Anchored in Faith Spiced with Romance & History Tears & Laughter Janet Stobie’s new novel To Begin Again will keep you turning the pages.
Every time I release a new book, I experience a test of faith. Writing requires trust, yes, and it’s fun. I get lost in the creative process. Whether it’s a reflection, a short story, or a novel, writing feeds my soul. I feel God’s presence with me. My heart soars as my fingers fly over the computer keys. When the rough draft is finished, satisfaction reigns. I’ve responded to God’s inspiration.
Editing is not quite so much fun. It requires hard work and determination. Still, my editor, Ruth Walker, and I become a team. Once again joy begins to flow as she pushes me to use my intellect and creativity to polish the raw manuscript. Yes, it’s work but I’ve come to trust the process. For me it resembles pregnancy. It often takes at least nine months. Yet, I know the baby is forming just as God intends. Eventually, the time comes. I’ve done my best. “To Begin Again” is finally ready to be born.
For me the next two steps require the biggest leap of faith. Ordering one thousand copies from the printer is a tough and painful process. It’s not just the investment of dollars. Yes, it usually pretty well empties my book business bank account. But that’s only money. As I wait for delivery I imagine all those boxes filled with books. This time my study closet will be crammed full, as well as shelves in the furnace room. My mind hammers, “What if they don’t sell? A novel isn’t a ‘how to’ book. Novel’s are hard to sell. What will you do with all those books. I know you’ve already sold one thousand books many times before, but this time. Will people like To Begin Again?”
Then comes the biggest “leap” of all. Selling!! For me selling is painful. It requires sitting behind tables, catching people’s eye, talking to strangers, friends, family, offering my beautiful baby and risking rejection. Of course, not everyone will buy. Not everyone even wants to see my baby. This is the point when I cry out to God:
“Thank you for calling me to write. I love it. Thank you for the work of editing. It’s worth it. Thank you for your inspiration. Our baby is beautiful. Poster for blogBUT, THIS TIME GOD, you do the work of selling. Send me heaps of orders especially online. Everyone says that’s the easy way. Make it happen. After all this is book number eight. I’ve given them my heart and soul as food. you make them eat it.”
When I wrote that last line, I smiled and I imagined God smiled too. So here we are today, “God and I”, offering you the opportunity to purchase our baby, TO BEGIN AGAIN.
Buy one for yourself and for your friends and family. Buy it. Read it. Enjoy the story. Discuss it. The questions for discussion are right there in the back of the book. Use TO BEGIN AGAIN to open a conversation about life, your values, what you believe. A stand – alone novel and a sequel to Fireweed.
The last few days, my thoughts have focused on Jesus’ story of “The Lost Son.” In movies, books, and life, I seek happy endings. I smile when the lost son realizes his folly and returns home. I nod when the grieving father runs out to meet him when he is still a long way off. The elder son’s response of anger and righteous judgment feels good and proper. The father’s response also feels good. Will the elder son understand his father’s plea for love and mercy? We aren’t told, so I can fill in my happy ending. Both sons have learned how to love. Father is wiser.
How does Jesus’ story end today? Too often today, addiction swallows us up leaving us lost, sleeping on the streets, even murdered. Sometimes it’s our commitment to overwork, an extramarital relationship, total self-indulgence, that carries us away from family, loved ones, God. Unlike the lost son in Jesus’ story, we don’t return home. We may have started home many times but we stumbled again and again and again. We can’t stay on that homeward path.
And so, too often, as parents, spouses, children, friends, we are left sitting at the gate, still loving, still praying, still hoping, still weeping. The opportunity to run down the path, arms open wide, love pouring forth, never comes.
Too often, as elder siblings, we keep plugging away, doing our best, resentment hidden and growing, judgment made. We want to hang onto our rage, our self-righteousness. We’re sure we are right. We don’t want help forgiving those who are unforgivable. We don’t want to face God’s unconditional love, God’s endless mercy, let alone participate in it.
Today, whether we are the lost son, the elder brother or the loving parent, we go to our death still paralysed, still lost on life’s journey. And so we think there is no possibility for a happy ending.
For me, the Good News, the “happy ending” comes when we learn to trust our Christian story which tells us that the power of God’s love is so strong, God’s plan for each one of us so flexible, so creative, that even death cannot keep us paralyzed. In fact, death, in whatever form it comes, opens the way for “new life,” the happy ending.
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)
Jesus’ own life story tells us that whether our death brings forth the possibility of new life, transformation, abundance.
Today, whether we are facing the loss of a beloved person, the ending of a life-long dream, the closing of our precious church,– wherever we find ourselves present in Jesus’ story, we can trust that the resurrection will come. God will not be defeated. We may not see the transformation, but it will come, if not in this world than in the next. Weeping will end. Joy will come with the morning. We are not truly paralyzed. We can open ourselves to understanding, forgiveness and love. We can receive God’s peace that is beyond our understanding because we can trust in God’s transformation, whenever it happens.
We have hope, for God has assured us there will be “a happy ending” in this life or the next. Our transformation is guaranteed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We can hear and live Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) For this, I am truly grateful.
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.
It’s almost birthing time. To Begin Again: A New Catalpa Creek Story will be here in April. I’m excited and a little anxious. I’m placing my order with Marquis printing. One thousand books will fill a large corner of my study. It’s a leap of faith. I know God called me to write this novel. I’ve done my best. My editor Ruth Walker has kept me at it until she felt the book was ready. I’m truly grateful. She is the best. I wholeheartedly recommend her.
This poignant novel is full of hope. You will laugh and cry, and hopefully spend some time thinking about your own way of being with people. How does your faith call you to live? There is history for those who love delving into the past. There’s romance to add spice. There’s faith for inspiration and so much more. There’s lots to think about and discuss. Your book club will love To Begin Again.
When the cover is finished, I will post it, including the description from the back. In the meantime, for the next six weeks send me an email using the contact me button. We can arrange your purchase. When the book arrives, I will sign it and send it off to you. For that limited time there is a 20% discount. The price is $16.00 plus shipping.
Just a note to tell everyone that I’ve started taking pre-orders for my new novel, “To Begin Again”. The plan is to have the books in my hands by April 23. That’s my birthday and it will be a scary present to receive the shipment of 1000 copies of To Begin Again. It will be a fabulous present to have at least 100 of those books sold before they arrive. Preorders will give my courage a boost. That’s for sure.
Writing and publishinga novel is a humungus leap of faith and a huge investment of time and money. Today, I was at a UCW gathering with my books. When I asked the group to raise their hands if they owned a copy of my novel Fireweed and my worship resource Dipping Your Toes, nearly every one in the room raised their hands. There were 70 wonderful women present.
I took pre-orders of To Begin Again. Ten people invested in my book, even though I didn’t even have a picture of the cover to show them. The affirmations that I received for my writing from so many people was great. I know I’ve been called by God to spread the message of God’s love through my books, but sometimes human confirmation of that call helps. This was one of those times.
I am grateful for the support of the United Church Women of Shining Waters Presbytery. If any of you are wanting to preorder To Begin Again I will give you a 20% discount. That means the book sells for $16 rather than $20 it will cost on April 23rd. Just send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will organize the transfer of money and the shipping of the book. Blessings to you all. Janet
Tom gave me a “Fit Bit” for Christmas, because I’ve been trying to make myself exercise more. He wanted to help. As a writer I spend hours at my computer. As a senior, it is easier for me to cuddle in my lovely warm home, rather than venture out into frigid weather and slippery streets.
My “Fit Bit” is helping. I want to reach my goal of at least 8000 steps a day. Every time I get up from my desk, I look for little jobs that require movement. When the screen celebrates that I’ve reached my goal, I celebrate. I’m motivated to try harder.
I wish someone would invent a “Spiritual Fit Bit” that would add up my spiritual activities, not for others to know, but just for me. It would keep track of the time I spend praying, reading the Bible and other Christian books, doing acts of kindness, giving gifts to others and more.
My “Fit Bit” reminds me that increased activity is simple. I just need to close my computer and do something active.
The reality is, it’s just that simple to be spiritually fit. If you like to read, pick up the Bible or a Christian novel like my Fireweed. You’ll be surprised. Christian books can be entertaining, too. If you enjoy your friends, risk talking with them about faith issues. You’ll be amazed at how your friendship deepens. If you like to play cards, visit a shut-in. Maybe they do too. You’ll be doing an act of kindness while having fun. The opportunities for prayer, learning, service, growing in faith surround you. Take advantage of them.
Write down your spiritual activities. Your “Spiritual Fit Bit” can be a list on the fridge or in your journal. Give God thanks for your growing list. Giving thanks, oh yes, that, too, is another step in the Christian journey.
This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. (Exodus 13:9)
In the gospel lesson this week, John tells us the story of Jesus clearing the temple in Jerusalem. The cheating has been happening for years. Jesus has seen it before. On this day, Jesus said, “Stop turning my father’s house into a market!” In today’s words, he’s saying: “Enough is enough! This has to stop.
This month young people in the United States have risen up to yell, “Stop. Get rid of the guns in our society. They’re killing our friends.” They are chanting the phrase, “Enough is enough.”
For a long time, our First Nations people have been shouting, “Stop. Prejudice, disrespect, and hate are killing our people. Suicide, murder have become an epidemic. Enough is enough.”
Within our Christian community, many denominations are looking death in the eye. Congregations are shrinking and ageing. The young seem to have deserted us. Society is chanting, “We’re spiritual not religious. We don’t need the church.”
We don’t know what happened the next day at the temple. Were the money changers, back in business still cheating the people? It seems that way in the U.S. Their government isn’t rushing to pass laws for gun control. Here in Canada, we are no different. We talk lots, and yet in terms of our First Nations people, more rot is revealed in our justice system every day.
My Christian denomination, the United Church of Canada, has been experiencing a clearing of the temple for the last thirty years. We are now facing the fact that our old ways are being wiped away. We are letting go of underused, expensive buildings. We are pruning and grafting new ways for our church government. We’re looking carefully at our mission statements. We’re seeking discernment in how God is calling us to be church in today’s society. It’s scary. We don’t know what lies ahead. This process requires trust in God’s ultimate goodness and love. Who will we be in five or ten years time, only God knows.
My hope, my faith, is that change will truly come. This won’t be a moment, a ground swell that fizzles and everything returns to the status quo. We will become Christians who are relevant, passionate, and faithful to the teachings of Jesus. We will truly love God, love each other and love ourselves in today’s world. We will walk with our First Nations people in a nation where all are truly equal, where healing can happen. God will work through us to bring permanent change. The task is begun. I am grateful.
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 ourlove 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.
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.