Tag Archives: faith

How Do I Access the Bible’s Wisdom?

Written On Your Heart
Written On Your Heart

In June, I led a workshop about Storytelling and Dynamic Worship for Small Rural Churches. Storytelling is fun and it requires detailed preparation. I needed to know my stories off by heart, which means a great deal of practice. As children, we were assigned memory work at school (High Flight) and at church (23rd Psalm). I remember this “memory work” being pure drudgery.

Today, we think we don’t need to memorize anything, because all we have to do is “google” it and we have it on our phone, i-pad or computer. I believe having access to something is good, but having it written on your heart, deep within your being is a totally different kind of knowing, one that affects every day decisions. When we learn words of wisdom or comfort or faith by heart, we take those words into our being. They become a part of us so that we can call them to mind when the going gets tough..

My suggestion for you is to choose a quote, a Bible verse, a poem, something that touches your heart. Think about those words. Talk about them with your friends. Write them out and put them on your fridge and your bathroom mirror. Read them. Speak them aloud, over and over again.

Once you have learned them completely, they will be available for wisdom in times of temptation, or difficult decisions, for strength when life feels over whelming, for peace in times of emotional and physical pain. Once learned by heart, you can choose a new set and repeat the process. These words will be your anchors in the seas of life. Then, when the batteries die or the lights go out, the wisdom and comfort of these words will be with you, because they are written on your heart.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Don’t Leave Home Without It!

Prayer
Prayer

Tom and I were square dancing in Marlbank. During a rest break, we told Pearl about our encounter with a deer on the way home the week before. After hearing a detailed description of the accident and giving thanks that we weren’t hurt, Pearl said, “Driving can be dangerous. My husband and I say a prayer each time before we get in the car.” Then she laughed and said, “Never leave home without a prayer. Never leave home without it.”

We both chuckled, and the conversation moved on in another direction. On the way home, we joined the holiday traffic parade on the 401 instead of the more remote Highway Seven. I thought, that’s good advice, Pearl, not just for travelling, but for going to work, to the doctor’s, to school, anywhere. Always take your awareness of God’s presence with you. God is our companion. We can do more than stop for prayer before we go out the door. We can keep the conversation going, giving thanks, asking for guidance and strength. Our approach to life changes when we acknowledge God’s presence right beside us, God’s hand on our elbow, patting our back, holding us.

There is a plaque that says, “God is a guest at our every meal.” For me, God is more than a guest at meal times. There is a wonderful old hymn that talks about Jesus as our companion. The chorus says, “And he walks with me, and he talks with me. And he tells me I am his own.” Whether you walk or drive or fly, don’t leave home without reminding yourself of God’s presence in your life. Say a prayer, and not just for safety. Give God thanks for your blessings, and ask God to help you be God’s blessing for someone else. Give it a try. Don’t leave home without it. Prayer will make a difference in your life.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)

Let’s Give Thanks for God’s Gift of Faith.

Let’s Give Thanks for God’s Gift of Faith

by Janet Stobie
Let's go to church together.
Let’s go to church together.

Sunday, we celebrate thanksgiving. This year I am particularly grateful that God has blessed me with the gift of faith and a husband who joins me in that faith.

Over the years in my role as pastor, I encountered many couples for whom only one lived a life of faith. When we’re young and in love, we think this difference won’t matter, but it does. As our lives unfold, this difference can become a thorn. When we are blessed with children, that faithful member wants the child baptized and brought to Sunday School. Teaching the faith without your partner’s help, even sometimes with your partner’s opposition, is a very lonely process.

When tough times come, faith offers the strength not only to survive, but to grow through the pain. The knowledge that God is with me, I am not alone has carried me through tragedy, and severe illness. I seek God’s wisdom when I have decisions to make. Having a partner walking this path with me is wonderful. Tom keeps me on track when my steps falter.

Tom and I enjoy participating in the work of our church family. Together we decide how much of our time, our energy and our resources will be given to our church. We carry the same faith message to our friends and our family. It’s wonderful to pull together as a team. As we age and our relationship deepens and grows, our faith has deepened and grown as well.

This week, when you count your blessings, give thanks for your faith. If that faith is shared with your partner, know that you have received a special blessing. If you don’t believe, give thanks for those who do.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2Timothy 1:5)

Five Steps to a Dynamic Faith.

Five Steps to a Dynamic Faith.

By Janet Stobie

instruction manual

Our new kitchen island came with an instruction manual, and all the pieces numbered. Neither Tom nor I has natural ability to put things together, but we can read. We felt sure we could complete this project. The courier helped Tom lug the three boxes containing two hundred and fifty pounds of wood and metal up to our living room. I travelled to London for a sisters’ visit while Tom completed the assembly. Putting it together involved some mistakes and some faulty material, but Tom had the Manual. Today, our solid cherry wood kitchen island stands proudly in our kitchen.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a “Do It Yourself Manual” for our Christian faith?

Well, we do. It’s called the Bible. Our problem is the Bible is mighty big and cumbersome and contains some words we don’t understand. Besides, it’s a collection of stories, not clear instructions. Consequently, many avoid the Bible.

I need help.
I need help.

Since today’s young people turn to the computer for everything, I decided to try “Google” as a short cut bypass for the Bible. I summarized Google’s information into the following five suggestions.

  1. Read the Bible, especially the stories of Jesus.
  2. Pray as though you believe.
  3. Join a Christian group for support. Church is the easiest.
  4. Take action to love and care for others.
  5. Be patient. God’s free gift of faith will come.

Even Google starts with “Read the Bible”. There are no short cuts to faith. Commitment and desire are foundational. Over my lifetime, I have learned that faith in God gives me an amazing basis for living. On the days when fear is running rampant in my mind, when exhaustion wracks my being, when pain is overwhelming, I know God is my anchor, my strength, my support.

Try the five steps. Pick up the Manual. God will welcome you to a life of faith.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, NIV)

Is Life a Guessing Game?

Is Life A Guessing Game?

by Janet Stobie

Last week, I answered the phone to a caller who didn’t identify himself.  About two sentences into the conversation he asked, “Do you know who this is?” Although his voice sounded familiar, I didn’t know. A wise answer would have been, “No.” Instead, I guessed and got it wrong. Embarrassing.

A minister meets a huge number of people in the course of their lifetime. Recognition is not always easy. I want to get it right but I often fail. When I’m asked, “Do you know who this is?” I feel like saying, “Don’t do that to me. I’m going to fail this test. Life is not a guessing game.”

Life is not a guessing game. Every day we make a myriad of decisions, sometimes wise and sometimes foolish. We need guidelines so that we can recognize the paths to healthy living and caring for others. Our faith can give us those guidelines. As Christians we follow the “Way” of Jesus. He offered us two supreme commandments that gather up all our rules for life. “Love God and  love your neighbor as yourself.”  I believe Judaism, and Islam and many other faiths have some form of these same two rules that help us make choices in our lives.

We don’t have to guess whether or not choosing to share of our abundance is a good thing. These two commandments tell us, yes, we are called to share as we love our neighbour. We don’t have to guess whether or not getting adequate sleep is a good thing. These two commandments tell us as God’s creation we need to love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. That’s the only way we will be able to love others well. We don’t have to guess whether or not prayer and worship are good things. Loving God means taking time for God. Decisions become easier because we have guidelines that help us recognize the path to follow. Life does not have to be a guessing game. I am grateful.

Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”                                                                                              (Matthew 22: 35-40)

Are Fathers Necessary in Teaching the Faith?

I love you both.

 

When the elephant herd at South Africa’s Kruger National Park grew too large for the park to sustain it, park managers transported some mothers and babies to a game park nearby. A dozen years later, several of the young elephants, now teenagers had become dangerous. They were attacking the game park’s herd of white rhinos.

The park managers brought in some mature male elephants, hoping the bigger stronger males would bring the youngsters under control. It worked. The young bulls actually started following the Big Daddies around and learned proper elephant conduct from them. The assaults on the white rhinos ended abruptly.

Today, Mothers are doing an amazing job of teaching the faith. Like the bull elephants, Father’s also have an important role. Many Moms have heard, “If Dad doesn’t want to go to church, I don’t either.” Dad’s influence extends beyond their presence.  Children watch, listen and learn from Dads as well as Moms. 

As a teenager on the family farm, I remember the stress caused by inclement weather. The first sunny Sunday after several days of rain tempted my father to spend the day in the fields. As he loaded us into the car for church he would say, “If I skip church this morning, it’ll rain tomorrow or the tractor will quit. 

My dad said, “I want to start my week with God.”

On Fathers’ Day, let’s celebrate the men among us who have accepted their unique privilege and responsibility of planting seeds of faith in the next generation. They have answered God’s call and I am grateful. .

I Love My Dad

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  Exodus 20: 8-10

 

Peanut Butter Blessings

Between the ages of two and eight, my middle son David, limited his diet to peanut butter and jam sandwiches plus an apple now and then. Trying to convince David to try anything else meant inciting total war between David and his dad. And when we accepted a dinner invitation, our childless friends were insulted when young David turned up his nose at their delicious roast beef dinner. Totally frustrated, I asked my doctor for methods of varying David’s diet. The doctor replied, “if he eats peanut butter, bread, apples and drinks milk, he’ll be fine. If you’re worried give him a daily vitamin and let it rest.” Grateful, for the peace this philosophy brought to our home, we accepted David’s diet choices. Today, as a vegetarian his diet is still different from mine.
I think sometimes many of us think our way of practicing our faith,  is the only way that a person can live a spiritually healthy life. I believe Jesus offers us much the same message as our doctor. If you believe in God, and live with love and respect for your neighbour and yourself, you are receiving the staples, the bread and peanut butter of faith. Sure, there is lots of variety out there. Whether you kneel, stand, sit, or lie down to pray is not important. Just remember to pray. Whether you gather together with others or worship on your own in the great outdoors, the important thing is to offer God your gratitude and praise for the abundance you enjoy. Worshipping alone may mean you miss out on the support, the learning and the fellowship of church membership but you’ll get by, and you can always take the odd vitamin shot of communal faith at Christmas and Easter.
Rather than trying to argue people into your way of believing, try looking for the staples, the bread and peanut butter of faith that a person does have and give thanks for those blessings.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 36-40

My Flight Home

A Day Filled With Angels.
Today I left Tucson after six weeks of caring for my Mom who has cancer. I dragged myself onto the full plane this morning, exhausted after six weeks of little sleep. Emotionally depleted, I wanted desperately to go home, and desperately to stay. I didn’t want to give up the privilege of caring for Mom, yet I knew it was time to share with my aunts. I worried that the next time I came would be for her funeral.
I stepped over two absolute strangers, and dropped into my seat for the first leg of my day long journey. Never doubt that God will give us, who and what we need. Those two strangers, Sherrie and Dick were wonderful. Starting with identifying our destinations, the three of chatted about our lives. In three and a half hours we built relationships. Some people would say, that I just happened to sit beside two outgoing people. It was just a coincidence that Sherrie was a woman of faith, and Dick a man of ideas and questions.
I believe, our meeting was a God-incident. I was blessed by God with exactly what I needed today. We talked of our past and our future. I received affirmation and peace. As the plane landed in Atlanta, Sherrie said she would email me about her trip to Milan. Dick asked, “What plane are you flying to New York?” It turned out that we were once again on the same plane. We had only forty minutes to our next flight. “We may have to go to a different terminal,” Dick said. “I’ll help you figure it out.” And he did. We caught the shuttle train, and were at our gate with nearly 30 minutes to spare.
            What had felt like climbing Mount Everest when I got up with Mom and Aunt Shirley at 3:45 a.m., had been transformed into joy. And it didn’t end with that first leg of the journey. On the second plane, I overheard the stewardess telling a mother and young boy that she would try to find them two seats together. This time the seat beside me was empty so I volunteered to be moved. The stewardess found me a place beside a pilot, commuting to work in New York. In the midst of our conversation, he described the La Guardia Airport in New York so that I was able to find my way easily to a second terminal and my third plane of the day. The other passenger in that seat was a woman my age, whose mother had died within the last year. Once again God had given me the people I needed to find joy and peace.
            On the final leg of the journey, my fellow passenger was a young mother who as the CEO of a large investment firm, was flying to Buffalo to welcome a new company into their organization. As she talked about her family and the struggle that comes with being a working professional as well as a mother, I listened and truly cared. This time, I felt not only cared for by God, but also that I had a purpose in being there for her. In addition, she read and loved my book, “A Place Called Home” and bought a copy as well. My trip home has been amazing.
            Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” Today was not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that God carries me through a tough time. I could easily have buried myself in my computer and ignored all five of those wonderful people. I certainly had every reason to withdraw from the world to lick my wounds and sleep, but I didn’t.  I give thanks to God for a life time of expecting God’s presence. I believe that expectation opened me to receive God’s love and care today.