All posts by janetstobie

Wow! This Is Special!

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

My posts are usually reflections on my life in relation to scripture. The last two were more about me as a writer. And now I have one more about me.

This time as a person, a writer and most of all a United Church Minister. I received my Masters of Divinity from Emmanuel college, University of Toronto in 1989. On this coming May 6th, just a few weeks from now, I will receive a Service Award from Emmanuel. My understanding is that this award is for my contribution in one area of ministry that has been helpful/useful to the church and the world. Of course, it’s for my writing and I am thrilled.

This morning I talked with Jenn and Marsha from the alumni office. Tom and I get to attend all of the alumni day, including lunch, workshops and dinner at no cost to us. That alone is a lovely gift, especially in today’s world. Jenn asked for contact info for my family. They will receive an invitation. Also, I can invite my colleagues from Emmanuel and Queen’s to come as well. So please register and come, you’ll have a grand day. Maybe some of you have already registered. After all alumni day is always great.

What a wonderful honour for me. I am truly grateful.
Registration
Online: my.alumni.utoronto.ca/emmday2019
By phone: 416-585-4500 or 1-888-262-9775

 

 

“I Did It AND Did It Well!”

Image by Open Clipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Slam is over. I did not win. That was not a surprise. The Good News is, I did it. And did it well. Also I learned heaps.

  1. The origin of the “slam” is with the song form “Rap”. A “slam” is a poetry competition.
  2. Our Durham writer’s group competition rules, allowed short stories as well. I learned that stories do not fit well into the “slam” category.
  3. A “poetry slam” has a driving rhythm that allows the speaker to say more words in less time and build to a climax without an actual story line.
  4. A “slam” or “spoken word” poem usually takes a stand on an issue.
  5. The language is very poetical. I loved the use of words by these poets.

There were nine competitors in our “Slam” competition. Five used poetry. Two of us, the only two over 70 used short stories. All in all, it was a great experience. Will I compete next year? Only if I can write a driving poem on an issue. Since I seldom write poetry, I would need to do a pile of practising. At the moment writing poetry is not very high on my priority list.

Me Compete? Really?

Me Compete? Really?

Today I am competing in a slam. I’m not a competitor at least not in a formal way. I love to play games and enjoy winning. Still I enjoy losing as well. I play for the fun of it. I’m not interested in prizes. Games are more fun without them. There’s no stress or pressure. I seldom send my manuscripts into a publisher because I don’t like rejection. For me there is no thrill in the competition. Yet for some unknown reason I voluntarily entered this slam. No one suggested I enter, or coerced me.

Last month I went to my writer’s group meeting in Whitby and heard, for about the third time, about this slam competition. Tell a story from memory in no more than three minutes. The thought entered my mind,  maybe I could do that. That thought took up residence, surfacing now and then, every day. Finally, two weeks ago, I filled out the registration form and sent the email. Why not? What do I have to lose?

When thoughts like that persist in my mind, I tend to listen to them. Usually I blame God for them. This time I just doggedly prepared and practiced my three minute story. As the days have passed my stress level has risen. I’ve spent the last few days wondering why am I doing this, especially now as I am preparing for the Easter services at Lakefield United Church? What kind of a masochist am I? I hate this kind of thing.

This morning I rose earlier than I needed. Good I thought. I’ll do my morning devotions. I opened “Our Daily Bread”. Today’s reading affirmed the assurance of God’s presence in all we do.

I chuckled and said thank you. Of course, you’re with me in this foolishness God. Of course, you will support me. I truly believe in your presence always. Yes, I was foolish to enter. Yet, I am as ready as possible. Yes, stress my turn me into a stuttering idiot. Does it matter? No God is with me. God will use this, is already using this experience to teach me and others. The teaching is not my job. My job is the doing.

So I ask you my followers. pray for me this morning. I’m going to need your support.

Have a blessed day. Remember you will be a blessing to others whether you know it or not.

The Lenten Journey Requires…

 

Our Lenten Journey

In my morning prayer time, I’m working through the United Church’s Lenten Bible study. This is the question for March 12: “Is your faith in God strong enough to put your life in God’s hands without hesitation?” My first response is, “I don’t know. God hasn’t asked me to do that yet.” As soon as that  thought rippled through my mind, I pictured the boxes of books lining one side of my furnace room, and I chuckled. Over the last 14 years, I written, published and bought 9000 plus copies of my books. Today there are about 1000 books remaining on those shelves. Every time I write another book, pay for professional editing, design and layout, and then order a thousand books, I take a leap of faith. Will they sell, or pile up in my furnace room until I can’t get inside?

Yes, I do place my heart in God’s hands with each new book. Writing and selling takes courage. There is always the risk of rejection. I rent a table and lay out my books. Some people walk by without even stopping to look. These books represent a part of me, and rejection sends an arrow deep into my soul. Yet, I’ve learned that when discouragement sets in, someone stops me at a meeting to tell me how much they love my books, or I receive an email like the one I received today:

“… I don’t read as much as I’d like to.  However, I finished Fireweed a few weeks ago, and it’s taken me awhile to write and tell you how much I loved it.  You certainly have a way of making your characters seem real and I felt as though I knew and cared for Renee and Steve.  I found I’d smile with them and once got teary-eyed as well. It is a good reminder for all to pray and think kindly of all others, no matter what.  And so I just wanted to affirm you. From a reader’s point of view, your ministry is alive and well, and in such a gentle, loving way.   I have started To Begin Again and am delighted to revisit the same little family, and looking forward to what you have to share about our grandmother.  Your books bring a little joy and goodness into this crazy world.  Just as God has planned, I’m sure.  Love Francie

Emails like this lift the darkness. I think, God obviously wants me to keep writing, to spread Jesus’ message of unconditional love through my books. Gratitude fills my soul. Thank you,God, for giving me the courage to trust you enough that I risk using my God-given talents.  I am truly blessed.

Over this Lenten season, I encourage all of you to think about the gifts God has given you for spreading God’s message of love and peace to the world. When you feel discouraged, remember Jesus also enjoyed success with some, and disappointment with others. When the road was rough, he spent time in prayer seeking affirmation, solace, and strength. WE CAN DO THE SAME. You may feel hesitation, for sure, but you can put your life, your efforts in God’s hands. You can do it. Thanks be to God.

What Are We Eating?

                                               What Are We Eating?                                                     (Image by Geralt on Pixabay)

At this point in my life, I am blessed with nine grandchildren, ranging in age from twenty-eight to three. They are all wonderful of course. As I interact with them, I am aware that there is one principle about relationships and facilitating another’s growth that is universal.

We all grow best when we are fed healthy, positive thoughts. What a difference it makes when we envelop a child or an adult in praise. I remember years ago when my own children were young, we arrived at a point where we were experiencing problems with our middle child. Each morning, when I placed my feet on the cold floor, I would promise myself – Before I scold my beloved son today for doing something wrong, (for I knew it would happen), I will find something positive to praise in what he has done or who he is. Some days that was a difficult promise to keep. Once I got started, I discovered that gradually the task became easier. As I fed my son healthy positive statements, his behaviour began to improve. The reality is we all respond better to love and praise than to criticism and denigration.

Today, I’m considering this principle in relation to our world. For the last decade and longer, the news media has fed us mostly information about the violence and destruction in our world. Many of us have reached the point that we try not to listen to it anymore. Some of us seem to delight in repeating the horror that is happening. WE ARE BEING FED HOPELESSNESS.

I believe it’s time to introduce some healthy, positive knowledge into our diet. It’s time to hear about the good things that are happening in our world. It’s time to be presented with the love and generosity, the random acts of kindness, the loving responses to disaster, the goodness that is present in our world. I believe that over time, the people of our world will hear the good, take it in, and rise up to become the people that God created us to be.

How can this turn-around happen? Once again, it will take each of us to promise to to search out and identify the positive things, the moments of honesty, caring, compassion, generosity that are happening. We can do it, because God is with us, and nothing is impossible with God.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)

Computer Overload!!!

Image by Geralt

Last Wednesday, people gathered at our church in Keene from many of the area churches. My job was to check off the names as people arrived and to collect their payment for lunch. I sat behind a table ready and willing to do this simple job. I knew most of the people on my list. Welcoming them was fun at first.

Very quickly a line formed in front of me. The sound of many people talking and laughing kept increasing. As the line grew longer, and the noise grew louder, my stress level rose. My brain reacted like an overloaded computer. The names of people I knew well totally disappeared from my mind. I was embarrassed and frustrated. Why doesn’t God help me, I thought.

Sometimes our lives are like that. When the going gets tough, the noise of pain, illness, stress, worry, fear, overloads our heart and we cry out. “Why don’t you help me God?” Our minds fill with questions like: Does God truly care? Does God even exist? We feel as if God has disappeared. We’re lost and alone.

Last Wednesday, during a break in the line, I reached out to Joan who was helping with the name tags. I told her of my distress. God’s love shone through Joan’s smile and her words of comfort as she shared similar experiences and gave me encouragement. She told a funny story. We laughed. Our brief break ended as another big group came through the door. This time I felt just a little different, more relaxed, more able to admit my brain overload. People shared their stories of senior moments. God cared for me through Joan and the people in line.

Once again I was reminded, when we feel overwhelmed and God seems to have disappeared, all I need do is reach out. Share my story with someone. The Good News is that God is with me, always. When I open up, God can use the people around me to help.

“The Fitzgeralds” in Concert

The Keene United Church Concert Committee is pleased to announce that “the Fitzgeralds” are coming to Keene on Sunday afternoon, March 31st at 2:00 p.m.

This fabulous family group offer fabulous fiddling and amazing stepdancing. Tickets are just $25. Come fora chile lunch at 12:30 in the church hall. And no night driving. By March 31st the snow will be gone as well. Get your tickets from Linda at 705-295-4770 for Bette at 705-295-6203 or click the contact me on my website. Hope to see you there. Janet

Come and Enjoy!

Come to the Cabaret

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

Love Covers A Multitude of Sins

Unconditional Love

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.

Valentine’s Day Is Coming Soon!

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)