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….”

 

A Tip for Lasting Energy

As we tear around every day caring for others, fulfilling our responsibilities, we often forget to nurture our own souls. In her book, “Glimpses of Grace,” Madeline L’Engle tells us she brings peace to her soul on long walks in the woods, soaking in the sunshine and sitting on her favourite rock. My daughter, who lives a crazy busy life with heavy responsibilities, spent hours last weekend preparing her flower gardens for spring. “It’s fun, Mom,” she said. “It gives my spirit a rest.” Peace, energy, joy come to me when I lose myself in my writing. Soul nourishment is unique to each of us and requires intentionality.

Rather than trying to add one more task to your schedule, consider weaving self-care into the midst of your daily living. While waiting in the car for children, husband, friend, read a reflection on peace, or listen to your special music. Turn those few minutes of impatience and frustration into mini retreats. Transform daily routine tasks by letting your mind drift back to a family story that has brought laughter.  Take time to pray at meals, when you get up, before going to bed. Eventually, you may even be able to write into that busy schedule a little “me time,” a half hour walk, a soak in the tub, a whole hour of reading.

Intentional self-care prevents burn-out. You control your schedule. You want to be able to care for family, friends and maybe even strangers for many more years. For the next week, try being your own best friend.  Take action every day to nurture your soul. Sit in your favourite chair with a special snack, go for a walk to a restful place, listen to music that brings comfort, laugh with a friend or a child. You know what brings you peace. Care for yourself, and you will add goodness and joy to this troubled world.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. “(Matthew 1:35)

Four Tips for Travelling Rough Roads

Every morning I begin my day with prayer for my family and friends. Today it seems as if young people, including my grandchildren, need special prayers. Life lacks security. Temptation comes clothed in respectability. There are so many choices. Around it all, there is the internet, social media, the web. Sometimes I think calling it a net is so apt. It can feel like a spider’s web, with we humans fulfilling the role of the fly. I would like God to remove all the temptations, all the struggles for each of my precious teenage grandchildren. Smooth the road, please God, is my plea.

Breakfast over, I often need to drive somewhere. I maneuver around the potholes. My car bounces over the rough spots. I’m aware that regardless the amount of money, machinery, time or work hours spent on our road network, our marvelous smooth roads eventually develop potholes. Heavy traffic in our rugged Canadian winters means that our roads require constant fixing. The best we can do to ensure a safe journey is to keep our own cars in good repair. Be careful, confident, knowledgeable drivers, and use wisdom when choosing our route and speed. In the end, we must trust in God to enable us to deal with whatever happens.

I’m thinking we need to follow the same rules in living our lives, whether we’re teens, seniors or in-between. We can keep our bodies in good repair by eating healthy, exercising, and resting. We can live with care and confidence, using the knowledge we gain as we mature to give us wisdom in making our life choices. And we can teach trust in our loving God. God has promised the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and strengthen us. God’s Spirit dwells within us to enable us to deal with the life events we encounter. We can focus on preparing ourselves and our young people for the potholes in the roads of life.

Spectacular Stella Has Returned

Some of you may have already purchased a copy of Spectacular Stella.  I have sold over 1000 copies of this sweet children’s book, since I wrote it. Today, I received an email, that the second edition of Spectacular Stella is now ready for pick up. There have been a view glitches as Stella made her journey into the world of Amazon. Now, she is ready for the world dressed up in a whole new cover, size and shape. Now she’s 8 1/2 inches square, which means the print will be much easier to read. Stella is a great gift for grandchildren, neighour’s kids, and your child. Buy several so you will have a stack to share at the local homeless shelter, or your church’s next foodbaskets. Enjoy this simple story which affirms you as God’s special child, whether you are 8 or 98. They’re available on my website, and even better from Amazon.com and soon from Amazon.ca

If you order Spectacular Stella from my website before the end of May you will receive a signed copy at a 10% discount plus shipping.

 

Mother’s, at Their Best, Are God’s Show and Tell.

My teenage granddaughter, made her mom a teapot for mother’s day in art class. On the way back to her locker with her precious gift, she dropped the pot and chipped it. Now it will hold a plant but not tea. I can only imagine the frustration my granddaughter is feeling. There is nothing I can say, that will help. What I know is that her mom, like me will treasure that tea pot,  with it’s chip. Her mom knows the courage and love required to
give a gift that you make yourself, especially when you are a teenager. A chip only adds to it’s beauty.

This brings to me some understanding of God’s love. Many of us are chipped by life. We have done foolish things, and sometimes even cruel things that brought ourselves and our loved ones misery. Even our apathy at times has created chips in our hearts. There are also the chips in our hearts caused by others. Not one of us is perfect. Yet, Jesus assured us that God loves us anyway. We don’t have to be good enough. We can be blemished and yet our lives offered as a gift to God, like Ellie’s teapot are always acceptable, more than acceptable, cherished. We are God’s precious children. In today’s world where judgment abounds, understanding God’s infinite love is lifegiving.

I believe that mother’s at their best are God’s show and tell when it comes to unconditional love. For sure mother’s too have chips. They have times when they fail totally, but most mothers, most of the time love their children through all their scrapes, disappointments, failures, and mistakes. As Mothers’ Day approaches I am grateful for the love of both of my mothers. With me now, only in Spirit and memory, I celebrate Mothers’ Day with great joy. They have told me and shown me God’s love.

How can we conquer hate?

Finally, I have a post to offer. I do apologize for the lack of regularity. I am working on one for Mother’s Day. My plan is to get back to once a week.  I send my concern and caring go out to any of you who are battling the rising water.  We had a few minutes of sun this morning, for which I am truly grateful. Blessings to you all. Janet

How Can We Conquer Hate?

On my birthday, I woke up grateful for my life. In response, I wrote the following little poem: Show me what I am God, The gifts that make me, me. Show me what I am God. My gifts all come from thee.

Lead me in your Grace, God; To share and bring great joy, To be your blessing for each day, To man and woman, girl and boy.

Since Sunday, my daily readings have encouraged me to repeat that little prayer poem, no matter what happens. One of those readings by Madeline L’Engle on the birth of Jesus offered me the following piece of wisdom: “Only the absurdity of love can break the bonds of hate.”

Putting these two together, I have decided that the best way to bring peace into our chaotic world is to fill our world so full of love that there is no longer any room for hate. What a wonderful goal. Of course, it means we must co-operate. We could never achieve such a goal alone. I offer the following prayer:

Loving and forgiving God, I offer my love to the world. Gather my love, and the love offered by others to surround and fill the leaders of this world.

Loving and creating God, I know it’s not too late. My dream is that you will use our gathered love to fill this troubled world so full of love that there is no room for hate. Amen

St. Paul tells us: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…(Galatians 6:9-10)

How Can I Conquer Hate?

I do apologize. Somehow I managed to totally mess up the formatting on this post. I have now, at least, got the poetry set up to look like a poems. Problem is that now it is all spread out and I cannot change that. Sorry. Janet

 

On my birthday, I woke up grateful for my life. In response, I wrote the following little poem:

Show me what I am God,

The gifts that make me, me.

Show me what I am God.

My gifts all come from thee.

Lead me in your Grace, God;

To share and bring great joy,

To be your blessing for each day,

 

To man and woman, girl and boy.

Since Sunday, my daily readings have encouraged me to repeat that little prayer poem, no matter what happens. One of those readings by Madeline L’Engle on the birth of Jesus offered me the following piece of wisdom: “Only the absurdity of love can break the bonds of hate.”

Putting these two together, I have decided that the best way to bring peace into our chaotic world is to fill our world so full of love that there is no longer any room for hate. What a wonderful goal. Of course, it means we must co-operate. We could never achieve such a goal alone. I offer the following prayer:

Loving and forgiving God,

I offer my love to the world.

Gather my love, and the love offered by others

To surround and fill the leaders of this world.

 

Loving and creating God,

I know it’s not too late.

My dream it is that you will use

Our gathered love to fill

This troubled world so full of love

There is no room for hate.

St. Paul tells us: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…(Galatians 6:9-10)

The Impossible Is Happening Everyday!

Balancing Rock
Picture taken by Chris Oates

When we were in Vancouver, our Grandson Chris took us for a walk along Vancouver’s English Bay, to watch the sunset. Even though it was cold, the walkway along the ocean was busy with people soaking in the sun’s last rays.

“Look,” Chris said, “they’ve been balancing rocks.” He hopped over the sea wall to take a picture. All along the shoreline was a trail of large and tiny rocks standing on their edges and points. I have tried this myself. Determination, patience, skill and belief in the impossible are required to balance a rock on its point so solidly that it survives the force of the spring breeze.

When we, as individuals, put that same kind of determination and faith into our efforts for peace, we too leave a trail, a trail of kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, that is even more beautiful than the stone sculptures we saw with Chris. Too often, we feel as if our peace paths are washed away by the sea of fear and violence that seems to be flooding our world.

As I studied Chris’ picture, I remembered a headline from the Vancouver Sun:

“Water, Water, everywhere but is it safe to drink?” The article stated that IC-IMPACTS, a Canadian international bilateral research organization has teamed Canadian engineers, research scientists and business people with their counterparts in India to develop cheap, safe water purification for isolated villages in India and in Canada. For me, this bit of news speaks of practical efforts for peace that are happening on a large scale.

In our world, where fear seems to be the biggest commodity sold, and isolationism is accepted wisdom, it’s wonderful to learn about co-operation between countries for their common good. There are wide trails and narrow trails. gradually building a network of love in our world.

As I gaze at Chris’ picture of the impossible, I am reminded that even though we may feel that our values of loving and caring for others are being put to death, resurrections, small and large, are happening the world over. God’s new life is coming. With God, anything is possible even peace. Let us celebrate Easter this year, with confidence, because we know that with God, anything is possible, even world peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Love Can Win!

 

Above the front door of our home hangs a simple plaque, a wedding gift from friends. At the time of our wedding, I hardly knew these people, but Tom did. They are ‘sort of’ family – cousins of a cousin. They travelled all the way from Massachusetts to our wedding celebration. Although they are people of deep faith, I am sure they were not aware at the time that they were bringing Tom and me God’s inspiration for our lives.

“May the love that surrounds you today give you the strength to face your tomorrows.” For nearly fourteen years we have experienced the Truth and Grace of that blessing.

Today is Good Friday. This morning I sat down in my favorite chair to pray, to reflect on this day in our Easter story. The sun blazed through our living room window, filling my soul with God’s light and warmth. The scripture readings presented the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion in vivid detail. I couldn’t avoid the cruelty. I didn’t want to feel the pain. Yet as I read, I could think only of the plague of torture, cruelty, greed, violence that seems to be sucking up the goodness in this world as quickly as it is created. Calvary happens over and over again. Family violence, workplace abuse, residential schools, war, cruel dictatorships. Yes, Jesus’ crucifixion happens somewhere every day.

Last night our house overflowed with love. Our daughter, two of her grandchildren and two of our most cherished friends enjoyed food, conversation, memories, hugs. Each one of us was truly surrounded with God’s love. This morning as I think about Jesus, Good Friday, and our world, I am drawing on last night’s love, on the love that God has showered upon us as a family. With that love as my foundation, I have the strength to face the supreme cruelty of humankind. I can give thanks for God’s endless love shown to us through Jesus’ forgiveness from the cross. That love gives me the strength to offer myself in the struggle for goodness and peace.

I read our plaque as I step through our door, and know God’s love has given me hope for tomorrow.