I’m pleased to announce that I will be doing a reading from my latest novel, “To Begin Again” as part of the Grand Opening Cabaret at the Keene Centre for the Arts. Friday, February 22nd, There’s two shows, one at five and one at eight. There’s music, storytelling, skits, a fashion show, me, and even belly dancing. Your $25 gets you the show, champagne and desert. It’s an intimate venue with only 40 tickets to be sold. Hope to see you there. Blessings Janet
On Valentine’s Day we talk about love, especially love for spouse. The stores tell us to buy a gift – usually an expensive gift – but at least a card for that special person in our life. Over and over, and not just at Valentine’s Day, we are encouraged to speak words of love to our children, our spouse, our friends. “Tell them you love them before it’s too late,” is the command.
The Bible adds another dimension to the discussion about love. “Above all love each other, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
“Love covers a multitude of sins.” What a beautiful thought. St. Paul is speaking of unconditional love. It’s not that love wipes away those sins. It’s that we love anyway. As human beings we are aware of our child’s, our spouse’s failings. Often those failings are aggravating, frustrating. We worry about their consequences. We believe this child has to learn another way. Sometimes those failings cause us or other’s pain. This short bible verse tells us that our love continues to flow in spite of what we do or say or think.
For me, this verse speaks about forgiveness – not forgetfulness, not acceptance – but forgiveness. I remember hearing a story long ago about a conversation between two people – Linda and George. They were discussing their spouses.
George said, “How do you cope with the fact that your husband squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle. My wife does that. It drives me crazy.”
Linda answered, “When we got married I decided that every time I was irritated I would write down the irritation and at some point I would discuss it with Lenny. Once the irritation is on the list, I let go of it. Over the years, I’ve discovered there are many more important things to discuss, than some of the ones on my list. Important things like how we spend our next vacation, which house to buy, the time he lost his job through downsizing, my mother’s illness. That list of irritations never seems important enough to give it air time. Loving, caring for each other always takes precedence.
“Love covers a multitude of sins,” is a very important principle. It carries us through to forgiveness so that bitterness does not spawn and grown.
A Gift of Love
Valentine’s Day is coming soon. As a child, I dreaded the day. I remember writing a valentine for everyone in the class, even though I knew I would receive only a few. Although finding something suitable in the package of fifty my mom bought and the task of signing them all, was hard work in my mind, I didn’t want anyone in the class to be left out. No matter who they were it felt good to think they would receive at least one valentine. Taking care of the lonely, the excluded, has always been important to me.
Today, as a senior the only valentines I write are to my grandchildren and my sweetheart Tom. At Christmas it’s easy to think of others we don’t know, because the donation boxes and kettles are everywhere. On Valentine’s Day, the focus is more on me and who loves me. Think I’ll change that this time. In a bag in my room are four new pairs of warm men’s socks. Somehow they got left forgotten at Christmas. I’ve decided rather than returning them to the store, I will take them to the Salvation Army along with two valentines. That feels like a tangible and valuable way to include the lonely and excluded this year.
What can you do to make Valentine’s Day, a day of giving love beyond your family? Is there someone in your church or at work or your senior’s centre that you believe will find Valentine’s Day a lonely experience. Can you make a meal, bake some cookies, create something in your workshop, buy flowers or a plant and bring it along with a card to brighten their day.
The reality of life is that we don’t have to wait for a special day. We just need to stop in the midst of our crazy lives and open our eyes and hearts to the people around us. We already know that bringing joy to someone else will bring healing and energy into our own lives. Remember Jesus’ words, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, you failed to do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45 NIV)
I have been reading the Gospel of Luke every morning for the past three weeks using Eugene Peterson’s, The Message/The Bible in Contemporary Language. Peterson is a Biblical Scholar
Today, I read verses 17-46. What a clear presentation of Jesus’ teaching. If all of us could totally live these few verses we would immediately be on our way to world peace. Not everyone has a copy of “The Message” and/or has been introduced to it. Because the copyright at the front of this Bible allows for large direct quotes, I’ve decided to give you those 29 verses to read in this blog.
I would love to hear your reflections on this passage.
What do these words mean for your own life?
In 2019 what changes would you have to make, in order to live them fully?
You can go to www.biblegateway and look up Luke 6:17-46 in many different translations and interpretations of the Bible. Check them out, if you choose, not in order to critique The Message, but to enlarge your understanding of Jesus’ teaching.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Luke 6:17-47 The Message (MSG)
17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.
22-23 “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
Give Away Your Life
24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.
25 And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
39-40 He quoted a proverb: “‘Can a blind man guide a blind man?’ Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher.
41-42 “It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.
Work the Words into Your Life
43-45 “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
46-47 “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Flying on God’s Spirit
I’ve been reading The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T.E.Carhart. It’s not an exciting adventure story but it is a fascinating presentation of piano’s and playing them to make music for your soul. In the Chapter called The Master Class, a famous pianist, named Sebok, speaks, “The best technique is one that does not exist, a kind of disappearing act so the real focus is on where the technique comes from: an inner calm…not the same as relaxation…” rather from all human emotions but not fear. “Music is blocked by fear…There is no such thing as music note by note just as there is no such thing as a book, word by word. There is no perfection, just a life long process of making music; once technique and commitment have been suitably mastered, you have to decide for yourself the right interpretation. It is a complex message.”
As I read this today, I realized that for me, Carhart was giving words to my understanding of faith and life. The Bible like a musical score is a document not to be understood word by word, but as a whole. It gives direction for me to interpret for my life. I can master the techniques it gives – the commandments and the teachings of Jesus. I can make the commitment to knowing them so completely that they disappear and my life becomes God’s song through the interpretation of my living.
I call it “flying on God’s Spirit”. Others call it “letting go and letting God.” Occasionally, I achieve that amazing interpretation. Usually those moments come when I am loving someone, caring for someone, preaching, mentoring, and writing. Worry about self, and how I am doing and what is right totally disappears. I get out of the way and God’s Spirit shines through. Theologians call it becoming “the Christ” for that moment.
As Carhart says, “there is no perfection” in making music. My thought is that there is no perfection in living. There are “moments”, wonderful, spectacular moments when my soul is at peace, and my interpretation of God’s music reaches out and touches souls – mine and others – through my writing, my preaching, my living. For those moments I am truly grateful.
Let’s Take the Plunge.
Christmas Day is over, but for Christians, the celebration is truly just beginning. The Good News of God’s presence in the world is a miracle. We have stories of the wonder of creation that take our breath away. Whether it’s a beautiful snow-covered landscape sparkling in the sun, or the sacredness of holding a new born child, we know that God is at the source of all beauty, love, peace. We’d like to tell the world, but it’s embarrassing and scary to speak about faith in God.
We see the judgment in people’s eyes. We feel the skepticism, mockery, disgust. Pushing past those feelings to offer the comfort of prayer when someone is hurting takes great courage and determination. It’s so much easier just to give a hug, then go home and pray. For me, Christmas helps me to feel more confident in speaking of my faith. I watch the generosity of people as they drop dollars in the Salvation Army buckets. Their sharing encourages me to take the plunge and risk sharing. Now the season has passed. Do I have to wait ’til next Christmas?
It’s January, the beginning of another year. Maybe now is the time for risk. After all, in today’s world where some are willing to risk being openly racist, surely we can risk being openly faithful. After all, what we are doing is telling stories; stories that let our faith shine. Our job is not to tell others how to think or act. Our job is to share that God is with us, giving us comfort and courage in the tough times, celebrating with us in our joy. We can speak of our alternative lifestyle. We do not live alone. We know God’s presence within our hearts and through our church family. Maybe if others see and hear us, they might just get curious. They might ask questions, like what is this Christian faith thing all about? Once the questions begin, sharing our faith becomes easier.
Give it a try. Own up to your faith in 2019. Enjoy the difference it makes for you and for others.
God said, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronmy 11:18)
To Stumble or Walk with Purpose
For the last few months, I have been just stumbling along. For sure, I have accomplished everything that needed to be done. For sure, I’ve had some good times playing with Tom, and family. I have certainly been busy. But, underneath my busyness has been that wonder- what next? What is my purpose? I didn’t publish a book in 2018. Maybe I’m finished writing? I know that’s not true. Today, I read the reflection for New Year’s Day, in Our Daily Bread. It’s based on Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
What can my hand find to do, I wondered. I smiled and picked up my pencil and wrote:
- There’s your children’s story, “The Elephant at the Manger,” maybe it’s time that became a book. Immediately I thought, but I don’t have an illustrator. There are many avenues for removing that obstacle. It will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
- Last year you gathered a bunch of new biblically based short stories you have written over the years. Maybe it’s time you created a new short story collection. I chuckled when I thought, that too will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
- You’ve thought about writing a book for intermediate readers, even talked about it with your daughter and granddaughter. Maybe it’s time you gave that some real effort – “doing with all your might.”
I chuckled and said, “Okay Lord, I hear you. My purpose is to write and it’s time I got back to it on a regular basis.
Maybe this is an exercise for you, my readers to consider. As you enjoy the sunshine on this first day of 2019, pick up a pencil and start writing about the projects you might like to do, the things you would like to make happen this year. Just set your hand free to write. For sure, all of them will require real effort. You may believe you don’t have the time or energy to do any of them. Write them down anyway. For sure you won’t accomplish any of them if you just stumble along, wondering, feeling like something is missing. Take some time today to think about your life. Give yourself a chance to “Walk with Purpose” into 2019.
Happy New Year!!!
Years ago, I had a form of this poster in my office. I wanted people to know, that regardless of society’s judgement, or yours or mine, that all human beings are valuable because God made us. No one is junk to be thrown away in the trash.
Today, as 2018 slips away, and I pray for family members who are walking the home stretch of their journey with cancer, these words carry an additional meaning. They bring the assurance of a new life beyond death. Faith in a loving God tells us that death is not the end, not the relegation of our beings to the trash heap.
My faith tells me that death is a transition into something new. Some faith traditions speak of reincarnation – an opportunity to return to this life as someone else – animal or human depending on how we have lived this time.
My christian tradition speaks of death bringing a new form of life with God where there are no more tears, sickness, hunger, thirst.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Although none of knows exactly what is ahead, today this poster reminds me that we will never become trash. There will be a new life. I think about this next life as a new adventure filled with forgiveness, understanding, and joy. We are God’s precious children, conceived in God’s love, carrying a spark of God’s love within us. The future, like the new year brings mystery, for sure. We can step out in trust, knowing God is with us, creating us and God doesn’t make junk!
” For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV)
My daughter’s family have a new puppy for Christmas. Today I met Oliver. He’s small and cute, full of bounce and energy.
Their old dog, Bear Paw, a family member for many years is already teaching Oliver, how to be a proper family member. We went for a walk, Oliver, Bear Paw, my daughter and I. We laughed as Bear Paw chased the ball and Oliver chased Bear Paw. Bear brought back the ball. Oliver picked up a leaf and carried it almost to us. Pretty neat for an eight week old puppy, I thought.
Back home again, both dogs laid down to rest. My daughter, sat beside the pup, bringing warmth to his tiny shivering body and love to his heart as she gently massaged his head. Oliver has been rescued, the animal shelter said. For me Oliver has been adopted. He’s come as a bundle of life and love, joyfully anticipated and wanted.
This morning’s experience reminded me of my life. I was adopted, at 18 months. Was I rescued? I suppose some could say that. But like Oliver, I was joyfully anticipated and wanted. Both Oliver and I were way more than rescued. We came to our families as precious gifts of love and life. I cannot remember my first moments or days in my new home, but as I experience the joy that Oliver is bringing to my daughter and grandchildren, I am sure that I too, brought joy and love.
Babies, human and animal, all bring responsibilities and so much more. Adopted, born into, rescued are only society’s terms. Loved, wanted, needed, those are the words that matter.
Today, I am blessed once again with a beautiful quiet hour before the busy day begins. Thank you, God for waking me, calling me, to spend time in prayer. I offer all of you and all my readers, my thoughts this morning.
As many have said before, Jesus’ birth was not announced by royal trumpets. None of that society’s kings, emperors or government officials were present. Yet, God came and not silently. God came with the cries of a mother at birth, experiencing the pain and work of new life. Shepherds, society’s outcasts came to celebrate. They heard the angel’s voices – the heavenly trumpets.
This morning and every morning, God comes to us again. As I ponder the events of yesterday, these are my experiences of God’s presence. God started early by reminding me through Tom that I intended to give away two copies of my novel To Begin Again. I saw God smile, on the face of the person who received them. God came to me in the quiet request of a beggar on the street downtown. I offered all my change, maybe five dollars and the plea, please use it for food not drugs. I could feel God groan. Leftovers given begrudgingly, I thought. God came again in the greeting of the Salvation Army band at the mall. This time God nodded as I responded with money for their bucket and words of gratitude to one of the musicians. God reached out and touched my heart yet again in the grocery store. A teenager voluntarily helped me with my groceries. I responded with smiles and thankyou’s, and words of joy to the check out clerk. This time I felt God’s joy. And the list goes on. All day yesterday, it seemed that God was with me. The culmination of my joy and God’s came as I sat with my daughter and grandchildren and Tom at the Christmas Eve service and then enjoyed food and fellowship at home with good friends.
There was so much more yesterday. Blessings rained down on me, warmed my heart all day. They weren’t huge. The blessing was that yesterday, even in the noise and rush of the crowds around me, in the multitude of tasks, I didn’t miss God’s presence with me.
Today, on this most holy day, take a moment to step into the shoes of Mary the mother of Jesus, ponder in your heart the times you have experienced God’s presence over the last week. Open your heart to God’s visit today. Whether you’re in the midst of deep sadness and fear or surrounded by celebration and love – remember the miracle of God’s presence is with you. Like the shepherds, listen for the angel’s song of joy. It’s Jesus’ birthday. Give thanks.