The Race

When a competitive runner hears the starting gun, his entire body moves in immediate response. He/she knows a fast start is crucial. Today’s life often feels like a hundred metre sprint with the alarm clock replacing the starter’s gun. Even after we retire we are still racing. Every morning, we open our eyes to an endless list of tasks. Our minds are racing even before our feet hit the floor. In the Bible, St. Paul says, “…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of faith…” (Hebrews 12:2) We have certainly accepted the metaphor of life as a race.
It’s September. School has started again. Ready or not, it’s time. This fall, I have a suggestion for us all. Let’s endeavour to follow all of Paul’s instruction rather than half of it. He says keep your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. When we read the stories of Jesus’ life, we find that he took time for rest and renewal. Yes, he had a busy life traveling throughout Israel. Yes, but he stopped often to pray, to talk and eat with his friends. He kept his eyes open to the beauty of the world around him. He enjoyed and cared about people.
This fall, as once again we dive into our crazy lives, I ask us to remember three things. First, if we had nothing to do, we would soon become bored and feel useless. Much of our busyness brings us satisfaction. We volunteer because the project is worthwhile and we enjoy helping others. So let’s give thanks for what we do. Second, even ten minutes resting in our favorite chair listening to sacred music or reading the Bible, will give us rest. Third, five minutes spent in prayer, truly focused on God, not multi-tasking prayer as we drive to work, will bring renewal. Three small things that require only a change in attitude will give us the power to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.”

To Love Or To Destroy

Last week, a man fanned the flames of hatred and fear around the world. Because he claimed to be a Christian, the news media gave credibility to his threats. His message and the world’s reaction screamed at us from our televisions, radios, and newspapers.. . Jesus taught love and acceptance not disrespect, destruction and violence. This man was using Christianity not being a Christian.
If the acts of love and caring done by Christians received the same media attention, maybe we could fan the flames of goodness and acceptance around the world.. So today, I offer you this quote from a conversation during a golf game last week.
A teenager, who was part of our golf foursome was having a particularly bad game. She either topped the ball or sent it flying over into the other fairway. At one point, she and I stopped to talk while we waited for our friends to hit the ball. She told me about a power point she had made for the Sunday’s service. I affirmed her willingness to give of her time and talent to our congregation. She responded, “I just love church. I love the people. I love Jean (one of our oldest members0 and Beth (one of the youngest). I love them all. They always speak to me. They’re interested in me and they’re interesting.” She smiled her dazzling smile, stepped up to her ball and swung. It sailed straight and high and true right down the middle of the fairway. “See,” she said, “I just think about church and I feel better.” My heart lifted with joy.
As Christians we’re not about condemning what others believe and trying to hurt them. As Christians we’re called to love God, our neighbours as ourselves. We gather as a church family to offer the rock of Jesus’ love as a solid foundation for life.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Love

How Do I Love Thee? Can I Count the Ways?

It’s been a beautiful summer, a great time for outdoor weddings. Sunshine, flowers, lakes, and parks have surrounded me, as I stood with young couples anxious to pledge their love for one another. With determination, they repeated the precious words of commitment, confident that their love could survive whatever the future holds. Now that summer is over and children are heading back to school, those vows are ringing in my ears.

Traditional wedding vows include the phrase “in sickness and in health”. What does it mean to promise before God to love your spouse in sickness?  During my life as an ordained minister, I have heard many variations on the following plea:

“I need help. It’s such a struggle. His disease is making it more and more difficult for him to breathe even with the oxygen. He wants me with him 24/7, sitting at that table, the television blaring. He needs my attention so I can’t even read. I love him. I want to care for him but when am I going to do. I need to get groceries. I need some peace. I love him.”

The plight of these couples is a long way from the sunny summer day, years ago, when their wedding vows were spoken. The initial blast of emotion and hormones has long since passed.  “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Was the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning thinking about the love we need when illness becomes all encompassing? Severe illness calls us to a depth of love that lies beyond our understanding, a love that pulls us beyond ourselves to a strength that only God can give.

God’s love for each one of us, whether we believe or not, is just that deep and strong. God’s love holds us in our darkest hours, empowering us to love as we have been loved. Jesus promised, “Lo I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.” We can live secure in that promise.

(For more reflections by Janet Stobie go to revjantheauthor.blogspot.com)

Stop! Look! and Listen!

When my children were little, I taught them to stop, look and listen before they crossed the street. Stop, look and listen before we act, is a good motto for life. In today’s world many of us lead such overwhelmingly busy lives that we forget to stop, look and listen. For instance: We want our grocery shopping done as quickly and cheaply as possible. We don’t stop to conside what we actually need, or look at the ingredients. We don’t think we have time to listen to what our local farmers are saying.

St. Paul tells us that we need to take our everyday, ordinary life – our sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life, and place it before God as an offering. In essence he is saying, stop, look and listen for God’s will, every moment of your life.

Stop your rushing around. Rest for a moment. Look at the world around you. See God’s beauty in the hummingbirds at your bird feeder, the blazing sunset, the eyes of your neighbour as she asks for a cancer donation. Listen for God’s voice in the sounds of laughter, your teen’s request,and the silence of a cool, clear evening.

Stop your busy mind, that thinks it already knows what is right in every situation. Look at the person in front of you. Regardless of his race, or creed, see him as a human being like yourself with the same wants and needs. Listen to God’s call to love and care for the world.

Stop, look and listen and you will be amazed at the changes that come in you and in your life. You will find God’s peace and power to live.

Romans12

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

The Time Between

As my car approaches the flag person standing in the sun, and I see the bulldozers working, my blood pressure begins to climb. A stab of pain runs down my back when I step on the brake and the cars line up behind me. I hate waiting in line.

“Come on, come on,” I mutter, “Time’s a wasting.”

Last week I read an article about lost moments. It stated that in our life time we will spend a total of five years waiting in line. Five years give us a wealth of opportunity for angry words and deep sighs. Five years is a long time to rail at slow cashiers, and complain about the bank clerks that are off having lunch, or blame ourselves for picking the wrong line. In our life time, we have five years to deepen the pathways of frustration and impatience in our brain. Just think we each have five years to add to the world’s pool of hostility. Is that truly what we want to do with our lives?

We hunch our shoulders in disgust and reply, “No, of course not, but what else can we do? We have no control over our time spent in line.”

I offer you this alternative. The next time you are in line take control of your thinking. Give your resentment, your worry about being late, your frustration to God. Then say thank you for this unexpected “time between”. Look at the people and the world around you. What beauty is there to see? Offer a prayer of concern for the bank clerk who is working under the stress of so many people waiting. Pick a person in the line and ask for a special blessing just for them. Still in line? Pray for peace in the world. Keep your thoughts focused on goodness and compassion. It is your choice. You can use this “time between” to add to the love and joy in this world, or the anger and resentment. Remember, the “time between” is important.

“Whatever happens conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians:1:27

Close Up Living

My son and his family gave me a neat picture. In large block letters across a white background is printed “GRANDKIDS”. Within each letter is a picture of one or more of our grandchildren. From across the room I can see the colourful word, GRANDKIDS. Up close, I see our grandchildren as individuals, laughing, building a snowman, hugging each other.
That picture reminds me of a phenomenon of life. When we look out of an airplane window, we see miles and miles of orderly fields, tree tops, lakes, rivers, mountains and even cities set out in brilliant colours, a tapestry that seems to roll on forever. When we’re on the ground we see flowers and weeds, refuse and pristine parks. From a distance the world is beautiful. Up close, it retains its beauty, but also exhibits its flaws and its character.
The same thing happens with people. From a distance, those of a different culture or ethnic variety all look the same; they become “those” people. Up close, those same people become my neighbour, my daughter’s friend, my son-in-law, my minister. Up close, we can’t ignore the fact that they are God’s precious children. When the enemy has a collective name like “terrorist,” it is easy to hate them. When he becomes an individual like you and me, who loves his family and struggles to provide for them, understanding and a desire for change begin to creep in.
Jesus dealt with individuals, not the faceless crowd. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, to the man with leprosy, to the little boy who offered his lunch, to the bent over woman. Jesus taught us to love our neighbours just as they are.
When we open our eyes and hearts to see people up close and accept them, we take a small step towards building a world of peace and love.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Close Up Living
(322 words)

My son and his family gave me a neat picture. In large block letters across a white background is printed “GRANDKIDS”. Within each letter is a picture of one or more of our grandchildren. From across the room I can see the colourful word, GRANDKIDS. Up close, I see our grandchildren as individuals, laughing, building a snowman, hugging each other.
That picture reminds me of a phenomenon of life. When we look out of an airplane window, we see miles and miles of orderly fields, tree tops, lakes, rivers, mountains and even cities set out in brilliant colours, a tapestry that seems to roll on forever. When we’re on the ground we see flowers and weeds, refuse and pristine parks. From a distance the world is beautiful. Up close, it retains its beauty, but also exhibits its flaws and its character.
The same thing happens with people. From a distance, those of a different culture or ethnic variety all look the same; they become “those” people. Up close, those same people become my neighbour, my daughter’s friend, my son-in-law, my minister. Up close, we can’t ignore the fact that they are God’s precious children. When the enemy has a collective name like “terrorist,” it is easy to hate them. When he becomes an individual like you and me, who loves his family and struggles to provide for them, understanding and a desire for change begin to creep in.
Jesus dealt with individuals, not the faceless crowd. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, to the man with leprosy, to the little boy who offered his lunch, to the bent over woman. Jesus taught us to love our neighbours just as they are.
When we open our eyes and hearts to see people up close and accept them, we take a small step towards building a world of peace and love.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Platters
Diet gurus tell us the best way to diet is to use a smaller plate. When Tom and I went to Beijing, China a few years ago, my son and his wife took us to a local restaurant, where the local Chinese villagers eat. The table was set with four tiny plates, each about four inches in diameter. The food was served in five small bowls. Tom and I frowned. Is this all? The bowls were passed and we took a tiny portion from each bowl. Our plates were full. The food was delicious. The bowls were passed again and again until they were empty. To our surprise, we had feasted and we were satisfied.
In North America many restaurants serve the food on “platters”. We smile with appreciation as the waitress sets before us, the “platter” almost overflowing with food. Our response – “Wow, now that is value for our dollar.” The problem comes when the meal is over, and a third of this delicious food returns to the kitchen garbage pail. Those of us who manage to eat it all complain about feeling stuffed and worry about gaining weight.
Think about the messages the “platter” gives us.
Wasting food is normal.
Greed is the way to get value for our money.
Eat more than you need, after all you’ve paid for it.
Scientists tell us that there is enough food produced in the world today to provide everyone, yes everyone, with at least 2,730 calories each day. The world’s agriculture produces 175 more calories per person today than it did thirty years ago, despite a seventy percent population increase. (International development research Centre). There really is enough food for everyone if it was distributed evenly. Platters for those of us blessed to be born in North America is not distributing the food evenly.
There is a restaurant chain in Montreal that serves only buffet meals. Once again, we are encouraged to eat as much as we want, but here there is a difference. In small print on the bottom of the menu is the message: “Each night the left over food from this buffet is given to soup kitchens across the city.” Now that truly is value for our dollar..
The next time you pull up to the table in a restaurant or at home, think on these things.

A Living Example

Today, I was reminded of my friend Margaret Murphy, who died several years ago. Marg knew all about living life well. Laughter followed her everywhere she went. She was never too busy to read a good book, enjoy a good meal shared with others, or learn something new. Marg had time for conversation with her friends and with God. She knew how to say thank you. Even when she was fighting to breathe, a smile would cross her face as she thanked a nurse or one of us for some small act of love and care. Her life was a lesson for me in following the way of Christ. She lived totally, every moment of her life.
We are all given the same twenty-four hours each day. How do we use them? I tend to hate wasting time sleeping. Yet sleep is God’s gift, given to enable our bodies to rest and repair after a strenuous day. Without sufficient and regular sleep, our bodies will eventually malfunction.
Many of us today, don’t think there is time to sit and eat a quiet meal. We gulp down fast food or even if we eat a more nutritious meal, we sit in front of our computer or the television. The ability to eat is God’s gift given so we will have fuel for living.
Often we don’t have time for exercise. There’s just too much to do and too little time. We forget that God has designed our bodies so that they need to move in order to remain supple and work well for us.
We know these things about our physical being and yet we ignore them.My friend Marg taught me not to ignore the things I need for healthy relationships with other and with God. She modeled a touch of love, small acts of kindness, saying thank you, an enthusiasm for every opportunity. She knew that these are the exercises that keep us young and filled with a passion for living.

Church Kids

At church last Sunday, two year old Lillas wandered around the pulpit while her big sister Hannah (age 8) read scripture with their grandfather. These children have been with our church familiy from their very beginning. In the comfort of their mother’s womb they listened to the hymns, prayers, scripture readings, even the sermon.
Often, parents say, “I won’t bring my children to church. I want them to choose for themselves, when they are old enough.”
I believe intelligent choices require knowledge. How can a child make a choice for a Christian lifestyle when she/he knows nothing about it?
At the moment these children know they belong with our church family. Whether or not in the future they choose a life long relationship with the church, the grounding in faith, they receive during the next few years will always be with them. As they participate in Junior Church, Church picnics & parties, and worship, they will learn the Christian story. They will learn that they are loved by God. God’s call to them to love others and all of God’s creation will be written on their hearts. Their parents love and faith are giving these two beautiful beloved children a solid foundation for living.

Thoughts on “My Jesus Year”

A few months ago, the book “My Jesus Year” by Benyamin Cohen grabbed my attention in the book store. The fly leaf synopsis spoke of Benyamin’s dissatisfaction with his Jewish heritage, and his subsequent journey to answer the question, “What would it be like to be a Christian?” I’ve finally had time to read it. It’s funny, actually hilarious, in places. It carries a message for people of all faiths, if we can be open to listen.
Interfaith dialogue, speaking with and experiencing worship with, people of other faiths will not destroy our own. When we begin with a solid grounding in our own faith, and we step out with an open and respectful attitude to others, God speaks to us. On the last page Benyamin says, “It took going out of my comfort zone, being a stranger in a strange land, to make me realize just how much I cherish my own faith. I now have a new appreciation for our prayers, our people and our rituals. It seems odd to say it, but I guess it’s true. Hanging out with Jesus has made me a better Jew.”
I believe that Benyamin is right. Openness rather than judgment, respect rather than fear, actual experience rather than hearsay can teach us so much. Although, at times I wished that Benyamin had written more about experiences with Christians like me, his respectful presentation of the many forms of Christianity had much to teach me. This book is a good read. I recommend it.