Category Archives: Tips for Grace-Filled Living

Here Comes Christmas 2018!

My November started out dreary. My world felt as grey as the cloudy sky. Where was the sunshine? We may need the water, but day after day of rain, then snow felt endless. I tried counting my blessings. Tom’s five week wait for surgery is half over already. And the miracle of a new hip is amazing. In our wonderful province, our public health insurance pays. And there are so many more blessings. My gratitude list was long. Still, I needed something new to lift me out of the doldrums now that Christmas 2018 is drawing near.

Another day dawned. I rose early to pray. I gave thanks for a magical evening the night before with our Vancouver grandchildren, Lise 2 ¾ years and Alex 4 ½ years. Once supper is over their nightly routine includes baths and storytime. One at a time, Tom and I cuddled our beautiful little grandchildren and read book after book. My love exploded and filled my soul as I soaked in the warmth of their young bodies between us, their relaxation, enthusiasm and laughter as they pointed out special parts of the pictures.  When we’re old and sitting in our rocking chairs, the memory of that evening will bring smiles and joy.

As I poured out my gratitude to God that next morning, God spoke, “Create a book for them.” Immediately, I remembered a story I started a few years ago, I had titled An Elephant at the Manger. I smiled. Of course, I could finish it. Maybe Tom would help. Could he do the illustrations? He’ll have time as he recuperates from surgery. A new book created with love by Grandma Jan and Grandpa Tom. What better gift of love for these two precious children, God’s gifts to us! It could be our Advent project, maybe not ready for this year, but possibly for next. I trusted that God would help.

Today, I suggest to you, regardless of your state of mind – dark and gloomy, overloaded with busyness or relaxed and at peace. Seek out an Advent project that uses your creative gifts – growing things, woodworking, cooking, whatever – create a special gift for someone you love. Yes, it will be work, and it will take time. Trust that God will be a part of your project, helping, applauding, welcoming your efforts to share your love. After all, giving gifts at Christmas is our response to God’s gift of love to the world in Jesus. God’s gift required a long journey, struggle, pain and risk. So why shouldn’t ours? Remember, God will walk with you as you prepare your gift of love.

Give a gift of faith this Christmas. Check out Janet Stobie’s books for children and adults at www.janetstobie.com

Snap Judgments

We have all made snap judgments of persons by the way they look. I am often initially influenced by others’ dress, hygeine, tattoos, piercings, I notice the way they behave or interact, be they bossy, cranky, or inappropriate. After spending some time with them, I  later discover  they live our values of caring, love, and gratitude. As part of my morning prayer time with God, I am reading a wonderful book titled Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp. Today Joyce talked about “walking a mile in another person’s shoes,” so that we can look upon their heart rather than judge their outward appearance and/or behaviour.

Shifting from judgment to compassion is not easy. I tend to call the process acceptance: letting others just be themselves. After years of working at it, I am becoming better at seeing the person within, rather than their outward appearance. At times, fear can still overwhelm me when I meet with a  tall, assertive man whose size or color feels intimidating.  When it comes to behaviour, I am still at the self-talk step. At least my first response to a person’s sharp tongue is no longer hurt or anger. Instead, I feel surprise. At that point I choose to imagine reasons for their behaviour, my first step in looking on their heart.

Today’s reading from Boundless Compassion reminded me of the importance of continuing on my journey into acceptance. As I focused on Joyce Rupp’s words. I felt affirmed in my progress so far and challenged for the journey ahead. She reminded me that I did not want to lapse back into self-righteousness, just because I was better at ignoring the outward appearance. In fact, my goal is not to ignore, but to accept the person as I encounter them. This will give me the courage and the freedom to search out the story behind the tattoos or the crustiness. Those stories will lead me to the person’s heart. And there I know I will discover God’s presence.

  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Give a gift of faith as well as fun for Christmas this year. Check out Janet Stobie’s books for children and adults at www.janetstobie.com

 

Give a Gift of Faith!

 

Give a Gift of Faith!

As I live my ministry of writing, I trust that God’s inspiration is with me. I trust that God’s message of peace, acceptance and love is woven into each of my books and my reflections. My life is good and fun and I am grateful. And now, it’s almost Christmas season again. Usually at this point I have lined up several guest speaking engagements, and four or five Christmas craft sales.

This year I’m not doing that kind of marketing. Today we’re on the way to Vancouver to visit our grandchildren and my Aunt. We usually go much earlier but circumstances prevented that. When we get back the end of November we will have less than two weeks before Tom gets his new hip.

This year I need the internet to sell my books. How do I make that happen? What would it take? When I ask for advice the marketers tell me I need my blog to reach a wider audience. “Ask your subscribers to share your reflections with their friends and ask their friends to share them with others. Make sure you have a recommendation about your books at the end of each blog. Just a short two sentence ad with your web address as well.

Following their advice, I make this request of you, my web friends. Each time I post a blog, either on my website, facebook or twitter, please hit the share button.  Let’s see if you can be the source of one of God’s miracles as I care for Tom over the Christmas season.

And yes, I will still continue to sell my books, one and two at a time. Every where I go. You can find me at the Christmas craft sale at St. John’s Church, Peterborough on Dec. 1 and at the one at Keene United Church, Keene on Dec. 8. And of course, you can visit me on line at www.janetstobie.com. As you do your own Christmas shopping, remember that my books are a great Christmas gift, hostess gift, and donation in Christmas baskets. They are a gift of enjoyment and faith. If you email me for a book or two, or more, I will sign them for you or you can find many of them on Amazon as well. Remember the more you order the lower the shipping cost. Happy shopping! And thanks for your support. Blessings Janet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unconditional – That was the difference.

This week, with a number of my colleagues, I experienced compassion, not just for us as people, but as clergy. I had signed up for a retreat, an opportunity to rest, learn and relax. I received so much more. There was plenty of learning, personal renewal and connection with colleagues. The retreat setting, Kingfisher Bay resort, provided loving hospitality, fabulous food, and walks in the woods by the lake. I felt refueled by the worship, especially the songs and the scripture. And underlying all of that was the unconditional love and respect for all of us as clergy expressed by the event co-ordinator, Kathleen Whyte. She showered us with caring. She spoke with humility about the joy she received from having the privilege of planning this event just for us.

As we gathered in a circle to say goodbye, Kathleen placed worship stoles around our necks. Kathleen and her friend Dianne Ross had designed, hand made and painted each one for us. Her joy in giving will remain with me always. We all said, “Thank you,” but there are no words to describe the value of Kathleen’s ministry to us.

I offer you this story as a seed for your living. In our lives, we have professional people, trades people, store clerks and more who serve us. When we judge their work good enough, we sometimes remember to offer thanks. Seldom do we consider the gifts of talent, energy and love they bring as a group of clergy, doctors, teachers, electricians, etc. I suggest to you from this week forth, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the paid servants that make a difference in our lives. We can follow Kathleen’s example.

Try a New Diet

Try a New Diet.

Here are my thoughts as we step into another “new beginning” this September.

We worry a great deal today about being clean. Many of us shower every day. We wash our hands after just about everything, our clothes after one wearing, dirty or not. Why do we have this obsession with “clean”? Science has taught us that dirt carries bacteria that can harm us. Our natural immunity can become overwhelmed. We know that the scientists’ advice has merit.

I suggest we apply that advice to our hearts and minds as well. They too have a natural immunity through the innate love and goodness of God that is born within us. In today’s world, society lays out a virtual banquet of violence, hatred, destruction, ready for and enticing us to taste and see how exciting it is. The internet, books, TV, movies can show us torture, abuse in living colour. With video games, we can be the perpetrators of violence earning fame and fortune in the cyber world. Of course, we aren’t actually doing those things ourselves in the real world. We believe that our natural goodness, our value system will keep us safe from harm. But, like the germs and bacteria that can overwhelm our physical immunities, a steady diet of images of violence, hate and destruction can overwhelm our natural goodness as well.

As we begin again this September, I recommend we try cleaning up our entertainment diet. Let’s give our hearts and minds a head start by cleansing the food they receive. Let’s try coming to the thoughts banquet of love, laughter and kindness. Let’s be the first to stop inviting into our minds, hate, hostility, and judgment. Let’s make sure our leisure and work time is filled with ideas and actions of love, humility, and acceptance. I can’t imagine a better way to begin September 2018.

Our Bible tells us, “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.” (Philippians 4:8)

Try a Little Kindness

Share your cookies and your love.

The older I get the faster time flies by. For many of us retired folk, September is the start up of volunteer activities that have been suspended over the summer. Will we go back to yoga classes, afternoon cards, church groups and more?

The Bible tells us to choose life. On the internet I read, “Kindness is the new cool.” What a wonderful way to begin again in September. Let’s choose kindness first, each and every day. My stepson, Will, sent us this wonderful CBC Indigenous Video. Please take a minute to follow the link below.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/powwow-dancer-lost-regalia-1.4787775

Unlike Mr. Bateman in this video, we may never know the effect our kindness has but we can be sure that we will enjoy the good feelings that arise within ourselves.  Mr. Bateman, simply by doing his idea of the right thing, gave back something incalculably precious to Mr. Papequash. A few such individual acts by millions of people could not help but make a better world. Even just a smile for a harried clerk, a twoonie for a homeless person, a visit or phone call to a friend in the midst of our busy days, or a special act of kindness for a stranger can inevitably add to the goodness of this world.

Let’s make September kindness month. It could become a habit. It will change the world.

 

 

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.