Category Archives: Holidays

Mother’s Day! What Do I Say This Year?

What else can I say about Mothers’ Day? Between preaching and writing columns, haven’t I already said all I have to say? I turned to my Bible.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is human kind that your are mindful of us, human beings that you care for us?”         (Psalm 8:3-4)

The psalmist is overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe and the generosity and abundance of God’s blessings given to us. I thought of my moms, very different from each other, yet generous in their love for me. God blessed me through both of them.

Being a Mom is a commitment that continues even into the next life. What do mothers do for us? When we are little, mom’s job is physically exhausting: feeding, clothing, sleepless nights. Then, our troubles were small, the “fixes” simple. And, we returned her love with hugs and words of love.

Mothering teenagers is emotionally tougher. Our troubles are bigger and we don’t always want Mom’s help. She job is let go a little and watch us make mistakes. That process intensifies in our young adult years. We know everything, Mom, nothing. Our hugs are fewer and further between. We often don’t notice her in the background worrying, praying and trying so hard not to interfere.

I’m sure today it amuses both my moms when I struggle to keep out of the way of my own grown children. When I succeed, I can hear both moms cheering for me. When I interfere and offer unwanted advice, I feel them reach through that veil that separates us and say, “Yes, leaving them to struggle is tough, but you’re doing okay.”

Neither of my moms was perfect, but I was blessed by their love. This year I celebrate Mothers’ Day by remembering the work of their hands, the abundance of their love. This year I thank God who blessed me with their care, their example, their ability to stand back and let me fail, their joy at my success. This year I offer my poem of thanksgiving to God.

Thank You, God, for Mothers

When I consider your gift of mothers in this world,
Their caring, the work of their hands,
Their loving, the gift of their hearts,
I am humbled that you have created mothers for us.

When I consider how hard it must have been for them,
To let us make our own choices                                                                  knowing the pain those choices will bring,
When I consider the abundance of support we have received,
I am humbled that you have created mothers for us.

Thank you, God, for mothers, some more perfect than others.
Thank you, God, for knowing that we need a mother’s love.
Thank you, God, for being a mother for us all.

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.

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.

Happy New Year!!!!

Another year, another 365 days to  fill with laughter, kindness, generosity, gratitude and love. May you recognize the abundance of God’s blessings surrounding you. May you be a blessing to everyone you meet. Regardless of what comes your way in 2018, may you know the joy and love that comes with compassion, kindness and generosity. God bless you all. Janet

Lost in Beauty!

In her book, Meet the Austins, Madeline L’Engle tells the story of parents rousing their children from sleep to experience the spectacular beauty of the world bathed in moonlight immediately after an ice storm. The scene, as described by a child, depicts the family standing lost in wonder amidst the beauty of God’s world. The hymn, This is God’s Wondrous World, flooded my soul as I read.

As I pondered the scene, I thought of similar moments in which I, too, have been lost in “wonder.” I remembered being overwhelmed with the majesty of nature, as I stood transfixed by the glory of a summer sunset.  Flaming reds, yellows, purples, lit the sky, not just in the west, but overhead and around to the east. Five minutes and the colors changed, fading and shifting to patches of pink and violet as dusk descended. I remembered the thrill of watching the mating dance of two loons in the moonlight, while being rocked in our canoe on Sturgeon Lake – a momentary privilege, a gift from God.

My mind moved beyond the miracles of nature to family moments of God’s total love. We actually captured on camera the night we found my granddaughter asleep under her bed, cuddling her beloved chocolate lab. The beauty, the love, the innocence of a child fills my soul as I remember. Often, as I fall off to sleep cuddled up to Tom, I thrill to the total safety of his love.

This morning as I look forward to yet another year, the peace and joy of these amazing moments lift my soul. I suggest you, too, take time to relive your spectacular God-given moments of beauty and love. What better way to step into a new year. These moments are a resource of power and energy and peace. They can carry us through the tough and the regular times of daily living.

Every time we notice God’s presence, God’s overwhelming extravagance, love and forgiveness; every time we remember and relive these spectacular experiences, there is a tiny change, a small alteration in the entire world. With this simple shift, our world takes a step closer to being God’s intended kingdom. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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

“I’m Right?”

At the moment I’m using The Shack: Reflections for Every Day of the Year” as part of my daily devotions. Yesterday, the words”How can I see in fresh new ways unless I admit that my current way of seeing is flawed?” inspired this poem.

I’m Right?

I’m right.

I know I’m right.
Others agree with me!
And yet…
Is it possible?
Is there more?

Jesus brought a new way.
Our rightness led to crucifixion.
Have we not learned?

Is there a flaw in my thought today?
Have I lost his “Way of Love”?
Is fear leading me astray?

Maybe?   Possibly?

Lord Jesus, come.
Open my heart.
I want to see!!!

 

I’m thrilled to introduce to you –

Elizabeth Gets Her Wings

Elizabeth is delightful. She’s enthusiastic. She’s a child, God’s beloved child just as each one of you and each one of your children and grandchildren are also God’s beloved children. Elizabeth is an angel child who is waiting for her wings. Just like us, Elizabeth can’t wait. She’s wants her wings early. Maybe she can earn them. Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is a magical children’s story, yet it’s our story.

My new Christmas Book for children and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles & neighbors, Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is now available for ordering.

To purchase an autographed copy or two or ten for yourself or as Christmas gifts, please email me:  info@janetstobie.com 

Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is just $10.00 plus shipping.

Order now by clicking on the link: info@janetstobie.com

Elizabeth Gets Her Wings will be available on Amazon.com and .ca within the next two weeks.

 Reflection

My Story/ Elizabeth’s Story

I’ve never thought much about heaven. It takes all my energy and focus to enjoy and live well in this present life. Mostly, I believe that eternal life means I will be with God, and life will be good. Even so, my imagination and God’s inspiration resulted in Elizabeth Gets Her Wings, a story about an angel child from heaven doing a task for God here on earth.

The day after Elizabeth Gets Her Wings went to print, my daily reading was based on the Biblical Quote from King David, “One thing I ask from the Lord…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” (Psalm 27:4)

In the middle of the new book, Olivia, the illustrator, has drawn Elizabeth basking in God’s love and acceptance. God’s multicolored hand rests on her head. The complete ecstasy embodied by Elizabeth expresses the feelings I experience every time I hold a new born baby, or am truly hugged by someone I love who loves me. These are my glimpses of heaven, times when I recognize that I am in God’s presence.

If heaven means I am perfect in God’s sight just as I am, with all my faults, idiosyncrasies and attempts at goodness, I know I don’t have to worry about the details. I can be one of Elizabeth’s volunteers. I can step into the mysterious journey of this next life with confidence and joy. Thanks be to God.

Please pass this on to all your email friends.