Category Archives: Holidays

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really Okay?

By Janet Stobie

Valentines of Love
Valentines of Love

In “Walk in My Garden,” I read Helen Ripley’s story of returning to teaching after her husband died. When her grade one class was dismissed for recess, Elena remained behind and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Ripley?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” Helen replied, smiling at the child.

The child remained and said, “I know what happened. Are you really okay?”
That question from a six-year-old brought tears to Helen’s cheeks. Her heart touched, Helen said, “Thank you so much for stopping and caring. Yes, I’m sad right now, but I will be okay.” (p. 38)

God’s track record of caring for us always amazes me. During my divorce, God sent a parishioner to my study door, her arms outstretched in caring love. She held me while I cried.
When we need God with skin on, God never fails us. People of all ages, sometimes friends or family, sometimes strangers, appear and listen, offer a hug, an encouraging word, or a helping hand. God sends us angels in every size and colour because we are always God’s beloved children. Sometimes God even recruits you and me into his society of angels. Either way we know we are blessed by our loving God.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, a day set apart to honour those we love and who love us. For the last several weeks our commercial society screamed out, “Send Valentines. Buy gifts”. Regardless what happened yesterday, today is a new day. The opportunity to give a gift of love is not gone. I encourage you to search for the opportunity to be God’s Valentine, God’s angel, for someone, today and every day. Before February 15th is over, consider the angels of love God has sent to you when you were in need over this past year or years. Send God a prayer Valentine to say thank you.

“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2)

God’s Sacred Task

Creating a home is a sacred task given by God. 

For the child, that home begins inside the mother’s womb. Doctors tell us that what Mom eats and does affects her child, long before he or she is born. For example: When Mom doesn’t take in enough calcium in her diet, the calcium in her bones and teeth is taken for her unborn child. Today research has also shown that the fetus can hear.  Many mothers play music, sing, and read to their unborn child.

When I see pregnant women regularly at worship, I give thanks that once again a child is beginning with the love of a church family. Hearing the hymns, prayers, words that speak of loving one another, and living in peace and harmony, can make a difference in that child’s life.

God entrusts mothers with the special role of being the “goodness and mercy” of God, that is claimed in Psalm 23.  Of course, mothers, fail at times. They’re human.

God’s intention is that mother, in her unique place in the family, will be a source of God’s love.

Like all humans, mother doesn’t fulfill her role in a vacuum.

Mom’s need affirmation and support. Mother’s day reminds all of us that it is our privilege to be that affirmation and support. On Mother’s Day and every day, really look at the mother in your life, your own or someone else’s. Let her imperfections slide by and focus on the wonder of her efforts to love and support her child. Give her a hug. Speak words of appreciation.

Mother’s Day tell the Moms in your life that she is God’s blessing for her child. 

 

 

Rejoice, God Has the Last Word!

When I was visiting in Tucson, a stranger walked up to me and said “Hi, what are you doing here?” At first I was totally puzzled. Who was this? Then she called me by name and said she was from Bethany, Ontario, my home at the time. Of course, I said. I didn’t recognize you. I guess I didn’t expect to see anyone from home here.

I think it must have been like that for Mary that Easter morning. She went to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’ body. When it was gone, she was sure his body had been stolen. That was her expectation. When she saw him in the garden, she still wasn’t ready to believe. Only when he called her by name did she recognize him.

When, like Mary we are faced with tragedy, we too struggle to believe that all is not over. God can bring new life out of the loss of  our job, the end of a marriage, even the death of a loved one. Easter reminds us that God will never be defeated. Jesus said,  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

It’s not always tragedy that blinds us to God’s new life. Sometimes we’re so caught in what has always been, “we’ve always done it that way”, that  we haven’t room in our minds for something totally new.  God calls us by name and reminds us that with God, we can have the courage to step into something new.  This Easter, open your eyes and ears to the life God is offering you. Remember the past, not even death has the last word. God does.

 

Young children sometimes make poor choices. They run across the road without looking. They follow their curiosity down to the lake without supervision.  Sometimes, they just plain defy us by picking up a china knick knack they’ve been told not to touch, or a crayon and scribbling on the wall. Occasionally, they throw temper tantrums, screaming and hitting, Whether the misdeed is done by mistake or on purpose, once it’s revealed, our children come to us seeking and expecting forgiveness. Because we love our child, most of the time we have that forgiveness ready even before our child requests it.

With adults forgiveness isn’t quite so easy. We hold grudges. We judge and sometimes even crucify. The person we find hardest to forgive is ourselves.  It’s good that God is wiser, stronger and more loving than we can ever be.

Good Friday, the name we use to describe the day Jesus was crucified, gives us an amazing illustration of God’s forgiveness. Hanging on the cross, in excruciating pain, the human Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34), because he knows we need forgiveness. And hanging on the cross, Jesus, God with us, offers that forgiveness, freely and with love.

Of course, we identify that sad day as “Good”. It’s the day we see and hear God’s forgiveness for our intentional and unintentional, individual and communal misdeeds. Each year, we tell that horrible story of Jesus’ crucifixion because we need to be reminded that God loves us even at our very worst.

We are called to receive God’s forgiveness and offer it to others not because anyone deserves or has earned forgiveness, but because we are all God’s precious children. God, the parent and lover of all, has forgiveness ready as a free gift even before we request it. This is “Good News”.

 

Love Letters

 

God’s Valentine Gift for All of Us

We receive very few letters in the mail anymore. Many of us have shifted to communicating in short notes by email and phone conversations. When I open the mail box, I expect to be greeted by bills, circulars and newspapers. I remember when the envelopes in the mail box contained stories of my friend’s life. She’d send lovely long letters, written like a journal over several weeks. I looked forward to those letters and the news and laughter they carried.

Last year, another friend gave me a bundle of letters she found in a desk in the home of her uncle Wes, after he died. Addressed to lady friend, obviously at the beginning of a relationship, they express a hope for a life together that never happened. Even though Wes married someone else, he saved the letters. Maybe he wondered what life might have been like if he had pursued that road.

For me the Bible is a love letter from God. In passages like Isaiah 43:1-5, God says “I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you…” These are statements of commitment and love. Too often, we see the Bible only as a book of rules to be obeyed, or a story of judgment to be feared, or both. We set it aside to gather dust. We forget that first and foremost the Bible is God’s love letter to us. When we’re feeling hurting and alone, the Bible offers comfort and assurance. When we’ve lost our way, the Bible provides comfort. But like the letters in Wes’ desk, God’s Biblical letters can only speak of the promise of relationship. They’re only words on a page until we read them and accept God’s love.

“I have called you by name, you are mine.”  (Isaiah 43: 1b)

For more reflections by Janet Stobie go to www.janetstobie.com

What Will We Do Differently in 2013?

A New Path

What will I do differently in 2013? Is there anything I can actually change? The Biblical story about the Wise Men seeking Jesus is often the topic for the first Sunday of the New Year. If you know the story, you’ll remember that after giving their gifts to Jesus, “and having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” I smile when these wise men do as they’re asked without even one question.

Most of us are not nearly as compliant as those wise folk. When the suggestion is made that we do something differently, we often refuse. After all, we’ve always done it this way. Why change? Even when what we’re doing is unsuccessful, we find trying something new difficult.

Still, as we open our calendar to January, we hope that this year we’ll do better. Maybe we’ll eat less, exercise more, and lose a little weight. Possibly, we’ll read our Bible regularly, or join a Bible study group. For me, in 2013 I’d like to be in bed by eleven most nights. I plan on spending several hours a day just writing. We all have our list, but we’re not like the Wise Men of the Bible. We get busy and forget. Change cramps our life style. We don’t go home a different way.

In 2013, I suggest that we try one small change. Do one random act of kindness every day. Remember to thank the clerk who helped you find something in the store or send a card to tell a friend you care. One tiny act of kindness as you hurry through your day will make a difference in your life and someone else’s.  The ripple effect will change the world.

 

“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”  Matthew 2:12

 

For more of Janet Stobie’s reflections go to www.janetstobie.com

Is it really all over?

Easter weekend is over. The Chocolate Easter eggs and bunny rabbits have disappeared from the store shelves. Commercial interests have marched on to Mother’s Day.

For Christians, Easter didn’t end on April 9th. We celebrate Easter each and every Sunday, all year long. That’s why we worship on Sunday rather than on Saturday like our Jewish and Muslim friends. We have our day of rest and celebration on the first day of the week, because our Christian story tells us that Jesus rose on that day.

Two thousand years ago, we committed the ultimate act of violence and rejection. We endeavoured to kill God. The joy that we celebrate at Easter is that we failed. No evil, no darkness has enough power to destroy God. On that third day, when Jesus rose from the dead, God showed us that goodness and love always triumph over evil. No matter what we have done, said, or thought, God’s love for us cannot be defeated. When we experience our guilt and ask for new life, God’s forgiveness is there waiting for us. New life is possible. The spark of God’s goodness and love that is born in each one of us can rise up and transform us.

The wonder of Easter is that God wants to work through us. Regardless of our past mistakes, God’s love lifts us up and sets us on a new road. We can speak out for justice. We can share willingly and easily of our abundance. We don’t have to live in fear of tomorrow.

The new life we are trying to live means that Easter is with us every single day. Like babies, we begin with a few halting footsteps. We can speak up when we hear a friend speak ill of another person. Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, we can refill our bottles from our taps. We can write a letter in protest when our government’s policies appear unfair. With each new step, we gain more of God’s courage. Easter is about transformation, about God’s victory over the darkness in each one of us. Easter is never over.

Palm Sunday Meditation

I’ve heard the Palm Sunday scripture each year since I started Sunday School. As a child waving that giant fan like branch felt like a huge celebration. When I followed my friends down the church aisle, all those adults staring at me dampened the party somewhat, but certainly didn’t ruin it for me. I remember imagining I was there with Jesus, skipping along beside the donkey. The coming events of Holy week didn’t even register on my radar. I skipped passed Good Friday right on to Easter Sunday. I didn’t think about the significance of the parade or who might be watching.
            As an adult I want to understand more about this story. I want to find the relevance it has for me as an individual and for our world today. One way of doing that is to place myself in the story, but this time as an adult. I invite you to join me in this process. Therefore, I offer you my guided meditation. Open your Bible to Matthew 21:1-11 . Read through the story you find there. When you’ve finished reading, turn to the meditation below. Take some time to answer each question as thoroughly and honestly  as you can.
Sit back and take several deep breaths to help you relax. In your mind’s eye see the scene. You’re right outside the Golden Gates that mark the entrance to Jerusalem. The setting sun shines directly on those gates nearly blinding you, when you look back to the city. It’s hot and dry. There’s not much grass in this dry land. A growing crowd is lining both sides of the road and still more people are poring through the gates. People are jostling one another, excited because Jesus, the great teacher and healer is coming. You’ve found a good spot in the crowd. What thoughts are floating through your mind? Are you happy to be there? Are you anxious to see Jesus? How do you feel about him? Is he a hero or an enemy?
            As you peer down the road you see them coming, men, women, a few children their sandals kicking up dust in the dry air. One man is riding, the donkey just a little small, so his long legs drag in the dust.
The stranger standing next to you points and yells, “There he is.”
Your eyes follow the line of his pointing finger. You ask, “On the donkey, is that Jesus on the donkey.”
            The stranger nods. As they approach people around you cut palms from the trees and wave them. A chant rises from the watchers. “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to the son of David.” Are you joining them or standing back and just watching?
            A victorious king rides a donkey as he returns to his city. What victory is Jesus celebrating?
            The little party passes directly in front of you. Your eyes are drawn to Jesus. He turns his head. Your eyes meet and hold their gaze.
            What message are you receiving from Jesus? What would you like to tell him?
The moment is fleeting. He smiles and turns to someone else. In minutes the parade is over. Did you wave your flag?
As you watch the little band of people pass through the gates, you realize the sun has dropped even lower. They disappear from view. How are you feeling now? What will you tell your friends about this encounter?

Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Every morning at breakfast, Tom and I join hands and pray. Instead of bowing our heads, we look into each other’s eyes. Tom begins with “Thank you, God, for my “just right” Jan.” I add, “and my wonderful Tom.” We go on to give thanks to God for food, family, home and friends, followed by offering up the people and events that are uppermost in our minds. Our breakfast “Grace Prayer” takes only a few moments. Some might think this is romantic, some that it’s ridiculous. For Tom and I, this short prayer time means that whatever the day brings we’re together on it and God is with us.
Our morning prayer reminds me to pay attention to Tom, to remember that I love him. Why, then, would I bother with Valentine’s Day. After all, I’ve heard it said that Valentine’s Day is just another money grab. It means nothing. It’s foolishness.
For Tom and me, Valentine’s Day gives us another opportunity to show that we love, value and respect each other. We know that God has blessed us with our relationship. Life experience has taught us that relationships do not prosper if they are left unattended. Just as a plant cannot grow and become more and more beautiful without water and sunlight, our relationship will only shrivel and become flat without love and care.
            There used to be bill boards that said, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Praying helps. Prayer is one of the nutrients needed. Speaking words of love and doing actions of love are also essential to a healthy relationship. I suggest you use this Valentine’s Day to add to the ways that you nurture your relationships with spouse, children, family, and friends. Endeavour to be a blessing to at least one person that you love, on that day and every day for the rest of 2012.
St. Paul tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).

Mary Did You Know?

When my children were born, I had many hopes and dreams for them. Today, each one works with young people teaching, offering healing. They have far exceeded my wildest dreams for them. I give thanks to God every day for the blessing of their lives and love.

“Mary Did You Know,” a beloved Christmas song, asks, “Mary did you know that your baby boy…” would heal people, calm storms, teach, preach, and give his life for the world? Mary believed her son was a special child of God, the long awaited Messiah who would lead her people to freedom. Yes, Jesus far exceeded her wildest dreams for him.

Each and every child that is born, male or female, is a special child of God. Each baby begins with the God-given potential to bring joy and healing to our world. We cannot see into the future. We don’t know what wonder or pain awaits a new baby. Like Mary we are called to love each child and believe “with God, all things are possible”.

The news tells us about the lost children, the difficult ones. On the street we see strangers who appear different from us. They come packaged as young people pierced and sullen, or adults tough or lost. Society has taught us to fear them, to turn away. In his day, people feared the itinerant preacher, Jesus. With hindsight, we can see the wonder and joy that Jesus has given us. As Christians, we know the acceptance and forgiveness he brought and still brings to the pain and misery of our hurting world.

This Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, remember that each new baby, each child, each adult has been born with the potential to bring goodness to our world. Open your heart to receive that goodness at every opportunity.

 

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is his name.”

(Luke 2:46-49)