A stranger, in rough, dusty clothes stood at the exit to the shopping plaza holding a sign, “I’m hungry and out of work.”
As we approached the corner in our car, Tom turned to me and said, “Have you any change?” I scrambled through the chaos of computer, cords etc. that cover my feet every time we travel, in search of my purse.
“Only $20, shall I give him that?”
The person behind us honked. Tom pulled away. With my hesitation, the moment was lost. Why didn’t I roll down the window and hand the man the $20? We would all have an answer. It was too much. Was he really out of work? What will he do with it?
A few days later, we parked in front of a stranger looking even more scruffy. He held a sign saying: “Hungry, no money, heading east.” I was desperate for my bathroom stop but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. “Tom,” I said, “Please give that young man some money and some food from our lunch pail. Talk with him. Find out his story.” and I hurried off.
When I returned Tom reported, “Gave him $5 and some cheese packets which are a good resource for a traveler.”
I know that my faith requires good deeds. I find it easy to donate money to church missions, or other groups because I trust it will be used wisely for people who truly need it. When it comes to giving to individuals, factors like true need, deserving, and my own safety, come into play. I forget to just give without judgment.
Slowly, I’m learning – learning to personally give away money and even my books and leave God responsible for the outcome. With this growth in generosity on an individual level, my faith has deepened. I am learning the truth of the Bible’s word, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)
It’s been a long election campaign and I’m glad it’s nearly over. Some of us may have lost patience with all the political rhetoric. Some of us may have enjoyed the entire ride. Regardless of how we are feeling, in Canada we can cast our ballot without fear of violence. We are truly safe. With this blessing comes a big responsibility. There are at least two things we need to remember. “The right to vote is precious.” And “We need to vote intelligently.”
In his prize winning novel, “Best Laid Plans”, Canadian Author Terry Fallis used humour to illustrate our propensity as Canadians to vote party, regardless of who is running either for prime minister or local MP. He made the point that it is important to listen, observe and think about each candidate and party.
How do we do that? A few weeks ago, some BC students launched a website that helps us see when party leaders are stretching the truth and taking the words of their competitors out of context. We all know that can happen in the advertising industry as well. Claims made for a company’s product can be grossly exaggerated. Even scientific studies can be manipulated to persuade the casual observer a particular product is not good for us.
It’s not just politicians that can pull words out of context. We have to be careful when we quote the Bible as well. The better you know the Bible, the greater the temptation to twist its words to support your position. For example, there are places in the Bible that, when taken out of context sound, like its writers are saying it’s ok to beat your child, or that women shouldn’t be ministers or priests. I sometimes think that if I wanted to I could find a verse in the Bible to support anything. In Canada we can read the Bible without fear of violence, therefore, It’s important for us to read the Bible with intelligence, to remember it’s a book about God’s love for God’s creation.
For the next few days, take the time to really think about the issues in this election campaign. Sift through the rhetoric and back stabbing, and look at the ideals and goals of the politicians. Prepare yourself to vote intelligently. Do the same with the Bible. Take advantage of your right to read this precious book. Do the research. Listen carefully
We’re home! Hallelujah! Traffic on the drive home was pretty reasonable. We ran into bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic on hwy 12 just south of Orillia. Tom took my suggestion of trying a concession road. Because we know the area well, we were able to follow the smaller side roads all the way to Lindsay. By then the traffic had cleared and we came home.
We’ve had a wonderful trip and we’re glad to be home. I know snowbirds spend months away every year. I’m not sure I could do that. I love my home. This Thanksgiving day, I’m giving thanks for my home and our family. Tom and I are abundantly blessed.
When we arrived late this afternoon, the dining room table was beautifully set with my good china and silver, table cloth, cloth napkins and tiny roses from my garden. My daughter Connie, and grandchildren Ellie and Tim were coming with Thanksgiving dinner all prepared. We were so grateful. We’d stopped at the 24 hour grocery store and found it closed. Our fridge and cupboards were empty. Connie’s green thumb has kept our flowers beautiful as well. It was fabulous to see and hug the three of them. I talked with my son Brad (in Ajax) on the phone. We will see them later this week. We’ve missed him and his family too.
Thanks so much to all of you for coming along with us on our trip. Your comments and emails kept me writing. I’ve enjoyed sharing my trip and my pictures. Tomorrow morning we begin again our regular life. I’m leading a workshop on storytelling with children at the Canadian Biblical Storytellers Festival in Richmond Hill on Friday. Sunday I have the honour of preaching at the anniversary service of Norwood United Church. Over the next two weeks I have several more events. My life is busy and I like it that way. Blessings to you all. Janet
October 11, 2015 Happy Thanksgiving! Have a blessed day.
At 8 a.m. this morning, we delivered twenty copies of Fireweed to Rev. David Zub. His study group will be reading and studying it this fall. Hopefully, either I or UCRD, will receive many more large orders like David’s.
The drive from Sault Ste Marie to Sudbury was beautiful. Lots of tall spreading hard maples resplendent in their scarlet gowns, danced in the sunshine. As usual my sister Sharon welcomed us here with open arms.
This afternoon Sharon and I sat in the sun on her balcony. The lake, the trees dressed up in beautiful bright colors and the warmth of the sun together with our conversation made those hours absolutely delightful. Tom slept peacefully in one of Sharon’s comfy chairs. It’s good to be with my sister again.
About 3:30, I skyped with my son Dave in Johannesburg, South Africa. As I said in my blog earlier this week, today is Dave’s birthday. It’s hard to believe he is 50. I’m much too young to have a son 50. I enjoyed catching up with Dave, Joanne and Jenna. I am grateful they are well and working at settling in to their new location.
Sharon, Tom and I had our Thanksgiving dinner at Swiss Chalet. It was delicious. It’s good to be with my sister again. This has truly been a great family day away from home and I’m grateful.
Tom and I wish you a wonderful holiday tomorrow. Whether you spend it with family, friends or on your own, I remind you that you are never totally alone. God is with you, always.
How do I describe this journey today – beautiful, spectacular, fabulous, brings tears to my eyes. Last night on Facebook I received a picture of an autumn scene. The leaves were so brightly colored leaves that someone asked, “Is this real or has the color been enhanced? Today we drove through the real thing. Trees dancing in the wind wearing their best satins and silks, covered both sides of the road, the hills ahead and behind us with reds, yellows, oranges, greens, broken only by rock cuts, and shining blue lakes, miles and miles and miles of beauty. As we drove I heard God speaking with love, “My creation is so precious. It is my gift to you. Please care for my beautiful trees and lakes. They give you life. Cherish them.” This bounty is etched in my memory. My heart is filled with “awe and gratitude” tonight.
We arrived in Sault Ste Marie in time to meet with Sylvia Stobie, a possible relative. Sylvia is interested in genealogy. She’s been following our journey on my Facebook blog and wondered if Tom had any new information about the Stobie clan. She’s also an active church member and wanted my books for her library and ministry. We had a great conversation.
At Swiss Chalet, our waitress placed a young family at the table next to us. Tom and I enjoyed what he calls “a grandchildren fix”. Two lovely little girls and a toddler kept us entertained while we ate our supper. They were delightful. God is truly good to us.
Now, we’re back at the hotel. That’s another whole story. We finally received our free night at a “Choice” hotel although it wasn’t our choice. It doesn’t have a swimming pool, or hot tub or sauna. It does have a comfy chair for both of us. It’s taken six nights in a choice hotel and several phone calls to gain enough points for free night. The advertisement says two nights gain you a free night. When we called “Choice rewards” to book this one, we asked for a room at the Quality Inn and Suites in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario Canada. Oh yes, the voice on the phone said. You’ve earned a free night there. Here’s your confirmation number. Your room is reserved. Five minutes later we walked into the Quality Inn and Suites and discovered every room was already taken. None had been reserved for us. The desk clerk phoned Comfort Inn just in case that was where we were booked and we were. So here we are. They tell us the room costs $50.00 more with fewer amenities. At this point we weren’t about to argue. But tonight I warn everyone who reads this. The Choice Privileges membership is frustrating, difficult to use and does not advertise truthfully.
Still we’ve had a wonderful day. We’re blessed abundantly. We’re grateful.
We’ve had a day surrounded by God’s golden paintbrush. Mile after mile of fall colors based in the deep gleaming blue of Lake Superior, as you can see by our pictures. My little camera has done its best.
Tonight we’ve settled into the Best Northern Motel – our first real motel on this journey. I miss the swimming pool that seems to help the stiffness and aches and pains arising from a day in the car. Other than that First Northern is great. It’s tucked into a stand of evergreens a little back from the highway, which is very nice and reasonably quiet. Lake Michipicoten is just 2 km. away, a nice walk.
After a delicious supper in the motel’s restaurant, we took the car as far as Silver Falls because the sun was setting and the air had become quite chilly. The little falls is lovely. Tonight we give God thanks for the beauty of creation. Tomorrow is a new day, and a short journey to Sault Ste Marie. We will soon be home.
For me, Thanksgiving carries the indescribable joy and gratitude that comes with the miracle of new life. Monday, October 11, 1965, my son David was born. God’s second fabulous gift of love for our family.
The Thanksgiving David turned six, his grandparents came from Lion’s Head, ON to our home in Timmins to celebrate with us. While I was preparing dinner, Davy & his big brother Brad were outside playing in the yard with their Dad and Grandpa. Brad burst through the door yelling, “Davy fell out of the tree into the hedge. His face is covered with blood.” My heart pounds still today when I remember my fear, my prayers, followed by my gratitude when he needed only few stitches above one eye and in his cheek.
The Thanksgiving David turned 18, he and his brother returned home after their first few weeks of university. I remember celebrating these two wonderful young men who had stepped out into the world to begin independent lives. I gave God thanks for the blessing of their lives, both the joys and the worries. This year, we celebrate 50 years of David’s life. Even though he and his family live in Johannesburg, South Africa, I carry his Spirit and love with me to our family gathering.
Children, our own and those of relatives, friends, and strangers each bring a unique light into our lives. Whether that light is tied to worry and grief, or to cuddles and pride, it can bring love and gratitude. This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take a few moments to light a candle to represent all the children that have touched your life over the years. As you watch that candle flame, strong enough to bring light in a darkened room and fragile enough to be snuffed out in a summer breeze, let your mind rest on the memories, both difficult and good. Give God thanks for each child individually. Let your gratitude flow into God’s world.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
Yesterday was a very long day in the car. We chose to drive from Winnipeg to Kenora in one day. Not a good idea for us! Our only stop was the Canadian Tire. Still, we arrived in Kenora at 7:30, after dark. Having hit a deer during twilight time last May, we have decided that driving northern highways after dark is dangerous. We were both relieved to roll into Kenora. We returned to the same hotel, which felt like coming home. Their little restaurant was open. Hallelujah. Following our good supper we swam in the pool and languished in the hot tub. When we crawled into bed we felt loved and cared for again. There isn’t much to say about yesterday except we had to trust in God as darkness fell.
This morning we slept in until 7:30. After breakfast we stopped by Knox United in Kenora and headed out. As we were driving into Dryden Tom watched a Golden Eagle swoop across the sky, elegant and powerful. At Dryden we visited First United. By the time we got there I was desperate to answer the call of nature. Their fabulous office administrator, Laurie H. went the extra mile to lead me downstairs, turning on lights as we went. Afterwards we had a grand conversation. Laurie is a fabulous front line person for First United. The office administrator’s greeting and response to visitors is crucial. Laurie was helpful, knowledgeable and fun. Although their new minister had left for lunch, she knew who to call about my books. Although that person wasn’t available to come, she trusted Laurie enough to give her permission to check out my books and purchase them if appropriate, which she did. We were impressed. God’s Spirit certainly emanated from Laurie.
From Dryden we drove on through a landscape alive with colour – yellows and greens of every possible shade. Coming into the Kaministiquia River Valley leading to Thunder Bay there was a point where God’s magical paintbrush had transformed the hills all around us. I’m sure Tom struggled to keep his eyes on the road.
Tonight we took grandson Ben out for dinner. He chose Mongo’s, an excellent choice. The food was delicious and also an experience. It’s sort of a buffet. The fresh veggies, meat, fish and varieties of noodles are laid out raw, ready for grilling. We were given one bowl and told to heap it as high as possible putting the noodles on top. Over all of that we heaped at least seven scoops of sauce. There were a multitude of sauces – some spicy – to choose from. Once loaded up we took our bowls to the huge circular grill where five young people were cooking. A loud hiss and lots of steam erupted as they emptied our bowls on the grill. Once cooked our meal was placed in a bigger bowl and handed back. On one side of the buffet they had a series of recipes to help in my choice of sauces. My creation was absolutely perfect. I even managed to eat my entire bowl. After all with all those fresh veggies this had to be good for me. We enjoyed our visit with Ben. He’s a wonderful young man. Tom and I are totally blessed by our grandchildren.
As we go to bed tonight, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for our amazing lives.
Once again I am writing about two days. Last night we had dinner with Claudia and Will. Back at their home, we had a wonderful, long conversation. At 11:30 when we all reluctantly brought the evening to an end, I had no desire or energy to write up the day.
Yesterday, I visited two great churches in Calgary. St. David’s United is centering their ministry around interfaith dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rev. Peggy McDonagh speak with passion about their experience with guest speakers and locals from other faith traditions. Of course, they have outreach projects as well as worship and Bible study etc. This is a busy city church, carrying Jesus’ message of inclusivity, love and community.
I returned to Wild Rose United to visit with Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Simmins. He talked with enthusiasm about Wild Rose’s ministry with teens, especially at the nearby high school. “There are over fifty teens who are homeless going to that school,” he said as he pointed to the building down the street. “We have a breakfast program for them as well as providing them with bus tickets. At the moment we are slowly purchasing special math calculators for those who need them. We’ve bought five so far. They are quite expensive.”
I had a grand time at both of these churches. God’s Spirit has definitely risen up and led these congregations down valuable avenues of faith and service. I was rather proud of myself as well because I drove myself yesterday. Driving in a strange city with my handicapped sense of direction requires courage and trust in God. God kept me calm and confident. To add to my sense of accomplishment I sold books at both places.
The rest of the day was family time and that was superb. Our last evening with Will and Claudia couldn’t have been better.
Today, we got up early so that we could leave by 9:00 a.m. for Regina. We drove through many miles of our beautiful golden prairies. One of the highlights was seeing Reed Lake. Reed Lake is a shallow saline (salt water) lake, 14 km by 3-4 km that lies parallel to the Trans-Canada highway near the towns of Herbert and Morse in Saskatchewan. The water levels are subject to wide fluctuations. Today the water was very high. It seemed to be almost level with the road. During the spring waterfowl and shorebird migration, Reed Lake is a popular stop over. Today the shore was lined with white as the birds rested and swooped in the air. My research tells me, peak one-day counts of shore birds have consistently been greater than 5000, with as many as 11,327 counted in one-day in 1993. As many as 5000 Tundra Swans have also been counted in one day. The road that crosses the lake was closed today. With the water level so high, we wondered if maybe there were spots on it that were submerged.
We also visited two churches on our way to Regina. We stopped in Medicine Hat, Alberta, for lunch and dropped in at Westminster United. Rev. Jan Stephenson gave me a tour of their building and spoke with excitement about the clustering they are doing with two small rural churches. “There are two clergy on staff here. We will be filling a half time position serving these two small churches,” she said. “Each of us will take two weeks of pastoral care and lead one Sunday worship each month. Dipping Your Toes will be wonderful for our lay leaders.” Rev. Jan bought Fireweed too.
Mid-afternoon, we needed a break. At the Tim Horton’s in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Tom asked a group of senior ladies if they knew where the United Church was located. They were happy to give us directions. “Shall we check it out,” Tom asked. Their directions led us to Rev. Annette Taylor at First United Church. Once again we enjoyed a lively conversation. First United is in the process of discerning its direction for the future. “This place is full of energy,” Annette told us. She also picked up “Dipping Your Toes,” and said, “this is truly needed especially in our rural churches. We left her with what I’m calling my packaged set of Dipping Your Toes, Fireweed, and Spectacular Stella. Selling books is fun when people are enthusiastic about buying them.
Tonight, we’re in our first bed and breakfast of the trip. Rise and Shine B&B has provided us with a big room and ensuite bathroom. The owners are friendly and helpful. They sent us to “Brewsters” for supper, where the food was delicious and the noise level quite manageable. I’d recommend it, when you come to Regina.
As we visit churches and travel through our spectacular country, it’s easy to be aware of God’s presence. At this point it feels as if God is enjoying this journey as much as I am.
What a fabulous day. We started with the four of us attending worship at Wild Rose United church, another of our United Churches that is flying on God’s Spirit. Filled with friendly people, adults, teens and children who greeted us warmly. The service itself was informal and lively. One member told us her faith story. The teens provided opening music, lit the Christ candle, and music during the offering. The theme was Broken yet Blessed. The service was followed by lunch. A great introduction for the four of us to Wild Rose UC. Outside is a beautiful meditation area (see picture) but this morning it was too chilly at 1 degree Celsius to enjoy using it.
This afternoon, I connected with my friend and colleague Rev. Jennifer Ferguson. We had a delightful time catching up on each other’s lives. Friendship is precious. Although we see each other once every 2 or 3 years, we always just pick up where we left off as if the time between didn’t exist.
Tonight Will and Claudia took us to “Illuminasia”, a Chinese lantern and garden festival at the Calgary Zoo. Tonight the entertainment and displays featured the Japanese culture. The lanterns, some of which took three artists, three days to produce were amazing. They featured wild animals, flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and more. The Japanese displays and activities were interesting and fun. We had a grand evening.
Every day I look for God’s presence. Although I realize that God is with me every step of the way, the special time today took place at “Illuminasia”. I was enjoying the display of fans and umbrellas, I complimented a young girl (approx.. age 5) on her beautiful kimono and asked to take a picture. Her mother offered to take one of me with her. Another little girl came running over to join the picture. Afterward, I asked if I could post the picture on Face book. The one mother said a tentative no, and then added but of course many people would post it anyway. I shook my head and said, “No, if you don’t want it posted, I won’t post it.” At that point she smiled, took my hand and said, “thank you, so much.” The second mother piped up with, “but you can post my picture.” So you have a picture of me with the two beautiful Mom’s in their Japanese kimonos. I’m not sure why this felt like God’s presence had touched us, but I certainly felt the Spirit there with me, smiling and saying, “Thank you, Janet, thank you so much for caring for my children.”