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.
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”.
Elizabeth is delightful. She’s enthusiastic. She’s a child, God’s beloved child just as each one of you and each one of your children and grandchildren are also God’s beloved children. Elizabeth is an angel child who is waiting for her wings. Just like us, Elizabeth can’t wait. She’s wants her wings early. Maybe she can earn them. Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is a magical children’s story, yet it’s our story.
My new Christmas Book for children and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles & neighbors, Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is now available for ordering.
To purchase an autographed copy or two or ten for yourself or as Christmas gifts, please email me: email@example.com
Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is just $10.00 plus shipping.
Elizabeth Gets Her Wings will be available on Amazon.com and .ca within the next two weeks.
My Story/ Elizabeth’s Story
I’ve never thought much about heaven. It takes all my energy and focus to enjoy and live well in this present life. Mostly, I believe that eternal life means I will be with God, and life will be good. Even so, my imagination and God’s inspiration resulted in Elizabeth Gets Her Wings, a story about an angel child from heaven doing a task for God here on earth.
The day after Elizabeth Gets Her Wings went to print, my daily reading was based on the Biblical Quote from King David, “One thing I ask from the Lord…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” (Psalm 27:4)
In the middle of the new book, Olivia, the illustrator, has drawn Elizabeth basking in God’s love and acceptance. God’s multicolored hand rests on her head. The complete ecstasy embodied by Elizabeth expresses the feelings I experience every time I hold a new born baby, or am truly hugged by someone I love who loves me. These are my glimpses of heaven, times when I recognize that I am in God’s presence.
If heaven means I am perfect in God’s sight just as I am, with all my faults, idiosyncrasies and attempts at goodness, I know I don’t have to worry about the details. I can be one of Elizabeth’s volunteers. I can step into the mysterious journey of this next life with confidence and joy. Thanks be to God.
“People like lists,” my friend said. “Write a blog with a list.” I love a challenge.
It’s summer: wedding season. Why not a list of the top ten reasons for getting married. After all, I’ve been married twice: twenty-seven years the first time, and fourteen years so far in this second one. And I’ve conducted a multitude of weddings overs the years. I believe in marriage.
As you read my list, consider this question about your significant relationship. Why did you get married in the first place? Or Why have you chosen a common law relationship
Please comment on my list: What, in your opinion, needs to be added, changed or re-prioritized.
Top Ten Reasons for Being Married.
#10. Being Married simplifies financial records, especially for the small business owner. I own my tiny business, buying and selling my books, but I never thought about it in terms of marriage. My young businessman friend informed me the other day that a common law relationship makes keeping your financial records more complicated than a legal marriage. Paperwork is simpler in a legal marriage.
#9. Financial – Also, he told me organizing benefits is simpler with a legal marriage. The whole financial setup is simpler and clearer. Just ask any gay or trans- person about the practical benefits of having a government-registered, same sex marriage.
#8. Pleasing Family – Some deny they need to get married, but claim parents really want them to have the ceremony. Marriage is the extra touch to please family and friends. Just watch their faces and experience their joy when you tell them you are getting married.
#7. Celebration – Joy shared multiplies. It’s wonderful to celebrate the happiness you find in each other with family and friends. Life affords no better opportunity for a party, a big party, an extravagant party.
#6. Commitment – Although you can make your own private commitment to each other as you live together, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind there is always the knowledge that the government’s legal stamp has not been given. If you or your partner find something better, if you or your partner want to give up trying, you or your partner can walk away. You have what in business is called, “A golden parachute’, an escape clause. “Oh no,” you may say, “not us. Those thoughts don’t lurk in our minds.” At bottom, those thoughts do. Saying the words of commitment publicly and signing that marriage license involves a different quality of commitment. Two still exist as one each, but two declared together create much more than the sum of two individuals.
Watch for the other five coming August 7th. What will be number one? Make your own list. See how it compares.
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
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.
Here in Johannesburg we have had two days of heavy rain. Tonight Dave’s swimming pool is filled to the brim. In this country, whether you own a shack or a castle you have no basement. Consequently, heavy rain cannot flood your basement but it can run in over your doorsill. Middleclass shacks have cement floors which provide some protection, not much. Because of the constant drought, and the clay soil, rain tends to run away and erode rather than soak into the thirsty earth. Consequently, flash floods are always a hazard. This much needed rain is both a blessing and a curse.
Today we stayed home til school was over. I wrote my blog and read. The slow day was lovely and needed. After school Jonathon, a hired driver, drove us to the school. Because this is a gated community we walked out to the front gate to meet him. While we waited we talked to the gatekeeper, an ex-policeman from Zimbabwe. His racing speech and south African accent defeated my ears. I caught a word here and there, enough to understand that he was here and his family back in Zimbabwe because of education. Jonathon arrived in a BMW and wearing a suit. Obviously being a driver for the rich is a grand occupation. He is obviously educated. He spoke well and slowly and that was helpful.
The pictures I have for you are of the American International School, AISJ, where David & Joanne work, and Jenna is a student. Dave gave us a wonderful tour in the rain. For me, AISJ feels like a palatial campus. White stucco buildings, with outside halls, (cloister walks I call them), spread lazily across the landscape in a mazelike pattern, making multiple courtyards for students to soak in the sun as they enjoy one another. With the welcoming climate here, the great outdoors is an integral part of the classroom space. Luscious gardens add beauty and peace. Inside there are also comfortable seating areas sprinkled throughout the buildings, gathering places for rainy days. The full theatre, two gymnasiums, swimming pool, fitness room, triple soccer field, and playground are fabulous resources for learning and activity.
As we followed David from building to building, I wondered what the public schools here were like. Next time we come to South Africa, we’ll have to arrange a tour of the school that the children from the townships attend. It would be good to talk with their teachers as well.
My mind was drawn back to home. We too have private luxury schools. We pride ourselves on equal education for all in Canada, so we too have public schools which are free for all children. Luxury private schools are available as well. I’ve taught in our public schools and know that, although not the total luxury of AISJ and private schools, they are still way more than just adequate. I have not had a tour of the schools on our northern native reservations. I have only heard about the lack of resources in those schools. Stories of the frustration and courage of teachers who seek jobs in those northern schools, speak to me of deficit rather than equality. We too have a lot to learn.
Yesterday my heart was touched by the gift of conversation with our gate security man, and our driver. I felt joy knowing that our Jenna is attending a fabulous school like AISJ. She has so many extra opportunities for learning because of her parents work.
As I experienced once again the enormous gap between the rich and the poor here, in South Africa, my eyes were opened wider to the gap in Canada. That too is a source of joy, because I need my eyes open. Jesus said, “those who have eyes to see… and ears to hear…” need to use them. Nothing will ever change unless all of us open our hearts to see and hear the reality of our world.
Although we are delighted to be here with Dave, Joanne and Jenna, Tom and I decided it would be valuable for us to experience a little of Johannesburg, while our family was at school. Dave suggested the Clip Town Youth Project as a possibility. Good old Google gave us heaps of information and a phone number. We called. Thando, the director, who joyfully encouraged us to come for a visit.
Clip Town is a community of 44,000 people in Soweto Township. Driving by Soweto one sees miles of tin roofs sticking above the barbed wire that is rolled atop a stucco wall. Soweto is a suburb of over 1.4 million inhabitants. You can google the history of Soweto. I am only going to tell you about what I saw.
We walked into KYP through rows and rows of tiny one room tin dwellings, most without electricity. At the KYP centre, I saw mostly barefoot children, running, laughing, playing, justlike children back home. I saw many school age children looking spiffy in their school uniforms. The Clip Town Youth Project runs an afterschool program providing tutoring and two meals a day for as many children as they can manage. The goals of the program are:
Please go to www.kliptownyouthprogram.org.za for a detailed introduction to the project. The director, Thando took us on a full tour of the classrooms where volunteers tutor the kids, the computer room, the library, the kitchen, the “family” room, talking about the program. He encouraged me to take pictures. Afterward he led us down one of the footpaths to the place where he grew up. We met his mother, who welcomed us inside. “Here in Klip Town,” Thando said, “this is a middle class home. My mother saved her money to buy and furnish this home. (She does not own the property only the dwelling). Proudly he pointed out the stove, the cupboards, the bedroom. “Most do not have the second room,” he said. Outside there was a water tap, one of 51 accesses to water for the 44,000 residents. Many homes have what we would call “Johnny on the Spots” that they share with others in the community.
After our home visit we returned to the project family room where we enjoyed a performance by the project’s gumboot dances, done just for the two of us. They were amazing. These young people have travelled through Europe and the US.
I signed and gave to the community three of my books – Fireweed, Can I Hold Him? and Dipping your Toes. They were thrilled to receive these Christian books. We made a donation that would feed a child for a year and buy him/her a school uniform, which took all the African Rand we had with us. It didn’t seem like much but as Mother Theresa said, “We can’t feed the whole world but we can feed the one that we encounter.” Before we left we bought two KYP t-shirts. We asked if we could use Canadian money. “Sure,” Thando said. “We can use money in any form.” Our whole visit was awesome. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Another two days have flown away. This is a spectacular trip. It’s hard to believe that I was afraid of this journey.
The flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town was less than two hours and felt like ten minutes. Our seatmate was interesting, fun and helpful. Her career is in marketing and she works for a travel agency in Capetown. I asked her about the best things to see and do in Cape Town and she wrote us out an affordable list. We talked of careers, my books, and faith. Of course, I gave her a card and told her about my books. It was so helpful to say, “They’re available on Amazon.” Maybe if I tell enough folks that, I’ll sell some on Amazon, and Amazon will begin to recommend my books. Regardless, Candice with her willingness to share, her great conversation, and her ready smile, added a large portion of joy to our world and I am truly grateful.
This trip to Cape Town is just over the top. Where do I begin? We are staying in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town at a wonderful Air b&b run by Leonie. I’m sure there is no better place to stay in Cape Town. We have a good size room with ensuite in which we are very comfortable. It comes with breakfast served when we need it. This morning that was 6:30 a.m. Leonie takes great delight in helping us plan our day. She delivered us today to our bus tour pick-up point for 7:15 and was disappointed when the tour bus returned us just one block from the b&b. She helped us choose a place for supper, waited till we had a rest and showered and drove us to the restaurant as well as returning to pick us up. She did the same last night except when she picked us up after dinner she drove us to see the sunset from the Lion’s Head look out (a local tourist spot).
Last night we had supper with a lovely young German couple. Judith a surgeon, and Norman, a banking loan officer. We laughed, shared stories and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Tomorrow evening we’re having dinner together to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Cape Town is heaps of fun. Today our bus tour took us to see the Penguins. This is breeding season so those inquisitive birds were all sitting very still on their eggs or caring for their new hatchlings. Afterward we went on to the Cape of Good Hope. I remember in about Grade Six social studies learning about the explorers Bartholomew Diaz & Vasco Da Gama. To actually travel to the southern tip of Africa wasn’t even on my radar when I was a kid. Today, I was thrilled to stand there and look out over the ocean. There just aren’t words to describe the feeling.
Our little bus had 22 occupants 17 of which were under 30. We travelled with the backpackers. Needless to say, my knees didn’t allow me to cycle up hill for 5 kilometers, or climb about a half a kilometer of steps. I did manage to the last 100 or so and made it to the light house to look out over the Cape. The bus carried me and a few more over the rest of the trip. Tom of course, cycled and climbed.
We totally enjoyed the young people on the bus. They were interesting and helpful. I wouldn’t have made it all the way up to the lighthouse without the support and encouragement of Anna from Brazil.
Tonight’s supper was in an authentic African Islamic restaurant which serves Cape Malay food. My taste buds delighted in a dish named Bobotjies. The flavours were delicate and delicious. The sauces obviously gourmet. The name of the restaurant, Biesmiellah, means the Grace or blessing said after the prayer at meals. It was truly an experience of God’s Grace.
We have had a grand day. So many people have filled our lives with joy that you must all be feeling the amazing vibes all the way back in Canada. Tomorrow will be the same.
My friend Nancy emailed pictures of Montreal’s snowy streets. I have to tell you all that South African weather is the best in the world, 25-28 degrees Celsius in the daytime and down to 17-19 at night. It’s fabulous. Ooops maybe that didn’t add to your joy.
I hope you enjoy the pictures.
At the lighthouse overlooking Cape of Good Hope. I’m halfway up the last 100 steps. I stopped to rest and Anna, age 20, told me “You can do. Of course you can.”