Category Archives: God’s Power

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.

Spiritual But Not Religious?

 

In our country today, there is a large group of people who declare that they are “spiritual but not religious”.

Over the last few years, I have endeavoured to understand  this category.  When I question those who are spiritual but not religious, they tell me that they do believe in a power, a source of all that is, that is bigger than anything we humans can muster.  They add that they are just not interested in attending church or following any religious traditions. They also tell me that they certainly believe in caring for others. I know that to be true because I have experienced them as generous, caring, loving responsible citizens.

As we continued to talk,  I have learned that the spiritually but not religious, feel they might need the church for weddings, and maybe funerals.  Often they enjoy yoga, or pickle ball, or musical presentations, or quilting or other activities that are held in the church, Occasionally, they end up volunteering in a church sponsored program like the local food bank, or children’s program. My conclusion has been that those who are spiritual and not religious usually see the church building, minister and congregation minister as useful.

This morning, I’m aware that this assumption that the church, supported and manned by other people, will continue to be there even unto the end of the age, may one day be false. As Christians we know that our precious church family, requires our time, our commitment, our gifts. We know God is the foundation of our church family, and yet God is not limited to churches. God already works all over the earth. As our population ages, church workers are becoming fewer and fewer. Without the help of the broader community, your local huch may disappear, as many have over the last few years.

Therefore, if the spiritual but not religious want the presence of “the church” in their community, now is the time to help, with their, time, talents and even their dollars.

Our God is a God of relationships. Jesus gathered a group of friends around him. He was not a solitary person. He knew the support, and joy that comes when a purpose is shared, when we weep together, and when we celebrate together. We, Spiritual and religious people know from experience that we don’t want to miss out on all the advantages of our religious community. So once again we offer an invitation, “Come, join our communities spread throughout this beautiful world. Come. We want you with us. We need you with us. We will share all that we have and all that we are as church communities. We are ready to receive you. Together we can offer love, caring, life cycle rituals, spirituality. Our faith is not meant to turn you away. Together we believe that God, the Creator, that great power of new life, is will us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken….”

 

Love Can Win!

 

Above the front door of our home hangs a simple plaque, a wedding gift from friends. At the time of our wedding, I hardly knew these people, but Tom did. They are ‘sort of’ family – cousins of a cousin. They travelled all the way from Massachusetts to our wedding celebration. Although they are people of deep faith, I am sure they were not aware at the time that they were bringing Tom and me God’s inspiration for our lives.

“May the love that surrounds you today give you the strength to face your tomorrows.” For nearly fourteen years we have experienced the Truth and Grace of that blessing.

Today is Good Friday. This morning I sat down in my favorite chair to pray, to reflect on this day in our Easter story. The sun blazed through our living room window, filling my soul with God’s light and warmth. The scripture readings presented the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion in vivid detail. I couldn’t avoid the cruelty. I didn’t want to feel the pain. Yet as I read, I could think only of the plague of torture, cruelty, greed, violence that seems to be sucking up the goodness in this world as quickly as it is created. Calvary happens over and over again. Family violence, workplace abuse, residential schools, war, cruel dictatorships. Yes, Jesus’ crucifixion happens somewhere every day.

Last night our house overflowed with love. Our daughter, two of her grandchildren and two of our most cherished friends enjoyed food, conversation, memories, hugs. Each one of us was truly surrounded with God’s love. This morning as I think about Jesus, Good Friday, and our world, I am drawing on last night’s love, on the love that God has showered upon us as a family. With that love as my foundation, I have the strength to face the supreme cruelty of humankind. I can give thanks for God’s endless love shown to us through Jesus’ forgiveness from the cross. That love gives me the strength to offer myself in the struggle for goodness and peace.

I read our plaque as I step through our door, and know God’s love has given me hope for tomorrow.

Help!

Can I Forgive?
Help!!

Harassment,
Pain
The guilt is endless
Relentless
I want desperately to help
I am dying.

I’ve tried escape.
His voice comes everywhere.

God says, “It’s time.
Give him to me.
It’s my turn.”

How Lord? How?
He has no one.
Only me.

You entrusted him to me.
I can’t close the door.
I can’t walk away.
He won’t let me
I can’t let me.

God says, “It’s time
Give him to me.
It’s my turn
Your work is done
I gave you love
Acceptance, loyalty,
Honesty, determination.
Holiness
You’ve used them all.”

God says, “It’s time.
Give him to me.
It’s my turn.”
Your work is done.
The foundation is laid.
Trust in me.”

God says, “Whatever happens.
He is my precious child
And I love him.”

“Come to the Mountaintop”

Yesterday, I had an incredible day. Almost two years ago, I was asked to be theme speaker for the Wednesday, United Church Women’s Day of Bay of Quinte Conference. What a fabulous honor. The theme for the day was, “Light One Candle”. I spent a great deal of time in prayer trying to decide the best way to deal with this theme. I believe God led me to speak about how Jesus ensured that his followers (disciples both men and women), felt energized and refreshed so that they could continue carrying God’s message of love and forgiveness to all the people they met.

As usual, God’s choice was on target. I flew on God’s Spirit as I talked. Afterward’s many of the 130+ women who were there told me that the talk had given them a “mountaintop experience.” Wow. This is my ministry. Today, I am so grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to speak and the words to say. As an added blessing, I sold $530 worth of books which included 18 of my “Can I Hold Him? Christmas Stories for All Ages” that is in it’s second printing. I am truly blessed. Thank you God.

Why Do We Think the Worst of God?

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In ancient times, people believed the gods to be in total control of everything that happened. If the weather didn’t co-operate for farming, the god of the fields was meting out punishment for some wrongdoing. If the harvest was abundant the same god or a different one was rewarding hard work with prosperity. Problem – it didn’t work. The good still had difficulties.

In Jesus time, the Jewish people transferred this same understanding to their one God. The goal was to please God and everything would go well. Problem: It didn’t work. The good still got sick and their crops failed during a famine.

Today, that simple belief that we can blame God for every problem is still with us. If we break a bone, we ask, “Why did this happen?” We search our hearts and our past, for the mistakes we’ve made that would cause God to punish us. We lament, “There must be a reason God would do this to me or let this happen to me.”  Problem: It doesn’t work. Just as in ancient times, good people get sick, greedy people sometimes do well. Why then do we blame God?

The 23rd Psalm tells us God is with us “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) Never does he say: “Believe in me and your life will be totally smooth.”

In my book “Fireweed”, the main character Renee learns that this fundamental belief in a “Mr. Fix It, God”, totally failed her. Her Mom was a good person who cared for others yet she was killed in a car accident. Throughout the book Renee comes to understand God, as her companion, her teacher, her guide, her support, her comforter.

As parents, we can’t fix our children’s life. As our parent, God doesn’t “fix” our lives either.

I invite you to let go of those old beliefs in a cold punishing God. Celebrate our wonderful loving God who travels with us, helping us to become the best we can be.

Out of Date? Not Possible!

Out of Date!
Out of Date!

On my kitchen counter, I found a cash register receipt that said, “Present this receipt with your next $20 purchase and receive a $5 discount. Good for two weeks. I checked the date – one day past the two weeks. Worthless, I thought, and threw it in the garbage.

That same day, my daily reading had carried the message, “You can never lose your value as God’s precious child.” Truth, I thought but difficult to believe. Some days I get busy and forget to return a friend’s call. or I discover I’m double-booked – I’m committed to being in two different places at the same time. On those days, it’s easy to say, “Worthless, I’ve done it again God. Are you going to give up on me this time? Guess I’m ready for the garbage.”

On the days when I wake up with my back hurting and arthritis complaining, I wonder, “Am I out of date yet, Lord? Maybe now it’s time to put me out to pasture.”

Those are often the days when I receive a positive comment on my blog, or someone buys a book, or thanks me for listening to them. God is actually very good at reminding me that I am a precious child, and my life has meaning. One of my favorite scripture passages is Isaiah 43:1-5. “I have called you by name. You are mine…you are precious in my sight and I love you.”

I suggest you pick up a Bible, find this passage, read it aloud, substituting your name for the pronoun you. Every time you have doubts, read it again. You might even want to learn it by heart, so that you can remind yourself regularly that you are precious, a precious child of God. Nothing you can do, say, or experience will change your status. Live with confidence in God’s love for you. It will never be out of date.

Thought for Today

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I Can Trust in God’s Extravagant Love.

My daily reading tells me to trust in God’s extravagant love. That sounds simple but I know it’s not. This Christmas, in our family, the fear that comes with serious illness is threatening to wipe out our joy. I know we are not alone. There are many among us who are afraid. Illness, loneliness, violence, grief – Christmas is often laced with fear.

Our precious Christmas story is filled with angels saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Over and over again in the stories of Jesus we hear his message, “Don’t be afraid.” Our faith tells us we can trust in God’s extravagant love. Yet as we journey to Bethlehem this year, many of us are afraid.

Years ago, I read these words in a tiny tattered book that has long since disappeared, “Pray as if.” At 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning I heard this message, “Listen to the angels of Christmas. “Do not be afraid. Come and experience God’s extravagant love in baby Jesus. ‘Pray as if’ you trust in God’s extravagant love”.

If fear threatens to take over your life this Christmas, I offer to you what I am doing. I am praying “as if”. I am leaning on the love and faith of friends. Some days, trusting in God’s extravagant love feels solid. Some days my faith feels based in quick sand. Still, I will continue to pray. I will pray “as if” I am without fear and wait. I can trust in God’s extravagant love. I will open my heart to God’s peace for today.

God’s Life Insurance – a Gift #life insurance #spiritual #travel #rivercruise

God's life insurance1

When Tom and I planned our “riverboat cruise,” the travel agent assured us we needed trip cancellation insurance. “Just in case,” she said. “When you book something a year ahead you never know what will happen.”

My mind slipped back two years. I was walking across my kitchen floor when my heel came down on a few drops of water. I fell and broke my back. In less than one second, my life changed drastically. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if insurance money could actually fix any problems that might crop up between now and August 2016? But of course there is nothing that can compensate us for the illness, accident or death that would cause us to cancel this trip. Still, we set up the insurance to protect our financial investment.

As Christians, we have something better than insurance, and it’s free. We have faith in a God who has promised to love us no matter what we do, when we succeed and when we fail. God forgives our mistakes and give us the gift of new life. We have faith that no matter what happens, we are not alone. God is with us every step of the way. God gives us strength and wisdom to carry on, if we choose to receive it.

Our insurance company sent us a package with a glossy brochure that carried all the details of our policy. God has given us the Bible. It too carries details of God’s promises for us with no limits to liability or escape clauses. Just as we seldom study the insurance brochure, we often neglect to read our Bibles.

And that’s the problem. Our faith is a free gift. As is often the case with something that is free, we can choose to leave the gift all wrapped up, sitting within us waiting for us to open it. Faith is a choice. For some of us a hard choice, because we don’t do well with mystery. When we take the risk, when we step out with the assurance of God’ loving presence and strength, we are amazed at the results.

God's life insurance - open the gift - accept the love.
God’s life insurance – open the gift – accept the love.

“and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22)