Cast Your Vote!!!! Please

I need a title. Please!

Thursday night, the sequel to Fireweed, flew through cyberspace to my editor, Ruth Walker. I’m still searching for a title. Looking for something catchy. Here is a list of possibles. Although you haven’t read the manuscript, vote for the title that might get you to pick up the book and check it out. Cast your vote and give your reasons. Thanks a heap. Janet

Possibilities

  1. Seeking Safety
  2. The Love You Give
  3. Finding Hope
  4. Choosing Life
  5. Begin Again
  6. New Beginnings
  7. The Project
  8. A New Life
  9. Love Me
  10. Just As I Am
  11. A New Home
  12. Nothing here you like. Make a suggestion. 

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.

Happy New Year!!!!

Another year, another 365 days to  fill with laughter, kindness, generosity, gratitude and love. May you recognize the abundance of God’s blessings surrounding you. May you be a blessing to everyone you meet. Regardless of what comes your way in 2018, may you know the joy and love that comes with compassion, kindness and generosity. God bless you all. Janet

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”.

How Do We Prepare for Peace?

This is Christmas!

The December 10, 2017 reading from the Daily Disciplines published by the Upper Room touched my heart. I will share it with you in its entirety. I typed this into my computer this morning before church. I didn’t have time to look for a picture, besides where would I find a picture of a tree covered with white envelopes. When worship was over we went to the church hall for refreshments. This tree stood by yesterday’s bake table, resplendent in it’s white notes waiting to be part of our tree lighting tonight. God incidents never cease to amaze me. I pray this story will speak to you as it did to me. Blessings as you wait for the Christ child.

“Mike hated the commercialism of Christmas. When forced to retire early, he checked out altogether. ‘Get me nothing,’ he crouched, ‘until people understand what Christmas is all about.’ That year, his wife, Nan, gave him a white envelope, which she nestled into the tree. Inside, Nan pledged to sew uniforms for an underprivileged wrestling team. Once she started, Mike decided to help. Together, they sized the children, cut the fabric and befriended the school kids. By year’s end, Mike was ready for another envelope. Each year thereafter, Nan gave him another envelope. The acts of kindness they shared together sprouted throughout their city: birdhouses for a refuge shelter, a playground for an orphaned children’s home, a community garden from a vacant lot. Those became the best years of Nan’s and Mike’s lives.

One year, Mike died just three days before Christmas. Friends and family gathered to share Nan’s grief. On Christmas Eve, Nan placed for Mike, one last envelope into the tree. She awoke Christmas morning to squeals downstairs. As she came down, she saw their Christmas tree covered in white. Dozens of envelopes from every child, grandchild, nephew and niece – pledged acts of kindness in honor of Mike, the man who had come to love Christmas.

How do we wait faithfully for God in today’s wilderness? The prophet Isaiah says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” We pave a straight path for through acts of kindness, justice, generosity and compassion. When we love, God will come. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,’ John says. As sure as a baby’s birth in a manger, as abundant as Christmas envelopes multiplying into the future, God will walk the path laid out. Love will encompass the world.

PEACE WILL COME!!!!!

Dear God, Baby of the Manger, may each act of kindness be a straw in your crib, preparing the way for your coming. Amen

Advent Waiting

Christmas is about the birth of a baby. We know that pregnancy, like Christmas, is often a flurry of preparation. That last four weeks, most of the preparations are complete. We are left with a time of waiting.

As a culture, we’re not good at waiting. Waiting on hold on the phone, waiting in line, waiting for our teen or partner to return, waiting for our paycheck, waiting for whatever…is exasperating. My new book “Elizabeth Gets Her Wings,” begins with impatient Elizabeth trying to get on God’s good side so she can get her wings early. She didn’t want to wait.

My Advent season has usually been a time of doing, four weeks of preparation for Jesus’ birth. This year I have heard God speak to me through many sources about Advent as a time of waiting – waiting with open hands and open heart.

Today, I arrived at church with my mind and heart focused on Advent waiting. We were collecting toys for the Salvation Army baskets. I’ve been so wrapped up in book signings that I had forgotten. As I waited for the collecting to be done, scolding myself for being so selfish, I heard these words in my heart, “Go get your new children’s Christmas books from the car. How often will a child receive a book signed by the author? I smiled. Before I set the books with the other toys on the chancel steps, I wrote this message for the child who would receive them, “Always remember you are God’s precious child.” Food for the soul: what better gift for a young child at Christmas? Already my focus on Advent as a time of waiting has borne fruit. I am grateful.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.  Psalm 27:14

“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!!!

 

A Wonderful Day!

Fenelon Falls United Church invited me to bring my books for sale at their Christmas Bazaar and luncheon today. Tonight I am still flying from the experience. When I arrived this morning, the room was aglow with the Spirit. Tables loaded with jams, jellies and a myriad of other tasty preserves filled a big square in the middle of the room. More tables around the outside held baking, gift baskets (there must have been 100), antiques and on and on. Lunch was scrumptious homemade soup, ham and cheese croissant, and an ice cream sundae. The decorations and layout were beautiful. They had my table decorated too. Before we opened the doors, about 50 of us gathered in a circle for a few moments appreciation. This was the church, prepared and ready to serve the community.

The community responded. They came and shopped. We sold lots, including me with my books. I give thanks to God for Fenelon Falls UCW and their invitation to me. Today has been a true blessing.