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 email@example.com and we will organize the transfer of money and the shipping of the book. Blessings to you all. Janet
Today’s blog is longer than usual. Please read the whole story. It will be worth your time.
Thursday and Friday of this week, Tom and I attended the Special Olympics Provincial Summer Games in Brampton, where our granddaughter, Nessa, age 27, was participating. Over the years, I’ve learned that every Special Olympics is a life-changing experience for family, friends, strangers who come to watch. We had a great time cheering for every athlete in every event, for that is one of the unique things about Special Olympics. Almost immediately the spectator realizes that they are watching monumental courage and determination as even the slowest runner struggles over the finish line. We want to cheer for everyone. We’re there to add our voices, our applause, to the support for each athlete.
We caught the excitement at the opening ceremonies as over 700 athletes and coaches marched in. Their smiles, their cheers, their joy at just being there, lit up the arena. We listened as government officials from every level and the hosts, Peel Regional Police Services, one after another welcomed the athletes and affirmed them for being who they are. By the time Abbamania started the actual entertainment, we were all so pumped that we stood and danced and sang along with the musicians. We had caught the Spirit and we were flying.
Each athlete competes in his or her track event twice. After the initial trial, the athlete’s recorded results, along with their coach’s submitted prediction of their ability in that event, are used to establish the skill level for each competitor. This means that the participants are divided not just by gender and age, but also by ability in their sport. The second trial is the actual competition. The athlete competes against himself as well as others in his ability level (division).
Here is part of Nessa’s story from this three-day sporting event. Nessa participated in four track events. Friday, she ran her first trial for the fifty meter race.
Before I tell you about that race, you need to know a little about our wonderful granddaughter, the angel of our entire family. Besides being developmentally delayed, Vanessa has no depth perception. That means she doesn’t know where her foot will land with every step. I liken it to you or I running down a set of stairs. About halfway down your foot comes hits a step that is two inches deeper or shallower than you expect. Your entire body is jarred. You stumble. Sometimes you fall. It’s a scary experience.
Vanessa experiences that jar every time she steps down on an uneven surface. Not knowing what to expect, she hesitates when she sees a change in surface color or texture, even a crack in the pavement.
Nessa also suffers from anxiety. She’s anxious. She worries. Fear is ever present in her life, particularly fear of falling. We know lots of seniors who don’t like to go out in the winter because they fear they will slip on the ice. Nessa has no choice. If she lets fear control her, she won’t be able to go anywhere. Consequently, when she’s outside, she holds your hand for security. When we walk together, I feel her whole body tremble as she stands at a curb and tentatively reaches out her foot searching for the pavement below. I’ve seen her hesitate when the sidewalk changes to asphalt. In my mind I hear her silent question, “Where will my foot land? Am I going to fall?”
At the track meet, among all those strangers, in that new place, Nessa hung onto someone for every step. On Friday Nessa had to run her fifty metre race all by herself. Her coach, walked with her onto the rubberized track. Once Nessa was settled in her running lane, her coach returned to the sidelines. As Tom described it, Nessa stood there, looking like a young deer caught in a car’s headlights. She listened and waited while a track official explained the rules of the race. Get ready, get set and the gun was fired.
The other seven athletes ran, some very slowly, but they ran. Nessa stood there. Tentatively, she stretched her foot over the starting line. It landed safely, so she took another step, and another, until she was sort of jogging. She continued jogging for about thirty metres. As the fear gradually took over, Nessa slowed to a walk. Every one of us, spectators, volunteers, other athletes started to cheer, “Keep going Nessa, you can do it.” About ten feet from the finish line, she stopped, then tentatively, one painful step at a time, she moved forward until she stepped over that line. We cheered, “You did it, Nessa, you did it.” Tears slip down my cheeks once again as I write this. Once over that line, Nessa stopped and didn’t move until a volunteer came to take her hand. She smiled. She knew she’d done well.
Nessa has to run that race all over again today. Whether she has a faster time, even if she can’t make it over the line doesn’t matter. Friday, she did it. She conquered her fear. She stood there a champion.
At the Special Olympics Summer Games, I experienced courage and determination, not just in our Nessa, but in every athlete, as they overcame their own particular obstacles and made it to the finish line, did the jump, threw the javelin. Of course, those athletes walked back along the fence, with wide smiles and high fives from us the spectators. Of course they cheered themselves, whether they were first or last in the competition. They had challenged their demons and won yet again. For today, they had done their best.
Attending any Special Olympics event is a lesson in courage for living. I recommend you seek one out and go. This kind of competition is a life-changer. I guarantee the experience will transform your perception of your world.
Our granddaughter scampered up trees like a squirrel when she was about ten. She appeared to have no fear. As she flitted from one limb to the next, she’d call to me. “Come, join me Grandma. I can see a beautiful horse running free in a whole field of wild flowers. The creek looks like a snake crawling down the side of the hill.”
Afraid of heights, I answered, “No thank you.” I remember wishing she had just a wee dab of healthy fear.
When we have been part of a church family all our lives, we are comfortable. Like my granddaughter, we lose touch with the “risk”. We’ve experienced the caring support of our church family. We know the congregation and have participated in most of the activities. We’d like everyone to be part of such a wonderful group
We forget that just stepping into the church building can be frightening, risky. We forget that some have had difficult past experiences with the church that make coming to worship feel like climbing a cliff. We forget there are those with no church experience. They’ve heard that church membership requires commitment, time and money. Their question is, “Why would I take that risk?”
Church membership is a risky business for sure, and… well worth the risk. As members, we need to take our cue from my granddaughter’s attitude to tree climbing. We need to issue a passionate happy invitation. “Come join us. This is fun. There is support, comfort, friendship here. You’ll love the music. There’s a special place for you because you are God’s beloved child. Here, you’ll learn that the gift of God’s forgiveness is free. Here, you’ll experience acceptance. Here, you’ll be challenged to think for yourself. Here, you can discuss and learn and grow in faith. Come, join us, church membership is great. Take the risk.”
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:44-47)
Lent is the Christian season that leads up to Easter, in which we examine what we believe and why. This year I am focusing on “Trust”. Experience has taught me that I can trust in God’s care for me always. When life is good, the sun is shining, and my life feels under control, it is easy for me to trust God with my life. When the going gets tough for me, I know that nothing I can do and nothing anyone or anything else can do to me, can separate me from God’s love. (Rom 8:38-9) I can look back over my life and see God’s strength protecting me, and pulling me back to the “Way of Christ”. I am grateful for that trust, that security.
Still my trust wavers when I am faced with the traumas, the illnesses, the poor choices of my loved ones. These are the times when I cry out to God, “fix them”, “give them a miracle”, please, please, please.” These are the times when I lose patience and question God’s existence as well as God’s loving care.
Yet, even with my questions, my anger, my pleading, I never totally give up on God. Why? It’s more than the feeling that God is my last resort. Despite all my fear and worry for others, I cling to the fact that God is at the base of my life. My foundation of faith holds me up when I waver. These are the moments when I cry out to God, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
We all have times when the road is so dark we can see nothing, absolutely nothing. It is in those times when our faith wavers, we can turn to the wisdom of our Bible, and the strength of our Christian friends to hold God’s light for us. God never leaves us to struggle alone. Thanks be to God.
Decisions are a part of living. We teach little children to practice the art of decision-making by offering them choices they can handle.
What shirt would you like to wear?
Do you want broccoli or carrots for dinner?
The older we get the more serious our decisions become.
Will I do my homework?
Will we have children?
Is it time to move?
Life changing decisions can be paralyzing for me. My decision-making track record is far from perfect. Yes, I’ve made some great choices in my life time – like answering God’s call to ordained ministry, having my three wonderful children, and choosing Tom as my life partner. I’ve also made enough poor choices – learning to smoke, taking dad’s car down onto Sauble beach when it was forbidden, teenage marriage, to name only a few. That’s why I want desperately to follow God’s will when I am making life choices.
But how do I know what is God’s will? The following are my steps.
talk with professionals in the field.
draw from my own experience.
consult friends and my spiritual leader (pastor)
write down all the pros and cons I can find for both sides of a decision.
light a candle, Play quiet music, Tell God my dilemma.
read relevant scriptures (given me by my pastor).
listen in silence for God’s Word.
3. Make the decision and trust.
TRUST THAT GOD CAN USE YOUR CHOICE OR MINE, WHATEVER IT IS, TO BRING GOOD FOR YOU AND OTHERS.
That’s the secret. I do my very best to make the wisest decision possible and then I trust in God’s power and love.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
When I fell and damaged my back, the stairs in our home became obstacles. My husband found himself solely responsible for our beautiful flower gardens. We asked ourselves, “Is it time to move to a smaller place in town?”
I sought God’s help with the decision. “Surely, my back will heal and the move won’t be necessary,” I pleaded. “Besides, how can my husband get us packed by himself? Do you really want us to move, God?” I prayed. I tried to listen. I wanted to follow God’s will. I needed a flashing neon sign telling us what to do.
Friends came for a meeting. I told them my dilemma. They responded, “We’d love to help get your place ready to sell.” Immediately they started making two piles – stuff to keep and stuff to give away. Two hours later, our living room and kitchen were ready for viewing. Was this God’s sign to move? We looked for a condominium and found nothing in our price range. Was this God’s sign to stay?
My daily scripture reading was Psalm 23. The last two lines flashed like a neon sign. “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.” I knew this was God’s message. Whatever our decision, God’s goodness and mercy were with us. We would dwell with God in whatever house in whatever place.
When life decisions are difficult, pray, consult friends, look at all the options. Make your best informed choice and then, trust that God is with you and will bring goodness and mercy to your life.
“Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”
When my children were young, my husband and I both returned to university. For three years, the five of us lived on student loans and bursaries. Money was extremely tight. We had no extras: no movies, no coffees at the cffee shop, no dinners out.
Still, I wanted to be able to share with others. We looked at our meager income and decided to give a tenth to Missions. Faithfully, at the beginning of each month, we set the money aside. Some went to our little church, some to the cancer society, some to others in need.
The strangest thing happened. We never missed that money. I still scrambled to stretch the dollars, but by the end of the month, the bills were paid and we had enough to eat. Giving didn’t destroy that. Yes, the loans piled up, but they would have anyway.
Just when I thought we weren’t going to make it, an unexpected check from a friend arrived usually for more than we had given away. At Christmas, we received the benevolent offering from our home church. Maybe those extra funds would have arrived anyway. I don’t know. What I know for sure is that being able to share gave me dignity. I learned the mystery of giving.
Over the years, because of that education, my life circumstances have changed. Ten percent of our income today amounts to much more money. Still, I don’t miss it.
When we face a charity canvasser or the offering plate with our wallets open searching for leftovers from our week, we seldom have much to give and often we’re resentful. Once we’ve made the commitment and set the money aside, we find pleasure in giving and there is enough left over for us. When caring for others becomes a priority in our money or our time, what’s leftover is enough. That’s God’s mystery.
“He brought us to thi place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.”
The United Church’s official position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was discussed at great length during the Church’s National General Council Meeting this past summer. My first thought was: Will the position our church takes here in Canada make any difference in a war oceans away?
Yes! I believe my church’s statements, as well as mine as an individual, do have significance for our world and for me. It’s just too easy to accept that violence in this world is inevitable, that there’s nothing we can do.
In my lifetime, the Berlin Wall became a source of pain and violence in Germany. Like many other individuals and groups, I prayed and spoke out at the injustice it created. I remember the amazement and joy when that wall started to come down. I believe that prayers and expressed opinions of people all over the world prepared the way for God to bring forth that miracle.
When you and I join with others to declare our disgust and anger at violence and express our desire for peace, change does happen. People are set free from prison. Refugees are cared for. Even wars will cease. Together we can be catalysts for change.
I encourage you to take time today and everyday to pray, to send your love and desire for peace to one of the “hot spots” in our world. I believe our prayers are like a drop of water hitting a stone. Eventually, a depression is made, and then a hole. We can make a difference. Thanks be to God.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
This week’s Old Testament reading and the daily news have led me to write the following:
The last few weeks, Pennsylvania State Universityhas dominated the news. An assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, has been convicted of sexual abuse. The administration of the university knew what this man was doing, and took no action. The glory of their sports program took priority over individuals. The team assistant eventually had the courage to reveal Sandusky’s behaviour, Confronting the powerful is not easy.
Our Bible tells a similar story of King David using his power to steal Bathsheba and manipulate the death of her husband. The prophet Nathan had the courage to confront King David for his behaviour. (2 Samuel 12) Hopefully, most of us will not have such a difficult task. Still there is a lesson to be learned from both of these stories.
In many congregations, work environments, schools, there are people that we class as cranky. Because we know that underneath their often brusque manner and harsh words is a generous and hard working individual, we don’t want to hurt them. Instead we rush in to assure the victims of the sharp remark or negative words with: “Just let her words roll of your back, that’s just who she is.” Or “Just ignore his tone, he means well, he’s just passionate about that issue.” We make excuses and hope that the timid and sensitive among us learn to give these people a wide berth. In essence, we cover-up and make excuses, just like the head coach at Penn State University.
Our lack of action facilitates the person in their dysfunction, and it is not loving. I’ve met too many lonely people in nursing homes, who all their lives have rode roughshod over others. Now in their final years, nurses struggle to be compassionate, family and friends come grudgingly to visit.
The story of Nathan and King David tells me that God would like us to hold up a mirror, as Nathan did. Giving someone the opportunity to see and understand the damage he/she actually causes, opens the way for transformation.
Yes confrontation requires courage. Yes, it requires love. Yes, it requires prayer. When we seek God’s help, we can give our “cranky” friend the opportunity for new life.
Living close to SturgeonLake means that I can find relief from hot weather with a daily dip in the lake’s cool water. On busy days, it can be nine at night, before I think, “Oh yes, I haven’t yet had my swim.” Still, I grab my towel and trot down to the beach. At night, the mosquitoes make sure I don’t stand on the shore cautiously dipping my toes to see if the water’s cold. With their help, I plunge right in. As I stretch out in that cool refreshing water, all the cares of the day recede. I turn my eyes to the stars glistening in the sky, and the moon’s silvery path across the water. God is good, I think.
In some ways, our attitude to God’s call is a lot like my attitude to swimming. We know that doing God’s work daily will bring joy and refreshment, but far too often, when God calls on us with a leadership role, we hang back. Whether it’s chairing a committee, organizing the strawberry supper, teaching Sunday School, or joining the church visitation team, we’re afraid. Will we be able to do it? Do we have the skills?
God doesn’t use mosquitoes or any kind of force to get us to choose God’s way. God does promise to be with us, giving us the strength, the wisdom and the help we need. When we set aside our fears and plunge in, we’re often amazed. Before long, we’re doing the job and enjoying it.
The bottom line is that we cannot enjoy the cool refreshing water as long as we stand on the sea shore. We cannot receive the joy of growing and learning with God without conquering our fear of what lies ahead. We can say yes to leadership. We can plunge right into the water because God is with us. Remember God doesn’t call the equipped. God equips the called. Thanks be to God.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 6-7)