When God Drives His Kid Back Home

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The craziest thing happened today. I’m still shaking my head.

In the absence of information about my state of health while awaiting more tests and test results (eight weeks is a long time to live with uncertainty), my impatience and my tendency to handle anxiety by gathering as much information as possible in be-prepared boy scout-fashion (because I hate nasty surprises) all ganged up on me. They convinced me to turn to the back pages of Dr. Google’s Book on Exceptional Cases.

According to him my situation is, of course, much more dire than even my unrestrained 3 a.m. insomnia-induced imagination could construe. There seem to be more websites in the UK offering information than in North America, most of them information-packed and some optimistic, but they still outline a difficult path. I was sucked into an obsession with emotionally-detached drama.

I followed links until I found support groups and personal blogs about life with the cancerous syndrome doctors think I have. Some sufferers’ blogs apparently ended abruptly months or years ago. Yikes.

I followed links, swinging from to another, that spoke of drastic surgeries and learning to live with inevitable metastasis and crushing disappointment whilst trying to appreciate the good days when they showed up – apparently less recognizable for some than others.

Then I read a blog by a cheerfully sincere writer who included a list of links to other sites in the margin, mostly medical sites with information containing the latest research on treatments and dietician’s advice. I wasn’t expecting to see anything with spiritual content but the name of one blog stood out to me. “My Simple, Yet Supernatural Life.” Out of curiosity I clicked on it.

Imagine my shock when the first thing I saw was a photo of a book I contributed to that was just released in June! There it was with my name on the cover – Charis Psallo – along with 27 other writers.

Whaaat??!!! It looks just like my copy!!

God speaks

The writer of this blog was Holly Cusato, a co-author who was also asked by Praying Medic to write her story about hearing God’s voice. I hadn’t met her yet. (I have now!)

God Speaks is about how different followers of Jesus from different backgrounds and traditions and styles of worship have learned to hear God for themselves. I am very grateful to Praying Medic for inviting me to submit an essay describing my experience of learning to pay attention to the unexpected ways God speaks to me. Resisting the urge to compare my beginner status to other people who amaze me, I sent him the essay two years ago.

The day he contacted me to let me know it was going to be released that week is the day the surgeon told me I had cancer. That morning I read an email confirming an open door to an opportunity I saw in a dream. Other significant emails correcting information about lies we had long believed arrived on the very same day as well. I’m learning to pay attention when similarly themed events line up like a well-timed chorus-girls’ kickline. Do you see it? Pay attention, Charis.

So, here I was this afternoon, wandering away from God’s promise that he’s got this and arming myself with Dr. Google’s earth-bound facts to load the yeah-but hope-blasting unbelief cannon when Abba, my ever-lasting-kindness Heavenly Father ever so lovingly hijacks my computer and drags me back from National Health Service research papers to land me on a page with a reminder to pay attention to His voice – using my own writing about paying attention to his voice. Like I said, the craziest thing. The angels must be laughing.

He’s like a father who drives around town looking for a kid who has been out too late with the wrong crowd. When he finds her he kindly, but sternly drives her home with a reminder of who she really is by quoting her own words from previous conversations the whole way.

 

Lord, you amaze me. You have my attention. My eyes are back on you. I know you love me. The adventure continues.

And thank you, Holly! Her blog is here. https://supernaturallifeblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/god-speaks/

Links to God Speaks here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071H3GNVZ

and in Canada, here: http://amzn.to/2tVoGQR

What if your weakness is your super-power?

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I’ve been helping friends write resumes. I’ve also been talking to friends who are looking for reliable employees. Frequently, friends who are writers (or want to be writers) ask me to read their articles and books-in-process. Others are looking for recommendations for reading material. Busy, busy, busy.

I can lose embarrassingly large huge chunks of time following links on social media. At the moment it takes over an hour to keep up with my Facebook feed in the morning (and you know I don’t limit myself to a morning perusal). Daily, I am notified of the arrival of possibly excellent blogs I probably won’t have time to read if I want time to write anything myself.

I was the kind of kid who read everything – cereal boxes, instruction manuals, and terrifying lists of side-effects tucked inside packages of tablets. I read quickly and constantly, but even I am overwhelmed by the barrage of words coming at my eyeballs lately. Like the employers who spoke to me this week, I sometimes look for reasons to scroll past and go on to the next thing. Disqualifiers. (A note to my young friends: potential employers do look at your social media party pictures and rants about unfair teachers, over-sensitive co-workers, and unreasonable cops. Just sayin’.)

The problem is that hasty judgments can be misleading. Sometimes I need to go back and look again because sometimes I have been very wrong. I know this because I have felt harshly judged and dismissed myself. That may be who I was then, but it is not who I am now.

Lately, I have been listening to the stories of people I admire, people who have developed proven character and live lives that effectively communicate the love of God and his ways. These are people who mentor the young, heal the sick, speak the truth, serve the poor, and encourage the stumbling to pick up their feet. I am amazed at how incredibly unqualified some of them would have appeared to be if I had known them twenty years ago.

This week I have also read critical dismissals of people I have learned carry a depth of understanding the shallow, fearful, and defensively religious don’t recognize. I have heard posters say they have nothing to learn from anyone who is a single parent, too young, not academically-inclined, divorced, physically weak or ill, not endorsed by an institutional church, endorsed by the wrong institutional church, unpolished, too slick, female, unattractive, fashionable, unequally yoked to an unbelieving spouse (or a spouse who voted differently), “obese” (seriously? maybe a little husky) or, in the case of a fine writer, dead.

When I listen to the stories of people I admire, both living and dead, I am impressed by the fact that nearly all of them originally presented with disqualifiers for ministry. She failed the same grade three times, she lived with an alcoholic for forty years, he drank for forty years, his wife divorced him, she failed the physical for missionary service, he was attracted to the same sex, he couldn’t carry a tune, she fainted if she had to speak in public, he lost years to depression, she was seduced by a pastor, he was diagnosed with autism, she had a criminal record, he was drowning in debt.

The Bible records many stories of those who were uniquely unqualified for the roles God gave them. We read about prostitutes, collaborators, murderers, convicts, fraud artists, and cowards rising up to become God’s secret weapons. The abandoned, abducted, emasculated, robbed, wounded, harassed, orphaned, and misunderstood eventually found themselves in positions of power and influence only God could arrange.

God’s tendency to use the weak to confound the mighty is not new, yet it is consistently surprising.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1: 26-31 NLT)

When I am tempted to dismiss someone for lack of obvious potential, I have to look at the bitter, depressed person I was twenty years ago and remember how the grace extended to me made change possible. I am grateful for those who saw more than my list of disqualifications and offered encouragement in dark days. They saw potential when I did not. I am thankful that even now God doesn’t define me by my weaknesses.

When I listen to the stories of people I admire I realize the common element is that these are people who experienced the power of transforming grace in their lives. It is difficult to give what you have not received. They extend grace because they have known grace. Weakness was their superpower because the lack of personal qualifications for the job allowed God’s grace to multiply beyond anything they could imagine.

Is the job God is offering you beyond your ability? You’re hired!

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Save

Save

Overwhelmed

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Have you ever noticed that crises don’t have the decency to line up and come single file, waiting patiently until the previous demand has been met?

It’s snowing – again. During the unusually big dump, three weeks ago, I met this guy digging out not only the access to his carport, but a neighbour’s place as well. Then he went on to help clear the way for a midwife who lives down the lane before she returned from night shift at the hospital.

“The important thing,” he told me between shovelfuls of snow, “is to not let it pile up on you.”

“But it’s still snowing!” I said, as my blue toque turned white with accumulated fluffy stuff.

“I know. But if I waited until it stopped the task would seem overwhelming. So I work, take a break, and work some more.”

He tossed another shovelful on a snow bank taller than he was.

“Just keep at it,” he grunted.

I admit he demonstrated a better work ethic than I often do. Sometimes I look at the task ahead of me and feel so overwhelmed I quit, hoping a miraculous event will clear the path like a sudden thawing chinook wind (which we don’t get on this side of the Rockies.) At the moment I feel buried under inertia.

But the man with the shovel reminds me to persevere.

So first I respond to obligations and crises, then clear my desk, file my notes, answer my emails, take a break, clear my emails, edit my photos, take break, and write my stories – one sentence a time. I toss words on the page like tossing shovels full of snow on the spot I hope will transform into a garden someday.

It feels overwhelming but maybe, someday, there will be a book where once nothing existed but blank whiteness.

Just keep at it.

Blank

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There are no thoughts in my head. Well, none of any significance anyway. I keep a list of blog ideas for days when nothing floats to the surface of the puddle of potential that is my mind. But nothing on the list grabs my attention.

There are no emotions in my soul today either. I don’t feel good, I don’t feel bad. I’m not particularly up, down or sideways.

My body feels tired, but not sick. I’ll get going eventually. The highway is closed due to a commercial truck spill so there’s no use rushing. I’ll take my camera and my music and probably enjoy the day as I drive to Alberta again, but there’s time for another coffee.

Then it dawns on me. A year ago this week my Daddy died. I’ve done okay this first year as an orphan. My heavenly father has indeed been the perfect father for me. My earthly father was old and tired and in pain. He missed my mom and he wanted to be with Jesus. I wanted him to go.

Our Jewish friend told us they mourn a death with rituals for a week, then again at three months and at a year. Then they are done and get on with living. We tend to plow through until we can’t plow anymore.

Perhaps the Lord is telling me I’m under no obligation to be “on” for myself or anyone else- or even for him. It’s okay to just stop here for a while.

I’ll be back.

 

Bashless

I was tempted to go on a rant about a certain religious hypocrite who builds his own power base by preying on vulnerable people’s spiritual longings. I fussed and fumed for a while and decided to re-post this instead. I need the reminder. Consider this an open letter to myself — but contrary to the entire concept of open letters, the person to whom it is addressed has actually read it.

Charis: Subject to Change

I hope to keep this blog a bash-free zone, not that it comes easily to me. Change will  require effort. I have been known to wield an acid pen and in the past have taken far too much delight in humour that comes at the expense of another’s dignity. Sorry ‘bout that.

I just read this: Now if you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so. For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself, since you, the judge, commit the same sins. God’s judgment, we know, is utterly impartial in its action against such evil-doers. What makes you think that you who so readily judge the sins of others, can consider yourself beyond the judgment of God? Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient…

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Bring Him Home

When I was a wee little girl I sat on my Daddy’s shoulders as he ran and my mother screamed. He had been a competitive sprinter and he didn’t hold back. I thought sitting up there was the greatest feeling in the world.

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Today I believe he knows freedom from an old man’s body and the chains of dementia and is again running as free as the wind.

His health was declining. He was becoming more child-like and he spent a lot of his time staring out the window, longing to see Jesus face to face and be reunited with Leah, the love of his life. But he told me he was afraid of pain and the process of transitioning beyond this physical place. Yesterday morning I was listening to a new recording by Josh Groban of the song “Bring Him Home” and turned it into a prayer that God would take my Daddy home, without pain, in his sleep.

My heavenly Father heard and answered, just the way he did when I prayed for Him to take Mom home. In the afternoon I got a call that when my sister-in-law went to check on him at noon she found he had passed away in his sleep. He had a recording of “How Great Thou Art” made at an anniversary party for him and Mom playing on repeat in the background.

God is good, full of mercy and very, very kind. Precious in His eyes is the death of one of His own.

I will miss him, and the conversations that never happened, but in the light of eternity, it will only be a short time before I see him again.

My Dad was a writer and a story-teller. A month ago I snapped photos of him telling one of his many tales of a Saskatchewan boyhood.

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Many people will remember him for his writing and story-telling in schools and theaters and old folks homes.

I will remember being carried on his shoulders, sitting higher and moving faster than anybody else in the crowd because my Daddy was the fastest, handsomest, greatest Daddy in the world.

It’s Like…

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When my uncle from Saskatchewan came to visit I took him to one of my favourite lookouts to see the mountains. I asked him what he thought. He thoughtfully stroked the stubble on his cheeks that reminded me of the stubble covering his flat fields after harvest.

“They’re okay I guess, but they kind of block the view, ” he said.

A talented musician I once worked with told me she had a similar reaction. She grew up in The Netherlands and although she had seen pictures of mountains she never actually climbed even a hill until a visit to Scotland when she was eighteen.

“The mountains in Canada make me feel claustrophobic,” she said. “I miss the sky.”

 

My beautiful picture

 
I must admit that when I take trips back to the prairies I appreciate the sky and the marvelous sunsets, but I feel so exposed. My Dad joked that on his childhood farm he could see the train coming two days away and it was this environment that necessitated the invention of the outhouse.

Communication involves so much more than the facts of terrain and topology. Words and images don’t always contain the same meanings to different beholders.

I loved the annual “Missionary Convention” at my church when I was a kid. The missionaries on furlough brought costumes and articles from far away exotic cultures and told stories of eating local comfort foods that made kids raised on Jello and Wonder bread gag. I remember one guy telling us the problems he had translating the Bible into the language of a society whose only previous outside contacts had been oil and mining company workers and anthropologists. He wondered how to translate, “Behold the lamb of God.” Somehow “Behold the fuzzy creature of God” didn’t seem appropriate. “Behold the little pig-sized animal covered with curly whiskers like the ones on Jake the geologist’s face” seemed too cumbersome to repeat more than once. He finally went with “Behold the piglet of God” because these people raised pigs and often took the little ones into their homes as pets. He knew that word could be shocking in other cultures, but it conveyed the meaning of something innocent, valued and loved. A lamb, in a way, was like their piglet, but then again, not really. There are limits to how far an analogy can go. Sometimes you need more than one.

Jesus told stories to explain a kingdom outside the experience of the people who gathered around him. “The kingdom of God is like a pearl. It’s like a coin. It’s like…”

 

“The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.”

(Matthew 13: 10-15 The Message paraphrase in modern clichés)

 

God still speaks to us today in stories and similes that come from our own cultures. His language is not always English nor any other spoken language. He can speak through nature and pop music and babies and even international politics – and many other ways that connect us with his heart – but most people don’t hear because his imagery means little without a desire to understand the story-teller. His language is relationship. He is the Word.

I’ll be honest and say that I enjoy poetry and I write poetry, but I don’t read a lot of it. It’s work and I want to know the poet has something of value to say before I invest mental energy in interpreting the imagery. You can’t read poetry (except perhaps limericks) without taking time to ponder over what the writer is trying to communicate. Taking time to listen to God develops eyes to see and ears to hear what the kingdom of God is like, but more importantly what the Lover of our Soul is like.

“But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.” (verses 16-17)

 

“Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all… I see… I hear… Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee.” (How Great Thou Art)