Category Archives: Thought for the Day

Your Love Footprint

Today we talk a great deal about shrinking our “carbon footprint.” Advertising, education, news reports, books, magazines, and other people have all had a part in raising my consciousness on environmental issues. I have soaked in enough warnings about not polluting our environment that I find it difficult to casually throw away a plastic milk bag, run the water tap longer than necessary, and much more. Like many, I am taking steps to decrease my carbon footprint.

The words of St. Paul in his Biblical letter to the Corinthians have raised my consciousness on another issue. St. Paul says, “Do all things in Love.” Five very important little words.

Traditionally, on St. Valentine’s Day we speak words of love to those who are near and dear to us. We buy or make gifts as symbols of that love. Some of us arrange a special dinner out. The goal is to do or say something you think will bring happiness.

This year, on St.  Valentine’s Day, I suggest we carry our words and actions of love one giant step further. Let’s grow our love footprint.  Try doing what St. Paul suggests, “Do everything, absolutely everything in Love.

As you make your bed in the morning, rest your mind with love on the people who sleep in it. Include yourself. As you stack dishes in the dish washer, rest your mind with love on the people who have shared the meal with you. Remember the farmers. As you drive to work, rest your mind with love on the people who maintain the roads. At work or at school, rest your mind with love on those in charge, no matter how irritating they might be. Offer a prayer of thanks for these people, for the blessing they have brought into your life.

It’s so easy to live our busy lives without love for the unseen people who contribute to our well being. “Do everything in love,” says St. Paul. Jesus said, Love your neighbour. This Valentine’s Day let us begin a whole life lived in love. Let’s grow our love footprint.

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.

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.”

A Day of Rest? Guess Not!

In these few days between Christmas joy and New Year’s celebrations, I began my morning prayers with gratitude for a time of rest. I’m sure God laughed as I also gave thanks for the desire to walk on my elliptical trainer for 5 minutes three times today, and the desire to get back to editing the sequel to Fireweed. Then I asked for the motivation to clean up my study that has become the repository of the Christmas chaos. Obviously, my idea of what constitutes rest is a little strange.

Still I had wakened feeling good, ready to write something. A few moments with my inspirational reading and these words came. I looked at them, and thought. I can’t post these. I’m not sad today. The sun is shining. Our Christmas family gatherings have been full of love and joy. Yet, God offered me, these words. They must be needed by someone. So here they are.

Tears

I remember when
I did not cry.
I feared my pain.
I did not know
Tears healing power.

The dam is cracked.
Tears seep through
Unbidden, unwanted.
There is no patch
To hold them back.

The crack widens
Control is gone.
Those tears pour through.
Unchecked and free

Tears are my words
The best I have.
They’ll wash me clean.
They’ll bring new life.

THANK YOU, GOD.

 

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”.

“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!!!

 

The Strength of Our Scars

This morning I read some wise words written by Madeline L’Engle in her novel, “In a House Like a Lotus”. I plan on remembering these words and applying them to my own life. I decided that they might be helpful to some of you.

“There isn’t anything that happens that can’t teach us something, that can’t be turned into something positive. One can’t undo what’s been done, but one can use it creatively…The only thing is to accept and let the scar heal. Scar tissue is the strongest tissue in the body…so I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s the strongest part of the soul.”

As we journey through the tough times in our lives, for me it is helpful to remember that the scars when fully healed will provide us with the strength we need for living. I guess the secret is, to have the courage, and take the time, for the healing to happen.

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.”

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.