Category Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas

Christmas Morning

Today, I am blessed once again with a beautiful quiet hour before the busy day begins. Thank you, God for waking me, calling me, to spend time in prayer. I offer all of you and all my readers, my thoughts this morning.

As many have said before, Jesus’ birth was not announced by royal trumpets. None of that society’s kings, emperors or government officials were present. Yet, God came and not silently. God came with the cries of a mother at birth, experiencing the pain and work of new life. Shepherds, society’s outcasts came to celebrate. They heard the angel’s voices – the heavenly trumpets.

This morning and every morning, God comes to us again. As I ponder the events of yesterday, these are my experiences of God’s presence. God started early by reminding me through Tom that I intended to give away two copies of my novel To Begin Again.  I saw God smile, on the face of the person who received them. God came to me in the quiet request of a beggar on the street downtown. I offered all my change, maybe five dollars and the plea, please use it for food not drugs. I could feel God groan. Leftovers given begrudgingly, I thought. God came again in the greeting of the Salvation Army band at the mall. This time God nodded as I responded with money for their bucket and words of gratitude to one of the musicians. God reached out and touched my heart yet again in the grocery store. A teenager voluntarily helped me with my groceries. I responded with smiles and thankyou’s, and words of joy to the check out clerk. This time I felt God’s joy. And the list goes on. All day yesterday, it seemed that God was with me. The culmination of my joy and God’s came as I sat with my daughter and grandchildren and Tom at the Christmas Eve service and then enjoyed food and fellowship at home with good friends.

There was so much more yesterday. Blessings rained down on me, warmed my heart all day. They weren’t huge. The blessing was that yesterday, even in the noise and rush of the crowds around me, in the multitude of tasks, I didn’t miss God’s presence with me.

Today, on this most holy day, take a moment to step into the shoes of Mary the mother of Jesus, ponder in your heart the times you have experienced God’s presence over the last week. Open your heart to God’s visit today. Whether you’re in the midst of deep sadness and fear or surrounded by celebration and love – remember the miracle of God’s presence is with you. Like the shepherds, listen for the angel’s song of joy. It’s Jesus’ birthday. Give thanks.

 

A Christmas Gift for You

For the last two mornings I have awoken with words wanting desperately to be written. They came from my fingers as poems. I offer them to you as my Christmas gifts. They are given with love.

A Christmas Dream

I dream of a world of peace,
Where all would be fed each day.
Where all would be loved and accepted.
If only I could give the world peace.

The Bible says that Jesus refused,
To feed the entire world by himself.
He refused using the power of force,
To bring acceptance, peace, love.

Instead, he issued invitations
He spread his love and healing
One person at a time.

This is our calling.
This is my calling.
I can write stories
That speak of love and acceptance,
Trusting that
One by one
Readers will receive God’s invitation.

I can live love and acceptance.
I can let go of judgment.
I can forgive, and forgive, and forgive.
With God’s help, I can become
Peace, love, joy, hope in this world.
With God’s help, I can live God’s love.

The Perfect Gift

Christmas for me is joy.
It’s fun to shop
To search for the perfect gift
For children, grandchildren, friends.

Christmas gives me permission
Permission to be generous
A reason to share.

I want to bring sparkles
To loved one’s eyes
I want to reach out and touch
A friend’s, a family member’s
A stranger’s heart.

What is the perfect gift?
This year maybe a plaid shirt
Warm crazy socks
A cuddly shawl.

And yet I know,
That best of all
Is a gift of love.
Feelings offered in smiles
In hugs, in words.
These gifts fill our hearts,
Touch our souls.

When tough times come
As they always do
These gifts are there
Within our memories
Holding us close
Giving us strength.

When love comes in simple gestures
Or elaborate gifts,
The perfect gift is given.
The Christ child is born.
Christmas comes once again.

Just Three More Days!!!

Three More Days to Christmas!!!

Today I am counting my blessings. To begin with, I’ve enjoyed the last hour in prayer. This is my favorite way to begin my day. Tom is sleeping – letting his body heal. The last few days have been filled with blessings. First and foremost, Tom is doing well with his new hip. Of course, he’s using a two-wheeled walker, but he is walking and putting some weight on that leg. At this point he’s doing well enough to wish he could do more. For me that is a great sign that he’s on his way to dancing this summer.

Our daughter, Connie and family have a new puppy for Christmas. They’ve added to the sacredness of this season by welcoming home a rescue pup. Oliver has brought joy into the household.

Image may contain: dog

I’ve been specially blessed over the last two days. Two grandchildren, Jenna, age 17 and Tim age 22, have spent a day baking Christmas cookies with me. They’ve filled my heart with joy and memories of baking with my kids.  In the midst of the crazy busyness of living, when there are so many demands on their time, they want to be with us. What a true blessing!

And yet, as is always true in living, there is sadness and worry as well. My brother-in-law, sister Gayle’s husband, is nearing the end of his journey with cancer. Today I give thanks that Gayle’s daughter Tracey, is being their anchor. Although we’re not together, Dina, Sharon and I are sending our love and our prayers to Gayle. The love of family is a precious gift. I am grateful for my faith and theirs. I can trust in God’s comfort and strength for all of them. I can trust that God will welcome Bruce home when the time comes.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Always I give thanks that I was born in Canada. I give thanks that my mother who raised me lived the Christian faith, and so I too had the opportunity to become a person of faith. All my life I’ve known that God is with me, guiding, comforting, strengthening and challenging me. I truly believe that God is there within all of us, all we need do is open our hearts to let that knowledge grow. Not everyone, lives in a family where the opportunity to learn about God is present. Yes, with three more days before celebrating the birth of Jesus, God with us, I am overwhelmed by the blessing of faith.

This morning I suggest that you take time out, for prayer and gratitude. I promise it will bring smiles and sunshine into your heart.

What Do You Expect This Christmas?

 What do you expect this Christmas? Society has painted a picture of a happy family gathered around the dinner table by the Christmas tree.  Abundance prevails – gifts, food, laughter and love. This may be the reality for a few, but not for all of us.

Years ago, Bing Crosby sang “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” Loneliness, sickness, grief, job loss, hunger and more, do not disappear just because we’ve flipped our calendars to December. Our Christmas story reminds us that on the first Christmas, Jesus was born into poverty, not abundance – in a stable, not the Best Western, and far from home. And yet I am sure there was abundance – the abundance of love and joy that can come  with the birth of a baby. Christmas is the celebration of love and new life in the midst of whatever life offers at the moment. There is truly no ideal Christmas for us to expect.

Instead, each year at Christmas, we receive the peace, hope, joy and love that come from new beginnings. Regardless of our circumstances, even if we are in the midst of deep sorrow, anxiety, fear, we can expect God’s presence among us. We can open our hearts and feel God’s love enfold us. We can pick up a baby, hug a loved one, drop money in a Salvation Army bucket, bring a meal to someone in need. We can expect God’s presence on the street, at the food bank, in the palace, in our homes.

When we expect to meet God, we will.  God is always with us, in the people we meet. All we need do is open our eyes, our ears and our hearts. God will come in stranger, enemy, friend.

I suggest that you expect an opportunity to hold the Christ-child this Christmas. Let me know how Jesus came to you this year. Your experience will be a blessing to me. Thank you.

Hypocrites

It’s Advent and I have been out selling books at church craft sales. For me, it’s a struggle to sit behind a table, try to catch someone’s eye and say hello. I’m not a salesperson, but I do want people to read what I have written. Very often, people glance at my table, read the signs and keep right on walking. I can only think that they see the words “anchored in faith” and make the judgment – Don’t look at those books. They’ll be selling religion.”

One of the biggest heartaches for me as a Christian is the judgment of today’s world that all Christians are fanatics and hypocrites. As I talked with the people who had the courage to stop at my table anyway, I heard stories of difficulties experienced with “religious people”. One man said, “I used to be involved with a church, but the people weren’t helpful. They said they were being followers of Jesus’ way, but they weren’t. They spoke the words, but they didn’t live them. I didn’t leave God, I just left religion and the church.” He walked away his mind closed to my message of God’s peace and love because, in his mind, all church people are hypocrites.

Today, it is widely believed that church people should be able to totally live as Jesus taught. They should always be compassionate; never judge; always accept everyone. The list of “should” goes on and on. Christians should be perfect. When we’re not, our message is thrown away.

My suggestion, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31NIV) Christianity is a life journey. As Christians, we go astray at times, some of us further than others. We get tired; we are grumpy at times. We are passionate; we get lost in our enthusiasm and overwhelm others. We have all the temptations to greed, violence, whatever and we make bad choices.  We are not perfect.

What we have learned through experience is that together, we can more often make good choices. Together we can encourage one another. Together we are stronger, more able to live that unconditional love that Jesus taught. Together, we learn and grow in our understanding of Jesus’ message. Our religious rituals help us on the journey. Being church people helps us live the faith. Christmas is a perfect example. As we gather this Christmas, to hear once again the story of the baby born in difficult circumstances to ordinary parents, our hearts will soar at the peace, hope, joy, and love that fills our souls. Once again, we will be renewed and drawn back to the journey of a life of Christian love.

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What is Christmas? Over the last few days all of my readings have pointed to one of the basic definitions. Christmas is about relationship? I offer you today this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God,

But only those who see, take off their shoes.

The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”

Celebrating tonight and tomorrow are those who have come to pick the blackberries. They know that Christmas is about family, giving, love. They, like all of us, can see and enjoy the blackberries, the joys of relationships.

When we come to Christmas with the eyes of Christian faith, we see the bush loaded with blackberries and alight with the fire of God’s love. We know that bush will never be consumed. We know the delicious blackberries are always available to nurture us with life.

I am excited, thrilled, privileged to come to church tonight and see, experience, the wonder of God’s love, what Elizabeth Barrett Browning calls heaven on earth. I have already taken off my shoes. I will enter the stable and feel God’s love; a love so committed, so strong, so unconditional, that God risked being born as a helpless baby needing us for life. I will listen to the story and let the wonder, the miracle of God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness well up in my soul.

The miracle of Jesus’ birth happens every day, with the birth of every child, even with my birth and yours. I can only take off my shoes and enter God’s presence with total joy. I can live the miracle  of Christmas everyday.

My wish for you is another step into the joy, the miracle of Christmas tonight and tomorrow. Stop, remove whatever keeps your mind racing, soak in God’s love until your entire being glows. Risk becoming the “God’s miracle of Christmas for 2018”.

How Do We Prepare for Peace?

This is Christmas!

The December 10, 2017 reading from the Daily Disciplines published by the Upper Room touched my heart. I will share it with you in its entirety. I typed this into my computer this morning before church. I didn’t have time to look for a picture, besides where would I find a picture of a tree covered with white envelopes. When worship was over we went to the church hall for refreshments. This tree stood by yesterday’s bake table, resplendent in it’s white notes waiting to be part of our tree lighting tonight. God incidents never cease to amaze me. I pray this story will speak to you as it did to me. Blessings as you wait for the Christ child.

“Mike hated the commercialism of Christmas. When forced to retire early, he checked out altogether. ‘Get me nothing,’ he crouched, ‘until people understand what Christmas is all about.’ That year, his wife, Nan, gave him a white envelope, which she nestled into the tree. Inside, Nan pledged to sew uniforms for an underprivileged wrestling team. Once she started, Mike decided to help. Together, they sized the children, cut the fabric and befriended the school kids. By year’s end, Mike was ready for another envelope. Each year thereafter, Nan gave him another envelope. The acts of kindness they shared together sprouted throughout their city: birdhouses for a refuge shelter, a playground for an orphaned children’s home, a community garden from a vacant lot. Those became the best years of Nan’s and Mike’s lives.

One year, Mike died just three days before Christmas. Friends and family gathered to share Nan’s grief. On Christmas Eve, Nan placed for Mike, one last envelope into the tree. She awoke Christmas morning to squeals downstairs. As she came down, she saw their Christmas tree covered in white. Dozens of envelopes from every child, grandchild, nephew and niece – pledged acts of kindness in honor of Mike, the man who had come to love Christmas.

How do we wait faithfully for God in today’s wilderness? The prophet Isaiah says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” We pave a straight path for through acts of kindness, justice, generosity and compassion. When we love, God will come. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,’ John says. As sure as a baby’s birth in a manger, as abundant as Christmas envelopes multiplying into the future, God will walk the path laid out. Love will encompass the world.

PEACE WILL COME!!!!!

Dear God, Baby of the Manger, may each act of kindness be a straw in your crib, preparing the way for your coming. Amen

Advent Waiting

Christmas is about the birth of a baby. We know that pregnancy, like Christmas, is often a flurry of preparation. That last four weeks, most of the preparations are complete. We are left with a time of waiting.

As a culture, we’re not good at waiting. Waiting on hold on the phone, waiting in line, waiting for our teen or partner to return, waiting for our paycheck, waiting for whatever…is exasperating. My new book “Elizabeth Gets Her Wings,” begins with impatient Elizabeth trying to get on God’s good side so she can get her wings early. She didn’t want to wait.

My Advent season has usually been a time of doing, four weeks of preparation for Jesus’ birth. This year I have heard God speak to me through many sources about Advent as a time of waiting – waiting with open hands and open heart.

Today, I arrived at church with my mind and heart focused on Advent waiting. We were collecting toys for the Salvation Army baskets. I’ve been so wrapped up in book signings that I had forgotten. As I waited for the collecting to be done, scolding myself for being so selfish, I heard these words in my heart, “Go get your new children’s Christmas books from the car. How often will a child receive a book signed by the author? I smiled. Before I set the books with the other toys on the chancel steps, I wrote this message for the child who would receive them, “Always remember you are God’s precious child.” Food for the soul: what better gift for a young child at Christmas? Already my focus on Advent as a time of waiting has borne fruit. I am grateful.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.  Psalm 27:14

A Wonderful Day!

Fenelon Falls United Church invited me to bring my books for sale at their Christmas Bazaar and luncheon today. Tonight I am still flying from the experience. When I arrived this morning, the room was aglow with the Spirit. Tables loaded with jams, jellies and a myriad of other tasty preserves filled a big square in the middle of the room. More tables around the outside held baking, gift baskets (there must have been 100), antiques and on and on. Lunch was scrumptious homemade soup, ham and cheese croissant, and an ice cream sundae. The decorations and layout were beautiful. They had my table decorated too. Before we opened the doors, about 50 of us gathered in a circle for a few moments appreciation. This was the church, prepared and ready to serve the community.

The community responded. They came and shopped. We sold lots, including me with my books. I give thanks to God for Fenelon Falls UCW and their invitation to me. Today has been a true blessing.