Sight for Sore Eyes

Photo: this is sort of what life looks like through a glaucomatocyclitic crisis

I had a horrible sinking feeling in my gut when I woke up in the wee hours Sunday morning and tried to look at the clock. I got up and turned on the bathroom light. Yup. It was back.

The fog. The rainbow halos around lights. The fear. Blindness.

What the…?

The eye specialist who treated me last time said it’s a very rare condition. He’s only seen three cases in his very busy practice here and back in South Africa. It comes in combination with autoimmune disease that causes  inflammations in the joints and eyes and other parts of the body. The tiny drain pipes in the eye are blocked by shedding cells and pressure builds up so fast that the lens actually steams up. It’s a crisis and if the pressures are not brought down I could lose my sight within hours.

I cried, “But, Lord! You healed me of this five years ago! I threw away the cane! I invested in new camera gear! Why is this back?”

The staff at the hospital was super and I received immediate attention, but it’s such a rare condition they never know what to do. I have to explain it to them. In the old days it always seemed to flare up when there were no ophthalmologists within a four-hour drive, or when I was visiting another city or small town. But I’ve been doing so well lately that I don’t know what I did with the slip of paper with the names of the medications I used to need.

I prayed. Man, I prayed, and I called friends and asked them to pray.

By the time I saw the eye doctor my vision was back to normal (and it was a joy to see him). There was no sign of uveitis. My pressures were within normal range. He assured me that although he believed my story, there was no evidence that I was in danger and there was no need to take drastic action or even use any of the drops with nasty side-effects. He couldn’t explain it. Some sort of temporary anomaly.

“You’re fine. Go home and just come back if it happens again.”

So, Lord. What was that about?

I keep running into scripture verses about having eyes and not seeing, and about having ears and not hearing. (I had a horribly sore throat and ear ache last week too come to think of it.) This morning I read the warning to the church of Laodicea who thought they were prosperous and doing so well,For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:17-19) (The word repent here meaning “change your mind, or think again.”)

Oliver Sacks tells the story of a man whose sight was restored after being blind since childhood. The task of learning to interpret visual data into meaningful images became overwhelming for him. He had to learn that a dog can have entirely different shapes depending on the direction he is running, things change size according to how near or far they are and a truck on the road two blocks away does not require as quick a reaction as a toy truck two feet away on the side-walk. As a blind physiotherapist who could read braille he was considered highly skilled. As a sighted man he was treated like an incompetent idiot because he hadn’t yet learned to read simple signs. Eventually he shut off his mind to the barrage of visual information that made him feel so out of control and went back to life as a blind man. It was so much easier.

I think people who are developing spiritual sight feel like this. When we come alive in Christ and he communicates with us through a newly awakened sense it is difficult to interpret the information until the mind is renewed. We don’t have a grid for it. We feel humbled, incompetent. When logic and reason was our highest faculty we knew how the system worked and how to function. When God asks us to subject our minds to His way of seeing it can be thrilling at first, then confusing, then hard work. I wonder if a lot of people simply shut down the ability to see and hear God in a realm beyond our physical senses because we felt more sure of ourselves the way it was before. Repentance, or changing the way we think, and cooperation with God to construct a new grid can be really tough. It means living in what feels like a chaotic construction zone sometimes. We long for decently-and-in-order, right and wrong rules and regulations and a predictable easy life. Like the children of Israel said to Moses, when confronted with the fire and trumpet show on the mountain, we say this Yhwh is too scary. Just get the essentials in writing and we’ll have our people look at it.

It becomes easy to accept spiritual sensitivity impairment as normal.

Jesus said to his disciples who were discussing the lack of bread shortly after they had seen thousands fed miraculously with their own eyes, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17,18)

Paul reminded Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Tim 4: 14,15)

Photo: Neglect

I wonder if losing my sight this week was meant to be a reminder of how precious it is and  not to take it for granted.

This much I know: I am thankful for eyesight. I am deeply grateful that it has been restored. Coincidentally (as if) I spent part of the evening with my friend’s mother who is blind from a similar condition. She is an incredibly courageous, stubbornly independent woman who managed to live alone on her farm for several years after becoming almost totally blind. I held her hand as she also told me of the terror of feeling lost in a motel room, of tripping over her little grandchildren, and of not being able to eat rice anymore because she tired of hunting for it on her plate. She understood how I felt waking up with ominous symptoms, but I felt awkward sitting beside her with my vision restored.

Why are some people healed, and some people not? I don’t know.

Is healing permanent?  A humour-impaired doctor once told me when he brought back an unexpectedly good test result, “Good news! You are going to die of something else.”  So far, we all die. Healing is a sign that points to something -or Someone. It is not the destination itself.

But today, here now, I can see, and I am profoundly grateful, and I will continue to learn to use my physical eyes and my spiritual eyes to pay attention to what God is saying for as long as he gives me strength.

You can be pretty frustrating, Lord, but I trust you. Teach me.

Value –added

More black and white photos:

November River
November River

Forever in our Hearts
Forever in our Hearts

Deborah, the girl with the pen, commented on the first Value blog that black and white photos have a starvation feel. I do think they are bare bones kind of images with a “just the facts, ma`am“  kind of attitude.

Christianity is full of colourful variations in worship style but I feel John gave us a bare bones definition of worship right here:

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:13-16)

Value

Photos: November in black and white

One of my painting instructors used to get on my case about my tendency to allow colour to distract me from paying attention to value. Value, in art, is the arrangement of dark and light that gives depth and dimension to an image. She suggested I photocopy a painting or take a photo of it and remove all the colour on Photoshop to get down to basic values.

I’m enjoying the exercise of seeing things sans colour. I’m learning to see differently, to pay attention to texture, highlight and shadow.

November is a month that seems relatively colourless to me after the brilliant summer and autumn seasons. It’s so…so… ordinary.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations take place in early October in Canada when travel is usually easier, so there are no significant holidays until Christmas and ski season hasn’t started yet. The days tend to be overcast and the sun is early to bed and late to rise. It’s a time for home maintenance and personal maintenance. It’s a season for staying inside.

I find this season of black and white values a good time to assess personal values. When the distractions fade in our lives what are the values we hold dear? Where is the source of light? Where does the darkness linger?  Is there depth and dimension in our spiritual lives when life is just ordinary?

When it’s all been said and done what does it all come down to? What do I truly value? I am reminded of the first question in the shorter Westminster Confession, which we taught our children as they jumped on the bed in their jammies at the end of the day.

What is the chief purpose of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.

I Was Nominated for an Award! or How to Encourage the Entire World in Seven Steps

Photo: Bouquet

When I received my first blogging award nomination my reaction was kind of like this –if you can imagine a very plump middle age woman in the place of this talented child. Well, perhaps this is not the best visual, but still:

I didn’t post it right away because I was just so humble (ahem) and also because I couldn’t figure out how to get the pasty link thing to work. So I dropped it to contemplate the gravity of the honour. Then there were some more very flattering nominations, which I truly appreciated.

Then I read the rules on some of them. Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers? As I often say to my husband, I said, “Husband, I am an English major. You do the math.” So he did. He figured that if everyone receiving an award passed that award on to 15 other people the very next day and they did the same, in little more than a week we could pretty much encourage the entire world –at least several billion of them.

This relates to my post On Being a Descendent of Royalty. Just because the designers of rules for receiving blogging awards were exceedingly generous doesn’t mean that they are not of value and that some kind people out there took the time to read my blog and nominate me for an award. I am truly grateful. I thank you. I am honoured.

So to catch up on some inexcusably overdue acknowledgements I would like to thank the following bloggers for their generosity and kind words:

Admin at Pure Gory

Deborah at “Ye shall know me by my fruits”

Victoria at Made for Victory

Melody at Meanwhile Melody Muses

Gracie at Frames and Focus

I highly recommend their sites.

Now, the obligatory seven things about myself list:

1.            When I was in grade three I rode my imaginary horse, Ginger, home from school every day. The neighbours thought I was seriously gimped.

2.            I’m usually in the process of reading at least six books at the same time and I often start in the middle.

3.            I can’t dance or remember the 7 times table, but I always have music in my head. It can be annoying.

4.            Between my husband, my children and their spouses and myself we have about 49 1/2 years of university education (so far). Some of it is paid for. I’ve done umpteen year’s worth of courses in music, education, theology, art, and English, but I don’t have a degree.

5.            My parents were told I was dead.  Mom had a caesarean section to deliver a stillborn, but some friends gathered all night to pray for this young couple and their baby. God must have heard, because I am here. Still.

6.            I am seriously in love with Jesus Christ. So is my husband. It’s a magnificent threesome.

7.            I published my first poetry at 12, sang in my first opera at 14, performed in a nightclub when I was too young to get in, dated a politician when I was too young to vote, learned to fly a kite at 45, went through adolescent rebellion at 39 and started splashing right through the middle of puddles at 55. It’s not just that I have a tendency to be ahead of the curve or behind the curve — the curve and I have never met.

The point of awards is, I think, to bring attention to worthwhile blogs, so rather than contribute to the devaluation of awards I choose to bypass the whole system and get to the point of saying check out these blogs. I shall try to do this on a more regular basis. The following bloggers may consider themselves winners of Charis’ very own first I LIKE YOU award (if I could figure out how to make an icon I would):

Check out these blogs:
(
Edited to add: after 25 edits on this post I think this is as good as it’s going to get. Click on the URL and not the name of the blog and you should get there. sigh.)

Admin at Pure Glory   http://pureglory.net –prophets Gabriel and Hazel bring strong words of encouragement

Deborah at Ye Shall Know Me by My Fruits   http://girlwiththepen1118.wordpress.com/  incredibly talented poet who writes the most evocative sensuous real stuff. She really should be famous. Seriously.

Victoria  at Made for Victory– http://madeforvictory.com/an over-comer of epic proportion

Melody at Meanwhile Melody Muses–  http://melodylowes.com/ fellow lover of words, flowers and hope who is not afraid to pump up the colour

Gracie at Frames and Focushttp://graciebinoya.com/   a sensitive, talented photographer with a gift of holy discontent that keeps her striving to be even better

And some others that have really touched my heart:

Quilla at Ruach333   http://ruach333.wordpress.com/–photography and poetry from a quiet but deep, deep man of faith

Disciple Gideon at Disciple Gideon  http://disciplegideon.wordpress.com/ -an honest humble man with a listening heart and a gift for being profound

Janelle at My Men and Me  http://mymenandme.wordpress.com–a pure soul who loves the Lord, loves her family, loves her farm, and loves her readers

Stephanie at The Potter’s Hand –  http://thepottershand2011.com  -a worshipping Singaporean who sees the glory of God all around her and captures it with her camera

Trina and Micheline at Whimsical Publishing  http://whimsicalpublishingblog.wordpress.com–a writer of children’s books and an illustrator/artist/photographer team who are much too lively and fun to stay in a box

Mirjam at Mirjam Aldolphi Photography  http://mirisphotos.org  -in Ukraine -a woman whose love for needy children needs no translation

There are other blogs I enjoy, of course. I’m just starting in order of when I first started reading them. If I forgot an award, please remind me, so I can make an excuse, and then acknowledge it.

Blessings on you all. You have enriched my life!!

On Being a Descendent of Royalty

Image-Charlemagne-by-Durer

This was unexpected.

In the process of trying to reduce 83 years of photographic memories onto tiny cards for a digital frame, I discovered I am the descendent of kings and queens.

My father asked me to add names to the hundreds of family photos I scanned for him, since his failing memory was the main reason for him to leave his house and move into a senior’s Lodge.  He conceded that it was time to voluntarily give up some his independence, but not at the expense of memories. Trying to condense the contents of a house belonging to a man who survived the Great Depression to a collection that would fit into two small rooms was a daunting task.

The tendency to carry a camera around with me all the time is an inherited one, so I spent many, many hours sorting and labelling old photos. The most precious went into albums, the rest I squeezed onto miraculously tiny memory cards.

Grandpa upon arrival in the west,with older brother and friend (with unusual taste in reading material)

One evening, I impulsively googled Dad’s grandmother’s name to see if I could find a birthplace for her.  Her story is a fascinating one. As a young girl she escaped virtual slavery in a foster home in New York and was found wandering in the woods in Ontario by First Nations people. They took her into their tribe and raised her. Later she married a Scottish trapper and raised ten children thirty miles from the nearest road in the area now known as Algonquin National Park. I didn’t expect to find much, but what I discovered about her family line shocked me.

Her name showed up on an ancestry site, as did her father’s and his father’s and his father’s right back to the first Puritans to arrive in Massachusetts. This same family had three daughters found guilty of being witches in the Salem witch trials. When I continued to click on the names of ancestors the trail led me back through generations of aristocratic families to William the Conqueror’s cousin, Geoff, who apparently came along for the ride when Bill decided to take over England. I clicked on Geoff’s Dad and the page lit up with heraldic signs and listed Kings and Queens of every country in Europe.

By three a.m. I learned I had sprung from the loins of some pretty powerful people including Charlemagne himself.

I was so amazed at this finding that I went on Facebook to gloat. Every time I made another connection to a famous person I posted –the patron saint of beer,  a Jewish banker, a sheriff of Nottingham, a Roman proconsul….

Then I ran across an article by a mathematician. He said he traced his family lines back to Charlemagne four different ways and began to wonder what the chances were than any European was descended from The Holy Roman Emperor. He worked out that the odds were one in 17 million of not being a descendant of any one person living in that time, including Charlemagne himself.

I felt deflated and embarrassed that I had not considered how many great grandparents one would have going back that far. It turns out to be a much greater number than the estimated population of the entire continent.

But then I got to thinking. Does this mean I am not the descendant of royalty? Well, actually no; it pretty much confirms that I am. I’m just upset that my position is not unique and that most of the people I know are also of royal blood.

Recently a long lost cousin contacted me with information he has discovered about our mutual great grandfather’s line. He broke through the secrecy barrier when he learned that our first ancestor to land in Canada was the bastard son of a member of a noble house, the descendant of an Earl –and the Prince of Wales and the Chancellor of England and propertied people going back through William the Conqueror all the way back to guess who? Charlemagne!

I haven’t the heart to explain the math to him. There is comfort amid this daily eking out a living stuff, to know that had King Edward or Prince Owain, or the 10th Earl of Oxford stayed out shooting quail (or each other) one day longer, or if Queen Matilda, or one of Charlemagne’s wives had feigned a headache that night we would not be here.

I also discovered some Jewish ancestors and since my mother’s parents came from a part of the world where east meets west and north meets south (my maternal grandfather spoke several languages including Turkish), and my husband is racially mixed,  whole other branches probably reach out to the rest of the world for our children. (Although getting past the secrecy barrier there is more difficult.)

The big C Church is like this. 1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Those of us belonging to the household of faith can feel like merely one of millions of princes and princesses sometimes, yet in God’s eyes we are all royalty and each a divinely planned miracle. He is infinitely wealthy and infinitely powerful. He does not limit inheritance to the eldest son, in fact history proves he likes to choose younger children and “illegitimate” offspring for special favour, just because he can.

I’m a much-loved child of the King. I am who I am, and I am blessed.

And so are you.

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