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Thursday, June 4, 2020

"Able Soul" (Lucy Goncalves)

TITLE: Able Soul: Empowering God's Spirit Within
AUTHOR: Lucy Goncalves
PUBLISHER: Vancouver, BC: Able Soul Wheel Press, 2019, (90 pages).

Many of us take our physical freedom and mobility for granted. Those who lack the use of any part of the body would be labeled either "disabled," "handicapped," or the more politically correct phrase, "physically challenged." For many people, this would pretty much define our outlook in life. As the saying goes, it takes one to know one. What about a book where we can see life from the eyes of those who are physically challenged? This book is a beautiful example of one who has multiple challenges. Speech impairment and the inability to walk may restrict one's lifestyle choices, but the most crippling of them all, is a broken and downhearted spirit. Such a mood would easily break down one's enthusiasm for life. Lucy Goncalves discovers this early, that the biggest barrier is put up by oneself. She writes with honesty that she's "the one who puts up the barriers" with her negative emotions and unwillingness. Her story challenges us to pray in spite of helplessness; to press on in spite of weakness; and to persevere on in spite of challenges. She shares twenty personal reflections on God, faith, life, and lessons. Each time she compares and contrasts what she lacks with what she receives from God, family, friends, and the kind things that are visible to her when she is willing to see it. I like the way she credits the writing back to God, that the books was "birthed in prayer." This is the essence of all books written about spirituality.

Goncalves shares about her struggles to help us appreciate the world from her point of view. With her speech impediment, few people would fully listen and value what she tries to say. The world is far more impatient to move things along and if one cannot keep up, one gets left behind. Speaking from a being left behind angle shows the rest of the world the treasures that were missed. Turning a crisis into an opportunity, she learns to rely more on God. She works slower but more intentional. What she lacks physically and emotionally, she compensates mentally and spiritually. She has also a group of very supporting friends assisting her in the writing of this book. She is someone who simply refuses to let her spirit be put down by the world around her. This is what I call a fighting spirit. Behind this is a heart intent on listening to God even when the world has no patience to listen to her. This gives Goncalves a unique insight into receiving the Truth and beauty of God's Word.

While the world appears oblivious to the flaws of society, she sees these obvious things clearly and turns them to prayer. I loved the way she prays: 
"Racial tension and societal prejudice are on the rise. People are losing patience, becoming less empathetic and tolerant. There is a lack of common courtesy. Negativity is dominating social media. It is so easy to immediately voice our critical opinions online without contemplating the impact this has on others. We are less willing to take time to listen and understand the issues. In some respects, it feels like society is going backward, losing the ability to empathize and be compassionate and to treat each person with dignity. 
Lord, as your representatives of Christ’s love, let us refrain from quick judgement that demeans others. Teach us to empower one another with respect and understanding, building communities with integrity and inclusion. May we treat people with the same dignity you have shown in your unconditional love and acceptance toward us, knowing that we are ALL treasured in your eyes."

My Learning
I like to share three powerful lessons on life from the writings of this courageous author.

First, the book reads like a prayer journal. Not only will we learn simple lessons about prayer, we get to eavesdrop on the way Goncalves speaks with our Heavenly Father. Every chapter ends with an original personal prayer which teaches us to be free and open with God. In particular, she connects the way she was injured to how Jesus was also wounded by the world. She prays her frustrations away that each time she experiences a physical barrier, she takes it to God in gratitude that God doesn't put a barrier for anyone who goes to Him. As each hurt sinks in, she gradually directs whatever pains to Jesus. It reminds me of how the psalmists of old lament about how God has been hurt by the very people He loved. In our society, there is no telling how much we are hurting. Her prayers are powerful, and that reveals a very tender and spiritual soul in her. Bless her heart!

Second, we also learn how to see things from the perspective of the disabled. If there is one reason to pick up this book, this will be it. Many people claim that love is great and lavish praise on all things love. Seriously, beyond the songs and the verbal proclamations, how does love actually look like? In the world of the disabled, there is a lot that the rest of the world do not understand. This is something we can all learn, and in doing so, empathize more. As Goncalves had personally experienced, there is a "unique perspective" that the rest of us don't normally see. Like glasses to help us see more clearly, this book is like that pair of glasses to enable us to see what the world of the disabled are seeing. Perhaps, when that happens, when we are in public spaces, we would be more considerate and thoughtful in relating to any disabled person we see. More importantly, there is much beauty that Goncalves could see that we could learn from. 

Finally, when in doubt, either ask or give the other person the kind benefit of the doubt. Never judge them. Communication is a unique challenge for people like Goncalves, who had Cerebral Palsy that impacts the way she interacts with people. For what seems effortless to us might require more for them to work on. Even speaking a simple question would require tremendous determination. Patience from the rest of us would be golden. Encourage them not only with words but with a gentle smile that says: "Its ok. I am listening. Take your time." That little act of consideration could go a long way to bring hope and shine love to all. 

Thank you Lucy for the open sharing. 

Lucy Goncalves is an author, a volunteer with non-profit organizations for over 28 years, a lover of all things Portuguese food, and a Netflix binger. By the way, she travels around in a wheel-chair due to her cerebral palsy condition since birth.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Able Soul Wheel Press without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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