The Right Brand

            Today society says “your brand is everything.” Even cities hire marketing experts to give them just the “right brand,” so tourists will flock to their attractions and hotels. A well-known brand is more important then the value or even reliability of the goods and services.

Experts tell me I need to develop my brand, so I can sell my books on the internet. Much thought has left me with words like gentle, new perspective, Good News. None of these will sell books in this society that wants desperate tragedy, extreme sports, all the right answers. My reputation as a caring pastor won’t do it, nor even my record of having sold books to satisfied readers in the past. I have to have a “brand” that will catch the attention of the public.  
            In some ways, “Christianity” is a brand that represents those of us who follow Jesus. The problem with this brand is that it has lost a lot of its original meaning. Too often, people hear the word “Christian” and think bigoted, judgmental, or exclusive. Jesus commanded his disciples to love God and love one another. Christians are called to be loving, giving, caring people committed to serving as the hands and feet and heart of Christ in this world. . As the song tells us, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” That is a brand that sells well but is hard to live.
It is easy to be like the student who heaved a great sigh as he read the bonus question on his sociology exam.

What is the name of the custodian who cleans your residence building? This man has provided faithful service to you and your fellow students all year. Appreciation and respect for those around you is one way to make a difference in this world.

The student pictured an older man pushing a broom up and down the halls. “He always smiled and spoke to me, but I never stopped to talk. He didn’t even exist for me.”
             Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

             The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
             Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”    (Matthew 10:36-37)

Thanks Living

One of our family thanksgiving traditions involves a walk in the woods or across the fields. The youngest among us collects red, gold, and oaken brown leaves to decorate the dining room table.
As I walk, I consciously collect reasons for giving thanks. I am thankful for:
• sight – God’s world glowing with the colors of autumn. I am surrounded by beauty.
• sound – birds’ songs, squirrel chatter, laughter and words – entangle to create the music of life.
• Family – My youngest granddaughter slips on the muddy path. She holds up her hand, slimy with mud and giggles. Her big brother groans. I smile. Love fills my soul.
• Freedom – to live in this wonderful country where we can speak our minds, go to worship, attend school, get medical care without fear. As Canadians we are blessed.

My son speaks about a friend who has cancer, and my mind shifts to the grief and pain that comes from illness and death. What would I do if one of these who are with me, had cancer? I shiver with the darkness that enshrouds my mind. Because I love them, I feel this pain. Yet nothing could induce me to trade the joy of their presence in my life for the absence of that pain. Yes, I can give thanks even in the midst of sickness and death.
My minister identified these thoughts and feelings as “thanks living” I encourage you to try “thanks living” not just for one weekend but every day all year. Search out the goodness in the midst of the trials and the joys of life and give thanks.
As St. Paul says in his first letter to the Thessalonians , “Be joyful always: pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 .

Everyday God

Too often I talk with people who are worn out, exhausted, overwhelmed. Life has lost its meaning. The treadmill of busyness has taken over. “What happened to the fun?” they ask.  “Even play times like catching a good movie, dinner out, watching the hockey game with friends, require such careful scheduling and determined “no’s,” that it’s hardly worth the effort. “How do I get my life under control?” is a major question in today’s world.

In his final speech in Springfield, Illinois, before going to Washington, Abraham Lincoln declared, “ The great God who guided me all my life must help me now. Without that assistance, I shall surely fail; with it, I cannot fail.” Lincoln was embarking on an awesome task. He looked to God, his constant companion all his life to provide wisdom and guidance.

We trust God for the huge tasks and the most painful obstacles in life, yet we assume that the daily tasks are totally our own responsibility. Without even thinking about God, we get them done. The grass is mowed; the cake baked; the report finished. We think we don’t need God in our daily routine. We forget that we believe in an everyday God.

Many years ago, I learned a very important secret. The Lord is my shepherd not just through the tough times, but every day through all the mundane stuff. When I begin each day seeking God’s Grace, I fly on the Holy Spirit. Blessings surround me. I notice the smile of the store clerk. I hear the praise that is offered me. My laughter increases. My stress decreases. Yes, I still have a thousand things to do, but God has given me this precious day full of joys and challenges

Life can be like eating peas with your knife. You can do it even though the peas keep sliding off, and you cut your tongue once in a while. When you add God, it’s like adding a fork and spoon. You fly on the Spirit. With God, Grace abounds.  

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…” (Psalm 23)

The Burning Bush

           `This is the season for the Sumac to show its splendour. For me, it’s at its best when the top of the leaves are green and the undersides have already turned that brilliant red. I attempted to catch the amazing effect of the sun shining through the green to the fire beneath with my camera.

We drive down the road and exclaim, “Wow, that’s beautiful”. Then we keep right on going, our busy day calling us onward.

            In the Bible story of the burning bush, Moses followed his curiosity and stopped to investigate. He met God. “Take off your shoes,” God said, “You’re standing on Holy ground.” I think Moses had an advantage. He walked in a dry and dusty land where scraggly bushes dotted the landscape. The burning bush was hard to ignore.

            This wonderful country of ours, with its fertile soil and sparkling lakes, is truly Holy. We forget to stand in awe, maybe because we are sated with its beauty and peacefulness. Moses was curious. Too often we respond with apathy. We let the wonder of our world slide by in a blur, as our cars rush down the highway.

            When Moses stopped and took off his shoes, he opened himself to God. In the story, God gives him a job, a big job. “Lead my people out of slavery,” God says.

Is that the reason we refuse to stop and let the glory of creation enfold us? Are we afraid that God might give us a job, too?

Moses was certainly afraid. “I can’t,” he responds. “I don’t speak well. Pharaoh won’t listen to me.” So God tells him to take his brother, Aaron. with him. He didn’t have to do it alone. Not only did he have Aaron’s help, but God was with him, offering wisdom and power.

We, too, can risk stopping to soak in the beauty of our world. We can risk meeting God, for God does not expect us to work alone. With any task God sets before us, if we open our eyes and hearts to God, there will always be at least one person to help if not more. And of course God will be with us.

Over the next week, pull off the road and stop. Check out the beauty around you. Enjoy the feast of God’s creation. Take a risk and experience the holy.

Post A Day

Title: I’m Posting every day in 2011!

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now. I will be posting on this blog once a day / once a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Janet Stobie