Tag Archives: new life

The Impossible Is Happening Everyday!

Balancing Rock
Picture taken by Chris Oates

When we were in Vancouver, our Grandson Chris took us for a walk along Vancouver’s English Bay, to watch the sunset. Even though it was cold, the walkway along the ocean was busy with people soaking in the sun’s last rays.

“Look,” Chris said, “they’ve been balancing rocks.” He hopped over the sea wall to take a picture. All along the shoreline was a trail of large and tiny rocks standing on their edges and points. I have tried this myself. Determination, patience, skill and belief in the impossible are required to balance a rock on its point so solidly that it survives the force of the spring breeze.

When we, as individuals, put that same kind of determination and faith into our efforts for peace, we too leave a trail, a trail of kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, that is even more beautiful than the stone sculptures we saw with Chris. Too often, we feel as if our peace paths are washed away by the sea of fear and violence that seems to be flooding our world.

As I studied Chris’ picture, I remembered a headline from the Vancouver Sun:

“Water, Water, everywhere but is it safe to drink?” The article stated that IC-IMPACTS, a Canadian international bilateral research organization has teamed Canadian engineers, research scientists and business people with their counterparts in India to develop cheap, safe water purification for isolated villages in India and in Canada. For me, this bit of news speaks of practical efforts for peace that are happening on a large scale.

In our world, where fear seems to be the biggest commodity sold, and isolationism is accepted wisdom, it’s wonderful to learn about co-operation between countries for their common good. There are wide trails and narrow trails. gradually building a network of love in our world.

As I gaze at Chris’ picture of the impossible, I am reminded that even though we may feel that our values of loving and caring for others are being put to death, resurrections, small and large, are happening the world over. God’s new life is coming. With God, anything is possible even peace. Let us celebrate Easter this year, with confidence, because we know that with God, anything is possible, even world peace.

 

 

 

 

 

“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)

A Church on the Move! #travel #church #refugees #family

September 27   Day 29   A Church on the Move.

This morning we returned to St. Andrews-Wesley United Church for Sunday worship. God’s Spirit filled that sanctuary in a very tangible way. Fabulous music poured forth from the organ and gospel choir. Today, they presented Bibles to all the children who were in grade 4. Today they were having a special congregational family meeting to discern how they were going to help in the world refugee crisis. Today the Very Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson spoke about his experience as Moderator over the last three years. Once again I heard God say, “I am doing a new thing.” Our United Church is on the move. Yes, we’ve struggled over the last ten years, but there are glimpses, “tiny green shoots of new life” , bursting forth across this land. New life for our church is beginning. Tom and I experienced it first-hand this morning.

As we were walking back to our condo after church, we talked with two women, one from Windsor and one from London. We shared our experiences of the church service and of Vancouver. When we said goodbye at the corner, I gave them each one of my cards and suggested they check out my books. God continually gives me an opportunity to promote my books.

Tom spent the afternoon with Alex and Bonnie and of course had a wonderful time. I ran errands with our 23 year old grandson, Chris. He’s great company, a wonderful young man. We had lunch together and shared ideas and opinions. At supper time, Bonnie, Boris, Alex, Tom, Chris and I gathered around the table in Bonnie’s apartment for a family dinner. Before and after supper, Chris played with his toddler cousin. Alex laughed and laughed as he and Chris made funny noises, played catch, and built with the duplo blocks. Tom and I are so blessed to have a blended family that is full of love. Oh yes, God was definitely present with us tonight sharing our joy.

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.

 

Show Me A Life-time Guarantee

Show Me A Life-time Guarantee

by Janet Stobie

While travelling in Vermont last month, I bought a pair of socks made of merino wool, labelled “Darn Tough.” These socks come with a life-time guarantee. If they wear out, shrink, develop holes, even if the dog chews them, I can return or mail them to the store and get a new pair. Now the price was $20.00 US, but my friends assured me that they had been wearing this brand of socks for a number of years. They had received replacements with no difficulty when the socks showed signs of wear and tear. As I handed over my $20.00, I imagined my feet at the age of 100, still clad in my “Darn Tough” socks.

God also offers us a life time guarantee. God’s love is ours forever, in life, in death, in life beyond death. That’s God’s promise. Regardless of the number of holes we develop. No matter how many times we mess up. God loves us even when we’re feeling tired, worn, beaten up. God’s life-time guarantee comes free, absolutely free. Starting with our conception in the womb, God loves us. And we don’t have to return our lives to the store to get them replaced either. God’s love is with us always through thick and thin, while the storms of life rage, when we’re happy and celebrating, when we’re filled with sorrow or remorse. And we don’t have to pay for it.

Still many of us won’t accept the gift of God’s love. Even when we say that Jesus paid the price already, still some of us aren’t satisfied. We haven’t paid, so the gift doesn’t exist or has no value. I sometimes think it’s not a lack of belief in God, rather it’s just that we don’t want to owe anyone, not even God.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

 

We Are Not Alone!

 “We Are Not Alone”

by Rev. Janet Stobie

God's sign of love.
God’s sign of love.

Beginning with my fall last January, stress dogged our footsteps through 2013. Over the last twelve months I have yelled at God, pleaded with God, even doubted God’s existence.  For sure, I lost patience with God’s time schedule. Healing my back is taking away too long. The closing date on our house sale loomed and still we had found nothing affordable to buy. We were one week from moving in with friends (couch surfing in today’s terms) before we had both a house sitting job and a house to buy with a long closing date. For me that was much too close to comfort.

We have begun a New Year. We’ve settled into our housesitting job. At first, I felt displaced, like a refugee, but after spending Christmas here, this beautiful place has become our home. Living beside the river brings a special gift. I never tire of watching its different moods. My back is healing. I’m almost back to “my normal life”. We’ve bought a wonderful house, and come April, we’ll move to it.

The silver lining to 2013 is that my relationship with God has deepened. Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, this week I listed the areas of my life in which I need God’s help. First and foremost are the boxes of books that line the walk-in closet upstairs. “Fireweed” has sold tremendously well, but there are lots left. I need God’s help in planning speaking engagements, workshops, selling on the internet. That’s only one aspect of my busy life. I even need God’s help in resting.

What do you need from God for 2014? Think about your goals. Ask God for strength and leadership. We don’t have to be in trouble or sick or broken to take time for God. Line your year with prayer rather than resolutions. Remind yourself every day of Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20)

“In life, in death, in life beyond death, we are not alone, thanks be to God.” (United Church, New Creed)

Tinsel and Tears at Christmas

Tinsel and Tears at Christmas

            We all have times when waves of weariness and pain threaten to erode our best defenses. They bring cold, dark water with a dangerous undertow. Sometimes December intensifies the pain, the fear. People are laughing, singing, wishing us a “Merry Christmas”. Our world expects us to be happy.

We forget that from its very beginning, Christmas has been a mixture of tinsel and tears, joy and sorrow. Our Christmas story tells us that God’s coming to live among us on earth brought joy amidst sorrow and fear. Mary and Joseph, engaged but not yet married, far from family, are homeless in a strange place. In the midst of their distress new life comes. Their beautiful baby is born.

The promise of Christmas is not a life free from pain, grief or illness. The promise of Christmas lies in hope, hope for new life. The promise of Christmas is God’s presence among us, God’s endless love surrounding us. Julian of Norwich, a thirteenth century mystic offers us this centering prayer: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” This is faith. This is hope.  God has promised to guide our footsteps, to carry us when we falter and to bring forth new life within us.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book, “Simple Abundance” tells us that when she is overwhelmed with life, she repeats Julian’s prayer over and over like a mantra. Rather than offering understanding or answers, this prayer brings hope and peace. The words bring strength enough to hold on until the night gives way to a new day, a good day.

This Christmas season, open your heart to God’s hope in the midst of your darkness. Trust that eventually, ”all will be well”, maybe not today, maybe not as you had planned and dreamed, but in God’s time and in God’s way. Believe with Julian of Norwich, “all manner of things will be well.”

“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)

Gas for the Journey

Just in case some of you are tired of the last discussion and ready to move on, I offer you this week’s thought for the road.

Gas For the Journey

Self-Serve is essential.
Self-Serve is essential.

Our week at “Soul Feast” in North Carolina, this past summer, gave Tom and me some fuel for the journey of life. We met a crowd of caring, friendly people. Worship each day provided inspiration. Workshops offered valuable learning. Sharing a cottage with dear friends meant free time was special. When the week was over, we were reluctant to return home and dive back into the busy stream that is our lives.

Times of renewal are always too short, yet it is their brevity that makes them special and refreshing. Why? Vacations give us a change of scene, and often a reduction in stress, but not always renewal, not always gas for our journey.  As people of faith, we can forget that retreats, study evenings or days, and workshops provide opportunities for renewed energy and learning. Regularly, Jesus invited his followers to go up on the mountain or down by the lake, to have time apart to focus on his teachings and on God.

Fall is here, vacation over. It’s time to care for yourself. Check out the Internet and the bulletin board at church. Take advantage of at least one opportunity to learn and grow. Choose your renewal experience carefully. This will be a special gift for your faith. I recommend the Canadian Biblical Storytellers Festival on October 18 and 19 at Richmond Hill United Church, 10201 Yonge St. This promises to be one extremely inspirational experience.  Come, listen, learn and grow in your faith.

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2

God’s Laundry

Scrubbed clean.
Forgiven!

The list of addictions available to us – alcohol, drugs, gambling, computer games, dieting, shopping, prestige – seems to get longer every year. Even exercise, when carried to the extreme can become an addiction.

Psychologists told us long ago the first step in letting go of any addiction or any destructive activity, is to honestly admit the sin exists. The second step is to seek help.

Our Bible offers that same advice. After the prophet Nathan faced King David with his adultery, David wrote a song. We call it Psalm 51. I’ve quoted it here from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson, because his modern language paraphrase often brings clarity to the Biblical words:

Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.

I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.

You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, the full extent of my evil.

You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.

I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

King David realized his mistake, admitted it and asked God for help.  Alcoholics Anonymous talks about “a higher power”. Whatever the language, the request is the same. We need God’s help in cleaning up our lives. Whether it’s gossip or drugs, we cannot shake the bonds of evil on our own.

Near the end of his song, King David adds one more element to his healing:

“Give me a job teaching rebels your ways, so the lost can find their way home.” When we refocus on helping others, we gain healing for ourselves. We each know our individual addictions and the destruction they cause. Seek God’s help. Step into God’s laundry. Ask for a new life.

 

Rejoice, God Has the Last Word!

When I was visiting in Tucson, a stranger walked up to me and said “Hi, what are you doing here?” At first I was totally puzzled. Who was this? Then she called me by name and said she was from Bethany, Ontario, my home at the time. Of course, I said. I didn’t recognize you. I guess I didn’t expect to see anyone from home here.

I think it must have been like that for Mary that Easter morning. She went to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’ body. When it was gone, she was sure his body had been stolen. That was her expectation. When she saw him in the garden, she still wasn’t ready to believe. Only when he called her by name did she recognize him.

When, like Mary we are faced with tragedy, we too struggle to believe that all is not over. God can bring new life out of the loss of  our job, the end of a marriage, even the death of a loved one. Easter reminds us that God will never be defeated. Jesus said,  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

It’s not always tragedy that blinds us to God’s new life. Sometimes we’re so caught in what has always been, “we’ve always done it that way”, that  we haven’t room in our minds for something totally new.  God calls us by name and reminds us that with God, we can have the courage to step into something new.  This Easter, open your eyes and ears to the life God is offering you. Remember the past, not even death has the last word. God does.