Category Archives: Giving Thanks

The Lenten Journey Requires…

 

Our Lenten Journey

In my morning prayer time, I’m working through the United Church’s Lenten Bible study. This is the question for March 12: “Is your faith in God strong enough to put your life in God’s hands without hesitation?” My first response is, “I don’t know. God hasn’t asked me to do that yet.” As soon as that  thought rippled through my mind, I pictured the boxes of books lining one side of my furnace room, and I chuckled. Over the last 14 years, I written, published and bought 9000 plus copies of my books. Today there are about 1000 books remaining on those shelves. Every time I write another book, pay for professional editing, design and layout, and then order a thousand books, I take a leap of faith. Will they sell, or pile up in my furnace room until I can’t get inside?

Yes, I do place my heart in God’s hands with each new book. Writing and selling takes courage. There is always the risk of rejection. I rent a table and lay out my books. Some people walk by without even stopping to look. These books represent a part of me, and rejection sends an arrow deep into my soul. Yet, I’ve learned that when discouragement sets in, someone stops me at a meeting to tell me how much they love my books, or I receive an email like the one I received today:

“… I don’t read as much as I’d like to.  However, I finished Fireweed a few weeks ago, and it’s taken me awhile to write and tell you how much I loved it.  You certainly have a way of making your characters seem real and I felt as though I knew and cared for Renee and Steve.  I found I’d smile with them and once got teary-eyed as well. It is a good reminder for all to pray and think kindly of all others, no matter what.  And so I just wanted to affirm you. From a reader’s point of view, your ministry is alive and well, and in such a gentle, loving way.   I have started To Begin Again and am delighted to revisit the same little family, and looking forward to what you have to share about our grandmother.  Your books bring a little joy and goodness into this crazy world.  Just as God has planned, I’m sure.  Love Francie

Emails like this lift the darkness. I think, God obviously wants me to keep writing, to spread Jesus’ message of unconditional love through my books. Gratitude fills my soul. Thank you,God, for giving me the courage to trust you enough that I risk using my God-given talents.  I am truly blessed.

Over this Lenten season, I encourage all of you to think about the gifts God has given you for spreading God’s message of love and peace to the world. When you feel discouraged, remember Jesus also enjoyed success with some, and disappointment with others. When the road was rough, he spent time in prayer seeking affirmation, solace, and strength. WE CAN DO THE SAME. You may feel hesitation, for sure, but you can put your life, your efforts in God’s hands. You can do it. Thanks be to God.

What Are We Eating?

                                               What Are We Eating?                                                     (Image by Geralt on Pixabay)

At this point in my life, I am blessed with nine grandchildren, ranging in age from twenty-eight to three. They are all wonderful of course. As I interact with them, I am aware that there is one principle about relationships and facilitating another’s growth that is universal.

We all grow best when we are fed healthy, positive thoughts. What a difference it makes when we envelop a child or an adult in praise. I remember years ago when my own children were young, we arrived at a point where we were experiencing problems with our middle child. Each morning, when I placed my feet on the cold floor, I would promise myself – Before I scold my beloved son today for doing something wrong, (for I knew it would happen), I will find something positive to praise in what he has done or who he is. Some days that was a difficult promise to keep. Once I got started, I discovered that gradually the task became easier. As I fed my son healthy positive statements, his behaviour began to improve. The reality is we all respond better to love and praise than to criticism and denigration.

Today, I’m considering this principle in relation to our world. For the last decade and longer, the news media has fed us mostly information about the violence and destruction in our world. Many of us have reached the point that we try not to listen to it anymore. Some of us seem to delight in repeating the horror that is happening. WE ARE BEING FED HOPELESSNESS.

I believe it’s time to introduce some healthy, positive knowledge into our diet. It’s time to hear about the good things that are happening in our world. It’s time to be presented with the love and generosity, the random acts of kindness, the loving responses to disaster, the goodness that is present in our world. I believe that over time, the people of our world will hear the good, take it in, and rise up to become the people that God created us to be.

How can this turn-around happen? Once again, it will take each of us to promise to to search out and identify the positive things, the moments of honesty, caring, compassion, generosity that are happening. We can do it, because God is with us, and nothing is impossible with God.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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… And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)

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

Try a New Habit.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances?

In the Bible St. Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1Thessalonians 5:18 )  “Give thanks in all circumstances?” Impossible! Wrong! I can’t give thanks when I lose my job, my loved one dies. How then do we follow St. Paul’s words?

Check the prepositions. St. Paul says, “Give thanks IN all circumstances,” not “FOR all circumstances.” Search for the goodness of God, IN the midst of grief, fear, disappointment. There will be goodness.

When my daughter was badly injured, I wasn’t grateful for the accident. At first, I could only be grateful she wasn’t paralysed, and for the ER doctor who consulted the specialist in Kingston as soon as he saw the X-rays. As the days passed, I gave thanks for the young Mom who brought her two-week-old twins to my daughter’s hospital bedside. As Mom laid her baby on my daughter’s chest, I saw her first real smile, and knew healing would come. My gratitude list from that accident is long. When I opened my heart to the blessings, they were there.

In tough times, the search for blessings is easier if we have already developed a “gratitude habit” – a habit of seeking out and giving thanks for the blessings in our lives every single day. Internet research reveals the following two principles concerning developing a habit.

  1. New habits require over two months of repetitions and still they are fragile, easily discarded. Therefore, forget about the time required and do the repetitions.
  2. Make the commitment. Then failures won’t matter because you will just resume doing it. Neither your financial resources, your health, nor your age, nothing can steal your ability to give thanks once you’ve made the commitment.

Seeking out and recognizing our blessings is worth the effort and practice. This Thanksgiving, I suggest you develop a gratitude habit. It may not mean more money, or things, or success, but it will mean more joy in your life. The gratitude habit will shift your focus from not enough to counting your blessings.

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.

Free Ebook – A Child Speaks by Janet Stobie

For the month of July, my very first book titled A Child Speaks is available as an ebook absolutely free om the Smashwords summer sale.  Just click on or copy and paste https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=A+Child+Speaks . This link will take you directly to the book. A Child Speaks is a collection of short stories that offer my unique perspective on familiar bible stories. If you’ve never read the Bible these stories will give you an excellent introduction to it’s mysterious content.  Take this opportunity to discover the relevance of Bible stories to today’s issues. A Child Speaks as a print book completely sold out.

Have trouble reading because you’re eyesight is deteriorating? Try the audiobook version of A Child Speak. Let me tell you the stories. The two CD set sells for $10.00 and is available at www.janetstobie.com or send me an email info@janetstobie.com  More than one thousand people have already enjoyed A Child Speaks.

While you’re on my website check out my other books, especially my Catalpa Creek Series. Two novels based in the mysthical town of Catalpa Creek. Follow Renee and her dad Steve as they live their lives and deal with many of today’s issues. Fireweed and To Begin Again are available on Amazon.com and .ca as well as from my website www.janetstobie.com. At $20.00 each, these two novels will give you hours of summer reading pleasure.

     

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.

A Great Feeling

To Begin Again – Preorder Now and receive a 20% discount

Just a note to tell everyone that I’ve started taking pre-orders for my new novel, “To Begin Again”. The plan is to have the books in my hands by April 23. That’s my birthday and it will be a scary present to receive the shipment of 1000 copies of To Begin Again. It will be a fabulous present to have at least 100 of those books sold before they arrive. Preorders will give my courage a boost. That’s for sure.

Writing and publishinga novel is a humungus leap of faith and a huge investment of time and money.  Today, I was at a UCW gathering with my books. When I asked the group to raise their hands if they owned a copy of my novel Fireweed and my worship resource Dipping Your Toes, nearly every one in the room raised their hands. There were 70 wonderful women present.

I took pre-orders of To Begin Again. Ten people invested in my book, even though I didn’t even have a picture of the cover to show them. The affirmations that I received for my writing from so many people was great. I know I’ve been called by God to spread the message of God’s love through my books, but sometimes human confirmation of that call helps. This was one of those times.

I am grateful for the support of the United Church Women of Shining Waters Presbytery. If any of you are wanting to preorder To Begin Again I will give you a 20% discount. That means the book sells for $16 rather than $20 it will cost on April 23rd. Just send me an email   info@janetstobie.com and we will organize the transfer of money and the shipping of the book. Blessings to you all. Janet

George, My Friendly Icon for 2018

My friend George

The Christmas season is over. We’ve said good-bye to wishing strangers Merry Christmas. Spontaneous generosity is tucked away with the decorations for another year. For some of us, we’ve made our yearly pilgrimage to church for the Christmas Eve service. No need to go again ’til next Christmas.

Does it have to be over? Do we have to let go of that Christmas Spirit? That’s a familiar lament. As I wrote these words, I looked up to see the quizzical face of George the Giraffe peering back at me.

George the giraffe came, as a special gift of love last summer. Every time I look at him, I think of my son, Dave, our daughter-in-law, Joanne and our granddaughter, Jenna. I hear their words to me as they handed me the package.” When you came to visit us in South Africa, we went on safari. You wanted to see the giraffes. When we returned, you were fascinated with the beaded giraffes made by the African people. Instead of getting one for yourself, you bought one for Vanessa. We decided you needed a giraffe, too.” They handed me George. He’s adorable. With his face full of curiosity, George is my precious reminder of the love of this part of our family living far away in South Africa.

Christians over the centuries have used icons – images, things and even people, sometimes – that help us remember God is the source of everything and that God loves and accepts us just as we are. That’s what the Christmas tree, the songs, the decorations, do for us. They remind us of our Christian story, and Jesus’ lessons of love and forgiveness. This year, I’ve decided that George the giraffe, with his rainbow coloured beads, his big ears that stick straight out, and his long neck and legs, will be my icon to help me remember to live God’s Christmas Spirit all year long. I see George every time I sit down with my computer on my knees. Every time I walk past the living room and see George, peering at me with his quizzical expression I will think of God’s call to love and forgive others as God loves and forgives me.

As you start another year, I suggest you identify something in your home that is connected to love, something that you see every day. It could be a family heirloom (Mom’s china cabinet, Grandpa’s favorite chair), a gift you’ve received (a painting, a bowl, a knick knack). Choose something to remind you daily of the many blessings you have received, something to trigger words of thanks for your abundance, something that brings to your heart a response of love. That icon can help you keep God’s loving Spirit that thrives at Christmas time, with you all year long. You see, we don’t intend to pack away our love and acceptance, our joy in living with the Christmas decorations. We lose our Christmas Spirit in the busyness, the sadness, the craziness of everyday living. Let your icon be the reminder you need for 2018.

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.”