Can I Hold Him (2) is not exactly new but it’s coming in a new way. Last year my book of Christmas short stories, Can I Hold Him?, sold out. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about publishing a second printing. Finally, I have started the process. Using Create Space/Amazon,Can I Hold Him: Christmas Stories for All Ages will be available to order “print on demand” and as an ebook. The process is supposed to be easy. So far, I’ve learned that it’s not a walk in the park, but I have help.
Greg Phillips of “4hundred4.com” web development is working with me. Greg is the greatest. He’s patient with people like me who seem to find the simplest computer process difficult. He’s skilled and honest and affordable. I happily recommend his services. Together we will make this journey. My hope is that this experience will mean that I can prepare and upload the files for my sequel to Fireweed all by myself. That’s one of Greg’s specialties. He’s a good teacher and willing to share his knowledge.
We plan to have Can I Hold Him? : Christmas Stories for All Ages ready to purchase by the end of September. If you’d like to pre-order an autographed copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Cost will be the same as before – $10.00 plus shipping. I will keep you posted as each stage of this process is completed. Please say a prayer for Greg and me as he leads me through this learning curve.
Last night, Tom and I sat on my daughter’s deck with family and friends. Some of the circle were missing. Sickness, work, life had led them to different places at that moment. We ate well from a simple and delicious meal prepared with love. We shared stories of the past and present, and we shared dreams for the future. I felt love’s mantle enfold us and with it came inner peace.
It was just a Sunday dinner; a rare occasion in today’s world; a quiet gathering. For me, it was a glimpse of heaven. I could have missed it. We could have gone home early or been too busy to come. I could have been focused on my own concerns, but last night, my heart was open – open to God’s special gift of love. In Biblical terms, “Last night, I joined Moses as he saw the burning bush, took off his shoes and walked on “holy ground.” I’m truly grateful.
I’ve been practicing. Just as a child needs to learn to stop, look and listen before he/she crosses the street, I have been learning to stop, open my heart, look and listen for the moments of joy that God offers us daily.
I recommend you start this journey for yourself. It means letting go of whatever is going on in your mind – plans, frustrations, fears, worries – letting go for just a few moments so that you can become aware of the love and joy around you.
All God needs is a crack in our armor, just a crack. Open your heart to the love that surrounds you. Whether it’s the joy that comes with a stranger’s smile, a child’s laughter, or a dog’s cold nose on your arm, let it in. These moments will stay with you. Their memory will give you strength in your darkest hours.
Remember, God’s “holy ground” is where you are at the moment. And…Don’t forget to give thanks.
My thought this morning is, “With moments like last night as part of God’s heaven, I have no fear of death.”
I’ve seldom tried writing poetry. It’s not my gift. This morning, I was having my daily conversation with God. First thing after waking I like to “feed my soul” with the writing of others. I picked up James Taylor’s Everyday Psalms and checked out the Psalm 85. (set out in the lectionary for this week). I was inspired to write the following. It might be a poem. I don’t know. It doesn’t rhyme so it could be blank verse. It came from my pen in short lines. MY QUESTION IS, WHAT COULD I DO TO TURN THIS INTO POETRY? MAYBE NOTHING. This morning I feel called to share it. Please comment.
That present looks spectacular.
A gift of beauty sent from God.
And on My shelf.
Chefs know presentation is everything.
I see that gift every day.
Sometimes I turn it to catch the sunlight,
Appreciate it from a new angle.
I lift it. Check it’s weight. Even shake it.
Still the gift remains unopened.
I don’t need it.
I’ve done nothing that requires this.
Opened now, there’ll be nothing for the future.
It’s meant for someone else.
The one who believes.
But I long to open it.
If I were starving and this a gift of food,
I would surely open it.
It doesn’t disappear, or fade.
It’s always there.
Can I? Will I?
Change can be painful and exciting. Last month, George St. United Church congregation held their final worship service in the building that has been their Spiritual Home for 140 years. Many people in our Peterborough community have been baptized, confirmed, married, and had their funerals conducted at George St. United. Now, God has led the congregation to make a change to a new vision as they join with St. Andrews United to become a brand new entity – Emmaunuel United Church. For many congregational members, this is a sad and painful ending. For some of these same people and for others, this is an exciting new beginning. Both congregations will bring the best of their pasts – faith traditions and faith stories of work done here in this community and around the world. Together, they go forth in faith to serve God through a new vision. Both buildings may be left behind or maybe not. All the details of this immense change have not yet been worked out.
Change is like that for all of us. A move to a new community can bring stress as we seek to let go of close friends and familiar places and endeavor to begin again. Our long awaited retirement can feel empty and lonely without work to give our lives value. The anxiety of a new job with it’s unknown problems can make us wish we could turn back time. Often with change, we feel as if our world is ending. It’s tough to begin again.
Change comes to us as individuals whether we want it or not. I remember the year that my last child started university. I worried that our house and my life would be empty. After all, my life had revolved around my children’s lives for twenty-four years. I was also excited about the possibilities that lay ahead with my new freedom.
As Christians, we believe God calls us from the loss and fear of change to a new life that can be better, and for sure will be different and glorious. We spend time in prayer, talking the whole situation over with God. We spend time with family and friends, seeking discernment for the next steps in our journey. Just as two of our city congregations are seeking to let go and find a new form of ministry that will serve today’s community, so do we as individuals endeavor to let go of the past and seek out our new life. It is the process of birth, death and rebirth that is a part of living. Yes, it takes courage and trust. We have built that trust over the years because God has led us through each change that has come.
Check back through your history. Tell the stories of the times of change and new beginnings. Identify the goodness that came with your new life. Give God thanks.
“You will show me the path of your life;
In Your presence is fullness of of Joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NRSV)
This past week we visited friends in Montreal and in Montpelier Vermont. On Thursday evening, we wended our way, to the Unadilla Theatre, nestled into the forested hills of rural Vermont.
Our friends’ daughter, Erin had one of the lead roles in the Mikado. The play was splendid, the acting excellent, the music superb. Knowing and loving one of the leads added a great deal to our joy. We finished the evening with Rob’s gourmet cheesecake while we continued the stimulating conversation that sparked interest and connected us as friends.
Friday morning after a scrumptious breakfast of waffles with Elaine’s blueberry and Vermont maple syrups, we started home. We meandered across country through the Adirondack Mountains on county roads and state highways. At Lake Champlain, God offered us another short cruise in preparation for our big “River Cruise” in August. We shared the ferry with a number of cars, a motorcycle and a 72 foot tractor trailer. Tom was trapped inside the car, since our parking slot was approx. five inches from the ship’s gunwale. We opened the sunroof. I stood on the seat so I could have half of me outside, and took pictures.
I wanted to ask the biker to take my picture with my upper half sticking out the roof, but found his bald head, bare muscular arms and tattoos too intimidating. Tom stuck his arm up through the sunroof to take this picture of me out on the deck.
Our journey brought us through Elizabethtown to Keene Village New York. Both towns are picturesque with lots of flowers. Like the Keene Village close to home, Keene, New York has a river running through it. Not having rain for quite some time, the Ausable River has become a trickling stream, roaming back and forth among the rocks.
The road wound through the mountains, around rocky outcrops, through the trees. Parked cars lining the road beside a finger lake signaled to us that this is a favorite area for bikers and hikers. We chose Lake Placid for lunch and found a fifties style diner. Tummies full we “shot the main” and followed 89 west, leaving the humming little tourist town behind.
The remainder of the trip home seemed uneventful even though we got a little confused due to the construction going through Tupper Lake. This gave me an excuse to stop for tea. While we were studying our map, a kind lady who pulled up beside us at the gas station carefully straightened us out and sent us on our way.
We stopped at the Trenton Enroute to eat our ‘snackin supper’ of veggies, dip, cheese and crackers. With gratitude we pulled into our driveway and unloaded the car just as the rain started. Before totally settling down for a cup of tea, I decided to text my daughter. My phone had disappeared. While Tom searched the car, he called my phone from his, hoping the ring would help the search. Angela from Trenton Enroute surprised him by answering. One of the custodians had turned in my phone. Sweet Tom, told Angela, “I’ll be there in about an hour.” I offered to accompany him. “No,” he replied. “I’m fine to go alone.”
Wisdom told me to agree with this. “I’ll finish unpacking and do the washing,” I said. The trip in the car must have given him opportunity to vent because he returned tired but not cranky around midnight. When I thanked him, he said, “I know you hate driving at night, especially in the rain. Thank you for letting me go by myself. I needed the time alone.” I smiled and gave him a hug. I am truly blessed with my wonderful Tom.
This morning I started my prayer time telling God, “Here we go again. I won’t whine or complain. I’m happy, excited, overwhelmed, scared.” All those feelings filled my soul because at noon today, we picked up another 500 copies of my latest book, “Dipping Your Toes”, my popular worship resource. Once again my study closet will be filled with books. Even though I have already sold 1200 copies of this book, I was anxious.
Ever since I published my first book, I have been taking these leaps of faith. Ordering and paying for, 500 books takes courage. At this point I feel fairly secure that all 500 will sell if I work at it. My experience has taught me that all I have to do is tell someone about Dipping Your Toes, and they will buy it. They don’t even have to see it. People of faith who are active in their churches immediately recognize the value of having 44 complete devotional worship services at their fingertips.
This morning God responded immediately to my anxiety. I picked up the new book of reflections, my granddaughter Vanessa gave me. The bookmark brought me to Part 2 – Hope, Trust, Faith. The first scripture verse reminded me that “with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37) Directly following was the prophet Jeremiah saying, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to bring you prosperity not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) I laughed out loud as I read. “O.k. God,” I said. “I hear you. We’re together on this. Just what I needed.”
God does speak words of encouragement to us every day, if we would only listen. I looked out my window and soaked in the life-giving sunshine. “Thank you, God,” I said. “We wrote Dippping Your ToesI together, so of course you will be with me as we sell it.
If you’re looking for a worship resource go to www.janetstobie.com, check out Dipping Your Toes in Planning Small Group Devotionals. It’s available through UCRD or through David C. Cook Distribution. If you have any questions click on contact me. I‘m happy to help in any way that I can.
Every Friday I have the pleasure and privilege of taking my special needs granddaughter, Vanessa, out for lunch and spending the afternoon with her. We run errands, work on her scrapbook, walk, read, whatever she is able to do and wants to do on particular Friday.
Last week, Vanessa and her wonderful Mom, Janet, surprised me with a gift, the book Footprints by M.F. Powers. The card said, “Thank you for spending Fridays with me” and was signed with love by my granddaughter. Every day, I read at least one of these inspiring stories. I am so grateful.
I believe the Bible offers us God’s living “Word” when we come to it with our mind’s open to hearing. The amazing part of this is that we can read the same passage every month or year and hear a different message.
God doesn’t just speak to us through the Bible. Although the stories in my lovely new book seldom mention God, I feel God touch my heart as I read. Today’s stories focused on kindness. The message I received was that I pass on to you was,
Offer a dose of “vitamin E for encouragement” to your family, friends, and strangers today.
It sounds so simple. The list of suggestions contained 101 examples. As I read through them, I noted all the ways that God had been encouraging me over the last few weeks. Today I will bring my handwritten note of gratitude for Vanessa to our family gathering. Their gift is truly a blessing for me.
Hopefully my posts occasionally offer the same kind of blessing to you.