Category Archives: Thought for the Day

At taste of theology for Holy Week

Image by James Chan from Pixabay

What does the “torn curtain” mean?

It’s Easter Saturday. At our house we’re preparing for our Easter family gathering and my birthday. In the quiet of work done, and services ready for tomorrow, I have paused to think again about our Easter story.

In three of the gospels there is a small detail buried amidst the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus says, “It is finished.” And hangs his head in death, the story says, a darkness descended and the curtain that separated the outer temple, where people came to worship, from the “holy of holies” that only the priest with the sacrifices was allowed to enter, that curtain was torn in two. According to scholars, that meant the separation between God and the ordinary human person was ended.

In Jesus’ day, people brought animal sacrifices to the priest. The priest’s role was to present the sacrifices to appease God’s anger with the people’s sins. There was an entire culture built around this practice. With Jesus’ death, came the belief that sacrifice was no longer needed. His death was the last and only sacrifice. From this comes the understanding that Jesus died for our sins.

For me, understanding God as angry and needing to be appeased by Jesus’ horrible and tragic death has always been difficult. Over the years after much discussion and study, I have come to believe that Jesus died because of our human fear, greed, and lust for power. God, in Jesus, loved us so much that Jesus was willing to give his life, not to appease God’s anger, but to show us God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. For me, the significance of the temple curtain torn in two is, God gave us a new understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. We no longer needed a priest and sacrifices to feel God’s love. God’s love is there for us no matter what. There is nothing we can do to drive God’s love away. Most of the time we don’t deserve God’s love but God loves us anyway.

Even in today’s society, we like to think in terms of guilt, judgment and punishment. But God’s thoughts and ours are different. God’s love is bigger than any of that. God has loved us from our beginning. God will love us through our foolishness, through our cruelty, through our goodness. God just loves us.

Because of that unconditional love, I do my best most days to love others as I know God loves me. When I fail, I know I can pick myself up and try again. God is with me as my support, coach and parent, God wants me to be the best I can be. God celebrates with my success and cries with me in my failures. Always God loves me as God loves all of God’s creation. That is the blessing of our Easter story.

 

Tomorrow I will post my sermon that will be delivered at Lakefield and Young’s Point United Churches.

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.

Love Covers A Multitude of Sins

Unconditional Love

On Valentine’s Day we talk about love, especially love for spouse. The stores tell us to buy a gift – usually an expensive gift – but at least a card for that special person in our life. Over and over, and not just at Valentine’s Day, we are encouraged to speak words of love to our children, our spouse, our friends. “Tell them you love them before it’s too late,” is the command.

The Bible adds another dimension to the discussion about love. “Above all love each other, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Love covers a multitude of sins.” What a beautiful thought. St. Paul is speaking of unconditional love. It’s not that love wipes away those sins. It’s that we love anyway. As human beings we are aware of our child’s, our spouse’s failings. Often those failings are aggravating, frustrating. We worry about their consequences. We believe this child has to learn another way. Sometimes those failings cause us or other’s pain. This short bible verse tells us that our love continues to flow in spite of what we do or say or think.

For me, this verse speaks about forgiveness – not forgetfulness, not acceptance – but forgiveness. I remember hearing a story long ago about a conversation between two people – Linda and George. They were discussing their spouses.

George said, “How do you cope with the fact that your husband squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle. My wife does that. It drives me crazy.”

Linda answered, “When we got married I decided that every time I was irritated I would write down the irritation and at some point I would discuss it with Lenny. Once the irritation is on the list, I let go of it. Over the years, I’ve discovered there are many more important things to discuss, than some of the ones on my list. Important things like how we spend our next vacation, which house to buy, the time he lost his job through downsizing, my mother’s illness. That list of irritations never seems important enough to give it air time. Loving, caring for each other always takes precedence.

“Love covers a multitude of sins,” is a very important principle. It carries us through to forgiveness so that bitterness does not spawn and grown.

Valentine’s Day Is Coming Soon!

A Gift of Love

Valentine’s Day is coming soon. As a child, I dreaded the day. I remember writing a valentine for everyone in the class, even though I knew I would receive only a few. Although finding something suitable in the package of fifty my mom bought and the task of signing them all, was hard work in my mind, I didn’t want anyone in the class to be left out. No matter who they were it felt good to think they would receive at least one valentine. Taking care of the lonely, the excluded, has always been important to me.

Today, as a senior the only valentines I write are to my grandchildren and my sweetheart Tom. At Christmas it’s easy to think of others we don’t know, because the donation boxes and kettles are everywhere. On Valentine’s Day, the focus is more on me and who loves me. Think I’ll change that this time. In a bag in my room are four new pairs of warm men’s socks. Somehow they got left forgotten at Christmas.  I’ve decided rather than returning them to the store, I will take them to the Salvation Army along with two valentines. That feels like a tangible and valuable way to include the lonely and excluded this year.

What can you do to make Valentine’s Day, a day of giving love beyond your family? Is there someone in your church or at work or your senior’s centre that you believe will find Valentine’s Day a lonely experience. Can you make a meal, bake some cookies, create something in your workshop, buy flowers or a plant and bring it along with a card to brighten their day.

The reality of life is that we don’t have to wait for a special day. We just need to stop in the midst of our crazy lives and open our eyes and hearts to the people around us. We already know that bringing joy to someone else will bring healing and energy into our own lives. Remember Jesus’ words, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, you failed to do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45 NIV)

 

Let’s Read the Bible. It’s Amazing!!!!

I have been reading the Gospel of Luke every morning for the past three weeks using Eugene Peterson’s, The Message/The Bible in Contemporary Language. Peterson is a Biblical Scholar

Today, I read verses 17-46. What a clear presentation of Jesus’ teaching. If all of us could totally live these few verses we would immediately be on our way to world peace. Not everyone has a copy of “The Message” and/or has been introduced to it. Because the copyright at the front of this Bible allows for large direct quotes, I’ve decided to give you those 29 verses to read in this blog.

I would love to hear your reflections on this passage.

What do these words mean for your own life?

In 2019 what changes would you have to make, in order to live them fully?

You can go to www.biblegateway and look up Luke 6:17-46 in many different translations and interpretations of the Bible. Check them out, if you choose, not in order to critique The Message,  but to enlarge your understanding of Jesus’ teaching.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Luke 6:17-47 The Message (MSG)

You’re Blessed

17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:

You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.

22-23 “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.

Give Away Your Life

24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.

25 And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.

26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

39-40 He quoted a proverb: “‘Can a blind man guide a blind man?’ Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher.

41-42 “It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.

Work the Words into Your Life

43-45 “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.

46-47 “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Happy New Year!!!

To Stumble or Walk with Purpose

For the last few months, I have been just stumbling along. For sure, I have accomplished everything that needed to be done. For sure, I’ve had some good times playing with Tom, and family. I have certainly been busy. But, underneath my busyness has been that wonder- what next? What is my purpose? I didn’t publish a book in 2018. Maybe I’m finished writing? I know that’s not true. Today, I read the reflection for New Year’s Day, in Our Daily Bread. It’s based on Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

What can my hand find to do, I wondered. I smiled and picked up my pencil and wrote:

  1. There’s your children’s story, “The Elephant at the Manger,” maybe it’s time that became a book. Immediately I thought, but I don’t have an illustrator. There are many avenues for removing that obstacle. It will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
  2. Last year you gathered a bunch of new biblically based short stories you have written over the years. Maybe it’s time you created a new short story collection. I chuckled when I thought, that too will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
  3. You’ve thought about writing a book for intermediate readers, even talked about it with your daughter and granddaughter. Maybe it’s time you gave that some real effort – “doing with all your might.”

I chuckled and said, “Okay Lord, I hear you. My purpose is to write and it’s time I got back to it on a regular basis.

Maybe this is an exercise for you, my readers to consider. As you enjoy the sunshine on this first day of 2019, pick up a pencil and start writing about the projects you might like to do, the things you would like to make happen this year. Just set your hand free to write. For sure, all of them will require real effort. You may believe you don’t have the time or energy to do any of them. Write them down anyway. For sure you won’t accomplish any of them if you just stumble along, wondering, feeling like something is missing. Take some time today to think about your life. Give yourself a chance to “Walk with Purpose” into 2019.

Happy New Year!!!

Hypocrites

It’s Advent and I have been out selling books at church craft sales. For me, it’s a struggle to sit behind a table, try to catch someone’s eye and say hello. I’m not a salesperson, but I do want people to read what I have written. Very often, people glance at my table, read the signs and keep right on walking. I can only think that they see the words “anchored in faith” and make the judgment – Don’t look at those books. They’ll be selling religion.”

One of the biggest heartaches for me as a Christian is the judgment of today’s world that all Christians are fanatics and hypocrites. As I talked with the people who had the courage to stop at my table anyway, I heard stories of difficulties experienced with “religious people”. One man said, “I used to be involved with a church, but the people weren’t helpful. They said they were being followers of Jesus’ way, but they weren’t. They spoke the words, but they didn’t live them. I didn’t leave God, I just left religion and the church.” He walked away his mind closed to my message of God’s peace and love because, in his mind, all church people are hypocrites.

Today, it is widely believed that church people should be able to totally live as Jesus taught. They should always be compassionate; never judge; always accept everyone. The list of “should” goes on and on. Christians should be perfect. When we’re not, our message is thrown away.

My suggestion, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31NIV) Christianity is a life journey. As Christians, we go astray at times, some of us further than others. We get tired; we are grumpy at times. We are passionate; we get lost in our enthusiasm and overwhelm others. We have all the temptations to greed, violence, whatever and we make bad choices.  We are not perfect.

What we have learned through experience is that together, we can more often make good choices. Together we can encourage one another. Together we are stronger, more able to live that unconditional love that Jesus taught. Together, we learn and grow in our understanding of Jesus’ message. Our religious rituals help us on the journey. Being church people helps us live the faith. Christmas is a perfect example. As we gather this Christmas, to hear once again the story of the baby born in difficult circumstances to ordinary parents, our hearts will soar at the peace, hope, joy, and love that fills our souls. Once again, we will be renewed and drawn back to the journey of a life of Christian love.

Snap Judgments

We have all made snap judgments of persons by the way they look. I am often initially influenced by others’ dress, hygeine, tattoos, piercings, I notice the way they behave or interact, be they bossy, cranky, or inappropriate. After spending some time with them, I  later discover  they live our values of caring, love, and gratitude. As part of my morning prayer time with God, I am reading a wonderful book titled Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp. Today Joyce talked about “walking a mile in another person’s shoes,” so that we can look upon their heart rather than judge their outward appearance and/or behaviour.

Shifting from judgment to compassion is not easy. I tend to call the process acceptance: letting others just be themselves. After years of working at it, I am becoming better at seeing the person within, rather than their outward appearance. At times, fear can still overwhelm me when I meet with a  tall, assertive man whose size or color feels intimidating.  When it comes to behaviour, I am still at the self-talk step. At least my first response to a person’s sharp tongue is no longer hurt or anger. Instead, I feel surprise. At that point I choose to imagine reasons for their behaviour, my first step in looking on their heart.

Today’s reading from Boundless Compassion reminded me of the importance of continuing on my journey into acceptance. As I focused on Joyce Rupp’s words. I felt affirmed in my progress so far and challenged for the journey ahead. She reminded me that I did not want to lapse back into self-righteousness, just because I was better at ignoring the outward appearance. In fact, my goal is not to ignore, but to accept the person as I encounter them. This will give me the courage and the freedom to search out the story behind the tattoos or the crustiness. Those stories will lead me to the person’s heart. And there I know I will discover God’s presence.

  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Give a gift of faith as well as fun for Christmas this year. Check out Janet Stobie’s books for children and adults at www.janetstobie.com

 

Unconditional – That was the difference.

This week, with a number of my colleagues, I experienced compassion, not just for us as people, but as clergy. I had signed up for a retreat, an opportunity to rest, learn and relax. I received so much more. There was plenty of learning, personal renewal and connection with colleagues. The retreat setting, Kingfisher Bay resort, provided loving hospitality, fabulous food, and walks in the woods by the lake. I felt refueled by the worship, especially the songs and the scripture. And underlying all of that was the unconditional love and respect for all of us as clergy expressed by the event co-ordinator, Kathleen Whyte. She showered us with caring. She spoke with humility about the joy she received from having the privilege of planning this event just for us.

As we gathered in a circle to say goodbye, Kathleen placed worship stoles around our necks. Kathleen and her friend Dianne Ross had designed, hand made and painted each one for us. Her joy in giving will remain with me always. We all said, “Thank you,” but there are no words to describe the value of Kathleen’s ministry to us.

I offer you this story as a seed for your living. In our lives, we have professional people, trades people, store clerks and more who serve us. When we judge their work good enough, we sometimes remember to offer thanks. Seldom do we consider the gifts of talent, energy and love they bring as a group of clergy, doctors, teachers, electricians, etc. I suggest to you from this week forth, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the paid servants that make a difference in our lives. We can follow Kathleen’s example.

Try a New Diet

Try a New Diet.

Here are my thoughts as we step into another “new beginning” this September.

We worry a great deal today about being clean. Many of us shower every day. We wash our hands after just about everything, our clothes after one wearing, dirty or not. Why do we have this obsession with “clean”? Science has taught us that dirt carries bacteria that can harm us. Our natural immunity can become overwhelmed. We know that the scientists’ advice has merit.

I suggest we apply that advice to our hearts and minds as well. They too have a natural immunity through the innate love and goodness of God that is born within us. In today’s world, society lays out a virtual banquet of violence, hatred, destruction, ready for and enticing us to taste and see how exciting it is. The internet, books, TV, movies can show us torture, abuse in living colour. With video games, we can be the perpetrators of violence earning fame and fortune in the cyber world. Of course, we aren’t actually doing those things ourselves in the real world. We believe that our natural goodness, our value system will keep us safe from harm. But, like the germs and bacteria that can overwhelm our physical immunities, a steady diet of images of violence, hate and destruction can overwhelm our natural goodness as well.

As we begin again this September, I recommend we try cleaning up our entertainment diet. Let’s give our hearts and minds a head start by cleansing the food they receive. Let’s try coming to the thoughts banquet of love, laughter and kindness. Let’s be the first to stop inviting into our minds, hate, hostility, and judgment. Let’s make sure our leisure and work time is filled with ideas and actions of love, humility, and acceptance. I can’t imagine a better way to begin September 2018.

Our Bible tells us, “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.” (Philippians 4:8)