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Switching the Dial

As I’ve been writing this blog over the months and asking “Where was God in my day?”, I’ve become more aware of the many ways God speaks. God can use the smallest thing to start painting a picture in my head of “God thoughts” which then weave through my heart all week, anchoring me in an identity deeper than my human foibles. It has become a rich discipline to keep asking the question, even during difficult times. I marvel that I have never yet been let down. One of my favorite Christian authors, Richard Rohr, says that “we live inside of an unexplainable hope” when we live in co-operation with God.

But let me get to this week’s story.

Last Sunday, I was heading out the door after Watershed’s Sunday morning service and lunch potluck when I had a brief conversation with my friend Lorna. “What do you have up for the rest of today?” she asked me. I told her it was going to be a full day and week ahead as my Math and Language Arts testing results were due. Without missing a beat, she gave me a reply that woke me up in my worried state.

“It’ll build your character,” she replied. We talked about that briefly and then off I went to an afternoon of marking.

Her comment, as small as it was, was like someone pulling a 180 degree turn in a car. I hadn’t realized how much I had been assuming that I would be overwhelmed, burned out and somewhat miserable this week with the looming deadline. Lorna reminded me that life can look different when we let God transform our ways. This was the small thought which began to sprout like a seed all week. “Where was God this week?” you ask. God was in this simple reminder from my friend.

Her comment got richer when she commented on last week’s blog by sharing a verse. “After talking with you this morning, the Romans 5 verse came to mind: we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

I began to realize how much habits of thought can take over our brains until they seem “normal”. Isn’t it normal to get burned out by outer circumstances? This strikes me as obviously false as I type it out right now, but I had to admit that I was stopped in my tracks as I’d been consigning myself to “normal”. I am a creature of habit. I notice it when someone invites me to a spontaneous plan, like going for an unexpected walk. Immediately my routines tempt me to say an automatic no. But sometimes we need to be jarred out of our routines, especially when they no longer give life.

This week we were studying the prophets in the Bible. The prophets of old, and of today, always critique and energize us to not swallow the attitudes of our world like a fishing hook. Think of Martin Luther King Jr. energizing a whole group of people to act against the way black people were treated. Bruce Cockburn, one of my favorite singer/songwriters and one of our modern day prophets sang, “The trouble with normal is that it always gets worse.”

In looking over the past week, I think the #1 fruit Lorna’s comment had for me was that it mobilized me to pray for help to live God’s way. I noticed how I’d gotten more reactionary and short-fused with the kids at school last week, and I knew it was a timely reminder. I gave God the unsavory attitude I’d been unconsciously harboring. In Christian tradition, this is called confession or repentance. We often think of repentance as just saying sorry, but it is more than that. It’s like that 180 degree turn, where we’re asked to walk in a different direction. It’s not easy giving up old habits because it’s often easier to go with the flow and become cynical and unbelieving. (If you don’t believe me, just start to complain at work and see how many people will join in.)

And so the prayers came out every morning, “God, help me with this load. Keep my imagination anchored in You.” I remembered the verse Lorna gave me, and kept on exercising and praying for perseverance and character, co-operating with God who gives birth to hope. I’m not saying I lived it perfectly, but more than less, I found myself more at peace in the bigger picture all week. And the marks got handed in without as much pain as I expected.

Richard Rohr gives an analogy which was also helpful to me this week. He writes that we are asked to become like a radio receiver station. “We slowly learn the right frequencies that pick up the signal of God.”

These receptors are trying to pick up radio signals from alien civilizations - now that takes listening!

I thank my faith friend Lorna who switched my radio dial for me and reminded me to stay tethered in God’s hope.

Other encouragements:

This week, I also had a few more observations of where God showed his face:

  • My new friend, Fana (who I wrote about in an earlier blogpost), from Habitat for Humanity phoned me up this week to say hi. I felt encouraged that she remembered me and it was great to talk to her. She’s looking forward to moving into her new house in December.
  • My son Joel was brave in rescuing a woman, likely a prostitute, who was getting beaten up in a truck. He stared the guy down who then stepped on the gas after dumping the woman out the door. Joel drove her home and gave her some money, after convincing her he wasn’t a cop. Joel did a “Jesus thing”. I’m also grateful he was safe at the end of the story.
  • I’ve been encouraged by reading a few new faith blogs lately. Drop by if you enjoy reading what modern people are writing and thinking about God: The Screaming Kettle and one that an old student recommended to me by author Rachel Held Evans (thanks Roselin!)

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