Category Archives: Thought for the Day

I Can Do It!!!

I listened to a most interesting radio program, “Word on the Hills” this morning. Gwynn and Felicity interviewed today’s author, Reva Nelson who has done workshops and written a book on risk taking. As I listened, I realized that I started my life with a wonderful sense of adventure. My friend Nancy said to me about 20 years ago that I was willing to try anything. She wasn’t talking about physical risk taking. She was referring to my ability to set aside fear and feelings of incompetence and try a new recipe, a new job, whatever. My ability to take this kind of risk is a quality that helped me answer God’s call to ministry and begin writing and publishing books.

My thoughts shifted to the present. For the last three years, I have been thinking about sending a manuscript off to a publisher or an agent. I told myself my writing wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want the rejection.  I continued my self-publishing with the same moderate success. A month ago, I discussed my desire and my fear with my editor. She listened to my talk about lack of competence for about five minutes, then looked at me and said, “Give it up, Jan. Just do it.” Her words have stayed with me.

Today’s radio interview with Reva reinforced Ruth’s words. I can take the risk. I used to just step forward ready to do my best, trusting that God will use whatever I do for something good. I used to take risks easily. Today, I am choosing a new mantra. “You can do it. Give it a try. Whatever happens, you will survive.” Thanks to “Word on the Hills” and Reva Nelson, for giving me the push I need, at this moment.

1+1+God=Creativity

 

I felt called to paraphrase Romans 12:1-8 this morning. This passage is familiar to many of us. Maybe my paraphrase can help someone stop and think about the passage more deeply.

1+1+God=Creativity

  1. Sit down with God, just as you are, your thoughts, intentions, actions. Remember God loves YOU.
  2. Trust in God and in God’s call to you. Live in the world as God’s child. Let God mould your being. God will transform you to be best you can be.
  3. Be happy being you, just as God created you. Enjoy the gifts that God gives to you.
  4. Together we bring to this world, the body of Christ.
  5. Each one of us is essential to the whole, and each one of us is unique.
  6. Use who you are to serve others. What you bring and give is special.
  7. Find your meaning in who you are as God’s creation. Give thanks.
  8. God calls us to co-operate because together we are more, do more, love more. Together we find joy. Together we can transform the world.

How Does God Deal with Our Choices for Evil

When a child dies. A well-intentioned friend sometimes offers comfort to the grieving parents with, “God needed your child in heaven.” A natural disaster, or strange misfortune is greeted with, “God must have had a reason.”

The Bible story of Joseph, the favored child, is often cited as the basis of this kind of thinking. Joseph’s older brothers, in their anger and jealousy, sold him to merchants travelling to Egypt. They told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Years later, his brothers, come to Egypt as refugees from famine. They meet Joseph as the prime minister, who now has the power to save his family from starvation. Joseph explains, “It was not you who sent me here (to Egypt), but God.” (Genesis 45:8).

THIS MAY COMFORT SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT ME. The loving God I have encountered in my life and in the Bible stories of Jesus, tells me a different story. Our God given gift of free will means we can make good choices to love and care for each other and we can use our free will in anger and jealousy, as Joseph’s brothers did. Our loving God is never defeated by our choices. God has the power to bring goodness out of the worst we can do, BUT God does NOT need us to do bad things or to experience misery to accomplish goodness.

I believe Joseph had the position and therefore the power to rescue his brothers, because our loving God worked with Joseph to use his intelligence, his location and his faith to prepare him to forgive and help his family. God brought new life, amazing new life out of Joseph’s brother’s evil choices, just as God brought the resurrection out of our choice to crucify Jesus.

Some people would say this is just a matter of semantics, playing with words. I don’t agree. I believe that God’s love can take the worst that we can do, and the worst that can happen, and create goodness. But God doesn’t need us to make evil choices or experience painful things in order to create that goodness.

With this mind-set, we are not puppets in the hands of a capricious, often vengeful God, who requires war and death, evil and violence to accomplish goodness. No! No! No! With this mindset, we have freedom to make choices, good choices of love and care, poor choices, and sometimes even choices for evil. God can draw from within the results of our choices, even at our worst, the means to create goodness.

For me this applies to our resurrection story. My theology of Jesus tells me that he loved us so much that he wouldn’t stop loving us even when we were at our worst. God used that endless, generous love to bring the lesson of forgiveness and resurrection, NEW LIFE, not just for Jesus but for all of us.

When we trust in a loving God, when we open our hearts to that love, we will eventually see and experience that goodness. In fact, God invites us to participate in the creation of that goodness.

For this understanding of God, I give God thanks.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

What Is the Best Diet?

 

As adults in Canada, many of us try fad food diets because we are wanting to be thin, or thinner. Almost always our excess weight returns as soon as we stop the diet. My daughter, a child psychologist, at our local hospital, works with teens who struggle with childhood obesity. She is adamant that we need to develop a healthy life style rather than find the best diet

Her message is not new. We need a lifestyle that involves exercise we enjoy, healthy and varied food we like and that is easy to prepare, and allows indulging in dessert occasionally, and is finished with sufficient rest. This is a lifestyle that can become ours forever.

Jesus’ teaching followed the same path. He too talked about lifestyle. The religious laws had their place but he condensed them to four principles. Love God, love others, love yourself, and be grateful. In whatever you do, whether eating, working, playing, resting, always remember that:

  • you love God. Prayer, worship and study are on your diet and exercise list because you want to be the person God would have you be,
  • you love others. Compassion, honesty, acceptance are the diet and exercise that will enable you to care for others.
  • you love yourself. Daily you feed yourself the chants, “I am God’s precious child. God lives within me. I will care for my body, prioritize my time so there is space for rest and fun. My diet will include forgiveness for myself and others.
  • You are grateful. Spice your food, your exercise, your rest, with gratitude. Giving thanks always and in all things brings joy to life.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden (with life) and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

GOOD NEWS #2

I did it. I did it. I’ve really finished round one. This afternoon, I finished the first serious edit of the sequel to Fireweed. Wow. This was a definite huge rewrite and I’m pleased as punch. Now before I send it to my editor I get to read it through all at once. I’m hoping that will happen tomorrow.  I may learn that I have to do serious edit number 2 before I send it off. After all, in her words, the more I refine my manuscript before she gets it, the less work she has to do. Those of us who self-publish know how important that is. Editors are amazing and they need to be paid for their skill.

Now I have hope that maybe, just maybe this book will be ready to publish by November. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Now, I need a title. A friend suggested I should carry on the plant theme. The working titles so far have been – “One More Step”  and “Safe Haven”. Once I googled them, I learned that many many books carry those titles. I need something unique that fits the book. I will pray about it as I reread the manuscript. Maybe you will pray as well. Blessings to you all. Janet

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….”

 

There shall be showers of blessings.

When I sat down to write this article, my eyes were drawn to the front window. I looked through a sprightly bouquet of tulips and iris, flowers brought by friends. “A touch of spring,” she said when she handed them to me last week. Past the tulips, I saw the leaden winter sky setting free snow that filtered down to thicken the blanket that already covers our yard. More snow, I thought, yuk. My eyes slipped back to the tulips lifting their blooms toward the window. I smiled. Thank you God for this touch of new life, a bright spot in my day. Thank you God for friends.

A little earlier that morning, I had driven our granddaughter to high school. Her happy smile greeted me as she ran down the steps and opened the car door. On the way to school, I told her that I had kissed Grandpa’s sleepy forehead and reminded him that it was his turn tomorrow. We laughed. Her eyes alight with fun she teased, “Guess I was up before you two. I was making porridge at six o’clock this morning.”  My thought was, Oh, how I love you. Thank you God for our Ellie. She is always a bright spot in our day.

Two gifts from God rest in my heart, blessings for this day.  In winter, I can easily overlook  blessings. So often I throw on my coat, leave it unzipped and ignore my hat and mitts left behind waiting on the cedar chest at the door. Once outside, I shudder and repeat my mantra to God, “I hate winter.”

Today, as I run my errands, I will snuggle into my long-johns and down-filled parka, pull my wild striped hat down over my ears and my warm cuddly mitts over my arthritic fingers. I don’t want to be distracted by the cold and discomfort. I want my soul open to more of those blessings that God has prepared for me.

I recommend we all endeavor to bring this attitude to our lives all year long. Whether it’s the weather that is uncomfortable, or our lives that have been tainted with misery, let’s do what we can to alleviate its effects. We can set our hearts and souls free to receive the love God offers us each day. Let’s notice, accept, smile and give thanks.

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Lyrics by Daniel W. Whittle 1883

 

Saying Goodbye – Flying Home

Today began at 6:00 a.m. We wanted one last hug from Dave, Joanne and Jenna. They leave for school every day at 6:30. I learned that saying goodbye that early is just a little easier because sleepiness clouds my ability to feel. After everyone left the house was silent, too silent. We had intended to go back to bed but we didn’t. I worked on yesterday’s blog and we packed.

We didn’t bring our luggage scale and Dave doesn’t have one. We reverted to using the bathroom scale. It worked as we were not overweight at the airport.

We left for the airport at 3:00 p.m. in Jonathon’s flashy BMW, our last opportunity to live as the rich. I wrote that statement and thought, no that’s not right. Although we are considered Middle Class in Canada, we live as the ultra rich every day, compared to most of the people here in South Africa and around the world. I’ve always known that. Now, I have a deeper knowledge and an even stronger desire to share my many blessings.

Rain poured down all the way to the airport. Traffic became more and more congested. We were both glad we had left early and Jonathon was driving. The trip took a good half hour longer than expected, but we arrived with heaps of time to spare. A friendly and helpful man offered us a cart, loaded on our bags and took us to the check-in. We gave him 20 rand ($2.00 Canadian). He was delighted and so were we.

Took a while to go through security and immigration. Lots of people are travelling. Terrorists are certainly not keeping any of us home. We had brought a snack, so once inside that was our first task. We wanted to use our last few African Rand so I invested in a Hagendaz milkshake – 85 Rand – the Canadian Equivalent $8.50. That was obviously a poor investment as it was gone from my body before the end of the day. It did satisfy my desire for something sweet, taste delicious and may still be around in a few extra fat cells. After eating, we talked with a friendly french couple who assured us our ten hour lay over in Paris would give us plenty of time to hop the train to downtown. I’m wasn’t so sure. We decided to check out the weather in Paris. If it’s pouring rain, we might as well just stay at the airport. At that point, all I wanted to do was get home.

I was cold, so we decided to buy me a South Africa sweatshirt. The stores were ultra chic. Sweatshirts were not on the agenda. After asking at several places we were directed to a sports shop that specialized in souvenirs for South African rugby. There wasn’t much choice. I paid the equivalent of $55 Canadian for a white Springbok (that’s the name of the national rugby team) sweatshirt. I just pulled it on over the light sweater, and t-shirt and camisole I was already wearing. It felt good to be warm.

Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.

A small blip on this first leg of the journey was a spill. As usual they offered me tiny bottle of red wine (equivalent of one healthy glass), free on international flights. I saved it to drink in the middle of the night when I would be restless. The time came and I poured my wine and set it on my seat tray for sipping. A little later I asked Tom to get something for me from his seat pocket. In the process he jostled my tray. You guessed it. My new sweatshirt, my light sweater and my beige jeans were all christened. Oh well, it may wash out.

Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.

The Flight from Johannesburg to Paris went on forever. We both decided that overnight on the plane is not really our style. We just don’t sleep. When we arrived in Paris at 6:00 a.m. we just couldn’t face going anywhere. We laid down on the floor and slept for a couple of hours or more. That used up too much of the time we could have used to take the train into Paris and look around a bit. Next time we will plan a stopover for 2 or 3 days.

The flight from Paris to Toronto was fine. I even slept for an hour on the plane. Our bodies seemed to respond much better. We talked with a family, and two different single people, all returning to Canada from India (their place of birth). We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with these nice people.

The arrival in Toronto was crazy. One of the airport workers said that 5000 passengers had all arrived at almost the same time. The line ups were long. We did an endless spiral dance to get to the customs machine and we were fortunate. Being Canadian citizens we could use the machines. Once past that point the customs people just looked at our Pass Ports and our landing card and waved us on. By the time we got to baggage, it was no longer rolling round and round. In fact a lot of the bags had been taken off the carousel. I guess the baggage crew were trying to get ready for the next plane.

We are home. Hallelujah! We had a marvelous journey that we won’t ever forget. And we are grateful and delighted to be back in good old Canada. It’s fun to travel and it’s fabulous to come home.

Tom’s brother Bob came with our car to the airport. The fact that he can store our car at his condo for three weeks and is our airport taxi, is so very helpful. We are truly blessed.

All in all, even though its a grinding trip home from Johannesburg, I know we have sent an abundance of God’s light of love out to the world in large doses today.

Over the last three weeks we have met a multitude of friendly caring people. God loves variety and I am grateful. Our world is amazing. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Two days on Safari

Pilanesberg Gate

We have been blessed, truly blessed. Two days on safari in South Africa, is, for many people a dream come true. The animals have been amazing. A highlight for me happened when the elephant we were watching started to walk casually toward us. As he got closer and closer, he seemed to be looking straight at me. I heard the tour bus ahead of us start up and watched it pull forward out of the elephant’s way. Our motor started up as well, but our bus didn’t move. The elephant kept coming. His tread measured and slow. In my mind I heard, “Take all the pictures you like. I’m special.”, as he lumbered past at the most two feet in front of our bus. This majestic, awesome animal walked by just four feet from my seat. (Of course, we were in the front seat.)

There were other times when it felt as if the animal was actually posing for our picture. Here they roam free in a 550 square kilometer game park. These animals are wild. That’s for sure. And yet, at times it felt as if there was a connection. I’ve added some pictures for you to enjoy. On our evening drive, there was a time where pictures couldn’t happen. We joined a collection of about five vehicles sitting in the dark. “Lion’s,” our guide said. “There’s a family of lions here. Two cubs and a Mom and Dad. They made a kill yesterday and have dragged the carcass into that thicket. He shone his light on a collection of shrubs. The lion’s were well hidden. We sat in silence and listened. We heard the cubs mewing. We heard  the sounds of lion’s at play, of Mom encouraging them to settle down, of Father losing patience and roaring, but not a fearsome roar. No it was more a “Come on kids, settle down” roar. We heard them crunching bones. Experiencing the family was a special gift.

During the morning when we were out with Dave and Joanne, we saw zebras. Two particularly touched my heart as I watched them, possibly lovesick teenagers, standing close, nose to nose and side to side. It was neat. In fact it was the families and their interactions that touched my heart and filled it with joy.

 

The other most important part of this safari is being with Dave and Joanne and Jenna. This has been a special time that will live in our hearts forever. We’re not only experiencing their passion for animals and safari’s, but we’re sharing thoughts and stories. Our family traditionally gets together regularly to celebrate the good things of our lives. This is a memory to add to the pile that is special. Today I have so much joy that the world over must feel a lightening of whatever darkness hovers.

I hope you enjoy my pictures as much as I have enjoyed taking them.

Here I come. Get out of my way.

 

He was just four feet away. Nervous I didn’t get him in total.
He kept on walking.
He stopped and turned to say goodbye.
Mom and baby Frankolins take over the road.
This beautiful big zebra stood at the side of the road waiting for us to take his picture.
Zebra Friends
The Giraffes are so graceful.
Baby Leopard Tortoise – He and his Momma were on the side of the road.
Male impala
Springbok is the national animal of South Africa.
Blue Wildebeast family having a rest on the road

Lonely male Blue Wildebeast, sometimes called Gnu

Spread Your Wings and Fly!

Sun is pouring in the plane window. It has to be the middle of the day but my body feels like it’s deepest night. I finally slept for an hour or maybe two. Not enough my body is screaming. Yet sleeping sitting up is very difficult for me. It will be ten p.m. Tuesday (I think), Johannesburg time when we arrive. The eight hour time difference is not going to keep me awake. Of that I’m sure.

Once again, I have a lovely lady sitting beside me. Leslie is from England and is coming to South Africa to visit family. This plane is stuffed full and yet is extremely quiet. The screen on the seat back says we have 5 hours and 50 minutes flying yet. Through the plane window, I can see a brown ocean beneath the whispy clouds – the Sarah Desert. It’s just not clear enough for a picture.

So far, today’s addition to the world’s joy is Leslie and our chuckles over space, food, even our politics. I desperately needed this blinding sunshine. It’s bringing heat and summer to me through the plane window. There is positive energy here on this plane. Strangers visit, laugh and sympathize. Cabin crew smiles and accommodates. We are blessed.

I may be an exhausted snowbird but I am a snowbird. Hallelujah! As Ann Murray sings, “Spread your tiny wings and fly away”. And of course you know that if I could I would bring you all to fly away with me. Mind you Dave, Joanne and Jenna might be overwhelmed.