Category Archives: courage

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.”

 

 

 

Is God a Helicopter Parent?

There’s lots to read about parenting today. In the news media we hear about “helicopter” parents. The metaphor is perfect. These parents hover over their children, sometimes nearly suffocating them with kindness, help, and protection. Up until two weeks ago, I too judged today’s “helicopter parents.” I was  never that kind of parent when I raised my children,, I thought. I gave them lots of room to try things, to live and figure life out without me hovering over them.

In less than one second, Saturday morning, May 11, my smugness evaporated. My strong, healthy daughter slammed onto the ground in a fall from a horse. Our lives changed. Her fall was no one’s fault. The accident happened. One of her vertebrae exploded as it crushed from the impact, and now protrudes into her spinal canal. The good news, the blessed news, is she has no paralysis. For that we are grateful. The orthopedic spinal trauma specialist said if the damaged vertebra remains stable she won’t need an operation. In twelve to eighteen months, she will recover.

Since the accident, I have been a total “helicopter” parent. With no thought of shame, I hovered at the hospital. I fretted as they fitted the brace on her body. I stood close when she stood for the first time, nurses right beside her to help.

It’s been nearly three weeks now. She’s walking with a walker. The brace supports her in the same way as a full body cast. Both she and I look ahead to the months of pain she will endure as her body inches toward recover. I realize I cannot remain the helicopter parent. I must give her room to heal both in body and soul. I have to trust that as a mature woman she can make wise decisions about the amount of activity she can do.

Once again, I am learning to trust in God’s goodness and love. As both my daughter and I face the journey ahead, one thing I know, “God’s goodness enfolds us regardless what happens. God’s strength and wisdom empower us. God’s love can bring joy even in the midst of our struggles.

Today, I consciously choose to trust in God, to give thanks that we are not alone. God is with us. Today, I cry out with the biblical father seeking healing for his child in Mark 9:24 “I do believe, Lord. Help me with my doubts and fears.”  (Mark 9:24)

April Fool’s Day: An Interesting day for Easter Sunday

 

THE CROSS IS EMPTY. JESUS LIVES! HALLELUJAH!!!

Believing in the resurrection of Jesus is certainly considered foolish by some people. Even more foolish is my belief that Jesus still lives today. I don’t mind being foolish. I do believe that God calls us to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ, to be Christ alive and well in this world.

I believe in God the Creator, the beginning of all things, the parent of us all. I don’t know exactly how that works. The overwhelming beauty of our world, the amazing work of art that is a human being, an animal, even a tiny bug, all support my belief in God the source of creation. A leap of faith like that is foolish by today’s standards. I really don’t care. I believe it.

I believe that Jesus rose from the dead 2000 years ago. When Mary went to the tomb, on what we call Easter morning, Jesus wasn’t lying there dead, wrapped in a shroud, his body badly mutilated by his crucifixion. Jesus was alive and well, able to talk with her. I’m sure that is foolish too. yet I believe it. I know that Jesus is alive and well today because I believe in the Holy Spirit, that part of God that lives in each one of us. I have experienced that Holy Spirit often. How do I explain to you what I mean? Over and over again I have experienced the presence of Jesus (God’s Spirit) in others. I have seen God’s goodness, joy, compassion shine through friends and strangers alike. Yes, I believe in the Holy spirit. If that makes me foolish, that’s okay.

I find the story of Jesus’ arrest and death troubling. I know we are capable of such inhumane cruelty. I know fear and greed for power will lead people to do horrible things. That’s why I’m grateful the Easter story ends with Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a story of love conquering evil. My faith tells me that God will not be defeated. There is nothing that I or anyone else can do that God cannot use to bring goodness to this world. If that’s foolish in another person’s eyes, so be it.

For me, my faith gives me strength and courage for living. Every time I face a tough decision, I can trust that God will bring something good out of it. Every time I’m afraid, I can trust that God’s Holy Spirit is within me holding my hand. Every time I make a mistake, sin by commission or omission, I can trust that God’s forgiveness is waiting for me to change my ways and begin again. There is new life for all of us.

As St. Paul says, I can be a fool for Christ. I can love the unlovable. I can forgive the hurt that others cause. With God, I can be so much more than when I walk this road of life alone. With God I can be foolish enough to be the best I can be.

Yes, I think Easter on April Fool’s Day is just great. Let’s celebrate the foolishness of faith. Let’s have a party for Jesus this Easter.

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

PREORDER NOW & SAVE 20%

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.

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.”

Thy Kingdom Come? Is It Possible?

God’s Love Will Prevail

When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we say: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. What is God’s kingdom like?

Jesus said, God’s kingdom is like “45a treasure that was hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again. He was very happy. So he went and sold everything he had. And he bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who was looking for fine pearls. 46 He found one that was very valuable. So he went away and sold everything he had. And he bought that pearl.(Matthew 13:44-46)

Occasionally, we are like the person who discovered the treasure of God’s kingdom. A spectacular sunset, an unexpected act of kindness or forgiveness, a loved one’s hug surprises us. For at least a few moments, we stop and soak in these treasures that touch our hearts. Sometimes we are like the gem merchant. We know God offers us glimpses of God’s kingdom so we live with our eyes and hearts open, seeking them.

In Jesus stories, the people do more than recognize these glimpses of God’s kingdom as a passing wonder. They know the value and so they “sell everything they have” because they want that treasure, that pearl to be with them always.

How do we keep those kingdom moments with us. Whether we’re “religious people searching for experiences of God, or just rushing through our busy days, God offers us these experiences. How do we make them an integral part of our lives to hold, enjoy and share.

Jesus calls us to let go of our endless need for more, endless worry about the future, our overwhelming fear and shift our focus to working with God to build kingdom moments. Every time we gather together to raise funds for special medical treatment for a sick child, or to help the victims of a fire, we are agents of God’s love in the world. With every law our country passes to end mistreatment of indigenous people, the LGBTQ community, the poor, this world takes a step closer to God’s kingdom. With every refugee we receive into our hearts and communities, we are doing the work of God’s kingdom, for we are God’s agents of love and justice in this world. As individuals, when we focus on prayer, sharing, kindness, forgiveness, we create small pockets of love in this world. Actually, the list is endless.

We are selling all that we have. We are taking steps towards love and justice, towards the reign of God in our world. God’s kingdom is coming, a few tiny steps at a time. We can all be a part of the journey. And I am truly grateful. Thanks be to God.

Two days on Safari

Pilanesberg Gate

We have been blessed, truly blessed. Two days on safari in South Africa, is, for many people a dream come true. The animals have been amazing. A highlight for me happened when the elephant we were watching started to walk casually toward us. As he got closer and closer, he seemed to be looking straight at me. I heard the tour bus ahead of us start up and watched it pull forward out of the elephant’s way. Our motor started up as well, but our bus didn’t move. The elephant kept coming. His tread measured and slow. In my mind I heard, “Take all the pictures you like. I’m special.”, as he lumbered past at the most two feet in front of our bus. This majestic, awesome animal walked by just four feet from my seat. (Of course, we were in the front seat.)

There were other times when it felt as if the animal was actually posing for our picture. Here they roam free in a 550 square kilometer game park. These animals are wild. That’s for sure. And yet, at times it felt as if there was a connection. I’ve added some pictures for you to enjoy. On our evening drive, there was a time where pictures couldn’t happen. We joined a collection of about five vehicles sitting in the dark. “Lion’s,” our guide said. “There’s a family of lions here. Two cubs and a Mom and Dad. They made a kill yesterday and have dragged the carcass into that thicket. He shone his light on a collection of shrubs. The lion’s were well hidden. We sat in silence and listened. We heard the cubs mewing. We heard  the sounds of lion’s at play, of Mom encouraging them to settle down, of Father losing patience and roaring, but not a fearsome roar. No it was more a “Come on kids, settle down” roar. We heard them crunching bones. Experiencing the family was a special gift.

During the morning when we were out with Dave and Joanne, we saw zebras. Two particularly touched my heart as I watched them, possibly lovesick teenagers, standing close, nose to nose and side to side. It was neat. In fact it was the families and their interactions that touched my heart and filled it with joy.

 

The other most important part of this safari is being with Dave and Joanne and Jenna. This has been a special time that will live in our hearts forever. We’re not only experiencing their passion for animals and safari’s, but we’re sharing thoughts and stories. Our family traditionally gets together regularly to celebrate the good things of our lives. This is a memory to add to the pile that is special. Today I have so much joy that the world over must feel a lightening of whatever darkness hovers.

I hope you enjoy my pictures as much as I have enjoyed taking them.

Here I come. Get out of my way.

 

He was just four feet away. Nervous I didn’t get him in total.
He kept on walking.
He stopped and turned to say goodbye.
Mom and baby Frankolins take over the road.
This beautiful big zebra stood at the side of the road waiting for us to take his picture.
Zebra Friends
The Giraffes are so graceful.
Baby Leopard Tortoise – He and his Momma were on the side of the road.
Male impala
Springbok is the national animal of South Africa.
Blue Wildebeast family having a rest on the road

Lonely male Blue Wildebeast, sometimes called Gnu

The First Day Is Over!

Share Your Gifts. Bring Light to the World.

The first day is over. It’s 11:54 p.m. at home. As we glide past Ireland it’s already morning. The flight attendant smiled and handed me breakfast. I haven’t actually slept yet. Sunday night, adrenalin kept me awake almost all night. This is going to be a tough transition. Oh well, everything else is great.

At the airport yesterday we talked with several “neat” people. At one point, Colin, a Trinidadian from Indianapolis, entertained the lot of us with his violin for over an hour. He wasn’t a busker. He was a happy youngish man who just loved to play his violin.  Of course, my Tom was drawn to the music. Before long he and Colin had become a musical duo as Tom sang along. They were two extroverts having a grand time.

While I worked away editing the first page of my book, Colin told Tom of his near death experience. He was working on an oil rig when it exploded. “They tell me I had no vital signs for 17 minutes. I’ve been on the ‘other side’.” He rolled up his sleeves to reveal heavy scarring on his arms. His hands, protected by his gloves, weren’t harmed by the flames.

“I learned two things,” he said. “I wasn’t going to work on the oil rigs anymore, regardless of the great pay and my dad’s objections.” Today, he makes his living using his precious hands to entertain folk in night clubs and casinos.

I’ve decided this was the moment I had been watching for. His obvious joy, along with Tom’s, brought smiles all around. They certainly added to the goodness of this world. I forgot to take a picture. I’ll do better tomorrow.

 

 

 

How Do I Invite God Into My Life?

Last week, I spent time with Psalm 15. It inspired the following .

Hospitality

 

God welcomes all,
All people, all faiths, all races.
We build the barriers
Around our hearts.
We wall God in.
We slam the door.
We turn away.
God waits.

Our loving, forgiving God waits,
Hoping, guiding.
It’s only one step.
Just one short step.
Open the door.
There is no lock.
Pull down the barrier
It’s merely an illusion.
Sink into God’s love.
God is waiting.