Tag Archives: goodness

How Does God Deal with Our Choices for Evil

When a child dies. A well-intentioned friend sometimes offers comfort to the grieving parents with, “God needed your child in heaven.” A natural disaster, or strange misfortune is greeted with, “God must have had a reason.”

The Bible story of Joseph, the favored child, is often cited as the basis of this kind of thinking. Joseph’s older brothers, in their anger and jealousy, sold him to merchants travelling to Egypt. They told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Years later, his brothers, come to Egypt as refugees from famine. They meet Joseph as the prime minister, who now has the power to save his family from starvation. Joseph explains, “It was not you who sent me here (to Egypt), but God.” (Genesis 45:8).

THIS MAY COMFORT SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT ME. The loving God I have encountered in my life and in the Bible stories of Jesus, tells me a different story. Our God given gift of free will means we can make good choices to love and care for each other and we can use our free will in anger and jealousy, as Joseph’s brothers did. Our loving God is never defeated by our choices. God has the power to bring goodness out of the worst we can do, BUT God does NOT need us to do bad things or to experience misery to accomplish goodness.

I believe Joseph had the position and therefore the power to rescue his brothers, because our loving God worked with Joseph to use his intelligence, his location and his faith to prepare him to forgive and help his family. God brought new life, amazing new life out of Joseph’s brother’s evil choices, just as God brought the resurrection out of our choice to crucify Jesus.

Some people would say this is just a matter of semantics, playing with words. I don’t agree. I believe that God’s love can take the worst that we can do, and the worst that can happen, and create goodness. But God doesn’t need us to make evil choices or experience painful things in order to create that goodness.

With this mind-set, we are not puppets in the hands of a capricious, often vengeful God, who requires war and death, evil and violence to accomplish goodness. No! No! No! With this mindset, we have freedom to make choices, good choices of love and care, poor choices, and sometimes even choices for evil. God can draw from within the results of our choices, even at our worst, the means to create goodness.

For me this applies to our resurrection story. My theology of Jesus tells me that he loved us so much that he wouldn’t stop loving us even when we were at our worst. God used that endless, generous love to bring the lesson of forgiveness and resurrection, NEW LIFE, not just for Jesus but for all of us.

When we trust in a loving God, when we open our hearts to that love, we will eventually see and experience that goodness. In fact, God invites us to participate in the creation of that goodness.

For this understanding of God, I give God thanks.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“A Tip for Grace-Filled Living”

love-699480_1920Your Life  Is New Every Morning.

Like many of you, my days are busy. Over my life time, I have developed a daily discipline, beginning each day with God. Last week I picked up Joy Cowley’s “Psalms from Down Under,” and read,

“God, I am awake, this I.
My eyes are open.
My heart beats. My lungs work.
Here and now I have
this sacred gift of me
which is about to unwrap a second gift,
the gift of a bright new day.”

Joy reminded me that even though the weather is grey, my worries remain, my knees and back still grumble with pain, I have been given the precious gift of life for another day. Twenty-four hours to be the best that I can be. Twenty-four hours to do random acts of kindness, to send out thoughts and actions that will bring goodness into this world.

Joy finished her Psalm with yet another reminder. I chuckled as I read:

“If it so happens
That I am clumsy in the unwrapping (of this day),
If I drop or break something,
Then remind me, God,
To be gentle with myself.
There will be another gift tomorrow.”

Yes, Lord, I thought. I can be gentle with myself and with others. I can live this day with gratitude and forgiveness.

My morning reading and prayer-time blesses my day with joy and strength. I recommend you try it. On the internet, at the library & stores, books of daily reflections and bibles abound. As you wait for and drink that first coffee, or tea, or water each morning, read and pray. Ask God to speak to you through the words you read and the events of your day. Over time, you will be surprised at the difference this intentional focus on spiritual learning will make in your life. I call it gathering “Tips for Grace-filled Living.” Remember, you will live through your days regardless. Why not seek wisdom for your living?

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Thought for the Day – Goodness Exists in Abundance

fireman-38083_1280

This past week our news media has focused on the horrendous wildfire in Fort McMurray, “the Beast”. The stories of the evacuation and the calm and caring that happened in the midst of what could have been absolute panic and terror, speak volumes about the basic goodness in human beings in general and Canadians specifically. People can rise to the occasion. People are full of goodness. God has created us with that ability.

During  conversations with Fort McMurray residents and reporters, I heard affirmations of the city’s emergency response team as giving strong leadership with a wise plan.  There was also endless praise for the bravery and skill of firefighters as well. In my mind, it’s these two aspects of leadership in an emergency that enable people to be the best they can be. It’s hard to believe that 90,000 residents could be evacuated in the midst of a fire storm, and have no casualties. Some people would say, “Only in Canada.”

Now, the rest of our nation are following this leadership example by responding with help. Beginning with our Canadian government, and our nation of strong caring individuals, resources are being gathered. The residents of Fort McMurray are not alone in this disaster. Our nation is behind them.

We don’t always respond as readily. I could complain about those times but not today. Today it’s important to affirm the goodness we see. Maybe it was our universal fear of fire, maybe it was the kind of media coverage given, whatever the reason, this horrific event is showing us Canadians at our very best. I am grateful.

Thank you God for your goodness that has risen from the ashes of this disaster.

Today is Good Friday. Why?

Christians call today Good Friday. Why?

By Janet Stobie

"Good Friday"
“Good Friday”

Every year I struggle anew with our Christian interpretation of the Biblical story of Easter. Through research and biblical study of the “Old Testament”, the Hebrew Bible, I have learned that people in Jesus’ time believed that pleasing God required the sacrifice of animals. Jesus focused his teaching on a loving God. Therefore, his followers interpreted Jesus’ crucifixion as the one supreme sacrifice, the one perfect sacrifice. Never again would sacrifice be required to appease God.

I cannot understand our loving God as requiring the crucifixion of Jesus in order to love us. In James Taylor’s book, “Last Chance”, he speaks of the last week of Jesus’ life as Jesus’ intentional act of love for humanity. Our Christian story tells us that during his last meal Jesus broke bread and washed the feet of his friends, even Judas, the one who would betray him. Even as he writhed on the cross, Jesus offered forgiveness to a thief and prayed for forgiveness for his torturers.

For me, God in Jesus, showed us that the worst we could do, torture and kill God as a human being, would not destroy God’s love for us. For me, today is “Good Friday” because God loved all of creation, every living thing, every human being, so much that God allowed us to do our absolute worst and still God loves us. Yes, God weeps. Yes, God writhes with pain when we sin, when we destroy the earth, when we destroy one another but God’s love is not defeated. Even before we admit our atrocities, even before we say we’re sorry, God has already died for us.

I believe that God can bring goodness out of anything. Every time as humans we destroy another human being, whether physically, emotionally or socially, we commit the atrocity of the crucifixion of Jesus. Still God works to bring new life for us.

This morning’s reading in my Lenten Study book “Rising with the Morning Star”, reminded me of a scientific fact. Six billion years ago, the ocean began with volcanic explosions. From the violence and destruction of volcanic eruptions, God created the ocean, earth’s fundamental source of life. Of course, today is Good Friday, God’s Friday, the source of new life.

 

Let’s Look in the Heart

Let’s Look in the Heart!

By Janet Stobie

During the holidays, we talked with our grandson about job-hunting. I remember seeking my first position as an ordained minister. Usually, the National United Church’s “settlement committee” carefully chose a position for us. I came to the “settlement committee” with special needs. In an attempt to save my dying marriage, I asked to be left close to my husband’s work. The committee tried. There was a place, but that particular congregation definitely didn’t want a woman. They weren’t supposed to be able to choose, but the committee in its wisdom wanted this position to work. “Would you be willing to be interviewed by them?” the committee asked me. “If they meet with you, speak with you, they’ll realize what a tremendous gift you will be for them. They’ll have a chance to experience your heart.

Today, job applications are submitted on line. There is no human contact between applicant and recruiter. How can an employer experience your commitment, your enthusiasm, your heart through a computer screen?

It isn’t only in job interviews that we can miss the best candidate by focusing on outward appearances or factual data. We meet someone new and often make a snap judgment. Maybe it’s just the way a person dresses, smells, or speaks. Maybe we’ve already too many friends, or we’re just too preoccupied with our own agenda to consider this new person. Looking in the heart requires time and commitment.

When God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse in search of a new king for Israel among Jessie’s sons, “the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) God chose Jessie’s youngest son, merely a shepherd boy named David. David, became the greatest of Israel’s kings.

Let’s not overlook all the diamonds, all the goodness, in the people we meet. Take the time to look past that first impression. Search for God’s presence in their hearts.