Category Archives: Tips for Grace-Filled Living

My Hope for Our New Moderator

We have a new Moderator, Richard Bot, serving our United Church. Our Moderator is like our ambassador bringing the face of the United Church to the world. His job will be to work with all of us as we endeavour to love God, love the world, and love ourselves. Richard has a big job, requiring deep faith, commitment, lots of creativity and no real power.

One of my hopes and prayers for Richard’s three years as Moderator, is that the world will learn that the United Church of Canada is made up of people who are doing our best to follow the way of Christ. I would like the world to “know that we are Christians by our love”. I would like the world to accept that following the “Way of Christ” does not mean we are pious, judgmental people who think we know the only way to live. I would like the world to believe that as Christians we are walking beside people, regardless of their race, beliefs, culture, whatever – walking beside people, committed to loving and caring all people, seeking justice and peace in this beautiful world. We are people filled with hope and love, who find courage and strength through our experience of God in all people.

We are not perfect. We have made so many horrible mistakes in the past but we are doing our best not to repeat them. We are spiritual people who feel called by God to love all people as they are, not change them into ourselves. This is my hope. This is my faith. I am grateful for the United Church, the group of people who live this hope with me. I want the world to know we are Christians by the love we share.

Live Out Loud

Living Out Loud

I don’t often put large portions of something I have read on my blog. I worry about copyright issues. But today’s reading from the Daily Bread touched my heart, and I wanted to share it. David McCasland wrote:

“While staying at a hotel in Austin, Texas, I noticed a card lying on the desk in my room. It said:

                                                        Welcome                                                                                                       Our prayer is that your stay here will be restful                                                                   And that your travels will be fruitful.                                                                            May the Lord bless you and keep you,                                        and make his face shine upon you. “

This simple blessing touched David’s heart. When I lived in Bethany, between 1989 and 2003, a family owned gas station called Rangco’s was thriving.  On the walls inside were plaques saying that Rangco’s had sold the most gas in that part of central Ontario year after year. The business was located on highway 7A, so there was lots of traffic, even in the winter time. I remember asking Rangco when I first moved to town why he closed on Sundays. “Aren’t you missing out on a lot of business?” I asked.

Rangco just smiled and said, “We’re members of the Dutch Reformed Church. We work long hours Monday to Saturday. Sunday, we rest and go to church. We enjoy our church family. We don’t want to miss.” Then he pointed to the plaques and smiled. “We have lots of business.”

Like the hotel with the little prayer card in Texas, Rangco and his family quietly lived what they believed. They knew the commandment about Sabbath rest. Their faith told them that rest and attending worship were more important than money. They and their employees were free on Sundays to attend church. In Bethany, we made sure our tanks were full on Saturday evening.

 

In the reflection from Our Daily Bread, David McCasland said, “A friend of mine calls this, ‘living a lifestyle that demands an explanation.’ No matter where we live or work, may we, in God’s strength, live out our faith today – always ready to reply gently and respectfully to everyone who asks, the reason for our hope.”

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

(1 Peter 3:15)

 

 

What is special for you about Canada Day?

My special needs granddaughter asked me if I was preaching at a church on Canada Day, which is also her birthday. When I answered yes, she asked, “Will you talk about Canada Day?”

“Well, yes,” I answered. Then I asked, “What is special for you about Canada Day?”

Without even taking a breath, she said, “I was born.”

Wisdom, I thought. She knows, with a sure and certain confidence, that her birth, her being brings joy and love to the world. She is God’s gift to us. Just as each one of us is God’s gift. The difference is that we don’t all know it, or are afraid to believe that we too are God’s precious gifts.

The best lesson my grand-daughter has given me is a much fuller understanding of God’s unconditional love. She teaches that lesson in so many ways. I learned it yet again last Saturday at the Special Olympics Track and Field meet in Pickering. Once again, I was amazed to experience a world in which judgment is suspended. Of course, these are competitive events, but the competition is different. The emphasis is not on being better than someone else. The emphasis is on improving your personal best. And even more important is that you exist, you are there, you are trying. As each person steps up to the throwing circle in the shot-put competition, he or she is cheered, not just by family and friends, but by everyone, including the other competitors. Whatever each does, words of encouragement follow. In this Special Olympics world the watchwords are, “Good job. Well done. Way to go,” words genuinely offered and excitedly received.

We cheered whether the shot put flew two feet or ten feet. We cheered when the first athlete, the second, the third, through to the last athlete, our grand-daughter, crossed the finish line of the fifty-meter sprint. All were congratulated for their effort given. Many of those cheering spectators didn’t know that for our granddaughter to walk that fifty meters without a companion to keep her balanced took tremendous courage. Still they yelled, “Way to go. Good job.” When her foot stepped over that line my eyes filled with tears.

I’m proud that our Canada is a part of the Special Olympics program. I’m proud of our granddaughter. By being who she is, I am challenged to live that Special Olympics attitude in my everyday relationships. She has taught me to focus on what is and let go of what isn’t. Our faith tells us that each person is God’s precious child. Our country Canada is populated with people of many races, colors, creeds, shapes, ages and capabilities. In Canada I can live respect, and love for each one of themm. On Canada Day, I give thanks that God and Canadians love diversity.

Family – God’s Gift to the World

This is day five of our sister’s week. Each year since our Mom died, my three biological sisters and I have gathered to spend a week together. We add spice to our laughing and talking, by enjoying a bit of sight seeing. This year we’ve expanded the family circle to include our aunt and her four girls as well as a family reunion that lasted all last weekend. What a fabulous time we are having. Each day, I have given God thanks for helping me find this wonderful family, seventeen years ago.

Families sometimes have struggles, for sure. As human beings we can be mean, spiteful, even cruel at times. Yet when we focus on love, joy, & acceptance, as our crowd has been doing this week, joy explodes and pours out all around us.

Today God has reminded me that the whole world is our family. We are not called to judge people as enemy/friend, useless/valuable, different/equal. Instead, God has given us millions of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters, we haven’t yet met. All we need do is open our hearts to embrace all people and watch love  explode into the world.

Today, let us give thanks that we are all God’s children, one family. Offer your love to the world. Trust that God will make it grow.

Listening for God?

WROTE THIS YESTERDAY.

I was thrilled yesterday morning to sit in our home with a group of friends at the end of a journey of listening, trusting, and persistence. We joined together at what became the beginning of a new path for everyone present, through using technology with all of its failures and wonders. The story is long, too long for a blog. I want to share the faith, the excitement, the learning.

I begin with my own practice of listening. For forty years, I have practiced listening for God and learning to trust that it really is God I am hearing. After all, my life like yours is filled with the noise of living. I call it every day static. In today’s world, it’s not easy to admit that I truly believe God speaks to us. I deeply fear scepticism and ridicule. Only fanatics claim, “God said to me…” Yet God does speak, and occasionally I hear and trust. The weekend of April 25-29 was one of those times.

In the midst of the most amazing church Conference Annual General Meeting I have ever experienced, God spoke, and I heard. I was sure God wanted me to put Rev. Wanda Stride forward as a nominee for Moderator of our United Church. Her gifts for leadership and inspiration surrounded me. I spoke out. There were complications. It was too late. Life is never simple. My motion was cast aside. I was sure of God’s Word to me but still, true to my personality I accepted defeat. God wasn’t defeated. God moved through others. My friend and colleague, Paul Reed brought his gifts of persistence and knowledge of church structure to the situation. Rev. Wanda’s home presbytery passed the motion anyway. Mine affirmed it. The obstacles persisted. Again, the Holy Spirit moved. The seed grew. More joined in. They listened. They trusted. They acted.

Yesterday morning, thanks to modern technology with all of its failures, frustrations and wonders, the procedural issue was resolved. God’s word to me has brought forth fruit. Whether or not Rev. Wanda is elected as Moderator at the upcoming national United Church meeting is up to God and those attending. For me, this journey has affirmed my faith. Over the years, my practice of trying to listen has changed my life. I’ve offered the words I was sure I heard to a few. This time, that message went out to many.

This morning I am cheering, laughing, excited, thrilled with God’s persistence and the faith of others. Thank you, God. Thank you, Wanda. Thank you, members of Bay of Quinte Conference. You have lived out Jesus’ mustard seed parable:  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

 

 

 

A Random Thought

The last few days the sun has shone. For me a sunny day brings good feelings. Here is a thought triggered by the sunshine.

The sun shines.                                                                                                                         I wake up.                                                                                                                          The world is beautiful.                                                                                                Everything sparkles.                                                                                                            I can see.

God’s Son shines.                                                                                                        Love lights the world.                                                                                          Beauty abounds.                                                                                                            Wisdom reigns.                                                                                                                      I am loved.                                                                                                                                We are loved.

It’s Not Our Call

As seniors, we hope we have learned a few things about life. Most of the time these learnings have come to us the hard way. Our wisdom is precious. we would like to share it and save our children and grandchildren from going through the same trial and error process that we did.

Occasionally, the urge to offer advice becomes overwhelming for me. Still, I know it’s not my call. When advice is requested, I can share my knowledge. Otherwise, my call is to give support and pray. Fulfilling that role requires patience, trust and even courage.

As Easter approaches, I’m thinking about Jesus’ mother. When Jesus headed for Jerusalem that last time, I can only imagine the worry and possibly anger his family experienced. They would have wanted him to stay in Galilee where he was relatively safe. Still it wasn’t their call. Even after his resurrection, I’m sure there would be some friends that still vibrated from the pain and yes, anger with Jesus. If he had only stayed home. If he had only listened to me. Their feelings may have even got in the way of fully experiencing the joy of his resurrection.

For me, one of the resurrection messages for parents, grandparents, friends and family is:  it’s not our call to totally protect our children or any of our loved ones. Like Jesus, they have to make their own choices. The wonder of the resurrection is that we can have patience trust and courage, because we know that God’s miracle of love for them will be far better than anything our precious knowledge can do. In the end they too will have new life.

TO BEGIN AGAIN: A New Catalpa Creek Story

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It’s almost birthing time. To Begin Again: A New Catalpa Creek Story will be here in April.  I’m excited and a little anxious. I’m placing my order with Marquis printing. One thousand books will fill a large corner of my study. It’s a leap of faith. I know God called me to write this novel. I’ve done my best. My editor Ruth Walker has kept me at it until she felt the book was ready. I’m truly grateful. She is the best. I wholeheartedly recommend her.

This poignant novel is full of hope. You will laugh and cry, and hopefully spend some time thinking about your own way of being with people. How does your faith call you to live? There is history for those who love delving into the past. There’s romance to add spice. There’s faith for inspiration and so much more. There’s lots to think about and discuss. Your book club will love To Begin Again. 

When the cover is finished, I will post it, including the description from the back. In the meantime, for the next six weeks send me an email using the contact me button. We can arrange your purchase. When the book arrives, I will sign it and send it off to you. For that limited time there is a 20% discount. The price is $16.00 plus shipping.

How Many Steps Do You Take Each Day?

Tom gave me a “Fit Bit” for Christmas, because I’ve been trying to make myself exercise more. He wanted to help. As a writer I spend hours at my computer. As a senior, it is easier for me to cuddle in my lovely warm home, rather than venture out into frigid weather and slippery streets.

My “Fit Bit” is helping. I want to reach my goal of at least 8000 steps a day. Every time I get up from my desk, I look for little jobs that require movement. When the screen celebrates that I’ve reached my goal, I celebrate. I’m motivated to try harder.

I wish someone would invent a “Spiritual Fit Bit” that would add up my spiritual activities, not for others to know, but just for me. It would keep track of the time I spend praying, reading the Bible and other Christian books, doing acts of kindness, giving gifts to others and more.

My “Fit Bit” reminds me that increased activity is simple. I just need to close my computer and do something active.

The reality is, it’s just that simple to be spiritually fit. If you like to read, pick up the Bible or a Christian novel like my Fireweed. You’ll be surprised. Christian books can be entertaining, too. If you enjoy your friends, risk talking with them about faith issues. You’ll be amazed at how your friendship deepens. If you like to play cards, visit a shut-in. Maybe they do too. You’ll be doing an act of kindness while having fun. The opportunities for prayer, learning, service, growing in faith surround you. Take advantage of them.

Write down your spiritual activities. Your “Spiritual Fit Bit” can be a list on the fridge or in your journal. Give God thanks for your growing list. Giving thanks, oh yes, that, too, is another step in the Christian journey.

This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. (Exodus 13:9)