics.  Most patients experience peak tic severity before the mid-teen years with improvement for the majority of patients in the late teen years and early adulthood. Approximately 10 percent of those affected have a progressive or disabling course that lasts into adulthood.

Can people with TS control their tics?

Although the symptoms of TS are involuntary, some people can sometimes suppress, camouflage, or otherwise manage their tics in an effort to minimize their impact on functioning. However, people with TS often report a substantial buildup in tension when suppressing their tics to the point where they feel that the tic must be expressed. Tics in response to an environmental trigger can appear to be voluntary or purposeful but are not.

What causes TS?

Although the cause of TS is unknown, current research points to abnormalities in certain brain regions (including the basal ganglia, frontal lobes, and cortex), the circuits that interconnect these regions, and the neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) responsible for communication among nerve cells. Given the often complex presentation of TS, the cause of the disorder is likely to be equally complex.

What disorders are associated with TS?

Many with TS experience additional neurobehavioral problems including inattention; hyperactivity and impulsivity (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—ADHD) and related problems with reading, writing, and arithmetic; and obsessive-compulsive symptoms such as intrusive thoughts/worries and repetitive behaviors. For example, worries about dirt and germs may be associated with repetitive hand-washing, and concerns about bad things happening may be associated with ritualistic behaviors such as counting, repeating, or ordering and arranging.

People with TS have also reported problems with depression or anxiety disorders, as well as other difficulties with living, that may or may not be directly related to TS.  Given the range of potential complications, people with TS are best served by receiving medical care that provides a comprehensive treatment plan.

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The Frustration of Autism

What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs), cause severe and pervasive impairment in thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. These disorders are usually first diagnosed in early childhood and range from a severe form, called autistic disorder, through pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified, to a much milder form, Asperger syndrome. They also include two rare disorders, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

Signs & Symptoms

Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child. In some cases, the baby seemed “different” from birth, unresponsive to people or focusing intently on one item for long periods of time. The first signs of an autism spectrum disorder can also appear in children who had been developing normally. When an affectionate, babbling toddler suddenly becomes silent, withdrawn, self-abusive, or indifferent to social overtures, something is wrong.

Possible Indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age
  • Does not speak one word by 16 months
  • Does not combine two words by 2 years
  • Does not respond to name
  • Loses language or social skills

Some Other Indicators

  • Poor eye contact
  • Doesn’t seem to know how to play with toys
  • Excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • Is attached to one particular toy or object
  • Doesn’t smile
  • At times seems to be hearing impaired

Social Symptoms

From the start, typically developing infants are social beings. Early in life, they gaze at people, turn toward voices, grasp a finger, and even smile.

In contrast, most children with ASD seem to have tremendous difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. Even in the first few months of life, many do not interact and they avoid eye contact. They seem indifferent to other people, and often seem to prefer being alone. They may resist attention or passively accept hugs and cuddling. Later, they seldom seek comfort or respond to parents’ displays of anger or affection in a typical way. Research has suggested that although children with ASD are attached to their parents, their expression of this attachment is unusual and difficult to “read.” To parents, it may seem as if their child is not attached at all. Parents who looked forward to the joys of cuddling, teaching, and playing with their child may feel crushed by this lack of the expected and typical attachment behavior.

Children with ASD also are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues—whether a smile, a wink, or a grimace—may have little meaning. To a child who misses these cues, “Come here” always means the same thing, whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or frowning and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world may seem bewildering. To compound the problem, people with ASD have difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective. Most 5-year-olds understand that other people have different information, feelings, and goals than they have. A person with ASD may lack such understanding. This inability leaves them unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.

Although not universal, it is common for people with ASD also to have difficulty regulating their emotions. This can take the form of “immature” behavior such as crying in class or verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them. The individual with ASD might also be disruptive and physically aggressive at times, making social relationships still more difficult. They have a tendency to “lose control,” particularly when they’re in a strange or overwhelming environment, or when angry and frustrated. They may at times break things, attack others, or hurt themselves. In their frustration, some bang their heads, pull their hair, or bite their arms.


There is no single best treatment package for all children with ASD. Decisions about the best treatment, or combination of treatments, should be made by the parents with the assistance of a trusted expert diagnostic team.

Transcript of and interview with Dr. Bearman on Autism

Dr. Peter Bearman is the professor of Sociology at the College of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University. He also serves as co- director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars program at Columbia. Recently, Dr. Bearman came to the National Institute of Mental Health to talk about the focus of his work, autism prevalence. NIMH’s Director, Dr. Thomas Insel, sat down with Dr. Bearman to discuss autism research and began by referencing recent studies that indicate an increase in autism prevalence.

Dr. Insel:  So, as you look at this that question that everyone is asking is when they see the numbers now from the CDC where it’s gone from 1 in 1500 to 1 in 150 and apparently here in the fall of 2009 the figure that’s emerging is closer to 1 in 100. Meaning, that even since 2002 there has been a very profound increase in the number of children being diagnosed with autism.

Dr. Bearman: And Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Dr. Insel:  Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Dr. Bearman: Well that’s, an important distinction. I mean obviously there’s a profound increase in Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Dr. Insel: Is there an increase in the number of children with the disorder or with the Autism Spectrum Disorder or does this largely reflect the change in the way the diagnosis is used or some sort of increase in ascertainment?

Dr. Bearman: Well, I think that’s the big million dollar question. Our work which arises from California can, show that changes in diagnostic processing and diagnostic criteria I would say the period from 1992 to 2005 the changes in diagnostic criteria over that period that operate on the border between autism and mental retardation can be associated with about a quarter of the increase prevalence. Over that same period there has been a really fundamental change in the ascertainment, you can see that in lots of ways, but the most obvious way to see the changes in ascertainment, is to see that the social economic status gradient that used to be present for autism, the fact that children living and residing in wealthy communities are more likely to get a diagnosis, and that gradient largely disappears.

Dr. Insel: What seems important Peter in the way you’ve done this rather than you answering the question to say it’s increase, not increased your answering the question by what proportion of increase can be explained by separate factors because everybody’s pointing to changes in diagnosis, changes in ascertainment the way in which services may affect the use of the diagnosis. So what everybody really wants to know at the end of all this, is that actually are more children affected with the disorder or will 100 percent of this increase in prevalence be explained by these other factors?

Dr. Bearman: Our strategy is to try to decompose this increase into its constituent elements. Some component of that is increased ascertainment, some component of that is diagnostic change in diagnostic criteria, some component of that arises from already known risk factors, such as increases in parental age are associated with greater probability of genome mutations that could lead to copy errors that are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. So social demographic changes that are affecting all western countries, the United States, and also California, can express themselves in increased incidence of autism on top of diagnostic ascertainment dynamics. I think the trick to figuring out how to decompose this increase into its constituent elements is to pay attention to the two dimensions that are important. The first dimension is temporal just the fact of temporal change, we are in the period of increased prevalence and if we’re in a period of increased prevalence and at the same time for example there’s also an increase in older parents. The risk associated with older parents will naturally appear to be greater now than it was a decade ago. So paying attention to temporal heterogenic is important. The other part of our work I think that’s  the most exciting is to pay attention to the spacial heterogenic and the fact that we can observe very strong,  very distinct, very stable clusters of increased risks for autism at very fine spacial resolution. For example, in California, there’s a very clear cluster in about 20 kilometers by 50 kilometers in which the relative risk for autism not, Autism Spectrum Disorders but autism itself is significantly higher over every year of observation that we make than any other place in California. That invites a couple of considerations, first, it invites the recognition that if you observe local spacial clustering whatever causes some components of the increased prevalence in autism it is not a global treatment. Secondly, it invites us to ask, well is there something in that local area that is driving an increased prevalence that could be a shared toxicological environment, it could be a virus that moves through and spreads from person to person and affects children in utero. Or it could be a piece of an ascertainment process which would be the diffusion of information from parent to parent as they learn how to recognize some symptoms for autism which have no biological markers.

Dr. Insel: From what you know now when you add all of those together how much of the increase can you explain?

Dr. Bearman: Well that’s a complicated question, but I think we can pretty uniquely associate about a quarter of the increase from the birth cohorts from 1992 to 2001 which is a lot, to diagnostic change on the border between diagnosis and mental retardation in autism. I think we can associate about 16 percent of the increase on the other border between autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders on the spectrum: Asperger’s, PPDNOS etc. And those are largely non over-lapping components of increase, so that’s about 40 percent. I think the spacial clustering itself adds another few percent. I would say I am confident that 40 percent of the increase I think I know what caused that. That leaves a lot of increase left, 50 percent is a lot to look for still.

Dr. Insel: Any ideas about what’s driving that other 50 percent?

Dr. Bearman: Well, some is genetic. I think that the increased parental age accounts were 11 percent of the increase over this period and that’s a lot and the mechanism by which increased parental ages expressing itself I think likely largely genetic. I think the tricky part is going to recognize that it would be harder now to find that 50 percent. It would look like it should be some toxicological environment that’s shared because of the spacial clustering. Because there’s a very strong process of amplification of the understanding of autism that leads to increased diagnosis as parents learn how to recognize symptoms a very, very, small event that would transform the environment five years ago, ten years ago, even you could imagine, 40 years or 50 years ago, when the moms of children with autism now were in utero as eggs- a very small event could cascade into a larger epidemic now.

Dr. Insel: So what do you tell parents who ask about this if you have friends who have autistic children and they say “What’s going on here? Why this epidemic?” What do you say in response?

Dr. Bearman: Well, I think parents are struggling to just enormously difficult to have a child with autism. It makes it very hard. I think parents are naturally searching for explanations, and I think that the message now is the search for a quick and dirty explanation might not be advancing science.

Dr. Insel: Thank you very much.  Good discussion.

Links on Autism

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The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

This was written in March of 2012. Right or wrong, it was where I was at with my illness. I hope it will bless, and bring hope into that situation that seems very hopeless:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18


Depression can feel hopeless.

I’ve seemed to have settled down into a blackness that defies all explanation. I’m dodging being hospitalized, and they can’t put me where I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be locked up again.

It’s the hopeless/helpless thing, a “one-two punch” that is the most devastating to me. It crushes and pulverizes until I lie in this sad pathetic mess I’ve become. Dante had it dead-on when ascribed the gates of hell with the words, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” In hell you’ll know what despair is really like. Perhaps heaven and hell really do start here?

And there was another writer, just as clever, said something along these lines, Shut up! Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell before,  just be quiet.” And perhaps we should? Nothing can trump personal experience. The survivors, if you can find them, will understand what I’m saying.

How is it,
People fear the dark?
Not me, I’m reconciled
as every day I see
the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

–Rod McKuen, Alone

Hopelessness swirls me around and I feel like a bug going down a drain. Thoughts of suicide are becoming more concrete and despair is becoming a frequent visitor.  Mental illness is frightening. Those who have experienced it, will learn not to say anything, but pray.

Durability may ultimately prove to be the most significant factor in this “mixed state” of Bipolar Disorder that I am wandering through at the moment.  Can I outlast these demons that plague me? My irrational mind plays tricks on me, I see mirages of wholeness and peace, but they don’t seem  real. It is a big, fat lie. It is nothing but a delusion, or a trick of the brain.  And yet something inside of me steadfastly hopes for God’s grace and mercy. 

I know that Jesus has conquered the dark. I must hold on to Him. I must let this darkness go.

Up and down, side-to-side, where it stops, no one knows?  But God…and right now He isn’t saying. Jesus hold on to me. I hold on, by faith to the promise given to me—

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

I don’t mean to be this raw. Sometimes I just let it “all hang out.” I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m too open. I just wanted you to have a picture of a “broken believer” and more so of the grace that saves me.