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THE DEMONS IN THE BASEMENT
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 24, 2023 – Years ago, when I was much younger and even more foolish than I am today, I used to hitchhike back and forth between Halifax and Vancouver in the summertime. I did it so often, it became like an annual pilgrimage to the west coast. During one of those pilgrimages, I got picked up by a young man, probably in his mid-20s, who took me to his basement apartment just outside Calgary. I spent the night there.
The apartment was filthy and had a strange stench that I could not identify. What looked like leftover meat was rotting on plates here and there around the kitchen and living room. I don’t remember much beyond the filth and mess and strange, strange smell. The place was very dim and the only functioning light was the hall light. Shortly after we arrived, I remember telling the guy I was tired and wanted to get to sleep early so I could leave first thing in the morning and try to make it to Vancouver by nightfall.
The guy led me to a small bedroom with a single bed and left me there alone. I laid down with my clothes still on and fell into a restless sleep that was punctuated every so often by the guy standing at the bedroom door, silhouetted by the hall light, asking if he could come into the room and ‘sleep’ with me (for decorum’s sake, I won’t use his exact words here). Every time he asked, I told him “No”, and he went away. This bizarre ritual went on all night, too many times to count.
At daybreak, groggy but determined to get the heck out of that apartment, I got up and gathered my few things together to leave. The guy was already up and sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me. I think he’d been sitting there all night. Without saying a word to each other, we left the apartment, got into his car, and drove to the closest highway onramp, where he pulled over and let me out.
I thanked him for the lift and for letting me spend the night at his place. He stared straight ahead as if he didn’t hear me and then drove off without saying a word.
I never saw him again.
Years later, for what I thought was the first time in my life, I was exposed to a dead human body that had begun to putrefy. The smell of the rotting corpse immediately took me back to that basement apartment all those years ago and the strange smell that I could not at the time identify. I finally knew what it was.
My hitchhiking as a teenager and young adult had exposed me to many dangerous scenarios that I was too naïve and foolish to understand were dangerous. But that man constantly asking my permission to come into the room to rape me was among the strangest of all the bizarre situations I’d ever found myself in. Until I was born-again, I didn’t understand why he didn’t just come into the bedroom and rape me, why he kept asking my permission to enter the room. Now I understand that he needed me to say “Yes” in order to break through the spiritual safety net that even as an unbeliever was all around me. I didn’t put the net there; God did, on behalf of the few people in my life who were praying for me.
The demons in the guy could not get past that spiritual barrier without my permission, which even in my youthful atheistic foolishness I wasn’t about to give.
I recalled this incident today after reading about a young man in Lethbridge, not far from Calgary, who’d held a woman captive in his basement for days, repeatedly raping her. I thought: There was a woman who had no safety net of prayers around her, not from her own prayers or the prayers of those who love her. I had no idea at the time that I was being protected by the prayers of my loved ones, but I know now that I was. God honored their prayers and protected me, even when I didn’t believe in him, even when I persecuted those who were praying for me.
We need to be reminded every now and then about the power of the prayers of God’s children. These prayers are the most powerful force in the universe because they allow God to directly intervene. I experienced that power as an unbeliever, when I was rescued on umpteen occasions from being raped and abducted or otherwise molested during my hitchhiking days. The strangeness of the protection, at the time, and how I escaped in ways that to me and to those who witnessed it defied logic, puzzled me for years until my rebirth. When I was born-again, I finally understood.
Please pray for those you know who need your prayers. They may not be believers and they may hate your guts but please pray for them. The safety net of my loved one’s prayers played a critical role in keeping me alive long enough to realize the error of my ways and turn back to God. I might not still be here – even worse, I might not be born-again – had it not been for those prayers.
Please pray for your loved ones, especially for the naïve and foolish ones who’ve lost their way. Your prayers may be the only thing standing between them and the demons.
A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT: SOWING SEEDS WITH GOD
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 8, 2023 – The strangest thing is, I don’t remember saying it. I mean, I must have said it, otherwise this person wouldn’t have told me how much it meant to her and how it made her look at her situation differently. I must have said it; I just don’t remember saying it.
This is how it is sometimes when you minister to people. You have no idea what will stick and what won’t, what will sprout and what won’t, what will mean something to someone and what won’t. The funny thing is that when you think you’ve said something that will resonate, you find that no-one paid any attention.
But God did. God hears everything you say and he sees everything you do. So everything you say and everything you do he can work with to your credit. He can use your unwitting labour to tend his fields, and then reward you with the fruit.
Sometimes you’re just throwing seeds to the wind, not knowing if even one of them will eventually sprout. But you have to do it; you have to sow your seeds into the cold dark silent earth, praying for rain, praying for heat and sunlight, praying that something eventually will grow. You have to do it because it’s your job description as a born-again believer. And strangely, the more you do it, the more you find you can’t not do it.
It’s a great mystery, sowing into God’s Kingdom. Jesus told us to go out into all the world and preach the Good News, so here we are, going out into all the world (mostly via the Internet) and preaching the Good News. But who knows who’ll hear us, who’ll read us, and most of all, who knows what will stick, what will sprout, and what will grow roots deep enough to endure to the end?
Sometimes I think about my labours thus far in the Kingdom – 24 years’ worth – and all I see is someone dropping seeds hither, thither, and yon. Dropping seeds and hoping and praying. But that’s our job. God only expects us to do our job, nothing more. If we do our job (dropping seeds hither, thither, and yon), God can take it from there. He can take our most bizarre and unlikely seed-sowing effort and turn it into a conversion, like a mustard seed turns into a bush as big as a tree. We just never know what will sprout. That’s the wonderful part about it – never knowing the impact our words and deeds have on others, because it’s not our efforts doing the impacting, it’s God moving through them in his mysterious way.
I’m not a fan of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” (horrible depiction of a holy angel!), but I like the part where Jimmy Stewart’s character finds out how much he’s positively impacted people’s lives. He’d just stumbled through his days like most of us do, trying his best to do his best under whatever circumstance, never realizing (until he does) how important his humble contributions have been to the lives of his family, his friends, his colleagues, his community, and beyond.
If he hadn’t had the spiritual crisis that formed the fulcrum of the movie, he may never have found out how big his mustard bush was.
So we need to keep on keepin’ on with our ministering, whatever form it takes, knowing that as long as we do our part (sow the seeds), God will do the rest (water them, germinate them, sprout them, tend them, etc.). We need to have faith and keep going, even if we see no discernible fruit from our efforts.
Because at some point, someone’s going to come up to you and thank you for what you said to them, and you won’t have a clue what they’re talking about, even as you nod and smile. And when that happens, you’ll know that God did his mysterious ways thing again but is giving you all the credit, and that of all the seeds that you sowed over all the years, at least one sprouted.
And that has made all the difference.
DANCING WITH GOD
NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario, November 6, 2022 – The physicality of God, in addition to his spirituality, is a contentious issue among theologians. I’m not – THANK GOD – a theologian, so I’m more interested in approaching this topic from the perspective of Truth (that is, from God’s perspective) than from the perspective of stubborn adherence to creed (that is, from man’s perspective).
God has a body. In fact, he doesn’t just have one body, he has an infinite number of bodies, and all of them are perfect. He can manifest into the bodies whenever he chooses to. They’re different shapes and sizes and colors, but each is totally flawless. It would be impossible for God to be in an imperfect body because his very nature is perfection. Each of God’s perfect bodies aligns perfectly with the situation he is manifesting into. That is, he’ll appear to you as you wish to see him or believe him to be or in the way that he knows you need to see him. That’s why there are so many different descriptions of God in the Bible.
Recall that we’re made in God’s image. If we ideally have two arms, two legs, one head, etc., then so does God in his infinite number of perfect bodies. But God, being God, to whom all things are possible, might also possibly manifest as a perfect form of something else. It would be his perfect prerogative to do so. Recall that God appeared to Adam and Eve, habitually walking with them in the Garden of Eden. Recall that God appeared to Moses and that Moses spoke to him face to face on occasion. Recall that Moses once witnessed God’s body from the back. How anyone can read the Bible and still assert that God doesn’t have a body is beyond me.
Jesus famously stated that God is a spirit, and as such should be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth. For most of us mere mortals, God will be to us a spirit during our time on Earth. He is to me. We born-agains know God as a spirit, because that is the fulfillment of the promise. God is with his children through his Spirit, in the same way he was with the OT prophets on occasion. The difference between born-again followers of Jesus and (most) of the OT prophets is that we have God’s Spirit with us continuously; most of the earlier prophets had to make do with cameo appearances and “sneak peeks”.
But if we make it to Heaven, I have no doubt whatsoever that we’ll be talking to God face to face. I have no doubt that we’ll be hugging him and getting hugged in return. And I have no doubt that we’ll be dancing with him – you won’t know what it means to dance until you’ve danced with God in Heaven! His perfect body will be perfectly matched to your perfect body. He will anticipate your every move and move with you in perfect rhythm and perfect form. There will be no time but the beat of the music, no faltering, no missteps. There will just be perfect fluid movement in perfect motion, with feet barely touching the floor. It will be more like floating than dancing, because it will actually be more like floating. No earthly laws of gravity in Heaven!
“But Charlotte, how can you know this?”, whines every theologian everywhere.
Well, you could say I’ve had a vision, or you could say I’m just dreaming, or maybe you could say it’s a little of both. We know there’s going to be a wedding feast for those who make it to Heaven. Scripture says so. What would a wedding feast be without dancing? And what would dancing at a wedding feast be without a Father-Daughter dance?
These are the dreams and visions that sustain me. Paul says we see God now as through a glass darkly, that is, we can only have a vague idea of him; we’re not made to know him as he really is. Not yet. Not while we’re in an imperfect body with limited senses. But Paul also says that when we get Home, we’ll see God “face to face”. Paul doesn’t say we’ll “perceive” him as he is, but that we’ll SEE him as he is. Only the physically manifested can be seen.
We tend to focus entirely on Jesus, which is understandable, considering that he is our Leader and the one whose example we’re to follow. But Jesus himself focused on God during his time on Earth and promised us that we’d have the same relationship with the Father as he did. He was insistent that we get to know God as our Father – not just as our God, but as our Father. So the more we focus on God, the more we become like Jesus and the clearer God becomes to us. And the clearer God becomes to us, the closer we draw to him and to Home.
We will not be dancing with God as a spirit in Heaven, but with God in a very real, very touchable body that is the most perfect among perfected beings. And to you, he’ll look exactly as you imagine him, and to me, he’ll look exactly as I imagine him, because that’s what God does: He fits himself perfectly to each one of us, whether we’re still here on Earth in our flawed human body or in Heaven in our perfected one. Or perhaps he’ll appear as he wants us to see him, because he can do that, too.
As Jesus told us, God is Spirit. That fact is indisputable. But just as indisputable is God’s ability to manifest as a body, as scripture well attests. God will appear to you as you believe him to be, and he’ll appear to me as I believe him to be. When we’re speaking to a baby or a young child, we adjust our tone and facial expressions to soothe and engage. We don’t want to frighten the little ones; we want to make them smile. God does the same with us. His aim is not to overwhelm us, his children, but to connect with us and let his love flow through us.
That is like dancing: the flow of love across and between bodies in motion. We can do that now with God, in Spirit; but in Heaven, oh, in Heaven, that’s when the real dance begins.
THE SEASON OF THE SHOVEL
Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, and sometimes ya gotta call it a shovel, lest ye be banned from the Internet.
Sin, though, is sin, and should always be called sin. You should never call sin anything other than what it is.
Sin is sin.
Whether a fashionable term or not, sin remains the sole state that separates us from God. Nothing that separates us from God is good, no matter how sparkly the packaging or slick the label, no matter how cleverly terms and symbols are co-opted and misapplied. Sin remains sin, and sin separates us from God.
Nothing that separates us from God can be good.
As we enter the season of the shovel, we are faced with the dilemma of how to deal with in-your-face shoveldom 24/7, even in churches. There is nothing to celebrate about shoveldom; it is the same sin that has gotten whole regions destroyed in the past and it will get whole regions destroyed again. As a born-again believer, I feel sorry for those who identify as shovels. Their shoveldom is a manifestation of sin on their soul. Those with a certain type of sin manifest that sin as shoveldom. Some choose to be shovels; others are tempted and fall for shoveldom, seeing the temptation as “who they are” instead of the temptation that it is.
No-one needs to be a shovel. Even those who claim to be born that way (in sin) don’t have to stay that way (in sin). While there is yet time, sin can be overcome.
I have a passing acquaintance with shoveldom, because when I was an atheist, I identified for a time as a half-shovel. In that state, I spent a lot of time with other half- or full-shovels (or variations on those themes), and I know this: They are messed up. They are not happy souls. They constantly act out their self-hatred and fear, as I did as an atheist half-shovel. And they are addicted to sex far beyond an urge that can be explained as a natural biological function (desire). Their desire is demonically inspired. It does not come from God.
I am not trying to belittle the shovel experience. A life lived in sin and based on sin is no life; there can be no real peace and no real joy. There can be short-lived euphoria, but no real peace and no real joy.
Nor can there be real love, not in that sinful state. There can be lust; there can be obsession; there can be possessiveness; there can be infatuation; there can even be companionship and a sense of obligation and responsibility; and there can be ungodly desire that rips you apart from the inside, but there cannot be love. Love is God and God is love, and where God and his Word are not welcome, love cannot be.
The purpose of these words is to say that no matter how it’s relabeled or rebranded, sin remains sin. Sin separates us from God and therefore has no grounds to be celebrated or normalized. It is not normal for a soul to be separated from God. We were not made to be that way. That’s why Jesus came to pay the sin debt owed by Adam – to spring us from the abnormal state of sin.
That debt was paid for shovels, too, if they want to avail themselves of it. They don’t have to be shovels if they don’t want to be. Repentance is free to all, for a time, and God’s mercy extends to shovels and beyond, for a time. Shoveldom is a sin that is a manifestation of a deeper sin on a soul, but neither sin is beyond redemption.
Again – shoveldom is a sin that manifests as an indicator of other underlying sins on a soul: Deal with the underlying sins, and the other will disappear.
It did for me.
The cure for every spiritual ill isn’t to relabel or rebrand or normalize sin; the cure is always and only spiritual rebirth that results in reunification with God.
As we enter yet another season of the shovel, let us not condemn shovels, but instead pray that those who identify as such find their way to God through genuine repentance and forgiveness, while there is still time.