|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.32(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Missing Factor
What Really is a Normal Christian Life?
By Margaret Belanger
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2014 Margaret Belanger
All rights reserved.
Quest of the Heart
I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.
There is something beautiful and profound in the fact that we can personally, intimately, and actually connect with the Eternal One. It surpasses scientific calculations; defies intellectual explanation, and it cannot be contained in religion's delusion. Those who find it cannot settle for anything less.
I started my journey on a quest (a heart-longing kind of search) for reality and meaning in life. Although the initial pursuit came out of an honest and simple desire, the experiences along the way have been anything but orthodox, or simple. Through it all, God continued with me, and His faithfulness never failed.
Growing up, I had no concept of what it means to be a Christian. Neither of my parents, nor any relative, that I know of, had any apparent inclination towards the things of God. It was something we just didn't talk about. There was an underlying perception that God existed, but He remained a foggy, nebulous concept, clothed in confusion and uncertainty. I never saw a Bible in our home, and (except for a couple of rare occasions), we never attended a church.
My grandmother, on my mother's side, did take an interest in the "spiritual". She dabbled in palm reading and fortune telling with cards, and held to various superstitions. I remember every New Years (shortly after midnight), she made sure that a man, with dark-colored hair (usually my father or a friend), went out the back door and came in the front. The thought behind this odd practice was that if the first man coming through the front door had light-colored hair, we would have bad luck that year. If he had dark hair, we would be blessed with good luck.
My grandmother became a widow in her late forties. Her husband (my granddad) died from a lung disease, (presumably due to his many years working as a chimney sweep as a young man, in the 1930's. Consequently, she came with us, when we moved to Canada in the spring of 1955.
At that time my mother's view of 'religion' was a mixture of fear and confusion. She never felt that she was good enough to go to church. I know she believed there is a God, but somehow He was far away and unapproachable.
My father, on the other hand, grew up attending an orthodox Catholic church in Zeromskigo, Poland. As a young teenager, during WWII, he became involved in a "youth Resistance Movement" when Germany occupied Poland. As a result, he spent some time in a concentration camp. Afterwards, he suffered from a form of posttraumatic stress (later diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia).
After making our home in Canada, my father announced that he wanted nothing to do with God. Nevertheless, a wall or two of our house was decked with pictures of various saints. (I can only assume it was Dad who put them there, as no one else had any association with anything religious). One portrayed a 'saint' who was said to watch over us as we slept. A similar icon hung on the mirror of the car to "keep us safe on the road". Although, perhaps intellectually, he rejected the God he didn't know, I believe in his tormented soul, he yearned for a God who cared.
I remember attending a Christmas Mass in a Catholic church. I must have been about seven and my brother Rick, was eight. The experience made God seem strange and mysterious, to me, and I left with the impression that our attendance was a means to elicit some kind of "good luck" for the coming year.
As a child, I later had a kind of idealistic view of Christians. I saw them in light of some movie or TV program I had seen, (like "Father Knows Best". They were all, I assumed, upper-middle-class; happy families, who lived in beautiful homes in the suburbs. I imagined that they lived safe and predictable lives, so unlike my own, at the time. And, of course, they all attended church on Sundays. What they did there, I had no idea.
In spite of all the confusion surrounding my perception as a child, today, in retrospect, I can testify to God's continued working throughout my life.
The fact is, as a child, home was not a safe place; it was often filled with uncertainty and fear.
"They are conspiring against me, and their intention is to destroy me and my family," My father told my mother. "Who are 'they'?" Mum asked him. They were the voices he heard in his head.
He shared these and similar things with my mother. He said that he was afraid that "they" would take away his children, (Rick and me). He was afraid that if we ever saw him again, we wouldn't recognize him (these were the fears he lived with). He slept with a loaded gun beside his bed. Although Rick and I were only about eleven and ten by then, Mum shared these things with us.
There were the occasional times of perceived normality. At Christmas-time, for instance, we'd gather in the living room together, sharing gifts and enjoying special treats we didn't normally eat. In summer, Dad would take us to "the river". I'm not certain where exactly this was, but it was a quiet, secluded, (and safe) place, in the country, by a river just outside of Montreal. Rick, Dad. and I would swim and laugh together. I knew that he enjoyed these times, but still he was distant, and he always seemed preoccupied in his mind.
If you have ever seen the movie, "Beautiful Mind" you might have an idea of my dad's inner life. He was very intelligent, spoke several languages, and had begun to attend university before the war started, but none of this helped him. He couldn't keep a job. He was a taxi driver for some time, and then he worked for a moving company.
I can remember, when I was about eight years old, lying in bed, and hearing my parents arguing in the next room. They were shouting and shoving one another, and things were crashing to the floor. Although I was troubled by it all, I lie there talking to God and feeling comforted.
Maybe it was the result of a seed sown by something I had read, or maybe it was the hymns we occasionally sang in school, in those days. One song in particular that I loved to sing, and still remember some of the words: "This is my Father's world; I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought." (I suppose this resonated with me because of my love for nature). another verse tells of how, "He shines in all that's fair: in the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere." It made a significant impression on my heart. I knew that He was there and that He heard me. A kind of intuitive, inner sense drew me to reach out to a God I didn't yet know or understand.
As time went on, Dad's illness grew worse (I don't think there was much understanding, council, or treatment at that time), he became more obsessed with his delusional antagonists. At one point he drove a man down in the street, because he just knew that this man was part of the conspiracy. He spent some time in prison, and underwent some counsel. Shortly thereafter, he and Mum separated, and finally, Mum, Rick, and I, as well our grandmother, moved away.
Twice we moved just outside of Montreal, but Dad always found us. During those times, he would ask me if I wanted to go with him. I was eleven years old, and the situation was difficult. I was afraid of him, but he was my dad. A short time later, he moved back to Poland, and we didn't hear from him again, (until I was an adult).
Shortly after this, Ronny came into our lives. He had become a friend and confidant of Mum's during the tumultuous times with Dad. At the time, she was working at a hospital in Montreal, in the "central supply" (laundry department), and Ronny also worked there.
After the divorce, we all moved to Chateauguay, just off the island of Montreal. Chateauguay was a good place in which to live and grow up. At that time, it was half rural, and the rest was a growing housing development. Rick and I both have some good memories of our time there. We were in our teens, and for the most part, good friends.
It wasn't exactly smooth sailing with Ronny. He had many qualities, but being a father figure was not one of them (at least as far as Rick and I were concerned). Ronny suffered from regular bouts of depression, and he would consequently spend several days in bed; with that, of course, came the loss of jobs, accumulating bills, and raging conflicts between him and Mum.
I suppose I just simply accepted Ronny for who he was (and expected nothing more). When he wasn't depressed, he took an interest in both history and geography, and he loved to travel. When he was feeling good, Mum, Rick, and I (as well as a large German shepherd named Monty) would cram into a small car and head down to the states. I became familiar with nearly all of the eastern United States.
After my sister, Louise, was born, things slowly began to improve. Ronny found a medication that helped to bring equilibrium between his highs and lows, and he was better equipped to keep a job. After that, Ronny, Mum, and Louise went on a few trips overseas. Occasionally they would visit his mother and aunt in Brussels, Belgium. Every year around Christmas, Ronny's mother would send a package containing a few small gifts and some Belgium chocolate, for Louise. Apparently Ronny had neglected to tell his mother that the woman he's married had two other children from a previous marriage.
These experiences didn't do much for my feelings of self-worth, none the less, I did love my little sister, and I enjoyed watching her grow from an infant to a child. Since Rick and I left home when Louise was about seven, I didn't really get to know her until years later, when she was a young adult.
While growing up, Rick and I continued to be close friends, probably due to the fact that we had moved quite often. Although each of us had other friends, we'd frequently end up just hanging out together. Later, there were three of us; Rick, Michael Judson, and me. Michael and Rick became friends in high school. I joined the dynamic threesome after I graduated from the same high school a year later. Sometimes the three of us would go out for a drink or two together, or we'd just sit and chat. Both Michael and Rick had a great sense of humor and they kept me laughing. Although they both dated various girls, and I had boyfriends over the years, Michael, Rick, and I remained good friends.
In my late teens, my life was full of many things, but there was a gnawing emptiness within me. It seemed to me, that the whole world around me was drifting along in a fog of meaningless endeavors. I had a boyfriend, who, at one point, said to me, "You're deep." He wasn't a Christian, (and neither was I). I suppose it was just his way of saying, "What's the matter with you?" "Just relax and enjoy life!" "Forget about the 'meaning' of things.. there isn't any."
I had a part-time job, and I had also begun doing some art work. A friend of Ronny's, who was himself an artist, encouraged me in my create abilities, by giving me some oil paints and a few helpful tips.
In the 1960's and 70's, I also began to take an interest in "folk" music. I gravitated to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and many more musicians whose songs spoke of social issues, poverty, injustice, and senseless wars (in which no one wins). The songs seemed to echo my own sense of longing.
Around that time, I became friends with Carol Conner. I met her in a coffee shop in Chateauguay. She was really into the "folk" music scene and the music I liked. She had a boyfriend who played in a band, and she occasionally sang for them. She had a beautiful voice that was equal to (if not better than) the voice of Joan Baez.
The main thing, though, that we had in common was the fact that we were both searching, and in desperate need of Jesus Christ. At the time, we didn't fully realize what or whom we were looking for.
Carol and I spent many hours sitting at her kitchen table, sipping coffee. When the conversation lagged, she'd pour another cup, and on we went. With all the coffee we drank, I'm surprised that we weren't wired and vibrating by the time we finished.
Together, we delved into Eastern religions, (which were in vogue at the time). We attended a Yoga camp, tasted Transcendental Meditation, and swayed to the drones of Ravi Shankar playing his sitar. We tried to get in touch with nature, and in tune with the cosmos, but neither of us found what we were looking for there.
One day, at Carol's place, I reached across to the book-shelf and took out the large, old, tattered, dusty Bible. We had read small parts of the Old Testament together at other times, but it had all seemed rather confusing. She had also shared with me her own experience of attending a Catholic church ears earlier, but it had all seemed strange and mysterious to her, and she hadn't continued there for very long.
This time, though, I held the book, feeling the weight of it in my hands, and I randomly flipped it open to the book of Ecclesiastes, (which speaks of a man's search for meaning). I was taken aback by the fact that some of the very same questions and concerns I had, were, in fact, in the Bible. I didn't pursue the matter any further, at the time. Carol and I simply go talking about other things, and then went on our ways.
It was late March in 1969, and the snow in Montreal had already turned from gray slush to a few wet patches on the street. I was job hunting.
It had been almost two years since I graduated from Howard S. Billings High School, but instead of continuing my education, I had decided to get a job. I was undecided as to what direction to go, and of course, I would need much more money than I had to even begin to pursue any further studies. My French was not as fluent as it needed to be in order to get a job in Quebec. So getting a good-paying job, and one that I'd like was rather challenging.
As I sat for a moment in the park, I was approached by a tall, slim man, (probably in his early twenties), wearing a T-shirt, well-worn jeans, and sandals. His hair was tied back with a multi-colored band. He introduced himself as Arpad and sat down beside me. My thoughts drifted to his rather attractive features, and the fact that I was not going out with anyone at the time.
"Do you know that Jesus loves you?" He asked me. I said something like, "Yes, I think so." But I wasn't entirely sure what that really meant. We didn't talk for long, but as we parted, he handed me an address and invited me to attend a church service, where a visiting ministry would be speaking.
The following day, I did attend, along with Rick, and my friend Carol. There was no church building, as such, but the service was held in a large conference room adjacent to McGill University campus.
As I hesitantly approached the door of the building, I noticed a well-dressed man, probably West Indies/Canadian, (I guessed, by his medium-dark skin color and black hair). He greeted me with a broad smile and said, "Yes, you're in the right place!" Time would tell if that was the case.
The songs they sang were unfamiliar, but the singing carried a sense of genuineness and earnestness. A few people got up and shared briefly. Some spoke of difficult situations they were facing and asked for prayer, and they also shared about how God's Presence comforted them.
It seemed good, and all was well, until a stocky little man (apparently, the visiting ministry) made his way to the platform. He was briefly introduced as Stan Piper, and unhampered by formalities, he began to speak. I sensed an air of arrogance about him, as he proceeded to shout, spit, and cough out a message that alluded to an angry, exacting God, and our call to "sinless perfection". He spoke of "dying to self" as a process of God with the purpose of "purging away our sins." At least, this was the essence of what I was able to decipher from his very lengthy dissertation.
Stan's words weighed heavily on my heart. I recalled my first childhood experience with God. I had come to see Him as "Father" through the years that followed. Now I wondered if He was going to have to purge me to make me sinless. I left there, troubled and confused. It was then that I resolved to more earnestly search out this matter myself.
Excerpted from The Missing Factor by Margaret Belanger. Copyright © 2014 Margaret Belanger. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Quest of the Heart, 1,
2 Beginnings, 10,
3 Church, 14,
4 A Means to an End, 20,
5 Beginning of the End, 31,
6 What Really Is a Normal Christian Life?, 37,
7 Propensities and Modus Operandi, 41,
8 Dogs, Crumbs, and the Law, 46,
9 New Wine and New Wineskins, 51,
10 The Good News, 55,
11 A New Covenant, 58,
12 He Is Risen, 62,
13 Salvation: The Eternal Now, 69,
14 Mixing the Covenants, 75,
15 Trials, Tests, and Tribulations, 80,
16 What Is Grace?, 86,
17 Christian Nonbelievers, 92,
18 The Beautiful Fight of Faith, 95,
19 Core Stability, 101,
20 A Trusting Relationship, 107,
21 Identity: A New Creation, 115,
22 Well Equipped: A True Perspective, 123,
23 Congruency: Living in God's Reality, 131,
About The Author, 141,