Category Archives: Tips for Grace-Filled Living

A Huge Dose of “Hope”

God’s Love Will Prevail

The news media keep flogging the darkness in our world. Cruelty and selfishness seem to be growing.  Wars just never seem to end. Hunger and poverty are not shrinking. In fact, with the population explosion in third world countries, it seems hunger and poverty are increasing. Sometimes it’s hard to hang onto my belief that we are slowly progressing as human beings towards a world of peace and love. I keep telling myself I cannot lose hope, for hope is essential for living.

Twice in the last two days, I have been reminded about the goodness in this world. Yesterday, my granddaughter and I went for lunch at the Galley Pub on Church Street in Pickering Village. As we were preparing to pay the bill, our waiter came to tell us that the young man sitting around the corner from us had already paid for our lunch. Of course, we thanked him. He smiled. I told him that his act was a sign that goodness and generosity was on the rise. My granddaughter and I left that restaurant with smiles on our faces, feeling loved. The sun seemed to be shining just a little bit brighter.

Today, while I was at the Arts Festival in Cobourg, I walked downtown for a snack and a cup of tea. I chose the “Buttermilk Café” on King Street. The friendly waitress suggested the chef’s special dessert, pumpkin cheesecake. It was scrumptious. I ate it slowly savoring every bite. Again, when I offered the waitress my credit card to pay my bill, she informed me that the two ladies that had been sitting across from me had already paid it. As I walked back to the church, my heart was lighter, my energy higher, my spirit flying.

Twice in two days, I have been the recipient of a random act of kindness. I have received a strong message. In my heart ,God is saying, “Don’t give up hope. In the midst of what seems like an epidemic of selfishness and greed, this country is rising up with love.”

There is a movement afoot. The general population is being infiltrated by people determined to live generosity and love. Hope abounds. Random acts of kindness and pay it forward choices can bring new life. I am truly grateful.

 

The Strength of Our Scars

This morning I read some wise words written by Madeline L’Engle in her novel, “In a House Like a Lotus”. I plan on remembering these words and applying them to my own life. I decided that they might be helpful to some of you.

“There isn’t anything that happens that can’t teach us something, that can’t be turned into something positive. One can’t undo what’s been done, but one can use it creatively…The only thing is to accept and let the scar heal. Scar tissue is the strongest tissue in the body…so I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s the strongest part of the soul.”

As we journey through the tough times in our lives, for me it is helpful to remember that the scars when fully healed will provide us with the strength we need for living. I guess the secret is, to have the courage, and take the time, for the healing to happen.

Is Faith a Magic Charm?

What Do You See?

Is faith a magic charm? Some people think so, but not me. Faith is not my “lucky rabbit’s foot”, or special hat that will ensure my life goes smoothly. Faith doesn’t protect me from failure, or accident or illness. Faith won’t even keep my loved ones alive. So what good is it?

Faith is that strength from God that comes when I feel totally overwhelmed. When I’m amazed that I actually survived such a tough time, I know that God joins me in life’s journey. Faith tells me that God’s strength will sustain me through the joys and tragedies that come with living. With faith, I will not just survive, but live creatively. My faith is my anchor for living. I will not lose hope. When darkness surrounds me, God gives me enough light for the next step, and that is all I need.

My faith also calls me to journey in gratitude. I am grateful for the abundant blessings I receive. I am also grateful for God’s presence carrying me, leading me through the storms of life. I am grateful that I can trust that there will be new life at the end of the storm.  God will not be defeated.

Forty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old high school student painted an intriguing masterpiece just for me. It hangs in my living room still today. In the picture, a teenager stands at the water’s edge with her dog. Wind blows her hair and clothes. White caps roll in. Thunderclouds fill the sky. There is a gap in the clouds with just a sliver of sun showing. Sometimes, my guests think the teen is watching a storm coming. Sometimes they see new life in the sun that is peeking through the clouds, bringing an end to the storm. I see faith in that painting. The presence of the son, whether or not he is hidden by the clouds, is always there waiting, loving, giving strength. The teen in the picture can face whatever comes, and whatever has been. For me, that high school student of so long ago captured Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

I Can Do It!!!

I listened to a most interesting radio program, “Word on the Hills” this morning. Gwynn and Felicity interviewed today’s author, Reva Nelson who has done workshops and written a book on risk taking. As I listened, I realized that I started my life with a wonderful sense of adventure. My friend Nancy said to me about 20 years ago that I was willing to try anything. She wasn’t talking about physical risk taking. She was referring to my ability to set aside fear and feelings of incompetence and try a new recipe, a new job, whatever. My ability to take this kind of risk is a quality that helped me answer God’s call to ministry and begin writing and publishing books.

My thoughts shifted to the present. For the last three years, I have been thinking about sending a manuscript off to a publisher or an agent. I told myself my writing wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want the rejection.  I continued my self-publishing with the same moderate success. A month ago, I discussed my desire and my fear with my editor. She listened to my talk about lack of competence for about five minutes, then looked at me and said, “Give it up, Jan. Just do it.” Her words have stayed with me.

Today’s radio interview with Reva reinforced Ruth’s words. I can take the risk. I used to just step forward ready to do my best, trusting that God will use whatever I do for something good. I used to take risks easily. Today, I am choosing a new mantra. “You can do it. Give it a try. Whatever happens, you will survive.” Thanks to “Word on the Hills” and Reva Nelson, for giving me the push I need, at this moment.

I Love My Body!

I woke Sunday morning at 5:55. My alarm was set for six. My first thought, I love my body. God has gifted me with an inner alarm. I usually don’t trust it so I set my clock alarm, but I don’t have to. I automatically wake up just before the alarm rings. Tom appreciates my gift, too, especially on days when he doesn’t have to be up early.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember ever before thinking, I love my body. Usually, I look at my body and groan. Twenty pounds lighter would make my knees much happier and my clothes look better. I’ve got love handles, and a tummy that is rounder than it should be. My ankles are slightly swollen. My skin is dry. I’ve got lots of wrinkles. Those miserable brown age spots keep popping up here and there. Yes, normally I’m not at all happy with my body. And I don’t think I’m alone in this world.

Our society has taught us to be dissatisfied with our bodies. Watch your weight. Don’t eat too much. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. Try this diet. No, try that one. If you want to be beautiful, you have to be thin. And so, the messages come at us, fast and furious.

My daughter is a child psychologist. She speaks a different message. “Learn to love your body as it is,” she says. So today, I suggest, appreciate the wonder of your body. Across from me is a vase filled with majestic, brightly coloured gladioli. On the windowsill, are delicate sweet peas. I can see their beauty and smell their sweet fragrance. At night as I go to sleep, I hear Tom whisper, “I love you.” I wake up, and I can still walk. My arms can reach out to hug my fabulous granddaughter.  And those are only a few of the wonders of my body. There is a children’s song titled “Oh, What a Miracle Am I.” It’s time we all tried chanting that line.

Yes, I can love my body even though it’s aging. I have decided to repeat those beautiful words, I love my body, every day as I get up. And give God thanks. What better way to start my day.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

The Last Time

This is the last time I will ask for your opinions on the pitch for my new novel, “Seeking Safety”. I have tweaked and tweaked. I am ready for your thoughts and recommendations. Thanks in advance.

Seventeen-year-old Renée Grenville and her dad, Steve, are slowly rebuilding their lives after Serena’s death. Now, Steve’s readiness for a new relationship threatens to topple Renée’s fragile security. While researching her mom’s past, Renée discovers a tiny book with faded writing. Her great-great-grandmother, a Barnardo child, had kept a diary.

When a refugee family from Syria, arrives in Catalpa Creek, tension mounts. Prejudice and fear surface. Both the Grenvilles’ and the Ahmadi’s safety is jeopardized. Renee’s stress peaks when death takes a victim once again.

Written in the voices of both Renee and Steve, Seeking Safety is a coming of age novel, not just for Renée, but for her Dad and the Catalpa Creek community.

Please comment.

1+1+God=Creativity

 

I felt called to paraphrase Romans 12:1-8 this morning. This passage is familiar to many of us. Maybe my paraphrase can help someone stop and think about the passage more deeply.

1+1+God=Creativity

  1. Sit down with God, just as you are, your thoughts, intentions, actions. Remember God loves YOU.
  2. Trust in God and in God’s call to you. Live in the world as God’s child. Let God mould your being. God will transform you to be best you can be.
  3. Be happy being you, just as God created you. Enjoy the gifts that God gives to you.
  4. Together we bring to this world, the body of Christ.
  5. Each one of us is essential to the whole, and each one of us is unique.
  6. Use who you are to serve others. What you bring and give is special.
  7. Find your meaning in who you are as God’s creation. Give thanks.
  8. God calls us to co-operate because together we are more, do more, love more. Together we find joy. Together we can transform the world.

How Does God Deal with Our Choices for Evil

When a child dies. A well-intentioned friend sometimes offers comfort to the grieving parents with, “God needed your child in heaven.” A natural disaster, or strange misfortune is greeted with, “God must have had a reason.”

The Bible story of Joseph, the favored child, is often cited as the basis of this kind of thinking. Joseph’s older brothers, in their anger and jealousy, sold him to merchants travelling to Egypt. They told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Years later, his brothers, come to Egypt as refugees from famine. They meet Joseph as the prime minister, who now has the power to save his family from starvation. Joseph explains, “It was not you who sent me here (to Egypt), but God.” (Genesis 45:8).

THIS MAY COMFORT SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT ME. The loving God I have encountered in my life and in the Bible stories of Jesus, tells me a different story. Our God given gift of free will means we can make good choices to love and care for each other and we can use our free will in anger and jealousy, as Joseph’s brothers did. Our loving God is never defeated by our choices. God has the power to bring goodness out of the worst we can do, BUT God does NOT need us to do bad things or to experience misery to accomplish goodness.

I believe Joseph had the position and therefore the power to rescue his brothers, because our loving God worked with Joseph to use his intelligence, his location and his faith to prepare him to forgive and help his family. God brought new life, amazing new life out of Joseph’s brother’s evil choices, just as God brought the resurrection out of our choice to crucify Jesus.

Some people would say this is just a matter of semantics, playing with words. I don’t agree. I believe that God’s love can take the worst that we can do, and the worst that can happen, and create goodness. But God doesn’t need us to make evil choices or experience painful things in order to create that goodness.

With this mind-set, we are not puppets in the hands of a capricious, often vengeful God, who requires war and death, evil and violence to accomplish goodness. No! No! No! With this mindset, we have freedom to make choices, good choices of love and care, poor choices, and sometimes even choices for evil. God can draw from within the results of our choices, even at our worst, the means to create goodness.

For me this applies to our resurrection story. My theology of Jesus tells me that he loved us so much that he wouldn’t stop loving us even when we were at our worst. God used that endless, generous love to bring the lesson of forgiveness and resurrection, NEW LIFE, not just for Jesus but for all of us.

When we trust in a loving God, when we open our hearts to that love, we will eventually see and experience that goodness. In fact, God invites us to participate in the creation of that goodness.

For this understanding of God, I give God thanks.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Top Ten Reasons for Getting Married – Part 2

 

Top Ten Reasons for Getting Married – Part 2

My first marriage ended in divorce, in my mind, mostly because neither I nor my first husband clearly understood these last five reasons for getting married. Tom and I have just celebrated our 14th anniversary.  The glow, the honeymoon, the joy, the companionship, all are shining just as brightly as they did June 21, 2003. I believe we have this solid relationship because we both accept these last five reasons. God is with us, and, thank God, we are together.

#5. Support – At the Christian marriage ceremony, family and friends pledge their support, at least with prayer. The power of prayer to aid physical and mental healing has been scientifically proven. In this modern society, relationships need all the help we can find. A host of prayers from family and friends can be a wonderful resource, even if you yourself don’t believe in it.

#4. Wedding Vows – Traditional wedding vows speak of sticking together, loving each other in sickness and in health. For young people, that doesn’t seem important. As we age and our body begins to deteriorate, this particular vow takes on a much stronger significance. Hanging in there in health is simple, easy. In sickness, it requires a depth of love and commitment that is much harder to achieve without marriage.

#3. Wedding Vows  To love and to cherish. The words I love you can roll easily off our lips, just as we love ice caps, and rugby. To continue to “cherish,” year after year, requires help, God’s help. It’s easy to take your partner for granted. When I had my marriage counselling business, one of my first questions for troubled couples was to ask them to write down what attracted them to one another in the first place. Sometimes, that one thing had become what aggravates them the most. Often, this discovery brought laughter. Returning to the roots of our love can make a difference. One couple I married memorized their wedding vows. When tempers flared and wars started, it was the job of whoever remembered first, to begin reciting their marriage vows, and the job of the partner to join in. Always, that seemed to bring calm, peace, and a desire for understanding into the troubled situation.

Your public profession of love and commitment made before your family and friends, sealed by the signing of a legal document is a powerful act. A private statement, a vow in a common law relationship, or a drifting together only through circumstance command no explanation if blown away.

For these last two, I go to the Bible because, of course, I think in terms of Christian Marriage.

  1. The Bible offers the ideal of love that we strive for in marriage. In 1 Corinthians 13 – St. Paul’s chapter about love, we find clear instructions for a loving and lasting relationship. When both members of a couple make the commitment before God and human witnesses to do their best to follow the teaching in Paul’s letter, I believe that God is with them helping them to cherish one another.

 

1 Corinthians 13 (GNT) Love

13 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned[a]—but if I have no love, this does me no good.

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; 10 but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.

11 When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12 What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me.

13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

 

And #1. My number one reason for getting married is that you grow up together, and you grow old together. You make a life time commitment legally, emotionally, and faithfully. When you are married you form a three stranded rope, you, your partner and God. Just as the Bible tells on in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10 If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11 If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself 12 Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.”

For me the last sentence in this Biblical passage is particularly significant. “A rope made of three cords is hard to break.” When it comes to a marriage relationship that third strand for me is “God with us.” When we acknowledge God as part of our relationship, which we do in Christian marriage, we bring our faith with us into marriage. We know that we can seek God’s help through prayer together. It’s the knowledge of God’s presence and power with us that can make the difference.

Each night, Tom and I say, “thank you God, for bringing us together.” We say that with honesty and joy. We believe that God played a part in our finding each other. And we are truly grateful.

 

 

 

Top Ten Reasons for Being Married

 

“People like lists,” my friend said. “Write a blog with a list.” I love a challenge.

Marriage – Signed & Sealed

It’s summer: wedding season. Why not a list of the top ten reasons for getting married. After all, I’ve been married twice: twenty-seven years the first time, and fourteen years so far in this second one. And I’ve conducted a multitude of weddings overs the years. I believe in marriage.

As you read my list, consider this question about your significant relationship. Why did you get married in the first place? Or   Why have you chosen a common law relationship

Please comment on my list: What, in your opinion, needs to be added, changed or re-prioritized.

 Top Ten Reasons for Being Married.

 

#10. Being Married simplifies financial records, especially for the small business owner. I own my tiny business, buying and selling my books, but I never thought about it in terms of marriage. My young businessman friend informed me the other day that a common law relationship makes keeping your financial records more complicated than a legal marriage. Paperwork is simpler in a legal marriage.

#9. Financial – Also, he told me organizing benefits is simpler with a legal marriage. The whole financial setup is simpler and clearer.  Just ask any gay or trans- person about the practical benefits of having a government-registered, same sex marriage.

#8. Pleasing Family – Some deny they need to get married, but claim parents really want them to have the ceremony. Marriage is the extra touch to please family and friends. Just watch their faces and experience their joy when you tell them you are getting married.

#7. Celebration – Joy shared multiplies. It’s wonderful to celebrate the happiness you find in each other with family and friends. Life affords no better opportunity for a party, a big party, an extravagant party.

#6. Commitment – Although you can make your own private commitment to each other as you live together, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind there is always the knowledge that the government’s legal stamp has not been given. If you or your partner find something better, if you or your partner want to give up trying, you or your partner can walk away. You have what in business is called, “A golden parachute’, an escape clause. “Oh no,” you may say, “not us. Those thoughts don’t lurk in our minds.” At bottom, those thoughts do. Saying the words of commitment publicly and signing that marriage license involves a different quality of commitment. Two still exist as one each, but two declared together create much more than the sum of two individuals.

Watch for the other five coming August 7th.  What will be number one? Make your own list. See how it compares.