I have a new website. Since October I have been working with Nick Burd of NiteOwl Creative.com to totally revamp my website. We’re almost there. Maybe Thursday, maybe Friday and the new website will go live. I’m excited. When it happens please check it out. Take your time. Some things are similar. Some are brand new. Please leave a comment on the blog page. I’d love to hear from you. Working with Nick has been great. He’s creative, fun and patient. The whole experience has been good.
Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect But It Sure Helps
Last week I sorted through my bookshelves searching for books to give away. Along with too many books not yet read, I found seventeen journal books filled with my handwriting. Every day I write in my journal, private musings, blogs, prayers and more. Malcolm Gladwell (author of Tipping Point) says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at a craft, not perfect but good. My pile of old journals tell me that I have been practicing.
It’s easy to forget that we need to practice our faith if we want it to become deep and strong. How do we practice faith? The Bible tells us “to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8) What does that mean in today’s world?
Doing justice – for some means walking a picket line, demonstrating against oppressive leaders and so much more. Doing justice is not only knowing that a law needs to be changed, but taking action to help bring about that change. Doing justice is also making sure that our own actions are just, that we are not taking advantage of others, or destroying the environment and more. We know that doing justice can change the world.
Loving kindness – means treating your family, friends and strangers well. Random acts of kindness like opening a door for a person laden down with packages, letting the person with just a few groceries step ahead of us in line when our shopping cart is full, or just squatting down to listen to a child, or … We can make a long list of possible kindnesses. That one feels easy, but it’s not. What is easy is to be so preoccupied with our own busyness, or worries, or illness or whatever, that we don’t even notice that our kindness is needed. When we love kindness and attempt to do it regularly we have the power to change the world.
Walking humbly with God – As a Christian, we live with the Spirit’s power charging our gas tank, guiding us, building our courage. God’s support also comes to us through others. Jesus did not carry his message alone. He gathered others around him. He sought their help and support. The church family can make walking humbly with God so much easier. With our church family we experience God’s presence in others and around us. We learn together. We experience God’s forgiveness that is always with us. In two’s, three’s, twenties and hundreds we can change the world.
Living our faith means working with God to bring peace, love, hope and joy to the world as a whole, to individuals and to ourselves. Yes, it takes practice, lots of it. Ten thousand hours is just the beginning. Practicing may not make us perfect but it sure helps.
Why and How Make the Difference
This morning I woke feeling good, ready do a little more. I thought, maybe today I can be like my friend Marilyn. She does so much. She volunteers for the school making muffins for the children’s breakfast, for the church on two committees, for the foodbank. She plays badminton, pickleball, and does yoga, loves her family and friends and so much more. I’m tired just thinking about her daily list.
I know that comparing myself to others is a “lost cause.” I am not someone else. I can only be me. I also know that God has a sense of humour. I opened “The Daily Bread” devotional book read Colossians 3:12-17. Here it is slightly shortened from The Message.
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment… Never be without it…Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:12-14 and 17) (The Message)
What better advice can we find as Valentine’s Day approaches. Live with love. Know God is with you. What can I give someone I love for Valentine’s day – compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, forgiveness.
To that advice I add, “Do something for a loved one, something that is right for you. Remember that God is with you. Live your life so others will know what God’s love is like. For sure, you can’t be someone else. Look at what you are doing. You’ll be surprised at how much you do for others both family, friends, church and more. As today’s Bible reading from Colossians says, whatever you do, do for God’s glory, do knowing God is with you. Why and How do make a difference.
Yesterday, I received a comment on my blog, “Difficult Love”. The person thanked me for the prayer template. Today I offer another prayer that I believe will start my day and yours on a good footing. Blessings on your Day. Janet
Dear God, This morning I’m grateful to be me, grateful for Help me put on your clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, forgiveness. Thank you, God for your patience with me, for continuing to love me just as I am. Amen
Over the last few weeks I have been thinking and writing about love. It’s easy to focus on loving some people. Usually they are friends, family members, even strangers that we read about who have done good things. This year for Valentine’s Day, please think about loving your enemies as well. That’s more difficult.
We think of love as a feeling, an emotion. We forget that love is also a choice. Humanity has a history of responding to hurt, unfairness, evil with a need for vengeance. This response offers no help to our world, to ourselves or to our enemies. It only makes things worse.
The Bible tells us that God says, “Vengeance is mine.” We know this, yet it feels impossible to let go of our anger and hurt so that we can choose love. Even so, I believe that with God all things are possible, so I start with prayer. That does not mean asking God to rain down punishment or disaster on our enemies, or asking God to change them to make them just like me. Over the years, I’ve learned to pray differently. Today, I offer this prayer form to you. Sometimes having a pattern to follow helps, especially when our feelings don’t match what we are saying to God. Here is the prayer. Please substitute the name of your enemy in the blank. It could be a personal enemy or a world leader, or whoever
Loving and forgiving God, I know you forgive me when I make mistakes, do bad things, make poor choices. Today, I am praying for _________. I am feeling hurt and angry. Loving _________ as your beloved child feels impossible, yet I believe with you all things are possible. There is goodness in _________. Help __________ and me to see that goodness. Open my heart right now to name one example of your goodness that lies within __________. Heal what is broken in both of us. Thank you, God for helping me to pray for _________. Keep me praying for him/her each and every day. Amen
In prayer we open our hearts and the universe to God’s healing love. We may never see the effect our prayer has on our enemy. Experience has taught me that a daily prayer like the one above will heal my heart, will root out the infection of hatred and bring peace. February, the month of love is a great month to begin praying in God’s love for your enemies. It just may change your life.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)
I don’t normally write “rants”. This time, I have no choice. If you have an opinion, please comment.
What Has Happened?
Last Sunday, I joined with many Canadians to watch the Super Bowl. It has been years since I saw a football game. We streamed the game through an app on a cell phone. That alone was new and interesting. We had fun munching and watching. Having heard that the half-time show would be spectacular, I awaited it with anticipation.
And spectacular it was, with music, dancers, even fireworks. Yet I was troubled when it was over. I thought we had moved past women as sex objects, but I see no other way to describe this 2020 extravaganza. For sure, both Jennifer Lopez and Shakira can sing and dance, but their songs were not the primary message. When a man did appear on stage his body was totally covered, head to toe, his dancing and singing only that of dominance.
I turned to my eighteen-year-old granddaughter and said, “I thought we’d moved past women as sex objects.” She laughed at me. “Oh Grandma, it’s worse now for women than it ever was.”
What happened? My generation worked so hard for women’s rights, and for respect. It feels as if the generation after me thought that the work was done. Now our grandchildren have to start all over again.
When I listened to the CBC report on the half time show, I heard “some are saying this was the best ever Super Bowl half-time show. If this is the best we have to offer in 2020, we are definitely in need of God’s help.
Which One Do I Choose?
When we go into a bookstore that sells Bibles, the choice is disconcerting. The Holy Bible comes in many forms. Versions of the Bible written by scholars who have studied the ancient languages and done their best to translate the early documents into English. These scholars have tried not to be biased in their interpretations of the ancient words. The most familiar of these translations are the King James Version and the New International version. Even with these “accurate” translations we always must remember that they have been created by human beings with all our foibles.
Along with these, are a multitude of “paraphrases”. These Bibles are also written by scholars who are trying to make the Bible more accessible to the modern-day reader. Of these the most familiar are “The Living Bible”, “The Good News Bible” and “The Message”. The bias of the writers of these Bibles is much more clearly seen.
Just to add confusion there are also many editions of each version produced for specific purposes. Examples of this are, the NIV student Bible, the NIV Inclusive Bible, the NIV Teen Bible. These Bibles contain notes giving the context of the Bible stories, the variety of possible meanings of some passages and more.
How do we choose with this smorgasbord laid out before us?
My solution is to own more than one version. I find it stimulating to compare a translation and a paraphrase of the same scripture passage, especially when I’m having difficulty understanding it. My favorite version is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase titled, “The Message”. I keep “The Message” with my daily journal. I love the fact that I can read and understand it easily. This morning as I was reading Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, Peterson helped me to clearly understand that Paul was teaching inclusivity when it comes to relationships. As I summarize Paul’s words, he says, “Give up criticizing the beliefs of others. They may consider Saturday, Sunday, or no day sacred. It’s not our job to judge. Our job is to live our own beliefs. Jesus calls us to love others, not judge them outsiders. Our job is to spread God’s love to everyone, not just the few that believe like us. Our job is to value all people. Our job is to be the best Christian and the best person we can be.
If we could all follow those simple instructions, world peace just might have a chance.
Read Romans Chapter 14. Go to www.biblegateway.com and read that chapter at least in “The Message, and the New International Version. Leave a comment to tell me what you have learned.
This morning I read verses 9-21 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in Eugene Peterson’s version of the Bible called “The Message”. The Message is my favorite version of the Bible because Mr. Peterson’s unfamiliar words and expressions make me stop and think. I’ve copied those few verses below. You can look them up in your favourite Bible translation just to see the difference. Take time to think about what these words mean to you. Then read my thoughts that follow.
Romans 12: 9-21 Love in Action (The Message by Eugene Peterson)
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
My Reflection on Romans 12: 9-21 Love in Action
This morning my task is to write my newspaper column for the Millbrook Times that will be published the first week of February. As I read Paul’s words, my mind was on Valentine’s Day, our modern celebration of Love. My definition of love is “Seeing, living, believing with my heart.” Some people call that sincerity – being real. We respect a person who speaks and acts with sincerity. When we love with sincerity, from & with our hearts we let go of all pretence. We no longer try to impress, say and do what is expected. We are vulnerable, all protection is gone. Our risk is huge. That’s why it hurts so much when we are rejected.
The last few days I’ve been sending my latest manuscript off to agents and publishers. It’s not been fun because I write from my heart. My books carry a message of acceptance, inclusivity and love which I believe is the core foundation of peace. Any time I put my books out for evaluation or sale I take a risk. I am vulnerable.
Loving with sincerity, living from my heart is risky and yet Paul’s words tell me it’s the best way to live.
How do St. Paul’s words connect with your life? Read it slowly, carefully. Write down the thoughts that are triggered for you. If you like, share them as a comment on this blog. Have a great day.
For the last five years at least, I have wanted to change my ways as a writer. Self-publishing has been good for me. Even with paying a professional editor, graphic book designer, illustrator, and printer, and keeping my prices constant over the last fifteen years, my little writing business has made money. I’ve been fortunate to sell close to 10,000 books in total. With each new book, I made enough to cover expenses, keep an up-to-date computer, attend conferences and even have a few trips with Tom. Of course, I couldn’t live on the proceeds, but I don’t have to. Financially, it was enough.
The problem is that I started writing books because I believe God wants me to spread God’s message. It’s a simple message, and all eight of my books carry it. As human beings, we are called to love and accept one another. Each person in this world has value. That’s it – Love, Acceptance, Inclusivity. I have reached a lot more people with my books than I did preaching every Sunday. Is being satisfied with self-publishing enough? Can I do more to get God’s message out? I’ve known the answer for a long time. Find a publisher.
Last summer, God decided to give me a nudge. A local primary teacher asked me to write a Remembrance Day story to use as a resource for children ages 5-8. God knew I love a challenge. After careful thought, research, prayer, I wrote the first draft. Actually, it flowed out of my fingertips. I’m sure God was helping. I edited and rewrote many times. Finally, I sent the story to five primary teachers. They affirmed that it was a good story and fit Ontario’s primary curriculum guidelines for Special Occasions. When fall came two of those teachers asked when they could get a copy of my new book. I groaned. “It will be a while,” I said. “It requires professional editing, design, illustrating; maybe this time next year.”
In my heart, I knew that this book required a traditional publisher. It’s a resource for schools. Self-publishing meant I would have to talk to each teacher, each principal, each school board across the province. I needed a publisher to carry my special book into the school system. The last three months, I’ve been making excuses. It wasn’t hard. Finding a publisher is hard, discouraging work, and takes time.
Last Thursday, I started the journey in earnest. In the past five days, I’ve put in twenty-four hours, preparing a basic cover letter, getting the manuscript in the proper form and researching publishers and literary agents. Each one has submission guidelines. Each set of guidelines is slightly different. Each publisher requires that I check out their books to ensure that mine fits their vision. Each one says, “If you don’t hear from us in three to six months, you will know your book doesn’t fit our needs.” At this point, I’ve sent my manuscript to eleven publishers and five agents. I’m ready to quit, but “Failure isn’t an option.” Besides, “With God, all things are possible.”
After Lucy Maud Montgomery’s handwritten Anne of Green Gables manuscript was rejected by every publisher she sent it to, she stored it in a hat box. Two years later, she reread it and sent it out again. This time it was accepted by the Page Company of Boston and became an immediate success. I don’t compare my little children’s story to her great novel, but she is an inspiration. Today, I need inspiration.
Over the next months, as I continue my search for places to send “Leaders for Peace”, I ask for your prayers for wisdom in my choices, determination and patience. Please ask God to keep me focused on my goal.
I trust that God will be with me on this journey. I will keep you posted on my progress. I know that with God all things are possible. Failure is not an option.
Another new year has dawned. What is ahead? For our family, we have expectations of great joy among our grandchildren. Tim starts a new job, Chris & Haruna are expecting a baby (our first great grandchild), Ben and Allyson are getting married, Zachary starts teacher’s college and Ellie university, Jenna will start 2nd year at Queens: so much potential for new life.
Even with these anticipated events there will be mystery, lots of twists and turns, for each one of us personally. For example, I’ve three new manuscripts completed. Will they be published this year? Will illness creep into our lives? At our age, we have known lots of bumps and obstacles. Through the joys and sorrows ahead, I will need my faith. In 2020, I will spend much time talking with God in prayer.
In our wider world, 2020 also brings mystery. How much more will we damage our environment? Will we hear the cries of the earth and answer with new priorities, a new way of living? Is this the year that we as human beings will turn toward peace instead of war, sharing instead of hunger.
In 1939, Britain was at war with Hitler. Our nation was frightened, the future a mystery. Would the war end quickly or drag on and on? In his Christmas message to the nation, King George VI quoted the preamble to Minnie Louise Haskin’s poem, God Knows. His thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth had given him Minnie’s poem.
“I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you:
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand
into the hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer
than a known way.’
King George VI finished by saying,
“May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”
Young Elizabeth, not yet our Queen, knew that Minnie’s words carried wisdom, encouragement, strength for Britain and the world in that time. We know they still do today. Young people, teenagers, even children have wisdom to offer. They are speaking out. In 2020, we need to listen.
Twenty-twenty is full of potential for joy and celebration, for grief and regrets. The last few days, I’ve been reading St. Paul’ letter to the church in Rome. He wrote of choices – choosing to follow God’s Way. As humans, we have the gift of choice in how we will live.
I used to think that once we made the choice to follow God’s path, we would be safe for life. Seventy-five years of living has taught me otherwise. Our freedom to choose God’s “Way of Jesus” just doesn’t work that way. Those big choices like marriage, starting a family, breaking the law, hurting someone do bring great consequences. My mother used to say, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”
It’s important to remember that life is composed of a web of choices like the network of roads that spread out across our nation. Some are superhighways, like Ontario’s #401. Travel is fast, the road wide. For me, those big highways represent the big choices in life.
We forget that those highways have an endless number of interchanges. We made our choice for sure, but next comes another opportunity to travel a different path. Sometimes we’ve looked ahead and know exactly our route. Sometimes we get sidetracked with a choice that doesn’t quite fit God’s way. And along comes another road, another choice until we feel totally lost.
With all those choices coming to us, sometimes every minute, sometimes every day, we need a GPS to keep us following “the Way.” I believe our best GPS is God’s Spirit. Like GPS technology, instead of forcing us to make the best choice, God’s Spirit copes with our choices by saying, “Recalibrating,” and offers us another route. Like the GPS, God never gives up. Yes, we’ve made our choice and live the consequences for sure, yet we can always recalibrate with God. God always offers an alternate route back to “God’s Way”.
For 2020, my recommendation is to let go of feeling trapped in the choices of 2019, 2018, 2000 or older. Life is a network of roads. There is another interchange coming. Open your eyes, seek God’s guidance, and choose to follow “God’s way”. You can trust God to lead you home.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)