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? 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Last week, I spent time with Psalm 15. It inspired the following .
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.
Our loving, forgiving God waits,
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.
This past week our news media has focused on the horrendous wildfire in Fort McMurray, “the Beast”. The stories of the evacuation and the calm and caring that happened in the midst of what could have been absolute panic and terror, speak volumes about the basic goodness in human beings in general and Canadians specifically. People can rise to the occasion. People are full of goodness. God has created us with that ability.
During conversations with Fort McMurray residents and reporters, I heard affirmations of the city’s emergency response team as giving strong leadership with a wise plan. There was also endless praise for the bravery and skill of firefighters as well. In my mind, it’s these two aspects of leadership in an emergency that enable people to be the best they can be. It’s hard to believe that 90,000 residents could be evacuated in the midst of a fire storm, and have no casualties. Some people would say, “Only in Canada.”
Now, the rest of our nation are following this leadership example by responding with help. Beginning with our Canadian government, and our nation of strong caring individuals, resources are being gathered. The residents of Fort McMurray are not alone in this disaster. Our nation is behind them.
We don’t always respond as readily. I could complain about those times but not today. Today it’s important to affirm the goodness we see. Maybe it was our universal fear of fire, maybe it was the kind of media coverage given, whatever the reason, this horrific event is showing us Canadians at our very best. I am grateful.
Thank you God for your goodness that has risen from the ashes of this disaster.
Our granddaughter scampered up trees like a squirrel when she was about ten. She appeared to have no fear. As she flitted from one limb to the next, she’d call to me. “Come, join me Grandma. I can see a beautiful horse running free in a whole field of wild flowers. The creek looks like a snake crawling down the side of the hill.”
Afraid of heights, I answered, “No thank you.” I remember wishing she had just a wee dab of healthy fear.
When we have been part of a church family all our lives, we are comfortable. Like my granddaughter, we lose touch with the “risk”. We’ve experienced the caring support of our church family. We know the congregation and have participated in most of the activities. We’d like everyone to be part of such a wonderful group
We forget that just stepping into the church building can be frightening, risky. We forget that some have had difficult past experiences with the church that make coming to worship feel like climbing a cliff. We forget there are those with no church experience. They’ve heard that church membership requires commitment, time and money. Their question is, “Why would I take that risk?”
Church membership is a risky business for sure, and… well worth the risk. As members, we need to take our cue from my granddaughter’s attitude to tree climbing. We need to issue a passionate happy invitation. “Come join us. This is fun. There is support, comfort, friendship here. You’ll love the music. There’s a special place for you because you are God’s beloved child. Here, you’ll learn that the gift of God’s forgiveness is free. Here, you’ll experience acceptance. Here, you’ll be challenged to think for yourself. Here, you can discuss and learn and grow in faith. Come, join us, church membership is great. Take the risk.”
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:44-47)
Last month I stepped beyond words into commitment. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be my last. Still, it felt huge, exciting and scary. Over the last few months, I have written several articles about our need to respond as individuals to the Syrian refugee crisis. As a writer and speaker I know the value of words, but I’m aware that words must issue in action.
Being a woman of faith, I have read the words from the book of James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” I know the value of showing my faith through my actions. It was time for me as an individual to live what I was preaching. I knew I couldn’t care for all of the refugees fleeing violence around the world. I knew I couldn’t care for all of the refugees that our government is bringing to Canada, or even to Peterborough. What I could do, and what Tom and I both did, was join with a group of twelve individuals, all of whom have pledged to support one government-arranged refugee family with practical action like transportation, finding housing, and friendship.
Yes, this is only one family, one tiny drop in the ocean of refugees. As Mother Theresa so eloquently told us:
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
I am grateful to God, for leading me into this exciting new adventure.
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)